Saturday, July 23, 2011

Top 5 List: 5 Awful Banner Ads

Here's an experiment you can try at home. Don't watch any TV for a year. You can watch shows online if you'd like, but don't watch on the television itself. At the end of the year go back and turn on your TV, then wait for the first commercial break. Count the number of seconds it takes before you want to punch someone.

Most commercials are so awful I'm honestly convinced it might all be a massive inside joke or experiment. It's like the somewhat well-known story of Motley Crue members Tommy Lee and Nikki Sixx, who had a bet to see who could go the longest without showering and still sleep with groupies, except in this case advertisers are trying to see how terrible they can make their ads and still get corporations to pay for them. Even good products are getting terrible ads, as I've mentioned before.

As my way of launching my newest post tag I decided to sit down and find five truly abominable ads. Originally I was going to discuss television commercials here too, but I'm afraid I'm not ready for that kind of crazy yet, and this is coming from a person who read Time Cube from beginning to end and journaled my descent into the rabbit hole on this very blog. Besides, at this point banner ads are sort of my thing.

That said, here are five ads that force me to ask: "How in the Hell are you selling your product?"

5. 4 More Years?

This is a great example of what I was talking about. This ad for -a real news site with real journalists and real stories and everything- shows off all the wit and subtlety of a Mack truck combined with an absolute minimum of effort and a crop job that looks like it was done in 5 seconds on MS Paint. For Christ's sake, the name of the site they're advertising doesn't even appear on the damn ad!

Just to prove my point about how not hard this is, I decided to make my own ad for the same site making the same point as theirs, only in a more effective way. The following ad only took me seven minutes to make, and I'm not even a professional advertiser.

If I was a professional advertiser you can bet your ass this thing would be flashing like I had a blood vendetta against epileptics.

4. Milanoo Final Fantasy Cosplay Stuff

Here's a secret the ad agencies don't want you to know: advertising is actually really simple. Just show your product looking awesome, delicious, or convenient, then tell people how to get that awesome, delicious, convenient thing. If your product can't be made to look awesome, delicious, or convenient, then you lie.

Clearly, the advertisers for Milanoo were well aware of this simple idea. Who needs to lie when you're selling cosplay materials and outfits so amazing they will magically transform you into a CGI character cropped out of the game and crudely photoshopped onto a picture of a couch?

3. Alli Labs: Look 10 Years Younger in 10 Minutes

look 10 years younger in 10 minutes

Before we begin, it's important that you understand, I did not alter this ad in any way. I didn't crop out some crucial text that explains what's going on. This isn't the first frame of an animated ad. This is all there is to this ad. The only other context available is mouseover text which I've included here.

First of all, when trying to sell a rejuvenating lotion (I assume) it's important that you show a picture of someone attractive, someone your viewer would presumably want to look like. This woman looks so old I'm convinced the only thing your lotion would do is take her from "fossil" to "mummy." Combine that with a slogan that sounds like something you'd see in the subject line of a spam e-mail, and you have two great reasons not to click this ad.

Just for argument's sake, here's a more effective ad (not made by me) for a similar product, in this case apparently a magical spell that will turn you into a life-sucking demon.

Admittedly, she's pretty hot for being probably a witch.

2. Free Electronic Cigarette

For those not in the know, electronic cigarettes are battery powered smoke machines lauded for managing the Herculean task of being better for you than a tube full of tar-soaked carcinogens, a claim almost as obvious as it is completely untrue. But it takes more than bad spelling and a stupid product for an ad to be truly awful. Fortunately (ha) this ad quickly goes full retard.

It just raises so many questions. Why is the word "now" in quotes? Are they being sarcastic? Why are they talking about quitting smoking in the middle of a cigarette ad? Why did they include the year at the end of the ad? Are they expecting me to see this and say "okay, you say I can quit smoking with your e-cigarette, but what year, huh? Oh, I see! Sold!"

A trip to their website doesn't answer any of these questions. It does, however, assure me that Leonardo DiCaprio, Johnny Depp, and Paris Hilton all use e-cigarettes. Quite the argument there. How could I possibly disagree with the product choices of out-of-touch, eccentric douchebags?

1. Knight Productions...what even is this crap?

This is just bad. I mean, first of all, what is this even advertising? Some stupid angelfire site no one's ever heard of? And that artwork, what is that, a cave drawing by a blind weeaboo neanderthal who died of terminal lameness halfway through? The slogan is even worse. "Shameless self-promotion" stopped being a funny line in, oh wait, it was never funny.

I like the font, though. It looks like if SyFy stopped trying.

Apparently the moron who made this stupid crap eight years ago has some sort of blog now. Let's check that garbage out. ...oh.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Movie Review: Stan Helsing (Movie)

Chances are most people reading this have heard of writing/directing duo Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, commonly referred to as Seltzerberg. They're infamous for writing and directing lazy, low-budget, raunchy spoof films, usually named some variation of "___ Movie." Examples include Epic Movie, Scary Movie, and Disaster Movie.

I should mention, Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer were not involved in the production of this movie at any point. Why do I bring them up then? Because I'm almost certain their work was used as a template for this movie. This movie falls victim to all of the same problems that plague Seltzerbergs' worst films. It's so bad that I actually had to go back and check to make sure the title wasn't "Helsing Movie." That's right, this movie is a low-budget ripoff of a Seltzerberg picture. Think about that for a while.

So who did make this movie? It would spoil the surprise if I told you now, so instead I'm going to make you wait until the end. No skipping ahead!

But first, because lists are easy and because I suck at segues, here are the top reasons Stan Helsing sucks.

4. Fweddy.
No, I didn't spell that wrong. Fweddy is what this movie calls their "parody" of A Nightmare on Elm Street villain Freddy Krueger. The reason I use the sarcastic quotes is because, honestly, I'm not convinced this qualifies as a parody at all.

Freddy Krueger is possibly one of the most unique slasher movie villains out there but -with the exception of the evil doll Chucky from Child's Play- is also quite possibly the easiest slasher movie villain to make fun of. The guy once killed a kid by trapping him in a video game. In A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge he ties up a naked gym coach and smacks him on the butt with a towel until he dies. For God's sake, Freddy Krueger is a pedophile with a face that looks like melted cheese. How much easier of a target for ridicule could you find?

So how do they parody him? By having him wear a clock necklace like Flava Flav. But wait, that's not all! He also does the famous Krueger pose, smirking with his bladed glove in front of his face, except wait! The thumb's "blade" is actually a toothbrush, and he brushes his teeth with it.

So yeah. That's your big Elm Street parody? Freddy Krueger brushing his teeth? That's almost as bad as Seltzerberg "parodying" Little Miss Sunshine by having one of the characters die while wearing a shirt bearing the movie's title.

3. Leslie Nielsen as Kay.
Leslie Nielsen hasn't been in anything good since the 90's, so it may come as a surprise to my younger readers when I say this: Leslie Nielsen is quite possibly the funniest actor in the history of comedy.

Nielsen has the ability to deliver ridiculously nonsensical dialog and subpar jokes with a completely straight face that makes them drop dead hilarious. The man might just be a real life alchemist; he takes awful puns that should go over like a lead balloon, and transmutes them into 24 karat comedy gold. Don't take my word for it, though: even Roger Ebert once referred to Nielsen as "the Lawrence Olivier of spoof movies."

With that in mind, what sort of madman casts Leslie Nielsen in his movie, then gives him absolutely nothing funny to say or do? Nielsen doesn't get any jokes in this movie, not even bad jokes. The closest he gets to doing anything funny is that his character is a woman. No, seriously, that's it. He has fake tits and a bad wig, and he calls the main characters "freaks." That's all he does.

This is the equivalent of drafting NFL all-star Peyton Manning for your football team, then making him the water boy.

2. The setup.
Up until now we've just looked at specific examples, but really the entire thing is just bad in general.

The title character and star of the movie is Stan Helsing, a weed-smoking slacker whose motto in life is "don't get involved." His plans to attend an awesome Halloween party with his friends are put on hold when he's ordered to make a delivery to his boss's mother's house. Unfortunately, the mother lives in Stormy Night Estates, a small town/gated community (the movie doesn't seem to be sure which) that's said to be haunted.

The first half of the movie follows Stan and his friends on their way to the gated community/town, as they are subjected to one horrifying incident after another, including a hitchhiker who turns out to be a psychotic serial killer, and a dog they run over whose vengeful owner brings him back as a vicious zombie.

To be honest, it's actually fairly effective. It's scary, and so over the top horrible as to be fairly funny too. The problem is that none of this setup pays off, ever. Once they arrive at Stormy Night Estates, all of the enemies they picked up on their way are anticlimactically dropped and replaced by lazy parodies of famous slasher film villains, thereby rendering everything we just watched completely pointless.

1. The payoff.
Warning: The following contains spoilers for an awful movie. I shouldn't need to give you this warning, as you could probably see all of these "plot twists" coming even if you never watched the movie.

As it turns out, Stan Helsing's real name is Stanley van Helsing, he's the descendant of famed monster hunter Abraham van Helsing, and at this point absolutely no one cares. Faced with his past he instantaneously discards the philosophy of non-involvement he's held for his entire life in order to save a gated communitown full of people he has no reason to care about from a group of parodies/ripoffs that don't even seem to be that much of a threat.

But first we're treated to an awful karaoke scene where the monsters fail to parody The Village People. Incidentally, how do you fail to parody The Village People? Anyway, after this scene accomplishes nothing but padding the movie's runtime Stan is forced to fight the villains for real. He remembers he has a scroll telling him how to win, but all the scroll says is "the monsters have weaknesses."

Somehow, this cryptic nonsense works and Stan magically guesses all of the monsters weaknesses on the first try. Freddy is dispatched when Stan removes his famous razor glove, revealing his hand sparkles like Edward Cullen in daylight. Pinhead is then destroyed by Stan pushing the pins on his head...into his head. That retardation out of the way, the writer apparently gives up on thinking up weaknesses and Stan takes out Jason and Michael Myer by...honestly, I'm not even sure. He just sort of fondles their masks for a second then pushes them both out the door.

Really, I can't even think up any jokes for this, that's how awful it is.

Stan Helsing is more than just bad, it's aggressively bad. The movie seems to delight in teasing you with actually decent jokes and scares, only to instantly squash them in the laziest way possible. This goes beyond simply not caring. I can't say I know what the director had in mind, so, I don't know for a fact that any of this was intentional. That said, if I can be real here for a second? If the writer/director is NOT a supervillain who plans to take revenge on the world by subjecting it to terrible movies, then he has a lot of explaining to do.

Back at the beginning I promised I'd tell you who made this movie once I got to the end of my review, so here it is. You ready?

Stan Helsing was written and directed by Bo Zenga, who also wrote and directed Soul Plane, a lazy, racist (to both whites and blacks), low-budget raunchfest, the plot of which can be basically summed up as "wacky black people are on a plane, the end."

All of a sudden, everything makes sense.

Annotation From The Future:

It always adds an extra layer of tragedy to a bad movie when you discover that it was the last movie of a great actor. For example, film buffs are always quick to mention how sad it was that Emmy award winner Raul Julia's last major movie role was in Street Fighter. While on some level I suppose it is sad that the guy who once played Othello ended his career in a crappy video game movie at least he was clearly having loads of fun with it and besides he was also in two Addams Family movies, so he was clearly not above taking on a comedic role.

What's truly unspeakably sad, however, is that this movie -Stan Helsing- was Leslie Nielsen's final role before dying of pneumonia. This is a tragedy exactly three times greater than Raul Julia's, and I have scientific proof to support that: IMDb has only attempted to revise history by sticking Raul Julia's name to one other project that happened after he died. Nielsen, on the other hand, has three. Q.E.D.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Video Game Review: Pokémon Black/White Version

The Pokémon franchise has gotten a bit of a bad reputation for its lack of innovation. I'd explain why, but if you're reading this you probably already know why, and besides this VGCats guest strip makes the point much better than I ever could.

Clearly, Nintendo and GameFreak heard all the complaints, which is why when they were working on Pokémon Black/White they made a point of letting everyone know that this game was finally going to give us that "something new" everyone had been asking for.

So, did they succeed? By way of answering that, allow me to present to you the top 3 problems with Pokémon Black/White version:

3. The new pokémon.
One of the big hype points for Black/White was that it would have all new pokémon. That is to say, the old pokémon will have to either be transferred over from old versions or caught in specific special areas. No more caverns full of zubats, no more caterpies hiding in every patch of grass. Unfortunately, Nintendo and GameFreak handily showed us that they were not capable of coming up with 150 more pokémon.

You can go through the list and point out where most of the new 'mons are obviously just old ones with new designs. Pidove is the same as Pidgey, Timburr and its evolutions are the same as Machop and its evolutions, and while it's true that we no longer have the caves full of Zubats and Geodudes all the other games had, that's only because they're now full of Woobats and Roggenrolas.

Speaking of, Roggenrola actually shows a fair amount of potential for uniqueness. It could be a rock type with a propensity for sound-based moves like the newly introduced Echoed Voice. Maybe its evolution could be called Roggstar. That'd be cool. Instead, they abandon the rock-and-roll pun after its first evolution when it becomes Boldore and proceeds to completely rip off the Geodude line. In fact, the only thing really differentiating the Roggenrola line from the Geodude line (aside from its appearance) is that Geodude has a larger move list. The two lines even evolve the same way. (Once at level 25, again when traded.)

The Roggenrola line doesn't even seem to know what it wants to be itself. Gigalith's (the final form) pokédex entry makes a big deal out of how it absorbs sunlight to fire powerful energy beams. That makes it sound like the pokémon's signature attack would be Solar Beam (which is a grass type move anyway, so why?) which is weird because Gigalith does not learn Solar Beam. It can learn it as a TM, sure, but so can almost every grass, fire, bug, and normal type in the series. They had here not one but two different possibilities to make this pokémon unique and they squandered both of them.

2. The philosophy.
When he was reviewing the movie I Am Sam, Roger Ebert said, "you can't have heroes and villains when the wrong side is making the best sense." That line sums up this game's big philosophical debate pretty handily.

The main villains of this game are Team Plasma, a group who believes that kidnapping sentient creatures, locking them in tiny balls, and only letting them out so they can participate in glorified cockfights might not be very nice. I know, shocking, right? Their point is obvious and hard to argue against, so naturally they never seem to be capable of making it in any real way. When asked to defend themselves, rather than point out the obvious, they usually change the subject and talk about their evil plans instead.

To be fair to Plasma, no one seems to be able to mount a decent argument in either direction. When asked to defend their own worldviews, the trainers' main argument is to whine "but we like training pokémon," in much the same way that a 19th century plantation owner might have said "but I like owning slaves." It's not only ludicrous but starts to get sad toward the end when you realize it's not the NPCs saying it but Nintendo and GameFreak desperately trying (and failing) to convince us that pokémon training isn't completely cruel

Here's the thing, though. These questions aren't that important. When I played HeartGold I understood the moral implications, but they never hindered my ability to enjoy the game. The difference here is that they brought it up. I can only assume they quickly realized they didn't have an answer to the argument, so they tried to avoid it. That begs the question, though, if you couldn't argue against it, then why bring it up?

1. Just, generally, everything.
I really hate to say this game is bad because it's obvious that they did try to give us some actual innovation in this game. Unfortunately, most of it's wasted on superficial things like camera angles and sprites that wiggle around in battle.

As for the new pokémon we were promised, let me go on record as saying that a few of them really are cool, like Pawniard, Hydreigon, and the water type starter. Sadly, most of them are either lame rehashings of older 'mons, or else just totally uninspired.

So as much as it pains me to give this game this rating, I'm afraid it's the only one I can honestly give.

KR Rating: BAD
If you want to play a Pokémon game, play HeartGold/SoulSilver instead. It's easily the best game in the franchise. As for Black/White, there's no reason to even bother.