Sunday, September 13, 2009

Review: Ponyo (Gake no ue no Ponyo)

Hayao Miyazaki. The man who has been called the Walt Disney of our time is back with another adventure of youth, fantasy, and jaw-dropping imagination. In an era that forgot the wonders of what a pen and pencil can do over a computer program, Studio Ghibli and Miyazaki have crafted a glorious reminder of not just a forgotten art, but a forgotten time in our lives when we were five years old and where there was a friendly monster waiting to soar you into your fondest childhood daydreams. The undisputed king of 2D animation is back to trade in his usual wings of flight for fins under the sea with his latest film Ponyo.


The movie tells the story of two very young children; Sosuke, (Frankie Jonas) a boy living on a cliff with his mother while his father sails a freighter around an ocean based town, and Ponyo, (Noah Lindsey Cyrus) a sort of twist of a goldfish with a human face and Goddess-like powers. She's the daughter both Gran Mamare (Cate Blanchett), a Goddess of the water, and of Fujimoto (Liam Neeson), a sort of Underwater Alchemist mixing potions to try and restore the ocean from, you guessed it, us foolish humans. When Ponyo manages to escape from Fujimoto's submarine and swims to shore, she grows a fondness for Sosuke and manages to get some human blood and turns human herself. Unfortunately being the daughter of a goddess and having a crush on Sosuke, the world's balance has been damaged to the point of Tsunamis and moon being out of balance. So it's up to the two to decide if our fishy friend should turn human for Sosuke or go back to the ocean to restore the world's balance.

Miyazaki has always been known for having a very high amount of imagination and it's certainly on display here. There really are dozens of images I took from the film such as Ponyo's school of fish, Fujimoto's submarine, the ocean goddess, and even the land itself. Any picture from the movie would make a wonderful screen-saver or portrait with the town, Ponyo and Sosuke, and a particularly spectacular scene involving the moon, the ocean, and the goddess. Trust me, it is certainly a sight to behold.

There were, however, a few distracting moments particularly with the audio. The score of the film draws a bit too much attention to itself. Some of the great scores are those that flow with the images giving a feeling that is invisible and helps create the mood but here, there were a few parts I felt it was competing with the images.

If there is also a common criticism I can give about Miyazaki's films, it's the Disney dubbing. Yes, I am an otaku and speaking as one along with a film geek, the subtitles are usually the better of the bunch. The criticism I have, however, is it tries to hold our hands to stuff us stupid americans wouldn't get. One example is when Fujimoto is gliding along a sea of dirt, we hear him give a comment about us filthy humans. All the trash and dirt around is more than enough to get your point across about it. It's Hayao Miyazaki, Disney; he knows how to get his visuals across.

I certainly didn't have a problem with the acting though, the timing for everyone is spot and and everyone is a strong fit for their roles. Liam Neeson's panicy authoritative tone was perfect for Fujimoto and I found young Noah Lindsey Cyrus as Ponyo increadibly charming in this version. I wouldn't mind giving Noah a young actor's award.

Who'da thought Ponyo could run like Sonic?

It's certainly no secret that Studo Ghibli is known for it's children-aimed entertainment but this movie is undoubtedly it's most child friendly movie they've made. It has the youngest heroes of the bunch, both 5 years old, the movie is rated G, and the song the end song is certainly something you'd hear in a Daycare center. In comparison to Miyazaki's other works while going through a fairy tale and having an enormous amount of depth and surreal imagination, this movie seems the least deep and much more fairy tale. It's much more simple having this world literally revolving around a princess and young boy's true love for one another.

It wasn't until I thought about it when I realize it's simple nature is by design for what the movie is trying to do. Ponyo is ultimately going to be compared to The Little Mermaid which I didn't realize until later is a pretty steryotypical flick. Why would Ariel give up being a princess for a human with blue eyes? I can imagine the adventure of it all, but it's just saying how this woman loses her independence for a dude. How this film compares to Ponyo is, well, Arial's a young woman while Ponyo's learning her first words. The movie's best quality is it's childish charm of seeing two five year olds playing marriage. It's the same warm feeling you would get if you saw your son give a flower to a girl in kindergarden. The simple design of the movie is a kind of celebration of childhood innocence and friendship through a wondrous fantasy inspired by sea-bearing myth.

To give you, faithful readers a final word, this is probably the least deep story of the Studio Ghibli library (kind of ironic being under the sea) but it's truly another that shines like a pearl; and no matter how old you are entering this movie, you leave with the joy of a five year old.

Review: Inglourious Basterds 2nd Look & Controversy

I'm not ashamed to admit that I can miss a few things the first time around. Once in a while there are movies that I don't fully understand what I saw until I saw it again. After two viewings of Martin Scorsese's The Aviator I was able to fully grasp what Scorsese was doing and I fell in love with it. Someone once said that if if you watch a movie and are left thinking about it later wanting more, it's a sign of a truly great film. Apparently I owe an apology to Mr. Tarantino because 2nd time around his latest film Inglourious Basterds is indeed one of the best films of the year.


Last time I wrote about this film, I criticized it for having too much dialogue that took too long to get anywhere but it turns out that's not the truth. All the dialogue the second time around does have a purpose and helps the suspense going all around. The Tavern scene is miles better and plays with one of the films central themes: performance as a weapon. All the characters in the film are putting on some kind of show in order to survive. Col. Landa plays the role of the detective with his pipe prop and changes languages because he has an audience. It all works so well the second time and builds the suspense even thought I know the ending of the scenes.

There are, however, only a few nit-pics I would make for it: the Kill Bill soundtrack for some of the scenes still doesn't work. When Michael Bay used the soundtrack from Kill Bill in The Transformers, I never thought in a million years that Tarantino would do the same in his movies. It would make sense if the music had a meaning to the situation but it just feels really out of place. But all the other music choices play with the audience and help build suspense for all the scenes. Just lose the wink at the camera and we're all set.

Now one thing that a few critics have pointed out about this film is it's ending. In a Newsweek article by critic Daniel Mendelsohn said that by having the ending be what it was, it's a form for Jews to be as horrible as the Nazis were. Another critic responded to the article by saying that the ending is a form of Holocaust denial. I can see there arguments however I disagree that it's a form of Holocaust denial or that anyone should forget about the horrible things that happened. First of all, what Tarantino has happen to one character at the end is his way of reminding people never to forget what happened during WWII.

Basterds a Holocaust Denial Film?

Second; speaking as someone of non-Jewish decent, is seeing an Ass-Kicking Jew movie necessarily a bad thing? To me, film is a way to release some feelings of anger and remorse over moments in history, personal life, or any problems. In Japan, they get this kind of violent material all the time from Ichi the Killer to Violence Jack and that country hardly ever sees violence. I remember in an interview how one of the actors from Germany found the ending as rewarding as anyone did; they certainly are not a fan of what Hitler did.

Also, I do think it is a bit unfair to Tarantino to label his film a holocaust denier. The movie is about how movies portrayed this moment in history form before the war started with propaganda and after the war ended from the 70's to this day. There's still something to have your mind digest with movies but all a movie does is cast light against celluloid. Film should never try to be reality because the minute it hits that editing lab, it is pure fiction and I think Mr. Tarantino recognizes that.

Well, getting past the controversy, a lot of the problems I had with this movie aren't problems anymore. It's a thrilling, satisfying revenge flick filled with suspense, great acting, and really does remind me of why I got into film reviewing in the first place.

To give only one spoiler Brad Pitt says to another Basterd "This just might be my masterpiece." Well Tarantino, I think I just might agree.

Here's hoping Christoph Waltz has some Milk at the Oscars

Link to Daniel Mendelsohn's Article:

Old Blog: Thanks to the g1's

When I got back from my internship at, I made this little video to the community. Published Sept. 7th, 2009

Old Blog Review: Inglourious Basterds

This review was published August 30th, 2009

Well folks, summer's almost over; my internship's ending, school's starting up again, and we're all playing Arkham Asylum at last (not a bad game btw). At the cinema scene, I'm pretty happy with this summer with the stupid fun of G.I. Joe, the thrills of the first half of Star Trek, smart action from District 9, and the best movie of the year so far The Hurt Locker. But in my mind it all lead of to this moment; the two hours at the movies I've been waiting for almost a decade to see. This summer, I was interested in one thing and one thing only: Killin' Nazis!


Inglourious Basterds, the latest from writer/director Quentin Tarantino, is a WWII fairy tale featuring intertwining stories between Nazis, runaway theater owners, spies, and "The Basterds," a Jewish-American team of super-solders strait out of a 70's exploitation flick. The movie revolves around a screening of a Nazi propaganda film "Nation's Pride" where the major leaders of the 3rd Reich, including Hitler himself, will be attending. Upon the news, all the spies, solders, and even the theater owner, want to burn every leader of the room, so our story begins.

Don't believe the Marketing the film which sets up. The filck isn't about the Basterds, led by Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), being at the center stage for this adventure. They're only in for about a fourth of the movie. The story also takes focus to Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent), a Jewish run-away who runs a theater where the film is screening, Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger), an actress working as a spy strait out of the Ernst Lubitsch movie To Be or Not To Be (Look It Up!!), and Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), a brutal commander nick-named "The Jew Hunter."

Quentin Tarantino preparing the Sergio Leone-esc opening

Tarantino has said in interviews that he's been working on the script for Basterds for about 10 years and it's very episodic. Each of these story lines feels like it's own individual film from a romantic drama, 40's suspense thriller, and a grindhouse flick rolled into one. It almost feels like a mix-tape for movies depicting WWII and we get a lot in this 2 1/2 hour sandwich. It starts out with "Once Upon a Time...In Nazi Occupied France" and that's exactly how to sum it up: a fairy tale only movies can do for us leading from our fantasies of Jewish ass-kicking, romantisisning of the era, and how cinema has portrayed it all.

This, I feel, is part of the movie's problem: it tries to fit too much into it's scenes and can become rather tiresome; especially with the dialogue. I really started to lose interest after going on and on about the dating prospects, movies of the 40's and what kind of wine Nazis drink. The movie is trying hard to have these scenes of high tension before giving us an explosion but I couldn't stop drifting from for these scenes wondering when he's going to get to the point.

The Bar Scene dialogue needs a little off the top, bottom, and middle.

Aside from that, the movie has some truly amazing moments in it. One thing Tarantino loves to do is play with the audience's expectations and that's certainly on display here. A good example is when a Jewish woman is running away from Col. Landa for her life. We see Landa aim his gun at her back with a giant musical score leading to what will be a melodramatically tragic death. Then he points the gun away from her, she escapes, and Landa laughs. I can picture Tarantino himself laughing at the audience with his dark, twisted joke.

Speaking of which, the music plays a central role in the film giving us some twists between scenes. At one moment, we'll be in a montage of interrogation with spy tactics and then we cut to a completely different scene and tone. A lot of the time, it's pretty funny to have these sudden cuts between scenes. There were a few odd choices in the soundtrack ranging from David Bowe to Charles Bernstien that I'm sure is from a 70's or 80 movie I'm too old to have heard of. Sometimes it works great for in-between scenes for a funny change of mood but others where it seems unnecessary and confusing. One annoying thing is that he used music from the Kill Bill soundtrack. That stuff worked wonders for Kill Bill but hearing it again seems like a wink at his own voice.

But the big highlight that makes the movie shine are the Basterds themselves. Brad Pitt is enormous fun to watch as he smirks with his cartoonish accent, smug attitude, and especially when he enters the theater with the funniest fake Italian you'll ever hear in a movie. They have some of the funniest lines, moments, and explosive climax's of the movie. Even Eli Roth as "The Bear Jew" is a lot of fun with his bat and that awesome smile will win you over. Trust me, you'll love the Basterds.

Speaking of performances, Pitt and Roth do their jobs and so do a lot of the cast. Kruger shows a great double performance as the fun drinking buddy and hard determined spy; Laurent is great as a seductive, determine fighter, and romantic. But the best performance of the bunch goes to Christoph Waltz as "The Jew Hunter." The same way David Carradine made the monster Bill a likable, sympathetic character, Waltz does the same thing here. I just get scared watching him and in a way root for him too. Only a few actors can pull that off and Waltz does it very well.

Overall the movie really is 50-50. There are grand moments of suspense, dark comedy, great acting, but some off-putting music moments, overly drawn dialogue, and has the feeling it could have been cut down to two hours. Overall though, I do say to check it out because for all the whiskey talk, the Basterds, explosive climaxes, twisting with the audience, and especially the incredibly satisfying explosive ending are well worth it.

Old Blog: SGC Youtube Hell Playlist

Back in 2009, held it's first convention SGC (ScrewAttack Gaming Convention) and for the convention I hosted a panal of a ton of Youtube clips playing on Midnight Saturday at the event. This blog is a link to the forum post and a thank you note to all the g1s.

This blog was published July 6th 2009

Youtube hell promo

The YouTube Playlist: ... E253F164C0

The Complete list of YouTube Submissions:

Also: Here's Keavy's Review of the awesome Coen Brothers flick The Big Lebowski that I pushed off with this post.

Hey g1's

Ok, I don't know about everyone who went to my little three hour panel featuring YouTube videos submitted by g1s but I will say it was a FUCKING BLAST!!!!!!! When Do The Mario first came on and the room started dancing, when the crowd quoted Powerthirst, or when they gasped at the remains of a Pikachu doll in the microwave, it turned into one of the best moments of the entire con.

All g1's with vids that made it into hell will receive g1 points added to their score. It will either be 100 or 150 for each video that made it. The points reward will be decided on later in the week.

After experiencing the event and taking some time to absorb the reactions I felt had room for improvement during the Hell, here is a small list of changes for SGC 2010:

Change from Midnight on Saturday to Friday at (Hopefully) 9
Higher Resolution
Play on a DVD for faster Fast-Forwards
Bigger Room (Help me to convince Craig :) )

And Most Importantly: We Need Hard-Gay :wink:

I would like to again give very VERY special thank you to everyone who submitted videos to Hell. Also a special thanks to Hybrid Rain and Aggressive Sock for speaking about their videos before the presentation started.

Not to get too serious and personal with this, I wanted to mention that when I first started this Internship I knew I had a responsibility to the g1 community to do my best in meeting the expectations of both you and the rest of the ScrewAttack crew. Then on Sunday at SGC, I ran into g1's all over the place thanking me for all the work I've done. I was busy that last day and didn't get a lot of time to properly thank all of them, but thanks to everyone who said that. It fills my heart with joy that people who don't know exactly who I am came up to me and gave my your thumbs up. To all g1's, you are the absolute heart and soul of not only the event and convention, but the entire website. Thank all of you from the bottom of my heart for a wonderful evening.

If you have any comments, complaints, or criticisms for YouTube Hell, feel free to post here. See you at SGC 2010, WOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Keep on Rockin'
Mark the Intern

Old Blog Review: Mini Reviews of Rail of the Star, Lucky Star First Impressions, & Interstella 5555

These reviews were published March 28, 2009

    Rail of the Star


During WWII, the governments of the world caused enormous damage to Asia. They started invading countries one by one causing families to be torn apart, homes destroyed, and have the people deal with guilt and dismay. When the Japanese lost the war, their people took the blame for what their government decided. Can a people be forgiven for what their government did and can they deal with the consequences?

This is unfortunately all the substance from Rail of the Star, a true story of a Japanese girl in Northern Korea during and after WWII. It tells the story of how her family and life changes from the war on their journey to escape to Southern Korea and eventually back to Japan. Throughout the journey, friends and family are lost and left to the girl’s memory.

Rail commits the same sins of The Pianist; the whole movie feels like a mad libs story with occupied Japanese filled in the blanks. It really doesn’t tell anything new or deliver in an interesting way what war was like for the Japanese. It feels like a missed opportunity to get an interesting perspective of what it was like though a child’s eyes, looking back on it as a memory, or that it’s told through an animated story.


Part of the problem is that the animation gets sloppy at a few moments and there are a number of moments that could have been trimmed. Sometimes some of the layers move, the sound design is distractingly weak, and there are moments where it would have helped to see the enemies of the pursuers.

Overall, this Anime will probably remain obscure. If you’re looking for a deep and meaningful look at an animated depiction of the hardships of the war, give this a pass and find Grave of the Fireflies.

    Lucky Star First Impressions


Script doctors aren’t uncommon in the entertainment industry; a person takes a weak attempt to tell a story and gives it to another person to apply the creative bandage to the project to produce a script that sings, dances, and even does your laundry. In 2002, Azumanga Daioh! treated viewers to a reason to have a mute button with a plethora of irritating characters and voices. Five years later, Bandai Entertainment decided to patch-up the formula with Lucky Star and is certainly on its way to a full recovery.

Upon seeing the first four episodes, Lucky Star is a different kind of Anime that features no plot or ultimate goal in each episode. All we’re given is four high school girls living their life with conversations about everyday things like playing video games, eating sweets, or getting homework done. In Anime, it’s a breath of fresh air to sit down and hang out with people to have everyday conversations.

The only problem is we’ve seen these four characters before and for the life of me, I couldn’t tell you their names. Their types I can name: the nerdy girl who spends her time gaming, the ditzy girl with the high hentai voice, her twin sister who gets upset at geek girl, and the perfect busty student.


Then there’s Lucky Channel. Not to give anything away; this is the highlight of the show with a three or four minute satirical look at Japanese talk show. This is what the show should have been about; I don’t see what are stoping people from looking it up on Youtube.

Lucky Star is an overall improvement on the Daioh! formula with a lot less annoying characters and more added charm. It reached for the stars but doesn’t go beyond orbit.

    Interstella 5555


Music videos can become an enhancement of a particular song adding subtext to create a deep or meaningful mood or it can make you want to throw your Ipod in the garbage. Concert films have the challenge of trying to make a series of songs into a cohesive narrative. Intestella 5555 achieves that goal while remaining a very well crafted narrative.

The film is an anime movie all done with songs by Daft Punk. There are no dialogue and no voice acting, the music tells the story with the visuals of an alien rock band kidnapped and taken to earth by an evil corporation. It’s amazing how all the songs fit to the narrative structure without any plot holes. The art designs are done by Leiji Matsumoto and bring nostalgia of 1970’s and is edited and crafted well to fit Punk’s techno.

The story follows the band as a group of agents from earth transport the blue heroes and take them to a secret base crafting the four as popular band, changing their skin and brainwashing them. There seems to be a lot of attention paid to how the media transforms the band into a manufactured pile of money but ultimately results into a mystical cult trying to take over the world using kidnapped aliens and Grammy awards.


The plot certainly seems farfetched but Punk’s and Matsumoto’s intentions were to have a childlike fantasy using the band’s music. This is certainly a plot we’d see in any 70’s anime that both artists grew up with. The result is a blissful, artistic dream back to our childhoods reflective of the dreamlike music that accompanies it. If you have an hour to kill and want to take a magical ride through sci-fi with a toe-tapping soundtrack, climb aboard. Interstella 5555 is waiting.

To find these and other quality reviews, visit the g1 League of Critics thread here on the Screwattack Forums.

League of G1 Critics Logo

Old Blog Review: Resident Evil Degeneration

Heaven help the film industry...
This was published March 1st, 2009

High School productions are something that no human being should ever experience. I recall back in my band class of a teacher who would listen to a performance from one of the band members. After a performance that, shall we say wasn’t Miles Davis, he would hang his head down in utter confusion. He tried to piece together the words for what he just heard and unfortunately couldn’t think of the right dialogue and hit his head with an eraser in shame and humiliation.

If there was camp in Resident Evil: Degeneration, I might have enjoyed this movie. However, I am going to go on record as to say that this two hour DVD may be the biggest waste of resources I have ever seen. This movie is unwatchable.


How does this script get green lighted? Seriously, How? I’m trying to wrap my brain over why a movie would be made and I can’t seem to discover why. This movie doesn’t make any statements about medical practice in society, the characters aren’t developed or anywhere interesting, the plot isn’t delivered in a new or interesting way, there’s no gimmick that would differentiate this movie from others, and there are no name voice talents to back up the movie.

Basically the story is a plane crash and a lab blowing up. That's literally all the story is: a plane and lab blowing up. There is an explanation over a new Pharmaceutical company, a senator backing it up, controversy surrounding the company, and a long list of conspiracies but they all seem to be an excuse for a boss battle and a series of shooting zombies. This company would never exist in real life to build overly elaborated bases with 4 falling air-sealed platforms that explode on command. This wouldn’t be so bad if they decided to have some fun with the concept with some one-liners, winks at the camera, and some indication that they know all they’re doing is making excuses for action but the film takes everything so seriously that I cant help but unintentionally laugh.

One scene that comes to mind is early on before the plane crashes into the airport terminal. The overall idea is fine, the plane crashes and there’s panic all around but there are so many stupid choices. Why does Clair Redfield wave her hands at a random stranger? Why is the security guard want to arrest Redfield for waving her hands? How do zombies know how to open a plane’s door after it’s crashed and why do they just fall out of the plane like lemmings? The final straw was Clair giving a melodramatic line at this utterly ridiculous display that I burst out laughing in disbelief.

Look! The best actors in the movie!

The whole movie is like this. They’ve thrown out all logic and expect you to look at it and feel for the disaster that’s happening. One of the biggest problems is that the DVD doesn’t come with the original Japanese soundtrack but is all dubbed in English. Why? This is a DVD marketed at fans of the series, having the Japanese soundtrack should be given. So all I have to go on is some of the worst acting I have heard in a while. The senator feels like he should be in a Hayou Miyazaki movie as a giant trash monster or something but it’s the voice of a fat white congressman in semi-realistic animation. It sounds so ridiculous and over-the-top that you just want to rip the actors vocal cords out. Even Steve Blum, Spike Spiegel from Cowboy Bebop, is reduced to a football frat boy yelling and cheering like the overly drunk uncle at a wedding.

Another big problem is the animation style itself. It all is made to look realistic with some modern architecture and character designs that resemble Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within characters without the futuristic costumes. It sets the movie in this mood that it wants to be more mature and true to life but the dialogue, performances, and impossible situations make it more of a joke. If it were done in less detailed graphics or done something risky with the look, it might have a different effect but as it stands the movie just feels like a punch line. Also, why is it that Leon has the same expression with every situation? Did he swim in Botax to prepare for this movie? Even Golgo 13 had more movement in his head.

Is it really that hard to smile or move your eyebrows?

Oh, I just realized why they would make this movie…Resident Evil. It’s based on the video game and is involved in the story. However one big argument comes mind that unlike a lot of video game based movies, this one is very faithful to the story and fans of Resident Evil will be pleased. There’s a very good article by Leigh Alexander on all about this idea and video game based movies in general. Here’s a link to her article.

She notes that video game based movies are often shallow without the interactive experience and she’s quite right with Degeneration. Resident Evil 4, one of my personal all-time favorite games, has a terrible story. You’d think that the military would go in and find the President’s daughter without sending one lone assassin who happens to have survived Raccoon city. The thing that makes RE4 so different is that it had what Degeneration should have had: camp. In RE4, whenever you found evidence to discover a conspiracy theory about the government, Leon would get a call from the man in the mansion delivering amusing one-liners. Then you would go blast the head of enemies like a hammer to jelly. It understood that the point of the game is to have some fun with it so it had references to Commando and kept the bad-ass camp from that film and let you know the whole thing is a joke to get you a shotgun blast.

I think the biggest thing that disappoints me about this movie is that it’s from Capcom and proudly displays their logo at the beginning of the film. Most, if not, all other movies are from another person and adaptations of someone else’s work. Even though movies are terrible, you can at least say that the developers didn’t make them. This movie shows Capcom’s complete degeneration from reality and frankly lack of respect to its audience. Do they really think we’re this stupid to enjoy a script that makes me want to choke a baby? They can make video games like Herculean Gods but they can’t write a script to save their lives.

Yes sir, if she doesn't die from her poisin, the audience will first.

So you’re probably thinking that thought that all people have when they read reviews like this: “How bad can it be?” Then you’ll go rent the DVD to find out; don’t. Really, I’m serious; it’s that bad a movie. Life is short; go out and watch 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days, Commando, or The Dark Knight again. Resident Evil: Degeneration is the worst film of 2008 and with The Happening coming out that year, that’s saying a lot.

Old Blog: Interview with Digital Debaser

Back in Version 3 of, there was always a controvesy involving the points system and the moderators receiving "free points" in the website. So, I contacted the main target of the criticism: Moderator Digital Debaser, and had an interview with him about the points system.

This video was published Febuary 17th, 2009.

Go visit Debaser's website:

The original ScrewAttack Blog:

Old Blog Review: The Incredible Hulk

This review was published in January 19th, 2009

Comic books have come a long way in the past century from having cute cartoon characters, Herculean Gods on earth, gone through rough times and evolved into dark, intelligent and complex tales transforming the medium into Graphic Novels finding places on 100 best novels lists next to To Kill a Mockingbird…at least that’s what I’m hoping is the case. Even with this endless list of inspiration to dwell on characters such as the Green Lantern, Spiderman, the X-Men, and recently with Iron Man, they still somehow make the same movie with each of the characters amounting to generic storylines and a lack-luster villain. The Incredible Hulk is the latest comic book epic that we’ve all seen before and the big green monster can’t escape the cliché.


The flick starts off with Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) in a Brazilian favela working at a soda factory and hiding from Uncle Sam while trying to find a cure to his green-eyed monster. The Sam he’s hiding from is General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt) who finds him and sends the dogs to hunt him down including Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) who trigger the Hulks rage and send him on the run. Banner then runs back to the university where the experiment went wrong to find Betty Ross (Liv Tyler), his old girlfriend and scientist. The two then set off to try and find a cure for the big guy before the military can start dissecting on Bruce.

First impressions were good; in a title sequence that teaches everyone what happened to the Hulk filling us in with his origin. It trusts the audience that they know what the Hulk is and doesn’t waste time giving us filler that has to be explained in the first half hour. Instead we get Banner trying to fight his inner demons with rehab and Sesame Street. Once the troops start shooting, the Hulk is in the shadows again letting us fill in the blanks of fighting his adversaries. It was like watching Jaws going after pray that we cheer for; a mysterious benevolence that lets the audience insert their own beat um up action.

Edward Norton as the Hulk

Unfortunately that’s where the interest and imagination ends. Once our hero makes it to America it falls into predictable, boring superhero action film. The main focus of the story shifts to the love interest with Betty, who is also the daughter of Thunderbolt, and there’s really nothing interesting about it. She never asks what happened to him when he disappeared and is only there to be the girl in the background screaming for her hero not to get hurt. I couldn’t help thinking of Tyler’s role in Armageddon and how it’s the same performance. Tyler is hung out to dry with the script but she just felt like a one note show.

The villain, Tim Roth, doesn’t fair much better. His only motivation is simply to be a good fighter and try to take on the Hulk. Why? There has to be some kind of deeper motivation to an adversary but it just comes off as another stock bad guy. All the characters give us nothing to hold on to with their personalities. All the events that are put in front of the characters have no suspense because you expect the big green hero to go after the bad guy and wander into the sunset for sequel possibilities.

The final point of the formula ends with an inevitable final fight between two CG creatures that come off as laughable in the end. The Hulk somehow manages to stop a chopper from exploding by clapping his hands and making the wind stops the flames. How exactly does Gamma radiation enable man to command the elements? Does the axis go into alignment when he waves goodbye?

The Hulk should never take driving lessons.

So many comic book adaptations rely too much on a generic love story for the hero to go in and save the girl, and it is always the girl that needs help for whatever reason. Romance can be used effectively in a superhero opus, Spiderman 2 for example did have this kind of generic love story to it but it was only one factor in Peter Parker’s life; he had to consider his education, how he cant make it on time to anything, and if what he does with all his efforts do any real good to society. The villain too had more interesting motivations with if he’s doing any good in society with him trying to control his inner demons; he wasn’t just someone who wants to beat the hero, he had deeper reasons for his destruction.

Overall, the movie just feels like every other cookie-cutter superhero movie that didn’t really have anything for me to take with me. The first half of the movie was promising and well done giving plenty of time to explore the Hulk universe but it left me unsatisfied wanting to know more about everyone’s favorite angry giant. If you want to know about something you can take with the creature, I’d go check out the comics or the animated films and you can give this film a skip. It is worth mentioning that there was originally a much longer version of the movie that was cut out and we got a shortened version. Did the relationship with Bruce and Betty mean more than Tyler screaming at a green screen? I’m afraid we don’t know from this movie.

Old Blog: World of Warcraft in 5 Seconds

I decided one day to try out a 5 second movie. If you haven't seen Clerks 2, chances are you wont get it. Published November 2nd 2008

Old Blog Review: Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within

Old Post Note: This review was published Sept. 14th 2008. One year old tomorrow...damn...

Hey G1's I spent looking at some video game based movies and I hadn't written a review in a while, so I thought I'd share my thoughts on one I saw reciently.

I must confess something to you; the only Final Fantasy game I’ve played all the way through is X. I am not a fan of the incredibly popular Japanese RPG because they’ve made the same game twelve times in its numerals series and countless times in other spin-offs. Every time I try and finish a Final Fantasy game, I lose interest about halfway through the experience and find something else to do.

But take away the grind-filled nature of the series, the overall art and grandeur is unmatched. The series constant excellent visuals remain the standard of imagination in the craft of video games. I’ve said time to time that the game may make a better film than a fourty-something trek on a game system. Well, in 2001 Square Pictures released Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within to test my theory.

Final Fantasy Screen

The film centers around Dr. Aki Ross on a planet earth inhabited by mysterious, ghostlike beings that kill people by touching them and sending their dark-blue spirit away. Ross’ mission is to collect 8 spirits from various parts of the world and bring them together to try and rid earth of the spirits with the help of Dr. Cid (wink wink) and a team of military operatives.

The film acts as a conflict of ideals between Ross and General Hein sporting a black leather jacket which no doubt came from the costume designer of Final Fantasy 8. Basically Ross and Cid believe that the planet has a life-giving soul called Gaia. Gaia powers the earth with one force and the mysterious creatures inhabiting the planet with another force. The Ross and Cit want to combine the forces thus balance earth and the 8 spirits are the key. Hein however wants to use the Zeus cannon and blast the monsters to faster than you can say death star.

General Hein
General Hein voiced by James Woods

The film has an interesting ideology to it, Gaia is believed to be the soul and heaven of the earth and when a human’s spirit is gone, a the spirit goes to Gaia to be part of it. An obvious tie in to Buddha religion and in a way a sort of study of how a new ideal or religion is formed which are some of the most enjoyable parts of the film.

Eastern Religious themes, a futuristic setting, gather 8 things to save the world, a villain in black leather, and a giant space cannon; it sounds like perfect ground for a Final Fantasy story. Unfortunately I can’t say the same about the characters. Helping Ross are a rag-tag team of the four most clichéd American military imaginable. First we have Ryan Witiker, the token Black character whose only concern in life seems to be his White captain’s safety. The character predictably sacrifices himself for the captain to preserve everything White, way to be Original Square. Second we have Neil Fleming, the comedy relief who always has a witty comment for any situation. Third we have Officer Jane Padfoot (G.I. Jane, wink wink) whose only real purpose is to roll her eyes at Fleming and add to the team’s political correctness by being the only woman in the team. Lastly we have Gray Edwards, the white hero martyr who’s purpose is to look like Ben Affleck.

Gray Edwards
Gray Edwards played by Ben Affleck, I mean Alec Baldwin

These stock characters are people we’ve seen 1000 times over and they aren’t particularly interesting or special which was the biggest issue of the film. We spend a lot of time with them when there’s plenty of interesting philosophy and intelligent themes going on here but the chase scenes bring the whole experience to a halt. The action chorography comes across as rather lazy and never really becomes an edge of your seat thrill ride that it’s trying to do sometimes.

Although the action isn’t the greatest, I will say that the overall look and art of the film is the most rewarding part of the experience. Considering this flick is about seven years old, the graphics, subtle touches, and a high amount of imagination can excuse a lot of the issues of characters and poor action. The characters give things like lip stumbling, freckles, hair, and more traits that at moments I forgot I was watching a CGI movie. Most of my thoughts of stock characters went away at the landscape, creative creatures, and overall finely polished detail.

Final Fantasy Art
The Art is Nothing Short of Gourgous

The acting has some very solid voice work from Donald Sutherland, James Woods, and Steve Buscemi. Ving Rhames and Alec Baldwin are wasted however, but they couldn’t do much with the material. Ming-Nu, most known for playing Mulan in, well, Mulan, gives a sometimes-inconsistent performance stumbling on one or two lines but does her job.

Overall, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within has its share of character issues and lack-luster action, the film is enjoyable with its deep philosophy, spectacular art direction, and mostly solid voice work. Some have panned the flick for not having anything to do with the Final Fantasy franchise. Although the film doesn’t have the usual Japanese caricatures and it’s depth only goes to a point, the philosophy and visuals make the film very much worthy of the name Final Fantasy. The film is also very well know for being a huge Box-Office disaster and ended the life of Square Films. With it’s mature themes, tone, and visuals, it’s a shame that this title will remain only on the shelves of the most die-hard Final Fantasy fans.

Hope you enjoyed reading, if you liked this review, go check out more at CanuckGamer's League of G1 Critics for this and many other reviews from awesome G1's.

And Canuck, I'll be wanting my check for that plug $$$ :)

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Old Blog: Grind News PS3

This is another old Blog from This was an idea I wanted to develope into a feature but never really got off the ground. It was made to be an Onion spinoff for gaming but it didn't really pan out. This is the only one I've done and granted, it's not the greatest piece of satire in the world. But I suppose one has to go througth this phase. This was published on Halloween 2008. Enjoy!

Grind News Exclusive: Sony Announces that 2058 will be the Year of the PS3

The Jetsons playing PS3
Sony Projects the Average Home in the Future

TOKYO, JAPAN – In an official press conference earlier this week, Kazuo Hirai, President of Sony Computer Entertainment, made an official statement that the company’s Playstation 3 hardware will win the console war and have great long lineup of games in 50 years time.
“Our console has been the leading hardware of this generation,” stated Hirai, “and the mass audience of both casual and core gamers will embrace the hardware when their arthritis makes them unable to use an Xbox 360 controller or Wiimote. For our research on our future projections, our CEO’s reviewed the documentary I, Robot and saw our hardware would work wonders in the future. If the main robot in the film had a PS3, there would never have been a murder.”
As the years go on, the company plans on putting the console flying cars, virtual reality rooms, have them strapped into the human brain via backpack, and is also in talks with Apature Science to work with an exclusive deal to tie in with the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device (dubbed the "Portal Gun" or "ASHPD"). They also discussed briefly about a deal with NASA not only involving the system on their rocket programs but also to fly the rockets to a new Mars colony.

The Delorian w/ PS3 Symbol
Car manufacturers are in talks with the system

The company also added that Blue-Ray, the exclusive movie hardware that comes with the console would play a heavy role in their plan. Barry M. Meyer, Chairmen and CEO of Warner Brothers, gives his thoughts by saying “we will very much be working with Sony at their blue ray technology. We did lose the battle of HD-DVD but we’re not worrying, I’m sure when movies are downloadable a new format will present itself. But hey, ten years working with Blue-Ray will give us some bank.”
Third party developers have already responded to the recent announcement. “I couldn’t be more happy for Sony,” speaks Yoshinori Kawano, director for Capcom’s Deadrising. “The hardware is certainly impressive in today’s gaming world and with all the money we’re making with Xbox 360 games, Capcom will be sure to make something with that income.”
Hideo Kojima, Writer, Director, Producer, Editor, Level Designer, Key Animator, Head Chef, and actor as the Voice of God of the Metal Gear Solid Franchise, had thoughts on the recent announcement. “I’m thrilled at the announcement,” tells Kojima, “how will I be able to cryogenically freeze myself for thousands of years to produce the next Metal Gears with an hour long cutscene for every 10 minutes of gameplay with any other system? There’s no way any other company will come up with the ideas in my massive space-age brain and godlike creative kudos. Now please excuse me while I go in my hovercraft to the Land of Oz.”

Hideo Kojima as God
Kojima, in a photo sent by the man himself, expressed his thoughts on the announcement.

The masses have plenty to say on the announcement this week. Such high quality, in depth analysis has been given by the community such as “It sucks ass” from Tr@ns4mrzFan420 of the forums at G4TV and sOnY4LifE has made a compelling video on Youtube of a 20 year old humping the system with “Never Gonna Give You Up” playing in the background.
The company has announced no new titles as of yet aside from LittleBigPlanet and Resistance 2 but has also added that the Playstation 2 will last 12 more years and the PSP will last for about 3 minutes.

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Special Thanks to CanuckGamer for looking over this blog.