Archive for the ‘ At the Movies! ’ Category

UFC 143 in 3D: The Experience: The Review: #Reload

A few months back, it was announced on the Ultimate Fighting Championship website that that the heavily-awaited Interim Welterweight Championship bout between Nick Diaz and Carlos Condit at UFC 143was to be screened in movie theaters across the country in 3D. I scoffed for a bit, especially when Dana White, president of the UFC, said “I know the fans love 3-D, so I’m happy to give them this championship fight live and in 3-D in theatres across the country”. I’m not so sure that we, as a society, love 3D as much as they’d like to believe.

But regardless, I was intrigued. This had never been done before- the 3D filming, at least. UFC had broadcast a handful of pay-per-view events at select movie theaters before, but not since the Brock Lesnar/Cain Velasquez fight in October 2010. I attended the first UFC theater experience at UFC 111, featuring the Welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre (who is out on injury, which is why Diaz/Condit fought for an interim belt) and Dan Hardy, and had a pretty amazing experience. Watching a PPV for maybe 1/3 the cost, in a crowded room full of MMA enthusiasts, on a huge screen in HD is an excellent deal. But this time, UFC was going to broadcast all the punches, kicks, submissions and trash talking…in 3D! It was either going to be completely awesome and an amazing experience, or a total bust, with a crappy conversion and boring fights. I’m here to say that it really was neither, but that I had a good time regardless.

I don’t want to spend too much time on reviewing the fights, because this isn’t an MMA forum, but I’ll add my two cents with some bulletpoints at the end of this review, but for now, I’ll just give an overview of the experience.

Before the Event

I arrived at the theater around 6:45, 15 minutes before the pay-per-view was set to start. Luckily, they played the Countdown to UFC 143 special (which basically is a “hype video” for the event- giving you stats, insights and history of the fighters and why their match-up at the PPV will be important) before the fight started, and I was surprised to see that UFC actually converted the video to 3D. You can tell that the video itself wasn’t filmed in 3D, so it didn’t look too hot, but overall, it was understandable.

Then the actual PPV started up, as the crowd (maybe about 140 people in a 200 seat theater) settled in, and we were treated to a new UFC intro sequence! As UFC fans would know, the infamous “gladiator” intro (which I’ve imbedded below) was replaced this weekend with a kinda neat intro featuring some of the most memorable knockouts & fights in UFC history composited over scenes of a building breaking from the inside (to make it look like the fights were so brutal that they’re destroying the building from the inside out).And then we were showed the arena pan and introduced to our announcers for the night, Jon Anik and UFC lightweight fighterKenny Florian. Normally, the UFC PPVs are announced by the team of Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan (who are always excellent at what they do), but since the 3D feed is separate from the 2D feed that folks were getting at home, it was understandable that they needed a different announcing team to handle that. I missed Joe & Mike from the broadcast (Joe Rogan did do post-fight interviews with the winners in the octagon after), but Anik & Florian did a solid job calling the action.

During the Event

I’m not really interested in giving a review of the fights, like I had mentioned before, but I can review the experience, and overall, I had only a few complaints. This was the first time that UFC had ever broadcast 3D footage on a nationwide scale, and as such, there were a few hiccups throughout. Everything that happened in real-time was filmed with actual 3D cameras, but all of the archived footage was converted to 3D afterwards, and it really showed. Because the feed was in 3D, the cameras were placed at different angles than what you’d be used to when watching a 2D UFC fight. The angles were more canted, placed at angles on top of the cage, as opposed to dead center or in the corners. This gave a bit more depth to the fights (think the 3D angle in Super Street Fighter IV for the Nintendo 3DS), but the video wasn’t popping out at you constantly, which was nice. Specifically, the Roy NelsonFabricio Werdum fight would transfer to a behind-the-shoulder viewpoint for portions of the fight, and it came close to looking like you were at the event yourself. The entrances for the fighters looked absolutely stellar, as well. Watching the fighters backstage, performing reps or exercises legitimately had a clean look and popped out of the screen, which was very, very impressive. The onscreen graphics, including the logos, titles and the round timer were slightly rotated inwards as to pop into the screen, and looked nice as a result.

Angles liked this looked absolutely stellar in 3D.

Angles liked this looked absolutely stellar in 3D.

However, the angles in the octagon were not always ideal for the fights, and there was switching to the single-lens cameras (which output a noticeably converted feed to our theater) but that’s something that can be solved in the future by employing other 3D cameras around the cage. Also, there was a decided lack of the Octagon Girls in 3D, with only one Arianny Celeste appearance throughout the 3 hour event. Bummer.

Conclusion

Come on, who wouldn't want to see THIS in 3D?

Come on, who wouldn’t want to see THIS in 3D?
Condit going to war with Diaz in the Octagon.

Condit going to war with Diaz in the Octagon.

Overall, except for one of the five fights, the event was a fun one, the crowd really got into it, and it was an interesting experience. $25 (which is about half of what you’d pay for the PPV in standard definition) was a pretty solid deal for the chance to see some brutal fights on the big screen, surrounded by your peers, in three-dimensions. I’d go again, but I hope that A. UFC only uses the format for the really important and high-selling PPV cards (fights including Georges St-Pierre, Anderson Silva, etc) and B. that if the UFC commits to the idea of 3D, that they plan for it ahead. Maybe have the intro movies remade specifically in 3D or add a couple of more 3D cameras during the broadcast. Otherwise, I’d give a pretty solid recommendation to the UFC’s first PPV in 3D, and I’d most certainly go again sometime.

Extra Thoughts

  • Kenny Florian is basically a Bizarro version of Ben Stiller, if Ben Stiller could break your arm.
  • The Josh Koscheck fight was by far the worst fight of the night. Slow, stiff, boring and an absolute chore to watch. Since Josh Koscheck is “the most hated man in MMA”, the fans understandably booed him out of the building after his decision victory, and his post-fight interview amounted to giving the crowd the finger and saying “I somehow find a way to win”. I don’t like Josh Koscheck just because he’s a bland, boring fighter (that’s a good reason), but because he has no fucking personality whatsoever. If he’s going to be a bad guy, be the bad guy, don’t half-ass it. Chael Sonnen fully commits to his image, and Nick Diaz just says whatever the fuck is on his mind, but Koscheck doesn’t give a crap either way. He must be a chore to be around in real life.
  • On the other hand, Roy Nelson is absolutely perfect at being the hometown big boy who just happened to get a chance to fight in the UFC. And that’s no schtick- that’s Roy Nelson. He’s just a chubby dude who likes to eat, drink and punch people out. Nothing more, nothing less. He’s the Hacksaw Jim Duggan of the UFC. He also looked fantastic against Werdum, who is overall a stronger fighter. Werdum’s the man who slayedThe Last Emperor, after all.
  • I can agree with Condit winning the decision over Diaz if Condit won with a score of 48-47. But two 49-46 votes and a unanimous decision? That’s some bullshit. The match was too close to give to either fighter decisively, which is why there’s an uproar over the decision right now.
  • Diaz’s post-match interview was just about as close to an example of “ragequitting” as you’d get in the UFC. Pretty brilliant though, and I understand how Diaz feels (it really could’ve been his match), but I doubt he’ll actually retire. He’s just pissed off by the sometimes questionable politics of MMA scoring, understandably so. But man, what I would’ve given for a Nick Diaz/GSP staredown at the end of the PPV.
  • Jon Anik did hint at future UFC PPVs in 3D. I’d certainly go to another one. Maybe we’d be so lucky to see Silva/Sonnen 2 in 3D?

Lists of Stuff I Liked in 2011

Hey, it’s 2012 everyone! Here’s a pretty bare-bones list of my personal favorite things from 2011. I’m going in more detail about the concerts because I really didn’t have another outlet for talking about those other than right here. As for games/movies/albums, I’ve talked about those on other sites or on Twitter significantly, so just peruse through there and figure it out yourselves. Otherwise, enjoy!

Favorite Games of 2011:

  1. Shadows of the Damned
  2. Dark Souls
  3. Rayman Origins
  4. Ms. Splosion Man
  5. Uncharted 3 (so far)
  6. Trine 2
  7. Mortal Kombat
  8. Battlefield 3
  9. NHL 12
  10. LittleBigPlanet 2

Also deserving of some merit: LA Noire (haven’t got into it yet, but so far it’s neat), Jurassic Park: The Game (enthralled the entire way through), Rock of Ages, Mount & Blade: With Fire and Sword

Favorite Movies of 2011:

  1. Midnight in Paris
  2. Hanna
  3. The Adventures of Tintin
  4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows: Part 2
  5. Hugo
  6. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
  7. Warrior
  8. Super 8
  9. Bridesmaids
  10. Fast Five
  11. “Best” movie of 2011: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1

Also deserving of some merit: Horrible Bosses, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Thor, Captain America, The Muppets, Arthur, The Mechanic, Cars 2, The Lincoln Lawyer, Hobo With a Shotgun

Favorite Albums of 2011:

  1. Girls- Father Son Holy Ghost
  2. Adele- 21
  3. Various Artists- Drive Original Soundtrack
  4. Chemical Brothers- Hanna Original Soundtrack
  5. Wye Oak- Civilian
  6. Tyler the Creator- Goblin
  7. Feist- Metals
  8. Bon Iver- Bon Iver
  9. Bad Meets Evil- Hell: The Sequel
  10. St. Vincent- Strange Mercy
  11. Special Award for Best Video Game Soundtrack: Sonic Generations 

Also deserving of some merit: Florence + The Machine- Ceremonials, Beastie Boys- Hot Sauce Committee Part 2, Dum Dum Girls- I Will Be, The soundtrack to Catherine,  Flogging Molly- Speed of Darkness, The Raveonettes- Raven in the Grave

Favorite Concerts/Sets of 2011:

  1. Prince at The Forum- One of the best performers of all time, every single minute had everyone off their seats and joining into the party. Prince is a must-see before you die, no matter what you think of his more contemporary music. It’s exactly what you’d expect from one of the seminal musical acts of our time.
  2. Rush at the Concord Pavilion- Totally saw this same show a year ago at a different venue. Still amazing live.
  3. The Hold Steady at Treasure Island Music Festival- directly in front of the stage. Rocked so hard that I couldn’t even go see Death Cab following.
  4. St. Vincent at Treasure Island- also amazing live. Annie rocks my socks.
  5. Explosions in the Sky at Treasure Island- I’ll always remember how Explosions quite literally just came up on stage, said “We’re Explosions, we’re from Austin” and immediately just started rocking out after. I’ll never forget this one.
  6. Anamanaguchi/Peelander Z at The Roxy- one of my favorite venues in Los Angeles for not one but TWO crazy fun rock sets back to back. Saw them both separately this year but couldn’t compare to the awesomeness of their joined forces
  7. Avenged Sevenfold at the HP Pavilion- if it wasn’t for the awful, aggressively and offensively bad openers, this would be higher on the list. Brilliant live
  8. MC Chris/MC Lars/ Mega Ran/ Adam Warrock at The Catalyst- due to some poor planning, I missed all but Chris’ set at Slims’ the previous day, so I made the trip to Santa Cruz to see the entire set. No regrets- all performers were on point. Had a blast watching them perform.
  9. The Raveonettes at the Troubadour- my favorite venue in LA and one of my favorite bands ever. Close to perfect. As my roommate (who wasn’t too familiar with the band prior to going) said, it was ” the chillest concert I’ve ever been to”, and I’m likened to agree with her.
  10. Buckethead at Hardly Strictly- whatever man, Buckethead’s awesome, and his set here, while it kinda just came and went due to the lull of the crowd, was spot-on, full of guitar prowess. And “Jordan”.
  11. Best Concert that I didn’t see live but watched the livestream of so it totally counts: LCD Soundsytem’s last concert ever.

Also deserving of some merit: Standing Shadows at Brick & Mortar (weak crowd but fun set), MC Frontalot at Cafe du Nord (same, but also neat cameo appearance by Unwoman), Del The Funkee Homosapien (terrible sound system and one of the worst crowds I’ve ever had to deal with, but Del’s still a fun performer), Weekend (first performers I saw at Treasure Island- groovy in all the right ways), K. Flay & Teddybears at Rickshaw Stop (Teddybears are weird as hell but cool live, K. Flay’s a hell of a live presence on stage), Jim Campilongo at Yoshi’s (randomly got invited to see him for the first time an hour before the show started & loved it), Arsis/Firewind at Slim’s (Arsis is always interesting, even with the replacement singer, Firewind had a fun set).

Biggest surprises/disappointments for some reason in 2011

  1. Randy Savage died- FUCK MAN
  2. The remake of Arthur wasn’t horrible- It wasn’t! And normally I hate Russell Brand!
  3. Transformers: Dark of the Moon wasn’t an abomination- I actually own this movie on Blu-Ray, that’s how much I liked it. Wow.
  4. Duke Nukem Forever was released, finally- and it sucked! A game so nice I bought it twice! How does that work?
  5. Catherine wasn’t as amazing as it could’ve been- huge disappointment, but I’ve said too much already
  6. Steel Panther was both hilarious and hugely disappointing live- set was late, the in-between song banter was fun more often than not, but there was a HUGE lack of actual Steel Panther songs besides “Community Property” and another song, rest were covers. I liked the comedy and all, but I kinda wanted them to talk less and rock more. We couldn’t get “Death to All But Metal” at least?
  7. Dum Dum Girls aren’t that interesting live- I like their music, but when you think about it, it’s full of pretty maudlin lyrics and simple instrument backing. It truly showed live. The band just kinda came in and played their stuff and there wasn’t all that much interesting about it. Considering that The Raveonettes have a similar type style and killed it live, this came up short in comparison.
  8. Tha Carter IV- I’ll just let you figure this one out yourselves.
  9. 2011 was a huge year for platformers- Trine 2, Ms. Splosion Man, Rayman Origins are all in my top 10, and that’s that I haven’t even touched Kirby, Super Mario 3D Land and a bulk of others.
  10. Beach House at Treasure Island came up short- IN MY OPINION, that is. Of course. Dreamy and calm and whathaveyou, but much like the Dum Dum Girls set, nothing grabbed me, and I felt underwhelmed by the end of it all.
  11. Honest surprise that I forgot to add until now- The TNA House show I attended in San Francisco was fun as hell, with really only one mediocre match of the bunch (Jeff Hardy’s return match, at least he’s on the up-and-up). Heel Bobby Roode vs. James Storm was an absolute delight the entire way through, and seeing Mickie James in action was fan-friggin’-tastic.

Things I Want in the Next Month or So

Shadows of the Damned.
NHL 12.

BlazBlue: Continuum Shift

Another Playstation Move controller.
A Playstation Navigation Controller.
Another box to store games in.
New shoes.
PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake on Vinyl.
Fast Five on Blu-Ray.
The riots in England to cease.
Playstation Plus year subscription.
My goddamn CM Punk shirt.

Transformers 3 on Blu-Ray

Awesome vegetarian cooking skillz

Time Crisis for PS3

My testicles.

That’s about it.

What Happens in Bangkok can’t even compete with What Happened in Vegas- The Hangover Part II review

Let’s face facts. I can say literally whatever I want to in this review, but it won’t change a damn thing. If you’re interested in The Hangover Part II, then by all means, I won’t be able to persuade you otherwise. You will go see this film, laugh a good amount, be reasonably entertained, and be on your way. You probably won’t regret seeing The Hangover Part II unless you really hated the first film’s type of humor. In that case, you should probably see something a bit more tame. May I suggest Kung Fu Panda 2?

Here’s the set-up: Stu’s getting married in Thailand to a pretty girl with a disapproving father. Instead of having a bachelor party, Stu and friends decide to have a bonfire, drink a couple beers and call it a night before the wedding ceremony. All the fun is figuring out what happens next, but needless to say, Stu’s soon-to-be brother-in-law is in real trouble, and “the Wolfpack” has to save him while getting back to the wedding on time.

The Hangover Part II (I’ll just call it Part II from here on out) follows the same formula as the first film, to a fault. Straight up, if you took the first movie, set it in seedy-looking Bangkok, added the word “again” to the dialogue, substituted the baby with a chain-smoking monkey, and replaced the Kanye West & Wolfmother songs in the first film with newer Kanye & Wolfmother songs, you’d have Part II. It’s really disheartening to see that from this film, especially considering that The Hangover took a pretty standard “wild night” plotline and infused it with such wit, such shocking, inspired and hilarious moments. Part II lacks a lot of the surprise that the first film had.

However, there are plenty of strange, sometimes ungodly funny segments in the film, don’t get me wrong. The first hour or so is a laugh riot, and it’s pretty fun attempting to figure out just what debauchery took place the night before. I like the action setpieces as well- the chase scene in particular is well-shot and thrilling. Alan (Zach Galifianakis) again provides a ton of laughs with his arrested development persona, while Stu and Phil (Ed Helms and Bradley Cooper) do what they can with their limited roles, which usually just consist of constantly asking “What the fuck is going on?!?” every five minutes or so. The rest of the gang is back, either fulfilling their obligated duty to the franchise with glorified cameo roles (Jeffrey Tambor, Justin Bartha) or as integral characters to the plot (Ken Jeong, who has no problem with full frontal nudity, apparently). The laughs start to stop near the 60 minute mark, as the movie gets a bit too dark and mean-spirited for its own good (also the problem with Todd Phillips’ last film, Due Date, which is a lesser film than this one). There’s a pretty amazing (but still inferior to the first film’s) photo montage sequence during the end credits, so look out for that. (No Thor’s hammer or Samuel L. Jackson with an eyepatch after the credits, however)

The Hangover Part II is a totally serviceable sequel to an excellent raunchy comedy. However, there is no possible way that the film can’t be compared to the original, especially considering how closely it sticks to the formula from the first movie. There are moments and lines of brilliance here and there, and you most likely won’t regret watching this film if you’re paying to see it, but the whole film just reeks of laziness. It’s too content with recreating what worked in the first film as opposed to taking a risky approach to the material. What was once novel is now getting stale, even after just two films. But hey, it could’ve been worse. Much, much worse, right guys?

The Human Centipede (First Sequence) Review- Ass-to-Mouth(-to-Ass-to-Mouth)

This is one of those films where you can immediately tell whether you have interest in the film just by looking at the title. The Human Centipede (First Sequence). It’s where a dude attaches other people and forms them into a centipede-looking creature. Still interested? Then by all means, take a gander at this film. There are quite a few caveats that you should take note of when watching, but one thing shines so brightly above the rest that you can more or less enjoy the film on its own terms.

Literally the film is basically just an execution of the eponymous premise, but there unfortunately is quite a bit of uninspired set up. We’ve seen this story before- two pretty best friends (Ashley C. Williams and Ashlynn Yennie) are traveling during the summer, driving through Europe and looking for parties, booze and hot hookups. While traveling at night, their car breaks down, and they stumble upon Dr. Heiter’s (played by a pitch-perfect Dieter Laser) humble abode. Heiter drugs the girls, and the next morning the Doctor ties them to hospital beds (along with a kidnapped Japanese backpacker portrayed by  Akihiro Kitamura ) and tells them of his plans to surgically attach all three of them and keep them as some sort of deformed creature to parade around. And then Heiter makes good on his plans. There are occasional scenes of tension and conflict as the centipede attempts to escape, not to mention the introduction of two detectives trying to find the missing Americans, but the ending is not hard to predict. This is a situation where no one wins in the end. Story-wise, it isn’t particularly engaging until the big surgery happens and after that, it never really hits those highs again. There’s really only one standout in this film, and his name is Dieter Laser.

I’ll say it right now. Dieter Laser was born to play Doctor Heiter. He crafts what is quite possibly one of the most horrifying and yet strangely compelling villains ever in a film. Just about every scene with him shines because Laser is an absolute master at his craft. When Heiter utters to the girls “I despise human beings” early on in the film, he says it with such fervor and contempt that you can’t help but believe the man. When Heiter tells of his plans to his audience via a crude slideshow, explaining in detail the surgery process over the patients pleas of mercy, it’s the work of a sick, maniacial, disgusting human being. And when Heiter sees his creation and cries tears of joy, I knew immediately that this is a character that I would not soon forget. The film is not only made watchable because of Laser, it’s entirely enjoyable and darkly humorous to boot.

I’m extremely glad that the director Tom Six made this film as a sort of disgusting horror comedy with emphasis more on the latter than the former, because a serious version of this film would never work, either from an artistic or commercial perspective. It’s never truly graphic (though there are some brutal scenes of surgery, violence and yes, poop humor) and it never truly takes itself completely seriously, which is a good thing. I found myself laughing throughout the film, and I’m pretty sure that’s the director’s intention. Technically, this film is not particularly good. At best, you might say that it’s serviceable. The acting (Laser aside) is passable, the script is competent, the direction is workmanlike. But Laser truly is the glue that holds everything together. Without him, this film would never have worked. He is just so manicially, bizarrely compelling that it makes you want to see just what crazy shit he might think of next, which is half the fun of this film. Obviously there are people who want to see this film and people who are repulsed by the simple premise of Centipede. For the latter, move on from this review. For the former, I am here to tell you that The Human Centipede never truly makes good on its potential, but if you take it for what it is and you revel in the gross, dark humor of the film, you’ll absolutely enjoy it, possibly even more so than I did.

Now, I have another question to pose to you guys. Dieter Laser for Best Supporting Actor anyone?

 

Tron: Legacy Review- Beautiful like the Ocean, Deep like a Kiddie Pool

My first recollections of the Tron franchise came with not the film itself, but the video game series, which ranged from at times stellar (Tron the arcade game) to disappointing (Tron 2.0). With that said, the first time I saw Tron ( the film) was in early 2008, after hearing about how entertaining the film was. So I went in watching that film already knowing that the special effects weren’t going to be earth-shatteringly amazing, the story was going to be lacking and the dialogue was going to be corny. And still, I came out of that film loving every second of it, despite (or in many instances, because of) its deficiencies. It might have felt dated if you saw that film in the early 80s & came back to it 20+ years later, but I still found it as fresh and entertaining as it was back in 1982. With that said, I was very, very excited to see an updated sequel with the filmmaking styles and technologies of the 2000s applied to this particular storyline of the 1980s.

Here we are, it’s 2010 and we have a sequel to what was originally considered only a minor success back in 1982 in Tron: Legacy . And…it’s not bad. Ironically (or fittingly), this movie has the same problems as the original film. It’s gorgeous to look at, and a marvel to listen to, but it falls short in the story department.

Without getting into spoiler territory, I’ll just give the basic plot outline. Sam Flynn (played by Garrett Hedlund) is a 20-something delinquent who finds himself trapped in the computer world that his father disappeared into some 20 years earlier. With the help of his father, Kevin Flynn (played by a scruffy looking, always game Jeff Bridges) and a loyal, fierce and feisty warrior program named Quorra (the lovely and talented Olivia Wilde shines in this role), he aims to take down the evil CLU (a program played by a creepy-looking-for-all-the-wrong-reasons CGI version of Bridges) and find his way back to reality. Regardless of the odd logistical, computer heavy jargon, at its core Tron Legacy is really just a simple chase film, with the protagonists taking hold of a Macguffin type item that the antagonists search and want for some nefarious reason. At times, it’s way too simple, taking elements from previously established sci-fi franchises. You’ll get the feeling that the script was made as a weird hodgepodge of elements from The Matrix, Star Wars and Blade Runner and mixed them together to create something resembling creativity. And because of this, there are quite a few plotholes here and there that can really get in the way of your enjoyment of the film if you think about them for too long.

The performances here are solid. CLU very much belongs to the school of the uncanny valley, but Bridges more or less does a serviceable job with this villain role. His part as Kevin Flynn is little more than“The Dude-lite” but everyone loves The Dude, so that’s totally A-OK with me. Garrett Hedlund is…fine. He’s not completely devoid of personality like a certain Avatar/Clash contemporary of his, but I feel the character needed a bit more personality than Hedlund gave in the role (though his reunion scene with Bridges is genuinely touching, mostly due to Hedlund’s performance). Bruce Boxleitner is in the film as well in another dual role- as a member of Flynn’s company board of directors as well as the eponymous Tron himself. Michael Sheen is also another actor who rarely gives a bad performance. Even though he is essentially playing the same character as his character Aro from The Twilight Saga, he shines. Both Sheen and Bruce needed more screentime, in my opinion. Olivia Wilde is the…wild card here (sorry, really couldn’t avoid that one), as her character could have been stoic and personality-free, or annoyingly childish and naive. Luckily, she’s neither. As Quorra, she is both child-like and strong, timid and domineering. She kicks a hell of a lot of ass in this film, and I have a feeling that this might just be her breakout role in film. She is by far the most interesting character in the film.

However, I feel that Tron as a franchise was never meant to inspire Oscar-worthy scripts or performances. It was always meant to be a technological marvel. Tron Legacy absolutely succeeds at this goal. It’s absolutely, ridiculously gorgeous to look at. The scenes are bright, fast and very flashy and the world that is created is just phenomenal. It’s as state of the art as Avatar or any of these other powerhouse blockbusters. It truly makes you believe that this world is real, which is Tron’s biggest attribute. Regarding the presentation in theaters: The 3D, in my opinion did not do it for me, and I feel a solid 2D screen will get the job done just as well (without that muddy 3D picture), but if you like 3D, you’ll love the visuals. The soundtrack by Daft Punk is stellar as well. This is not Pitchfork, so I won’t review the soundtrack, but just know that while it lacks the memorable Tron theme from 1982, it is euphoric and wonderful to listen to. This is one of the few times where the music elevates the visual material at hand.

If I were to describe Tron Legacy in one word, it would be, simply enough, “cool”. It’s cool to watch. It’s cool to listen to. It might not have a lot of deep substance going on underneath, but damn if it isn’t pretty to look at.

A Review of Machete

Hello friends.

Sorry that this blog has been absolutely dead for the past 3 months or so. Although this isn’t an altogether “new” post, this is something to tide you over until I start blogging again. Enjoy this review of Machete I wrote a while back. Hint: It’s pretty good.

The story behind this film is certainly an odd one. Once upon a time, writer-director BFFs Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez made a love letter to those pulpy, tasteless, over-the-top exploitation films they loved watching so much when they were young. That film was called Grindhouse. In an effort to ape the cinema experience provided in the late 70s/early 80s, the film was a double-feature, intercut with advertisements and trailers for fake exploitation films. One of those trailers was called Machete. Starring Danny Trejo (a Rodriguez regular) as an ex-Federale who takes revenge on the people who set him up and left him for dead, it was just about everything you could ask for from an action movie- explosions, suspense, double-crossing, knives, boobies. Then somehow, someway, Rodriguez got to thinking that maybe the trailer would actually work as an honest-to-god action film. So he made a full blown movie based on that 2 1/2 minute trailer. And for some reason, it totally works.

I don’t want to get into spoiler territory here, so I’ll just give the gist of the story. Machete is the story of an illegal immigrant/ex-Federale who takes a seemingly simple assassination job but ends up getting caught in a government conspiracy involving the illegal drug trade in Mexico as well as the immigration issue in the United States. But mostly you need to know that Machete is one bad-ass motherf***er with a sharp attitude and an even sharper blade. He kills things, he chops things off, he shoots things off, he stabs things, he even finds time to sleep with just about every attractive lady in the film (and there are many, including Michelle Rodriguez playing a character who’s a sort of take-off on Che Guevara and Jessica Alba, a U.S. customs agent who more or less kicks ass or looks pretty when needed). Basically it goes without saying with these exploitative action films is that the entire movie just about comes to a halt whenever something story-related (i.e. a scene without an explosion) is going on. The story is a bit too convoluted at times, and Rodriguez never had the knack for dialogue Tarantino has, so characters aren’t as entertainingly loquatious as you’d want them to be. At times, it feels like a scene of pure intense action can’t happen without slow, plodding exposition first. Not to say that the exposition is as unbearable as something like The Last Airbender or Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, but it’s safe to say that when the action lets up, the film begins to falter.

Ultimately, you’re not going to see this film to see nuanced characters and a rich, envolving tale of intrigue. You’re going for the unadulterated action (and boobies). There’s plenty of that, trust me. The violence in the film is absolutely ridiculous, even by Grindhouse standards. The title of this review alludes to just one scene of intense, absurd gore that I won’t spoil, but just know that there are eye-stabbings, decapitations, limbs chopped off, killer nuns, crucfixations, and much, much more. The best part of all this is that the film has a sense of humor about itself. Rodriguez has never truly taken himself or his work all that seriously, and it shows throughout the entire film. Yes, there are a couple tasteless, groan worthy moments (the crucifixion scene in particular), but then there are scenes where the film (and by extention, the audience) is able to laugh at and with the conventions of the genre. There’s one brilliant scene where Machete is seconds from killing a bad guy, until the goon drops his gun, exclaims “I give up” and walks away. Even the illegal immigration subplot works in a dark humor sort of way (akin to Romero using zombies as metaphors for American society). The actors know that this film isn’t to be taken seriously, which is why everyone from Robert De Niro (as a scumbag, fiercely conservative politician) to Jeff Fahey (as De Niro’s right hand man) to Steven Seagal (who is basically playing a more maniacal version of himself) chew the scenery just about every time they appear on screen. Danny Trejo as our protagonist does a fairly good job killing dudes and sleeping with women, but he’s probably the least interesting character in the entire film. Everyone else is just so ridiculous, so over-the-top that an illegal immigrant with a bigger kill count than Rambo seems less interesting in comparison. Oh and before I forget, yes Lindsay Lohan is in it. Ironically (or not), she’s basically playing a spoiled, attention whore with drug problems who is not afraid to use her assets to get what she wants. Sound like a stretch for her, doesn’t it?

Overall Machete is about as entertaining as a full-length feature based on a 2 1/2 minute fake movie trailer can be. It’s ridiculously, gloriously violent, sexy and profoundly stupid, and it’s not a film for everyone, but it’s everything you can possibly want from an exploitation flick, without that icky feeling you get after watching one.

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