Thursday, September 27, 2007

Review: "Hotel Chevalier"

After Wes Anderson's last film, The Life Aquatic, I had begun to lose faith in him as a director. His idiosynchratic style and musical cues had lost their novelty and the film wasn't much more than a group of eccentric caricatures thrown together on a boat. However, if his latest release, Hotel Chevalier, is any indication of what's in store for his forthcoming The Darjeeling Limited, consider me enthused.

Hotel Chevalier
is a 13 minute short film that serves
as a precursor to the new film. It looks as though Anderson has returned to the powerful, if melancholy tone that is always present in the undercurrent of his films. While he may look silly, Jason Schwartzman does a good job of not making his whole character a visual joke. And Natalie Portman is unbelieveably appealing, moreso than she has ever been on film. In reality, not much happens in the film, yet I found it completely engrossing. Reminiscent of something out of the French New Wave (then again, it is Wes Anderson), the time spent in room 403 was certainly not time wasted. It was just enough to whet the appetite of a teetering Wes Anderson fan and push me into the group who will be there for Darjeeling on opening weekend.

The film is currently available as a free download on iTunes, and is something I actually would have paid for. Here's to high hopes for The Darjeeling Limited.

Score: 5 out of 5

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

First Impression: Halo 3

I don't normally see myself as someone who can satisfactorily review a video game. I play them when I get a chance and I enjoy them, for sure. But to rate the merits of a game? I just feel like my likes/dislikes are very different than that of today's gamers. For instance, signing on XBOX Live to play Halo 3 only to be called a noob and be raped by much better gamers? Not my idea of fun. I play games like Halo 3 much more for the campaign, or single-player experience. Unfortunately, most games today are made with only the online gamer in mind. I'm happy to say that Halo 3 is not one of these games. I like it. I like it a lot.

One of my main gripes with sequels to really good video games is that they tend to want to fix what isn't broken. The basic gameplay is where the Halo franchise has always been strongest, and I'm glad to say, the core gameplay stays intact in the third game. The only changes made to the game are beneficial ones, like better weapons and more varied enemies. Also, the environment is much larger and more interactive in this next-gen iteration of the Halo series. Things like crates and objects that were stationery tableau in the first two games are now able to be moved and utilized to your advantage.

I have to mention that this game, especially in some of the enemy character models and one new weapon in particular, looks to have been inspired in some way by another uber-successful game. *cough-Gears-cough* But hey, that is fine. All great artists steal from other art, and video games are no different, I suppose.

All in all, this is exactly what I wanted Halo 3 to be. It stays great where it has always been great, and improves only upon things that deserved an upgrade. Kudos, Bungie.

Score: 5 out of 5

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Is there even an envelope left to push?

So this is the image I have seen 6 or 7 times today. It's for the movie "The Heartbreak Kid" and it seemed like every Septa bus I saw today had this poster plastered in its side. The fact that Ben Stiller is starring in yet another shitty romantic comedy is not what bothered me. It's the fact that the poster says "Love Blows". Are we really at the point where the ad campaign of a major motion picture is hinged upon such an immature, lowest common denominator, sexual innuendo? This is not the only film to use such infantile tactics. Here's a few other low-brow yuk fests:

1.) Meet the Parents/Meet the Fockers- One of the main, running jokes in this film is that the lead character's last name sounds like the word "fucker". Well, Bravo Gregg Glienna & Mary Ruth Clarke. You really hit the comedic motherload in naming that character. Who was your co-writer, a third grade playground bully? Gaylord Focker, referred to in the first film as Gay Focker. Let me emphasize that the gist of that "joke" is his name sounds like "Gay Fucker". Is there even a punchline? That one really bridged the gap between liberal Hollywood and close-minded homophobes. "Dude, his name is Gay Fucker! That's so messed up!" Indeed it is. I think I'll write a bland Rom-Com and name my main character Penis Fart Poop Head. Is that all it takes to pass for comedy these days?

2.) Mr. Woodcock- So in the title alone, there are two euphamisms for penises. And on top of that, Billy Bob is holding two basketballs over his crotch to signify, I suppose, his grossly oversized, swollen testicles? I mean just when you think you've seen the worst Hollywood has to offer, they out-do themselves. I guess they just assume dimwitted movie patrons will chuckle like Peter Griffin at the title and mindlessly fork over money to see this piece of shit. You know, there is a reason this film was held up by the studio from being released for over a year- because it was so awful. That 15 million total gross was well worth the 20+ million it took to make this one, huh?

3.) Balls of Fury- So, here we have another penis-laden title. And yet another testicular mock-up using sporting equipment. Hollywood is just rife with originality. This one looks like the one sports-related spoof that Will Ferrell turned down. On top of that, it's further proof that Christopher Walken will say yes to any piece of shit script that falls in his lap. This one isn't even worth it. If you pay to see it, I hope you choke on your goobers.

In conclusion, I hope I'm not coming across as a prude, becuse I'm really not. I simply find this type of childish marketing offensive. Honestly, what must these advertising agencies think of the movie-going public? Apparently their consensus is that the penis is the pinnacle of American comedy and we just can't get enough of it.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Review: Rob Zombie's "Halloween"

Remaking any movie, especially a movie as revered as John Carpenter's "Halloween" is risky business. If you stay too true to the original people will fault you for not adding anything to the story. However, if you stray too far from the original you will be crucified for ruining a classic film. What all of this boils down to is, your better off not remaking such a classic film, regardless of how you go about it.

Rob Zombie's previous 2 films were very polarizing. They are dirty, gory, in your face terror films revolving around a family of lunatic mass murderers. That may sound like the kind of director who would do "Halloween" justice, but Zombie's particular brand of filmmaking doesn't do much to distinguish his films from one another. In short: all of his movie are kind of the same schtick. Here is the formula...

White trash + Lots of cursing - subtlety - a good script = A Rob Zombie Film

Now I freely admit that his first two films have grown on me, though only after a few viewing of each. This third one, though, has tread upon hallowed ground. We are talking Michael Myers, here. I simply cannot go along with his vison for this film. Michael Myers is not 7 foot 5... he just isn't. The acting was especially bad (Young Micheal Myers, played by Daeg Farch, was unforgivable.) I think that this one should have been left alone as the greatest horror film of all time for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that Zombie's movie holds not one single scary moment.

Will I see another Rob Zombie film? Yes. Do I have expectations that he will ever make a truly great film? No. His reputation and Rock Star frame of mind taints his filmmaking to such a degree that by it's very nature his work is tantamount to a rock video. Given his inclination toward fucked up families and gore, a more fitting remake for Zombie would have been Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It's also worth mentioning that his constant use of horror icons in cameo roles has grown tired and distracting. Maybe if he would focus on getting better actors and not paying so much homage to older films, the quality of his own films will go up. Here's hoping.

Rating: 2 out of 5