Monthly Archives: October 2014

Curse of Chucky

CurseofChuckyPosterFiona Dourif as Nica Pierce
Danielle Bisutti as Barb Pierce
Brennan Elliott as Ian
Maitland McConnell as Jill
Summer H. Howell as Alice
Chantal Quesnel as Sarah Pierce
Brad Dourif as Chucky/Charles Lee Ray
Jennifer Tilly as Tiffany

Since many see the 1980s as the golden age of horror, it’s no wonder that the horror series of that decade keep getting rebooted. Hell, Halloween was rebooted twice. Most of these horror series deserved it. But some would say that Child’s Play didn’t. It was never a very scary series, even at its best. It was a niche series. Over the top and goofy. One could even argue that it was so bad it was good. Curse of Chucky is just plain bad.

Why? Let’s begin with the casting. Brad Dourif once again voices Chucky. You might also remember him as Grima Wormtongue in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Anyway, he does a decent job as the main antagonist of these movies. The rest of the cast is pretty bad but not much worse than the norm in this genre.

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I can’t. The obvious reason is that this scene makes fun of itself for me.

What is much worse than the norm is the gratuitous directorial gimmicks. Bits like an extreme close-up of dinner food show that director Don Mancini really went wild with this movie. I half-expected a circle wipe. This isn’t scary, just annoying.

Another problem is that the kills aren’t well-done. We have our first character dying in the movie’s opening minutes. So much for building up the suspense. Additionally, the kills that happen on camera are not very inventive, to say the least.

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Lack of blood with a removed eye?

And then there’s the complete and total lack of logic. I admit that horror movies stretch suspension of disbelief to the limit and beyond, but does that mean I can’t take notice of the fact that Chucky has trouble catching a girl in a wheelchair?

This version of Chucky is a tad tragic. That surprises me. The original portrayed his life before he became a living doll as that of a thug. No more, no less. This tragic background does add a little depth to the character, but only a little. It’s not really the most well-conceived and very little time is spent on it. Chucky knowing the magic spell that transfers his soul to a doll is still as hard to swallow as ever.

We have yet another ending that builds up to a sequel. Chucky actually emerges more or less triumphant. His girlfriend, Tiffany, makes a surprise appearance as the person who delivers him in packages to his soon-to-be victims. And the final seconds leave a mystery behind that only a sequel can solve.

Even though I don’t like Curse of Chucky, I have to admit that there’s a very real possibility that a sequel can work better. The directorial gimmicks can be toned down, the horror and kills can be better polished, and Chucky can be made a better horror villain like he was in the first two or three movies of this series.

Of course, it'll always be hard to be scared of a doll. But since this kid thought that, maybe I should take my criticism back.

Of course, it’ll always be hard to be scared of a doll. But since this kid thought that, maybe I should take my criticism back.

But for now, this is irrelevant. Curse of Chucky is a pretty weak horror film. It tries but doesn’t cut it in the end.

Overall: 3 out of 10

Alex Kidd in Miracle World

AlexKiddTitleBelieve it or not, there was a time when Sega’s mascot was not a certain blue hedgehog. Alex Kidd was Sega’s Mario for the Sega Master System. Although it sold very poorly despite actually lasting several years, this console retains a cult following. And I have to admit that there are some gems on the system, such as great ports of Ghouls ‘N Ghosts and Rampage, versions of the first two Sonic games that are very admirable in their own right, and of course, the first Phantasy Star, whose sequels on more advanced platforms would become the Master System’s most enduring legacy.

So why didn’t the Master System do well and why do few even remember it? Part of the reason was that once Nintendo found success, it rather unscrupulously put pressure on both stores and developers to exclude the competition. On the other hand, Sega did make its own mistakes. Although few seem to agree, I see one of them as being AKMW, arguably the Master System’s main game in its early days. In fact, a later model of the system would have this game built into it. It’s a good concept but suffers from awful controls.

Plot: 7 out of 10

How good a story do you expect from mid-’80s video games? On that level, this one is pretty good. There are regular updates to the story that reveal that Alex is a prince who was kidnapped as a child and separated from his birthright. We also learn that the bad guy, Janken, has kidnapped a Prince and Princess and turned many of their people to stone. Needness to say, Alex doesn’t stand for this. Dumb, but in 1986, kudos to Sega for taking the story beyond the manual.

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Well, except for some of the names. Seriously, Stone Head?

Graphics: 8 out of 10

I must say, the Master System’s reputation for being technologically inferior to even the NES is undeserved; in fact, the Master System actually had the better color palette. Accordingly, this game looks great! The sprite and background details compare favorably to most of the NES’ earliest games. I don’t know why so few Master System games looked this good. I assume it was because Nintendo’s efforts to keep programmers away from competitors meant that few other than Sega itself got much practice.

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Thanks to the time period it’s tough to make out what Alex is eating/drinking.

Sound: 6 out of 10

The music isn’t very catchy, I’m afraid. It’s acceptable but no more. Given that I have played Ghosts ‘N Goblins and the original Super Mario Bros. and that they predate this game, I believe that I have a fair frame of reference when I say that I’m not impressed with AKMW’s sounds.

Gameplay: 3 out of 10

This is my real beef with the game. It’s a platformer in which your main attack is a punch but you get some other temporary weapons along the way. Sounds good, right? Well, no. You see, the movement controls are extremely sensitive, resulting in you moving extremely fast, often into pits. I actually reset the game a couple times early on because if I knew mid-’80s gaming, AKMW wouldn’t have continues. Sure enough, when you run out of lives, that’s it, though apparently there’s a code that lets you use $400 to continue.

Truth be known, AKMW does have some unique features for its time. You can use money to buy the temporary weapons I was talking about, along with vehicles. And there is some impressive level design. The concept of both destroying and using boulders as platforms is pretty cool.

Is it even possible to lose your money in a bunch of boulders?

Is it even possible to lose your money in a bunch of boulders?

But you what? None of that changes the fact that the controls are atrocious. There’s virtually no working around something like that. Basically, it’s a deal breaker.

Challenge: 6 out of 10

The controls make this game frustrating, but the difficulty is quite respectable. One-hit kills (again, a frequent characteristic of mid-’80s games) and clever placement of enemies can keep you coming back. I can honestly say that this game would be hard even if the controls weren’t so bad.

Is there anyone in video games who can't swim?

Is there anyone in video games who can’t swim?

One awful thing is that some of the bosses don’t fight you. They just play games of Rock-Paper-Scissors with you in which the loser automatically dies. How lame. The fact that there are bosses that aren’t actually bosses goes to prove that this wasn’t the best-made game.

Overall: 5 out of 10

For those who think this is way too low, the awful controls tempted me to go lower. But the fact is that there’s enough good shit that crippled gameplay doesn’t do as much damage as it should to AKMW.

I know not if the sequels are any better, but this game is just OK. Actually, few of the Master System’s early games were anything to write home about, and I think that’s a big part of why the system didn’t do so well.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

ScottPilgrimPosterMichael Cera as Scott Pilgrim
Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Ramona Flowers
Ellen Wong as Knives Chau
Kieran Culkin as Wallace Wells
Jason Schwartzman as Gideon Gordon Graves

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is an action comedy with a lot of pop culture, comic book, movie, anime, and especially video game references. It appears to have become a cult classic, but in my opinion, it’s rather overrated.

Scott Pilgrim is a gamer with an apparent obsession with how Pac-Man got his name and a member of a music band who is unlucky at love. This movie centers around his encounters with past and current romantic possibilities. Among them are a star-struck but underage (don’t worry he doesn’t have sex with her) girl named Knives and a bit of a bitch named Ramona who’s got an inclination to dump and even swap boyfriends at the drop of a hat. Ultimately, this leads to anime style fighting that apparently have video game points at stake as well.

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Just about ready for the final boss!

If you haven’t figured it out, this is a pretty goofy movie. It is a comedy, so it’s allowed to be.
But its early stages aren’t so good. Jokes are not funny, just lame. Mediocre at best acting doesn’t help.

Pee meter? Who could have thought this was cool?

Pee meter? Who could have thought this was cool?

Things do pick up in the middle part as the humor improves and we get some good fight scenes. But the movie is still not great. Not bad, but not great either.

One thing I want to mention is the sound effects from video games used throughout this film. It’s a nice homage. Zelda is used by far the most here. Mario and Sonic get some use yet the number of games whose sounds are played seems limited a tad by how many companies Universal wanted to pay royalties to. This is a nice effect that I haven’t seen since I watched episodes of The Super Mario Bros. Super Show.

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Don’t they know arcades are virtually dead?

To be honest, there’s really not much to say about this film. It’s another mildly entertaining
slapstick comedy. Take away the references to other stuff and there wouldn’t actually be much to make it stand out.

Call me crazy, but I think Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is only worth a rental. There’s much better comedies out there.

Overall: 6 out of 10

King Kong (2005)

KingKong05PosterAndy Serkis as King Kong
Naomi Watts as Ann Darrow
Jack Black as Carl Denham
Adrian Brody as Jack Driscoli

Quick, name three Peter Jackson films not based on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. I’m guessing most of you can’t. Although Bad Taste — which is arguably an underrated classic — does have a small cult following, probably Jackson’s most well-known movie without hobbits is his remake of King Kong. Although there was talk of The Hobbit being directed by none other then Jackson by the time this particular film went into production, he made it clear in interviews that he wanted other projects for a while. You can’t blame him. Did he really want to be remembered only for fantasy movies? So he decided to remake the popular monster movie, King Kong.

The 1933 film may not have been a masterpiece, but it was a landmark horror film and scored points on the fact that the antagonist was not, in fact, a bad guy. This version? I really can’t say Jackson did a very good job with it. There are worse monster movies, but I really don’t enjoy this one.

Jackson tries to improve on the original by adding more depth. Although he is foreign, he seems to have America in the Great Depression done cold. City design, clothing, accents, personality, even the mood of the characters are as they probably should be. As an example of mood, it’s made clear that the job market is pretty tight, making people desperate. And Carl Denham is even more of a con man. The realization of this was a gradual thing in the original. Because most who saw this film also saw the original, Denham is presented as a mediocre but deviously clever businessman who gets a film on an island that he shouldn’t through a web of lies. His reaction to the possibility of being sued? “Get in line.”

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They even got the social movements of the ’30s right.

I found my first problem with the movie on the back cover of the DVD case. It pegs King Kong at three hours and eight minutes. The Lord of the Rings was one thing. It had a long list of characters, tremendous character conflict, and of course, the fact that it was a series of novels before a series of movies meant that there would be a lot of material to adapt. A movie about a monster starting a doomed romance and wrecking havoc is a different beast, if you’ll pardon the expression. To spend time, walking and talking scenes are dragged out, as are Kong’s battles with dinosaurs and humans.

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A gruesome homage.

Even a director as brilliant as Spielberg would have had trouble keeping this interesting for three hours. So we have a lot of dullness and pointlessness, particularly when it comes to walking in the jungle. But I also think Transformers shouldn’t have gone well over two hours, so what do I know?

The only way it would’ve worked is if the dialogue had been great. Despite the attention to detail that I alluded to earlier, few lines are particularly memorable. The romance between the Ann and Kong (not one-sided this time) is done reasonably well, but it’s not the best I’ve ever seen. The scenes that show the passion between the beauty and beast are handled well, except that to say this relationship moves fast would be an understatement. For a pairing that is very unlikely, that’s a big problem.

I guess you can't have a King Kong movie without this.

I guess you can’t have a King Kong movie without this.

King Kong does have a nice look. This Kong is a very well-done monster (plus, he actually looks like a gorilla). Action is also great, what with the monsters moving in ways that the 1933 movie could never have managed. The closing battle with military airplanes is definitely the highlight of the film.

But that’s small favors in a movie this long. I tried to like it, and do quite like the original, but this version is just a whole bunch of filler leading to some admittedly great monster fights. Style over substance indeed.

Overall: 4 out of 10