Sunday, January 27, 2008

DVD Review--The Comebacks

Parody movies are usually a hit (Scary Movie 1 and 2) or miss (Scary Movie 3 and 4) opportunity, that usually come off as either being lovingly tributary or downright mockeries of the films they’re trying to ape. The Comebacks, however, is a new low in the genre of monkey see, monkey mock, and one that will probably go down in history as the film that couldn’t even make a joke about Cuba Gooding Jr. in the movie Radio funny.

The Movie
2 Stars

In this humorless comedy, we find a slack lipped David Koechner from Anchorman fame cracking dick and fart jokes a mile a minute while the rest of the cast stands helplessly by fumbling their way through a gauntlet of terrible jokes that never quite reach the mark. Honestly, folks, there really isn’t much else to say about this poorly put together football film that spoofs everything from Friday Night Lights to Bend It Like Beckham, other than that the few opportunities that this film did have of scoring a comic touchdown are intercepted as soon as they reach the screen. And that leads the viewer in the complete opposite direction of entertainment—straight down to comedy hell.

The story centers around a bumbling boob named Lambeau “Coach” Fields who’s so bad at coaching that all the greatest blunders in sports history are because of his reckless involvement. It really doesn’t matter which sport it was, if a joke could be pulled out of it, Coach Fields was probably a part of it. Calling Baseball plays while doing a crossword puzzle? Check. Throwing a banana peel on a Nascar track, causing a twelve car pile-up? Check. There’s really no limit to how absent minded Coach Fields could be.

Surprisingly, though, the beginning of The Comebacks actually has a lot of potential, as some of the earlier moments where we first get to meet Coach Fields are actually pretty funny in a goofball, he-can’t-be-that-dumb, kind of way. But after the movie hits the five minute mark, it all goes down the toilet from there, both literally and figuratively (The final game of the movie actually takes place in a Championship game called, what else?-The Toilet Bowl).

Of course, being a terrible coach for a great deal of years has its repercussions, as Coach Fields currently finds himself jerking off farm animals to harvest their sperm for insemination. But after a visit from another coach (Carl Weathers), who was a former partner of Coach Fields, he gets coaxed back into action and quits his day job to return to the game to lead a college football team known as The Comebacks to victory. Why a terrible coach like Coach Fields would get a sweet plumb job like that, we don’t quite find out until the very end of the movie—if you stay that long—but rest assured, it’s eventually explained by the conclusion, though, not as well as you’d probably expect.

Along with Coach Fields’ lousy training is also a team that’s just as terrible to match his hellacious coaching. As you’d expect, the team is rounded out by the most blatantly stereotypical characters this side of a minstrel show. The Indian character is purely, pump your gas, Indian, and the Mexican is, straight from South Central, Mexican. And while I know this movie is playing off of all those other crummy sports movies that play race to the extreme, the jokes in this film just fall flat when compared to infinitely better parody films like, Not Another Teenage Movie or Naked Gun (Coach Field’s daughter actually makes out with her black boyfriend in front of him to annoy him, because apparently, closeted racism is funny).

Also making an appearance, in his very own little comeback, is Matthew Lawrence, who was last seen prominently fighting computer viruses in Superhuman Samurai Syber Squad. In this movie, he plays, Lance Truman, the butterfingers quarterback who of course reaches glory and gets the girl (who’s also Coach Field’s daughter) at the end of the movie, which is exactly what you’d expect from such a color by numbers football flick.

But if there’s one scene in particular that stands out in the movie (Besides a character named i-Pod who’s supposed to be a cheesy imitation of Cuba Gooding Jr’s character in Radio getting smashed over the head with a booze bottle for no apparent reason), it’s a scene where Coach Fields plays Journey’s infamous, Sopranos’ ending song, “Don’t Stop Believing,” to boost his team’s morale. In this scene, it breaks into a schlocky music video that has all the characters rocking out and singing to the thoroughly unfunny song that made the Sopranos’ ending so poignant and memorable. Everyone’s dancing and having a good time except Will Arnett, who looks as bored as bored could be staring dead-eyed into the camera and saying, “Sha-dows Search-ing.” That expression alone said more about how much this movie sucks, than this entire review did. I guess that’s why he makes the big bucks, and I currently invest my savings in a shopping mall penny pond.

The Disc
3 Stars

Featured on this Unrated DVD are some very vulgar clips of deleted scenes so unfunny that they actually didn’t make it into the movie (which is saying a lot), a freestyle from hottie, Noureen DeWulf, and booty bouncing from the character who plays iPod in the movie.

Sadly, if you were expecting something actually redeeming in the special features, you’d be sadly mistaken as nothing here either adds or enriches this shoddy excuse for a parody movie. Not even the director’s commentary, where he annoyingly cracks jokes about his name (it’s Tom Brady. Yes, like the Patriots’ QB) and the fact that he’s drinking during the commentary. Dude, it’s been done before. Like, way many times before.

Also featured on this set are improvised bits by some of the funniest stand-up guys doing horribly unfunny gags and then laughing at themselves thinking that this wouldn’t possibly end up in the final cut of the movie. Too bad for DVD special features, eh guys?

Add to the fact that there’s also a reel of Andy Dick acting like an ass for the camera and you have a DVD extras feature that’d probably be better off sacrificing to Satan for a far better film on DVD.

Very much like the movie itself, these special features are a waste-o-time.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

DVD Review: Dragon Wars

Rich Knight
90 Minutes
Starring: Jason Behr, Amanda Brooks, Craig Robinson, Elizabeth Pena, and Robert Forster
Directed by: Hyung Rae Shim
Produced By: Sungho Choi, James B. Kang
Written by: Hyung Rae Shim
Freestyle Releasing
Subtitles: English, Spanish, Chinese, French, Korean
The concept of two giant monsters battling it out doesn’t seem like all that revolutionary an idea in this day and age. Heck, Godzilla’s been doing it for the past 50 years. So how then did the recent Dragon Wars ever possibly make it onto the silver screen instead of jumping straight to video? By being the most expansive and elaborate film in Korean history, that’s how.

The Movie, 1 ½ stars

When walking through the video store or cruising Netflix and stumbling upon Dragon Wars, the first reaction is of course to plop out that wallet and pick it up. I have one word for you, though: “Don’t” as Dragon Wars (or, as it’s strangely sometimes referred to as, “D-Wars”), is as insipid and childish as you would expect from two giant beasts wrestling it out for the sake of all humanity.

The story starts out with a silly premise as a young child named Ethan (Cody Erans), who somehow wanders into a store that his dad so recklessly left him in, chats with an antique dealer named Jack (played by Oscar-nominated actor, Robert Forster), about a magical, ancient dragon scale he’s been keeping away for safe keeping. Luckily for Jack and unlucky for us, the viewers, Ethan is the reincarnated spirit of a 500 year old warrior named Haram, and just the chap Jack has been looking for to give his magical pendant to to unleash the power of a great Imoogi dragon when the time eventually calls for it.

Oh, and did I mention that Harem also has a love interest named Narin? Narin also has a reincarnated spirit named Sarah who’s on the run from an evil Imoogi named Buraki since she has the power of a good Imoogi living inside of her. Oh, you mean I didn’t mention that? Oh, well, it’s probably all for the better.

Anyway, flash-forward about 15 years and Roswell’s Jason Behr, is rubbing a pendant on his neck (the very same pendant we saw in the very beginning of the movie! Plot progression!), signaling that he’s older, wiser, and now more suspicious when a news report tells that a mysterious dragon scale has been found in a strange location.

What follows is a whole lot of serpent screaming and slithering as Buraki (are you keeping track of all these stupid names?) tries to kill Sarah before she gets a chance to let her soul transform into the great, Hevenly beast she has locked away inside of her. And I won’t ruin the ending for you if you’re actually interested in seeing this film after that straight-faced description I gave of this ludicrous piece of garbage.

And if you’re thinking that maybe this is the kind of film that’s so bad it’s good, then you’re right—To an extent. You see, Dragon Wars actually tries really hard to be an awesome experience to nerds and 8 year olds, alike, and on that scale, it actually succeeds as the visuals aren’t half bad for an import. But the storyline is so incredibly bad that it’s actually sometimes hard to laugh at all the effort that went into making this such a visual work of art—Especially for a low budgeted, Korean film. So when one of the characters drives away from a monstrous snake with an expression on his face as if he were simply worried about making it past a yellow light before it turns red, you feel both hilarity and pathos knowing that a lot of work went into this monstrosity of a film.

Add one point for Korea for making this a huge hit on their shores, and minus one point for America for hoping for another Asian epic in the vein of Godzilla.

The Disc: 1 Star

For a movie that’s so utterly horrible, you’d think the special features would be extra awesome to make up for the travesty that is the rest of the package, but you’d be horribly wrong if you thought that with D-Wars. Featured in this meager DVD is a featurette titled, “5,000 Years in the Making,” which feels like 5000 years while watching it as former comic actor and current director, Hyung Rae Shim thanks almost everybody and his mother for all the support they’ve given him in Korea over the years. Apparently, this film’s had a long gestation period and has been languishing on the cutting room floor since 2002, when it was first brought up from the director.

Also featured are animatics, conceptual art stills, previews for lesser (Jackie Chan’s, The Myth) and greater (The Godzilla collection) films, and…well, that’s about it.

Personally, I would have loved to have had some translated commentary from the director about the reviled reaction it got here in the States and around the world, but that’s not here, of course. Neither are deleted scenes of Robert Forester sadly dropping his head in shame while reading the script he must have signed on for just because he was low on rent money.

Quite frankly, if you’ve already seen the movie in theatres, you’re not going to be missing much here if you don’t see these extremely vapid special features.

A Sad Saturday as Dog Owners Mourn the Loss of their Pets

On a windy Saturday morning, a parking lot slowly filled up with cars and trucks in front of Candi’s Scissors & Suds II Pet Palace Inn in Lake Hopatcong where a memorial was held at 10:00 AM. This was following a recent fire that killed nine dogs there on December 30th, shortly before the New Year began.

“I don’t think some people understand that dogs [can become] an extension of the family,” says Trish Dancy, who worked the late shift at Candi’s store, but wasn’t there when the incident occurred at 5:30 in the morning. She said this aptly in front of a poster filled with the pictures of the deceased dogs that read, “To Our Beloved Children.” And to all who lost a pet, or even for those who didn’t and just came to pay their respects, the animals were just that to them—beloved children to the community at large.

Their names were Belle, Gypsy, Olaf, Jet, Eros, Ruby, Yentil, May, and Cocoa, and all of them passed when smoke filled the room due to a malfunction in the building.

“The fire wasn’t because of a space heater like everybody is saying,” said Gary Cirincione, who is the owner of the shop and fiancĂ© of Candi Coon, “It was because of a wall-mounted [detector] that the smoke alarms didn’t go off.”

He said this as he looked over at Candi, who cried uncontrollably staring down at the memorial, and then he walked slowly into the tent that was set up for the people who showed up to pay their condolences to the dead.

Inside the tent, a warm sort of air filled the place as people huddled inside the small area. Some people brought their dogs, while others just stood there with their hands in their pockets, surveying the area. One such of the latter was Chris Villanova who has a Siberian Husky at home named Cyrus. Cyrus is named after the constellation, Sirius, which is part of a band of constellations that actually make up what is known as Canis Major in the solar system, or, the Great Dog due to its shape.

Mr. Villanova never brought his dog to Candi’s, due to the fact that he’s constantly worried about leaving his dog with other people, but he still thinks highly of the place and the owners of the animals.

“Even though this place is on the cutting edge of boarding places,” Chris said, smiling over at another Siberian Husky that he says looks just like his own at home, “And granted everybody takes care of the animals here, you just can’t tell [what’s going to happen when you leave them].”

And he’s right when he says that the shop is on the cutting edge of boarding houses, as there are no cages and also cameras sprinkled about inside so people can see their animals online when they’re on vacation.

These are all factors that make pet owners agree that Candi’s is the best place in town to leave their dog when they’re away.

“This was the only kennel where my dogs didn’t get sick,” Margie Mills says as the mayor of Jefferson walked up front to introduce the priest from St. Teresa’s who came in to say a sermon.

“I don’t know where we’re going to take them now,” Mills said.

“Oh, God, this is so terrible,” another said regarding the situation as the priest went up and read a poem called, “Just a dog.”

But while tears and tissues were a major part of the ceremony, it wasn’t all about sadness and remorse, as comfort was also a part of the proceedings.

“This was needed for closure,” says Jefferson Mayor, Russell Felter, who has three dogs named Oreo, Cookie, and Sandi, and is also married to Tami who works at the store and helped set up the event. “There’s an amazing turnout here.”

And in that turnout, people hugged, cried, and said thank you, making it so nobody was left alone in their suffering and heartache on that windy Saturday morning, when patrons huddled inside a tent.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Fighting Games Died When Anime Based Games Were Born

With the interesting Street Fighter IV (I say interesting because I still hesitate to call it awesome) on the very distant horizon, I think a more immediate concern is that fighting games in general are pretty much dead, save for the really crappy anime titles that have since graced the consoles.

Dragonball Z pretty much started this whole transition of Cartoon Network to video game console with Budokai on the PS2 (Though, there were scores more DBZ games before this title), and many others followed. Inuyasha, Bleach, and (yech) Naruto have all been translated to slightly better than average fighting franchises, and more are probably on the way.

But why has the once wildly popular genre of pounding somebody else’s face in on a 2-D plane (d)evolved into strictly being fare for the 14 year olds and geek crowd? Sure, Soul Caliber, Tekken, and others are great series’ that have maintained a certain air of prestige over the years, but these are all old franchises that have gotten little to no fresh new features to warrant it a reason to fall back in love with fighting games again. Instead, we’re left with only the Guilty Gear series (Much better than you think) and Smash Bros. to really relive those massive, sky high combos and awesome super attacks of yore that made fighting games such a hoduken in the face blast to play in the first place.

I think the main reason that Anime titles are now the only source of fighting fun, though, is because they’re so damn easy to make. Honestly, how many Street Fighter clones did we see in the early to mid-90s? All it takes to make a fighting game apparently is a few quarter circles, a decent graphics chip, and a good enough speed to warrant playability to create one, which makes it so easy to just plop in Naruto and add a few voice snippets to the game.

Alas, I’m afraid we’ll never see a brave new fighting game like Killer Instinct or even a War Gods—which even I’ll admit was terrible—again. Well, we’ll always have Street Fighter IV, I guess.