Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The 50 Craziest Video Game Fatalities

(Image taken from: Complex-mag.com)

Here's an article I recently co-wrote for Complex-mag.com. Check it out here.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Review: Scream of the Banshee [DVD]

(Image taken from cinemablend.com)

I could call Scream of the Banshee awful -- it is, after all -- but I won’t. That would be too easy. It’s an “After Dark Original” movie and it was co-produced by the Syfy channel, so really, calling it crap would be like picking on a cripple. And who wants to do that? So, what IS good about it then? Well, it made me laugh. That’s good for something, right?

The Movie: Three stars out of five

Scream of the Banshee is like Troll 2. It abandons all logic, throws in some dumbass-looking costumes, and it’s infinitely more enjoyable when you watch it with like-minded friends who LIKE movies that are so bad, they’re good. And Scream of the Banshee is definitely that. It’s soooo bad…that it’s awesome.

The story itself makes no sense at all. A strange-looking shield that turns into a box is thrown at a banshee and it captures her head -- question mark, exclamation point, question mark. Centuries later, in modern day times, said box appears for no apparent reason at all, is opened, and the banshee escapes. Horror and shitty costumes ensue. But here’s the thing. Yes, the special effects for this movie probably cost about three dollars more than just putting it into Photoshop. And yes, the lines are performed so poorly that you’d probably see better at your son or daughter’s grammar school play. But that’s the whole allure with these kinds of pictures, especially when you know that the director’s heart was in the right place. There are many close shots of chomping teeth and bleeding ears, and also, quite possibly, the worst-looking fake video game ever put to film. But you can still see that the director cared and wanted this to be a good movie. He just didn’t have the money.

If you’re looking for an Ed Wood train wreck where EVERYTHING went wrong, you won’t find it here. The script for Scream of the Banshee was brain dead from the start, but a lot of scripts these days are like that (um, have you SEEN Transformers 3 yet?). That’s not the problem with this film. The problem with it is that special effects are ASS. If the director had the money, he would have used it to make at least a passable picture. But instead, the studio probably gave him a bag of potato chips and a pat on the ass and said, “Go make film now.” I mean, why ELSE would we get a shot of a giant hand coming out of a cloud of smoke and trying to grab a scared man as he leaps away from it? Sure, that’s dumb as hell, but if the special effects were better, it probably would have gotten a theatrical release. Instead, this movie went straight to DVD after having, like, a one-night run on the Syfy channel. Still, if you like crap with horrendous dialogue and laughable special effects, then you’ll love this. And if you don’t, then you won’t. I don’t know what else to tell you. But I myself definitely dug it. Check it out for yourself if you’re into garbage caught on film.

The Disc: Two stars out of five

There’s only one special feature on here, and it’s commentary. Imagine my discomfort. I knew the movie sucked, and the director surely knew it sucked, but I get a smarmy feeling whenever I listen to one of these commentaries and the director pretends like he doesn’t know what kind of trash he made. This commentary almost turns into that until the middle of the movie, when the director and the composer start bad-mouthing the movie themselves, talking about how shitty the special effects are and how badly it was edited in post-production. It’s hilarious. At one point, I laughed out loud when he told the listeners to please close their eyes at the scene where the giant hand comes out of the smoke. It takes a REAL man to admit when they’re down, and I applaud director Steven Miller for not wimping out. For the most part, that is. For the rest of the film, he compliments the composer to no end. And it gets a little boring hearing just how well the score turned out when the banshee pops out and starts shaking her hands.

There’s also “Widescreen Presentation,” if that’s even considered a special feature anymore and not just an industry standard, as well as English and Spanish subtitles. And that’s it. Pretty skimpy with the special features, but what were you expecting here? This isn’t a Criterion Collection DVD. You get what you pay for, and what you get isn’t all that much.

Scream of the Banshee Details
Length: 90 min
Rated: R
Distributor: Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Release Date: 2011-07-26
Starring: Marcelle Baer, Lauren Holly, Todd Haberkorn, Lance Henriksen
Directed by: Steven C. Miller
Produced by: Stephanie Caleb, Courtney Solomon, Gregory M. Walker
Written by: Anthony C. Ferrante
Visit the Scream of the Banshee Official

Five Characters Who Should Be In Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 But Aren’t, and Five Characters Who Shouldn’t Be in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, but Are

Okay, we’re not going to lie. Now that we saw the leak for the new characters in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, we’re pretty excited. Ghost Rider, Dr. Strange, Strider, Phoenix Wright, they’re ALL characters that should have been in the first MvC3 in the first place. It’s only right that they’re finally making an appearance in this game. That said, there are definitely some characters who are SORELY missing from this game, and also characters that should be removed entirely to make way for some better ones, but weren’t. And here is that list. Come on, fanboys. You know you agree.

Five Characters Who Should be in the new game but aren’t

5. The Punisher

(Image taken from: digitalbustop.com)

Seriously, how has the other Frank NOT been in any of these Vs. titles yet? Yes, we know, one of the rumored reasons that he wasn’t put in the first MvC3 is because he was said to be too violent a character, but come on. Chris Redfield fires a shotgun right in Viewtiful Joe’s face in the original MvC3. You’re telling us that Frank Castle can’t deliver divine retribution without actually having to slit somebody’s throat? Cop out, Marvel. That’s a cop out.

4. Mega Man

(Image taken from: blog.capcom.com)

Okay, this one is for the fans. Yes, Zero is cool, and we like him. We like him a lot. He’s fast and aggressive. But where the hell is the blue bomber himself? He was one of our all-time favorite characters in the last game, and if Strider got to make the jump from the other two titles, how could Mega Man NOT? We don’t get it Capcom, are you TRYING to rile up the fans?

3. Edward Falcon

(Image taken from: animevice.com)

It seems like just about every Capcom character from Capcom every series has gotten love from the company except one—Power Stone. And why is that? We absolutely LOVE this free for all franchise and yet, we haven’t seen a single character from it in any of the games. Come on, we saw Batsu from Rival Schools fame in Tatsunoko vs. Capcom and Hayato from Star Gladiator in MvC2. You’re telling us that we can’t get a little love from our OTHER favorite obscure Capcom fighter? Cry your pardon?

2. The Scarlet Witch

(Image taken from: bite.ca)

Are you aware that there are absolutely NO females in the new roster for Ultimate MvC3? Not a single one. Dude, it’s a total sausage fest. And while it was a tough call, if we were to pick any badass female character to fill in that slot, it’d have to go to the Scarlet Witch. Magneto’s daughter deserves her due.

1. Moon Knight

(Image taken from: marvel.com)
Okay, call us biased, but we’re REALLY big Moon Knight fans here at the office. The troubled past of Marc Spector very rarely EVER gets seen in any Marvel games, and he’s obscure enough that he’d make a perfect addition right alongside Taskmaster and M.O.D.O.K. Oh, and speaking of M.O.D.O.K…

Five Characters Who Shouldn’t Be in the New Game But Are

5. M.O.D.O.K.

(Image taken from: tofupunk.com)

Listen, we have nothing against M.O.D.O.K. as a character. We dig him. He’s cool. But we still don’t like the way he plays in MvC3. Sure, online gamers have found a way to abuse the shit out of him, but we still have a bit of a problem controlling him about the screen. If any of the cool characters had to go that was already in the game, it’d have to be him. Just for controlling the damn character’s sake.

4. Vergil

(Image taken from: devilmaycry.wikia.com)

Fact. We love us some Devil May Cry. Dante and Trish were an awesome addition to the first game, and we still use them competitively today. They’re a great team. But do we REALLY need a third character from the series on the roster? Sure, now the DMC team can truly be complete, but he kind of feels like a sore addition. We could have done without him. Oh, and how much money are you willing to wager that they’re going to have an alternate costume of the NEW Dante from DMC 5 in this game? Gag.

3. Hawkeye

(Image taken from: aintitcool.com)

Wait! Let us speak! We love Hawkeye, we seriously do! But now, first with Thor (Who we adore, don’t get us wrong) and now with Hawkeye, it seems like Capcom’s only adding Avengers who are actually appearing in the movies themselves. And all we have to say is, what about Ant Man? Why hasn’t HE gotten his day yet? Do we want Hawkeye? Hell yes. Are we happy that he’s in this game? Hell yes again. But would we trade him for Ant Man if we had to choose. Hell yeah a third time. Ant Man is awesome. We have no idea why both Hollywood and Capcom seem to disagree.

2. Nemesis

(Image taken from: gamespot.com)

This is another issue of, we already have enough characters from the franchise already. With Chris, Jill, and Albert all in the original, do we REALLY need a fourth character from the RE series? Hell, we’re sure we’re going to tear some shit up with Nemesis when the game comes out, and it will be all good. But if we were to choose another RE character from the franchise, it would have to be Barry Burton. Just think of the achievement on 360 when he and Jill do a combo together. “You’ve just unlocked the master of unlocking locks.” Awesome. Sheer awesomeness.

1. Nova

(Image taken from: en.wikipedia.org)

You may be saying, what? What about Rocket Raccoon? Why did you pick Nova for number one? But here’s the thing. Going back to our Moon Knight argument, we’d definitely say that both Nova AND Moon Knight are D-level Marvel characters, we’re not going to lie. So we’re kind of upset that Nova got the nod from Capcom and Moon Knight didn’t. But if those two characters are D-level Marvel, then Rocket Raccoon is definitely F-level Marvel, and we dig that Capcom’s trying to introduce him to a brand new audience. We dig it. Just think, it COULD have been Howard the Duck instead. Shudder. But yeah, again, Nova is an alright character, but we already have enough obscure Marvel characters in the game already and we feel that he could have been replaced by another, maybe more well-known character for the fans. Like say, maybe Sue Richards or Luke Cage. We’re just sayin’.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Another Review of Captain America, but for Complex

(Image taken from Complex-mag.com)

Another review of Cap Am. You can find it here

Review: Captain America: Super Soldier

(Image taken from: Cinemablend.com)

Is there anything worse than a movie video game? Usually, no, but sometimes, in the case of the Spiderman 2 game and The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher’s Bay, they can actually be pretty amazing. Well, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m actually going to put Captain America: Super Soldier for the 360 in that category, too.

It totally apes Batman: Arkham Asylum in the combat mechanics, with you fighting multiple baddies at once and bouncing from one bad guy to the next. But it actually does it so well that I don’t even mind. Tossing your shield is a blast. There are even sections of the game where you go all Prince of Persia and fling yourself around the German landscape. I love it.

But here’s the interesting thing. There once was a time when video game companies making multi-platform games would make the same game and just port them to the various platforms. But this being the end of the Wii’s lifespan, nobody’s kidding themselves. The Wii can’t handle the kind of game that is on the 360 and PS3. So you know what, Sega decided to make it different.

Captain America for the Wii, seriously looks like Goldeneye for the N64. The graphics are that bad. But that doesn’t mean that the game itself is bad. It just LOOKS awful. The gameplay itself is surprisingly entertaining. But it’s also very different. Instead of focusing on the up-close-and-personal combat in the 360 or PS3 versions, the Wii version focuses more on the mechanics of the shield. Blocking with it, deflecting bullets with it, tossing it, it’s all done effectively with the Wii-mote and nunchacku. But the actual hand-to-hand combat in this game is atrocious. Instead of the swift, Arkham Asylum movements in the 360 version, it boils down to being a button masher, that quite frankly, looks and feels awful. The hits feel unresponsive and loose, and the general flow of the game is much slower than its counterparts, even though all three versions are pretty much telling the same story. It’s a shame, too. Maybe the Wii-U would handle it much better. Too bad that console’s about a year away.

As for the Nintendo DS version, well, it’s the worst of the bunch, but it’s still not horrible. In May, I actually reviewed the Thor video game and mentioned how the DS version was better than its console brethren because of its simplicity. Well, that being said, Cap Am for the DS is a bit TOO simplistic. It features a whole bunch of interesting mechanics like the touch screen and stealth sections. But it still plays clumsily and the combat in it could feel more responsive. It doesn’t feel balanced and a lot of it is pretty repetitive with the running and jumping segments. They needed to be broken up more. Sure, there are some cool Ninja Gaiden-like sections where you’re bouncing off the walls to get higher. But overall, Cap Am just doesn’t work as well asThor did for the DS. The combat in this game isn’t as smooth as I’d like it to be, and knocking baddies around the screen with the shield isn’t nearly as satisfying as knocking them around with Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir.

Overall, though, the 360 version is awesome, the Wii version is passable, and the DS version is decent, but bordering on being not so good. Take one star off if you’re thinking about getting the Wii version, and one-and-a-half off if you’re thinking about picking it up for the DS. With the 360 version being so good, I’m actually looking forward to an Avengers game next year. Sega seems to be getting better at this. I’m impressed. Keep it up, Sega, keep it up.

Players: 1
Platform(s): Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3, Wii (reviewed), DS (reviewed)
Developer: Next Level Games (Xbox 360 and PS3), High Voltage Software (Wii), Griptonite Games (DS)
Publisher: Sega
ESRB: Teen
Rating: Four stars out of five

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

An Update on the Huey Lewis and the News Concert That I went to With My Fiance Last Night

I still love Huey Lewis and the News (HUUUUEYYY!) as some of the people in the audience would call him. But his concert was kind of meh in a major way. Here's why.

New material. More specifically, Soulsville

(Image taken from: examiner.com)

It's not that I don't understand that the dude wants to plug his latest stuff, but almost the whole concert was his latest stuff, and that's not cool.

I mean, it's not that the new stuff is awful. But I wanted to hear, "Trouble in Paradise."

It's such a better song. But the whole concert only consisted of about four or five of the classics. And for a tour called "The Power of Love," you'd think it'd be more of the classics. Oh, well. At least my fiance and I got to see him, and that's saying something.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Rap Concerts Suck

(Image taken from: hiphopcube.com)

This week, I'm going to go see Huey Lewis and the News live in concert with my fiance. And it's going to be awesome. And you know how I know that it's going to be awesome? Just read the first sentence again. Huey Lewis...and the News. I mean, just watch.

Granted, that was back in 1985, when Huey Lewis WAS the news because he was all over the place. And of course, I'm sure he won't be so into it today being that he's quite a bit older now. But I'm also sure that it will still be awesome, and you know why? Because I'm sure he still knows how to put on a show. But you know who CAN'T put on a show? Just about every rapper on the planet, because rap concerts are awful.

(Image taken from: ticketsinventory.com)

Usually, it's just a bunch of black guys standing around bopping their heads while the person rapping at the time is unintelligible. One of the greatest examples of this is when I went to go see the Wu-tang Clan, which was one of my favorite groups growing up. When I went to go see them, I was psyched. The Rza, the Gza...um, NOT the 'Ol Dirty Bastard, as he was dead by now, Inspectah Deck, U-God, Raekwon the Chef, Ghostface Killah, aaaaand (psst, and Masta Killah) the M-E-T-H-O-D Man. I'll tell you, bwoi, I was SO excited. But what I got instead was a whole bunch of garbage.

I knew every single one of the songs that they performed and I couldn't understand a single word they said. It was awful. It was also incredibly boring. And they kept telling us to throw our hands in the air, and that's another thing about rap concerts. Most of them, or at least, the ones I'VE been to, are all the same. I'll bet you don't go to a single one where they don't tell you to throw your hands up at least once during their performance. It's pathetic.

I have another example. I once went to Lollapalooza in Chicago a few years back. And while I know you can't really judge a band when you go to those big concerts since they usually don't give it their all there, I have to tell you, I saw the greatest show I've ever seen in my entire life there by a group called Gogol Bordello.

(Image taken from: thebangpop.com)

They're a bunch of gypsies, and man, do they put on a show. Violins were blazing, the singer was nuts, there were these giant drums, and it was just insane.

But at that very same concert (Lolla was three days, I think), I had to have seen the very worst performance in my entire life, too. And it was from none other than that asshole, Kanye West, who was so awful I wanted to punch somebody in the face after I saw it. First off, he compared himself to John Lennon, which made me throw up a little in my mouth. And then, he actually had the nerve (THE NERVE!) to sit down and rap for a little while. I mean, WHAT?! Sitting down? At your own concert? And comparing yourself to John Lennon? Well, I had had just about enough. I left him and went across the park where Wilco was playing and they were actually pretty good. I mean, Gawd, ANYTHING would have been better than Kanye. Even this.

Seriously. The only rap concert that was actually pretty good was from this little-known rapper named Mr. Lif.

(Image taken from: beermelodies.com)

He was just nuts. He was all over the place, swinging his dreads and getting the people to move. He was awesome. But all the rest of the rap acts I've seen on stage? Absolute trash. Not even worth the money. Rap concerts suck. Save your money. This has been my PSA.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Review: Rango [Blu Ray]

(Image taken from cinemablend.com)

Rango, unbelievably, is a true, blue Western with all the tropes and quirks of the genre. So, how this was made into a movie (and a kids' one at that) is beyond me. But I’m glad it was, because Rango is a whole lot of fun.

The Movie: Four and a half stars out of five

How did Rango get made into a movie? I know it’s a Nickelodeon picture, and Nickelodeon has always been a network of the bizarre (Aaahh!!! Real Monsters) and the really bizarre (Ren and Stimpy). But those were TV programs intended for a very particular, hopped-up-on sugar audience. This, on the other hand, is an original, full-scale motion picture starring none other than the likes of Johnny Depp. I mean, after Pirates of the Caribbean, Hollywood must have really had a lot of faith in director Gore Verbinski to allow him the freedom to make something as weird and as wonderful as Rango. But I’m glad they did, because really, this could have been a total disaster if there had been any restraints or interventions put on its production.

Instead, we’re given an honest-to-God Western that doesn’t seem like a kids' movie at all, but yet, still does, which makes it all the more impressive. Johnny Depp stars as a pet chameleon that is stranded in the desert after a mishap involving his owner’s driving. That’s fine. But then, you know what happens? We get a cameo appearance by Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo straight out of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Seriously, it was only about 10 minutes into the film and they already had me totally enraptured. I mean, what kind of messed up, wonked out kids’ film has a Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas reference? This one does! And it’s not even the weirdest thing that happens in the entire movie, which is what really makes it so special and different from most animated films. You really don’t know where it’s going to go next. From the familiar, Western friendly town of Dirt, to Las Vegas itself, this movie travels all over the place, but it’s still cohesive and really funny at the same time. I had a blast.

Really, though, I think a major reason for that is because I love Westerns in general. From the way Rango walks to the way some of the movie’s long shots are done -- especially the ones at sunset, which are beautiful -- to the way the townspeople are so gullible if one just flashes a badge, it’s all classic Western material. So much so, that, again, I’m kind of fascinated by how this got to be such a popular film in the first place. Last I checked, Westerns weren’t entirely in -- though, the popularity of the Coen Bros.' True Grit remake might be a sign that America is digging them again.

If I have any real complaints with the film, it’s that there are just too many villains afoot. Yes, I like that it keeps the story moving, but Bill Nighy’s big bad, Rattlesnake Jake, comes a bit too late in the film. And the main villain, who is meant to be a surprise, is WAY too obvious. I would have liked to see another twist as this movie is just full of them. That would have been nice. Other than that, though, Rango is a close to perfect film (note, I didn’t say perfect KIDS' film, but perfect film in general). It’s entertaining, highly stimulating, and funny as all hell. Watch it. It’s definitely worth it.

The Disc: Five stars out of five

There are literally hours of special features on here. While the obligatory deleted scenes aren’t really that special -- and I’d swear some of these scenes are actually in the theatrical cut -- there’s also an all new ending that I actually prefer to the one in the movie, which is a rarity. There’s also a “Storyboard Mode,” where you can watch the entire picture with the storyboards at the bottom of the screen. It’s interesting to see just how important storyboarding really is, especially with animation.

There’s also a “Go Behind the Scenes with Cast and Crew” segment where we get to see just how much work went into the art of this film. Seriously, it’s astounding. “Meet the Real Creatures of Dirt” is a fascinating look at real desert animals that are in the film. It also features a very long shot of a disgusting centipede that’s thankfully not in the film, so people who fear centipedes -- like myself -- you’ve been warned. There’s also an “Interactive Trip to Dirt,” where you can click around the town from the movie and learn about the different shops and characters that populate it. It’s great.

While clicking around the special features, I also saw that it said that there’s director’s commentary on here, even though it doesn’t mention it on the back of the box. But try as I may, I couldn’t find it anywhere on either discs or on my computer, so I really don’t know what to tell you about that one. Other than that, though, the special features are stellar if you loved the movie. It’s a great package, and the picture from the Blu-Ray disc is magnificent. It’s worth every penny of your hard earned buck. Pick it up.

Rango [Blu-Ray] Details
Length: 107 min
Rated: PG
Distributor: Paramount Home Entertainment
Release Date: 2011-07-15
Starring: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy, Harry Dean Stanton, Ray Winstone, Timothy Olyphant
Directed by: Gore Verbinski
Produced by: Gore Verbinski, Graham King, John B. Carls
Written by: John Logan

Saturday, July 9, 2011

My Top Ten Favorite Movies

A lot of people say I have awful taste in films. But actually, no. My taste in films is amazing. It's actually better than yours. And if you don't believe me, then just check out these movies below. I think you'll tend to agree.

(Image taken from tree-of-life-movie-trailer.blogspot.com)

10. The Tree of Life

Rotten Tomatoes score: 85%

It might be a bit early to put this in my top ten favorite films list, having come out just this year, but I was absolutely blown away when I saw it. From beginning to end, Terrence Malick's epic film is probably the only movie that I've ever seen where the overall storyline didn't even matter. It's just a beautiful movie to watch. It's a very quiet film, but also, loud in its visuals and music. It's wonderful. It's like a visual poem. Top class. A plus work. See it. If you can find it anywhere.

(Image taken from: amazon.com)

9. Cool Hand Luke

RT score: 100%

The movie that got me into Paul Newman, Cool Hand Luke is a landmark film. It has stellar pacing, great acting, and some of the most famous lines in film history ("What we seem to have here is a failure to communicate"). I love this film. Paul Newman's smile is vintage. One of the best movies of the 60s.

(Image taken from: impawards.com)

8. Barton Fink

RT score: 90%

The Coen Bros. best film in my opinion, it's a movie about writing. Or really, a lack thereof. In other words, it's about writer's block, and man, is it weird. Two John's (John Turturro and John Goodman) steal the show in this comedy/drama. And well, I don't know what else to say about it. The ending is just surreal. It's almost just a cheap joke. But it's still classic. Just like the movie itself.

(Image taken from: impawards.com)

7. There Will Be Blood

RT score: 91%

I'm actually pretty surprised this isn't on more favorites lists. It might be pretty recent (2007), but it's still one of the only films that I could watch over and over again and still find more and more to appreciate with every repeated viewing. Daniel Day Lewis does the performance of a lifetime, and the score (performed by Johnny Greenwood of Radiohead fame)is tremendous. The storyline itself is just twisted, and it's brilliant in its scope and ambition. An American classic, through and through.

(Image taken from: moviegoods.com)

6. Pulp Fiction

RT score: 94%

I think it's pretty obvious that Quentin Tarantino will never make a better film than Pulp Fiction. The shifting storyline, the untrustworthy characters, the dialogue, the ending. Everything about the film is quintessential 90s and yet, timeless at the same time (Just watch Kurosawa's Rashomon. They're practically the same movie in scope). Inglorious Bastards doesn't even come close.

(Image taken from: amazon.com)

5. Midnight Cowboy

RT Score: 90%

How John Wayne beat Dustin Hoffman for best actor in 1969, I have no idea (It's all politics). Dustin Hoffman does some of the best acting I've ever seen in my entire life as Rico Ratso, and Jon Voight isn't half bad himself. It's a manly story, and yet, very sentimental and sad. It's a song for the streets. A wonderful film. Though, today, I can't see how it would be rated X. This stuff would probably be PG-13 today.

(Image taken from: kdavee.wordpress.com)

4. Adaptation

RT score: 91%

Another film about writer's block, this one is beyond weird. Even weirder than Charlie Kaufman's previously written film, Being John Malkovich (Another great picture). In it, Nic Cage (One of my fave actors) plays, well, Charlie Kaufman. And also his made-up brother, Donald Kaufman. He's writing a script for a book about flowers, but then, the movie becomes about him writing the script, and well, just watch it. It's worth it. Chris Cooper is great as well. He won an Oscar for it and deserved it. A rarity for the Academy Awards to actually award TRUE greatness.

(Image taken from: collider.com)

3. Total Recall

RT Score: 81%

The deepest film Arnold S has ever done, I'm surprised everybody fawned over Inception and didn't go back and talk about how great this was, because really, it's the better picture. And the ending in it is an even bigger draw. Was he in the machine, or was he really a spy? Why knows? But I have my theories ("Ah, blue skies on Mars. That's a new one."). It's a brain bender. A great one.

(Image taken from: amazon.com)

2. Big Trouble in Little China

RT score: 82

This is just a childhood favorite of mine. It also gets better with age. When I was younger, I actually feared some of the scenes (Especially with Lo Pan shooting light out of his eyes) but as an adult, it's one of the funniest movies I've ever seen in my life. The action is ridiculous, the story is even MORE ridiculous, and it's infinitely re-watchable. I've probably seen it over 20 times. And it never gets old. Ever. Almost the perfect film.

(Image taken from: en.wikipedia.org)

1. Apocalypse Now

RT score: 99%

The greatest film I've ever seen, I can't think of a movie that I could watch more than this one. Every single scene in this flick is from a director who was tortured to get his work to the screen and it shows. It's a labor to watch, but in a good way, a satisfying way. Some scenes are just hard to sit through, and some scenes make you laugh. Marlon Brando is equally hilarious and horrifying, and there are just too many moments to mention. If you haven't seen it yet, then you must. It's a landmark work. And my favorite film ever. Watch it. And if you've seen it already, watch it again. It's the best. Take a look.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Review: Season of the Witch [Blu-Ray]

(Image taken from cinemablend.com)

Oh, Nic Cage, Nic Cage, Nic Cage. I don’t even know where to begin with you. As a fan of you and not your general body of work, what can I say to a movie like Season of the Witch, where I barely even remember that you’re even in it, even though you’re the star of the film? I don’t know, man, I don’t know. But if you make another clunker like this and don’t totally wig out in it, I may have to take you off the “I’ll see him in anything,” list. Season of the Witch is seriously THAT bad.

The Movie: One star out of five

Not too long ago, I reviewed another ridiculous Nic Cage movie called Drive Angry. And while that was a piece of shit, at least Nic Cage pulled off one of his classic, bizarre (though not bizarre enough for my tastes) performances in it, so it made up for the movie’s overall awfulness. But in Season of the Witch -- and I’m not even sure what genre to categorize this movie in...thriller? Actioner? Period piece? Garbage? -- I barely even remember that Cage was in it. And that’s bad, because without the manic Nic Cage that his fans have come to expect when he does these money-grabbing trash flicks, what else is he good for? Not much, apparently, as Season of the Witch is beyond forgettable. I mean, for God’s sake, Hellboy (Ron Perlman) can’t even save it! And when you have both Ghost Rider AND Hellboy in a film together, and neither of them makes it worth watching, then you have a problem on your hands. And yes, Season of the Witch IS that problem. It’s a mess of a movie that’s offensive in how boring it is. In fact, I fell asleep while watching it three times. Three! I even had to drink coffee to finish the whole thing. For a Nic Cage picture, that’s inexcusable.

The main problem with Season of the Witch is that it crawls at an 800 lb. man’s pace. The story is about two Crusaders (Cage and Perlman) who have deserted their troop for moral reasons and go home to their motherland, only to discover it’s been affected by a plague. The reason for the plague? Well, a moribund Cardinal suspects that the Black Death has been the work of a witch. And…that’s the first time that I fell asleep. When I woke up, I rewound and found Cage and Perlman going on a quest to take this supposed witch (Claire Foy) to a monastery to prove her innocence or something of that nature, and then…I dozed off again. This is beside the fact that there was some action in between that was supposed to be exciting, but instead, wound up being lackluster and slow. When I woke up again, the movie was over. So I rewound again, and watched some more until I got to the end, where it REALLY got ridiculous with some clunky CGI fight. And guess what? Even while watching this final confrontation, I fell asleep. As I’ve said before, and I’ll say many times over again, action scenes are boring if you have no connection with the characters. And with Season of the Witch, I couldn’t care less about any of them. I couldn’t even stay awake for them for God’s sake, let alone feel worried about any of them dying. And that’s just sad. That’s some Michael Bay type filming there.

Again, though, if there’s any real disappointment with this film, it’s in Nic Cage, who doesn’t even put on any bee helmets or eat cockroaches. Instead, he dons some knight armor and doesn’t even try to fake some weird accent or ad lib any nonsense like he might have done in the past. Really, it might be sad to say, but maybe, that Nic Cage doesn’t even exist anymore. Maybe, he’s playing nice with all of his directors now just to make sure that he can keep landing roles and amassing enough money to pay off his bills. What I’m trying to say is this: I think he’s afraid to take as many risks now and let his freak flag fly. At least for clunkers like Season of the Witch, and that’s a shame, as this would be one of the best places for him to do something like that. It would have made this totally awful movie at the very least subpar. In fact, Season of the Witch could have actually been kind of fun if it wasn’t so damn serious, and Nic Cage was just the guy to take the edge off of it. But he didn’t, and that’s why it sucks. I’ll give him one more crappy movie, and then I’m done with his cash-grab flicks. A critic can only take so much.

The Disc: One star out of five

Thank God there’s no commentary on here, because I don’t think I could sit through this stinker more than once. Instead, on this Blu-ray disc, you get pointless “deleted scenes” that all deserved to get cut from the film (even though, LOTS of scenes that DID make the movie should have been cut as well). You also get a “Becoming the Demon,” featurette, which talks about that horrendous CGI at the end of the movie that I was talking about before. In the “On a Crusade” feature, it talks about all the yawn-inducing battle sequences at the beginning of the movie. And the “Alternate Ending” is just that, an alternate ending. Is it a better ending? No, no it is not. In fact, it’s equivalent to if The Sixth Sense had an alternate ending where Haley Joel Osment’s mother was also a ghost. So yeah, it sucks like that. There’s also a digital copy in the box so that you can watch it on the go, but mercy, why would you ever want to do that? It’s a bad movie with equally bad special features. Pass this one up like the plague.

Season of the Witch [Blu-Ray] Details
Length: 95 min
Rated: PG-13
Distributor: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Release Date: 2011-06-28
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Stephen Campbell Moore, Ron Perlman, Claire Foy
Directed by: Dominic Sena
Produced by: Alex Gartner, Charles Roven
Written by: Bragi Schut

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Sunday, July 3, 2011

My Top Ten Favorite Books

I've read a LOT of books in my day. Hundreds, even. Maybe even a thousand. I haven't counted, but it's definitely somewhere in that figure. And along the way, there have been very few books that I would call awful, and even fewer that I would call outright masterpieces. But these ten on this list are definitely in the latter category, and I recommend that you read them all. So, well, here they are.

(Image taken from: thebookwormchronicles.wordpress.com)

10. Drawing of the Three by Stephen King

The Dark Tower series really must be read as a whole to be truly appreciated. But if I were to choose one book out of the entire saga as a great standalone read, I'd have to choose the second book in the series, Drawing of the Three. I mean, talk about a page turner. The book moves so fast that it took me about two days to read 400 pages, and it's a stark contrast to the first book, which takes place mainly in Mid-World. This book takes place primarily in New York and jumps back and forth between there and the beaches of the other world, and the stakes are really high here. Roland's hand runs into some trouble and two fan-favorite characters in the series are introduced in this book in Eddie Dean and his future wife, Susannah. A great, great book. But you really should read the whole series. It's worth it.

(Image taken from: scifi160.blogspot.com)

9. The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov

Everything that's great about Asimov (And seriously, what's NOT great about Asimov?) can be found in this book. Robotics? Check. A deep layered, scientific mythology? Check. A great central character? Check. And it's even got a whole detective story at the core of it. Really, what's not to love? And while I must say that Asimov's Foundation series is his magnum opus, unlike The Dark Tower series, I really can't think of one book in Asimov's series that's better or worse than any of the others in saga. The Caves of Steel is great book with a stellar setting. Definitely one of his best.

(Image taken from: 4umi.com)

8. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

One of my female friends back in high school said that this was her favorite book. I asked, how. It's such a masculine story and I couldn't quite grasp back then how anybody but a guy could like it. That said, as an adult, I can certainly see where it can be looked at as a much broader story that can be analyzed and enjoyed (If you're cynical) by all. It provides a darker, more mechanic future than those seen in other dystopian novels like 1984 or Fahrenheit 451, and as a futuristic story, it doesn't get much more depressing than this. An interesting read by a crazed, doped up novelist. I love it.

(Image taken from: bookrags.com)

7. Uncle Tom's Children by Richard Wright

Richard Wright is one of the few people who make me proud to be black. Besides having a name that sounds almost exactly like my own, he wrote eloquently and militantly, making his black contemporaries look like they didn't have the guts to write like he did. Native Son is a better book, by far, but I like this one more, mostly because it's told in short stories. But also because I think he gets his points across better about racism, segregation, and fighting back more clearly here. He was a Communist who wrote like a Communist. So it's no nonsense writing. No fluff, no bluff. Love this guy.

(Image taken from: bookrags.com)

6. The Last Temptation of Christ by Nikos Kazantzakis

I remember having a very hard time reading this when I was younger. Not because it was hard to read or anything like that, but more because I felt like I was committing blasphemy when I was reading it. That was foolish. It has a very bad reputation but it's unfounded. Half the Christians who hate on it probably never even read the book in the first place (Or saw the Martin Scorsese adaptation, for that matter). If they had, then they would know that it actually humanizes Christ much more, and shows Him as a much more rounded, three dimensional figure than the one who was always talked about at the pulpit. Liberal-minded Christians would actually LOVE this book. But I'm not going to spoil it for you. It's the ending that really sells it, and it really is quite beautiful. If you see yourself losing your faith, I think you should check it out. It might just make you remember why you continue to be a Christian in the first place. It did for me, anyway.

(Image taken from: celsius1414.com)

5. The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut

In a lot of ways for me, Kurt Vonnegut is kind of like Stanley Kubrick. I've indulged in everything that they ever did, and I think that they were the greatest at their respective jobs. But I have a hard time picking one individual work in their oeuvre that I'd put above the rest. If you forced me at knife point, though, I'd have to say it's Paths of Glory for me with Kubrick, and with Vonnegut, I'd have to go with The Sirens of Titan. Next to Slapstick, it's the strangest work that he ever did, and also the most philosophical. But I think it also epitomizes the brain of this man, which was entirely out there but also painfully down to earth. And it features the first mention of Tralfamadore, which in itself is something spectacular. Vonnegut, wherever you are in your eternal dirt nap (Even, though, I'm sure you'd say 'in the ground, so let me sleep') you're still my hero. Always has been, always will be.

4. Shogun by James Clavell

Before I read James Clavell's Shogun, which is just the chronological first story in his Japanese saga, I was team Ninja all the way. But after reading this book, I was team Samurai all the way. No question. They're just such cooler historical figures than their black suited contemporaries. James Clavell fully explored the lives of gaijin (foreigners) in this story and also their presence on Japanese soil and what they meant to the integration of a new culture. Oh, and it had some really awesome action scenes that were all the more poignant because I really got engrossed in the characters and story. It's actually the first (and only) book that has ever made me cry. For serious. If you like Japanese culture at all, then you HAVE to read this book. You owe it to yourself. It's that good.

(Image taken from: blogs.babble.com)

3. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

Anthem and The Fountainhead are marvelous books, but after reading Atlas Shrugged, you feel that the other two were just warm-ups for this one. Every thing about Atlas Shrugged is empowering, and I can understand why the Conservative party would grab a hold of it and use it as the backdrop for their beliefs. Hell, I think ANYBODY who wants to believe that mankind can accomplish anything should read this book. From its opening line ("Who is John Galt?") to its glistening conclusion, I can't think of another story where I felt that nothing was impossible after reading it. A classic amongst classics. Even if you don't agree with her philosophy, it's still an outstanding story. Definitely check it out. And ignore its length. Every single page is worth it. Every single page is important.

(Image taken from: withfriendship.com)

2. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

You might think this is sick, but I actually identify with Crime and Punishment's protagonist, Raskolnikov, more than any other character that I've ever read about. And that's not saying much on my part, being that Raskolnikov is a murderer. But the journey that he goes through in this story is the one that I feel that I would probably go through, too if I murdered someone. First, from feeling like some people don't matter in the world and deserve to die, to feeling both remorse and selfishness afterward when you realize that you have no right to play God and that every life has purpose. Dostoyevsky made a masterpiece of moral choices, and I think you should check it out if you ever saw someone on the street and thought bad thoughts about them. Because really, who are you to think that way about somebody? Like you're more important than anyone else. That's how this book makes you think. Written well over a century ago, it still holds up today. Now THAT'S a novel.

(Image taken from: theavidreaders.blogspot.com)

1. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

The greatest comic novel I've ever read, this was Mr. Toole's second and final novel because he committed suicide before it was ever published. And it's a shame, too, because I've never read anything as hilarious as this book. I was seriously crying when I was reading it because I was laughing so hard. Crying! It has probably the greatest opening scene ever in a book and throughout the entire story, you just can't help but think that things can't get any worse for the pudgy, pedantic protagonist, Ignatius J Reilly, but they do! And the funniest part is, is that he actually deserves everything that comes to him. You never feel sympathy for him. Not once. He's entirely likeable and loathsome at the same time, he's just great.

This book has my favorite character ever and it's just too damn funny to pass up. If you read any book on this list, read this one. Read this one, please. It even won the Pulitzer Prize. And that's saying a lot for a book that's really just one long gag after another. Best. Book. Ever.