July 30, 2010

Movies Opening This Week: The Internet is for Porn

The Other GuysThe Other Guys

When Samuel Jackson and Dwayne Johnson can’t do the job, Will Ferell and Mark Wahlberg are on the case. And it’s kind of not funny for me.





I admit, the trailer has its moments especially with the explosion thing, but for the large part, I’m not entirely sure how this movie isn’t so much different as, say, Cop-Out.

Step Up 3-DStep Up 3D

Modern movies are usually retreads of the same ol’ formula. Heck, even Inception, one of the most original movies I’ve seen in years, kind of adheres to the heist film formula. The rules have been laid out years prior, and most of what we see now has been done before. But the key thing to most of the movies we still enjoy today is that they still manage to be fresh, but the Step Up series? Well, let’s just say you could mash that series together and you could still come up with the same damn movie; it’s one of the most blatant retreads ever to exist. But this time, it’s in, like, three dimensions, you know?

Aside from the same flashy dance sequences, what else is there to enjoy to this? It’s like mindless action movies, but the action here comes in the form of dance. Shouldn’t be anything wrong, but come on, this is Step Up. This is just the same thing over and over again. Why can’t it just end?

Heck, the sad part is that this won’t be the last we see of the franchise, because a ton of people will still watch it anyway.


A new Rob Reiner film about two childhood friends who seem destined for each other, Flipped is a coming-of-age story that seems kind of whimsical as it involves a girl whose intuition tells her that boy is the one for her, but boy is too hesitant and wants to push her away due to peer pressure. When boy realizes that girl may also be the one for him, girl starts contemplating other men, and so the story goes.

Now that we know all of that, the only thing left to ask is whether they stick together or go their separate ways (or, well, go their separate ways and stick together when they suddenly bump into each other again). Whatever the case, don’t expect Rob Reiner to pull another dinner scene here, I mean, they’re kids, obviously. So it probably won’t be much of an iconic film, but I guess it’ll be watchable?

Middle MenMiddle Men

This last one is pretty much the story of the conception of porn on the internet. Huh, sounds like something you’d do as a last resort because you didn’t get Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay of The Accidental Billionaires. Now known as the much-hyped The Social Network by David Fincher.

Whatever the case, it’s still kind of interesting to see how from dudes living in a basement in 1995, they would be able to build an empire that’s just huge.

It probably won’t be as Oscar-y looking as The Social Network, but I’m pretty much guessing it won’t be the worst damn movie either. That said, I wouldn’t be terribly disappointed if I didn’t see this film anyways.

July 25, 2010

Inception: The Thinking Man's Action Film

Starring Leonardo de Caprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Directed and written by Christopher Nolan

Hot on the heels of a multi-million dollar Batman movie, Nolan follows it up with an all-new original story that takes place in a land where dreams can be intercepted and corporate information could be extracted by a group of experts operating under a company. Unfortunately, due to the death of his wife, Dominic Cobb (Leo de Caprio) fails to pull off a job but finds out that rich businessman Saido (Ken Watanabe) is willing to give anything to Cobb under one condition: Cobb needs to do the opposite of his day job and actually implant an idea to a rival company's heir instead of extract it (thus the title) so that Saido's company will win in the end.

What follows is a series of events set into motion that, if you don't follow closely, will continue on regardless of whether you like it or not, whether you can understand or not. But that doesn't exactly mean that the story is extremely convoluted; in fact, the story and its several threads are handled so well that each of them is a uniquely worthy point of discussion.

Nolan doesn't feel the need to pander to his audience and treats them with the respect they deserve, but I think the thing that's getting a lot of positive feedback is the entire second half of the movie, which for all intents and purposes, is awesome. You will care for all its characters and you will know the gravity of the situation, and this is the part where Inception appeals to a lot of people. It's where the thrills come, where all the subplots of the subplots of the subplots in the subplot of the main plot get tied together, resulting in a handsome pay-off.

The key thing in watching Inception is that it isn't necessarily a thriller that discusses the concept of "dreams" in as much detail as you'd think a pretentious movie would, but it's more of a heist movie that involves a cast of endearing characters doing "one last job" so that Cobb's character won't be a wanted man in America anymore. You can screw up a lot of these kinds of films, but the cast Nolan's assembled here is just excellent and pitch-perfect.

Of note is Ellen Page's character Ariadne is basically in almost the same position as us- the unknowing audience, except for the part where she is a gifted architect- and she does an exemplary job at being hesitant, curious and oblivious at first, even though she becomes the voice of reason in later events. Props also go to Joseph Gordon Levitt for being such a badass and Marion Cotillard for turning in what I think is her best performance since La Vie En Rose.

Oh and Leonardo... is a given. He's pretty much the glue that makes us care for everyone in the first place.

At this point it would be hard to talk about the movie without spoiling it and its intricacies. If anything else is of note, then it may well be the cinematography, the sensationally realistic special effects, the emotional depth, the simultaneous visceral and cerebral satisfaction (which has become atypical of Nolan movies), or the bombastic but less than memorable score. Whatever the case, Inception is a movie you must see to believe, with its trailers barely even justifying the amount of epic contained within its package.

Still, don't go in expecting an overly exhaustive breakdown of dreams and excessive philosophical whimsy, just expect a highly intelligent action film that requires you to be glued to its details at all times. Either way, it's a great movie to watch and talk about for days afterwards.

True, Nolan doesn't achieve levels of "masterpiece", but what he does in Inception, he does very well. And we're all the better for it. In fact, its box office performance may well be an inception all its own. The simple idea that an original and highly cerebral film can be profitable is an appealing proposition, and we must expect no less from the studios and the filmmakers.

Rating: 9/10

July 24, 2010

Movies Opening This Week: Bros Before Hoes

Last week we saw Inception oversee release, and I’m willing to bet that it will stay on top of the box office for a while, especially because of:

Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty GaloreCats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore
Never mind the overly unwieldy title, never mind the overly generic plot and somewhat substandard animal CGI, this movie is just a mystery. I mean, is there any reason for it to exist at all? Who gives a crap about this? It’s like Marmaduke all over again, but this time, it’s G-Force with cats and dogs working together. It doesn’t even seem to bring anything new to the table, so I can’t even see the point in wasting time and resources just to make this and cash in on 3D.

But maybe I just don’t get it; I mean, there’s surely a market for this kind of movie, and I just don’t happen to be part of it… but hey, Kenneth from 30 Rock is in it though!

Instead of rambling any more about this insignificant, harmless family movie, I’ll just go and look for something more sappy.

Charlie St. CloudCharlie St. Cloud

Yup, this is pretty much all I’d see from a Nicholas Sparks, but wait! The twist here is that it isn’t written by Nicholas Sparks. Well hey, any movie that wants to be inspirational but isn’t written by Nicholas Sparks is already a plus in my book!


But… hmm… something just feels a little out of place for me. So the story’s about these two close brothers who like baseball but one of them ends up dying in an accident and big brother (Zac Efron) can’t let go of him, and so for some reason little brother goes back from the grave and becomes his conscience and imaginary friend. When Charlie meets the girl of his dreams though, he suffers from conflict: should he choose his dead brother or his girl? Bros before hoes?

Whatever the case, the whole affair feels a bit overly sappy and looks as if it wants to cash in on the Dear John crowd, instead of actually being a complex drama about a boy coming-of-age trying to get over the death of his beloved brother and holding on to childhood. The fact that the trailer spills everything there is to care about the plot doesn’t help either.

This is definitely for the DVD crowd.

Dinner for SchmucksDinner for Schmucks

I love Steve Carell and I like Paul Rudd. Is this movie geared for me for once?



Or at least I don’t think so.



Dinner for Schmucks is essentially a remake of a comedy that is about this guy who wants to get a promotion but before he does he has to go through a dinner meeting with his superiors. Sounds simple enough. But if the dinner involves bringing the biggest idiot and gaining bragging rights if one ever wins, it could pose a bit of a problem for Paul Rudd’s character. Fortunately enough, he literally runs into an “idiot” in the form of Steve Carell and they become “buddies” who Paul Rudd could use so he can pretty much pull off a win and get a promotion. This somehow gets him in hot water with his girlfriend, and well, maybe Rudd and Carell’s characters may even become friends at some point. One thing’s for sure though: I didn’t laugh at the trailer even once. Maybe it’s my crappy sound system, maybe it’s because I sleep at 3 and woke up at 9, but it’s just… not very funny for me.

Perhaps the closest thing to that is Zach Galifianakis… however you spell that guy’s last name.

July 17, 2010

Movies Opening This Week: In Soviet Russia, Children Adopt You

I seriously cannot remember the last time I saw Angelina Jolie in a major action flick kicking ass by herself (hell, I think it's been 2-3 years) so it comes as a somewhat welcome surprise that the UN ambassador is back in:

Even if she's in the UN, her role involves an international conspiracy set up by the Russians. Whether she's been framed or not, the authorities are after her due to accusations of being a Russian spy sent to kill the president, and it's a good thing she doesn't have adopted children, nor Brad Pitt, to keep her down.

I've watched an earlier trailer of this movie and frankly I think this one's a bit more exciting, a bit better. I don't know whether it's my current mood that's dictating that but there's something about it that feels both awesome, and just emotionally devoid of danger or risk. It's kind of like Bourne without the thrills.

But really, it's just Jolie in her element: kicking ass and proving herself once again that it only takes a bee-stung lip to be awesome.

While Jolie's back up and kicking ass, Brad Pitt's probably distracting their children with:

Ramona and Beezus
I've never heard of any "classic children's literature" based on those names before. They just sound alien, or maybe a contrived kid-friendly version of the expression "Jesus Christ". Whatever the case, this Selena Gomez vehicle is clearly aimed at the tween market, but I think it's also trying- maybe even a bit too hard- to appeal to audiences other than that.

I've a good feeling that it won't be particularly bad, but I can't say it's interesting either. It's all going to depend on whether the little girl headlining the actual thing (Joel... something or other) will be adorable enough to make it click. I can't see much of that right now, but I have a feeling that it'll just be "adequate". It won't be anything disruptive, it won't do much after its first week at the box office, and I'm willing to bet it didn't cost much either.

I think it would work better on DVD, as a background movie while you're cleaning.

Apple addresses antenna issues... kind of

In a surprise move, Apple invited media outlets to attend an impromptu press conference to address the increasingly loud antenna complaints that are coming from all over the... markets that the iPhone is officially sold in. The last straw was probably when Consumer Reports advised against getting an iPhone only because of the antenna issues.

Really, the issue can be reproduced with other phones, but the thing is, in real world usage, there's not much about it that affects anything. Those who want the signal to attenuate are the ones who will intentionally place his finger/s on the death spot. It's only more pronounced on the iPhone 4.

After playing the YouTube song (found above), Steve Jobs went on to business about the iPhone with numbers and statistics that really seem weird for me. I don't know, it's just skepticism. Whatever the case, it's still a good thing that Apple's plan is to give out free bumpers (however crappy they are) to all iPhone 4 customers until September 30, and are not planning a total recall (which would overly humiliate the company). If you still don't like the iPhone 4 with the bumper and the non-attenuation of the signal, you can have your money back.

That's actually a great deal.

July 15, 2010

Droid X Self-Destructs in 5...

As Apple is getting some flack for its (apparently internally known) antenna issues, Motorola has also been getting some much more well-deserved derision by tech media because of a new development that was found about its newly released Droid X today.

In the Android platform, Google gives you the option to 'root' the operating system, which basically enables the user to gain access to the filesystem, ala jailbreaking for the iOS. Despite the open philosophy of Android however, Motorola has opted to place a hardware de-activator that shuts your phone and turns it into a useless brick until it's sent for repair.

It basically reads the entire phone to detect any 'unauthorized modifications' and makes it self-destruct. For good.

Hell, at least Apple doesn't shut down iOS devices for good. This one's kind of out of line and deserving of its own class action suit, because not only does it void a consumer's warranty, it also doesn't let a consumer USE his own phone which is the reason why he bought it in the first place.

And yet, of course, Moto is not Apple. They will have it good and Apple will get all the attention- enough to even warrant an unexpected press conference. Just for an antenna. Just for something that can be resolved with a cheap case, maybe even some electrical tape.

But the worst part in all of this? I was actually rooting for this phone.

- mobile blogging mode

July 13, 2010

Movies Opening This Week: Just. Watch. It.

Normally, I'd do a little introduction that forms a segueway toward the several few movies seeing release in theaters this week, however, there's really only one movie that's worth watching, and yes, it's...


I'm going totally barebones on this one. No trailer, no synopsis, hell, not even a poster. All your brain needs is to be open, and functional. Hell, if it's half as good as they say it is, you won't even regret doing anything.

I'm saving you the crime of having to watch the trailer, because I yielded to its awesomeness. Yes, I'm stoked for it, but that doesn't mean you should spoil yourself the details (and... awesomeness) that the movie entails. I mean, wouldn't it be so much better if you didn't know anything about a movie and really, really loved it?

(I'm getting into the new Digg feed thing. Sorry for the inconvenient code: b69e7615b21a4559a989b37e8671bee1)

July 7, 2010

Apps Weekly: Tilt to Live + Secret of Monkey Island 2: Special Edition

Tilt to Live
One Man Left Studios
Rated 9+, compatible with iOS 2.2.1 or later

One of my all-time favorite games for the iPod touch thus far is this Geometry Wars inspired title, and it's so unfortunate if you didn't get to download it for free. Whatever the case, Tilt to Live is just addictive and tons of fun, and most definitely worth the $1.99 entry fee.

This game basically lets you embark upon a simple task: kill all red dots in sight. Doesn't sound much fun, until you factor in the tons of cool power-ups the game throws at you as well as the achievements you can get. It's ridiculous how long you'll want to play this game, because, personally, I just can't stop.

What makes it different from the vector-based Geometry Wars is not only in the aesthetic and controls (which is clearly tilt-based, more on that later), but also with the fact that the game just has a great sense of humor. It's visible every time you open the app, because its load screens always have something different (and funny) to see every damn time.

The achievements are also just littered with insane but humorous tasks you can embark upon if you ever wish to unlock more weapons. I mean, there's even a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy reference when you get to maintain a combo.

Unlike other tilt-based games, the developer just has the controls down to a T. It feels tight, and the game provides a few different options for control depending on your position. Whether you standing up, sitting down, lying in bed, or God knows what other position, you can readily calibrate the game to your liking, and for the most part, it always works.

For now, you have 3 game types to play with, and all of them offer a great deal of challenge and perfect gameplay when you're on the move or waiting in line.

It's recommended that you warm yourself up first with Classic mode which deals you with a small number of enemies at first, but increases as the game goes along. Code Red, as stated in its description, is Classic mode on crack. This is the mode that you'll want to go to either if you're completely sadomasochistic, or kind of bored by the slow start of Classic mode. I know I am.

Gauntlet is a radically different mode from these two, because it doesn't involve killing dots, it just involves evading and analyzing their patterns. It's like Pacifism for Geometry Wars.

These three game modes don't actually end right there. The developers constantly release updates that keep gameplay fresh and new, with a new game mode on the way even. Obviously, with the way I'm raving about this game, this is 2 dollars well spent, and it even out-values some of the other games in the App Store, because the quality and sheer likability of this one just works so well.

Rating: 9.4/10

Just released is the sequel to the re-made Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition, Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge. Basically, this game gives the 2nd game of the much beloved point-and-click adventure series a huge high-res artwork boost alongside the same nostalgic gameplay and sharp writing. Oh, and there's voice acting as well.

Shockingly not a universal binary for iPhone and iPad, this game features refined controls, an excellent guidance system, and the trademark two-finger-swipe that reverts the game to its original, throwback look.

Honestly, I haven't even finished the first one so I'm not picking this up any time soon, but LucasArts has released the game in Lite and Paid versions, with the iPhone version costing $7.99 and the iPad version $9.99.

If you were a fan of the old game, you might as well be on iTunes downloading it right now.

iPhone [link], iPad [link]

July 4, 2010

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Review

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, Ben Kingsley
Directed by Mike Newell
Walt Disney Pictures

Much can be said about the fabled history of video game adaptations. The illustrious likes of the now-infamous Uwe Boll to the failed exploits of Milla Jovovich in the increasingly frustrating Resident Evil films are just some of the more notable points of the medium's young history. When Jordan Mechner- the original mastermind behind the famous 2D platformer- announced a movie deal that was struck with Disney for a Prince of Persia adaptation, I was shocked, cautiously optimistic, and indifferent- in that order.

Sands of Time has a lot going for it: Mechner conceived the idea for a more screen-oriented story based on the rather good story of the video game trilogy that inspired it, a rather decent director Mike Newell was at the helm, and Jerry Bruckheimer was backing it seriously with his gargantuan finances. But now, you say, what could go wrong?

Well, it's not that there's anything technically wrong, it's just that everything feels barely correct. It's like, just as long as setpiece A and plot point X was done, the rest wouldn't even matter; it's like the whole crew wasn't even going for anything special or unique despite a high budget.

In short, it's just plain ol' mediocrity on full display.

Good movies are easy to love. Bad movies are easy to hate (or ironically love). Mediocre movies that are aimless and ambition-less? They're not even worth the time. The entire movie is basically Jake Gyllenhaal and Gemma Arterton talking for the sake of talking, battling for the sake of battling, and not rewinding for the sake of staging awkward conflict. True, the sand in the movie's McGuffin- the dagger of time- is limited and thus must be used wisely, but there's not an actual sense of danger and despair over the dagger's potential to destroy the world. Nor is there any danger to the main villain- who is clearly made up to be regarded as such.

And by that I mean Sir Ben Kingsley who makes an appearance here as an uninteresting villain who hires a spy and creates a conspiracy in his brother's kingdom just so he can claim the throne. At first people trust him, but come on, he wears evil villain make-up, clearly someone in the palace should at least have an uneasy amount of suspicion around him. Hell, with eyeliner so sinister, the only thing that would make the guy even more evil is if his role was just given to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In a move of uninspired, badly sequenced flashbacks, his motivation is explained, in a manner as if to say, "Well hey, at least our villain has some kind of motive!" and the way that the hero just formulates this motive is just full of B.S. for it feels as if he just pulled it out of his buttocks.

I have no apprehension about giving a name to the usually nameless hero, but I do have to exercise a bit of restraint with the casting choice of a clearly white American. Jake Gyllenhaal, usually a pretty decent actor, is kind of uninteresting and not charismatic here. He's only "adequate enough" for the role and is simply a constant reminder for the film's penchant to settle for mediocrity. Fine, maybe he did do his own parkour, but whenever he does anything related to a stunt, it just appears unbelievable, because the film also has a thing for constantly using slow-motion and fast-motion that it isn't even funny. Hell, it's not even like Zack Snyder who uses much of his excessive slow-mo in an elegant way, it's just slow-mo for the heck of slow-mo. That, in addition to motion blur, makes things look unconvincing... as if the movie wasn't such a huge green screen already!

Also a bit of a negligible character: Tamina. She's the princess that's attached to Dastan's journey to guard the dagger, and she's played by Gemma Arterton. Unfortunately, she just can't plain act. There's nothing endearing, likable, or charming about the character, because there's no personality to even like... unless beauty is a personality. Last time I saw a movie with a person who used her beauty as her personality, it involved robots with balls.

If there's really anything to like about this movie, it may well be the cinematography. There are some moments in the film that are pretty well-shot, and the apparent production value makes the film look initially epic overall. Some scenes suffer from a lack of polish in the special effects department, but overall, the movie looks good enough aesthetically.

Maybe there was a benchmark that was observed during the making of this film. Maybe the producers only settled to make the film "tolerable enough" or "excellent enough for a video game movie". Granted, this film is head and shoulders above much of the Street Fighter's and Alone in the Dark's out there, but as a self-contained, classic swashbuckling adventure film? It just doesn't match up, not because it's bad or unentertaining, but because it just doesn't aim high. It's more than watchable, but it doesn't get any more than just that.

Rating: 6/10

July 2, 2010

Movies Opening This Week: Dark Side of the Moon

It's hard to classify anti-heroes. Are they just badass heroes? Protagonists who don't happen to care about fatalities? Guys who don't give a crap but suddenly save the world? Or is an anti-hero like the guy in...

Despicable Me
Steve Carell stars as a supervillain named Gru who happens to be the movie's protagonist, which somewhat confuses me. I mean, Gru wants to take over the world but in the process he'll have to eliminate other threats who are, on their own, threats to the world as well, so he's saving the world so he can conquer it. But then again, Gru fails a lot of the time, so the only thing he'll have to do without much resistance by other supervillains is to... take the moon.

Yeah, you heard me right.

Fine, fine, it's an innocent enough motive for evil. Good for kids since it doesn't involve much death, since well, it's just the moon. Hell, if Gru wants to establish his own Death Star, maybe getting the moon would have a point, but maybe I'm just overthinking things.

Whatever the case, the movie looks decent enough. Okay, but not great, not even good. It's probably more about the money that's gonna be raked in by the 3D, and the stuffed toys (minions, duh) and so on and so on. Who knows though? It might be better than the trailers make it out to be. I mean, for me, the premise is too much like a Jackie Chan movie, if you know what I mean. Hell, maybe even a Vin Diesel or an Arnold. Case made short: the plot is a bit too familiar. But maybe, just maybe, the movie might actually be good... although the last few Ice Age's weren't too good.

What does look good is this movie, produced by Robert Rodriguez, and it's pretty much about a few people who have to survive the onslaught of the titular monsters, or die. The cast is rounded up with some pretty good names: Laurence Fishburne and Adrien Brody, especially. I'm a bit uneasy about Nimrod Antal in the director's chair, but I'm pretty sure Rodriguez' script and creative control will do the trick and hit a home run in the reinvention of what may well be a potential new franchise.

The movie feels visceral, and the trailer is actually pretty well-cut together. It actually got a few chills down my spine for me, so it's hard not to be excited about this cool-looking movie. I recommend staying tuned for this one.

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