Thursday, November 19, 2009

Review: Paranormal Activity

Ever since Blair Witch Project, and despite a gap directly following its release, the handheld-style "this is real footage because it's so crappy" genre has found a niche with moviegoers. They aren't all good films, but sometimes worthwhile. Paranormal Activity pretty much falls into the latter category; it wasn't great, but it had some clever effects and suitable creepiness.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Movie Review: 21 Grams

When the two primary things discussed about a movie are the acting and the editing technique, that raises a red flag for me. Fine acting is great, but it doesn't make a movie. A solid story, characterization, a compelling point do that. This movie lacks pretty much all of that. You've read by now (I didn't actually know this when I rented it) that the movie is told seemingly at random throughout some unknowable period of time in the characters' lives by cutting back and forth from the past to the present. There is never any frame of reference for the viewer to try and determine when events are taking place, so when Watts' character talks about months having passed, it may as well have been a few days for all we know. Beyond the incapability of following the story this presents, it seems like the writer sticking his tongue out, as we form a conclusion about a scene we just saw just so 30 minutes later we see the preceding chronological scene and get the pleasure of thinking, "Oh, I was way off! Good job writer man!".

Friday, September 18, 2009

Movie Review: An Empress and the Warriors

Short version: It turns out that just because a film is a Chinese period piece and stars Donnie Yen, I may not necessarily like it. Shocking.

I've never been one to criticize a movie's pacing, mostly because I'm not sure I always understood the term. I think, in this case, I can unequivocally do exactly that. The movie goes from battle scene to foresty solitude in no time flat, and does so several times, completely ruining the flow of whatever weak narrative is on display. It also seems to borrow liberally from a few other movies, including Gladiator, Crouching Tiger, and Aladdin, of all things.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Review: Mutant Chronicles

Disclaimer: I have only now been informed that this movie is based off a 1990s roleplaying game, but as I am unfamiliar with the source, I can only rate the movie on its merits. Of which there are pretty much zero.

So, when you picture the year 2707 (what a random number), what comes to mind? Flying cars? Interstellar travel? The complete annihilation of mankind? Well, you're half right! It turns out that in 2707, the world will be completely controlled by 4 corporations, with nary an Antitrust Committee to be found. These corporations, in their infinite wisdom, will have proven that the most effective war technique is dress their soldiers in World War I era uniforms, complete with helmets, dig a bunch of trenches, then shoot at each other with futuristic projectile weapons and huge cannons. They have also found that the most efficient energy source to power airships is coal. Luckily, by 2707, there's still plenty to go around.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Movie Review (in question form): Death Race

What did the super nerdy Rain man pit crew character do to get tossed into the worst hellhole prison on Earth?

Why, in a movie about a bunch of psychos trying to kill each other in a race, would you write a happy ending?

How in the world did #2 get his guard job, when he clearly has no intimidating presence and apparently isn't even screwing the sociopath warden?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Movie Review: HP6

Tonight's viewing of Harry Potter and the Raging Teen Hormones - check that, Half-Blood Prince - left me with a decidedly shoulder-shrugging reaction. Ok, yeah, there's book 6 on the big screen, but what did it really accomplish? To me, the general point of that part of the story is the discovery of the Horcruxes, and the understanding of how to defeat Voldemort. The movies goes, I believe, 1 hour and 40 minutes before even attempting to use the word "horcrux" and then waits even longer to actually spell it out. Meanwhile, it's a wall to wall lovefest, because, you know, that's really the meat of the story.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Concert Review: Summer Slaughter Tour

The Summer Slaughter Tour, as you may guess from the name, is a collection of hippie acoustic folk bands who play to a bunch of hemp-wearing potheads. Ok, ok, fine, it's a ridiculous lineup of death metal and "metalcore" bands. As far as I can remember, it's the first time I've seen this tour in its 3 year existence, but I'm pretty sure it existed in a different incarnation years ago. This year's show featured the following real metal bands: Blackguard, Decrepit Birth, Origin, Dying Fetus, Ensiferum, Suffocation, and Necrophagist. Basically, a ridiculous lineup of awesomeness.

Blackguard, as the opening band, was awesome. I've never heard of them; watching them set up I kept wondering who the girl was and her involvement with the band. Turns out she's the drummer, and a sick one at that. They play your modern version of folkish power metal with screamed vocals, complete with keyboard. I bought their record on iTunes before leaving for Sacramento. The way the tour is set up is that generally, a metal band plays, then a metalcore band, to mix it up. So, I had to wait a little while for Decrepit Birth, who counts among their fans Derek Goyer of Suffocation. I didn't know their music either, and it was hard to follow. Br00tal. I was anxious for Origin, who played after yet another metalcore band. They had 5 songs. Five! Half of Origin's material barely lasts 3 minutes! That sucked, but they closed with Portal so it wasn't all bad.

Dying Fetus may have been the closest thing to a crossover band at the show - they clearly have hardcore influences and they are the only metal band on Summer Slaughter that has any sort of real breakdown evident in their music. Suffocation uses it somewhat, but more as an extension of the song and not as an end in itself, which DF still holds on to. To that extent, it was probably easier for the metalcore sceners to get into their set than anyone else - especially Origin. Another short set, BUT they played a new song and apparently have a new record out in September (yay!).

The last metalcore bands did their thing and I expected, and was somewhat correct, that much of the audience would leave, as the final 3 bands were all metal baby. Ensiferum was first, a Finnish band that plays Celtic-inspired folk metal (how's that for crossover) and performs in kilts. I had listened to them sparingly, not liking their sound as much as say, Eluveitie, but not bad all the same. They put on a good show and there were some serious fans.

The co-headliners were, in the end, what I was waiting for. I love Suffocation. They decided, with their 8-song set, to stick to 2 records - Blood Oath, which comes out in a couple weeks (and which I could have bought had I brought some cash with me); and Effigy of the Forgotten, their first full-length from 1991. Three tracks from the new record, which were punishing as hell, and five from Effigy, including the title track. Being able to hear Habitual Infamy live was a wonderful experience. I banged my little head off, and today, 2 days later, my neck still hurts.

Unfortunately for me, Necrophagist focused a lot on their 2nd record, which I own but have not developed the same taste for as I have for their debut record. I know some of the songs but don't get into them as much. They also played a new song (it has been 5 years already, time for a new record!), and I think three from Onset of Putrefecation. They aren't a terribly entertaining live band, for what it's worth, but the execution of their highly technical style is still kickass.

9 hours and 13 bands later, I got to go home with my left ear ringing. It worries me a little that it's still getting back to normal.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Mini Movie Reviews

Because I'm lazy.

Little Children

For the life of me, I can't remember why I wanted to watch this. Maybe because it has Jennifer Connelly, whom I worship. Basically, the point the writer seems to be making is that only children are decent people, and all adults are no good. He does this by making the pedophile the sympathetic character. Yes, that's right. He's painted as more of a human being than the adulterers, the kid killer, apparently even the controlling wife (Connelly), the married man who jerks off to a website pinup girl, etc. I watched the first hour or so, was really bored, and then finished it a few weeks later. The awful awful thing was how it ended, where everyone decides to stick with their families after, as far as I can tell, nothing significant happened to change their minds.