I don’t say sabotage. I say sabataage.
For every job there is a specific tool. You wouldn’t use a scalpel to cut a path through a rain forest and you wouldn’t use garden shears to give yourself a haircut (at least, I don’t anymore). If there were a tool perfect for use in this movie it would be Arnold Schwarzenegger.
I’m not saying he doesn’t do well in other roles, although the comedy movie he did recently in the Last Stand did not serve him at all. However it appears director David Ayer (End of Watch, Training Day, the Fast and the Furious) took a hard look at Arnold’s careers and realized his best roles had a minimum of comedy to them (except for maybe Kindergarten Cop) and he is best when he is deadly serious. He then collected a very talented cast of equally bad asses, employed more than the Hollywood minimum 88 IQ when writing the script, and mixed in some great action scenes and camera technique and like a casserole made of good leftovers came up with an extremely palatable meal.
So yes I enjoyed it and couldn’t be happier. I am a fan of Arnold the Actor (Arnold the Governor is another story, but we can put that behind us) and want to see his career flourish. Like the tool used for it’s correct function when he is given a role that suites his style he is really good. David Ayers managed to keep a lot of the things that make Arnold Arnold; muscles, a workout scene at the gym, machismo, giant cigars. However he cut out all the crap that has attached itself to Arnold like muck in a rain gutter: cheesy one liners, “comedy” sidekicks, the need to be super human at all times. The film took a nose dive into that bad campyness in the denouement but managed to pull out before impacting the deck. Overall a fun movie with more complexity than one would expect based on any other movie he has done since True Lies.
Not to say the film is flawless. The complexity of the plot and motivations of the individual characters gets downright murky at times, and the pacing shifts from 33 to 45 in the last 15 minutes. Even I, with my stupendously massive brain (and modesty) found my head being scratched and the word “huh?” escaping my lips upon occasion. (As an aside in the world of dating you would be surprised how unimpressive a high IQ is to most women. Not that I’m bitter). For the most part however I found the story tight and the characters appealing. What more could one ask for?
The story is of John “Breacher” Wharton (Arnold Schwartzenegger-Terminator, Total Recall, Conan the Barbarian) and his elite special operations team of the DEA. His team is comprised of James “Monster” Murray (Sam Worthington-Avatar, Wrath of the Titans, the Debt), Joe “Grinder” Phillips (Joe Mangeniello-Spider-Man, Magic Mike, What to Expect when You’re Expecting), Eddie “Neck” Jordan (Josh Holloway-Paranoia, Battle of the Year, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol), Julius “Sugar” Edmonds (Terrence Howard-Iron Man, Prisoners, Red Tails), Tom “Pyro” Roberts (Max Martini-Pacific Rim, Captain Phillips, Saving Private Ryan), Bryce “Tripod” McNeely (Kevin Vance-End of Watch), “Smoke” Jennings (Mark Schlegel), and Lizzy Murray (I guess only the dudes get macho nicknames like they are Medal of Honor avatars played by 13 year old boys. Mireille Enos-World War Z, the Killing, Gangster Squad. MOH logo courtesy of the Video Game T Shirt category).
They raid the house of a drug cartel and during the raid as a group steal $10 million and flush it down the toilet (literally). However when they get down to the sewer the money is all gone. They are all investigated for the theft (somehow the FBI could tell there was $10 mil missing off the monstrous pile of money that got set on fire) and are on suspension. Eventually the investigation is dropped and they get together only to find that none of them trust each other.
At that point someone starts killing them off one by one. The movie basically turns into a game of Clue with guns. Police investigator Caroline (Olivia Williams-the Sixth Sense, Rushmore, the Postman) is looking into it while dealing with testosterone charged troublesome personalities. Clues are uncovered, houses are raided, and the surprise twist is revealed (I actually saw it coming but never forget that stupendously massive brain). In the last 15 minutes the movie takes a slight detour into cheesy action movie ending but then gets back on track.
I love the idea of an action movie with more story than just “the bad guy killed my family/stole my money (or top secret list of US spies)/is a drug dealer/wants to blow something up because he is some kind of unspecified terrorist/kidnapped my girlfriend. One star. Arnold Schwarzenegger will always get a star even in the worst film for me (well, maybe not Batman and Robin or Junior), and this film suited him very well without catering to the crappy “Schwarzeneggerisms” that drag down a lot of his films. Two stars. The rest of the cast really nailed it and made us care about them collectively. One star. Olivia Williams was exceptionally good, and super hot. Some women can really pull off short hair. One star. Great action sequences. If you liked the action from Training Day and End of Watch you will love it. One star. A little bit of nudity goes a long way, especially when most of the screen is filled with macho white trash dudes. One star. In general a fun movie. One star. Total: eight stars.
The black holes:
The story was complicated and not in the clever way of “Oh, that totally makes sense” as the credits role. One black hole. The motivations for any of the characters to do almost any of the things they do is tertiary at best. I don’t want to spoil this film but a lot of it boiled down to “These characters are crazy and willing to throw their lives away because…they are crazy.” Very weak. One black hole. As much as I liked most of the characters the idea that this bunch of red neck militia mercenaries and drug addicts are part of an elite law enforcement unit was kind of laughable. One black hole. The weird shift of tone in the last 15 minutes only to shift back had all the spoor of the director caving in to either some studio executives or Arnold himself. It felt really out of place. One black hole. Total: four black holes.
A grand total of four stars. That’s in the good zone for me but just barely (mediocre is 2 black holes to about 3 stars). Definitely worth seeing but set your expectations realistically. I think this movie will not do well at the box office due to lack of audience focus to be honest. It’s too much a shoot ’em up for the people who like complicated stories and too convoluted for those who just like to see people shooting each other. Date movie? Nope. Bathroom break? Any of the scenes between Olivia and Arnold where they are not with anyone else could be missed pretty easily.
Thanks for reading. I have Bad Words lined up for tonight and am really looking forward to it. I haven’t had a lot of luck with Jason Bateman films in the past but after hearing his interview on Howard Stern I have to give it a fair shake. It sounds pretty hilarious. I might not write it up until Sunday as all the planets seemed to have aligned themselves and I have a second date tomorrow afternoon. Wish me luck. Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu. If you have a comment on this film or my review please leave it here and if you have an off topic question or suggestion email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Talk to you soon.
Day 2 was interesting. I opted to expand my exploration to outside the city of Venice (really, how many canals can you look at in a week?) and visit the city of Paduva, about 50 minutes away via train.
The train ride was a positive experience in both directions, in that I got to talk to a hot girl in each direction. Going out was a girl from Mexico named Sandy and her sister. She was about 4’10” and cute a button. On the way back this gorgeous Italian girl who helped me find the train sat across from me. She works in Venice at a hotel. I would have loved to talk to her more but she really did not engage and according to my personal Two Minute Rule had to stop talking to her.
Anyway, the train was cool, although they do something weird with the seats in that the head rests come out at about my shoulder blade level, making them impossible f or me to sit in. I have to say I pity the tall women of this country. I saw a number of really tall girls but have yet to see an Italian man above 5’10”. For the most part they all seem to be weedy little hipster dudes until they hit about 40 when they turn into chubby short guys.
I am proud to say I chose Padova for the nerdiest of reasons; it is home of the only Games Workshop store in the area and likely the only place where I could get a feel for the local Warhammer scene. Your might recall from yesterdays post that I was looking for a store that had it’s pulse on the local scene to no avail.
I took a cab to the store and talked to the manager, a nice guy named Daniel. Turns out the local Warhammer tournament circuit is about as beardy and rules intensive as I have heard. Seems the winningest is a dwarf army with six war machines, an anvil, and two huge blocks of warriors with great weapons. Not only is it as exploitive as possible it is also painfully boring to play, so I guess the Italians don’t really care much for soft scores. I give my Daemon list about 50/50 to beat it depending on how the dice roll out, although there are others in my gaming group that could beat it handily.
I then wandered the city and got lunch. The first thing I notice is the graffiti, which had been moderately bad in Venice, was pretty much what they decorated the walls with here. While I saw a few pieces with a little more artistic effort than in Venice (some actually had three colors!) for the most part they were black spray paint and very political. The best one I saw was in English and said “It’s not easy making a name for yourself”. Not sure what that was about.
Padova appears to be where bad shops go when they die. I saw shop after shop selling knick knacks and crappy stuff that might have been popular in the US 3-10 years ago. As something of a t-shirt expert I paid particular attention to the t-shirts. They are almost all as hokey as possible, and generally printed with very poor printing techniques. Popular t-shirt themes include Super Mario Bros (Poison Mushroom courtesy of the Video Game T Shirts), the Smurfs, the Simpsons (Duff Beer especially), and for some reason Monster Energy Drink. In girls it all seems to be sayings. The most common one I saw was “You and I Are Meant to Be” which seems awfully optimistic in my bitter dating experience.
At that point, having exhausted the level of interest to be found in Bedazzled iPhone cases and heavily decorated miniature bird houses (not to mention feeling really old. Everyone there was like 19) I decided I was done with the Padova experience and was starting to look for a cab ride back to the train station. It was then I stumbled upon something that put a big smile on my face and kept me in town for another four hours.
Yes, an old fashioned swap meet, Italian style. The difference that I could see between an American and Italian swap meet is the Italian ones do not really feature piles of rusted tools and stolen bike parts (it also seemed like I was less likely to get stabbed by the local crazy homeless man). For the most part it is brand new merchandise sold at a low low price in a tent by the Italian equivalent of white trash. I saw booth after booth of shoes, followed by booth after booth of clothing. T-shirts of an even hokeyer nature and printed with even worse printing techniques were on display. Socks, underwear, pants, jeans, and jackets were in abundance. I saw a few booths selling tools (new, for the most part) and a few selling cheap toys. There was a huge section that only sold fresh flowers and plants. Very cool.
The swap meet made a huge circle around a park, and after a while I opted to cut through the park to see what was up there. It was pretty much a giant teenage water balloon fight going on. Lots of kids with frisbees and bottles of water to throw on each other. There was a cop in the middle of the park who just sat there on the hood of his car.
I wandered over to the saddest amusement park I have ever seen (and I’ve been to Bibleland). One min-Ferris wheel, some dilapidated bumper cars, and a booth selling hot dogs and cotton candy. For all that it seemed popular. To each his own.
Eventually I made my way back to the train station (via a surpisingly attractive female cab driver. Very MILFy, and she was wearing high heels with her toenails done up with glitter polish) and got my heart broken by the hotel girl on the train ride home. I made it back to Venice without incident and there met up with a business associate for dinner (technically this is a work trip). He has been to Venice many times and took me to see a lot of the stuff I should have seen my first day here but was too lazy to research. Very cool stuff, and we rode on a boat bus (not sure what they call it) down the Grand Canal. We also ate a little local hole in the wall that was way better than any of the places the tourists hang out at.
Then bed. More tomorrow, although now I have to start seriously working so my posts may get a little dryer. Feel free to comment here if you have been to Venice and want to contribute. Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu and send me any off topic questions or suggestions to email@example.com. Talk to you soon.
My first full day in this mysterious land named Venice and I must say I am of mixed feelings. On the one hand the city is shockingly cool and fun with all kinds of cool things going on. On the other hand this day was a good reminder of why I never go on vacation: vacations tend to suck when you go on them by yourself.
Venice is a city of lovers, and every time I turn around I am running into another pair of the bastards making kissy face in front of me. Each couple I meet is another pound of cement in my foundation as the loneliest and bitterest person on the planet.
All that being said, there is a lot to see here. I am kind of a task oriented guy (another reason vacations have always seemed kind of frivolous to me. Even the stuff I do for fun I tend to have a purpose for. When I played WOW I was the biggest achievement whore you ever met. Green Linen shirt image, by the way, courtesy of the Video Game T Shirt category) and have set my vacation around a serious of tasks (some might call them quests). The first was finding an ATM, which are not as pervasive as they might be back home. I found one and, after taking 10 minutes figuring out how to have it use English, had 200 Euros in my pocket.
About that time I discovered something important about Venice: it is freaking hot here. I sweated my ass off most of the day. It also rains periodically, but honestly that was kind of a welcome relief from the heat.
The Quest for the ATM accomplished, I decided to simply wander around until I was totally lost, which I did. I hate touristy areas and vowed to check out more of the residential and off Grand Canal stuff. It was pretty cool, to be honest. The architecture is an amazing mix of retro-70’s with retro-14th century. Incidentally, I am completely convinced that Venice would be the perfect place to have a zombie apocalypse video game. It seems to be completely comprised by narrow, creepy corridors, foot bridges, murky canals, and small plazas.
I accomplished the Quest for Getting Lost with ease, and with the help of two very nice South Africans named Lisa and Fiona managed to get unlost. The next quest I set for myself was the checking out of the local Warhammer scene. In the world of Warhammer Italy has a reputation for bringing the beardiest lists and pushing the rules boundaries as hard as possible, and I want to see it for myself.
This would prove the most daunting quest so far. I found three shops that carry Warhammer merchandise, but for the most part do not have tables and just feature a few items on a shelf. Back home these kinds of shops annoy the crap out of me, as they are selling the products but doing nothing to support the hobby. However, here it seems like there just isn’t enough space. One girl at a shop told me she has been trying to organize tournaments but really can’t find the space.
I also discovered the we Americans have been getting ripped off by Games Workshop for years. Even adjusting for the Euro prices here are 20-25% less than we have been spending back home. Another reason (of about 2,300) to hate Games Workshop.
Anyway, I was pretty wiped and ended the evening eating really bad pizza alone in my room and feeling sorry for myself for being alone. However, today is a bright new day and I am excited to get out there. I found out there is a GW store that is a 40 minute train ride from here and plan to check it out. I will let you know how it goes.
It is a sad and embarrassing part of my life that I have never really been out of the United States (unless Tijuana or the Canadian side of the Niagara Falls count). This is not from a lack of interest; quite the contrary. However, when you grow up dirt poor and have to pay your own way through college the opportunities to travel are few and far between, and by the time you graduate and get a job the habit of never going anywhere gets pretty well ingrained in you. Sure, it always sounds like a great idea, but there is always something else that has a higher priority in your life.
So, I come to Venice, Italy. My day job saw fit to have us do our annual sales meeting here and I have opted to extend my stay by a week in order to explore and appreciate this strange and alien culture.
I am saying like this because I have always dreamed to traveling to strange, new worlds; to seek out new life and new civilizations; and to boldly go where no man (in my family) has ever gone before. Therefore I am going to treat this experience like the proverbial Lewis and Clark of space; I have come across a new and exciting planet, and am reporting my findings to you, my beloved readers, here.
First off I am happy to report this alien world seems to have at atmosphere with sufficient oxygen to support human life, and while there is a slight musty scent to it (not dissimilar to any Earth city set on the ocean) it is generally pleasant and lacking in any alien toxins or pathogens detrimental to human life. Gravity seems to be about 1.0 Earth normal, and the sun shines with a pleasant light that not only doesn’t want to kill me any more than our own Sol but seems to interact with the local flora in a manner similar to Terran photosynthesis.
I am calling this post Day 0 because most of my experience thus far has been related to the travel I have done to get here. After following all the correct signs and instructions on BART I still managed to take the wrong train (BART, like almost everything in San Francisco, is a pale imitation of something in New York City). However, I anticipated this and padded my schedule to make up for the inevitable screw up.
I boarded my flight on Airberlin and am happy to report that the flight, while painfully cramped, was extremely well run and modern. The entertainment screens were recently upgraded and had an excellent touch interface (assuming you are smart enough to figure out what the instructions were in German), the diabetic meal I ordered was one of the best I have had on an aircraft, and the Germans (and most other foreign airlines that I have observed) do not feel a fear of being sued for discrimination and therefore do not hesitate to hire hot young women to be flight attendants. I also love the big Airbuses, and had not a single experience of turbulence. I can definitively give a thumbs up for Airberlin.
I spent the flight next to a pleasant German woman who said her name was something that sounded a lot like Cigarette. I’m sure there is a German name that just sounds like that (any of my German readers please be sure to correct me on this) who was flying home to see her family. She lives in San Francisco and had the amazing decency to make small talk while we were eating our two meals and otherwise shut up and let me sleep or watch Lethal Weapon on the TV. Also on my plane was my new best friend who’s name I can’t remember, but I was destined to keep on running into him for the next twelve hours.
We arrived in Dusseldorf, the German city with the coolest name ever. If ever a city were to go for a nerd name, it would have to be Dusseldorf. It was here and later in Venice that I learned that the architecture of airports is pan-cultural. They all have a lot of glass and steel, a bunch of duty free shops (although the German ones seemed most interested in selling mass quantities of cigarettes. I saw a display pile of Marlborough that must have been eight feet tall), a lot of horribly misleading signs and dead ends, exits that seem to want to funnel you back through security, and some “chairs” that seem designed to give chiropractors more business. After learning that a meal that costs 8.00 is really like $11 after you convert from Euros to dollars and that German chocolate really is better than American (sorry, Girardelli) I boarded my plane for Venice.
Another relatively pleasant flight wherein I slept most of the way (with hot flight attendants) I arrived. I spent 120 Euros on a water taxi (I’m pretty sure I got ripped off there. The price on the sign was 110, but as soon as he saw my passport it went up 10) but as we rolled into Venice I decided it was worth every penny (or whatever they call 1/100ths of a Euro). The slow ride through Venice was shockingly like going through the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland; glances through windows at partial scenes of people cooking, hanging laundry, setting up rock bands, or just sitting there drinking coffee and wine (no pirates chasing wenches in circles that I could see). This would later contrast with my walking through Venice experience.
I can say that the story I was told about Italians being super friendly seems to have not manifested itself. The four individuals I met so far-water taxi company dude, water taxi driver, hotel clerk, and waiter later that night-couldn’t have been more perfunctory and uninterested if I had been a large sack of American laundry they were transporting or serving food to. The taxi driver started talking once I started asking him questions, but my experience with taxi drivers in the Bay Area and even more in NYC is most times you can’t get those guys to shut up. Maybe I have an unfriendly appearance (I would actually not discount that possibility) or maybe it’s because everyone who tells me how friendly the Italians are seems to be a hot girl and the old adage “Life is easier for hot chicks” holds true in Italy as anywhere else.
Anyway, walking around Venice at night is less like Pirates of the Caribbean and more like making your way through Raccoon City from Resident Evil (Raccoon City image courtesy of the Video Game T Shirt category). You walk down a creepy, narrow alley respondent with graffiti (point in America’s favor-our graffiti is much more creative and well executed), dark side passages, and weird no purpose stairways only to turn a corner and find an open restaurant or bar (as opposed to Raccoon City, where it would usually be an open gun shop or abandoned hospital).
The hotel room is tiny, but space efficient in a way you never see in even the cheapest American hotels and generally very pleasant. The bed is very stiff and hard, but I like a hard mattress so it works for me. The WiFi was excellent as evidenced by this blog post. Overall very pleasant and interesting.
I managed to lose all my Venice maps and phrase books in the month prior to packing, but this will just enhance the exploratory nature of my time here. I have procured a map from the hotel this morning and will be setting out shortly from breakfast. First task: find an ATM. Look for more on my trip tomorrow. Also, if I find time I have two movies I saw that I have to review. Talk to you soon.
I know. I promised to see a movie last night and write it up this morning. I got really into working and didn’t get to see anything. I apologize. I will try to see a midnight showing of something Thursday and write it up Friday morning. Probably Dark Shadows.
However, I learned something cool today and felt like bragging a little. After this weekend’s performance at SAWS Warhammer GT where I placed 5th overall (honestly, I got ripped off for first but that is neither here nor there) I am now ranked 7th nationwide according to Rankings HQ and am now the number 1 Daemons of Chaos player. Kudos to me. If any of you ladies are at all impressed or (more importantly) know what the hell I am talking about by all means please contact me.
Props also to my good friend Mike who is now Numero Uno. Well done, sir.
(Game Over image from Dragon’s Lair courtesy of the Video Game T Shirt category)
That’s it. Sorry I don’t have more to write, but I am slammed today and have to go buy some new socks. I am seeing 13 Assassins tonight at a friends house and will probably wax poetic about my love of martial arts movies tomorrow morning. Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu or send me an email with questions or suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Talk to you soon.
So last night I went and saw this snoozefest. Paying full pop on cruddy movies in 3D galls, but when a movie is obviously trying to make it’s money in CGI and special effects rather than story, dialog, action, acting, or any of those other pesky aspects of movies the so called audience is looking for I feel it only fair that I watch it in whatever media the creator intended it to be seen. That being said, there aren’t a lot of things on this planet that would have convinced me to spend another $5 to see it on IMAX.
Clash of the Titans came out before I was fully into the whole movie review thing and so I managed to miss it. From what I have heard and read I didn’t miss much. Is it fair to review a sequel without having seen the first one? In once sense no, but in the sense that unless the first movie had hypnotic subliminal codes embedded that makes the audience more receptive to blurry CGI and camera work, plot holes the size of a medium Midwestern town, and acting so phoned in I kept mistaking the film for an extended Sprint commercial than I don’t think any aspect of the first movie would have increased anything other than my dread at having to sit through this one.
This movie will seem familiar to a lot of people, and that’s because watching it is like watching someone else play God of War badly. Pretty much every visual, character, and bad guy was lifted from that game, and if there is one thing that bores people it’s watching someone else killing stuff on a computer. The game-like status of the film carries through every aspect of the 99 minutes, except that I have seen my share of better CGI, story, and acting from any number of good video games (God of War image courtesy of the Video Game T Shirts).
One area where the movie diverges significantly from its video game forefather is in the action. Everything is rushed, blurry, and way too close while at the same time horrible sanitized by the PG-13 rating. I suppose this is actually a good move, as the only audience members who will enjoy this film are probably kids, but it made everything seem tame and drained whatever tension that had been generated.
The story is of Perseus (Sam Worthington-Avatar, Man on a Ledge, the Debt) a few years after he beats the Krakon. For reasons really unexplored he has opted to not life like a half god and instead wants to be a fisherman with is son Helius (John Bell-a Shine of Rainbows, Transit, Life of Riley). He gets a visit from his father Zeus (Liam Neeson-Taken, Phantom Menace, the Grey) who warns him that the Titans are breaking out of Tartarus and will wreak havoc on the world. He says that since humans are no longer worshiping the gods (?) they are losing power and Chronos will eventually break out and destroy the world. Perseus opts to not help, because he and his son don’t live on the world about to be destroyed or something. Titans start showing up in all their mediocre CGI glory. Persues somehow kills the first one (I’m honestly not sure how. None of the action seemed designed to give any kind of information about what was happening to the audience) and goes on a quest to talk to the father he just blew off a few hours ago.
Anyway, Pegasus shows up, looking pretty mediocre in the CGI department too. If it weren’t black I might have mistaken it for the claymation Pegasus from the original Clash. He hooks up with Queen Andromoda (Rosamund Pike-Die Another Day, the Big Year, Johnny English Reborn) who has just gotten back from Disposable Henchmen-R-Us where they were having a massive clearance sale. Meanwhile Hades (Ralph Fiennes-Voldemort from Harry Potter, the Hurt Locker, Nanny McPhee Returns) and Ares (Édgar Ramírez-Vantage Point, the Bourne Ultimatum, El Don) have betrayed Zeus and Poseidon (Danny Huston-X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the Aviator, Children of Men) and are helping Chronos in return for not being killed or something.
I don’t really want to go on with this story recap, because to be honest I was really starting to check out. They go on a dumb quest with the help of one of Poseidons sons who was supposed to add some comic relief or something. They have to free Zues before Chronos sucks his power dry. Stuff gets blown up, it is strongly implied in a PG-13 manner that people get killed, and more mediocre CGI is rolled out.
The stars. I don’t know. I guess I kind of liked seeing Voldemort again, and I always appreciate Liam Neeson. That’s two stars.
The black holes. Big plot holes. One black hole. I really disliked the way the camera work was done. One black hole. Mediocre CGI. One black hole. Story was dumb, and lifted from a video game without giving the game credit. Two stars. Action that did nothing to hole my interest. One black hole. The curse of a violent movie with a PG-13 rating. One black hole. Uninspired acting all around. One black hole. Little to no development for most of the characters, and what little there was did nothing to make me sympathetic to Perseus. His entire motivation seemed to boil down to “He has a son”. One black hole. Taking a very liberal hand with the mythology of Perseus in order to make a bad movie (in mythology Perseus never fought the Minotaur. Of course none of the gods ever died either. The Greeks knew a thing or two about the definition of immortality). One black hole. The ultimate bad guy Chronos suffered from the same problem as the gigantic gas cloud from the Green Lantern in that he was more like a force of nature than something evil, resulting in me never caring about him. One black hole. This was another movie where no one could decide what kind of accent ancient Greeks would have when speaking English so everyone just rolled with whatever they had. I heard Australian, English, and American. One black hole. I know this is both super nerdy and nit picky, but I am really bothered by the use of counterweight trebuchets by the ancient Greeks. This war machine was not invented until the 12th century and primarily used in France. One black hole for tweaking my historical inaccuracy nerve. And finally, the bottom line is I was bored through most of this film. Pacing didn’t so much as suck as actively enhance the fact that the action was dull and the interstitial scenes connecting them even duller. Watching this movie was like driving across West Texas. One black hole. Total: fourteen black holes.
A grand total of twelve black holes. Pretty miserable. The film feels like they were just going through the motions and not really trying too hard, like a married couple that wants to get divorced but is waiting for the kids to graduate high school. Should you see it? Probably not, unless you are easily amused. With enough alcohol or acid you might enjoy this just for the flashy blurry stuff on the screen. Date movie? Probably not. If a super nerd such as I had to struggle to stay awake your date will be dozing off in the first 20 minutes. On the other hand, if you are determined to see it watch it on a big screen, as the shots will probably suck a lot more on a TV. Do you have a $1 Theater nearby? Probably a decent choice there.
Thanks for reading. More movies out this weekend, so maybe I can wash this one out of my mouth with Mirrror Mirror, which I think looks funny. Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu, or email me with questions or comments at email@example.com. Feel free to post comments about this movie here if you like. As long as you keep it clean and aren’t just trying to spam this blog for links I will approve them. Talk to you soon.
My best friend gave me an Xbox 360 and helped me hook it up to my entertainment system. Xbox live rocks, and he and I are having fun playing Halo Reach together (I don’t have any images from Halo Reach, but this poster for Halo 3 I have stuck in with the video game t shirts. It’s pretty cool). The game came with Mass Effect 2, and I was thinking about playing it. Another friend of mine told me to play ME1 through first because it is supposed to have this amazing story on the order of Knights of the Old Republic. This is saying a lot, because Knights has one of the best “OMG” moments in game play history in my opinion, but I figured I’d try it out and see what it is like.
I downloaded it last night and started playing this morning. After two hours I am bored stupid. I have probably spent 2/3ds of that time generating my character, watching cut scenes, grinding my way through interminable dialog sequences with every dope in the universe, trying to figure out the game interface (the in game controller guide offers a chance to change your Y axis, something I have never ever known anyone to ever do, and that’s it. No manual with a download. Besides, I’m not trying to break a government spy code. Most games are pretty intuitive and I can usually figure them all out within a few minutes. It shouldn’t be this painful) and micromanaging not just my inventory but the inventory of two other NCP morons who seem to feel the best way to protect me is to get in between my gun and the enemies. The game itself plays like I’m trying to push a car to a gas station while steering it through the open window, and aiming feels like I am trying to flick a light switch from across a room with a 30 foot PVC pipe.
I am sure that over time once I figure out all the controls, level up so I am not worthless in combat, get some decent gear upgrades, and stop caring about all the dialog and inventory crap, it could get fun (although the reason I keep getting sucked into the dialog is because I want to see this amazing story and I feel if I don’t play the RPG part of it I might miss something cool), but why would Bioware make a game that starts you off feeling like you are trying to pass a kidney stone rather than make it fun and interesting so you get sucked in and want to play it through? Most games start off easy and get harder as it progresses, but I don’t know how much harder to play they can make it without figuring out a way to electrocute me through my controller.
As for this amazing story that is supposed to surface if I can stomach about 1,000 hours of dialog boxes, during the 20th minute of trying to figure out how to level up, or if that was really an option in this game, or if it was an option at the baby level I was on, it suddenly occurred to me that if I really want to see an amazing story maybe I should go watch a movie, something I have a bit of experience at and (sort of) get paid to do if in a roundabout manner. While I have had a couple of very positive video game story experiences (KOTOR and Silent Hill, for example) for the most part a story is icing on the cake for games. If the icing is delicious but the cake itself is made of sawdust, asbestos, and dog excrement I am pretty disinclined to eat it.
I’ll probably return at some point and see if it is due to improve, or if my attitude is better, but to be honest I don’t have time for it. My time is better spent writing up reviews for bad movies. As for comments, feel free to post here but be warned that anything on the order of “You must suck at video games (and/or life) to not be able to play ME” will be promptly discarded. I am not an maniacal video gamer, but have been playing them for most of my life and like to think I am at least of average ability. If an average person cannot make this game fun than that pretty much says there is something wrong here. I am sure ME2 and 3 are better from a game play point of view, but at this moment I think I would rather go back and play a few hours of I Maed a Gam3 W1th Zom1es in it!!! Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu or email specific questions or suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. More movie stuff coming out soon. Talk to you later.
It is pretty widely known that Microsoft if the Evil Empire of software companies, but this goes beyond the pale. Basically if I understood what I just read the new X-Box 720 is supposed to have a system in place to prevent the use of used games. How is that a good call on their part? Is it not enough that they already get a ton of money from the video game players out there? They have to stomp on all the kids who don’t have enough money to buy games new but have the patience to wait a few months to play it? How about old games from the 360 days? Are those wasted when you buy the new 720? Technically they are used.
Actually, what if I have a couple cool games and want to go over to a friends house and play them there? Is that no longer allowed? My friend is sick and I want to lend him some games so he can rest in bed? Oops. Microsoft says to hell with you.
When you think about it, when I sell a used car to someone the car manufacturer doesn’t get a chunk of the sale. They gave that up when they sold it to me. Sorry, but I am a big fan of used video games and this whole concept is driving me nuts.
The control freak shirt I found in Dave’s video game t shirts. Seemed kind of appropriate given Microsoft’s attitude.
Martin Scorsese throws a nod towards Steam Punk.
I find myself in a weird spot reviewing this movie. I mean, who am I to review the work of a true movie making genius like Martin Scorsese? He is responsible for so many of my favorite films, including Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, Shutter Island, and The Aviator. Of course, he has done a lot of stuff no one has ever heard of, including a ton of documentaries. However, for a movie amateur like myself to offer criticism feels like I am hanging around giving advice to a brain surgeon.
But then I remember that I have an obligation to deliver my unbiased and honest opinion to you, my beloved reader. Fortunately, Hugo is a decently fun movie, and even if I didn’t know Scorsese had directed it I would have enjoyed it. It was fun, well acted, extremely well directed, and overall a quality movie experience. Like pretty much 100% of the movies I nit pick apart it has a few items I can take issue with, but overall pretty cool. I think one of the things that really works for me on this film is it is so different from any of Martin Scorsese’s other films. It’s great to see a director head into something new.
It is the story of young Hugo (Asa Butterfield-the Boy in the Striped Pajamas, the Return of Nanny MacPhee), the son of a clockmaker who has been orphaned and now lives in a Paris train station, winding and maintaining the clocks. His only legacy of his father is a mysterious steam punk automaton that was rescued from a museum store room and is in need of repair (steam punk Sonic image courtesy of the Video Game T Shirts). He gets caught trying to steal parts from a grumpy toy shop owner named Papa George (the great Ben Kingsley-Sexy Beast, Ghandi, Shutter Island, Schindler’s List), who confiscates Hugo’s fathers notebook. He gets Hugo to work for him repairing windup toys to make up for the stolen goods. Meanwhile Hugo befriends George’s goddaughter Isabelle (played most excellently by Chloe Grace Moretz, the Hitgirl from Kick Ass. She was also the vampire from Let Me In. What a talented young actress. I am sure we will see some amazing things from her in the future), who is something of a bookworm and looking for adventure. She sees the potential with Hugo and together they work on the mystery of the mechanical man.
I don’t want to get too much into the story, as I don’t want to hand out any spoilers. Hugo is beset by the station inspector (Sasha Baron Cohen-Borat, Sweeney Todd, Bruno, Ali G) who adds an element of danger to the story. Papa George has a mysterious past that he wants to keep secret. Clocks get wound. Mysteries are solved.
The stars. All around quality film. Direction, story, and overall experience excellent. Two stars. The acting was awesome, although how could you expect any less from Ben Kingsley? Chloe was decent too, although occasionally she and Asa seemed to have forced the scenes. Two stars. The camera work and visual were really, really good. Two stars. The story overall was very immersive. You really felt like you were in the Montparnasse train station in the 30’s. One star. Steam punk-ish. One star. Based in part on a true story. One star. Total: nine stars.
Now, though it galls me to do this, I have to award the black holes. The biggest one is going to have to be the fact that 3D sucks. It really did nothing to in any way enhance this film, and it is obvious Martin Scorsese, being new to the 3D art form, was looking for and writing in extra visuals to better display the 3D effects. Unfortunately this really did nothing but aggravate the next two black holes I am about to give. One black hole. The movie, perhaps due to the extra visuals, seemed to really drag at points. The fun of watching Hugo wind his was through the massive gears and cogs of all the clocks in the station kind of loses it’s magic when we have to watch it a second and third time. Plot progression seemed really slow. One black hole. The movie, supposedly for kids, runs a whopping 127 minutes. I saw more than one family have to leave early after the kids got bored of watching gears spin, and even I had to take a bathroom break about 3/4 of the way through (the ocean tanker sized Diet Coke did not help). One black hole. Finally, while Sasha Baron Cohen was probably the best actor in the film, his role as the menacing station inspector was significantly compromised by his comedic bearing and delivery. It literally felt like Hugo was being chased by Inspector Clouseau, and it is tough to feel concern for anyone in that situation. The rest of the movie is actually really poignant and serious with whimsical element, but every time Sasha got on screen the slapstick-o-meter dipped deeply into the red. One black hole. Total: four black holes.
So a grand total of five stars. Not bad, but not awesome. Hugo is a fun, quality movie. But it in no way compares to Shutter Island or Goodfellas. Worth seeing? Yes. Worth seeing in a theater? Yes. Worth seeing twice in a theater? Probably not, unless you are into the 3D art form or the movie history portrayed. Good date movie? Sure, as long as your date is a visual person. Not my first choice.
Thanks for reading, and don’t hate me for not gushing all over this film. I really am a Scorsese fan. Just not his best film. Perhaps he was so distracted by the details of 3D he couldn’t apply as much focus as usual on the other aspects of the film. Short review, but that’s what usually happens when I enjoy the film. I will write up the Descendants tomorrow, and hopefully see something else then for Monday. Maybe Arthur Christmas. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu. Talk to you soon.
Ever feel like you don’t have enough germophobia in your life? Contagion has the cure.
So tonight it was Contagion, a movie about a plague that kills millions and causes Purell sales to skyrocket. Overall a decent flick, if a little dry and, ironically, low impact. What do I mean? Let’s find out.
The movie starts off with Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) coming home from a wild trip to Hong Kong filled with drinking, casino gambling, and adultery. She comes home not feeling well and falls over to shuffle off this mortal coil, followed shortly by her young son. Her cuckold husband, Mitch (Matt Damon) is somehow immune. Meanwhile, the camera runs around the world showing major metropolitan cities where people traveling from China are infecting their local communities. We cut to several CDC lab scenes and officials, including Lawrence Fishburne as Dr. Cheever, the head. Plague chaos and medical research ensues. A local blogger manages to disrupt things by claiming a homeopathic remedy is the cure and runs around San Francisco in a homemade bubble suit (never underestimate the power of a well crafted blog. Of course, for this blog underestimate all you want. Also, did they really have to make the crazy conspiracy nut reside in San Francisco? Weren’t their other stereotypes they could exploit?).
This movie was well written and directed. The most interesting part for me was the progressive degeneration and break down of society they showed, although I think a few steps ended up on the cutting room floor as at one point the chaos went from fairly concerning to chaos on a massive scale in one scene change. The science seemed pretty solid as well, with nothing obviously stupid being done. The movie did manage to illustrate how the US has a really hard time moving quickly when dealing with drugs and vaccines that have to get out to the population in a timely manner, and there were undertones of pharmaceutical companies intending to exploit the health needs for profit, something I firmly believe they would do without hesitation.
Why, then, do I say kind of low impact? The fact is, after the two initial deaths, for the most part none of the main characters died or were connected to people who died, in spite of any number of secondary characters introduced seemingly to provide fodder to make the movie more poignant. There were a couple of mass grave scenes, but nothing that really looked like more than a bunch of carpet remnants being buried. One doctor died, but the guy who was supposed to care didn’t even mention her again. Basically the deaths took on a number aspect with little to no real emotional impact. It started to feel like racking up kills in a video game. The movie tended to be pretty dry anyway, with no violence to speak of or any kind of real conflict between characters.
Of course, I spent a lot of the movie hoping the corpses would get up and start trying to eat the flesh of the living, so maybe I’m a little skewed here. I guess not all deadly diseases can be as cool as the T Virus (image courtesy of the video game t shirt category).
The stars. Very well and intelligently written. Two stars. Nobody did anything stupid that made me want to scream. One star. Acted very well across the board. One star. Marion Cotillard (the hot French girl from Inception), who is one of my favorite actresses and hopefully my future wife, spent the movie looking pretty good. One star. The progression of anarchy and the CDC and government responses to the epidemic felt very real and well thought out. One star. Good science. One star. The research episodes appealed in the same way CSI seems cool. One star. Overall a good movie. One star. Total: nine stars.
The black holes. The whole “death lacking impact” thing I just mentioned. One black hole. The CDC seemed to spend a lot of time trying to figure out where the disease came from rather than working on a cure, and as part of that pursuit spent a lot of time looking at security footage that looked exactly like it had been shot by the same film crew that did the normal scenes. Most movies at least try to make security footage look grainy and black and white, without sound and/or full effects. One black hole. They laughingly list the population of San Francisco as 3.6 million people. Most people don’t know this, but it is actually a fairly small city, with a population at last census of 808,976 people. I guess they were trying to increase the effect of an outbreak in SF. They can’t even claim to be using the population of the entire Bay Area, as that exceeds 7.6 million. They were doing this thing where they listed the population of each area and probably felt something that low would feel less impactful, but it took me literally 10 seconds to look up and that kind of lazy writing always bugs me. One black hole. Total: three black holes.
There were a couple in the irksome category. First off, I can’t decide if this movie was too gory or not gory enough. We get treated to a semi-graphic autopsy of Gwyneth Paltrow (would you like some surrealism with your coffee?) but other than people foaming at the mouth don’t see much. I think the lack of gore, while appealing to my desire to see movies not rely on that banal Hollywood crutch, kind of aided the lack of emotional content. A couple scenes of people coughing up their lungs while dying a painful, prolonged death might have brought it home more. I also found a few of the many sub plots kind of unnecessary. Not enough to hurt the plot. Just kind of dead time on the screen.
So a final tally of six stars, a very respectable score. I think if you are into medical dramas or CSI style crime investigation you will really enjoy it. However, there is nothing visually that really cries out for a big screen so if you want to save a few bucks wait for NetFlix. Not at all a good date film, as your date will not want to have anything to do with human contact after this film, and odds are neither will you. To be honest I went to the bathroom afterwards and really washed my hands. I think I will now give my bathroom and kitchen the scrubbing of a lifetime. OCD, here I come!
Follow me on Twitter, where you can stay in touch with no chance of any kind of disease transmission @Nerdkungfu. Warrior next, I think, if I can muster up the testosterone. Thanks for reading this.