Diablo III (2013)


Our Long War Ends Today, Imperius!

Diablo III (2013)I wanted to play today’s game for a very long time.  It was originally released in May of 2012 for the computer, but my computer was having far too many problems for me to even consider running a game more powerful than Angry Birds.  A year later, I was finally able to build a computer capable of running it, but by that point I didn’t feel interested anymore.  Thankfully, they were putting the game out on console a few months later.  My interest was revived!  And now I can finally bring you my review of Diablo III, developed and published by Blizzard Entertainment, and including the voices of Athena Karkanis, Dorian Harewood, Anna Graves, Robin Atkin Downes, Rajia Baroudi, Jamieson Price, Erica Luttrell, Carl Lumbly, Grey DeLisle, Crispin Freeman, Alyson Reed, Michael Gough, Jonathan Adams, Jennifer Hale, Dominic Keating, Troy Baker, Sumalee Montano, Simon Templeman, and James Hong.

You play as one of five character types in one of two genders.  You arrive in the town of Tristram following a mysterious star crashing to the ground and raising the dead in its wake.  We meet with Leah (Jennifer Hale) who was in the Cathedral investigating the ominous prophecy that may lead to the resurrection of Diablo with her uncle Deckard Cain (Michael Gough).  Upon investigation, we find that the star that crashed to the ground is actually an angel named Tyrael (Jonathan Adams), who tells us that the demon lords Belial and Azmodan are wreaking havoc through the world and that we have to stop them because … well, what else would we do?

I enjoyed this game just fine, but the story really had nothing to do with it.  Mainly because there barely was one.  It’s really not much more than, “Diablo is coming back and we have to stop him.”  They have a couple smaller things they try to fit in (Deckard and Leah’s relationship, Leah and Aria’s relationship, the little boy emperor and his besieged kingdom, the demons war on the humans, the bickering angels), but it really boils down to a really long mission to beat one boss.  They don’t really try to surprise you too much beyond that.  There is a bit of a surprise involving Leah, and also a bit of a surprise involving our main character.  I won’t spoil Leah’s, but I will spoil ours: we’re a Nephilim.  I feel comfortable spoiling that because I’ve played through a great portion of the game five times and I have no recollection of the game actually informing of this.  At a certain point, characters are just talking about that fact as if it were assumed knowledge by now.  I feel like there was another thing that the intended to be a surprise, but if that’s the case they should feel embarrassed.  We have to work with the ghost of a guy named Zoltun Kulle at one point until he betrays us.  I could not wrap my mind around the idea that this could be a spoiler.  The guy’s voice was brought to us by I Am Evil enterprises and every time he disappeared, he did so with the dictionary definition of a sinister laugh.  The only way they could’ve surprised me with that guy was if he eventually left after helping us reach our goal to go and find his home world of rainbows and puppies.  They did have lots of little journals you could pick up to get additional information, but most of them were either just unimportant things or just a characters feelings about the things going on in the unimpressive story.  I did appreciate that those journals would not be hindered by leaving the area and would continue through the load screens.  I would’ve hated having to stand inside Deckard’s room waiting for his journal to stop talking just so I could be underwhelmed by the information he was giving.

The game looks pretty good.  It’s kind of hard to say as the camera is never that close to allow us to see the details, but that’s something they pretty much need to stick to because that’s the setup of a Diablo game.  The improvements that can be seen are in the activity of the levels.  The levels in the game are always alive with little movements, from creatures scurrying around on the floor to parts of the level crumbling off when you get too close.  My favorite one was in a spider lair when a guy was dragged into a hole when I got too close.  The attention to detail – even if we never really got close enough to see that much of it – was fantastic.  Also, the cut scenes were great.  The disparity in the graphical quality between the gameplay and the cut scenes reminded me of those trailers for The Old Republic that made the game look so much more awesome than the game seemed to deliver.  I don’t mean that as a critique of Diablo, but as a compliment to the quality of the cut scenes.

I made it a specific point to dedicate a decent amount of time to each of the five character types before embarking on my review.  What I decided early on is that I always seem to pick the character that is the least prepared for my antisocial style of gameplay.  I generally don’t team up with people because people will hurt you.  I’M TALKING TO YOU, CYNTHIA!!  That being the case, you’d assume I’d be more prone to picking a tank character such as the Barbarian for my first go.  But that’s never the case.  In City of Heroes, I picked a Blaster.  In World of Warcraft, I picked a rogue.  And in Diablo III, I picked the Demon Hunter, or what is more commonly known as an archer.  So running solo was a pretty bad idea for quite some time.  The rapid fire ability helps, but I came to realize that your friends could be both assistance and hindrance.  The fact that I got into this game a while after they did helped me out because they could just jump into my game and throw away the trash they would never use, which just so happened to be excellent equipment to my lower level character.  The other side of that coin is the friends who attempt to rush you through your campaign so that you can join them in their higher difficulty campaigns.  First off, when you get bored and abandon me right before the boss, it leaves me underpowered to face it.  Second, I have a review to write!  I feel like I missed most of the story!  That’s why I had to go on my second playthrough, and I chose the wizard because I had not yet screwed myself over enough with my first character that shouldn’t play solo through missions.  The saving grace for these two characters comes when you get one of the three followers you can use when playing solo: the Templar, the Scoundrel, and the Enchantress.  The problem with these characters is I have no idea why you would ever use anyone but the Templar.  He can heal directly, heal by increasing your regeneration, and he’s also a capable tank.  Taking the other two is basically babysitting.

After those two characters, I finally got the message and went out as a Barbarian.  It was kind of boring, but I didn’t die so that was a plus.  I died a lot with the monk character, but only because he was talked up so much that I assumed I could easily waltz through one of the hardest difficulties with him.  I could not.  I haven’t yet gotten to the point with the Witch Doctor that he becomes truly badass.  The higher you level, the more creatures you can spawn to do your fighting for you.  It seems like that might get a little boring, but it would certainly be less frustrating.  All I was able to spawn by the time I stopped playing was two zombie dogs.  I named them Pongo and Perdita.

I’m sure a lot of people were worried that the controls of the game would suffer when porting from the computer to the console.  I never played the computer version, but I found the controls very effective on the console.  There are plenty enough buttons that you can map your powers to, and it got even better when my friend Hookah told me that there was a setting to change that would allow you to map any powers to any buttons and not just the five or so powers it had allocated to each button.  After that the controls were pretty smooth sailing and the gameplay style would just depend on your character.  One universal that I enjoyed was the traps that were spread throughout the levels, like hitting a chain to drop a chandelier on a group of enemies or shooting some boards that were holding up a wall to let it crumble onto the enemies.  The problem with this was that I rarely saw the traps before I had already cleared the room because of how close the camera was.  But that’s a minor gripe.

I haven’t yet gotten all of the achievements in the game, but the ones I saw didn’t seem insurmountable.  Just time consuming.  I’m sure by the time you had reached level 60 you’d probably have stumbled upon most of them.  And probably would’ve had to have beaten the game on the harder settings to get to that level anyway.  So if you’ve got the time, you’ve probably got 1,000 Gamerscore.

I wound up very satisfied with my time with Diablo III, and I’ll probably be returning to when I have the time.  It had nothing to do with the story which is so completely forgettable that it’s not even worth mentioning.  Thankfully, the things they concerned themselves with instead make the game worth playing.  It’s lots of fun and has plenty of randomly occurring events to keep you grinding in the game well into being worth its price.  Diablo III gets “Let your true self be revealed, Diablo!” out of “Even in the heart of Heaven, angels can still feel fear.”

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Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)


This is Nothing Like Being Dead.  I Know.

Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)When I saw the movie that preceded today’s movie, I remember it building so much tension that I was constantly checking behind me in the movie theater.  Not because I thought there might be ghosts or demons behind me, but because I was so on edge that if any person in the theater decided to be a jerk and poke me, I would probably piss myself.  And then murder him to death to avoid my embarrassment being exposed.  When I saw they were making a sequel, I was confused.  The movie didn’t really seem to need a sequel, nor did the movie seem to leave itself open to a logical jump to one.  But I liked the original, so I decided to give it a shot.  Today I’m reviewing Insidious: Chapter 2, written by Leigh Whannell, directed by James Wan, and starring Patrick Wilson, Garrett Ryan, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins, Lin Shaye, Lindsay Seim, Danielle Bisutti, Tom Fitzpatrick, Tyler Griffin, Barbara Hershey, Jocelin Donahue, Steve Coulter, Hank Harris, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, and Michael Beach.

Medium Elise Ranier (Lin Shaye) lies dead, strangled to death by a malevolent spirit inhabiting the body of Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson).  Still no status update on Small or Large Elise.  …Thank you.  No one is able to prove that he did it, but his wife Renai (Rose Byrne) is suspicious.  And with Elise dead, she has no one to turn to until she meets another medium named Carl (Steve Coulter) who has worked with Elise before when they made Josh forget about his ability to leave his body while he slept.  He uses Yahtzee to communicate with spirits and gets information from Elise’s spirit about where to go to figure out what’s happening to Josh before something happens to him or his family.

I liked this movie, but I didn’t find it nearly as effective as the previous movie.  I base that almost entirely on the fact that I wasn’t suspicious of random strangers sneaking up on me and using my delicate state against me.  It didn’t build the suspense nearly as successfully as the first movie, but it still did a pretty good job.  I had some problems with the story, but it worked altogether.  One main problem I had was that they let Josh go home.  First, he was suspected of murdering Elise.  Even if they didn’t have the forensics back yet, do they let suspected murderers return home to potentially murder his family and some more people while they wait for the lab to get back to them?  And going off of that, how does forensics NOT make Josh as the murderer when he strangled this old woman to death with his bare hands?  Being inhabited by an evil spirit might be a convenient excuse, but it doesn’t explain how your fingerprints have changed.  I mean, I was wondering how they would rectify the problem of wanting to keep Patrick Wilson involved in the movie even though he murdered someone at the end of the last movie, but that explanation seems to strain credulity.  I do understand Josh trying to make Renai stop thinking about the ghosts, but I don’t understand how he can had not even finished his sentence about ignoring them before going downstairs to investigate some noises.  It also doesn’t really make sense that someone would grab a baseball bat to confront a ghost.  And if you’ve already determined that it’s Josh that’s haunted and not the house, how is there ever a scenario that you would leave him alone with the kids?  But there were definitely some interesting things that happened in the story of the movie.  I like how they tied in the events of this movie with the events of the first movie, and I also liked the reveal about the identity of the Black Bride.

The ghost stuff didn’t always work for me too.  When the haunting started, the first thing the movie used with the intention to scare us was the fact that the piano was playing with no one in the room.  That COULD indicate that there’s a ghost in there … it could also indicate that it’s a Player Piano.  You’re going to need to explain to us that it’s not capable of playing by itself without spirits before I jump to that conclusion.  I did appreciate that they were able to get started with the ghosts stuff because they had already gone through the explanation and stuff in the first movie, allowing them to dive right in for this movie.  Paranormal Activity never does that.  Each movie starts with the ghost being as shy as he was in the first movie, playing annoying tricks until he eventually gets up the nerves to snap someone in half.  Of course, it was a little overt for the ghost to jump right into showing Rose Byrne how strong her pimp hand was.  Most ghosts do more frightening to build up energy so that they can move a penny up a wall, not just diving right into Ike Turner mode.  And then the movie turns into an episode of Ghost Adventures when they arrive at the hospital because most of the movie is seen through their handheld cameras.  I half expected them to run into Zak, Nick, and Aaron.  Of course, the Ghost Adventures Crew don’t get anywhere near this lucky with their investigations, so that worked in favor of the movie.

The cast all did a great job.  Patrick Wilson got to be pretty versatile in the movie since it seemed he was occupied by two different people.  But he was very successful at playing a normal (albeit a bit on edge) guy, and then a somewhat crazy guy.  But someone should probably tell him that, if he wants to have his “Here’s Johnny!” moment, a baseball bat is a pretty clumsy way to accomplish that.  Barbara Hershey’s character annoyed me at one point.  Why the hell would you take your young son into a room with a patient that had just castrated himself, thus indicating a potential flaw in his mental stability?  And what’s more, would you even be able to?  It seems like nurses might have rules against such things.  I found Ty Simpkins annoying through most of the movie, but I can’t tell if that was him or just my natural hatred of most children.  Either way, I got on board with him again when he clocked someone with a baseball bat.  That was badass, little dude.  Kind of lost me again shortly afterwards when he somehow fell asleep at will.  Maybe that’s just jealousy.  I can never fall asleep that quickly!  I’m sure it’s what she was going for, but Danielle Bisutti was a little over the top as the Mother of Parker Crane.  She reminded me of Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest, except that wire hangers were exchanged for her kid’s gender and name.  But I’ll give her a pass since she was supposed to be portraying someone that was insane.

Insidious: Chapter 2 is a solid movie that couldn’t reach the high bar set by its predecessor.  The story was alright and even did some cool and innovative things, and the performances were strong, but they did not build nearly as much tension as the first movie and thus couldn’t keep me on edge.  It’s good, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to check it out in theaters, but you could also wait for a rental.  Insidious: Chapter 2 gets “In my line of work things tend to happen when it gets dark” out of “Look what you did!”

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0021 – Riddick


0021 Snapshot

CLICK ON MY FACE TO LINK TO THE VIDEO!

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Kick-Ass 2 (2013)


I Try to Have Fun.  Otherwise, What’s the Point?

Kick-Ass 2 (2013)Today’s movie was way more difficult to see than it should have been, and Friendboss Josh is to blame.  We had been trying to see this movie for nearly a month before we could finally find the time.  First he couldn’t go because of a “butt thing.”  I’m still not sure what he meant by that.  Was it a proctologist appointment or a sex thing?  Probably both.  Then his girlfriend, the Whitney Bird, lit the bathtub on fire.  Seems impossible, right?  I mean, the thing shoots water.  The next week he was abducted by aliens.  He called it a family reunion, but when I hear about a collection of Mexicans, I just assume.  The last week was my fault because I had a creative writing class to attend where I learned how to make up ridiculous stories to cover for your bad memory about past events and how they kept you from movies.  Then Friendboss Josh and I went to see Kick-Ass 2, based on a comic book by Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr., written and directed by Jeff Wadlow, and starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Chloë Grace Moretz, Jim Carrey, Lindy Booth, Clark Duke, Donald Faison, Steven Mackintosh, Monica Dolan, Robert Emms, Augustus Prew, John Leguizamo, Olga Kurkulina, Daniel Kaluuya, Tom Wu, Andy Nyman, Morris Chestnut, Claudia Lee, and Iain Glen.

After the events of the first film, Dave Lizewski has retired from his hero persona Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), but quickly finds that regular life is not to his liking.  He decides to take up the mantle of Kick-Ass again, but this time he’s not going to rely on the fact that he can’t feel pain and actually get some training from the younger, but far better trained Mindy Macready, also known as Hit-Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz).  Elsewhere, Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) is still sore at Kick-Ass for killing his crime lord father in the first movie.  He reacts by dropping his hero persona, Red Mist, and instead becoming the first real-life villain, the Motherfucker.  When Hit-Girl’s guardian, Detective Marcus Williams (Morris Chestnut), finds out that she’s still fighting crime, he makes her promise him that she’ll stop, and will stop hanging out with Dave.  Lacking the help and training of Hit-Girl, Kick-Ass joins a hero team called Justice Forever, led by Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey), and including Night-Bitch (Lindy Booth), Doctor Gravity (Donald Faison), Battle Guy (Clark Duke), Remembering Tommy (Steven Mackintosh and Monica Dolan), and Insect Man (Robert Emms), but continues to try to get Hit-Girl back to her calling while she’s trying to understand how to be a normal girl.  Oh yeah, and the Motherfucker is trying to kill them all.  They should worry about that too.

I was a really big fan of the first Kick-Ass movie.  Going into this one I was made nervous by how poor the reviews were for the sequel, but I found the movie much more enjoyable than the other critics.  Not as good as the first, and there were some problems, but it was still worth watching.  But I’m fond of the idea of real life heroes since I semi-constantly consider it myself, but soon find that my superpower is extreme laziness.  The story was nothing entirely special, but it was interesting.  There was the whole revenge plot that drove the movie, but also the real life scenarios of Hit-Girl trying to figure out being a regular kid.  Most of that seemed like it would be really insulting if I were a lady.  Especially the whole conversation in the bedroom with the other high school girls talking about how hot and bothered they get for some Beiber-esque gay boy (redundant?) they watch on TV.  And then it works on our hero, Hit-Girl!  I’m not saying this deduction about women isn’t accurate, but it does seem vaguely sexist.  And accurate.

The performances in the movie were well-realized.  I liked these actors in the first movie; how could I not like them again?  The answer: shut up!  I’m writing a review here!  This is not a discussion!  Aaron Taylor-Johnson did a great job as Kick-Ass.  He plays it very grounded in reality, as it should be played.  But he’s also a bit of an asshole.  I understand that Hit-Girl was badass and that you probably weren’t going to get much better or be able to save the day without her, but on another level you’re trying to convince a little girl to continue risking her life.  Also, he wasn’t really that bright.  You keep hearing stories about this villain the Motherfucker and all the bad things he’s doing, but you don’t even bother to go look at his Twitter feed or his Facebook page to see what he looks like and maybe piece together that he’s that kid you were friends with and then killed his father?  It’s been a while since I’ve seen the first movie, but I feel like you might have his street address.  Speaking of the Christopher Mintz-Plasse character, this motherfucker’s whining was really getting on my nerves in this movie.  Lots of people’s dads are killed by bazookas, but they don’t all need to whine through the whole movie like a petulant teenager … like the one you’re portraying in the movie…  It was just annoying, okay?!  Chloë Moretz remains quality as Hit-Girl in this movie, but it did bother me that she was not being Hit-Girl through most of the movie.  I understand the emotional reason for it, but I also wanted more of her kicking ass.  Even though one of her moments of ass-kicking was really gross (the moment with the Sick Stick for instance) and one of them was unrealistic for this type of movie (the “last resort” thing at the end).  Jim Carrey was very good in the movie, and I was also very happy to see John Leguizamo again.  I feel like I haven’t seen him in years.  I had no idea who Olga Kurkulina was before this movie, but she sure was scary in it as Mother Russia.  Her scene of laying waste to all those cops was epic.  And since we’re on the subject…

One other thing I noticed in this movie is that the cops were the absolute worst.  I dislike but understand that they decide to put a stop to all people wearing costumes, but it seemed like they only caught the ones doing good.  Worry about them second!  Even if you have the opportunity to catch one that’s trying to do good, instead go after the ones that just killed 20 of your guys on a residential street.  THEN worry about the good ones.  Even when they were trying to do good, the cops sucked at it.  Bad guys break into a funeral and lay waste to everyone and the cops (with guns) are so much more useless than the regular people with baseball bats, sticks, and purses filled with bricks.

Kick-Ass 2 might not have measured up to the first movie, but it certainly exceeded the critical response I have seen for it.  It’s a solid movie with a story that’s nothing too mind-blowing but is definitely good, some pretty great action when it happens, and some great performances.  I’d recommend seeing this movie in theaters, but you wouldn’t be hurting too much if you waited for a rental.  Kick-Ass 2 gets “This 15-year-old girl just owned your ass” out of “Robin wishes he was me.”

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Bullet to the Head (2012)


When I Want Your Opinion, I Will Buy You a Brain.

Bullet to the Head (2012)I had a vague attraction to today’s movie for no reason other than the fact that I like some good cheese on occasion.  That’s really all this movie seemed to be to me.  I was aware of the movie’s arrival to RedBox long before I ever felt the urge to rent it because I would have to be in the mood for some cheesy action.  And then my friend Francisco requested that I review the movie.  Now I had slightly more motivation.  When his name came up on my list, I got myself to a RedBox so that I could finally review Bullet to the Head, based on the French graphic novel Du Plomb Dans La Tete by Alexis Nolent, written by Alessandro Camon, directed by Walter Hill, and starring Sylvester Stallone, Sung Kang, Jason Momoa, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Sarah Shahi, Christian Slater, and Jon Seda.

Two hitmen – James Jimmy “Bobo” Bonomo (Sylvester Stallone) and Louis Blanchard (Jon Seda) – kill a corrupt cop and he cokes it up with a prostitute, who Jimmy Bobo leaves alive.  Shortly afterwards, Louis is killed by another hitman named Keegan (Jason Momoa).  Detective Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang) arrives and starts investigating the murder and puts together that Blanchard and Jimmy Bobo killed the cop.  Kwon confronts Jimmy Bobo and is later attacked by corrupt cops, owned by Keegan and Jimmy Bobo’s employer Robert Morel (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), but Jimmy Bobo rescues him, taking him to his daughter Lisa’s (Sarah Shahi) tattoo parlor to get treated for his injuries.  Reluctantly, Kwon and Jimmy Bobo team up to reach the bottom of the situation.

I got bored even typing the summary of this thing!  This was a really lackluster movie.  It was basically what I expected it would be, but not nearly as fun and campy as most of the cheese Stallone takes part in.  It was just really bleh.  The story came across as really lazy to me.  It was like playing Diablo, a game that knows that no one cares about the story they just like collecting things in dungeons.  Go from point A to point B, learn something new, continue to point C.  Eventually you have won, and you’ve repaired your relationship with your daughter by the end.  But this game never wins, and you never collect anything from the dungeon.  It’s like there wasn’t a dungeon at all!  Anyway, back to my review of Diablo 3 … wait …  Bullet to the Head!  That’s right!  It’s not very good.  The dialogue was also pretty weak and deflating.  I harken back to the moment when they said, “Let’s go take a bath,” when going to the bathhouse.  Really?  That’s not a thing two dudes typically say to each other outside of the Castro district.  They also use their dialogue to express the characters emotions, probably because the actors weren’t really able to convey it with their performances.  Characters will just proclaim out loud that they’re bummed they didn’t kill Keegan when he had the chance.  I can assume that much, Sly.  And then the dialogue didn’t even get things right, like when they proclaimed that Blanchard’s heart was punctured when he was stabbed.  He was stabbed in the side!  That’s not how anatomy works.  I’ll allow a punctured lung at best!  And since we’re talking about the violence, what can usually sell a movie like this is having some decent action.  This movie didn’t bother with that.  Almost all of the action was as simple as one dude shooting another dude until the final fight with Keegan (which was decent).  That’s not very interesting to me.  Especially since even the most cannon fodder of enemies took an entire clip to take down for some reason.  I guess they decided that, since all they were doing was shooting people, they might as well amp that up by doubling down on the bullets.

No surprise here, but the performances were entirely whelming.  Not over or underwhelming; just whelming.  That’s apparently a word (or at least Microsoft Word doesn’t have a problem with it), so don’t say I never taught you anything.  One thing I didn’t teach you is that Stallone is not the most impressive of actors.  It’s also not the best idea to make someone who is renowned for being hard to understand the narrator of your movie.  He also didn’t seem that interested in participating in the movie, but I couldn’t say that I blamed him for that.  Sung Kang didn’t do anything I was altogether fond of.  He mainly seemed like the whiny partner through most of the movie.  Sarah Shahi impressed me with hotness, but not much else.  I also find myself inexplicably fond of Jason Momoa.  I didn’t like him when I was introduced to him in the Conan piece of crap, but I did like him a lot in Game of Thrones.  So that’s a thing.  Right?

The best I can say about Bullet to the Head is that it’s mediocre.  The story seems lazy and the dialogue is entirely unimpressive, and they don’t even bother to kick that up a notch with some good action until maybe the very end when they had already lost me.  There’s really nothing to this movie that can cause me to recommend you watch it.  It wouldn’t destroy you with its awfulness, but it may bore you to anger.  Bullet to the Head gets “I take out the trash!” out of “Bang.  Down.  Owned.”

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)


Two Hundred Thousand Dollars is a Lot of Money.  We’re Gonna Have to Earn It.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)One of the classes I was most excited for as I returned to school was a class on film criticism.  Most of you would ask yourself what I could possibly stand to gain from such a class as I have already mastered the craft.  The answer is simple: a grade and a diploma.  But another thing I stand to gain from this class is the ability to review movies I might not have gotten around to on my own.  Today’s review is one such movie.  It’s a movie I’ve already seen, and even one that I already own, but it’s also one I’ve never gotten around to, and also one that probably would never occur to me to have reviewed.  And that’s how I’ve come to bring you my review of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, written by Age & Scarpelli and Luciano Vincenzoni, co-written and directed by Sergio Leone, and starring Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, Lee Van Cleef, Aldo Giuffre, Mario Brega, and Luigi Pistilli.

A man named Angel Eyes, heretofore referred to as Bad (Lee Van Cleef), interrogates a man over soup as to the whereabouts of a man named Bill Carson, who knows the location of a hidden cache of gold worth $200,000.  Elsewhere, a man called “Blondie” by some, but Good by me (Clint Eastwood), is running a scam with a criminal named Tuco Ramirez, or Ugly (Eli Wallach), where Good turns Ugly in for a ransom on his head, only to rescue him as he’s about to be hanged.  Good eventually decides that Ugly is no longer worth enough money to continue this ruse and abandons him in a desert.  Ugly eventually survives his predicament and returns to inflict the same on Good as punishment.  But while trying to watch Good die in the desert, Ugly comes across a wagon with none other than Bill Carson on board, badly injured.  Carson tells Ugly the cemetery where the gold is buried, but won’t tell him which grave until he’s given some water.  And while Ugly fetches the water, Good manages to get the name of the grave from Carson in Carson’s final words.  Now Good and Ugly must work together to find this hefty sum of gold, but Bad is looking for it too.

It should come as no surprise that this is a great film, and no surprise that someone that likes westerns as much as I do would really like this movie.  The story isn’t really its strong point though.  It’s fine, but it’s pretty simplistic.  It’s basically just a fetch quest for a couple bags of gold.  It was always about that, even before Good and Ugly found out about the big score that became the driving factor when they were running a scam to make money off of Ugly’s notoriety.  And that scheme didn’t really make sense to me either.  Obviously the word of this scheme has spread because the value on Ugly’s head goes up after they successfully con the town out of the reward money, but if word is spreading about that, how do people keep falling for it?  Shouldn’t they expect a scary-looking blond man to free Ugly at the last moment and ride off with him with the town’s money?  Also, none of the people truly live up to their titles that they’re given.  “Good” is not that good.  “Ugly” is far from the ugliest person I’ve seen.  And “Bad” is certainly not a pleasant person, but he’s got a sense of fair play.  He doesn’t really shoot anyone in their back or cheat or anything.  Good actually came closer to cheating, like at the end when he didn’t write a name on the rock that the winner of the gunfight would get to lead them to the treasure, but it seemed unnecessary anyway.  It would’ve been strange for Good to have been able to randomly guess that someone named Arch Stanton was buried at that very cemetery.  Knowing that there was no treasure buried at this grave, you would have to assume it would’ve been at least nearby.  The worst you could have done is have to dig up 4 graves with no treasure before you found the one that had the treasure.  Also, the big moment at the end where Good saved Ugly yet again was flattened for me.  Of course he was going to save him.  Why would he have left a corpse with $100,000 in gold?

The movie was expertly created.  Though some of the things slowed the pace of the movie, it was entirely calculated and effective.  You could easily say that the prolonged shots of people’s faces before a shootout were boring, but it succeeds at building such tension before what would turn out to be someone drawing their gun quickly and shooting a guy with one bullet.  If I were making this movie, I probably wouldn’t have spent so much time watching two guys eat soup just to build that much tension before one gets shot, but I also probably wouldn’t have made as good of a movie.  The music is also really helpful in building the tension.  Think of how silly a prolonged scene of a guy riding his horse past a donkey-powered water wheel would be without the music.  And that music is great.  I first heard some of the music from this movie on the front of the Metallica album, S&M.  If it’s good enough for Metallica, it’s good enough for me.

The cast in the movie were a little cliché, but the actor’s did a good job.  Western movies need those cliché characters, so I can’t really judge them.  I don’t think anyone has been better in a western than Clint Eastwood (Sorry, old people.  I’m just not a John Wayne fan.)  He would be undefeatable in a gunfight because there’s no way you could tell where he’s looking when he’s squinting that deeply.  And think of all the different ways that dude can strike a match.  He does it with his fingernail, on his pant leg, and even on his gravely, sun-beaten face.  Dude=man!  There were some things that bummed me out about him.  Most noticeably was the fact that he wasn’t particularly talented; he was just lucky.  In some movies he’s the baddest, or the fastest, or the most accurate, or even just the cleverest.  He was more clever than Ugly in this movie, but most of what saved his life was pure dumb luck, like when the soldiers stopped marching just in time for him to realize he was about to be ambushed by people outside his room, or when a random cannon blast knocked the ground out from under Ugly, allowing Clint to escape, or when another deus ex machina shows up in the form of a wagon to rescue him from Ugly yet again.  I want him to succeed with his own sheer awesome, not dumb luck.  Also, he should really quit smoking.  Not as much for the health benefits of it, but just because of how easy it makes him to track as Ugly can just follow his cigar butts like a bread crumb trail.  Wouldn’t happen if he switched to the e-cig.  He did have a few moments of great, wry wit, like when he read the letter addressed to “Idiots” and said that it was meant for Ugly, and I appreciated that.  I didn’t really like Eli Wallach at times.  He was a little over the top – which I generally don’t appreciate – but at least it’s what is called for by the character type.  Maybe it was just the time he had the noose around Clint’s neck and announced that he intended to shoot the legs off of the stool.  That’s great!  I hate it when people actually do things in movies.  I much prefer when they just talk about what they think they want to do.  I also didn’t like his lack of resolve.  If he would just shoot Clint on one of the many times he got the jump on him, he would’ve saved himself a lot of time.  Granted, he wouldn’t have found out about the $200,000 dollars in gold, but what he doesn’t know can’t hurt him.  Also, he benefited from the fact that he made his own luck, unlike Clint who was just beloved by the angels.  I also took issue with the old guy that ran the gun store that Ugly robbed.  How is a gun store owner in the old west so ill-prepared for the possibility of being robbed at the point of a gun he owns?

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is a fantastic movie that still holds up as one of the greatest westerns of all time.  The story is nothing special.  Special is taken care of by great direction that takes full advantage of the music and the pace of the movie to build tension, and also by the actors that portray their clichés in very interesting way.  Also, it’s a Clint Eastwood western.  That’s the way to watch a western.  This is probably one of the more enjoyable movies I’ll be forced to watch in this class, but it at least makes me hopeful for the rest of the curriculum.  The Good, the Bad and the Ugly gets “In this world there’s two kinds of people, my friend: Those with loaded guns and those who dig” out of “You did a good job for me.”

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Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010)


This is my worksheet from Video Review # 20, for those that prefer reading for some reason.

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010)There really was no reason for today’s movie to come around.  No one requested it and I didn’t particularly want to see it.  But RedBox forced me to see it with my eyes when they put it up on the screen while I was perusing their selection, and then my finger forced me to click it because that mother fucker is haunted.  Then my car forced me to see it because it drove me home.  I think the biggest blame should be place on my DVD player, who decided to play it after I put it in.  It had the option to not play it.  I’ve seen it do it before.  But they did make a sequel to this movie that I also have no interest in, but I’m well aware of the fact that I’ll RedBox that one as well when it comes out.  So let’s talk about Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, based on a novel by Rick Riordan, written by Craig Titley, directed by Chris Columbus, and starring Logan Lerman, Brandon T. Jackson, Alexandra Daddario, Jake Abel, Sean Bean, Kevin McKidd, Catherine Keener, Steve Coogan, Pierce Brosnan, Joe Pantoliano, Uma Thurman, and Rosario Dawson.

On top of the Empire State Building, Zeus (Sean Bean) and Poseidon (Kevin McKidd) meet to discuss the theft of Zeus’ lightning bolt.  After checking in the cushions of the couch, Zeus decides that Poseidon’s demigod son, Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman), must’ve stolen the lightning bolt, and unless Percy returns the lightning bolt before the summer solstice, a war between the gods will erupt.  Problematically, Percy has no idea that he’s related to Poseidon.  At least not until he is talked by a Fury disguised as his substitute teacher and rescued by his teacher, Mr. Brunner (Pierce Brosnan) – who reveals himself to be a centaur – and his best friend Grover (Brandon T. Jackson) – who reveals himself to be a satyr, and Percy’s protector.  Percy’s mom, Sally (Catherine Keener), tells Percy about how Poseidon knocked her bottom out and left her with Percy, since the gods aren’t allowed to interact with their demigod children, and then promptly gets killed by a Minotaur while dropping Percy off at Demigod Camp.  Percy must team up with Grover and the daughter of Athena, Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), to find out who actually stole the lightning bolt, and then he must decide if he wants to return the lightning bolt to Zeus, or give it to Hades (Steve Coogan) to save his mother.

When the movie you’re watching is preceded by a commercial for Space Chimps 2, you can kind of get an idea of what you’re in for.  This wasn’t a horrible movie, but it struck me as really dumb.  Maybe it was poorly conceived, maybe it was poorly written, or maybe I just know too much about Greek mythology to let some things stand.  This movie has the line, “Omnipotence has blind you,” right in the opening scene.  I know omnipotence doesn’t technically mean all-seeing, but my first thought was that he was saying, “Seeing everything has made you not see things.”  They also have a scene where Percy’s mom starts telling his backstory when they get into a car, and then cut to the end of the story as they pull into their destination.  Might we have been able to hear some of that information?  It probably would’ve been super boring, but it might have had some pertinent information.  And when they get started on their adventure, it’s all about finding three jewels to go into the underworld.  What a bloody waste of time.  My recommendation for how to get to the underworld?  Suicide pact!  There’s also a whole useless section of this movie where they get trapped in a casino because they’re made to think they love it there with some hallucinogens (a lotus flower) and underage gambling.  Drug use and gambling.  Fun for kids of all ages!  The biggest problem with this movie was the whole reason for the movie: the theft of the lightning.  None of the big gods seemed to even entertain the idea that anybody but Percy could have stolen the lightning!  You could’ve looked in on him and found out that he has no clue that gods are real and yet you think he was the only possible person that could have stolen electrostatic discharge somehow?

One thing I took a lot of issues with in this movie was the fact that Percy knew so many uncommon things about Greek mythology, but was completely unaware of the things everyone knows.  I would wager that most people don’t know what a demigod is like Percy knows (before he knows that he is one, mind you), but who doesn’t know what a centaur is?  And when they’re neck deep in Greek mythology and they walk into a place filled with stone statues of people, how do they not put together that Medusa is comin’ around?  They even know the tactic that Perseus used to defeat the Medusa, but they did not bother to explain how Medusa survived it the first time.  I’m not sure, but I think this movie came out after TWO version of Clash of the Titans, so they could’ve thrown us that.  And then Percy doesn’t know how Hydras work, being totally happy with himself for cutting off all of its heads before someone tells him that this makes two grow back in their places.  Isn’t that fairly common knowledge, especially for someone who knows a thing or two about Greek mythology?  Of course, no one in this movie really seems to have great knowledge on the subject.  His teacher announces that it’s exceedingly rare for someone to be born of one of the big three gods (Zeus, Poseidon, Hades).  Are you kidding me?  Zeus got his dick wet more than anyone in written history (Ironically since you’d think Poseidon was the one with the wet dick).  Zeus was the Wilt Chamberlain of Greek mythology!

I suppose the cast did fine enough in their performances.  Logan Lerman did fine, but Percy got on my nerves.  They give him a pen that turns into a sword early on in the movie, and he didn’t even go for the joke that he should just use it in pen form, since it’s mightier that way and all.  And he didn’t even try to write the Minotaur a citation or something.  Also, he finds out in the middle of the movie that he can absorb water to heal wounds and power himself up and he doesn’t spend the rest of the movie chugging Dasani like he was breathing?  And since he’s the son of the god of the sea, I’ll allow this movie that he can heal himself with water, but how is he able to pour water on other people to heal them?  They’re not the spawns of the sea!  She’s the daughter of Athena, goddess of wisdom.  You should heal her by hitting her in the face with a dictionary or something.  Also, he got over the death of his mom pretty quickly, didn’t he?  Grover just apologizes for sucking at his job and Percy moves on.  Kevin McKidd wasn’t in the movie very long, but I still managed to have problems with Poseidon as a character.  If they wanted us to like this character, they probably should’ve thought of a decent reason why he left his family beyond just he was losing his powers.  Would that have been so big of a sacrifice to spend the rest of your life with your family?  How about something like if you weren’t there to watch the oceans, shit started going crazy.  The Exxon Valdez, the Titanic, etc.  Also, they probably should’ve chosen someone other than Rosario Dawson to play Persephone.  If Hell is an eternity spent with Rosario Dawson, I’m about to go on a murder-suicide spree.  I’d probably get the suicide out of the way first, just because it seems easier, but then some people are getting all killed up.  Uma Thurman was WAY over the top in this movie, but thankfully she wasn’t acting in it very long before she became a prop.  Also, I thought it was just adorable that they made Joe Pantoliano’s character’s last name Ugliano.  Just in case our writing doesn’t express that you’re not supposed to like him, let’s toss Ugly into his name.  Then everyone will hate old Aidsrape Hitler Ugliano.

Find the video review here.

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