Friday, August 26, 2011

Movie Review: Wild Wild West

In 1965 Robert Conrad and Ross Martin co-starred in a TV show called Wild Wild West. The show chronicled the adventures of James West and Artemus Gordon, two members of the secret service taking on villains in the old west using West's gunslinging and Gordon's steampunk-lite inventions. The major draw of the show was the incredible chemistry between the two stars, who created a screen partnership to rival Kirk and Spock, Luke and Bo Duke, and Ernie.

In 1999, Barry Sonnenfeld directed a film called Wild Wild West, a 170 million dollar action comedy about an Army Captain and a US Marshall who join forces to stop an evil genius who plans to conquer the United States with a giant mechanical spider. Though financially a success (the film earned back over 222 million dollars worldwide) the movie was considered to be a critical failure and has since become one of the most universally hated movies on the internet, wih 4.4 stars on IMDb and 21% on Rotten Tomatoes.

At the risk of having my internet writer license revoked I have to admit that I never really understood why this movie was so hated. Most of the hate seems nitpicky to me, as if the critics are desperate to agree with the hive mind, but can't actually come up with a justification for doing so, so they just bring up whatever bad things they can think of, no matter how minor.

The one real, major problem I can find with the movie is the two leads, Jim West and Artemus Gordon, as played by Will Smith and Kevin Kline. Don't get me wrong, the movie doesn't need to put the same emphasis on their relationship as the show did, nor would I expect it to. Smith and Kline don't have anywhere near the chemistry of Conrad and Martin. That's kind of the problem, though. Smith and Kline are like oil and water. These two would be unappealing in any movie. Watching them try to emulate one of the greatest relationships in television history is just painful.

To be fair to them, part of this is the fault of the script. The movie -perhaps unwisely- tries to evoke the old buddy cop trope of the two lawmen who start out as enemies before coming to respect one another. Sadly, it never quite seems to get around to the respecting each other part, settling instead on going from hatred to just not caring. It doesn't help that when they finally do get to their big bonding scene it's played entirely for laughs, and punctuated by the two of them being chased through a cornfield by flying saw blades.

KR Rating: 4 GOOD

So is the movie really as bad as everyone says? Not even close. Is it as good as the TV show? No, but to be fair it was never going to be. Haters are quick to say that you have to judge it in context, and they're right. In the context of a big budget action movie -which is what it is- it's actually pretty good. It was never intended to compete with the series, or to be high art. It succeeded at what it wanted to do and it brought something new to the genre, which is more than can be said for most other action comedies, including those that rated higher than it did. The only real problem with the movie is the utter lack of chemistry between the two leads.

If you haven't seen this movie then I suggest you check it out, even if just so you can judge it for yourself. True, fans of the series and those looking for high art won't find a lot to be interested in here, but if you're a fan of action comedies, a fan of steampunk, or better yet a fan of both then I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by Wild Wild West.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Confession: I kind of can't stand DC Comics Confessions

Before I get into talking about this week's subject, I'd like to talk about a phenomenon I like to call the I Like Cheese Effect. I'm not talking about the fact that I like cheese, even though I do. No, I'm talking about the people who feel the need to post on Twitter, on a blog, on Facebook, or somewhere else, but they don't really have anything to say, so they just end up posting something like "I like cheese."

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to say you should never have an opinion, or that you should never post it for people you don't know to look at it. If I believed that I wouldn't have this blog. The thing is, there's a difference between making a point, telling a story, or offering insight, as opposed to just saying "I like cheese." If you want to tell me about the specific kinds of cheese you like, I'm all ears*. If you want to tell me a story about how you had some really good cheese when you were vacationing in Europe, go right ahead*. If you want to write me a 5 point thesis on why cheese is the best food ever, feel free*. But if all you have to say is "I like cheese," please kill yourself.

* Note: my interest in these topics will, of course, depend entirely on whether or not I know who you are. Do not send me e-mails talking about cheese if I don't know you or I will lay every curse I can on your hard drive.

DC Comics Confessions is basically an entire website of cheese-liking. Yes, true, there are a few actual points being made. Unfortunately, 99% of it is just page after page after page of meaningless statements like "I can't stand [Starfire]" and "I hate Nightwing's mullet." They're a bit like bumper stickers in a way. People who already agree with you will get a brief "somebody else feels how I feel" high, but aside from that there is no purpose or meaning to what you're saying. Even as conversation starters they fail, since all confessions are completely anonymous.

Of course, I'm sure someone could mention here that that's the entire point. It's not about making an argument, or starting a conversation, it's about confessions. That goes back to what I was saying to begin with, though: It's one thing to believe that, say, "the Superbuddies are the most awesome superhero team," and it's perfectly fine to want to tell people you believe that. But if you feel so strongly about it that people must know, yet so oppressed that you believe the only way to get your opinion heard is by anonymous confession, you really need to go outside.

Also, why do all of these things always say I kind of cant stand __? Can you stand it or not? The qualifying phrase is unnecessary and makes you look like a passive-aggressive pussy.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

OWGH: Timesplitters Future Perfect

As my way of apologizing for missing or stretching my last several weekly updates, the three people who read this blog get an extra post this week. Because I'm lazy, though, it's another edition of the old website's greatest hits.

Originally, I was going to repost my first review ever, for Icewind Dale 2, but I unfortunately hit a snag when I realized that review sucked. Instead, you get a repost of my review for Timesplitters: Future Perfect.


Obviously there is something desperately wrong with me. I know this because I actually went out and bought this game, even after the maddening horror that was Timesplitters 2. I'm obviously either a masochist, dangerously stupid, or more likely both.

Or maybe I'm just morbidly curious. Who knows?

Fortunately, my fears were alleviated almost immediately. Future Perfect is an awesome game and definitely much better than its awful predecessor. How did this happen? Mostly, there's a new developer: EA Games. In fact, I have totally unreliable testimony from a halfwit who claims with no proof that he worked for TS2 developer Eidos saying that the reason Timesplitters 2 sucked so hard was because frankly Eidos just didn't give a damn about the franchise so didn't put any effort into it. It would certainly explain a lot, but then again I got that information from a GameFAQs user. To protect his identity, I have code-named him "Curve Ball."

Anyway, back to this particular game. EA Games decided to actually explain the plot for us, as well as, thankfully, letting us know just what the Hell was going on in the last game. In a change from TS2 you actually control Cortez through this game, rather than jumping into other people. This, of course, means we actually get to have cut scenes and interaction between characters. You even get to hang out with your future self on occasion. Don't worry, it'll all make sense when you play the game.

All things considered, my only real complaint is that they took out the Wild West and Cyber Punk eras from TS2.

Presentation: 5/5
The presentation is perfect. Graphics are great, sound is great. No real complaints here.

Gameplay: 4/5
The gameplay is also great. The game is a load of fun, with many unique and interesting weapons, challenging enemies, and decent A.I. Unfortunately, the gameplay only gets a four because Cortez still hasn't learned how to jump.

Multiplayer: 5/5
Honestly, the only way the multiplayer could get any better is if you could design your own maps and scenarios to play in using some kind of map editor. Oh wait, you can do that! Sweet!

KR Rating (from the FUTURE): 5 GREAT

Sadly, this was also to be the last Timesplitters game, one final hurrah to end the series. I guess it's just as well. Not every game needs to be a series. Future Perfect is, well, perfect all on its own. One could argue it doesn't even strictly need the first two games either. Really, it's not that I'd like to see another Timesplitters. I think this game wrapped up the story very nicely.

Rather, I'd like to see more games like Future Perfect. You know, a game with more than two hours of content, a game that has a serious story yet doesn't take itself too seriously, and where "weapon variety" doesn't mean "fifty assault rifles, six pistols, three shotguns, and a token rocket launcher just to shut you up."

If you're one of the many people who still have a Playstation 2 (or if you're one of the PS3 owners lucky enough to have a backward compatible system) Future Perfect is a must-have. It's a solid game and personally I believe it still stands up even when compared to modern shooters.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Real Storyboard for Mystery Science Theater 3000 (From Another Universe)

I, like a lot of people, love Mystery Science Theater 3000. I was 15 when it was cancelled in 1999, and while I didn't exactly cry, I was sad to see it go. At the same time, let's be fair. It's not like no one saw it coming. It's a show of 2 hour long episodes, each of which required long and expensive copyright negotiations just to be filmed. The fact that it lasted for 11 whole years is amazing in and of itself.

At the same time, I feel like the show is a product of its time. It was first created in 1988, but ran until 1999, so I feel it's really a product of the 90s. That's part of why I love it, I loved the 90s, but at the same time I recognize that society has changed a lot since then. Somewhere in the 2000s we dragged subtlety into the street and executed it, gangland style, while it begged for us to please, please don't do this, please I have kids!

The point is, whether you think we've lowered the bar, dumbed everything down, or just plain screwed everything right the Hell up, we can all agree that what we expect from our entertainment has definitely changed a lot since the 90s.

So, what would MST3K look like if it was made today, by the average television writer of today? You may remember some time ago, I was able to use an screaming rip in space and time to bring you a letter to Cave Story designer Daisuke Amaya from another universe. Well, that rift has since collapsed into a black hole that has swallowed most of Arkansas, but it also allowed me to find another artifact from the same universe. As near as I can tell, this is part of a storyboard for that universe's version of Mystery Science Theater 3000, created in the year 2011. Enjoy!