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Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sausage Party

Having just seen Sausage Party I'm beginning to wonder if Sony is at all capable of producing, distributing or even being in the vicinity of a movie without it becoming overloaded with references. Indeed, I'm left wondering if Sony is even capable of being involved with a movie without having an out of nowhere musical number in it. I'm almost glad Sony isn't making Spider-Man films anymore, because at this point I wouldn't be at all surprised if The Sinister Six ended with a sing-off between Peter and a glorified boy-band.
I honestly don't know what I was expecting, this is 2016 after all, we're not exactly looking at an Oscar-bait year. There are scant few contenders for Best Picture this year, and Sausage Party is no The Lego Movie. Despite pretensions to something greater, Sausage Party isn't subversive, it isn't satirical, and it isn't nearly as horrifying as The Lego Movie! That's right, an R-rated movie pales in comparison to a PG one in terms of horror and subversive qualities. It's everything that The Lego Movie wasn't. A heartless corporate cash-in without a god-damn soul to speak of.
Let's start from the beginning. Anyone here remember Food Fight? That's basically what this movie is, sans the whole "Brand-X" plot, instead replaced with a wholesale rip-off of Toy Story and The Lego Movie. We've got the mysterious council of know-it-all's from The Lego Movie, the adventure kicked off by a characters stupidity from Toy Story (Except more on the stupid and nothing on the jealousy), and a bunch of typical cinematic bullshit from every movie made in the last thirty years. Remember how I said that Ghostbusters was basically the same as The Angry Birds Movie? Well I seem to have spoken too soon, since this film is literally the same, at least in terms of plot.
Character who finds out about a horrible plot to exploit the good-will of everyone in his society? Check. Suspicions not heeded by the others until it's almost too late? Check. Quest to find an old wise character who might be able to help them? Check. Wise character refuses to help out at first and then capitulates in the end? Check. Characters all come together at the end for a medieval siege and have a party afterwards? Check.
Somehow though, despite having less memes in it, Sausage Party manages to stuff in as many if not more out-of-place references than Ghostbusters and The Angry Birds Movie combined. No, those italics aren't there by accident, I'm almost certain that between background references, character names, licensed music, stupid punny dialogue and scenes ripped-off wholesale from better movies turn the reference-scale up to eleven and bust Vegeta's scouter. We've got "Hungry Eyes" from Dirty Dancing. "I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)" by Meat Loaf sung by an actual meat-loaf. "Wake Me Up before You Go-Go" by Wham! A bell-pepper named Sergeant Pepper. Kareem Abdul Lavash, Sammy Bagel Jr., Teresa del Taco, tons of other stupid things that are a bit too numerous to keep track of mentally, but there's one thing. One specific thing that really sticks out. After drugging and murdering a bunch of humans, the food has an orgy-party at the end of the film, a character that's a walking (or rather rolling) reference to Stephen Hawking named Gum, reveals that while high, he and Fire-Water figured out that they are nothing more than a figment of Seth Rogen's twisted imagination. Gum builds a stargate (His words not mine) to the real-world that the characters use in an attempt to get revenge on Rogen and the others who worked on the film.
No joke, the ending pulls a Leisure Suit Larry 3, and the characters come into the real-world to kill their creators.
I suppose now I should get into a bit more of the specifics of the plot.
Long ago, food was terrified of being picked to be purchased. So, Fire-Water and Twink, two of the immortal non-perishables wrote a song to placate their terror. Later, an agnostic hot-dog named Frank (Seth Rogen) questions if there really is anything beyond the doors of the market. He runs into a jar of returned honey-mustard who says that beyond the doors is terror. Frank tries to keep the jar from committing suicide, but a big old crash happens and a bunch of products are tossed around the store. Some are destroyed, others are merely lost. Frank goes on his quest to find out what the hell's going on and makes it to the grilling section where he sees a paradoxical cookbook. One that is clearly meant to be illustrations as opposed to actual pictures, but it shows the food screaming out in agony as it's eaten.
This brings me to a plot-hole. Condoms, gum, disposable douches, bags of chips, paper towel rolls, those are all sentient. How are the knives, the grill, the shelves, etc not sentient too? We see various sentient things with metal and plastic as parts of their bodies, but no sentient utensils.
Also, some bags of chips are inanimate full of sentient chips, some are sentient full of inanimate chips.
That's before you get into the logistics of sentient jars, bottles and food in the first place. While Seth Rogen says that sentient food is a naturally horrific thought, the movie can't sell that concept because humans have to literally be high to find this out. There's a reason Sid worked as an antagonist in Toy Story. He was sadistic, he liked blowing things up, he liked tearing toys apart and sticking the parts together at random. The reason this works, the reason that this can get to the audience is because we all played with toys. We could see characters in them, we could see them as people and we all knew how much it hurt when a toy broke. That in turn fed into the idea of Toy Story as a movie, because we could all imagine our toys going on adventures. I don't know about you, but I could never see food as anything but. It's interchangeable, and above all consumable. Sure I remember flavors, textures, and scents, but that's it. I suppose that's my problem with the film, I can't buy into the core conceit because I'm clearly not operating on the same wavelength as the film-makers were. Did Seth Rogen get high and watch a bunch of Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Toy Story before writing this? Did the director? Did everyone?
Anyways, the food kills a bunch of people and a food orgy happens. Literally not kidding, they dose a bunch of people with bath salts (The drug not the stuff you put in the bath) so that they can see the food and literally blow a bunch of people up, bludgeon others, and so forth. I have a feeling this particular market is going to be visited by either The Men In Black or The Doctor soon, because this is some bullshit.
I could go into how the logistics of a food-orgy are total bullshit, how the female lead Brenda randomly breaks into song, or wonder how a taco shell can be attracted to a hot-dog bun when to the best of my knowledge there's very little crossover between those two foods in terms of cuisine. It would have made more sense if there was an unorthodox but still somewhat reasonable pairing, but that's further into it than I should go.
No, I'm going to mention a few things here before I wrap up the review that don't require investing much more time into this film so I can get back to playing SMTIV and Senran Kagura 2.
First off, Frank is referred to as a sausage despite very obviously being a hot-dog. Hot-dogs are sausages granted, but nobody calls them that.
Second is the fact that any and all pretense is thrown out of this film in the first three minutes of the film. Not even kidding. The opening musical number tosses every bit of subtlety and subtext off Mount Everest and then proceeds to explain every single innuendo that the film has. Not that the film would have had much subtlety anyways, the innuendos are some of the most inept I've seen in my freaking life. Not to mention that a bunch of them that weren't explained in the opening musical number are laid straight the hell out for the viewers in the second one.
Third, this film is absolutely filled with stereotypes. Some are the funny kind, like you'd find in Axis Powers Hetalia, others are just cringe-worthy. They trot out the same old tired agnostic, atheist and religious stereotypes that you can possibly find, put them together and then don't bother coming to any kind of actual conclusion despite one character actually being in the right. Opting instead for the most limp-wristed, non-committal
All in all, this was a bad fucking movie. I sincerely wish I hadn't watched a second of it, because despite the rather funny moments, there's nothing in this film that can grab me and make me all that interested. If it wasn't for the fact that they were shooting for an R-rating this film would be your run-of-the-mill kids trash pumped out by studios that aren't Pixar or Disney. To go back to something I said at the beginning of the review, I'm not sure what I expected out of this film exactly, but generally speaking? I wanted a bit more impact. Something more revolutionary and monumental. This is the first R-rated CGI film ever made, and as far as I can tell that's the only thing this film manages to do that's unique. I wish I could say this is a less embarrassing movie than Ghostbusters, but it's up there. Especially with some of the things Kristin Wiig's character has to say.
One more thing. Edward Norton? Be in better movies. You were Bruce Banner, you were the protagonist of Fight Club, you were nominated for three academy awards god-dammit! Go over to DC, try out for The Riddler, Deathstroke, Two-Face, anyone! Just do something other than any more of these movies?!
In the end, I give Sausage Party a 1.2* I'll see you next week.

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Sunday, August 14, 2016

Suicide Squad

After seeing basically the perfect Suicide Squad in Arrow I wasn't entirely sure what to expect out of the DCEU version. We got the cool villains, some cool operations for them to flex their skills with, and some decent characterization to boot. I've never gone from loathing to loving a character the way I did Michael Rowe's Floyd Lawton. A suicidal depressive veteran turned hitman who would rather die a hero than live on as a villain if that meant his family could be taken care of. Will Smith is a damn fine actor, but once you've seen Rowe in action it's hard to imagine anyone else in the role. It's like Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen, Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man, or Henry Cavill as Superman. It's hard to recreate perfection.
Fortunately, there weren't that many re-casts between the television universe and the movies. In fact, the only other one that had a major role in this movie was Amanda Waller.
It's rather odd to see the Suicide Squad get a movie before the Justice League, but as far as the narrative goes it works fine. The DCEU seems to be going for a very natural story progression, a natural escalation of the stakes. From Man of Steel to BvS to Suicide Squad, I can clearly see the decisions that lead up to every action and reaction in each succeeding film.
Spoilers inbound as usual, for Man of Steel, BvS and Suicide Squad alike, but if you're on the fence about watching this movie, do yourself a favor and watch it now, because you need to experience this film.
After the death of Superman, the United States government is looking into creating a team of superhumans that can combat a threat akin to that of General Zod, or Doomsday. At the very least they want something that can combat a group of supervillains. Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) pitches the idea of a team of supervillains, the best of the criminal underworld, people that they can control with force, people who can be disposed of without raising the eyebrows of the public if they go rogue. There's Deadshot (Will Smith), who was taken in by Batman (Ben Affleck). Captain Boomerang, an Australian bank-robber (Jai Courtney in one of the best roles of his career) who was taken in by The Flash (Ezra Miller). El Diablo, a pyromancer who turned himself in. Killer Croc, a dude who looks like a croc who lived in the Gotham sewers until he was driven out by Batman and captured by Waller's people. Slipknot (Adam Beach), who is the guy you call if you need to climb, rappel, or otherwise need to use ropes and grappling technology to their most effective in your criminal activities. Harley Quinn, (Margot Robbie) the Arkham Asylum psychiatrist assigned to The Joker (Jared Leto) after his capture by Batman and the Gotham City Police Department subsequent to The Clown Prince of Crime's murder of Bruce Wayne's second adopted son, Jason Todd. Or possibly subsequent to his capture in The Dark Knight, depending on how Ben Affleck's Batman movie goes down. Over time she fell in love with The Joker and wound up assisting him in escaping from custody and returning to his place as the king of crime in Gotham City, with Harley as his queen until Batman caught up with them and captured Harley. For those of you wondering, the vast majority of this films takes place after BvS. The captures of Deadshot and Harley for one thing definitely do. However, a good amount of the flashbacks could easily take place beforehand, depends on what you personally think I suppose.
Then there's Dr. June Moon (Cara Delevingne), an archaeologist who is possessed by The Enchantress, an Aztec spirit who can take command of her body and basically do whatever. Enchantress is basically the thing that seals the deal as far as Task Force X is concerned. She delivers classified documents from enemy nations to the committee deliberating on whether to approve the formation of the team.
Finally, there's the leader of the team, the greatest special-ops soldier the US military has produced, Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) one of two people who don't fall under the "suicide" purview of the titular Suicide Squad. He was assigned to Moon in the hopes that they would get romantically entangled and it worked. This lets Waller rope Flag into any stupid plan she wants him to be involved in as long as she's got June to manipulate him with.
For as powerful and useful as The Enchantress is, she's unreliable as all hell when she wants to be. She'll plant a bomb, but not activate it. She'll teleport to nowhere and then come back, freaking out June and Rick alike. She'll give Rick a vision of June dying in his arms for absolutely no reason, and then piss off to resurrect her brother, Incubus so she can attempt to take over the world and gain revenge for being sealed away after being worshiped as a god. This leads to her going completely rogue and laying siege to Midway City. Waller then activates Task Force X to extract high-profile subjects from Midway, but the actual team are told they're dealing with human terrorists. They are injected with explosives to blow their heads off if they go rogue, and gear up to fly out to the city. On the way out, they're joined by the only other member of the squad who is here voluntarily, Katana (Karen Fukahara) who serves as Flag's bodyguard.
As they're leaving, The Joker continues his investigation into Harley's whereabouts, eventually blackmailing one of the people who works for Waller into telling him where she was being held. There, he finds out about the explosives planted inside the Suicide Squad and steals what they need to defuse them, and sets out to rescue Harley.
On the approach to the LZ, Task Force X's chopper is shot down, and they have to approach on-foot. Boomerang tricks Slipknot into trying to escape to see if the explosives are for real, and sure enough they are, because Slipknot's head is blown off like he took a fifty millimeter bullet to the head. Thus was born a million stupid Slipknot memorial memes.
What follows are some absolutely incredible action-scenes and some great interactions between the cast. Enchantress's minions attack the team, but they fight them off, and make their way to the  safe-house where their extraction target is revealed to be Waller herself, who is in the process of wiping servers, destroying documents, and capping her henchmen in the head.
One chopper evacs Waller, but the other has been hi-jacked by The Joker and his gang, who suppress the Suicide Squad enough to deactivate the bomb in Harley's neck. Harley escapes, but the chopper gets shot down, and The Joker pushes her out of the falling helicopter onto a rooftop below, and the chopper explodes, presumably killing The Joker and his men.
Meanwhile, Waller's chopper gets shot down, and The Enchantress's minions capture her. Deadshot finds Waller's files on superhumans and finds out why Enchantress's people have been going after Flag specifically, because she inhabits his girlfriend and Enchantress is scared of him. Because she's super powerful, is gathering an army of monsters to her side and they'll be killed whether or not they follow Flags orders, they decide to chill in a bar in their last moments of life. Eventually, Flag sits down for a drink with them, and lays all of his cards on the table. He deactivates his detonator that controls the explosives in the teams necks and tells them they're free to go as he sets off to rescue June on his own. This tugs at the heart of the family man inside of Deadshot, who decides to accompany Flag on the mission. Harley joins them, and Killer Croc goads the others into coming along.
They figure out where The Enchantress put the bomb she misplaced earlier in the week, and decide to force Incubus over top of it and kill him so that they can cut Enchantress's heart out and force her to vacate June's body. However, Enchantress feeds the Suicide Squad pictures of their ideal lives, but El Diablo manages to break out of it, and this helps everyone else break free as well.
Killer Croc leads the group of Navy Seals that accompanied Flag down into the sewers to detonate the bomb, while the rest of the team tries to get Waller and June free.
El Diablo goes one-on-one with Incubus, and eventually kills him at the cost of his own life. Enchantress gives them a chance to join her again, and it seems like Harley is going to join in exchange for Enchantress resurrecting The Joker, but she uses Katana's sword to cut out Enchantress's heart, and Deadshot uses Harley's Colt Python to blast the sorceress in the head. June breaks out of the shell of The Enchantress's dead body, everyone gets a decade off their sentences, and some reward. Deadshot gets time with his daughter, Killer Croc gets cable TV, Harley gets an espresso machine, Boomerang gets locked up even tighter because he didn't ask for anything doable, and June gets discharged because she's no longer possessed by The Enchantress.
While Harley is enjoying her coffee, a SWAT team breaks into Belle Reve and uses a K-12 to bust into Harley's cage. The leader takes off his mask, and reveals himself to be, of all people, The Joker!
Due to the fact that Waller made some monumentally stupid decisions, she goes to Bruce Wayne for protection. In exchange, she gives him the governments files on superhumans, setting up for the Justice League film.
All in all, this was a damn good movie. I've seen films that try to do the same thing Suicide Squad does and fail. The Expendables is probably the worst example of an ensemble action film in existence, not counting the sequels obviously. Suicide Squad proves that you only need another twenty minutes to your run-time, better characters, better sub-plots, a better main plot and better effects to really make that work. It's not an impossible feat, you just need to have a decent studio behind the movie, rather than one that routinely produces sub-standard direct-to-video action vehicles.
As far as characters go, we've got a brilliant line-up for the most part. Everyone gives a pretty good performance at the very least, so I won't bother name-checking every individual member. However, there are a few specific instances I would like to bring up. First off, I'd like to congratulate Jai Courtney for finally finding a good movie to be in. A Good Day to Die Hard was a movie that didn't really need to exist, and Jai Courtney didn't particularly sell himself as Jack McClane anyways. On the other hand, from the moment he spoke a single word in this film I bought him as the bogan-y bank-robber.
I could tell from the production stills and the handful of trailer clips I couldn't avoid that Margot Robbie was going to be a good Harley Quinn, and she didn't disappoint. She's not quite Tara Strong, but hardly anyone is.
This brings us to Will Smith as Deadshot, possibly the biggest issue with this film. I love Will Smith as an actor and a comedian alike, but his portrayal shifts back and forth between a pitch-perfect version of Deadshot and Agent J from Men In Black. This might be a product of the re-shoots DC ordered, but there's no way to tell until the film comes out on home media later in the year so we can take a look at all of the deleted and alternate scenes. If they decide to put all the cut footage onto the home release. I'm erring more on the side of studio-mandated re-shoots, considering the fact that a good number of Joker scenes appear to have been left on the cutting-room floor, not to mention the sheer amount of plot-sensitive content they cut out of Batman V Superman.
This brings me to The Joker himself, Jared Leto. I'll admit, I was apprehensive when I first saw Leto as The Joker. The tattoos and crowns were off-putting to say the least, but when Leto started performing, I was blown away. I didn't think anyone could pull off a combination of the Nicholson, Hamill and Ledger Jokers, but Leto and Ayer managed it. I wouldn't go as far as to say that he's better than Ledger, we'll have to wait for Ben Affleck's Batman movie to determine that, but he's up to par, certainly.
I like the chemistry Leto and Robbie have in this film. It's a twisted sort of chemistry, but it's still a good romantic chemistry. As opposed to some previous incarnations of their relationship, it seems to be a bit less exploitative on the part of The Joker and more of a mutual attraction. The two of them seem to genuinely care for each other, considering the lengths that The Joker goes to to rescue Harley, and even puts her safety above that of his own. It's sweet in an incredibly demented sort of way. Granted, he's still the freaking Joker, and given an assault-rifle with one magazine, an approaching zombie horde and The Joker as my only partner, I'd empty my rifle into his head and neck, steal everything he's got on him and bludgeon my way out of the horde with the rifle, because an empty gun is less likely to kill you than the freaking Joker.
I'm interested to see more out of the characters this film has introduced, and I'm also interested in seeing where the DCEU goes from here. Justice League, Suicide Squad 2, Teen Titans, wherever it goes from here I'm on-board. I want to see more of this.
Finally we come to the soundtrack. From the licensed tracks to the original score, we're looking at a brilliant selection of tracks. Out of the two films with "Paranoid" by Black Sabbath featured in them, Suicide Squad is the better film, but that's not saying much.
The one slightly off selection I can find is the placement of "Without Me" by Eminem while the Suicide Squad are gearing up. It would have fit into the film better if it played during the credits after the return of The Joker. However, there's less artistic bankruptcy to this licensed soundtrack than there are to most. I would prefer a mostly original soundtrack, but some things you just can't evoke without a specific song from a specific artist, and some scenes just scream awesome with their associated tracks. "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" by AC/DC is used to great effect during The Flash's encounter with Captain Boomerang.
However, the actual soundtrack album that was released is absolutely insane. In the film and trailers Queen's original version of "Bohemian Rhapsody" plays, but the Panic! At The Disco version is the one included on the album.
Then there's the fact that more than half of the tracks from the movie weren't included on the soundtrack album. This is somewhat absurd to me, but considering you can basically get those tracks on any number of other albums, it's not as egregious as certain films which don't include original compositions on their soundtrack album, like Top Gun. Worse, some don't have soundtrack albums at all, like Highlander.
Before we wrap up the review, I'd like to make one final note. This has been a terrible year for trailers. BvS had way too much being shown in the trailers, Ghostbusters had monumentally horrible trailers and TV spots across the board, and this film had way too many deleted-scenes shown in the trailers. That's something that I've always wondered about, why would they think that's a good idea? That's a tacit admission that the director wasn't involved with the marketing, and that's a horrible decision. There are some scenes that shouldn't be shown outside of the theater, and marketing shouldn't be allowed to spoil that for any reason. Then there are some scenes that were never meant to be shown at all that somehow wind up in the trailers. This is why I don't watch trailers anymore, they're ludicrous and absolutely superflouous. They're almost never representative of the final product, and typically wind up being deceptive. Bad movies tend to get good trailers and good movies tend to get bad ones. The art of trailer construction appears to have been lost to the ages, because the only good trailer I've seen in the last several years was for The Force Awakens. The Civil War trailers either got worse, spoiled more or both with every subsequent piece of additional footage after starting out with fairly strong trailers.
I might have to write a full article on the art of the trailer. Hell, I might even wind up ranking best and worst trailers this year. However, the quality of the trailers do not impact the rating of the movie.
In the end, I give Suicide Squad a 9.3*. I'll see you next week with either Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson or Sausage Party.

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Sunday, August 7, 2016

Attack The Block

Every now and again, one way or another, some cult-film crosses my path somehow. Either by total accident, or because I just couldn't ignore it any longer. This time, Netflix was out and the PSN wouldn't connect to download the Amazon Prime app while the free trial is valid, so we wound up browsing through YouTube looking for something to watch. Eventually, we stumbled upon this film somehow, and I recommended that we keep watching because it has John Boyega in it. I wasn't really expecting much, since I'd never heard anything about the film except that it existed. What I got was possibly one of the best horror-comedies of all time. Not exactly Blood Punch levels of hilarious and brutal, but still pretty damn freaking good, especially for a directorial debut. The directors of The Angry Birds Movie could learn a thing or two from Joe Cornish. Not that these movies share a genre or anything, but if someone made an Angry Birds horror-comedy I would watch it. Probably wouldn't be that great, but it'd be interesting to see.
Spoilers inbound as usual, let's go!
While walking home on Guy Fawkes Night, Samantha Adams (Jodie Whittaker) is robbed by a gang of hoods, consisting of Pest, (Alex Esmail, not the second Gorgoroth front-man) Dennis, (Franz Drameh) Jerome, (Leeon Jones) Biggz, (Simon Howard) and the leader of the gang, Moses, (John Boyega). They steal some things from Samantha, but a meteorite crashes into a nearby car, allowing her to get away.
Moses goes to check it out and loot the car, but is scratched by a creature that emerges from the wreckage. The thing runs away, but the gang gives chase, and kills it. If you've seen Ben 10, just picture a hairless, miniature Wild-Mutt.
The gang hauls their prize back to the council-estate (Government-funded public housing) they live in, nick-named "The Block" and get high at their drug-dealer, Ron's (Nick Frost) apartment while they discuss their plans to get rich off the corpse of the alien.
They ask Ron and his boss Hi-Hatz (Jumayn Hunter) if they can store the alien in the weed-room while they sort things out. Hi-Hatz agrees, but only if Moses will sell some weed for him. They go back to their weed for a bit, and then more creatures start falling from the sky. Feeling confident in their abilities, they head out to hunt more of the creatures. Armed with swords, bats, fireworks, a machete, and a dog, they head out on bicycles and a mo-ped towards the park. There, they find that the other creatures that have landed are big, brawny, and have glowing teeth. The dogs runs off and is presumably eaten by the creature, and the gang flees the scene.
Meanwhile, Samantha has told the police about her encounter with the gang, and the two officers who responded intercept Moses, and arrest him.They find the weed that Hi-Hatz told him to sell, and confiscate it. They throw him in the van, but both of them are killed by two of the monsters. The gang drops a smoke-bomb into the fray and Dennis dashes to the van and drives it away from the monsters.
Eventually they crash into Hi-Hatz' car, who doesn't believe that Moses and them were attacked by gorilla-sized aliens before losing the weed until him and his goons are attacked by one of them. The gang flees back to the block, but Pest is attacked by a monster and bitten, and Biggz is separated from the group, and winds up hiding in a dumpster.
Moses and company make their way through the building, eventually finding Samantha. Having found a hospital nurses ID in her wallet, they force their way into her apartment and make her treat Pest's injured leg. She doesn't believe them about the monsters until one of them forces its way into her apartment and Moses has to kill it with the Katana Dennis was using earlier. The gang flees the compromised apartment, and Samantha joins them since she's more likely to be safe with them than on her own, taking a kitchen knife to defend herself with.
They go to the apartment of... I think the sister of one of the gang members, who have a gate on their door. The gate doesn't protect them since the monsters climb up the side of the tower and break in. Moses tries to fight back, but the Katana gets stuck in the wall. Samantha stabs the monster going after Moses in the neck, and the other monsters get zapped, chopped and generally beaten to death by the girls who live in the apartment. In the hallway, the gang get attacked by Hi-Hatz and his crew, who have armed themselves with heavier weapons to kill the monsters faster. Fortunately, one of the monsters goes after Hatz and his crew after being attacked, giving the gang time to escape.They decide to barricade themselves inside Hatz's weed-room and wait the invasion out. On the way up, they meet up with one of Ron's customers, Brewis (Luke Treadway). Brewis was the one whose car the first monster smashed into at the beginning of the film. He's high off his ass on weed, and is kind of useless, but they take him with them back up to the penthouse. On the way they run into some monsters, and pull out some more fireworks to distract then. The hallway is filled with smoke, and the gang gets disoriented. Dennis smashes into a wall and gets jumped by a monster. Pest goes back to look for him, but a monster bites Dennis's head off, and the gang flees to the penthouse.
Meanwhile, Biggz is saved by a couple of local kids who kill a monster with a super-soaker full of gasoline and a rocket. Biggz calls up the rest of the gang to tell them the monsters are vulnerable to fire as well as bullets and swords. A good thing to know, since they can tank lots of bullets.
They come up with a plan to blow up the monsters, but can't figure out how to lure all the monsters to one place until they notice some stains on Moses's clothes under the black-lights. Brewis suggests that the smaller creature they killed earlier might have excreted pheromones onto the gang that cause the others to come after them, with Moses having the vast majority of the stains on him, since he encountered the creature first. Moses has Samantha go into his apartment and turn all the gas on in the place, and then to flee to the outside. They pack all the contaminated clothing and the corpse itself into Pest's backpack, and Moses makes a mad dash for his apartment. With the katana, a lighter, and two remaining fireworks in-hand, he rushes through the horde, blows them up, and saves the world, presumably. None of the other monsters really show up in the ending, and I'd prefer to think of this as a happy-ending. Yeah, there's the question as to why all of them landed in Britain in that one spot, but if you can believe it for Doctor Who you can believe it for this.
Moses is blown out of the open window, but catches himself on a Union Flag. He and a few other members of the gang are arrested by the police, but hailed as heroes by the crowd and defended by Samantha. I presume that they get commendations and knighthoods because of this, before being recruited by UNIT or Torchwood, depending on who gets to them first. Possibly both depending on who's running UNIT.
All in all, this is one damn fine movie. It more than filled the gap between Star Trek Beyond and Suicide Squad. I would have watched the last Bourne movie, but I completely forgot that the new one was coming out. I wasn't even aware that Jason Bourne was the films final title. I thought they'd go for the name of one of the novels. Jason Bourne makes me think of Rocky Balboa or John Rambo, same-name sequels that aren't reboots.
The Anglosphere seems to do horror-comedy the way nobody else does. Visceral, punchy, and humorous in a way that's darker than the fur of the monsters in this film. As I said before, while the movie isn't quite as visceral and punchy as Blood Punch, it makes up for it with the moments of sheer laugh-out-loud absurdity that it does have. It's also got better visual and audio effects than Blood Punch, but that alone can't make it a better movie. I will say this though, at least there's no bizarrely-shot, poorly choreographed gun-fight towards the end of the film.
In the end, as much as I can compare it to Blood Punch, they are two very different films trying for very different feels. I give it an 8.5* rating.

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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Star Trek Beyond

Out of all of the movies I've seen this year, this is the second one I've really seriously considered for Best Picture. We're looking at one or two good movies on average a month, with boring, mediocre movies padding out the rest of the year, and a significantly bad movie punctuating each month. Compare this to 2012, which had more movies coming out per-month, and better ones too.
I'm not saying this just because Anton Yelchin died tragically, that didn't even cross my mind once while watching the film. I legitimately think that this could be a contender for Best Picture based on the quality of the film alone.
If you need a quick summary of the film, think Star Trek Generations, but well-made. No random wardrobe changes, no alternate dimension wish-fulfillment thing, no disconnected villains, no random sub-plot with Data being forced to experience emotions. It's nothing but the good stuff. They take the best parts of Generations, and run with them to their logical conclusions.
Spoilers inbound, as usual.
Three years into the five year mission that the crew of The USS Enterprise set out on at the end of Star Trek Into Darkness, Kirk (Chris Pine) is trying to negotiate a treaty between two races, one which could easily be closely related to Drax The Destroyer. The incredibly literal race attacks Kirk and they decide to just piss off and leave things be for now. They drop the artifact that was sent to be a peace-offering into their archives, and head off to Starbase Yorktown to resupply and let the crew get some much-needed rest.
There, we find out that Kirk has applied for a Vice-Admiral position like his Prime Universe counterpart did, and has recommended that Spock (Zachary Quinto) take his position. Meanwhile, Spock gets news from New-Vulcan that Ambassador Spock (Leonard Nimoy) has died.
Before anything can really be made of the situation they're in, an escape-pod emerges from a nearby nebula with a lone survivor on-board. She tells the Starfleet commander in charge of the Yorktown that her ship crashed on a planet within the nebula, and they need help rescuing the crew. Naturally, The Enterprise is sent in to rescue the crew. Best ship in the fleet, best crew in the Federation and all that.
Upon approaching the planet, they find that it's actually an inhabitable Class-M planet. While scanning for the crash-site, The Enterprise is ambushed by a swarm of small fighters, which lay siege to the ship. The first thing they target is the warp-nacelles, which are sheered off from the ship. They then begin invading, and abducting crew. Kirk orders the crew to abandon ship, and prevents the invaders from stealing the artifact they had previously stored in ships holds.
The escape-pods are intercepted by the invaders, but Spock and McCoy (Karl Urban) commandeer one of the invaders ships and manage to evade capture.
Among the few who escaped are Kirk, Scotty (Simon Pegg), Chekov (Anton Yelchin) and the woman from the escape-pod, Kalara (Lydia Wilson). Kirk confronts her about the ambush, and she admits that she knew it was coming, that Krall (Idris Elba), the guy who led the attack, threatened to kill her crew if she didn't lead them into the nebula.
Meanwhile, Scotty is ambushed by Krall's men, and rescued by Jaylah, who is about as close as this planet comes to a "native" inhabitant. She takes him to the derelict of the ship she grew up on, The U.S.S. Franklin, so he can fix it.
Spock and McCoy crash-landed, and Spock has a piece of metal jammed in him. McCoy stops the bleeding, and begins dragging Spock to cover.
Sulu, Uhura, and everyone else who survived the crash of The Enterprise are led to a camp run by Krall, and begin hatching a plan to escape. Meanwhile, Kirk, Chekov and Kalara sneak into the wrecked saucer of The Enterprise to retrieve the artifact that Krall was looking for, and use the ships sensors to track down the locations of the crew. Inside, Kalara seizes Kirk's phaser and calls in to Krall about the artifact, but Chekov comes up behind her with his weapon, and they reveal that Kirk suspected Kalara was in league with Krall, and didn't lead her to the artifact. Chekov and Kirk use the thrusters to dislodge the saucer and cause a distraction to escape. The saucer flips onto Kalara and some of Krall's men, killing them. The two of them then explore the planet a bit more, homing in on the data from the ship to find Scotty, and they stumble upon on of Jaylah's traps. Scotty sets things straight, and she sets them free.
Spock determines that the artifact that Krall was trying to steal must have come to this planet, but the warlords men surround him and Bones, but Scotty beams them out with the ships cargo transporter.
Together, they fix up the ship and hatch a plan to rescue the rest of the crew and escape the planet.
Sulu and Uhura find out how Krall knew how to take apart The Enterprise, and that he's planning an assault on Yorktown. Krall finds them outside of their cells, and tortures Sulu until the crew-member Kirk entrusted with the artifact hands it over. The artifact is a key to activate a biological weapon, and Krall plans to unleash it on Yorktown, allowing him to kill the people on the starbase and use it as a command-center to lay siege to the United Federation of Planets.
They rescue the crew of The Enterprise and pursue Krall to the base. They figure out how to disrupt the drones, and do so by blasting Sabotage by The Beastie Boys over the radio.
They find that Krall is actually the captain of The Franklin, Balthazar Edison, having extended his life with the technology he and his crew found on the planet. Edison returns to his original form, and attempts to unleash the bio-weapon, but Kirk vents him and it into space.
Kirk decides against taking the admiralty, and Spock decides against retiring from Starfleet to continue Ambassador Spock's work. Starfleet builds them a new Enterprise so they can continue their mission.
All in all, while I liked the last two Star Trek movies, I loved this one. Into Darkness was a damn good film too, but this one was downright phenomenal. It strikes me as something akin to a multi-part episode of The Next Generation, or one of the really damn good Star Trek movies, like The Wrath of Khan, or First Contact. Except, it's actually better.
Performances as with the previous two films were spot-on. Portrayals are spot-on too. The essence of all of the characters is captured directly from the original series films and distilled to purity. I can believe that Chris Pine is Starfleets greatest hero. I can believe that John Cho would be a three-time president of the United Federation of Planets. I can buy Zachary Quinto as Spock. Simon Pegg is believable as Starfleets greatest engineer. Karl Urban totally sells it as Dr. McCoy, the curmudgeonly country doctor. Zoe Saldana is great as Uhura. And of course, Anton Yelchin nailed the role of Chekov.
Something interesting to note is that Zachary Quinto's fellow Heroes alum, Greg Grunberg is in this film, playing exactly the same role he did in The Force Awakens. Apparently he is to J.J. Abrams what Bruce Campbell is to Sam Raimi, since Grunberg has been in most of the things Abrams has worked on.
The only real issue I can really bring up is the one everyone knows of. As well as one that's tangentially related. First off, there's the fact that Sulu appears to be gay. This wouldn't be too much of an issue if it wasn't for the fact that this is the series that spent a good portion of the first movie debunking the last fifty years of fan-fiction. As well as the obvious fact that Sulu's original actor, George Takei objects. If he says that it goes against Gene Roddenberry's vision, then we've got very little reason to question him.
Then there's the related issue of the age of his daughter. The Original Series takes place in the 2260's, the movies take place in the 2270's, and his daughter made her first appearance in the beginning of Generations, in 2293. At that time she looked to be in her twenties, but at the age she is in this movie she would be in her late thirties, early forties. Unless of course he has another younger daughter. Going back to Generations though, there's no evidence that he does.
Aside from that though, there's nothing else that really made me scratch my head, and plenty of things that were very well done. The tribute to Leonard Nimoy and the cast of The Original Series actually brought tears to my eyes. There aren't that many of them left, and as much as I like The Next Generation, I grew up with the crew of the original Enterprise. I idolized them, Leonard Nimoy especially, and it's a shame that he's gone.
As far as tributes to The Original Series go, it's leaps, bounds and light-years ahead of Generations. As a Star Trek movie, it's up there with Wrath of Khan and First Contact. As a film? We might be looking at one of the movies of the year here. In the end, I give it a 10.1* rating.

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Sunday, July 24, 2016

Ghostbusters (2016)

A movie that's tortuously late to the party, headlined by former SNL cast-members, one character that seems as frustrated with the world of the movie as the audience is, a dumb character that may or may not be pretending to be stupid, a walking talking stereotype, one kinda cool character, strange vignettes that pad out the run-time, a musical number, boring pacing, horrible writing, and possibly four jokes that work in the entire thing. But enough about The Angry Birds Movie.
Ghostbusters is a movie that's tortuously late to the party, headlined by former SNL cast-members, one character that seems as frustrated with the world of the movie as the audience is, a dumb character that may or may not be pretending to be stupid, a walking talking stereotype, one kinda cool character, strange vignettes that pad out the run-time, a musical number, boring pacing, horrible writing, and possibly four jokes that work in the entire thing, with a majority female cast. Because of course it is.
For those who have been living under a rock without television for the last thirty years, Ghostbusters is one of the biggest media franchises of all time. Of all time. Two blockbuster movies, one of the most popular songs of all time, multiple comics, two animated series, video-games dating back to the Atari 2600, and a sequel to the movies a few years ago. Action-figures, toys based on the gear, board-games, merch up and down the spectrum with no end for thirty freaking years. You've most likely seen the ancillary material before you've seen the movies, or at least caught the movies on television. If you've never seen the movies, you've definitely heard the theme-song at some point, because they play it on loop with The Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack and Thriller every Halloween.
This review isn't going to start with any of the long-winded preamble about me being a huge fan of the franchise and knowing it in and out like I've done for some reviews, partially because I'm trying to not do that anymore and partially because I'm not particularly well-versed in Ghostbusters outside of the two movies. I don't own any of the toys, I've never read any of the comics, I've never played any of the games, and I've never watched either of the cartoons. I either never got around to them or they were just out of my reach. The cartoons were never on TV and I never really cared enough to look them up on the internet. Don't get me wrong, I loved the original movies. I still have both of them on VHS for crying out loud. One of these days I'm going to get them both on Blu-Ray and watch them in high-def glory but for now I'll stick with them on DVD.
While I'm not really an expert on series lore, I do know several essential facts about it. First off, don't cross the streams. Second, you can't kill a ghost, you can only contain it. Third, be careful with the freaking proton packs. They're unlicensed nuclear reactors, you could literally explode if you weren't careful with them. Not just that, it's a freaking nuke for crying out loud. The chain-reaction could literally be catastrophic.
Basically all of these rules are either ignored or never established to begin with. In fact, the only rule they actually did bring up was the "be careful with the gear" thing, after they spent several scenes being incredibly reckless with it in a failed attempt to elicit laughs.
The movie begins with what I believe are supposed to be social-commentary jokes told by a tour-guide in a "haunted" mansion. Some spooky stuff happens, but it's all faked by the managers of the estate to promote tourism. At closing time, all of the fake haunting things get packed up, but actual ghosts show up and mess with him. Cue Ray Parker Jr's iconic theme. For less than a minute.
We cut to Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) teaching in her school. Some guy comes and talks to her about a book she wrote with a friend of hers that she thought was destroyed. A book she co-wrote.
She is informed that the book is on Amazon, and this leads into an insult to people who like audiobooks disguised as a joke. Erin looks this up on Amazon, and finds that the book is definitely on Amazon.
Here's a few problems with this scene. The way everything is timed in the scene, Gilbert clicks once for a search and winds up on the product page. That's not how Amazon works. Yes, she could have seen it on the homepage, but the most likely scenario is that she searched it up first. Either way, the reaction should have come before she got to the product page.
Her boss comes into her office to talk about her application for tenure, and instead of alt-tabbing away from the page, opening a new tab, minimizing the window, shutting off the monitor, or outright closing the browser with one fucking click, she turns the monitor away, covers it with papers, etc, etc. Also, for some reason her computer has Internet Explorer pinned to the taskbar. She's not using it, but it's still pinned to the taskbar. Nobody uses Internet Explorer for gods sake, why is it pinned to her taskbar?
Erin goes to talk to her co-writer, Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) about the book at the college she works at. After some searching, she finds her and confronts her about the book. Abby refuses to take the book down and claims she doesn't need Erin's permission to put the book up. This means that either Erin signed away her rights to control over the book, or Abby forged her signature. If the latter is true, which it seems to be, then Abby has committed several federal crimes and deserves to go to jail over this. But if that happened, we wouldn't have a movie to watch. Can't wait for How It Should Have Ended to cover that.
In exchange for getting the book out of circulation, Erin agrees to introduce Abby and her research partner, Jillian Holtzman (Kate McKinnon) to the people in charge of the mansion where the ghosts were sighted. For some reason, after she does that, she accompanies them. They encounter a ghost, it spits all over Erin, and she screams about how ghosts are real, and this gets her sacked from her job before she gets tenure. So she decides to go work with Jill and Abby, who also get fired from their jobs because the dean of the college didn't even realize the department still existed. This is actually a pretty funny moment, because the dean is basically telling the leads what I wanted to tell to the movie. To piss right off.
They leave to find a new place to work out of, and they steal the equipment from the college. Pretty sure that counts as grand theft, mishandling nuclear materials, and several other laws they've probably broken. While the original Ghostbusters were using unlicensed nuclear reactors, they weren't actually caught in the act of misappropriating their equipment the way these morons were.
They shop around for a place for them to operate out of, and they find the fire-station the original Ghostbusters were based out of, but as opposed to the original movie, it's in full working order, and the rent is massive on it, so they wind up working out of the top of a Chinese-restaurant. The Chinese restaurant that Abby keeps ordering from despite them screwing up her orders. This is supposed to be a Ghostbusters movie, cut it out with the freaking food jokes!
Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) an MTA worker sees some guy go off into the subway after talking some crazy things and then witnesses a ghost in the subway, so she contacts the three other leads and they go out into the field and test out their "proton laser" on the ghost. It works, but because this whole scenario is from the planet Outlandish, nobody believes them.
Eventually they adopt the Ghostbusters moniker, as well as the same basic look of the iconic team. They head off to one of their first paying jobs at a metal concert that's some kind of tribute to Black Sabbath. This whole segment is telegraphed horribly. When the crazy dude Patty ran into in the subway, Rowan North (Neil Casey) goes to the concert to unleash the ghosts, he runs into a metalhead screaming about "Ozzy!" Keep this in mind, something stupid is about to happen.
The four leads are told that the ghost was assaulting people before it vanished, and that they need to handle this quietly. They search through the building until they find it, with some stupid "jokes" to accompany it. The ghost phases through the stage, interrupting the band, but the crowd thinks it's all part of the show, because the ghost looks like a devil. As it raises up behind the most country-sounding vocalist I have ever seen performing with a fairly decent metal band.
The four leads track the ghost down to the stage. For some moronic reason, Abby crowd-surfs to where she needs to be and Patty tries to do the same thing and falls flat on her back, making a very stupid "joke" in the process.
Eventually they capture their first ghost, and they come to public attention as the Ghostbusters. Then, out of nowhere as the scene is wrapping up, the camera cuts to Ozzy Osbourne walking on stage. John. Michael. Ozzy. Osbourne. The madman. The Prince of Darkness. The Godfather of Metal himself shows up in this movie. Not to perform, not to really do anything. He basically shows up to say "Eh, what's goin' on?!" and then disappears. This is the second movie from Sony that I've seen this year with out of nowhere, out of place Black Sabbath references.
Eventually, a skeptic, Dr. Martin Heiss (Bill motherfucking Murray) calls out the four leads on television because he thinks ghosts are fake. Because Erin is stupid, she releases the ghost and it kills Heiss by throwing him out the window. Nobody is charged with anything over this as far as I can tell.
Let me repeat. This movie somehow managed to get Bill Murray out of his cave and they killed off his character when he had less than one minute of screen-time. If you're thinking this is what the movie thinks of the real Ghostbusters, then stay tuned.
The four leads are taken to see the mayor and some representatives of the federal government who tell them that they're doing a good job, but they need to knock it off because they're getting in the way of the governments operation. I kind of get what they mean, but the government doesn't seem to have the kind of gear that can support ghost-hunting, so why didn't they ask Holtzman to make them the kind of gear to support that? As is shown later on, they don't have the proper equipment, so what the hell was going on?
Despite being told to knock it off, the four keep up their investigation and triangulate the ghost sightings along ley-lines that intersect at a hotel in Times Square. A place where weird things have happened forever.
There they find Rowan in the basement of the hotel, working on a huge machine to summon ghosts with, but rather than be captured, Rowan kills himself. In the aftermath, they find a copy of the book Abby and Erin wrote, with crazy drawings inside of it of things Rowan has seen in his visions.
Erin tries to inform people of this, but Abby gets possessed by Rowan, and attempts to kill Jillian, but Patty stops that from happening and Rowan posses their secretary, Kevin Beckman (Chris Hemsworth) and takes off. He unleashes the ghosts, and the army, police and homeland security try to subdue him, but he takes total control of them and stops them from interfering.
The four leads gear up and fight through the ghost army, running into a Staypuft Marshmallow Man balloon possessed by ghosts, which gets popped by a swiss-army knife from Erin, who has been trying to get around the city in a cab. The cab is driven by a ghost-savvy cabbie played by Dan Akroyd, who cannot be anyone but Ray Stantz from the original movie, because he knows way too much about ghosts, and even spouts the old Ghostbusters motto, "I ain't afraid of no ghost".
Eventually, the four of them fight to where Rowan is, and he divests himself of Kevin's body, and after a bit of seriously stupid action, he takes the form of the classic Ghostbusters logo, who then grows like Rita Repulsa's staff got embedded in his spine and busts through the hotel to wreak havoc. The four route their vehicle with a nuclear reactor on top of it into the portal to summon the ghosts back to ghost realm, and then shoot Rowan in the crotch to get him back in the portal. Despite him being a fucking ghost, this works. They then proceed to rip off the climax of Big Hero 6 with Rowan grabbing Abby as he's sucked back into the portal. Erin ties a rope around her waist and jumps in, shoots Rowan in the fist, and hauls Abby out of the portal. They emerge with white hair for some ungodly reason, and for some other ungodly reason, when the ghosts got sucked into the portal, all the destruction they caused was reversed.
The four get told they can basically have what they want in terms of funding for saving the city, so they get the classic fire-station, and new gear, but for some reason they don't have the kind of cash to support replacing their car, the car Patty borrowed from her uncle, played by Ernie Hudson.
Jillian creates a grid to suspend ghosts in, and her mentor, played by Sigourney Weaver (Who seems to be as fed up with this movie as I am) shows up to examine it, and says that it's a disaster waiting to happen, foreshadowing the grid being shut off in the second movie.
Speaking of which, Patty finds a reference to Zuul on a reel-to-reel audio tape, and then the credits roll. The credits of this film play over the dance scene/musical number that wound up getting cut from the final version of the film.
All in all, while it's not operating on the sheer concentrated level of awful everyone expected the movie to be based on the trailers, it's still not worth watching. If you haven't seen the original, watch the original instead. If you have, then watch the original again. Don't waste your time on this movie, there aren't enough jokes to justify the two-hour run-time, and most of what's there would be the weakest jokes in a good movie. While there are some good bits here and there, the good doesn't outweigh the boring, and the good stuff basically has nothing to do with Ghostbusters. The climax, for one thing, is pretty freaking awesome, but it makes no sense in the context of this being a Ghostbusters movie. They smash ghosts into other ghosts, they chip ghosts with a ghost woodchipper, they blow them up with ghost grenades, they punch ghosts with ghost gloves. They actually main and supposedly "kill" ghosts. They shoot ghosts with ghost guns for gods sake. Yeah, the climax is awesome and so is the fight-scene, but that's not Ghostbusters, that's fucking DoomDuke Nukem! Hell, it's way closer to Luigi's Mansion than it is to freaking Ghostbusters!
In fact, most of the new gadgets they introduce to sell more toys about halfway through the movie look like things that were either copied from or directly inspired by Luigi's Mansion. Their main trap is a ghost-vacuum after all. Combine that with the ghost-chipper and what the hell is the point of ever using anything else?
They also have a ghost bear-trap for some reason. With lasers and motors and glowy crap.
Allow me to explain to Paul Feig why bear-traps are so cool. First off, they're made of nothing but hard fucking metal, they don't have any weird things attached to them, they are a very simple device with a singular purpose, to snap shut on a limb and hold it in place. This is why they got used as jump-scares in Resident Evil 4. Second, they snap shut with a lot of fucking weight. When a bear-trap is sprung, the jaws snap shut so fucking fast that nothing that's not Sonic The fucking Hedgehog can conceivably get out of there fast enough to get out unscathed. Leon S. Kennedy is an elite member of The Secret Service in Resident Evil 4, but even he can't get his leg out of the way fast enough for the jaws to not clamp down tight.
This thing is covered in bleepy bloopy bullshit and snaps shut with the weight of a god-damn toy. I've actually owned toys that have more weight to them than this piece of crap does. I'd ask who thought that was a good idea, but I found my answer. The same person who thought proton-grenades, proton-gloves, and proton-pistols were a good idea. The people who wanted to sell more toys. Toys that have been sitting on the shelf, gathering dust and going on clearance across the country before the movie even came out.
Let's make this clear here, the characters all suck. Even the two characters I kinda wanted to like, Jillian and Erin descended into absolute nonsense towards the end. Erin is the meek kind of character I like, but she's not consistent enough with that portrayal for it to entirely click with me. Kristin Wiig seems like she's worn out and disgusted with the movie as a whole, and doesn't want to be on set, but that's not the majority of the reasons the character is inconsistent. The rest comes down to the writing.
Speaking of actors fed up with the movie, Melissa McCarthy seems to be having to actively stop herself from expressing her utter contempt with the movie with every breath, glance and word. If the rumors are to be believed (And considering the movie turned out exactly the way the leaks said they would, that would seem to add to their credibility), McCarthy is a huge Ghostbusters fan, and signed onto the film back when it was supposed to be inspired by the Ghostbusters cartoons. As time went on, it got further and further from the movie she signed on for, and she's become very unhappy with the film if the Midnight's Edge video on the leaks are to be believed.
In fact, a lot of the actors don't seem to be particularly happy with what they're doing. Leslie Jones doesn't seem particularly invested in her role despite her vehement defense of the movie, and basically everyone but Kate McKinnon and Chris Hemsworth.
I'll be blunt, I don't particularly like Chris Hemsworth's character, not because Kevin is dumb, but because the dumb humor isn't executed properly. Hemsworth at least looks like he's having a damn good time just goofing off on set, dancing around, doing zany stuff. If they were a bit more controlled with his characters stupidity, it would be great, but it's not. The dumb humor just goes too far, and it basically means that most of what his character does is either predictable or just dumb. I think the only way his character can really be salvaged is to reveal that he's not as dumb as he acts, either through him secretly being Q, or a Q-type character all along, or him having been acting like that because he thinks that's funny. However, that would require this movie to have a sequel, and I don't want to see a sequel, I just want to see Chris Hemsworth, Liam Neeson, Don Cheadle and Robert Downey Jr as the Ghostbusters in an actual Ghostbusters movie.
This brings us to McKinnon's character, Jillian Holtzmann. If it wasn't for a handful of scenes, and a handful of lines, I would find Holtzmann intoxicatingly hot. Edit out a few of the really stupid things inserted for no discernible reason, such as her dancing to a DeBarge song, the utterly misplaced queef joke at the beginning of the movie, tone down the neo-SNL loudness, her licking her guns and the obviously bleached hair (Keep it natural or go all the way, just pick one) and have a few more scenes of her as the tech/grease monkey and boom, she's perfect. I really liked the way she kicked ass at the end of the movie, but again, that's utterly out of place in something that's not an old-school FPS. Her character has a few of the funnier lines in the movie, and I'll say this, McKinnon at least seems to be getting into her role.
Apparently Paul Feig wanted her character to be a lesbian, but got shot down by the studio. I have to say that this was actually a pretty good thing, because then she'd basically just be the stereotypical butch grease-monkey, and wouldn't be as unique a character. Not that she's particularly unique as is, she's basically a copy and paste of Charley from Biker Mice From Mars, but without the common sense to not lick a piece of dangerous equipment.
Now we come to Leslie Jones. Her character is basically a bad Madea impression. A Madea impression written by someone who completely missed the point of the character. Plus other wacky stereotypically black antics and dialogue written by someone who took a look at Eddie Murphy's career and missed the point harder than a drunk, blindfolded Stormtrooper. A bit of the tiny amount of energy this movie has is brought across by Jones, who I will give some credit to for that, but aside from a handful of scenes, she looks as irritated with this movie as everyone else in the film.
A quick addendum before we get to the rest of the article. This is something I meant to put into the original draft, but didn't. It was 4AM when I finished up, and I was incredibly tired, so cut me a bit of slack.
The scientific lingo is all wrong. They use "theory" in place of hypothesis like they didn't have a science consultant on the team, they use technobabble in place of actual scientific terminology even when they could conceivably be using actual science. Or they could be using actual science, it's not like anyone could tell underneath all of that smugness.
Then we've got the fact that Paul Feig and Sony alike seem to be oblivious as to what is trendy in technology. McCarthy's character has a cell-phone helmet that looks like something stolen from Doc Brown's workshop circa 1985. She says it's the future, but she seems to have completely ignored Google Glass, which is smaller than that and has more functions, or pretty much any of the other tech we've got today. We don't like wearables that are clunky and make you look like a dork. That's why smartphones have been getting smaller and lighter as time has gone on. Sony makes technology, they should know better! Then again, they put out the PlayStation 4 with outdated tech inside, so maybe they're out of touch with the tech industry these days.
Back to the originally published article!
One of the biggest issues with the movie aside from the writing is the effects. The ghosts seem like they were ripped from Haunted Mansion, and are only one step above being ripped from Luigi's Mansion. None of the ghosts seem otherworldly enough to actually be there in the scene with the actors. This is to say nothing of the CGI ckyline they use, which looks utterly horrendous. They had a really good CGI skyline in The Amazing Spider-Man movies, why didn't they just delete Oscorp tower and re-use that?
Speaking of the city, something which bugged me throughout was the fact that nothing really screamed "New York" about the scenery in this movie to me. I couldn't really put my finger on this until the credits, when they revealed that the bulk of the movie had been shot in Boston and Australia, with a handful of scenes filmed in Triebca and near Columbia University. Then it really clicked with me. That was the main thing that wasn't sitting well with me, the movie had no New York identity despite being set in the city. This is opposed to the original movie, which is very New York in feel, and in look. Sony has made movies with that New York feel in the past, even when they don't actually have all that much actual New York in them, so what was the problem here?
Another fairly major issue, and a complaint that Paul Feig and I share, is that they cut the dance-number from the movie, although I have a feeling we have different reasons. The original script and directors cut have Rowan in the body of Kevin forcing the police and soldiers who have gathered to stop him to partake in a choreographed synchronized dance-number. See, while it sounds kind of stupid on paper, it's a testament to the power and credibility of the villain if he can control a bunch of people like that. It's also a really casual way for the filmmakers to show off what the villain can do. Plus, it really seemed like that was where the whole scene was going, and if I were a villain powerful enough to do something like that, the first thing I would do is march out the president, secret-service and cabinet out onto the Whitehouse lawn and perform Thriller, because I think that would be funny.
While some of the issues stem from casting issues, the majority of the "jokes" in this movie, much less the writing couldn't have been saved by anyone. Not the original cast, not a better cast than this one, not anyone. Emma Stone was approached for this movie and rightfully declined considering the last franchise Sony roped her into. If you changed McCarthy out for her, and stuck Freema Agyeman in Leslie Jones' place, without changing anything? The initial appeal would go up, but it still would have suffered from those trailers, and the movie itself wouldn't have been any better aside from having two prettier actresses in it. Change the cast to all men? Change out the female-centric jokes for male-centric ones? Make Leonardo diCaprio the lead actor and populate the rest of the cast with Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger and Morgan Freeman? Still can't be salvaged. The issues with this movie lie in the direction and writing, not in the cast.
Speaking of which, this brings us to said director and writer, Paul Feig. Feig is well on record that he thinks that men aren't funny. I think this movie has gone a long way to proving him right, because his direction, coupled with his writing (Katie Dippold worked on the script too, but I detect a bit more of Feig's writing throughout the movie than hers) is some of the worst "comedy" writing I've seen in fucking years. I'm having a hard time telling if the writing on this is worse than the writing in The Angry Birds Movie. They're both very similar, but I think the writing in this movie takes it by a short margin, because it had to live up to the standard set by the last two movies and every other piece of tie-in material from the last thirty years, and they failed, while The Angry Birds Movie just tried to rip off everything under the sun. Then again, the latter film was packed full of memes nicked shamelessly from the internet. On the other hand, this film is full of delivery, direction, jokes, and lines copied straight from various internet comedy series. In fact, I reckon Paul Feig thinks he's an internet comedian. He seems just out of touch enough to think he can pull off the same kind of jokes that work in a rudimentary indie production in a polished Hollywood setting without realizing he's not talented enough to pull much of that off. Paul Feig ain't LittleKuriboh or KaiserNeko, and none of his cast comes anywhere close to the kind of talent Nowacking, Takahata101, Lanipator or Antfish or any collaborator of TeamFourStar's have in pulling off that kind of humor.
Speaking of LittleKuriboh, I will say this, he's absolutely, the movie isn't really worth the half the backlash it got. While you can tell the movie is trying to insult the fans and is trying to insult the haters, it wasn't nearly bad enough for any of that to irritate me. Even knowing that certain scenes were re-shot to incorporate jabs at the internet for the backlash, they don't really come across as nearly as malicious as I expected them to be. That's not to say that the movie has any right to exist, even if the original Ghostbusters had never been made, this movie would have no right to exist. The "jokes" aren't funny, the movie is paced horribly, and it's written like a modern-day SNL skit, and we all know how bad that show is these days.
Despite this film having utterly tanked at the box-office (Paul Feig is on record having said that the movie would need to make north of five-hundred million to actually make money) they've greenlit a sequel for some reason, when they refused to make The Amazing Spider-Man 3 despite TASM2 doing incredibly well at the box-office. Better than X3: The Last Stand did in fact, and Fox hasn't stopped making X-Men movies!
Sony Pictures seems to have a problem with management. They want to reign in Adam Sandler, but they don't. They need to reign in Paul Feig, but they don't. They shouldn't reign in Mark Webb and Sam Raimi, and they do. It's weird.
Not only do they have issues with management, they also have issues with security. Sony has a history of movies leaking out well in advance of their theatrical releases. DVD and Blu-Ray leaks no less. I have it on good authority that the directors cut of the film leaked out on DVD and has been circulating New York City in the form of bootlegs for a good week before the movie came out, and a quick look at The Pirate Bay shows us Blu-Ray and DVD rips of the movie out a good week and a half or so prior to release. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 had cam-rips and DVD-rips circulating before the movie had come out as well. This, coupled with the various PSN hacks, plus all of the credible leaks we've seen out of Sony makes me wonder why anyone trusts the company to keep any secrets at all when the idea of "security" seems to be a suggestion more than a rule.
And now, because I seem to have forgotten to leave any space elsewhere in the review to talk about the music, I'm going to address it now. There are a good seven remixes of the classic Ghostbusters theme-song in the movie, ranging from little ditties played on piano, to an orchestral remix that plays during the climax, to an oriental remix, to the infamous Fall Out Boy cover featuring Missy Elliot, to the other four or so remixes listed in and playing during the credits including one by Walk The Moon of all groups! Sony got possibly the hottest eighties throwback group in existence right now and instead of letting their version of the song play during the film, you relegate it to the credits and let the Fall Out Boy version play during the movie?
In case you were wondering, the original version of the song plays for less than a minute early on in the movie during the title-sequence. That's right, Ray Parker Jr.'s original version of the song is barely in this movie. Thankfully, the FOB/Elliot version has a short runtime too, but not short enough.
This brings me to a point I want to make. It's been thirty years since the original movie, and there have been covers up and down the world ever since then, loads of which have been just as good as the original. Why couldn't they have just gotten someone who did a good cover into the main bulk of the movie? Hell, they had Walk The Moon performing the theme-song! Why did they need six other remixes on the soundtrack?!
This seems to sum up all of the problems with the movie, they had a few good ideas, but decided to go way too far and things turned belly-up. Is there a way to salvage a sequel? Yeah. Fire Paul Feig, kick Amy Pascal to the curb and let someone like Joss Whedon handle the movie. Or better yet, turn it back over to Reitman and let him make Ghostbusters III. In the end, I give this movie a 0.9*. I'll see you guys next week with Star Trek: Beyond!

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Sunday, July 17, 2016

Finding Dory

Pixar seems to be in the habit of releasing sequels more than a decade after the original film came out. Granted, this keeps them from producing anything played-out or derivative, but it also means that they don't capitalize on the height of their franchises popularity. I get that Pixar doesn't like to milk their franchises, at least as far as movies are concerned. However, if they could maybe pick up the pace a bit, that'd be great, because I was six when Finding Nemo came out, and I'm nineteen now. I've still got my original copy on DVD and have since gotten it on Blu-Ray as well. Finding Nemo is old enough that it came out on VHS for gods sake. The fan-base of Nemo, like the characters voice-actor, has grown up since then. Not to say that we're not still interested, it's a freaking Pixar movie after all, and I've been re-watching The Incredibles on a yearly basis since the movie came out.
Out of all of the movies Pixar has put out, I think Finding Nemo was one of the ones that wasn't literally begging for a sequel. Granted, most Pixar movies that aren't The Incredibles are usually stand-alone fare that don't seem like they'd have a need or an opening for a sequel or a prequel, but Pixar inevitably finds a way. Rather unfortunately, it seems like literally every other Pixar film from the surrounding five years got a sequel or prequel before the one that was outright begging for one.
However, that doesn't mean any of the movies that have been put out between then aren't enjoyable. Despite the fact that I would have preferred to see The Incredibles 2 before I saw any of the other sequels. Or original properties they put out in the last twelve years. Or in the fifteen years it will have been by the time the movie comes out. The same goes for Finding Dory, or as it would be more honestly titled, Finding Dory's Parents.
Spoilers inbound, as usual.
A year after the events of the previous movie, eternally forgetful blue-tang Dory (Ellen Degeneres) has a flash of memory from her childhood after a montage of the early years of her life. She went on a journey across the ocean looking for her parents as her memory deteriorates more and more, before she eventually runs into Marlon on his search for Nemo.
Dory decides to go looking for her parents after a memory flash. Marlon and Nemo tag along to be her memory on a journey from Australia to California by way of Crush the surfer turtle. They wind up at Morro Bay California, and do battle with a squid, which winds up with Nemo bruised and battered, and Dory with a six-pack ring wrapped around her. She's picked up by the staff of the Morro Bay Aquarium for treatment. Marlon and Nemo wind up in the aquarium via help from two sea-lions and a loony loon, but they can't quite find out where Dory is.
Meanwhile, Dory befriends a mischievous octopus named Hank, voiced by the one and only Ed ONeill. He agrees to help her find her parents in exchange for the ID tag on her fin which will take the holder to Cleveland, Ohio.
Eventually, Dory runs into an old friend of hers, a whale-shark called Destiny (Kaitlin Olson). Destiny and Hank help her find her old home, and there Dory finds out that her parents are probably with the other Blue Tangs in quarantine, the place she was just in a while ago. A beluga whale named Bailey (Ty Burrell) uses his echolocation to plot Dory a path to quarantine.
She runs through the pipes to quarantine, and runs into Marlon and Nemo along the way. They get into the blue tang tank, and the tangs there tell Dory her parents disappeared years ago.
Hank tries to get Dory out, but he leaves Marlon and Nemo behind. As he's trying to get Dory back to the Open Ocean exhibit or something, he's apprehended by aquarium personnel, and drops Dory into an ocean-drain. She winds up back near the kelp-forest she, Marlon and Nemo wound up in earlier in the movie, and she wanders around, stunned from the idea her parents might be dead, but she follows a trail of seashells to a fish-house, and there she finds her parents. They tell her that they've spent years putting down trails of seashells, since their old home had a trail of seashells leading to it. Dory remembers Nemo and Marlon enough to remember that they need help, and she gets Destiny and Bailey to help her get onto the truck so she can rescue Marlon and Nemo. With Hank's help, they hijack the truck and all of the fish in it are set free, and she re-unites with her entire family.
All in all, this was a great film. It's good to see that The Angry Birds Movie isn't going without stiff competition in terms of family movies this year. It's almost like Pixar decided to release this film just to show the amateurs who worked on the aforementioned disaster how it's done. This film is well-animated, it's well-acted, it's funny, well-written, perfectly paced, and overall, fun.
I haven't really thought about Ellen DeGeneres since Finding Nemo. No particular reason why, I just never cared for daytime talk-shows, and I never saw her sitcom once. Buuut she's pretty good in this, and it's a damn good thing she can pull off something other than the flighty, ditsy Dory from the first movie, because nobody would have been able to carry an entire film like that as the lead character. And if she hadn't been able to pull off the character the way she did, the movie would have been utterly unwatchable. If that comes down to DeGeneres' talent as an actress, or Andrew Stanton's direction talent, I don't care. It came out incredibly well, and I'll definitely be watching this movie again when it comes out on Blu-Ray. As opposed to a certain movie I could mention.
A lot of Dory's strange quirks and seemingly random things she said have been paid off in this film, from her speaking whale, to the song she sings to cope to pretty much everything. I like how they paid all of that off.
There's plenty of fun to be had, be it from returning characters, or new ones. If I had to pick a breakout character, it would be Hank. Ed O'Neill kills it as the snarky octopus, delivering some of the funniest lines in the film. The duo of Destiny and Bailey is great too, but Hank is just cool.
Albert Brooks appears to have aged a bit audibly, but he doesn't sound like he's bored, or doesn't want to be in the movie. He hasn't lost the Marlon voice despite the thirteen years between movies.
Then there's Hayden Rolence as Nemo, who sounds a bit older than Alexander Gould did when he voiced Nemo, which makes sense considering it is supposed to be a year later.
In the end, I give Finding Dory a 10.1* rating.

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Megadimension Neptunia VII (Nathan Green)


Yup, it’s time to take a look at another game from Idea Factory and Compile Heart's self-referential JRPG series which loves to poke fun at video games and the people who play them. Surprisingly Megadimension Neptunia was the first main series Neptunia game since Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory on the PS3 released in 2012. Anyway before I jump into this review I should state that I am actually looking at the recently released PC port of Megadimension and not the PS4 version that came out last year. With that out of the way lets dive right into Megadimension Neptunia VII.

Story:
When I jumped into Megadimension the first thing I noticed right off the bat was the major tonal shift in the story, especially when compared to the previous games. Megadimension's plot is quite a bit darker than previous entries and honestly in a series like Neptunia I found it a breath of fresh air. The dialogue is still very well written with the usual retro gaming references scattered around the place and the game doesn’t lose its personality despite the darker plot which I do like. It’s a good balance between silly and serious and it’s refreshing to see in a game from the Neptunia series.


Gameplay:
Now if there was one thing that the devs really tweaked and refined during the transition from Victory to Megadimension it was the gameplay. The battle system has been heavily tweaked in all the right ways and this makes me feel that gameplay wise Megadimension is the most solid of the Neptunia series.
For starters the Guard gauge which was present in Victory and all the Re;birth remakes has been dropped. In previous games enemies would have a guard gauge as well as a health gauge. When this gauge had a little bit of charge in it the amount of damage you could deal to enemies was heavily reduced meaning that in order to deal any substantial damage you had to drop the enemies guard gauge first which caused a guard break. However enemies with their guard broken would have their guard restored by around a third when they had their next turn.
This is made even worse when you take into account that you don't have access to a guard gauge so any damage you take gets lopped right off your life bar which can result in some enemies making mincemeat out of you if you aren’t careful. I could go on further about the problems this system had but basically all you need to know is that it was incredibly unbalanced so having the guard gauge removed in Megadimension is something that makes the game a whole lot more balanced.
A lot of the tweaks that were made to the battle system help to fix the balance issues that were present in previous games and almost all of these tweaks I find useful. Combo setting has been changed up a bit with a system that is far simpler than it was in previous games which also adds an element of strategy to the planning of attacks (meeting certain conditions allows for certain attacks to have extra bonuses thrown on like a 100% crit-rate or 100% accuracy).
Special attacks have been refined and you are now able to pull off special team attacks depending on where your team members are placed (i.e I might have to make a triangle formation around an enemy first before I can use a specific team attack)
Outside of battles dungeons have had a few tweaks as well. The treasure search feature present in victory has been removed (goodness knows why) and you are finally able to use healing skills outside of battles.
Meanwhile the over-world has seen a complete overhaul and now sports a Mario 3 esque design with points on a map that you move between. While moving around the map however you can run into enemies while moving over smaller points.
Overall Megadimension's gameplay is all about the tweaks and refinements. The base JRPG gameplay is still incredibly solid however with battles based on positioning and chaining together combos to deal the most pain. All in all though Megadimension in my opinion is the strongest of the series gameplay wise thanks to the multitude of tweaks and refinements made to systems throughout the game.


Presentation and performance:
Ohboy, now this is going to get interesting.
Presentation wise Megadimension does look pretty good. Environments are incredibly detailed, models extremely well done and environments are far more varied and diverse than they were in previous titles. However there is one gigantic issue present in the PC port that just ruins the whole experience for me and it is the same issue that has plagued basically all idea factory PC ports.
In a nutshell, the performance is completely and utterly abysmal and I mean abysmal. In gameplay I was barely managing 20 frames per second and that was with all the graphical effects turned on low and the resolution dropped as far as it could go.
Now if this was only a problem with my PC then I could understand that as it isn’t really built for gaming. However owners of high end PCs have also reported utterly abysmal performance with the port as well.
Things don’t get any better when I found out that the Hyperresolution Neptunia mod, a mod that let you change the texture rendering resolution in the PC ports of the re;birth games, didn’t work with Megadimension. On top of that there seem to be some graphical settings that the game simply does not let you turn off. They aren’t in the options menu and they aren’t in the config file either so graphical effects such as bloom and reflections are stuck in an enabled state. Not being able to turn off stuff like reflections is especially annoying because you’re stuck in a state where these graphical resource hogs are forcefully turned on and it really kills the experience.
So not only is the game playing like a slideshow for me but I am basically unable to watch any cutscenes because the enormous amounts of lag actually cause cutscenes (and only cutscenes) to encounter audio stutter. Yes, really.
This is my main problem with Megadimension on PC. The game is optimised so, so badly that it makes it hard for me to recommend. Heck even if your PC meets the requirements that is no 100% guarantee that you won’t run into performance issue.
Also speaking of system requirements, LOOK AT THESE THINGS.
To compare, here are the system requirements for Dark Souls 3
Yeah, I dunno about you but those seem like some pretty ridiculous system requirements.
Terrible performance aside the game does sport an excellent soundtrack as well (in my opinion it’s the best in the whole series) which is one of those few video game soundtracks that I actually went out of my way to listen to while I wasn’t playing the game so extra points for that.


Verdict:
Megadimension Neptunia VII on the PC is most certainly entertaining. If you’re a fan of the series then you’ll be right at home with this entry. I also think that for newcomers Megadimension is probably the best title to start on. However the one think that stops me from recommending the PC version of Megadimension is its gigantic performance problems. The game is so terribly optimized for PC that it almost makes buying it on pc not even worth it due to how much of a glass cannon the game is with performance. Granted the game is a turn based RPG so it doesn’t kill the experience as much as it would if these performance issues were present with say, a fps but the 20 or less fps I was getting in game coupled with the audio stutter present in almost all cutscenes makes Megadimension on PC a difficult recommendation to people who only just meet the minimum requirements and honestly it’s a damn shame.
If you want my advice then if you have a PS4 and are interested in this game, go buy it on PS4. If you already have it on PS4 there is really no reason to rebuy it on PC and if you don’t own a PS4 and want to get it on pc then proceed with caution especially if your system only just meets the system requirements (and if it doesn’t meet the requirements then don’t even bother to be honest).
In its current state Megadimension Neptunia VII on PC gets a Proceed with Caution
If these performance issues get patched out in the future then I would have no issues with upgrading Megadimension to a highly recommended but at the moment it’s just too much of a glass cannon for me to recommend confidently.
Now I know this review was shorter than my usual ones and that it’s well… a little late. To cut a long story short my sound card died while I was in the process of playing the game and I had to wait until I got a new one before I could get back to playing the game for this review.
ESRB: T
PEGI: 16
CERO: C

OFLC: M (Unrestricted)

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Game provided for review by IFI. Logo and game screenshots provided by IFI. System requirement screenshots taken by Nathan Green.