Archive for the First Impressions Category

First Impressions: Trick ‘r Treat

Posted in First Impressions with tags , , , , on December 9, 2008 by B33

As I’ve said on previous occasions, Horror is a particular genre within the film industry that’s gone through numerous stages. Unfortunately, the genre appears to be currently stuck in the remake or “splatter” era, as of lately, with the release of such films as “Saw V,” “The Ring,” “Hostel,” “The Eye,” “P2,” “Captivity,” “One Missed Call,” and so on and so forth. However, a select few of genuinely decent films stemming from the roots of Horror have emerged, such as “Cloverfield,” “Let the Right One In,” “Grindhouse,” “Shaun of the Dead,” “Pan’s Labyrinth,” and a few others. I suppose there’s a variance to the essential key elements of what many would call “decent,” as the average film needn’t really stretch it’s wings far to achieve some sort of profit margin at the box office. Films that take great risks are either abandoned or tend to suffer at the box office; however, there have been a select few times where these said “risks” ended up a success, if handled and executed in a correct manner.

Grindhouse serves as a primary example of a decent film that unfortunately featured poor marketing and a concept that didn’t necessarily appeal to the general theater going audience. The large production budget and poor release window also didn’t help matters. While Grindhouse was one of the best theater going experiences I’ve had and rests high in my list of all time favorite films; the title unfortunately bombed at the box office, although it was later met with a moderate amount of success on DVD. Cloverfield is another film that featured a concept that didn’t necessarily appeal to the general theater going audience… However, Paramount generated hype to the film by selectively releasing details of the plot and launched a full blown viral marketing campaign to further raise interest. With a fairly modest budget, the film was a smashing success and the DVD sales further rose the margin of profit. The risk paid off thanks to a well crafted marketing strategy. Which all ties into a particular film that’s unfortunately been pushed to the side as Warner Bros seems unsure on precisely how to handle it…

This recent “risk” that piqued my interest is a horror film entitled “Trick ‘r Treat.” The plotline entails four different tales all woven together into the same night of Halloween. Think of it as a “Pulp Fiction” sort of affair, in terms of the structure of the plot. I suppose one could hold in regard as a “entertaining” take on the horror genre of film that involves various ghouls, monsters, and folklore one associates Halloween with. The film centers around a mischievous creature named “Sam,” who is essentially the spirit (or mascot) of Halloween and rules and legends surrounding the holiday.¬† The title was directed and written by Michael Dougherty and financed by Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. However, production on the film has been completed for quite some time and the release of the film has been continued to be pushed back to the point of an indefinite date. Warner Bros has since dropped “Trick ‘r Treat” from it’s current schedule of releases and the fate of the picture’s distribution is unknown, at this time. Fortunately, the film has been screened at a select few venues and is garnering unanimously positive reviews from various fans and critics alike. The only thing I really have at my disposal to fuel my first impressions are the reviews, images, and the trailer released quite some time ago. Below, I’ve embedded a rip of the trailer, courtesy of YouTube.

It’s a rather unique concept that captures my mind and fuels my desire to view this film. Though the demand isn’t from me alone. Numerous individuals have expressed interest in the film and a large amount of dismay towards Warner Bros for shelving it for two ideal Halloween release windows, in a row. It’s rare for me to be genuinely enthusiastic about a film, as there’s always a sense of skepticism and cynicism present in my general impressions, since the industry has failed to offer a significant reason to be excited about a film, as of lately. Hence why I’m baffled at the reluctance to Warner Bros to release “Trick ‘r Treat.” The fanbase is clearly present and the film does have an appeal to the general theater going audience, if marketed correctly and efficiently. Not only is choosing to shelf the film an insult to the cast and crew that worked diligently to bring the concept to life; it’s also an insult to the very audience that would be thrilled to see it.¬† The recent bit of rumors circulating around the Internet¬† states that Warner Bros might be testing the film and considering releasing it at a particular point in the future. Whether this true or not has yet to be determined. Until then, I suppose the only thing one can do is spread the word of the film’s existence and await it’s eventual release, whether it’ll be on DVD or will be granted a much deserved theatrical run.

The images found throughout the preview are courtesy of Bloody-Disgusting. If you would like to stay up to date with the bits of news, in regards to the film, you may visit the director’s official MySpace page.

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First Impressions: Left 4 Dead

Posted in First Impressions with tags , , , , , , on August 31, 2008 by B33

After developing Portal and Team Fortress 2; Valve is now steadily at work on their latest title, “Left 4 Dead,” which will hit Steam and major retailers on November 4th of this year (2008) for North America and November 7th for Europe. Left 4 Dead was first unveiled at the end of 2006 under the helm of Turtle Rock Studios, which was later acquired (i.e. absorbed, merged, etc) by Valve (given both studios having good relations with one another), hence how they ended up jumping on board the project. The story to Left 4 Dead is as follows; A unnamed virus has swept across the world and everyone affected has become the essential equivalent of a zombie. You take the role of one of the four survivors of the virus who must fight the hordes of victims in a First Person style of gameplay (FPS or First Person Shooter). Sounds relatively simple enough. What sets Left 4 Dead apart from other titles of the same genre is the gameplay and actual assets featured.

Valve’s primary goal with Left 4 Dead is to spark a change in the Co-Op style of gameplay often flawed for various reasons. Clearly, a decent amount of forethought and planning has gone into the gameplay aspect of Left 4 Dead as it’s vastly encouraged you work together or else you yourself will end up dead (along with your other team mates as well) at the hands of the vast amount of zombies featured. Running off on your own to be the sole “hero” is not wise and it’s doubtful you’ll last long. Players must stick together in order to fend of the enemies present as well as help each other out when a particular team mate happens to fall into a snag (becoming overwhelmed, falling off a ledge and hanging, injured, etc). To even further mix things up for the player, Valve has added an intriguing new AI (Artificial Intelligence) concept they’ve dubbed “The Director.” As player’s progress; The Director will observe the group as a whole to decide upon the difficulty curve, pacing, number of enemies, etc. There are no set spawn points for enemies within the game. Everything is varied upon the given factors and circumstances of the players. If you have a team that works well together, has little friendly fire, and a decent amount of health; The Director will spawn enemies at a greater number and in a more diverse strategic manner to up the ante and make the game much more difficult. However, if you have a team that’s poorly performing with a low amount of health; The Director will ease up on the player and lower the amount of enemies and set the difficulty curve at a lower rate to offer a bit of a break.

The Director also affects the player’s individual perspective as well. Music and visual effects are implemented in a procedural manner to reflect upon the player’s particular condition and situation. Combine the procedural alterations between the variations of a player’s experience individually and as a whole; and you have a game that encourages a vast amount of playability that further drives the entertainment and value of the product. It’s a rather intriguing concept that makes up for the fact it’s yet another title in the over saturated First Person Shooter genre of gaming. One to four players may jump into the roles of “The Surviviors,” although you don’t necessarily need more than one role filled as The Survivors can also be controlled bots via AI. Co-operation, again, is the key as players have the ability to aid each other and any selfish player present will soon be corrected (and can ultimately be booted by other team members in a voting system present). Players can communicate through automated commands courtesy of quick menus present (certain commands will be automatically uttered when reloading or spotting an infected civilian). And to further drive a co-operative style of gameplay, the developers allow players to spot each other through walls, obstructions, etc by utilizing a green glow around each player when blocked by an object.

There is a particular backstory to each character, though there will be no cutscenes in the game to further flesh it out. Instead, the developers have recorded a vast amount of dialogue that will be featured pending upon the various situations the player encounters. This further encourages multiple playthroughs and keeps the gameplay at a solid pace rather than breaking it up with cutscenes or a linear timeline, as well. Overall, I’m very intrigued with what Left 4 Dead has to offer. The concept isn’t particularly original by any means; though the title makes up for it by introducing enforced principles on top of rather solid gameplay. There are additional modes to extend the experience and various other aspects to further add depth to the game itself. Though I still have doubts on whether the actual gameplay will grow repetitive; despite the measures taken. The fact that it’s a First Person Shooter also leaves me leary as the genre has become rather bloated and over saturated in the industry, as of lately. Left 4 Dead hits the PC and Xbox 360 this Winter, with a possible Playstation 3 port in the works. For more information, please visit the official website at www.l4d.com.

First Impressions: Terminator Salvation

Posted in First Impressions with tags , , on August 1, 2008 by B33

With the last outing of the Terminator film franchise (Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines) ultimately turning out to be a overall lackluster affair filled with action and drained of all it’s substance and dignity; I was skeptical about the notion of a sequel. After three films, the concept of a Terminator model traveling back and time and saving the life of a particular individual from another Terminator model lost the steam it once had and the life of the series seemed relatively drained. The ending of Rise of the Machines, however, set up the future of the series in a rather intriguing manner. I’ve since retained a cynical mindset in regards to the sequel and then “new trilogy” announced gradually as the film cycled through the development phase. The thought of taking a completely different direction sounded like a poorly crafted plan at first; but after reading more about the film and the recent donning of the teaser trailer has since made me re-evaluate my stance on the idea of continuing the Terminator series in a different direction. Below I’ve embedded the official teaser trailer which was first screened in front of The Dark Knight (after being leaked online, of course).

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The film appears to be aiming for a more post-apocalyptic waste land setting edited in a gritty manner. The more I think about the concept, the more I seem to accept the idea it’s aiming for. The series has always had a focus on John Connor (with the exception of the first film which focused mainly upon his mother) and the future’s apocalyptic outlook thanks to Skynet. This new trilogy could serve as a medium to finally detail the future and what ultimately happens to John Connor and Skynet. Though whether this intriguing new direction and style the film will present itself in refreshing and well crafted manner or ultimately bomb has yet to be determined. The cast seems solid enough and the concept is acceptable… And that is where the enthusiasm I have for this new trilogy ends.

Director Joseph McGinty Nichol’s (or “McG” as he dubs himself) track record is rather lackluster and ultimately fails to impress. And his initiative to create a remake of Spaced without the original creators or actors involved seems rather derisive and a poorly crafted idea. Will Terminator Salvation be on of the better notes of his career? Only time will tell. Though I ultimately remain skeptical about the actual quality and outcome of the film’s final verdict. Overall, my first impressions of Terminator Salvation is intrigued yet still unsure of the film’s quality due to how little of the film is actually known. It could either be a decent concept that is gracefully executed or a decent concept that is poorly executed and ultimately bombs.

First Impressions: The Dark Knight

Posted in First Impressions with tags , , , , , on July 1, 2008 by B33

Chances are, if you’ve been to a movie theater in the past year, you’ve heard about the upcoming sequel to Batman Begins intuitively titled “The Dark Knight”. There’s been quite a large chunk of footage and information released thus far. But still a large portion of the film is unknown at this point and time. We know who the villains are and the general idea… But the twists and turns and final outcome remain unknown and cloaked under the veil of secrecy until the film hits theaters. We know The Joker (played by the now deceased Heath Ledger) is the central villain and he’s all about creating mayhem and chaos. Based upon early reviews and interviews with the cast and crew, The Joker has been described as a “force of nature” comparable to the shark in Jaws. Ledger appears to have really brought out a entire different vision of the character that takes cues from other interpretations but ultimately appears unique enough to carve it’s own place within the Batman Universe Nolan has developed for the film medium. As for other villains featured; Scarecrow will apparently be making a small appearance and Two Face will not be a vital part of the picture until the end.

While Two Face won’t be a major part of the plot this time around, Harvey Dent (Two Face’s true identity) will play a vital part in the story of The Dark Knight based upon the trailers and information released thus far. And while some may be disappointed by that notion, keep in mind what can happen if a film has too many villains packed within it (read: Spider-Man 3). I’d much rather there be more of background to Dent and ultimately Two Face that will ultimately set up the chain of events for the third film. The Joker is main villain this time around and thus will fill up a majority of the film with chaos and mayhem. Mixing multiple villains together is a rather troublesome concept since the end result will often have each villain fighting for screen time. It gives each character more of a shallow amount of depth and leads to less character development for each and every role featured within the film.

The viral marketing for The Dark Knight is another aspect of the hype for the film that has immensely kept my interest for this film in a rising state as each month has passed leading up to The Dark Knight’s inevitable premiere. I’ve yet to see the film and having enjoyed Batman Begins and Nolan’s past work I look forward to this sequel with great anticipation. Creative wise, the film is on the right track. The cast appears strong and well suited for their respective roles. And the redesigned Batsuit and Batpod (also referred to as the “Batcycle”) seem like decent additions to the device roster. Overall, I’m impressed with what has been revealed thus far and I look forward to the realse of the film with anticipation as the sequel to the much needed reboot of The Dark Knight series hits theaters on July 18th, 2008.

First Impressions: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Posted in First Impressions with tags , , on May 22, 2008 by B33

The first ever look at The Curious Case of Benjamin Button came with a trailer spot attached to prints of Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Up to the point of seeing the trailer for the very first time, I knew virtually nothing about this film other than it was directed by David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club, Zodiac) and starred Brad Pitt (Fight Club, Se7en, etc). The idea of the film is a 80-year-old man is born at the end stage of his life and as time passes his physical appearance ages backwards. In other words, let’s say 10 days went by. I would be 10 days older by simple logic. The character Benjamin Button, however, would be 10 days younger. Time moves backwards for this character. The film begins in 1919 and goes all the way to the year 2000. Fincher is quoted below:

“It’s dark, it’s romantic, and it also deals with mortality in a pretty unflattering way”

-David Fincher

It sounds very intriguing and the trailer is very well put together and delivers the film’s message through various segments of the film played together with a engaging musical score. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before and interestingly enough based upon a short story written by Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald whom has written upon some interesting topics ahead of their time. I’ve never read the short story before but intend to do so in due time in preparation of the film’s arrival on December 19th, 2008. It appears that this will be one of the last great films of 2008. Keep your eyes open for more information and the official trailer to be appearing online some time very soon…

First Impressions: The Strangers

Posted in First Impressions with tags , , on May 17, 2008 by B33

The next sleeper horror flick to hit this Summer is upon us and I for one am very intrigued by what has been released thus far about this new film entitled “The Strangers”. The basic idea is as follows; a couple located in a secluded house is randomly intruded upon by strangers (natch) and now face a night of torment from attackers they don’t know nor fully understand their motivation. I’m impressed with the editing displayed in trailer and if it reflects the final cut, it’ll definitely go above and beyond in terms of suspense and the inventive ways it appears to display the tone.

Actors Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman play the couple and seem to fit the roles decent enough based on what I’ve seen thus far. The film also seems to be riding upon the “Based on true events” card which it claims its based on a certain case that has no document regarding it in existence. Regardless, it does hold loose similarities to other murder cases out there and hence can lay claim to the tagline without being specific… All and all, the film appears to bring forth a interesting concept along with decent editing that plays into the suspense and overall atmosphere. I’m a bit cautious since this is the director Bryan Bertino’s debut as a filmmaker. Regardless, I’ll still give it a shot when It hits theaters May 30th, 2008.

High Definition version of trailer can be seen by clicking on the following link: http://www.apple.com/trailers/universal/thestrangers/

First Impressions: The Incredible Hulk

Posted in First Impressions with tags on April 17, 2008 by B33

One of the blockbusters hitting this Summer amongst the crap load piled up already is The Incredible Hulk, which is a reboot to the lackluster and poorly produced installment in 2003. Nothing against Ang Lee, but that was not The Hulk fans know and enjoy seeing adventures of. Can’t exactly hate him for trying but it’s hard to defend the film when the expression “Hulk Dogs” keeps repeating itself in your mind over and over again… At any rate, this latest installment brings The Hulk back to his roots in the television series and comic books. It features the characters we all know of but with new faces in each role that are far better suited. Edward Norton, Tim Roth, Liv Tyler, and William Hurt are the principal cast this time around. Just hearing Edward Norton (Fight Club) and Tim Roth (Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction) in the same sentence alone will automatically make this film better than the past installment we’d all rather not talk about.

Storywise, if you grew up watching the television series or reading the comic books you’ll be more familiar with this take. The Abomination is the main villain and the Army is after Bruce Banner just like in the television series. Bruce Banner doesn’t wish to have the Hulk locked up within him, military wants to use him as a weapon, etc. Edward Norton is Bruce Banner and Tim Roth is The Abomination. The Hulk appears within the first 3 minutes of the film and a fight clocked at more than 20 minutes between The Hulk and The Abomination caps off the finale of the film. All-and-all, I’m impressed. I highly enjoyed the television series and this film appears to be heavily influenced by the success the series had. The film is about the struggle within Bruce Banner but implements the Hulk much more and doesn’t seem to mind pulling out all the stops to tell it’s own story.

On the effects side, Rythm & Hues was hired this time around. My thoughts? Not the best of choices. Their track record isn’t highly impressive but it is acceptable. I would have much rather seen WETA tackle the project but their not the cheapest studio on the block and were more than likely not within the capabilities of the budget. And Marvel nor Universal Studios want to dump a lot of money into a film that has a high chance of failing if it can’t convince it’s audience that it differs from its predecessor… Regardless, the trailer released the first glimpse we received of the Hulk and the Abomination. The Hulk looks like the comic book version and I give a lot of props to the creative efforts put forth to keep him more in tune with what we grew up with and what is realistic in terms of the source material and film it’s being displayed through. The Abomination has been altered greatly from his comic book counterpart. I really don’t mind since he wouldn’t translate well in the realm of 3D, but fanboys will more than likely find it just another thing to aimlessly bicker about.

I’d like to take some time to address some criticisms and backlash against the film at it’s current state. First off, The Hulks design. Many seem to disprove of the character appearing the size he does. Pick up the comic book some time. They’ve actually sized the character down from his comic book counterpart. The TV series really couldn’t make the character as large as the source material due to lack of technology and effects advancements at the time. The Hulk is supposed to be large to reflect the monstrosity and strength of the character in question. Bickering won’t change the facts of that matter… The next would be the effects. Until you see the final film, don’t bitch and go on about the CGI implemented. It’s all unfinished at this stage and still needs fine tuning and polish. I don’t care how unrealistic some of the lighting is or how some of the animation is still rough. Anything looks better than the Hulk Dog sequence which was a real abomination and black mark to the film series… And lastly, for those who say this sequel/reboot is unnecessary… Re-watch Ang Lee’s Hulk. Which was your favorite aspect of the film; the poor creative choices, the 40 minutes it took for The Hulk to appear, the piss poor villain, or the Hulk Dogs that were as unnecessary as they were terribly animated? Ang Lee’s Hulk was not a “misunderstood masterpiece”. Grindhouse was a “misunderstood” masterpiece. Nothing personal against those who enjoyed Ang Lee’s take. It was severely flawed and differed too much from the source material for it to be enjoyable in my opinion…

It’s been 5 years and Marvel saw potential in bringing life back to the series. A sequel was in the works but dropped due to the poor creative decisions and reception the last film received. I’ve actually been hoping for this to happen. The Hulk character has always caught my attention because of how real the character was and how the main character really didn’t want the power granted to him to begin with. We all have inner rage within us and The Hulk presents a amplified version of someone who struggles to fight the beast within. It’s a different take on the super hero genre that you really don’t see every day. And the television series further amplified the character by having Bruce Banner travel around as a loner observing and helping others with the monster he fights every day.

Overall, I think there are some good creative choices. While the trailer didn’t completely qualm my doubts of this project turning out to be yet another poor endeavor; I can see Marvel and Universal Studios having a better installment on their hands in terms of reception and box office sales if the film will is correctly executed, marketed, and the computer generated imagery is polished in time for the release. Though I’d have to say the marketing has been terrible thus far. I don’t know why, but I’ve noticed a majority of Universals films tend to receive poor marketing. Either their hoping word of mouth is good or their planning on amping up the amount of marketing within a close time span of the films release to take the cheap way out and not build momentum. We have less than two months till this film hits theaters and the official poster is just hitting theaters now. The only form of coverage is the trailer that premiered on MTV and was aired on a couple network for a small interval of time. Other then that there isn’t really anything else out there that indicates the existence of this film. Unless Universal wants this film to get lost in the sea of Summer blockbusters more measures need to be taken… Will this film surpass it’s predecessor? Will Universal actually market the damn thing? And will that rumored crossover with Iron Man that all various news sites out there are covering because they have nothing better to report on actually take place? Only time will tell…