Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Netflix Reviews #2

Second edition of Netflix Reviews... I'm calling this one "The (Mostly) Jeff Bridges Edition".

Elephant White

If you have never seen Ong Bak, The Protector, or Chocolate and you are an action/martial arts movie fan, you are doing yourself a great disservice. Prachya Pinkaew is one of the best action/martial arts directors working right now. His love for the Thai boxing style that is not only intense but also works well on film plus his fantastic eye for talent like Tony Jaa and JeeJa Yanin make him a top director in this style of film. I was interested in his latest movie when I saw that it was his first English film, that is... until I saw the actors. I should have known then and there that this was going to be pretty bad. Djimon Hounsou (Gladiator, Blood Diamond) is terribly miscast here as the main character with one of the worst names I have ever seen in any movie... Curtie Church. He just seemed wrong all the way around. His acting was stiff and not very believable or it might have been the terrible script. Also, his partner in crime is none other than Kevin Bacon.

Six degrees of suckitude.

He has one of the worst British accents I have ever heard. It's almost as bad as Tom Cruise's German accent in Valkyrie. It's a story of child traficking and child prostitution but it feels like the filmmakers decided to tack that in just to have morality in the film. They never really take advantage of what is a sensitive and under used theme. It's too bad that the mistake basically sucked the life out of the film. The action scenes which was something I was looking forward to were just ok and there's not enough of it which is a disappointment. The plot with the character Mae was painfully obvious and newcomer Jirantanin Pitakporntrakul was pretty dreadful. Avoid this at all costs.

2 out of 10


It's hard to make a movie like this one both entertaining and challenging. In order for movies like this to work, you have to work hard to make the cave system into a character. Build it up so much that you feel like it is an integral part of the story. Neil Marshall's The Descent was able to make this happen and also add the 'monster' idea to spice things up. It made the movie incredibly scary and claustrophobic. This movie sort of fails to make it as tense. The cast is pretty weak, which probably helps to not make this such a great movie. Richard Ruxburgh plays Frank McGuire who is apparently the best cave diver in the world. He is rough around the edges but soft inside. His son Josh is played by Rhys Wakefield. Rounding up the team (at least the important ones) are Ioan Gruffudd as the multi millionare thrill seeker Carl that is funding the expedition and his girlfriend Victoria played by Alice Parkinson. The twists and turns are pretty obvious and not very surprising (if they tell you to put on the suit, you put it on, darn it!). The cave they are exploring is flooded by a cyclone... which is surprising that after all that money spent on the best equipment, they have no idea when the storm is going to strike. But alas, they basically seek a way to escape through the ocean. It's just generic all around. Not even the "Produced by James Cameron" could help this movie be more than just average.

4 out of 10

True Grit

Finally! Something good. This movie is a remake of the 1969 version that won John Wayne his only Academy Award for Best Actor. This time though, two of my favorite directors tackle on this movie. The Coen Brothers (Fargo, The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men) have directed a bunch of fantastic and critically acclaimed movies and for good reason. They always have fantastic writing, great characters and simply beautiful shots that make the movies something to behold. If there is one thing that their movies have is that they are gritty, so its fitting that they are the directors for this remake. They team up with Jeff Bridges once more as he plays the old and tough U.S. Marshall Rooster Cogburn. Bridges was the perfect choice for this role. He has recently become the guy to go to for roles like this one and there is a reason for it. He is great. At the behest of 14 year old Mattie Ross, Cogburn teams up with Texas Ranger LaBeouf in search of the Tim Chaney who killed Mattie's father and escaped with criminal "Lucky" Ned Pepper. The most important role in this movie though is Mattie Ross. Hailee Steinfeld is a newcomer to the big screen but she takes this role and breathes life and defiance into it. There is something to be said about her determination. Most of the times when a young actor is placed in a role like this, they barely get through it, but Steinfeld did so well that it was believable. Matt Damon as Labeouf wasn't as interesting but Josh Brolin as Tom Chaney was. When we see him it is obvious by the look on his face throughout that he is battling within himself. We are never told why, but you can see it on his face, like he knows he screwed up in some way. The fact is that this is a really good movie. The ending was perfect for me. It would have probably sucked if the ending was just run-of-the-mill. Highly recommended for the performances, the music, the acting, the directing and just everything in between. Also... fear the bear man!

We need a bear man movie... NOW!
9 out of 10

Crazy Heart

Jeff Bridges is the shit. He had become a top actor today and he finally won the Oscar for Best Actor that he definitely deserved. He won it with his performance in this movie as Bad Blake. Bad is a run down old country singer that has been doing small bars and bowling alleys to get by. A mostly functional alcoholic, it is not until he meets Jean Craddock and her son Buddy that he starts to live the life he always wanted and raising the son that he never cared for back in the day. It takes a startling event for him to really wake up and realize the danger that he has put himself into with the alcohol. The story is not complex, then again, it doesn't need to be. The characters are complex enough that they don't need an overtly complex story. You really get a sense of who Bad at the beginning of the movie when he drinks himself to sleep but ends up going to the show anyways and saying how he has never missed a show in his life. That takes incredible character on his part and a deep desire not to disappoint his fans. The way he treats Jean's son is fantastic to see most of the time. He is a caring but lost soul for most of the film. The soundtrack is really amazing. I'm not a big fan of country as a genre, but the music here is really good. Even more knowing that Jeff Bridges and a couple of the other actors (Colin Farrell especially) sing their songs as well. To think that this is Scott Coopers directorial debut is also a real wonder as it seemed to me that this was a veteran behind the lens. I really look forward to what he has to offer next.

8.5 out of 10

So, in conclusion. If the movie has Jeff Bridges, check it out!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Requested Reviews: Bronson

Bronson is a 2009 film based on and around important events in Michael Gordon Peterson, aka Charles Bronson's life. Bronson, constantly refereed to as the "most violent prisoner in Britain", is played by Tom Hardy who is virtually unrecognizable, he truly did throw himself into this role and visibly transformed himself into this character.

I'll be totally honest, I had no idea who Charles Bronson was before watching this. But, like any half decent bullshitter, I went to Wikipedia to pad out this review. At first glance all I can say is that Charlie Bronson is one of the most interesting stories I've ever seen. This man is 58 years old today- yes, he's alive- and he's spent over thirty years of his life in prison, most of that time in solitary confinement. But the interesting part of this man's life is that as far as I've seen, and I've been reading for a while now, he's in jail mostly for being a dick.

Seriously, I've been researching for hours, and Charlie Bronson has never killed anyone. Sure, he's beaten the living piss out of a lot of people, kidnapped a couple of guards, but never really committed that one huge offense that defines a criminal's career. But enough about real life stuff, lets get to the movie.

I must say, for my first requested review, this sure was a nice surprise. It really is a great movie, mostly because it's almost a one man show, fuck it, it is a one man show. Hardy really does make this character watchable. He really appeals to that dark humor in all of us (or maybe just in me) and makes a truly monstrous character quite funny with simple expressions, only to switch it on you seconds later and make him equally as terrifying with the same ease of expression.

The movie's mood follows Bronson's character. Since he's almost always on screen the film just feels unpredictable. And it fits. You expect Bronson to snap on anyone and/or everyone at any moment, and it really does create a special tension that makes the movie feel like something different.

Then we have the music, which was a real highlight for me. It almost feels like it's coming from Bronson's mind itself. Again, the silly synth music goes along with some pretty gruesome scenes, and it just helps the viewer see how little Bronson really cares about what he's doing, almost like he's playing around.

Interesting enough, the movie itself doesn't seem to go in a particular direction. It almost seems to pride itself on getting the viewer to position himself against, or for Bronson. I find this odd, because usually in a biopic like this one you can easily tell if the movie is in favor or against the character being described. This just feels like Bronson being Bronson, and it feels real enough that you can't imagine the person being any other way. It might be a bit more outlandish but the closest thing to a portrayal like this, to me, might be Val Kilmer's portrayal of Jim Morrison in the sense where at the end of the movie it's just hard to tell the two character's apart simply because the actor becomes how you imagine the person.

All in all, it really is a great movie. And if you're doubting that Tom Hardy can pull off a villain role in a Christopher Nolan directed Batman film, you should really watch this movie. It will reassure you, and actually get you pumped for his portrayal of Bane. I actually see him as that character now more than ever.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

E3 Recap, Final Round - The Hits and the Misses, the many, many misses.

E3 is and will forever be a hit or miss type of event. There really is no "in-betweenies" in this case. You either loved or were totally let down by the event. You may like or dislike a couple of things, but by week's end you have one distinct taste in your mouth. And this year, I must reiterate, I am very disappointed.

To me, E3 is that place where you expect to be shocked by what's said. You expect the big gaming news that will pump you up for the upcoming year, if not the next couple of years.

This might sound surprising coming from me, but I blame the internet (gasp); that's right, thanks to gaming websites, and my bad habit of being informed, I already expected most of what would be said at each press conference. At least the "important" things.

We knew we were getting Nintendo's new thing, we knew we were getting info on what we now call the PSVita. And the only company that might have had an ace up their sleeve gave us diddly squat. Analysts and bloggers alike kept saying that "the star" of E3 this year might actually be the games and not the hardware, well they underdelivered too.

Reporting for *chuckle* DUTY.
So, now I'm going to divide this into groups. If you've been following you know what I thought of each company... So on this, my final run at E3 2011, it's going to be about the games. Keep in mind, I am slightly biased, I do tend to be more of a Sony guy. And on top of that, I'm not big on the fan favorite FPS genre. I think it's outdated and unimaginative... Like Michael Bay movies. Yeah, I went there.

So, without further shit talking, here we go:

The Hits:

- Bioshock Infinite kicked all sorts of ass this year. I know plenty of people who absolutely adore the first Bioshock, and everyone of them said that the second seemed rushed and unfinished. It also seems that the devs have heard this more than once, so they seem to be working their asses off on this game, and it shows.

The demo, the cutscenes, the writing - they all seem to be on point for this one.

- If you haven't seen video from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim hold on to your jaw before you press play to avoid damaging your computer or yourself.

It's hard for me to get this excited about an RPG, but in this case I can't help myself. It just has such a huge feel to it that I just can't wait to play it.

- Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception keeps upping the bar every time it show anything. At E3 we saw a whole new level, and I'm confident that it's the tip of the iceberg.

I'm pretty sure Naughty Dog could keep teasing us 'till November and the game would still feel fresh at release.

The Misses:

- Let the hate rain. Modern Warfare 3 was a huge miss. This is supposed to be the king of games this year. And it showed next to nothing new. It looks just like Black Ops. Seriously, Activision is going to have to do a lot more than change up the scenery to pump me up.

It just showed how stale the genre is.

- Battlefield 3 just missed it's moment. The game does look beautiful. But their demo was like watching paint dry. The tank sequence went way too long, and it just doesn't look like fun. EA seems to have beaten Activision to that line that sits between 'game' and 'simulator' and that might not be a good thing for them. I expect to see more, but for now, this is a downer.

- This one is getting the brunt of my heat because it's not one, but two games that didn't show at all. I'm not a big Halo fan to begin with. But I will admit it's Microsoft's golden goose... And an absent one at that.

MS needed that gameplay footage from one of the two games to get themselves over, yet they failed at it and in my eyes, it cost them.

Games I wanted to see more of:

- Twisted Metal was the big surprise last year at the Sony conference. This year, it was barely mentioned. Why? Talk about a letdown. After a year of close to silence, we got some gameplay on a tiny screen in a little room, and I for one am not satisfied.

My sweet tooth for Sweet Tooth must be fed.

- It saddens me that Gears of War always plays second fiddle to Halo. I prefer Gears. I really do. It's the one Xbox exclusive that I really enjoy. And it saddens me that it gets such a lackluster push right before launch.

I would have been happy with less Kinect and more Gears.

Games that no-showed that I wanted to see:

- Call it Borderlands 2, call it Borderworlds, call it whatever... I want to see it, I want to play it, and it just wasn't there.

I know Gearbox was still prepping for Duke, but dammit give me something!

- This game has been talked about forever now, and still we know little to nothing about it. The Last Guardian still lingers in shadows, and we'll have to keep waiting to see what it's all about. Miraculously, for a game to which we know so little, it has us all chomping at the bits for any info.

In closing, I need to repeat, the problem with this year's E3 was the lack of shock value. Aside from the mention of a new Smash Bros nothing made me really excited. A new Metal Gear would have been nice, maybe more info on the new God of War... But I'm going to quit bitching and moaning and finally announce the end to my E3 coverage for this year. I will now go back to writing stuff people might actually read (I sincerely hope Ray isn't the only one to read this shit, he did request it).

Monday, June 20, 2011

E3 Recap Part 3 - Do we even care about Microsoft?

Makes you want to turn 360... you know the rest, and it's still funny.
Now I know what you're thinking, "Chiko, wasn't E3 like two weeks ago?" And yes, it was. But in all seriousness, Microsoft wasted it's time there so it just took me a week or so just to think up something to write about them.

If there's one thing that all three companies proved this year is the importance of first party titles. Nintendo has always been ahead of the pack, establishing generation defining franchises like Mario, Zelda and a metric shitload of other games from the start. Sony has somehow established itself as well, with Uncharted leading the pack of a number of smaller yet still great titles.

Here lies Microsoft's problem. Now that Mass Effect is pulled what I'm calling a 'reverse Final Fantasy' and is playing for both teams, the Xbox 360 is really only left with two big first party titles: Halo, and Gears of War. With the GoW franchise about to close down it's trilogy (even though we all know it's gonna keep going), and Halo starting to re-hash, they should know they're in trouble.

So, how do they solve this problem? Well, they start their press conference with Modern Warfare 3, a game that's going to be on every single console under the sun. Followed mere moments later by Battlefield 3, another game that will be on every competing console. I'm not doubting that in the over saturated FPS market today these two titles are the obvious kings, but you can't base your big moment on things other companies have.

Not only am I saying that they should have based their conference on soon to be released GoW3 and the newly announced Halo 4 and Halo: Combat Evolved remake; I'm also flat out saying that Microsoft by far has the weakest first party lineup, and it shows.

So, how did they attempt (and fail) to balance this all out. If you guessed Kinnect, you are correct (and probably disappointed). MS is finally throwing some weight behind their motion system, unfortunately it's mostly dead weight. There are a lot of games you would never play, some you will play for a couple of hours and get tired of them, and then there's Dance Central, which is also available for the PS3 and the Wii (I sense a pattern here).

To sum it all up. Microsoft fell (way) short of the competition. Even the Konami video had more punch in it that the Microsoft conference. It left gamers wanting to say the least. I do believe that both the 360 and the PS3 still have ways to grow as consoles, but unless MS starts to expand it's exclusive library towards a hardcore audience instead of marketing to six year old's with Kinect they're just swimming in circles. For a console that touted itself as a machine for dedicated gamers, it sure seems to have folded quick after seeing the Wii's success.

One more thing... If you're biggest competition just dropped the ball right before the biggest gaming event of the year, and you have little to show... I would poke the soft spot... With a cattle prod.

'Falling Skies' Premier Review

I have to admit, I was fairly excited about this premiere. I've always been a fan of sci-fi shows and anytime we get a new one, I'm excited about the possibilities. To me, sci-fi has always been about just that, possibilities. This show though, had absolutely none of that excitement and sense of wonderment at seeing something different and interesting. TNT has been promoting the hell out of this new show but instead of an interesting and wonderful new show, what we got instead was a rehash of every single alien invasion/post apocalyptic show ever.

It stars Noah Wyle as Professor Tom Mason who is so obviously the good guy that he bleeds rainbows and ponies. He is the father of three, one little kid, another older one that fights alongside him and a middle one that has been 'harnessed' by the aliens (its some sort of mind control thing that the aliens stick to the kids spinal cords and if taken out, they die). There's Moon Bloodgood as Dr. Anne Glass, she is a strong independent woman that speaks for the civilians that the resistance protects. Will Patton is the military veteran who is very tough and will do what he has to do to protect everyone but in the end is just a softie trying to make the tough decisions. The other host of characters are so pathetically cliched that you feel like you can see the rails that move the cardboard cut-outs.

There are probably two characters that interested me the most and show that the show does have some potential. First is the 13 year old Jimmy (Dylan Authors). This kid is taken on missions with the rest of the cast like he was a soldier. This can bring some conflict as we saw on the first episode, but after it happened, they didn't touch on it at all. I'm interested to know why there's only a couple of women fighting and they have 13 year olds with automatic rifles. The second character would be Sarah Carter's Margaret. She is the only one where we actually hear some back story on and the only one I ended up caring about. There is a big problem with this premiere in that it never really wants us to connect to any of the characters.

The biggest problem with the premiere to me was the story. How many times has the outlaw leader holding friends hostage for ransom has been done before? I don't dare count. Other than your run of the mill father looking for son, aliens trying to kill humans, humans trying to survive, this episode has nothing else. It's worse than bland.

There are some ideas that interest me and could do for an interesting series. First, the whole mind/body control thing. Why would the aliens want to control kids? I don't know, but I'm interested in that. Also, one of the characters (the teacher) tells Wyle's character that normally humans always think of their robots as human-like and that it was interesting that the aliens has many appendages and their robots had only two. I hope they didn't just tell me that only to forget it in the future. Also, I have to admit that it was creative to explain what happened through the drawings of the little kids.

There's a lot of work to be done in the next few episodes. The series has potential, but in this cut-throat tv life, you don't get many chances. We'll see what happens. As far as premier's go, though, this one was bland, weak and underwhelming.

"Darn it! How am I supposed to kick alien ass when I left my balls in my man-purse?"

3 out of 10

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Netflix Reviews #1

I got Netflix a couple of weeks ago and so far its been pretty cool. I think its kind of ridiculous that we can't stream here in Puerto Rico, but I hope that will come soon. So, I will be doing Netflix reviews every three movies I watch and it will have everything from new arrivals to foreign and classics. If you have a movie that you want me to review, let me know and I will try to get it done. So, without further ado...

Never Let Me Go

This movie is based on the novel by acclaimed Japanese author Kazuo Ishiguro (The Remains of the Day). I have the novel and actually had started reading it before I went on a trip to Madrid and only took my e-book reader with me which made me stop. It stars Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield as three friends who have spent most of their young lives together with each other(in one way or another). They were raised in a sort of boarding school that sort of felt like they kept them naive for the simple reason of just keeping them naive. I liked that this was in a way a sci-fi movie, but the sci-fi aspects are so very subtle and almost irrecognizable. Carey Mulligan's Kathy is the main character and the narrator of the story. She is so likable in giving an aura of resolution and likability in the face of their destiny that the other two characters lack. Actually, I thought Garfield's character was the weakest of the three and a real waste. I was worried that director Mark Romanek (One Hour Photo) wouldn't have the skills to tackle this movie, but I was impressed by him. The thing is, this movie is depressing. I never expected it to be such a downer. I also wish some questions had been answered instead of never asked at all by the characters of the movie. This is a good movie, just make sure you have a fair amount of rainbows and puppies ready for you at the end.

6.5 out of 10

The Next Three Days

After the Academy Award winning Crash, Paul Haggis did another good movie (In the Valley of Elah) but he has never been a prolific director. The Next Three Days stars Russell Crowe as John Brennan, husband and father of one boy as he plots and plans to spring his wife Lara (Elizabeth Banks) from prison where she is being held for the murder of her boss. Suddenly, Crowe's John Brennan goes from being an everyman to suddenly planning the escape of her wife from prison. I did like the fact that not everything goes right for him, it shouldn't as he is not an expert on escaping or anything like that. I also like that he used the internet to find how to do most of the stuff he did which I can really see someone doing. The biggest problem with this film for me was that I just never felt tied to any of these characters. Crowe is subdued for most of the film and we never really get to see a great performance from him. I'm not sure Elizabeth Banks was the best choice for this character. Sure, she's a fantastic comedic actress, but unless she's doing comedy or a psycho, then I don't really buy it. In the end this film lacked something. I think it lacked soul (for lack of a better word).

5 out of 10

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest

Everyone has heard of Steig Larsson's Millenium trilogy of books. Larsson died in 2004 and the novels were released posthumously. The books became bestsellers in no time and in no time the Swedish cinematic scene were ready to make the novels into movies. Books like this one make for perfect movies and it was insteretsing how all three of the films are different at their cores. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest is a political thriller whereas the previous films where more action and mystery. Noomi Rapace is back as one of the main characters of the films, Lisbeth Salander. I started reading the first one, but haven't finished the books yet, so I'm not sure how much the movies are in terms of their source material, but I always felt Rapace was a perfect Salander. Along with Rapace, the films hang on the shoulders of experienced Swedish actor Michael Nyqvist. He plays the maverick reporter Mikael Blomkvist who helps Salander on her quest to redemption. His unending loyalty for Rapace is what keeps the movies going. Also, I am a bigger fan of political thrillers than most other genre's so this was right up my alley. It also had some courtroom drama which was really interesting. I don't know if the source material is as good as the trilogy, but the movies are really worth a watch, especially this one.

8 out of 10

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Ladyboys~!!!!11: The Hangover Part II Review

The Hangover came out of nowhere and took the world by storm. It was one of the best laugh out loud movies of the last ten years. It had it all (except for one thing that we got in the sequel). In the first movie, Doug (Justin Bartha) was getting married and his boys Stu (Ed Helms) and Phil (Bradley Cooper) decide to have a bachelor's party in Las Vegas. Alan (Zach Galifianakis) tags along since he's the weird soon to be brother-in-law. A night of epic proportions occurs and they can't find Doug to get him to the wedding. The movie revolves around the remaining three guys trying to figure out what happened the night before so that they can find Doug and get him to his wedding.

The Hangover Part II doesn't stray away from that formula at all. Doug, Stu, Phil and Alan go to Thailand for Stu's wedding where he is getting married to Lauren (Jamie Chung). Stu doesn't want to have the big bachelor's party and instead decides to just have a nice quiet couple of beers with his friends. Of course, madness ensues and they end up missing Teddy (Mason Lee) who is Stu's soon to be brother-in-law and the bright star in the eyes of Lauren's father.

This is not much different from the first movie. Which is good or bad depending on what you felt for the first movie. There is not much to differentiate it other than more of Ken Jeong and the thing that the first one was missing (ladyboys). Galifianakis is still the most lovably annoying character ever. You can't help but be annoyed at the stupid things he does, but since he does them in a totally sincere way, you can't help but laugh and say 'aww'.

The cast is all funny and great in their delivery. Ken Jeong was pretty damn hilarious. Cooper and Helms really work great together with one being the nervous mess and the other trying to be more of a calming force.

What I liked about both movies is that they are able to balance out Galifianakis' over the top performance with the rest of the characters. It feels like everyone is part of the movie and that they are not only there to react to Zach's shenanigans. Jeong was incredibly loud and funny but also over the top. Thankfully, he's not there for too long and he doesn't end up being completely unbearable. I also liked the small cameo by Paul Giamatti. He's one of those people that can play the real asshole really well even though he doesn't have the look for it.

I would have liked to have seen the filmmakers throw some curveballs and not just do the same movie but in Thailand. There are some things that worked well for the movie. The scenes with Stu's soon to be father in law who really hates his guts and he doesn't really care that anyone knows about it.

The big scene at the end was funny for a bit (something you might or might not be expecting) but not as awesome as the most awesomest wedding band ever.

Now THAT is a way to get married!

So, in the end, I can't possibly give this movie a higher score than the first one. The first one was fresh and new and this one at times feels like a re-hash, but The Hangover Part II is funny, crass, disgusting and all those bad things some critics shun. But the movie is a great buddy movie and its a worthy sequel.

7 out of 10

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

E3 Recap Part 2 - Sony says they're sorry.

"Umm, whoops?"
Even before E3 started, Sony seemed to be cemented in the second or third place spot. Nintendo had the announcement of a new console, and Microsoft recently stated that the next Xbox is in the beginning stages of development. So it did seem like Sony, being the only one without a rumored hardware announcement, was dependent on that the competition would do to see where it would land in the 'rankings.'

On top of that, they've fucked up big this year. The Playstation Network was down for almost two months, account information was compromised, and no one but Sony is to blame. They messed up bad. So for the first time in as long as I can remember, an E3 presentation was almost as much about "Sorry," than, "Hey, look at this cool shit."
"Did we mention, we're sorry?"

In my opinion, they also addressed this situation in the wrong way. Sony President Jack Tretton was not the man to talk about this. He did do a good job with what he had. He apologized, and then began to gloat about the apparent glorious return of the PSN.

The 'Welcome Back' gifts that Sony is giving us are almost decent at best. Don't get me wrong, there are some good games in there, but that's exactly the problem. Most gamers I know already own, played, finished and maybe even 'platinumed' half the games on the list of freebies. And I don't even know a PSP owner who hasn't hacked it and is getting the games for free. So aside from a month of PSPlus, we're not getting much.

I really do think Kevin Butler should have addressed the PSN situation, shed some humor on it all. I mean he didn't even make an appearance after he arguably stole the show last year. I'm just surprised that the marketing geniuses at Sony didn't think that humor was the answer to their situation. A heartfelt apology isn't really up the gaming community's ally. We are a group known for being cold and heartless, but we can appreciate a good laugh. And that's what KB does for us, I'm just saddened that he wasn't there.
VP of apologies
Now onto what really mattered... Around six months ago Sony announced what the called the NGP or Next Generation Portable. Doesn't really roll off the tongue as easily as Wii U now does it (hooray sarcasm). Everyone was expecting a spectacular showing from the much anticipated successor to the PSP.

I can't wait to hac... I didn't say anything.

That's not exactly what we got. What did we get?

A name: PSVita (much better)

A price: $249 - Wi-Fi     $299 - 3G/Wi-Fi (not too bad)

And really that was about it.

Ok, we got some gameplay footage of Uncharted: Golden Abyss which looks beautiful for a handheld, we got confirmation that Street Fighter x Tekken is going to be on it, and that Cole form inFamous will be a playable character. Everything else they showed on this powerhouse of a handheld seemed like a waste of time. I remember saying the same thing when the PSP launched. It was just a handful of decent titles followed by a hailstorm of crap, and it's been that way for the PSP every year since then. So for now, I'm not excited for the PSVita, they need to show me more.

To me, the most interesting of Sony's announcements (and the overall theme of E3) is the interconnection between the handheld and the home console. Sony announced bland looking action RPG titled Ruin. Honestly the game doesn't look like much, but it is completely transferable between the PS3 and the PSV, similar to what Nintendo is doing between the Wii U, the Wii U controller, and the 3DS (confusing).

Also adding fuel to this fire is the fact that Konami announced last week that they would be releasing a Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, containing MGS2, MGS3, and both MGS PSP titles. Again, the interesting thing here was revealed to be that Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker had a function where your save could be transferred back and forth from your PS3 to your PSP (not PSV). Which leads to my hope that Konami will backtrack and opt for PSV connections with the entire collection instead of the one game. Also announced along with MGS is a Zone Of The Enders pack, and I should mention that both collections will also be on the Xbox 360 (minus the handheld stuff of course).

The whole HD collection, and PSP upgrade seems to be the path Sony's headed down lately. Along with MGS and ZoE we'll be getting a God Of War Origins pack with both PSP games, and the much anticipated up-scaling of the Ico and Shadow of The Colossus.

We also got a shitstorm of 3D an Move junk that really feels like a rehash of last year's press conference. I'm going to leave it at that on this subject. Blah.

PS3 titles had a much smaller role that I expected. We got new looks at Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, Resistance 3, inFamous 2, and Bioshock Infinite, to name a few. But nothing really surprising here. I see no point in showcasing inFamous because the damn thing comes out this week. We've seen as much about that thing as we need to. The other games look great, especially Bioshock which looks to be as good as the first one.

And I do believe that was the big problem of the Sony press conference. There was no real shock to it at all. They were going through the motions. At least last year we got the big Twisted Metal reveal. But this year we got everything we expected and not much more.

When it comes to 'winning' E3, Sony isn't far behind Nintendo. But with the announcement of a game as huge as a new Smash Bros, the 'big N' just trumps anything Sony threw at us.

If we had only gotten Kevin Butler.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

E3 Recap Part 1 - Nintendo takes the Gold - Still meh

And that's why were replacing it.
Another year, another E3. For months gamers speculate what will be said at the Electronic Entertainment Expo. And every year some people leave totally hyped, and some feel like they've been let down. And for the second straight year, I'm very much leaning to the latter of the two.

Lets start off this recap with what made the real waves:
... We knew what was coming.

And you thought 'Wii' was a silly name; this year at E3, Nintendo unveiled their next console, the Wii U. Wow, that might be the worse name for a console ever. I can hear it now: trying to walk around the local Gamestop with children just yelling out "WIIU WIIU WIIU WIIU WIIU!" like a broken siren or a bad Kung Pow imitation.


The concept itself is interesting, even if they left it's info as vague as possible. They never brought up how powerful it was, and never even showed any real games for the system. Sure, there were some impressive looking tech demos, but after all the hype surrounding a system that has had four or five code names already, not only did they settle on the silliest option, but they just left us with promises and trailers of recycled games.

The only thing we really know about the Wii U is the controller. It looks like a rather large handheld device. Almost like a tablet PC, with buttons. Apparently it has everything imaginable on it: camera, speakers, mic (sounds like a DSi to me). On top of that the screen is obviously pretty high def, and it's (of course) a touch screen.

To their credit, Nintendo isn't one to make empty promises. Without a doubt, their biggest announcement didn't have a trailer or even an image. Apparently a new Smash Brothers game is in pre-development and it will be playable on both the 3DS and the Wii U, a technique that Sony is also kind of implementing (more on that later).

Looks like Zelda is getting screwed over again.
Rumors were that this new Nintendo console would me more powerful than the PS3. But that was left to be seen at this presentation. The Wii U was underwhelming because of how early in development it seems to be. The true star of Nintendo's press conference was the 3DS.

The 3DS has been a brutal failure up until now. With a weak game roster at launch it was the most hyped flop in recent gaming history. But at E3, Nintendo came to play with a huge list of games that are headed to the handheld. By this holiday season, the 3DS is looking at a pretty stacked roster of first party Nintendo games like Super Mario, Mario Kart, Star Fox, and Kid Icarus to name a few.

The other big news from the 'big N' is that they're finally addressing their lack of third party support for their systems. For years, Nintendo has relied primarily (and secondarily) on their first party titles, leaving their consumers with just a handful of quality titles to look forward to each year. Of course they would get third party games, but the norm was that these games would have Xbox 360 and PS3 counterparts that would be superior not only in the graphics department, but in the gameplay department as well.

We can't confirm that the gameplay issues are being addressed, but in the few clips we did see at E3, it does seem like Nintendo has caught up graphically for the time being. I say it like that, because I do expect both competing companies to announce new consoles in the next two years, once again leaving Nintendo in the dust in the sheer power department. But for now, Nintendo can rejoice.

Nintendo did "win" E3 this year. But it wasn't much of a landslide victory like most predicted. If it wasn't for all the first party titles for the 3DS I would almost give the nod to Sony. The Wii U underdelivered for now, but I expect big announcements for it in the coming year.

Malick's Odyssey?: Loz's Review of 'The Tree of Life'

Ever since I saw the trailer for The Treet of Life I was very much excited. I thought the duo of Sean Penn and Brad Pitt (even though not working directly together) would make this a fantastic movie. A few weeks later after watching the trailer I was even more excited because the movie had just won the Palme D'Or at this years edition of the Cannes Film Festival, getting much positive praise because of it. Even better, just a few weeks after it won the award, it was showing at the Fine Arts cinema. Now, after all that excitement, was the movie worth it?

My answer would have to be a resounding "no". Now, I won't claim to be an expert at all things cinema. I'm not Gene Siskel or Roger Ebert or even Richard Roeper. I just know what I like and I know what I don't like. Furthermore, I know what I hate. And I have a lot of hate for a lot of things in this movie.

Like I said in the Cannes Spotlight, I was not a big fan of Terrence Malick's last movie. And I think the same things that I didn't like about that movie carry over to this one. I think he is somewhat heavy handed in his approach and his films end up feeling too long and they don't really elicit any emotional reactions in me. I must say that the film that I ended up watching was nothing like I expected. It is epic in scope. It reminded me of Stanley Kubrick's classic movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. Malick tried to make his own Odyssey and I think he failed.

It's a beautiful film. There is no doubt about it. The soaring imagery and the booming soundtrack filled with a lot of classical music and silence. There are endless scenes of volcanic magma and of the birth-pains of the beginning of the universe and the beginning of life. There's too much of it all. It seems like auto-gratification to me.

What I thought was interesting was the relationships between the family members. The stern father (Brad Pitt) who tries to get his boys ready to survive any eventuality. The main conflict of the movie is severely lacking though. Young Jack (Hunter McCracken) doesn't know what to think of his father and at times he has a deep rooted hate for him. To me, the father wasn't that hard. He was just imbuing discipline and I think the kid was just a cry-baby, to be honest. The beautifully surreal mother (Jessica Chastain) who smiles and her smile lights up the screen more than the scenes of fire and magma. The Cain and Abel like relationship between the two brothers that doesn't seem to really get anywhere. There is a scene during the film where the brothers are playing with a BB gun and Jack asks his younger brother to put his finger right in front of the barrel and the brother does it and get shot in the process. There's a lot of things to praise about the movie, but I think its a lot more shiny than what its worth.

The acting by Pitt, Chastain and the kids was top notch. Sean Penn was underused and sort of just there. Malick wanted to say too many things with this movie and instead of getting one coherent message, I think what we got was a jumbled mess of ethereal ideas that feel empty inside.

I know that I'm probably in the minority. The critics have already hailed this film as a masterpiece, but I just didn't see it. It's the critics job to love movies like this one. Maybe if I watch it again down the line, I might feel different about it, but my first impression after seeing it only once is that its an empty metaphysical trip down an eccentric's mind.

3 out of 10

It's a Classic to me dammit: Siamese Dream

Why are little girls so creepy?
In our first installment we looked at my favorite album of all time, Stadium Arcadium. This one is a little bit lower on my list.

Siamese Dream (1993) is the second album by well known alt-rock band The Smashing Pumpkins. It is considered one of their best, though it is often overshadowed by the more popular Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness. I firmly believe that Siamese Dream is by far the superior record.

As a second album, following the surprise hit, Gish, the Pumpkins had a lot of pressure on them. This lead to a lot of conflict and turmoil both between the band themselves and with the record label (Virgin).

Stories of the recording process are varied. Some say that the band was butting heads so often that they would barely speak to each other. It didn't help that band leader Billy Corgan tends to be somewhat of a perfectionist with the music he puts out.

The album has a very peculiar sound for the 90's. In an era where alternative was known for its gritty and raw sound, Siamese Dream was very well crafted and carefully mixed. It sounds like Corgan didn't like being labeled 'the next Nirvana' and just went in a whole other direction.

As key as sound and melody are for SD, the true star is without a doubt the writing. Siamese Dream has some of the best songs of the so called 'grunge era.' Yes, Mellon Collie has the hits, but Siamese Dream has substance, and feeling. Songs like Disarm, Today, and Mayonaise easily trump Mellon Collie's big hit Bullet With Butterfly Wings. On top of that, you have my all time favorite Pumpkins song (which should have been a single), Soma.

The album is one of those prime examples of un-rushed music. To me, the best example of the refinement of a sound that defined an era. Mellon Collie is second in my Pumpkins countdown, but Siamese Dream is head and shoulders above. You may enjoy the Infinite Sadness... But Siamese Dream is a classic to me dammit!

In Fringe We Trust: Fringe season 3 Review

And now, I want a fucking popsicle
Oh Fringe, you're a toughie. You've taken me down through so many dark and scary paths, you constantly lead me to the brink of despair... Yet somehow, you always pull me out of the deep end before I drown.

I have grown to have faith in Fringe, and more than anything in it's writers. That really doesn't sound like me. I usually criticize writers for anything and everything they do. Every tiny little fault. But doing my worse, there just isn't much to nitpick about in this show.

Most shows need to take risks to advance, but few take leaps as large as Fringe does on a regular basis. I remember last season, where on four or five different occasions I said to myself, "They've finally done it. They fucked up and written themselves into a corner." And every single time, they would lead me away from the darkness with seemingly little effort.

With the end to season two they had dug themselves into a hole that seemed impossible. A plot involving impossible trips to a parallel universe, main characters being captured, and the rest of them being unaware. Seriously, mind boggling shit. And again, they handled it with style. In ways that seemed totally possible for the universe they've created. At a point where most shows would have it's loyal fanbase screaming "BULLSHIT!" at the screen, Fringe had us in the palm of it's hand nodding in agreement at the unimaginable crap they had just fed us.

I'd also like to point out that for a story driven show, it has the most lovable characters on TV right now. I could watch Walter Bishop ramble on about desserts for days, I totally love the character, and he single-handedly is bringing on the end of the world. Walter Bishop is just as much a destroyer of worlds as Galactus.
I like big purple hats as much as the next guy, but I relate to Walter a whole lot more.
Fringe has stayed relevant through three seasons. And without spoiling anything, season four promises to freshen it up once again. As the full-fledged geek that I am, I'll patiently wait in the deep end, because I have faith that the best writers sci-fi TV has seen in years will pull me out just in time.


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Brothers Grimm meets the Chemical Brothers: Loz's review of 'Hanna"

I'd been looking forward to seeing Hanna after I first saw the trailer for it. Director James Wright got some critical acclaim a few years ago with the award winning movie Atonement. While Atonement wasn't my favorite movie of that year, it certainly was a good movie. Especially, the acting of then 13 year old Saoirse Ronan. Now, a few years and a few big movies later, Ronan reunites with James Wright to play the title character of this movie. Along with accomplished actors Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett, they craft an interesting movie that I think is much better than anyone would expect it to be.

Hanna (Saoirse Ronan... coolest name ever. Means 'Freedom' in Gaelic) is a young girl who has been raised away from civilization in the icy tundra of Finland. Her father (Eric Bana) is a rogue CIA agent that separated himself and his daughter from society in order to teach her everything she needs in order to survive the eventual confrontation with Marissa Ziegler (Cate Blanchett). Ziegler was a sort of handler from Bana's Erik Heller.

There are two main strong points in the movie that I think should be mentioned. One is the acting from the cast all around. The three leads play their parts perfectly. Bana does the stern but caring father who wants nothing more than to get revenge but at the same time do what he knows Hanna will have to end up doing for herself. Blanchett is the cold and corrupt government agent that has one more thing she needs to do to finish her mission (the scene with Blanchett and Hanna's 'grandmother' is especially strong and fitting for the character). Ronan looks around in bewilderment as she hears music for the first time and sees television for the first time. The wonder and fear can be seen in her eyes. I also have to mention great support from Olivia Williams and Jason Flemyng as well as Tom Hollander as the damn creepy Isaacs.

Now, this is an action movie in the end, and the action in it works. I was worried because Wright was mainly a drama director, but the action scenes are stylish and interesting without going completely overboard.

Listen to me while reading the review!

The music is really awesome. The Chemical Brothers did the whole soundtrack and it is an exciting one. It fits perfectly with the movie and makes for some nice listening.

I'm heaping a lot of praise on this movie now, but when I left the theater, I sort of only saw some of the bad things that it has. For example, I know they were trying to draw a parallel between the movie and a Grimm's fairy tale. So much so that some of the most interesting parts occur in a weird house with plastic dinosaurs in the backyard and a creepy although entertaining character that should have gotten some more screen time. This seems a bit heavy handed and maybe they should have let it flow a little more naturally.

Another thing that bugged me was the scene with Hanna and this annoying girl she meets called Sophie. She is the around the same age as Hanna and sort of becomes her 'mentor' when it comes to the life outside of what Hanna was used to. Well in this scene Hanna reveals that she is different from other people and while its good to see her sharing about herself with someone, the scene is strangely shot and drags a bit in a part of the movie that by itself drags a little bit. Maybe trimming the fat a little bit would have helped(but this is just me nit-picking).

In the end, this is not a typical brain-dead action movie. Its an interesting concept that works well because of great performances, a nice soundtrack and some nice stylish action scenes. Check it out.

8 out of 10