Sunday, September 7, 2014

Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie

So I've been following the Angry Video Game Nerd series and James Rolfe's videos on Cinemassacre for a number of years now, and have kept up with the production of this movie for the past several years as well. And, while there's still a number of problems here that don't all quite work, overall, I can't help but appreciate what they were able to accomplish with this movie.

The Nerd's most requested game review has been the notoriously bad E.T. for the Atari 2600. And, seeing as the story behind that game already provided quite the groundwork for an extensive story to be explored as well, what with the whole infamous production behind the game and subsequent supposed burial of all remaining cartridges in a landfill, they decided to base the movie around that, as the Nerd sets out to disprove the myth behind the burial in his quest to avoid having to review E.T.

James has mentioned in some of his past videos how he'd like to be the kind of filmmaker who makes movies that have a home-movie feel to them. And while this movie certainly has a much bigger budget than your typical home-movie (this was entirely fan-funded), in that regard I would consider this a success in terms of its production. However, in terms of its writing, I can't help but feel that the "home-movie" style only holds this thing back and keeps it from quite feeling like the legitimate movie they set out to make.

Oftentimes throughout, the movie will randomly break the fourth wall or add in spoof humor in a similar vain as something like Airplane or The Naked Gun. But the thing is, it's not nearly consistent enough in this regard throughout so that it feels natural, and as a result, such moments had a tendency to remove me from the movie whenever they would randomly sprout up. The most jarring example would be after the Nerd says a really bad one liner, which he then clarifies that he only said "for the trailer".

And then a number of key characters have some really shoddy writing behind them, such as our two main villains, who literally undergo a complete personality swap out of nowhere about halfway into the movie. And basically all of the female characters feel like they're written by a bunch of horny teenagers, which became really off putting really quickly.

Most of the acting was serviceable enough for what they were going for, but, again, I felt like the women weren't given their proper respect in terms of their direction. A key example would be the scene in which the character Mandi surrenders to the enemy, then immediately flicks them off in an over-the-top fashion, which felt forced to the point that it actually removed me from the film. And I can't really blame such moments on the actors, since they did seem decent enough throughout whenever they weren't directed to over-do their scenes, so I kinda gotta chalk that one up to questionable direction to go along with their questionable writing.

And I suppose I could go on with other issues I took with the movie, such as what I felt was a missed opportunity to be Kyle Justin's cameo during a scene when the Nerd busts out an old record player (the only reason I can see why they'd pass it up is that it was perhaps too obvious?), but honestly, when it comes down to it, I actually did like and appreciate this movie for the most part, so let's shift gears a bit and start discussing what this thing did right.

For one thing, the way this movie incorporated elements from the actual E.T. game was actually really neat, and only continued to prove more and more clever as the movie progressed. And for fans of the AVGN series, this movie has tons of references to some of James' other videos and more prolific game and movie reviews, with a Ninja Turtles III reference in particular standing out as a personal highlight for me.

Also, the movie also uses a lot of miniatures throughout for some of their bigger effects, which was a pretty commendable and charming effect I felt, and helped to give it that good kind of home-movie vibe that they were going for. And in addition to all of the Nerd references, it's also loaded with cameos from other internet stars and such who have been associated with the Nerd in the past (including, fresh off his awesome Guardians of the Galaxy cameo, another awesome appearance from Lloyd Kaufman!), which was nice to see.

Basically, this was a movie that was made with the help of the fans, for the fans. And overall, while I would consider the finished product to be a bit of a mixed bag, despite its major flaws, I have a hard time hating on it. It's just pretty cool to see all of their hard work on this project come together like this, especially after having followed along on it and keeping up to date with their progress over the years.

So if you're a fan of the series, then you should definitely check this out (which is now available on Vimeo On-Demand). Because if nothing else, there's a world of passion behind this movie that you can just feel throughout, and that passion bleeds through onto the screen all the way to the very end, when we're finally treated to that E.T. review that fans have been clamoring for for so long (and what a hell of a journey it was getting there!).

Thursday, September 4, 2014

In which Naruto remembers my birthday...

So yes, today's my birthday. But even so, I started it out normally enough, catching up on the internet and that sorta thing. And this week's new Naruto chapter also just so happened to be delayed until today, in which I was greeted by a most surprising birthday wish from the Fourth Hokage himself:


Thanks, Minato!

Heh, yeah, so I got a bit of a kick out of the timing of this release, and though it was an otherwise mediocre chapter, one panel in particular does happen to kinda stand out as a nice summary on my feelings as to the direction this once great manga has sadly taken.


Sakura understands.

But anyways, not only was the manga seemingly out to amuse me on this day, but the latest episode of Naruto Shippuden also managed to wow me. I've mentioned in previous Naruto posts how the anime has a tendency to make "special" episodes that really expand on the source material in incredible ways, with movie-quality animation to really enhance things, and today's episode just happened to be one of those instances.

We were treated to the fight between two of my favorite characters, Kakashi and Obito, which ultimately lead to Obito becoming the Juubi Jinchuuriki at the end. But where there wasn't much to speak of concerning their scuffle in the manga, the anime went all out, giving us a full out spectacle with amazingly fluid animation and the kind of moments of inspired creativity that keeps me invested in this series to this day. Obito using Kakashi's hand to aid his own jutsu while the two were locked up stands as an especially awesome moment in this episode that was filled with them.

I even didn't mind the interweaving of their childhood fight with the current fight, as it added an extra emotional weight to the ongoings and told a beautifully tragic story, especially near the end when the current Obito pulls the past Obito away from interlocking fingers in a show of respect after his defeat at the hands of Kakashi.

This episode was just a real treat, and just another example of how the anime really can at times improve on the manga when they actually set out to put a little effort into it. And considering just how terrible the manga will only continue to go from here, here's hoping that the anime can continue to somehow find a way to make such moments bearable. But for now, I did get a kick how, just as Obito has become Jinchuuriki, the anime is going right back to filler again with the introduction of Mecha Naruto!


Naruto beam!

Anyways though, needless to say, this was a pleasant little surprise from Naruto this week, after a good long while of this series really doing a whole lotta nothing for me. Good timing on their part!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

My ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Yesterday, my friend Chris Sanders challenged me to take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Here are the results:

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy

Recently, I've noticed a trend regarding my reactions to certain Disney movies as of late. Initially, I tend to rank them a little lower, perhaps allowing for their flaws to dictate my opinion on them a bit more than is fair. But then as they begin to really settle in, I find myself getting the urge to revisit them. And upon that revisit, I find that all of the emotional moments in those movies really start to hit home big time, in ways they didn't even touch on in that initial viewing. And it's then that these movies begin their gradual ascent up the rankings, until, before I know it, I've got another new favorite movie on my hands. This has happened with Tangled, it happened again with Frozen, and now it's currently happening with Guardians of the Galaxy as well.

The first time I saw this movie, I really did think it ranked somewhere more in the middle in comparison to the other Marvel flicks to date. But then I saw it again, and I was honestly left scratching my head as to where to place it at all. Certainly somewhere near the top, but I wasn't entirely sure. Because, while tonally this is certainly a Marvel movie, at the same time, it's very much its own beast, and is the most removed from the Marvel Cinematic Universe in many regards.

For one thing, I really can't even call Guardians a superhero movie at all. Quite frankly, it's a full blown space opera through and through, and honestly has more in common with the Star Wars franchise (fitting, seeing as Disney also owns that as well now) than it does with any other superhero movie I've seen. And unless we're willing to start referring to Jedi as superheroes, then I'm not willing to consider Guardians of the Galaxy to be a superhero movie.

But even more than that, genre issues aside, I think the one big, major aspect that sets this movie apart from the other Marvel movies is that one aspect that it also just so happens to share in common with its Disney side of things, and that one big aspect is the sheer emotional impact this movie leaves. Good as all the other Marvel movies may be, the one big thing they all lack is any form of stirring emotion. Sure, they make you laugh and they make you feel good, but more than that, Guardians of the Galaxy makes you really feel. This is a movie that'll hit you in the gut and come after your tears in many ways.

And this is actually probably the most shocking thing about Guardians of the Galaxy. Because I went into this fully expecting just a really fun, if perhaps emotionally shallow movie, as has typically been the case from Marvel to date. Hell, the trailers, amazing as they were (seriously, the trailers to this movie are among the best movie trailers I've ever seen. Simply brilliant stuff!), essentially sold this movie as such. But man, this movie will surprise you from the very first scene!

I keep talking about the emotional impact of this movie, but let's not also forget that aforementioned fun I've referred to. Because really, this movie is an absolute blast throughout. The writing is a bit more risque than we're typically used to, but it truly works, and all of the actors are great here, and really sell the hell out of this material.

Chris Pratt is believable in the lead role as Star-Lord, and does a tremendous job balancing his performance as a man who you can still take seriously despite the fact that he's a total goofball. And though Zoe Saldana is mostly the straight man of the group, even she has a number of really good comedic moments scattered about.

But then on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, Lee Pace just goes over the top serious as the villain Ronan in a way that really just works as a nice contrast to all the bright fun happening around him. And a second viewing really helped my appreciation of his performance a lot, to where I think he may well be the most underrated thing going on, given the sheer amount of comments I've heard about how weak a villain this movie has. But give this one another look and see if Ronan doesn't stand out as actually one of the better and more memorable villains in these Marvel movies yet. (Certainly not Loki good, but will anything reach that level?)

And then you've got the surprises. Dave Bautista I honestly didn't expect much from at all, but man is he a hoot here! His character is so cleverly written, and his delivery and comedic timing are spot on, making him one of the most consistently hilarious characters in the whole thing. And Bradley Cooper's Rocket is obviously the fan favorite, and for good reason, because his voice work is quite frankly phenomenal. Seriously, if I didn't know that was Bradley Cooper, I would never have guessed it was him, because the guy is simply unrecognizable, completely disappearing into his role.

But in my opinion, the standout performance here belongs to none other than Vin Diesel as Groot, in what I believe to not only be Diesel's greatest performance in his career to date, but also the single most impressive acting performance I've seen in any movie this year so far. He has one line that he repeats throughout the movie. And yet even so, he is able to convey so much with only that one line. It's simply remarkable, and a true achievement for him as an actor.

So this movie was chock full of a ton of great performances, but in the end, the real star of this movie was the music. And in fact, that's another thing that's been a weak spot for Marvel movies, is that they all really lack any form of memorable tune. We all know the classic Superman and Batman themes, and even the Spider-Man theme tends to sticks with you after the movie. But can anyone really recall any sort of memorable theme from Iron Man? Captain America? Hell, The Avengers? Not really. I mean, the music in those movies is serviceable, and it works well enough while you're actually watching the thing. But once the movie's over? Yeah, let's just say that no one's humming the theme from Thor, whatever it may be.

And sure, in this movie, the actual score itself sorta suffers a similar fate. However, it's made up for in the way of an especially awesome soundtrack. The same classic music that did such a good job in selling this thing in the trailers plays a big role all throughout, as Star-Lord keeps his Awesome Mix Vol. 1 tape with him and cues it up at the most pristine of times.

The music selection and the way that it's incorporated is just brilliant, and really makes this movie resonate all the more. And I think that it's because the music is utilized in such a way that it actually plays a role in the movie itself, rather than merely accompanying it as would traditionally be the case, is what sets it apart here. I'm always a fan of when movies do this, such as how the score from Inception actively impacted the events of that movie, not to mention how music comes into play in musicals such as Tangled and Frozen mentioned above. And here, every track that we hear, the characters on screen hear as well, which then makes us able to connect with them that much more.

The soundtrack is so good, in fact, that it was a rare instance where I actually went out and bought the Awesome Mix Vol. 1 itself. And while I was driving down the road listening to it, the scenes that these songs accompany in the movie started playing out in my head. And once we got to a song that happened to accompany a particularly emotional scene, I found that just listening to the song was stirring that same emotion without me even watching the movie. And I know I've been using this word a lot here, but it was at about that point when it really hit me in just how brilliant the decision to incorporate these songs in the way that it does actually was, in a way that'll stay with you well after the movie's ended.

After I first saw the movie, I was left thinking it was good, and it was fun, but it really didn't do much to make it stand out among the pack. But, as you can well see by now, after giving this movie some time to really sink in, boy was I wrong in that initial assessment. Guardians of the Galaxy is an incredible movie. It may well be the best of the Marvel movies to date, and yet, after giving it quite a bit of consideration, I'm not even sure it's even comparable to any of them anyways.

This movie is its own beast. Sure, it may not be perfect, but it's loads of fun throughout, and I haven't even touched on the action scenes, which are a thrilling sight to behold, particularly near the end when the movie starts to get a video game vibe to it, like watching a live action Space Invaders.

But my appreciation of this movie has only grown, and if it's anything like those other Disney flicks I've mentioned, it will only continue to soar upon subsequent viewings. The movie poster for this thing has a tag line that cheekily says "You're welcome". Well, right now, I'd like to respond to that tag line with a very sincere, "Thank you."

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Hercules

Okay, so yeah, the new Hercules was seriously fun as hell.

I had a feeling that this would be a pretty fun flick from the trailers alone, which saw The Rock comically screaming "I AM HERCULES!" in an over-the-top manner. In fact, the worst (or best?) instance of this was when a friend and I saw Noah earlier this year, in which this trailer acted as the lead in to our movie, and we were left in absolute hysterics during Noah's quiet opening, as the trailer for Hercules and that line in particular continued to linger fresh in mind. But the thing is, fun as the trailers looked, they don't even scratch the surface to just how much fun this movie actually is.

For one thing, without giving away too much, this movie actually gives a pretty different take on mythology behind the Hercules legend, and one that continues to be interesting all throughout. In fact, I was pretty surprised to find that almost the entirety of the footage from the trailers only makes up maybe the first five minutes of this thing. They really don't give away anything in the marketing, which makes for an especially pleasant experience, as you'll find you really aren't quite so sure what you've gotten yourself into relatively early on.

But what you've gotten yourself into, thankfully, turns out to be a blast from start to finish. The ever increasingly over-the-top action is simply awesome and exciting throughout, and in classic action movie fashion, our heroes spew out some absolutely epic one liners at every turn.

And I found I really enjoyed the cast of characters we come to follow, cliche as they may be at times. The Rock does his thing, and he's just as awesome as you'd expect, but who really steals the show here is Ian McShane, whose antics as he embraces his inevitable demise are simply a thing of glory. But in addition to the movie's fresh take on the title character that even pokes fun at other incarnations of the character at times, there are some nice twists and turns to the plot itself, even if it is relatively simple enough for the most part.

Simply put, I wasn't exactly in the best of moods going into this thing, but this movie was just what I needed to lift my spirits. This latest Hercules completely surpassed my every expectation of it, and if you're in the need for just an all around good, fun time at the movies, then I could not recommend this one highly enough.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Queen Elsa Compilation

So this is a thing that I've been up to lately. I decided to work on a little Elsa project, which I've been calling the Queen Elsa Compilation (or in some circles, merely The Elsa Project).

Basically, this all started up when I was talking to my Ninja Kat Helper, Nikki, at Hamacon about a month ago. We were talking about some of our favorite cosplayers we had seen at the con so far, and I brought up someone who was dressed as the absolute perfect Elsa from Frozen the day prior.

I then went on to say how at all the cons I've been to so far in the year, Elsas had been surprisingly relatively uncommon, with only one that I've seen making an appearance at each of them. But oh what an appearance it was, as time seemingly stood frozen in place as they stepped into the room, and my heart would skip a beat as, there she was! And all eyes would be drawn to her, as she commanded the attention of the con-goers around with her stunning presence. And really, that's been my experience with all of the best dressed Elsas I've come across so far.

So anyways, I mentioned something to Nikki along the lines of what if I were to take a picture with every Elsa I came across and post it online, like some sort of an internet meme or something. And she thought it was a great idea, urging me to go through with it. And so I have. And these are the results to date.

Now as I share these pictures with you, I'd also like to discuss the movie itself a little. I've come to really love Frozen quite a bit. I love it even more with each new viewing, and its inherent flaws seem to diminish that much more as well, to the point where, in their own little way, they actually sort of compliment the film as a whole.


This Elsa just couldn't take her eyes off me.

Frozen may well have come to the point where it's now my favorite Disney animated film to date. And even if it's debatable as to whether or not it's actually the best, it most certainly is the most important film to come out of the studio in its entire history. So many people say that this is a movie for little girls, but really, its message is so strong and so powerful, but more importantly, its universal. It's a message that speaks to people of all ages, of all genders. And just because it's being told in what's technically a Disney Princess film does nothing to diminish its powerful message.

But not only has Frozen become my favorite Disney animated film, but Elsa is also most certainly my favorite Disney Princess at that (though she technically becomes a Queen, but I assume she would still count, right?). I just find her and her struggle so relatable on so many levels, and there's such a compelling amount of psychological depth behind all of her trauma that shaped her into the person she would become. Not to mention that she's a total knockout (though I guess you technically couldn't call her hot!), and not just in looks, but her voice! No matter how many times I listen to "Let It Go", I still get chills. And I've especially come to appreciate "For The First Time In Forever", how timid and reserved she is in the original rendition, and how comparatively open and full of emotion she sings in the reprise.


It was around this point that I realized that I'm such a socially awkward penguin, I never know what to do with my free hand until well after it's too late...

It's things like that, as well as the cleverly well thought out, foreshadowed, and recurring lyrics that string throughout all of the songs that really make me love the movie more as a whole in subsequent viewings. And even the songs I initially didn't like I've come to appreciate for similar reasons, for what they bring to the whole. And yes, as I mentioned before, even if the movie is flawed at times, the fact that it's about the struggle of these very flawed and broken characters coming to grips with their deep, personal issues actually sort of compliments the film in its own charming way.


... though I did figure it out eventually.

And as much as I love the film, it's probably no wonder that I hate just how severe the backlash against it has become as it has risen in popularity. I dunno, I guess I just really can't even comprehend how so many people can claim that it's a legitimately bad movie, when most criticisms I've heard from its harshest viewers seems to ultimately boil down to the movie daring to be something different from the norm. The thing is, I can easily come up with a rebuttal against almost every critique against the movie from the crowd of active haters, I just kinda wish that I didn't have to, and I truly wonder if there would be so many openly rallying against it like they are if the movie hadn't become as insanely popular as it has.

But anyways, now that I've gotten my updated feelings on Frozen off my chest, going back to The Elsa Project, I did find it interesting how some people decided to change things up a bit as well. For instance, here's Rainbow Elsa:

Hipster Elsa:

And even King Elsa:

And there were also times when Anna got in on the action...

... though that didn't always end up with the best of results.


Or did it? ;)

But through all the fighting and bickering, we've all just gotta remember that, in the end, only true love can thaw a frozen heart.

So that's about it for the Queen Elsa Compilation for now. And no, I didn't quite manage to get a picture with every Elsa I came across, though for those that I missed, I guess I've gotta learn to just let it go. Until next time!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction

Color me surprised, but Transformers: Age of Extinction is easily the best one yet. And really, it's not even close, it's the best Transformers by a ridiculous, stupidly large margin at that. Frankly, this is the Transformers movie that fans have been clamoring for from the get-go, it just took Michael Bay four tries to finally get it right.

That's not to say that this movie is perfect, not at all. It certainly has its flaws throughout. But the thing is that none of those flaws really stick out too badly and hold this thing down, as had become the case with the prior installments. In fact, for the first time ever, it actually appears that Michael Bay has finally learned from the countless number of errors that he continued to make over and over again throughout the first three, as most of the issues that gradually made those films worse and worse are either greatly diminished here, or outright gone.

To give a quick rundown on my thoughts of the first three movies, I actually do like the first movie. Sure, it's a problematic one, particularly with the editing and quick-cuts that made the action scenes a mostly incomprehensible mess, but it was still a mostly enjoyable movie I thought. And as hated as Revenge of the Fallen is, I actually didn't mind that one, either. That may well have been due to a handful of scenes, such as the fight in the forest, which was so awesome and an action scene that we could actually see for once, but overall, while it's certainly overly long and filled with a lot of stupid moments, I didn't all out hate it, though it doesn't quite hold up on multiple viewings. Dark of the Moon, however, I thought was awful, as it was not only needlessly longer than the other two, but also really forced the worst elements of those two to the forefront, making for an insufferable experience to sit through.

Basically, though, each new movie was essentially the same movie all over again, only much longer and much worse. And yes, while the trend of being even longer does hold true for this newest one, they actually do finally change things up quite a bit, as it's not just the same movie again, taking a different, more darker yet still appropriately fun approach in tone, a new, more likeable cast of characters, and more focus on the transformers themselves for once in these movies that are supposed to be about transformers.

Most of the groan-inducing, immature silliness from the first three is thankfully gone. Yes, there are still some comic relief, but there's no "enemy scrotums" or Ken Jeong shenanigans to be had here. It's a much more held back approach, which is a very welcome change of pace. And while there's still quite a bit of focus placed on the humans here, it's not nearly as dominating as has been the case up to this point. It's pretty much an even split of equal time given to both humans and transformers, which is much more favorable. And the fact that the humans this time around are much more bearable to spend such extended amounts of time with certainly helps in this regard.

Mark Wahlberg is such an infinitely better star for these films than Shia LaBeouf ever was. He's actually a likeable guy, and plays a likeable character who is also actually believable in the role he's playing. And the supporting cast including the likes of Stanley Tucci and Kelsey Grammer are all played really well as well. In fact, the only character that I found getting even mildly under my nerves was the boyfriend character, and that was mainly due to the inconsistency of him supposedly being this daredevil risk taker who also happens to be the biggest coward in the whole movie, but even that's not that big of a deal all in all.

Also, for really the first time in this series, the action scenes are all shot completely clearly and coherently throughout the entire duration of this thing. There are no quick-cuts of the sort to be found, and in fact, there's quite a number of longer takes that even pull back the camera to really show you all of the exciting action on screen. And that's key there, as technically Dark of the Moon had fixed some of these action editing issues already, and yet I found myself bored by the action in that movie. Not so here.

And not only that, but they really went out of their way to give all of the Transformers very distinct looks to themselves and their characters, so that there was never a moment where I was confused as to who I was seeing in action at any given time. And they actually do some really interesting things as well, such as the man-made transformers that posses additional transforming abilities that even manage to wow the transformers themselves, not to mention how cool it is to see robotic dinosaurs running rampant on the big screen.

I gotta be honest, I wasn't looking forward to this one. Dark of the Moon had let me down so badly, and I was expecting more of the same here. And unlike prior installments, the trailers for this thing did nothing to dissuade that. And yet, I came out of this thinking that this was the best one yet, and the Transformers movie that fans of the franchise have been asking for all along. Sure, it's still a big dumb action flick that you could nit-pick to death if you were to be so inclined, and it is still a very long one at that at almost three hours in length, which could have easily been cut down to two. Yet even so, I was still very impressed this time around.

And as we now approach the halfway point of the year, I gotta say that, while this time last year I was pretty let down by the seemingly endless barrage of disappointments we were getting in theaters, 2014 has honestly been a really awesome year for movies so far, and that definitely continues with Transformers: Age of Extinction. It's not quite among the best I've seen this year, but it's definitely on the higher end of the spectrum, though if I were to give a quick Top 5 so far, it'd probably include the following: Edge of Tomorrow, Godzilla, The Raid 2, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and a toss-up between Need for Speed and 22 Jump Street. So yeah, pretty great year so far, and here's hoping it continues to hold up moving into the second half!