About Me

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Greetings. I am the Illusive One. For many years now I have been a huge video game player, movie viewer, and book reader. For almost as long, I have been a critic of these things and many people respect my opinions of these things and have often said I belong on G4 doing reviews on X-Play or a similar show. Sadly that is not likely to happen. So instead I shall do reviews for you, uninfluenced by other reviewers, of video games books, movies, and, occasionally, music and political actions. I hope you find this informative and helpful. Thank you for your time.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

One Year Without Lost: The Series Finale

           Welcome to the third and final part of One Year Without Lost.  As I mentioned in my Star Wars V.S. Lord of the Rings post, finales inevitably disappoint.  The finale of Lost, however, met with a lot of mixed opinions.  Some people loved it, some people hated it and a smaller percentage of people weren't sure what they thought about it.  But I honestly don't care what they think on the matter.  I'm just going to give my honest thoughts on how I remember the series finale.  To those who haven't seen it, this article will contain spoilers so consider this is your warning.  This is One Year Without Lost: The Series Finale.

The final episode aired on ABC on Sunday, May 23, and had a total runtime of about two and a half hours.  However, what they called the Lost Series Finale Even lasted for about four and a half and was sponsored by Target.  For starters you had a two hour recap of the entire series with the cast and crew giving their thoughts on the series.  I never found much point in this recap, other than to get people hyped for the final episode and maybe to refresh people’s memories.  That was all well and good but as I remember, it just annoyed me and made me want for them to get to the episode already, (so I guess you could say it worked).
            The biggest problem I had with this, however, were the ridiculous number of commercials they had.  As remember, the actual episode had about an hour and forty five minutes of actual runtime and about forty five minutes of commercials.  It seemed like every five minutes they had a set if commercials interrupting the damn episode and this pissed me off beyond belief.  There were always at least two Target commercials in the breaks and by the time the episode ended I just wanted to burn one of their stores down.  I mean, they treated it like the damn Super Bowl with the number of the commercials they had in it.  To this day, I can't go into a Target without getting pissed about the whole thing.  It damn near ruined the finale for me and I have never forgiven Target or ABC for allowing it.

            Before I even get into the final episode, allow me to give my thoughts on the final season.  For starters, the build up to the final episode was well done.  Much of the final season had just been a blood bath as more characters died in it, (both minor and major), then the rest of the seasons combined so you were eager to see the Man in Black go down.  Throughout the sixth season, an alternate reality existed where the survivors made different decisions in their lives and never crashed on the island.  As the season progressed, however, the characters began to remember things from the reality on the island and by the time the final episode came around, the realities were ready to collide.
            So what about the finale itself?  Well, on the island things were fairly straight forward.  Jack and the rest of the survivors are trying to stop the Man in Black from destroying and escaping the island.  I have to say the solution was very well built up and actually made a lot of since, (given that it's Lost).  It was incredibly suspenseful as the survivors were trying to keep the Man in Black on the island but at the same time had to cause the island's destruction in order to kill him but then had to stop its destruction because who know what will happen.  The whole thing will just make you head spin.  It was also incredibly satisfying to see the Man in Black finally go down after all the horrible things he caused and to see several of the crash survivors finally get off the island.  I also couldn't help but love the fact that Hurley became Jacob's replacement and Ben became his second-in-command.  In truth, Hurley was the best man for the job and Ben got what he always wanted in that regard.
            The area, however, that really got my eyes watering was alternate reality.  All the characters were reuniting with their dead companions and it made for some tear dropping moments.  The reunion between Ben and Locke was of the most satisfying.  Ben is finally able to truly apologize to Lock for killing him and you feel that his apology was genuine and gave me the feeling that all had been forgiven between the two.  Then you had Hurley talking to Ben saying he was a great number two and Ben telling Hurley was a great number one.  These conversations were just perfect for the situation and reminded me that it was a character driven story and constantly made my eyes water. 
            None of these, however, can hold a candle to the final conversation.  During the final episode, all of the characters say that they are leaving and only Jack doesn’t seem to know what's going on.  All the characters go to a church where Jack is approached by his dead father, Christian, who tells him the truth; that they were all dead and this place, (what we thought was the alternate reality), had been created to reunite all them as their time on the island had been the most important of their lives and tells them that it's time to move on to whatever is beyond.  They all sit in the church with happy looks on their faces.  At the same time it cut to a scene where Jack was dying from a knife wound and was just perfectly cut together.  The church fills with light, Jack falls down lays down in a bamboo forest with Vincent the Dog beside him, mirroring the first scene of the first episode closes his eyes on the island, leaving the viewer with a happy yet upset feeling.
            All around, I would have to say this was the best ending to any series, (be it book, film, or video games), that I have ever seen.  While a lot of people hated the way it ended I honestly loved it.  It finished up the story, delivered a satisfying ending to the whole thing and I thought the final twist concerning the alternate reality was just perfectly played off. 
A lot of people, however, hated it for reasons I have never understood and I honestly don’t know what everyone was expecting from it.  But for me it had the perfect blend of feel good and bittersweet to it.  Maybe it’s because not everything was explained or they didn’t like the twist ending, but for me I can only think of one adjective to describe it: Perfect. 
So until next time this is the Illusive One and if you have a problem my opinion on this you can go to hell.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

One Year Without Lost: The Characters

           Welcome back to One Year Without Lost.  Today I'll be getting into the major characters of the series; the way I remember the ones who were the key players of the series and left the biggest impact on me.  This is One Year Without Lost: The Characters.

           The first character to note is Jack Shephard, the de facto leader of the survivors.  While he wasn't my favorite character of the bunch, he certainly was an interesting and dynamic character.  Before coming to the island he was a spinal surgeon who lived with the mental abuse his father put on him.  Throughout the series he believed that everything that happened was coincidental and not part of a larger plan and this frequently put him at odds with other survivors.  I think my biggest problems with him were that he was very closed minded about things, overreacted to often, almost never took anyone’s advice but his own, and reacted to events rather than think them through.  Still, he was a more then capable leader during the first few seasons but became increasingly broken and guilt ridden as the series progressed and by the time the series ended it seemed like he was looking for redemption for all the bad choices he made.  In that sense, he embodied a few of the underlying themes of the series: redemption and destiny.
           The next one to note is John Locke, the fan favorite and my personal favorite as well.  Before crashing on the island, Locke was a paraplegic, trying to find purpose in his life, and on the island he seemed to have found it.  Somehow the island healed his paralysis and this enabled him to become a major player in the series.  In many ways, he was the exact opposite of Jack, in that he believed they had been brought to the island for a purpose.  As the series progressed, he constantly found his faith in this tested and, at times, flat out abandoned it only to find it again.  His belief in why they were on the island was in direct contrast to Jack's and frequently caused them to clash over the issue and eventually caused a schism between the survivors.  In the end, he was right but it took his death to prove it to the other survivors.  The fifth season, he tried to convince the survivors who left the island to return, saying it was the only way to save those who remained and apparently killed himself after he failed.  Despite this, his influence over the other survivors was still apparent and he remains the most memorable character of the series.

           Next we have James “Sawyer” Ford.  Before the series began, he was a conman who was hunting for the man responsible for his family's death.  On the island, he was a hesitant leader who often had to take the reins when Jack and Locke were out of the picture.  I think it would probably be appropriate to describe him as someone who deep down wanted to be good but did things to keep people from liking him on purpose because he didn’t want them to for some reason or another.  During the first few seasons he an ass hole, always picked on other people, giving them annoying nicknames, and still coning people but gradually developed into a more likeable character.  By the fifth season he fully took on the role of leader after both Jack and Locke left the island.  He also had to make a lot of critical decisions during the sixth season as Jack was broken and indecisive throughout much of it.  He's one of those characters who starts out as an asshole but develops into a more likable character and you just can't help but like him.

           Next is Kate Austen.  Before crashing on the island, she was a fugitive, wanted for the murder of her abusive stepfather.  Other than that, there isn't much to her and she didn't seem to have much purpose in the series other then serving as a love interest for Jack and Sawyer and complicating situations that were already complicated enough.  All around, of all the major characters of Lost, I felt she was one of the, if not the, least interesting and useless character.

           Then we have Hugo “Hurley” Reyes and my God was he a great character.  Before crashing on the island, he was actually a lottery winner, apparently using cursed numbers to do it and was then apparently cursed with bad luck.  Throughout the series he was portrayed as a nice guy with the worst luck and was the comedic relief of the series.  He wasn't really a leader, more of a moral support character and was always goofy and likeable.  As the series progressed, he got more involved with the events of the series and became a key player in it.  He had the unique ability of being able to communicate with the dead, (as was able to have full conversations with dead people), and this proved to be invaluable ability in the final season.  He may not be the best character of the show but he's one you can't help but love.

             Next is Sayid Jarrah.  A former member of the Iraqi Republican Guard, Sayid more or less seemed to serve as a lieutenant to whoever was in charge, be it Jack, Locke, or Sawyer.  Before coming to the island, he was an interrogator for the Republican Guard and then traveled the world without purpose, trying to find redemption for what he did as an interrogator.  Other than that, there wasn't much to him, other than he was one of the more badass characters of the group.  Whenever a fight broke out between the survivors and the various enemies they make on the island, he was the one who more or less did the more dirty work, (though that's not to say other survivors didn't do anything).  In the end, you like him because he's a badass character but there isn't much more to him than that.

           Then you have Jin-Soo Kwon and Sun-Hwa Kwon, a married couple from South Korea.  Their background was that Sun was the daughter of a powerful business man and Gin worked for him and married her.  As a result he had to work for him even longer, often doing his father-in-law's shady work and this put a strain on their relationship to the point where Sun was about to leave him.  When they first arrive on the island their nearly estranged from one another and this void kept on growing but eventually they reconciled.  Other than their back stories and how they developed on the island, there wasn't much to them.  They were interesting characters but didn't seem to contribute much to the series as a whole.  That said, let's move on.

           Getting into the Others, we first have Ben Linus, their leader.  Other then the Man in Black he was probably the closest thing the series ever got to a true villain.  He would often manipulate other people to do his dirty work for him and reap the benefits.  To put it simply, he was a character who kept on proving that the other characters should have killed when they had the chance and have a hundred chances to do it, but he somehow always survives.  He was one who always skimmed the lines of hero and villain and as a result was always getting the crap beaten out of him.  He would often do things that would make him seem like a good guy but then would do just as many things that would make him a villain.  Never before or after had I seen a character jumped over the fence so many times and still come out ahead.  Is he truly a hero or a villain?  I honestly don't know but he was one hell of a character and one of the best Lost had to offer.

           Another character who was close to being a villain was Charles Widmore.  Originally he was one of the Others but was banished from the island by Ben for breaking their traditions and rules.  Off the island, he was a powerful business man with many connections and spent much of his time and energy trying to re-finding the island.  In the fourth season he sends a boat to the island with mercenaries tasked with capturing Ben.  It was obvious that he wanted the island no matter what the cost in lives and money were.  Like Ben, he's one of those characters you aren’t sure about.  One moment he'll do something that suggests he's a villain and the next that he has everyone's best interest at heart.  Still, he was a worthy antagonist for Ben, the Others, and the crash survivors and a memorable character.

           Next is Michael Dawson, the token black guy of the crash survivors, (half joke).  Before coming to the island, he had been cut off from his son Walter after his wife left him.  After she died the job of taking care of him fell to Michael.  During the first season finale, Walter was kidnapped by the Others, prompting Michael's actions in the second season.  He ends up having to kill some of the survivors in order to save Walter and then leaves the island.  He later appears on the boat sent by Charles Widmore in the fourth season and has an ending that was tragic but he seemed to find his redemption in it.  A memorable character, if only for the bad things he did. 

           The only short lived character worth mentioning is Charlie Pace.  Before coming to the island, Charlie was the bass player in a one hit wonder band who became a heroin addict.  On the island, he served as a moral support character and comedic relief like Hurley.  Other than that, there isn't much to say about him.  His story got really weird during the third season and was dead by its end, warning the survivors of Widmore boat and was one of the most depressing deaths of the series.  A memorable character if not the best.

           Then there is Claire Littleton, a pregnant young woman who survived the crash.  She was another character I found a little useless in the series.  Other than her baby, being a love interest for Charlie, and being the cause for a few twists regarding her father, she didn't have much to offer to the series.  I guess she was interesting enough to keep around but was never one of my favorites. 

           Next we have Desmond Hume, one of the strangest characters of the series.  Before coming to the island, he had connections to Charles Widmore in wanting to marry his daughter.  He eventually found his way to the island after a worldwide boat race goes wrong and ends up spending years within the hatch entering the number, (don't ask just watch the series on that one).  Later in the series he displays a number of strange abilities.  He is able to see how Charlie will die and actually prevents his death several times but ultimately finds that he can't defy fate forever.  He also seemed to be able to travel through time at random which prompted strange explanations to questions that hadn't even been asked yet.  All around, he was a good character, but things always got strange when he came around.

           Another character of note is Jacob.  He was a character who was frequently referenced throughout the series but was never seen until the fifth season finally.  He was always referred to as some kind of overlord of the Others but the series seemed to imply that he was some kind of force on the island rather than an actual person.  As an actual person, it turned out he had affected many of the main cast members throughout their lives in both minor and major ways.  Throughout the final season he seemed to act like a guide to the survivors and was a good one at that.  He was a good character but they seemed to show too little of him and at the same time too much.

           One of the most mysterious characters in the show was Richard Alpert.  When he first appeared in the series, Ben Linus described him as being some kind of adviser but never went into details.  In fact, not much was revealed about him until the final season.  Throughout the series, he constantly popped up in the strangest places in the survivors' flashbacks, not unlike the way Jacob did.  The strangest thing about him was that he never seemed to age and frequently appeared in different places in time, looking the same age as was in the present.  Much of his past and motivations is revealed in the final season, but it's something I won't spoil.  All around, he was a good mystery character and was a good, if not great, addition to the cast.

           Then we had Juliet Burke, one of Ben's lieutenants and like Ben she was a frequent fence jumper but not nearly as unpredictable as Ben.  At some points, it would seem like she was completely loyal to the Others but then would join the survivors in their fight against them.  For some reason women couldn't get pregnant and give birth on the island and she had been brought in by Richard to research the problem.  At first she just seemed like another Other, but quickly revealed that she hated Ben and wanted to get off the island as much as Jack.  Unlike Kate, she was more than just a love interest for the male characters and was far more interesting and the best of the female cast members.

           And last but not least, is The Man in Black.  I don't have much to say about him, other than he is one badass villain.  As the smoke monster, he's a devastating force that no one can stop and when he imitates the dead, he can be one manipulative basted.  I don't want to say too much more about him, as it would ruin the final season for anyone who hasn't seen it.  All around, other than Locke, he was probably the most memorable character in the series and the best TV villain I have ever seen.

           And those are my thoughts on the major characters of Lost.  Now I know that there are a ton of characters I didn't get into and I skipped over a lot of fan favorites but I had to draw the line somewhere.  I restricted myself to the major and most mysterious characters so that will have to do and I apologize if anyone's upset.  Next time I'll be giving my thoughts on the series finale as everyone seemed to have a different opinion on it so if you haven't seen it I'd recommend skipping it.  So until then this is the Illusive One and my destiny is calling in the form a toasted waffle.  Later!


Monday, May 23, 2011

One Year Without Lost: The Series as a Whole

            Their have been many show series over the years that have drawn its viewers into worlds other than our own, whether they take place in space, in the high levels of the government, in counter terrorist agencies, in hospitals, or law enforcement agencies.  The one show series, however, that drew me in like no other, was the ABC series Lost.
            Airing form 2004-2010, Lost had a total of six seasons, 114 episdoes, 45 Emmy nominations, won 11, and is one of the most memorable and critically acclaimed series of all time.  Seeing as how the series finally aired exactly one year ago today I thought I would use the date to begin my own retrospective on the series; the way I remember the show and will be a multiple part blog.  To those who haven't seen the first five seasons of the show, this will contain a few spoilers for those.  So without further delay, this is One Year Without Lost: The Series as a Whole.
            The series revolves around a group of people who survived a plane crash and land on a mysterious, tropical island.  Very quickly, however, they discover that there are supernatural forces on the island, they're not alone on the island, and that it was far more then coincidence that brought them there. 
            As a whole, the plot of the series was just great.  Other then what I stated above, it's a little difficult to describe the plot without going into great detail but it was always added in new characters, creating new plots and subplots, added in enough mind bending twists to keep you head spinning and, above all, never entirely revealed everything.  Throughout the series many of the questions asked were never entirely answered and left a lot of room for interpretation.  The few things that were revealed were usually downplayed as, by then, a hundred new questions had entered the viewers mind and you don't care as much about the questions previously asked.  This was the kind of thing that made the show so addictive and kept the viewers interested.  It always kept you looking for more clues and wondering just what the answers to the questions were.
            I remember the first season as being one of the best.  Everything was unknown, the characters were new, the possibilities were endless and had the kind of feeling that you can't get from any future season.  The second season was also good, as it introduced several new fascinating characters and still had the same kind of raw feeling the first season did.  The third did as well but it didn't feel as raw as the first two seasons.  In the fourth season the survivors were divided.  Some wanted to stay, thinking it was their destiny while others wanted to leave thinking there was no such thing.  This one also had a strange story telling system.  While previous seasons had the characters flashing back to various points in their lives, this one had them going forward to a time after a few of them had escaped the island.  It made for a few spoilers as to what was going to happen on the island but was a more then welcome change of pace. 
            The fifth season was where things really got weird, (and for Lost that's saying a lot).  In the first half you had the survivors who had left the island trying to get back, while the survivors who stayed on the island jump though various eras in time and have to survive the constant time shifting and find a way to stop it.  In the second half you had most of the main cast stuck in the past trying to get back to the present while the rest were in the present dealing with the supernatural forces of the island. 
            Finally you have the sixth and final season and this was where things got the most confusing.  You had the survivors once again on the island, this time battling against the mysterious and evil Man in Black.  Then you had the alternate reality, apparently triggered by the events of the fifth season, where it shows what would have happened to the characters had they made different decisions in their lives and never landed on the island.  All around, I felt that the final season was a great season.  It was a flat out blood bath at times, as many of the major characters die in it, revealed more than any other season but still didn't reveal everything, and kept you eager and in anticipation for the the finally but I'll get into that one another day.
            And those are my thoughts on the series as a whole.  Each season was great, progressed the story and kept adding mind bending twist that kept me interested.  Next time I'll be giving my thoughts on the characters, and then my reaction to the series finale.  So, until next time, this is the Illusive One sighing off.  

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Once Upon a Time in America

            There are many film directors who have made dozens of films within their lifetimes but I’ve often found that the fewer films a director makes, the better each individual film seems.  Nowhere is this more in evidence then when you examine the films made by Italian director Sergio Leone.  In his life time he was the credited director for only seven films but I think anyone would agree that they were all masterpieces, (although I can’t speak for Duck you Sucker or The Colossus of Rhodes as I haven’t seen them).  Having recently seen his final film I decided to give my thoughts on it.  This is the Illusive One’s Review of Once Upon a Time in America.
            The film was released in 1984 and starred Robert De Niro, James Woods, Elizabeth McGovern, Joe Pesci, Burt Young, Treat Williams, and an early role for Jennifer Connelly.  30 years after apparently betraying his gang and fleeing New York City, former Prohibition-era Jewish gangster, David “Noodles” Aaronson, (De Niro), returns to his old neighborhood to face the ghosts and regrets of his old life.  Through a series of flashbacks the viewer finds out how his old gang came together in their early teenage years in the 20s, views their criminal operations in the early 30s and the events that lead to the gang’s demise while exploring the themes of childhood friendship, love, lust, greed, betrayal, loss, and broken relationships.
            As I mentioned, this was Sergio Leone’s final film despite the fact he was only fifty five when it was released.  So why was this his final film?  Well, he lost all faith in the modern film system after its release.  When he finished filming the film, he had about eight to ten hours of footage but cut it down to six.  He originally wanted to release the film as a two part film, each around three hours but the idea didn’t appeal to his producers so he cut it down again, this time to four hours and twenty nine minutes.  For its premier, he was then forced to cut down again to three hours and forty nine minutes and most of the world saw this version.
While its runtime made it a very long film, it was necessary to properly tell the story but apparently the distributers in America disagreed, as they cut it down again to two hours and nineteen minutes.  This was done without Leone’s consent and was flat out against his wishes and was heartbroken by the American cut and never made a film again.  It turned out he was right to object to it because the American cut flopped at the box office and received universal panning in the states.  Luckily, however, this version is nearly impossible to find and it isn’t the one I’ll be reviewing today but it really goes to show just how editing can affect the quality of a film.  So, without further delay, let’s get into the positives and negatives of this film.
To tell you the truth, nearly everything about this film was great.  The acting was great, the characters were great, the story was great, and the themes explored were apparent but weren’t shoved in your face.  Oh!  And they were great.   The best theme used, however, was the “you can’t go home again” theme as it’s frequently in play and is something anyone above the age of twenty should be able to relate to.  Noodles frequently finds himself separated from his friends and old neighborhood for years on end and always returns only to find his friends vastly different people and his neighborhood a vastly different place.  In this regard, Noodles is a very relatable character and feel attached to him as most people at some point try to go back to a place from their youth or reunite with an old friend from an earlier point in their lives, only to find that the place or person is vastly different from what they remember and this film captures that essence perfectly.
Much of the film revolved around the forming rift between Noodles and his best friend and business partner Max, (Woods) and this was very well put together as well.  The way the characters reacted and worked off each other was just perfectly done and the shifting between the past and the present helped make you feel what Noodles was going through and adds on to the power of the “you can’t go home again” theme.  The music by Ennio Morricone was perfect for the film and, as always, matched the mood of what was on camera perfectly.   That aside I can’t think of anything else to tell you why this film so great.  It’s just one of those kinds of films that you have to see in order to really understand and I just can’t do it justice on this blog.
While this was a great film there were one or two things to complain about.  The first deals with the opening, as it almost feels like the end of the story rather than the beginning.  While it should become clear by the time you’re an hour past the opening, it may put the casual viewer off.  Then you had the blood effects that looked really bad and it seemed like the dropped the ball on this one.  Still, the film wasn’t meant to be gore fest and it was easy for me to look past it.  There was also a twist at the end that I saw coming a mile away.  While it was built up very well, I saw it coming and I think a lot of other people did to when they watched it for the first time.  While the acting in this film was great, the dialog didn’t seem particularly tight.  Maybe it’s just me, but it seemed like there was a pause after each actor finished a sentence.  Then you have the run time.  While the run time of three hours and forty-nine minutes didn’t bother me, (I know that sounds weird), it will probably scare all but a few people off and that’s why I included it in my negatives.
All around, this was a great film and can easily stand toe to toe with all the other great crime dramas that have been released over the years.  For some reason, however, this one always seems to get passed over in favor of Coppola/Scorsese/Tarantino and other “classic” crime films despite the fact that this one is just as good, (and even better in some cases), as those films.  So for all of you out there, who agree with me on this, help me get this film the recognition it deserves.   Oh!  And for those of you, who haven’t seen this film, check it out because it’s a great one.  I may be a little hyped and overzealous because I just saw it, but I think this film would go on my list as one of my favorite films of all time.  It had great characters, great themes, a great story, and was a more then worthy final film for a great director.

All Around

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

On Cannibal Holocaust

            I have seen a lot of gory films throughout my life and most never made me twitch.  I would just watch, laugh and cringe with other people around me but for the most part there haven't been may gore fests that have turned my stomach.  So when I first heard about Cannibal Holocaust my first reaction was “Whatever.  I've been watching slashed movies since I was eight.  Doubt it's something I haven't seen before.”  Oh my God!  How wrong was I!  I don't admit this too often, but this was a film that freaked the shit out of me!  I'm not even going to bother trying to give a review on this but just give my general thoughts on it.  This is the Illusive One's Thoughts on Cannibal Holocaust.
            I went into this movie not entirely sure what to expect but doubted it could lash out anything I hadn't seen before and for a while I was fairly sure I was right.  The film revolves around a scientist who goes into a South American rain forest, where some of the few cannibal tribes left in the world exist, trying to find out what became of a handful of film makers and the second half revolves around them viewing the footage the filmmakers shot.  As I said the first half of the film didn't really faze me.  There was one scene where they killed a muskrat, (apparently this was one of several animals killed during the making of the film), but that didn't bother me.  There was another scene where a man kills his wife for adultery which was a little weird but still didn't bother me.  What I didn't know, however, was that this was barely a sample of what was to come.
            When they start to review the footage, it's where things get disturbing.  At first it's fairly straight forward; the crew just moves along the forest with nothing special happening until they kill a turtle, (the next animal to die in this film).  They drag this poor thing kicking out of the water and just decapitate it and start removing the shell and meat within it all with that eerie music playing.  While this is going on they actually show a shot of the turtle's mouth opening and closing and its eyes moving!  What the fuck!?  It's bad enough that you killed the poor thing to make this film but now your showing us that its brain isn't dead yet?!  What the fuck is wrong with you people!?
            Anyhow, you get your first real look at the blood in this film not long after.  The filmmakers' guide gets bitten by a snake in the foot.  So how do they try to help him?  They cut his leg off and, my God, did it look real and with that music playing made it all the more worse.  Then after, you had these ass holes doing horrible things to the natives.  One tribe in particular they actually round up, put them into a hut and set it on fire and tried to keep them from escaping.  What the hell is wrong with these people!?  They keep going into the forest and it just keeps on getting worse as they record a group of tribes people perform an abortion, (or something of that nature), bury the child or fetus, (not really sure which), in mud and bash the mother's head in with rocks.  Who thinks up this shit?!
            Then you had the final act of the film and this was where I nearly puked my gut out.  The filmmakers, being the sadistic pricks they are, repeatedly rape a girl, who is in turn impaled by her tribe, and the entire tribe goes after the filmmakers in response and makes for one of the most unsettling finally I have ever seen in a film that just left me speechless and my stomach curtailing.  But this is something I won't dare spoil or go into detail because I may be going over the line, (and this is coming from the guy who curses on his blog all the time).  If you want to find out, watch it for yourself.  But that is somewhere I will not go.
            In the end I am not sure what I think of this film.  I hesitate to use this word, but the closest word I can think of for my thoughts toward it is disgusted.  It's probably the only film I have ever seen that only used sheer gore and nearly made me puke my guts out.  I mean it's just one fucked up movie!   To tell you the truth, I'm honestly not surprised it was banned in so many countries, nor why the makers were charged with making a snuff film.  The fact that there are parts in it I won't dare to describe should tell you all that you need to know.   I mean it's just one fucked up movie!  And I'm honestly not sure if I despise it or love it.     

Monday, May 16, 2011

Tron: Legacy

           Well I'm back.  After nearly two weeks of being incognito, the Illusive One has returned!  And why was I gone for so long?  Well in case you forgot, I GOT INTO A FUCKING GUN FIGHT WITH KORSGAARD!  And that son of a bitch is no pushover!  He knows how to handle those things!  Luckily, I had prepared for this possibility due to the increasing hostilities between myself and Korsgaard.  I had various weapons caches stored throughout my compound and I was able to use these against him.  Unfortunately, I still ended up with two gunshot wounds, a broken rib, a few knife wounds in the gut, a concussion and a cracked skull to top it off. 
            Anticipating the fact that I might not win a straight up fight with him I did have a few tricks up my sleeve that would ensure I would live to fight another day.  First, I unloaded a mini-gun at him forcing to take cover while I released a group of Twihards into the area, knowing that Korsgaard would be drawn to them like a shark to chum.  As he tried to tear said Twihards limb by limb, I activated my compounds defenses that effectively drove him off will plenty of battle wounds of his own.  So for the past two weeks I've been recovering from the battle and am now making inquiries as to how he got in here in the first place.  And I will get answers....

           Oh yea! The review!  Let’s go with Tron: Legacy.  Last month I reviewed the original 1982 film Tron and stated that it had a great concept but was ultimately a flawed film.  The acting sucked, the dialog was bad, there were a bunch of little things that threw me off, the special effect were horribly outdated and was one of the few films I've seen that begged for a remake.  And instead, we got the sequel, Tron: Legacy.
            The film was released in December of 2010 and starred Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Bruce Boxleitner, and Michael Sheen.  This film centers on Sam Flynn, (Hedlund), son of Kevin Flynn, (Bridges), from the first film.  A few years go by after the first film and Flynn now has a son.  One night, however, Kevin Flynn disappears without a trace for over 20 years.  One day Alan Bradley, one of Flynn's oldest friends, gets a beeper page, (yes a beeper page), from Flynn's office at his old arcade from the first film with a number that has been disconnected for nearly 20 years.  Curious, Sam heads to the old arcade and finds his father's hidden office and accidently activates a laser that sucks him into the world of the Grid.  Within the Grid, he discovers that his father is indeed alive and has been trapped within for twenty years.  It turned out that a program called Clu, shaped in Kevin Flynn's image, betrayed him, apparently killing Tron and all of his allies and took over the Grid, trapping Flynn within.  Originally he had been created to help Flynn create the perfect the world within the Grid but now sees his task as complete and now plans to purge the Earth of all its “imperfections” and only Sam, Kevin and their few allies stand in his way.
            On the positive side, this film was so much better than the first.  The special effects were better, the action was better, the acting was better and the music, OH MY GOD THE MUSIC!  Unlike the first film, the Grid in this film actually looked like it was a digital world and the things I saw on screen actually seemed like they could exist given the situation.  The CGI effects, particularly the shattering bodies and forming of the light cycles, were well done and very cool to watch.  The action scenes and gladiator battles were also cool to watch and were a vast improvement over those of the first.  Then you have the craziest piece of CGI I have ever seen in a film.  During the prequel sequences and on the characters of Clu you had Jeff Bridges' young face on the bodies of the characters.  It literally took his younger face, made it into one of the most convincing pieces CGI I have ever seen and put it on someone else's body and it remained very convincing throughout the first half of the film.  
            Then you have the acting.  As I mentioned in my previous review, I felt that Jeff Bridges' character adapted to the world of the Grid just a little too quickly.  Sam also adapted fairly fast but not nearly as fast and they actually took the time to explain why he was so good at what he did and I felt this was a big improvement over the last film.  Jeff Bridges' acting in this film was far better than his acting in first and he played the roles of both Kevin and Clu very well.  I also felt that Clu was a very good villain.  He was a good guy who went bad and does what he does for, (somewhat), good goals but ends up doing all the wrong things in order to achieve them and I like villains like that.  They almost make you want to see them turn back good and it makes their demise slightly depressing.  Finally you had Michael Sheen as Zuse the flamboyant club owner and this guy a trip.  Delightfully over the top, funny, and unpredictable, I only regret that he wasn't in more of this film.
            The last positive thing to mention about this film is the music.  And it was just perfect for this movie.  All the music was done by Draft Punk and it blended perfectly with the environment.  It built the mood, got you in the right state of mind for what was to come, matched perfectly with what was on screen, and they couldn't have got any one better for the job.  As I was listening to it, I couldn't help but think these were the people they should have got to do the music for Mass Effect 2 but that for another day.  All around the music was just perfect for this film.
            Despite all the good things I had to say about this film, there were also quite a lot of things wrong with it as there were with the first.  Most of my praises come from comparing it to the first film but a lot of the things I praised had their faults.  For starters, the world of the Grid was just too dark.  I know that there isn't a sun and that it was suppose to be dark but come on!  Just because it's a world within a computer doesn’t mean it has to be 90% shadow!  What also bugged me about the Grid, (no pun intended), was just how limited it was.  When I saw the first film I always pictured it as being an early form of the internet and that was something they could really have expanded on in this film.  Instead they limited the Grid to being contained on a single consul and that disappointed me more than anything else.   
            Then you had Jeff Bridges' CGI face and throughout the first half of the film it really looked real.  The further you get into the film, however, the less real it seems.  One scene in particular has Clu sitting down and it looked like his head had been photo-shopped on the body.  In the final acts of the film, it became really obvious that his face was CGI and at one point it even seemed like his face was lagging when he turned it.  I mean what the hell?  Did they just get lazy at the end or something?      
            I praised the action for this film, but only in comparison to the first.  Not that there wasn't enough of it but the fighting was poorly choreographed, the camera angles didn't help it, and just seemed like a mess and not in a good way.  In the end the action is just tame, especially when compared to all the other action scenes out there.  And why were they using their Identity Disks as weapons?  That just didn't make any sense to me.
            Then you have the acting.  While Jeff Bridges' acting skills vastly improved, he said a lot of slang that was horribly outdated.  I know he's been trapped in the Grid for twenty years, but I never recalled him ever using that kind of slang in the first film and it annoyed the crap out of me.  Then you had Garret Hedlund's and Olivia Wilde's acting.  While it's not terrible it's not really good either and it didn't seem like they put much effort into their parts.  It was passable but still not that great.
            The last two things to mention have to do with the plot.  I won't spoil it for you, but there was one twist towards the end of the film that I saw coming a mile away.  It was just way to predictable and not very well built up.  Finally you have the ending.  While it wasn't as disappointing as the ending of the first film, it was still a bit of a downer and kind of left you hanging. 

            All around, it was a vast improvement over the original film but that's where most of my praise for this film ends.  With all the other films that have come out in recent years, this one just kind of blends in with the crowd, especially when 2010 was full of sequels and remakes from the 80s.  I'd absolutely recommend giving it a watch and can guarantee you'll be entertained but not necessarily blown away.  It's one of those films that I can't decide if I loved it or just thought it was ok.  Everything that was good about it had some kind of flaw that I just couldn't overlook. And that's the biggest flaw.  It just struck me as being an imperfect film when it could have been perfect.

All Around

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

On The Avenger Related Films

           As I mentioned in my Superman post, I'm not much of a fan of comics.  Not that there is anything wrong with them, I just never made it a habit of reading them.  In my childhood, no one I knew really read comics as we were all riding bikes, watching cartoons, playing made up games, or playing video games.  Later in my life, when I was old enough to actually appreciate them and read them, comics were dead in the modern world and once again no one I knew read them so I had no drive to read them.  That, however, that doesn’t stop the fact that series created by both Marvel and D.C. Comics were staples in my youth as I watched the animated adaptations of them all the time.  When the film adaptations were released, I always saw them at one point or another and with the film adaptation of Thor due for release later this week, I thought I'd give my thoughts on all the Avenger related films.  This post will contain my thoughts on the films Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Hulk, and The Incredible Hulk.  I won't go into the 1990 film Captain America because I never saw it or any of the TV adaptations because if I do, well be here until August.  So for now, this is The Illusive One's thoughts on the Avenger Related Films.


           To start things off, let’s take a look back at Ang Lee's 2003 film, Hulk.  To this day, it's considered to be one of the worst superhero films ever made, (although I'd have to give the crown in this category to Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer).  Now, to start off, I'm going to admit two things.  First, I haven't seen this film in years, so this is just based on my memory of it.  Second, when I first saw this film, I didn't think it was that bad.  Your opinion of me may be lessened by this news but at least some people shared my opinion as it grossed over 200 million so make of that what you will.  It starred Eric Bana as Bruce Banner, Jennifer Connelly as Betty Ross, Sam Elliot as General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross, Josh Lucas as Major Glenn Talbot, and Nick Nolte as David Banner, Banner's insane father.  The plot of it revolves around Banner just before and after he has been exposed to the radiation that turns him into the Hulk as he tries to hide it and then uses it to defend himself from Thunderbolt and later against his insane father.
            From what I remember, the casting of this film was perfect.  I always thought Bana was good as Banner, Connelly was good as Betty and Josh Lucas was just a dick as Talbot.  Despite the fact the part was mostly made up for the film, I thought Nolte was delightfully insane as Banner's father.  But I have to say, the best in the cast was Sam Elliot as Thunderbolt who was ruthless but could be sympathetic and was probably the best decision they made for this film.  I also thought some of the action scenes were good, especially when the Hulk threw a tank across a desert or spit a missile at a chopper. 
            On the negative side, however, the film completely departed from the storyline of the original comics.  It made the reason for Banner's transformation genetic, something only awakened by the accident rather than being the cause.  The plot just sucked and the directorial style did likewise.  For one thing, it did that thing where they place multiple camera angles into a single shot similar to the way they did in 24, but it didn't work well in it at all and was just flat out annoying.  While I thought Nick Nolte was great in his part, it, like the rest of the plot elements, made no since and of all the Marvel villains they could have used, they just made this one up, (although I have heard that he is loosely based off an obscure Marvel villain known as the Absorbing Man but it was still a poor choice).   Then you had the Hulk himself who looked like a cartoon and was just too indestructible.  I know that's suppose to be the idea of it, but this film just took it a little too far.  To sum up my negative thoughts for this film in a single sentence; it was an action film that tried to be artsy or an artsy film that tried to be an action movie, (I'm not sure which), and ended up failing at both.
            While the casting was good and some of the action scenes were entertaining, the rest of the movie just sucked.  The plot made no since, the characters likewise, and just couldn't stay true enough to the source material.
All Around

Iron Man

           What happens when you take a second rate superhero, put in the hands of a second rate director, and fill it up with cast members who aren't at the highest points of the careers?  Well, you get Iron Man and to tell you the truth I thought it was good but overrated film and before you get pissed off at me allow me to explain.  It was released in 2008 and stared Robert Downy Jr. as Tony Stark, Jeff Bridges as Obadiah Stane, Stark's mentor, Terrence Howard as Stark's best friend James “Rhodey” Rhodes, Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts, Stark's personal secretary, and was directed by Jon Favreau.  The plot of it mainly revolves around Stark as he first constructs the Iron Man suit, his fighting against terrorists, and attempts to get his company back under his control. 
            On the positive side, you have the acting.  Say what you want about Downy Jr., the guy was just perfect for the part.  In this film, he was all at once funny, an asshole, charming, cool, and a genius and you don't see too many characters like him.  Paltrow as Pepper was funny and serious all at once and Terrence Howard was perfect as Rhodey.  Then you have the individual scenes that were just funny as hell such as when he somehow talks people into doing whatever he wants them to.  For example, he manages to charm a reporter to sleep with him, even though she is trying to have a serious conversation.  Another that comes to mind is when he convinces Rhody to drink with him on his private jet and then the flight attendants start pole dancing.  I mean what the hell?!  Not a complaint but still, how did that happen?  There was also a lot of good humor in other parts, particularly revolving around Stark creating the suit and how he messes it up.  It's kind of odd, but it almost felt more like a comedy then a superhero film but it was still great in that department.
            On the negative side, there were very few action scenes in this film which is very surprising for any superhero film, especially one that was one of the highest grossing films of the year and the few action scenes they had were too short and weren’t satisfying at all.  Then you had Jeff Bridges as Stane who's role as a villain was ruined in the promos for this film, (the build up to it suggests it was suppose to be a twist), and to be fair, he wasn't that great of one.  Why?  Well, he was to obvious, he didn't play the part of a villain that well, and monologue to much when he had the hero right where he wanted him.  Biggest villain cliché in history.  Finally, it seemed like it was trying to be the Batman Begins of Iron Man; more focused on establishing the characters and technical aspects of everything, rather than just getting to it.
            All around, I did enjoy this film but thought it was overrated.  The casting was great, the special effect were done well, and was at times hilarious.  Unfortunately it spent too much time building up to the fighting and had very little payoff and Jeff Brides just wasn't that good as a villain.  It was good, but not that good.

All Around

The Incredible Hulk

           Ah, now this was the film adaptation fans of The Incredible Hulk had been waiting for.   Unfortunately it came out the same year as Iron Man so it’s lived in its shadow.  It starred Edward Norton as Bruce Banner, Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky, Liv Tyler as Betty Ross, and William Hurt as General Thunderbolt.  The plot of this one revolved around Bruce Banner as he tried to find a cure for himself while avoiding Thunderbolt's men and fighting against Blonsky, the specialist they brought in who would eventually become the Abomination.
            On the positive side, this film had everything Ang Lee's Hulk lacked.  The action was good and believable, (as far as the subject matter goes), and the Hulk didn't look like a cartoon in this one.  Granted, it was still obviously CGI but it actually looked like something that could be real, where as the last one just looked like Shrek on steroids or something.  You also had a great antagonist in Blonsky who would later become the Abomination and the final fight between it and the Hulk was just awesome.  It also contained many references to the original series from the 1970s, ranging from the look of Banner's laboratory to the theme song and they were nice little tributes.
            On the negative side, however, this film lacked everything that was good about Ang Lee's Hulk.  Norton was good as Banner but he wasn't great either and the same can be said for the rest of the cast with the exception of Tim Roth.  Most of the actors seemed like they were their just to collect a paycheck and get on with their days and there was very little dialoged throughout the entire film and most of it was spoken blandly without much effort behind it.
            With that said, I thought the action in this film was great, as were the little references to the old series but it suffered from bland acting and little dialoged.  It's not terrible but it certainly could have been a lot better.

All Around

            Before I move on, I have to mention that the part of Bruce Banner has once again been recast for the upcoming Avengers film.  This time the part is going to Mark Ruffalo, who had apparently been everyone's original choice but the CEO of Marvel at the time wanted Norton for the part so he got it.  Film studio politics.  Don't you just love them?

Iron Man 2

           Last on my little list and, until Saturday, the last of the Avenger related films, is Iron Man 2.  Released last year, so far, it's the only sequel to any of the Avenger related films.  All of the previous cast members returned, with the exception of Terrence Howard, who was replaced by Don Cheadle, (studio politics again I assume) and I found this a bit strange, considering that they casted Howard for the part because they thought he would be good as War Machine in the sequels.  Ironic, isn't it?  Anyway, this film added Mickey Rourke to the cast as the villain Ivan Vanko, a.k.a. Whiplash, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer, Stark's corporate rival, and Scarlet Johansson as Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a. Black Widow.  In it, Stark tries to resist the government's attempts to claim the Iron Man suit, while dealing with a slow but steady poisoning of his body, due to his use of the arc reactor.  To complicate matters further, Ivan Vanko, son of a man who co-designed the original arc reactor shows up with his own arc reactor powered weapons with a vendetta against Stark.
            On the positive side the cast members who returned were all once again great in their parts.  Don Cheadle was good as Rhodey, and the new cast members were great in their parts.  Mickey Rourke was a great villain, Samuel L. Jackson was perfect as Fury, (but can you really think of a part he hasn't been great in?), Scarlett Johansson was great as Black Widow, (although they kind of drifted from the original character's profile), and Sam Rockwell was great as Hammer.  The action in this film was also a lot more satisfying then the action of the first film and the first fight with Whiplash was incredibly entertaining, (although in ways you wouldn't expect).  The humor was also good, mainly revolving around Stark's antics, thinking death was near but wasn't as funny as the first film.
            On the negative side, the action scenes were once again a bit underwhelming.  Even though it was better than the action in the first film, it was still a bit of a letdown, particularly the final fight with Whiplash.  And once again, the humor was good but just wasn't as good as the humor in the first film.  Finally, the ending just felt rushed and I don't know how else to describe it. 
            All around, I have to say this film wasn't really any better or worse than the first.  They improved where they needed to improve but not by a great deal and the humor went a bit downhill but not by much.  Maybe it's because I didn't hear as much praise on this film as I did the first but this one seemed just as good as the first and just as bad. 

All Around

           So what else can I say about these films?  Well, they're all typical summer blockbusters and not much more.  Each film is good, but they're by no means perfect and I personally prefer the dark tone of other films like the latest Batman films or Watchmen as opposed to these films.  Don't get me wrong.  I still enjoy them but I don't think any of them have a chance of being remembered in the long run.  Thor is due for release this Saturday and I don't think it's going to be much different.  It looks like it will be good but not much more than a popcorn movie.  Then in June, Captain America is being released, and I have no intention of seeing that.  Why you may ask?  Well, Iron Man and Thor may be second rate superheroes but Captain America....I don't know what to say and if you can't figure it out on your own....you have my pity.
           And those are my thoughts on the current Avenger related films.  Some of you may hate me for my opinion on these films but I say each to his own.  I may or may not see Thor later this month, so don't expect a review on it anytime soon.  So until next time, this is the Illusive One-
(Bullet flies past Illusive One's head)



Illusive One:  SHIT! I GOTTA GO!  LATER!

(Illusive One runs out of building as more bullets are shot at Illusive One)




Illusive One: SHIT!

To be continued..........