Monthly Archives: May 2011

CinEffect Episode #4: E3 Predictions, Cannes Round-Up

Welcome to the Cineffect Podcast. In this podcast of constant douchebaggery, me (Chris), Alex, and Brady talk about film, games, and everything in between.

Subscribe via iTunes. 

(0:00) The Woods and The Goddess – Deadly Premonition OST
(0:26) Introduction Plus Chris’s Short Story Contest and Rapture

What We’ve Been Playing
(8:32) Chris – Deadly Premonition
(14:29) Alex – Portal 2 Co-Op, Super Street Fighter IV, ModNation Racers

What We’ve Been Watching
(18:57) Chris – Due Date, Ponyo, Blue Valentine, Cronos

(39:02) Cannes Round-Up
(49:04) E3 Predictions

(1:24:02) The Future Trailer

(1:32:22) Fast Five

(1:41:29) Alex – Bridesmaids (1:49:39) Chris – Priest

(1:55:14) Thor

CONCLUSION (2:14:06) Us getting off-topic on the Summer’s Upcoming Movies
(2:16:32) What We’re Seeing Next Week
(2:19:25) Where To Find Us On The Internet
(2:20:53) Walk by Foo Fighters ( Thor OST)

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Priest Movie Review

To say that Priest is a movie is to insult an art form that has produced some of the greatest works of the century. To say that it has a plot would be a disservice to generations of writers who have made unique and interesting stories. And to quote Roger Ebert’s review of The Spirit “To call the characters cardboard is to insult a useful packing material”. Priest is barely a movie. It’s a walking, talking cliche. A film so derivative of just about every sci-fi, horror, and action movie convention on sight that it makes the invention of Star Wars look bad since it was one of the many things that spawned this turd.

So, if I were to say to you that Priest was a horror/action hybrid that used religious elements starring Paul Bettany, you’d probably think to yourself, “Hey, this sounds an awful lot like Legion, one of 2010’s worst movie of the year contenders,” and you’d be right in saying that because they’re both directed by the same guy: Scott Stewart. Stewart apparently has the mindset of a goth poet thinking that adding religious elements into their works makes them appear more deep and substantial than they really are, and that “badass-ifying” those religious elements automatically makes them cool and edgy when it really makes them look silly.

So,if I were to say to you that Priest was about a post-apocalyptic future in which vampires have wiped out most of mankind, and the remaining remnants of humanity take refuge in a dark, gloomy, walled-off city that is controlled entirely by the Church, while a group of warrior-monks called Priests kill vampires in the vast deserts surrounding the city which are controlled by a group of biker-gangs, you’d probably think to yourself, “Hey, this sounds an awful lot like some bad cross-over fanfiction between Star Wars, Blade Runner, Blade, and Mad Max,” and you’d be right in saying that because this movie steals from other movies like a dung beetle carries things: By covering it in their own feces, and rolling it all downhill from there.

To be more specific about the “plot”, Priest takes place in a post-apocalyptic derpy derpy doo involving vampires. When we begin, the vampire war is apparently “over” and now the citizens of the Blade Runner-city live in constant fear of other problems like food, water, shelter, the fact that dark clouds hover above their city all the time and the sun never comes up where they live, Mad Max biker gangs, these infected humans called “Familiars” or something, and the fact that the church takes the 1984 route of authoritative dictator-ship, and takes over just about every facet of the citizens’ lives.

Because the vampire-war is “over”, the
Priests have taken the Vietnam war-veteran lifestyle, and are now retired and constantly treated like shit. One of them is Paul Bettany, and he is constantly haunted by dreams of his fellow Priests who sacrificed themselves in the vampire-war. Bettany, however, gets a tip from a douchey-looking sheriff from one of the human colonies outside the city saying that Bettany’s brother has been injured by a vampire attack and his niece has been kidnapped by a gang-leader named Black Hat (Karl Urban, but he looks like Timothy Olyphant). Now, Paul Bettany, finally with a chance to prove to the clergy that the vampire menace is still out there, goes on a quest to save his niece. The clergy, being idiots, think that the best way to stop a rogue Priest would be to send in MOAR rogue Priests after him. And thus, mayhem ensues.

The biggest problem with Priest is how “seriously” it takes itself. Paul Bettany talks like Aaron Eckhart in Battle: Los Angeles imitating Christian Bale in The Dark Knight imitating a squirrel with lung-cancer. The dialogue is so straight-faced, and is delivered like it is the most important sentence in the history of the world. And whenever a silly, predictable twist or cliche pops up, the film treats its audience like morons and assumes that people have never seen or heard of the movies I mentioned above that Priest “borrows” from.

As far as action-scenes go, everything is standard. It’s not headache-inducing like Battle: Los Angeles‘s shaky cam bullshit, but it’s exceptionally bland and boring. There’s literally only one cool thing in this movie and it involves a supporting character throwing two rocks in the air, and Paul Bettany using those rocks as “stepping stones” to climb up and stab a mega-vampire. And as soon as that’s over, it all reverts back to blandness.

All of these traits combined makes for one of the dullest, most derivative movies of the last five years. The fact that you can make a movie about Warrior-Priests killing vampires with ninja-crucifixes and other absurdities as boring as a documentary on lead paint is one of the most perplexing things you will ever experience as a movie-goer. It is, thankfully, not as boring as Legion, which was essentially just four or five guys sitting in a diner while all the cool shit is happening outside, but that’s not saying much, and it’s predictability makes even the cool ideas in it yawn-inducing.

Priest is apparently based on a graphic novel series of some sort, which I would hope to assume is much better than this half-assed adaptation. And just like comic books, the film teases that a sequel could potentially happen if audiences give enough of a shit, which, frankly, is just wishful thinking on Scott Stewart’s part.

Final Verdict: At least most bad movies can be so bad they’re entertaining (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen), but Priest manages to be simultaneously so awful, and at the same time, one of the dullest films in a long time. Any semblance of plot and characters is non-existent, the action is nothing special, it wastes a slightly well-established and interesting setting on a smorgasbord of cliches and movie conventions from superior films, and the entire experience just has a smug sense of self-satisfaction that made me sick to my stomach. Basically, if you’ve seen a Resident Evil movie, you’ve seen this. And as much as it pains me to say it, you’re probably better off seeing even those movies than this turd.

That’s all for now.

See ya next time. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to repent for watching this movie.

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Thor Movie Review

Prepare yourselves for summer, ladies and gentlemen, because Thor is the first out of an entire boatload of superhero movies to come out, and the first in 2011 to tie in with the upcoming mega-tie-in installment The Avengers. And I will say, despite the fact that it does feature a much different kind of superhero (Namely because he is not so much a superhero as he is a Norse god), I was probably the least excited of this one out of all of them coming out, when seeing the trailer, namely because of how generically it was presented. After seeing it, however, I will definitely say it’s certainly one of the more original comic-book films to come out in a while. Is it good, though? Kinda…

Thor is the fourth film made from Marvel’s independent subsidiary “Marvel Studios”. First was Iron Man, then The Incredible Hulk, then Iron Man 2, and now we have Thor, and the next to release is Captain America: The First Avenger. Sure there were other Marvel films, obviously (Spider-Man, Daredevil, Elektra, X-Men, Blade, etc.), but these films are important because they are leading up to the big mega-tie-in movie mentioned earlier.

It’s certainly something no one else has done before and it should be interesting how the aforementioned Avengers ends up being, considering it is being directed by nerd legend Joss Whedon.

But enough about that, let’s talk Thor.

Long, long ago, the Asgardians and the Frost Giants engaged in a brutal war. Years later, the two have decided to not bother each other again so long as no one cocks their little treaty up. That is until, Odin’s (Anthony Hopkins) son Thor (Chris Hemsworth) pops in to wreck their shit up after some Frost Giants were seen snooping in the their relics vault. Because of this, Odin banishes Thor into the realm known as present-day Earth, where he is forced to live as a human. There, he meets the implausibly hot astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), her friend Darcy (Kat Dennings) and her mentor Erik (Stellan Skarsgard), who help him associate with this unfamiliar territory.

Meanwhile, Thor’s brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) takes over the Asgardian throne after Odin suffers from a heart-attack and a coma (How norse gods can have heart-attacks and comas, we will never know). Loki, obviously, ends up cocking up the relationship with the Frost Giants further and threatens to annihilate their entire race. Now, Thor must learn to become a real hero without his god-like powers before he can return to Asgard and save the Frost Giants and his family’s legacy.

Probably the best thing I can say about the film is their bold choice of director. Kenneth Brannagh is an incredibly well-renowned interpreter of Shakespeare, has made films based on Macbeth, Henry V, Hamlet, and the like, and is also a stage-actor to boot. He directs the scenes taking place in Asgard with the operatic energy of a Shakespeare play and considering how crazy the material is, it’s pulled off quite well.

The visuals, despite still looking like obvious CGI, still look really good because of its unique design. Everything is so faithfully adapted from the books, and it all makes for a rather striking art-style is quite unlike anything else you’ll see (Yes, they manage to make the Rainbow bridge look cool).

To me, where the movie falters is the plot, which isn’t bad, it’s just that I never really once cared for Thor’s plight, his relationship with Jane Foster, or most of the action sequences. The actors are all rather good, with special mention to big-budget-newcomer Chris Hemsworth, who will surely become a big name soon enough, the characters are given room to develop, and Brannagh does employ that Shakespearean vibe to the picture. And yet, it never really grabs you until the climax involving Thor and Loki.

The climax actually works because that’s when they decide to employ actual stakes to the action, as the characters are finally given enough room to develop enough to the point that it actually matters whether they live or die. But then it all ends before it transcends to greatness and what you’re left with is an enjoyable, but forgettable superhero film.

One thing I will certainly commend Marvel Studios for is that their movies don’t take themselves too seriously. I actually liked the bits with Thor trying to get himself accustomed to our world much more than any of the other stuff because it was actually rather funny, and it showed growth in the characters. Too many comic book movies today are being shoved into the front gate expected to be gritty and grimy hoping that doing so will receive it with the same universal acclaim as The Dark Knight without any actual effort. So it’s nice to see Kenneth Brannagh actually finding his own style and pace for the genre.

Final Verdict: There isn’t really much for me to say about Thor. It’s well-acted, well-directed, well-presented, and all of that good stuff. Fans of the comics will certainly love it, while I had, at the very least, an enjoyable time. Think of it as a so-so starter for what looks to be a largely so-so summer.

That is all.

See ya next time, now if you’ll excuse me, I’m still anticipating what looks to be the only summer blockbuster worth seeing this year, and that’s Super 8. Can’t get enough of that trailer…

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Fast Five Movie Review

Here’s something odd. People who read my reviews can’t seem to tell if I even like to have fun after my jabbings of Battle: Los Angeles. I know! How weird!

I guess I should’ve expected this, considering that I’ve mostly reviewed independent/art-house films and given a lot of them positive reviews, while a lot of the mainstream stuff I review ends up being crap, just like the hipster inside me. Well I can’t help the decline of mainstream Hollywood film-making. I still do like to have a nice “turn-off-your-brain” experience every once in a while, provided that the film in question gives me a reason to turn off my brain. What I want out of a popcorn summer action flick is dumb-fun that isn’t too dumb to the point that it gets in the way of the fun.

Case in point, Fast Five.

And now, a history lesson…

I’ve kind of had a history with the Fast and the Furious franchise…in that I’ve never really had a history with it at all. I flirted with the first film, but she was ultimately too forgettable to leave an impact on me. When her ugly twin sister 2 Fast 2 Furious came out, she was so horrid and retarded that I put her down 30 minutes in. Since that awful incident, I never visited the family ever again.

From what I’ve heard, Tokyo Drift was a bit more fun, but just as forgettable as the first, and Fast and Furious, the fourth strangely titled installment, was a dollop of horse-poo larger than the second one (Oh yeah, and Michelle Rodriguez dies in it, just like she does every other fricken movie she’s in).

I did everything in my power to avoid Fast Five after first seeing the trailer. While it was nice to have them end the douchebag “street-racing” shenanigans of the first four installments and move on to a heist formula, it was still the type of movie that seemed to have everything going against it. It’s a 2 hour 10 minute movie, it still looked to have the car-fetishism of the first four films, it was housed by an entire roomful of douchebags, and it appealed to the very demographic that I wanted to commit mass genocide on.

Having said all that, some friends and critics have recommended it to me saying that it’s arguably the best installment in the franchise, and it had a strikingly high 79% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, so I begrudgingly entered the theater. So now, prepare yourself for the big M. Night Shyamalan tweest ending: Fast Five is probably the most fun I’ve had in the theaters this year.

Oh, it still has all that stuff that I hate. It was overlong, the characters were still rather one-note (even with many of their character arcs growing for a whole series of films), Tyrese was still an annoying little shit, there was still bits of that singular car-fetishism the franchise is known for, the audience in my theater was still full of the douchebags that I was ready to use my school-shooting-rampage-uzi on, and the film seems to treat its franchise continuity in such a comic book nerd-driven way that perplexes me (The post-credits tease was so effing ridiculous it made even Marvel Studios say “that’s effing ridiculous”).

And despite all these elements, they’re never too dumb that they get in the way of the fun. My main problem with most of the other The Fast and the Furious films I’ve seen was that whenever they cut to scenes of dialogue and plot-development, it all just felt like boring stalling tactics as the audience just waited for the next action to begin.

Director Justin Lin knew this, so he took up the format of a heist film, which already comes with built-in suspense. Now, they were able to have scenes of plot-development and non-driving dialogue segments that still keep the adrenaline pumping. The movie does, unfortunately, slow down at bits where they attempt to haphazardly cram in a “moral message” of “family” and “honor” and “loyalty” and a bunch of other stuff the writers are so obviously pulling out of their ass, but not to the point of boring the audience, as the main focus is the big heist being built up.

Watching Fast Five, I actually felt like I was watching what The Expendables should have been: A big team-up movie of a bunch of talented action stars coming together for “one last job” that actually has some kick-ass action and less of Sylvester Stallone’s ugly plastic surgery face and Mickey Rourke’s crying fits.

The actors are all relatively solid, trying their damnedest to inject personality into their cookie-cutter character so hard that they almost succeed. However, good as most of the main-cast is, they all falter before the might of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s absolutely over-the-top performance.

Johnson’s character is the perfect embodiment of the new direction the series is apparently taking: So straight-faced and serious, yet so gleefully absurd and cheesy, sweating profusely in every single frame he’s in for no apparent reason, bleeding testosterone in all the action scenes, and using the corniest one-liners in all the corn field.

And that’s what’s so great about this installment. This time, they actually revel in their absurdity in a way that doesn’t insult your intelligence. The actors pull-off unbelievably over-the-top stunts with straight-faces, but at the same time, do the impossible and still wink at the audience for the sake of the film’s gleeful stupidity.

It’s like that mentally handicapped friend who knows just how dumb he is, but also knows how to live with it and have fun with it. And then the two of you sniff glue together until your eyes start getting red, then the principal shows up as your best friend begins to rat you out and say it was all your fault when it clearly wasn’t, until you are finally sent to detention for many, many weeks, and I forgot where this sentence was going.

My one big complaint with it (that doesn’t mock the film’s obvious stupidity) is that there aren’t enough real car-chase sequences. There are some good fight sequences, some good shoot-out sequences, some good explosion sequences, some good foot-chase sequences, and some good heist-sequences, but there’s only two real token car-chase sequences, in the beginning and ending of the film, and the thing is that they are both so unbelievably awesome (specifically the last one) that you are left wanting more, which probably isn’t so much of a complaint as it is a request.

Well, case in point, all you need to know is this…

Final Verdict: As someone who was never even in to the franchise, I will say that Fast Five is the most fun movie in cinemas right now. It’s gleefully silly, stupid, over-the-top, and absurd, but never to the point that it insults the viewer’s intelligence, the action is very well-shot and orchestrated, with two rather phenomenally amazing big car-chase sequences, the actors are solid enough, Dwayne Johnson is fucking insane in it, and it’s just a downright enjoyable time at the movies.

And before we leave, let’s get on back to that post-credits sequence, which seems to indicate that a certain character in the franchise presumed to be dead could still, in fact, be alive. And without giving it away, let’s just say: I would officially have sex with the next movie if they called it The Fast and the Furious: The Sixth Sense.

That is all.

See ya next time. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna put my thunderwear on!

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Never Let Me Go Movie Review

WARNING: The following review contains a somewhat major spoiler involving Never Let Me Go‘s strange, original premise. If you’ve read the Kazuo Ishiguro novel, you’ll know what I’m talking about, but if you want to come into the film not knowing what makes Never Let Me Go different from the crowd of period-based romantic dramas, then this review is probably not for you.

With that in mind, let’s begin…

Movies like Never Let Me Go are of the kind that you get hate for if you like it, and get hate for if you…well, hate it. It’s appeal is pretty much limited. Despite having an aggressive number of fans of the Kazuo Ishiguro novel, the indie/critical community has mostly tarnished it for being a bit too faithful to the acclaimed source material it was based on of the same name, whereas the mass audience have tarnished it by simply not giving a fuck, as it released with no fanfare or confetti, and flew away quickly like passing gas on a subway.

Having said all that, I personally find that Never Let Me Go is one of the best and most underrated films of the last year. No movie is perfect though, and Never Let Me Go does have its problems, but those problems, to me, were smoothly assuaged by a few key elements that I’d like to explain.

First off, the main reason why Never Let Me Go has been vastly ignored was mostly because it’s been marketed as a stuffy, melodramatic, yawn-inducing British romantic period piece. And to its credit, yes it most definitely is a period piece, but not in the boring sense like Joe Wright’s Pride and Prejudice, but more in the emotional sense of Joe Wright’s Atonement. Not to compare them though, since I think that Atonement and Never Let Me Go are good in their own different ways, but considering the comparisons these films have been getting (probably due to the fact that Keira Knightley stars in all of them), I figured I might as well jump in the bandwagon.

But back on topic, while Never Let Me Go is a British romantic period piece, there are a few key elements that differentiate itself from the genre. First off, it doesn’t take place in the typical periods of a period piece such as the ’40s or the 1800’s, but it actually spans across the late ’70s, the ’80s, and the early ’90s, which from the trailers, I wouldn’t have been able to really notice. The other element is that the characters are literally clones.

You’re all probably confused by that last sentence, so it’s time to detail the basic plot and spoil the intriguing little premise.

Never Let Me Go is actually a sci-fi film taking place in an alternate version of the ’70s-’90s in which scientists have discovered a way to harvest human clones. These clones have allowed for a plethora of healthy, stable, perfect organ transplants that are able to expand the average life expectancy up to a little over 100 years.

The film revolves around three students of Hailsham University, a special school that takes up the task of raising the clones, keeping them healthy so as to keep their innards healthy, and keeping them educated so they could at the very least know the square root of 144 before their short, sad existences complete. The students in question are Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy (Played in their adult years by Carrey Mulligan, Keira Knightley, and Andrew Garfield). At a young age, a romance between Kathy and Tommy is formed, only to be taken away once Ruth butts in and steals Tommy from Kathy. Kathy, more shy than the out-going Ruth, harbors her feelings of anger and jealousy for many, many years.

Jump forward in time a few years, and the three have grown up, and are now released into the real world outside the boundaries of their school. Unsurprisingly, they don’t fit in. Kathy still has feelings for Tommy, Ruth begins to see the truth behind the cloning procedure, and the three of them have to learn to accept the fact that they were tailor-made to live short, empty lives.

Right off the gate, Never Let Me Go should be praised for being a sci-fi film that treats the sci-fi elements so realistically, and believably that it doesn’t ever feel like you’re watching sci-fi. The sci-fi elements also serve as beautiful metaphors for the omnipresent carpe diem theme, which also makes it work on an artistic level. It is also this very thing that has made it a hard sell for mainstream audiences.

In fact, a lot of what makes Never Let Me Go so great can be counter-stated to say that it’s what makes it so bad.

To me, what I loved about the film was its subtlety. The characters have such an emotional load to bear and are filled with such melancholy, but they never really let on to how sad they really are. The same can be said for the entire movie. It has such a beautifully melancholic feel without really doing that much that is melancholic.

It makes sense considering the film was directed by Mark Romanek, a music video director who’s only previous work was the Robin Williams thriller One Hour Photo, a movie that is able to be creepy without really doing much that is creepy other than showcase Robin Williams’s brilliant performance. Never Let Me Go has that same quality, but it replaces the “creepy” with the “sad”, which is probably why the film ultimately doesn’t work for certain people.

The film is mostly about empathy. The clone characters have to learn to empathize how they feel towards one another, and some of the human characters learn to feel what the clones feel. Most audiences won’t connect with these characters because the characters themselves don’t know how to connect, and while the character eventually and inevitably do learn, it’s up to the audience’s imaginations to connect.

Luckily, just like Terrence Malick’s masterpiece Days of Heaven, the film provides a haunting score, some of the most gorgeous cinematography around, and captures such a beautifully sad mood and atmosphere that you can learn to connect with the characters, and when that happens, the emotional punches hit hard. The final scene of the film involving Kathy mournfully looking out at the field is absolutely perfect and heart-wrenching, and her final monologue, despite spelling out the main themes of the film for everyone, still wrings true thanks to Carey Mulligans blissful performance.

Final Verdict: Never Let Me Go is the type of movie you have to invest yourself in. The film keeps itself at a distance, but allows enough room for you to crawl in and find its golden truth. The actors have rich performances that are able to portray the characters’ internal struggles, its plot is original and defies genre conventions, it contains a lovely score, some of the most gorgeous cinematography for a film in the last 5 years, and has a strong emotional weight to it. A high recommendation for those willing to absorb themselves in feeling completely depressed.

That is all.

See ya next time. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m just going to silently weep to myself on the couch the rest of the day…

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