Monthly Archives: April 2009

No MvC2 on Wii

1UP News with the report

The article seems to put the blame squarely on Nintendo’s shoulders when it comes to porting Marvel vs. Capcom 2 on the Nintendo Wii console.  Capcom did not secure retail rights, and the file is too big to abide by the Wii file size standards.  Maybe Nintendo could make an exception for the game?

Surprisingly, they’re not doing what they seem to be doing with other games for the Wii – dumbing it down and making a more derivative version for the system.  Hell, worked for Dead Rising: Chop till You Drop, right?  Honestly, if Capcom really wanted to put this game out and make money off of a Nintendo audience who would gladly drop $14 on the game, all they’d have to do is drop the 3D-rendered backgrounds and change the horrid soundtrack.  Maybe cut out the secret characters.  There’s a way to make it work!

Interesting to note is the fact that Capcom admits to only having the rights to release the game online, not via retail.  Many people have speculated that this game is being released because a third title is being produced, but what kind of deal would restrain a full release of a sure-to-succeed prequel but allow for the full retail release of the new game?  Either the new game would also be a download (not allowed for the Wii as well), or there is no new game in the works.

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Race and the Movie Industry

Bill Gabron and Popmatters just published a piece on the site that criticizes Hollywood, both those who run it and those outside who are allowed to comment on it (the critics), for how it looks at race.  Really, the article speaks for itself.

http://www.popmatters.com/pm/post/73774-how-niche-is-niche1/

Crank 2 cranked to HIGH

Or the makers were high…or something…

The release of another Jason Statham movie honestly means very little to me. I’m just tired of the guy playing the same over the top badass who always succeeds and should be feared by his opponents. Hell, he even had that image in Mean Machine! His character was in that movie for maybe 15 or 20 minutes, if I recall correctly. It gets stale.

The story so far: At the end of the original film Statham's character was dropped several hundred feet from a helicopter before bouncing off of a car and hitting the pavement.  This was all told in the styling of an 8-bit video game at the beginning of the latest film.  Now he needs to lick batteries to keep his life meter - er - heart battery from running low.

Having never seen the original Crank, the multiple suggestions I received for seeing Crank 2: High Voltage surprised me. io9 covered bits and pieces of the movie a while back, so I knew what would be present, but people said that I would get quite a bit out of it. Well, I just saw it, and it was everything that it was promised to be. The movie is truly a video game movie. It’s an ADD film with an odd soundtrack and absurd tendencies – not to mention the fact that Statham’s character essentially has a life gauge.

What really struck me about the movie wasn’t the fact that it feeds gamers but rather that it seemed to me like an updated version of Natural Born Killers. In a way, it succeeds more in terms of being immediately entertaining than its predecessor because it refrains from infusing the story with any sort of criticism. Killers accuses television of being one of the supreme evils of the world, but Crank appears to embrace video games wholeheartedly. Of course, this is likely to doom it because the film is absurd, violent, and blatantly objectifies women – and it does so with no merit whatsoever. Killers, by comparison, has value because it tried to make a point. Of course, I may be the only person to even think of comparing these movies. Then again, they both fixate on an entertainment medium, include scenes that are shifts away from the style of the overall movie that were included for the sake of absurdist style (Killers had the sitcom flashback as well as the LSD animation and Crank has the kaijuu battle and talk show scene – with Geri Halliwell! – that let the viewer glimpse at the protagonist’s childhood), and both are presented in a format that is perceived to be necessary to tell a story to the so-called MTV audience of today. Not to mention unnecessary violence and the fact that movies must have been conceptualized, if not made, while on drugs – LSD for the classic and speed for the latest release.

The stip club scene not only subverts our expectations for what we might be exposed to in terms of characters on stage, but it totally exceeds our expectations of the kind of violence that may be inflicted in a titty bar. Crank 2 is made for a certain audience. Properly defining this demographic may take a while, but it’s easy to say that video game fans would be hard pressed to find a better movie presentation of their hobby. I guess it could be said that the movie is made for people who could give a flying crap about the expected movie conventions. The protagonist is not the best of people and doesn’t change at all over the course of the movie, his love interest (the surprisingly formidable Amy Smart) moved on pretty quickly after assuming he was dead and the story doesn’t go the way one would expect upon finding out she was wrong, and they don’t even try to pretty up transitions between scenes. Literally, in one scene Statham is running from the cops in a building. They cut to a card that says, “9 seconds later,” and then he’s out on the street. They just wanted him out in the open without bothering to show the process involved in getting outside!

Coincidentally, Amy Smart has another movie called High Voltage under her thumb. Maybe this one will achieve at least the cult status that she will never, ever have from her ‘97 film. It’s said to be pretty bad.

Crank 2 is a pretty worthwhile and fun film. No reason to drop your shit and go see it, not with Star Trek and Terminator: Salvation around the corner, but it’ll be a good movie for a group of friends. Maybe make it a double-feature with the original Crank or Natural Born Killers and fill a night with madness.

Bechdel Rule: Fail. It took me a second to remember that two women even had a scene together in which there weren’t any exposed breasts. When they were talking, they were arguing over a man.

Marvel vs. Capcom 2 announced for download on Xbox 360 and PS3

While internet nerds are rejoicing the good news that came over the wire earlier today, I can’t help but find myself a little bit disappointed.  Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is far from my favorite game, let alone my favorite in the Capcom Vs. line of games.  People have been waiting for this game, both those who continued playing games after the title’s release in arcades and those who recently got into gaming again.  Only two of the three home consoles were announced to be receiving the game, and the Wii was left out in the cold.  What the hell, Capcom?  Aside from two remakes and Mega Man 9, Capcom has failed to provide any sort of support for the Wii.  That really disappoints me in the long run.

Dollhouse advertised as smut

As if the grindhouse-style ads with The Sarah Connor Chronicles weren’t enough to turn away potential viewers, the little pop-up ads shown during Prison Break present Dollhouse as something other than what the actual viewers see.  Showing Eliza Dushku in a state of undress is supposed to be really sexy, but is that what the show is?  The ads, in my opinion, make the series look potentially very smutty to its potential audience.  The actual audience who would embrace the complex show would probably be turned away by such a juvenile attempt at catering to the simplest of demographics.  And the audience to whom this would appeal wouldn’t last 30 minutes into an episode.

If Eliza Duckshoot's conservative Mormon grandmother saw this ad, I bet she would have a heart attack.  Guess who isn't having a Temple wedding?

Many of the promos were like this from the start, but I ignored them because they were just establishing a fanbase.  I hadn’t noticed pop-up ads before because, well, I never watched that Terminator show.  It would be news to me if the ads were there.  If Fox wanted to turn the Prison Break demographic onto Dollhouse, they’d be better off appealing to their more sensible nature.  At least in the beginning, Prison Break was an intelligent and complex show that required regular viewing to follow the nuances of Michael’s plan.  It is not far fetched to believe that viewers with that kind of dedication would be intrigued by the kind of plot contained within Dollhouse.

Of course, as history shows, Fox does know best.  Right?

Understanding Disney’s place in animation

Remember when Disney was the leader in terms of film animation?  Heck, there was even a time when I’d argue they were the best in terms of TV animation as well.  They got there because they were smart.  A YouTube user put together a short video showing a particularly clever shortcut of sorts that Disney used to employ – reusing existing cels as templates for scenes in other movies.

The YouTube user who uploaded this wrongly stated that the Disney Vault is hiding the truth about their productions, that they’ve made one film, from us. Truth be told, the only thing concealed is how clever Disney studios can be.

The Beauty and the Beast example, I’m sure, is likely paying homage rather than copying the cels.  Given how much money was pumped into that title, especially given the computer work, one can’t say that they resorted to the same sorts of shortcuts.  The rest are just interesting.  New cels need to be produced for these scenes, but it is a great way to shave some production time.

MadWorld

All around me are familiar faces / Worn out places, worn out faces / Bright and early for their daily races / Going nowehere, going nowhereJack is on fire!”

Probably from all the laser beams.”

It’s a figure of speech.”

Well you’re a figure of shit!”

Great… I’m a figure of shit… Can we move on?!”

Sega’s MadWorld was a game I had questioned purchasing long before it had been released because I wasn’t sure if it would hold up. The only information released on the game was the level of violence it contained. It’s assuring to know that the violence level might be enough to induce catatonia in the conservative elderly population. The game is just obscene, but the obscenity is reduced when you realize how over-the-top it is. I mean, you can trap someone in a tire, then shove up to five street signs in his skull before throwing him into a dumpster – whose lid then snaps the guy in half. Brutal but acceptable when one notes the level of absurdity.

The game does actually have some substance, though. First and foremost is the artistic style of the whole game. It’s black and white – and red all over, if you play it right. It looks like the comic of Sin City come to life, although the lead character resembles Hellboy more than he does anyone from Frank Miller’s comic. It looks great in its simplicity. There’s even a smattering of florescent blue when you fight space aliens!

The plot isn’t anything to write home about, but it’s there. You play a participant in the Death Watch competition, fighting your way to the number one position. The competition takes place on an island whose previous inhabitants were slaughtered by some unknown virus. Early in the game, you save a doctor who somehow never escaped but also did not die after exposure. It’s around this time that you find out that your character, Jack, is not just there to participate but to investigate the incident. While the plot gives the illusion of depth, by the end it’s all revealed to be a plot by the rich simply for the purpose of entertainment. (Oh, and to threaten other countries with a virus and whole the vaccine for ransom.)

The story isn’t the point of the game. The gameplay is all that matters, and this game delivers. It’s not just about killing people – it’s about finding creative ways to maim them before you end them. The game’s world is in a sandbox style, meaning it’s an open playground for you with tons of creative death traps. Tires, giant coins, and steel drums can be used to keep an enemy in place; signposts and candelabras can be used to (repeatedly) impale your oponnent; and giant hazards like spinning blades, iron belts of thorns, giant grinders, giant fans, the aforementioned dumpsters, and even the afterburners of a jet can be used to finally remove baddies from the playing field.

The absurdity of the action is aided by the commentary provided Greg Proops (of Whose Line is it Anyway? fame) and John DiMaggio (Bender on Futurama). They spend the entire game discussing how disgusting your actions are as well as ripping on each other without bounds. The only problem is that some jokes are repeated due to being connected to specific items (how many times have I heard the cockroach head joke after picking up a one-up?) and how long you spend running around a stage. However, they’re creative and vulgar, and that’s what makes it so damn pleasant in the end. You can just tell that the guys had fun in the recording booth the entire time.

I find it kind of funny / I find it kind of sad / The dreams in which I'm dying / Are the best I've ever had As can be expected, the game is surrounded by a bit of controversy. The game will not be released in Germany due to violence, and I’m not sure if the rest of Europe will be receiving the game. Additionally, The National Institute on Media and the Family released a statement saying that they were disappointed in Nintendo’s allowing this game to be published on the Wii, since the family-friendly nature of the system was so lauded by them. Of course, my response is that it’s a video game system. That’s like blaming VCR manufacturers for the existence of porno vids. One final controversy about the film is that it sold only 66,000 copies in the first month, which is suggestive to onlookers that M-rated games are difficult to sell on the Wii (see previous statements about its family-friendly nature). There’s a lot that I have to say about the ability to sell so-called mature content on the Wii, but that has no place here. I have to say, though, that I don’t recall the game’s having any advertising outside of the video game journals/blogs world.

The important thing to note is that Sega is pleased with the sales of the game, and I am pleased with having purchased the game. It’s really short, but it’s insanely fun nonetheless. I wouldn’t mind a sequel with more creative tools and a less repetitive music soundtrack. And more commentary. Definitely need more dick, poop, and blood jokes.

Utena

The anime series Revolutionary Girl Utena is really hard to describe to people – but in the best way. What looks like just another shojo (basically, meant for girls) series is actually anything but that. Sure, in the end love and friendship do save the day to some degree, but in the long run it’s all just a complicated mess. It’s a coming of age tale that explores issues of roles not only in life (i.e., gender roles) but also within the fantasy genre itself. Many of the characters serve multiple roles, like Utena herself being a princess but wanting to serve the role of a prince and a certain damsel in distress also being a witch who has caused the whole complicated mess. In the end, it’s hard to interpret good and bad from the intents presented.

My favorite part of the series, however, was noticing the Buddhist influence throughout it. One character is inflicted with eternal pain and suffering until a revolution is brought. Utena may be the representation of the Mahayana Buddhist “vehicle” that aids people in transcending to the next plane and out of the painful cycle of death and rebirth.

And in the movie version, Utena literally becomes a vehicle.

You got a fast car / But is fast enough so we can fly away / We gotta make a decision / We leave tonight or live and die this way

Did I fail to mention that Utena is a surrealist enterprise? A character becomes a cow because of her fixation on being fashionable and later think she lays an egg because she’s reached the age to have done it for the first time. There’s a lot of meaning rolled into the series, forced and otherwise. It’s a deconstructionist’s/Gnostic’s/Buddhist’s playground series.

Funny Games

In the American remake of Funny Games, and presumably in the original as well, it is postulated at the end that the observation of fictional violence is just as real as observing real life violence. What is the difference between watching a man viciously whacked with a golf club, having his leg broken, in real life and watching it in a movie? The immediate context. We are able to forgive what we see on the screen but unable to do so if there were no screen separating us from the action. Torture films, or torture porn as some people like to call them, have grown increasingly popular since the release of the first Saw film. Truth be told, what do we get out of viewing such cinema?

In no world should The Abomination be beaten by someone who I thought was Macauley Culkin

I think that the films unintentionally give viewers the ability to identify with the torturers. The victims in these movies are sympathetic to a degree because they are being slaughtered, but there’s a logical disconnect present as a viewer because we’re on the other side of the screen. They are our victims as well. While we’re not perpetuating the acts of violence, we’re there because that’s what we expect to see. It does not say many positive things about us.

Funny Games intends to make its audience ask themselves what it means to be an observer of this fictional violence, but it fails to make any sort of point. The postulate about the role of the observer is only briefly mentioned at the end, almost as a throwaway. If one wants to analyze the film, it’s there. If not, the film is as guilty as any other film for putting its audience in such a position.

Not to say the film is bad. It is not for everyone. It is tense but also kind of empty in how it’s filmed. Surprisingly, there are few scenes of direct violence and none of gore. There is blood only in one scene, the aftermath of off-screen violence. Even so, the violence throughout the film is directed at a woman, a child, a dog, and even a crippled man (although they did cripple him). Steer clear if you are someone who has not developed that disconnect between real emotions and acts on screen. Or…you might be for whom the movie as actually intended. I can’t tell anymore.

Bechdel Rule: Pass. I had to double check this one, but there was an actual in-person conversation between the female lead and another woman. While the husbands were briefly mentioned, the conversation was basically as pointless as all other conversations in the film. Regardless, it passes.

Dragonball: Evolution

Just so you know, that song is not included in the film at any point – which makes this a very real trailer. Also, that flying occurs at the end of the movie, long after Goku never learned how to do it. Someone needs to explain this to me.

To get right to the point, the popular Dragonball anime has evoloved itself past basic cable to solidifying itself a place on premium movie channels. Dragonball: Evolution should not be seen in theatres. That’s not saying that it’s a horrible film. It was a film worth sitting through and experiencing. It might even gain something through repeated viewings. It’s just not a movie people should go out of their way to see, and it’s far from a gateway film for the actual series.

Even though there is another male lead who is part of the good guy team that we could have put on the poster, we went with including a hot female character who was not even named throughout the course of the movie instead.  Hope you enjoy this fairly direct attempt at catering to the one crowd we know will be seeing this film. Yes, Goku is clutching his ball because that's what you should be doing.

A few friends as well as a few sources on the internet suggested that DBE (which got a tongue-in-cheek reference from Bulma early in the movie) would be an entertaining film. I cannot say I was lied to in any form. Existing solely as a means of entertainment, it was fine. I sat through the film without walking out. It was not bad. I think I feel shorted because the movie was not challenging in the least.

The movie is about as simple as you can get: outsider teenager goes on a quest to not only save the world from a villain who spends a total of 20 minutes on-screen but also to become a man. Becoming a man, of course, requires that he get together with his love interest. Kind of boring when looking at what it has accomplished. Very little time was invested in what Goku’s dual identity entails, which is much more intriguing than anything else. Maybe we’ll get that in the sequel, if it ever comes to pass.

My biggest problem with DBE, though, is that it felt horribly truncated. I understand that it was an abridged version of a 200+ episode TV series, yet it seemed like it was an abridged version of itself. The editing was horrible. It gave the impression that things were happening immediately with no real passage of time, and there was no time given for reflection or thought. The movie only clocks in at 84 minutes. It gives the impression that there was more movie than was released. I’m just afraid that what it really means is that this was the best of what they shot. But hey, given the choice between viewing this or Dungeons & Dragons on a rainy afternoon, I can definitely vouch for Dragonball: Evolution.

Bechdel Rule: FAILURE

The females, Bulma and Chi-Chi, did a good job of not interacting with each other through the entirety of the film. However, their only interaction, which wasn’t actually an interaction between the two (a lot less complicated than it sounds), was the implication that one hooked up with a guy.