Archive for June, 2008

WALL-E

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , on June 29, 2008 by B33

Pixar has always stunned me with the quality, originality, and overall depth each and every film from them delivers upon. Since the very first preview of Wall-E, I’ve been hooked and awaiting the film’s inevitable release. It appeared to be a film that breaks free from the norm and offers a experience unlike anything else. I distanced myself from the few clips that emerged and the various press photos as well in a attempt to go into the theater unaware of what was ahead of me. Fortunately, the avoidance of spoiling the experience paid off immensely. Wall-E is a film that takes particular twists and turns and has a nearly perfect build up to it’s core that further defines just how much talent truly is backing Pixar. The story begins with a little robot with the moniker “WALL-E” (Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class) who is deployed upon Earth to clean up the immense amount of waste left behind by the human race. The robot’s sole purpose is to scoop trash within his chest plate and mold it into a cube, then organize each cube into a pile.

It’s implied that something indeed went wrong with the project to clean up Earth as other WALL-E robot units litter the surrounding area. That doesn’t deter the main protagonist from continuing his work as he simply uses the defunct units as spare parts when needed. WALL-E is the last of his kind and while he does follow the general idea of his job, he’s developed something most robots of his kind lacked… A personality. WALL-E follows his daily routine of exploring the surrounding area of his station, cleaning the vast amount of waste and stacking it into large building like structures, collecting various objects that fuel his curiosity, and recharging his solar powered batteries when necessary. The first half hour of the film is spent developing and fleshing WALL-E’s personality out to the audience through actions rather than simply words. WALL-E has enough to keep his curiosity preoccupied and yet he lacks something else entirely. He is alone and yet does not entirely realize what is missing…

All seems generally well for WALL-E and his daily routine until another robot that holds the moniker “EVE” (Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator) lands on Earth in search of evidence that can prove that the planet can once again sustain life. A spark ignites within WALL-E upon first seeing EVE and he follows her around in the background as she sifts through the waste and ruins of Earth. WALL-E eventually makes his presence known to EVE and they become friends. The film develops the relationship between both robots as WALL-E shows EVE around his “home” (read: unit station converted into a home). One particular treasure he shows EVE is the film “Hello Dolly” (on a video tape). The scene that invokes WALL-E the most is a scene within the film where two characters hold hands and showcase a particular emotion known simply as “love”. Throughout the film, WALL-E eyes EVE’s hand and is tempted to hold it in the same manner to show this particular emotion he has developed.

WALL-E shares another intriguing treasure with EVE. A young plant that is EVE’s directive for coming to Earth. EVE captures the plant and enters into a defunct state of “hibernation” (of the sorts) as she awaits the return of her ship. WALL-E tries to awaken EVE to no avail and is persistent in protecting her body until EVE is eventually retrieved by her assigned ship. WALL-E, afraid of losing EVE for good, grabs a hold of the ship and is lifted away from Earth and into space where the story eventually brings the protagonist to the Axiom. The fate of humanity is addressed as well as corruption and the atonement for one’s own actions. It’s a intriguing take of the future that magnifies the various flaws in society. The main two being the negative effects on the environment and increasing amount of laziness amongst mankind as more and more things become automated and the need for human interaction is absent.

It’s intriguing to note that there are hardly any human spoken lines within the film. Each of the robot characters have a overall limit of sound functions and thus must communicate via subtle noises and gestures. It’s very innovative and plays upon the classic idea of “silent film” in many aspects. There’s little details in the film that further amplifies that draw the overall experience has. Details such as WALL-E unable to say “EVE” due to the limitations of his voice box and how he must say “EVA” instead. There’s much more present throughout and the film has a unique soul to it that words alone can not describe. It’s something you’ll have to truly see for yourself to wrap your mind around it as I could ramble on all day about the depth and soul of the film and you still would not be able to fully comprehend what I’m trying to describe without seeing it in action.

The amount of detail present in WALL-E is staggering. From the various objects in WALL-E’s home to the sleek design of EVE to the imaginative concepts within The Axiom; there’s no other CGI film like WALL-E. The level of detail and complexity of many of the shots featured is simply out of this world. It’s a spectacle to behold and marvel of technology that displays just how far Computer Animation has come. The film integrates a unique way of displaying the action with camera angles and movements that feel as if it was shot by a camera man rather than the alternative fixed and artificial positions most CGI films utilize. There’s also a few live action shots integrated into the film in unique ways that keeps it in context without it feeling out of place. Pixar really took their time and put in a large amount of effort into this film and it certainly shows. The atmosphere and environments displayed literally hook you and never let go. From the wasteland within Earth to The Axiom space station. There’s just a endless amount of detail and creativity present within the film that I was literally at a loss of how to wrap my head around it as I exited the theater.

It’s a shocking notion, but I have nothing of significance to complain about regarding WALL-E. It’s virtually flawless in my eyes and I could literally go on and on how much I enjoyed the film. Those who dismiss the film as “too kiddy” for their taste are only cheating themselves out of a impressive experience. There is a viable message present that branches out into various ways to interpret it and also breaks free of the usual norms most films aimed at everyone typically preach to their audience. The main idea of the film is love. From there; responsibility, atonement, and one’s own future being unwritten is also touched upon. The animation is top notch and leaps and bounds ahead of other films of it’s kind and will keep you hooked. The soul and overall depth is a refreshing and rather surprising aspect present that will keep you hooked from beginning to end. Do not mistakenly pass this film up and label it as a lackluster experience.

All and all, WALL-E is a film that appeals to both the young and old alike. While the targeted core demographic of the film is the younger crowd, there are various aspects present throughout that makes it appeal to all ages on various levels. WALL-E is one the greatest CGI films of all time (to date) in my opinion. It breaks free of all the usual paths and roads a typical film in it’s vein would try to take and carves it’s own place. WALL-E blew me away on many levels and I can’t see any other film of it’s kind doing that again anytime soon. It’s intriguing to think there was more soul and depth to a animated film centered around robots than most films (in general) pushed out of the door today. Pixar never ceases to amaze me with it’s diverse and intriguing projects that further encaptures a part of my imagination and mind once thought to be lost. WALL-E is further proof that imagination and creativity can truly soar to the ends of the universe if properly utilized.

Pro’s: Top notch animation, staggering amount of detail and depth, intriguing and well crafted camera work, viable theme and overall message, and a well rounded film that appeals to everyone rather than one particular crowd of movie goer’s.

Con’s: None to speak of.

Conclusion: A incredible feat that integrates many techniques and inventive concepts that further pushes the boundaries of the CGI film genre in only a way Pixar truly can.

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The Strangers

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , on June 27, 2008 by B33

Horror has gone through many stages in the film industry. In the recent years, we’ve seen the revival of of the “splatter film” genre that has encouraged gore saturated films such as Saw, Hostel, and many others who essentially “followed the leader.” Hollywood has also pushed the “PG-13” genre of Horror as well with such “classics” as The Ring, The Grudge, White Noise, One Missed Call, etc. The term “classic” was used in sarcastically, mind you, as I have a great amount of disdain for “dumbed down” horror films which are nothing more than loose remakes that essentially take all the good things about the film their remaking and throw it in a furnace. Then the ashes are scrapped out and thrown together in a mediocre (at best) pile of garbage. And yet the film still manages to pull in enough profit from the box office and DVD sales to warrant a sequel that’s even further devoid of quality and dignity than it’s predecessor…

The Strangers manages to succeed in not filtering it’s content for a PG-13 audience and I’ll congratulate it for at least getting that far. The basic idea to the film can be found in the title. Imagine your sitting at home and then become randomly targeted by a group of individuals you have no ties to or have ever met previously and a game of cat and mouse ensues until your inevitably captured and the predictable outcome arises... While I dug the concept, there’s clearly not enough substance to warrant 90 minutes of this cat and mouse game the film loves to showcase. It really feels like the film’s dragging it’s feet the entire time through a predictable plot line and ultimately leads to the final outcome which was fairly disappointing…

Before I continue to rip the film apart even further, I will get what I liked about it out of the way now. As mentioned before, I liked the original concept. The idea of complete strangers terrorizing victims randomly because they simply felt like it is something played upon in Horror films beforehand, but not in this down-to-earth sort of way The Strangers delivers upon. That said, the film is realistic to a certain degree and provides a intriguing take on the concept it delivers upon… The acting is surprisingly acceptable and each actor fits well into their respective role. The last redeeming quality regarding the film was a hand full of sequences and shots that were very intriguing and well crafted. One particular shot that comes to mind was the sequence at the end that featured all three of the strangers standing over the two main characters who are tied up. A spoiler warning really isn’t necessary since the shot was given away on one of the posters released for the film…

While my mind is on the subject of the camera, allow me to address the “phenomenon” known as “Shaky Camera Syndrome” (abbreviated as SCS). [In actuality, there’s a proper name for it but I would rather stick with “SCS” since it’s shorter and took all of a few seconds to improvise.] While I personally don’t mind the implementation of “SCS” at times (See: Cloverfield) it can be a rather tiresome and annoying technique if overly or poorly implemented. The Strangers succeeds in falling into both ruts as the SCS is seen in nearly every single shot. Overkill seems to be the best way to describe it as even in certain scenes that do not hold any particular excuse to implement the technique are riddled with “The Shakes.” A word of advice to film makers; do not litter your film with a technique taken out of it’s context and poorly crafted at that. Simply shaking the camera in a particularly random manner does not mean you’ve successfully managed to utilize the technique correctly. It’s rather annoying and comes across as the director shoving the technique down the audience’s throat rather than the alternative.

While the concept is intriguing, it feels more fit as a stand alone episode of a television series or perhaps a made for television film. The film loves to stall and delay the inevitable outcome through a series of “cat and mouse” games that gives me the feeling the film makers really did not have much to work with and artificially lengthened the film in a poor manner. While the film did manage to hook me at times, I was immediately lost by the sheer predictability present throughout the entire experience. The entire plot line feels recycled in many aspects and ultimately takes some piss poor twists and turns that could be spotted long before they took place on the screen. And the moronic moments laced within the predictability further kills any chance the film’s plot line had on winning me over.

The Strangers is a film that has some intriguing ideas and concepts laced within it’s core. The fact we never see a clear shot of The Stranger’s faces was a good creative choice. And the overall message featured certainly is not a bad choice, creative wise. Unfortunately, the few good aspects of the film are clouded by a predictable plot line, moronic moments in the story, and a lackluster finale that fails to deliver after all of the build up throughout. In the end, it’s simply mediocre. There’s nothing here really worth your time or money that can not be see pulled off in a much better manner in another film of the same genre.

Pro’s: Intriguing concept, a couple well crafted shots, and acceptable acting.

Con’s: Predictable plot line, concept feels shallow when stretched out to 90 minutes, the shaky camera technique is poorly placed and crafted, and disappointing finale.

Conclusion: A intriguing concept and a couple well crafted moments aren’t enough to hide the flaws that keep The Strangers from carving a place of it’s own within the Horror genre of film.

The Dark Knight: Two Face

Posted in Nifty Stuff with tags , , , , on June 25, 2008 by B33

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Part of The Dark Knight viral marketing campaign. Thus far, I’m very impressed with what has been released on the film. Look forward to seeing the film when it hits theaters on July 18th, 2008.

The Incredible Hulk

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , on June 20, 2008 by B33

It’s been five long years since Ang Lee’s Hulk hit theaters and the negative press surrounding the iteration still lingers amongst fans and movie goer’s alike. The announcement of The Incredible Hulk film brought forth a lot of speculation and early criticism. Many doubted the quality of the film. The release of the teaser trailer did not bring forth much praise due to unfinished visuals and the assumption there was only one major action sequence in the film and it took place at the end. Many remained either on the fence or negative side of spectrum… Until the full trailer hit and Marvel and Universal began pumping out clips and various marketing features that won many fans over through time. I hung in there despite the negative backlash and the bad press at first and I’m glad I did. I can honestly say that The Incredible Hulk was a incredible iteration to the series and a more than acceptable way to reboot the character and breath new life into a franchise thought to be dead.

The premise to The Incredible Hulk begins with Banner (played by Edward Norton) in hiding from General Ross (played by William Hurt) who seeks to dissect and utilize the power within Banner as a weapon. Banner, on the other hand, wishes to be rid of the monster inside of him and seeks the cure to his curse. A slip up causes his location to be unveiled and a chase sequence ensues that leads up to the first transformation and appearance of The Hulk. It’s well built up and paced to a degree that did not fall into the same rut as the first film did. This film is about The Hulk, plain and simple. It’s not “The Incredible Bruce Banner”. While Banner does have a fair share of screen time, Louis Leterrier does not forget the roots of The Incredible Hulk and delivers a pulse pounding and action packed installment the fans have longed to see for quite some time. The film does adapt a few of the concepts and and ideals placed within the television series and I found myself induced with a feeling of nostalgia all the way through it. I’ve always enjoyed the television series of The Hulk since it brought forth a interesting take on the character that brought that sense of loneliness and desire Banner had to rid himself of the monster within. And yet the monster he deemed a curse also proves to be a blessing in some cases as well.

The film’s primary focus is upon Banner in his search for a cure and the various twists and turns that ensue as the military attempts to seize and stop him from completing the task he has ahead of him. The film’s opening credits serves as a brief overview of past events and allows the audience to be caught up with what is happening at the beginning of the story rather than to stop and have to go through the long process of establishing the origins behind the character. I found this to be a clever and overall beneficial in Marvel’s attempt to reestablish the character and yet not completely go against Ang Lee’s Hulk as well. In other words, the film neither denies nor encourages the previous Hulk film. It simply ignores it and realigns The Hulk to his core and roots fans are familiar with.

The Incredible Hulk was made with the fans in mind. References to other events and points of interest in the Marvel Universe are made within the film that allows the audience to see parts of the bigger picture that will happen in future Marvel films. This is due to the newly formed branch within Marvel that will handle all Film affairs and encourage a streamlined Marvel Universe on the big screen for fans and quality control as well. Fans of the television show will also be happy with certain aspects taken directly from the original series and placed within the film. Though to be fair, the television show did take a lot of cues from the original comic book as well. The film is essentially a mix of both with a few unique characteristics intertwined to aid in carving it’s own identity within the various mediums of entertainment The Hulk is featured in. Moments such as the cameo appearance of Lou Ferrigno and Stan Lee or Banner’s eyes turning Green as he transforms into The Hulk are ways the film provides nods of appreciation to the television and comic book series and makes the film even more of a treat and fun ride for fans.

The cast in The Incredible Hulk is top notch all the way around. Edward Norton fills in the shoes of Bruce Banner in a brilliant and fitting manner. Both him and Liv Tyler (who plays Betty Ross) have a good amount of chemistry together and interact well. There’s multiple genuine moments throughout that granted a chuckle or two as a result. One in particular that was rather genius involved Liv Tyler’s character enraged at a taxi cab driver and yelling at the individual while Banner whom is calm and collective at this point offers her some tips to control her anger in a mocking sort of way. It was rather ironic and the moment shared between the two helped further establish the characters and the scale of their history. Granted, it’s all acting and none of these individuals on screen actually have a history together. But the delivery really made you feel the depth and help grasp a better understanding of Norton and Tyler’s characters and further amplify the overall experience as a whole.

The villain this time around is Emil Blonsky (played by Tim Roth) or “The Abomination” as he is blatantly not labeled as in the film. He starts out as a agent working under General Ross who is sent in to capture Banner at the beginning of the film and later becomes obsessed with catching Banner and obtaining the power he holds within. He is injected with a serum that gives him power above an average human but still not quite up to par with The Hulk, which is demonstrated in a sickeningly twisted scene later on in the film. By the end, The Abomination’s full form is unveiled and a roughly 20 minute fight sequence takes place between The Hulk and The Abomination. It’s brutal, intense, and a overall impressive display of physical and digital special effects. Though the digital effects are not without their own issues from time to time…

The only complaint I can really muster is the inconsistency of the CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) within the film. It was an odd sight to see the special effects go from photo realistic to lackluster from time to time. Granted, their not terrible by any means necessary. But I could clearly see which shots had more time and attention drawn to them than others present in the final cut. Rhythm and Hues did a rather impressive job on the film and went above and beyond my expectations on the final product’s special effects. I was originally far from thrilled when Rhythm and Hues was originally announced as the studio heading the special effects for The Incredible Hulk based upon their track record (Garfield, Scooby Doo, Cats and Dogs, and other mediocre moments of special effects). Though the studio proved they could deliver a more frightening and weighted version of The Hulk. I usually find myself withdrawn from the action present on the screen when multiple heavily induced CGI characters interact. The Incredible Hulk surprised me because of the depth and emotion each character displays via the motion capture technique. They interact, talk, and display facial features in a lifelike manner that never enters the uncanny territory (read: artificial) nor does it kill the sense of realism the film delivers upon.

The Incredible Hulk runs at a fast pace from start to finish and never slows down to take a break except at a couple key scenes that further fleshes out the depth to the monster within. It features a well crafted villain and while Blonsky does not quite measure up to Dock Ock or The Joker in terms of depth, he is by far not a lackluster villain and is a interesting opposition to The Hulk. The script is written in a much more solid manner than Marvel’s other Summer blockbuster known as Iron Man. Granted, I was one of the few severely displeased with Iron Man because of it’s terrible flaws and surprised by the unworthy praise it managed to garner… But that still doesn’t excuse the fact that Blonsky is a much better villain overall than the shallow, dull, and poorly crafted Iron Monger featured in the Iron Man film adaption released roughly a month and a half ago. Though the film also has given me a newfound appreciation for Iron Man in some aspects as well.

The only other disappointing point of interest that comes to mind was the removal of Captain America’s cameo appearance. Letterrier described the cameo in the below quote…

“There’s a point when Bruce Banner gives up on his quest for the cure and decide to kill himself. So he travels far North and reaches the Arctic Circle. You might have seen bits of it in some of the promos. The result was a very dark and strong scene, which Marvel, me and everyone else’s considered to be too hard to young audiences to take, so we’ve cut it. Having that said, when Bruce arrives at his destination he meets up with Captain America! At some point this week, we will make it available on the internet  but I cannot tell you where or when and the material will definitely be on the DVD.”

The scene would have added more depth to just how desperate Banner is to rid himself of The Hulk and yet make the character more human. Suicide is something I think everyone has thought about on either a casual or serious manner and in some shape or form in their lifetime. And in placing that scene within the film it further makes Banner relatable to the audience by making him more human and realistic. It’s not something that would have made or break the film but it is rather disappointing none-the-less. I can see why Marvel and Letterrier opted to remove the scene since it is a rather dark subject , even for a PG-13 film.

All and All, The Incredible Hulk is a impressive reboot to the character that brings a better sense of balance between The Hulk and Bruce Banner. Clever moments of dialogue and well crafted action sequences are mixed together in a compelling manner that helps drive the pacing forward. There’s countless moments that will impress and grab fans while also catering to the casual crowd in certain aspects as well. It’s a fun a much more enjoyable ride than Ang Lee’s Hulk. Marvel’s off to a very impressive start with their newly formed production studio dedicated to it’s film properties. I look forward to seeing more of this initiative to bring The Avengers to the big screen and what Marvel has planned for The Hulk in the future as well.

Pro’s: Brings the character back to it’s roots, impressive action sequences, pulse pounding pace, clever moments of dialogue, top notch acting, never skips a beat or loses it’s sense of balance, and offers plenty of fan moments for those familiar with the character and TV series.

Con’s: CGI is inconsistent at times, a couple odd moments in terms of acting, and the removal of Captain America’s cameo was disappointing.

Conclusion: The Incredible Hulk fixes the errors of it’s predecessor and provides a entertaining, action packed, and overall epic ride filled with plenty of moments for the fans and further helps drive the Marvel Universe within the film medium forward.

The Flying Car

Posted in Nifty Stuff with tags , , on June 17, 2008 by B33

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The above video is a short segment directed by Kevin Smith and premiered on The Tonight Show on February 27th, 2002. It was also included on the Clerks 10th Anniversary DVD. The segment stars View Askewniverse regulars Dante Hicks (Bryan O’Halloran) and Randal Graves (Jeff Anderson) as they manage to cram pop-culture and philosophy in a odd discussion while in the midst of a daily traffic jam. It’s a good laugh for View Askew fans and casual fans as well.

Lack of Time

Posted in General on June 16, 2008 by B33

I’ve been busy with other matters lately and unfortunately have not had the time to write. Metal Gear Solid 4 has recently hit store shelves and the spare time I do have has been focused on completing the final installment in the MGS saga. Thus far I’m very impressed. The control scheme has been reworked to accommodate those who dislike complex controls and the overall core of gameplay is perfect as it stands in my eyes. I’m having a blast sneaking through the ever changing battlefield and deciding upon various routes and ways I could succeed in the various missions the game offers. I’ll have a full review up once I complete the game.

On the film side of things, I was able to catch a midnight screening of The Incredible Hulk last Thursday. And it restored my faith in the character. The future of Marvel’s newly formed film branch seems brighter and I look forward to seeing the inevitable Avengers film adaption as well as a sequel to The Incredible Hulk. A full review shall emerge within the next couple of days. On top of my review for The Strangers. I really wouldn’t expect it last for more than a few paragraphs seeing as I was very displeased with how the final cut ended up. A lackluster script on top of poor creative decisions were the main problem. I’ll further elaborate in the review when the time comes.

A couple weeks of Summer have already passed and there’s still roughly two more months left until I return to school and wrap things up. The final stretch is upon me and future preparations must now be made. Which essentially means less spare time and more hitting the books. Until then, I will be enjoying these next two months of peace and spare time. There’s books and films I need to catch up on and projects that need my attention as well. And plenty of reviews to write as well. Multiple topics have been prepped and you should start to see a steady flow of reviews and first impression articles in the coming months… At any rate, it’s back to Metal Gear Solid 4 and eventually sleep.

“Humanity needs more than merely information. We express original ideas, humor, and our personal wills. We express passions and emotions. A person’s point of view conveys all of these aspects of identity.” -Hideo Kojima

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Trailer

Posted in Nifty Stuff with tags , , on June 13, 2008 by B33

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The official trailer for the latest film from David Fincher (Fight Club, Se7en, Zodiac) has hit the net. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button hits theaters on December 19th, 2008.