A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 31 – The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension – March 31, 2010

I could practically write this review without watching the movie. We’ve seen it so many times, we know it by heart. It is unquestionably one of our favorite movies of all time. But we’re watching the extended version tonight, and since we depended on an ancient VHS copy for a long time, we’ve only seen the extended version a few times. The major difference is the opening ‘home movie’ that gives some extra background for the character of Buckaroo and his origins. It also names Hanoi Xan, a villain who plays no direct role on the events in the movie, but is far more involved in the story in the book.

Completely aside from the movie’s awesome cast and plot, there’s the script. This is probably our most quoted-from movie. I’m including a quotation list at the bottom, because I cannot help myself.

So have you seen this movie? If you haven’t, why not? Afraid of the 80s fashion and John Lithgow? It’s cool. I can forgive that. Lithgow’s a freaky guy. But seriously, don’t drag your heels on this one. Go watch it, then come talk to me. Because I don’t want to waste my time explaining it in detail. There’s just too much to cover to express the awesome. I mean, Buckaroo himself! He’s a physicist/brain surgeon/philosopher/martial artist/rock star. Seriously. And he travels around with his band/think tank, the Hong Kong Cavaliers. They’re all musicians and scientists and philosophers too. In point of fact, in the beginning of the movie, after Buckaroo leaves surgery and goes to drive his jet car through a mountain (using his Oscillation Overthruster, which allows him to move through solid matter by way of the 8th dimension), he and the Cavaliers sit around getting ready for a music gig in a club, which is later interrupted by gunfire, whereupon every member of the band pulls out a gun and closes ranks around Buckaroo, who just wants to find out what’s going on and talk it out. That is Buckaroo. That is how this movie works. The humor is often dry and deadpan and the cast delivers it perfectly. Like when they discover that the evil aliens on Earth are all named John (so are the good aliens, but you find that out later), or the bit about the watermelon.

On the surface it’s a ridiculous science fiction plot. Buckaroo has this amazing device that lets him access the eighth dimension, which has been used as a prison for a race of evil aliens. A small group of the evil aliens are stuck on Earth and looking for a way to free their fellows and go back to their home planet. The good aliens who trapped them there find out that Buckaroo has found out a way to access it and send down an emissary to tell Buckaroo that he needs to thwart the evil aliens’ plans or they’ll instigate a nuclear war between the US and Russia. So Buckaroo and his team have to keep the overthruster from falling into the wrong hands. It sounds so silly! And it is silly at times, but the movie plays it so well that the silliness fits in absolutely perfectly with the entire mood, while keeping the plot itself just serious enough for there to be dramatic tension. In the middle of it all, Buckaroo finds a woman who’s the spitting image of his late wife (she turns out to be his wife’s separated-at-birth twin) and she joins the group.

And oh man, the group. The Hong Kong Cavaliers are a fantastic team. There’s Rawhide, Perfect Tommy, Reno, Pinky Carruthers, New Jersey… Okay, so it’s a big boys club. Not so true in the book, but then the book has a lot of little details that aren’t in the movie. I’m not sure whether the book or movie came first. I’ve found mixed information and while Wikipedia claims the book is a novelization of the movie, I haven’t really trusted Wikipedia since I found that the article on my home town was so badly researched that they claimed two areas with different zip codes were the same geographic space with two names. So, yeah. It’s a pity that a character like Big Norse (a young woman who’s at the Banzai Institute but is unfortunately tone deaf and not in the band) isn’t in the movie, but then, the book is so chock full of detail and characters and details about the characters, it just wouldn’t be feasible for everything in it to be in the movie and keep the movie as clean as it is. Then too, if the movie came first and then the book, the book obviously expanded on things from the movie and made the Institute more inclusive, which is cool by me. I’d grumble more about the lack of female Cavaliers, but I forgive the movie, because it’s thoroughly awesome otherwise. And knowing what I know about the Institute from the book, I know that the Cavaliers are only the most public face of Buckaroo’s endeavors. The Institute itself is full of a wide variety of races, genders, nationalities, etc. But fine, that’s not in the movie. Sorry.

Really, no review can do this movie justice. How can I put into words what the end credits alone show without a single line of dialogue? This movie is pure fun.

Anyhow, Buckaroo really is the heart of the movie. I distinctly recall Andy telling me at one point that he wants to be Buckaroo Banzai when he grows up, which is perfect, since I want to be Emma Peel when I grow up. Clearly we’re both still kids, because I’m not Emma Peel and he’s not Buckaroo Banzai, but once we grow up, watch out, because we’ll be the most awesome team ever.

Now, the quotes, because I had to:
Continue reading

March 31, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

March 31, 2010

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

This is a strong contender for me for greatest movie ever made.  Certainly it is in my top ten favorite movies of all time.  There’s really nothing quite like it out there.  It’s an action/adventure/comedy – somewhat like Ghostbusters I suppose.  It has a cool adventure story with aliens and the threat of nuclear annihilation and spaceships and such, but it also is played very light.  There aren’t a lot of laugh-out-loud jokes, but the movie has a sly wit.  The actors and characters seem unaware that they’re in a comedy.  They’re surrounded by strangeness, but it’s perfectly natural and part of their world.

What I love most, however, is Buckaroo himself.  I’m perfectly serious when I say that I still to this day want to grow up to be Buckaroo Banzai.  He’s a scientist/neurosurgeon/rockstar.  He’s the ultimate new renaissance man, and he’s surrounded himself with a team of comparable adventurers.  His celebrity is apparent throughout the movie.  Within the world of this movie there’s the Buckaroo Banzai comic book, the arcade game, fans camped out like deadheads outside his compound.  He has a direct line to the President of the United States, who hangs on his every word.  His fanclub (the Blue Blazers) are also a sort of worldwide militia who can be called upon to help him at any time.  It’s a little clearer in the book, but the Hong Kong Cavaliers (Buckaroos bandmates/team of fellow scientists) are a crack team who train together to be prepared for any adversity.  (A word on the book – if you like the movie you should buy it!  Earl Mac Rauch wrote both the book and the movie, and the movie really does a fantastic job capturing all the best parts of the book.  I’d say that this and Princess Bride are the two most faithful book-to-movie adaptations I’ve ever seen.  Oh, and Sin City too.)

Another part of the movie’s charm is in the wonderful direction of D. W. Richter.  The movie is one of the most re-watchable ones in our collection because it is so packed with details.  Little things like one of the evil red Lectroids sucking on a battery as though it were a juice box which you’ll likely miss the first couple times through but pick up on in future viewings.  Also, the characters are constantly stepping on each other’s lines talking over and around each other in such a way that multiple viewings are almost a necessity to catch everything.

And the cast.  Oh, man, the cast!  Peter Weller, Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Lloyd, Clancy Brown… every single person in this movie is totally committed to their role.  John Lithgow will forever and always be John Whorfin (“W. H. O. R. F. I. N!  You got that, honey?  John – J. O. H. N!”) to me.

We’re watching the extended edition of the movie on DVD and let me say that it’s a treat.  For years and years I had an ancient VHS copy of this movie which had been watched near to death.  It was irritatingly pan and scan except for the opening and closing credits, when it was anamorphic so everybody was all elongated and tall.  So I would have accepted just a plain DVD version that had the movie in widescreen and wasn’t worn almost completely out, but instead we are treated to one of the best special edition DVDs out there.  It has a great feature where Pinkey Carruthers (Buckaroo’s biographer and a Blue Blazer regular) provides facts and trivia about the “real” Buckaroo upon who’s life this movie was based.  It has a commentary track with Earl Mac Rauch and D. W. Richter.  It has deleted scenes and a teaser for a never-produced television show based on the movie that they once shopped around.

As Amanda is extensively proving in her review this is also one of the most quotable movies of all time as well.  Practically every other line is something we quote out of context to each other all the time.

Man.  I do love this movie!

Finally: A note for tomorrow.  We’re going to stay up late tonight to watch our movie for Thursday early since our schedules are so very incompatible tomorrow.  We’ll try to have our review up in the morning before leaving for work.

March 31, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment

Movie 30 – Zardoz

Zardoz – March 30, 2010

So. Yeah. Zardoz. A movie starring a shirtless Sean Connery in a red loincloth and leather thigh-high boots. A movie that starts out with some bizarre exposition and a line about the penis being evil. It’s a lot like a fever dream, really. A dystopian fever dream about sex and death and the perils of immortality. Fitting, then, that the main character is played by Sean “Ramirez the Egyptian Spanish Peacock” Connery. Sadly, there’s no beheading in Zardoz. What there is, is a lot of ADR dialogue. There is so much talking in this movie. What should be the beginning of the climax is actually a bunch of the characters reading famous literature out loud, but only in snippets, while being lit by slides of classical art.

I tried to give a basic overview of the plot to a friend and it’s kind of impossible to describe succinctly while also sharing the true scope of the movie and what makes it more than just a sixties dystopia scifi flick. Because it’s not. It’s truly not. You really have to know about the giant stone head and the diatoms and the “touch teaching” to understand just why this is one of the strangest movies we own.

Now, I’m all for dystopias. I find them fascinating. I had the pleasure of hearing the author William Tenn speak a few years back when WorldCon was in Boston, and he spoke about how he believed that every utopia conceived of will always be someone’s dystopia. That no matter what your perfect and ideal world would be, it would be hell to someone else. There is no universal utopia. I think it’s a brilliant observation, and one which movies and literature about dystopias have to be built on in some way. In Zardoz, the dystopia the movie is set in also has what was planned as a utopia, but which is failing. It’s not a utopia for everyone, and for those who don’t fit, and for those who aren’t included, it’s horrible.

You see, the world at large is an untamed wasteland, populated by uncivilized people who are kept in check by a group of “chosen” men who are given weapons by what they believe is a god. The god, Zardoz, is a big stone head that dispenses guns and the instructions to control the others, either by killing them or enslaving them. One of the chosen men, Zed (Sean Connery) learns (is taught) how to read and is enlightened. He stows away inside the head and kills the man piloting it, thereby managing to get into a hidden valley where the secret ruling class lives.

Turns out what’s going on is that there are these “vortexes” in hidden valleys, shielded from the untamed land, populated by a bunch of immortal hippies who claim they’re maintaining all of mankind’s knowledge. One of them built the head as a manner of controlling the people outside of the valley, but really he had a larger plan the whole time. The immortal hippies keep Zed around to study him because he’s so different from them. See, they’re all stagnating and/or going insane due to living forever and not having sex anymore. But Sean Connery’s character brings sex and violence back to them and then they all grope him to “touch teach” him everything they know so he can kill them all.

There’s more to the climax, but it’s mostly a lot of talking about how the vortexes were built with the best of intentions but humanity can’t handle immortality and while all the talking’s going on a group of the immortal hippies are hunting Zed through the valley to kill him for fucking up their dys/utopia. Eventually he finds a way to make the immortal hippies into mortal hippies, which seems to make them all pretty happy, since they were actually miserable living forever and not having sex.

And then he and one of the women climb back into the head and have a baby and grow old and die within about five minutes of movie time.

The end!

March 30, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Zardoz

March 30,2010

Zardoz

Zardoz is a movie which sticks with you.  It’s full of imagery which gets lodged in your brain and lingers there for years to come.  For better or for worse.  Do you want to have pictures in your mind of Sean Connery in his red loincloth and bandoleer?  Do you want to close your eyes and see a giant floating head that spits our guns and ammunition?  How about rows of vacuum packed naked people?  And that’s just in the first ten minutes!

I love the strange and experimental sci-fi films of the sixties and seventies.  From the days before Star Wars and the birth of the homogenized pasteurized blockbuster action flick.  There was a time – a beautiful and chaotic time – when science fiction was untamed and bizarre.  Think of movies like this one and Silent Running and Logan’s Run and 2001.  Even the Planet of the Apes movies had a dark underside about apocalypse and inevitable doom.

Zardoz tells a story about a strange dystopian future.  In this future there are “brutals” that live in a strange wasteland.  Their population is kept in check by exterminators – a group of men given guns by the god-head Zardoz.  Zardoz is a created god.  Created by a group of immortals who live in an ideal society inside a protected vortex.  But this Eden has become stagnant.  The immortals are splitting into factions.  Some are renegades, cast out from polite society and forced to age into senility, but never allowed to die.  Others have become despondent, unable or unwilling to take any action any longer they have descended into a stupor.

Oh, and for some reason they don’t have bras in Eden.

One of the exterminators is Zed, played by Sean Connery, who kills Arthur, the immortal who created Zardoz and rides the stone head into the vortex.  At first it seems that he is just an ignorant brutal savage invading paradise, but there is more going on.  Zed, it turns out, is more than just a savage.  Arthur, given immortality, has been doing more than just quelling the brutality of the outlands.

As with yesterday’s movie there’s a lot of strangeness and nonsense in this movie.  And a lot of unnecessary gratuitous nudity.  But here it’s in service of an unsettling portrayal of this weird dystopia.

And the whole thing comes to a psychedelic and symbolic climax much in the way that 2001 does.  It reminds me a lot of The Prisoner at times in its strangeness.  Indeed if you think of Zed as Number 6 then it would actually make quite a good episode of the Prisoner.  You feel like you should understand what’s going on at times but you can’t quite.

I really like this movie.  For what it represents more than for what it is.  My one complaint would be that I’m often distracted by all the breasts.  But maybe that’s more a flaw in me than in the movie.

March 30, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

Movie 29 – Barbarella

Barbarella – March 29, 2010

Oh my god, Barbarella. The very best word for this movie (aside from boobalicious) is bizarre. It practically revels in it. The pointy-toothed dolls, Professor Ping, the sex pills, the costumes, the plot, the shag carpeted space ship, it’s all so very over-the-top, it’s clearly intentional. It’s a spectacle of sixties cheesy science fiction and I’m pretty damn sure it was made to be just that.

We watched the preview for the movie once it was over and really, it was played up to be a pulpy sci-fi romp with plenty of naked Jane Fonda and it definitely delivers on that front. Barbarella’s constantly getting undressed and then changing into something new. After the third costume change for Barbarella, it’s pretty obvious you’re not supposed to take this movie at all seriously. Really, it’s obvious before then, but the constant stripping and sex and costume changes would clue in anyone. And while some of the costumes are just mini-dresses with sparkly bits, some, like the one with the one semi-transparent breast cup, are just hilarious.

There’s a lot to convince me that the movie was made as comedy. For example, my favorite line in the entire movie: “What’s that screaming? A good many dramatic situations begin with screaming.” And then Barbarella hums her own theme song whenever she’s just had sex, in some sort of post-coital haze of meta. Every so often the movie “accidentally” bumps up against the fourth wall and goes “Oops! Is something there that I’m not supposed to know about or acknowledge? Silly me!” Personally, I love comedy that breaks the fourth wall. It can be done to great effect. I’m not so sure I’d label this movie great, but it does have a ridiculous sort of charm to it simply because it is so strangely self-aware.

But then too, some of the charm, at least for me, is the whole retro-future vibe the movie has going on. I do love the fifties and sixties views of the future. There’s just something about using a lava lamp as a special effect that makes me want to hold up my hand and say “Love!” But now I’m going to have that theme song stuck in my head for days.

March 29, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment

Barbarella: Queen of the Galaxy

March 29, 2010

Barbarella: Queen of the Galaxy

Early on in Barbarella (after the famous zero-g striptease) there is an “action scene.”  Only there’s not much action to be had.  It’s all camera tilting and zooming with Barbarella steering her be-shag-carpeted pink spaceship through a lava lamp.  This, and the fact that Jane Fonda spends the entire first scene of the movie (a huge hunk of plot exposition in which the President of the Republic of Earth sends Barbarella on her mission to find and rescue the lost scientist Duran Duran) completely stark naked, should tell you everything you need to know about this movie.  It’s a non-sensical psychedelic romp, and I love it.

The soundtrack is a combination of great sixties cheese and a jazzy trumpet combo which reminds me a lot of the soundtrack to one of my favorite MST3K episodes: Moon Zero Two.  And speaking of MST3K – here’s John Phillip Law from Danger! Diabolik and Space Mutiny as Pygar the blind angel.  Then there’s famed mime Marcel Marceau (best known to me as a trivia answer from Mel Brooks’ film Silent Movie) as Professor Ping.  In the time before the Chronicles of Narnia movies I always felt that Professor Ping in this movie was what Mr. Tumnus would look like.  And it turns out I was mostly right.

What I love about this movie is that it’s so unashamedly odd.  It makes no attempt to explain itself.  It’s just filled with unnecessary strangeness like naked people half stuck in stone, or people hanging in slings, or evil betoothed dolls, or a giant hookah with a guy floating inside it.  Or any of Barbarella’s many bizarre wardrobe choices.

And maybe I should say something about the movie’s constant casual nudity.  Or maybe not.  It was the sixties.  In France.  I gather that constant casual nudity was par for the course.  If the movie isn’t going to make a big deal about it than neither am I.

The movie also doesn’t care that the technology of the day was not up to the task of showing much that is required of it.  (And raised as I was on Doctor Who neither do I.)  Wires and bluescreens and lava lamps and cheap miniatures are plenty good enough.

Barbarella psychedella indeed.

March 29, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Movie 28 – Resident Evil: Degeneration

Resident Evil: Degeneration – March 28, 2010

Well, nothing helps one unwind from a weekend of gaming convention like a direct-to-video, based-on-a-video-game animated zombie movie! Seriously, I’m in a post-con haze right now and the brain is not working at full capacity. I’m at maybe 3/4 power, max. But Resident Evil should wake me right up. I say this because I’ve had to stop watching Andy play the games because they started giving me nightmares where I’d hear that fucking chainsaw in the distance and run and run and run. Fun times. Maybe I’ll make him put in Katamari or something after the movie’s over.

My first impression: This looks exactly like the cut scenes in the games. I keep expecting to be instructed to hit a button to start the game or something.

Ah! And our floppy-haired hero has arrived. I am dead serious when I say this is like playing a game but you don’t get to control anything. The floppy-haired hero has just been given a mission: To go into the infected zone and rescue three civilians and a senator who have barricaded themselves in and given their location to a 911 operator. He’s got a little team with him and a map and a goal. And then later on, after the mission and another cut scene, there’s another goal and another mission. It’s a game without controls.

Now, here’s where I wax nostalgic about PAX East (yes, already): In his keynote address, Wil Wheaton talked about how when he had a 12 hour block of time alone at home with uncontested access to his home theater, he planned on watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy back to back to back. A noble goal! But instead, he pulled out Dragon Age: Origins and continued his game. The reason he gave was that he didn’t know how it would end. That’s the cool thing about a well-written video game. You get to make decisions that change how the story plays out. You get to change the ending. I swear, it was an amazing speech and I wish I could be half so eloquent. Hopefully he’ll post the entire text on his blog eventually and I can point to it.

Anyhow, the point I’m making is that the interactive stuff is a crucial difference between movies and video games. In a movie based on a video game, you’ve got to deal with that. This movie? Didn’t. I can’t say whether or not the game that could have been made from it would have been any good, but it would have been better than just sitting here and watching the plot play out without my input. It’s not made any better by the insertion of flashbacks from the actual videogames that the plot is based on.

Oh, yeah, there’s a plot. It’s pretty much every Resident Evil plot. There’s a virus that turns people into zombies and a big corporation that’s run by assholes and it might or might not be directly involved but it sure as hell has something to do with the mess. Our floppy-haired hero is a special agent who’s dealt with outbreaks of the zombie virus before and then there’s a woman who’s a civilian and also dealt with an outbreak. It’s complicated a tiny bit by a terrorist who lost his family in a prior outbreak who’s convinced the shady corporation has something to do with the virus, but really, it’s not that complicated. Terrorism’s bad, shady corporations that have illicit stores of zombie virus are bad, and zombies are bad. Oh, and never trust anyone with an accent that’s not American. What more do you need to know?

I really really wish there was game play in here. Because the story’s coherent, if predictable, and that would make for a decent plot if I didn’t always feel like the characters need a little help getting things done. I mean, the soldiers in the movie have to be told to shoot the zombies in the head! How the hell do they not know you’ve got to shoot zombies in the head? I expected this to be a lot worst than it was. I mean, it wasn’t good, but it wasn’t a slog like Advent Children. Still, hopefully tomorrow we’ll watch a real movie (instead of a prolonged cut scene) since PAX East is over now.

March 28, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Resident Evil: Degeneration

March 28, 2010

Resident Evil: Degeneration

As with yesterday’s movie today’s is another full-length CGI movie based on a popular videogame franchise.  Resident Evil today instead of Final Fantasy.

At the get-together we attended yesterday with LoadingReadyRun several fans suggested that Paul and Graham should do a full length unskippable of this movie since it was so laughably horribly bad, so it is with some trepidation that we set out to watch the movie today.  (Neither Amanda nor I have watched it yet, so it’s going to be an adventure.)

So far it’s not so bad… for a videogame cut scene.  It looks like they’re using the same models from the Resident Evil 4 game (Leon in particular.)  Indeed at one moment early in the movie I reached for my X-Box controller when the camera rotated around Claire and pulled back to look over her shoulder: I fully expected to have to take control and fight my way through the infected and out of the airport.

The movie IS eminently MSTable though.  At times I think deliberately so.  During the plot exposition at the start of the movie we’re introduced to the world of Resident Evil by a series of news reports and television channel flips.  One of the stations briefly shown is “Network 23,” a clear reference to Max Headroom.  So the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously.  It’s just a fun zombie romp.

On another videogame related note I should say: replacing Umbrella Corp. in this movie is a new bad guy – WilPharma.  But the font they use in the movie for their corporate logo makes it look a lot like WiiPharma – like it’s some kind of weird new Wii game.  I guess it would be a sequel to the Trauma Center game for Wii – no longer just about operating on emergency room patients you now work in a pharmaceutical company.  Use the Wii remote as a pipet to extract tissue samples!

I don’t feel like I have much to say about this movie.  It’s pretty cheesy.  It doesn’t have the kind of amazing special effects we saw in Advent Children yesterday.  But at least the plot is straight forward and easy to understand (if unoriginal.)  More than anything else it just makes me want to play a Resident Evil game.  Maybe Resident Evil 5, or the new Wii lightgun shooter Darkside Chronicles.  Or maybe just Resident Evil 4.. still the best in the series.

It’s not a good movie, but it’s a great way to end PAX.

Now we just need to figure out what videogame related movies we’ll watch at PAX East in 2011.

March 28, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Movie 27 – Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children

Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children – March 27, 2010

I’m going to make a confession: I have never played or watched Andy play a Final Fantasy game. To be honest, most of the JRPGs I’ve watched have bored me. Endless repetitive grinding and then cut scenes that make me miss the grinding. So I don’t bother. Therefore, I had absolutely no clue what any of the backstory was for this movie.

Now, another confession: We watched this in multiple sittings. I’m giving us a pass on this, not because of the movie, but because of the weekend. Yesterday we had a block of time picked out for Stand By Me and tomorrow the con ends at 6pm so we’ll be home in the evening. Today we weren’t sure what the mid-afternoon to evening time would hold for us so we watched about half while we ate breakfast, some more while we were at home to feed the cats, then the rest this afternoon while we took a little break from the con. In the future? I think I’m going to have to insist on single viewings, especially for movies like this. It was hard to make myself pay attention to it after a break.

I will say, the movie is pretty. It is an hour and forty minutes of pretty. That being said, it definitely takes a trip to the uncanny valley. The characters are beautifully done, but they’re creepily reminiscent of a line of life-size dolls I wish I didn’t know existed. So overall, the pretty is beaten out but the creepy and the feeling that there’s a lot more story somewhere, and I’m not talking about the videogame.

See, the thing is, I watched an hour of it and felt totally lost. But I assumed I was totally lost because I didn’t know the game. So then when we took a break to head back to our home and the cats, Andy filled me in on some backstory for the main character (Cloud) and the world the movie is set in. And the result? Yeah, still pretty fuzzy on the details. There’s this guy, and he was a soldier (or actually, a SOLDIER, except he wasn’t, as Andy told me, except that doesn’t EVER come into play in the movie so whatever) and now he’s got these kids living with him but he’s never there I guess and there was obviously a big war or something and now lots of people are infected with some sort of plague or supernatural taint. And there’s a guy in a wheelchair who’s being all mysterious and manipulating stuff all over the place. And people want the soldier dude to come back and have a life, but he doesn’t want one, and the wheelchair guy wants him to fight for him but he won’t do that either. And then there are bad guys on bikes who want to take all the infected kids and do… something… I guess.

And then there’s the climax. It lasts for approximately an hour. It’s a series of boss fights, really. Just strung together with pauses in between for encouraging looks from the female lead and sometimes character introductions for people I might care about if I’d played the game but I didn’t so I don’t. They’re just set dressing for me.

Eventually, after the hour long climactic battle(s) the good guys win and the bad guys lose and it rains and everyone’s cured. Hooray!

What a slog.

March 27, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children

March 27, 2010

Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children

We’re at a gaming conference, so we’re reviewing gaming movies.  This morning we’re watching the Final Fantasy VII movie, Advent Children.  If you played the interminable Final Fantasy X I’ll bet you wondered to yourself “Why does Squaresoft keep making games?  They stagger from cut scene to cut scene, sometime without a single battle between… why don’t they cut the game parts out and just make a movie?”  The answer, if this movie is any indication, is “because a movie based on a Squaresoft property just wouldn’t make any blooming sense.”  It turns out that all that time spent exploring villages, stealing everything from every chest you can find, and talking to random passers by is not just busy work, it lets you take in the world in little segments.  If your brain doesn’t have this time, and if you’re not introduced to the world a little bit here and there between the cutscenes you end up with a big mess like this.

Advent Children presupposes a working knowledge of the world and characters of Final Fantasy VII.  You don’t get introduced to any of the characters, they’re all just sort of thrown at you with any past adventures and relationships a part of the complete package.  Two years have passed sing Cloud and Co. defeated the evil Sephiroth and they’ve all gone their separate ways.  Cloud and Tifa are living together (though it seems in the movie to be totally platonic and the two of them have no chemistry whatsoever.)  For some reason they’ve taken in a couple orphan kids too.  There’s some mysterious malady afflicting people that’s probably related to corruption of the world’s spirit energy by the final battle with Sephiroth.  And Cloud is all mopey and distant because he’s still mourning Aerith.

Or something.  You don’t really get much explenation for anything.  There are these three dufuses who want to resurrect Sephiroth (part of the same experiments by the Shinra corporation that made Cloud and Sephiroth in the first place I guess.)  And then stuff happens.  There’s a motorcycle fight scene, a fight in a glowing forest, a fight in the heart of some ruined city (possible Midguard) with a giant summon beast, another motorcycle fight scene, and a climactic rooftop fight scene.  At no point in this is there any characterization, explanation or plot exposition.  All Cloud’s companions show up very briefly then leave for no apparent reason.  (They come to the rescue during the climactic rooftop fight but quickly chat with each other and decide not to rescue Cloud after all.)  So if you were a fan of Barret or Yuffie or anyone from the game don’t expect a heartwarming reunion scene or anything.  They show up, pose a bit, then leave.

I’ll not deny that technically this movie is impressive.  A whole lot of artists spent a whole lot of time making this one long killer cutscene.  It’s full of amazing crowd scenes flowing hair and clothes (check out the hair on that wolf near the beginning… quite an achievement by itself.)  And you can’t complain that there isn’t enough action.  It just doesn’t make any sense.

So what are we left with?  A collection of very, very nicely rendered CGI fight scenes with no context.  Updated character models with ridiculously high polygon counts but with pretty much the same silly pointy anime hair.  Grand orchestrated versions of some of the tunes from the original game.  And a slightly empty feeling.

Oh, and a question for the creators: what’s up with the cell phones?  Was the movie partially funded by Motorola?  One of the bad guys has the Final Fantasy victory tune as his ringtone (something which I’m sure is true for at least somebody at this con as well.)  Characters ridicule Cloud for not answering his voice mail and rag on Vincent for not having a cell phone at all.  There’s a moment that I think is supposed to bring home Cloud’s alienation from his friends when his phone sinks into a bottomless puddle and all their voicemails play.  And yet at no time do we see a brand or anything… it’s just as though the movie is one long advertisement for cell phone use.  (Like a feature length modern version of the MST short Once Upon a Honeymoon.)  Very, very strange.

March 27, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment