Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Review - Tree of Life (2011)

“The nuns taught us there were two ways through life - the way of nature and the way of grace. You have to choose which one you'll follow. “

Director: Terrence Malick
Starring: Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and Jessica Chastain
Writer: Terrence Malick

Heading into this movie I wondered what sort of experience I would have. You see I had heard about the division occurring with people. Some entered the movie and came away with meaningful experiences that had them declare the movie a masterpiece. Others talked about how dense the movie was and how it was just another pretentious exercise in film making. So with the battle field drawn it’s time once again to launch myself into the breech.

Well I hate to be predictable, but as always the answer in my opinion lies somewhere in the middle. Tree of Life is a dense movie, and shares many similarities with some forms of poetry. Malick weaves beautiful imagery together with some heavy themes and a very thin form of a plot. In the end it is up to the audience member to bring in and take out what they want from the movie. In that way for some people this can make the movie a masterpiece, while others would feel like they are wasting their time.

For me I came out of the movie absolutely wrecked, and was depressed for a few days thanks to the themes that I seemed to make connections with. Still this shouldn’t put of people who want to see the movie. As I said above this movie is very dependant on the individual, and I already know other friends who took away positive messages from the movie.

It may seem weird that I’m concentrating more on the experience of the movie rather than the nuts and bolts, but there isn’t too much to talk about. The very basic story is about a family that encounters various problems, though nothing is really cemented. Yet again the actually journey of the characters is up to watcher. As well as the family we have brief glimpses into what could be the future of one of the children played by Sean Penn. I can’t give any real outlook on what these scenes might be. In truth they could of probably been dumped from the movie and nothing overall would have been lost.

Acting wise the only two real stand outs are Brad Pitt who manages to create a complex father figure with nothing but a glance, and Jessica Chastain as the mother who manages to envelop the movie in a maternal warmth in all the scenes she is in. It has to be stressed what a great job they did, as they had to create these characters with out a regular story foundation. This means that the movie can skip ahead so we don’t really get to see how these characters are developing naturally and the work load is on the actor’s shoulders in trying to create something solid. As for Sean Penn well he doesn’t really seem to be doing much. Yet again reinforcing how the scenes set ahead in time seem pointless. Though I’m sure there are plenty people out there who are already yelling at me that I don’t get the point.

Now onto what has to be the strongest aspect of the movie, and the main reason why you should try and catch this movie in the cinemas. The cinematography is gorgeous. In the first 30 or so minutes you are just getting these random shots thrown at you. Waves, lava fields, city scapes, forests, it’s beautiful and you can tell that Malick is revelling in this beauty that he’s put on the screen. When the movie decides to focus a little (not much focus though), we have some very interesting shots. Story is Malick actually had the camera men film some shots at angles which meant they couldn’t see what they were actually filming; going through the mountains of footage they found what worked and used it. I did say that the movie left me depressed, but there were some scenes that just left me in awe at the beauty of it all. Whether you get much from the film or not, I think most people will agree at the beauty on display.

It’s hard for me to recommend this movie, seeming that I’m not sure how people will respond to it. But if you are after a beautiful movie, and don’t mind doing a little bit of work to get some meaning out of it, then I would say go and see the movie before it leaves cinemas. Now if you’ll excuse me I’ve got to go and watch Demolition Man to chill out.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Disgruntled Monkey's Top 10 Video Games

Well it’s come time to do another Top 10 list I think. This time I’m going to look into a topic that I don’t talk about much; video games. I can remember getting into games when the Commodore 64 came along. It was great. There I was as a little kid able to wage massive galactic wars, become a Ghostbuster and even try to help Batman solve crimes. I was never any good with the Batman game.

Eventually along came NES, then SNES and I became heavily indoctrinated into Mario’s World. Then I suddenly missed an entire generation. Just stopped playing. I mean I still played video games but I just didn’t have this burning urge to get anything. Eventually though being free of the parental units, and having cash to call my own, I splurged and got myself an Xbox. Since then I’ve never gone back to never having a machine.

So with my history out of the way let’s get down to the games. Now as always these are my top 10 and should be looked on as favourites rather the best of the best. Also I will start with an honourable mention then work my way to 10 to 1. With out further ado let’s kick this machine into gear. Hooha.

Honourable Mention: Blood (PC)

This was going to be at number 10 but I miscounted so it had to be pushed out, yet I couldn’t just let be excluded without giving a few words. Basically Blood was the FPS that I always wanted. I liked Doom, Wolfenstein and Hexen but it was Bloods humour that grabbed me. The main hero (Caleb) is actually not really much of a hero, but any demonic cowboy that spurts out lines referencing Army of Darkness is a character I can get behind. I was pretty much sold on the game as soon as Caleb started singing Strangers in the Night. This was a game that I did obsess over, and still quote to this day. It’s also one of the few games that I’ve replayed from start to finish a few times. It didn’t hold up as strongly the last time I played it (last year), but I was still charmed by the humour.
Dynamite was always a good idea in Blood.
10: Burnout 3: Takedown (XBox)

One day I went over to a friend’s house for a big Xbox night. As I wondered in people were already playing this game. Now before the party I had a bad day, so I was sat down, given the controller and told to play Road Rage mode. I did as I was told and I utterly decimated my computer opponents and eclipsed my friend’s takedown tally. Everyone agreed that I channelled my anger about the day very well. Needless to say I was hooked and I went out to purchase this game for my Xbox pretty quickly. The Burnout series is the only racing game series that I can really stand with Takedown being the most played out of all of the titles. Basically what you are dealing with is a racing game with some other events that really stood out. Road Rage was a race to takedown as many computer cars as possible, with Crash Junction being a game where the idea was to cause as much damage as possible. By the time my Xbox decided to crap out on me, I had a gold medal in all bar one event. Burnout 3 took a lot of time out of my life but I regret none of it.
Drifting is fun and all, but drifting into your opponent and sending them
slamming into a pillar is better.
09: Double Dragon 2: The Revenge (NES)

I’m not exactly the most skilled gamer in the world. I’ll play a game on easy so I can enjoy the story; mastery of a game isn’t something I’ll strive for. Honestly when it comes to gaming I just want to enjoy my time, and don’t care about the cred I’ll lose from being a wimp. But every now and then a game will come along that I will up that difficulty, that I will try and master it. For me Double Dragon 2 was that game. Now a days I’ll probably get my ass handed to me, but when I was just a young child I would try and go through all the difficulty settings before it was dinner time. Honestly looking back on this game, I’m not sure why it dragged me into its world. The plot is ridiculous, and the Billy and Jimmy Lee aren’t exactly characters that would grab me. Still dang nab it I had to get the way to the end and beat my evil shadow self and bring my dead girlfriend back to life. Sorry spoilers there but then again this game was released back in 1988 so I think I can give spoilers without too much hassle.
While i'm confident in my martial arts i'm not sure I can stand against the
power of a hand stand.
08: Super Mario Bros 3 (NES)

Probably saying how I was indoctrinated into Mario’s World, might have been the tip off that this was coming. I have found memories of playing the first one with my mum; in fact I have a few precious memories that involve the NES and my mum. We went to see The Wizard starring televisions own Fred Savage and future Uwe Boll player Christian Slater, and low and behold but the game the kids played in the final was Super Mario Bros 3 and I knew I needed to have that game. My mum agreed. Thus began an insanity that held no bounds. Like I’ve stated I’m not that good at games, but there is a switch where if a game grabs me I can become pretty obsessive about it. I needed to find all the warp zones, I needed to do speed runs, and I needed to get through the game by going through every level. Exploring every nook and cranny this game had to offer was the true name of the game. If ever there was an old school platformer that I had skillz to pay said billz, it was this game.
Whenever I played this game I would ask myself, "What would Lucas
07: Pokemon (Gameboy, DS)

This may seem like cheating but to me all the Pokemon games come from a glorious colour rainbow. So instead of breaking down the colours I’ll just say in general. This year I made sure to get me Pokemon Black. In the beginning however it was Blue. I’ve played greens, yellows, silver, diamond, black and yellow polka dots (The Dusty Edition). What I’m getting at is that I’ve spent so much time in the Pokemon world that it had to be on my list. The funny thing is these games don’t really innovate. Pokemon Black other than some tweaks, better graphics and sound etc is the same as Blue. But there is just something about collecting monsters to do battle with others. I would probably be a bad guy in the Pokemon world as I really would like to have my own monster army. I think Pokemon proves that sometimes the experience doesn’t need to be changed that drastically, as a lot of people will pay good money to just extend the journey. Before you ask, no, I’m not that crazed about Pokemon that I’ve gone into tournaments. Trust me; there is not a bone in my body that wants to put me in the position of having my ass handed to me by a 7 year old.
Some action shots of the, um, action.
06: Fallout 3 (PC)

Barring one game, the remaining are all about me being immersed in their respective digital worlds. Unlike the Mario Brothers or the Burnouts, there isn’t a huge need for me to replay the games over and over. Just once every now and then. These are the games that I just enjoyed the journey thanks to the atmosphere, story, world and characters. Fallout 3 may seem a little recent to be on my list, but it like the other recent games I’ve got on the list, just impressed me so much. Time would fly when I was playing Fallout 3, so much so that I had a few days at work where I was only running at 50% energy levels thanks to this game. This is a game where you can just pack provisions, head into the wastes and have a ton of fun. Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the first two games and how they were awesome in their own right. However this game just hit the spot with me. I began making my own character story. A lone ranger, travelling from town to town, Lincoln Repeater in hand, his good deeds spread across the land. It got so bad I wanted to write some fan fiction (eegads I know), thankfully it never eventuated but still that was the power this game had one me.
Now it may look like i'm screwed, but this guy is just part of Avon.
05: Bioshock (PC)

The under water world of Rapture is just one of those well though out fictional worlds that grabs you and never lets you go. In the opening minutes of this game I was hooked. Everything just seemed to fit into place. The characters were interesting, the setting was unique, I was intrigued by story and I kind of invested in the morality system. I didn’t even mind the plumbing mini game to hack various things. To this day I still have this soundtrack on my computer and listen to it often; to try and invoke the same feelings I had while playing the game. Also it’s an FPS that has the standard mute hero, and yet is able to inject character through other methods. Way back I played System Shock 2 and really did enjoy it; this is pretty much that game but with a steam punk taste. In my mind this is not a bad thing. If you haven’t played this game yet, all I ask is would you kindly go out there and play it.
Come now Doctor, no need to lose your head.
04: Arkham Asylum (PS3)

A rather new game but there is no doubt that this will be a favourite to come, as there was a moment that pretty much cemented this in my all time favourite club. As I yelled out “I’m Batman,” at my TV screen as I glided out of the shadows to pummel five thugs into submission, I realised that I was completely immersed in this game. At the same time I was Daniel, yet at the same time I was Batman. It was a perfect union and showed the true strength of this game. Add to this that you’ve got a solid Batman story, and the joker being voiced to Cockknocker himself Mark Hamil, and you have a game that captures everything fan’s have loved about the comics and the animated show (I mean Batman the Animated Series, you know the one that introduced Harley Quin). Also there is something cool about all the gadgets that you could use. I’m hoping they can catch lightning in a bottle a second time with Arkham City which might have to share this position with its older brother.
03: The Suffering (Xbox)

There is a game that captured me with its dark creations, a game that was a survival game that hooked me with its story, a game whose location lent itself something unique and creepy. The Suffering was a survival horror that took place on an island that now operated as a jail. Even before the jail however the island sported a spooky history that ranged from a mental asylum, to a World War 2 bunker. The thing that just made my day was that a lot of the creature designs were based on ways people died on the island. For example the first creature you run into was based on inmates who where stabbed to death with a shiv. Also in my opinion there was a strong story running in the background and sometimes was just really sad, made all the better to a decent morality system. Like most morality systems there are the extremes, but there were also some grey choices in my mind, ones. Going down the good morality story (as I’m want to do) I felt sorry for Torque (okay slightly stupid name). One thing I would like to stress is play this game, and then walk away from the mess that is the sequel (well maybe not a mess but it loses a lot in trying to become a bigger story).
I don't give a shiv. (Booya bad pun)
02: Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island (SNES)

I’ve said before that I’m not that great a gamer, but sometimes there is a game that just clicks with me, and I’ll take it into my cave under the bridge and won’t emerge into the sunlight until I’ve managed to devour all its goodness. I love Super Mario World, I managed to get to Star Road and into the special Zone, but there came a point where I was just finished with the game and couldn’t be bothered with trying to get 100%. Not Super Mario World 2, which I managed to get 100% on everything. I still feel proud I managed to get it down. Of course now being an old man at the age of 29, the skillz I acquired for the game have faded away. But still at one point I managed to completely destroy a game until it tapped out like any wrestler would if he faced CM Punk. I played and loved this game so much that sometimes I get flashbacks to Baby Mario crying his ass off as I tried to get Yoshi to make a leap of faith to reclaim the brat.
That baby on your back is Mario. You will come to hate that brat. More
evidence that Luigi is the superior brother.
01: Silent Hill 2 (PS2)

Truth time now. I’ve always wanted to be writer and on top of that I’ve always wanted to be a horror writer. So that hasn’t happened so far, but I’ve developed a strong outlook on the type of horror I want to create. There are a few movies and books I could point to what I want to create, but Silent Hill 2 is just a pitch perfect example of what scares me. Many people praise the atmosphere this game creates, it’s amazing the depths this game goes to create such a depressing mental nightmare. I wouldn’t call this game fun to play, but there is just something engrossing in the plight of James Sunderland. This is the perfect example of survival horror. This isn’t about action; this is about the dread of being in an alien environment that actively hates the character, and trying to survive mentally and physically. Running away is always an option, and heroes will tend to die pretty quickly. Silent Hill 2 is a journey into the darkest parts of the human soul, and everything has a deeper meaning in relation to James Sunderland. Every time I think about what I want to achieve in my horror writing, Silent Hill 2 isn’t far away influencing me with dark whispers. One of the best bits of gaming news I’ve heard recently is that Silent Hill 2 will be getting a release on the PS3 with updated graphics. I can’t wait.
Always a good sign when holes are fixed with newspapers. I mean nothing
can get through this barrier.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Quick Movie Reviews: Vol 6

Well it’s been slow for the last few weeks in the cinema, and without my Comic Pick of the Week, this blog is starting to dry up a little. So time to slap myself out of it and do some quick reviews of the no cinema fare I’ve indulged in. This quick review is going to be a big one folks, so strap in with what ever rocket you have lying about.

Tokyo Gore Police (2008)

After this and Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl I’m beginning to think that the Japanese gore movie market is just not my cup of tea. It’s not exactly the over the top violence that gets me, but just the lack of any real story. And by story I mean something that makes sense. But I guess this further cements the idea that I’m an outsider looking in with this movie and I guess it’s not for me. Still if you are a gorehound, greyhound or any other type of hound you may like this movie.

Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)

I always wanted to see this movie but never really got around to it, my big mistake. This was just a funny as hell movie that was centred on adults and yet still retains a charm. Some clever visual gags, as well as a scary look back at an era best forgotten. I think all the stars where on fire here, special shout out to Clarke Duke who held his own against 3 good actors. Also it was nice to see Crispin Glover still working.

Zombies of Mass Destruction (2009)

This has to be one of the worst bloody movies I’ve ever watched. So annoyed was I with the set up, acting and plot I started reading comics and I still wanted to burn this movie so it would never be able to be seen again. If there is one thing that makes me want to claw my eyes out than a bad movie, is a bad movie trying to cram a message down my throat. If you are a Zombie lover and need to watch everything, then you’ll have visit ZMD eventually no matter how much I warn you against it. I guess the one compliment I can give this movie is it’s even. Everything fits together and was made with at least focus on the finished product.

I Saw The Devil (2010)

From the worst thing I’ve seen lately to the best thing. This is just a bloody awesome movie that grabbed me by the balls and never let go. My eyeballs were glued to the set, and it ended with me be a greedy bastard and wanting more. The two leads, Byung-hun Lee and Min-sik Choi totally inhabit their roles and the cat and mouse game they played was all the more impressive thank to the two actors. With this role and his role in Oldboy Min-sik Choi is actually becoming one of my favourite actors ever.

Grownups (2010)

People claimed this to be one of the worst movies in 2010. Not only because of it’s quality, but also the fact that it seemed to be just a get together of friends. So I sat down, and watched to see if it’s true. First off, yes this movie should of never been made as all it is, is Sandler using his money to have a party with his friends. But putting that aside it’s a bad movie but not the worst. People who like Sandlers movies might find something to chortle at. And as much as I try to hate Kevin James, I can’t. He has a charm that’s hard to stamp out even in all the drek he does. Still I wish he would get away from Sandler and try and do something a little more serious.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009)

I keep on underestimating how much animated movies are going to move me. Gosh dang animated movies get off my lawn. Yes I’m implying I’m an old man when it comes to animated movies but I’m still man enough to admit when something tugs at my heartstrings. Cloudy is a visually spectacular movie, with some excellent voice casting and some great comedy that can take a few viewings to take it all in. But beneath all of that is a touching story of father and son and trying to find a way to connect with each other. Oh and huge shout out to the Rat Birds.

Repo: The Genetic Opera (2008)

Still not one hundred percent sure about how I feel about this movie. There are one or two songs that I still hum to myself after watching, and yet I was annoyed by the overall flow of the movie. I think movie musicals are a hard thing to create as there is a difference between allowing the songs to be used to highlight the emotion of a particular scene and having songs in for the sake of having songs in. In this regards Repo is guilty of this and does destroy its plot flow because of it. Still the world is pretty imaginative and Anthony Stewart Head is awesome. Ah this movie makes me so confused.

I'm going to leave you all with one of the best genetic creature creations
ever. God bless you Rat Birds.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Quick Movie Reviews: Vol 5

Well it’s the beginning of the month (kind of) and I guess I should do a round up of all the movies I watched last month as I didn’t actually write that many reviews. I know naughty me. But I’m going to have to get back into reviewing movies for the foreseeable future. Not getting into too much but won’t be doing the Comic Pick of the Week for a while. Oh well. So anyway on to the quick reviews.

Tranformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

Let’s start this with the important question. Is Transformers Dark of the Moon a good movie? Answer is no. It’s badly put together, characters are just over the top and stupid and there are just some Bayism’s (I made the word up) that are just so strong it made me want to hit myself with a mallet. Did I have a good time watching the movie? I hate to admit this, but yes. There are some comedic moments that worked for me, I could tell what was happening in the fight scenes more than the second movie and the 3D has to be some of the best work I’ve seen in a while. This movie confuses and befuddles me. How can it be such a bad movie and yet I get some enjoyment out of it. It actually a movie I would recommend people to see in 3D at the cinema’s, however once it goes to blue ray and DVD just avoid it, as it’s main merit is no longer applicable.

X-Men First Class (2011)

Saying that this movie is better than X-Men Last Stand and Wolverine is too easy. I’ve read a lot of reviews praising this movie. Let me just say that it’s a good movie, but not a great movie. It’s packed with many ideas and yet doesn’t fully realize the potential of these ideas. Crammed pack full of great performances, it’s let down by how rushed this movie feels. I have no qualms in putting the blame squarely on the studio. Matthew Vaughn has made something really damn good even with the hurdles that were placed before him. Stretched the budget till breaking point (and trust me some of the special effects are close to breaking point), and able to create a blockbuster movie in a short amount of time. While Vaughn should be given a big thumbs up for what he’s done, this isn’t the best summer movie so far, maybe with a bit more time and money it could have been.

Bridesmaids (2011)

This is a funny movie, and no it’s not a chick flick. Some have said that this is like the Hangover but with females. I think this does this movie a disservice as it’s far better than the Hangover. I liked every performance, and it was great to see Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph being the top leads in this movie. There were some moments that milked every uncomfortable moment it could, and that got me squirming in my seat. But there were also some sweet relationships developed, particularly between Wiig’s and Chris O’Dowd’s characters. I would recommend everyone who hasn’t done so take the time to watch this movie. I’m sure you’ll have a good laugh, and it would be nice to see Kristen and Maya get bigger careers from this.