Seeking Justice is a Nicolas Cage film, which for me is actually a pretty big plus from the get-go. Nicolas Cage has some good films and some bad films, but he's one of those actors that's always entertaining to me (whether in the way he intended to be or not). It also stars Guy Pearce, which is funny since I just saw him in Iron Man 3.
I actually rather liked this one, so in keeping with my usual style when I like I film, I'm not going to do a long review here so as to avoid discussing the movie too deeply and possibly spoiling it for someone.
The general idea of the film is that there's a secret organization that comes to people whose loved ones have been victims of a severe crime--rape, murder, etc.--and offers to trade them a favor for a favor. The organization will eliminate the criminal who hurt the person's loved one, but will then call on the person to do a task or two later on. Will Gerard (Cage) is an English teacher whose wife is raped and badly beaten, and he's found by Simon (Pearce), a member of the organization who makes him the offer. Distraught over what happened to his wife, Will accepts the offer, but when it comes time for him to do favors for the organization, he balks, especially when the "simple tasks" escalate and he's ordered to kill a man and make it look like a suicide. He starts to look for a way out.
What Seeking Justice presents quite well is the situation of a pretty normal guy caught up in a bad situation. Will isn't some experienced cop or anybody with any experience in dealing with dangerous situations. He's an English teacher--just your average joe who is way over his head. Cage does a great job portraying that, and never, ever acts overly capable in a situation. He's disoriented, confused, and just kind of stumbling through events--but he's managing to keep stumbling forward towards a solution, and there's a definite feeling that he's moving things along rather than just being swept up in the current. It's a nice bit of writing, acting, and directing. I've seen a number of films and read a number of books where a supposedly normal guy gets caught in danger and somehow starts acting like he knows exactly what to do...you don't get that here, and it's refreshing. Will isn't capable of cool and calm plotting or focused action stunts...he's driven to his wits' end, afraid, and just trying to find a way through. This comes through even in the film's action sequences--mostly chases--in which Will takes action without being an action hero. He moves in a confused, panicky manner, only barely succeeds at a number of actions, and has plans utterly fail on him from time to time (I loved one bit where it looks like he's going to go for an action movie "drive past the speeding train just in time and leave the cops in the dust" but he doesn't even remotely get there in time despite gunning it, so he's forced to stop and come up with a plan B).
The cast is strong. Cage does a great job of portraying a guy who is trying to stay focused and find solutions but is really in a state near panic pretty much all the time. He has a way of showing tension, paranoia, and fear, and his Will frequently threatens to break down entirely. He's a man who is too weak to deal with what's going on but knows he doesn't have anyone else to deal with it for him. Pearce plays a good manipulator in Simon, who manages to always sound like your best friend even while he's asking for terrible things. It's utterly believable that Simon could talk people into accepting his offer, and then talk them into helping him out with his dark deeds. He finds people at the end of their rope and then pushes them to go someplace they ordinarily wouldn't. January Jones plays Laura Gerard, Will's wife, and does an excellent job as a woman who goes from confident to broken and slowly climbs back up again over the course of the film. It's interesting that despite what happened to her, she gradually comes to seem the stronger and more stable one in the relationship--she's forced to be stronger because Will is getting so erratic. The supporting cast members often play only small roles, but bring a lot of depth when they're on camera. I don't have any complaints on the acting.
This isn't a perfect film, though. I don't want to go into detail, but as the movie draws to a close it moves a little too closely to a "good vs evil" plot rather than a "good and law-abiding vs possibly also good but law-breaking" angle that might have been more interesting. The organization itself really doesn't end up explored nearly as much as you'd think, and their involvement in the film ends up somewhat unsatisfying. But in particular, what's wrong is that the ending just seems...sudden. It feels like there are still several twists left that could be pulled in, or more complexities for Will to fumble his way through, and then...the movie's just done. Things are wrapped up in a pretty nice scene, but it kind of feels like there's something missing. Not in a "how'd they even get here?" kind of way, but in a "I wanted more from this conflict" kind of way. It doesn't help that though the immediate plot is resolved, it feels like there are still a lot of issues open that are just left hanging. The ending sequence just feels a little flat and abrupt, and there are loyalties that don't feel adequately explored.
That's all I'm going to say with this one, as this is one I can suggest someone might enjoy non-ironically. Seeking Justice is a pretty fun film with a flawed final act that doesn't ruin the movie. Your mileage may vary, but in no way do I feel this one was worthy of the term "terrible." It had a good concept, some good acting and action, and was overall a fun way to spend an evening.
So, thanks, Michele! Might not have been your intent, but I appreciate the pick!
DW7:E is similar to other games in the Dynasty Warriors: Empires series. You're still beating the absolute heck out of thousands of enemy soldiers. You're still taking bases on the way to taking the enemy main camp. You're still building up your kingdom outside of combat and getting the upgrades you need to stay competitive. Not much has changed in the overall concept...what has changed, though, is the way you do just about everything.
DW7:E is much, much deeper than its predecessors.
So, first, a primer, for those who might not be familiar with this series. Dynasty Warriors is an action game series in which you play a single officer on the battlefields of ancient China. Your abilities are tremendously over-the-top and you face off against thousands of enemy soldiers. In general, only the other officers pose a one-on-one threat, though as the difficulty gets higher the minor enemies can chip away at you pretty effectively if you aren't careful. Combat is fairly simple, but you do end up with enough moves to feel like you have some choices and use some variety. There are tons of characters to choose from, each of which will use one of several different weapons. They all control similarly, but there are important differences in effectiveness of various moves, so you'll find ones you like and ones you dislike. The missions, meanwhile, are set up so that various objectives pop up on the map--such as officers in trouble, a fire attack to aid, or a fleeing enemy to track down--and oftentimes pop up at the same time on two opposite ends, so you need to get good at prioritizing and fighting quickly. Overall, it's a fun action series that some find easier to play in small doses...while others, like me, find it really easy to just kind of slip into the DW zone and find that it's suddenly midnight. Your mileage may vary.
The Empires spinoffs add kingdom building to the mix, and dumps the preset objectives for missions in favor of an enemy that actually uses abilities in more freeform manner to some degree. The combat tends to be a little less interesting just because the missions lack that inherent drama that the main series is set up for, but at the same time, the battles tend to have more variety since you don't know how one will go once you've played it a few times. The added depth of kingdom play certainly helps the game's longevity, as well.
So, how about DW7:E? Well, take all the good things I said about Dynasty Warriors above. Now take all the good things I said about the Empires spinoffs above. Now those things that I said that might be taken as bad things? Dump those.
Dynasty Warriors 7: Empires is the most perfect Dynasty Warriors game ever. It exemplifies everything that makes the series awesome, and tosses pretty much everything that doesn't work. Now, it's still a Dynasty Warriors game, so if you aren't inclined to like those you probably won't change your mind with this...but if you do like the series, this one is absolutely incredible.
Why? Basically, it very effectively manages to merge the feeling of the main series with the open and freeform play of the Empires spinoffs. This is one heck of an accomplishment, and it is accomplished mostly through two major adjustments: Strategems, and Useful Allies.
Let's talk Strategems first, because these are awesome. Strategems are the latest twist to the Empires spinoffs. Characters gain the ability to use various strategems in battle: various boosts, special tactics or traps, ally summons, or other abilities that can really change the course of the battle. Each strategem can be used once by a given character in a battle, and each character gets to take 4-5 with them to each battle. They can do things like boost your abilities, trigger a flood or fire attack, drop a rockslide to cut off a path, summon a poisonous fog, drop enemies into a pit trap or lay an ambush, instantly revive an ally and put him near you, and a whole host of other cool tricks. You get these...so do your allies, and so do your enemies.
Where earlier Empires games thus focused mostly on troop movements for strategy, DW7:E focuses on both troop movements and the use of strategems. Your battle experience will wildly vary based on your own use of strategems and those of your allies and enemies. If you have a lot of "Orderly"-type officers, for instance, your side is going to be summoning a lot of elite troops and archer volleys to wear down the enemy. Meanwhile, if your enemy has a lot of "Wise"-type officers, you're probably going to run into some nasty ambushes or fire attacks, or find your supply routes cut off by a rockslide. There are several different Fame types in the game, and most battles will involve a mix of them on both sides (yourself included), so there's quite a variety of strategems that will be thrown around in every battle.
What this means is that the battles in the Empires series finally sometimes manage to capture the sense of urgency that the battles from the main series always had. You will frequently find that one base is under attack from a terribly fast and strong Brave-type officer using the "Raid" strategy to beat everyone up, while across the field, several of your bases just got hit with an Inferno attack by a Wise-type officer. It doesn't always happen, of course, but when it does...you get the open, free-form Empires gameplay but the tension that the main series tends to bring. It suddenly isn't just about making sure you can fight well personally and avoiding leaving obvious openings in your defenses...it's about, "Oh, heck! I'd better get over there right now, and by 'there' I mean two different places at the same time and did that guy just open up a pitfall on my troops at a third spot? Where do I go first? Which can my allies handle?"
Again...this isn't constant. If it was, it'd be annoying. But it happens often enough that you really get a much better feeling of tension from this than any other Empires game. I cannot stress enough how much better this is than the previous game, especially. The previous game was plagued by low variance in battles and barely any importance to strategy...this raises the bar by an incredible degree.
One caveat: There are cases in which your buddies or enemies will use tactics in a less-than-intelligent fashion. It isn't frequent, but I have had cases where my buddies accidentally locked me in a base for a bit (or out of a base when I could have saved it), or set up an ambush where it would never come into play...and I'm sure things like that happen on the enemy side too. When it happens, it can take you out of things a little, but it's rare for it to happen in any meaningful fashion in my experience.
The other major difference? For the first time in any non-scripted event in a Dynasty Warriors game of any kind, you have useful allies. They can't handle everything...but you can actually trust your allies to take care of a lot of things on their own, if directed or supported reasonably well. Heck, you can even let them take the enemy main camp! That blew my mind the first time it happened...especially since it happened quickly. That never, ever happened in previous Dynasty Warriors games--you had to do everything important yourself. Now...I'm not going to go so far as to say I think you could regularly just direct a battle and avoid actually fighting, but you will find your allies can manage quite a bit, especially if you're actually able to direct them via the strategy screen (as with the previous Empires, you only have the ability to command battlefield movements if you're of certain ranks). Even if you can't, though, they're not utter pushovers like in previous games.
The kingdom experience has been drastically improved as well. There's now several different ways to proceed both as an officer and a ruler. You can build up your kingdom in different ways, focusing on building your economy, or your army size, or your weaponry level, or even focusing on diplomatic relations and getting other people to help you fight. Obviously in general you're going to want to mix them, but it's not hard to develop a focus on what you're most interested in. As before, you can play at the officer level and at the ruler level, and both are quite a bit deeper than before. As an officer, you'll get missions from the ruler to fulfill, and as you rank up in your empire you'll gain more and more responsibilities and even authority over a territory...or perhaps the entire army. You can even choose to rebel and take over from your ruler if you want. As a ruler, you have a lot of options each turn, but you also get to lay down a kingdom policy that affects the things your officers will sometimes decide to accomplish. Between all the different choices in how to build your kingdom, the kingdom policies and ruler choices, and the officer types you can choose to bring in, you'll honestly end up with a pretty varied experience on different playthroughs both in and out of combat. The little cinematics you sometimes get also help with this, emphasizing different events that occur as things go along, and while there aren't many of these, they also add to the feeling that this kingdom is different than earlier ones.
The only major complaint about the overall game is that much like most other Empires games, there tends to be a point at which it is 100% obvious that you're going to win and the last few battles are just a formality. It would be nice to see an Empires game that let you win by owning some majority of China rather than literally all of China, so that games didn't have to go down to the last battle when one kingdom owned all but one territory. However, there have been improvements in this regard: now, when you take a territory that a kingdom's ruler is in, you take all adjacent connected territories as well as a special bonus, so it becomes easier to make rapid progress by targeting the right territories. Still, it can feel like a bit of a slog getting through the last battle or two when there's no way the enemy can turn things around. It'd be nice if the win condition didn't require you to own very last province. Actually, it'd be cool to see them take another approach and go for variable win conditions like Civilization V (not the same ones, but that could be an inspiration). It'd be cool to be able to win by diplomacy or economy or benevolent reputation or some such, and that's just not an option here. Still, this handles the overall conquest better than any Empires game before it, and that's a good thing.
So, let's talk about the actual focus of this blog: character creation and customization. It's terrific.
Honestly, this game is right up there with Dragon's Dogma for the level of appearance customization. It functions similarly: it uses a mix of part selection and morphing, starting at the easy--part selection--and allowing the morphing if you want to get into more customization. It doesn't have as many parts as Dragon's Dogma does for some sections of the face or body, but it handles quite well and allows a wide variety of appearances. Furthermore, the menu system is clean and easy to understand, and you'll never find yourself at a loss to create a good character. The parts+morphing approach is quickly becoming my favorite appearance design style, and it works terrifically here.
With this easy system, you can design a wide variety of characters. They're always going to be human, but you can make kids, adults, hulking warriors, thin and wizened figures...you can really accomplish quite a variety of appearances, and it's easy to do. If you have a good idea in mind, going from start to finish can take as little as 5 minutes or even less, even if you're doing a good amount of morphing. And since the game allows for 200 character slots, you've got plenty of space for your creations...or ones you download from other players (that's right, you can share them--you can even see them at random in your game if you've allowed that option).
On color selection, the view is a little less rosy. There's actually a variety of eye and hair colors, but they still aren't using color sliders, unfortunately, so you don't have quite the ability to go freeform that you might like. (You do, however, get to use heterochromia for the eyes, which always gets a cheer from me.) You do get a few unnatural eye and hair colors, which is nice. For skin tones, you only have pretty much natural ones--tans, whites, browns, reddish tones, etc. There's no unnatural options like greens or blues, so if you're looking to make actual fantasy orcs or aliens or something, you're going to have to be content with standard human colors. Really, it's odd that the Empires series hasn't moved to using color sliders yet, especially since the Samurai Warriors 3 character creation mode allowed them (and the Samurai Warriors 3 character creation mode was in all other ways barely even a character creation mode--so very few options!). It's really time for the series to allow a full palette! I do understand that a patch that Japan has received (not us as yet) has added more color options for hair, but that still leaves eyes, skin, and clothes with limited selection.
As far as clothes, speaking of that, you have quite a variety of outfits to select from. As before, you can choose different outfit parts for the head, chest/arms, hands, legs, and feet. You start with a pretty nice selection, and there are plenty more to unlock, plus even more in DLC. In a nice touch, every single outfit from the previous game is available for unlock in this one. With the ability to mix and match pieces, you actually have a huge selection of possible outfits--not as many as, say, your average wrestling game or Soul Calibur V (either of which adds the ability to put on a variety of textures, which expands selection significantly), but still, an impressive selection. It helps that almost everything in there is worth using for some character or another, too! Unfortunately, color selection is very, very limited...you basically have one color for each of the main series' kingdoms (Wu: Red, Wei: Blue, Shu: Green, Jin: Light Blue, Dong Zhuo: Purple, Yellow Turbans: Yellow, I believe). Fortunately, you can mix and match colors for the parts as well, so you're not stuck with just one color for the outfit. You can still get some good variety, and it works fine...it would just, again, be nice to see them add the use of a full color palette (especially as, again, this was an option in the otherwise unsatisfactory Samurai Warriors 3 mode).
Frankly, if you mixed the appearance/body creation from this game with the clothing selection, coloration options, and texture options from Soul Calibur V, and made sure heterochromia was an option, I think you'd have my favorite character creation system of all time. That would be amazing.
Once you've picked your appearance, you'll want to pick a voice, and this game does a pretty nice job with that. It's worth noting at this point that all the voice acting for the game is in Japanese. Your mileage may vary on whether that's good, bad, or neutral. For me, it's neutral. In any case, you have about ten or so voices to choose from per gender, and pitch modification is back and helps to get more mileage out of the voices. I understand Japan has also received DLC that adds alternate performances of each of the voice types, too, so hopefully that will come here to expand the selection a bit, but even if it doesn't, the selection is fairly good. Unfortunately, pitch modification only works so far, so some voices will always sound wrong for certain character designs--thus, you may sometimes get stuck with quotes that don't suit the character personality you're going for because you had to go with the voice that sounded right, or vice-versa. Still, you get a decent variety. I still long for the day when we get to record our own--that'd be goofy, but fun.
So, that's appearance and general identity. Let's talk abilities. This is an area where DW7:E shines, actually. You get to choose a few major things to set your character's abilities: primary weapon, EX attack (a more powerful common power attack that you trigger at a certain part in your combo chain--available list determined by your primary weapon), Musou attacks (super-attacks usable when you fill up your musou bar, which happens several times a battle--not limited by your primary weapon, though animations will often show a particular weapon), statistic growth type, and starting fame type (which determines available strategems and some other effects). This is quite a bit more than you've ever gotten to set in previous Empires games, and it allows you to create quite a varied character set. Variance of any one of these parts can differentiate characters to some degree, though the largest differences result from statistic growth types and fame types. An attack-focused character plays differently than a defense-focuses one, and a "Brave" fame type plays very differently than an "Affluent" one.
As one note--you choose a weapon type (such as Sword, Greatsword, Axe, Greataxe, Bow, Rapier, etc.), not a specific weapon model within that type. Weapon models are determined by the specific weapons you buy in play. Honestly, I would have liked it better if you got to choose the appearance of your weapon too, and then just...upgraded it in play or something. It would be nice to have two guys with greatswords that didn't end up using the same one all the time. But that's a minor complaint.
Customization doesn't end there, though, as even during play you'll get to modify your fame based on your actions. What's cool is that you actually get to have multiple fame types as you go through the campaign, and thus while your primary fame type determines your particular fame-based bonuses and your effective character level, you get to use strategems from multiple types. Don't worry--it's generally very easy to pick the fame types you want. First of all, your initial fame type gets points in it from every battle you fight, so it's very hard to switch it unless you specifically mean to. Second, while each kingdom action is associated with a particular fame type and gets you points for it, it's generally really easy to build up the fames you want by choosing supporters or using strategems related to those fames.
Furthermore, like the base version of Dynasty Warriors 7, characters get to use two weapons and can switch between them, so you can further customize your character based on your secondary weapon choice. One character might have a primary sword and secondary bow, while another might have a primary sword and a secondary greataxe--leading to two very different fighting styles as you do weapon switches. (You can also--as I honestly often do--just pick the secondary for its elemental effect, for use with the elemental items you can buy).
Speaking of items...those are another area of at least some customization. You can purchase items as you go through the game that modify your character's attributes and add some special modifications (such as the ability to use two different elemental effects with one weapon). Now, if the game goes long enough you'll actually oftentimes end up with the entire list, but in shorter games you may not, and even in longer ones the order in which you buy them can differentiate characters for a while. Regardless, they provide a handy way of bolstering the abilities you find most important, and add a little more variety to the game.
Finally, if you're playing as a ruler or one of the high-ranking officers who gets to actually decide who comes to the battles, you can really customize your playing style based on which officers you pick. Since Fame Type determines available strategies, you can look at the Fames of your kingdom's officers and decide who should come along based on what strategies you want to be more likely to appear. You don't have full control over this--you can't tell an officer to use Ambush here, or Elite Troops there--but you can make things more likely just by choosing the proper makeup.
There are other little options here and there as well...you can either have a horse or purchase a constant animal companion...you can select the appearance of your "war room" from various types...and you get to make little choices here and there from text-based "encounters" that happen from time to time that can give you fame points and sometimes other bonuses. All of it comes together to actually make for a notably customizable experience.
In another nice touch, though one of variable impact, once you've played through the game as a character, you can save the play history to that character. Then, on subsequent playthroughs, an AI version of that character will develop its fame along similar lines to how you did, and will tend to use the strategems you prioritized as that character. It's a nice touch and can help you make characters that behave in particular ways if you want to emphasize their personalities, helping your created characters feel more "real."
I really can't say enough good about this game. Dynasty Warriors 7 Empires is the ultimate Warriors-series game, providing an excellent mix of tension and variability and making for a fun experience in and out of battle. It does still have the feel of the series--if you aren't into hack-and-slash games, no amount of kingdom-building and strategems will fix that. But if you've ever considered trying a Dynasty Warriors game, or you like the series but really want an entry that you can play over and over and that has a lot of customization, this is the one for you. It nails just about everything, provides a great character creation mode (despite the lacking color choices), and lets you have a lot of fun with a ton of variety. Highly recommended.
Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie is the work of Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, the two guys behind Tim and Eric's Awesome Show, Great Job on Cartoon Network's "Adult Swim." It is, allegedly, a comedy. Readers of my previous Project Terrible reviews will recall that I absolutely loathe bad comedies. As I've said before, bad comedies are the worst kind of bad movie, because what makes watching bad movies fun is that they're often unintentionally funny, but bad comedies are bad at being funny. This of course removes any amusement one could gain from watching the film.
I tried to keep an open mind regardless. I've never seen the show these guys put on, and though I've been warned, well...it's not really a review if you go into it planning to hate the film, you know? So I did my best. I tried to clear my mind of any preconceptions and just sit back and watch.
This ended up being one of the most horrid, offensive, terrible, repulsive pieces of garbage I've watched in my life. To be honest, it's just about right up there with Kill the Scream Queen, only managing to be a tiny bit better than it by virtue of actually qualifying in some way as a movie--in that it does in fact have a plot, characters, and such.
The basic outline doesn't sound so bad. Two losers, Tim and Eric, somehow (by unrevealed means) got a company to pay them a billion dollars to make a movie. They blew the entire sum on making a 3 minute film about a guy in a suit coated with diamonds who convinces a waitress to marry him by giving her a huge diamond ring. The company, understandably ticked, demands the money back. Tim and Eric set upon a scheme to earn the money back (forgetting of course that they have a billion dollars in diamonds and could just give that to the company, which the film points out later on to ruin its only potentially good joke) by becoming owners of a run-down shopping mall and revitalizing it. The company, evidently not understanding that the guys are actually trying to pay them back, hunt them down.
That doesn't sound bad at all as a kind of fun and silly comedy, right? You could do something with that. I feel the same way. The basic concept of this movie is actually sound. Get a couple lovable losers to play the leads, do something actually heartfelt with them turning the mall around, and you won't have a great film, but one that's a reasonably fun little comedy. The problem isn't the base idea, but the execution...the horrible, horrible execution.
You see, the central point of Tim and Eric's comedy appears to be attempting to make the audience as uncomfortable as possible. Somehow, being uncomfortable is supposed to make you laugh. The idea, I guess, is that these guys are intentionally bad at doing comedy, and thus it is funny. I don't see it that way. I see that as boring. But that wouldn't be so bad. The trouble is that aside from their intentionally terrible comedy, Tim and Eric also pile on a very dark, twisted, and flat-out disgusting sense of humor.
In this film, we have all of the following and more:
- A man getting things put into his...you know...
- A man whose business is selling used toilet paper with the poo still on it
- Masturbation, frequent references to that, and a man getting...you know...from that all over his cell phone
- A man being defecated on by several children while he rests in a bathtub
- A man having sex with his friend's girlfriend in an adult novelties shop, using several sex toys in fairly graphic manner, while--in plot at least--a boy who I'd guess is about 8-10 years old looks on
- A very elderly woman having her finger cut off
- A scene in which two men discuss rather graphically whether it bothers one of them that the other had sex with his girlfriend before he did, and decide that somehow makes the relationship better
- A main character with a very unhealthy and disturbed interest in children...basically Tim seems like a pedophile
- Multiple other crude jokes including references to sexual organs, fecal matter, urine, and various other things that I wish people would stop thinking are inherently funny
I don't have much more to say here. This was truly awful and disgusting, and honestly, since I still refuse to call Kill the Scream Queen a movie, I can say this is the worst movie I have ever, ever watched. Having watched this makes me feel that my worth as a human being has actually lowered. I cannot believe this was actually made. I cannot believe so many people agreed to be part of it. I honestly thought there were still some standards left in the movie business, at least for the sort of companies that make films that are meant to be shown in theaters. Evidently I was wrong.
I'll let the late Roger Ebert close us out: "Describing the movie is bringing down the level of my prose. As faithful readers will know, I have a few cult followers who enjoy my reviews of bad movies. These have been collected in the books I Hated, Hated, Hated, HATED This Movie; Your Movie Sucks, and A Horrible Experience of Unendurable Length. This movie is so bad, it couldn't even inspire a review worthy of one of those books. I have my standards."
Bob: The reaction I had to this one was surprisingly "meh." The show really under-uses the Mythos concept, and it gets worse and worse as the show goes on--we go from references all over the place in the first couple episodes, to later in the show where they're referencing mostly video games and it feels much more like a generic alien girlfriend show (and yes, there are a ton of those). It really could have thrown itself much more into the Lovecraft side of things than it did and gotten some real mileage out of doing a love comedy with Things Man Should Not Know. Instead it just comes off as a pretty generic show.
I also had something of a problem with the portrayal of the homosexual characters on the show, and frankly the romance in general. It seems there's quite a lot of aggressive forcing going on here and that's...not really funny. It makes a lot of the show pretty uncomfortable to watch at times.
I did however love Mahiro's extremely complicated method for turning down Hastur in one of the episodes. He somehow manages to use a concept of universal timeline repetition to turn down an unwanted relationship.
Overall, the show is one that thinks it's quite a bit more clever than it actually is, and could have done a lot more with its concept. It's interesting, but not one I can really recommend.
Anyway, thanks to Al for the review!
- The characters are morons.
- The film wants to hold off most secrets until the end, and thus loses any investigative scenes that normally drive films like this.
- You never feel like there's hope.
- You know what always irritates me in films? This seems to come up in a number of horror films I've watched, actually, and it's never a huge issue, but it just bothers me. Oftentimes we're given character traits for our main characters, but they just kind of cease to even be mentioned after the opening moments of the film. For instance, The Graves had the two girls as comic book fans, but none of that featured in the events of the film after the first 3 minutes or so. This one isn't as notable (especially as there's no advertising based on minor character traits that I'm aware of this time), but we still get a lot of details about Ben and Kelly that pretty much don't matter once the creepy stuff starts: Kelly's love of cacti, Ben and Kelly's love of video games (and more on that in a moment), Ben's tech job...really the only character trait that gets referenced later is that Kelly loves camping (and to the film's credit, it pulls that in as both a cute reference and a part of the plot, so points there). It's just a little irritating that much of the character building early in the film turns out pretty meaningless. I'm not asking to have video games matter to the plot, of course, but it's kind of one of those things where you wonder why you put in a character detail if it isn't going to come up more than once.
- More importantly, Kelly is actually studying to be a veterinarian, and when the dog dies she just kind of seems mystified about what to do other than drag it off to an animal hospital. It'd be nice to have her try a few things to save it and fail, making it more urgent and personal, rather than just cut to "well, we took it to the hospital and it died."
- On the opening with the experimental seance (the second, one, actually, since the film opens with two of them--a 1970s one, and the modern one with the college students): It always kind of amazes me how people in films who set out specifically to encounter the supernatural, who indeed have seen footage they fully believe is showing something supernatural and which shows the very events they begin to go through constantly look so thoroughly shocked and surprised when supernatural events occur. I mean, sure, once the weird lights start shining and the lights go out and things that didn't happen in the video start happening, I think you'd start worrying, but if you know the table is going to start shaking and there's going to be banging noises, why does that get you started looking around wildly and freaking out? You knew it was going to happen! You should be prepared for that! We're not talking a Scully thing where these people have seen the video but thought it was fake--these are true believers, intentionally seeking out a supernatural experience!
- Back on the topic of video games, this film features yet more people who appear to have no earthly idea how to fake playing video games. Seriously, if you want a game where you can just jam on buttons and twiddle sticks as fast as you can and look like you're actually playing it, use...um...actually, I'm not sure there is a game that looks right with that, but it definitely isn't Street Fighter IV, where if you know how to play you're going to look a hell of a lot more controlled.
- That is what it looks like if you know what you're doing in a game like Street Fighter IV. Yes, you do tap buttons a hell of a lot, and wiggle that joystick a ton...but you'll notice there's a lot of pauses and specific timing involved. (And yes, I'm aware that this guy is actually one of the major pros, but still!) I am so very tired of movies putting people gaming on screen and just having them mash the crap out of buttons and shake that joystick in random directions every single moment. That isn't how it works. If you're going to put gaming on film, please do it right! It looks ridiculous otherwise...like if you filmed people playing football and had them dribble the ball, or if you had them play chess and take pieces by jumping them like in checkers. That isn't how you play!
- The whole "I'm not calling Patrick" thing wouldn't bother me so much if they just explained why he doesn't want to call! He clearly suspects (indeed, knows) there's a ghost or something, so wouldn't calling the supernatural expert who in fact warned you about the situation in the first place maybe be a good idea?
- At one point during the buildup to Patrick's plan, Kelly gets freaked out by some events in the house and decides to nail a door shut. To stop a ghost. You don't have to be a ghost expert to know that ghosts tend not to be stopped by physical barriers in the least! That's kind of their thing, you know? That's like being surprised when a known vampire turns out to have fangs and drink blood.
- Though the film relies more a creepy atmosphere, it does have an unfortunate number of jump scares, which are honestly pretty much the mark of a horror film that doesn't know how to be a horror film. One or two are okay in a film, but when you get to the point where in order to be "scary" you're frequently relying on darkening things up and then having something jump out at someone or even just a sharp sound suddenly popping up in an otherwise quiet scene...you're cheapening your movie and losing sight of what makes things actually terrifying. It's about atmosphere, themes, and ideas, not jumping up and going "boo" all the time. This is far from the worst offender I've seen, but there were still too many in the film for my tastes.
A quick note about today's review--I don't know what was going on with the streaming for this one, but I just couldn't get the thing running with any consistency. I tried it no less than seven times last night and it kept cutting out and utterly refusing to restart. I finally got it working tonight, and it pretty much went through but for a few hiccups here and there. I didn't want to tempt it to quit working again, so I stopped trying to take screenshots. Unfortunately, that means we don't have a lot of pics for this one, and there were some hilarious shots I did want to take, but I really don't want to fight the awful streaming to get them.
Suburban Sasquatch is the story of a reporter and a Native American hunter who team up to try to track down and kill a sasquatch or Bigfoot that is killing people in a small town. That's about it, really...the story isn't much more complex than that. It's a stock monster movie that doesn't really do much to distinguish itself.
Except for being pretty consistently inept.
Suburban Sasquatch is one of those films that just can't quite seem to do much of anything right. Poor acting, awkward dialogue, a paper-thin plot, terrible special effects, horrid sound effects, generic music, a ham-fisted attempt to slap some sort of meaning in there...it's all pretty awful.
Let me start out by noting that this is another one of those films where you can actually see a little bit of potential in places. If the people involved hone their craft, they might actually make something decent somewhere down the line...they just really weren't ready to make a film yet, and tried to do something bigger than they were able to do. It isn't utterly hopeless. There are some good ideas, and there is an actual narrative here--not a strong one, but a recognizable story nonetheless.
The thing I actually rather liked about the movie was that it did end up giving the hero and heroine a pretty major issue to go through that made at least some sense for them to confront in the situation. Our hero, Rick, is a reporter who hasn't managed to really land solid work because he keeps dreaming of that one big story and won't settle for anything less. He also has problems with religion or mysticism, generally unwilling to believe in anything other than what he can see. Meanwhile, our heroine is Tala, a Native American hunter who believes in following your fate and is resolute in her purpose and sure of her path in life. This is a natural contrast and, despite the film's problems, it works quite well. The two come together and help each other--Tala helping Rick see that there are things to believe in and that the world is bigger than he knew, and Rick helping Tala find a more complete life and see that it's okay to do what she wants in addition to following what she feels she has to do--they don't have to be mutually exclusive. The film actually portrays this relationship astonishingly successfully...for the most part. More on that later. But overall, I think that's the film's strongest aspect--the writer really picked a good concept to focus on for the conflict and nature of the relationship between Rick and Tala.
Unfortunately...there's not much else that I liked.
I need to start by talking about the acting. Almost everyone in this film was clearly not prepared to be on camera. There are a few (notably Tala) who seem relatively ready to actually act, but just about everyone just looks uncomfortable with being in front of the camera. It isn't so much that they're tripping over lines...they usually manage to get those out right. It's just that you can tell they're very conscious of the fact that they're being filmed, and they're quite nervous about it. I think some of them might actually manage to have a career if they can just lose whatever it is that's bothering them and stop looking so inhibited and embarrassed. As one might guess, this does seriously hurt the Rick and Tala relationship--Rick especially isn't up to portraying his changing attitudes, and I think that's a contributing factor to what I'll talk more about in a little bit on the development of the relationship.
One lady in particular ends up sounding like a character in one of those early anime dubs where they just spoke as quickly as they could and forgot all about emoting or actually acting...she just rattles off her lines without any feeling. Reminded me of the old man from Max Magician and the Legend of the Rings, who I dubbed "Platitude Man" because his role consisted entirely of generic "wise advice" spoken without any feeling. She actually fulfilled that same role, now that I think about it.
Best acting job in the film actually goes to this one kid who looks maybe 8-10, purely because he manages to just act reasonably naturally and speak and emote at the same time rather than being too shy to get into character. Admittedly, his character was "generic kid," and his role consisted mostly of yelling "mommy, I saw a monster" repeatedly, so that's not that hard to get into...but still, it just felt so much more natural. Honestly, that's what everyone in this film needed--the ability to just be the character. If that requires that your character be really simple, so be it! It's much better to portray a simple character well than to add complexity or backstory and become too distant from it to handle it.
Additionally, I don't know if scenes were sometimes being ad-libbed or what, but there are numerous cases of people talking over each other, awkwardly pausing like someone else is supposed to be saying something, and just generally not acting naturally at all, particularly during any of the Bigfoot attack scenes. A lot seems to have been left to the cast to improv, and none of them seem to be particularly good at that, so you get awkward conversations filled with repeated lines and uncomfortable pauses, as well as the aforementioned nerves that lead people to visibly break character and have to hold back nervous laughter at times. The disconnect caused by this gets astonishingly severe at times. In fact, there's one moment in particular where a woman is calling the cops and we see both sides of the conversation...but they seriously don't sound like they're having the same conversation at all. Neither even remotely sounds like they're responding to what the other is saying or even listening in the least, and it ends up just amazingly disjointed. And just listen to the first scene in the movie if you ever watch it--the couple on the way to a party. They just keep going over the same lines over and over. If you don't have enough content for a full conversation, either write more or trim the scene down a lot!
Most of the characterization is pretty simple, but there are a few odd moments. The biggest is the fact that Rick keeps explaining that the police are corrupt and are covering things up. We never see anything much like that in reality...one cop wants to keep the story hidden, but he makes a good point about not wanting to cause a panic. He doesn't arrest Rick or anything, or even act shady...he justs asks Rick not to run the story. Rick turns that into "corrupt cops" entirely out of thin air. It's really odd--they clearly wanted to set that cop up as someone who knows more than he's telling and feels like he might be corrupt or something, but it doesn't work at all because they undermine their own point pretty frequently. Especially notable is the point when the cop sends a subordinate out to look around the town, and it's heavily portrayed as him just trying to get the subordinate out of his hair, but then the subordinate actually finds Bigfoot. What do you know, actual investigation yields results! Maybe this guy isn't useless and corrupt. Maybe he knows what he's doing!
There's a hilarious couple scenes with Rick and a newspaper editor, too. It's pretty clear that the actors weren't sure what the mood of the relationship should be--was the editor supportive, or insulting? So, of course, they did both! The editor mostly insults Rick and tells him he's a waste of space and only has one more chance, but he also every now and then just throws in a really encouraging line that makes it sound like he's more of a mentor. So...which is he? In this case, "both" is not acceptable!
I also said I'd mention the problem with Tala and Rick's relationship. It's odd, actually. They do a pretty decent job with it in the later stages of the film, but they don't appear to have any idea how to get the characters from "strangers" to "friends who talk about life" in the earlier stages. Thus, the beginnings of the relationship are rushed and awkward, and it feels like we miss a step somewhere. Rick's initial scenes with Tala are all about conflict--he doesn't believe her stories and she is clearly not fond of his presence because he's mocking her beliefs and getting in the way. We have several scenes like this, and then within the course of like one or two sentences in one scene, they suddenly start acting like buddies who disagree but like each other anyway. It feels like there's a transition missing! In addition...though I really liked the idea of the relationship, the film gets pretty ham-fisted about slamming the "meaning" into there every now and then, with Rick and Tala suddenly waxing unnaturally poetic about their personality conflicts and how they're both lost souls of a kind and things like that. You can tell when the filmmakers most want you to feel something, because that's when you're definitely not going to feel anything. The film just gets a little preachy and a little too obviously "meaningful" in those times.
The plot is very, very basic. What we basically have is a series of Bigfoot attack scenes in which Bigfoot randomly shows up somewhere and kills a fisherman or a hiker or a housewife or something, or possibly drags someone off to its cave for unknown purposes. Alternating with these scenes, we have shots of either the reporter doing something investigative, the hunter doing something investigative, or a couple cops doing something investigative. There aren't a lot of twists to speak of, and if you've seen one formulaic old monster film, you've pretty much seen what this has to offer. It gets old.
What makes it get even older is that we effectively get the same scene any time Tala actually shows up when Bigfoot is around. It always goes like this:
- Bigfoot menaces an innocent.
- Tala shows up.
- Bigfoot menaces Tala.
- Tala shoots at Bigfoot and hits it.
- Bigfoot yells a lot and runs away.
- Tala inexplicably fails to fire a second shot or give chase.