Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Wackness

There are a lot of great movie titles out there – names you really have to think about, or names that sum up the entire story in one word without giving anything away. Good writers should put just as much effort into their titles as they do their scripts. The Wackness is one of those perfect names where at first you think, “Well that’s different, but it’s kind of vague, I wonder what this movie is all about?” And then you watch it and realize, that title is freaking perfect.

The Wackness is the often funny, sometimes sad story of Luke Shapiro (Josh Peck) and his best friend/psychiatrist, Dr. Squires (Ben Kingsley). Luke is a recent high school graduate dealing with some sadness in his life and dealing marijuana on the streets of New York City. He visits Dr. Squires on a regular basis, not only for therapy sessions, but to sell him weed. Over time, the two of them become very close. They even make each other mix tapes.

Luke characterizes himself as a loser, and it sounds like he’s been one his whole life. He’s never had a girlfriend and the only friends he has are his clients. His home life is nothing spectacular either – his parents act like children and Luke needs to assert himself as man of the house. Dr. Squires is also a loser. His wife no longer loves him and he’s heavily medicated. His life is dull and he craves the excitement of adolescence. The Wackness is the classic story of two friends who both want what the other should have at their age. The theme isn’t exactly new – old guy teaches kid and kid teaches old guy – but the characters and the story are refreshing. This is not Tuesdays with Morrie.

Luke is played by Josh Peck, an actor previously associated with Nickelodeon shows like Drake and Josh. I’ve never seen the show, but I have a feeling that Luke Shapiro is a far cry from any character Josh has played before. At first he appears to be a little shady and perhaps womanizing, but we come to know him as a sensitive young kid in an adult world. He’s just looking for love. Josh plays this character so perfectly, the audience understands exactly what he’s going through. Another actor may have portrayed Luke in a Jay and Silent Bob kind of way.

Ben Kingsley’s performance is even more incredible. I’ve really only seen him in serious roles so Dr. Squires was definitely a surprise. He’s not an average psychiatrist to say the least. He’s off-the-wall and hilarious and he wants to experience everything that Luke does. His simple view of the world is naïve and charming. I love the way he talks to Luke and his one-liners are fantastic. Like a kid, he just doesn’t care if his actions get him into trouble and that makes for some pretty funny scenes.

There are so many pieces of this movie that just make you feel good. I loved some of the sequences and animations that take place in Luke’s head. My favorite scene is when Luke is just so overwhelmed with love he channels his inner Michael Jackson. Even when things look bleak for these two guys, you come away with a feeling that even though things might suck right now, those things only make you better.

The Wackness is just a fun movie that made me feel good. Some may come away with a totally different perspective because the subject matter is pretty adult and there are several tense scenes. But I think the point here is that we encounter sadness in our lives everyday, it’s part of life. We have to take the wackness with the dopeness.

4 mix tapes

Friday, December 11, 2009

Movie Franchises That Confuse the Hell Outta Me.

When I was a boy, I spent quite a bit of time at my cousins’ house. We rough-housed, broke things, and told on each other for a variety of offenses. On the occasions that I slept over, we were confined to the basement, and we watched USA’s Up All Night. One night, USA aired one of the Conan movies. I thought it was pretty cool. But then, one of the bad guys dies in the most horrific way I’d ever seen. He gets trapped by this huge rolling circular door and he screams and cries until the door finally rolls over him completely. Since then I’ve had this image burned on my brain and I’ve developed a phobia of rolling circular doors. Anyway, I plan on elaborating on all those villain deaths that traumatized me at a later date. For now, I want to talk about movie franchises that confuse me. Stay with me, I’ll get there. I could never remember what Conan movie we were watching. So every time there’s a Conan movie on TV, I have to watch, hoping that I finally see that scene. For whatever reason, I never see it. Yesterday… I SAW IT! The rolling circle door death happens in Red Sonja. The weirdest thing though; Arnold Schwarzenegger is in the movie, but he doesn’t even play Conan – he’s some other dude that looks just like Conan. And this brings me to…

Movie Franchises That Confuse the Hell Outta Me.

Conan the Barbarian / Conan the Destroyer / Red Sonja
Since I’ve only seen bits and pieces of each one, to me, these are all kind of one big movie. I’m not even sure if Red Sonja is supposed to be part of the Conan franchise, but it looks the same. Arnold Schwarzenegger is in it, only his name is Talidor. Really? These can’t be two different characters - they are identical! Talidor just wears more clothing. You can’t paint stripes on a donkey and call it a zebra, ok? I’ve been to Tijuana and the zebra-donkeys are not convincing.
I’ve seen enough of these movies now that you’d think I knew the plots. But I don’t. I don’t even know who Conan is or why he’s all barbaric. I don’t know where they are or what time period it is. All I know is that the older sister from Wonder Years is in one of them and she is hot. That’s all I got.

It's good to be the Governer

Mad Max / The Road Warrior / Mad Max beyond Thunderdome
This is another franchise that I’ve seen in parts. I’ve seen enough to know that it’s the end of the world and people drive around to find gas. Why don’t they stop driving and save on gas? I also know Thunderdome is the final movie and it stars Tina Turner. My problem is that I don’t know which came first, The Road Warrior or Mad Max. They look exactly the same to me, and the names give no clue as to which is the sequel. Every time Mad Max or Road Warrior comes on, I try to watch to get a better idea of the story. But all I see are some people driving around and some people blowing up.

Couldn't find a funny picture from the movie... so... enjoy the mesh.

Pirates of the Caribbean
Now, here’s a franchise of which I’ve seen every movie. The Curse of the Black Pearl was a phenomenal film. Then things got really weird. The sequel didn’t make a lick of sense, and the third movie made even less sense. Both movies were so confusing to me, and I’m an adult – sort of. I’m not sure how a child is supposed to figure it out. So tentacle dude is cursed to find souls to operate his boat? Again, why not just stop driving the boat and save on souls. Relax and enjoy the afterlife my friend; I’m sure there are some mermaids somewhere that really dig those tentacles. I wasn’t sure who the voodoo lady was either and really hoped everything would be cleared up in the third flick, At World’s End. But I was wrong. Jack Sparrow is now running around the afterlife hanging out with lots of other Jack Sparrows. Interesting. And then there’s a bunch of other pirates getting involved and they all have pieces of eight? Pieces of eight what? And watch out guys that one lady got crabs. The plot is so convoluted and the movie is so long, I stopped paying attention.

"Love, weren't you a girl in the last movie?"

Freddy kills to avenge his own murder. Jason kills to avenge his mother’s murder. But what’s Michael Meyers’s problem? Why does he care so much about killing his sister? I think they tried to answer that in the 5th or 6th movie, but that seemed like a stretch. And how does he keep coming back to life? Freddy and Jason live in an uber-supernatural universe where they both have the ability to return and the audience believes it. But Michael seems somewhat rooted in realism, so I’m not sure how bullets don’t kill him. And also – is it just me or does the mask look way more weinery with every sequel.

"Shut up. They had a mask sale at Walmart."

Lord of the Rings
And these movies are four hours long, why? I’ve only seen the first half of the first movie and I refuse to watch anymore. So – can someone tell me what happens? Kthxbye.

Yeah, can I have my precious half-hour back?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Blind Side

How did the American sports movie become synonymous with crying? It seems like every sports movie released lately induces my man-tears. I’m not ashamed to cry during a movie – I do it all the time. I get very emotionally involved in any movie I watch, so the slightest key change in score, or a hug from a dad, will set me off. And then my wife makes fun of me the rest of the evening.

I love a good sports movie, especially the football variety. Remember the Titans, We Are Marshall, Invincible, Varsity Blues; they’re all great movies. Some say Rudy is the best, but I have to disagree. There’s no better football movie than Lucas. Lucas made the slow-clap a sports movie classic. Did you know that the slow-clap was invented by hand model Pierre Von Clap? It was actually ridiculed in its early days - why clap slow when you can clap fast, and finish in time for tea? Lucas came along and just tore that logic up.

One could argue though, that these football tear-jerkers are becoming formulaic. It’s probably true, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad movies. When I first saw the preview for The Blind Side, I thought, awesome – definitely seeing that one – what could be better than a true-life football story? But after repeated commercials and hearing the line about never having a bed, boo-hoo, over and over, I worried that The Blind Side would be overly emotional – schmaltz for the sake of schmaltz. I also worried that Sandra Bullock’s thick southern accent (“You kin thank me lateRRR”) would drive me crazy. I almost gave up on this movie when the commercials claimed that Bullock was sure to win an Oscar.

It was my wife’s turn to pick the movie last weekend, and she picked The Blind Side. And I’m really glad she did. It’s a little bit schmaltzy, but overall, The Blind Side is a pretty good movie.

The Blind Side is about the early life of Ravens tackle Michael Oher. He spent most of his childhood running away from foster homes and sleeping on any couch he could find. His teachers, when he had them, wouldn’t work with him and kept passing him to get rid of him. Leigh Anne Tuohy, played by Sandra Bullock, eventually welcomed him into her family’s home.

I’m not convinced that Sandra Bullock will win any awards for her performance but she did a fine job. Her accent wasn’t that annoying and it was subtle for the majority of her dialogue – I barely noticed it at all. The real standout performance here belongs to Quinton Aaron, the actor playing Michael Oher. He did a really good job for his big debut. His sadness was believable as was his compassion.

Despite the dismal life Oher comes from, The Blind Side isn’t constantly depressing. There are several funny moments and I wouldn’t consider them cheap comic relief at all. The little brother is hilarious and some great comedic situations arise with Oher being in a new living situation. Overall, The Blind Side is mostly positive, upbeat, and moving.

In reality the Tuohy family experienced some controversy. Many people thought Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy brought Michael into their home to convince him to play football for their alma mater, The University of Mississippi. The film doesn’t shy away from that controversy. The Tuohy’s are not portrayed as angels and I appreciate that. Leigh Anne doesn’t fight back, she actually questions her motivations. The film feels more authentic this way.

There was a part I didn’t like and actually thought about this for a long time after. Leigh Anne has lunch regularly with three well-to-do women similar to herself. They get a little weirded-out when Leigh Anne tells them about Michael. Leigh Anne jumps on the ole high horse and says, “Shame on you.” I didn’t believe this part at all – it just seemed like petty chick-flick vilification, like when Julia Roberts tells off the snobby sales clerk in Pretty Woman. Up until that point we don’t see Leigh Anne as a better person than her peers. She’s a decent person and cares about people, but we don’t see any evidence that she isn’t a snob or a racist like her friends. So her shame-on-you line seems hypocritical. Maybe the writer wanted her to seem hypocritical - but that irony was just lost on me.

The Blind Side is a pretty decent movie. There are emotional ups and downs but it’s not overly done. There are lots of laughs and some great football action on the field as well. I don’t remember anyone breaking out the slow clap though.

3 Rebels and half a Raven

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Twilight New Moon - what I learned from the trailers...

Wuvable wittle vampire...

...and a chest-waxing werewolf...

...fight over the little boy from Panic Room.

And dreamcatchers are cool again?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Pirate Radio

Thanks to the kind people at WXRT Chicago, I was able to see Pirate Radio before its release today. That means my review will actually be of some use! And the best part of all, Pirate Radio is an amazing movie.

Many radio stations are awarding points to their listeners for doing certain things, like listening online, or clicking on articles. I saw the promotion to win these passes, along with Q and A with their resident film critic, "The Regular Guy". So of course I put all my points towards this contest. And I won, perhaps because most XRT listeners would rather win concert passes or T-shirts. I, however, am a movie freak and would have loved to meet The Regular Guy. Turns out, The Regular Guy isn’t real; he’s just the voice character of one of the DJs. So, I didn’t meet him, I just got to watch one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time.

Pirate Radio takes place in England in the 1960’s, when radio stations were prohibited from playing rock and roll. Several stations began broadcasting their rock from boats out at sea. The practice was not illegal at the time, but parliament wanted to put an end to it. This is the story of one of those ships, Radio Rock. A young boy named Carl is sent to live on the boat with his godfather Quentin. His mother apparently had enough of his antics. The plot follows his observations on the ship, but it’s not all about Carl. Quentin, played by Bill Nighy, manages the radio station. Phillip Seymour Hoffman plays The Count, a wild DJ from America. The previews make it seem like PSH is the main character, but we actually get to know several other DJs very well. All the DJs are played by funny men; Nick Frost, Rhys Ifans, and pretty much every other English actor you’ve seen in a movie. Even Kenneth Branagh is in it. I think the only one missing here is Simon Pegg. These DJs live on the boat and are forced to interact with each other every minute of the day. With not much else to do, they talk and play games. The characters are so off-the-wall crazy, throwing them into one small room breeds hilarious dialogue and sure-to-be classic scenes. The humor is pretty silly, similar to Shaun of the Dead. Certain scenes were so silly they actually reminded me of old Beatles movies and even Monty Python. Even the clothes the DJ’s wear are crazy. The costumes are vibrant and colorful and really take you back to that era.

Pirate Radio was written and directed by Richard Curtis, the man responsible for Love Actually - another favorite of mine. One great thing about Love Actually is the great music. A lot of thought went into the soundtrack. Pirate Radio is no different; this movie is all about the music so it had to be good. There is one classic song after another and they are all timed intelligently to the pace of the film. We hear The Who, The Stones, The Kinks, Hendrix - the list goes on and on. This movie is filled with so many classic tunes, they will probably need to release the soundtrack as a boxed set.

The entire movie is hilarious and so much fun, but I have to say my favorite part was the ending. It will completely take you off guard. There are no twists or anything like that, but the end is totally unexpected and perfectly filmed. You would almost think someone else took over directing. I won’t say any more than that. But, again, the music is perfect and even features one of my all-time-favorite songs. It’s not the most widely-known classic rock song, but if you do know it, you will surely be moved as I was.

I loved Pirate Radio - it’s definitely a must see. Every single minute is hilarious. I don’t remember a joke that I didn’t scream out in laughter for. And I have to recommend seeing the movie in theaters while you can. Even your living room surround sound will not do the amazing soundtrack justice.

Thanks much to XRT and the Lake Theater in Oak Park. I really enjoyed your free refills on popcorn and soda!

4 Pirates

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Haunting of Molly Hartley

What haunts Molly Hartley? Aside from the haunting sound of her agent never calling again, I really couldn’t tell you.

Horror movie reviews aren’t my usual forte. I rarely watch them anymore. They are too violent and disturbing lately. I can handle blood and guts, but I think today’s horror directors have lost the campiness that made my generation’s horror movies so great. Horror movies should be scary, but they should be fun too. And there isn’t anything fun about torture porn.

But my wife and I have a tradition, every Halloween we watch a scary movie. We try to rent something that is really scary or really cheesy. This year, it was Drag me to Hell, something I hoped would be a little of both. But, of course, I wait until the last minute to rent it, and both Redboxes near me were out. Yes, I’ve heard of Blockbuster. Believe it or not, it’s an hour away. Okay maybe not an hour, but when you have the only baby in the world that doesn’t like car rides sitting in the back seat, it might as well be an hour. Plus he doesn’t care much for scary movies.

Not only was Drag Me to Hell sold out, every scary movie that looked remotely good was out too. You would think it was Halloween or something. I even considered this inevitable waste of one dollar:

"But I don’t want to be an airman!
I want to be alone with my Fallout Boy records!"

So I drove home, hoping we’d find something on Starz or in my personal library of classics. If all else failed, we could suffer through Ghost Adventures Live. That Zak is a walking bicep in big pants. “Whoa did you dudes hear that? It was a ghost!” No, I’m pretty sure that was your bag of douche overflowing into your big pants. Seriously MC Hammer called and said you have big pants.

Anyway, we found a movie via On Demand: The Haunting of Molly Hartley. It sounded familiar. I liked The Exorcism of Emily Rose and loved The Haunting in Connecticut, so this similarly-titled flick was a sure winner.

Let’s first discuss that title: The Haunting of Molly Hartley. So this is a movie about a chick named Molly who is either being haunted or is haunting, depending on how you read that. Turns out, it’s neither.

As you know I’m against spoiling movies, but in this case, I’m really saving you. Molly is a girl on the verge of her 18th birthday. She’s almost cute but looks kind of stoned. She lives alone with her dad and her mom is M.I.A. It doesn’t take long to figure out that her mom is somehow involved in Molly’s troubled past. At school Molly meets a guy who is a little too well-endowed in the eyebrow area. Side note: Two girls from 90210 and Chace Crawford (who doesn’t know how to spell his own name) from Gossip Girl appear in this movie. What does that tell you?

No caption required.

Anyway, this dude is kind of into Molly so she gets all girly and excited. So while all this teen drama goes on, Molly has creepy dreams about her mom. The only scares we get are the kind of jump-out-from-behind-a-corner crap we’d expect from Nickelodeon’s Are You Afraid of the Dark. None of it’s scary, and none of it’s really happening. It’s all in her head. And it happens over and over again. There’s no buildup, there’s no tension… there’s just hello I’m here! Molly’s mom just keeps showing up and being creepy. Not scary-creepy, just annoying-creepy. Mom even joins Facebook and leaves Molly comments like, “How do I use this?” and “What cocktail are you? I am a cosmo. LOL!” That doesn’t happen. Really in Molly’s dreams, her mom keeps trying to stab her. Turns out Molly’s mom actually did this when Molly was younger and was sent to a psychiatric hospital. Molly lives in fear of her return. Then, one random day, she returns (!) and tries to stab her again, but Molly throws her off a balcony.

"You're cursed, Molly! Cursed with split ends!"

Molly’s guidance counselor comes into the picture at some point too, I don’t remember when, probably around the time I got up to read a book. The counselor and Chace-with-two-C’s throw Molly a birthday party and the truth is revealed. Molly actually died during birth, but the counselor came along and offered her parents a deal. She could bring Molly back to life, but when she turned 18 she would become a demon spawn. Why not, right? Her parents make the deal but then her mom changes her mind and tries to kill her off. So now that it’s her birthday, the counselor and boyfriend throw her a party with a bunch of demons. Molly tries to stab herself, but that doesn’t work because now she’s immortal (?) Suddenly the scene just ends and we apparently flash forward to graduation day. Molly is apparently rich and all around popular and awesome. Fade out, the end. We are left to assume that she just accepts her destiny as an evil demon. But when did she decide that? Why did she decide that? Was Chace really a demon? How long has he been a demon? Was he even 18? How did she get all that money? Does she do evil things or does she just look fancy? And she’s immortal? So when does the devil get to reclaim her soul if she can never die? And if she got to live forever why would her mom try to kill her all these years thus sending her directly to hell? And finally, where was this so called haunting?

Basically this movie has no redeeming qualities whatever. It’s not scary, it’s not funny, it’s not exciting, it’s not original, it’s not interesting, it’s not eventful, it’s not thought-provoking, and worst of all, it doesn’t have an ending. They skipped the ending and went straight to the beginning of the sequel. If you ask me, the concept of girl-becoming-demon is kind of interesting. Why not cut half the slow-paced teen drama, and have Molly become a demon somewhere in the middle. Let’s see her powers! Then somebody, maybe her dad, should try to fight her, but of course she defeats him because he caused this whole demon birthday thing. And actually that’s the new title; Demon Birthday. The bible-beater chick should jump in too and try to defeat her. I didn’t mention her before because she’s a freak, sorry. I don’t know if Molly wins or loses in the end, but my point is that the writers really missed the boat here. The movie sets itself up for a pretty cool story, but then fails to deliver.

Avoid this festering blob at all costs. As we learned, it is probably not the movie you thought your heard of before, and more likely some kind of direct-to-video release, made by someone at the WB. No offense to the WB though – I miss you Dawson!

1 demon birthday cake

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Movies That Should be Video Games - The Goonies

My next movie-turned-game was already adapted for the Nintendo 8-bit in the eighties, sort of. It’s actually quite a classic. This game put the phrase “Ouch! What do you do?” into the Engrish hall of fame. That’s right - I’m talking about The Goonies. Only the Nintendo 8-bit version was called “Goonies II” with little-known subtitle: “The game nobody can beat expect for your college roommate (so he claimed) yet he forgot how when you found it at Gamestop 20 years later.”

This game is known as being impossible to beat and it doesn’t make a lick of sense. With the exception of the Frattelli family and Mikey, it doesn’t have much to do with the movie. For starters, you rescue a mermaid, talk to a wizard, and meet a superhero named Konami Man. To be fair, this is a sequel, so it really wouldn’t coincide with the movie’s plot. Plus it’s not even a game sequel to the original movie like most think. There actually was an original Goonies game – it just wasn’t released here in the states. So I say that doesn’t count. It’s time for a real Goonies game. Down here, it's our time. It's our time down here. That's all over the second we ride up Troy's bucket. So climb in my bucket instead dear reader and let’s take a journey through The Goonie Game.

The thing I loved most about The Goonies was that each character had personality. They were all so unique. They all had motivation, they all had charisma, some we liked, and some were annoying (ahem, Martha Plimpton). They also each had a special ability that furthered them in their quest, which makes this movie perfect for a video game adaptation.

The Goonie Game begins with the opening scene taken directly from the movie. We learn that the children will soon lose their homes and be thrown into a new school district. And then, in Mikey’s attic, the children find the old treasure map, and set off for one last adventure together.

When I first started thinking about the details of this game, I wasn’t sure how to handle the large cast of characters. Originally I thought, Mikey would be the main character, and you would see all the others walking behind him, sort of like a role playing game. They would step in when Mikey needed them. But then I thought, each character is cool and should be directly playable. So I stole a little idea from one of my favorite games growing up, Maniac Mansion. The Goonie Game will be nothing like Maniac Mansion in play style, but I think the way you select characters in MM is the way to go. In it, several characters are lined up at the menu screen. You can pick 3. The game changes based on who you choose because they all have specific abilities. You can even conquer the game differently depending on the kid you have chosen. After the opening scene, you see 5 goonies standing on the hill near the Frattelli house. Mikey, Brandon, Chunk, Andy, and Data, will be there, and you pick three. Mouth and Stef are left off the list, but only because they were comic relief and I couldn’t think of any powers to give them. And plus they’re worthless.

Nom nom nom

Each character has a skill and a weapon:
Mikey - Leadership / Pirate sword
Brandon- Strength / Mixed Martial Arts
Chunk - Sloth Summon / Truffle Shuffle makes the baddies vomit
Andy- Piano and puzzles / Field Hockey Stick
Data - Booty Twaps / Utility belt and strategically placed boxing glove

As far as actual game play goes, I see this being a 3-D adventure. Picture Tomb Raider, only replace Lara Croft and her two friends with Mikey and his two friends. You will mostly control Mikey, but the two other kids you chose follow closely behind him. You can switch to these characters when you need to use their abilities. When they are not in use, they will inspect the area, fight baddies, or talk to each other. Mikey’s “Leader” ability is used when they get lost or take a nap. He can whistle, and the group reforms (Press the X button on Playstation, the A button on X-Box, or actually blow into the wii-mote on Wii).

The goonies begin inside the cabin and make their way down through the caves as they do in the movie. The group has to overcome obstacles, traps, puzzles, mazes, waterslides until the finally reach One Eyed Willy’s ship. Along the way players can find treasure chests filled with upgrades to increase strength and speed (like sleeveless sweatshirts and headbands for Brandon). Players will also encounter several enemies that can harm them. Each character has a health-meter, and each time they are hit, they lose health. Nothing new there. Characters can gain back health points by eating cartons of rocky road ice cream or baby ruths.


In addition to bats, snakes, giant spiders, and maybe even a few dead pirates, The Fratellis follow close behind them. Mini-boss battles ensue when the brothers catch up to them. The final boss battle happens once the goonies find the pirate ship. I’m not entirely sure how that would work though. We may have to stray from the movie plot a little. Maybe Mama Fratelli finds an ancient medallion that transforms her into the kracken?

One in every Arby's kid's meal. Collect them all!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Links to check out...

Ok well, I hate to be the ambitious blogger that doesn't post. But I've been that guy for almost a month. Apologies to my ten followers and anyone who randomly arrives here via google search for "how did they make Brad Pitt look so young" (I seriously get these once a week - they used magic, people!!).

All I can say is that I've been kind of busy. You can check out my wife's blog (Life as a G) for the reason why. I've added a list of links for your viewing pleasure over there on the right, including hers.

I added a link to my mural website as well, just so you can check out some of my paintings. If you're in the chicagoland area, and are interested in having some work done, give me a shout.

I also included a link to my Juvenile Diabetes walk page. My wife and I are doing a walk in October. It's a very important cause, so check it out.

And last but not least, my chick flick calculator, which has garnered a lot of attention in the chick flick industry. Kidding.

I know this post wasn't really about movies, so, sorry. To make up for it - here's a picture of a movie.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Movies That Should be Video Games - Labyrinth

Labyrinth – Jareth’s Revenge!

WARNING: The following game summary is very nerdy. Actually it borders on fan fiction. And that really scares me. This summary got way out of control. Please believe me when I say that I am not a complete emo-nerd and I don’t shop at Hot Topic. Read on if you dare… I hope I don’t lose the 7 followers I have.

If you told me that you wouldn’t buy this game, I’d call you a liar. I bet you’d preorder it too, just to get the free t-shirt. Labyrinth is everyone’s favorite movie - everyone’s. It’s a true classic, and unlike every other classic movie, it hasn’t been sequeled, spun-off(?), or rebooted.
So, let me be the first to sequel/spin-off/reboot the movie with a 3D adventure game.

Labyrinth – Jareth’s Revenge is a video game sequel to the movie. The story takes place after the events of the Labyrinth movie. When I was 7, my neighbor tried to convince me that there was in fact a Labyrinth 2. I was so excited. Every time I went to the local video store after that, I asked Todd if Labyrinth 2 was in. He would politely say, “No, not yet,” and pat me on the head. I always liked Todd. One day, his dad Norm was filling in. Because Norm is a dream-crusher, he told me Labyrinth 2 didn’t exist and never would! I ran home crying - true story. The following is a little story I came up with during a lifetime of wishing for a Labyrinth 2.

Sara is now 30 and a single mother. Due to her experiences in the goblin kingdom, she’s very protective of her baby, Paul. Forgive the name, I couldn’t think of a good one. Toby, Sara’s little brother, is 15 now and very mischievous. He runs around the house acting like a monster and constantly annoys his parents. They send him to Sara’s house for a weekend visit. Sara, still unhappy with her parents, gets easily frustrated with Toby and ignores him to care for her own baby. Toby gets jealous and locks himself in her bedroom. Bored, he looks through her things and finds the Labyrinth storybook that she carried with her in the film. With it, he is able to summon the goblins to take little Paul away. As Sara frantically tries to unlock her bedroom door, a white owl flies through the hallway and into the nursery. And of course, when she runs into the nursery, Paul is gone. The windows are open, and a goblin is sitting on the windowsill. He says something like, “We took yo babay!” Sara karate chops it in the head.

Sorry, my nerd alert was going crazy and I had to man up a little.

Anyway, both Sara and Toby go to the Goblin Kingdom to get Paul back. Jareth greets her at the entrance in a “Bwa ha ha, we meet again,” kind of way. Sara is all like, “You again! I thought I killed you!” And Jareth goes, “Not really - you said I didn’t have any power over you and I was like, whatever, I need to go, I have a pot pie in the oven.” Jareth informs her that this time he won’t be so easy on her. He needs Paul and won’t give him back.

Sara begins her adventure through the labyrinth and thus, the game begins. The labyrinth is more immense than the one in the film because Jareth has added on – he’s on his third mortgage. There are several ‘levels’ comprised of different mazes and more villages. Sara is equipped with a princess wand she keeps in her bedroom. In the beginning, all she can do is strike down enemies, but as she progresses, she receives upgrades and magic abilities. Fancy. Toby follows close behind her throughout the maze, but soon falls down a pit. Sara continues without him and when she completes the level, the player assumes the role of Toby. He needs to complete an entirely different series of underground levels to get back to Sara. The player switches between them every time a level is complete. Toby meets a “friendly” goblin in one of the underground caves. This goblin claims to have gone AWOL from Jareth’s army. Since Toby is defenseless, the goblin gives him a weapon. I can’t think of a good name for it now, so let’s call it a Snatcheroo. Basically, it's a magic wand that shoots out a beam of light and sucks the goblins up.

Dude, seriously this is getting so nerdy. I need to take a break. Beer! Chicks! Football! Home remodeling projects!

Ok - only a few more details to go. As Sara progresses through the labyrinth she encounters old friends and new. She can use their abilities for assistance. Ludo can call rocks and wipe out goblin armies; Sir Didymus can swordfight on the back of his dog Ambrosius. (Um - kind of sad that I don’t need to look up their names.) And of course Hoggle kills fairies and pees in public.

After puzzles, traps, mazes, and crazy creatures that try to take her head off, Sara makes it to the center of the Labyrinth. Jareth is there, waiting for her, with Toby standing next to him in a goblin suit of armor. Jareth reveals that it was him in the underground system. He gave Toby the Snatcheroo. Jareth is getting older and consequently weaker. The goblins down there had revolted and were planning to overthrow Jareth. Disguised as the old goblin, Jareth used Toby to capture them. The plot thickens – Jareth explains that the labyrinth affected Toby when he was there as a baby, and even when he returned home. This is why Toby was so mischievous. Jareth intended for Toby to find Sara’s book and call the goblins. He planned the entire thing so that Toby would return. Jareth needs a successor as goblin king. Sara thinks he is talking about Toby and says, “Fine, you can have him.” But Jareth explains that only a true heir can be king, and that Paul is actually his son. Saucy - somebody call Maury. I haven’t worked out those details but I’m thinking Sara drank a little too much vino at the masquerade ball.

The final stage begins, Sara must fight her way through the Escher maze again, this time it’s crawling with baddies. I think this level would be killer and reminiscent of Super Mario Galaxy. The maze would turn Sara upside down and you’d never know which way was up. Totally awesome. When Sara reaches Jareth at the top, she must actually fight him. By this point she should have a full arsenal to combat his magic balls. Once he’s defeated, Toby turns back into a human, and he and Sara bring Paul home safe.

Sheesh. That was exhausting. I may have to discontinue the movie/video game thing.

After some research I discovered there have actually been at least two games made based on this movie. Below are some screen captures from them. Apologies to anyone who owns the copyrights... not because I'm using them, but because your games look lame and mine rules.

Hmmm...Who is responsible for that not-so-subtle graffiti? Hoggle looks suspicious.

Who is this dude? What is that furby looking thing? And what the hell is going on in the woods back there?!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Movies That Should be Video Games - The Shining

Ok, let's get nerdy shall we?

Sometimes when I watch a movie, I think, "Wow - this would make a sweet game." I imagine that quite a few people do this. Otherwise, we wouldn't have brilliant games like Wayne's World or ET. Sadly, I seem to have grown out of video games. I have a Wii, but I usually play Mario. I love Mario. I just don't really like recent video games. Somehow all the game companies have managed to turn modern warfare and pimping into children's entertainment. But I digress. What follows is a synopsis of one game I'd probably play.

The Shining is my favorite scary movie of all time, and I always think how awesome it would be to visit that hotel and get freaked out of my mind. Since the real hotel is in Colorado, and probably not half as scary as the Overlook, why not go there virtually! "The Shining - The Game", as I call it, will emerse the player in the hotel and pit you against ghosts, monsters, and of course, Jack Torrance. The Shining will be a survival-horror game in the spirit of Resident Evil or Silent Hill. You play as little Danny Torrance and your goal is to survive your stay at the Overlook Hotel. The hotel is entirely free-roaming. Some doors are locked and you have to find keys or solve puzzles to get through them. And of course, you collect pieces of the hotel map to move further into the game. As you play the game, you encounter several past guests of the hotel. Some are good, and offer hints or useful information. Some are bad and want you to play with them forever and ever! Danny doesn't die when the ghosts get him because he's just a kid and that would be kind of inappropriate. I like to think that he becomes trapped in the hotel forever when it's game over.

Come play Nintendo with us, Danny

Danny is assisted by three additional characters. His mommy, Wendy Torrance, initiates the game with Danny. She gives him simple missions to accomplish, but soon he's on his own. Mr. Hallorann shows Danny how to 'shine', or communicate with ghosts and the hotel itself. Hallorann's head pops into the scene, most likely in a cloud, to share hotel history or offer helpful hints. Tony, the little boy that lives in Danny's mouth, speaks to Danny when there's a clue or unlocked door nearby. Danny makes choices involving these three people, and if he makes good choices, they will come to him in times of danger. For example, if you help Wendy cook lunch or something early on in the game, she will show up later with the baseball bat. If you eat ice cream with Hallorann, he might show up later on the snowcat.

Danny also encounters Big Papa Torrance who is slowly losing his marbles. At first, Jack Torrance is calm and just a little weird - he poses no threat to Danny. But after a while, the hotel starts to "affect" him. Jack Torrance randomly jumps in and out, kind of like Jason in the old Friday the 13th game, and throws axes at Danny. I won't cheapen the film by providing Danny with any weapons, though. Danny uses skill and tricks to avoid Jack and the ghosts, or hides in nearby closets. Whenever Jack is nearby, Tony shouts, "Redrum!"

Danny also receives special power-ups along the way, like his ability to shine. He can tune into other people's thoughts, speak to ghosts, and sense danger. He may also receive the "pestering child" power, with which he asks silly questions of adults. This is Jack Torrance-repellant. And if that's not enough, he can throw his school papers all over the floor, which Jack will slip on. Danny's most powerful tool however, is the Big Wheel. He receives this from his mother for successfully completing some preliminary missions. Danny can find upgrades (bumper stickers, special wheels, NOS, etc.) throughout the hotel. As an added bonus, the game will feature special mini-games for multiplayer action - such as hallway racing.

Prepare to qualify!

Through all the puzzles and missions, Danny starts to realize what's happening to his dad, and who the responsible party is. Once the mystery is solved, Jack loses it completely and chases Danny through the bathroom window and into the hedge maze outside. The game's final level would take place in this hedge maze. You'd have to solve the maze while avoiding Jack. I would also like to suggest we take something from the book as well, and throw some topiary animals in the mix. They come to life and also chase poor Danny. When you reach the end of the maze alive, and Jack freezes to death in the snow, you win. But of course, there's plenty of replay value thanks to all the great mini-games!

Bonus Mini-Games!!!
Hallway racing
Snowcat obstacle course
Library wall-ball
Typing tutor

Friday, July 3, 2009

Captain EO

I've been reading a lot of blogs about Michael Jackson lately. People have a lot of great memories to share. I wanted to jump on that bandwagon and share my favorite MJ memory. Like most people, I associate Michael with my childhood. I remember watching the Beat It and Billy Jean videos on Dtv (Disney's music video show). I can also remember singing The Girl is Mine into a hairbrush at my friend's house. I always sang Paul McCartney's part. My friend was a much better Michael - all crotch grabbing aside.
But my favorite memory is of Captain EO. If you're unfamiliar, which is possible, Captain EO was a 3D movie featured at Disney World's Epcot Center, starring Michael Jackson. I loved this movie. The 3D effects fascinated me - I remember everyone in the theater reaching out to grab the little flying furball thing. I was obviously really into Star Wars at the time too, so I appreciated the Star Wars feel to it.
I have to say though, the spider-woman really freaked me out. If this were a real movie, I'd add it to my Frightening Family Films list. I remember taking my 3D glasses off every time she came on screen. But then, the blurriness made her look even scarier! My mom made it all better by buying me a little Captain EO Mickey Mouse toy.
Anyway, I found this on Youtube. Enjoy!

Part 1...

Part 2...

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

It's Like That... Only Different

Ever watch a movie and think, "This is kinda like that other movie... but not really?" Have you gotten the feeling that whoever made the movie you're watching was somehow inspired by some other movie?

I’d like to try a new feature. Well, actually I’d love to start a “movie night” thing of sorts where we’d watch two “similar but different” movies, but A, I don’t have any friends that like movies, and B, I don’t have any friends. So for now, I’ll just mention in passing that I love movie nights, and if anyone wants to be friends and come over, let me know, and I’ll ask my wife.

The "It's like that... only different," feature will highlight two movies, maybe more (that's right Iceman, I am dangerous) that have absolutely nothing to do with each other but will complement each other well when watched back to back.

Let's give it a shot. This pair actually gave me the idea for the topic.

Harold and Maude / Charlie Bartlett

Harold and Maude is one of my top ten favorite movies (see list at right). When I watched Charlie Bartlett recently I couldn't help but think of H and M. Story-wise, these two couldn't be more different. Harold doesn't sell prescription medication to achieve popularity and Charlie doesn't hook up with any saucy old chicks. Nevertheless, there's just something about these flicks that tie them together.

Harold and Maude is about a young man who is so obsessed with the idea of death that he regularly attends funerals for people he doesn't even know. He's not suicidal, but enjoys playing morbid pranks on his mother. The mood is dark but hilarious. His life changes when he meets Maude, a woman on the verge of her 80th birthday. She embraces all sides of life, the happy and the sad, and shows Harold what it means to be alive. And I know the whole thing about a 20 year old with an 80 year old is weird and maybe a little gross, but have an open mind. The movie isn't really about that. It's not like that movie you rented last month when your parents were away. What was that called, "Cougars on the Prowl 6?" Maude has lived a long time and experienced moments of joy and sadness. That's the key. I imagine that, if this were to be remade, they'd cast Cameron Diaz and through some plot-dialogue simply announce that she's been through a lot and it would all be very convincing I'm sure. Harold and Maude is a funny and brilliant film. From the shocking first scene to an even more unexpected ending, it's truly an emotional ride.

Charlie Bartlett is about a troubled high school teen who wants nothing more than to be worshipped by his peers. His mother thinks all his problems can be solved with therapy and prescription meds. This provides Charlie with a means to make friends. He holds therapy sessions and sells medication out of the boy's bathroom. It's not entirely plausible, but makes for a pretty good story. It's funny and touching and Robert Downey Jr. plays a great drunk.

I will bet you five dollars that the creator of Charlie Bartlett likes the movie Harold and Maude. I won't say that he ripped off H and M because the stories are nothing alike. But I can definitely say that he was inspired by it. Everything about Charlie Bartlett echoes H and M. The characters are quirky and the locales are vintage. Both mothers are snobbish, entitled, and proper, and they have no idea how to raise a son. They also dress alike even though they live decades apart. Harold and Charlie are polite and calm and have this creepy yet endearing stare. The boys also thrive on rebellion and crave attention from their mothers. These two movies have an odd sense of humor and over-the-top supporting characters. While often dark and dreary, some shared spirituality and romanticism make both films very uplifting.

And if those similarities weren't enough...

Harold and Maude - If You Want to Sing Out

Charlie Bartlett - If You Want to Sing Out

So, if you're in the mood for a different kind of movie night, try these two. They are both hilarious and heart-warming. While they are each unique in their own right, they complement each other perfectly. At the end, discuss the similarities over some pie and coffee. Harold and Maude should go first, in case you're the easily bored type. I want you to at least see the one on my top ten list.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


I was born in 1980, right at the heart of the Star Wars phenomenon. Like most guys my age, I grew up with Star Wars, and obsessed over it. I had all the toys, and sold them to a friend who made a killing on Ebay. I had Return of the Jedi sheets, and destroyed them at a high school toga party. I was Luke Skywalker for Halloween, but I won’t say how old I was.

Fanboys is about a group of twenty-somethings who are even bigger geeks than I am. They are so obsessed in fact, they turn to a life of crime. One of these guys, Linus, is terminally ill and has waited years for the release of Episode I, The Phantom Menace. The group decides they have to steal a copy of The Phantom Menace from Skywalker Ranch before its release. Linus must see the movie before he dies.

Fanboys combines the all American road movie with Star Wars. It has its share of standard road movie adventure, plus there are many great references and hilarious discussions regarding the series. Real fanboys will love this movie just for the subject matter; but it’s not only for fans. The characters don’t take themselves too seriously. They are fully aware of their nerd-oriety and this will entertain the non-fans. However, they appear less nerdy than the Trekkers they often encounter; Star Trek fans who want to stop the fanboys in their quest. Some folks might not get the inside jokes, but I’m sure they’d find the characters and situations hilarious.

This movie reminded me a lot of Detroit Rock City, and not only because Sam Huntington stars in both. I loved Detroit Rock City. There are plenty of great references and jokes about Kiss, but the movie is funny on its own. The things that happen to the kids along their journey are pretty outrageous. Fanboys is successful in that way too.

The main characters in Fanboys are all over 21. I loved that. To write them as high school kids would have been cliché and that would have killed one of the major themes. Eric (Sam Huntington) has basically “grown up” in the story. He’s thrown away his comics and ditched his friends who are stuck in their childish ways. The others still collect comics, worship Star Wars and refuse to grow up. Writing them as twenty-somethings made the story much more convincing.

I would have liked to see a couple things fixed. The movie is scored with cheesy adventure music similar to the classic John Williams theme. It wasn’t very good and they shouldn’t have tried to pull it off. It reminded me of the Star Wars episode of That 70’s Show and sounded like that rights-free music you can buy for a dollar. I understand if they couldn’t get the actual theme (I hope they tried) but they should have left the goofy adventure music out.

There were also dozens of great cameos from past Star Wars actors. I could list them here, but that would ruin the fun. However, there’s one very important cameo missing, and I consider that a real travesty. Hint - he has a beard.

4 light up sword thingies

Friday, June 12, 2009

Surfer, Dude

Having not seen a single preview for this movie, my sole reason for watching it was to find out what that comma is doing in the title. I'm still not entirely convinced.

Surfer (comma) Dude stars Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson, and, because there's weed, Willie Nelson. McConaughey plays a famous surfer named Steve "Add" Addington. Add makes his money on surfboard endorsements but somehow gets involved with an evil businessman. This evil ex-surfer is bent on getting Add to live in a reality TV house and put his likeness into a virtual surfing game. Add would rather surf real waves than virtual ones but unfortunately there's a wave drought all over the west coast. Does he go against the surf gods and sign with this gremmie, or does he remain true to the surfer (comma) dude image and wait patiently for some tasty waves?

The plot seems like something you might see on The Simpsons. I can totally see these people drawn as Groening characters. I can see the TV Guide entry now: Sunday, 6:30 pm. Matthew McConaughey guest stars. Bart needs to help him defeat Comic Book Guy, who wants to make a surfing videogame. The difference is that The Simpsons is a funny and intelligent show. Overall, this story was very obscure and for lack of a better word, minuscule. I wouldn't expect that of a feature length film.

The ending was extremely weak as well. Had this been a television show, I might be able to accept the ridiculousness of it. But this is a film, and after sitting for an hour-and-a-half waiting for the climax, you come to expect a little more. Add overcomes the evil businessman in such a simple way that you'd think a kid wrote it. And what happens is not even possible.

I can't really tell if this movie was meant to be funny. I think it's more attempted quirkiness. There were some humorous bits though. Add walks everywhere barefoot, so when the pavement is hot, he walks kind of funny. There was that, and um... some funny thing about goats. I didn't get it, but goats are funny. They eat cans.

McConaughey and Harrelson are pretty good at portraying the partying surfer duo, although, I don't think surfers smoke that much weed. They did a fine job and were quite funny. Add reminded me more of McConaughey's goofy role in Dazed and Confused rather than the A-list scarf-wearing charmer we've seen lately. Ghosts of Girlfriends Past? Really?

The actress who plays Danni, Add's girlfriend, is just awful. There's one scene where Add teaches her some cool surfer lingo. He explains that, "It's going off, dude," is a really cool thing to say when you're about to go surfing. Of course she repeats this back to him later on in the movie. But the way she says it is so corny and hilarious. You can really tell she's acting when she asks questions or makes sad faces.

Basically the movie isn't very good. It's dull, slow, and sometimes weird for the sake of weird. Some of the surfing shots are incredible. But it almost appears as if they were taken from other movies, like wild animal footage. I can't really say what they could do to improve the film, except for rewriting the story.

Oh, and the comma thing - Add is a "surfer dude", no comma. That should be the title. However, there's actually a line where Add says, "I'm a surfer, dude." So maybe the title was taken from half of that quote? Or the writer just likes punctuation. Either way it should have been called "Free Surfer", the name of the videogame. To me, that would have been the obvious choice. It references a major element in the story and is extremely meaningful. After all, Add just wants to be a surfer.

2 Surfers, dude.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Chick Flick Calculator, now online!

Last month, I introduced my new invention, the Chick Flick Calculator. With some guidance from Fletch at Blog Cabins, I was finally able to get it posted online! Hooray - you can get this marvelous machine here.

Below are some movies commonly thought to be chick flicks. The results may be surprising, but remember, this is purely scientific... and you can't argue with science.

Chick Flicks:
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
Devil Wears Prada
Terms of Endearment
Steel Magnolias
In Her Shoes

Not Chick Flicks:
My Best Friend’s Wedding
Walk to Remember
The Notebook
The English Patient
Legally Blonde
Love Actually

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Large Association of Movie Blogs

Awesome. I am now a member of the Large Association of Movie Blogs. And it is large! I'm number 306. Check out all the fun reviews and articles from my new friends:

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Saturday, May 30, 2009


I realize that Hancock has been out for a while now, but I just watched it again on Starz, home of the hitz, and I feel the need to explain why I love it so much. Plus I didn't know what else to write about and I'm bored. I last saw Terminator Salvation and Star Trek and really don't feel like giving a negative review at the moment. Zing.

People didn't like Hancock because of the dramatic origin story tacked on the end. I, however, loved this ending. And it's really not tacked on at all. If you go back and watch the movie a second time, you'll notice little nuggets of origin from the very beginning.

According to me, there are two kinds of superhero movies. There's the origin story, like Spiderman, or any of the latest Marvel movies. Or there's the "continuing adventures of..." story which largely ignores any hero origin because it's not all that important to the plot. These can be superhero sequels, spoofs, etc.

Take a movie like The Incredibles, which I hated btw. There are no origins given. The characters are just super. And that's okay because it's not that kind of movie. The focus is on the present story, that whole retired-superhero-coming-out-of-retirement thing. It basically doesn't matter who they are or where they came from, the focus is on what happens when they get back to the hero business. However, if you leave out the origin story you better make sure your current story can stand on its own. In my opinion The Incredibles did not. They fight a bad guy. Awesome.

Now let's look at Hancock. You have a really funny story about a clumsy alcoholic superhero. He genuinely wants people to like him. He tries to help but just makes things worse. There is great action, great comedy, and some very touching moments. Will Smith is so perfect in this. He's goofy one minute and an action star the next. If you're thinking this sounds like typical Willienium-Era Will Smith you'd be wrong. This isn't Men in Black or Bad Boys. Hancock actually has some depth. Plus Will Smith has gained some biceps since those days, ladies. Jason Bateman is also funny in his dry Jason Batemanny way. Plus Charlize Theron is hot in some movies and this is definitely one of them. Basically, Hancock could do very well on its own, ignoring the origin. But, surprise there's a twist! We get an origin too. And it's original! He's not a mutant and he wasn't bitten by anything radioactive. It's creative and cool and hasn't been done before. I love Hancock and I'm not ashamed to say it. Even though that sounds dirty.

Let's see. What's next on Starz? Crazy Girls Undercover starring Nikki Ziering. Las Vegas strippers fighting terrorism. Am I that bored?

4 Awesome Eagles!!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

I finally saw The Curious Case of Benjamin Button this weekend. There's nothing like a three day break to catch up on movies. In the beginning, I had a few thoughts:
"This movie is awesome."
"That tiny old dude is adorable. Where can I get one?"
"I should really admit that Brad Pitt is my favorite actor. But what will my friends say?"
Then about half-way through, I started thinking:
"Man this movie is really boring."
"Cate Blanchett sure likes to 'sleep' with people."
"Shouldn't he have turned into a fetus?"

Benjamin Button held my attention for a little while. Brad Pitt's portrayal of the little guy was truly endearing. I've always been a fan of Brad Pitt and I feel bad for the guy sometimes. I think the Hollywood hype surrounding him takes away his credibility as an actor. I think I should probably just stop watching Access Hollywood. He really is a fantastic actor. In addition to playing this little kid in an old man's body, he's played some pretty off the wall characters: There's the goofy trainer from Burn After Reading, Tyler Durden in Fight Club, the twitchy schizophrenic in Twelve Monkeys, Mickey from Snatch, and my personal favorite, Floyd from True Romance. Pitt's performance in Benjamin Button is no exception. He's funny and doesn't take himself too seriously. Several of his scenes require him to act using only his face, which was digitally grafted onto a child's body. I imagine that would be pretty tough to pull off.

The special effects were amazing as well. We've all heard about how cool the age enhancement technology looked. But more than that, the environments were beautiful. When Benjamin is working on a tugboat, the ocean and sky around him look like something from a Broadway stage. The buildings during the downtown scene appear this way as well, and rather than cheapen the look of the film, they bring a fantasy/storybook feel to it.

But after a while, these things start to fade. The audience is constantly reintroduced to the same characters over and over again, year after year, and it kind of gets old. And I could not care less about Daisy, Cate Blanchett's character. She's not nice, she's not cute, and she seems so uninterested in Benjamin. I'm not sure if that was the intention, or if Cate just phoned it in. I usually like Cate so I was pretty disappointed.

Button was written for the screen by the same guy who wrote Forrest Gump. So one should expect a moving, meaningful film full of classic one liners and memorable quotes. I mean, "Life is like a box of chocolates," is probably one of the most famous movie quotes ever right? This time, we get, "You never know what's comin' for ya." What does that mean? Something is coming for me? Well what is it? Freddy Kruger? That line is so generic, they could have just said, "Something is going to happen," but nothing ever does. The viewer is constantly reminded that something is coming, but we're left wondering what it is. At the end there's a really corny moment where he reflects on all the people he's met implying they've influenced his life in a profound way. But he doesn't say how. And the reason he doesn't say how is because they really didn't.

Button had so much potential, but the story was lame. The special effects were amazing, and Brad Pitt was great. But there wasn't a plot. People come and go, Benjamin talks to them, and that's it. So rather than anticipating the next twist in the story, I found myself waiting for Benjamin to get older/younger to see what he'd look like. At one point they made him look so young, I swear they used scenes from this movie:

What is the dark side exactly, Brad? Having to wear sunglasses? Yeah, that's a drag. But you showed them! You are so rebel cool.

Here are some clips if you can stand it... The Dark Side of the Sun

Oh yeah, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button gets 3 diapers.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Chick Flicks

I like movies. You probably know that. But seriously, I like them so much. I like them, like them, you know? It's like, I now pronounce you man and movies.

It's sad. I'll watch any movie, anywhere, anytime.

I'll even watch chick flicks. Now, most guys won't go near a chick flick. And that's their perogative. But it makes me sad to think of all the movies they're missing out on. Most guys don't really know if a movie is a chick flick or not. I imagine this is how most situations go down...

Sally: "Will you see a movie with me? It's about a girl that..."
Johnny: "No way!"

Seems like Johnny might have the wrong idea about Sally's movie. You see, most chick flicks are often confused with romantic comedies or dramas. And romantic comedies and dramas are perfectly watchable for men. But how can anyone really tell the difference? I present to you, The Good Indoorsman Chick Flick Calculator. Sally can use this to decide if her favorite movie is a chick flick, before making Johnny suffer through it. And Johnny can use this, entering information he gets from movie trailers, reviews, or from what their other couple friends have told them. How many times have you been on a double date, and the other couple tells you about this fabulous movie you just absolutely must see. Well now you can put them to the test.

You may have predicted that The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants was a chick flick, but here's the proof.

You may have thought A Walk to Remember was a chick flick, but you'd be wrong. See?

For each X in the first section, you add a point. For each X in the second section, you take away a point. All 8 factors can be found in chick flicks, but more or less of certain criteria defines the genre. If you have 3 or more points at the end, your movie is a chick flick. If you have 2 or less, your movie is perfectly dude-viewable.
The calculator is pretty self-explanatory, with the exception of "2 Sided Romance". Let me explain this. Romance is completely acceptable in a non-chick flick movie, so long as it is reciprocated on both sides for the majority of the film. It can be an off and on romance, which is typical of some romantic comedies, but the "girl-tries-to-get-guy-but-guy-doesn't-notice-her-boo-hoo", is not a 2 sided romance and therefore points to a chick flick.

Much love to my wife for being an Excel wiz. I will post the actual working calculator online as soon as I can figure out how to post things online.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Terrifying Family Films. Conclusion.

So if I’ve learned anything by reflecting on my favorite childhood movies, it’s that I was a real wimpy kid. Here are some runner ups - see if you agree!

I watched this movie constantly as a little sweet-pea. I had a weird thing for Shelley Duvall - she also did Fairy Tale Theater around the same time. But I hated the part where she and Popeye get taken down by the giant octopus. I never liked going underwater in swim class (never made it passed the guppy stage) and I certainly never liked swimming with octopi.

This is not exactly a family film, I know. But I guess my parents thought, “Well he likes Star Wars, so why not? He won’t understand the racy jokes.” But I did! Anyway, remember Pizza the Hut? Funny right? Wrong. In his limo, the guy next to him starts eating him. And Pizza just laughs even though he’s being eaten.

Any movie with Jeffrey Jones
Jeffrey Jones appeared in several different 80's era movies. He’s a fine actor and all, but the characters he plays are awful. He’s best known for playing Ed Rooney in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. This movie really isn’t for kids either I guess. I watched it pretty often though, and to this day Jeffrey Jones still gives me the willies. The scene where he’s all disheveled, creeping around the Bueller house is classic but it really freaked me out. Jeffrey Jones is also terrifying in Howard the Duck. He gets possessed by an evil alien and does a lot of twitching and spitting. Talk about typecasting.

The Incredible Hulk on TV
I had a reoccurring nightmare as a kid. One of my aunts turns into the Incredible Hulk and eats my mom.

The Great Outdoors
Nope. I wasn't scared of the grizzly bear. My parents had taped this movie off HBO. After the dance montage at the end, which I thought was just so hilarious, the tape went to static and then to a scene from Nightmare on Elm St. 3 where Freddy Krueger is holding up a human head.

the end.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Terrifying Family Films. Part 4.

Superman 3
Superman 3 isn’t the worst Superman movie in the series, though it’s probably the second worst. At least it's better than Superman 4, you know, the one where the bad guy can’t move unless he’s in direct sunlight. There's a tough fight. Actually, one of the coolest moments in Superman history happens in part 3. In it, Clark Kent has to fight a dark version of Superman and that’s pretty sweet. Weird, illogical and impossible, but sweet!

"A little higher... riiight there..."

We’re also reintroduced to Clark’s high school girlfriend Lana. I never liked Lois Lane as a kid so Lana was a welcome change. I mean really, Superman has his pick of any woman on the planet and he chooses Lois Lane? The man-woman that works in his office? Don’t dip your pen in the company ink, Clark, especially ink that chain smokes and can’t spell! Lana is a much better choice even though she has a kid and an alcoholic boyfriend.
Also, without Superman 3, we wouldn't have the plot of Office Space. If you recall, the main character manages to steal billions of fractions of pennies from his company’s bank account. Gus Gorman, an amateur computer hacker played by Richard Pryor, manages to do this in Superman 3. Computers actually play a crucial role in part 3, and they aren’t looked at favorably. In fact, computers are downright evil here. Gorman steals money, he creates a kryptonite capable of turning Superman evil, and worst of all, he phishes your Myspace account and posts pictures of you on the toilet. He does all this using his state of the art Apple 2E. But the computer eventually fights back, and even turns an old lady into a robot. Yikes.
In the end, Superman must fight a super computer that Gus "creates". Before he can, one of the villains, a cranky old lady, gets sucked into it. If I were lame enough to have come up with this ridiculous plot sequence, I would have made the old lady fall into the big machine, disappear, and then emerge as a robot. This may have prevented a lot of nightmares. Instead, they show you her full transformation. The scene is actually quite disturbing and reminiscent of all those nasty torture scenes from Saw. First she tries to run, but gets sucked in by a laser beam. Then she screams and tries to wiggle free. Wires wrap around her face and pieces of metal attach to her body. It's noisy and violent and then suddenly she stops moving. Her eyes open and they're metal! Icky! Then the director gets a little confused - she walks out of the personal computing machine not like a robot, but like a zombie. And I think we can all agree that zombies are scary, especially for children.

Despite repeated warnings, Jeremy Piven continued eating fish.

Watch the whole scene here, and laugh at me for being scared by it. I swear man, it was scary in 1983!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Terrifying Family Films. Part 3.

Time Bandits
Terry Gilliam is one of the most creative visions of our time. His style is whimsical, and seriously demented. I enjoy all his films (excluding Tideland) and wait on fan-boy pins and needles for The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassas. And no that's not the sequel to Mr. Magorium's Magic Emporium; it's the movie everyone talked about when Heath Ledger died. Heath had already filmed some scenes for the movie when he died. Gilliam changed the entire theme of the movie, casting other actors to fill in as magic "personas" for Heath's character. Gilliam could have scrapped the scenes and started over with another actor, but Gilliam is just too cool.

Now, let's travel back in time and discuss one of Gilliam's first movies, Time Bandits. I stumbled upon this movie while vacationing with my family. I was six, and we were staying at a Holiday Inn 'Holidome' and I was in our room watching TV. I know what you're thinking and no, I didn't watch TV the whole trip. I also watched older kids playing Gauntlet in the arcade - for hours. Anyway, as I channel flipped, I came across some kind of adventure movie; something a little like Willow minus Val Kilmer. I settled in with a soda and candy from the vending machine. I did not sleep that night.

I actually really like this movie and, unlike the first two films I reviewed in this series, other people have seen it. Time Bandits is about a time-traveling group of little people. They carry with them a special time map, guiding them to famous treasures throughout history. They end up in the bedroom of a young boy - awkward - and take him along for the adventure. Now, that's how I understood it when I was a kid. But really these time bandits work for the Supreme Being, and they've escaped with his map. The bandits also battle it out with a guy named Evil. Evil is one scary dude. The young boy, Kevin, is ignored by his parents. They are obsessed with modern appliances and furniture. The movie is actually pretty epic and intelligent in it's view of modern times, or at least 80's materialism.

I watch this movie now with great affection. But watching then, as a little boy, I was quite mortified and bewildered. To summarize, I'll give you a list of the unpleasantries that freaked me out:

1) Everything, from setting to the costuming, is dirty, dark, and dismal. I appreciate the look of this film a lot more now. It's interesting and uniquely Gilliam; the appearance is similar to Monty Python and the Holy Grail. As a boy I just thought these people needed a bath.

2) The actors all talk funny. Be it English accents or mumbles, I had no idea what anyone said.

3) Mona from Who's the Boss is a cannibal.

4) Evil. He looks scary. He can make himself look even scarier. He turns people into animals when he gets mad. When he gets really mad, he blows them up (including a cute shaggy dog). He inflates. His fingertips come off to reveal guns. He turns into a knife-wielding carousel ride. And it's really hard to kill him.

5) Demonic monsters. Evil has a horde of really scary monsters working for him. We are not talking Decepticon scary. These things are straight out of Hellraiser.

6) Floating heads. The Supreme Being appears to the time bandits as a floating head. Imagine the Kryptonian judges from Superman I and II, only this floating head chases you.

7) Kevin is just wimpy and you know something bad is going to happen to him. You know those whiny little brats who are just asking for it? Well, I was that kid.

8) In the middle of the night, your closet could be a portal through which scary stuff comes out and chases you around. Well, I had a closet.

9) The Minotaur.

Mary Kate was really going to upset PETA this year.

10) People die. This brings me to my final point.

Now, normally I'm a strict non-spoiler. I won't give away endings even if you beg and plead because deep down I know you won't appreciate the climax/denouement/ending as much. Whether you're comfortable with this or not, you are in a symbiotic relationship with the movie. You are on a journey together. If you get to the destination without experiencing the journey, you've gained nothing. Even if the movie is terrible, there is just something universal and pure about reaching that end on your own. Would Everest really be as tall if you took a helicopter to the top?

However, Spoiler Alert.

I have to give the ending away in order to fully express how traumatizing this movie is. So look away if you must. At the end of the movie, when all is supposed to be good in the world - Kevin's parents explode. Kevin looks on in curiosity, but isn't particularly distraught. He just says, "Mum? Dad?" Now, if my parents exploded I'd be pretty messed up about it. And honestly, before I'd watched this scene, it never crossed my mind that I may one day be without them. Enter every kid's biggest fear. This scene really bothered me and even when I watch it now I feel icky.

Like I said, Time Bandits is a great movie, and I highly recommend it. Most of what was scary then, is comical now. It's meant to be humorous. But kids don't always comprehend that. So unless they're mature for their age, (Do they smoke pipes and read The New Yorker?) I'd maybe wait until your kids are a little older to let them see it. Unless, you want them to end up like this:

I wanted an ice cream cake!

If the Hollywood Video closed by you, watch it here.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Terrifying Family Films. Part 2.

Dr. Otto and the Riddle of the Gloom Beam

When I was a kid, I used to love Ernest Goes to Camp. I rented it all the time. Most agree that it’s a real classic. I liked his other movies too – Ernest Scared Stupid, Ernest Saves Christmas, and the list goes on. For my 10th birthday party, my friends and I saw Ernest Goes to Jail at the theater. And then, when no one showed up to my 11th birthday party, I rented Sixteen Candles and ate a carton of Chunky Monkey. But before all those classics, Jim Varney (Ernest) starred in... something else.

In the early 80’s Jim Varney used the Ernest character in commercials for things like natural gas and the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders. He also made regular appearances on Fernwood Tonight and Pink Lady and Jeff. He was steadily becoming an A-List celebrity. Then, in 1985, Varney made his first movie: Dr. Otto and the Riddle of the Gloom Beam. The Ernest character appeared for only two minutes, but he’s all over the VHS box. You can imagine my excitement years after it's release, when I found this rare tape at our local video store. An Ernest movie I hadn’t seen! Was it new? How delightful! You can imagine my terror when I discovered that this movie wasn’t about Ernest at all. This was all about Dr. Otto, a demented freak bent on destroying the world's economy - with one disturbing birth defect. Dr. Otto, for some reason, has a hand growing out of his head.

KnowhutImean, Vern? Vern? Is that a tazer Vern?

I’m not even going to attempt to rehash the plot here. I haven’t seen Dr. Otto in 20 years, and all I remember are the torture scenes. That’s right. Apparently torture is a family value! Dr. Otto has a friend robot. The robot has a yellow smiley face painted on his metal head. And when Dr. Otto tortures him, the smiley face changes to a frowning face. That wasn’t funny to me - I remember feeling really sad for him.

Dr. Otto is cruel to everyone, including his friends. As a kid, I never understood why a supervillain would punish his minions. Wouldn't that just make them join the good guys? I don't remember Skeletor ever being mean to Beastman. And Shredder was certainly never mean to Bebop or Rocksteady. I guess Dr. Otto is just one bad mother.

Googling for pictures and clips, I'm seeing some pretty weird stuff. Scenes are littered with random bones, blood and snakes. It's as if someone told the prop guy to bring anything remotely scary from his garage and throw it around the set. The picture quality looks to be that of a snuff film. Dr. Otto even dresses like a pirate in one scene and acts inappropriately with a damsel in distress. All of this is just a bit too adult for a PG family movie. Seriously, where was the MPAA during the 80's?

And not that this adds to the frightening factor - but even the jokes were too adult for me to understand. Here's a gem: Dr. Otto is dressed as Auntie Nelda. This is another classic Jim Varney character - you know, the old lady that wears a neck brace. I always thought she was supposed to be Vern. She's not. The Vern factor still confuses me. The heroes of the story - middle aged Sesame Street rejects - stop by Nelda's house. Nelda gives them poisoned wine. The ditsy middle aged Sesame Street reject says, "I hope it's cold duck." Nelda, under her breathe, quips, "You would!" Hilarious. Especially for a kid. I drank a lot of wine as a child and to serve anything other than cold duck to your guests would be quiet an embarrassing faux pas.

If you'd like to watch this classic piece of cinema - you can have it when you purchase The Klutz starring Claude something. Bonus!

Your grandmother is buying you this for Christmas.


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