Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Nicolas Cage Shame Fest

Say what you will about Nicolas Cage's acting ability. I'm not here to deny the guy sucks. For some reason, however, I find Nic Cage has the innate ability to be involved with projects that are kinda cool. I mean, how the hell did he end up as the voice of Dr. Tenma?

Regardless, for whatever reason he ends up in films that I actually don't mind. This is a list of films that I am rather ashamed to admit that Nic Cage was in, and I actually kind of enjoyed. Some are crappy regardless of Cage's presence, but it probably didn't hurt that he was their male lead.

Oh, and I make no excuse for enjoying films like Face/Off or The Rock, because regardless of what you think, they're awesome.

5. The Weather Man (2005)

I have no rightly clue why I watched this movie. This is not my kind of film, and the fact that Nicolas Cage was in it should have screamed, "DON'T DO IT!" Why I watched it, I cannot recall, but I did and... I was pleasantly surprised.

The story of the film follows Nic Cage as David Spritz, a weather man in Chicago who is hated by the people of Chicago for being the bearer of bad news. His father, an esteemed author played by Michael Caine, is dying, his relationship with his kids is non-existent and and his wife pretty much despises him. Essentially, his life sucks.

The film follows David as he works toward changing it all in a weird, dark humour, quirky fashion. Like I said before, this isn't my kind of movie at all, but Nic Cage actually pulled this character off just fine, and I actually liked it.

I'll most definitely never watch it again, but I certainly didn't hate it.

4. Lord of War (2005)

This was a weird film. I expected it to be a balls out action movie, something inspired by John Woo (who directed Face/Off, I might add), but it ended up being this odd morality tale.

Cage plays an arms dealer, Yuri Orlov, an immigrant of Soviet Ukraine. The film follows his life moving to America, working in his parent's restaurant, and then getting into gun-running (... yeah). As the film goes on he considers the morality of his work (seems like a no-brainer to me) while being chased down by an Interpol Agent, played by Ethan Hawke. The film also stars Jared Leto, Ian Holm and Bridget Moynahan.

The film, for whatever reason, was put out there like some weird, almost comedic, cat and mouse chase film, except the guy being chased sells guns to war-criminals and militant armies. It doesn't seem like it would work, but it did. I definitely think if there had been somebody more competent in Cage's role it would have done better, and I remember Cage being exceptionally bland in this one, but he played Orlov, and I didn't mind him or the film.

3. National Treasure (2004)

I watched this one on a rental whim, something I don't do as much as I used to because I don't tend to rent movies as often these days. This is a weird Indiana Jones-esque, conspiracy film that starred Cage, as well as Sean Bean, Jon Voight and Christopher Plummer, of all people.

The film follows Ben Gates (Cage) a treasure hunter who is hunting the lost wreckage of a ship, the Charlotte. The story takes all kinds of weird twists and turns, but ends up with Gates protecting the Declaration of Independence, uncovering some age-old conspiracy surrounding the forefathers of the United States of America, and saving the day.

I thought the film was a decent action-adventure piece. There I said it! It's altogether way too American and draws the line way too close to Indiana Jones, but in the end I was entertained and I liked it. I thought Justin Bartha, who played Cage's comedic sidekick in the film, was decent as well. I've even tried on several occasions to watch its sequel, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, but have continually been thwarted by The Powers That Be. It's probably their way of protecting me, but one day I shall watch!

2. Knowing (2009)

Ever since I realized that, for whatever reason, Nic Cage gets involved with films I'm interested in, I decided to just go with it on occasion and decided to give this one a watch.

When I first saw the trailer for Knowing earlier last year I thought, "This looks pretty cool!" Then I saw that Cage was the lead actor and I thought, "Shit..." Like I said though, I was interested and I gave it a try.

The movie is the story of an astrophysicist named John Koestler, played by Cage (yeah, that's believable). His son appears to be some kind of savant that happens upon a piece of paper, covered in random numbers. The slip of paper was put into a time capsule 50 years earlier by a young girl that appeared to hear voices.

Cage goes on to realize that the numbers have a pattern and actually foretell massive, tragic events. He becomes obsessed with his quest for answers and, fueled by alcohol, fights to save what family he has left.

I'd go into more detail, but you probably wouldn't try the film out. Actually, you probably shouldn't. Especially if you didn't like the new Indiana Jones film (hint, hint - why do I keep bringing up Indy?). I can't really recommend it, but I actually liked it. I thought it had a nice story, and an atypical ending, whether it was really out there or not.

1. Next (2007)

This is most definitely the cream of the crop in my Shame Fest. Just one look at Nic Cage in this film and you'd think, "No fuckin' way!" For whatever reason, I just had to know how this one would play out, and boy was I in for a surprise.

If you've seen the trailer, you get the gist of the movie. Nic Cage plays Cris Johnson, a man that has the innate ability to see all possibilities of a future event, before it occurs. He starts off the film using his ability as a small-time magician/hustler. Cris has a recurring vision, however, that he obsesses over. He can generally only see a few moments into the future, and has to act on the fly. For whatever reason, he can see one event that hasn't happened yet, and appears to be in the distant future. When the event finally comes to fruition it takes him on a crazy adventure with the woman his dreams, Jessica Biel.

The idea behind this film is pretty cool. How'd the production team come up with it? Well, easy. You ever hear of the story, "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" Well, it's the award-winning tale that became the sci-fi masterpiece, Blade Runner.

Since then, its author, Philip K. Dick has become the focus of Hollywood productions. They see easy money when his name is involved. Most recently his story, A Scanner Darkly was adapted to the blip-on-the-radar film starring Keanu Reeves and Robert Downey, Jr.

This film was based on Dick's story, "The Golden Man". The term loosely doesn't even begin to describe how thin the line is here between "based on" and "complete name cash-in". In "The Golden Man", written in 1954, powerful mutants exist in a post-apocalyptic future. As they are of course feared (as all good mutants are) they are hunted down to be destroyed by the rest of the normies. One mutant that is captured escapes his execution, and it is found that this golden-skinned being, named Cris, can see into the future. The story then follows as the humans hunt Cris down and the ending implies that Cris mates, and that human beings will someday be replaced by a new golden race.

See what I'm getting at? There is BARELY a connection here. We have a man named Cris that can "sort of" see the future, and he is indeed being hunted. In the film it's by the US government but instead of trying to kill him, they of course want to use his powers to their advantage.

In the end, however, I actually found the film somewhat, blindly entertaining. It was stupid, hell yes, but its brainlessness is what made it something to watch. It has a major cop-out ending, which I won't ruin, but if you're ever up late on a Saturday night, and this pops up on TV, give it a watch.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Acts of Shame

To celebrate January, a dull, cold and depressing month, we at Five-O-Rama have dedicated ourselves to the theme of Shame. Shame takes many forms. Sometimes it can even take the form of something that's supposed to be positive. Because the creator usually has the best of intentions but still winds up unleashing something truly terrible on the world. I'm sure that at least some of the parties that will be mentioned on this list still to this day feel absolutely no Shame for their actions. They may even stand up and attempt to defend themselves by either insisting that their creation does possess artistic merit or, at the very least, that they gave it their best. Whether or not they have a point is irrelevant. Because this is not Understanding Month or Redemption Month. It is Shame Month. So let's bring on the tears.

5. Rick Wakeman's The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table Tour
For those who don't know, Rick Wakeman was the keyboardist for noted seventies progressive rock band, Yes. He's actually an incredibly talented individual and is a pioneer in the realm of piano and keyboards in rock music. With the help of his keyboard mastery, Yes were a pretty cool band. While still with Yes, Wakeman also forged a solo career. Again, he produced pretty good music.

A classically trained musician, he was very adept at arrangements and working multiple instruments into songs. His solo work reflected this as he successfully integrated things like an orchestra and choir into rock songs. His second solo album, a concept album released in 1974, was the first example of this. He was becoming more ambitious and experimental and by 1975, he'd already released his followup, The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, which was also, that's right, a concept album. It was very well-received and widely considered to include some of his very best work. So should he feel any shame for producing this album? Nope. None at all. In fact he should actually feel pride. But by now Wakeman was really thinking big and for the tour he conceived a lavish and dramatic live show. How lavish and dramatic, you ask? Well, as the album was supposed to be a telling of the Arthur Legend, that's what the show attempted to theatrically display in conjunction with the music. Oh, and also, it was on ice. Just take a look at Guinevere.

If you guessed that such a production would be extraordinarily complex, expensive and stupid, then you're a winner! (Cheque's in the mail) The cost of this live show actually ate into the income generated by the album not to mention being almost universally panned for being bloated and over the top. While it is true that Wakeman produced an album full of very strong music that is to this day one of the best fusions of classical and rock music, he's remembered more for trying to bring it to the masses through an endeavour that has to be one of the biggest failures in rock concert history to date. An example of creative vision going way too far.

4. Nintendo Virtual Boy
The Big N doesn't have a lot of blemishes on its track record but if you had to come up with at least one, I'll bet you'd mention the Virtual Boy. Released smack in the middle of the Nineties, this supposed gaming console resembled a red and black robot monster that would crawl up onto your bed and suck your brain out through your eyes while you slept. Seriously, imagine if this thing had somehow succeeded. You could walk into a room and see a bunch of people enjoying this "portable" gaming device and you'd swear you'd wandered into some horrific dystopian future where a master race of machines fed off our thoughts.

Using an effect known as "parallax" (doesn't that sound sinister? there's a villain in DC who is named this), it was supposed to deliver "true 3D graphics". Well, maybe you think I've gone overboard with the quotations there but whatever the case is, consumers quickly let Nintendo know the Virtual Boy "sucked". As it turned out, gamers weren't completely in love with more or less strapping this monstrosity to their foreheads so they could experience gameplay in a world of luscious, 3D, red monochrome.

The controller was sort of like a warped Gamecube controller only with a huge battery pack in the middle which made it heavy (hey, it only took SIX AA batteries) and, for reasons I can no longer recall, two d-pads - one on each side.

Possibly to counter Sega's in your face advertising style of the day, the Virtual Boy was marketed quite aggressively. Remember "A 3-D Game for a 3-D World"? Well, I do anyway. I also remember the headaches that came from playing the fucking thing for more than fifteen minutes.

Less than eight hundred thousand units were sold worldwide and only fourteen games were released in North America. Production of the Virtual Boy ceased only a year after its initial launch. These days it's only good as a collector's item and a source of Shame.

3. New Coke

What's most funny to me about this marketing epic fail
(did I say that correctly?) is that Coca-Cola didn't really have any good reason for trying it. It's true that by the mid eighties, Coke wasn't quite as dominant as it had been, thanks to the rise of Pepsi, but it still was the top of the heap in the world of Cola and a fantastically wealthy and powerful company and name brand. The main problem was that the people who were most loyal to the Coca-Cola brand were aging and Pepsi was more popular with young people (a fact Pepsi tried to exploit at every turn in their marketing). Apparently anything less than absolute dominance wasn't good enough for Coke and so measures were swiftly taken to combat Pepsi.

Another fun fact about Coke is that they don't do anything on a small scale. They conducted some market research through focus groups and surveys where a new flavour was provided. Results were relatively positive which I guess was all it takes for a global conglomerate with thousands of employees to tinker with their flagship product and drastically change their image. Because when the idea came up to simply introduce this flavour as an additional variety of Coke it was quickly shot down. No, they were going to do this all the way. CEO Roberto Goizueta was quoted as saying something like "It's New Coke or no Coke." Woot! Let's hear it for super aggressive 1980's decision making! Fight your way to the top and stay there, just like Cyndi Lauper!

Pepsi, which was actually much more known for this ballsy type of operating, took New Coke as a serious threat and moved quickly to spread skepticism and downright ridicule. They even gave all their employees a special day off to "celebrate their victory" over their old rival in the Cola Wars. The media fed directly off this and sunk their claws into Coke upon New Coke's debut (April 23, 1985). The official press conference was pretty much a fiasco, with Goizueta not exactly inspiring confidence with his lame description of the new flavour (you can find the hilarious quote on wikipedia), refusal to admit that any taste tests had even been conducted and his unforgettable declaration that New Coke was already a success, despite it being, um, Day One. But after the first few weeks it looked like maybe he'd been right. Coca-Cola gave away tons of free cans and soon sales actually picked up slightly.

But the fact is it's human nature to resist change to something that you already liked in the first place. It had actually been indicated by a minority in the focus groups that they resented the idea of Coke's formula being altered and soon this was repeated out in the real world. Angry letters and phone calls started flooding in, many of them quite hostile considering the focus of their grievance was a soft drink. As Coke had started in the South, people there felt like it belonged to them. And, being Southerners, they found a way to relate Coke's change to their loss in the Civil War (I'm not kidding) - to them this change to their beloved beverage felt like the "damn Yankees" were winning again. Soon the backlash spread to the rest of America and indeed, across the world. Even freaking Fidel Castro went on record to bash New Coke. Organizations were formed to lobby against the change. As it turned out, people really, really liked their Coke and did not like having it messed with. There were protests and boycotts and public displays of stuff like people emptying bottles of New Coke into the gutters.

There was plenty of turmoil within the company itself as many employees felt conflicted if not outright betrayed by the fact that they were working for a company that had always marketed itself as constant and "The Real Thing" that had now reversed that. A good percentage of them found themselves personally disliking the new taste as well. Bottlers, particularly in the South, were actually LOSING FRIENDS over their INDIRECT connection to New Coke. Lawsuits
suddenly were flying at Coca-Cola from every direction, merited or not. By slightly changing the flavour of a soft drink and sticking the word "new" in front of its name, they had opened the gates of hell.

Less than three months after New Coke's official unveiling, the announcement came that they would be returning to the original formula. There was already so much New Coke out in the world that it couldn't be recalled so it continued to be sold and was renamed Coke II in 1992. Old Coke was renamed Coca-Cola Classic and it sold like crazy. Everyone knows the rest of the story. It turned out that the colossal blunder that was New Coke actually helped significantly increase the popularity of the old one. Some people even theorize that the whole thing had just been a gigantic marketing ploy on Coke's part - that is, that they were COUNTING on New Coke bombing so that when they switched back, their sales would spike. But I'm fairly certain this was not the case.

It's highly possible that I have actually tasted New Coke in my life but I just don't know. I've asked people who can remember New Coke's launch if it tasted any differently but have never received a straight answer. The fact remains that the change made to the formula was actually a very minor one and the taste could not have been altered all that drastically. What it really came down to was Coke's own underestimation of people's emotional attachment to a familiar brand.

There were no huge consequences for Goizueta or anyone else associated with the change at least as far as keeping their jobs went. Blame was never officially assigned and no one was fired. But with New Coke still remembered as a complete failure, the Shame lingers to this day.

2. Spider-Man: The Clone Saga
Here's proof that something doesn't have to be a complete financial disaster to qualify as an Act of Shame. You would think that since quite a number of people were responsible for this debacle, one could spread the Shame around and maybe it wouldn't look so bad. Well, you would think that if you never actually read this runaway story arc from hell.

Back in the mid nineties, what some people refer to as "The Dark Age of Comic Books", there were a lot of flashy trends going on as publishers competed for dominance. Marvel's chief rival, DC Comics had achieved a high level of success with their epic and controversial story arcs, The Death of Superman and Knightfall. The bigwigs at Marvel hoped to release something similar for one of their own major characters. Spider-Man, come on down!

Considering the aforementioned event stories featured one major hero being actually replaced by another character (um, temporarily) and the other being killed (again, temporarily), nothing was considered out of bounds for this Spider-Man project. Eventually writer Terry Kavanagh was coaxed into mentioning his clone idea, which at that time, while quite radical, was still fairly simple and straightforward. The arc that was originally conceived was short and ended with Ben Reilly being revealed as the original Peter Parker. Then he would take his place as Spider-Man, while "Peter" would retire and live a quiet life with MJ (who was pregnant at the time). But if you know anything about comics, then you probably know this is not at all what wound up happening.

Instead we got Spidey, Ben Reilly, his supposed clone, Kaine, who is another clone, The Jackal, who is the creator of the clones and Spidercide, who is yet another clone, all running around trying to sort the whole business out. Add seemingly all-powerful and seemingly randomly inserted character Judas Traveler, who states his motivation as trying to determine the true nature of "evil", and stretch it all out over many, many months. Throw in the mysterious and pointless Seward Trainer and you've got a full-blown comic book clusterfuck.

But it sold. Either because faithful readers remained confident that no matter how messed up things were getting, the resolution would be satisfying and entertaining or it was a case of that thing where you're just unable to look away from a violent car accident - people were curious to see just how bad it was going to get. I suppose it was probably a combination of both. As time went on, the story kept going, adding more and more layers of ridiculousness. Eventually there were DOZENS of clones (Maximum Clonage), a new good guy Green Goblin, a female Doc Ock and Kraven's son (The Grim Hunter) all tossed into the mix. And every once in awhile, Traveler, who still wasn't being explained in any way, would teleport Peter Parker into weird little side dimensions where they could discuss concepts like good and evil, life and death, mac and cheese, and so on. It was hard to believe this was actually Spider-Man.

Where it all was going was anyone's guess. Direction changed several times as editor in chief (and one of the contributing writers to the arc) Tom Defalco left the post and was replaced by Bob "I Named Optimus Prime" Budiansky. Defalco later stated his intention was to proceed similarly to Knightfall (my words, not his) by establishing in "Act One" that Peter was the clone and Ben was the real Parker, having "Act Two" follow his adventures and then having Peter return in "Act Three" as the one true Spider-Man with Ben starring in his own ongoing title afterwards.

But Budiansky wanted things to...go on. This was no three act story. Although he also planned to keep Ben as Spider-Man and have Peter quietly retire as a new father. Scarlett Spider was meant to replace every current Spider-Man title before Ben FINALLY took over as Spider-Man. Of course, this would stretch things out even longer. By this point, the marketing department was calling all the shots (sales were booming after all) and the creative team pretty much had to do what they were told (hence Maximum Clonage etc.) Keep in mind this was in the age of the super star artist, over the top anti heroes and holographic cover variants. Not to mention Marvel's own financial implosion.

Suddenly, Budiansky seemed to sense that fans didn't really want to see Peter Parker replaced. (maybe it was the hundreds of angry letters, I don't know) Now it was his mandate, get things back to normal? Oh yeah, since Peter was going to be a superhero again, Budiansky didn't want him tied down as a father so THAT had to be taken care of too. Then Marvel fired him.

Ok. So then Bob Harras took over the mess and moved very quickly to resolve things. Basically, the storyline had become so fucked up and nonsensical that only some sort of deus ex machina could salvage it. The idea of using Mephisto for this came up but was then dismissed as having too little to do with Spider-Man and his "world" despite the fact that said "world" had spun out of control long ago. (Interestingly enough, the Mephisto idea was used fairly recently for the One More Day storyline). Harras then came up with the plan to resurrect a major Spider-Man foe who had been dead for over twenty years in real time, Norman Osborn. It was a bold move but probably the best possible given the circumstances. Osborn finally revealed himself as the mastermind behind the entire affair, having manipulated all the players, including Judas Traveler, from the shadows. Peter and Ben fought him and Ben died saving Peter's life, his body dissolving in death proving once and for all that he was the clone. MJ's baby is born stillborn (yay!) and so things went back to the way they were. Sort of.

When the smoke cleared, the Clone Saga had taken just over two years to complete and all the story really amounted to was a massive, confusing epic that Marvel had to more or less "take back" to save face and not completely ruin their most popular character. The shockwaves of Shame are still felt to this day. Just try saying the word "clone" to any Marvel fan and see what happens.

1. Washington Capitals 1974/75 Season
There's a great line from an episode of Futurama (not affiliated with Five-O-Rama) about the major league baseball team, the New New York Mets, where the sportscaster says "And welcome back to the game as the Mets close out a season that will rank among mankind's most awful crimes." That team was fictional. This team, sadly, is not. While they were, at least, an expansion team in their very first year of existence, I really don't know if that can even begin to make up for the levels of Shame they produced. Read on.

Since they were a first year team, they received the number one overall pick in the draft the summer before their innaugral season. They selected standout defenceman Greg Joly from the Regina Pats. He was the number one pick in the WHA draft too (the Phoenix Roadrunners had that pick by the way) but he opted to sign with the Caps. While the WHA certainly didn't compare to the NHL in terms of playing level and recognition, its players actually made more money than their NHL counterparts. Now I'm not saying Joly should have gone where the money was; all I'll say is that the Roadrunners were no where near as bad as the Capitals turned out to be that year.

It's pretty much always the case that players picked number one overall not only have the pressure of their lofty selection on them but also the pressure of helping a weak team improve. You have to be bad to get first pick, you know. The Caps got first pick by virtue of being brand new as opposed to bad. But all expansion teams are expected to be bad in their first two or three seasons. The Kansas City Scouts joined that year as well and got the second pick (Wilf Paiment). But it's not their name you see on this list.

With two new teams entering the league, an expansion draft was held. This is a draft where every existing team has to leave a couple players from their roster unprotected so they can be picked up and added to one of the new teams. Needless to say, it's not exactly a draft full of talent. The Capitals held the second pick in this draft and selected goalie Ron Low from the Toronto Maple Leafs. He would be the backbone of this "professional hockey team", being in the net for all eight of their wins that season.

Yeah. I said eight wins.

The 74/75 Washington Capitals staggered through a season of epically awful proportions, finishing with a record of 8-67-5, which, any way you look at it, is just fucking tragic. Their record on the road was 1-39. They only won in another team's building ONCE! Their point total in the standings after an eighty game season was 21, only half that of the Scouts and the NHL record for lowest ever. In the "New NHL" these days, ties no longer exist and teams receive one point for a loss in overtime or the shootout. So if we're generous and pretend that the Caps' ties were all overtime or shootout wins, their point total would amount to 31. They also set the record for most road losses (duh), longest road losing streak (thirty-seven games!) and their winning percentage of .131 is still the most pathetic in league history.

Let's delve into the numbers even further.

They were led in scoring by winger Tommy Williams, who finished with 22 goals (first), 36 assists (not only first but more than any teammate's entire point total) and fifty-eight points (well, you know). I can think of several teams who featured leading scorers with less points than that so it's actually pretty impressive. Williams was one of only five Capitals to play over seventy games that year. So unfortunately this meant he finished with a plus/minus of -48. Yikes.

Greg "Number One Pick" Joly got to jump straight into the NHL since the Caps were, um, hard up for talent. So he got to experience the thrill of playing 44 games. There must have been a win or two in there, I figure. He scored one goal and seven assists and accumulated what I'm sure must be the worst plus/minus for a rookie ever, a -68. To give you an idea of how woeful the Caps were defensively, the highest plus/minus of any player to appear in at least forty games was Steve Atkinson's tidy -26 over forty-six games. The kicker: defenceman Bill Mikkelson played in fifty-nine games that season and took home a mind-boggling -82. The worst rating of all time. He has the honour of that record standing to this day. Before I leave the plus/minus stuff behind I'll just mention that defenceman Jack Lynch only appeared in twenty games that season and yet still managed to register a MINUS FIFTY-FOUR.

If the preceeding paragraph didn't clue you in, the Caps were brutal on defence and their goaltending was abysmal. They allowed 446 goals that season. Low, the only goalie to record a win for them, finished 8-36-2 with a goals against average of 5.45. 2588 minutes of what I can only imagine as disappointment, frustration and humiliation. The other two goalies, Michel Belhumeur and John Adams, combined for thirty-one losses, three ties (all by Belhumeur) and zero wins. Just how bad were the Caps at keeping the puck out of their net? Well, they would allow ten or more goals against in a game seven times. They were beaten by the score of 12-1 twice and 11-1 once.

But there was more to the Capitals than just horrendous defence and worthless goaltending - they couldn't score either! That season they found the back of the net 181 times - this in an era when even the lousiest teams managed to top 200. Denis Dupere was the only player besides Williams to top twenty goals (he had 20). Six players finished with more than ten goals and only eight topped twenty points. Their highest scoring defenceman was Yvon Labre who had 27 points. The next highest scoring blueliner was Gord Smith with a paltry 11 points.

Several trades were made over the course of the season but nothing helped. Dupere, the team's second highest scorer, was shipped to St. Louis after 53 games. In fact, four of their top seven scorers were traded before the end of the season. While rookies like Joly and nineteen year old Mike Marson got their first taste of the NHL by being embarrassed every night, forty year old veteran Doug Mohns also slogged through the whole thing. You'd think if there was ever a good reason to retire, that would be it. So I suppose one has to respect him for not leaving the sinking ship. Although calling that team a "sinking ship" is way too generous. It was more like the Hindenburg smashing into the Titanic with the wreckage then being sucked into a black hole.

The Caps have a history filled mostly with mediocrity which seems to finally be on the verge of something more. But in 1974/75, they put forth a season that will live on in the annals of Shame forever.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

RyHo's Most Anticipated Games of 2010

Shane and Cole offered up their picks for the best films of 2009. I was going to follow suit and do my own list, but I realized that too much of it coincided with what they'd already mentioned, so for something fresh I thought about what films I was looking forward to in 2010.

Then I figured you guys might be "movied out", as it were. So, I decided to give you a list of video games that I'm looking forward to in 2010. I went with games that either had what I would call "firm" release dates for 2010 or I felt actually had a chance of making it out this year.

As a result, you won't see games like Final Fantasy XIV Online – Square Enix is famous for being off schedule – or the upcoming Legend of Zelda Wii. I know Miyamoto-san has announced it’ll be released by Christmas 2010, but we have seen nothing, but a picture. I need something more substantial, Nintendo!

But enough talk, have at you!

5. Heavy Rain

This one may have slipped past your radar over the last few years. A soon-to-be PS3 exclusive (we’ll see, they said that about Resident Evil 5 and Final Fantasy XIII as well), the game is being developed by French studio Quantic Dream.

Why am I so excited? From everything that I’ve read Heavy Rain appears to be a completely new concept. The idea is an emotionally-driven game of morals. You play as four different characters, each of which is involved in an investigation for a serial killer named The Origami Killer. It smacks of survival horror elements, but David Cage, lead developer behind the game, says that it really delves into the idea of “what would you do for the one you love?” One of the main characters is a father of two boys, and we can only assume that somehow this serial killer comes into their lives.

I’ve been playing video games since the late-80s. I’ve played lots of different types of games, but I find over time you see a lot of stuff recycled. That’s not a bad thing. I like seeing a new 2-D Mario game as much as the next guy. What I’m saying is that anything that comes up with a fresh idea is something I’ll be interested in.

Couple all of these aspects with some of the most impressive graphics I’ve seen on the PS3 and I think that Heavy Rain is going to be a huge hit in 2010.

4. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow

I mentioned this game way back in the summer in my list Best Announcement from E3 2009.

I could sum up this one with two words: Kojima Productions… but I won’t. Instead I’ll pique your interest even more.

The idea behind this title is one that I’m not too keen about. In the film industry it can be the death toll of a beloved series. It is a reboot. Fortunately for us, in the video game industry, when a reboot of a series is introduced you can still expect games from the classic series, so it’s not so bad.

This Castlevania was originally titled Lords of Shadow, its current sub-title. It was to throw people off the scent. Why? The intention of this game is to completely revamp (teehee) the Castlevania mythos.

In the game you do play as a Belmont, by the name of Gabriel. Most people believed the title was a prequel; a story of a Belmont before that of Trevor (he was the oldest, right? I’m not so sure anymore). That is not that case, however. In this tale, Gabriel Belmont is a knight in the Brotherhood of Light: a group of knights dedicated to protecting people from the supernatural. When Gabriel’s wife is killed by a demon, he travels to home of the Lords of Shadow, to defeat their three factions and release his wife’s soul from a sort of limbo.

Heavily embedded in this plot are two masks; the god and devil masks, although not much has been revealed on this subject. I guess this could end up a prequel, but it’s being touted as a reboot of the franchise, so we’ll just have to wait and see. A whip is used, but it isn’t being called Vampire Killer, and the fact that vampires are even in the game hasn’t been revealed yet.

So, in short, no Dracula! Or a castle? Hrmmm. I’m assuming that one of these Lords of Shadow is the Drac man himself, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see. The game is a full 3-D title with flecks of God of War and Shadow of the Colossus clearly present. Konami has been looking for a way to break into the 3-D realm with the Castlevania series for years. Their latest efforts, Lament of Innocence and Curse of Darkness (both for the PS2) were alright, but nothing special. I think this will be the one to break out of the handheld market, where they’ve held their classic side-scrolling series, and into the mega-selling home console market.

3. Super Mario Galaxy 2

2007’s Super Mario Galaxy for the Wii was a fantastic entry into the series. With a lot of the same gameplay elements of Super Mario 64, and a whole new 3-D, planetary-based world, it offered a fresh entry to the series.

In 2010 we’ll see the sequel to Super Mario Galaxy, which when you think of it, is unheard of. Since the original Mario Bros. each and every sequential game in the series offered a completely new gameplay dynamic. Super Mario Bros. brought us platforming, stage-based gameplay. Super Mario Bros. 2 (in Japan) was basically a harder version of the first game, a true sequel – a rare thing for Miyamoto and Nintendo. The American release, however, a rip-off of Doki Doki Panic (Japan), was a complete revamp of the series, offering up multiple characters and a whole new landscape. Super Mario Bros. 3 introduced the overworld map, as well as new characters and suits and Super Mario World took the gameplay elements of SMB 3 and added all new suits, gameplay elements and best of all, Yoshi!

Since then all of the games of the series have been drastically different from the last, introducing new gameplay each and every time. As of late, however, Nintendo has been creating true sequels to their Mario titles (which they haven’t really done since Super Mario Bros. 2 in Japan – our “Lost Levels” – or the Super Mario Land games on the Gameboy). New Super Mario Bros. Wii is a sequel to New Super Mario Bros. on the DS, and a spiritual sequel to the Mario games of old, like Super Mario Bros. 3 or Super Mario World.

I could continue on, but we all saw how revolutionary Super Mario 64 was (I’m sure you’ve played it) and the completely off-the-wall Super Mario Sunshine for the Gamecube.

Super Mario Galaxy 2 pretty much takes SMG and pumps it up. The same graphics and engine are to be used, but there will be all new suits, gaming elements (the ability to dig at least) and, once again, Yoshi! That’s right, our beloved buddy, who recently returned to NSMB Wii, is back, and in full 3-D. No need to follow crazy rumours and find him hidden on a roof, like in Super Mario 64. This guy is for real.

I for one am pumped about this update to SMG and think this will be a huge title for Nintendo in 2010. It’s not often that Nintendo creates simple sequels in its Mario series, the few that exist I’ve listed above, so it just goes to show how well Super Mario Galaxy was received.

2. Mega Man 10

That’s right, with all of the games coming out in 2010, the second-most one I’m excited for is an 8-bit, NES-based game, Mega Man 10.

A sequel to the series as a whole, and most importantly to the wildly popular Mega Man 9, which was released in 2009 for WiiWare, PSN and Xbox Live, Mega Man 10 will continue in the 8-bit world the series started in with all new gameplay elements.

Introduced in DLC (downloadable content) for Mega Man 9 was the ability to play as Proto Man. In Mega Man 10 players will have the ability to choose to play as Mega Man, Proto Man, and a mysterious new character via DLC (as if it won’t be Bass).

The game will continue to have 8 robot masters whose weapons can be used to destroy other masters, but in this iteration, Wily is not the enemy! Well, at least he might not be. This time around Mega Man and company are fighting off a robot virus that is turning all sort of good robots bad (sounds kind of like Mavericks from Mega Man X, doesn’t it?).

Classic gameplay, some new elements, a new host of robot masters – including the incredible Sheep Man (no, I’m not kidding). Any fan of classic gaming, or fan of platforming masterpieces like the rest of the Mega Man series, should be salivating for this game. I, for one, can’t wait!

1. Final Fantasy XIII

Since this game was first teased in 2006 at E3 (that’s right, it took 3 years to release in Japan, and it will take 4 years to release in North America!) I’ve been waiting patiently. 2001’s Final Fantasy X, although often panned by critics for voice acting and dialogue, was the last real Final Fantasy title I’ve truly enjoyed and played through. Final Fantasy XI was an online MMORPG, which I didn’t care for. The game forces you to group up and that’s just not my style. It’s insanely popular, and seems like a great game, but it wasn’t my cup of tea. Final Fantasy XII actually surprised me with how much I enjoyed it, but it made some pretty significant changes to the battle system and I never finished the game. I’m going to give it another go someday, but regardless, it’s been 8-9 years since a Final Fantasy game really lived up to its name in my eyes.

FF XIII has some of the most beautiful cut scene graphics and some fantastic in-game visuals as well. I can’t say much about the storyline, characters or fighting mechanics, because I’ve been keeping this information at a distance. I want this game to be a fresh experience. I do know that the fighting-style has been modeled after Final Fantasy Advent Children, the CG film released in 2006 as a sequel to FF 7, the most popular Final Fantasy title to date. The developers have attempted to integrate the classic system of Fight, Magic, all that stuff into a fast-paced action environment, which sounds cool by me.

The leveling system is left up the players again with this title, much like the Sphere Grid in FF X. In FF XIII we have the Crystarium System, which allows players to use CP (Crystarium points – duh) to unlock new abilities.

The Final Fantasy franchise is known for creating beautiful and very fun games, and with all the hype surrounding this game, it will probably either be put up in the ranks for FF 7 or will be considered a flop. As I said it’s already been released in Japan, and has sold nearly 2 million units to date. Famitsu Magazine gave it a high-praising score of 39/40 – nearly perfect, and not often seen by the magazine.

I think this will be a new kudo for the FF series as a whole, and for Square-Enix, who are already developing “semi-sequels” for the title (simultaneously with FF XIII, I might add – the games altogether known as the Fabula Nova Crystalis Collection) Final Fantasy Agito XIII and Final Fantasy Versus XIII, and will at the very least be the best game of the year for 2010.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Shane's Most Hated Movies of 2009

Before all memories of 2009 slip away, I gotta tackle a few more movies. Horrible movies.

5. Push
Oh God, Jumper has come back to haunt me! Don't believe me, well let's compare. In Jumper you have a small group of people with special powers (Jumpers) being pursued by a mysterious organization (The Paladins) led by a black guy (Samuel L. Jackson). In Push you have a small group of people with special powers (Pushers, Movers, and Watchers) being pursued by a mysterious organization (The Division) led by a black guy (Djimon Hounsou). In both films the so-called "heroes" are boring, and both films are desperately trying to start a new franchise.

Actually the characters with powers aren't limited to those three, there are also Sniffers, Stitchers, Bleeders, and Wipers. It's too bad none of them are interesting to the Viewers. They sound more like participants of various fetishes (Wipers? Eeeew). Seriously though, I might as well be watching a poor rip off of X-men where no one could be bothered to give the characters interesting names. Besides the Hong Kong setting there wasn't much to hold my interest. Not even Dakota Fanning scribbling out crayola premonitions in a notebook while trying to outdo Hayden Christensen in the Boring Olympics.

How 'Bout ... If you really have a hankering for evil agents trying to kill characters with impressive skills, may I suggest a little film called The Matrix?

4. G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
This movie isn't really so terrible, it's mostly just forgettable. There was a fair bit of action and special effects, but it was usually so cheesy you'd find yourself laughing. The pinnacle of dumb action takes place in the middle of the film when the Joes are chasing after the bad guys before a futuristic weapon hits the Eiffel Tower. They end up putting on these super suits and bounding down through the streets of Paris. They really look stupid hopping and bopping their way over and through traffic (well their CGI characters do at least). While watching I couldn't help but hear the opening theme to "Gummi Bears" play in my head.

How 'Bout ... if you want to see the Eiffel Tower fall over, go watch Team America: World Police. At least in that movie the laughs are intentional.

3. Year One
Two actors that people complain about for doing the same thing over and over, for playing the same character types again and again, are Jack Black and Michael Cera. And now here they are together. Jack Black plays a loud-mouthed wild guy with an abundance of confidence. Michael Cera plays an awkward introvert. Sure these two characters have names, but it's really just Jack and Michael going from one historical set piece to the next.

This movie is really, really unfunny. And that's a shame since I'm pretty sure it was intended as a comedy. I'd be honestly surprised if this film had a script, because I'd swear everyone involved was just making it up as they went. Everyone dressed up in costumes and talked it out, and they truly looked bored with the project.

How 'Bout ... checking out Mel Brooks' History of the World: Part One. It's basically the same concept, but done right.

2. Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li
Ugh. Okay, first of all, let me explain that I know nothing about Street Fighter. I've never been interested in, and know little about the games. However, I sense that if I did, I would hate this movie even more. Firstly, even as unaware as I am about the canon of the Street Fighter series, I know right off the bat that casting Kristen Kreuk as Chun-Li is retarded. Chun-Li is a Chinese character and early in the film the actresses playing Chun-Li are distinctly Asian. Some time passes and WHAM! Kristen Kreuk walks in and we're supposed to buy that she's the same girl as before. It turns out Kristen's mother is of Chinese descent, but I never would have guessed. I hope the filmmakers didn't cast her on that fact alone. But Chinese or not, Kristen does not look like a tough fighter. She looks like a strong wind may crush her at any moment, and that she may shatter her wrist opening a jar, let alone dealing a punch.

Sadly, this was another film that turned out to be very forgettable. The only thing I was left with is the memory of being terribly embarrassed for everyone involved in the movie. The story, the casting, and acting were all awful, and the movie felt like a straight to video release overall.

How 'Bout ... you just watch this scene from the Jackie Chan film City Hunter. It's ridiculous and entertaining, and Jackie plays Chun-Li, which somehow makes more sense than a frail white chick from Vancouver.

1. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
It seems that when 2009 wasn't busy killing every second celebrity, it was busy killing franchises from the 80's. I hated every minute of this two and a half hour piece of shit, but I really only have myself to blame. I had ample warning with the first transformers movie. I hated that one for being stupid, loud, and annoying, so it should come as no surprise that the second film would be twice as stupid, loud, and annoying.

First of all, why is it that the Decepticons have nearly any ability imaginable. They can transform and break up into tiny ball bearings and alter themselves to be thinner than the eye can see, they can perfectly mimic humans, and even teleport!? What the hell is going on? Autobots can change into vehicles, and the bad guys can do anything Michael Bay thinks is cool.

And why did every second character have to be comic relief. I've never seen an action movie try so goddamn hard to be funny and fail at every turn. Parents getting high, asses and farts, twin idiotic Autobots that are racially offensive, dogs humping dogs, and robots humping legs. Seriously. A transformer humps Megan Fox's leg.

The action scenes would be visually impressive if you could tell what was going on. Most of the time it's like watching two piles of scrap metal stuck together falling out of dump truck. Plus, the continuous sound of metal clashing for hours is painful. I've talked to people who left the theatre with pounding headaches. The final act taking place in Egypt is so long I was just praying for the movie to end. Usually I get a kick out of landmarks being destroyed in films, but I was actually pissed off to see the pyramids getting wrecked by these wrestling garbage heaps.

I'm so mad just thinking about this fucking movie. There were transformers with beards in this movie, and transformers with balls. Michael Bay should be shot out of a cannon into a chain-link fence.

How 'Bout ... if you really want to see some robots fighting go watch the original animated Transformers: The Movie or any sci-fi anime ever made.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Cole's Favourite Movies of 2009

Originally I had no plans to do this list as I'd figured it was strictly Shane's domain and I was content to leave it in his capable hands. But back in December he mentioned that he hoped that I would do one of my own for 2009. And now that I've read his 2009 edition and determined that my offering wouldn't just be a carbon copy, I've decided to present my 2009 movie list as well.

5. Fantastic Mr. Fox
Based on a Roald Dahl book that I can barely remember, I was hoping this movie would deliver quirky and clever fun. Not only was I not disappointed, it actually went beyond all expectations. If I'd known beforehand that Wes Anderson was directing and writing the screenplay then, yeah, I would have had high hopes. I'm a huge fan of his work and his fingerprints are all over this movie.

George Clooney in the title role makes a ridiculous amount of sense as by now we're all quite used to seeing him play a loveable scamp that's always getting into trouble but is just so damn charming that no one can ever stay mad at him for very long. Other cast members have a history of working with Anderson and everyone just seems so comfortable that it makes the characters that much more engaging, even those with limited screen time.

It's positively retro and positively English while still remaining , above all, positively Wes Anderson, and that places it in my top five, narrowly beating out Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

4. Star Trek

In all my years I've never been much of a Trekker. I've seen every movie except The Undiscovered Country and got to know characters and locations and plots that way. But I never found myself anywhere close to blown away which is basically what it was going to take to get me interested in any of the shows. But about two years ago I started watching the original series thinking I would enjoy it for camp purposes if nothing else. And that's pretty much how it went. I've seen maybe twelve episodes of the original series and at first, I only really enjoyed them because they felt so old and strange to me. But since seeing this reboot of the film franchise I've actually become totally engrossed in the adventures of Kirk and his crew.

I think what made this movie work for me is that everything felt shiny and new. Honestly, the plot isn't anything spectacular (although I always enjoy me some time travel) but seeing fresh new faces play these storied characters and today's effects applied to a world I'd only seen presented from the sixties did wonders for my interest in Star Trek as a franchise. Really, it's the next movie in this new series that I'm truly excited about.

3. Up

What can I say except: Pixar has done it again. What it all ultimately comes down to is storytelling and few people working in film today can match the folks at Pixar for consistently telling brilliant stories in brilliant fashion. The idea of someone using thousands of balloons to transport their house to another place on the globe makes for excellent fairytale fare but the difference between Pixar and others is presentation. In someone else's hands, this story probably would have made for a pretty nice movie. But what we get in Up is what I would not hesitate to call a wonderful movie.

A major element found throughout Pixar films and contained in abundance in Up is heart. The movie's opening isn't fantastical at all like the rest; instead it's just a very simple and almost everyday tale. Pixar doesn't pull any punches in the telling either. It is quite sad. But this is important. This melancholy backstory simply MUST be in place before we can start the fun with the balloons and talking dogs. To quote Dickens from A Christmas Carol: "This must be distinctly understood or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate." Because the story wouldn't be half as good if Carl didn't have the reasons he had for embarking on his strange journey.

As is usual in a Pixar story, there's all sorts of silliness and hijinx and yet every bit of it serves a purpose. A greater story is being told here and its biggest success is that even young children can come away from the movie understanding that. Carl felt old and used up and had grown tired of life. But through his adventure he comes to rediscover joy. It may sound tacky, but the fact is that even a jaded prick like myself can watch this film and understand that its title carries a much deeper meaning than balloon travel. Up will lift you.

2. Avatar

I'll try my best not to say too much on this one since I think we're all experiencing a bit of oversaturation , with analysis and opinions flying every which way. So I'll try to just stick to the simplest stuff here. Well, Jim Cameron has always been my favourite director and ever since I first heard about this movie somewhere around three years ago, I've been awaiting its release with great anticipation. Honestly, it seemed by about a year ago that most other peoples' interest had died down but I remained steadfast. Finally the day came and I was there with bells on.

I wasn't disappointed. I think that's partially because I came into the movie with an understanding of it most other people didn't seem to have. Almost immediately after its release, Avatar earned the reputation of this big revolutionary blockbuster but what's strange to me is that it really had to earn it first. Really, that's the way it should work with movies but we all know it's not how it actually does. So I find it really confusing that in the months leading up to Avatar no one really seemed to give a shit and it was only after people had seen it that the hype started to build. I mean, why Avatar? Why was there such skepticism going in? Well, I won't get any answers here.

Oh yeah, the actual movie. Well, I'm in complete agreement with everything Shane has already said on it and I'm really not sure what to add to it without launching into an analysis that doesn't belong on Five-O-Rama. But I will just say that if there's a movie out there that is more visually stunning than Avatar, then it must be truly something to see. Even if you find yourself hating every other element of the film, you can't deny that at the absolute least it is a visual tour de force.

1. Watchmen

The failing of most movies based on comic books is that they usually try some lame adaptation that involves a bunch of annoying changes and a very poor story. A reason for a movie based on Watchmen to succeed is that all Watchmen is is twelve comics. It's as deep and complex as a graphic novel can get but it still is a single graphic novel. Again and again, movies such as Spider-Man and X-Men and so on fail because instead of simply following a strong story arc they try to do something different.

But Watchmen is different. It is not a concoction of different stories and elements slapped together but an almost straight adaptation of a single story with a beginning, middle and end (although the ending is changed and not for the better). As far as stuff as casting, direction and effects goes, everyone can have their own opinion and I won't waste time commenting on any of it beyond saying I was for the most part pleased. Mostly I just wanted to stress that the only way a comic movie can truly succeed is by taking what's on the page and representing it on the screen as closely as possible. Watchmen is an honest effort to do just that and possibly the best ever simply by virtue of having such ridiculously strong source material to draw from. I guess the movie will never make Alan Moore happy but I often wonder if anything does.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Shane's Favourite Movies of 2009

Just like last year, I figured I would list my most enjoyable and horrible movie experiences of the year, starting with the best. Due to time and financial restrictions there were lots of movies I didn't get to see (and really wanted to) but I still saw plenty to pick from. Let's get to it.

5. Star Trek
As someone who usually hates remakes and re-imaginings, I was pleasantly surprised by this film. The movie wastes no time in its pacing to establish the characters and story. I really like the casting and they all do a great job paying homage to the the original crew of the USS Enterprise while still finding their own identity. I saw Star Trek at the theatre with two other people who had no knowledge or interest in the franchise at all, but they both left completely entertained. That's the greatest strength of the film; it manages to appeal to everyone by being engaging, exciting, and funny.

The film isn't without its flaws though. The villain's motives and method for exacting revenge are fairly ridiculous. Plus the director (JJ Abrams) seems to be in love with blinding lights and lens flares, so you feel like squinting half the time. That aside, it was a fun romp from start to finish and it left me wanting more ... which is exactly what a reboot of a franchise should do.

4. Moon
I think a lot of people may have overlooked this film, but it's really worth checking out. Sam Rockwell plays Sam Bell, a man who has been contracted to work in a lunar station for three years by himself. It's basically a one-man show for Rockwell and we watch as his character deals with being the most isolated person ever, having no human interaction of any kind, and only an intelligent computer to keep him company.

The first portion of the film studies the isolation of Sam, but the film slowly turns into something else. I won't say how it plays out, but it will certainly keep you interested. Moon is great because it pays tribute to sci-fi films from the past 30-40 years and it plays on the viewer's expectations. The atmosphere in Moon is bleak and lonely and I loved it. A must watch for sci-fi fans.

3. Drag Me to Hell
Thank you, Sam Raimi. Thanks for finally getting back to what you're good at: highly entertaining and ridiculous horror. The story is pretty simple - Woman pisses off gypsy. Gypsy places terrible curse on woman. Woman will be tormented by demon for three days and then dragged to hell. What more could you want?

Drag Me to Hell is filled to the brim with scary moments, surprising moments, and moments that will gross you right the frig out. Some parts had me laughing, groaning, and wanting to cover my eyes, but I couldn't look away. There are really no slow parts to this film; it's balls to the wall thrills straight through. Plus, Mrs. Ganush is one of the best villains I've seen in some while. An early scene in a parking garage is quite unforgettable.

I love this movie to pieces. If you're a fan of the Evil Dead series or horror at all you owe it to yourself to watch this. What are you waiting for?

2. Avatar
This movie blew my mind. Seeing it in the theatre was one of the greatest movie experiences of my life. Before seeing Avatar I had trouble believing that the 3D was revolutionary or that the CGI characters were more believable than ever before. But you know what? It's true. Avatar has convinced me that 3D can be handled well and be more than a gimmick with characters constantly throwing or jabbing things out at the audience. And yes, the Na'vi are incredibly realistic. I believed in them and cared what happened to them.

Unfortunately people have found a lot to complain about: Poor writing and dialogue, a predictable or unoriginal story, and underlying messages on American imperialism, the environment, and war. In fact it seems that everyone is forced by law to make references to Dances With Wolves or Smurfs when talking about Avatar. In my opinion, all of these complaints are pretty weak and the film still stands up despite the fact that it reminds us of wars waged for land and oil, or other love stories with unlikely pairings.

I never really had time to dwell on these things, I was too busy enjoying a great film. I was drawn into an amazingly believable world, a love story between characters I care about, and an exciting battle between good and evil (whatever they happen to represent).

1. Inglorious Basterds
Easily the movie I've watched the most times in 2009. Every viewing gave me something new to appreciate, and plenty to discuss afterward. Quentin Tarantino's World War II film is unlike any war film you've probably encountered. Although advertisements for Inglorious Basterds make out the film as a crazy action movie with bullets flying, the violence is really a small portion of the overall film. Seems like a misleading angle to advertise the movie with posters of Brad Pitt's character standing on top of a heap of dead Nazis. I don't think his character killed a single person in the film.

Instead the movie shines with its amazing performances and dialogue. The opening chapter is so suspenseful it's gut-wrenching with the character Hans Landa having a conversation with a milk farmer. Christoph Waltz does such an amazing job playing Landa that you'll be unable to take your eyes off him. His performance is so intense and frightening that your skin will crawl.

I loved each subplot and how they all come together for one hell of spectacular finale. Once again Tarantino shows us that he knows how to write entertaining characters and situations full of the unexpected. Check this movie out, stat.