Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Latest Movies I've Seen part 1001

I also took a trip back to the 80s last weekend. The 80s, that wonderful decade of colorful spandex, weird hairdos, and amazingly cheesy horror movies. House in one of them. I had ever only heard faint mentions to it in horror forums and such, and when Cosmic mentioned the movie to me yet again, I knew I had to see it. So we did

House revolves around, quite obviously, a haunted house of sorts. Roger Cobb is a successful writer with a traumatizing past: a Vietnam vet, he lost his only child in a freak event at his aunt's house, and ultimately ended up divorcing his wife. He never knew what happened to the kid: the police and the FBI never found out anything, and all his aunt could tell him was that the house took the child. She believed the house to be haunted, but everyone else thought she was just bananas. One day, she showed up dead, hung by the neck in her bedroom, and her death was dismissed as suicide. Roger took the chance to move up to his aunt's house, hoping to find the solitude and peace of mind he needed to write his new book, but we quickly find out he should have just stayed home.

Obviously, this is a haunted house movie. But the haunting is pretty weird - it's supposed to be ghosts, but all the things that Roger finds in the house are this sort of strange looking monsters made of rubber that are anything but ghosts. Demonic entity? Mischievous goblins? They could have named them something better than ghosts. But that's me nitpicking.

The movie's atmosphere is distincly 80-ish, and the top contributor to that is, in my opinion, the score. The music just made me giggle most of the time, but it gave the movie an enjoyable cheesy vibe that made everything else make sense, in a weird way, because it just brought the whole cheese factor together. There were bits that were pretty funny (a couple of them involving music - to hear Dedicated to the One I love when Roger is burying what he thinks is the freshly-killed demonic version of his wife is pretty hilarious), and I would have loved to see the movie pursue the funnier side, like Evil Dead for example, because when it tried to be serious it kinda fell flat.

Still, I enjoyed this movie a lot. I knew what to expect from it and it didn't disappoint, because I took it with a grain of salt. It was an 80s cheesefest just the way I like it, and it's a shame that horror movies nowadays almost always take themselves too serious. It takes 2.5 out of 5 demons from me.

A few days ago, the Friday the 13th reboot made its premiere in the movies. It's not like I was hyper-excited to see it, but it was a horror movie, so everyone knows I'd end up watching up. Friday was never my favorite classic horror series, so that presented an advantage to me, since I wasn't afraid of "them" ruining it. Also, regarding "them", the team behind this was the same team that handled the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and that was a pretty gruesome movie that I enjoyed, and I thought this one would be in a similar vein.

The story tried to go back to the beginning of things, although it never really explains where the hell Jason comes from, but that's okay because I think it didn't explain that in the original movies either. It crams up elements from the first movies of the series: we get a bit with his mother (which was probably more rewarding for people who had seen the original), then we get Jason with the burlap sack on his head, and finally the Jason everyone knows with the hockey mask.

So we get the usual group of young adults in a horror movie, going to a house in the middle of nowhere to bang each other and get high out of their minds. They're all pretty stereotypical and predictable in behavior, but it's excusable, no one is expecting brilliant character development. Then, a random guy named Clay decided to rain on their parade and keep pestering them, asking them wether they had or not seen his sister, who disappeared 6 weeks before. Alfa-male Trent thinks it's better to give him the boot, but his girlfriend disagrees and decides to tag along with Clay and look for his lost sister. Predictably, they bump into Jason, and then things go awry when they have to get back to the house and protect themselves and their friend from the killer.

What everyone wants to know in a movie of this kind is: the killings. They're not bad. Some are pretty brutal and will make you cringe (one of the first, in Jason's old camp house, comes to mind) but others are pretty un-Jason like (the sleeping bag comes to mind). The gore is decent, I mean, there's no blood flying around everywhere, but this is not Braindead after all.
One thing that bothered me a little was that the directors tried to "cash in" again on the redneck type for this movie. It worked in the Texas Chainsaw remake for obvious reasons, but it seemed a little out of place here. Well, at least the cop wasn't a jackass, as they usually are, and he did try to go help when the kids called the police - which I was thinking he wouldn't, it would be pretty typical. I was pretty unhappy by the ending, but I see what they meant to do with it. Didn't really work this time around, for me at least.

All in all, I enjoyed the movie. It's not like I was expecting much, but it turned out to be a decent movie, and in my opinion much superior to the latest installments of the Friday series (Jason X? Seriously, what was that??). It has little substance, plot, or character development... but it has Jason and his machete. And that's what the crowd wants. I give it 2.5 out of 5 machetes.

Stay tuned for a couple more reviews. This week has been rich in movies.

Latest movies I've seen part 1000

You might have noticed I haven't talked about any of the movies I saw before the Oscars ceremony because yeah, like every common mortal, I shed my b-movie lover cover and watched a few of the nominees - namely the big (and fair) winner Slumdog Millionaire. I confess I disagree with the dude who called it "the feel-good movie of the year", but whatever, it ended in a moderatelly happy way and I guess that Bollywood-style dance at the end made up for all the crap that happened to Jamal throughout the movie. It was really good, nonetheless.

The reason why I haven't talked about them is that, besides me being lazy, I think there are already plenty of good reviews about those movies, done by knowleadgeable people whose writing doesn't resemble that of a monkey with ADD. But what about crappy movies? Who reviews those? Well, I DO. That is my job in this world. So I have to cut back on the amount of good movies I review in favor of bad movies. Those need loving too.

Anyway, this was a great weekend of movies. I did watch a good one, and I guess that's the one I'll get out of the way right now. I'm talking about Coraline.

Coraline is a stop-motion animation movie directed by Henry Sellick - yeah, the same guy who did the wonderful Nightmare Before Christmas. He hasn't done anything in 8 years, but it seems the little sabatical did him good because Coraline is quite astonishing work. I saw it in 3D (complete with dorky glasses) and the 3D was very impressive, but even more than that I was awed by the animation (as I had already been in Nightmare before Christmas). The amount of detail in this movie, from the characters expressions to their environment, clothing, everything, is amazing. I can't begin to imagine the amount of work it takes to do one scene, let alone a whole movie.

The story goes that a little girl named Coraline (and not Caroline!) has just moved, and is incredibly bored on her new house. She doesn't know anyone, has no friends, and her parents always seem too busy to play with her. One day, after investigating her new house and listing how many windows and doors there are on that place, Coraline finds a tiny door hidden behind the wallpaper. The first time she opens it, the door is shut with bricks... but the second time she tries, she finds out the door leads to an alternate world where her button-eyed replica parents cater to her every wish. The food is better, there are magical gardens, new clothes and games... but is it all that good? It's not. And Coraline will find that out the hard way.

I loved the incredible visuals in this movie. Did I mention the crazy amount of detail? Yeah. The characters are all well-designed, albeit probably not as iconic as the ones in Nightmare, except perhaps the final look of the Other Mother. The stuff that happens is quite unbelievable, it almost looks like a drug trip (I can't imagine what it would be like watching this high haha). It's not exactly a kid's movie, as I'm sure a lot of kids will be freaked out by what's going on on the screen, but it has a childish magic and appeal to it that one can't deny. Besides, being scared as a kid builds character - and now I sound like Calvin's dad.
I've heard a lot of comparisons to Alice in Wonderland, and I guess I have to agree, at the core they are pretty similar stories. But Coraline is filled with details of its own that give the movie its identity.
It was a great tale of adventure and mystery and it takes 3.5 bouncing rats out of 5.

As you may, or may not, know, the Oporto International Film Festival (Fantasporto) is currently taking place. It's usually one of my favorite times of the year, and I always try to catch a few movies there, especially if those are movies out of the commercial circuit. This year's first was a german zombie movie called Virus Undead.

(crappy poster, I know. The movie wasn't much better also.)

Virus Undead tries to cash in on the bird flu panic that went around a short time ago. An old scientist called, er, Mr. Whatshisface, is trying to find out a cure for the flu when he stumbles upon a mutation of the virus. Sadly, he is killed by none other than a flock of birds, in his own massive mansion. His grandson Robert has to go back to his grandfathers village to take care of the inheritance paperwork and decides to take his "friends" (I say "friends" because not once in this movie do we feel any tingle of real friendship or any kind of relation between them.) Patrick and Eugen along for the ride, and hopefully spend a weekend of great fun in his dead grandfather's mansion. When they stop at a gas station to buy supplies, they run into Robert's ex-girlfriend (still baffled and hurt at why he ever left her) and into her co-worker, Miss Tits McGee, and of course horny James Dean look-alike Patrick decides to invite them over to the house. Things start going awry when people eat infected bird meat and start turning into zombies.

Well, well. Where do I begin? Maybe with the zero character development. These characters are cardboard cutouts. You have the responsible, level-headed one (Robert), the horny, careless one (Patrick) and the poor picked-on geek (Eugen). The girls are just another cliché, and an excuse to show some boobage. They are such stereotypes that I think the movie would have beneffited a lot from playing with this humorously, because taking the characters serious was nearly impossible. There was also a cliché cop, unprofessional dude always munching down on donuts, but there was a great moment when the cop, already turned into a zombie (oops spoiler), tries to keep eating the donuts, only to end up spitting it out. It was a good gag that poked fun at the stereotype, and it worked - now if only they had done it more! We could have a cool splatter comedy, but this way we only had a suckfest. The way these characters act is ridiculous and predictable, and Eugen suffers the quickest mental breakdown I ever saw in a movie.

The story tries to take a fresh turn with the bird flu thing, but it basically just comes down to being another zombie movie. And what zombies... these are super strong and fast zombies, a kind I'm not too fond of. I prefer the slow ominous zombie. But I can't deny it, the bits with the zombies were the best. There was a LOT of cheeseball action, and the gore was not bad either! Not bad for a low budget movie. The ending sucked, in my opinion - the "climatic" fight was just ridiculous and I could have done without those stupid CGI birds. We never find out what happened to Tits McGee, but she went out with a bang, her final part was one of the stupidest and yet funniest things about this movie. Sure made the audience laugh, and I think that's good because it means we're actually being entertained instead of just being bored out of our minds. Yes, we were laughing at the movie instead of with it, but that's better than nothing.

All in all, this movie was pretty bad, but I still gotta give props to it - for a low budget horror and with all its character and plot flaws, it managed to keep me mildly entertained, and that's more than I can say for a lot of big-budget hollywood shit. My biggest gripe with it is that it could have been much, much better if it didn't take itself as seriously. It takes 2 out of 5 burning zombies from me.

Stay tuned for part 1001 for a couple more reviews!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

My card on the Geek Fight Trading Card Game

This post will be a little bit of shameless promotion, forgive me :D

You love the Angry Videogame Nerd. You laugh with the Nostalgia Critic's reviews. But you weren't happy with just the Final Battle video. What now? Well, I am happy to announce that Diving Dragon Games rounded up a team of great artists, that I am proud to be a part of, to bring an AVGN vs. Nostalgia Critic trading card game.

That's right! Your very own deck with an amazing variety of cards, creatures and powers you can use to battle. I was lucky enough to contribute with art for this awesome game. My card? Well, it's the Nostalgia Zombie. Couldn't be better suited for me :D

You can see the video announcement by the AVGN right here:

And go to Diving Dragon Games to place your order, HERE.

The first 10,000 preorders will receive beautiful Limited Edition foil printings of the Angry Video Game Nerd and Nostalgia Critic cards. You’ll never see these cards printed in foil again, so reserve yours now!

I'm really proud to be a part of this project. So please, fuel my drive (and my wallet!) by ordering this kick ass card set that is guaranteed to show you a good time.

Friday, February 13, 2009

A bunch more Watchmen photos

The Watchmen release date is coming closer, and so the filmmakers are starting to release the final production shots to promote the movie to regular people, and to reinforce the geeks opinion that it will be totally awesome. I don't think that can be reinforced in me any further, but thanks for trying Zach Snyder!
The new shots are, as always, pretty cool, and you can check out all of them over at /Film.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Minutemen arcade-style game

As you probably all know, before the Watchmen, there was a previous group of heroes called the Minutemen. And as of these days, they have their very own arcade-style game you can play on your browser. The character choice is very limited, you can only play as the original Nite Owl or Silk Spectre, but the game is pretty cool and adequate for a few minutes of fun.

So don't stay here much longer, go here and play it for yourself!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World to feature good old hand drawn animation!

That's true fellas, folks at /Film report that the movie will feature sequences of traditional animation.
It is unknown which part of the film will be animated, but I agree with the speculation that it will probably be the fights Scott has to engage in with Ramona's evil ex-boyfriends. In the comic, the fights play out a lot like a video game, with special moves and the enemies being turned to coins after being defeated, and it could look silly if it was all live action. Honestly I think this is an ingenious move on Edgar Wright's part and it has the potential to make the movie that much cooler.
Traditional animation! Weeeeeee!

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)

Last weekend I had the pleasure of watch this movie with Cosmic. After browsing through the list of movies currently showing at a nearby multiplex, we decided on Vicky Cristina Barcelona for simple reasons: it was Woody Allen, and it looked like a nice movie - neither of us had great expectations or ideas about it, it just looked... well, nice.

And what we got was somewhat more than that.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona tells us the story of two American friends (the sensible Vicky and the free-spirited Cristina) who spend the summer in Barcelona. Vicky is engaged to be married and is working on her master's thesis on Catalan Studies, and thinks she knows what she wants out of life and love until one night, she and Cristina meet Juan Antonio, a local painter, who makes them an unusual proposal. Despite initial refusal, Vicky decided to go along with it mostly to protect the impulsive Cristina from potential harm, and this will lead them in a spiral of feelings, relationships, and complications, especially when Juan Antonio's troubled and fiery ex-wife, Maria Elena, steps back into the picture.

Where can I start? First things first, the acting. Javier Bardem is a great actor, and he is brilliant in this. He plays his Juan Antonio in such a seductive and enigmatic way that he just keep you glued to the screen whenever he's on it. Penelope Cruz (Maria Elena( also does a great job, as does Rebecca Hall (Vicky), but my absolute favorite was Javier Bardem, no doubt. He is charming, he is sexy, he has one hell of a presence. Scarlett Johansson does not particularly stand out, but she does a pretty decent job.
The writing and dialogue is perfect. It's very wordy and lengthy at times, but so sharp and witty that it charms you, and you wish you could hear these people talk for hours.
I do have to point out something else: the setting. The city of Barcelona was the perfect choice for a movie like this. Everything looks beautiful, charming and golden... I always loved Barcelona, and after seeing this movie I wished I could travel there the next day. It's almost like a character in itself.

It turned out to be a great surprise, because it was a very fullfilling movie, and not just "nice". It was funny, sad, poignant, sexy, and gave you something to think about. An highly enjoyable movie, and I definitely recommend it.

4.5 out of 5 spanish painters.