Baby Driver

I’m not really certain why I disliked this movie as much as I did.  It did do some things I liked – the integration of music into the scenes was great, and somewhat unique.  The cinematography was good.  The actual driving sequences were well shot.  Apparently they used practical effects for the driving, so that’s awesome.  The rest of it was pretty much crap.

The main character is a child prodigy with a tragic backstory who listens to music all the time and wears cool sunglasses and is just SO INEXPLICABLY GOOD at driving that he wows everyone.  For some reason, every single person in the movie has to go out of their way to be a gigantic dick to him, and then he acts all cool at them, and then they gain some grudging respect when they see how cool and good he is.  Repeatedly.  Like, that’s basically the movie because there wasn’t much else in the way of plot.  If you’re looking for a definition of Gary Stu, you probably want Cypher Raige, but this guy will demonstrate it fairly well too.

Despite being ridiculously good at driving (at the age of, what, 17?), Baby doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of common sense because he never figures out that if you switch cars, then continue driving like an asshole, the cops can figure out which car you’re in.  This seemed to really bother my husband, who finally blurted out “Has this guy never played Grand Theft Auto?”

Then Baby meets The Girl, and spends the second half of the movie pining after her.  Then he must inevitably protect her from The Bad Guys.  And then he tries to run off with her, and she’s all for it despite knowing him for like, two days, and having heard him speak like half a dozen words.  The movie would have gained a significant number of points with me if he had shown up to run away with her and she had gone “Are you fucking crazy?  I barely know you and you’re clearly a criminal!  Get out of here” and then he went to jail wondering where it all went wrong.  INSTEAD, she’s head over heels, and the entire city rallies to explain what a great guy he is despite very obviously being a criminal.  Because he’s just that god damn cool.

And then at the end, she’s like “I can’t used to your real name being Miles!”.  Is it, perhaps, MILES PROWER????  GET IT???  GET IT??? (Miles per hour, get it????)  lolololololol

I guess that was a spoiler.  Oops!  Sorry for ruining this movie for you.

I have a headache.  The writing in this movie gave it to me.

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Terminator Genisys

Dr. Who is Skynet!  It all makes sense now.

When I first saw the previews for Terminator Genisys, I didn’t know what to think.  Another fucking Hollywood remake of a classic favourite because they’re out of ideas, great.  And Arnold will be in it despite being a thousand years old now, great, that will make sense.  And Emilia Clarke is going to try to step into Linda Hamilton’s shoes.  And it’s named Genisys what the fuck.  It’s not happening guys, what the hell are you thinking.

Then we watched it.  You know what?  It was really good.  A few minutes into it my husband said “Isn’t this just the first movie??” and I said “Yes, it’s a remake” and he said “That’s stupid.”  Then I said “It’s a remake, but since there’s time travel the first movie still happened and now they’re going back in time and it’s happening again after the first one happened.  See???” and he said “Oh.  Okay that’s not nearly as bad.”

The explanation for Arnold being old was kind of silly, but it made enough sense to swallow, and the CGI to make him appear different ages was really good I thought.  And Emilia Clarke totally sold herself as Sarah Connor.  And things exploded and there was the same brutal “This heavy metal thing is smacking into that heavy metal thing” feel through all the fight scenes.  It was just all around really good and I enjoyed it.

I can’t be bothered to go get a picture so just imagine there is a picture of Arnold giving a thumbs-up here.

Edge of Tomorrow

Edge of Tomorrow opens with what is essentially D-Day on Normandy beach, except with Aliens and Mechs.  If you read that and didn’t immediately decide you’d like to see this movie, you can probably just move along to another review now, or go watch a romantic comedy or something.

The premise behind Edge of Tomorrow is that a fairly cowardly man got drafted into the military and managed to slip out of having to do any of that icky combat stuff by using his marketing skills to aid the recruiting efforts.  He’s finally drafted for a big push against the enemy, attempts to weasel out of it, and gets branded as a deserter and busted down to a private on the front line.  He’s pretty much instantly killed, but not before he gets soaked in the blood of one of the aliens. So imagine his surprise when he wakes up at the start of the same day, unscathed, and has to live it all over again.  It turns out the aliens have the ability to reset time in order to perfect their tactics, and now that he’s absorbed some of their blood, he can too.

That actually sounds pretty corny, but it’s done really well.  Cage is a character full of flaws that he irons out with (lots and lots of) practice.  The day repetition isn’t tedious or annoying – I was pretty worried it would be too repetitive but they mix it up enough to keep it fresh.  There’s also a lot of really well placed humour, particularly when portraying some of the trial and error processes that go into his character development.  Some of the other characters could have stood for a bit more developing, but they’re written serviceably enough that it still passes.  The backstory/worldbuilding is good without overstaying its welcome, and they did a good job of establishing an appropriate character and then dropping him into an environment where the viewer can “learn” along with him as a means of exposition.

I have to say this: The CGI was distractingly good.  We kept interrupting scenes to ask each other “So how do you think they did that?  Is that pure CGI or some practical effects or…?”  The aliens look awesome, the mech suits are seamless, it’s all wonderful.

If you hate fun I’m sure you could nitpick all sorts of flaws out of the plot (like how everyone who is “cool” somehow manages to discard their helmets, which is where all the aiming apparatus is supposedly housed…), but it was coherent enough (even WITH time-travel elements!) that it was enjoyable.  Thumbs up.

Bonus review:  the new WordPress editor interface is awful and I hate it.  It doesn’t solve any problems and the oversimplification results in bunches of new problems.  Thumbs down :P

Rust / 7 Days to Die

Once upon a time there was a game called Minecraft.  It was a game where you could mine, and then craft things out of the things that you mined.  So the name was appropriate, you see.  And I thought to myself “This is all I have ever wanted from a game.  Why did it take so fucking long for someone to make it?”  And then about 8000 other games tried to copy it and all of them fucked it up somehow, so I honestly am not sure why such a simple formula seems so hard to pull off.  Let me collect resources and use those resources to modify the world I am in, and ideally give me a purpose for doing so, and I will start throwing money at you.

Today I am going to compare and contrast two games we’ve tried recently: Rust, and 7 Days to Die.  Both are Early Access with similar themes of “scavenge to survive”, and both borrow somewhat from the Minecraft formula with resource collection and base building and cowering from zombies that want to wreck your shit. (Sort of.  I’ll explain soon.)
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Resident Evil 6 (Co-op)

We had heard a lot about how Resident Evil 6 was terrible, but co-op makes everything good.  We played a pretty shitty game called “Dungeon Lords” for hours and hours because it was co-op.  So when RE6 came on sale we snapped it up.  And then we played it while drunk.

The first thing we noticed is that it’s really god damn confusing to try to get co-op started.  The game starts, asks you to fiddle with some graphical settings (which kinda seemed to be wrong.  It asked me to adjust the gamma until I could barely see a “6” that by default looked like it was lit up by a spotlight.  I have a new monitor so I wanted to make sure things were calibrated correctly.  Turns out the default gamma was spot on perfect, and adjusting it at all based on the visibility of the “6” resulted in a game that looks like some dimly lit faces floating around in a sea of black.  I changed it back to default pretty quickly.), then dumps you straight into an action sequence.  I assumed I had done something wrong and missed the co-op option and backed out of it, but no, there were no menus before that point.  You had to play through the intro bits to get to the point where you select a campaign, THEN you can choose co-op.  It was really odd, especially since the into bit stars Leon and then you could go on to pick someone else entirely for your campaign.
So we played the intro bits simultaneously, getting wildly out of sync due to fucking up quicktime sequences and having to redo bits, not to mention pausing to look over and see if the other person is ahead of you or not and then yelling “oh my god SPOILERS you’re RUINING THE STORY for me!”

I was playing with keyboard+mouse because I hate shooting and camera movement with a controller.  Mouselook forever.  I almost questioned my decision during the many quicktime sequences in the intro… I will reiterate: beer was involved.  But it felt really scrambly sometimes like shit would happen it would be all “HIT THIS KEY” and I’d be all “uhhh fuck what key is that OH SHIT R R HIT R R RRRRRRR whew okay survived” and then it would go “NOW HIT THIS KEY OMG OMG QUICK” and I’d be all “fuck what keys are those?!?!”.  Embarrassingly, it once popped up the icon to hit left and right rapidly to ‘shake’ something off and I flailed around trying to hit left and right on the arrow keys, when of course it meant “A” and “D” from WASD, which I had been using to move the whole time so you’d think that would be obvious.  But it didn’t say A and D :( (remember: beer.)  In my defence, I only did that the first time and I felt really dumb about it.

I almost picked up my controller, under the assumption that the quicktime events would be a little more natural since the game is all console-ized to expect you to hit those buttons… or at least the button flailing would be more effective having less options to flail at.  Then I glanced over at my husband trying to shoot something with his controller and went “oh yeah.”  Once we finally got together for co-op, I ended up doing most of the shooting while he stabbed things with knives simply to avoid having to aim with his controller.  Teamwork.

Now, about the shooting.  We only finished one chapter last night (of the Leon campaign) before we got too drunk to survive anything and gave up, so I only got to spend skill points once and I suspect that will help things immensely.  BUT.  I cannot quite adequately explain how angry it makes me to unload three shotgun blasts into a zombie face and have it not fucking die.  Why are the bullets so god damn useless!  I was doing flying kicks and drop-elbow moves simply to hoard my bullet stash under the assumption that they would be more effective than kicking a zombie in the nuts, but noooo… when shit goes down and I pull out my gun I feel less effective.  Bullshit.  I also really disliked how my aiming reticule would float.  I originally thought it was some console auto-aim bullshit, but once I saw the skill list I decided it was supposed to represent my character sucking at aiming.  I’m not sure if I like the way it was implemented at all.  I’m used to games using a floating reticule that you have to wrestle with, but in RE6 I’ve got my mouse rock steady on the thing’s skull but the aiming dot is floating down to the middle of its chest.  Fuck you, dot.  Get back in the sights.

The rest of the game was pretty Resident Evil-like.  The writing… ahahaha the dialogue.  Let’s just say the characters are very insightful, and beer will almost certainly enhance the experience of making fun of their terrible lines.  We also spent a lot of time making fun of my character for apparently being incapable of opening a door without Leon, especially the time I stood there waiting for him and when he finally arrived and completed the co-op “open this door” chain, my character stepped back to let him gently push it open.  /facepalm. The co-op stuff was also really… “janky”, I suppose is a word.  Once, my husband went to the door and hit the “open this with your partner” button so it snapped him into standing there waiting, and then something jumped out and started nibbling on me right next to the door.  My character literally fell at Leon’s feet and wrestled it off, and Leon’s only comment was “Help me open this door, will you?”  Thanks Leon.  Thanks.  Something similar happened when I opened my menu to look at the settings (actually, looking to see if I could fix the wandering cursor problem that I thought was auto-aim) and it completely neglected to inform me that a quicktime event was happening.  I was run over by a train while looking at my cellphone, which could probably be some sort of social commentary if it wasn’t more likely to be terrible programming.

The primary complaint I’ve heard about this game is that it’s got too many quicktime events, and not enough freedom.  That’s pretty much entirely true.  Quicktimes don’t bother me, but it’s very on rails.  In the intro sequence you can’t even walk in a direction other than forward, which is kind of the point where you say “so why isn’t this just a cutscene, then”.  I don’t really have a problem with playing an interactive movie because co-op makes it awesome, but I can see how it might be annoying in single player since it’s not like the writing is amazing enough to carry it.  It can definitely feel very limiting, too.  We walked past some corpses that you KNEW.  YOU KNEW were going to attack as soon as we picked up the doodad we were going for, and my husband flailed away with some melee attacks but nothing happened.  “If these things come to life when I can’t kill them now I’m going to be pissed” he said.  Guess what!  They attacked.  At another point we had to “split up” so I could open a door for him, and I pushed a block out of the way to get to the door to unlock it.  I got turned around and went back instead of jumping down (beer) and my husband was saying “no no you must have had to push the block THIS way so I can climb on it!”  I found the door just as he said that and he followed up with “oh yeah.  It wouldn’t have given you a choice in what direction to push it, anyway.”

We’re still going to play it, and we’ll probably enjoy it because co-op… but RE6 definitely has a lot of flaws that drop it pretty far below its predecessors.  And sometimes that bar isn’t all that high to begin with…

Elysium

Since it’s so new, I will endeavour to keep this spoiler free… honestly there isn’t much to spoil, but I’ll try anyway.
Sci-Fi movie!!!!  Usually we’re pretty cheap and wait for DVDs, but we loved District 9, and the previews for Elysium looked so good that we went and saw it at the theatre.  It’s not even 3D and we saw it at the theatre!

Elysium was simultaneously really good, and also disappointing. As is typical, my bitching revolves around the writing – the movie was disappointing because it could have been really good, but the writing was just sloppy enough to be distracting in how easily it could have been fixed, god damn it.  I suspect they read the screenplay and were like “Well, we have Matt Damon and Exoskeleton suits, no one will notice.”  I noticed >:(

The premise is that Earth is fucked and super populated and polluted and all those wonderful things we can see in our future right now, so all the rich people built a space station called Elysium and moved there to live in idyllic mansions surrounded by palm trees and swimming pools.

And this is where it starts to fall flat, because the worldbuilding ends there.  All it would have taken is a few more lines of dialogue to tie everything together with a throw-away explanation or two, but instead they leave ambiguous plot ends flapping around and the audience wondering “so… why is that?”.

Elysium residents have access to Med Bays which scan your body and instantly heal each and every thing wrong with it, from split ends in your hair to cancer in your blood cells (how did they design this technology and not solve any of the other problems lying around?  *shrug*).  There was a line somewhere that suggested people are living 200+ years so they also presumably extend your life and keep you young and beautiful forever.  Every single house on Elysium has one of these med bays, and it takes a whole, like, two minutes to cure every single ailment known to man.  For some reason, even though every single house has a med bay and they also have dozens of EMS ships filled with dozens of med bays which are all run by robots so there isn’t even any manpower cost in running them, Elysium refuses to let anyone on Earth use a med bay unless they are promoted to the rank of Elysium Citizen, even pushing it to the degree of needing special identification coded into your DNA before the med bay will activate.

The character development of every single person on Earth is something like this:  “I am sick and will die if I don’t go to Elysium and use a med bay – Therefore I must go to Elysium no matter what the cost.”
The character development of every single person on Elysium is split between “Ew people from Earth are gross” and “I will take over the world.”
That’s as deep as character development gets in this movie.

Unsurprisingly, desperate people are attacking Elysium all the time trying to get to a med bay, which results in things like Elysium launching missiles at them and blowing them all to shit.  Just put a fucking med bay on Earth, and the attacks stop.  WHY IS THIS SO HARD FOR YOU TO FIGURE OUT??  Jesus.  There is absolutely no worldbuilding development that explains why they’re so stingy with their plentiful med bays, other than “Ew Earth people are gross” (not that you need to touch them or see them if you leave a fucking automated med bay on Earth, mind you… and in fact you would see less of them because they wouldn’t keep trying to come to your station to use your med bays), and “We need a reason for Matt Damon to go to Elysium” (undoubtedly the true reason).  It’s so sloppy that it was distracting for the entire movie.
Are they withholding med bays because………. Of limited resources? (Unlikely when there’s a million med bays lying around and people use them for face lifts… but plausible that they want to withhold those resources for their greedy facelifts?  But they don’t explain what they run on or how they work, so…)
Maybe the life extension benefits are too costly when the world is already packed? (plausible, but again, you think they could have mentioned that.  They’re already sequestered on their little space station, why do they care if the Earth stays crowded and fucked)
Because they’re huge elitist dicks? (This seems to be the only explanation, but there are so many other reasons to just throw a token med bay ship down there, like, NOT BEING ATTACKED ALL THE FUCKING TIME).
It feels like it would have worked a lot better if it were a truly alien race living up there on a spaceship with their super crazy technology we can’t understand, enslaving humans to build their robots, but hey they can cure diseases so let’s try to get to those med bays!  … but no, they’re humans, and they’re dicks with no really well explained reason for being so.  Yes, humans are dicks to lower classes of humans, that is well established.  But THE MED BAYS ARE FULLY AUTOMATED.  If only the med bays took fully trained personnel to run, oh look!  A reason to not have them on Earth!  But nooo.  No explanation provided.
I would have been happy with a bad explanation, like any exposition where they were all “Oh no don’t let them use our med bays because we are comically evil and if they use this the med bays will no longer be special and I want to feel special for having one”, but it doesn’t even give us that.

Slightly less distracting is the plot device that requires Matt Damon to use his brain as a flash drive, which makes absolutely no sense, but conveniently makes it so they can’t just solve the problem by shooting him because they need his brain data and it’s not retrievable if he dies.  (Incidentally – this is probably a good reason why a brain is not a good flash drive.  Among other things, which also happen.)

The rest of the movie is people in exosuits brutally punching each other, which was pretty cool… but it’s got some pretty terrible timing because I think everyone will find it pretty lacklustre coming on the heels of Pacific Rim.  Every fight scene I was distracted by the amount of shaky cam they used to cover up the CGI, and I kept thinking again how impressive it was that Pacific Rim didn’t do that.  If I’m thinking about other movies during your action scenes, there might be improvements to be made.

Oh and don’t forget the obligatory contribution of “We are the bad guys so we are going to threaten to rape the pretty girl” scenes.  Don’t forget those!

I’ve done a lot of bitching, so it’s important to point out that I did enjoy the movie, but almost all of the problems I’ve pointed out could be so easily solved with just a little bit of attention to detail.  It’s really kind of a shame.

Oh and then, of course, there’s the fact that everyone on Earth speaks English and Spanish, while everyone on Elysium speaks English and French.  I am deliberately not going to touch the potential allegories going on this movie (because you see, the English/French have good health care and a beautiful clean place to live above the dirty polluted English/Spanish people, so clearly it is a representation of how everyone wishes they lived in Canada.) (arguing about the allorgies is kind of the point of a movie like this I suppose, but you should probably have decent writing before moving to that stage >:( ), but I do want to mention that Jodie Foster has the most irritating accent going on in this movie… I think it was supposed to be French?  I don’t even know, it kind of faded in and out and was really weird and distracting.  Everyone’s accents were distracting. I think it was intentional to show some sort of melting pot society going on, but I can’t say for sure… and if I can’t say for sure, then something has probably gone wrong in the writing/directing department.  It was either an intentional attempt to show something that was a teeny bit too subtle for me because I was so distracted by all the rest of the sloppy writing, or it was just sloppily handled.

At this point it is probably distracting to think about how many times I have used the word distracting, so that’s probably the focal point of this review – there were too many sloppy distracting things going on, and just a little bit of polish could have really cleaned it up.

God, I hope Gravity doesn’t suck.

Pacific Rim

TL;DR: I lost count of how many times my eyes rolled, but then giant robots started punching giant monsters and it was awesome.

I’m not sure what I expected when I went into this movie.  I knew it was about giant robots fighting monsters and the fights were supposed to be awesome and didn’t rely on cheap tricks like shaky cam to obscure the action.  That’s exactly what I got!  But it was pretty obvious that 99.99% of their budget went into CGI and cinematography, and possibly 0.000000001% went into the writing. The premise alone got some huge eye rolls, before the characters even started talking!  Then, dear god, the characters started talking…

But let’s be honest here.  You did not go to this movie to see deep character development.  You went to see this movie to see giant robots punching the fuck out of some monsters with rocket fists and hokey samurai swords made out of chainsaw chains, and it totally knocks it out of the park for that!  Which is why it is somewhat unfortunate that it spends so much time on what were apparently supposed to be deep character development moments on characters that have no dimensions.  Every single character in this movie is a cliche cut from cardboard.

The middle of the movie dragged because there were no robots punching things.  Instead we spent a lot of time exploring the feelings and emotions of characters who are all Mary Sue incarnate.  Every single one of them.  Every single one of them.  I don’t know what the record is for number of Mary Sues in a single story, but man.  Everyone in this story has super special talents making them the best at everything, and a tortured past to make them sympathetic (when you’re not rolling your eyes at them, I guess).  Even the fucking robot is a Mary Sue (because it’s analog.  And can I just say: Ahahahahahahaahahahahahaha…).  Everyone is a Mary Sue except the guy who is a dick for no reason.  That guy is a dick.  Except he’s not even a good dick, because we already have a one dimensional evil enemy in the giant fucking monsters who want to take over the world.  So why have this guy being all dickish up in the face of the protagonist?  I don’t even know, because it didn’t even pay off in the end.  Instead they shoehorned in some sort of emotional father-son plot arc out of nowhere.  Make up your mind!

But then robots punched things.  And they punched the fuck out of things.  The CGI is fantastic, the 3D was pretty god damn good (although if I wanted to be all nitpicky I could point out that I was distracted by it a few times, so it was not the best 3D I have seen so far.  So there.)  The only flaw with the robots punching things aspect is that they did not punch things for long enough.  Why did we waste all this screen time on a ridiculous romance story, anyway?  Punch things, dammit!

Pacific Rim is an excellent movie for watching robots punch the everliving fuck out of things.  It is also excellent for making fun of bad writing.  So it’s kind of win/win I guess.

Also: May I point out that it was a terrible mistake to hire Ellen McLain to be GlaDOS as the background computer, and then only have her make one tiny not very insulting jab at someone.  Use your resources properly, people!

Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider consumed a few days of my life, and now I am going to tell you about it.  I’m not sure that it really needs any kind of promotion, but I still feel like talking about it.  I paid 13 dollars for it and I feel guilty for not paying more (although apparently they didn’t even bother to count digital distributions when they calculated whether the game was a success or not, so, welp).  It took me just over 20 hours to 100% the game, but that includes all the time I spent running around aimlessly and trying to jump on/off things just to see if I could, and obsessively reloading because I fucked up a stealth kill and wanted to try again.

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The Legacy of Nakuthcatten

After my entry on Gnomoria, I realized that, even though I was enjoying the game, there was literally nothing it did that Dwarf Fortress didn’t do (and usually better).  My gnomes met a horrible fate that was likely precipitated by expanding the value of my fortress (attracting ne’er-do-wells) before figuring out how the military system really works, so I decided to start up a proper Dwarf Fortress and compare the two.

What follows is the telling of the fortress of Nakuthcatten, legendary Dwarf Fortress in the world of Udon Tamun. Read more of this post

Liminal States

Liminal StatesLiminal States by Zack Parsons
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really struggled with how to rate this. I was originally thinking a solid 4.5, but then the ending was a little too ambiguous, so that dragged it down to 4… but the uniqueness of it deserves to be rewarded, so it bumped back up to 5. Eh, 5. Why not.

This is not a book for the faint of heart. If this book is made into a movie, they will need a very large “fake blood” budget. I meant to go back and see how many times the word “entrails” appears, but I forgot to. It was a lot, though.
It is also not a casual read. I discovered pretty quickly that it is not the kind of book you can read while half asleep at 11PM and still understand what the fuck is going on in the next chapter. The book is a masterful example of showing and not telling, and you have to pay attention to keep up.

How do I even describe this to you. At its heart, the book is a horror novel that reminded me a lot of Stephen King. A lot of the imagery is brutal or disturbing. Despite that, it somehow never seemed gratuitous. The story itself spans three time periods, which correspond to three different genres of writing. The old west, ’50s noir, and finally sci-fi and dystopian present/future.

I’m not sure I even can provide a quick synopsis of this. Let’s just say it involves a mysterious pool that seems to resurrect and provide immortality to someone who falls into it. Each section of the book follows the same characters (more or less…) but examines a different aspect of the consequences of the pool, seeming to widen the scope each time, beginning with individuals and eventually moving to a global scale.

Common criticisms seem to be that the different time periods don’t interface well with each other, making it more like three different related novels than one whole story. Looking back, I would probably agree that is true… the jumps are very significant and you have to re-orient for each one. While I was reading I did not find it to be an issue, and probably wouldn’t have mentioned it if it wasn’t commonly bitched about.

The different genres for each time period are well written and feel authentic. I’m not a big fan of noir, so the middle of the book dragged for me, but someone who enjoys the genre will probably love it. The sci-fi section had a decent “oh, shit is going down now” feel to it, and I thought the visuals worked really well. The over-arching horror story of the pool itself felt a bit vague, though. I read some discussion about it and it seems like it was intentionally left that way, and then a lot of the questions and backstory is resolved in a separate serial. I dislike relying on external material to understand a book… but to be fair, it doesn’t really matter for the narrative of the actual story, so it just left the situation ambiguous in an unsatisfying way.

If you’re looking for something unique, gripping, and disturbing, you should probably give Liminal States a try.

View all my reviews

Red Dawn (2012)

I’m trying to think of how to review this in a way that isn’t just pages of laughing.  It’s tough.

It’s probably important to point out that I have not seen the original movie.  After watching this I DID go read a synopsis, and they actually butchered the premise less than I expected!  This kind of ridiculous premise made more sense in the ’80s, I guess.  I could tell just from reading the synopsis that the original was a better movie, ridiculousness and all.

North Korea has decided to invade Spokane because… reasons.  At least THAT part is reasonably realistic – no one knows what the fuck they’re doing or what their motivations are other than “rar we defeat America rar”.  The least realistic part is that they bother to occupy Spokane.

The movie opens by introducing us to Alpha Male who is a soldier fresh back from Iraq and he’s all badass and shit and is good at combat and hardened and whatever other descriptors you would like.  We establish his manliness with a bar scene and then there is a country-wide power outage (the radios still work to relay this news.  I guess it could be a satellite radio though) and he wakes up to soldiers parachuting into his residential street.
First of all: ahahahaha the CGI in this scene.  I don’t usually complain about shit like that but it felt like someone had taken an image of a single parachute, copy/pasted it 800 times, and placed it in a looping animation to make them appear to be moving.  Then had some planes flying in front of them (think about it.).  If I had more ambition I would attempt to recreate it in gif form.Second of all: It sure is important to send thousands of soldiers to secure this residential neighborhood in Spokane.  Good thing they have such deep reserves of trained military men that they can spare for this.  Also they have lots of vehicles and tanks that materialize on the ground in well placed blockades, despite not seeing any air drops of them or anything like that.  God damn they’re organized!  You’re probably just fucked, America.
[UPDATE] I noticed I’ve been getting a lot of search hits for search terms like “why are they using American vehicles in Red Dawn 2012”.  I was not nerdy enough to notice this about the movie, but I can still answer it for you: Because it’s not a very good movie.
Alternatively, they bought the vehicles from America and then never bothered to ship them back home before invading, which also explains why we never see them being air-dropped!  All problems now solved, the plot makes total sense now.  You’re welcome.[/UPDATE]

The residential invasion was slightly explained by them finding and seizing the Mayor, so you can suspend some disbelief and think ‘okay they were targetting the mayor’.  The mayor of… Spokane…

Alpha Male immediately springs into battle readiness mode and herds a group of mewling teenagers off to their cabin outside of town.  He does this by using the most amazing 1980’s truck ever which battering-rams its way through several military vehicles and smashes shit and kills people and gets shot and keeps on ticking, losing a mere headlight in the process.  They just don’t make them like they used to.  They later get this truck stuck in a mud puddle (despite having EIGHT FUCKING PEOPLE to push it) and abandon it and I will never forgive them.

The whole next part of the movie goes something like this:
Alpha Male takes control of the situation and uses his combat knowledge to guide everyone to safety and lead them in a resistance movement.
Subordinate Male rebels against Alpha Male and refuses to do what he says, placing the entire group at risk.
Alpha Male berates Subordinate Male for not listening and takes control again, using his combat knowledge to guide everyone to safety and lead them.
Subordinate Male rebels against Alpha Male and refuses to do what he says, placing the entire group at risk.
(rinse repeat)
(rinse repeat)
Subordinate Male vomits at thought of doing violence.  Alpha Male supports him during this difficult time in his life.
Alpha Male trains Subordinate Males in combat and they bond or something I don’t even know, I think they needed to fill some screen time.
Subordinate Males are now all hardened combat veterans.  Elapsed time: three days or so?  That’s enough time, right?  Sure it is.
Alpha Male gives inspiring speech about war and how when you’re invading somewhere it’s just a place, but this is our home.  Irony goes completely over his head.

Then the resistance part of the movie commences, where the ragtag group of teenagers manage to defeat the evil army (who, I will remind you, were able to invade and set up organized vehicle blockades before anyone managed to get out of bed in this town) with clever weapons like skateboards and holes in the ground.  The leader becomes angrier with them and the rest of the country is inspired by reports about them and apparently bothers to fight back as a result, because they certainly wouldn’t have that idea on their own.

Oh and don’t forget the scene where they find themselves in a Subway, demand they hand over all their bread (to which the employee says “What kind would you like?” and they list off the entire menu) and toppings, and then have a lovely scene where they talk about how good Subway is as they eat it.  I’m sure that endorsement was entirely sincere and no extra money changed hands at all.

See, I read the synopsis for the original and I see them getting a lot of help from outside sources at points.  They meet up with soldiers from other areas who are involved in their own struggles and who compare notes.  The war as a backdrop is fleshed out and it’s clear the country as a whole is struggling, but fighting.  Not in this movie.  They take the reins and inspire an entire country with a couple of pilfered explosives (I would also like to point out they stole these explosives by… walking uninhibited into a garage containing military vehicles and just taking them out of the back seat).  The invasion seems a bit better explained in the original, too.  In this movie it’s like “whoops they invaded and now they are here, let’s get em!”  Late in the movie they get a report on how the attack went down simultaneously in a number of areas, but that’s the extent of it.  No real plans revealed, no motivations, just “they wanted to attack so they dropped paratroopers and non-nuclear tactical strikes”.  Even the parts of the movie which are retained are badly done – like [spoilers – because you care] in the original, under threat of torture, one of the members is forced to swallow a tracking device and rejoin the group.  When he is discovered as having betrayed them, they turn on him.  In the remake?  The tracking device is sneakily injected into one of the members, and when it is discovered he bravely volunteers to abandon the group and lead the bad guys away.  I don’t think a single person actually makes a fucking mistake in this movie.  Even when things go wrong it wasn’t THEIR fault.  Does anyone even have a character flaw in this movie? Except for the prick at the beginning who betrays them and steals all their food and then runs off to join the leadership of the invading army in a bid to get ahead.  At least he had some decent motivations!  But they get revenge pretty early on, making his whole role in the movie last about 10 minutes of screen time with an unsatisfying arc.

And probably the most revealing is the difference between the endings.  In the original, it’s basically implied that the fight continues and the group’s efforts were not in vain, but it’s not exactly a happy fluffy “yay we win” ending.  In this movie… things go wrong so it’s not all sparkles and rainbows, but the end is all set up as a pumped up “we are inspired and KICKING ASS over here FUCK YOU INVADERS” with heavy overtones of success.  The same ironic speech about “when you invade, it’s just a place” is given, and it still goes over everyone’s head.

I just don’t get it.  Why are remakes always so much worse than the originals?  Updating special effects is one thing (and this movie didn’t even really do that well… I’m willing to bet lovingly crafted special effects from the ’80s were better than shitty CGI from today!) Why haven’t we figured out that trying to “improve” an original by altering its basic elements will likely destroy all the parts that made the original good?

Dredd

I feel a little guilty writing this “review” since I slept through about half of it (that is not a comment on the movie, I was just really tired).  During the time I was awake I did notice a few things I was going to comment on though.

First:  This movie would be a lot shorter if it ran at normal speed.
There is a drug called “Slow mo” that makes you feel like time is moving at 1% of it’s proper speed, so every time someone takes a hit, the movie slows down and does a bunch of artistic shit to illustrate.  And it goes on and on and onnnn and oooonnnnn.  It was a nice effect, but seriously.  We get it.

Second: I was pretty impressed with the actress who played “Ma”.  Then it turned out to be Lena Headey!  I was somewhat unimpressed with her in the earlier episodes of Game of Thrones, but she’s been kicking it up a notch in the more recent ones, so watching her kick ass here bodes well.  I officially apologize for making fun of her apparent inability to have more than one facial expression in GoT.  Although to be fair, I did miss probably most of her major scenes, so maybe she sucked in those.

Third: Somehow I recognized Karl Urban while only being able to see about 1/7th of his face, even though I couldn’t actually remember his name until the credits.  I’m not sure he had a chance to do much “acting” in this movie though.  Dredd says everything in a hoarse monotone (“I am Batman”) and with the helmet and armor on it could have been a stunt man for 99% of the movie for all we know.

Fourth: The plot is kind of dumb.  I mean, we’re not expecting high storytelling here… bullets fly, shit explodes, and everyone is happy.  But the whole “these guys are dealing drugs and we will do everything in our power to stop them!” spiel feels really shallow nowadays.  Maybe that’s the point – the world went to complete shit but the cops are too busy hunting down junkies to do anything useful – but it just didn’t click for me.  Meh.

If you’re looking for action and gunfights though, shit certainly does explode, and the marriage to super slow camera effects means you get to watch bullets rip through cheeks at about one frame every 20 minutes, so you won’t miss a thing.

I will also add my husband really seemed to enjoy it, so it’s too bad I couldn’t stay awake!