Tag Archives: gaming

TRON: Legacy – Review

24 Jul

After doing a review for TRON, I think it’s only fair to take a look at it’s predecessor that was released 27 years later. Whereas the original TRON was a stepping stone for the area of CGI, TRON: Legacy will be remembered as an important movie in the rapidly growing use of 3D and the continuing evolution of computer graphics.

 

Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) knew all about the Grid from the stories he would be told by his father, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), but he never though that one night his dad would go to work and never return. For twenty years, the mystery of what happened to his father has plagued Sam, and when a mysterious page is sent to Kevin’s partner, Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner), from the old arcade, Sam goes to investigate. While there, he accidentally transports himself into the Grid where he not only finds his trapped father, but also the program that has turned against him, Clu (Bridges again…sort of).

For me, TRON: Legacy is an all around better movie than the original. The effects are obviously better, but the story has also been improved. Mind you, it’s not perfect at all. In fact, it can be kind of bewildering at times. The pacing is a lot better, however, and there is clear and more serious motivation behind what the characters do.

There are some serious plot holes that I thought of after the movie was over. The strange thing is, I didn’t really realize them as I was watching it because I was so enthralled by the audio/visual overload that is TRON: Legacy. That’s also to say that the plot holes exist, but they aren’t serious enough to really detract me from enjoying the movie. Looking back on them, however, my experience may be a little soured the next time I watch it.

As you can see from the clip above the previous paragraph, the light cycles look a hell of a lot better in this one than the original, no surprise there. While that may be obvious, I just want to comment on just how cool the entire look and sounds of this movie is. The computer graphics are fantastic and the bright orange or blue lights on the costumes contrast well with the blue and grey world. The sounds are appropriately robotic or glitchy, and the often pounding score by legendary techno artists, Daft Punk, really help immerse the viewer in the cyber world. Also, the de-rezzing looks awesome.

The only problem that I have with the CGI is a big one. This bothered me throughout the movie, and I was really hoping that I wasn’t the only one who was annoyed. Thankfully, I wasn’t. Clu’s face is digitized to make it look like a younger version of Kevin. Therefore, Jeff Bridges face is animated on another person doing the body acting. This looks pretty horrible. The film makers would have been smart not to stay in any sort of close up for too long, but that isn’t what happens. Instead, the viewers are forced to watch and wonder at a good, but failed attempt at making Bridges young again.

All I can really say is that TRON: Legacy is a much better movie than the original TRON. There was no point during this film that I got bored, which is more than I can say for the original. The Grid looks fantastic and the characters are surprisingly believable. There are some plot issues that are minor, but can be noticeable and Clu’s face looks terrible. Other than that, TRON: Legacy is a good sci-fi escape that proved to be a great way to spend an afternoon.

TRON – Review

23 Jul

Using CGI has become the norm in blockbuster film making, but believe it or not, there used to be a time where that tool didn’t exist! Slowly, but surely, it came to be and one movie can be solely responsible for making it happen. This movie is TRON, a science fiction classic that helped kickstart a new generation in film making.

 

Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) is a software engineer who runs a popular arcade. On his downtime, he hacks into ENCOM’s mainframe in order to prove that his own ideas were stolen by Ed Dillinger (David Warner) and used for his promotion and Flynn’s being fired. Flynn’s friends, Alan (Bruce Boxleitner) and Lora (Cindy Morgan), offer to help him break into ENCOM and try to find his evidence in the computers there, where he can more easily avoid the Master Security Program. Flynn is again caught and transported into the world of the computer where he must fight in gladiatorial games and defeat the Master Security Program and its army.

If there ever was a movie to be described as dated, this would most certainly be the one. From the games, to the lingo, to the special effects, everything is dated by over twenty years.  It was interesting to see how the world was using what we would call primitive computers. So the outdatedness isn’t a fault or a detraction from the movie, just something you have to get used to and learn to enjoy.

The CGI effects are really excellent, and this isn’t sarcasm. Put yourself in the 1982 mind set and imagine seeing this. It would be great. Still, in 2012, I still think that CGI has a really cool look to it that no other movie has. It’s a great way to distinguish this from anything else, and it was a stepping stone in the film universe that paved the way for the most popular summer blockbusters today.

But, what about the story, the acting, and the writing? Well…that’s an entirely different story. If you’re looking for anything other than interesting concepts and special effects, than about face and look for another movie. Let’s start with the writing and the acting. Bad acting doesn’t mean bad writing and vice versa. But with TRON, not only is the acting bad, but so is the writing. Combine both of those two and we have an extra cheese movie experience. The only saving grace for the acting was Jeff Bridges, who delivered his ridiculous lines with some believability. The rest are pretty bad.

The story and the way it’s told are total opposites. Having a computer genius literally put inside the computer and forced to go head to head with an evil program is awesome. The imagination at work here is awesome. The way the story is told is less than great. Despite the cool story and the great special effects, I found myself getting bored. The pacing was very strange and didn’t spend enough time in one spot to completely explain and show anything. Moving fast through a world as elaborate and intriguing as this is a big mistake committed but the film makers.

Even with all of these glaring faults, TRON is a major motion picture that can be considered one of the most important movies ever made. Certainly not one of the best, however. The special effects and ideas here are incredible and were new. The pacing, acting, and writing are something else. If you’re interested in film history and the progression of special effects, TRON is a textbook example to view. It is still not a very good movie in all other respects.

Build-Up to The Avengers – Thor

16 Apr

Out of all of the members of The Avengers, Thor is the one that I know the least about, so while I was putting on the movie I didn’t really know what to expect. What I got was a spectacular experience color, set design, action, Shakespearean plot elements, and fantastic sound design. After watching Thor, I was ready to go to my local comic book shop and pick up some Thor comic books.

Thor tells the origin story of the Norse God of Thunder of the same name. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is a great warrior, but just as arrogant, which is dangerous because he is to be the next king of Asgard. After a breach is made in Asgard by the Frost Giants of Jotunheim, the Asgardians oldest enemies, Thor,his jealous brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), and Sif and the Warriors Three (Jaimie Alexander, Ray Stevenson, Joshua Dallas, and Tadanobu Asano) travel to their realm and engage in a forbidden battle. Because Thor has broken the truce between Asgard and Jotunheim, Thor’s father and king of Asgard, Odin (Anthony Hopkins) banishes him to Earth, leaving Loki to take the throne. On Earth, Thor must learn to survive and find the hero within him, all while helping astrophysicist, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) understand the different realms and defend her work from S.H.I.E.L.D and Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg). Meanwhile, Loki begins to conspire with the Frost Giants in order to take the throne from Odin and fix the problems of Asgard using all the wrong methods.

When Thor was over, the image that stayed in my head was the Bifröst Bridge. Honestly, this is probably one of the coolest, if not the coolest, set pieces I have ever seen in a movie. This can be said with all of Asgard. The computer graphics look fantastic and aren’t distracting. Instead, they create a surreal world with a gorgeous atmospheric design with buildings and enhanced colors that looked absolutely gorgeous.

Tom Hiddleston steals the show as Loki, Thor’s jealous brother. He does a great job at playing a villain who is evil, but at the same time tragic and sympathetic. His backstory is fascinating and helped me feel for the character. Hemsworth brings great depth to Thor’s character along with a couple really humorous scenes. Natalie Portman is good, as well, but is probably the weakest and most stereotypical character.

As I said before, the plot of Thor is almost like something you would see in a Shakespeare play; that is, without the special agents, Norse Gods, and the Destroyer. But the theme of a dangerous jealousy among siblings rings true throughout the film, which really gives a nice layer to what would otherwise be a summer action film that is packed to the brim with action and special effects. This movie is special because the characters are very relatable, even though some of them are gods from another realm.

Thor is also full of references that will be appreciated by Marvel fans. Bruce Banner and Tony Stark are briefly mentioned, which I found great because I’m so excited for The Avengers, and I just love seeing all of these characters get tied together. It’s really a lot of fun.

So my consensus of Thor is that it’s a must see. Rarely does Marvel release a subpar comic book film, those being the two Fantastic 4 films, Hulk, and Daredevil (which many argue really stinks, but I think it’s alright.) Thor on the other hand is great, and an exceptional tie-in to The Avengers.

My Favorite Things – 10 Favorite Villains

28 Mar

So what is it that constitutes a villain? The definition probably differs for everyone. To me, a villain is someone who is just a downright terrible creature who is either amoral or immoral. This person can even act as the anti-hero of a film as you will se in the list, but their actions still give them the description of villain. So this is a list of my 10 favorite villains.

10. Asami Yamakazi – Audition

Director Takashi Miike has a talent for making bad people even worse than we may be first led to believe. The best example of this is Asami, a beautiful, quiet, and seemingly innocent woman who hides an indescribable evil urge. If you didn’t know what you were getting into before watching Audition, I would imagine the viewer would think that Asami is the victim in the movie, although the nerve jangling, endurance testing, nausea inducing finale proves otherwise. This is a girl you do not want to mess with, especially if you value your ligaments.

9. Agent Smith – The Matrix

Hugo Weaving gives a fantastically deadpan performance as the infamous Agent Smith, a program in the Matrix that is implemented by the machines to keep order. His emotionless performance is perfect, but when he does get angry the whole mood of the film goes from being a science fiction action film to a small, short horror film. This is because Weaving can go from a drone to a manifestation of what a computer program could be if it had a strange emotional glitch. It’s a very unsettling performance and memorable on all accounts.

8. John Doe – Se7en

In my personal opinion, Kevin Spacey is one of the finest living actors. He is one of those actors that can put himself into any role wether it’s funny or terrifying, like his performance in David Fincher’s Se7en. John Doe is pretty much your by the book sociopath who has no value for any kinds of life, including his own. What makes it so memorable is how well Spacey pulls it off. He remains calm for his entire screen time even though it really isn’t that much. But the build up to his revelation is part of the intensity of his character. We see everything he is capable of throughout the film, but in the end he looks like just another average guy.

7. Frank Booth – Blue Velvet

Oh boy, we’re really getting into a weird category of villain with this one. What can possibly be said about Frank Booth other than he is probably the most unlikable person to ever grace the movies. Dennis Hopper gives both a great physical and personal performance that only he could do. The gas that Booth carries around with him and inhales at random times throughout the film really makes his character original. He’s a complete asshole to everyone he comes in contact with and incredibly dangerous if you get on his bad side.

6. Tony Montana – Scarface

When I was referring to anti-heros in my introduction, this was the guy I had in mind. Tony Montana may be the main protagonist and person we root for all through Scarface, but that doesn’t make him a good person at all. He is a big time drug dealer and murderer who has a knack for pissing people off. Unlike a lot of the villains on this list, Tony has morals and refuses to kill women and children, a personal rule that ends up getting him into big trouble.

5. Col. Hans Landa – Inglourious Basterds

You guys can disagree with me all you want, but I honestly believe that Inglourious Basterds is Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece. Part of the reason that this movie is so good is the character of Hans Lands, nicknamed the Jew Hunter. Christoph Waltz received a much deserved Academy Award for this performance that is both hysterical and evil. He hides a quiet insanity behind his polite and intellectual exterior.

4. Commodus – Gladiator

As much as I think Joaquin Phoenix is a villain in and of himself, his performance as Commodus is out of this world great. But of course, with a grand heroic hero like Maximus, a villain needs to be put in place that we can hate just as much as we love Maximus. Commodus is creepy, conniving, and dirty. Definitely one of the most hated characters in film.

3. Hans Gruber – Die Hard

Here’s another one of those villains whose personality is that of a drone, but behind the boring exterior is a ticking time bomb. Not only is Hans Gruber incredibly brilliant and sneaky, but also willing to do anything and kill anyone without so much as blinking. Unfortunately there are no good videos I can get of Hans Gruber without stupid music being thrown in.

2. Jack Torrance – The Shining

I’ve already made my love for Stanley Kubrick films known with my entire blog series about Kubrick and his films, so it’s inevitable that at least one of his villains would end up on my list. The most memorable for me is Jack Torrance. Jack Nicholson gives one of the best screen performances ever and really established himself as one of the best actors of all time. His facial expressions and voice acting make this character come alive in an absolutely frightening way.

1. Peter and Paul – Funny Games

Finally here we are at number 1 with Peter and Paul. Michael Pitt and Brad Corbet are so disturbingly polite and gentle, making sure the family they are torturing is as comfortable as possible, but is that all just an act to mess with their psyche further? They are, I think, the worst villains ever. Now, I have never seen the original Funny Games, but considering the American one directed by the same person as the Finnish one (Michael Haneke) is a shot for shot remake, Peter and Paul are my favorite international villains. On a side note, Peter and Paul are not their actual names. They even refer to each other as Tom and Jerry.

 

So there you have my favorite villains. Feel free to comment on this either on here or Facebook and tell me who your favorite villains are!

The Kubrick Experience – The Shining, Full Metal Jacket, and Eyes Wide Shut

28 Mar

With only 3 more movies left, the end of my Stanley Kubrick blogs is finally here.  The beginning of the end starts in 1980 with Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining, based off of a Stephen King novel.

Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) is a writer who takes a job as a caretaker for the Overlook Hotel while it closes during the winter season thinking that it would be the ideal time to work on his latest book. He brings his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and his son Danny (Danny Lloyd) along with him. While staying at the Overlook, the family and Jack’s sanity slowly deteriorates until one night Jack is pushed over the limit.

Much like Barry Lyndon, there is so much in this film to talk about that a summary of just a few sentences is very difficult to write. First, there is a plethora of iconic scenes that have been studied, discussed, and long remembered. Even if you haven’t seen the film, I can bet that you know or have at least heard of the terms “REDRUM” and “Here’s Johnny!”

Kubrick’s signature tracking shots are shown in full force in The Shining. There are tons of brilliant tracking shots that last for a very long time, my favorite being the one where Danny is riding his tricycle through the hotel, which is partially shown in the above video. The contrast of the sound between him riding on the hard floor and carpet almost act as a soundtrack for the scene.

The biggest question this film poses is: “Is the Overlook Hotel haunted or has Jack just gone crazy?” There is plenty of evidence for both which makes it very difficult to decide. Jack acts very volatile throughout the movie, but there is a certain picture at the end which points to the hotel being haunted. It’s a horror movie that challenges the viewer to make their own decisions on what has happened and offers little to no closure.

With the combination of its camera work, acting, and soundtrack, The Shining can easily be put at one of the top spots of horror movies. The directing was so meticulous that the famous “give me the bat” scene was shot 125 times. This obsession pays off, however, making The Shining one of the best horror films ever made.

Kubrick combined the horrors of the mind that was evident in The Shining with the horrors of the Vietnam War in his 1987 film, Full Metal Jacket.

This film’s plot can be broken up into 2 acts. The first act deals with boot camp. Gunnery Sgt. Hartman (R. Lee Ermey) welcomes the new recruits to the United States Marine Corps with insults and warnings. Among these new recruits is Pvts. Joker (Matthew Modine) and Gomer Pyle (Vincent D’Onofrio). All of the recruits are pushed to their limits, especially Private Pyle, until one night when he is finally pushed too far. Act 2 has a story shift to the actual conflict in Da Nang and Phu Bai, Vietnam. Joker joins up with Lusthog Squad and reunited with his boot camp friend, Cowboy (Arliss Howard). It is here that the two friends and the rest of the squad experience the traumatizing events of war in full force, and come to the realization that none of them may make it out alive.

What makes Full Metal Jacket interesting is that this is a war movie that isn’t about the brotherhood or camaraderie between the soldiers, but more so about the debilitating  psychological and physical effects war has on human beings. The soldiers aren’t even safe at boot camp, where they are verbally and physically humiliated in front of many different people.

Sure, the war scenes may not be as intense or epic as what is seen in films such as Saving Private Ryan or Black Hawk Down, but what this film does offer is the gritty realism of the day to day street battles that were just as dangerous as the massive skirmishes that were seen in World War II. A particularly intense scene towards the end of the movie  pits the entire squad against one sniper that can not be seen. The fact that no one knows where the sniper is or who the sniper can see makes this a memorable scene.

This film leaves the viewer with a bad taste in their mouth after the ending scene. No one knows if Joker is going to live to see another day or the rest of his life. All that is revealed is that war to soldiers is a day to day lifestyle that can not be predicted. It is all very dehumanizing and violent. Full Metal Jacket is one of the most powerful anti-war films ever made that makes everything about conflict seem devilish.

After going for over a decade without releasing a movie, Kubrick finally released the film that would be his swan song and is dubbed as “the film that killed Stanley Kubrick”: Eyes Wide Shut.

Dr. Bill Harford (Tom Cruise) used to have the perfect life with a great job, a loving daughter, and a beautiful wife, Alice (Nicole Kidman). But, recently he has found his marriage to be close to being permanently damaged. One night when Alice reveals a secret that she has been keeping hidden for years, Bill sets out on an all night psychosexual escapade that takes him through the New York underground and back. The next day, Bill finds himself in more trouble than he was the day before and realizes he must come to terms with both his and Alice’s separate desires.

Like I said in my last Kubrick blog, his movies were prone to receiving loads of controversy upon their release, and Eyes Wide Shut is no exception. It was threatened with an NC-17 rating upon its release unless it was censored. Stanley believed that the graphic sexual content was necessary to telling the story, but eventually did give in and edit the movie to give it the R-rating it has. There are copies of the original NC-17 rating, but I have not yet seen it.

To touch once again on the topic of his meticulous directing style, this film holds the record for longest constant shoot: 400 days. Even though this proved to be very stressful, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman have both said it was a complete honor to have worked with Stanley Kubrick (unlike most of the other actors in the past).

Sex and its psychology is the most important part of this movie, and it would definitely appear on Freud’s top 10 films list if he were alive today. Never before have I seen sex portrayed in a strangely frightening way (until I saw A Serbian Film, but that’s a review for another day). The sex in this film is shown both as a leisurely and casual activity, but also as an almost ritualistic escape from reality.

Sadly, Kubrick died four days after the final screening of Eyes Wide Shut before its release. Never before, nor since has the world seen a more dedicated and frustratingly meticulous director, obsessed with every little detail. Some say Kubrick may have been autistic. Others say he was simply that brilliant. All I know is that he is my favorite director and one of my main inspirations when it comes to both storytelling and style. It upsets me to think that I will never see a new Stanley Kubrick movie in the theaters. Although he was before my time, I appreciate his work and will always consider him the best of the best.

Doomsday – Review

27 Mar

Unfortunately, action films nowadays seem tame as compared to the hard hitters of the late 70’s and all throughout the 80’s. There are a few exceptions with films like CrankThe Expendables, and the latest Rambo. Doomsday, however, seems to be trying to reinvent the hardcore action films of times gone by and acts as an homage to classics like Escape from New YorkAliens, and Mad Max. It ultimately succeeds in resurrecting this style of action and is, for the most part, a very entertaining ride.

In 2008, a deadly epidemic called the Reaper Virus causes the British government to quarantine Scotland. For 25 years, it was assumed that everyone in Scotland had died from the virus. When the Reaper Virus appears yet again in Britain, a special forces squad, led by Major Eden Sinclair (Rhona Mitra),  is sent into Scotland to try and find a cure that was supposedly being developed by a Dr. Kane (Malcolm McDowell). The mission spins terribly out of control as the squad finds a punk-like gang of cannibals led by the maniacal Sol (Craig Conway). As time and the squad begins to dwindle, the stakes and violence are raised and the odds of getting back to Britain appears almost impossible.

The really cool thing about this movie is the amount of genres that are plowed through. The movie starts out as a virus film which turns into a science fiction film. After the squad runs across the Marauders it becomes a post-apocalyptic film, which is definitely the high point of the movie. After that it takes a very strange turn that I don’t really want to ruin in this review, but it really didn’t fit the film and could’ve easily been changed.

The characters in Doomsday really aren’t anything special. They aren’t totally without a personality, but we have definitely seen them before. Luckily, this film isn’t about the character development. It’s about how many awesome action sequences and over the top blood splatter scenes, and this film is absolutely not lacking in that department. Doomsday is about two gallons short of being a gorefest.

Even with all of the ridiculous violence, I feel like the movie really does have something to say about the government’s response to tragedy. The movie points the finger at leaders and accuses them of still looking out for their own well being and personal image even if people are suffering and dying under their jurisdiction. A popular example of a poor response by the government is the aftermath and recovery of Hurricane Katrina.

Doomsday goes farther than a large amount of mainstream action films won’t even think about going. There’s loads of violent action from beginning to end that is intense, gory, and even funny. The last part of the second act really drags and is just a bit too out of place, but that is really the only complain I have about this movie. It is fun and exciting, and works as a spot on homage to action classics.

Pale Flower – Review

26 Mar

I dare anyone who has seen the 1964 Japanese film, Pale Flower, to say that they did not get totally immersed in the dreamlike atmosphere. Never before have I seen a yakuza film that blends together the elements of noir, gangster, romance, and avant-garde to create such a unique experience of sight and sound.

Muraki (Ryo Ikebe in a career saving performance) is a Yakuza hitman who has just been released from prison after serving a murder sentence. Back on the streets, Muraki goes to an illegal gambling den where he meets a mysterious woman named Saeko (Mariko Kaga) who is addicted to thrills wherever she can find them. As Muraki begins taking Saeko to more impressive gambling dens and card games, the more suspicious he gets of who Saeko is and what she is really all about, and that worries Muraki. More complications arise as new gangs threaten the old ones and a man named Yoh (Takashi Fujiki) begins to lure Saeko into the world of drug use.

The story of the new Yakuza gangs becoming more violent towards the old ones is an interesting story, but is far from what this movie is really about. The true essence of this dreamlike gangster tale is a character study and how the life and code of these people effect their lives. Muraki is a killer and the only time he admits to happiness is when he talks of murder. This is a dark kind of happiness, but it is the effect of the Yakuza lifestyle. Muraki effects Saeko’s life by showing her more thrills in the Japanese underworld, until she soon becomes insatiable in her thrill seeking.

The cinematography in Pale Flower is some of the best I have ever seen and should definitely be used as an example in film schools for lessons in lighting. The opening scene in the gambling den is beautifully lit with ceiling light that illuminates the gamblers and casts shadows around the walls of the room, directing the focus totally on the game. The blocking also works along with the lighting to stress importance. Another scene with Muraki chasing a would-be assassin through a labyrinth of back alleys evokes a dark and shadowy atmosphere broken only by the lighted signs of near by shops.

Everyday sounds that would seem unimportant are enhanced to better create a hypersensitive atmosphere. The clacking of the pieces in the gambling scenes, the footsteps echoing on an empty street, and most importantly, the haunting other worldly score composed by Toru Takemitsu. The score occasionally coincides with the images on the screen, but also seems to venture into a haunting and discordant explosion of sound.

Masaru Baba, the writer of the film, was not happy with the end result because he claims that it was not what he had written. The director, Masahiro Shinoda, took Baba’s story and made it into something more dark and artistic. Apparently, the original screenplay had a very direct and simple storyline. I feel like Shinoda’s version is a lot more interesting than the original Baba screenplay. The film was shelved for months because it deviated so much from the first screenplay.

I read nothing but good things about Pale Flower before I saw it, but I was still worried that it wasn’t really going to suit my fancy. Luckily I had absolutely nothing to worry about. This is a gangster film like I had never seen before. It hurls the viewer into a dreamlike underworld that you will not want to leave. The sights and sounds are an audio/visual overload that creates a startlingly beautiful atmosphere that is impossible to resist. This film should be on everyone’s “must watch” list.