Posts Tagged ‘guitar

24
Jan
09

REPO! The Genetic Opera Review (Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman of SAW fame)

Badass.  Digging the Communist theme.

Badass. Digging the Communist theme.

Repo! The Genetic Opera is the brainchild of Darren Lynn Bousman, who most of you know as one half of the team that made SAW such an immensely popular and lucrative franchise, and buddy Terrance Zdunich, who is mainly a storyboard artist working on movies and TV shows.

Here’s a quick snapshot of the plot.

In the year 2056 – the not so distant future – an epidemic of organ failures devastates the planet. Out of the tragedy, a savior emerges: GeneCo, a biotech company that offers organ transplants, for a price. Those who miss their payments are scheduled for repossession and hunted by villainous Repo Men. In a world where surgery addicts are hooked on painkilling drugs and murder is sanctioned by law, a sheltered young girl searches for the cure to her own rare disease as well as information about her family’s mysterious history. After being sucked into the haunting world of GeneCo, she is unable to turn back, as all of her questions will be answered at the wildly anticipated spectacular event: The Genetic Opera. Written by Lionsgate

If there’s one thing that is grossly apparent right off the bat, it’s that Bousman and Zdunich have a lot of respect and love for cult classics such as Rocky Horror Picture Show and also seem influenced by more elegant and classic opera works such as Phantom of the Opera.  There’s even a bit of The Who’s rock opera Tommy in there.  It’s no shock that the mind that helped push the SAW franchise forward would be able to create a Gothic, dystopian future, but credit must be given for slick, yet earthly atmosphere embedded in the sometimes hallucinogenic visuals of the film.  It looks great, period.

Bousman manages to keep the narrative moving along swiftly with great focus, even while dealing with the difficult medium of opera.  That’s right kids, an opera where no word of dialogue is ever simply “said.”  Unlike musicals, where there can be breaks in between musical passages to drive the story home with normal movie dialogue, Bousman ensures that every word is “sung”, which can be very awkward at first when your not expecting it.  It’s difficult to accurately describe, but once you see and hear it you will clearly understand what obstacles must have popped up from this bold and daring choice.  Other than that, Bousman also unleashes some incredibly awesome graphic novel panels to fill us in VERY quickly of a particular characters background.

Paul Sorvino and his shotgun-wielding ninja chick bodyguards.

Paul Sorvino and his shotgun-wielding ninja chick bodyguards.

It may be a tricky type of film to make, but Bousman is a razor-sharp horror producer and director, and knew that if he brought in the right talent, he would have a chance to lure in a slew of fans regardless of the experimental nature of the film.  Paris Hilton (Super Global Slut) , Anthony Head (Giles from the Buffy TV Series), Sarah Brightman (acclaimed opera/classical singer and once married to Lloyd Weber who wrote Phantom of the Opera), Bill Moseley (Of House of 1,000 Corpses and The Devils Rejects fame) and Paul Sorvino round out the eclectic nucleus of the cast.  Terrance Zdunich also has a fairly large role as the Graverobber, and steals the show with his “Zydrate Anatomy” song.  The cast is, like so many aspects of this brave venture into total cult cinema, uneven throughout, with those who can sing clearly being more enjoyable and tolerable than those who can’t, with Alexa Vega and Bill Moseley probably being the two biggest culprits.  Hopefully the star power and notoriety brought by those actors outweighs the damage they have done by simply being the weak links vocally.

Sarah Brightman definitely has some bitchin' pipes.  And she's kinda sexy, in that scary way.  She probably a goddamn witch in real life.

Sarah Brightman definitely has some bitchin' pipes. And she's kinda sexy, in that scary way. She's probably a goddamn witch in real life.

Which leads me to my assessment of the acting itself, which again can be easily defined as uneven.  While some amount of over and under acting is perfectly acceptable in horror, especially in something this theatrical and over the top, but sometimes the cartoon like personalities crossed the line between tasteful and embarrassingly out of place.  At times the actors would play very serious, as if this carried the same weight as The Phantom of the Opera, and at other times it was clear everyone was having fun and things were much more airy and carefree.  I waited for the flick to settle down, and choose a definite mood and direction, but it never did, as it gleefully jumped back and forth between trying to be emotionally heavy and serious, and being grin-worthy, funny and lightweight.  Maybe I am reading to much into something that can’t truly be defined, but I would have loved to see some lines drawn pertaining to acceptable behavior from all characters, as you would with any other film.

She got the creepy, goggley eyes.  Burn at the stake, you kinda-sexy witch.

She's got the creepy, googly eyes. Burn at the stake, you kinda-sexy witch.

The final piece of the Repo puzzle is one that isn’t a very common problem in movies, the soundtrack.  That’s not to say all movies has great soundtracks, but they also don’t rely as heavily as Repo does on its’ music.  So how does the song selection hold up?  Take a guess.

UNEVEN.

Some of the songs, like Zydrate Anatomy and Legal Assassin knock it completely out of the park, while others are either too short or too gimmicky to be considered truly great. While taste is bound to vary from viewer to viewer, I felt the music was acceptable, but could’ve benefitted from maybe one or two ballads complete with verses, chorus, and a bridge and a few more rock and roll anthems.

There's also some gore, which is very well done, but used very rarely.

There's also some gore, which is very well done, but used very rarely.

I, like so many of you, have waited for years, eagerly anticipating this movie to be released in any format, anywhere.  And while it may look and sound like I have nothing but negative things to say about Repo!, I feel it’s a case of me being exceptionally critical of a piece of work I felt had all ingredients to really show the world how versatile the “horror” genre can truly be.  Repo is by no means a failure, but instead comes off as a combination of over-indulgence and lofty ambitions.  It succeeds at what it aimed to do, but the cost for achieving that goal may be a dent in Bousman’s reputation, depending on how this is received in the community.  There’s no doubt in my mind that this vehicle can be used to create an amazing, genre-bending film, but Repo! isn’t that flick.

There’s a lot of psychotropic, semi-gory fun to be had with Repo!, but it’s kinda like looking for a 20 dollar bill in your friends extremely messy room, you know it’s worth it to look, but your gonna have to sift through some shit to get what you want.

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07
Dec
08

Guitar Hero World Tour – Xbox 360

Guitar Hero World Tour

Guitar Hero World Tour

Everyone knows that Horror and Heavy Metal are made for each other. It’s a fact! So being able to sit in your bedroom with a miniature plastic guitar and play along to songs from Metallica and Ozzy Osbourne – to name but two – is something of a wet dream cum true.

That’s my lame excuse to justify my review of Guitar Hero World Tour…

Guitar Hero World Tour is the fourth game in the Guitar Hero franchise. And certainly one of the most elaborate. I played a fair bit of Guitar Hero III which (I believe) was one of the first guitar games to use motion capture technology to capture the performances of Brett Michaels, Tom Morello and Slash (they were also the ‘bosses’ that you had to beat in a duel) but Guitar Hero World Tour (aka: GHWT because I’m too lazy to keep typing the full name for the entire review) has upped the ante with motion captured Ozzy, some drummer guy that I’ve never seen before, Sting (no, I’m not kidding, it has Sting in it. Maybe they were strapped for cash after getting Ozzy and went for some lower priced talent, I dunno, but he looks totally out of place) and Jimi Hendrix, I’d be interested to know how they got the motion capture for him (just kidding). GHWT is also the first game, in the series, to include Bass, Drum and Vocal tracks for players to use, hence the inclusion of motion captured drummer-guy and Sting. So, yeah, you can terrorize your neighbourhood with a plastic drum kit too! Yay!

Just a side note about the instruments: I played GHWT with no problems at all using my GHIII guitar.

Why would GUITAR Hero include other instruments? Because it has begotten a bastard son, named: Rock Band. It was the first game to use several instruments and a serious rival to GHIII, so GHWT really had to include other instruments to keep up with Rock Band 2. So there’s also Rock Band 2 to satisfy your finger twiddling delight, but for me the song list in GHWT is far superior.

Speaking of songs: this is also the first guitar game to use the original songs in the game, 86 songs to be exact. Guitar Hero III had some original tracks, but some were recreations of the original, but for the most part they sounded ok. Here it’s the real deal. For a full song list from GHWT, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_songs_in_Guitar_Hero_4, just be aware though: that isn’t the order in which you play the songs. It starts off nice and easy and increases in difficulty. Even when you’ve completed all 86 songs, there’s a ton of downloadable content including the entire Death Magnetic album from Metallica, oh how they’ve changed their tune since Napster. It also has a built in music editor for creating your own music! AAAAAND it can also use XboxLive to exchange songs and do musical battle with. If they could include an option for it to give out slippery hand-jobs, it’d be the greatest thing since the invention of the sex doll.

Anyway, I digress. You start the game by deciding which instrument you want to play, then create your guitar hero (or drum hero, whichever). Like GHIII, you start by playing dingey, smokey, clubs and work your way up. Along the way you must battle musical greats such as Zak Wylde, Jimi Hendrix, Sting, Ozzy Osbourne and drummer-guy. You can begin by playing on the Easy setting (using only three out of the five buttons) and unlocking songs along the way. When you’re ready, you can move up to the more advanced settings using four, and eventually all five, buttons. Don’t worry, you can also practice songs too (once they are unlocked) section by section to get it nailed. Scoring is done by not missing any notes and by using your ‘star power’. Some notes will be star shaped, play the entire string of star notes and you get one star power. When you reach three, four, or five, stars you can unleash your star power which will increase your score for the length of the power, more stars means a longer star power.

Good as it is, GHWT does have a couple of little flaws:

  • Tool. The band Tool, that is. There’s a section of four Tool songs that look totally out of place. Why not scatter the songs throughout the game? Why do I have to play four boring Tool songs in a row? And why does the background need to have a large eye with little floaty eye things? Every other section shows the stage with the musicians doing their thang, for the Tool section its some weird trippy looking background.
  • Sting. What the hell is he doing in a rock/metal game? I hope he was cheap!
  • The last section of the game. This is where the creators obviously wanted their monies worth from using Sting, Ozzy and drummer-guy. For the last section it wheels them out and, including yourself, is the ultimate band. Fair enough. Not so bad you think. Yeah, great until you see Ozzy dancing and singing La Bamba! Then have Sting headbang to Trapped Under Ice (Metallica)! Utter madness.
  • The end. The game doesn’t have a story as such, but still, I won’t spoil what happens at the end but, suffice to say: it’s completely out of place, surreal, and could easily have had a Dio song in the background… odd, VERY odd…

But even with those flaws, GHWT is still an awesome game! I’m no guitar virtuoso by any means, but I’ll certainly be going back to it again and again to play the songs and up the skill level.

For more background info and history on GHWT: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guitar_Hero_World_Tour