Posts Tagged ‘rock

12
Feb
09

Friday the 13th: A Midnight Showing Fanboy Retrospective

Curse or Creative Genius?  We'll soon find out how well the Marquee player from the slasher genre holds up in modern day.

Curse or Creative Genius? We'll soon find out how well the Marquee player from the slasher genre holds up in modern day.

Good day to you, fellow Midnighters, and welcome to my first ever Retrospective piece here for Midnight Showing.  I want to handle this a little differently than most “retrospective” pieces I see on the Internet.  Instead of simply trying to impress you with my harmfully encyclopedic knowledge of this series and it’s many quirks and idiosyncrasies, I want to take a look at it from a relatively spoiler free perspective of a fan who is analyzing the overall impact of such a lucrative and beloved,  yet heavily criticized series that’s bread and butter was the apparent exploitation of sinful teenagers who just so happened to be fucking around with the wrong psychopathic serial killer.

And what a wonderful place to start.  The Friday the 13th series (which I will refer to as F13 for the rest of this piece since it’s much shorter and easier to type!) has become a source of ridicule and comparison.  Whenever a movie series begins to take a turn for the worst while cranking out sequels, everyone seems to jump to equate that failure, with the failure that was the endless stream of entries into multiple horror franchises in the 80’s.  Also, people in general (people in general meaning not fan-boys and horror geeks) seem to feel the movies have absolutely no value or merit, and serve only to fulfill a misogynistic, predatory sexual desire only experienced by guys usually aged 14 to 35.

The funny thing is, now a days dressing like a homeless manical serial killer is kind of an "in" look.

The funny thing is, now a days dressing like a homeless manical serial killer is kind of an "in" look.

For those who feel this way, do me a favor.  Got to your local movie theater on Thursday the 12 of February of 2009.  Get there about 11 o’ clock.  Stand in the parking lot, and see how many people go up to the ticket window and buy tickets to see F13.  Note how many of them are women.  You will then be prompted to SHUT THE FUCK UP by me.  The notion that F13 is some kind of soft-core porn for men who have trouble with women, is an asinine, paranoid delusion created largely in part by ultra-sensitive people with too much free time.  They claim its to protect their innocent children (who undoubtedly have porn underneath there bed mom doesn’t know about) from on-screen violence and the temptation of sex and drugs.  The irony of course, is that even back then in the 80’s and especially in today’s media, we glorify and report on death, rape, famine, disease, torture, executions and everything else that’s horrible and desensitizing.  Apparently, by many folks sense of logic, real death and other horrible acts of humanity are perfectly acceptable to be reported 24/7 on the news, but if we perhaps want to get scared a little, in a safe and communal environment such as  a movie theater and watch some dumbfounded teenagers fuck, do drugs, and get ripped to shreds by a masked iconic serial killer, to whom we relate to more than those dying on the news, we are bad people.  Apparently a lot of people who criticize the already marginalized horror genre don’t own any mirrors in their houses.

But before I dig any deeper into the messy pit that is morals and standards, let’s explore the soul of the series a bit.  F13 (the original) is actually more of a cautionary tale than anything else, it’s just told in such a where were relatively innocent teenagers (Hey, they smoked pot and had sex, so of course they are a little guilty) are brutally slain.  For those who haven’t seen the original F13, what I’m about to say will be a major spoiler, so now would be a good time to scroll down to the next paragraph or watch the goddamn movie, since it is still quite good.  The mother of Jason Voorhees is in fact the killer throughout the entire first film.  Although since you never see her, you just assume it’s Jason taking revenge for the negligence of the camp counselors who let him drown.  This twist should intrigue anyone looking to see the remake, as Jason is clearly visible in the trailers and commercials, yet it’s widely known he didn’t start his body count until Part 2.

Marijuana

Marijuana

+

sex

sex

=

Equals Death.

Equals Death.

So if F13 isn’t just useless trash spit out into the cinematic world by perverts, than what is it really?  Surely, it’s still a horror film, with the fact of whether or not it is actually scary still being hotly debated.  What I never hear in conjunction with F13 conversation and retrospectives is the fact that F13 was a movie made in a completely different time and social climate than the one we are currently in.  In the 80’s Reagan was president and he and his wife were trying desperately to clean up the world many saw as full of filth and sin.  The world’s major threats were Russians, not low-tech religious fanatics hiding in a cave in a desert of a 3rd world country.  Aids popped up, and subsequently scared the shit out of almost everyone.  All these factors, and about a million more, made the perfect breeding ground for escapism theater, a brand of movies that weren’t all based on history or current events, or even reality for that matter.  Even though F13 takes place at a very earthly and mundane looking summer camp, the idea that a undead, superhuman monster of a man, who seems fully grown by the time he makes his triumphant entrance in Part 2, can rise from the dead again and again to exact his bloody revenge against really anyone who gets in his way is quite out of the realm of possibility.

Why So Hockey?

Why So Hockey?

But it’s just that “unreal events in a familiar setting” that gets people all worked up.  Proper horror is all about taking something you may use or see or interact with in your life, and turning into a source of fear, tension, and discomfort.  The fact that because there is a certain amount of familiarity with something in the movie, in this case a normal summer camp in the woods, we can then use our imaginations and our disbelief to begin to believe how a place where so many have created cherished childhood memories, can turn into a labyrinth of pain, death, and mutilation.  The 80’s were chock full of repression, and from repression comes niche markets.  The aforementioned social climate saw a tidal wave of movies misdirecting our fear from the ones the nightly news we talking about, to indestructible bogeymen who can get us when we least expect it.  The only thing was, the niche was exploding at the seems, too much of a popular thing, and when niches become mainstream, they rarely remain the edgy, alternative , cathartic, and even experimental forms of entertainment they once were, they instead become just a vehicle for making a lot money.  F13 did have some surprisingly good sequels such as the ultra-violent and fast paced 4th entry (Friday the 13th The Final Chapter), which was originally slated to be the series finale, and the underrated 7th entry (Friday the 13th The New Blood) where Jason is confronted by some form of a meta-human with psychic powers who accidentally awakes him from his slumber (I call it slumber because it’s surely never death).  When it was all said and done though, most people didn’t see any of the newer entries as anything more than cannon-fodder for critics, porn for the perverse gore-hounds, and a cash cow for the big wigs pulling the strings.

Yet, there F13 sits, primed to make millions during one of the hottest movie going weekends of the year, Valentines Day Weekend.   Marcus Nispel and Michael Bay are directing and producing respectively.  This is the same tandem who delivered the Texas Chainsaw Massacre Remake back in 03, for what that knowledge is worth.  In the decade where Hollywood has completely abandoned any ability to create original content, especially within the horror genre, Jason Voorhees has been dug out of his 6 year nap, as Hollywood scrambles to put together a Reunion tour of sorts.  Michael Bay is surely kicking the tires on what once was a proud, thriving series to see if maybe now is the right to re-unleash the Camp Crystal Lake Slasher.

It will no doubt be financially successful, and will probably pay for itself within the first weekend, but I still feel uneasy.  Were less than 48 hours away from go time with the remake, and the Internet is buzzing, both good and bad.  Will my beliefs hold up?  Can a series that was at one point laughable, find a new home in the hearts of a new generation of film goers?

There’s only one thing I know for sure though.  It can’t be any worse than Rob Zombie’s Halloween.  Oh wait, fuck, what if it is?  Holy shit.  I need to lay down my head is starting to hurt.

Happy viewing this weekend fellow Midnighters, and do something nice for your girlfriend…oh wait who am I kidding, none of us have girlfriends.  But seriously, if you do, take them to see Friday the 13th.  They get all touchy feeling.  Trust Me.

Or just watch the recently released UNCUT version of the 1981 slasher sleeper hit My Bloody Valentine.

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.

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