Monthly Archives: November 2008

Payneful

This was always going to be a difficult review. I’ve previously mentioned my reservations about this adaptation and watching the film was aware that I ran the risk of being too harsh if it didn’t meet my pre-conceived notion of what a Max Payne film should be. With that in mind I’ll try to separate the game-specific stuff from the film itself.Let’s start with some background. Max Payne was a first person shooter on the PC back in 2001 made by the Finnish game studio Remedy. It’s sequel was released in 2003 and surprisingly was almost as good as the original. At the time of it’s release Max Payne was pretty ground breaking, most noticeably for its gameplay elements such as bullet time, but more important was the rich noir-inspired story and arresting graphic novel design elements displayed throughout cut scenes and story sequences. It was an adult game that looked at addiction, psychosis, lust, and revenge.

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The first game started with Max as a beat cop coming home to find his wife and infant daughter murdered by junkies. After burying his loved ones Max transfers to the DEA to focus on his new obsession – finding the people responsible for the murder of his family. 3 years later we come back to Max who’s now deep undercover with a local Mafia family who oversee the distribution of the drug Valkyr, the same drug the junkies were high on. The game progresses with Max being framed for the murder of a cop, and running from both the police and the Mafia as he seeks revenge before being captured or killed.

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The film starts with a similar opening: Max’s family is murdered as laid out in the game, but rather than following the story-line already defined 7 years ago, we cut to scenes inside a police station where random cops provide nothing but exposition and bad one-liners. We move to a very matrix scene in a train station where Max is jumped by junkies. Instead of the highly stylised bullet time effects we expect we’re treated to a by-the-numbers face off scene highlighting what a bad-arse Max is. There’s also real push to highlight the supernatural, Norse mythology elements which begin effecting the addicts (which is more than a little out of place).Irritation swiftly arises: Max doesn’t smoke or drink, he doesn’t narrate, and he sure as hell isn’t bat-shit crazy. The hooks we have grown to know and love about the character have been removed, leaving little more than a standard rogue cop in a story sporting thoroughly uninteresting characters. You will know who the big bad is as soon as he’s introduced, you will get a metric fuck-tonne of exposition as the movie plods along, and you will be left with the impression that nobody involved in shooting, writing, or acting in this film has played the fucking game.Visually and stylistically (excepting some of the VFX work) the film fails too; Director John Moore doesn’t reference the stunning film noir genre that the video game managed to capture – you won’t see any Vertigo, Blue Velvet, or Singing Detective here. If anything it often looks more like a tele movie than film, just because you don’t have a pile of cash to play with doesn’t mean you need to have small ideas. Sound design is often interesting but derivative, and it’s noticeable that the production borrows heavily but artlessly from better work. There’s quite a lot of Constantine in here, a bit of The Matrix, some of the previously mentioned Seven, a fleeting attempt at some Sin City, and even a little bit of Gladiator. The screenplay is terrible (Beau Thorne, I know this was your first screenplay but by fuck I hope it’s your last) with bad dialogue and inconsistencies throughout, and most of all it’s not Max Payne in anything but name.Still on the visual side I do need to mention SPIN, the VFX house who did the effects work on the film, and Visual Effects Supervisor Everett Burrell and VFX Producer Ken Wallace. Given the budget of the movie (around $35 Mil all up) they really did some stellar work.  The VFX sequences of the film are the only time I felt like somebody had paid attention to the game – well done guys.We’re left with a terrible film which should never have been made, It’s tedious to watch and fails not only as an action film but also as a game adaptation.1.5 stars.

Too Wierd To Live, And Too Rare To Die

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I hope we all enjoyed the break from work last weekend. Like many, I was lucky enough to have Monday off and enjoyed four days of drinking, gambling and smoking cigarettes until my right lung almost collapsed.Having lost hundreds of dollars gambling and drinking $7.50 beers at the Victorian Derby and waking up the next morning with a novelty moustache super-glued to my face, I decided to use my time and money a little more constructively.After two days of burning my skin with nail-polish remover and ripping most of my whiskers out, the moustache finally came off and it was time for me to re-emerge from the darkness of my bedroom and enjoy the wind on my face once more.First on the agenda – ACMI’s exclusive screening of Gonzo: The Life and Work of Doctor Hunter S. Thompson.The limited screening has finished, but those of us lucky enough to catch one of 21 sessions were given insight into the life of one of the most intriguing writers and cult figures of our time.Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room and Taxi To The Dark Side) once again proves his passion and knack for documentation, as he attempts to give order to a life of complete chaos.The film follows the life of the eccentric writer and founder of Gonzo journalism, Hunter S. Thompson, as he rises from a struggling writer in Kentucky to a reputable journalist for Rolling Stone magazine and author of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, before losing himself to celebrity-status and an addiction to drugs and alcohol.“We had two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a saltshaker half-full of cocaine, and a whole galaxy of multi-coloured uppers, downers, laughers, screamers… Also, a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of beer, a pint of raw ether, and two dozen amyls. Not that we needed all that for the trip, but once you get into locked a serious drug collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can…”As a journalism grad, I could not help but get carried away with Thompson’s influence on contemporary journalism (and for those opinion writers out there who are unaware of his influence on your work, you should be taken outside and shot).Gonzo journalism became an essential subject for all aspiring writers and the movie gives a fascinating background of its evolution. Gonzo incorporates the writer as a character within the their own piece. This first-person narrative allows the writer to express their opinions and perceptions and in Hunter S. Thompson’s case, a detailed description of the drugs he has consumed and their effect on his speech and general motor skills.The narrative of the movie is supported by interviews with well-known authors, journalists, artists and actors as they reflect on Hunter’s extraordinary life and his influence on the world around him.Johnny Depp literally reads his script from Hunter’s work and still manages to captivate an entire audience, demonstrating genuine respect and admiration and giving further credit to his dead-set portrayal of the late ‘doctor’.Highlights come from artist Ralph Steadman, who illustrated most of Hunter’s work, as he describes their first encounter. Within two minutes of meeting the writer, Steadman (who had never touched a drug in his life) was persuaded to follow Thompson to the side of a highway and take copious amounts of mescaline.Similarly, Thompson’s vendetta against presidential candidate Ed Muskie is as funny as it is clever. To stop the candidate from winning, Thompson began spreading rumours that Muskie had developed an addiction to a fictional South American drug called Ibogaine. It was no surprise that Muskie lost the election in a one-sided vote.Gonzo: The Life and Work of Doctor Hunter S. Thompson is not perfect, but fans will appreciate Gibney’s attempt at making sense of the tragic author’s life.For those of you who have not read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas; slap yourselves in the face and borrow it from a friend, it’s well worth your time.One word of warning: This film, much like Fear and Loathing, will make you want to experiment with illicit drugs and drink excessive amounts of alcohol. For me, the result was a trip to the zoo with a couple of grams of weed, getting lost in the rainforest of the Gorilla Sanctuary and not being able to move for several hours – a much more constructive way to spend the day.

Movies That Save Lives #1 – Empire Records

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As my first contribution to the site, I tried to avoid making any major claims or criticisms. Therefore, I’ve selected films that don’t take themselves too seriously and slip under the geek radar.To get things started, I’m going with an old favourite of mine – Allan Moyle’s 1995 indie classic, Empire Records.This is a movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously, has no real story to it and deals with age-old pubescent issues such as love, work, future and friendship.It follows a day in the life of thirty-year-olds playing teenagers as they work in an independent music store called (wait for it…) Empire Records.Anthony LaPaglia plays Joe, the manager/father-figure to a group of mixed-up, lovable losers. When news spreads that the store is being sold to a music franchise, the group are forced to put their differences aside and band together to save the store they love.Empire Records accumulated cult status in the mid ‘90s and has remained a favourite in the teen-comedy genre.Similar to (but not as good as) Dazed and Confused; the movie enlists a large cast of competent actors who enjoy bouncing off one another, adding their own style to the group’s dynamic. The movie allocates adequate screen-time to each character, allowing each of them to generate their own presence and associated fan-base.The cast includes early appearances from the likes of Renee “I constantly look like I’m taking a shit” Zellweger and Liv Tyler. A majority of the cast also went on to pursue careers on the small screen: Anthony LaPaglia (Without A Trace), Rory Cochrane (CSI: Miami), Debi Mazar (Entourage) and Robin Tunney (Prison Break and The Mentalist).The rest of the cast seemed to fade into the distance after small roles in D-grade flicks, including Brendon Sexton, who literally played the role of his life as my favourite character Warren, the hyperactive, smart-mouthed thief/employee (“His name isn’t fucking Warren!”).As with most teen comedies, the soundtrack plays an important element in setting the tone – and Empire Records delivers in spades. Having based the entire story within a record store it was crucial that the music didn’t suck massive balls. A balance was needed between “dance party USA teeny bopper type shit” and the classic names often associated with the music industry. The final product incorporates old favourites (AC/DC, Dire Straits), one-hit wonders (The Buggles and The Flying Lizards) and up-and-coming artists like Coyote Shivers (Berko), who wrote and performed his song ‘Sugar High’ for the film. Although he never amounted to much, the song is still pretty catchy.Allan Moyle succeeded in producing exactly what he set out to make – a fun and quirky teen comedy. It is the fantastic ensemble cast that elevates Empire Records as one of the few to succeed in this ‘less hit than miss’ genre and create a formula often attempted but never perfected.So when Sunday comes around, and you wake up beside another bucket of vomit (either literally or referring to some of the girls you’ve been with), remember to take my advice and choose your hangover movies carefully.RAMDOM TRIVIAIt was only after watching the movie a couple of weeks ago that I noticed Tobey Maguire’s name in the credits. Curious, I investigated and discovered that Spider-man was cast as Andre; a minor character in the film whose scenes were deleted from the final cut.

Movies That Save Lives – Hung Over Rentals.

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One of our listeners, the lovely Chris Bright, emailed me the other day about a new segment for Fulltime Casual: the best movies to watch when hung over. Its a bloody great idea, but being a lazy bastard, I asked him to write the first post. His first perfect hangover film is coming, but before then, Chris wrote up some guidelines as to how to pick the perfect hangover film:

Hangovers – we’ve all had one, and let’s be honest, when Saturday morning comes around we’ll all be sitting on the couch again, feeling and smelling like we’ve died a little inside.So what can you do during this time of pain and regret? My advice is to have your girlfriend run to McDonald’s while you put on a movie, kick off your slippers and let your brain escape this horrible reality.Selecting the perfect hangover movie is a difficult feat, and one that should be taken seriously. Nobody wants to sit for two hours while Ben Affleck makes your day worse than it already is.The following guidelines can be used to avoid situations such as this:1 – GenresKeep it simple – comedy, action, adventure; no twists, minimal plot and entertaining enough to keep you occupied for the afternoon. Try to avoid any emotional dramas, thrillers with major plot twists and all horrors (at the slight chance that they are actually scary).P.S. DO NOT WATCH ‘THE ORPHANAGE’ WHILE STONED! For anyone in the cinema that night, I apologise – wee actually came out.2 – DirectorsSome knowledge of a director’s history will be required. As a rule of thumb, try to avoid anything written, directed or produced by Guillermo del Toro, Terry Gilliam, Richard Kelly or David Lynch. Most of these films will be far too complex for your brain to comprehend with a hangover, or they are simply just a collection of random thoughts that make no fucking sense at all.3 – ActorsThis is where it gets tricky, because you can’t select a movie based on an actor’s history. You also need to consider their potential to entertain (stick by Robert Downey Jr. and Sam Rockwell) and their relationship with the director (Johnny Depp is usually bankable, unless the movie is directed by Tim “Johnny Depp and my wife playing weird, take 14” Burton). As a rule of thumb, try to avoid anything written, directed, starring or even offered to David “I’m a whiney bitch” SchwimmerChris Bright

The Simpsons Rating Triumph – Blame YouTube

Quite a few sites are reporting that The Simpsons latest Treehouse of Horror episode grabbed the shows best rating in five years. So far, no-one has used this fact to jump to a ridiculous conclusion just because it fits their beliefs about video sharing.So let me.

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The reason The Simpsons did so well in the ratings this week was because someone at Fox was smart enough to upload its Mad Men parody to Youtube a few days before the episode screened. I saw it on TV Tonight, then posted it here. Duncan Riley saw it here, and posted it to The Inquistr. Someone no doubt saw it there, and posted it on their site, and well, you see where this is going.Just as Tina Fey suddenly made SNL relevant again, and spurned a trillion websites to post her Palin parodies, this clip reminded people how awesome The Simpsons could be.So media companies, can you all stop suing YouTube for the free publicity its providing? And if you insist on taking clips off YouTube and using your own crappy media player instead, can you atleast make the clips embeddable?