Wednesday, February 16, 2011
I was originally going to start my Star Wars movie reviews off with The Phantom Menace, but I thought that the name of that movie was so stupid that I'm going to save that when I'm feeling particularly vicious and angry at everything.
Star Wars, the original, also subtitled these days as A New Hope, and which I will abbreviate as ANH throughout this review for ease of typing since this is going to be a particularly long review, is simply a sublime movie from beginning to end. Some may say that Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back is the best of Star Wars, but I tend to believe that they are objectively equal in status and quality. ANH starts off the story, it begins everything. It is a self-contained story full of great characters and situations, humor, seriousness, and many other beautiful and colorful elements. Despite the alien environments, we connect with the characters. We understand their plight.
(David Prowse, voice by James Earl Jones), who really does not really seem like a good guy. The Empire also employs only British actors, so therefore they must be evil! Seriously though, the Empire comes off as a bunch of regular bureaucrats and such working for a corrupt and often evil higher management. It almost, and I'm certain this was meant to be the case, is indicative of the Nazis. This extends to not only how they act, but the way they are dressed as well. Stormtroopers bring to mind the German Storm Troops of World Wars I and II, and Darth Vader is very reminiscent, especially in the way he acts, as being an SS officer controlling the shock troops.
This whole idea makes the entirety of ANH a fight between good and evil, and we see it as such. We are reminded of the Nazis and just how bad they are and we are made to feel a certain way about the Empire and feel pity and even hope for the small band of rebels struggling to change their galaxy. We see heroic archetypes all over the place, from Luke Skywalker being the classic hero, without a tragic flaw, ready to stand up and fight against nearly insurmountable odds, to Han Solo (Harrison Ford), the anti-heroic archetype, the rogue with a heart of gold in the end. We see that Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) is the damsel in distress as well, just like in many classic myths and stories, but the twist is that she's a strong woman, ready and very able to take care of herself in a hostile environment. This shows so much about the story and I have not even touched upon the story yet.
The characters define the plot. Each and every character is memorable. When you think about Star Wars you generally are going to think about something in this movie, whether it be the Death Star, any of the characters or situations, or a quotation or two. That's one of the reasons this movie is so good. It is so memorable. It sticks in our heads and makes us want to fly our own Millennium Falcon, shoot down a Death Star ourselves, or join a band of freedom fighters looking to save the galaxy from oppression. Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) represents an old mentor, dying before his time and giving the hero a reason to fight, a real reason, and not simply a philosophical one. He becomes the most interesting character in some ways because of his relevance and because of how he is portrayed within the film itself. I will get back to that point.
ANH takes ideas from so many other places that it is ridiculously derivative in some ways. The obvious ones are from World War II, but other ideas come from Frank Herbert's Dune in terms of Tatooine, the desert planet to "spice" and its connotation in the film, to Akira Kurosawa Samurai films, especially The Hidden Fortress (1958) where much of the ideas of the droids, the princess, and much of the main plot comes from. The droids, R2-D2, and C-3PO, are used as comic relief in some ways, but they are never unrealistic despite something like a droid not actually existing in our own world. They do things that are not impossible for a droid to be designed to do. They help make the universe of Star Wars have meaning, and it becomes defined forever as a science-fiction fantasy epic, as full of humor and social commentary as it is with heroic ideals and wonderful visuals.
You come to fall in love with each and every one of the characters in turn. Every single one means something to the story. Obi-Wan Kenobi, for example, despite being an old man full of regret, still deems it necessary to fight in any way he can. He is an old Jedi, basically a warrior-monk with a lightsaber, a sword that can cut through anything, and the Force. The Force is everything in the galaxy. It is a religion, a way of life, and source of energy and motion of the mind. Jedi can control the Force and direct it outward, either to see into the future, feel what's going on in the present, and speak with other peoples' minds across a great distance, or to use it to perform extraordinary acts, like moving something with their mind, tricking people into thinking or doing things they would not have otherwise, or simply doing something that requires an intense trust in oneself.
Getting back to Obi-Wan Kenobi as a character though, he becomes devious in the movie, moving the plot along and manipulating circumstances to get exactly what he wants. And he's a hero! You may not see it all at first, but watching it as many times as I have, I have come to see which characters are much more than they appear and which are single-minded, and none in this movie are single-minded... at least not in the bad character kind of way.
You can balance Obi-Wan Kenobi against the true villain of ANH. No, it is not Darth Vader, despite every single fanboy thinking that is the case. The real villain is Grand Moff Wilhelm Tarkin (Peter Cushing), the man who destroyed an entire planet, who had no mercy whatsoever, and who nearly destroyed another. He wanted to wipe out the Rebellion, and succeeded in wiping out a planet sympathetic to the Rebellion and what they wanted, but this also succeeded in rallying people against the Empire and what they stood for. Their show of force was countered by an equally brutal show of force when Luke blew up the Death Star moments before it would have blown up the fourth moon of Yavin where the Rebels were based.
The whole story has a very early cinema feel to it, taking things from Metropolis (1927), like C-3PO for example, and a movie like Casablanca (1942). Han Solo especially gives off the vibe of a Humphrey Bogart-like character, and the dialogue seems so natural and banter-ish, that it is easy to see where the fast-talking World War II movies had their influence here.
The plot is so intricate and fascinating. Everything flows together, from beginning to end, shaping our perceptions and our sympathies. We have fallen in love with this film because we have had no choice. It is an objectively good film, derivative in all the right ways, new in even better ways. What is does right it does so well that it blows most other films right out of the water, and what it does wrong is very little.
I have mentioned the characters so much because those are the iconic elements from this film. Sure, there are many great plot pieces, from the Millennium Falcon and our heroes getting stuck on the Death Star, the Empire's fortress, to Obi-Wan Kenobi letting himself be struck down so that he can assist Luke in the future by being even stronger than he had been. The first shot of the movie, the VERY FIRST SHOT, tells us everything we would ever need to know about the very nearly simplistic plot of the film. The Rebels are in their blockade runner, the Tantive IV, racing away from the Empire, represented by a gigantic Star Destroyer. The Rebels have stolen the plans to the Empire's fortress and evil space station, the Death Star, that has power enough to destroy an entire planet in a single blast.
The Rebel ship is boarded and we come to see and fear the Stormtroopers and their apparent leader, Darth Vader. They make short work of the poorly equipped freedom fighters. At the same time, seamlessly integrated into these scenes are the first two major characters introduced, the droids. We sympathize with them. R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) is cocky and rebellious himself, hotheaded and ready to help in anyway he can, whereas C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) is timid, and would rather not get involved in anything too sketchy, and yet he is every bit the hero that R2-D2 is, but in a different way. He focuses more on the moment and communication, but helps in his own way throughout the film, even if its nothing more than reprimanded R2-D2. And because these droids receive our good graces, everyone associated with them gradually does too. Princess Leia, a strong female archetype from beginning to end, interacts with R2-D2 all but a moment and her status as a hero in her own right is established early on.
Then as the movie advances we meet Luke Skywalker, the new owner of the droids. We see his life, see him whine about not getting the chance to do what he wants. We get the feeling that he is being held back for some reason, but we never see why, not until the next movie at least. His Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru seem to think he would be safer away from the war and the Jedi, and yet Luke is picked up and dragged into the fray as if he were destined to be a hero from the very beginning. His uncle and aunt are ruthlessly murdered and set ablaze by the Stormtroopers looking for the information on the Death Star placed in R2-D2 by Princess Leia. With nothing left, Luke decides to fight and the plot kicks off and never stops. Obi-Wan and Luke meet a rogue with a heart of gold and his hairy co-pilot, Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), and they set off on an adventure to find Alderaan, and help out Bail Organa, Princess Leia's father and a leader of the Rebellion against the Empire.
Unbeknownst to them, Alderaan is destroyed by Grand Moff Tarkin and the Millennium Falcon, Han Solo's ship, is taken into custody by the Imperials while our heroes go off to save the Princess and themselves. The Death Star scenes are some of my favorites, a comedy of errors and misfortunes, eventually resulting in almost all of our heroes getting away, with Obi-Wan sacrificing himself in front of Luke, I think, for the purpose of showing Luke the true evil of the Empire, and how he needs to fight them and not run away. Remember that Han Solo, before he leaves right before the assault on the Death Star, asks Luke to come with him. Maybe the outcome would have been different if Obi-Wan had not died. Maybe everything would have changed. Maybe he needed to die to cement Luke as the hero of this story rather than a simple side character. And that's the brilliance of Star Wars. The rogue comes back to save the hero and the hero succeeds and gets awarded for his bravery in the end.
The perfect ending to such a wonderful and engaging story. I could spend hours going over every aspect of this film, from the beautiful scenery, to the special effects which were amazing for their time, and, in my opinion, are still gorgeous today, even by modern standards. The aliens seen in the movie are diverse and different, giving a feel of a place so far away, but with the same problems we face. And that's the brilliance. That's the art of Star Wars. It is not about the special effects. It is not about what could not be done. Instead this movie seems to be a triumph in the idea of winning in the face of every adversity. If you go and watch a making of feature about this film, you will see just how many things the filmmakers had going against them. They were doing something completely new in some ways, the special effects were ahead of their time, the costumes, and George Lucas, the creator and director of Star Wars wanted things to go his way despite really not getting his way over many things. Some editors he worked with only wanted to do their cut of the movie rather than what he wanted. He had constant fights with the cameraman over angles and the kinds of shots he wanted. The actors more than likely improvised large portions of dialogue, and the filming off of any set was difficult. Filming in Tunisia for the Tatooine scenes were particularly trying. And maybe that's all part of it. Maybe the artistic vision needed to have setbacks, needed to have troubles. It made everybody more invested, more in love with the product they were making. It was not about being in front of a green screen on a sound stage, or inserting CGI all over the place without giving us a reason to care about the characters. No, it was a character study from beginning to end, giving us the feeling of real relationships happening between characters, real friendships either forming or being there all along. EVERY character feels real. Every plot is engaging. You can feel the budding friendship between Han and Luke, the stable friendships between Han and Chewbacca and between the droids.You can see how Luke truly respects R2-D2 and C-3PO, but also uses them as the tools they are meant to be, something we do not understand because to us the droids are every bit as much characters as Luke or Han, but in the Star Wars universe, they are machines used for doing certain things, and that is what this movie gets right. It gets the details right, the feeling right. Sure, there may be mistakes that anybody can point out, but on a whole this is one of the best movies to ever be made, both in terms of scope and in terms of quality. This is the movie that made me into a Star Wars fan to begin with, and I will always look fondly on this film, even though I have seen what Star Wars has become. To go from such amazing beginnings and to end on such a low note, to have the drivel that is coming out of the collective excrement hole of all the writers and such of Star Wars today is a sad thing to see, but I will, no, we will, always have the classic... Star Wars.
Monday, February 14, 2011
Oh, look, I'm supposed to be critiquing a topic here. This one is the emotion humans call "love". What is this "love"? How do you go about making it happen? Well, I will be your guide to the "love". Yes.
Love is supposed to be one of these kinds of selfless ideas, like saving orphans from a burning building. Those orphans are never going to pay you back no matter how many times you save them. Nope, they're just going to want you to adopt them and feed them probably... and you won't know what orphans are supposed to eat and you'll give them some dog food, and then somebody will tell you that you're not supposed to feed the orphans dog food, and then you'll be all like, then what do I feed these orphans? There are so many of them and I'm not giving them my food. Then the orphans will be taken away from you, unless you're really crafty, but... uh... I'm not supposed to get into that. I had one of those things... a... uh... yeah... moving on...
Love is all about doing the right thing and not screwing up even a little. Since I'm a straight man, I'll give you a straight-manly example of screwing up love. So, let's say you go and like a chick and she likes you back and you hit it off pretty well. You're going on a date taking her to some nice Italian restaurant with some nice music playing in the background, and your orphan slave is carrying your bags... NOPE! You see? You already made a mistake, you moron! You can't take her to an Italian restaurant! That ruins love! That's it! Love is thrown straight out the window because of your rancid garlic breath. No woman ever like rancid garlic breath and if they tell you, oh, it's not problem. I like garlic, then she is a succubus and will probably attempt to feast upon your viscera. Hint for love: Don't let this happen to you! The only known way to stop a succubus is by making terrible bird noises and poking her incessantly until she leaves, never to return probably.
Okay, so, don't look now! Love is staring at you in the face! You and your mildly disconcerting orphan slave have managed to impress a female homo sapien by taking her to a nondescript restaurant owned by a nice slick-looking man named Jimmy, and by not eating garlic or having her be a succubus. THIS MEANS YOU ARE SUCCEEDING AT LOVE.
Haters will tell you that this is untrue, that love is not a game, but they are wrong. Love, an emotional state, is a game that you WILL NEVER WIN. Don't even think you can. The only way to win is to not play at all. Well, that's not true. You can do some things to win, but I'll get to those things later.
Look, the first kiss of love is the most important thing in the world. Don't be intimidated by the female's proboscis, or her strange desire for your blood. This is only natural. Once you couple with the love-creature-female, you will only have seconds to make certain you have established that the title of lover is yours. You must hurry and deliver the stork to the messenger... if you get my meaning. *wink*
After you are finished with love, you have to run really fast or else angry love-gnomes will chase you down and beat you with aluminum bats. Yes, this is actually a part of love that many people forget. DON'T BE THE GUY OR GAL WHO FORGETS THIS IMPORTANT PART OF LOVE. Remember to bring your anti-love-gnome spray, as well as a golf club or two to take those little suckers down once and for all, those damn horrid creatures.
Oh, you don't believe all of what I say? Fine. Go ahead and love and see what happens. If it's not as bad as that then you have evidently copulated with one of the genetic mutants of the female branch of our species. If it's worse then I will pray for you because I think you are to be pitied.
The one thing I haven't mentioned is that once you have established your dominance and given the female all of your time, effort, and fortune... as well as all your "love" as if that were a quantifiable thing without the love-gnomes... then you have become the slave to her. And there is nothing you can do. You're probably not even reading this because she has already removed her chassis and is now feasting on your organelles.
Yup. I'm not wrong even a little bit because I'm the smartest and also number one. If you disagree then you just don't understand and you're a spud of lard.
Happy Valentine's Day!
Don't let the love-gnomes get you...
La lala la la la la la la l ala la la la la al al ala la la la la la lla.
P.S. Also, from what I've seen, love also involves sparkly men and bored women. I must research this because this might be the breakthrough I've been looking for... it involves a movie-book called Twilight, and I think... well, I think to understand the love-gnomes and the females I know what I must do. I must watch this Twilight and see why it is the greatest love story in the entire world. I shall get back to you and tell you what I've learned. I am not a sparkling man or a bored woman, so I don't know how I'm supposed to fit into this "love", but I suppose it should be obvious when I watch the film. I think it will involve dumping barrels of glitter on myself and streaking through the women... all the women... it is the only thought that makes any sense at all. The movie will be interesting if it is about sparkling streaking men and bored women looking to find their glittery princes through spontaneous, and oft-times disgusting means.
P.P.S. If you disagree with me about love, write me a message, 10 words or less, telling me how and why I am wrong. If you can't prove it in 7 words than I have to say that I'm right and you're an idiot who doesn't know anything about the "love".
Sunday, February 13, 2011
All right, I'm going to admit that I have no idea how to review a movie like this. I don't even know what kind of genre this is. I AM LIKE A FISH OUT OF WATER REVIEWING THIS SUCKER. I'm used to horror, psychological horror, video games, horror, psychological... oh... I already said that. So, this child movie is kind of throwing me down, beating me up, and stealing all my lunch money, and I don't really know what to do. I'm basically letting this movie run off with my lunch money. I'm not even chasing the film down, tackling it to the ground, and then shoving its face in the snow, like I would do once upon a time if anybody dared to steal the lunch money of the Saquarry. I can be vicious is what I'm saying, like a small angry weasel of death come to reap your soul. Why would I reap your soul? WHY NOT?
Okay... okay... so, yeah... getting to the review... because I'm reviewing this. This is happening. I'm telling you I'm going to review a child movie full of dragons and tiny young people who kind of freak me out a little. What is with tiny young people anyway? Why are they so small and stupid? Oh, and if you are one of these children people (Children is such a stupid word.) then you should not tell me about it, because I... What am I doing here? Why am I ranting about how small things kind of freak me out? I think I'm supposed to be telling everybody reading this what I thought about this movie and probably making you either want to watch it because I'm a perverse individual full of hatred or because I'm a nice guy who thinks you'd enjoy it.
All right... All right... This is a good film. It was fun to watch. Kind of cute. I didn't mind the cuteness too much, but if there was an inch more of cuteness I would puked stakes of fire out of my nose. Yes, you don't understand. Cutesy films are not my kind of thing. This one wasn't bad though. I thought the plot was fun. The characters were interesting, but contrived. The whole Viking thing was interesting and silly, but also kind of fun as well. The imagery was pretty cool. The main dragon himself was neat, good ol' Toothless. The main character wasn't too annoying and I didn't mind him all that much.
Basically I did like this film even though it was WAY OUT OF THE WAY not my kind of genre. Basically this is about as far away from my genre of choice without getting into romantic comedy that I will allow myself to get. Romantic comedy makes me shoot suns of doom from every orifice of my body. So, I tend to avoid romantic comedies, especially those that involve that certain blonde that I'm not fond of or that guy who's in like every romantic comedy ever made who also happens to look like an absolute tool and if I knew any chick who was dating that douchebag, I would think less of her for doing so, to the point where I would disown her... even if I didn't own her in the first place... look, that's not the point. You're thinking I'm creepy, but you're not getting the point. Get the point. No, don't judge me... GET THE POINT.
Okay... is there anything else I should mention? Okay, the battle thing at the end of the movie was cool. The voices and characters and dragon design were pretty good.
Yup. That's about it.
I am so going to try and have more time this next week to actually watch something that I can actually review without making myself out to be completely out of control of every one of my faculties including mind control of myself...so, self-mind control, which should so be a thing... which it is, I guess, but it should be called that constantly.
I am so going to try and review Silver Bullet before next week arrives. I've been wanting to review that movie for months...
Sunday, February 6, 2011
I know I speak out a ton about some of my favorite movies, and sure, maybe I'm wrong about their quality, but I enjoy them quite a bit, and this movie is in my top movies of all time. It's not because it's psychological horror or because it's Jacob's Ladder, but because this movie stands on its own. It does things I've never seen movies do before. It uses the visual effects to its advantage rather than its disadvantage like most modern movies seem to. I can compare the Star Wars prequel movies here or Transformers, movies that used special effects to look "cool" or whatever the hell they were trying to do. I don't even care because all those movies are terrible.
Ink, on the other hand, is a wonderful case of needing the visual effects for the story to be better. And the story is so absolutely stunning that I don't even have the words for it. I watched the movie for the first time about a year ago and fell in love with every aspect of it. There was not a single line that made me cringe, not a single scene that made me question the motivations of the characters or the people making this film. It comes off as a beautiful story from beginning to end, a fairy tale in some ways, and in others nothing more than a dream, but a dream with so much meaning.
Yes, I tend to like the "It was all just a dream." or "The guy was dead/dying the whole time." kind of plots. And this has elements of that, but it also has, I think, a deeper meaning than most of those types of movies. I think it is in many ways much more metaphorical, and also much more beautiful. It isn't trying to be horrifying, it's trying to tell a story, and for that I have to give it all the recommendation I can possibly give. It feels like a true hero story, from the beginning and the introduction to the characters' struggles and trials, to the middle, the darkest point, where nothing is certain, to the end where everything is resolved and you kind of just want to sit down and cry for a while because of just how sad, bittersweet, and beautiful this movie is.
Ink reminds me of What Dreams May Come quite a bit, if you've ever seen or hear of that book/movie before. The plot is somewhat similar, but flipped, and the situations are very different, but the stories end up being very similar to one another. And because What Dreams May Come is one of my favorite stories I have to say that it makes Ink that much better.
This is one of the few movies I would say benefits from its characters and story. Most movies have characters that don't matter and a story that barely exists, but this film relies so heavily on those things that it would be nothing at all without it.
I guess I should summarize the story... Anyway, there's a man who's depressed, his daughter who is taken by an ugly, scarred brute, and the being who seem to protect the people of the world. That's about all I can say. I hate giving the story or plot of this movie away. It's better to watch it than have me reveal all of its secrets. The movie is actually free to watch online. I don't think the filmmakers charge anything to watch it, or at least they didn't back when I watched it the first time.
This is truly one of my favorite movies and I think it should be required watching for every single living person. It's simply that good.
One thing I do have to say is that I was checking this film's Wikipedia page, and it told me that this film's genre is science fiction and fantasy. It's not. Wikipedia lies so badly it actually makes me want to rage throw Wikipedia out of a window. This film is very psychological and very dreamlike, but there is absolutely no sci-fi anywhere in this, and the fantasy element is less fantasy and more straight psychological metaphor. I would group this film much closer to the Silent Hill movie, for instance, than to Inception, just because of the metaphorical ideas presented within. I don't think the meaning of the movie is pointedly hard to get or anything, but it seems like a lot of people really don't understand this film when it's actually quite easy to see what it's about if you pay any attention at all. I guess I think that most people don't really get a movie like this because they're too stupid to actually pay attention to anything for a few minutes straight without wanting something to explode or a big famous actor to come on screen or something. Society makes me sick.
This film is such a wonderful experience. It made me, the harsh cynical Saquarry, who hates everybody and everything, really want to give everybody a collective hug and kind of tear up a little and pretend I had something in my eye... because I did have something in my eye, all right? I was totally not crying. My point is that this is a feel-good movie with elements of being bittersweet. It's the movie equivalent of hugging a cute puppy.
Now, go watch this film. No, stop reading this and go watch it. You're wasting your time and mine continuing to read this when you should be watching the film and doing something productive. Fine, I'll stop and you can go and watch it and you can tell me how right I was and I can act smugly superior for a while.
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Basically the point of the game is to go through a series of "test chambers" and complete puzzles while a female computerized voice (named GLaDOS) gives you advice and kind of helps you throughout the different chambers eventually leading to... well, I'm not going to spoil that...
The premise of the puzzles is that you have to use a gun that creates a "portal" between two different places in the chamber and use combinations of gravity, inertia, and general physics to solve the different puzzles.
Valve created this game and it does use the same kind of graphics and physics engine that Half-Life 2 does. It looks incredibly good and is an incredibly fun game to play. Its short length (I can beat it in about ninety minutes or so.) really does leave you wanting more, and not many games today do that. Most games seem to overstay their welcome while Portal doesn't in the slightest, which is probably why there is a sequel coming out soon... the demand for this type of game is huge.
I'm not going to say much more. If you haven't heard of this game, you really should look into it, and if you have then you don't need me to tell you how good it is. If you like games and haven't played this one, what the hell are you waiting for? If you don't like games, I still recommend trying Portal out. It's fun and intelligent, and really is one of the best video games out there PERIOD. I mean, it's an incredible game and needs to be seen to be truly believed.
This is one of my favorite video games. I really enjoy it. Check it out if you get the chance. Just remember that (I'm going to smack myself after saying these memes, but I think it will be worth it because this is a review dammit.) "the cake is a lie" and that you have to kill your best friend, the companion cube. Also, you're a monster.
There, are those enough memes? Can I stop now? Yeah, now you're thinking with portals...