Monday, June 25, 2007

1408 Big Sixties Hits!

I watched John Waters' Hairspray with my family on Saturday night, and it was a quality flick. Just the right mix of styles--some broad, physical comedy (see the pimple-popping scene or Waters' own cameo as a bizarre psychologist), quirky oddity (the best friend's reaction to seeing her pal on the television for the first time), and social commentary (the entire race plot).

Waters looks beyond the sociocultural "norms," incorporating a drag queen, interracial relationships, the obese (one of whom gets the cute guy), and should be commended for it. You can have all your Snakes on a Planes and Grindhouses, but they're kitschy for the sake of kitsch. Waters has camp down to an artform, and he manages to make salient points throughout his film while still managing to be bizarrely entertaining.

I may have been the only one in the room to enjoy it.

On the video game front, I've still been using my Playstation 2. I popped in the movie tie-ins, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. These games are particularly well-made and replayable--especially for movie tie-ins, which are usually made on the cheap. EA Games has gone all out to make your time an enjoyable experience.

In Two Towers, you battle your way through classic scenes from the first two LOTR pictures, playing as Aragorn, Legolas, or Gimli. In Return of the King, your entourage expands to include Gandalf and the four Hobbits as you fight your way through a mishmash of scenes that could have happened in the latter two films.

The games function very much like Gauntlet if you've ever played that. Hack-and-slash tactics will net you experience points so that you can buy upgrades. The trade-off is that you lose Gauntlet's trademark goofy style (think transformation into a chicken, or a bombstic announcer) and gain familiar situations and voices from the popular film trilogy. The games are difficult. This is partially by design, and that's a good thing. It gives you reason to replay the game in order to build up enough upgrades to defeat further levels.

However, both games suffer from some unintentional difficulty, dealing mainly with glitchy graphics and bad camera angles. This is especially true of Return of the King, which leads me to believe that it was built not for gameplay, but to trump on the Two Towers game's (unexpected?) critical and financial success.

When you defeat the second game in the series, and advertisement appears for a Lord of the Rings Trilogy game, presumably in the same style. Unfortunately, this never came to pass. With enough invested time into the gameplay mechanics and engine, that could have been a fantastic game.

I can say just about the opposite for Resident Evil: Code Veronica X. I picked this up on the cheap years ago and didn't pop it into the PS2 until this past weekend. I couldn't make it past the first zombie without turning the system off in frustration (and even then, I tried for an hour...damn my stubbornness).

The controls are awful. Do you remember Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire for the Nintendo 64? A fairly good early 3D console shooter, no? Do you remember the entirely useless "Cinematic" camera angle option, which made controlling things nearly impossible? No? That is because nobody in their right mind used the fucking thing. This is what the controls are like for Code Veronica X. Unresponsive, unintuitive, and just plain annoying. Compound onto that should-be-simple movement component all of the other tasks required of you (i.e. fighting, aiming, etc.), and it's Bungtown--population you. I was disappointed, because I had heard so many good things about the Resident Evil franchise. I have a friend who is going to lend me some other games in the run, and hopefully that will restore my faith in the gaming public.

I've had Tenacious D's The Pick of Destiny in my car stereo this week. I never did get a chance to see the movie, and I'm not sure whether that's a good thing or a bad thing. On one hand, I'm completely lost as to the plot of the movie. Judging by the soundtrack, it's a coming-of-age story about a young man brought up in a Christian household, who must undergo a battle with Satan through "rock-off challenge." There's also apparently car chases, Sasquatch, and a magical guitar pick.

On the other hand, having not seen the movie has its perks. I'm left with brilliant non sequiturs which make little-to-no sense. Stuff about Ronnie James Dio and "deactivating lasers with [one's] dick." The stuff probably loses humor with context (and I'm not sure I want to see Jack Black's privates in action anyway). Still, lyrics or no, Tenacious D shows the same masterful use of rock instrumentation, melody, and harmony that made their initial offering a success. A definite recommendation.

Today I helped a friend move out of her place and then we caught a matinee of 1408. I thought it was an outstanding movie, until it ended and I realized that I didn't get it at all. And not in a makes-you-think, David-Lynch kind of way. Just in an extremely confusing (mind-bottling) kind of way.

As I said, my first impression was that it was great. My mind was racing the whole time. The performance was outstanding--and I say "performance" singular because this is John Cusack's movie--nobody else gets more than ten minutes. Samuel L. Jackson is given equal billing on the posters, but he turns in nothing but a glorified (albeit well-acted) cameo. It was genuinely a scary picture, and I can't say that I've been scared in a theater in a long time--probably since The Ring.

It's a shame then that it had to fizzle out. We're left with an ending that does nothing for the character, and which includes a twist on another key character which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. In fact, I would have liked this movie five times more if they had excised that particular twenty-second scene.

And now, for your reading pleasure: 1408 endings that would have been better than the ending to 1408.

1) John Cusack is rescued from room 1408 by a magical, winged Elvis impersonator.
2 through 1408) Etc.

1 comment:

Review the World said...

i've seen Tenacious D live twice -- they put on a really fun show..

really enjoyed reading the post..