Tuesday, July 14, 2009


"Push" is an entertaining film. It looks cool, and is engaging - I was always interested in what would happen next, and in uncovering the film's many mysteries. The actors are likable, the CGI is well-done, and I liked how there was only around 5 or so types of special powers, and that they were actually quite reasonable in that they were based off of abilities real people actually have (or claim to have) - to varying degrees; though, ridiculously exaggerated in the film, of course, but that's the beauty of movies.

Unfortunately, that's all the positives the film has, which might actually be enough for most people. The negatives, however, comes down to ambition, character motivation, and originality. The film is over-ambitious. It isn't based off of a comic, book, or TV show, and wants to establish its own mythology and characters and have many sequels. The film wants to accomplish much without a fanbase or any kind of reference to what is going on, who these people are, and why the audience should care.

The basic plot steals heavily off the TV show, "Heroes", as there's a major organization that kidnaps folks with special abilities to drug test them to improve their abilities into becoming the ultimate weapons. Why they couldn't just kidnap them and have them use their set abilities, that are already good enough, is beyond me as their drug implementation program has been sucking balls for decades. The best they've done is create a drug which is supposed to slightly improve powers, but has always killed whomever they've given it to (instantly? not explained, or I just missed it). Anyway, near the beginning of the movie, the character Camilla Belle plays, survives the injection and escapes the facility she was imprisoned in, but takes the needle with the drug inside it with her - now, whether this drug was exactly the same as what is tested on everyone, whether it was a newly constructed formula, and whether the agency Camilla took it from has more of the same, or at least kept notes on how to recreate it is never explained (at least I didn't catch it if it was), and is critically important information the audience, and the film's plot, need to, at some point, know.

So, the agency chases after Camilla to get her, and the drug back, but she's hidden it, and gotten someone to erase her memory as to where she put it. Meanwhile, an Asian agency also chases after Camilla as they, too, want the drug... so they can have the sort of power the agency has... hold on, what? I'll pause a moment and explain the idiocy of this: assuming this drug is a new strain that will not immediately kill off everyone but Camilla, the drug still kills whomever takes it, and is only a small boost, that doesn't take effect right away, that, if not supplemented with another drug that only the agency has, will kill the person before it gives them that slight boost. Long story short, the drug, in anyone's hands besides the agency, absolutely sucks balls, and even in their hands, isn't earth-shatteringly special. That, and how it is that the Asian agency holds this bigger, crap, agency in high regard, is beyond me (zero success rate is not something to hold in high regard, or maybe I should give them half a point for Camilla as she's barely alive).

I haven't even gotten to Chris Evans and Dakota Fanning's motivations, which are sketchy, and actually impenetrable. Yes, she can tell the future, and sees her death, and that it has something to do with Camilla and a briefcase - which I'm not sure if she immediately knows the contents of, but finds out at some point is a drug, anyway, it doesn't actually matter. What matters, and what's baffling, is why she wants to get involved in the affair that would lead to her, Camilla, Chris, and his 2 other friends' death to begin with, and why everyone else would go along with her.

Throughout the movie, I never got a firm grasp of the characters or their motivations, or understood them the way the film did. Take Chris Evans, for instance: he has the ability to move things with his mind, but he sucks at it as he's always losing at dice betting; however, he seems to know a lot of people with special abilities, and they trust him with their lives when he can barely handle his own (he owes a lot of people money). I would not have chosen him as ultimate mastermind to uncover the drug, take down the agency, and keep all his friends from dying a foreseen, by Dakota, death.

To summarize, the film is about a bunch of people risking their lives over something fairly worthless. It is an entertaining and engaging puzzle, but pointless in every way.


Author: J-P

Sunday, March 8, 2009


"Watchmen" isn't a popcorn action film; it's a film that asks, 'what are the psychological, philosophical, and historical ramifications the existence of superheros would bring to the world and themselves?' The film has a plot, but it's only concerned about it in context to the main question the film's interested in.

In the reality of "Watchmen", it is 1985, superheros exist, and America has the only hero with actual powers (that are God-like), and because America has this phenomenal weapon, the cold war rages on as this hero's existence has only made the Soviets fight harder and longer. The war is escalating to the point where Armageddon seems eminent. Nixon is still president, because of this heightened state of war, he was allowed to change the law and stay onto his current third or fourth term.

Besides this God-like hero, named Dr. Manhattan, all the other masked avengers are just people in silly costumes, though each with their own set of psychological problems that being a superhero have caused them - Rorschach is disconnected from the world, only being able to see it's ugly side, The Comedian feels he's a parody of superheros and American patriotism, and Nite Owl II has become a closet superhero after Nixon banned superheros (with the exception of Dr. Manhattan and The Comedian, keeping them on as soldiers in the war efforts).

The film has a mystery plot: a masked avenger is murdered. Rorschach plays detective, suspecting that this murder is going to spread to more hero murders, that there's a superhero serial killer. Anyone expecting the plot to be the central focus, however, will be disappointed. The film spends more time elsewhere, and the mystery plot suffers for it as not enough screen time is devoted to it to be as effective as it could be, and a lot of simplifications had to be made to condense the film's running time, that the conspirator is a lot more obvious than in the graphic novel.

But, that shouldn't be held against the film. It's quite a feat this film was ever even made, and the heart and themes are never lost. The effectiveness isn't quite there, but there was no way it could've been for a film of this budget. To make its money back, it had to be no longer than the 2 hours and 43 minutes that it is. Worry not though, there'll be a 3h10m cut and a 3h25m cut on home video this July or August.

Positives aside, the film isn't perfect. Overall, I forgave it all its imperfections for getting its main themes across (especially the ending, which I'll get to later), and for the countless things it gets right (like many clever devices used to condense the source material - like the intro credits), but I'll still mention the negatives, even if I recommend trying to ignore them while watching the film. First and foremost, it's the gore. I feel it's needed, there was gore in the book, it should stay. But the film adds more and lavishes in it. I've heard that the director quotes Polanski in the reasons for gore in his films, that "You have to show violence the way it is. If you don't show it realistically, then that's immoral and harmful. If you don't upset people, then that's obscenity." Well, anyone who's seen the violence in a Zack Snyder film and the violence in a Roman Polanski film can clearly see that Zack's violence isn't realistic - it's over the top (some say in an artistic way, I say it's in a pornographic way). So, while that's my main problem, that's, what, 2 minutes worth of unnecessary material? And the other issues are nitpicks: some of the music choices seemed off, some of the acting wasn't the greatest (Carla Gugino's acting in old makeup didn't always work, nor did some of Malin Akerman's line deliveries), and the fight scenes were even more stilted than the fight scenes in "300", though, if you liked 300's fight scenes, then the flip-side is that, for you, these are just as awesome, but I personally prefer a more balanced fight where even the great fighters receive some hits.

Where the film's length causes the most issue, is that an important bit is cut to tie the end of the second act better to the beginning of the third act. Which is to say that when our remaining heroes discover who the film's conspirator is, they find information that isn't shared with the audience, so they confront the conspirator with accusations that the audience has no idea what our heroes are talking about. Worry not, soon enough things get fully explained. Still, that bit comes as sort of a hiccup, a brief scratch-your-head-did-I-miss-something moment. You didn't, the film did, but whatever. I'm sure it'll be addressed in the director's cut.

And, for those that have read the novel, the ending is different, yet sort of the same. The differences had to be made, as to set up the novel's ending, the film would've needed to include the pirate comic book writer that mysteriously goes missing, and the film just didn't have time to devote to him. So, don't expect to see any tentacles, and giggle at the clever campiness of it. Instead, the new ending has religious connotations to it, and the essence and moral conundrum is still there.


Author: J-P

Friday, February 13, 2009


"Religulous" is a docu-comedy, somewhere between being like that of Michael Moore and Borat. I went in expecting to hate it. The concept of lampooning religion in a Borat-like manner seemed in poor taste to me, but then I watched the film, and was surprised to not hate it, and often laughed.

Now, here's why I didn't hate it: Bill Maher openly adresses the audience what his views are - that he believes Religion to be a detrimental farce, and then he states that the purpose of this documentary is to find out why people believe in religion. Well, here's a secret, his purpose really isn't so much finding out the why, so much as pushing his views of, "come on, we really don't know" to try to cast doubt in his subjects. So, he flip-flops from being nice to them, to attacking their beliefs. Surprisingly, in one instance of extreme attack, brings his subject to hearty laughs.

Yes, Bill Maher is a bit of an ass to his subjects, but he's also consistent - attacking even people who, to me, seemed like he'd agree with. And, sometimes he leaves them speechless, and sometimes they leave him speechless. The most interesting subjects I found were the two Vatican priests who seemed to be wearing attack-proof vests, or something. They were amused by all his assumptions on Christianity, agreed with all he found ridiculous, namely taking the Bible 100% literally. They put him in his place a bit in the sense that Maher wasn't so much attacking Christianity, but an interpretation of it, though, I'd imagine it's the interpretation that most follow. One of the Vatican priests even states that the Bible shouldn't be interpreted as science and I'm betting he also believes in evolutionism, which I'm sure the other Vatican priest also believes.

It should also be noted that Maher doesn't just attack Christianity, but more time is spent on it, and his attacks on the others aren't quite as thorough, and some are easy targets.

The film does go on and on a bit, and uses the occasional tasteless gimick (some out of place subtitles and sound cues), and has two endings.

The first ending addresses the purpose of the film that he stated at the beginning, then the second ending addresses his real reason for the film - that he believes religion is promoting the end of the world and will itself end up being the cause, then he goes on a preachy rant for about 5 or 10 minutes. I liked the first ending, but if he wants to stick with his second, well, it's his film.

So, did I enjoy the film? Yes, I did, but I don't think it'll change too many peoples' minds about religion. Essentially, what you have is a lone missionary preaching his religion of "I don't know, and neither should you". It's an amusing point of view, brings some pretty good laughs, and ends with his closing sermon. If a person's not in his religion, it would be like walking into another religion's church. They might prefer it, and join, but unlike their own religion, the religion of "I don't know" doesn't promise anything cool in the afterlife - no chilling with Jesus, or 100 virgins, or planet of your own. The film actually addresses this, so it knows the film's somewhat futile. Frankly, the film shouldn't be seen as all that controversial, and I think the movie's fine with that. Controversial or not, the film simply wants to present its views. And, I personally appreciated its presentation, regardless of whether or not I agreed with it. Maher, along with every religion, has a right to present their viewpoint, even if Maher doesn't give the others much of a chance.

7.5/10 (if you really must need a rating...)

Author: J-P

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Max Payne

This is a video game adaptation, faithful to the game in premise alone. The premise being that the main character (played by Mark Wahlberg) is a cop who comes home to find his wife dead and baby gone (though, in the game, I believe the baby was also murdered).

Now, I don't remember the rest of the game's plot, just that it had a lot of ridiculously cool action throughout. The movie? Not so much, only in the last 20 minutes. The game's style I remember had sort of a throwback to old film noir, crossed with over the top 80's police actioner. I loved the game's style. The movie? A cool style as well; completely different, but cool. The movie's style is sort of a Sin City knock-off, like a graphic novel film noir feeling (in colour, though barely), but with a cool techno crossed with metal soundtrack. This style fits with the story, policier = noir, drugs = techno metal.

Is it a good movie, though? Well, 20 minutes of action in the end does not make this an action film, so what we're left with is a mystery thriller, which is neither mysterious or thrilling. Typically in mystery/thrillers many possible solutions are dangled infront of the audience, making them guessing at which is the right one. In this movie, however, there's only one possible solution, and more and more of it is presented. It's like getting a pet rat that is covered with a blanket, and you have to guess what it is. The tail's presented, and most people will say, "hey, it's a rat!", but some rodents have that sort of tail too, so it's back is then shown, well, there's hardly any question now, then the head's shown, and it is a rat. The movie expects surprise. And you might be if you've never seen a rat before (or in this case, a police thriller before).

So, expect heavy boredom through most of the film. Oh, and expect to raise an eyebrow at Jackie from "That 70s Show" playing... what? A dominatrix assassin? It's weird. And the plot about the drugs, well, I don't want to spoil it (yes I do, but I won't), but it's pretty weird too (even if it's obvious, it's still weird). And neither of them are weird in a good way. Though, their badness made the blandness more entertaining.

The film isn't atrociously horrible, I'll give it that. And, I enjoyed the last 20 minutes and was almost convinced the film was decent because of it, then I remembered the rest, and shuddered...


Author: J-P

Thursday, February 5, 2009

2 Game Reviews: Afro Samurai & Prince of Persia (PS3)

Yes, it is strange that the first set of reviews on a Movie Reviews site are for games, moving on:

Afro Samurai (PS3)

The controls are clunky and kind of broken, but managable.

The foes you'll be fighting are repetitious and predictable - one kind you can easily kill by just kicking then finishing off with a heavy attack, another kind by just hitting the light attack button, another kind by kicking, then light attack then heavy, repeat. Oh, and you can be killed without ever getting hit sometimes.

The voice acting is pretty good, though alot of the time it doesn't feel like the character on screen is actually saying what they're saying (the audio's usually directional, except for a lot of the dialogue isn't and really feels disconnected).

The camera takes turns controlling itself and letting you control it. If you point your right pad to the left, the camera moves right, up, it moves down, and there's no option to change that schematic, or to change anything in the game - like brightness, sound effects, subtitles, nothing. That, and you usually can't tell who's fighting you from where, but just randomly pushing buttons solves that.

Visually, the art design's pretty good, but the animation is often clunky, weird, and usually unconvincing (watch for foes running with swords - who carries swords like that?!). And a lot of the cutscenes can't be skipped, so if you die a lot in one area you have to watch the same lame cutscenes over and over.

The platforming is a chore, as is fighting as it's tedious. The story is taken from the movies, which I thought was bad to begin with. And the much advertised slicing foes feature isn't as special as it sounds.

Overall, the game isn't atrocious, but it isn't really worth playing either. It should probably be noted that there's a lot of gore, nudity, and language, like a lot.


Prince of Persia (PS3)

The worst thing about the game is the characters. They're flat, with interchangeably random moods, and have barely anything worhwhile to say, and talk A LOT.

The main point of the game is to get to certain areas marked with a circle and explode what looks to be light from out of yourself, that heals the land. Fine. But usually when you get there you could easily just head straight to the spot and do that exploding healing, but instead your characters will stop for innane banter and wait for a villain to come.

The game consists of doing this some twenty or so times, over areas that all look about the same, and you can only access about 5 areas at a time, then you have to stop go over the areas you've just beaten and collect small glowing star-like things. Like at least a hundred of them, then the next 5 areas are unlocked. And, that's all you'll be doing, collecting star-things, and playing what looks like the same level 20 times.

Oh, and you fight the same 7 or so villains over and over and over. And I don't mean they look the same, I mean they are the same. There's no real sense of accomplishing much.

Now, on to the good. It's kind of fun for about an hour. The platforming is overly simplistic, sometimes not even listening to your command (doing something ridiculously dumb instead), but usually working okay to well enough. And, the day scenes are a beaut'.

If there's a demo available, play that around 10 times instead, and it would be as though you've played the whole game.


Author: J-P