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Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Babadook Trailer is Pretty Awesome

A little movie that almost slipped under my radar. It's a Sundance movie out of Australia and looks absolutely crazy and freaky in a good way. I love these type of dark fairy tale type of horror movies, if done right. No US release date yet as far as I can tell, so I don't know if it'll wind up a wide release movie or something that'll go VOD on us. Either way, I wanna see this puppy. My only hope is that it's half as crazy as the trailer; if so, I'll be most pleased.

Friday, February 7, 2014

My Film Education: Billy Jack


I was born on June 25 in the year 1979. Many movies have come out in the 34 years since; a ton beforehand. If you've done the proper math, you'll realize that I grew up in the golden age of Spielberg, Lucas and those type of guys. My childhood soundtrack was a steady dose of John Williams (with a special shout-out to Alan Silvestri for no other reason than Back to the Future is right up there with any great Williams score of my early years). I love a good movie and unfortunately, there are quite a few notable flicks that came out before I was born that I've neglected to see. So, every so often, in this age of movies at our very fingertips, I'll fire up a classic and jot down my thoughts about it.

Billy Jack

With the passing of actor Tom Laughlin recently, the Billy Jack series was brought to my attention. I had a vague notion of these movies based on seeing DVD covers and whatnot over the years, but really had no idea what they were all about. Just some old movies about a dude with a hat. Turns out, they're good old fashioned vigilante movies about a dude in a hat. Or are they?

Billy Jack was the movie I saw, which I gather is second in the series that started with Born Losers.Billy Jack is a half Indian/half white Vietnam Vet and former Green Beret with some sweet karate moves that usually ends with his foot buried in some racist's face. Billy Jack, the second movie, follows the travails of a free spirited learn-what-you-want, leave-when-you-want school on the Indian reservation and how the townspeople mistreat the students (which appear to be made up of Indians and hippies) when they make their trips into town. A sheriff deputy's daughter ends up pregnant (probably by a loser Indian scum, to his thinking) and after beating her, she takes refuge in the school out of the town folks' jurisdiction. These are nonviolent, pacifist kids led by a nonviolent, pacifist school marm, so they are easy targets for the bullies of town, which are led by a town leader's son of course.

Fortunately, they are watched over by the not as quite a pacifistic thinker Billy Jack who feels as though it's his duty to throat punch anybody stupid enough to start any sort of shenanigan's with these peace lovin' kids. The Sheriff himself is on Billy Jack's side, but his hands are tied most of the time because of the evil white non-hippie types that actually run the town. He does what he can to protect Billy Jack, but that doesn't go too far. When Bernard Posner, son of the imposing MISTER Posner, runs afoul of Billy Jack, things begin to get messy.

You would think this would lead to a Kill Bill-like carnage filled whirlwind of vengeance and broken bones, but you would be a bit mistaken. See, this movie tries to be a bit more than that. There is surprisingly little Billy Jack led martial artistry, but a lot of the school drama hippies acting out scenes for class. They use their wicked drama skills to try to win over the townspeople in a less bloodthirsty strategy of bringing about a sort of peace between the two factions.

This is a movie that tries to be about themes of peace being a better alternative than violence. Which is weird when it draws you in based on the martial art skills of it's title character and star. Most attempts of violence and vigilantism lead to dire consequences. The movie wants you to see how cool Laughlin is, but show you that roundhouse kicking evil rich high and mighty in the gut is really not the best way to go about these sort of things.

Look, I like what the movie is trying to do and admire it's attempt to rise above typical 70s grindhouse fare. But it can drag between action set pieces. A big deal is made out of the fact that Billy Jack is part Indian and they are on Indian Land and the school is in Indian Land, but aside from a character or two at the school, there are hippies coming out of the wazoo. They love to act, sing and question the man. The townspeople are befuddled and frightened by these non-white kids and the unwashed longhairs that are their friends. And for the time that the movie came out, it probably struck a chord. It was probably head and shoulders above what other flicks of time were trying to do. If you're coming to this movie because you heard it's about a karate kicking ex green beret who kicks through a whole throng of townspeople, you may find yourself fast-forwarding a lot. Aside from a couple of scenes near the beginning and the obligatory stand-off at the end of the movie, the action is very lite and the social commentary is through the roof.

The acting is by a lot of non professionals and I've seen a lot of criticism for the amateurishness of it all. For me, it really wasn't that bad. I've seen bad acting before and in this movie it came across as kind of charming. The lines aren't said with the same gutsy confidence of a great actor, but something about some of these line readings came across as more natural and real because of it. That's just in my mind, though. It could grate on the ever living nerves of other people if they chose to dwell on it.

What I love about the film series is that its the brainchild of it's star, Tom Laughlin. I'm not totally up on the whole back-story, but from what I have heard, he figured if people weren't gonna put him in a movie he wanted to be in, he'd just write, direct and star in one himself. He was one of the forefather's of independent film, it would seem. And the movies became a success, so that's very good on him.

I'm glad I watched the movie. Not exactly what I expected going in based on the vigilante theme of justice I heard about beforehand. I don't know that it was all that good a movie for me, but it held my attention for the most part and entertained me at others. I don't feel as though I wasted two hours of my life, but I don't know that I would ever revisit it. I'm also unsure if it had my interest enough for me to go ahead with the sequel, The Trial of Billy Jack. I certainly don't have an itch to see it right off hand. However, the character himself is interesting and mysterious enough for me to be intrigued in maybe visiting another movie with him sometime in the future. I guess we'll see.

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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Iron Man 3 trailer

Spending a little time watching that new Iron Man 3 trailer that just came out.  I'm stoked for this movie.  Like a lot of others, I felt that Iron Man 2 was a bit lackluster and perhaps Iron Man was all Iron Man'd out after the first movie.  A little flick this past year called The Avengers restored my faith in the Iron Clad one and now I'm back on board.  I like the scope of the trailer.  Looks a little ominous.  Things are pointing to a solid entry with some good action.  But most trailers point to solid entries and end up turning into solid human waste.

Seriously though, who's the creepy voice over after Robert Downey Jr.?  Is that Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin?  If so, I find it effective.  I hear that guy talk to me in that voice and cadence, I would cop to being a little disturbed.

Nightfire on XBox

With the impending Skyfall only mere days away from blowing gloriously across the screen of my local theater, I've been jonesing for a bit of Bond.  Looking around Half Priced Books yesterday after work, I ran across the old XBox James Bond game, Nightfire; which they might as well have been giving away for three bucks.  Of course I pounced on it, having come across an old XBox a couple of months ago on the cheap.

The obvious question one always asks himself when grabbing a Bond game they've never played before is "Is it as good as GoldenEye."

The answer is no.  In fact, the answer is always going to be no.  GoldenEye came out during a special time in all of our lives, that special time being that GoldenEye came out.  I remember looking forward to that game not because of the buzz surrounding it (I was pretty immune to video game buzz in those pre-internet days), but because it was a game based on that most awesome of Bond movies, GoldenEye.  That movie was my gateway Bond movie.  The first one I saw that led to vigorous viewings of all the others.  Pierce Brosnan is my Sean Connery if that makes any sense.

The fact that the game turned out to be one of the most historical console games in history is just icing.  I had no concept of First Person Shooters.  I just know that I felt like Bond ripping through my favorite Bond movie shooting Russian bad guys in bathroom stalls.  My life was complete.  And that's not to mention multiplayer.  I wasn't exactly what you would call "Awesome" or even "Somewhat Decently Good For A Three Year Old Type of Way".  I still had fun, even though we knew this guy Donald who would always kill us within .5 seconds flat of starting.  That was a bit annoying.

But Nightfire is the game I'm playing now, not GoldenEye.  And while it will never be what that game was to me at that time in my life, I must admit to only playing one level so far; so things can change.  The one level was fun, I will give it that.

The thing that throws me off is that Bond in this game was so computer generatingly crafted to look exactly like Pierce Brosnan, they must have used all the money on the technology to Pierce Brosnan-ize Bond's look that they couldn't Pierce Brosnan-ize his voice.  Not even close.  I would venture to say he almost doesn't sound British (Not that Brosnan is technically from England, but you know).  It almost wouldn't bother me so much if I didn't already have Everything or Nothing for my Gamecube in which Bond is so Pierce Brosnan'd into the game, he actually shares the actor's voice.  As a result, that game feels like the extra Brosnan Bond we never got to have. (sigh)

Friday, September 7, 2012


 If you're looking for a movie that'll send its share of shivers down your spine, then you could do a lot worse than Insidious. A Haunted House movie that delivers what you expect yet still does its durndest to avoid cliches sounds like more than one could dare to hope for. And Insidious comes very very close to being that good.

The cast is very believable in their roles. The chemistry between Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne is there. These feel like a well adjusted couple with a handful of kids. You could see this group walking through the neighborhood grocery store and buy that they are a family. The two ghostbuster characters bring in a bit of needed comic relief, but not so much as to derail the tone of the flick. The character of Elise does a fine job of enhancing the spooky factor. Not because she's a creepy person, simply because the information she brings to the table raise the stakes dramatically and the actress does a fine job in not going over the top in what most movies probably would have made a showier role.

 The movie is there to frighten you and it does a very good job with the creep out parts. The director knows how to play an audience and he has a lot of fun trying to get you to pull that pillow you're gripping in even tighter. I particularly enjoyed the fact that daytime was not treated like a safe haven. The different ghosts and spirits were diverse and did well in playing with several different fears.

The first hour of this movie was building up to make me believe I was dealing with a modern classic in the horror genre. Then the third act happened. The thing is, that last half hour isn't necessarily bad. In fact I appreciated its attempt to go in a bit of a different direction than a normal haunted house movie. I simply felt that the execution didn't live up to its ambition.

For a fan of movies full of fright, I have no hesitation in saying it is a movie worthy of your time. I just wished that the brilliance of the first hour was followed through with a more satisfying conclusion.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Skyfall Teaser Poster

I'm a big Bond nut.  I love the movies, even the bad ones.  Yes, I can watch A View to a Killor The Man with the Golden Gunand be a happy camper.  That's just how I roll.  I loved Casino Royale and thought Quantum of Solacewasn't as good, but still very watchable.

I have to admit that even now, it takes a bit getting used to when I see Daniel Craig grunting his way through a brawl, but I still think he's a pretty good Bond, even if he doesn't look the part I'm used to seeing.  Still, great movies and fun times.

Craig's next Bond flick, Skyfall, hits theaters this November and I think the teaser poster they just released is probably one of my favorite Bond posters now.  Something about it just screams old school Bond and I love it.  I'm sure I'll enjoy the movie but the jury's obviously out on how it'll rank against the rest of the series.  I'm getting more jazzed for it by the day now.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings on the Wii

Indiana Jones swings onto the Wii with his trusty whip and a bunch of motion controls. The latest adventure of everyone's favorite fedora sporting archeologist takes him on a quest for the Staff of Moses as he races against his rival Magnus Voller and the band of Nazis intent on getting the artifact for their own vile superior race driven agenda. Just right off the bat I have to say that I think the game is fun. Does it have problems? Yes, it kind of does. Some of the things people don't like about the game really don't bother me, but I do think there is good and bad to it.

Let's look at what most everyone considers bad first off. The motion controls. This game relies HEAVILY on motion controls. Whether you're slinging Indy's iconic whip or using his fist to knock the teeth out of a Nazi, you'll be putting your body into it. This aspect, I really didn't have a problem with. I like the feel of wielding the whip. Of feeling like I'm in a fist fight pummeling a Nazi within an inch of his life. If you don't mind that kind of thing, the game probably won't bother you as much as it does some people. However, the sensitivity of the motion can sometimes be a problem. Especially in the fist fights. You swing the Wii remote, Indy doesn't swing. BAM, a cheap shot to the face by a lucky Nazi. That gets annoying. Especially when you have a room full of brawlers coming at you. The cool thing is, you can use your whip to pull these guys to you and head butt them into submission and it feels great. The bad news is, sometimes you pick up a shovel, take a swing and the game doesn't read your motion and suddenly you have a bunch of dudes the size of the Airplane Bruiser from Raiders of the Lost Ark dogpiling you out of commission. All in all, though, I can forgive the game for that, because when it does work, it does feel rather satisfying.

The negative thing that drives me the most crazy is unskippable tutorials. Yes, these things will make you want to brain yourself with the nearest convenient concrete block. Say Indy gives you a run down on how to use your gun to take out bad guys who are hiding in a balcony. You take them out, walk off and a Cheap Death awaits with a bad step off a ledge or something of the sort. That's right, Indy gets to take another five or so minutes to show you how to take out balcony hiding bad guys with your sidearm once again with no way to skip through it. Uggh.

One other thing that might rankle is the running length of the game. It's pretty short. Less than ten hours, probably take you about 6 or so if you're not trying to get everything. This is okay with me as I only get to do my gaming in 20 minute spurts most of the time and with a good amount of checkpoints to save your progress, it can stretch the game out over a good couple of weeks or more for me. Then again, those who have hours to spare at a time will zoom right through this without breaking too much of a sweat.

That aside, I do think the game is fun. It feels like you're controlling Indy through a decent Indiana Jones movie. The locations feel like something you'd find in the movies and there's a decent variety to them. You start off in the Sudan and find yourself going through places like ruins in the jungle, the streets of San Francisco, a wrecked ship found underground, and the icy tundra of Nepal. You'll find a lot of brawling and a bit of puzzle solving along the way. Nothing that'll make your brain explode, but still fun to figure out and satisfying when you see the results. Once again, it's a decent job of making you feel like a participant in a Jones flick.

You can find a lot of "artifacts" hidden along the way and get enough of them, you can unlock movie trailers for the Indy series or new skins for the character to wear. There are a few cool moves you can do (such as killing a certain amount of bad guys by knocking a shelf on them) and unlock Glory Moves, which unlock other things. Most noticeably, the classic Point and Click adventure The Fate of Atlantis. In a way, you're getting two games for one in that regard.

Another thing about the game I found enjoyable is that amongst a lot of the levels, we find some arcade type action. A lot of time, you'll have the gun and you'll be a part of an on-rails shooter where you have to figure out the best way to dispatch bad guys. You'll find yourself on a runaway trolley shooting at car after car trying to gun you down. There's a pretty cool plane sequence where you have to navigate your way through a canyon-like area and take out enemy planes as you do it while holding the Wiimote like a joystick. This was frustrating to me at first, but once I got the hang of it, I found it quite fun. Also some water rafting and things of that nature. I found it a nice little way to break up the traditional bad guy fighting, puzzle solving play of the rest of the game.

For those who love them some Indiana Jones (what sane person doesn't), I think you can find this game cheap enough nowadays to warrant a buy. I don't feel it's good enough to justify paying the full price when it came out, but after the price drop; sure. If not a fan of the whip master, a rent would suffice. You just have to know going in how much you can tolerate the heavy use of motion controls and if that's worth trudging through. For me, it was. But, as they say, your mileage may vary.