Movie Review: Carnage [2011]

Carnage [2011]

Carnage [2011]
Director: Roman Polanski
Genre: Comedy/Drama
Starring: Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, John C. Reilly
Runtime: 80 Minutes

Two eleven year old boys are arguing in the park. We don’t know what about, but does it matter? That’s what kids do. One of the children, Zachary, strikes the other, Ethan, across the face with a large stick. Now we have a messy situation on our hands, complete with a missing tooth and some serious dentalwork needing to be done. This incident brings the parents of the two children together to discuss treatment and punishment options.

And so begins Carnage.

Zachary’s parents, Alan and Nancy Cowan (Waltz & Winslet), visit the home of Ethan’s parents, Michael and Penelope Longstreet (Reilly & Foster), with the intention of quickly dealing with the problem. Somehow this quick visit turns into an elongated stay, and the entire movie takes place in this stationary apartment.

Carnage [2011]

With this decision, much of the film’s weight is placed on the shoulders of its stars. Thankfully, this is an absolutely all-star veteran cast. Foster, Reilly, Winslet and Waltz are all terrific, and they do their part to make sure this dialogue-heavy film is not hampered by the one-shot location.

Each character has their own quirks, and they all have a certain sense of pride. When little remarks here and there are interpreted as sly insults, the discussion grows heated, and it doesn’t take long for everyone to start ragging on each other. In this regard, “Carnage” is an apt title for the film, as there are some heavy blows dealt to the egos of all involved.

Carnage is a fun, brief film that really picks up once the bottle of scotch comes out. There are moments I could have done without, such as Alan’s frequent phone calls and Nancy’s moments where she gets sick, but for the most part this is an entertaining ride with a tight script.

7.5/10

Top 25 Albums of 2011

This list has been a long time coming. I have had it sitting in my WordPress dashboard for weeks, waiting for a night where I could sit down and write about each album. I have since realized that night just isn’t going to come, so I am posting this as-is. This list will pretty much wrap-up my “Best of 2011” series, and it was the hardest one to compile. Last year was a good one for music, and there were several albums that could have been my top choice at one point or another.

This is a pretty varied list that dabbles in “indie” rock, electronica and hip-hop. My tastes are always all over the place. I have included links to songs from each album in case you want to listen for yourself.

Honorable Mentions:
Xander Harris – Urban Gothic
Dominik Eulberg – Diorama
The Kills – Blood Pressures


Smith Westerns - Dye It Blonde
25) Smith Westerns – Dye It Blonde

Check out: Weekend

Mark E - Stone Breaker
24) Mark E – Stone Breaker
Check out: Black Moon

Unknown Mortal Orchestra - S/T
23) Unknown Mortal Orchestra – S/T
Check out: Ffunny Ffrends

Cults - S/T
22) Cults – S/T
Check out: Go Outside

13 & God - Own Your Ghost
21) 13 & God – Own Your Ghost
Check out: Death Major

Gold Panda - Companion
20) Gold Panda – Companion
Check out: Back Home

araabMUZIK - Electronic Dream
19) araabMUZIK – Electronic Dream
Check out: Streetz Tonight

Thee Oh Sees - Castlemania
18) Thee Oh Sees – Castlemania
Check out: I Need Seed

Cornershop - Cornershop & the Double 'O' Groove Of
17) Cornershop – Cornershop & the Double ‘O’ Groove Of
Check out: Topknot

The Antlers - Burst Apart
16) The Antlers – Burst Apart
Check out: Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out

Jay-Z & Kanye West - Watch the Throne
15) Jay-Z & Kanye West – Watch the Throne
Check out: Otis

The Rapture - In the Grace of Your Love
14) The Rapture – In the Grace of Your Love
Check out: How Deep Is Your Love?

The Roots - Undun
13) The Roots – Undun
Check out: Make My

Drive (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
12) Drive (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Check out: College ft. Electric Youth “A Real Hero

Destroyer - Kaputt
11) Destroyer – Kaputt
Check out: Chinatown

Kendrick Lamar - Section.80
10) Kendrick Lamar – Section.80
Check out: A.D.H.D

Mayer Hawthorne - How Do You Do
9) Mayer Hawthorne – How Do You Do
Check out: Hooked

Maceo Plex - Life Index
8) Maceo Plex – Life Index
Check out: Dexter’s Flight

Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
7) Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
Check out: Montezuma

Radiohead - The King of Limbs
6) Radiohead – The King of Limbs
Check out: Lotus Flower

The Black Keys - El Camino
5) The Black Keys – El Camino
Check out: Lonely Boy

Real Estate - Days
4) Real Estate – Days
Check out: It’s Real

The Field - Looping State of Mind
3) The Field – Looping State of Mind
Check out: It’s Up There

TV on the Radio - Nine Types of Light
2) TV on the Radio – Nine Types of Light
Check out: Will Do
Tycho - Dive
1) Tycho – Dive
Check out: Dive

So what do you guys think? Did you enjoy any of these albums/songs? What were your favorites of the year?

Video Game Review: Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception [PS3, 2011]

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception [PS3, 2011]

Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
System: Playstation 3
Genre: Action/Adventure/Platform
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Naughty Dog
Release Date: November 1, 2011

Past adventures of Nathan Drake, star of the Playstation 3’s best-selling Uncharted series, have taken him all over the world. The Amazon Rainforest, Tibet, Istanbul, Borneo, Nepal. The dude has been everywhere. With Uncharted 3, Drake can now scratch even more locations off his list, including an extended run in the Middle East.

Uncharted 3 begins with a massive bar-room brawl. Drake and his long-time pal (and mentor) Victor Sullivan (“Sully”) get caught up in a deal that quickly turns sour, forcing them to fight their way through dozens of enemies, complete with broken whiskey bottles and snapped pool sticks. This works as a tutorial of sorts, as it demonstrates the slightly modified combat system while throwing our heroes directly into action.

This is the core of Uncharted 3 — moments of intense action interspersed with cutscenes to help flesh out the story. The opening bar-room brawl is only the tip of the iceberg. This time around, the big adventure set-pieces include a dashing escape out of a rapidly burning building, frantic manuevering out of a sinking cruise ship, and an elongated trip through the stifling Rub’ al Khali Desert with no water to speak of anywhere. These exaggerated sequences are the biggest reason why most gamers have fallen in love with the series, and they do not disappoint in the trilogy’s conclusion.

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception [PS3, 2011]

For those looking for a bit of back-story about Drake and Sully, you are in luck. The mysterious relationship of our favorite treasure hunters is elaborated on in a series of flashbacks, even allowing gamers to play as a teenage Drake. The overall story arc is still relatively simple, but fans of the series will be pleased with this further insight.

The Uncharted series has always featured a seamless transition between its platforming and third person shooter gameplay. Naughty Dog are known for their excellent platform skills, and Drake’s jumping from ledges to chandeliers to poles or whatever else he can grab onto is flawless in execution. The gunplay, however, remains a bit of a burden on the series.

Simply put, little has changed with the game’s combat system, so the same annoyances remain in place. The shooting system feels dated and rough around the edges, and there are a few too many set-pieces that rely heavily on long gunfights. The new addition of being able to throw back tossed grenades is a welcome one, but it does not excise the occasionally awkward shooting controls. Thankfully, the campaign is spaced out with good variety for the most part, making these moments a minor annoyance more than a burst of frustration.

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception [PS3, 2011]

Unfortunately, while Uncharted 3 boasts a beefy multiplayer mode, it requires an online pass ($9.99) to use it (unless you buy the game new). Outside of the co-op missions, I never really fell in love with the online features in this series, so I cannot justify spending an extra $9.99 on something I will not get maximum value for. If you are into the multiplayer aspects, you might be better off just buying this new.

Even though Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception still suffers from minor gameplay issues, the single player campaign is still a blast to play. This is as close as you’re going to get to a *good* Indiana Jones game, complete with outrageous action scenes that will make your heart race. This also may be the best-looking game I have seen yet in this current console generation, as the attention to graphical details is impeccable. If you have been following the series, you ought to do yourself a favor and finish the trilogy. I would consider it a toss-up between Drake’s Deception and Uncharted 2 as to which is the best, and both are absolutely worth playing.

8.5/10

Movie Review: The Artist [2011]

The Artist [2011]

The Artist [2011]
Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Genre: Comedy/Romance/Drama
Starring: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman
Runtime: 100 Minutes

Of all the films generating Oscar buzz right now, The Artist is most intriguing. It is not often a silent movie is made in this day and age, and perhaps this novelty is its greatest appeal. This is a sparkling homage that revels in its silent nature, even opting to break out of past molds and play with the dynamics a little.

The year is 1927. Silent film star George Valentin (Dujardin) is on top of the world as one of the biggest names in the business. His partnership with studio boss Al Zimmer (Goodman) has resulted in a great deal of success, and the two seem in for a lucrative future.

Fast forward to two years later. Zimmer announces the end of production of silent films, claiming that “talkies” are the future of the business. Valentin calls this transition a fad, and opts to produce and direct his own silent film. This doesn’t go well, and another series of unfortunate events leads to Valentin hitting rock bottom.

The Artist [2011]

Meanwhile, young up-and-comer Peppy Miller (Bejo), an acquaintance of Valentin’s, is taking advantage of the new medium and has become a star in her own right. The two have an interesting history — it was Valentin who “made” her trademark mole so she would stand out from other aspiring actresses. There is a clear connection between them, and they continue to cross each other’s paths from time to time (sometimes conveniently when they need each other most).

There are some pretty heavy moments in The Artist, particularly when Valentin is alone and wallowing in his own self pity. However, when he and Miller are on screen together, the movie becomes electric. Their chemistry is terrific, and Dujardin and Bejo are both so much fun to watch. Dujardin, in particular, seems like he could have been a silent film star himself. His natural charisma translates very well to the movie’s classic setting.

The Artist is a real crowd pleaser, and it’s easy to see why it is blowing up the awards circuit right now. There are just so many enjoyable aspects of the movie — the charming little dog Uggie who brings laughter to a few scenes, the strategically wonderful use of vocals on rare occasions, the frequent nods to cinematic classics — that it’s hard not to fall in love with The Artist. This is a movie that even those ignorant of silent or black-and-white films can appreciate.

9/10

Theatrical Mini-Reviews: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Shame, Hugo 3D

I didn’t get a chance to write full reviews for any of these three recent releases, unfortunately, but here are some quick thoughts on them.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
I don’t know if I prefer David Fincher’s adaptation or the original Swedish version, but both are very good films that are aided by incredible performances. Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara were perfectly cast here, and I was particularly impressed with Mara. I didn’t think anyone could top Noomi Rapace’s intense performance from the Swedish trilogy, but Rooney certainly held her own and might have made Lisbeth Salander even more badass. Gotta love Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross’ soundtrack, too, as it gives the movie an ever darker and more sinister tone (not that it needed it, given the source material). The film is a little long (nearly three hours), but it is an entertaining, and often disturbing, ride throughout. 8/10

Shame
Shame
Wearing its NC-17 rating proudly, Shame goes to great lengths to show the disturbing nature of sex addiction. Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan are a perfect sibling pairing, and each character has major issues. Fassbender plays a thirty-something professional who must have multiple orgasms every day, and Mulligan is his distraught sister who crashes in on him unexpectedly. Steven McQueen’s direction is superb, with some epic long tracking shots. Shame is a bleak film, and its subject matter is hard to watch, but it is exceptionally well made. 9/10

Hugo 3D
Hugo 3D
I don’t watch many 3D movies, but I made an effort to see what Martin Scorcese had up his sleeve with Hugo 3D. I didn’t know much going into it, other than it was getting rave reviews, so I was pleasantly surprised to see that the history of film was a major focus of the movie. It was a tad ironic to see silent film clips shown during a 3D flick, but it worked. In a way, this reminded me of Rango in that it was a film for film lovers. Those who dig the classics will gain the most enjoyment from this, but Hugo 3D is a movie that anyone can enjoy regardless. 9/10

Movies Watched [December 2011]

I wrapped up the end of the year with my biggest movie watching month yet — 26 in total! I made a mad dash to complete the 50 Movies Project, and squeezed in some trips to the cinema as well. All in all, it was a great month with only one poor film. I’ll let you guess which one that was…

In order of viewing (number represents year overall total, not this month):
198) The Big Sleep [1946]
The Big Sleep [1946]

199) The 400 Blows [1959]
The 400 Blows [1959]

200) Last Tango in Paris [1972]
Last Tango in Paris [1972]

201) The Maltese Falcon [1941]
The Maltese Falcon [1941]

202) Once Upon a Time in the West [1968]
Once Upon a Time in the West [1968]

203) The Thin Red Line [1998]
The Thin Red Line [1998]

204) Mulholland Drive [2001]
Mulholland Drive [2001]

205) The Evil Dead [1981]
The Evil Dead [1981]

206) Crazy, Stupid, Love. [2011]
Crazy, Stupid, Love. [2011]

207) Hesher [2011]
Hesher [2011]

208) Beginners [2010]
Beginners [2010]

209) Million Dollar Baby [2004]
Million Dollar Baby [2004]

210) The Change-Up [2011]
The Change-up [2011]

211) Dare [2009]
Dare [2009]

212) You’re Gonna Miss Me [2005]
You're Gonna Miss Me [2005]

213) Hugo 3D [2011]
Hugo 3D [2011]

214) Shame [2011]
Shame [2011]

215) It’s a Wonderful Life [1946]
It's a Wonderful Life [1946]

216) The Prestige [2006]
The Prestige [2006]

217) Tokyo Story [1953]
Tokyo Story [1953]

218) Evil Dead II [1987]
Evil Dead II [1987]

219) Army of Darkness [1992]
Army of Darkness [1992]

220) The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo [2011]
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo [2011]

221) The Seventh Seal [1957]
The Seventh Seal [1957]

222) Schindler’s List [1993]
Schindler's List [1993]

223) A Hard Day’s Night [1964]
A Hard Day's Night [1964]

Video Game Review: Crysis 2 [Xbox 360, 2011]

Crysis 2 [Xbox 360, 2011]

Crysis 2
System: Xbox 360 (also on PS3 and PC)
Genre: First Person Shooter
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Crytek Frankfurt
Release Date: March 22, 2011

The original Crysis gained a tough reputation due to its demanding PC hardware requirements. It was deemed to be “unplayable” on consoles, and it took four years before it was finally able to be ported over. Apparently Crytek realized that it would be better to have multi-platform releases, so the inevitable Crysis 2 was designed with consoles in mind. The new CryEngine 3 graphics system has made all of this possible, and the end results are stunning. This is one of the best-looking games on the Xbox 360.

Set three years after the original, Crysis 2 takes place in New York City, which has become a warzone thanks to both a nasty virus outbreak and an alien invasion. Yes, those Ceph bastards are back, and they are wreaking havoc on the city. The main protagonist this time is a soldier codenamed Alcatraz, who survives a brutal submarine accident upon deploying NYC. With little other options available, Alcatraz is essentially selected as the “Chosen One” and he receives the same Nanosuit that Prophet wore in the first game. From this point on, his goal is to rid the planet of those nasty aliens while also fighting off U.S. Military personnel that are hellbent on destroying the Nanosuit.

The Nanosuit is the centerpiece of the Crysis series, and it is at its best here. There is no question that Alcatraz has the holy grail of armor, and it makes him out to be a huge badass. All of the suit’s capabilities return from the first game, including cloaking and advanced defensive mechanisms, but everything is intensified. Even better is the fact that the Nanosuit can be customized and upgraded over time. As aliens are killed, their technology can be collected and used to bolster four different areas: Armor, Power, Tactical and Stealth. This essentially allows the game to be played in different ways, as an emphasis can be placed on stealth, gunplay or a mix of both.

I love that the game offers this ability, as it is a great thrill to sneak past a group of aliens and then open up and let them have it in the next area. As the game can be completed in different ways, this adds to the overall replay value.

One thing that I enjoyed from the first Crysis was that most of the game took place in a large, open world. This is not the case here in the sequel, as Crytek have opted to make this a more linear shooter. It’s not quite on the levels of Modern Warfare’s strictly on-rails gameplay, for example, but there is little to explore on the streets of New York. That’s not to say that this is a bad thing, it’s just different.

The game’s campaign has been stated to be close to ten hours, but I finished it in less than seven. I used a mix of stealth/action combat techniques, so the time length may vary depending on what style of gameplay is used. In comparison to the first game, the campaign is notably easier with a seemingly endless supply of ammunition available. I had a hard time finishing Crysis on “normal” mode, but here it was almost too simple. While Crysis 2’s campaign is certainly a lot of fun to play through, it has less “holy shit” moments than the original, and the final “boss” is a bit of a letdown. In this department, it is slightly disappointing, even though the Nanosuit is much more powerful.

Crysis 2 has an advantage in that it includes a deep multiplayer mode. This uses a leveling-up system similar to that of Modern Warfare, complete with killstreaks and custom classes, but it differentiates itself with the use of cloaking/armor abilities. Unfortunately, the online community is very, very small at the moment, so it may take some work to get a good session going. However, when that happens, the multiplayer aspect is a real treat and offers a nice alternative to other online shooters.

Crysis 2 [Xbox 360, 2011]

I would be remiss not to discuss more of the game’s visuals. This is simply one of the best looking shooters available on a home console, and it is a huge step forward from the original’s recent port (which wasn’t too shabby itself). New York City, despite being utterly war-torn, is beautiful, and much of the game is based on real locations. To really show off its graphical power, there is an obligatory level that takes place in the rain — truly a work of beauty.

While I prefer the open-world nature of the original, Crysis 2 still has a lot going for it. The mix of gameplay tactics is brilliant, the campaign is a fun ride, and the game itself is a technical marvel. I wish there were more memorable moments like its predecessor, but this is still one of the more underrated releases from 2011. Fans of FPS and action titles should definitely look into picking this up, especially as it can be found for as low as $9.99 these days.

8/10

Video Game Review: Crysis [Xbox 360, 2011]

Crysis [Xbox 360, 2011]

Crysis
System: Xbox 360 (also on PS3, originally on PC)
Genre: First Person Shooter
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Crytek Frankfurt
Release Date: October 4, 2011 (PC release: November 13, 2007)

Released in 2007 strictly for PC, the original Crysis gained a bit of notoriety in the gaming world due to its demanding hardware requirements. A high-end gaming rig was necessary to be able to run the game, and not many could play it at max settings. It was famously stated by Cevat Yerli, the director of Crytek, that Crysis would never be able to be played on consoles.

Well, four years later, we finally have Crysis on XBLA/PSN, and it looks pretty damn good.

The new CryEngine 3 was created with the console in mind, and the developers took advantage of this new technology to bring the original Crysis experience to a brand new audience. Stripped down to its single player campaign, the game comes as a $20 downloadable title.

Set in the year 2020, Crysis places gamers in the role of soldier Jake Dunn (codename: Nomad). Nomad, along with the rest of the elite Raptor Team, has been sent to a remote island off the coast of the Eastern Philippines to investigate a distress signal sent from U.S. scientists. Upon arriving, it is discovered that North Korean forces have taken over the area and are well on their way to unleashing a powerful ancient alien artifact found in the middle of the island. It is the Raptor Team’s job to put an end to the entire threat, taking down North Korean and alien forces along the way.

Crysis [Xbox 360, 2011]

It’s a pretty daunting task, but Nomad is aided in the form of his high-tech Nanosuit, which provides enhanced strength, speed, armor and a cloaking ability. These features can only come in bursts, however, as the suit needs to be recharged after a certain amount of time. Being able to switch between cloaking (temporary invisibility) and beefed-up armor is a unique feature, and it allows the game to be played in multiple ways. Depending on your preferred style of play, you can run through guns-a-blazin’ or stealthily maneuever past most enemies. Since you are only able to use the functions in limited doses, it often takes different strategies to accomplish certain goals.

While Crysis plays as a linear shooter (at least in terms of providing mandatory objectives), it is presented in a wide open world that allows for deep exploration. There are multiple ways to get to the intended targets, and there are also secondary objectives that can be completed along the way. For those that revel in sandbox glory, this will be a very rewarding experience.

Weapons are mostly standard fare — assault rifles, shotguns, missile launchers, etc. — but they can be customized from the get-go to suit your needs. Flashlights, laser dot sight, scope sight, and upgraded ammo are just a handful of traits that can be changed with every acquired weapon. This impressive amount of features, everything from customizable weapons to the badass Nanosuit, helps make Crysis stand out from other like-minded shooters.

Crysis [Xbox 360, 2011]

Graphically, Crysis looks great (considering its age), but it does suffer from some small issues. Minor details, such as blades of grass, are rough in appearance, and there are occasional problems with graphics being drawn in on the fly. Still, it’s a major feat just to be able to play this on a console, and it can hold its own with some of the early generation Xbox 360/PS3 titles.

As a $20 downloadable game, Crysis is a pretty good deal. The single player campaign lasts 8-10 hours, and the achievements/trophies are set up in a way that rewards at least two separate playthroughs. Crysis is the type of shooter that we don’t see as often on consoles, as it presents a great open world that allows for some flexibility on the part of the gamer. It also helps to have some variety in the form of enemies, as the transition from enemy soldiers to badass aliens is a welcome one.

The bottom line is that Crysis is a mandatory pickup for those who have been curious about it over the years, and it is a great buy for fans of first person shooters in general.

8.5/10

(A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review.)

Video Game Review: Dead Space 2 [Xbox 360, 2011]

Dead Space 2 [Xbox 360, 2011]
Dead Space 2
System: Xbox 360 (also on PS3 and PC)
Genre: Survival Horror, Third-Person Shooter
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Visceral Games
Release Date: January 25, 2011

There is a popular comparison going around that Dead Space 2 is to Dead Space what the film Aliens is to Alien. This is surprisingly accurate.

The original Dead Space was a brutal survival horror adventure that placed gamers in the role of a silent protaganist named Isaac Clarke, who was investigating an abandoned ship with unknown enemies. With Dead Space 2, Clarke is back, but this time he is well-spoken and knows what he is up against. No longer an inexperienced combatant, Clarke is a grizzled veteran who kicks a whole lot of alien ass, not unlike Ellen Ripley from Aliens.

Dead Space 2 takes place three years after the original, with Isaac waking up in the Sprawl, a metropolis built on one of Saturn’s moons. He has no memory of the last few years, and he is still haunted by visions of his long-dead girlfriend. The man has lost his mind, and his disturbing hallucinations impede his progress to stop the latest Necromorph outbreak. In a way, it’s more of the same, but this time Isaac feels better suited to take care of the mess.

Dead Space 2 [Xbox 360, 2011]

The gameplay is more action-oriented, and there are now new weapons to help deal with the catastrophic alien mess. The old, trusty weapons from before are still available, such as the always reliable plasma cutter, but it’s fun to play with new toys such as the Detonator, a proximity mine launcher. Enemies are still defeated by slicing off their limbs, creating gruesome and gory bloodbaths.

The wonderful kinesis/stasis functions are back as well, and they are crucial to the gameplay since weapon ammo seems a little scarce to come by this time. The same weapon upgrade system is in place to help build up Clarke’s skills and abilities.

While the combat is very well-executed, Dead Space 2 really shines with its atmosphere. The game succeeds at creating undeniable tension, and there is always a sense of dread while wandering around the Sprawl. Even locations such as a nursery or a shopping mall are creepy to wander about since you never know what will be around the corner. This overall creepiness is aided by little things here and there to make you jump, such as lights flickering randomly or an alarm clock going off unprovoked, or even just hearing something crawling around in the walls. With the lights out and the volume turned up, this game can be pretty damn scary.

Dead Space 2 [Xbox 360, 2011]

Dead Space 2’s campaign lasts about 8-10 hours, but its “New Game+” feature warrants multiple playthroughs. My first thought after finishing the game was to start a new one, this time using my powered-up weapons from before.

A multiplayer option is unnecessarily tacked-on as well. It offers similar gameplay to Left 4 Dead, as it pits humans versus monsters, alternately switching sides after every round. It is a decent enough feature, but it is pretty basic and the online community barely has a pulse anymore.

Dead Space 2 does everything a good sequel should: it builds upon all that made the original so great, then expands upon that in all facets. The atmosphere is even more tense despite the beefed up weapons, and the core gameplay is damn near perfect. It doesn’t hurt that the game is simply stunning to look at, and gore fans will really get a kick out of some of the new death animations. EA has a great franchise on their hands, and I can’t wait to see where they go next.

9/10

Dabbling In Mediocrity: Bad Teacher [2011] and Red State [2011]

I watched both of these movies recently but couldn’t be bothered to write up full reviews for them.

Bad Teacher [2011]
Bad Teacher [2011]
Directed by Jake Kasdan
Starring Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel, Justin Timberlake.

When it comes to comedies, I have a pretty open mind. Hell, I enjoyed The Hangover 2, despite most critics and blogger extraordinaires hating it. So I had fairly reasonable expectations for Bad Teacher, believing I might enjoy it more than others. Nope, not the case at all. Cameron Diaz’s role as the “bad teacher” is less than desirable. She’s bad all right, making me question how she ever got a teaching gig in the first place, but she’s also a truly unlikable character that should not have been the focus of a movie. I was hoping for some redeeming factors from her, anything at all, but that never happened. Therefore, when “bad” things started happening to her, I could care less. Nothing was resolved in the end, and the movie felt like an utter waste of time.

I laughed a few times, but the jokes were few and far in between, and ultimately forgettable. The movie also wasted the talents of Justin Timberlake and Jason Segel, as both play fellow teachers who don’t do really do much of anything. At least shit/fart jokes were kept to a minimum, and watching Cameron Diaz do her version of a sexy car wash was entertaining. Not one of this year’s finer comedic efforts, that’s for sure. 5/10

Red State [2011]
Red State [2011]
Directed by Kevin Smith
Starring Michael Parks, Melissa Leo, John Goodman.

Why, oh why, was this marketed as a horror movie? Kevin Smith’s latest flick is unlike anything else he has made, although it is on par with Cop Out in terms of quality. The movie starts off harmless enough in the guise of a horror film, as a trio of teenage boys are lured into a murderous trap by an extremist religious group not unlike the Westboro Baptist Church. From there, the film quickly turns into an irritating propaganda piece that ultimately becomes a boring shootout. It’s all over the damn place, and not in a way that offers much value to the viewer.

Red State is an example of a great concept ruined by a lack of proper vision. Look, I despise the Westboro Baptist Church and their homophobic ways just as much as the next guy, but they could have been the subjects of a proper horror film, not this misguided venture. There are occasional glimmers of light, particularly in the form of Michael Parks and John Goodman. Parks’ role as a rambling lunatic of a preacher is played to villainous perfection, and Goodman is fun to watch as always. It’s a shame that Red State turned out the way it did, because there is a better movie buried in their *somewhere*. 5/10