Friday, July 19, 2013

Cheese101 reviews: The Conjuring

Okay, I know that I've done a whole bunch of reviews lately but I have to talk about this movie, mainly because of all the buzz it's gotten. Now The Conjuring is not a masterpiece, its nothing groundbreaking, it's not the greatest horror movie since The Exorcist (even though it certainly channels it), what it is however is a very good spooky movie.
Another thing that I want say is that this movie offered an interesting experience for me. This was the first horror movie that I saw in a ghetto movie theater. I have to say, it's exactly how it's portrayed in various caricatures. I was amazed that the stereotypes were that accurate. I have to admit that I did chuckle a few times due to people shouting out things like "Girl don't go in there!" and "I'd be out!" However have no fear this did not spoil my view of the movie.
This movie was based on a true story, believe it or not. And the film felt like it was pretty feasible. Only a few times, like a scene in the climax, did it feel a bit cinematic. Other than that it felt like it could actually happen in real life, which helped to make the film more terrifying.
The screenplay was uninspired and rather bland. There was nothing in the writing that was groundbreaking or even fresh. But the writing was not what made this movie, it was the directing. With James Wan (Insidious) at the helm, he turned a bland screenplay into a truly frightening picture. The shots were remarkable, from a spinning camera, to closed in shots that make you feel like you can't breathe. The so-called master of modern horror, was also the master of perfect timing for The Conjuring. He made good scares into GREAT ones! The suspense and tension in many parts of the film were positively palpable, and Wan used this to sometimes create scares, let the viewers off the hook to make them let their guards down, or even(in one scene)make a joke. Not to mention the effects which were mostly practical, without the use of much digital or CG junk. Wan wanted to make a movie that hearkened back to the old ways of making horror movies, and like I said before it does have a very Exorcist-ish feel to it. Another thing that certainly added to the horror was the music, which was quite creepy. And as a man of faith I'll also found this movie to be surprisingly inspiring.
The acting was pretty good, most of the movie it was incredible and was very effective at making the movie even more believable. There were a few moments where the acting slipped and became pretty bad, but most of the time it was very good.
Now this doesn't make it a masterpiece, the best horror movie of all time, or even the best of the year (that honor, so far, goes to the re-imagined Evil Dead). However this is a very good horror movie, and a very good movie in general. I recommend it, it's a real scare!

The Conjuring gets a 7/10

-Thanks for listening

Thursday, July 18, 2013

"Whose Line is it Anyway?" Reboot: Initial Reactions

     So, as of this Tuesday (7/17/13), we have seen the reappearance of "Whose Line is it Anyway", the hit improvisational comedy show that, for one, really defined part of my childhood, as I grew up watching it, and always flocking to it when I discovered the syndication that flitted on and off of the air, or was playing original episodes. The original, nearly decade long run was an absolutely fantastic, albeit cheesy, form of vaudville-esque sketch comedy, that was very much eternally self-aware and had fun with itself a great deal of the time.

Now, the one thing that always defined the show for me, in hindsight, was the relationships of everyone on the show. It felt, very much like a troupe or a family, akin to Monty Python's Flying Circus in a respect. Simply due to the chemistry and the relationships being one of the building points of the comedy, even though the humor ranged from conventional, to absurd, it was all built on the strength of the relationships between the comics in question. Regardless of who was exchanged, switched around, added on, removed, or anything, there was eternal sense of the relationship between the comedians on stage. It lent to a great deal of banter, in-jokes that can easily be picked up on, for even a new viewer, and made it feel like there was a lot of emotion that added on to the strength of the comedy, making it feel natural, letting it flow, and making the points between the games all the stronger and make the show actually feel longer and more lasting, despite the criticism of the sheer number of breaks between show and commercial, to where it cuts out a healthy 10 minutes of the shows running time, rather than most television only sacrificing 6 minutes for advertising. The point is that upon my first viewing of the 2 new episodes of the series, I feel that so far, there is a very missing sense of Family that made the show more than just a good sketch comedy, but a good show in general.

While I won't deny the comedic talent of the new host, Alisha Taylor, or the strength in comedy of the now well-aged returning stars, Ryan Stiles, Colin Mocherie, or Wayne Brady, there is still this sense that, something's been lost in terms of the relationship. The relationship is still strong with the 3 main center-pieces, because they have had a decade to work together, and still share a strong sense of kinship on stage, it's that it feels ... Insulated. Largely due to the current lack of strength of relationship between the host and the cast. This could be due to it being her first real time on the show, and being a host of a show of this particularly original nature, but it still leads to a cauterized whiplash from the details that made the show more light-hearted and easy to connect to.

 There's no banter really between Alisha and any of the cast members, and there isn't the classic ending point to the "Points don't matter", bit at the beginning. Ex. "Welcome to Whose Line is it anyway, the show where everything is made up and the points don't matter, that's right, the point's don't matter, like whatever your girlfriend says while the game is on". There was a constantly chiding sense of friendship, references, and other matter of silly, and at times, topically biting humor that really gave the show a sense of strength, which the first two episodes of Season 9, as I will be referring to it as for sake of ease, sorely lacked. Further, what made the show particularly charming with it's sense of family and closeness, wasn't just insulting the host in a tongue-in-cheek manner, it wasn't just the steadily accrued in-jokes and patterns, it was how the audience was even brought into it a good number of times, with the yelling and audience suggestions, and particularly, bringing in the audience members. Now, it wasn't done EVERY episode, admittedly, but it was a steady and often enough pattern that it became part of the show's "vibe", and was one of the defining aspects that stuck in the mind of the viewer. However, given this is how they kicked off season 9, given a 6 year hiatus on the show, I feel it is something they should have done, which they didn't, to remind the old fans, and the new ones, the tone of the show would be delightfully sarcastic, zany, and very inviting through these relationships, by making the audience a part of the family, and feel as much a part of the show, as the actors, and the host, making it truly genuine improvisation, and really building a strong relationship all around that made it feel Natural.

 The same was done with the celebrities, when they, occasionally, showed up on stage. There presence was natural, defining to the episode, due to it being a rarity, and also didn't make them a centerpiece, but rather, delighted in their style, while letting them into the show's environment, rather that conforming to the reason the celebrity was deemed noteworthy. Further, they were highlighted by being on stage, the Entire time, thus making them feel as if they were part of the Whose Line is it Anyway Family. Season 9 does NOT do this. At all. Rather, what it does is: Has a sketch or two, has the celebrity show up, have the scene conform to why they're famous, they leave, different sketch, they return, sketch related to their area of fame, leaves, different sketch, end-credits featuring celebrity and why they're famous, done.

 Which leads to a major problem in terms of the show's ability to actually have staying power, due to it being focused on the guest stars without making them feel like they are important to the show, leading to a weird issue of focus that just causes the show to feel weaker. Coupled with the lack of relationship inherent to the comedy, and the lack of audience connection to the relationships that really make good improvised comedy, for a show like Whose Line anyhow, leads it feeling weaker and colder and less entertaining.

 Is the improvisation still good? Yes, they still have comedic talent, it's just that it falls behind to the strength of the earlier seasons due to the lack of rapport. I hope they can earnestly build a better relationship soon, over the course of the season, so that we can really get a show that's better than what it currently is. I do admit though, I feel the formula of the celebrity pattern they're using won't fade anytime soon, meaning I might always have this gripe over the show, and the general contrivance that follows their presence always making it feel odd to watch, and make it feel less natural. Where the American Run of Whose Line is it Anyway was founded on creating a very warm atmosphere, that created close bonds with every aspect of the performance involved, whether they be camera men, the host, the audience, and all focused on creating a series of easy to understand and pick up on references, memes, and motifs, each contributing to a very natural feeling to the improvisation that gave it strength in the number of connections that are powerful, but easy to be apart of, whether celebrity or no. The 9th season has decided to become celebrity centric, contriving itself for the guest who dominates the times they are allowed on stage, but is otherwise disconnected from the bonds of the show, and with little interaction between the audience, the host, and the cast, leading to the lack of access to the connection between the triumvirate that is Ryan Stiles, Wayne Brady, and Colin Mocherie, making it feel as a whole less enjoyable, and less natural, so that it doesn't have the same impact, or create a sense of strong identity that the original had.

 However, I stumbled onto a short-lived GSN series, 1 season, 40 episodes, that seems to keep the relationship going, "Drew Carey's Improv-a-ganza", only 10 episodes are on Youtube, and finding all of them on the internet might be blastedly difficult, but it is definitely worth a watch if you enjoy seeing, as the relationship is still very much there, albeit the show isn't quite as good as the American run of Whose Line is it Anyway, but is still better in terms of the inviting relationship that it provides.

Cheese101's greatest disappointments: Paper Mario Sticker Star

I have always loved the Mario RPGs, ever since I played Paper Mario at a friends house during my childhood, I have thought (for good reason) that the Mario RPGs are some of the most magical and well put together games ever crafted. There are two main series of these; Paper Mario, and Mario & Luigi. Both series great in their own right. The Mario & Luigi Games were always able to make you laugh with hilarious gags, and a fantastic combat system. The Paper Mario games (which I believe to be one of the best video game series right now) are focused on creating deep, unforgettable characters, and surprisingly philosophical story lines. Many were turned off by the Wii's installment in the series, Super Paper Mario. They call it the black sheep of the franchise, even if critics drooled over it. Most of the complaints came from a change in battle systems, from turn by turn in the first two games ( Paper Mario, and Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door) to a side-scrolling adventure where you simply whacked your foes. However Super Paper Mario left us with a great cast of characters and the surprising twist of creating Luigi as a villain.
However with the new Paper Mario on the 3DS... Sticker Star... well let's just say my hopes and dreams were shattered. This new installment into the series was handled mainly by Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto. He had kept his greasy classic style game designing hands off the first three games, but I suppose he couldn't help himself and took the helm of this title. The consequences were apparent. The story, for starters is garbage. It's just like a Mario game's story. Bowser comes and messes stuff up, and it's up to Mario to save everyone. Now this is sort of like the plot of the original except it's a lot more basic and you don't have a well characterized Bowser. The game just takes you through world's with no real reason of you actually being there except just to get through them.
Now let's get to the characters... well there's Mario... and some floating crown sticker thing that tells you how to play the game, and pretty much does nothing else. This is a great fall from the character Tippi in SPM that served a similar purpose but was also a great character and integral to the plot, also she had some kickin character development, I was crying at the end of that game. And another thing that made the first three games so great were interesting party members, whose combat skills and personal story lines had me hooked. But once again, sadly, Sticker Star is not one of it's predecessors. So there are no real or developed characters in the  game, that might have had something to do with the lack of real dialogue. There was the occasional bland line here or there, but all of it's skip-able. The dialogue in the game only goes as deep as the stuff in Super Mario Galaxy (yeah not even as deep as Sunshine, which actually had SOME good exchanges). It was stupid stuff, like "This town sure is cool!" but nothing character or plot building.
To be fair though, the game play and combat mechanics were solid. The mechanic in which you had to collect stickers lying around everywhere to use during combat was nifty. However when you got to boss battles you had to rely more on luck than skill. Being that you HAVE  to hit them more than one time per round, and the only way to do that is by gambling your turn away on a slot machine type mini-game. Also the whole thing about placing down stickers to create effects in the world was cool... for a bit. It then turned into finding that thing again and getting it turned back into a sticker again and then hoping that it's the sticker that the game wanted you to place there. A mechanic that started out cool simply got annoying as the game went on.
Paper Mario Sticker Star was one of the most disappointing games that I have EVER played! It took the greatness of the series and THREW IT ON THE GROUND! If you're a fan of the series than I hope I've persuaded you not to waste a cent on this Mario-clone piece of garbage.

-Thanks for listening

Friday, July 12, 2013

Cheese101 reviews Sharknado

Okay so when I saw the trailer for Syfy's newest B-movie, I was sort of excited. I can't lie I was excited to see this rediculous action romp. I will be reviewing this movie as a B-movie B-movie, not a mainstream movie. But what makes a ssuccessful B-movie? I'll answer that so you can put my review in context. A good B-movie has to have acting so bad it makes you laugh, effects so cheap they make you weak, and plots that sound like they came out of the mind of 7 year old child.
So how does Sharknado do in all of these respects. Let's start with the acting... it sucks, I mean it's absolutely awful, and at times it works in the formula. Unfortunately the thing that stops it, is the plot and story. What we see in the trailer is that it's about a giant tornado that has a bunch of sharks in it. What it's really about is a divorced man that trys to save his family during a hurricane off the coast of California ( this is impossible of course since hurricanes can only form in the Atlantic, the ones the form in the Pacific are Typhoons). While the streets flood a bunch of sharks come into the city and swim around and eat people. So the first hour consists of the characters driving around and being dramatic. The Sharknado doesnt even come into play until the final 15 minutes of the movie, which are by far the best parts. So that already ties into the second point being the plot. The plot of a movie entitled Sharknado should have been centered around the ludirous idea of a tornado with a bunch of sharks in it. Instead Sharknado is a phony drama, the plot is full of yawns and snoozes. The final 15 minutes however were amazing, it's what I was expecting and hoping for. It's full offlying sharks killing people in various ways, and people shooting these sharks as well as slicing them in half with chainsaws. However it was too little too late tp save the story of this movie. Why couldn't the whole movie have been that?
Okay other than that there are the effects, they were pretty laughable and would have worked well with the formula had the plot been constructed better. The lighting was random and inconsistent, the CG was crappy, and there was the most illused stock shark footage I've seen in a film ever.
Overall, Sharknado was horribly dissapointing, it could have been an extremely emorable B-movie, instead it tried to be more than what it was, which was a formula for disaster. Now it's not even that enjoyable to watch. It has failed in it's purpose.

Sharknado gets a 3/10

-Thanks for listening

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Picnic Panic, Chapter 1

Here you have it, the long awaited(?) 1st chapter cum(heh) expanded universe thingy for Susan's Sticky Adventure. Let's fucking do this and never look back. Also fuck this site and its lack of indents.

The phone rang, finally ending in that now all-too-familiar answer. "Susan's not here right now, so why don't you fuck off! *Beep*" Alex sighed, and hung up the phone. Ever since Susan got that goddamn motorcycle, she was always busy.

"Ah, who the hell cares. She's probably just at the ice cream parlor. I'll just go get her, and we can have picnic for old times sake. Also, why the hell am I saying all of this out loud, what the fuck is wrong with me? Somebody make it stop! Ahhhhhhhhh!"

Alex caught himself, and breathed a sigh of relief. Grabbing his jacket and keys, he headed out the door.

The stench of blood and wreckage wafted from the streets, which were in utter chaos. They had been since the Rensfair Incident though, so no big whup. Alex sniffed the air, trying to pick through the various scents for motorcycle fuel. "North", he thought, and began heading that way. Aside from a brief, strange twinkling in the sky, there were no problems and he reached Pop's Ice Cream Parlor within the hour.

Alex stopped. He could smell a strange odor coming from the parlor. Definitely ice cream, but... something else, too. He slowly reached for the door handle, but then...

"Halt!" Came a voice from behind Alex.

He turned, seeing a man dressed in a large purple jacket with a white waistcoat, with epaulettes. He also wore a tricorn hat, and kept a cutlass and flintlock strapped to his side. He had short cut brown hair, and a wise, sad face. The man was flanked by four others, wearing silver outfits with over-sized visors and unwieldy rayguns at their hips. Alex didn't recognize the clothes, but the face was unmistakable.

" What the hell are you doing here?" Alex choked back a sob. "I watched you die, damn it, what are you doing here, old man!"

"Rest easy, child," the man said. "I'm not your father. I am Space Royalty merely adopting this form to speak with you."

"What, did you think this form would make me more comfortable? It fucking doesn't!" Alex shuddered visibly from his memory. "I watched my father die in front of me. Also he was kind of a dick. I am a complex character with lots of emotions!"

The man laughed. "Nah man, we don't really care about your comfort. We just like 'Contact'." There was a shimmer in the air as the man shifted to the form of Carl Sagan. "We really fucking love 'Contact'. Hell, we're not even hideous aliens or anything. We're just humans. Our parents were astronauts who realized that Earth kind of sucks, so they built robot versions of themselves back home and stayed to create the Space Royalty."

"What the fuck is going on here? Like seriously, what?"

The man sighed and looked to the ground. "Look, I'm gonna level with you. I'm Major Thomas Filmore, commander of the 69th fleet of the Space Navy, and I need your powers."

"...Powers? What do you mean by... powers?"

"Your last name is Terrior, kid, don't play dumb."

Alex Terrior sighed. "Fine, you caught me. I'm a werewolf. What's the big deal? It's not like it's the full moon right now anyway. The only werewolf thing I can do right now is smell my crush in there", he pointed to the ice cream parlor, "fucking her motorcycle!"

"Ah, it may not be the full moon down here, but up there" the Major said, pointing to the sky, "up there it always is."

Alex gulped. "So what? If I went to space I'd be a werewolf. You can't control werewolves, they go all insane and wolfy!"

Thomas chuckled. "Oh, Alex, Alex. Rest assured, we can control it. We have the technology."

Alex sighed. "You know what, fuck it. I'm bored, so what the hell, I'll go to space. Let's hit it."

The Major nodded. Then they climbed aboard their starship and headed for the skies.


Allow me to start this by saying that, not only will NOT follow my usual posting format, as a Spoiler section is not really needed, because this movie is not as much about narrative as it is about experience, and to spoil an experience for something like this is that which I'd rather not do. The narrative isn't that important to the overall film, as I will state why in as rambling a manner as I can muster.

 Know, that you MUST SEE this Movie. Or I will hunt you down with a 20 story mecha, and pummel your remains into the Earth. Now, to start with, this movie is stupid. Horrendously Stupid. It is balls to the wall, silly. However, this is by far the most FUN I've had at the theaters in a very long time. Not intellectual intrigue, or pretentious fixation kind of fun in the intellectual sense, but just pure, unadulterated, deeply visceral and geeky FUN. I have never gotten to be able to say that any film in particular, and I hope I can say it more in the future, because if more movies follow this basic protocol of "Have FUN" then we may actually be able tor really enjoy movies that aren't trying not to trigger synaptic fire.

 Word of Warning: If you THINK for one moment too long, you may not enjoy this movie.

 Breaking down the movie.
- - - - - - - - - - - - -

 One: This Movie has amazing casting with little character. Some of the characters are flat and one dimensional, you can really predict a lot of the characters. Desperately so, and if you've seen ANY Action movie centered on a government organization you have seen this movie. But God DAMN was it fun to watch these characters. They had just enough problems to keep us involved in their stories, while not being too interesting beyond a surface layer. However, some characters were more interesting. For instance, my favorite characters, and in my opinion the most developed, were Mako, who looks like Faith from Mirror's Edge, and the General Pentecost, or as I remember him "General Badass".

 A lot of the casting choices are actually really underground actors, or at leas they aren't famous enough that I recognized them, except for Charlie Day from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and Ron Perlman makes a fun appearance as a gangster and scavenger character who actually is important. Even some of the background character designs are absolutely fun to look at, like a highly caricatured duo of Russians, both with bleach blonde Drago hair, and is rocking a beautiful black beard, for this weird whiplash on the sight of him. Even though I claim that the characters aren't that interesting, the way that they structure how the robots work, through neural interface and the concept of "the drift", where memories and sensations are experienced between partners, means that you actually can feel a lot of the chemistry between the characters develop, but just not show a steady bond, which is actually quite clever on the part of the writers given the premise because it gives us far more time to devote to the giant Monster fights over petty "Character development", and all that. That is not what we're about here for Pacific Rim. And that is what makes it special.

Two: The fight scenes were fun to watch, and were AMAZING, and are honestly, what obviously was given the most effort over the entire film, and friendships may be made and broken over which fight scene was your favorite because of the sheer amazing that nearly all of them have. These were what we all came to see it for, what it was made for, and I honestly was squeeing half the time, from the sheer scale and wonderfully silly beauty that these fights have. At one point, they even start doing things as if it came out of a Mecha Anime or a Sentai Series, especially thanks due to the setting having a case of gratuitous Japanese. I don't want to explain these, and why they were amazing. I can't. I might not even do it in the spoilered editions of my musings, because you NEED TO SEE THESE. They are works of geeky art! I sat there wondering after one of them "Can they top this? I think not, this one scene won the movie for me." And Then, while failing to beat my expectation managed to Challenge it with a wonderful show of amazingly silly force! These fights are what Micheal Bay believes he does in his movies, what he wants to do in his movies, but is actually done RIGHT.

 Actually, I could easily tear away from my attempt at organization to give that as a fantastic summation of the film. It's what Micheal Bay thinks that he does, a fun, silly, not that high brow film with amazing special effects, badass characters that are actually funny while managing to straddle a line between caricature and being believable people.

The effects are gorgeous, though the CGI occasionally felt fake early on with the Kaiju monsters, and the constant night fighting actually creates some very interesting luminous visuals, due to the glowing monsters being given runic symbols and such, which made it an interesting panoply of color and glowing blue blood and such. They did a lot of interesting things with the setting, with a background of political conflict, world histories and a setting built on reactions to the existence of Kaiju, and that influencing events surrounding the defense force and so on, it all had a very believable world, despite points where science decided not to existence, some odd bits of causality that can be inferred about Pacific Rim's take on certain issues of scientific credibility, and generally some wacky things.

This is a movie that one does not nit pick, because to do so, does the zaniness a disservice. However, the film as a whole manages to invest one enough to care, while focusing on the major center piece, THE RIP AND TEAR. The setting is interesting enough to be believable, the characters are interesting enough with their various archetypes and fun scenes abounding for each of them, but generally with enough meat to carry them through the entire concept of character development (except, oddly enough, for the "main" protagonist), while the fight scenes are really the center piece of the film and got the most love, with enough around to buoy support and take what could have been a horribly average movie, and by matter of sheer awesome make it a decent movie. If they added more to some of the characters, hell, it could have been a GREAT movie, but it knew what it was.

 It was Roland Emerich in scale, Micheal Bay in budget, and just smart enough to be a good popcorn flick without being dull, offensive, or uninteresting. While the beginning can be seen as slow due to exposition concerns. However, this movie can be nitpicked to pieces, and I did it myself as I was watching it due to odd interplays of science and the limits of believable narrative are stretched at times, it is a simple entity, but a beautifully simple one, unlike most simple movies which fall to eventual blandness. It is very much, actually, like Sentai and Mecha Anime in that regard, it can do beautifully over-complicated, silly things, and be perfectly amazing and embrace that that's what it can be, and what it is.

This is ExtravagantEvil, going Medieval on Bad Movies.
It's almost as if someone added a degree of "grounded reality" to Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagaan.

Pacific Rim, we Love you and always will, because you will never change.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Cheese101 reviews: Monsters University

I'll start off saying, I didn't like Brave, the target audience was made up of mother's and daughters, and unfortunetly unlike most other Pixar movies, it ddoesn't have much to offer those that don't fall into it's target audience. Actually allow me to correct that, Pixar movies have always had an extremely inclusive target audience. Everyone could walk away happy from a Pixar film and every movie they released was something special. Thus they became the king of animated movies. However that title started to be doubted after  Cars 2 and Brave. Unfortunately they have officially lost it with Monsters U.
Now, Monsters University is not a bad movie. It's actually pretty good. It has quite a few funny moments and the animation is fun and exciting. The voice acting is no problem, it never really is for Pixar, and the story as a whole is nice and hear warming.
Well that sounds great right? Well it has a few problems, the charcters are cute, but hardly memorable, except of course, the ones we already know from Monsters Inc. The comedy is funny, but there is not a really memorable moment in the movie, or for me a joke that I would call histarical. The movie trys to make a lot of jokes that will make adults laugh and a lot of jokes that would make kids laugh. The good old Pixar never made these two mutually exclusive. Another thing this movie screws up with is sticking to their own story from the original. Most were just for cameo purposes, but still it ruined some things in the original movie.
When Pixar makes a movie we compare it to its past works. That may be very unfair, that's true. So let's be fair, Pixar has made many masterpieces, Monsters University is a good movie, but it's nothing special, thus Pixar is now on the same plane as those other animation companies that make movies that are good but nothing special.

Monsters University gets a 6/10