Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mega Man Music -- Mega Man 9

Hey y'all.  Ain't it about time I got back to rating this music?

So yeah, I'm all about the Mega Man.  I was a kid back in the days of original Nintendo, and I can still remember the Christmas when my brother got and first started playing it: Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt.  Dang awesome!  You can't buy that goodness nowadays.  Stupid freaking Halo with your two dang joystick thingies...newfangled mumbo jumbo...grumble grouse bicker....

Anyway, Mega Man 9 came out in 2009, naturally, and in many ways is the spiritual successor of MM2.  Many of the smaller tracks like the Wily intro and password song are taken directly from the second game.  It's been so long since a Mega Man 8 bit, or heck, just a Mega Man Classic game, came out, that it's retro and not ghetto.  I don't mind at all.

What I do mind, a little, is the plot.  In a way, it's kinda funny that Wily frames Dr. Light for the robots running rampant in this game.  I'm not spoiling anything.  Even the characters realize early on that it's got to be Wily.  In fact it is, and he's taken eight of Dr. Light's robots and reprogrammed them to be evil.  Mega Man saves the day, but loses Wily again because Wily pretends a robot look-alike is Dr. Light, and Mega Man is hurt as he attempts to save "his creator".  But no, the real Light is in jail because he was arrested early on, to be released now that Wily is really the one responsible.

My problem with this is how they portray it in the game.  It's dang cheesy and silly, following the precedent set by MM6 and firmly established in MM7.  I don't like this.  Keiji Inafune, creator of Mega Man, visioned a darker universe.  If it's not unhappy, then it's at least dangerous.  All the games up to MM5 were serious in tone, only cheesy due to old graphics (which aren't that cheesy to me at all), and even MM6 only had a slight touch of cheese.  I don't like the direction it went after that.  I mean, look at the MMX series and how melodramatic that is.  MMX came from MM Classic, after all.

I've ranted about that before.  Anyway, MM9 as a game isn't hurt much by it.  The plot just strikes a weird tone in me as a long term Mega Man fan and oversensitive thematic writer.  If you're a normal person going into this just to enjoy an old-school game, you'll love it as a treat, and possibly not really notice what I'm talking about here.

So the graphics are 8 bit again, and the music is awesome again.  I really hate that the awesomeness of the music only seems to correlate with older graphics.  MM7 and MM8 could have been so much better, only they were too cheesy, and were so busy trying to be distinctly tinny and eighties drama respectively, that they forgot they were supposed to be making a Mega Man sort of sound.  I do believe a great non-8-bit soundtrack is possible, we just haven't seen it yet.

Apologies to fans of the MM7 and MM8 soundtracks.  These are generally good (not you, Search Man, guh....), but they really missed out on being as awesome as the other games.

Anyway, let's get to this game's music.  The intro is directly taken from MM2's beginning (and MM1's ending), but quickly goes into a new beat.  I find this beat a bit meh at first.  It's a bit slow, then hits a faster pace of the same beat.  I don't care for it.  This sound is the first of MM9's cohesive sound, but thankfully MM9 doesn't suffer from the syndrome of having all of the themes sound too thematically alike.

I love the start screen music.  It basically screams, "Yo, I'm Mega Man, and I'm back, y'all!"  That's exactly what it should do.  And of course the save screen music is the same as the password music from MM2, but I'm so busy humming along that I neither notice nor care.  La, la, la, la-la, la-la la-la-la, la!

The stage select screen music is good.  It sounds more like a robot master theme intro, and it reminds me a bit too much of the battle theme of this game.  It's a good song, but it's not as good as most stage select screens. To me, the music should make you feel excited to choose a master to fight, so much so that you sort of forget about the music until you think about playing the game, and then you notice that it's awesome.  This is not a bad tune, but it's a bit too wonky for a stage select.

And now to rate the robot masters!  Remember, I'm rating these according to the skill of the song and how it fits with the robot master, not my favorite or even necessarily most people's favorites.

#8 People think that the intro of Concrete Man's theme sounds like Wood Man's, and I guess it does.  The rest of the song sounds nothing alike, so it doesn't bother me that much.  It's a good song, but it's not particularly great.  Very fun, very hyper, but it sounds like an intro theme to a game more than a robot master theme.  It doesn't really evoke images of concrete or anything.  I won't hate on it though.  It's a fun theme that's very Mega Man sounding.  Good times.

#7 Magma Man's theme, to me, could stand a little work.  Parts of it are truly awesome and evoke hot imagery, but a lot of it is....silly.  Far too happy for a bulky guy that has three fires sticking out of his head.  However, I can still rock out to this theme.  It's good stuff, adventurous and fun.  *parties down*

#6 I'm sort of into Plug Man's song.  Again, it sounds more like an intro than a robot master song, but it's good.  Choayo.  It's just missing something.  Very solid piece, however.

#5 Hornet Man is liked a lot by people.  I do indeed like the fact that it describes Hornet Man well, and does evoke images of flowers.  It's not a song I listen to a lot, but the rollicking background and almost content melody makes this a very fun and brings a happier and a little more relaxed tone than other songs, as if you're being hypnotized by the buzzing of bees.

#4 The thing I love about Jewel Man's theme is that it describes him perfectly.  You can just sense his desire for jewels and possible conceit from the song itself.  You can hear his voice.  The song itself is pretty good, devoid of connotation.  It's not one of the powerhouse songs of this soundtrack, but it's good, and it doesn't sound like all the other songs.

#3 I love Galaxy Man.  He's so much dang fun.  I bet he's just silly and awesome.  His theme is so dang party and enjoyable.  Where mah techno remixes at?  If anybody has a link to one on youtube or something, let me know.

#2 Tornado Man!  He has one of the most get-stuck-in-your-head themes of all the Mega Man games.  I actually wrote lyrics to this song, which I'll post later.  Honestly, this song to me is MM9.  I love it even though it's gotten to the point where I've heard it too much.  Very dramatic and exciting.  Adventuresome as a MM game song should be.

#1 Splash Woman wins.  Her song is completely perfect.  It might not be the most exciting song of the bunch, but it does what it should: 1. describe the robot master, 2. tell a story, 3. sound awesome, and 4. sound like a Mega Man game.  This song has perfect layering and fits the robot master better than any other song describes theirs in this game.  It sounds desperate, a little sad, and yet determined, as if the hero of our movie (if this soundtrack was for a movie and not a game) were having to hunt someone down over the waters that used to be a friend or someone they pitied.

I'm going to take a moment to say perhaps a weird thing about robot masters: I don't like them being chicks.  I know that sounds weird coming from a girl, but it just doesn't seem to me that Wily would create girl robot masters.  He seems faintly sexist to me.  Not that he directly hates women, but more or less that he regards them in a sort of old-fashioned, "meh, I don't need women" sense.  MM9 is in the clear because these are Dr. Light's robots, but still, you see what I mean?

Also, I really hate some fans.  These guys draw perverted images of Splash Woman in sick poses.  It's even worse than what they do to Roll, because Roll is more of a cute little girl type than the woman type that Splash Woman comes across as.  They just get so disgusting and stupid that to me it's not worth it to make another girl robot.

So, all you nasty idiots out there, get a life. Not only is Splash Woman a robot, she's completely fictious.  She doesn't exist.  Maybe if you stopped thinking perverted things about fake robot mermaids, you might actually be decent enough to get a woman that does exist.

Back to the music!

I really like where MM9 went with the boss battle song.  It doesn't try to compete with the music of other games, but rather is its own thing with a more subdued tone that's no less exciting than in any other game.  I love this theme.

The get a weapon song sounds like it was from another game.   They also have a "Get a Rush" song that sounds like a combination of this and the shop music.  I love the shop music.  It just sounds so cute and sweet.  Since Dr. Light was arrested, Roll must have gotten hold of the lab's radio and switched it to stuff that she likes.

There's also this "suspense" tune that plays, but it's basically just a bit a music to say that Dr. Light has been arrested.  It's not a song or anything.  There's also the same Wily intro as Mega Man 2.

I love Wily 1.  It's such a great song.  It's called "Flash in the Dark".  Yep, they named the Wily songs this time.  Actually, other songs in the series have names (Top Man's is called "Spinning Greenhouse" or something like that) but I guess nobody really knew about them or something.  In any case, my favorite thing about this song is that it feels like someone could be singing to it

Now here you are Mega Man,
Like a flash in the dark,
Coming to sa-ave the day!

Dr. Wily again,
He threatens the world
Save us today

Mega Man you're the one
And you're back to attack
That mad scientist
And you'll make him pay

Or, erm, something like that.  Every time I hear this song I make up different lyrics for it.  Mostly about Mega Man saving all our lives and stuff.  Ha, you should try it sometime.  This song is just begging for lyrics.  And guess what?  This is the first 8 bit Mega Man game to have a different song for every Wily level!

I freaking love Wily 2.  It has this determined tone of facing down difficult bad guys with complete fearlessness.  It's so dang pulsing and exciting.  I need to do something awesome to this song, like fight terrorists or ninjas or something.  Dang awesome!  Actually, this might have worked better as a robot master song, but it works here just fine.

Dang how I love Wily 3.  It's almost humorous in a way.  If this were the soundtrack to a movie, this would be the part where the bad guy does something ridiculously evil against our hero.  Techno remix, where art thou?!

Wily 4 isn't as exciting as the others.  It's more serious, and has lots of drive and buzzing tones.  It's so weird, as if our hero is lost in a maze of death.  It feels like you're running out of time as you listen to this.  So dang wonderful!

Lol, I love the intro to the Wily boss theme.  More than the song itself, actually.  I mean, it's a good song, but to me MM4, 5, and 6 had better Wily boss themes.  But whatever, this is perfectly enjoyable and good times as it is.  I especially love the alarms blaring at points in the song.  Go Mega Man!

There is a mellow ending to this game, and it reminds me of something.  I just can't remember what...anyway, it's a singing piece that doesn't last long, as it's the time Mega Man is taking to show Dr. Wily every single victory he's ever had against him.  It's hypnotic, especially for a shorter looped song.

The ending song is too cheesy for me.  It does too much to remind the audience that this is a remake of a very old game (in a technology sense) and not a new branching out of the Mega Man Classic series.  That being said, it's perfectly acceptable and sweet.  There are other endings that are better, but this one is good.  It's just on the dorky side.

Should I have included the Fake Man track in with the other robot masters?  Fake Man is a fake policeman robot that Dr. Wily used to trick Mega Man into thinking that Dr. Light wasn't arrested by real police.  You can download a special level to fight Fake Man, and I must say, out of all the tracks in the game, this one reminds me the most of the old music from the older games.  Hush your face, young'uns.  This is the one with the most arcaic feel, and I must say that I love it.  If I included it with the others, I'd put him in second or third place as far as music quality.

I really, really like the endless stage theme.  It's a great tune that feels very motivating and exciting, as well as being just weird enough to be a Mega Man song.  Trouble is, you have to consider each song's purpose when you talk about how good it is.  This song is of course used for the endless stage theme, and the problem with that is that this song has a very short loop.  You have to hear the same tune over and over again with not too much variation.  If you're trying to last as long as you can, this can be very frustrating and make you sick of the song.  It would be much better as a boss battle or something.

I'm sad.  Bass was written out of this particular game (getting upgrades or whatever) and so you don't get to hear the awesome Bass theme in 8 bit.  Tears...

Oh hey, you want to hear all of these, don't you?

Anyway, I'd have to say that overall this is a very satisfying soundtrack.  People like to say that it compares to the "glory days" of 2 or 3, but I have to say nah.  For one thing, such an attitude ignores MM1, 4, and 5's awesome soundtracks, and for two, MM9 isn't quite there with a lot of its tracks.  Don't get me wrong, it's a great game with great music, but it has such a high standard to meet.

I feel like a lot of the robot master songs could have been better and more creative.  Most of them were fine, but I only deeply enjoyed the top three on my list up there, and Hornet Man was good too.  The others were decent, but not really as great as they could have been.  I personally feel MM10 is better than MM9 on terms of music, but we'll get to that later.

If the soundtrack of Mega Man 9 was the soundtrack of a movie, it would be a movie about our adventure hero from Mega Man 2.  A sequel.  Our hero has been living peacefully since his victory in MM2, and as little as he wants to come out of hiding, the world is faced by a brand new threat that he simply can't ignore.  He has to fight friend and foe of greater power than before, along with some old foes whose influence is still around.  He wins, and the world celebrates his victory.  Our hero learns to appreciate the goodness of life, and enjoy rather than reject the appreciation of others.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Nitpickery --- The Blood Waters of Dr. Z versus Alien vs. Ninja

Hey y'all.  I haven't seen Robocop 2 in years, and I just saw it again.  It stinks.  Apparently Robocop 3 is supposed to be worse, so my interest in the series is officially ended.  The first was good, though.

Anyway, the other night I was looking through Netflix when I saw the movie Alien vs. Ninja.  I figured this might at least be cute to watch, but no.  Absolutely not.  In fact, this is a contender for the worst movie I have ever seen.  The other contender is The Blood Waters of Dr. Z, a movie I saw during one episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (the only way to watch that stinker, if then).  I shall now compare the two and decide which is worse.  I will compare the different parts of movie making and rate which "wins" out of each category to find out which of our movies is the worst ever.

Category 1: Plot/Dialogue

Okay, so Aliens vs. Ninja had this plot to where a comet comes down, bringing with it murderous aliens.  Yeah.  There's not really much other plot to this.  I mean, there's some nonsense about this other tribe of ninjas or whatever, but they get them out of the way quickly.  Just plot dressing.  Nothing really that interesting happens.  It's just like you expect the plot to be: the ninjas are taken by surprise by the alien and several die, then the good guys go and after a big struggle take them down, also taking down the ninjas being mind-controlled by the alien growing in their throats.

Yeah.  I'm not spoiling the plot for you.  The least of all writers could write exactly this.  In fact, the ninjas don't even have to be ninjas; there's nothing specifically ninja-ish about these guys, other than their costumes.  You could replace them with modern day soldiers and the plot would be exactly the same.  At no point is the writing in this crappy movie interesting, unique, or makes you believe in the movie's world.  Worst of all, they offer no reason why the aliens are bothering to murder everyone.  And if they can brainwash people, why go on murdering sprees so soon?  Why not just take over as many people as possible and then take over the world?

As for The Blood Waters of Dr. Z, the plot in one sense was better: it actually tried.  I mean, it failed miserably, but at least it tried to be a science fiction horror movie.  It's about Dr. Leopold (that's right, his name is not Dr. Z like in the title), who is, for no reason they bother to explain, obsessed with marine life, and he wants to take vengeance on the land dwellers for being cruel to them.  His plan is to turn himself into a water creature, find a mate, and then genetically alter fish so that they can come on land and kill everyone.

If they actually made it about the killing everyone, this movie might have at least been hilarious.  Oh no, they focus on Dr. Leopold's internal monologuing and his early, boring attempts at finding a mate once he has become a monster.  So boring...insanely boring.  All of the doctor's lines are voiceover monologues!  He doesn't even make weird monster sounds or something.

Oh yeah, there's also some good guys. Their dialogue is generic, and if they had any background of any importance, I have no clue.  Nothing they said was interesting or anything much other than a reaction to the monster.  Other than the chubby cop, none of them were interesting as people.  They were just sort of there.  I'll get to that in the next category when I deal with characters, but I will say here that none of these guys added any significant plot.

Honestly, the plot doesn't explain why Dr. Leopold is so infatuated with fish, or how exactly he intends to make them all have legs.  How exactly are fish repressed?  Is it pollution?  Is it people building underwater cities?  Or is it just plain insanity?  Nobody who watches this movie will understand what the crap is going on.  And why do they spend so much time talking about what Dr. Leopold does rather than show him doing more bad things?  Oh wait, or was him going around with that squirt bottle spreading the radiation they kept going on about?  I don't understand....

Okay, so AvN's boring genericness versus Dr.Z's incomprehensible and uninteresting nonsense.  It's a hard contest, but I'm actually going to give a tie.  Honestly, AvN never tried, which is why its plot is boring and generic.  Dr. Z's plot could have been made better, or at least funnier, with better handling.  On the other hand, AvN's screen writing, while bad and boring, was nowhere near as horrible as Dr. Z's constant monologuing and lack of backstory.  So, a point for bad plot to AvN, and a point to Dr. Z for bad screenwriting.

Category 2: Characters

AvN's characters.  Wow.  These guys were such stereotypes that I can't tell if they're Japanese or American ones.  They could be either.  You've got the really skilled lead character, a ninja named Yamata.  Apparently he's like a half-blood or an outcast or something, but since they don't bother at any point to explain what that is or why it's relevant, I don't care.  Then there's the feminist stereotype #2, the bungling cowardly idiot (why the crap don't they kick him out of the ninja order?!  Tell me!!), the side character/best friend who gets his brain taken over, the gay guy, and a crap ton of redshirts.

In case you're wondering, a feminist stereotype #1 is your generic action hero girl who is out to prove that women are always "equal to" (better than) men, and doesn't need a man's help to do anything, including open a jar of pickles.  A feminist stereotype #2 is a strong chick who is there to support women in name only; she's either trashy and/or treated as a mere sex object by the director.  Crap, there's this one fight scene where the chick fought an alien, and it was disgusting how much unnecessary innuendo was in that.  I mean, they were trying hard to make it disgusting.  This is the kind of thing that makes me hate feminists.  Where the crap are they when you need them?

I hated all the characters in this, other than the cool master.  The master of the ninjas was actually a pretty good actor, though he was only in the movie a short time before the entire village was murdered off and their body parts spread all over the ground randomly.  The movie at no point gave us enough background or interest in the characters, so when they died we had no real reason to care about them.  In fact, besides the three main characters, everyone was pretty annoying.  Either that or had no lines.

Like I said before, in Dr. Z, none of the good guys were interesting.  They didn't have anything to say that was relevant.  The marine biologist Rex has a plot as a black guy who went to college and is now doing pretty well for himself, but that backstory only serves to give probably racist Sheriff Krantz some hilariously bad lines.  Actually, it's to Dr. Z's credit that Krantz has these lines, because it means he's pretty much the only interesting character in the story.  There's also Martha Walsh and Walker Stevens, who play these scientists who come in and investigate.  They apparently have like a romance or something going on, but this is only explained in one scene where they kiss.  In other scenes, no romantic actions at all are ever taken: no looking at each other, no showing concern, and no flirting.

Worst of all is the mad scientist himself.  Most of the time he just kinda wanders around, doing weird stuff.  He offs a few people he had pictures of on his wall, takes drugs, kills a kid, watches the scientists kissing, and stumbles around.  Oh, and this story has a feminist stereotype #2 as well: a random chick that swims around in a bikini until she's kidnapped and forced into becoming another fish monster, only it doesn't work and she dies.

So, yeah.  To be honest, AvN's characters annoyed me more.  Then again, Dr. Z's characters were so boring.  Hm.  Well, boring isn't as bad as annoying (in this particular case), and the sheriff was funny to laugh at.  The marine biologist was okay.  It looks like AvN gets the point here.

Category 3: Set and Sound

I guess the sounds were okay in AvN.  Actually, they had lots of gross and disgusting sounds, but they matched the general action/gore of the film so if I'm going to complain about that I'll do it in a different category.  The music was good, except for this song with weird lyrics.  It was one of those ones that only makes sense in Japanese, but I like those.  Nothing in this department to criticize.

In Dr. Z, the soundtrack was so dang weird.  Some parts it made sense, but other parts it was just off.  Some parts just had really annoying bleeps and bloops going on.  Z gets the point on this one.

Category 4: Costumes

I cannot stand any of the costumes in AvN.  First of all, the ninja outfits look cheap.  Secondly, the girl's costume is only there to emphasize her woman parts.  The helmet they stuck on the annoying guy was so stupid.  I have to admit, I really like the master's costume, and he actually looks pretty cool in it.  Everyone else?  They look like extras on live action Sailor Moon episodes.  That's not a compliment.  The alien costumes were fine for the apparently limited budget they had.

Dr. Leopold looks like a clumsy, furry, sea horse-ish thing in his costume.  It's so dang lame.  As bad as it is, it doesn't really bother me that much because I enjoy ghetto things.  It's sort of like Godzilla in a way.  Then again, this costume is far worse than the Godzilla puppet.

Thing is, the other costumes were just regular clothes.  In fact, the girl in there wore a dress that I very much want for myself.  No big deal.

So, cheap crap versus one bad monster suit.  AvN gets the point, simply because most of the characters are affected.

Category 5: Cinematography/Editing

AvN is mostly fine in this category.  You can tell that the film was cheap, and it's sort of annoying at first, but it's not that big a deal in the end.  The editing for FS2's fight with the alien was garbage.  Generally though, you can tell what's going on.  Since there's virtually no backstory at all, you don't even need to bother it having it dubbed in english.  Just watch the mind-numbing action and try not to be bored/grossed out of your mind.

This is the category which takes Dr. Z from a horrible movie to the worst movie ever.  Monster Leopold is constantly jumping from place to place doing random things.  At one point he's watching that film's FS2, then he kills a guy, then he suddenly is back with the girl, deciding to kidnap her.  The rest of the movie is edited just as badly, and you don't even have a clue what happens when or why it matter.  And then, for some stupid reason, there are random videos of sea creature faces at several points.  Crab, fish, shark...they just show up when Leopold is killing somebody or monologuing or changing himself into the monster in the first place.

Dr. Z gets the point.  It gets five points.  Holy Crap.

Category 6: Action

If you like stupid action, you might actually like AvN's action.  It was, however, very stupid.  Admittedly, I have a hard time caring about normal action. Unless I care about who is on screen, I don't care about fighting.  It's boring to me.  Given that AvN has no backstory at all, I care nothing about the fight or who is fighting.  It says I should care because the aliens are baddies, but honestly, I can't relate to anyone in the movie at all.

Also, it's cheesy.  AvN goes for the lowest, cheapest fighting.  It's the kind of fighting that's not about actual skill, but the grossest kills and the biggest computer generated stunts.  Boring!  That's one reason why the Star Wars prequels were such bullcrap when it came to fight scenes.  There was so much computer crap and so little reality that it was pretty much impossible to give a crap about what was going on.  I've seen a food fight more interesting than this mess.  They might as well be dancing ballet or something.

Dr. Z, on the other hand, has very little action at all.  It shows Leopold kidnapping the bikini clad FS2, him killing a couple of guys that pissed him off, and some dumb fighting with the good guys near the end.  Not only is there very actual fighting, what fighting there is remains dull, awkward, and nowhere near as scary as the movie needed.

Dr. Z gets the point here.  As worthless as AvN's fighting was, at least they tried to make the aliens and ninjas intimidating.

Category 7: Sensitivity and Offensiveness

This is a weird category.  First of all, by sensitivity, I mean how negatively sensitive people are affected by the movie.  Certain people, myself included, can't watch or read just anything.  Some people are just more sensitive to plot than others.  I mean, all fiction impacts every mind in one way or another, but some people are just less affected.  It can be because they're more stubborn, less artistic, or not particularly spiritual.

I'll explain it another way.  Have you ever read something, watched something, or listened to some music that just made you feel dirty or disgusted?  Did you ever see a show that just creeped you out and got stuck in your head, refusing to go away?  If you answered yes to these, you're likely a more sensitive person.

If you say no, this doesn't apply to you as much.  I will say movies and such do affect even you because they get you to think about certain issues or ideas, but you're probably not going to have serious problems from watching weird stuff.

That being said, I felt pretty sick after watching both of these.  Just the sheer, disgusting gore of AvN made me want to puke.  Like I said, it went for the cheapest gore and scares, all while not at all taking life seriously. Crap, if you want me to care about these ninjas, don't treat them like alien chew toys.  I realize that movies are a visual medium, but some things are perfectly appropriate to be left to the imagination.  It's even better that way. For the movie UHF, this one crazy guy decided to teach poodles to fly by throwing them out the window.  The movie was funnier without showing the poodles hit the ground (no poodles were harmed in the making of that movie).

As for Dr. Z, I felt pretty sick after watching that the first time too.  This movie has a depressing view on life, particularly the horrible ending, which I will get into later.  Neither does this movie value life, as all of the main cast ends up dead.  I think a couple of extras lived, but that's about it.

A lot of people mistake sensitivity for being offended.  I'm not particularly offended by AvN's action, it just makes me want to vomit and...hurts me on the inside.  I don't know how to explain it other than to say it's like pollution in my heart.  That sounds nuts, doesn't it?  Anyway, be graceful if some people don't like movie violence.  It's not bad because people are offended, people are offended because it's bad.

AvN gets the point here.  As sick and freaky as Dr. Z was, there's just about no way it could compare to the gorefest and cheapness of the ninja movie.

Category 8: Acting

AvN's acting was atrocious.  Everything was overacted and extremely hammy.  Good acting makes a person forget that they're watching a movie.  That being said, the only actor who pulled me into the worthless and inch deep plot of this mess was the master, and he was only there (and indeed alive) for one scene.  Everyone else was a stereotype, without even bothering to try to give their character depth.  This is the essence of "paint by numbers" plot.  Everything is laid out.  Can't the actors at least try to give their characters depth?  Pretty please?

I actually think that writing was a worse problem in Dr. Z than acting.  Dr. Leopold's actor has no excuse, however.  He did a terrible job.  Before he changed, he was unconvincing as a scientist, and afterwards he was weak portraying a monster.  Atrocious.

The other actors weren't that bad.  If the writing was better, Rex's and the Sheriff's actors would have done just fine.  The other scientists were dull, but again for them it's more the fault of the writing.  Well, I can't excuse them much, because they were pretty awkward and boring.  Every other actor in this stinker was a glorified extra, including the scientists Dr. Z actually wanted revenge on, so it has at least that in common with AvN.

AvN gets the point here.  Dr. Z almost earns it through Dr. Leopold's actor alone (the movie does depend on him), but that movie at least has two non-annoying actors in it.  Can't be said for AvN.

Category 9: The Ending

This is the category that separates the crap from the extreme crap.

So Alien vs. Ninja's ending.  Well, can't you guess it?  Everything else about the movie is perfectly predictable and cheap.  Likewise is the ending.  First of all, the lone survivor of a alien-destroyed village is a young boy, and he is rescued.  At the ending, the ninjas finally kill off all the aliens, and the three of them go arm and arm through the woods, happily disregarding the facts that they no longer have a home, their clan is completely slaughtered, and those three ninjas are the only three left in their order.  The other clan of ninjas will probably end up taking over.

They are being followed by a young boy that found them after his village was destroyed.  We find out that he is being mind controlled by the aliens, or possibly just allied with them, or maybe is one of them in disguise.  The alien thingie that's supposed to be down his throat is in a bag.  Still pretending to be a good guy, the boy tags along with the ninjas, then the credits roll.

I can't say "meh" enough times so I'm not going to try.

Dr. Z's  This is the extreme crap I was talking about.  First of all, the Sheriff ends up being killed by Dr. Z, and so does Rex.   Rex was trying to save Marsha from being turned into a monster, but while her body remains human, her mind is still messed up.  Rex dies without knowing what happens to her or anyone else.

Walker, who was chasing Dr. Z and is bit by a snake as he does so, ends up finally shooting Dr. Leopold.  Leopold was at the beach with these two unexplained capsule thingies that were supposed to do something that the audience isn't told.  These things get pulled into the water.  As Walker is on the beach trying not to die, Marsha passes him by, walking into the water like a zombie.  No matter how much Walker calls her name, she just keeps on going, presumably drowning.  In fact, the only people who survive this movie are random extras.

The ending point goes to Dr. Z.  Not only can you not figure out what's going on, but when you kill off the entire cast in the most tortuous way plot allows....dang.  Just dang.

So anyway, which of these movies earns the title of "Worst Movie As Yet Seen by GrimMoody"?  The "winner" is...


...Tropic Thunder!  This movie is about as funny as dog poop, with shoddy acting, bad plot, and nobody who deserves to die actually dies.  I was hoping that the producer would get killed, but he never did.  It's a bunch of stupid, perverted mess that thinks it's something because it's got big namers in it.  The previews had me fooled, but the one joke that was all over the previews ended up petering out and being lame.

Honestly, the other movies may be bad, but nobody actually likes those.  How many of you heard of Blood Waters of Dr. Z before reading this or watching the Mystery Science Theater episode?  No one who has seen it thinks it's good.  Aliens vs, Ninjas is just one of those little niche movies that only nerdier people who actually enjoy stupid violence will watch.  Even those people don't think AvN is necessarily a good movie.  They just like it for what it is, fully aware of its stupidity and shortcomings.

Tropic Thunder, however, makes me ashamed of humanity.  I'm very sorry that such a movie was made at all, and that so many people actually liked it.  Those people have no taste whatsoever.  This movie has no redeeming qualities, but is simply a collection of the dumbest, lowest of all jokes.  Doesn't Hollywood know that the world judges us by our stupid movies?

I hope that the Hollywood movie machine gets a serious rehaul.  It sucks.  So many things produced today are throwaway movies only made for quick cash.  There's not going to be a "Gone with the Wind" or "Terminator" any time soon.  They're too busy making "The Last Avatar" and "Suckerpunch", as well as other stupid bullcrap that has no depth and never should have seen the light of day, other than on Mystery Science Theater.

I wish people wouldn't like all that crap.  Geez, humanity, what's your deal?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Nitpickery --- Robo Cop versus Source Code

Hey y'all.

So last night I watched Source Code with my boyfriend, and you know what?  I like the movie.  Too many movies these days just go for the lowest common denominator, for the cheapest laugh and the simplest themes.  It's a disease of modern movies, and very few movies are free from modernity.  Unfortunately, this one isn't completely free, but yet it shines through and stands out as a really entertaining movie.

One thing I did before seeing the movie was watch Robo Cop, and I've noticed a parallel between both.  I'm really going to have to be spoilerific to explain why I see this parallel.  I'm going to do a straight, non-spoiler review of Source Code first, then get into Robo Cop and how they compare.  I'll warn you before I do this, so if you don't want Source Code spoiled then don't read it.  Honestly, Source Code is not a movie that should be spoiled.  I highly recommend not reading the second half of this blog if you haven't seen it.

So, spoiler free.  Source Code is an entertaining movie about a guy who is sent back...not in time, per say, but sent into the last eight minutes of one of the lives of a train bombing victim.  He has to figure out who bombed the train so that it won't happen again.  This is a great premise well executed, with a great cast.  I'm not really a Gyllenhaal fan, but he did a great job in this role.  I believed him in this role.

The character I had trouble believing in was a side character, the secondary antagonist Dr Rutledge.  He's one of these guys that's in charge of sending Gyllenhaal's character back, and he just comes across as an extremely fake stereotype.  He's selfish in a completely two dimensional way.  Writer people, be aware: evil people have hearts, their hearts are just demented, twisted, self-righteous, or entirely centered around themselves.  There is no one that exists that does not have a heart.

I'm honestly not sure if it's the actor Jeffrey Wright to blame or the writers, but either way it's like watching a....well, I was going to say a cartoon, but cartoon villains are more believable.  This guy's greed and iron-fisted control of the organization is ineloquent, and if he were a real person nobody would genuinely trust him. It's too easy to see how much of a jerk he is, and thus no one in his organization, or in the audience of this movie, has any reason to trust him or believe in his two-faced platitudes.

Alright, I love nitpicking, but let's talk about some good stuff.  I love the structure of this movie, how they can make it very interesting even though it's partially the same thing over and over again.  Watching Jake's character Colter figure out where the bomb is and who the bomber is feels very wonderful and natural.  It's heavy on the melodrama, but as the movie continues, the melodrama starts to really work.  I totally dig the ending, which is perfectly satisfying with just a hint of unsettled issues.  But you know what?  Unsettled issues are okay.  Storytelling is all about answering certain questions and leaving others up in the air, and this movie knows which is which.

However, I do have to call them out, because I guessed the bad guy within the first twenty minutes, and I figured out most of the ending well before the end.  Maybe I should just let that go, because it really didn't hamper my enjoyment of this movie.  I was totally crying in the theater near the end.  It's very emotional, and you'll really like it if you let yourself.

I found the character of Christina, played by Michelle Monaghan, to be slightly cheesy (what in the world makes India such a dang good place to find yourself?  You're more likely to get lost in their religiousity), but she's a very heartfelt character, and she does the job well of being a somewhat down on her luck sweetheart that you do not want to die in the train explosion.

I can't really talk much about the villain without spoiling anything, but he does a very good job and you can feel his emotions with sickening clarity.  Crafty, crafty job.

So, some complaints about this film is that I feel like a lot of the neutral victims on the bus are trying too hard to be normal people.  They're trying to hard to be the cranky businessman, the snarky comedian, the college student, etc.  It's like they're trying to play specific roles on the train rather than just be natural.  It's not a big deal, but it's a thing that irritates me in movies.

Also, the chick that works with Colter, Goodwin, feels a lot like a stereotype.  Not a life stereotype, but one in the movies.  Again, I can't get spoilerific, but her morals are very movie-ish, the kind that Hollywood types want to shove down your throat and accuse you of being a soulless jerk if you don't agree with.  This is the modernity I was talking about.  Goodwin combined with Jeffery Wright's character make up simplistic agents of a theme that's in a lot of movies, but isn't too overly presented in this one to the point that it ruins the movie.

That theme is self preservation over self sacrifice.  You may have noticed this in other works, like that one Bruce Willis was in with these people that told the future, or that one episode of Voyager where a child used to bring a virus to the Borg is told that it's okay to not forgive your parents for putting you in that situation.

I'm not going to go on about this yet.  Just to sum it up, Source Code is a great movie with a great plot structure and pretty good writing.  It understands human emotion very well, and has created a good scientific background without trying to cram two tons worth of data and technobabble into the mix.  You will enjoy this movie.

Best actor: Jake Gyllenhaal.  He carries this movie to an excellent extent, making it very believable.  You feel his emotions and want him to do well, which is exactly what a movie should do.

Score: 7/10.

People who should watch this:
Movie cynics
Science fiction fans
Thriller fans
People who want dramatics and emotion.

Okay!  I'm going to go into Robo Cop now, and I have to warn you, by comparing these movies I will be spoiling both, though I'm sure you're more worried about Source Code spoiling.

Seriously!  If you haven't seen it, don't read on!

I warned you!

Does anyone actually pay attention to spoiler alerts?


Robo Cop came out in 1987, and it is a far, far darker movie.  The violence is more explosive (figuratively and literally), and there are about four sympathetic characters in the entire movie of cynical, bitter, and villainous characters.  I honestly sort of love that about this movie, because when an audience is confronted with this kind of evil, a lot of the times their natural reaction is to try and resist it with inner beauty and light.  Or they just sympathize with the bitter view and follow along with the story more deeply.

The story goes that cop Alex Murphy is killed, and his body is taken by OCP, the corporation that bought the police, and is used to become RoboCop, the new law enforcement officer that is stronger and better.  The story follows along his path to recovering his memories of the past, and not only stopping the evil man that murdered him (played extremely well by Kurtwood Smith), but also stopping the OCP man that controls him.

This OCP man is Dick Jones, and he's a corporate number 2 that really wants his own robot law enforcement robot to work.  Sadly, his invention is ineloquent, violent, and shot an innocent coworker.  Thus the guy in charge of the Robo Cop program wins the attentions of their boss, one of the sympathetic figures.

This movie is bitter.  Bitter like a Turkish coffee sans any form of sugar or cream.  It's cynical.  The news is all about war and death, the popular television show is about a creepy old guy surrounded by brainless hot women ("I'd buy that for a dollar!"), and Chicago is full of crime and gangsters.  The only form of innocence in this movie is the love shown in Alex's brief memories of his past life.  This film is artfully shot, and very much a dark eighties film.

Here's where the comparisons and contrasts come up.  Source Code isn't at all dark.  It's grim at points, but it has the view that life is grand and is to be enjoyed.  It tells you to escape darkness. Robo Cop's view is that the whole world is dark and violent, but the ending of it makes it very clear: there is hope, and we can fight to make this world what we want it to be, if we find the right people to trust (Robo Cop versus ED-209, Dick Jones versus his caring boss, Ordinary cops versus Robo Cop's creator).

The main reason I wanted to compare the two, besides having watched both yesterday, was that they both deal with the theme of self-sacrifice.  Jake's Colter (here we go spoiler) is actually a soldier who died in Afganistan.  The entire reason why he can work with the source code that enables him to see the last remaining essence of those that died on the train is because there's only a smaller portion of his brain still alive, as well as an assortment of organs.  He gave up having a relationship with his father to go on his last deployment, because he loved his unit and wanted to help them win.

Alex Murphy gave up his past life, including his loving wife and adorable son.  He barely remembers them even at the end of the movie, and it's heart wrenching to see.  The main difference between these two characters is this: RC had no choice but to become a cyborg, but in the end he gave in and decided to become the best cop he could.  He genuinely wanted to help people, and he must have understood that it was too late to save his old life.

Colter, on the other hand, doesn't come to this point.  We never find out if his choice was willing or not (it probably wasn't, but we don't know for sure -- the guy was heroic), but he instead wants to die rather than go on working for the source code projects.   He has to be convinced to save the people on the train (apparently this is the first time the whole idea of going back was really invented), and even then he wants his life support cut off after he's finished.  He spends a lot of his eight minute shifts on the train looking after his own life and trying to figure out what happened to him rather than helping them find the terrorist.

Now, they want you to sympathize with him, and I honestly do.  I'm just irked at the self-centeredness of it all.  Maybe it's because I'm raised on things like Robo Cop and The Chronicles of Narnia (the books, not the stupid movies), but it seems strange to me that his first concern isn't the innocent people that could die if the bomber isn't found.  The characters around him, like Goodwin and Rutledge, are engineered to make the theme say it's right for him to want to die and escape the life of a source code worker.

I personally feel like it is indeed Colter's choice to live as a source code jumper or not.  The people should have been very honest and clear with him about what happened to him and what his life would be like in the program before the whole train situation happened.  My thing is, I really miss the days when people would say, "well, this sucks for me, but since I can help a lot of people now, I'm all for it".  Movies don't just take from culture, they give into it, filling it with themes and making people look at things a specific way.

What people seem to forget is that movies aren't real.  They claim to remember this, but when you ask them about self-sacrifice, they'll point to this movie and refer to Colter's specific situation as proof of their point, even though this never happened and probably never will.  They also use fictional Christians as the foundation for the belief that all Christians suck, but that's a story for another day.

Yes, the dude in charge was a jerk and nobody was honest with Colter, but there's still a point in everyone's life where they've got to realize this: the secret of life is everyone else.  If you want to be a good singer, you have to make songs that people identify with, not self-serving bullcrap that only ends up making sure modern pop music stays dead (I'm lookin' at you, Gaga).  If you want to write a good story, you have to write toward people's hearts and/or minds.  Other people make your work a bestseller, not yourself.  Heroes are people that save others, not themselves.  All I want is for Hollywood to remember this, and that seeking the best end for yourself is not the goal.

Yeah, Source Code ends with Colter becoming the man he's been pretending to be on the train, and depending on how you look at it (this movie never clarifies, which it shouldn't) he either stopped the train bombing from ever happening or he's living in an alternate universe where he stopped it from happening.  In a way it's a satisfying ending, but for that theme.

At the end of the day, I think I like this movie because it's not violent like Robo Cop, and it's not bitter.  However, Robo Cop is a better movie because it has better themes, artful cinematography, and more realistic characterization.  At least it's better in a sense of art.  If you just want a more relaxing and less violent film, Source Code is the way to go.  Still, watching either one is a good time.