Tuesday, April 26, 2011

More Video Game Commercials

Haven't written in a long time, but I had to share this with you:

I think this trailer for Dead Island is amazingly innovative. I love the way it unfolds and watching the blood "unspurt" into that bell boy's neck is awesome.

Friday, October 9, 2009


It's October, so I'm watching horror movies, and nothing but horror movies...with the few exceptions being Halloween-themed stuff. I'll do another post about favorites, but this post is all about the movie Slugs. I just got it from Netflix, and watched it the same day. It's sort of a precious memory from my youth that I finally caught up to. I know I wrote something about being too scared to watch something as a child only to watch it as an adult and be disappointed. This was sort of toeing the line of that idea. I was disappointed, by the lack of exposed breasts, and it wasn't scary at all, but it was also a really good time. Camp to the extreme.

What was my favorite part? It might be the fact that verisimilitude was achieved by intercutting footage of real slugs along with the footage of the fake "stage slugs". The stage slugs tended to look at a lot like feces. So when the terror on screen hits you, it's not scary. You're just looking at a person covered in fake blood and glued on pieces of poop. But I think my favorite part was that the movie tried very hard to paint the portrait of a small town being besieged by killer slugs, yet the savior and go-to know-it-all was a British scientist who works at the high school. The high school. And he has a fully stocked lab that would be better suited to a college campus. But he's British, so you don't question him because he sounds smarter than you.

On top of all that, the film was a Spanish production. Everyone in the crew was Spanish. Half of the cast were American, while the supporting cast was Spanish. Everyone was dubbed. If you want to make sure that the crappy horror movie that you're planning to watch will be fun, make sure a foreign crew is trying to make their production look like it takes place in small town America. (East coast is the best because then things really feel out of place.) Another good example of foreigners making a movie that takes place in small town east coast America is Pieces. Tagline: You don't have to go to Texas for a Chainsaw massacre. But back to Slugs, which takes place in upstate New York.

A fun thing that sometimes happens when watching a movie is that the opening credits tell you shit you could never have begun to imagine or believed was true. For instance, regarding the movie Slugs, some really terrible movies are actually based on books. Slugs was a fucking book before it was a movie. It was written by Shaun Hutson. After writing Slugs, he also wrote the genre head-turners Relics, Spawn, Victims, Hybrid and a few other novels you see in airports. Someone had to borrow the idea for this movie from a book because they were stuck and had movie-makers block. Then they actually went to the bank and took out a loan so they could buy the rights to the book Slugs. (Here are some other movies based on books that don't seem like they'd be based on books: Who Framed Roger Rabbit, based on Who Censored Roger Rabbit; Dangerous Minds, based on My Posse Don't Do Homework; Die Hard, based on Nothing Lasts Forever; Bryanna Loves Jenna, based on the entire run of Hustler Magazine which is based on the idea of guys loving it when two naked girls get crazy together. Unfortunately, this did not happen in Slugs.)

So the American book, Slugs was bought by some Spanish filmmakers and they made a movie with a British scientist in it. We all know that British people have the world monopoly on legitimizing anything they say, and we also know that anyone foreign also speaks English with a British accent. (i.e. every Nazi in the history of cinema.) Therefore, by the virtue of having a British scientist in the film, Slugs is a great movie filled with scientific facts, one scene of fucking, lots of fake blood with too much red food coloring, and five inch long pieces of poo terrorizing the city of Merton.

And speaking of Merton. Merton has got to be the dorkiest name of a fake town in the history of fake towns. Merton. If Merton was a classmate of yours you'd have given him a dozen wedgies, taped him to his locker and broken his glasses. To illustrate my point of how anticlimactic a town named Merton is, here is the tagline of the book that was created to give your nerves a jangling and make you want to read every page of this fast-paced thriller!

"One female slug can lay one and a half million eggs a year - a fact which holds terrifying consequences for the people of Merton."

Everything about that sentence is fine, and it makes you curious I suppose, until you get t the word Merton. "Wow", you think, "one and a half million eggs a year...creepy". "Terrifying consequences! Sounds exciting!" "Merton?! What the fuck is a Merton?" Then you could care less. "The people of Merton." sounds like the most boring people ever to exist. I don't want to visit Merton's famous twenty year old flea market, or come to town for the annual parade of Mr. Merton who settled it in the late 1800's because no one wanted him to live with them in the nearby settlement of Somewhere Cooler Than Merton.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, please see Slugs. It's really funny and there are boobs in it. Next on the Netflix queue: Mountain of the Cannibal God. Is it a quality production? probably not. Does it involve cannibals who have an unhealthy sexual fixation on star Ursula Andress? Why yes, yes it does.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

District 9

It's hard for me to write about movies like this because the obvious allegory that is provided by this film is easy to comment about. Everyone wants to say something about how this movie is apartheid for aliens. (It is apartheid for aliens.) But when I was watching it I still felt that there was something more to District 9 than it's obvious surface metaphor. Technically speaking it's a triumph. Story-wise I thought it was very solid and compelling.

We'll start with the easy praise: the special effects. I can only think of one word to describe them: seamless. The CGI recalled for me the images created not long ago of a looming Death Star above San Francisco's bay area. The news footage could have been culled directly from some networks' stock footage rolls. The images of the huge alien spaceship hanging above Johanesberg were amazingly realisticl. The integration of new footage-type shots looked authentic. I know we live in an age of very ultra-real movie effects but there's a difference between something seeming to be real and something actually looking like it exists in the world. What this movie lacked was the subconscious sheen that most CGI has. I can almost always tell if something is CGI because there are subtle lighting hints. The CGI is too dark or too light or too shiny or too dull. It's the difference between Jabba the Hutt in Episode I and Jabba the Hutt in Episode VI. One of them is a rubber puppet existing on the set, and the other is a fully CGI creation amidst a sea of CGI creations. Even though the CGI Jabba moves more fluidly, the lethargic puppet seems more realistic because it "feels" visually like a real thing.

I never felt that the CGI in District 9 was CGI. (I mean I knew, but it never took me out of the story.) At one point I actually had to ask myself if there was some puppetry going on that I couldn't discern. [**mini spoiler**] At one point the main character, Wikus, ingests a fluid that starts to turn his body into an alien. It's hard to see a difference between the prosthetic arm that he wears and the CGI arms of the CGI aliens populating the movie. [**end mini spoiler**].

Here's a short synopsis of the story: An alien spaceship appears over the city of Johanesberg, South Africa and there are a lot of malnourished, injured aliens on board. People bring them down to earth and set up a ghetto of sorts for the million+ aliens to live in. Twenty years go by and no one has any idea what these aliens are doing here or why they can't go home. They're just living on earth and growing in numbers. People become hostile towards the aliens and want them gone. A relocation camp is set up for the aliens and a group of people go about getting the aliens to move to the new location. That's about it for basic premise. The head relocation chief, Wikus, ends up in the middle of the alien - human dispute and learns the hard way how the aliens are living and what the humans' views towards them really are. (The aliens have weaponry that is DNA-enabled, so humans can't use it, but they're constantly trying to figure out a way.)

What makes this story work and what makes the allegory work is that when you see the aliens living in these decrepit conditions you think to yourself, "Whatever, they are just creatures and I'm not moved by this imagery". I remember watching a scene of news footage with aliens rooting around in the garbage for scraps of edible material, fighting with each other for bits and pieces of trash, and I realized that what I was watching was no different than what a lot of people on this planet go through daily. I wasn't watching someone's idea of poverty, I was watching an example of reality. Maybe that means I'm slower than most, but it impressed me and disturbed me to figure out that if I had no problem seeing the aliens in these conditions then I had no problem seeing the "others" in the world in these conditions. Also, when I became bothered by seeing the aliens in those drab environments fighting for trash, I was also being bothered that this exact same thing was occurring on my planet.


The part of this movie that worked most for me was the very end, and I'm going to give it away right now. The protagonist, Wikus, fully turns into an alien. Visually he becomes no different than any other alien in the film. From that standpoint no human can distinguish him from the race of creatures they find despicable. Mentally, he is the same person that he was before, albeit without his innocence. He still yearns for his wife and his life the way it used to be. It proves a point: I can never know what someone in that position is thinking. They don't look like me, but we could be very much alike. I'll always be hung up on our differences, therefore neglecting to focus on our similarities. It seems obvious to say it, but since a story like this has never been told with the help of extra terrestrials as the device, it seems fresh and new to me.


I also loved this movie because it was visceral and gritty. The special effects were seamless, as I've said, but they were also gory. I enjoyed the horror aspects to the story - laser guns that explode people's heads, mutating alien arms growing out of people, etc. District 9 was a great film from a sci-fi and from a political viewpoint. I feel I learned a lot about the politics of the South African region and about apartheid specifically. I was also treated to a great story with a vague ending that I can think about and determine for myself in any way I choose. The story is left open. You don't know if promises made will become promises kept, and the future of some characters is uncertain, but that's how it is right now in our lives with people in refugee camps and with the battles that are raging in these war-torn regions of the world. Their stories haven't ended yet, so it's fitting that the story in District 9 is left unfinished as well.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Freaky Robotic Hand

This is video of a robot hand made by researchers in Japan. This hand can do many things, very fast, and very accurately. The hand can dribble a ball on the table, pick up a grain of rice with tweezers, throw a ball, twirl a pen and toss something to itself and catch it. The video is about 3 minutes long, but really interesting. At least I know that when the zombie apocalypse happens, we'll be safe with robot-defense.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


I just discovered a site, thanks to a friends' Facebook posting, about a site called Fail Blog. It's in the same vein as Awkward Family Photos in that it's a bunch of ridiculous stuff. If you've ever heard of the phrase "Epic Fail", it's an MMO video game term, then you know what this site will be about. The categories for the posts are limitless, but in every post someone has failed at something. For instance, the man with the clear plastic shopping bag over his head that he uses to stand in for safety goggles is labelled "Eye Safety Fail". Get it? Anyhow, here's a link to the site:

And here are a few choice entries that have made me laugh out loud this morning.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Haunted Mansion!

Disney's Haunted Mansion is 40 years old today, so to commemorate this, here are a couple fantastic YouTube videos about the my favorite ride in Disney World. (I am really bummed that I missed out on the Nightmare Before Christmas integration for the holiday season.)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Video Game Advertising

There is a current trend in video game TV advertising that gives a whole new meaning to the word "juxtaposition". Lately we've been getting a lot of violent material in our video games (which I love, but some don't) and the commercials for these games have been set to music that is the complete thematic antithesis of the video game content. Below are some examples. The best and most recent one is the final clip advertising Left 4 Dead. (Left 4 Dead is the most fun and most exhilarating zombie-fighting experience out there.)

Mercenaries 2

Batman Arkham Asylum

Gears of War

Gears of War 2

Fallout 3

Left 4 Dead 2

Halo 3

The music completely downplays what's going on visually and plays with your head a lot. If you didn't realize how important the balance of visuals and sound play when you watch a movie or TV show, now you know. The sound can transform what you're seeing in interesting ways. I love this style of advertising and I hope they continue to keep it up for a while.