A Discussion of Skyfall

I watched “Skyfall” last night and really enjoyed it. I do want to mention a few things, partially to play with a new and improved different review/discussion style i’m working on.

Also, SPOILERS. I don’t know if that’s an assumption to be made when reading a review, but if for some reason you are reading my post and haven’t seen the movie…SPOILERS.

Ok, so…

The Good: The entire Shanghi sequence. I loved the lighting here and the setting. It was a nice slow chase scene that managed to capture a very haunted feel. I especially loved how a room full of glass managed to create a shifting web of cover. And then the silloute fight scene was simply beautiful to watch.

Then we switch over to…er…new location and everything is warm and inviting. A real tone shift and a lot of it due to color and set decoration. Culminating from this was the cold and dark Skyfall set that slowly warms more and more through the third act.

All in all the settings seemed to border on the simple, but were executed elegantly. It helped evoke mood but keep me invested in the movie.

I really enjoyed the acting on display. I thought Craig brought a restrained persona with cracks of personality shining through, some of it meant only to disarm. I loved the “waste of good scotch” line, so very cold. Ralph Fiennes was very enjoyable, and I liked the effort to make him feel like ‘one of the guys’.

Judi Dench was good as always, and made great use of the spotlight put on her.

All in all, it had solid action, was beautifully shot, and the acting drew me in and kept me enraptured the whole time. No joke, I actually had a couple of muscle spasms going on in the middle of the movie but I was having such a good time I basically sat through the pain and tried to mentally force it away.

 

The Bad: I do have some minor problems with the movie, mostly lapses in what i’m branding as common sense.

The shooting of Bond; not the shoulder but via Eve. I see why it happened, and that’s good drama but it led to three of my problems. One, they were connected via headset so I think a simple “Get down Bond!” would have worked. You could say that the communicator was down but Eve was in contact with M and Bond heard everything as confirmed later. Then Bond falls off the train so Eve now has a clean shot and doesn’t even try and take it. Lame. And then throughout the move we see Bond’s nasty shoulder wound but the rest of his torso looked to be intact. He makes a joke later about “only four ribs and some minor organs” which is likely exaggeration but it indicates he was clearly shot.

The movie really focuses on his shoulder wound: the title sequence, his arm giving him troubles, remains from it form a clue to tracking down the thief. Very little, besides a few quips, is paid to the fact that he was gut shot by an assault rifle. I’m thinking his accidental shooting via Eve to be a last minute change to amp up the danger, or even take the blame away from Bond’s failure. After all with a serious shoulder wound I don’t think we would blame him for loosing a fist fight and being tossed from a train.

And finally, Silva’s escape. For the most part this was a nice sequence, and is also where I had my spasm problem, but what I don’t understand is how two MI6 security officers managed to get killed during his escape. He was presumably unarmed and locked in a secure cell. Sure the cell door was electronically locked and thus opened when the virus hit…and then he managed to leap across the room and disable the guard? No chance, this is a serious terrorist who has hacked the most secure network in Britain, took on Bond, and is a former double-oh himself. They would have drawn down on him the moment the door opened and should have at least took out his legs.

 

The Fiddly: These bits are things I could have seen go either way. They were fine in the movie, but I could also see complaining about them.

Essentially…the whole movie. I read, after the movie, a few bit stating that this film was not a direct continuation of the Bond franchise. That it goes “Casino Royale”, “Quantum of Solace” and…other stuff then this film. So now i’m left wondering if the next film will be pre-Skyfall and feature a ‘younger’ Bond or will be post-skyfall and feature a ‘classic’ Bond.

Part of this is what makes the movie really work and what makes it possibly the best of series. It could work as a capping point for the classic era leading things in a full circle, or it works as the end of a trilogy giving us the birth of a new Bond. I do wish i’d known about its ‘vaguely timeless’ nature before hand as all the “you’re getting to old for this Bond” stuff struck me as a bit soon or at least heavy handed.

Also, I liked Ralph Fiennes in this and think the new Moneypenny is cool. However I was also left thinking, sarcastically, ‘at least everyone now knows their place.’ We took out a woman as head of MI6 and replaced her with the old standby: a rich white guy. And let’s not have a likable and capable female worthy of working alongside Bond, get her ass behind a desk.

 

But anyways, the problems I had were minor and some of them I could see why they did what they did. For the vast majority of the movie I was very happily entertained. It was fun and exciting with a lot of visual style. I’m not a huge Bond fan, only owning a very few handful of the movies, but this one I will likely buy when it comes out.

 

Also, if ‘fiddly’ the best word to use there?

Changes, about time…

Dear readers,

I have decided, once again, to make a change to this blog. Unlike the previous ‘changes’ this time I am finally free of college and now have free time to make good on my promises. I began this blog in an effort to play with my writing skills, but lacking direction I floundered a bit and had nothing to force me into adherence. I am now setting down what may be called a ‘mission statement.

I have always been a gamer and have announced my love of all types of games, even beyond role playing variety. Of late I have found myself drawn strongly towards board gaming. I know that when I say this most people envision “Clue” or “Monopoly” and those are board games to be sure. But there are other board games, ones that involve more than tossing a die and pushing a bit of plastic around a track. I have recently played a board game that brought up feelings of anxiety and panic, more so that most other forms of media. I have also spent much of my free time refurbishing an old board game that I used to love.

So I am going to begin focusing on these. I have finished my initial list and I count myself owning nineteen board games. This includes certain dice and card games as well. After factoring in games owned by friends, and a shopping spree I plan to embark on for my birthday, this list should rise to thirty-plus. To those who enjoy my RPG reviews and postings, I will not neglect them. I like to feel that the line between board game and role playing game is a blurry one so RPG reviews will still be at home here.

And here the final twist hits. If I am limiting my blog to RPGs and board games it is to give me focus. But focus does not shape a thing or set up limits. I am deciding now to limit myself via brevity, clarity, and conciseness. And to help me do so I will attempt to do these reviews in video.

Yes, video. My goal is to write a review that contains a simple intro, a clear covering of the rules, and then my opinion and final rating of the game. There are many video reviews out there, and many of them long and filled with ‘amusing anecdotes’ and ‘rambling’. These videos are good in their own right but I aim to create something more accessible. I plan to create videos so that not only will my writing be force to conform but also so that I can practice conveying information and maintaining a professional appearance.. So I plan to aim for videos no longer than ten minutes in length with only minimal ‘self stories’ that actually tie into a subject and convey rules or subject information.

I do not have an exact date for these reviews to begin. I still have some preparation to make but I should be ready to start rolling in about a month, maybe a bit longer. At first I may release one video every two weeks but I would like to do a video a week if possible.

Finally, I think I have enough material for a year’s worth of reviews, longer if I’m lazy. But if there is a certain product you wish reviewed I will accept gifts and review those…or just give me a name and I’ll see what I can do. I’m a poor man, so the gift option is the best. Heh.

My name is Jack, and I am a gamer.

 

Scream: the whole series

The more I stare at the word ‘scream’ the weirder it looks.

 

Yes it’s time I covered the Scream series. It has its detractors but it was a pretty big deal when it hit and it did chance the face of horror, a face that had become stagnant. Not all of the fallout was pretty but it shook things up and it was none too soon.

I’m not going to hide it, I love the first Scream movie. The actors nailed their parts, the kills were effective, and the score honestly really got to me. I always feel a nice bit of catharsis at the end of the film, and the score really helps with that.

Of course this movie is known for being self-referential and laying out ‘the rules.’ I call BS on that. No one ever claims to be in a movie, or seems to break the fourth wall. It’s really just a matter of of the film allowing these kids to know, and have seen, horror movies before. Think about a vampire movie and eventually someone will have to discover that the creature is a vampire and how to stop it. That would never happen in the real world; we have vampire movies. This is part of my love for Fright Night because it acknowledged that the main characters had seen vampire movies and knew what they were. Same deal here, the teens in Scream have all seen horror movies so they recognize when a slasher starts hitting the streets.

And yes, there is a sequence where a character exposes the ‘rules’ but it’s also shown that these rules don’t apply to what passes for real life in the film. It was a reflection of our culture at the time, we had seen it all and we fall back on what we know when challenged. It reminds me of a time that the owner of a local arcade suggested that he wouldn’t be afraid in a horror movie because he had basically seen them all. It’s a type of insulated arrogance that lacks any real substance. I’ve seen all the Halloween movies but you can bet the last donut that if Myers was walking towards me I’d be terrified. Because that doesn’t happen and my knowledge of movies doesn’t’ exactly translate into a real life and death scenario.

So what was Scream? It was a slick, smart slasher that examined horror set in a world of people who know better. It was plausible, it was fun, and it hit the scene like an atomic bomb.

So it had to have a sequel. Scream 2, which thankfully didn’t have a weird subtitle-y name, is not as good as the first film. It starts off really well, set during opening night of a movie made about the killings from the first movie. It carefully recreates a few moments from the opening of the original while showing us how humans get far too excited about real world tragedy…until it hits them in the face.

It’s a strong opening and it quickly gets us back into this world while still holding onto the subtext of the first film. Unfortunately the rest of the film doesn’t hold up as well. There is too much playing to the ‘rules’ concept and a lot of the situations seem contrived. We get a suspect breakdown via ‘who it would be in a movie’ that seems to be a serious conversation instead of rejected right out and several characters seem to end up in the same building for various non-sensical reasons in time for the big finish.

It’s not all bad though; there is some real suspense about the killer due to a few nicely writer characters. In particular I enjoyed the character of Cotton Weary who comes across as a greedy, selfish bastard who really doesn’t want to hurt anyone…or does he?

To be honest Scream 2 is a good slasher, the pacing is tight, the kills are decent, and it stays interesting. The real problem is it’s a sequel to a great game changer and it just doesn’t hold up.

But it did well, so they gave us Scream 3. This movie is simply not very good. The insistence on movie rules applying to real life in horribly forced in, possibly to lampshade some questionable plot developments. The kills are boring and horribly placed, with much of the movie laboring under the absence of any real action. It also ups the ‘meta’ content by taking place during the filming of a sequel to the fictional movie and thus having a bunch of new characters whose only character traits are that they play versions of the real characters. Toss in random celebrity cameos and a voice changer that can miraculously mimic any voice and you get a poorly written cash in.

The series was dead in the water for a while but recently we finally got Scream 4. And they very nearly pulled off a great movie. But they didn’t.

Scream took the horror genre and twisted it, for the fourth movie to survive it needed to do the same thing. When Scream 4 hit we were in the midst of a huge ‘reboot’ or ‘remake’ craze and it feels like this film really wanted to go for that. A reboot in the notion that the plot is essentially the same as the first film; remake because there is a cast of characters that very much resembles the characters from the first movie. But this time instead of authority figures who don’t know how to handle things we have the original cast back.

This could have been the best way to give the old crew their fade out and build a new set of characters. Simply focus on the new teens and have them dealing with the deaths while around them there are all these famous people who have survived this kind of thing in the past. It would give the old heroes a strong, but supporting, role and allow us new blood and a new direction. A sort of ‘real life reboot’

Unfortunately this movie revolves around the standard heroes and the new guys barely amount to anything. I love Sydney but by this point I tend to not fear for her life. Putting her back in center stage honestly lowered the tension, and keeping the entire group of new teens open to suspicion meant lots of options making it too hard to try and pick a killer. Plus there is one of the dumbest deaths scenes in a slasher ever. In a serious movie it ranks up there with Wile E. Cayote falling from a cliff after running on air for a minute. What’s worse is that it could have been truly horrific, but then the actor speaks.

That said it isn’t a bad movie. I could see where it was trying to go and I border on placing it above part 2, but in the end even though it had its teeth back it still hug it’s hat on the old ways but the point was ‘time has moved on.’ You can see glimpses of what might have been, especially with an awesome dig at all the remakes late in the movie, but in the end we are left with a simple finish and not the grand slam this series deserved.

Scary Movie time, also October.

Halloween creeps upon us and I stand here ready to fulfill my obligation of watching a bunch of scary movies.

Last year I covered what I felt to be the three classic series in modern horror. It was a rough ride but I still feel pride about them.

This year my plans are somewhat less ambitious, but I will still try and get two updates a week up during October.

I plan to cover movies that played a part in revitalizing the horror genre. It’s a loose plan, and some may have problems with my pics, but still I will push on.

This week I will cover a well known series. The next two weeks will be slashers and japanese horror. Torture porn has no place here so expect no Saw.

On the final week I will post reviews for the two films I suggest everyone watch this year, my top pics.

A Discussion of Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark

Looking away from the dark, scary hole is a bad idea...

Usually I just talk about the movies here from my own perspective. That’s how this works. But when I watched “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” I was not alone, and the reactions of myself and my girlfriend were very different. With this in mind I must lay out both sets of opinions to give a full view.

First we will talk about me, because I’m writing this.

This movie is a lot like a robot playing the violin. Technically it’s perfect, but not an ounce of soul. The camera work is good, everything looks rich and dark, and it’s a good kind of dark, the spooky kind. The monsters are mostly hinted at and feel pretty creepy. That said I wish they would have kept with the whispering more and less of the generic shrieking, but still they were creepy little buggers.

The acting was very solid. Though it’s hard to see from the trailers but the father here is played by Guy Pierce and it’s awesome to see him back in film. Unfortunately he’s playing the generic haunted house movie father which makes him less likable. He does what he can with the part but in the end it’s a thankless task, but again it’s good to see him again. Katie Holmes felt real good here. I liked her back in the “Disturbing Behavior” day but always felt she stuck out like a bad thumb when hanging around Aaron Eckhart or Christian Bale. Here, in a scary movie setting, she fit right in and I found myself cheering her on. She plays a generic character, as all the characters here are, but she does it well and it’s nice to see her and not hate her.

Also the little girl, played by Bailee Madison, is awesome. She doesn’t exactly act as a kid her age would (case in point, she goes into the dark, scary hole, I’d set it on fire and run) but that’s a script problem and not an actor problem. I found her likable and not at all annoying.

But on the whole this movie had amazing sets, good actors, and apparently a competent man behind the camera…it just felt very generic. It’s worth a watch but it won’t shake your world.

On the other hand…It scared the hell out of my girlfriend. She could barely watch the movie and I thought I was going to have to leave simply to preserve her sanity.

Maybe the movie just failed to faze me and it’s my fault, because at least one person was scared by it. I still think it missed the mark and likely would have been better served by being a horror-comedy like “House” or “Gremlins.” But as a straight up scary movie I can’t help but feel it missed the mark, it’s still good though.

A Discussion of Let the Right One In

Best part of the film, right here.

 

I assume the title was a warning telling me to put something else in the DVD player and not the crap composed on this disk. Alas I actually watched Let the Right One In and I must say I am not impressed with Sweden.

I hate movies that are based on one remarkable trait and then spend forever building up to it as if it’s some kind of awesome mystery. It’s billed as one of the most amazing vampire movies ever, but we spend most of the movie with a psychopath in the making on his slow path to making friends with someone who might be (IS!) a vampire.

And yes, the little albino boy here is a psycho, but worse he’s an ineffective one. Bullied in school he pretends each night of using his knife to eviscerate his classmates while demanding they squeal. But then he gets beat up. But then we get a vamp- no wait, first we get the most useless serial killer ever. But then a vamp- no, idiot towns people…

But then the vampire shows up and we spend a painful bit of film talking about a rubiks cube and then the words “Here, I’ll show you.” And we have to watch an albino teach a vampire how to use a rubiks cube!

I just didn’t care about anyone. I cheered when people died. I get the strong impression that this is the wrong thing to do, I think I’m supposed to have developed a connection to these characters. I’ve heard the two kids had awesome acting skills…but I don’t speak Swedish, and the girls voice was dubbed, so how could I tell?

Occasionally we get a cool bit with the vamp climbing a wall or demonstrating what happens when they aren’t invited in, but mostly it’s a slow moving, uninspired film about buddies bonding…and one of them is a psycho. The other is a vampire.

Perhaps I should give the remake a chance. It’s gotten good press, and I hear a lot of it is shot for shot and it replaces idiot towns people for a cop…you know someone who would investigate the murders that are being committed in the sloppiest ways possible. I may still yet watch that one. And then rant on it…it’s beginning to feel like a vampire month.

A Discussion of Conan

Man, just look at Jason Mamoa up there. He’s got that lion-like mane of hair, those dark eyes, and the build of a panther. Not pictured is the wolfish grin he puts on while slicing people up. The man IS Conan. It’s awesome that they found not just someone to play a perfect Conan but a fan who wants to be the perfect Conan.

Unfortunately he is surrounded by piles and piles of shit.

I had so much hope. This movie was made to show people who Conan really is, they make that clear in the credits with a nice disclamer pointing out that this was based off Conan as conceived by his creator Robert E. Howard. It is not a remake, it is an attempt to get Conan’s name out there and treat the character right. But it is a failure.

Again, I had hope. They show his ‘birth in battle.’ Early on young Conan viciously takes out four picts single-handedly. This is awesome. Later in life after he has freed a bunch of slaves he is asked “How are we to live? You have taken all the weapons and food?” Conan laughs and then takes one of the women too. It seems like someone involved understood that Conan should not be the movie you take your girlfriend to see; it is the movie you see then go home and take your girlfriend.

But then the rest of the film just messes everything up. The plot is inane, once again hinging on a childhood tragedy to motivate Conan. To hell with that! The literary Conan left his home because he was bored and wanted a drink, not due to some sort of injustice done to his people. There are mindless scenes tossed in simply so they can have more flashy fights, not a single thought given to why they are happening. The subtitles keep telling me where each location is, but it never stops to provide space or depth. I know Hyboria and still couldn’t tell you where things were going down at.

Also, I suggest to the scriptwriters that if the entire plot hinges on an evil warlord obtaining a crown of amazing power, that this crown should actually do something other than make the warlord look like he is wearing a stupid hat. Plus, if you are an evil warlord and Conan is balanced upon a disk held in place over a volcano only by a pair of rocks it is best to not jump in after him. You have minions evil warlord man, you throw your minions in until their dead bodies weigh the disk down enough to make it fall.

The second offender was the music. Conan is already attached to one of the best film scores ever, so this movie had an uphill battle to fight. And it lost hard. I found the score to be unremarkable and mostly unremembered. I say ‘mostly’ because I keep thinking of a scene where Conan has to sneak into a secret ceremony but as he breaks a guards neck the music comes charging in behind him. It felt crass and jarred me from the film.

The cinematography was also complete garbage. There was this guy, I don’t know who he was, but he wrapped a chain around his arm and picked up a hammer. The film dedicated roughly eight cuts to these actions. I couldn’t get a grip on where or how the action was taking place. There was a lot of movement and people seemed to be doing stuff of interest but I couldn’t see a bit of it. Also the special effects and gore. There was a lot of gore, and GCI. So…a lot of GCI gore. I’m not squeamish, and there should be a lot of blood in a Conan movie. However there should not be so much that as I leave the theatre and trip I fear hitting the wall because I know my body will immediately drain itself of the red stuff. It was so overblown that at one point a man was hurled into a wall, who he was or why I don’t know, and he didn’t splash blood everywhere and I was taken out of the movie by that.

This movie sucks, but I hope it gets a sequel. I would love for Jason Mamoa to play Conan again, but this time in a good film. It’s somewhat funny. The old movie felt like an actual Robert E. Howard story, it just failed to have a good Conan. To this day I just pretend Arnold was a Nord and enjoy the hell out of that movie. Here we have a great Conan, but a shit movie in all respects. If we could only drop the stupid slaughtered Cimmerian village crap and drop Mamoa into the original movie it would be truly epic.

 

Also, the whole 3D thing…this film went with the ‘horror movie’ 3D with stuff flying at the camera. It’s sad because with the originals sweeping vistas and clear cut cinematography it would probably look great in 3D. But here I’m sure had I actually seen this dreck in 3D I would have had a seizure.