Friday, December 10, 2010

Update - Holidays!

Hey All!

So yeah, work always gets rather busy around Christmas (I work with the disabled, in case your vaguely curious) and as such I ain't going to be able to write any articles until maybe mid-January. I have been very eager for Christmas this year and plan to use this break to the full!

The Question We All Must Ask

It's been one hell of year. Thank you to everyone who helped make this year one of the stranger, more stressful and more exciting years of my 24 years on this Earth thus far. Sadly out of respect to all my friends, nearly all my stories from this year are sadly off-limits. To add to the strangeness (& for those of you who don't live in Ireland) this has been happening.

Either That Or Snow, Although We All Know It Doesn't Snow In Ireland.

Time to plan how to get home to the country without dying on dodgy bendy country roads.

So all going well, until next time!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life (Volume One) Best Of

Hey all!

This is part one of a six part project looking at the best sections from each issue of the Scott Pilgrim comic book series. All moments are chronologically presented as they appear through-out the story and I'll leave it up to you to rank them quality-wise. For a full review of the concept and a review of the comics, click here!

Anyhow, onwards!


Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life (Volume 1)

Scott Pilgrim's life is totally sweet. He's 23 years old, he's in a rock band, he's "between jobs," and he's dating a cute high school girl. Nothing could possibly go wrong, unless a seriously mind-blowing, dangerously fashionable, rollerblading delivery girl named Ramona Flowers starts cruising through his dreams and sailing by him at parties. Will Scott's awesome life get turned upside-down? Will he have to face Ramona's seven evil ex-boyfriends in battle? The short answer is yes. The long answer is Scott Pilgrim, Volume 1: Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life.

Moment Number 10 - Introducing Sex Bom-Omb (Play Along!)

A great way to introduce the band Sex Bom-Omb, whose members the core of the story. The addition of a play-along and the constant reminders that they suck immediately make them endearing, not to mention kind of awesome.

Moment Number 9 - Train Spotting Confusion

I thought this was very funny and another nice cultural reference. That's all really!

Moment Number 8 - Knives Chau's First Kiss

A rather sad moment, played for laughs. which works here strangely. Scott's fear of anything 'real' and his mis-treatment of Knives is one of the most tragic parts of the series for me and it all starts here.

Moment Number 7 - "You Sleep With A Guy! Ah Ha Ha!"

This scene is a cutesy budding romance scene with a bit more bite. Ramoma is already showing that, unlike Knives, she can run rings around Scott.

Moment Number 6 - Romona & Scott, Who Didn't See This Coming?

The true central theme of the book! Also, this shows a far less noble side to Scott, considering he is cheating on Knives. The book can be read as quite morally ambiguous from here on, which only serves to make the series more interesting and true to real life.

Also, doesn't this panel capture that first kiss with someone you really like rather well?

Moment Number 5 - "A Girl Drummer?!"

In one panel and a simple joke, Kim's character traits (being a bad-ass, somewhat angry but still quite sensitive girl) are flashed at us for a second. It's a very clever and fast character moment.

Moment Number 4 - The Gig, Everybody Meets Everybody, Scott's An Idiot

A true Scott moment. Only he would invite his girlfriend, the girl he is cheating with and all his gossipy friends to the same gig. Having wallace eyeball stacy's boyfriend is also a nice touch.

Moment Number 3 - "Their Song Was Only 0.4 Seconds Long? Their Good..."

A nice mock-up of arty-rockbands and a suitable challenger for Sex Bom-omb.

Moment Number 2 - Space Channel 5 Defense!

It's another game reference, this time to the dreamcast's 'Space channel 5'. If you got this reference, i officially think your awesome

Moment Number 1 - "Only $2.10? Aw!"

Ex-boyfriends turn into coins when defeated? That is the best video-game reference ever!

Volume 1 is a great introduction to a huge range of characters from this universe. While it has it's problems, including some of the weakest art of the series (Although thats somewhat deliberate) and an ending fight that derails the tone of the story, its still a very fun, fast and surprisingly clever review of young adults and generation gamer in general. This issue does a fantastic job of hinting at the complex and varied characters we will later get to met in greater detail in later issues. Every character seems to already be fully formed here and it is just up to us to get to know them better, which is a very hard thing to get right one issue in. Throw in references to games, bands, films and the city of Toronto itself and you have the first volume of one of the best series of the last few years.

Rather then go into anymore detail, go buy the damn book and enjoy it yourself! Do let me know if you see any moments I missed.

Til next time!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Film Review/Recap - Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Pt.1

Hey all!

So once upon a time there was a boy. This boy was different from all other children, except all other children in stories of any kind. His name was Gary Sue. Excuse me, Harry Potter. He was a wizard and more importantly the protagonist of an increasingly absurd series of books. In this series he battled Hitler and his army of extreme right wing, fascist Nazi's. Excuse me, Harry instead battled He Who Shall Not Be Named and his army of extreme right wing, fascist Death-Eaters. Except he is named, repeatedly. He's called Voldemort.

Harry also had a circle of loyal friends, nicknamed Jailbait Maximus and the Ginger Joke Machine. This circle of friends had to watch as Harry spent an entire book giving out to them (The Order of The Phoenix) as well as repeatedly tried to get them all killed for ill-thought out reasons. To rub salt in their wounds Harry then got the books named after himself like an ego-manic. There was also an old dude who died at some point. Whatever.

Anyhow, Harry went through many trials, including having to appear in a play where he has sex with a horse to be taken seriously as an actor (or so he says) and a series of god-awful films being made about his life. Poor Harry had to suffer from become a teenage millionaire, having an army of borderline insane fans and having to work with Emma Watson, also known as Jailbait Maximus. I mean seriously, damn! Ahem... Poor Harry. Along the way the entire population of Earth read his books and almost double that went to see his movies because fuck reading right?

"Dobby?! Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!"

To be serious for a second, I have always enjoyed the Harry Potter books, even if I would be the first to admit there was some serious issues with their pacing and the amount of Deus Ex Machina moments that occur. At their core they are a magical coming of age tale, with the greatest contrast from book to book (the tone) being generated as much by Harry and his friends growing up and being moody, awkward teenagers as by the sinister background presence of He Who Will Not Be Named. These books have considerable merit behind them, even if the later books and in particular the last one (The Deathly Hallows) just don't hold up to the earlier installments.

Sadly the films have always fallen short of the promise of the books. Director Chris Columbus was not right for the first two films (The Philosophers Stone and The Chamber of Secrets) and instead created cheesy, goofy, horribly acted pieces of cinematic dog-shit. Alfonso Cuaron did a far better joke with the third film (The Prisoner of Azkaban) by making the humour actually funny and the scary parts (like the Dementors) genuinely unsettling. Most fans favourite book, The Prisoner of Azkaban is also regarded as one of the strongest films in the series.

So naturally they fired Cuaron and hired Mike Newell, who did a solid joke of The Goblet of Fire, managing to introduce a element of maturity and pathos that the series needed so badly. Which was promptly handed over to David Yates who directed the last two films (The Order of The Phoenix and The Half-Blood Prince). Yates has done an alright job, with the films he directed tending to be based more around spectacular set-pieces then overall cohesion of story-telling or mood. Examples include the spectacular battle between Dumbledore and Voldemort at the end of Order of The Phoenix. Sadly the Yate films have some issues with characters (far too many, with not enough of importance to do) and rely on the viewers to know the books back-ways, often cutting from scene to scene without explaining what is motivating the new scenes. Now for the last and largest of the books, Yates has decided to break the story into two parts, hopefully giving him more time to explore and develop scenes and characters. Theres just one tiny problem with that...

Nothing at all happens for almost a third of the entire last book. Nothing. At all.

Or Sneezing, It is Cold Out There After All

This is a total scam! There was no godly reason to divide the story, as fans were quick to point out when this was announced. This is the last leg of a seven part adventure, how on earth could more build-up be needed?! What is the point, other then to milk people out of double their money? Actually that makes perfect sense, well played Hollywood, well played.

Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 1 (Grrr...) at least starts out strong. A very dark and almost poignant opening sequence shows all the main characters quietly preparing for the coming final battle, be it through wiping their parents memories to keep them safe and happy or looking lustfully at their favourite pet owl. This scene is very nicely contrasted with Voldemort and his army of Death-Eaters all sitting together as a united group, discussing their plans for the future and torturing a witch who smypathises with Muggles (non-magical folk, as if you didn't know). Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) is as sinister as ever, speaking with disgust of the notion of Muggles and Pure-Blood wizards/witches breeding, bullying other members of the Death-Eaters and taking the time to feed his snake.

Voldemort - Not Afraid To Slap A Bitch

After that unsettling start we get an ambush, a frantic chase and the death of two significant characters. Wow, explosions, excitement, swearing! This film is looking pretty exciting. Also, fans will be quick to notice how loyally this film seems to stick to the book, which is so far paying off big time.

Cue another ambush and then Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermonie (Emma Watson) fight the world's least effective assassins in a cafe (The assassins decide the best way to start off a fight is of course with your backs to your targets, who are watching you closely) and escape again. Ok, enough with the escaping and lets try something else. How about we sit in a field for almost an hour of the films 2 hour 30 minutes running time?

The majority of the film will see our heroes sit on their hands and do nothing. Ron moans a lot and says unfunny things. Harry doesn't know what to do. There is a plot involving Ron getting jealous of Harry and Hermonie together, even though no red-blooded male could really blame Harry now could they? There is also a sub-plot involving an evil necklace they all decide to wear even when its obvious it messes with their heads and occasionally tried to strangle them. Harry still doesn't know what to do. Ron leaves the guys to their camping and runs off, probably to listen to some My Chemical Romance. Harry and Hermonie have one of the most pointless and awkward dancing scenes since that awful sequence in Spiderman 3 where dance is used as an expression of evil.

Harry STILL doesn't know what to do. A sword appears in a frozen lake for no fucking reason (And don't even try to tell me "Oh its like the legend of King Arthur" because seriously, fuck that). Luckily Ron also appears at the exact right time to save Harry from drowning, because Harry sees nothing wrong with going swimming at night naked in frozen lakes. Unlike this film, Harry clearly isn't much good at treading water. I've just saved you 1 hour of your life you could spend learning to play the flute or watching Dexter.

And Before You Ask, No. There Isn't Even Any Underage Drinking Going On

The other 1 hour 30 minutes of the films running time all revolve around this extended camping trip but thankfully break the tedium. There is an amusing scene involving breaking into the Ministry of Magic, that culminates with Ron quasi-face-raping a lady who was almost executed. Because he's the funny one! Another Christmas scene involving an old lady who is actually a giant snake (Bloody Essex girls, never know what you'll get) would be a lot more effective if it weren't for the choppy editing. Even so this scene is somewhat terrifying, with the effects work in particular having come a long way since this series began. In fact it would be no exaggeration to say that Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 1, as well as being the darkest film in the series so far, is also the scariest and most brutal. In one of the final scenes in the film Hermonie gets the word Mudblood carved into her arm, followed by the death of the most innocent and well meaning character in the entire Harry Potter universe, Dobby the house-elf.

Also of merit is a beautifully rendered animated section explaining the term Deathly Hallows and the three magical Macguffins that will come in very important in the next film. There are moments of superb acting (the acting being up to now the series Achilles heel) from most of the cast. Emma Watson's career after this series ends should be particularly strong, with her pulling off the widest range of emotions of any character in the film. The destruction of the necklace scene has an almost Lovecraftian edge of mental horror and wickedness to it, which has been hinted at but never really managed in previous films.

In other words Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 1 is a stereotypical David Yates directed Harry Potter film. It has some fantastic set-pieces but doesn't really work as a whole. The inclusion of elements such as genuine sexual tension are a boon to the series but a little bit late at this stage. The amount of filler in this film is more apparent then previous installments due to the slow uneven pace. The amount of characters that come and go is insane, yet very few characters get time to develop in any way. For example, the only scene with Professor Snape (Alan Rickman) only show him acting constipated and uneasy. When you can only give Alan Rickman 3 minutes of screen time in a 2 hour 30 minutes movie, you have made a mistake.

The division of the book doesn't seem justified based on the evidence here. This film fails to be great due to sticking too rigidly to the confines and short-comings of the subject material. Sometimes that can be a pretty bad move, not to mention that people already know these stories inside out and expected David Yates to trim the fat off the 7th book. Instead he sticks to the story of the 7th book to an almost religious degree. This is odd considering how little respect earlier films have had for the other books at times.

WHELL?! DED YA!? *Grabs Harry And Shakes Him*

Sadly this film was everything fans expected it to be, a bloated but enjoyable film, enlivened by some great set-pieces and dragged down by its own slow, ponderous weight. On balance, a perfectly average film, at a time when there are much better things in the cinema. It remains to be seen if Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallow Part 2 (Hallow Harder) can redeem Part 1 enough to make it worthwhile.

Final Score : 2.5 Exploded House Out of 5.

See If You Like : The Other Harry Potter Films, Camping Trips.

Til next time.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Film Review - RED

Hey all!
Bruce Willis has had a rather strange acting career hasn't he? His bald shiny head seems unable to move too far beyond the cop stereotype; despite proving he can also play a friendly ghost (The Sixth Sense), a Prozac-addicted superhero (Unbreakable) and a really unlikable cock of a man (Hudson Hawk). Now, in his twilight years, he's the star of R.E.D (Retired. Extremely. Dangerous), in which he plays a retired C.I.A agent, which is completely different to his typical cop persona. It's spelt differently and all.

So yes, it's a Willis film, which should tell you plenty already. Willis plays Frank Moses, a retired and bored C.I.A agent who has in the past killed a lot of people but now merely sexually harasses social services employee Sarah, played by Mary-Louise Parker. My first problem with the film was why any moderately attractive woman would like flirting with a total stranger, who they know is a geriatric, in a work environment where there is a high risk of getting fired for it? Are the American Social services just that awesome?

Ok, So Prostate Examinations Are A Little More Extreme Over There, True...

Anyhow, some assassins come to kill Moses, so he goes all Sam Fisher on their asses in an action scene that, while over the top, is a lot of fun. Got to love how the stealthy wet-work assassin team sent to kill Frank completely demolish his house with un-silenced machine guns though, cunning.

Already the tone is big, dumb and stupid. Being big, dumb and stupid can work for an action film (Demolition Man, take a bow) and here it also works, at least at the start. R.E.D aims for a fast and furious tale of O.A.P revenge on the system, almost for R.E.Demption of sorts (Ohhhh! It’s a pun!). But the film starts to enter dangerously stupid waters around the same point that Moses goes over to Sarah's house to kidnap her because... Um... The bad guys want to kill her too because she talks to Moses and they know she cares about him… Which I shouldn’t have to point out is devoid of all logic. Do they plan to kill Frank’s GP as well? So yes, Sarah really shouldn’t be in this film, unless this is all a dashing plan for Frank to bed Sarah by killing a bunch of people in front of her.

Come Here You Big Hunk Of Sociopath You.

The film continues in a similar vein for the rest of its running time. Frank gets back in touch with other retired C.I.A agents we all know and love from every other goofy spy movie. Agents like the black guy Joe (Morgan Freeman), the crazy one Marvin (John Malcovich) and the hottest granny ever Victoria (Helen Mirren). There is an overly-elaborate plot that has nothing to do with the source material comic beyond names and the C.I.A. being involved. Surreally there is also a very silly appearance by one of my favourite actors Brian Cox as a Russian so stereotypical its a wonder he doesn't cossack-dance as his main form of locomotion. His name is Ivan. He drinks Vodka. He speaks english like the bad guy from Rocky IV, who was also called Ivan. R.E.D is already looking like an entirely silly affair that is not to be taken too seriously. Except it tries to be.

The films pacing suggests that some scenes have deeper meaning we should chew on, like the changing moral standards of the world and can evil deeds and the best intentions go hand in hand? Strangely, this question is not asked of Moses but instead of Karl Urban's William, the C.I.A agent tasked to eliminate Moses. This is a huge change from the R.E.D comics, where Moses morality was a very tragic counter-point to the brutality. R.E.D still asks some interesting questions, but this would work better if you didn't have John Malkovich's character Marvin chew his way on and off every set he's in, not to mention his constant attempts at humour based on oh-so-zany mannerisms. Marvin was the worst part of the film for me. He is just so forced as a character, so aggressively demanding of attention and yet so undeserving. Its not really Joh Malkovich's fault, its just hard to make a comedy when most of your scenes have nothing worth laughing about. Getting John Malkovich to say "Old my ass" and then pause for effect is NOT. FUCKING. FUNNY!

Seriously, Just Fuck Off

R.E.D also tries far too hard to explain itself. The plot is big, complex and riddled with holes, most focusing on the amazing Jesus-powers the C.I.A apparently wield. Dead vice-president? No problem! This just multiples the feeling of stupidity you get from watching. You cannot be big, loud and dumb and then try to make excuses for it, it didn’t work for The Expendables and it doesn’t work here. If R.E.D had just glossed over the plot-holes instead of pausing every now and then to try mend them it would have been a faster, funnier and better action-comedy. Instead it seems to think we can all be fooled into believing this plot is entirely likely.

It is far from all bad though. Karl Urban is fantastic as the C.I.A agent tasked with killing Frank Moses. He is given the burden of the heavy emotions (at one stage his family is threatened) and he goes from merciless agent to the real protagonist of the film very smoothly (His character being the only character to change through-out the film at all, unless you count the dead people). You may be surprised to find yourself cheering for him and his fight scene with Moses is probably the films highlight. This only serves as yet more evidence that Karl Urban needs to stop playing dumb action heroes (Doom anyone?) and play smart action heroes instead.

As mentioned earlier, Helen Mirrens Victoria is on call as the hottest retired killer ever (Sorry Solid Snake). She is one of the only really funny characters in the film and her romance with Ivan dances the line between silly and sweet very well. Its partially Helen Mirrens english accent making everything she does delightfully charming and partially the fact she gets all the most playful moments. She also seems the most dangerous, badass character and the best looking in a dress (Sorry Morgan Freeman).
Speaking of which, Morgan Freeman is just meh here. He is both the sick and the nice one and I would still go gay for his voice. Moving on.

Do You Think She Is Compensating For Something? LIKE A PENIS?!?

Overall R.E.D is a disappointing affair that just doesn't seem to know how to be funny but really wants to make you laugh. A film that knows its silly and seems almost embarrassed by this fact. Its got some nice scenes but nothing to recommend it above any other film out at the moment. If it had stuck more closely to the darker and comedy-allergic source comic this could have been an interesting one. As it stands it is my least favourite kind of film, the disappointingly average one.

Final Score : 2 out of 5 - Examples of How Bald Ain't All Bad.

See If You Like : The Fugitive, Die Hard 4, Really Silly Russian Characters.

Til next time!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Scott Pilgrim Series - Reasons It Rocks Ultimate

Hey all

One of my favourite comic series (and favourite films, for that matter) of the last few years has been Scott Pilgrim. Let's discuss and explore it somewhat. Mostly, it's a comic.


Oh alright. Expect spoilers.

Bassists, Now Not Just The Guys Who Hang Around With Bands.

Scott Pilgrim is an American quasi-Manga comic series by artist Bryan Lee O'Malley (who is Canadian-Chinese and not at all Irish, somehow). The series is divided into six books or volumes, following the series namesake as he attempts to hook up with the girl of his dreams, Ramona Flowers. He's a avid gamer, bassist with a grunge-y rock band (the excellently monikered 'Sex Bob-Omb') and a absolute scrounger, seemingly existing exclusively off the charity of friends. He is also the star of one of my favourite series of the last three years.

While so far all this seems fine if a bit ordinary for a comic series, it should be noted that Scott Pilgrims world seems to operate on the same physics and logic as the world of computer games. The awesome, awesome logic of computer games.

It's That Awesome

Characters can spontaneously utilise super-powers (often in the most over the top computer game form), emotional problems become boss battles and power-ups can appear under certain conditions to help further the characters. In what can be regarded as both hilarious and extreme use of metaphors Scott's battles to win Ramona's love and defeat the "League of Evil Exes" are symbolic of his (and other characters) growing up, maturing and coping with issues from the past. So there is depth even if yes, it can be seen as somewhat tongue in cheek at times. The positively ancient archetype of boy fighting for girl is off-set by the fact the Ramona is no damsel in distress herself but tougher and more world-wise then the naive Scott, at least to begin with.

While the comic does have a light tone thats specific for the generation X readers (comics and game references, the young adults still not living up to their age), its also got a surprising amount of heart. No character is presented as perfect, in fact most are a bundle of neuroses, immaturity and selfishness. Yet they are all strangely endearing. Scott is the best example, as he cheats on girls, fails to learn from his mistakes (expressed simply but perfectly in the comics by a dark-side gaming metaphor) and drifts in his life with no real aims or motivation. As characters repeatedly point out, he can be a jerk, several stating if Scott's life had a face they would punch it in the balls. In spite of this, he is the hero of the comics and as the story goes on you learn why he is worthy of the title.

You do grow to feel for most of the characters far more then you may expect for a relatively short series and even pick a few favourites as the story goes on, mine being Knives Chau and Kim Pine, two exes of Scotts who provide two very different approaches to dealing with how he treated them (badly). The characters may deal with problems in very unique ways but their problems are very similar to everyday young adults, much more so then most comics. For example...

A Typical Tuesday For Me Right There

By far the greatest strength of the series is its characters. The wealth of individuals and their personalities is one thing (well, two things) but how well fleshed out they all are in amazing, especially given the relatively brief times we get to spend with most of them. Every character has an independent relationship with every other character that the comic devotes time to exploring, even if the reader is usually left to plug in the gaps as they see fit. Theories regarding Julie, a bitchy and abrasive character, secretly liking Scott in college or debates as to how morally right or wrong a characters actions are do not get spoon-fed to the reader, instead allowing for a more organic and far more realistic social scene to form in the book. Much like any social scene or any group of friends there are mistakes made and secrets kept that sometimes never fully come to light. In particular a great running plot-point through-out the comic regarding a character coming out of the closet is only revealed to Scott at the end, but observant readers may have figured it out as early as Volume 4 if the keep their eyes peeled.

Having said that, the series does have faults. The tone of the comic can swing wildly. Typically there is a great balance of pathos and puns but it occasionally can be quite jarring. An often quoted example is the battle at the end of Volume 1, where Scott must battle the first evil ex. This section, while better then critics give it credit for, is poorly handled, the switch in tone feeling goofy instead of epic (through personally I still enjoyed it). The battles do feel continually more spectacular as the series continues and very exciting in their own unique way.

Plus What May Be The Greatest Cat-Fight Ever. Fact.

The odd emotional moment is also off-putting, with the later half of Volume 4 feeling very sloppy and rushed in parts, a scene involving Ramona apparently cheating on Scott with an evil ex being completely ignored as soon as it occurs. Personally I adore the first three volumes of the series and find the final three somewhat lacking by comparison, but I stress only by comparison to the first three volumes and certainly as a series it is nothing short of incredible.

Lastly, a quick look at the art. As you may have noticed from the panels, the art is not exactly atomically correct. The manga style, vaguely reminiscent of Gosho Aoyama's work on the series Case Closed, is still quite unlike most conventional Manga work. While this style has it's haters and gets criticism for being perhaps too minimal, I find this style very expressive. Rather then have Manga-esque background explosions to convey shock or extensive use spread sheet images to imply importance, Bryan uses expressive eyes and computer game effects. Scott and Ramona kiss inside the Sonic The Hedgehog 2 logo to convey a sense of bliss and perfection, as well as make an excellent title image for Volume 4. Tricks like zoom panels (panels gradually drawing closer to an object in focus), dutch angles (tilting a view 45 degrees to imply discord) and the occasional shattering of the 4th wall are all thrown in to give the comic a feel halfway between an indie film (think Juno or perhaps Eagle Vs Shark) and an old school 90's RPG video-game. Bryan occasionally shows art (particularly in advertisements and background pieces) in great detail, just to prove that yes, he can actually draw if he has to.

Scott Pilgrim is an amazing series and I couldn't recommend it more. Rather then give it a score, I have opted to instead note some amazing moments from the series. This proved more difficult then I had expected. In fact, there are so many great moments in the series that I have a really hard time picking my most loved, so obviously I just made lists. Thats how I roll. And It is going to rock ultimate.


Expect a brief description of the top ten moments from each volume in the series in the coming weeks and I hope in the meantime this review encouraged you to give the series a look and see what your missing, your welcome by the way.

Til next time!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Halloween 2010 Horror Line-Up Part 2 - The Nightmare Continues

Hey all!

Halloween is over for another year and I sincerely hope you had as much fun as I did. Before we get overly nostalgic it is worth remembering that not all of Halloween is devoted to accepting sweets from strangers or dressing as your favourite fetish. Half the joy of Halloween is how unbelievably crap parts of it can be, from attempting sexual acts whilst very drunk in a giant Optimus Prime costume to discovering all the sweets you bagged are in fact licorice. But for the sake of simplicity, lets just examine the best and worst films, games and characters that I've had the dubious pleasure of viewing this Halloween 2010.

Worst Horror Film (of Halloween 2010)
Jaws The Revenge (1987)

This Image Is So Awesome It Forced Lorraine Gary To Headbang

The Jaw's Series has been something of a one-way street in terms of success. While the original shattered the box office of its day and invented the concept of a Summer blockbuster single-handedly, the later installments managed to define the rule of diminishing returns. Jaws 2 showed the (clearly fake) shark far too much, Jaws 3D showing the (ridiculously fake) shark in multiple dimensions and Jaws The Revenge featuring a (at least, I think it's a) shark who explodes when stabbed with a ship mast.

No really, I'm serious here.

Perhaps even more bizarrely, Michael Caine stars in the film, evidently enjoying the fact he is being paid to go to a holiday resort and practically rolling his eyes whenever the shark comes along to ruin things. His best moment being his chronic understatement of the sharks appearance as simply 'Oh shit', sounding like he's annoyed because he now has to leave his Pina Colada's at the bar for a few minutes.

Aside from the shark being able to jump as well as swim almost entirely out of the water and managing to roar as he gets electrocuted, a character experiencing flashbacks of events she never witnessed and a guy being chewed to bits but somehow being alive and laughing at the films end, what else is there to recommend it as "so bad it's good". Plenty!

Milking Sharks Was Always Risky Business

A ludicrous plot about the shark having a grudge (and some sort of GPS that allows him to track the main characters at all times, even over 3000 miles of ocean), the worst effects of the series (A fishbowl-esque shipwreck set in particular) and a shark TAKING DOWN A PLANE (note: This is not nearly as awesome as it should be) and its no real surprise that this film often appears on lists of worst films of all time. It's hilarious in that stiff-necked way some hopelessly bad films can be and the final fight scene is so awful as to be epic. You will believe a shark can explode like he's made out of nitro-gycerine.


Worst Horror Game (of Halloween 2010)
Vampire Hunter D (2000)

Cause Boys... Don't... Cry...

A game from one my favourite animes was always going to have a lit to live up to in my eyes. A fast, violent and dark series about a half vampire (or Dhampir/Dunpeal if you will) who works as a mercenary, mostly against, you guessed it, other pure-blooded vampires in the year 12090AD.
Humans are slowly reappearing as a dominant species after a 1000 year war against an onslaught of mythical creatures (It's Japanese, roll with it). With a steam-punk meets Warhammer 40K style religious-military overtone, its an easy series to love.

The game on the other hand is ass.

Pictured : Ass

Clones of the godfather of all survival horror games Resident Evil were already ten-a-penny when Vampire Hunter D came out, so the game at least attempted something new by letting you jump, strafe and use a sword. Sadly the controls are hideous. Instead of turning to face and dodge enemies, you'll find yourself running into them for a hug instead. When you run, D slides along the floors like a figure skater, meaning you WILL fall to your death trying to stop your momentum. A lot. Thanks to the flat, poorly rendered backgrounds jumping is a nightmare, an ugly, monochrome, headache-inducing nightmare. Killing things with a sword is kinda fun though, even if making D look more sinister then the enemies may have been missing the point slightly.

The music was obviously written by a seizure-prone ape who has never seen a horror film/game before. There is NO atmosphere at all, which is an amazingly glaring problem in, you know, a survival horror game! The voice acting is dreary but not bad enough to be fun. The actors just sound like they are wet and miserable, even my favourite character from the series, Left Hand (he's a possessed hand, it's Japanese, roll with it) is heavily neutered, gone from acting as D's dark Id and suggesting he kill innocents for fun to being his annoying smarmy side-kick. Imagine if instead of a Devil on one shoulder encouraging you to do wrong, you had Iago from Disney's Aladdin.

And Remember, THIS Is What The Game Was Supposed To Live up To

Mostly its just boring. After mastering the controls, the game has next to no challenge, no charms and very little replay value. The three different endings are easy to get and not worth replaying for. The CGI is nice but causes lag and slowdown for some odd reason. Even if your sick of the exact same thing from survival horror games and crave something a little different, go for Dino Crisis or my favourite, the Silent Hill series instead. Sadly more a case of It's Japanese, shoot it.


Worst Horror Film Character (of Halloween 2010)
Edward Malus (Nicolas Cage) - The Wickerman (2006)

Is This Poster Implying That Nicolas Cage Can't Find The Wickerman That's Marching After Him?

Nicolas Cage is without a doubt one of my favourite actors. From heart-felt work in Raising Arizona and Matchstick Men to more action-packed roles in Con Air and Kick Ass. And then there is always the awful but amazing side of his career, with highlights such as "Hi-Fucking-YAH!" in Deadfall, most of Ghostrider and of course...

So what was your favourite bit? Was it the big boot (typically a wrestling move) to Leelee Sobieski, followed by her "Am I unconscious" face? Hell, you could be the kind of person who just enjoys the insane amount of violence against women in general, culminating in a mean right hook whilst wearing a god-damn bear suit? Or perhaps grand theft bicycle is what tickles your fancy, although he did let her keep her "stupid mask" at least? Or you really want to know "How'd it get buuuurnnned?!!?!"

The best part about that clip is thats only some of the more extreme Nicolas Cage moments, which still leaves a few gems to see. The Wickerman itself is a gloriously silly film and one of my favourite bad films of all time. A hopeless remake of a clever 70's british horror film, you know you want to see it now. Don't lie to yourself. There is an entire classroom scene you haven't witnessed yet that is a must, with Nicolas's Edward Malus calling out 9 year old girls as little liars who he plans to convict of murder.

What makes Edward Malus a bad character isn't even shown in the clips. He's a cop looking for a missing little girl, outside of his legal jurisdiction. So all the acts you seen him do in that clip are not just hilarious but also highly illegal. On top of extremely violent behavior and a complete misunderstanding of his powers as an officer of the law, he also manages to fall into the trap set by the islanders for him. All the while never calling for back-up of any kind, which should have been the very first thing he did. Thus making him stupid.

Glorious, but stupid.


Worst Horror Game Character (of Halloween 2010)
Barry Burton (Barry Gjerde) - Resident Evil (1997)

If your a gamer in any way, shape or form you will have heard of Resident Evil. It can be credited with not just making survival horror games cool (though in my mind games like Harvester and Alone In The Dark had already managed that) but also for kick-starting the surge in zombie culture over the last decade or so. The game was almost flawless, with a great score, above-average controls, a ton of unique enemies and a lot of replay value. Notice I said almost flawless though...

The Resident Evil series has always suffered from a ridiculous script, which is at this stage a deliberate insertion to appeal to all the fans. Back in 1997, the script was awful by mistake and thus way funnier. Having an awful script can be over-come with the right actors (look at the Star Wars prequels). Capcom decided instead to spent the casting money on what I can only assume to be crack and instead cast the game like so.

While all the cast get their chance to shine, so to speak, Barry is far and away the most endearing. His character seems to be the kindest and most caring of the squad, he is being forced into helping the villain Wesker (who is pitiful apparently) with his evil plans and all the while struggling with the issue that he may have something wrong with his brain.

My personal favourite moment would have to be his total apathy to having just saved Jill's life, summed up with a long, painful "yeaaaah". That and the fact Barry has a really powerful weapon, "especially against living things". Which makes me believe Barry must spend his weekends shooting at brick walls, slabs of beef and the sky.

And poor "Fawrest! Oh. Mi. GAWD!"

As you can see from the clip, the voice acting and script are insane and well beyond saving. But Barry, holding 6 of the 10 scenes (not to mention the top 2) as well as creating countless memes from 'A Jill sandwich" to "I hope this is not CHRIS'S blood, is the undisputed hero here. Barry is like some sort of strange man-child who got on the S.T.A.R.S team out of sympathy. Listen to him again and ask, would you let him investigate a zombie house? That he survives is much like allowing the dog or cat to survive your horror movie. even if he is hopeless it's impossible not to love him all the same and rout for him to win.

And for that sir, we salute you.

Til next time!