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    Movie Review: Devil

    September 23rd, 2010

    I had two choices the other night: Devil, or The Town. Both have gotten decent reviews and are directed and/or produced by reputable filmmakers. However, each had one characteristic that I hate: M. Night Shyamalan is the obvious one for Devil; for The Town, it’s the exaggerated Boston accent that I have been aware of since first seeing The Departed in 2006. I personally have been to Boston, and the everyday downtown Boston people that I met did not speak with that accent. I should be clearer though. What I hate is not just that the accent is overdone, but that whenever a character from Boston is used, they must have this accent; otherwise the audience will not know they’re Boston apparently. The same goes for when characters from New York are introduced into movies/TV shows. They all drop their R’s and exaggerate their vowels, just so that we know they’re from New York. Stop it. I’ll be seeing The Town soon though, so I hope I’m proven wrong.

    It is a bad sign for American cinema when our filmmakers are becoming so lazy that they feel the need to outline the plot in the form of soliloquy as if the audience were a bunch of drooling idiots. This occurs at sporadic moments throughout the movie in the form of delightfully cliché character, Ramirez (Jacob Vargas). As the movie opens with an upside-down shot of a very gloomy Philadelphia – which when you think of it, is pretty redundant – and a storm, prominent on the horizon, Ramirez describes a story that his mother would tell him when he was a child. According to his mother, the Devil would periodically roam the earth before finding people that he would torture and murder before sending them to hell himself (you have got to respect a guy who takes out the trash every once in a while). Oh and apparently, this would always start with an obligatory suicide, why? No reason is given. So guess what happens? Yup, a person leaps to their death from the high-rise onto a bread truck, and five strangers with shady, criminal pasts are subsequently tortured at the hands of the Devil in human form. Why was this soliloquy necessary? It served no purpose other than to reveal the plot; something that movie was going to do anyway. There was no subtext, no underlying meaning, it was not mythic in the slightest; they were just the rants of an old bitch who scared the shit out of her son!

    It is during the introduction and throughout the rest of the film that they try to be symbolic and thematic. The number of the building in which the movie takes place is 333; half of 666 (tee-hee). The name of the bread truck that the jumper falls on is Bethel Bread and the road on which Detective Bowden’s family is killed (more on this later) is Bethlehem road. Not only is this movie devoid of any subtlety but is also dealing in the business of marketing extreme unnecessary redundancy. The point I am making is that we already know the film is about the devil and we know what his plan is from the first five minutes in, making these references irrelevant.

    The five strangers in the elevator are Ben (Bokeem Woodbine) the black guy, Sarah (Bojana Novakovic) the rich c*nt, Jane (Jenny O’Hara) an old bitch, Tony (Logan Marshall-Green) the war veteran, and Vince (Geoffrey Arend) the happy-go-lucky fuckwit. All of the characters are teaspoon shallow, and they are all horror movie clichés. Ben speaks jive when the shit hits the fan and is easily angered when one of the other characters addresses him as “bro”. Sarah acts like a scared rich c*nt. Jane acts like a scared out-of-touch old bitch. Tony is mysterious and quiet until he talks about all the awful things he saw in the war – oh, and since he’s a veteran, he has to speak in a very low tone and very soft; it’s not like he was in Vietnam! Man up, motherfucker! Vince is there just to be annoying and to show the audience that the Devil is not fucking around, since he is the first to be murdered. I wish there was more I could say about these characters but honestly, there is not much too them, except maybe one and a half of them. Yeah, that’s right; I’m going to be cryptic about this.

    The characters on the outside (of the elevator) are the aforementioned Ramirez, and the detective who comes on the scene shortly after discovering the suicide jumper, Bowden. Ramirez and Bowden are meant to be polar opposites, with Ramirez being the believer and Bowden being the skeptic (and great sexual tension that is explored over nine seasons and two films). After seeing a distortion in the video (or was it a potato chip?) that may or may not resemble a face, he begins to pray and tells everyone else that the Devil is among them in the elevator. Bowden does not believe in the Devil since his family was killed in a hit and run five years ago he cannot fathom any other type of evil in the universe that isn’t man. What’s worse is that it doesn’t take long for Bowden to agree with him. Remember when they discovered the face on Mars back in 1976? They still argue about whether or not it’s a face today. Yet in this movie, Ramirez comes to the conlusion immediately that the face in the static is that of the Devil, even though there is not one defining characteristic that would make anyone jump to this conclusion. His mother really screwed him up with those stories. Ramirez then continues his narration, detailing that any innocent people who tried to interfere with the Devil’s plan would suffer the same fate as his victims. Even though the audience could see the impending death from a mile away, it’s still necessary to have this guy feeding us the plot between every act.

    The rest of the movie involves the investigation into finding out the names of the passengers in the elevator (mundane), the attempts of the firefighters and other personnel to breach the elevator (meh), and the revelation of the Devil. It should be noted that there is a scene in the movie – which is also highlighted in the trailer – in which there is a glimpse of a mummified person standing inside the elevator. There’s nothing to account for this, it just happens.

    For a movie in the thriller genre there wasn’t anything thrilling that occurred in this film. Preceding the death of a character, either the camera cuts away or the lights go out. There wasn’t anything to satiate my primal desires as a filmgoer since my upper brain functions were systematically turned to mush as the movie progressed.

    This brings me to the final dysentery-inducing portion of the film: the revelation of the Devil. Satan. Beezlebub. Lucifer. Angra Mainyu. J.J. Abrams. The personification of evil. The ultimateantagonist. The enemy of god and humankind….Is a stale pushover. There was nothing threatening about him, he had no presence, no charisma, he did not even say anything “biblical.” I was more frightened of Ned Flanders as the devil, and I was truly impressed by Gabriel Byrne’s version of the Devil in End of Days (1999), seriously. The appearance of the Devil in this film is another cliché these days of demons taking human form in film, even his voice. The worst part really was the dialogue. I’ll give my own rendition:

    Devil: “Oh haaaaay, I’m the Devil, ur going to hell”

    Victim: “Dun take so-and-so, take meh!”

    Devil: “lolwut”

    Victim: “Plz? I’m rly rly sry k ; ;”

    Devil: “Damn, I really wanted you.”

    That’s right, according to Devil, if you just say “sorry,” then you’re all good in his book. He’ll give you back your life; wipe the slate clean, no problem. This scene with the devil was the only one that truly infuriated me (disregarding a scene featuring the Philadelphia Flyers). I also can’t decide whether I dislike it for being incredibly shallow and ultimately superfluous to the conclusion of the movie, or whether I dislike it for being written from an obvious Christian perspective. The devil is represented in many different ways across different religions, but this scene seems to centralize him and constricts him to only one, diminishing the image of him being a sweeping omnipotent force of darkness and evil.

    By the way, that last line from the Devil was actually in the movie. Yeah, I laughed so hard the gun came out of my mouth. Just thought I would let you know. See you in hell, fuckers.

    4 Comments "

    Star Trek Online: State of the Game + Season 2 Mini-Review + Rant

    August 20th, 2010

    Before I start this…whatever it is, I want to talk about something that saddens me, regardless of the nostalgia associated with it. Yesterday was Gene Roddenberry’s birthday, were he still with us he would have just turned 89 years old. I was born into watching Star Trek; my father watched it when it first aired in the 60’s. Having been born in 1987, I literally saw Star Trek: The Next Generation from beginning – straight out of the womb; still had birth goop on me – to end, every Saturday at 7pm on Channel 11. I watched the other spin-offs as well; I even dressed up in a Starfleet uniform for Halloween when I was in elementary school. Like video games and film, Star Trek was simply another part of my childhood that has stuck with me into my adult life. Unlike the fanatics, I don’t fantasize about being waist deep in Orion slave girls, nor do I sing songs in Klingon about the great tribble hunt. Star Trek is and always has been simply one of the most intellectually and thematically pleasing programs I have ever had the pleasure of watching. Thanks Gene.

    It was fun, but all good things must come to an end – or in this case, hit a wall at a critical angle doing 160 mph. With the cancellation of Star Trek: Enterprise in 2005, the franchise has not been seen on the small screen since, except for the reruns. The newest mainstream incarnations of Star Trek are in the form of the new movie, produced by J.Jerkoff Abrams, and Star Trek Online.

    Star Trek Online was developed by Perpetual Entertainment in the form of random screenshots released over a period of five years from 2004 to 2008. After facing bankruptcy, all assets minus the game’s engine were transferred to Cryptic Studios who developed the game until its eventual release in February of this year. I joined the game in June under the alias of Tony Raktajino, a mere four months after its release, in the midst of a minor update, Season 1.2. As for my personal thoughts on the game, I enjoyed it immensely. It took the default spokes of any MMO (grinding, leveling, timesinks, and loot) and infused it into Trek lore; they told new stories, they brought back old villains, and they made the experience immersive.

    Last month, the game went through a massive update known as Season 2. This update added some new sectors of space for the Undine race, and added some missions to accompany them. The Klingon faction received some exclusive missions. Three new retrofit ships were added. The Dabo mini-game was added. Overall, there was a ton of content added, and Cryptic augmented this update by serving up key points of the new updates for Seasons 3 and 4 already on the horizon.

    Many issues and needs/desires were met, and the update was an overall hit, except for the massive amount of bugs that came with it. Exploration, PvP, even the Exchange; they’re all bugged. However, I don’t place blame solely on Cryptic. I am not in the business of alienating my fellow MMO’ers, but STO probably has some – SOME – of the most fickle players I have ever had the “pleasure” of gaming with. Season 2’s bug infestation is a combination of the whiners whining, and the STO devs meekly giving in to their demands. Many of us who tested Season 2 on STO’s alternate server, Tribble, screamed at the devs NOT to release Season 2 on its projected date due to the amount of bugs associated with it. Unfortunately, the people who wanted the patch released anyway were just as vocal. The problem is that the STO devs turn to the doom-and-gloom ridden STO forums. Here is my theatrical impression of said events:

    1.   “OMG WE NEED SHIP INTERIORS NAO”… “Ship interiors are not functional?! WTFFFF gonna quit”

    2.   “I want the Galaxy-X Starship but I don’t want to have to refer 5 people to STO”…”OMFG THE GALAXY-X IS IN THE C-STORE, THAT IS A SLAP IN THE FACE TO EVERYONE WHO REFERRED PEOPLE /RAGEQUIT”

    3.   “RELEASE SEASON 2 ALREADY WTF R U WAITING 4?!!?”…”Season 2 has so many bugs I HATE this and am going to quit”

    4.   “I don’t care if the game isn’t finished yet WE WANT A KLINGON FACTION”…”WTF, Where is all the Klingon content?!!?!? /nerdrage FIX IT…..Btw we want Romulans, Undine, Borg, and Dominion too, kthx”

    5.   “OMFG PLEASE add more endgame content”…”THESE MISSIONS ARE TOO HARD, WE ACTUALLY NEED A TEAM AND STRATEGY WTFFFF…”

    6.   “I WANT MORE LOOT”…”Daily missions?! GTFO, GRIND? NOWAI”

    And my all-time favorite thus far…

    7.   “WE WANT MORE SHIPS, for the new Vice Admiral rank but we don’t want to have to buy them from the C-Store”…”WTF so I can either grind for it by doing daily missions OR I can buy it from the C-Store? You’re giving me OPTIONS?! You C$%^!!! THAT IS SO UNFAIR, /EMONERDRAGEWRISTSQUIT”

    I actually felt my insides beginning to pickle as I was writing that. While it is a crude representation of the forum community – and to be fair, it’s not the majority, but these people are unfortunately the most vocal – it definitely paints somewhat of a picture, in fact, an “I quit” thread just popped up on the STO forums as I was writing this.

    STO is NOT a bad game. Every negative and positive review deserves an asterisk next to it because the game is barely out of its infancy. Even the big games like World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XI experienced similar problems at launch. STO is a niche game and is going strong thus far. Cryptic has a lot of neat things on the horizon and, even with Season 2’s shortcomings, it was still a big boost to the game; and let’s be real, the bugs are being fixed. What Cryptic needs to do is focus on THEIR game plan and stop listening to the forums. MMO forums are the last place you want to go for advice; hell, even on WoW’s forums you can still find players complaining about this and that and how that plus this and microtransactions will lead the games to their imminent demise. It won’t, and it won’t happen to STO either.

    2 Comments "

    Movie Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

    August 18th, 2010

    Disgusted, outraged, and sickened. Those words were only a fragment of the plethora of emotions that I normally felt after seeing movies based on video games. There have not been many of these films; I could guess a few reasons as to why. The outlandish plots and an audience that would be more or less niche. Like Ferengi merchants, Hollywood studios seem to make video game-based movies ONLY for the meager profit, shoving creativity down the proverbial water hole. Bob Hoskins said that filming Super Mario Bros. (1993) was the worst experience of his career. Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997) has become a youtube sensation…for having one of the worst line deliveries in movie history. Mortal Kombat (1995) and Resident Evil (2002) are two movies based on video games that have been commercially successful and have received somewhat mixed reviews (This is saying a lot). Finally, with the addition of Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, gamers have a movie that they don’t have to be ashamed of – oh, and it’s a good comic-to-film as well.

    Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is based on the graphic novel written from 2004 to this year by Bryan Lee O’Malley. The character of Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is a 23-year old bass player for the band “Sex Bob-omb” in Toronto. He meets the girl of his dreams, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). The movie follows the same plot as the graphic novel, utilizing a plot similar to that of Double Dragon (1987) and River City Ransom (1989) in which Scott Pilgrim has to defeat a gauntlet of enemies in his path – in this case it is Ramona Flowers’ seven evil ex-boyfriends and their minions. Pilgrim is not the protagonist that we are used to; unlike Mario or Link his ending is not something audiences are accustomed to seeing in this type of story, but with the movie’s overall plot it was a good decision and it grounded the movie in some plane of reality.

    I am happy to say that I enjoyed this movie very much. Director Edgar Wright has carefully woven the narrative of the graphic novels into the films and kept it’s image – literally – while still making it inclusive to people who are not familiar with the graphic novel but would still be able to recognize the video games that it makes references to from time to time. That being said, there are a number of these references covering games such as: The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Bros., Guitar Hero, Sonic the Hedgehog, Final Fantasy, and the aforementioned River City Ransom and Double Dragon. At the same time, the movie is filmed and edited to resemble the pages of a graphic novel, including ‘effects’ like “KROWW” when someone is punched during a fight scene, or the “RIIING” of a telephone. Thankfully, this is done in a way that is not intrusive to what is on the screen, and actually enhances the feeling that we are watching a comic book story unfold. The movie kept it’s flow and I didn’t feel like Wright was screaming, “HEY LOOK! THIS MOVIE IS BASED ON COMIC BOOKS! GET IT?” in my ear – Frank Miller, I’m looking at you, you arrogant twat.

    All told, I would recommend this movie to any fan of comic books and/or video games. The movie is welcoming to people who are unfamiliar with these genres of entertainment. Though they may be lost at first, the movie definitely grows on the audience. Hopefully, this demonstrates to Hollywood that movies based on any genre can be well-received AND successful, as long as the work is put in. Here’s to hoping that this starts a trend of quality in video game movies, though I would hold off on the Metal Gear Solid and Mass Effect adaptations for now, we still have a ways to go.

    2 Comments "

    Movie Review: Inception

    August 7th, 2010

    David A. Rodriguez
    I’ll be honest; I went into this movie expecting mediocrity wrapped in a bouquet of unimagination and veiled in feigned genius.

    Up until 2008’s The Dark Knight, Nolan seemed to solidify himself as a one-trick pony in my book. Movies like Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight gave him too much credit due to their popularity and not their merit; Batman Begins was popular because it was simply a breath of fresh air from the two-hour long toy commercial known as Batman & Robin (1997), and The Dark Knight was riding on that popularity as well as the unfortunate tragic death of Heath Ledger which also drew attention to the film. However that is all for a different article.

    Inception is Nolan’s first foray into the science-fiction genre. The movie introduces us to Dominic Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his team of “extractors” comprised initially of, Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and architect, Nash (Lukas Haas). As extractors their job is to infiltrate people’s minds via the realm of dreaming and steal ideas and secrets locked away in the labyrinth of the subconscious. Cobb and Arthur are auditioned by Saito (Ken Watanabe) and subsequently offered a job to plant an idea in the mind of Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy), heir to the corporate empire owned by his father, Maurice Fischer (Pete Postletwaithe). The name of this process? Inception. In the process of planning their heist, Cobb and Arthur enlist the help of Eames (Tom Hardy), a man that can change his appearance within the dream, Ariadne (Ellen Page), who is trained as an architect to construct their maze, and Yusuf (Dileep Rao), a chemist specializing in sedatives. As the film builds, the consequences of the heist exponentially grow and the variables intensify, culminating in a roller-coaster of a second act. The ending of the movie? Words cannot describe how perfect it was for this genre.

    As a science-fiction fan myself I was pleased at how cerebral this movie was. Many concepts in physics, chemistry, philosophy, and psychology were examined in depth over the course of the film with focus on the latter two. Fans of films like The Matrix (1999) and Strange Days (1995) will find similarities in the concepts explored in this movie; connections can also be made to Videodrome (1983). Star Trek fans like me can also find similarities with the Next Generation episode The Inner Light, and the feature film, Star Trek: Generations (1994). Science-fiction for the most part is not what it once was. The 90’s seemed to be the last decade to incorporate stories that forced the audience to think, but they were eventually replaced by pew-pew action, Jar-Jar Binks, giant blue cats, and finally, Slusho (See: Star Wars Prequels, Star Trek 2009, and Avatar). Star Trek and Avatar being the worst of the three and most representative of replacing poignant stories with pointless action and socially relevant plotlines with political agendas, respectively.

    The script is extremely multi-layered due to these concepts. They are carefully interwoven with one another throughout the film. Do not be mistaken however, the amount of techno-babble is kept to a suitable and necessary level. Nolan sprinkles just the right amount of action, humor, and character development within the movie to create a very nice, balanced film. The dialogue and interaction between Arthur and Eames is especially funny and gives the audience time to breathe in a movie where the mystery and action never seem to stop for very long. Due to the extreme amount of concepts and the depth that Nolan takes them, character development takes a proverbial backset for most of the film. Cobb’s interactions with Mal and Adriande are the best written in the film, with DiCaprio, Cotillard, and Page showing their range. Page especially demonstrates to the viewer that she has completely broken away from her Juno character and is developing into a fine actress; the same cannot be said for Michael Cera who still plays the Arrested Development character George-Michael to this day.

    The action scenes of the film are the icing on the cake. It proves that science-fiction films can still have thorough concepts augmented by amazing action. Ranging from the opening scene to Arthur’s insane 360 degree fight in a hotel hallway, to Eames doing his James Bond impression on a snowy mountainside, the movie is consistent in the strength and creativity of their stunts and fight choreography. These scenes are in turn aggrandized by Hans Zimmer’s thunderous and emotional score. Effects like a train barreling down a city sidewalk and Arthur’s aerial, tumbling fight scene are executed extremely well, The shifting between the action and certain slow-motion camera effects (to demonstrate the differences in the passage of time in the dream world and real world) was done so well that it probably made Zack Snyder cum buckets.

    Overall this was a very powerful film, and probably the first real science-fiction film we have had in a long time. Subtle and loud in the right places and for a movie about dreams it definitely did not come off overdetermined. I have a renewed respect for Nolan and I hope that he continues to grow as a filmmaker and writer – at the very least he should have learned by now to not allow his brother near Microsoft Word.

    2 Comments "

    Movie Review: The Last Airbender

    July 7th, 2010

    by David A. Rodriguez

    It is rare that I attend a film that gives me an urge to get up and leave the theater. In fact, I have never walked out of a theatre in my life, but here are a few of the diarrhea-inducing slopfests that almost prompted me to do so: Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004), Little Man (2006), Vantage Point (2008), Star Trek (2009), and Brothers (2009). It seems that 2010 is also not devoid of the usual stinkers and backwash that Hollywood seems even more prone to putting out these days.

    All of the aforementioned films had thin cliché-ridden stories, poor to bad acting, poor to bad writing, and an overall result that reeked of fail. These films should have been used to interrogate criminals, not entertain us innocent unknowing taxpayers. Now can you guess which of the qualities mentioned before fits The Last Airbender? If your answer is anything other than ‘All of the above’ please discharge yourself from existence immediately, though you’re probably too busy watching The Marine (2005) to pay attention to this review, so I’ll continue.

    The Last Airbender is based on a popular American-created anime that aired for three seasons on Nickelodeon from 2005 to 2008 under the similarly named, Avatar: The Last Airbender. The plot revolved around a world in which people were divided into tribes represented by four elements: fire, water, earth, and wind. After the disappearance of ‘the avatar’ – a force that keeps all four elements in balance – the fire nation began a conquest of the other three, employing the art of ‘bending’ (a spiritual force of energy conducted by benders, using the elements as a weapon) as well as using machines to subdue people in their way. Katara (Nicola Peltz) and Sokka (Jackson Rothbone) stumble upon Aang (Noah Ringer) who turns out to be the Avatar that had disappeared long ago. With their help, Aang begins a quest to push back the fire nation and bring peace back to the world.

    Airbender’s failures lie in three areas:  “Written, Directed, and Produced by M. Night Shyamalan.” While I am not surprised at the end result, I am also very, very depressed that I have borne through witnessing a filmmaker’s fall from such great films as The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable to The Village, The Happening, and now this film. Shyamalan seems to have just stopped trying, regardless of the fact that this is his first foray into the big-budget epic style of films, it is apparent that there was almost no effort placed into the writing of the script or the movie’s direction. Many aspects of the story are rushed or are just incoherent; many people in the audience at my screening were laughing at serious scenes, and scratching their heads during the rest. Worst of all, overall the movie seemed rushed and largely incomplete, especially in the area of character development.

    Ringer is a trained martial artist and a black belt; he got the role after attending an open audition. Ringer’s prowess and skill in martial arts simply did not equate to a performance even barely adequate for a film this size. Many of his lines were delivered like he was reading off a teleprompter, but to be fair; this is what happens when you cast someone with absolutely no acting experience. Rothbone and Peltz also seemed to have the same problem with their characters. Patel seemed like he was trying very hard to liven up an already thin, dry script.

    The bending effects were done quite well, and I was very much drawn into the art where every element around the benders was a potential weapon. Many of the designs, especially those of the fire nation’s warships were done extremely well and were very detailed; along with many of the movies images and symbols, they conveyed more emotion and heart than the actors that were slogging through a marsh of bad writing and even worse direction. One issue that absolutely murders these effects however – and I don’t mean regular murder, I mean Kitty Genevese murder – was the conversion of the movie from standard 2D to 3D to satiate the masses. Most scenes do not have any three-dimensional effect, and even the bending scenes did not look entirely convincing, only the opening credits commanded some type of jaw-dropping 3D effect. Don’t waste your money on any 3D showings; you’ll just look stupid. I would suggest instead you take off your 3D glasses and throw yourself through a first floor window, sure you’ll lay there and look stupid with some cuts and bruises, maybe some glass embedded in your skin; but I guarantee you won’t look as stupid as I did when I was wearing 3D glasses watching a movie that had almost no 3D effects.

    This was not an ordinary popcorn movie, it was an adaptation of a franchise that many people loved and it seemed as though the casting was not taken seriously in the slightest. I have even heard rumors that the movie does not respect canon enough. Personally I have only seen a few episodes of the series, but from what I could see there was a balance between fun, humor, and action, this was completely absent from the movie.

    It depressed me to trash this movie because I felt he had a lot of potential as a director, but at the moment he seems to be foundering as a big-budget film director. Slowly but surely I feel like Mr. Shyamalan is robbing me each time I see one of his films – a habit that could be defined as a sadomasochistic process in which I see his films each time even though they are becoming exponentially worse. Maybe he should go back and start small again, I don’t know. Here’s to his next film, but if it’s as bad as or worse than this one, I might be saying, “Here’s to crime.”

    9 Comments "

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