October 31st Movie Reviews

I didn’t want to say ‘Halloween movies’ since none of them were even remotely halloween themed aside from being some sort of attempt at scary, but it’s a halloween tradition here to plunk on the couch and watch ‘scary’ movies after dark, and we made it through three of them last night.  Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Last Shift
Rookie cop spends the night alone at an old police station guarding some evidence that still needs to be transported to the new one.

See, the description for this movie was all “She meets the KING OF HELL” and I was like “this is going to be a laugh riot of a movie”, but it ended up being the best one we watched.  It does absolutely nothing new or unique; it’s all standard haunted house tricks.  The protagonist is so god damn stupid that you spend the entire movie yelling at her not to do things (but, y’know, horror movie.)  But the movie itself sets up a good amount of tension and uses sound and visuals well to set the tone.  The King Of Hell thing is not nearly as cheesy as the stupid description might have you believe.

We Are Still Here
An older couple lose their college-age son to a car accident and buy a new house to start a new life as they pick up the pieces.  Once they move in, they start to suspect the ghost of their son is still with them.

Not bad but it suffered a bit because it came after watching the much better first movie, so it paled in comparison.  Another pretty standard haunted house story, but with a few twists to keep it interesting.  I found it a little confusing though, too.  The ghosts really needed to make up their god damn mind about who’s side they were on.

Storage 24
A plane crash nearby traps several people inside a storage facility, and soon they discover the plane was carrying some deadly alien cargo that is now stalking them.

Okay, THIS is the movie I wanted to write bitch about because I spent the whole movie sending snarky texts to my friend, and it’s absolutely not because we watched some better movies first.  Needed MUCH LESS relationship drama and MUCH MORE aliens eating people.  Could you possibly write less sympathetic protagonists?  I was rooting for the alien really early on and it just kept disappointing me.

Here’s an ending spoiler, which you can avoid if you care (you shouldn’t care.  Don’t watch this movie.):
The whiniest fucker takes on a Gary-Stu style survival skills and ends up escaping the alien on, like, three different occasions for no god damn acceptable reason (camera cut!  Oh no he must be dead boo hoo ooohhhh look he lived how could this be!  Fuck off) and then slays the alien with his bare hands and escapes with all of the females.

At this point I sent a message to my friend saying “This movie will get two stars instead of one if the alien resurrects and pops out and kills them all right fucking now and that’s how the movie ends.”  Instead of that, though, he makes some flippant remarks to show how cool he is, and then they pan out to show alien ships landing all around the city.  Which is ALMOST, but not quite, what I asked for.  Okay sure the aliens are probably going to kill everyone but you didn’t show one blowing up this whiny fucker as it buzzed past, so now we can only assume he will run out there and melee all of them to death like the whiny badass he obviously is.  *BZZZT* you fail, collect 0 stars.

So, to summarize:
Last Shift was great and I recommend it, even if the protagonist is as smart as a bag of bricks.
We Are Still Here was passable and worth a look.
Storage 24 is a horror movie for an entirely different reason and thank god Netflix subscriptions essentially mean I watched it for ‘free’.  Bitching about it was highly entertaining, at least!

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Unfriended

Normally we don’t break into the crappy horror movies until October, but it’s been so cold and miserable outside that it feels like October and my husband started craving some cheesy Halloween style movies.  I picked up a few promising looking titles, and Unfriended was on top of the pack.

I was not expecting much from this movie.  A girl dies and then haunts people through Facebook?  What?  But it was surprisingly well done.

The entirety of the movie takes place on a computer screen, which is certainly a novel (and probably very cheap) way to film something, and I hope it doesn’t become the next ‘thing’ and get run down into a trench that’s the size of the Grand Canyon.  It was clearly done by someone who uses computers a lot, and it feels authentic, though there are certainly things that will annoy people who use computers a lot themselves.  For one: why is your internet connection so awful, auuuugghhh.  The video on the Skype connections is constantly blipping out, which is probably supposed to replicate the feel of a found footage shaky cam, but instead of increasing the tension I just found it fucking annoying.  Buy a new wireless card for fuck’s sake.  Also bonus marks for taking like 5 fucking minutes to download a 900kb file and then 2 seconds to download a 1.6MB file immediately afterward [/nerd rage]. There were also some minor errors here and there, which I at least found easy to ignore because there is a ghost in the computer!  But I did find it a little annoying when she shared her screen with everyone to show them that it wasn’t working, then immediately tabbed out and started typing private messages and no one seemed to remember that the screen was shared and they should be able to see it.

The story itself was well done, I thought.  A decent amount of tension and interesting outcomes.  The beginning was a little rough, since it’s basically just teenagers whining to each other and in general being annoying, but once it starts rolling it’s a fun ride.  I’m not sure if it’s a problem or not, since it is a horror movie and it’s basically par for the course, but there are no sympathetic protagonists here.  You will hate everyone and want them all to die.  Fortunately, it’s a horror movie!  So they do.  Oops, spoilers.

The Zero Theorem

My husband said “Hey we should watch this movie, Zero Theorem”.  I looked at the IMDB blurb and found this:

“A computer hacker whose goal is to discover the reason for human existence continually finds his work interrupted thanks to the Management; namely, they send a teenager and lusty love interest to distract him.”

hahahaha oh my god this is going to be so bad.

Long story short: It didn’t suck.  I actually quite enjoyed it, and it also validates the existence of my “surprisingly not shitty” tag.  It was bizarre but eminently enjoyable.  I feel like you might need to be drunk to really get the most out of it, though; at any rate you probably shouldn’t try to understand it while sober.

I glanced at some reviews and now I’m confused about all these people complaining that it wasn’t funny enough.  Did they see the name Terry Gilliam and just assume it would be a Monty Python comedy?  It has quirky comedic moments but it is not a comedy, people.  What the hell.  Complaints about the movie being confusing – valid (but not necessarily unwelcome… I liked the convoluted fucked-up-ness of the plot), complaints about the philosophy of the movie being unfulfilling – valid (if you give a shit, which I didn’t), complaints about the movie being “listless” – … valid, sure.  It felt a little flat sometimes, but that sort of complemented the main character I thought.  Complaints about it not being funny enough?  Go away.

It’s a quirky, bizarre, … whimsical?  sure whimsical… journey and it’s decently entertaining enough to spend an hour or so with.

Transcendence

The IMDB blurb for Transcendence was this:

“A scientist’s drive for artificial intelligence, takes on dangerous implications when his consciousness is uploaded into one such program.”

Misplaced comma aside (grr), it sounded like a perfect set-up for an awful movie.  But… Morgan Freeman?!?  He never makes bad movies!  Okay fine we will risk it.  I mean, it’s a sci-fi-ish movie so of course we will risk it.

After we were done, my husband’s review was “I liked that movie, but I can’t think about it or I’ll get angry.”  I should probably just leave that here as my review, too.

It was really much better than I thought it would be, probably because I had pretty low expectations.  There are a lot of stories that are sorta-kinda similar that if you liked those, you’ll probably at least sort of enjoy this too.  Parts of it reminded me of Terminator, maybe RoboCop (with significantly less exploding shit, mind you, and the exploding shit was kind of the point of those movies)… other parts reminded me of Blood Music (novel by Greg Bear)… the Replicators from SG-1 (and every other “grey goo” themed sci-fi story in existence)… there was at least one other popular entertainment media item I thought of while we were watching and now I can’t remember it so… that one too.  It was an interesting story that provided some interesting questions and made you wonder which direction they would take it in the end.

Of course, every direction they could have taken it was pretty predictable, because it’s all been done before.  I’m not sure it’s actually possible to do something innovative with this sort of storyline anymore.  It was more of a “Is the twist going to be THIS, or is it going to be THIS…” sort of thing, which is enjoyable in its own way but… meh.  It’s the sort of thing where if you tried to do something really innovative and shocking it would just be so ridiculously cheesy that it would ruin the whole story.  So the best bet is to try to approach the philosophical questions in a novel manner, and it sort of dropped the ball there.  A lot of the really interesting questions that could have been asked were drowned out by a focus on the Good/Evil aspects.  No real subtleties were explored, which left it feeling hollow and predictable.  Unfortunate.

And there were some big-ass plot holes that you really shouldn’t think about.  Seriously, don’t think about it or you’ll hate this movie.

I don’t think there’s an easy way for me to do spoiler tags if I’m not hosting the blog myself, so warning: potential spoilers ahead that will make you hate this movie:

There was so much focus on the “Is it really him?  Is it just an AI trying to take over and not really him at all?  It’s building a superhuman army!!” aspects that they completely missed exploring the “Would you take clean water, extended/potentially eternal life, no sickness, superhuman strength at the expense of your free will and privacy?” aspect.  What’s odd is they introduce those aspects, and then completely ignore them to follow the “omg an army, get the bombs” route.  I suppose bombs could be one way of saying “no I would not give up my free will”, but it’s not presented that way at all.

[bigger spoiler – seriously] How the hell does it get airborne.  I’m not disputing that it would create the technology, but it’s not explained at all, and it presents so many problems.  How the fuck are you going to do anything about an airborne nanobot invasion.  It’s like the world’s worst virus at that point (a la: Blood Music).  Shit doesn’t need to be networked anymore for it to spread because it is airborne.  Okay so maybe it’s short range airborne but y’know, throw a bone and mention that.

And somewhat related – one of my husband’s biggest complaints (before he stopped thinking about it so that he wouldn’t hate the movie): “My computer doesn’t fucking explode when I unplug it from the network.”  Why do they stop functioning when disconnected from the core?  The nanobots seriously can’t carry out repairs unless they’re on the internet?  That seems like a design flaw he probably should have considered, huh.

And if nothing works if it’s not online, how the fuck do they get into the garden if it’s covered in shields.  Even if you want to claim he pre-planted some nanobots or whatever in there, how would he have gotten her through the shield.  Explain shit, damn you.  I think it’s shoehorned in for an attempt at ambiguity in the name of ~thought provoking~ and it’s not good.

Bullets poisoned with radiation.  hahahaha.

Okay I’m going to stop thinking about it now, while I still like it.

Game of Thrones: Fire and Blood Red Ale

A Game of Thrones beer?!?  It would make more sense if it were, like, mulled wine or something… but okay sure I’ll buy it.

First up – this is a big bottle of 7% beer.  750ml of dragon-imbued ale, man.  The bottle claims it is brewed with chilies which is… worrisome?  But I was assuming this beer will be mostly gimmick and wasn’t really expecting more than cheap beer in a fancy marketing label that raises the price 800%.

We immediately proved our beer-snob incompetence by being unable to open it.  It’s got one of those fancy cork tops with the screw-down whatsits.  My husband started confidently untwisting things so I left him to it, but we ended up with a corked bottle we still didn’t know how to open.  I was reaching for the wine de-corker when he managed to pop it.  It exploded like a champagne bottle and immediately spewed foam all over.  He said “I could have popped that out right away but I was trying to avoid doing exactly this.”

It’s good when beer has a “head” right?!??  Hoooolllyyy fuck was this hard to pour due to the foaming.  And it was a persistent head, too.  It just would not move out of the way to make room for more liquid.  We finally got the thing poured and started drinking.

It’s… not awful?  I was seriously expecting a shitty gimmick beer but this is pretty good.  A bit too hops-y for me but not disgustingly so.  Probably exactly the kind of hops most people want in beer.  It’s not bitter or gross, and it has a nice fermented, slightly flowery taste.  Nice texture, too.  If there are chilies in here I have not encountered a speck of one, though.

It was also requested that I report on whether it is “epic” or not.  … Nope not really.  Sweet dragon label, though.  Okay I guess spewing foam across the kitchen was pretty epic, though, I will give it that.

A-, probably would not buy again but do not regret purchase.

The Purge

I saw the previews for this movie and immediately scoffed at the premise.  I suppose it’s an interesting thought exercise but as a movie plot… Ennnh.

We were looking for some good Halloween type movies and it turns out we may have seen every not shitty horror movie.  While I was deliberating over whether to risk a movie where a murderous bigfoot terrorizes a town, or the ghost of a shark terrorizes some fishermen, The Purge popped up in the list of horror movies and we decided we may as well see just how bad it is.

It was surprisingly not shitty.  For most of the movie, anyway.  The premise was just as shitty as it seemed like it would be, but they got past it pretty quickly and got right down to the suspense.

The suspense part was good. I actually really enjoyed the way it was shot and the tension was palpable at several points in the movie, which is all I really ask from a horror thriller.  Well that’s not true I also ask that it not be so stupid that I can’t stop laughing the whole time, and it surprised me there too.  The preview clips made it seem like the “purgers” were trying to get into the house kind of at random, but in reality the plot had some plausible explanations for all of it.

In case you didn’t have the opportunity to laugh at the premise if this movie yet, it is set in the future when the United States of America has decided that the best way to solve its issues with violence is to give everyone a period of 12 hours once a year where they can commit any crime they want and just get it out of their system.  Hate your boss? Just wait until the purge and then murder them!  This solution is so very effective that violence no longer exists.
The main character of the movie is a guy who has become rich selling security systems to people who want to lock themselves away safely for 12 hours once a year. Because somehow there aren’t more people taking advantage of that extremely obvious cash cow.

The purge begins and this guy’s young son sees a man running down the street begging for someone to help him.  The son decides to help him, disarming the system and letting the guy into the house. The guy is not only black, but also wearing dog tags to indicate he is a veteran, just to ensure the symbolism is obvious.  They did earn a few points from me for only showing the dog tags in every scene, and not having a character blatantly and repeatedly point it out.

The people participating in the purge are not pleased with this decision and give the family an ultimatum – turn the guy over to be purged, or you die too.

This is when we learn the security systems this guy sells are a very expensive equivalent to The Club. It’s a visual deterrent where they move on to a juicier target, unless they actually want to enter the house, in which case all they need to do is spend about 5 minutes attempting to break in.  Also there is a disturbing lack of copious amounts of guns which could mow down any assholes standing on your lawn while you remain safe inside.  That probably would have been the first feature I asked for when defending against a night of free-for-all murdering, even if I planned to never use it.  They proceed to spend a large amount of time creeping around inside the house and fighting, and it was pretty good for a tense thriller type movie.

Then the ending happened and I discovered why it has such a low rating.  Why.  Ugh.  The premise is so fucking stupid, all you needed to do was spit it out as a setup and then ignore it. Noooo you had to go try to make some kind of social statement. A terrible, stupid social statement.

Sigh.

It was okay but don’t expect any thought provoking social commentary, whatever their original intentions were.

Found Footage (Comparison)

I keep tripping over these things for some reason so I thought it might be fun to do a bit of a compare/contrast on some of the “found footage” style movies we’ve watched recently.

You’re probably aware of this, but “found footage” refers to a movie which is shot as though it was discovered on someone’s hand-held camera and then adapted for a wider audience.  It’s largely reviled as “shaky cam” because, as anyone who watches youtube videos knows, the average person with a hand-held camera absolutely sucks at keeping things in frame.  It’s a double edged sword because if you make it too shaky, people get nauseous or can’t tell what’s going on and it’s stupid.  If you make it too steady it’s pretty obvious it’s actually a movie camera mounted on special equipment, handled by professionals, which ruins the whole atmosphere of “oh shit they found this footage and the people in it are missing and no one knows what will happen!” which is kind of the point of it.  It’s usually resigned to cheap horror movies because of the premise and the ability to use the shakiness to obscure the scariest bits to good effect (assuming they use it to good effect, and not just “annoying as shit” effect, that is).

I was going to start with the worst movie first, but then I realized I couldn’t decide which one was the worst.  Conundrum.  Read more of this post

Here Comes the Boom

I could probably end this review with one sentence: “Surprisingly not shitty!”

My husband wanted to watch something “stupid” so I said “Hey there’s a new Kevin James movie!”.  Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t all that stupid and we actually enjoyed it, but it really doesn’t do anything unique or unexpected.  If you read any blurb about the plot you probably know what’s going to happen well enough that you could just skip seeing it, unless this is like, the first movie you have ever seen.

The plot follows a teacher at what might be the worst high school ever (…or… is it average. Sigh.)  There are a lot of thrown away plot points here which I thought was kind of odd.  He’s lazy and slacking off at his job, coming in late, sleeping through class instead of teaching, whining about being penalized for it, constantly reminding people he was teacher of the year once… none of that really matters for the movie and it’s kind of annoying, really.  The movie plot actually begins when they have a staff meeting where it is announced there are a bunch of cutbacks and the music program is being shut down as a result.  After some protesting, they are told it’s going to cost 48,000 to keep the program so it’s not happening unless you pull money out of your ass.

So, naturally, they go pull some money out of their ass.  A series of side jobs leads Kevin James’ character to try MMA fighting, because a loss in the UFC is worth 10k a piece, and who can’t lose a fight, right??

It’s mostly generic, but there are some funny moments.  [Spoiler Alert] The movie goes full out Disney when his class (which he constantly abuses throughout the film, except for like, one class where he bothers to teach them some dubious information about cells in an amusing manner, so it’s somewhat of a mystery why they end up liking him so much all of a sudden) rallies around him and gives him the strength to carry on and all that kind of shit.  Shockingly enough (oh man you’ll never see this twist coming!), he gets a random offer to go fight in the UFC!  And you’ll never guess what happens next!!!
[Seriously – Spoiler Alert] In case you can’t guess, just before the fight he only needs 8k to save the music program, so the loss will do it for him.  Then he finds out that some asshole embezzled all the money he’s raised so far so he needs 48k to save the music program.  Winning gives him 50k.  OH MY GOODNESS WHAT WILL HAPPEN?  Will the power of love and friendship prevail over the years of hardened training and experience that this UFC champion opponent has accrued?!??!  [Spoiler alert – it does.  /hurk]

I’m pretty convinced there’s just a blank template somewhere that a writer can go fill in the blanks and submit as a screenplay.  “[Character] is a down on his/her luck [Profession]____ who needs to raise $____ in order to save his/her beloved ____, so they begin training for ____ and just when you think they’re going to fail and lose everything, _____ inspires them and AGAINST ALL THE ODDS….”

It wasn’t a waste of a couple of hours but don’t expect a whole lot from it.

Wizardry Online

This review might be a bit premature, but I have a feeling it’s only going to get worse, so maybe now is a good time.

Wizardry Online!  Where did this come from??  I had heard absolutely nothing about this game until it actually came out.  I used to play the shit out of the old Wizardry series, along with Might and Magic.  Of course, the last Wizardry game I remember clearly was Wizardry 8, and since then it has apparently become an anime series full of elves with big boobs.  Unfortunate.

My husband and I spent a lot of time in Dungeons and Dragons Online, going back several times and usually subscribing for several months each time.  In fact, if it weren’t free to play, we probably wouldn’t get sucked back in so easily. The model works, as long as you’re not a greedy shithead with your pricing schemes and restriction of free accounts!
Wizardry is also free to play, and it seemed to have the kind of gameplay we like.  Co-op dungeon diving (that can be done with 2 people, but allows for more), hacking and slashing monsters in sewers, solving “puzzles” to advance through the dungeon, traps, treasure… the promise of multiclassing and other forms of advanced character building… hell we played the shit out of a game called Dungeon Lords which was about as polished as a fresh lump of clay, and we enjoyed that immensely because we were muddling through together, so Wizardry intrigued us.

Read 3500 words worth of bitching!

Uncharted Waters Online

I have a dream.  A dream of a trading-based MMO that doesn’t suck.  I mean, it’s hard enough to get a crafting system that is both meaningful and doesn’t suck, much less a decent economy that allows for players to build their own trade empires. I need a Harvest Moon MMO.  You hear me, Nintendo?  I want to grow crops and sell them at the market and upgrade my fucking barn with the profit I make from undercutting everyone else’s turnips.  And no, not Farmville.

When I went on a hunt for a trading based MMO, the majority of hits on Google were people suggesting playing the Auction House in World of Warcraft.  /facepalm.  The rest of the suggestions that sounded decent were in games that required combat, so really it wasn’t a trading based MMO, it was a combat based MMO with some decent trading (like Pirates of the Burning Sea, with an interesting looking crafting and trade system that is completely overshadowed by the conflict involved in transporting your goods, since the game focuses on sea combat and uses the trading as a means to force you into combat situations.  Ugh).  And then of course there is EVE, but I would also like to be able to jump in and have a hope in hell of getting anywhere without years of investment first, not to mention the sheer griefing potential that I would like to avoid…
So yeah.  Basically, my ideal game does not exist.

But then one of the suggestions I stumbled across was Uncharted Waters Online.  I had never heard of it, so I took a peek.  Apparently it was a moderately successful MMO overseas, and it was just recently bumped over to North America.  So the graphics are dated (originally designed for consoles, I think, so designed for weak hardware too) and some of the translations are a bit wonky.  All in all it didn’t get a whole lot of attention but it was staying afloat, somehow.  It was also free!

I decided to check it out.

Could it be? Have I found the MMO of my dreams?

Triangle

Triangle is hardly a blockbuster movie, but it was apparently quite popular overseas and then went straight to DvD in North America.  I can’t imagine why, but it almost certainly has nothing to do with the actual quality of the movie because it really deserves more than that.  So I feel like I need to give it a plug.  Even the cover does it a disservice in North America.  It’s marketed as a cheesy slasher pic but it’s actually pretty clever, and gives you a few things to think about.

Not many things, mind you.  Don’t get TOO excited or you’ll be disappointed, but trust me, do not judge the movie by its shitty inappropriate cover.

If you are one of those people who couldn’t understand what was going on in Inception, you might want to skip this one.  It does not hold your hand (and thank god for that), and even though I guessed what was going on fairly early, there were still a number of “Aha” moments where it started to fall into place as the ends tied up.  Being unable to keep all those ends in mind as you go might result in one of those movies where you turn it off and then go “what the fuck just happened.”

I still sort of did the “wtf” thing, but it was accompanied by a “that was awesome.”, too.  It came to a satisfying conclusion that left all the right kinds of questions behind.  I’m not even sure how easy it is to find, but if you do spot it, I say give it a try.

Chocolate Orange Beer

whistler chocolate orangeThis beer is another one we grabbed over the holidays, so it’s quite a belated entry… but I was reminded of it and its awesomeness and decided to mention it.

Everyone seems to come out with bizarre “holiday” flavours over the holidays (as opposed to other times, I guess…).  Everything from nutcracker ales to cardigan sweater???  I remember last year Whistler came out with a hazelnut one and it was amazing… but when we went back to grab seconds it was gone.  This year there was Chocolate Orange and it was a similar deal.  You get one shot at trying this stuff before the masses overrun the stock, it seems.

I was skeptical because I’m not a huge fan of orange flavours.  I love oranges, and orange juice, but when things are flagged as orange flavoured they usually have a disgusting distinctive “fake orange” taste that I just don’t like.  I hate hate hate orange peel, and I think that’s what they attempt to emulate, so maybe that’s it.  Or when they’re not emulating they’re straight up throwing peel into things, so the “fake” orange flavour is real orange peel, and it’s disgusting.

Confession time:  I do not like Terry’s Chocolate Oranges.  I know this will be horrifying to some, but it’s true.  Why would you ruin good chocolate with orange peel?  Why?  I suppose a lot of people say the same thing about mint, but mint chocolate is amazing so they are simply wrong.  So a beer based on chocolate oranges… I dunno, man.  But it’s Whistler and I seriously don’t think I have tried a single thing they have made that wouldn’t rank at the top of my favourites.

And then I tried it.

I’m not sure what was going on, here, but I did not taste chocolate oranges.  Maybe if you really stretched it, you could claim it was chocolate oranges.  What I tasted was caramel.  I don’t mean the caramel that people talk about when they go all beer tasting snob and noses and finishes and whatever else… I mean straight out of the center of a caramilk bar caramel.  And it was rich and creamy too so it was basically like drinking straight caramel.

It was fucking delicious.

Honestly it was a bit too sweet.  I can’t really handle butterscotch flavours for long because of how sweet they are, and this was stepping right over that line.  I don’t think I could drink too many of them in a row, but that single 650ml bottle was amazing the whole time it lasted.  And now it is gone :(.  Farewell, delicious caramel beer.