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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

A White Lie | "Anguish" Poetry Collection

I lied last time.

I said that I was done with my project, finally at that! Well, as these things tend to do, I suddenly came up with another entry to add to the (now 16 strong) pool of poems. When I read it it does come off as pretty melodramatic, pretty sad stuff, at least if I consider the readers' perspective.

Oh and having talked about it with someone close, I thought I should disclose that I don't want any readers to think that I am actively considering suicide or anything like that. These poems, when released, will be an artistic reflection of the times that have haunted me throughout my life. They will be nothing more than that. After all, the band members comprising the death metal act Cannibal Corpse don't seem to, so far anyway, engage in necrophilia, mass murder, and cannibalism (or any combination thereof) so that logic applies here, too. If I were in dire need of help I'd have sought it already, a long time ago at that.

To bring this post to a close I will state that as of this writing, I am considering all kinds of avenues for publishing. There is the self-publishing route (through a middle-man), the DIY route (the most challenging, painstaking, but surely most gratifying method) or there's considering a publishing house (potentially the most exposure but the least rewarding, should the book be unable to sell more than it costs to put out). I have many options and I have to weigh them all. So this will take a while of course.


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

"Anguish" Preview | Confinement

I haven't updated this blog in months. It's become a bad habit indeed, but maybe after having completed an actual project (finally!) I'll have mustered the motivation necessary to update this more often, and perhaps more regularly.

But that's neither here or there; this post is about a preview into that "actual project", entitled "Anguish." It will be a collection of poems centering around my very long battle with anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, and inability to be chipper most of the time. I'm going to look into various avenues through which I can publish the collection into a book. Eventually I'll capture a visual element to complement the book, and that, along with visual tweaks of the actual literary element when applied to paper, will find its way into another edition.

Further edits for clarity and for the general fuck of it may be forthcoming until the collection actually gets published for good.

Without further ado, here's a preview of "Confinement." Note: this, along with the rest of the collection, was written in free-verse style.

You became blind
Your heart wrenches
You taste gloom
You see no way out

Your breaths falter
Your heart is in a vice
You recollect life
Your light dims

You beg for escape
You grasp for...something
Your hope now wanes
Your heart begins to break

You then throw it in
You perceive the end
Your lungs collapse
You cannot scream now

You finally glimpse happiness
You gripe at the prospect
You know the awful truth
You know you are in confinement

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Witch Review (2016, Horror/Thriller/Historical Drama, A24)

Evil does take many forms.

Unlike most reviewers, those who left positive ones anyway, I'm approaching this review with a different perspective. It is that in which I consider that maybe things weren't as they seemed through the events of the film. That maybe something, or someone else was responsible for the horrific events befalling our film's Puritan family.

Central to the film is the character Thomasin, played by Anya Taylor-Joy. Right at the outset we are given an indication that her character is flawed; she gives a long, studied confession in which, among other things, she admits to having doubts about her faith. Also important is the detail that she has been rebelling against her parents. That last detail is pretty crucial to her character because we can see why she would feel that way later on in the movie.

Thomasin and her family, particularly because of their patriarchal father, William, are cast out of a New England colony and forced to fend for themselves. They eventually settle in a patch of land flanked by a very creepy forest (one of the creepiest in recent cinematic history, in fact) and it seems like maybe they won't be so screwed.

You'd be wrong.

William is not as competent as he should be, at farming or at hunting, though there may be certain forces at work in sabotaging his efforts. Thomasin's younger brother, Caleb, is hormonal and frustrated, and unfortunately sexually attracted to Thomasin in a few ways, though that undoubtedly is a prime reason as to why he feels so angry. The family also has twin children, who are bratty, loud, and quite irritating. Katherine is the mother who seems rather moody and quick to judge. And the newest addition to the family is Samuel, who is, depending on how you interpret the plot, the catalyst for the rest of the film.

Thomas in is asked to look after Samuel while Katherine tends to certain duties, possibly because William is not very good at doing them himself. So Thomasin takes him to a wide-open stretch of land some distance away and plays peak-a-boo with the baby. It amuses him and she seems amused, too. She does one last peak-a-boo when she notices that Samuel had literally vanished out of thin air right under her nose. In a panic, she shouts his name and runs around investigating. End scene.

One by one, the family is befallen to tragedy. Crops are failing, there's not enough meat to feed the family, William & Katherine are hiding secrets from one another, the twins are behaving rather strangely and accuse Thomasin of being a witch (due to Samuel's disappearance), and Caleb is being Caleb. Thomasin, meanwhile, is clearly conflicted by what happened. But we are never truly sure what her feelings actually are as to what happened. 

Caleb then sets out to retrieve a trap set previously, and it has thankfully caught some meat. Thomasin insists on accompanying him on horseback. They then stumble upon a hare, a creepy one at that, which startles their dog which had tagged along with the two. It also startles the horse, which sends Thomasin flying. Caleb takes after the dog which chases the hare, and it goes downhill from there. Caleb gets lost and desperate, but finds that the hare is nearby. He follows it, not knowing what else to do, but then he encounters something freaky in the woods. Someone is living deep in these woods, it is clear to him. A vaguely beautiful woman in a red robe seductively approaches him, and he gives in. However, in the back of his mind he knows something is wrong, so he is deeply afraid. The figure assertively closes in on him, kisses him on the cheek, and we see a gnarly hand shoot out and grab his head. End scene.

Now the family is getting terrified. Later the next day, though, Caleb returns in a state of delirium. He battles shock and complete lunacy brought on by something traumatic having happened to him, and he is cold. The family desperately tries to pray for his recovery and just when it seemed to work, he lays down, dead. The twins had been acting particularly eerie the whole time, and since Thomasin was the last to accompany Caleb, suspicions arise. Without knowing any alternatives and refusing to seek help from the colony that exiled him and his family, William then assumes supernatural forces at work. As does Katherine, but she wants something done and is getting angry at her husband. Thomasin, meanwhile, is even more conflicted.

Tensions rise among the surviving family members. Buried secrets and vented frustrations lead to drastic measures, marked by desperation and growing paranoia. Thomasin and her twin siblings are then locked in the goat pen overnight. Horrific circumstances befall the twins and the goats overnight, and Thomasin is all that remains. The next morning, William assumes the worst but is then attacked by the creepy black goat, mortally wounded. While he initially decides to retaliate, he then resigns to his fate and is finally killed by another attack from the goat. Soon, Katherine comes out to witness the scene of carnage and totally breaks down, deciding that Thomasin is indeed in leagues with evil and has killed everything that matters to her. Katherine pins Thomasin to the ground, then starts to strangle her. Left with no other choice, Thomasin grabs a nearby knife and takes out her mother. Now she's all alone, drenched in the blood of the last of her family.

Later, the goat leads her to her father's tool shed, and because she is pretty far gone at this point, she does so without questioning anything. She is then spoken to by a mysterious figure, one we the audience can hardly make out visually, beckoning her to give in to temptation and freedom from the life she thought she knew before. And she signs a book with her name. Then, stripped entirely of her clothes, she walks through the forest. Eventually she comes across an entire coven of witches, who are performing a ritual of sorts that leads to them gaining the ability of flight. After a few moments, she, too, begins to fly. As this happens, she is laughing maniacally, like she has been holding something back for goodness knows how long.

Now do you see what I did there?

The film leaves you with more than one interpretation as to how things unfolded before you. Yeah, you could assume that the witch was very much real and was destroying the family piece by piece, leaving Thomasin to join and strengthen the coven in the woods. Or you could try to understand how it also could have happened. It's set up perfectly in order to see things this way; maybe it was Thomasin who carried out all of this terrible destruction of her family, marred by a psychotic breakdown and need for freedom from the life that she clearly cannot stand by. Her parents treat her more as a commodity or means of bribery (by way of dowry), her twin siblings seem to despise her, and Caleb is having conflicting thoughts about her. Plus, she lives in a very Puritan family, where prayer and God are tantamount to proper living and she must attend to the duties expected of her no questions asked. Along with that, people suspect her to be some malevolent force out to destroy the family.

And that might just be true.

It's all based on the opening, wherein Thomasin "asks" for forgiveness by way of confessing to her sins. They all foretell exactly what happens in the film. And if you assume this interpretation to be true, just think about it: she is so far-gone even at the beginning that she can't come to terms with her even carrying out her horrific deeds as the days roll by. The disappearance (and possible murder) of Samuel, the shocking death of Caleb brought about by a horribly traumatic event he went through in the woods the day before (and Thomasin had accompanied him, by the way), the disappearance of the twins and the deaths of the goats, then the deaths of her mother and father. All of these would drive a person mad. Or, if you are going along with this interpretation, even deeper into madness. When all is said and done, through some form of self-hypnosis or delusion, Thomasin finally wanders into the woods nearby, naked as the day she was born, never seen again.

This, I feel, is the genius behind the movie. It also helps that, and part of it may be due it, the film has a meager budget (all but three million dollars were spent on this film); it has a very minimalist approach to horror film-making. There are no jump scares, the lighting is natural, the dialogue is important sparring rather than forced for the sake of filling out the film's runtime, and the music is deep & brooding. Also, while there is certainly gore, there isn't a ridiculous amount of it. There's also a deep tinge of dread that runs throughout, thanks to the setting and the idea that there is an evil witch toying with the family from the shadows, shape-shifting as it sees fit to avoid their defenses.

I do recall that a handful of foaming-at-the-mouth morons, particularly on the web, attacked this movie as a piece of feminist propaganda (everything revolving around Thomasin, basically). As for the rest of us, we aren't so easily triggered into acting like butthurt crybabies and can appreciate a good piece of modern horror when we see it. The film may bore you with is minimalist approach, it is never loud and boisterous so the attention-deficit watchers will probably fall asleep, and you might not even find witches scary (thanks to their usual portrayal in media being totally hammy and well, not scary) but if you're like me, you'll appreciate what the film does absolutely right.


The Good:  

+ Minimalist horror approach helps with the high tension.
+ Witches are actually scary in this movie.
+ Leaves the events of the film ambiguous so that you can interpret it in different ways
+ Great, creepy soundtrack
+ The forest is incredibly creepy and every scene in it is powerful and effective
+ Great use of lighting, as in, there's little at all.
+ Authentic setting and dialogue that fits with the time of the film.
+ No jump scares (an extension of the first positive point)

The Bad:

- Might be a bit too minimalist; it can potentially bore you.
- Caleb's death scene, namely the buildup to it, might come off as unintentionally funny and/or cheesy. It's a bit too forced.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Regarding Donald Trump, I Called It A Year Ago

I called on his bluffs, his game, his inevitable defeat, all over a year ago when he had actually thrown his lot into the race. It's being disclosed these days, although not all over the mainstream media (talk about biased against Trump. NOT!) like you'd think it would be, that he's taking a lot of the money the Republican party has received in order to make himself richer. And he's also doing that to finance a new TV network that will consist of some of the veterans of Fox News. You know, because Fox News is in self-destruct mode over all of the scandals that have broken out as of late. Matt Lauer, given his total fucking joke of an "interview" (more like propaganda fluff-session amirite?), can shove his career up his lame ass for that softball interview on Wednesday.

I always knew that this guy was all-talk, all flip-flop, and nothing that he said he'd be. I always knew that because he knows that nutjobs pay attention to "controversial" content, such as the soundbites he spews on a daily basis, it's the reason he continues to do so even as his chances of winning the race tumbles. He always knew he wouldn't win. It's why his campaign is almost unarguably the most ridiculous, celebrity-politics-laden, shit-flinging circus ever witnessed in American history. And the fact that a handful of Americans, and people abroad, supported this guy is indicative of mental health issues in such people. Not that I am slamming the mentally ill, because they're good people. Oh and despite all his talks about having support from Blacks and the Latino & Hispanic crowds, the actual numbers paint an entirely opposite story of what he's trying to sell. Dubiously at that.

We have all heard or seen people justify their support with something like, "because he tells it like it is/because he's honest", and we have always laughed at those people. You know, because those people clearly are sleep-walking through life, or have such a low standard of politicians that they will buy any snake-oil sold to them, especially if that snake-oil is not the usual variety.

When he said that he would put up a wall, I called bullshit. You know why? It would cost billions. Then it turned out that he wanted those same Mexicans to pay for the construction of that wall. Enrico has since spanked his ass on this matter, saying before any formalities occurred in their meeting recently that he wasn't going to pay for it. You know Donald Trump felt bad that he had to lie to everyone about how it went down -- again. The other problem with building a wall is that if an immigrant wants to get into the USA, they will find a way. Penn & Teller: Bullshit! showed in one episode just how pointless a wall would be. Hint: they just dug underneath the wall. Donald even had the gall to compare his would-be wall, it this were a fantasy land anyway, to the great wall of fucking China! Billions down the drain indeed.

Then later on he said he'd deport over 11 million illegal immigrants. Never mind the headaches behind carrying out such an endeavor. It would bite the USA in the ass. I know a lot of mouth breathing, typically right-wing dropkicks eat up any anti-immigration rhetoric they hear but come on, people, this is the real world. You can't just up and deport over 11 million people without some sort of cataclysm happening. Be it social, political, or economical, something BAD would happen if this were to be carried out. BILLIONS would have to be spent. Time would be wasted. Lots of money being made based on the hard work most of these people do in the USA would be lost. And remember: these people are taking the jobs that no home-grown American actually wants to do. So why do they care? And that's why Donald Trump pretends to care about this issue. Because a bunch of troglodytes have no idea what they're talking about but they're so passionate about it that Donald Trump knows he can rely on them to bolster what little credibility he actually has.

This is where the "he wants to bang his daughter" thing all started.

And then there's the Muslim thing. People are scared, of course, even though they shouldn't be because that's what these terror-fucks want. Yet the way to respond to these attacks, which really aren't as commonplace as some would think (consider this: nearly EVERY DAY they attack people within the countries they occupy in the middle-east), is not to BAN MUSLIMS FROM TRAVELING TO THE USA. You don't punish the 1.5 billion PLUS Muslims for the actions of probably just a few thousand. You find a better way to deal with this problem. The first step is not to give these terror groups what they want. You know, ostracized, angry Muslims who have no qualms about attacking the west because the west is racist/bigoted towards them. THIS IS WHAT THE BAD GUYS WANT. And to call them terrorists in the first place emboldens them, because it lends them an air of relevance. Does nobody know that they are losing more members than they are gaining? They are desperate, and people like Donald Trump are playing right into their traps. They want more members, and they want us to be scared. We really shouldn't be. And we really shouldn't try to piss off more Muslims by violating their basic rights, including their first amendment rights.

And you know what is the worst thing? He has never actually detailed how he would do anything he says he's gonna do. He's all talk and no action, just the way he has been his whole failure of a life. He's the definitive image of how having money does not indicate success or class. He has no idea what he is doing, talks out his ass constantly, lives on controversy, and is probably dumber than Sarah Palin and believe me that is a FEAT for the GODS!

He's a blowhard. A two-faced racist. Dodged the draft through deferments but is willing to denigrate John McCain who actually did serve. Can't run his own businesses (hires 'yes men' to do it for them). Failed at running a casino. Lies about his own self-worth and the value of his businesses & properties. Owes billions of dollars. Has shady connections to the Russian government, and probably wishes he were Putin's doormat. Is perfectly willing to be a useful idiot for radical Islam. Tucks his tail between his legs any time someone (easily) debunks any of his inane ramblings and policies. Is a compulsive liar. He flip-flops more often than anybody I remember in political history. Probably wants to bang his own daughter. He's also a colossal hypocrite when it comes to, well, ANYTHING that comes out of his mouth. Hires illegal immigrants but doesn't pay them. Hires ghost-writers for his books (like a lot of blowhards do. What's up with that, eh?) yet brags about having "written books." Bragged about his I.Q score but noticeably lacks any signs of having such a score. Is as eloquent as a roided-up teenager who can't read worth a damn. Wears a hairpiece. And is probably an embarrassment to his father who is definitely rolling around in his grave right now.

Need I say more?

What a joke. And all of his supporters are jokes. Good luck with your TV network you fucking tool. Finally, to all of the most vocal supporters and goons that enable this hack, you wouldn't know credibility if it shot you in your idiot fucking faces.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

TheAmazingAtheist Gets Triggered by Sandra Fluke, and Bullshits His Audience

Yeah and everyone else is an SJW, right?

So the following tweet, which is rather harmless and really shouldn't trigger people (well, sane, rational people who don't have their heads up their asses), has done triggered the fat atheist. You know, because rational people get triggered by such things:

And how does he respond? Why, he takes her tweet way out of context, cries about how apparently Sandra Fluke is attacking egalitarianism even though she really isn't, and like the man-child he is he tweaks her surname to insult her. I mean, it's right there:

Who are the real SJWs again? Who are the real PC fascists, again? Does it look like Sandra Fluke argued, at all, that men don't deserve 'new parent leave'? Sure, she doesn't mention them, but is that the same thing as arguing that they don't deserve it, too? Perhaps it has more to do with the fact that women who have children on the job, in the U.S.A, are actually likely to lose their jobs just because they recently had a child. Fortunately for men, they are likely to get a bonus for fathering children; women, on the other hand, tend to get wage penalties. Indeed, women tend to lose 4% of their earnings for each children they rear, whereas men, fortunately for them, tend to earn 6% more earnings for each children they father. Their hiring and promotional opportunities actually tend to improve when they rear children because they're seen as more competent than their female counterparts.

The following block discusses the lack of protection for new mothers who are forced to go on leave because of a pregnancy, and if they are away for a certain (and very short, all things considered) amount of time they can lose their job or pay rates. They can even lose some of their benefits, like sick pay.

The professional binds begin, in many cases, before conception. Women who are even thinking about trying to get pregnant often feel tethered to whatever job they’re in at the time. A move to a new job—a better-paying or more prestigious job, a job with more manageable hours or a more dynamic boss—can mean losing vested benefits like built-up sick days, vacation days, or family leave, and with them, any promise of being able to take time off after a baby. The Family and Medical Leave Act, currently the only federal leave protection available to American workers who have babies, does not require that an employer pay a new mother for a single day of leave; it merely protects her job for twelve weeks of unpaid leave, and then, only if she has worked at her company for at least a year. So, in many states, if you take a new job and then, two months later, discover that you’re pregnant, and nine months later give birth, your employer has no obligation to hold your job for you; he can simply decide that he’d prefer to avoid the hassle and expense of finding a temporary replacement and let you go. During childbearing years, changing jobs—even for a fundamentally better gig—can be a very bad idea.

But don't tell TJ anything like this, because that'll hurt his bullshit agenda. You can criticize any and all groupthinks, TJ, but do it with integrity next time, you shithole.

Monday, July 11, 2016

3000 Miles to Graceland Review (2001, Action/Adventure/Crime Thriller, Warner Bros./Franchise Pictures/Morgan Creek Productions)

This used to be a guilty pleasure.

But not anymore. Demian Lichtenstein was previously a music video and short film director, not having gained any kind of notable standing in the biz. This is his first full-length feature, and it really shows. I used to get some kind of kick out of watching this movie, even if it baffled me in so many ways (why even mention Graceland at all? They don't go anywhere near Graceland!), but since my last sitting I can't stand it anymore. Masochism only lasts for so long, I guess.

The opening sequence shows us one of the MANY flaws of the movie right out of the gate: misuse of resources and rather bland special effects. We have two cartoon portrayals of scorpions, rendered in laughable CGI, duking it out in the desert. Defenders of the film, even with few legs to stand on in the act, like to point out how this represents the conflict between the two main characters of the film. You know, Russell & Costner on the film poster. However, this sequence is too shitty to recommend and it coalesces into one of the most hit-and-miss parts of the movie. And that is saying something.

After some really lame jokes, including several fart jokes in quick succession, the plot seems to begin. Our "hero" Michael (Kurt Russell) runs into a bratty, 11-year old rip-off of Jesse James (he's even stated in the movie to be named after the legendary bandit) and he then runs into Courtney Cox, or Cybil (with a 'C' for emphasis, repeated throughout the film like a really poor gag). They have bizarre sex scenes, made so by the sheer theatricality of both, and Michael takes off for the heist.

Wait, what?

Yeah, so the point of all the Elvis impersonation is that it's a gimmick meant to get them into a casino so that they can rob it. It's also the Riviera. Now, the remake of Ocean's Eleven gave us a moderately entertaining build-up to the more entertaining final act, and so it works in that film. Here, there's almost no build-up at all and because of it, it doesn't work. Plus, Ocean's Eleven still saw the team having to give the heist their all; here, they just storm into the money-counting room, take what they want, and blast their way out. Where were the guards, anyway? The two security personnel who were watching the cameras were a complete joke, too, only catching on well after the money-grabbing was done. The team here shoot up the entire casino like they have lost all sanity, even blowing a dwarf through the air, and they help an old slot jockey woman win the jackpot (oh, yeah, this was supposed to make all of us laugh). Meanwhile, perhaps a symptom of poor editing, everyone who is watching the Elvis impersonation show seem to be completely oblivious to the carnage happening right around the corner. It's very off-putting when you seem to be watching two different movies in one, neither of them good to boot.

Anyway, a very preposterous cliche is committed on screen, following this turn of events: A lone gunman, a detective perhaps, comes running at the team as their elevator is about to ascend to the roof. The gunman gets his had stuck in the door as it closes, and he's firing wildly. It's a small elevator so at least ONE person should have been hit by now, right? Well, that one person has to be the one black man of the team. He is smack dab in the center of the gun's position, after all. Plus, Bokeem Woodbine was probably asking for more money for the role so they had to flip him the bird in some creative way. As they are flying away on helicopter, they try to revive him only to toss his dead body overboard. Roger Ebert made a commentary on this particular part of the movie and absolutely tore it to shreds because of it.

Then some hypocritical double-crossing happens and the actual plot kicks off. Cybil (with a 'C') and her snotty son tag along with Russell in order to make off with the money that Costner somehow didn't, and a chase ensues, Cybil (with a 'C') abandons her son with Russell in order to get that money for themselves (but she still likes Russell so it's okay or something), Costner catches up with them all in the Northwest United States (possibly Oregon or Washington), Ice-T shows up as a "one-man army" and gets killed within minutes because his character is actually an idiot, and Costner gets killed because he's the bad guy. And everyone else make off with the money on a boat while Uncle Kracker's fifteen minutes of fame still plays as the credits roll.

There are so many nonsensical sequences in this film that it is totally mesmerizing. Not in a good way, of course. The betrayal that Cybil (with a 'C') plays out in an awkward fashion while off-beat country music plays, oh and a Schnitzel is standing on the road next to Russell after he tries to stop Cybil (with a 'C') from getting away. Every scene with her son makes me want to kill the kid, but thankfully his acting career didn't seem to live on. A poorly-edited couple of scenes involving Jon Lovitz as a fence of sorts plays out, acting as a twist that Cybil (with a 'C') isn't actually dead. Some idiot of a lawyer (1-800-1GO-FREE!) shows up as a failed joke. Costner steals an inconspicuous mascot truck from an old man. Costner goes to a gas station, fills up his ride, douses the place in gasoline, kills its owner, steals the owner's wife (sister? Cousin? What the fuck?), blows bubble gum with her and gives her away to the leader of what actually looks like a low-rent 'biker gang'. The brat tries smoking and pukes doing it. Same brat previously relieved himself in a gas station bathroom, getting repulsed by what may have been the fifth fart joke in the movie so far. He manages to steal a hefty wallet from a guy he bumps into as he's walking. Russell is still the 'good guy' while all of this goes on.

Costner catches up with Cybil (with a 'C') and the brat while in that goofy truck, interspersed with snippets showing Cybil (with a 'C') 'reacting' to the hit & run tactics of Costner in truly bizarre and exaggerated ways. Previously, Russell & Cox have an argument in a hotel while Russell is naked (concealed by a towel, thank goodness) and Cox actually caresses him underneath. She wants more money from Russell but the latter tells her to shut up and keep pleasing his phallus. They report Russell's stolen car to the police and it ends up backfiring on him, also reuniting him with Costner for a few minutes. He gets bail thanks to the brat. Sappy revelations are made when they bring Cybil (with a 'C') to a secluded, but rather beautiful location overlooking the local treeline and she confesses to what she had done before. He leaves them to their devices. Oh yeah and later on, Costner teams up with his go-to-guy and says that they need a team of gunmen to hold off heavily-armed police. Ice-T shows up, probably making a few thousand for his brief appearance, and Costner understandably growls about the lack of a 'bunch of guys'. Go-to-guy assures Costner that Ice-T "IS a bunch of guys" and predictably, because this movie hates black people so fucking much Ice-T gets killed while spinning around shooting machineguns, on an overhead hook-line. The former's kill count remains a total mystery for the rest of the film. Go-to-guy takes a few bullets for Costner, Costner derides him, and Costner gets cornered. 

Before he gets cornered he "provides cover" for the brat, who Costner kidnapped and brought to this scene. Let's not forget that law enforcement won't 1) shoot at a minor who is 2) unarmed and not even the tiniest threat to the police, nor is he the fucking target. Costner has a big fucking machine-gun and mows down many of the local law enforcement before taking a number of shots himself. He stares himself in a mirror, revealing the love & hate relationship he has for himself, while Elvis music plays. Oh and I must state that previously in the movie, it is discussed that Murphy MAY just be one of Elvis' many illegitimate sons, and that Murphy believes he is such. Murphy also got into a goofy fucking shootout with some town Sheriff in the middle of nowhere, for no particular reason. Costner avoided the bullet, slightly, because the Sheriff's bullet BOUNCED off of Costner's bullet while his kept on course. Of course, Costner had to win that duel because physics only benefits the title characters.

Russell survives another shot to his torso, revealed to have been wearing YET another vest. He's taken away by, you guessed it, Cybil (with a 'C') and her bratty son, and they go to Russell's boat. They sail off, somewhere, with nary a care in the world for their destination and even the film doesn't give a toss. And that's a wrap.

I know I went kind of all over the place, but so did the film. Another thing that goes all over the damn place, other than the vapid plotline, is the soundtrack. This soundtrack makes no sense, other than when classic rock/R&B/blues play of course. We've got electronica, dance music, nu-metal, funk music, country, blues, contemporary pop; everything you can think of is in this soundtrack. The thing is, however, is that this soundtrack is total nonsense. Where's the theme of the whole thing? Why is Spineshank in the score? Why choose Uncle Fucking Kracker to close the film?

And the heist sequence. It should have played out later in the movie, with more buildup. Instead, it happens right away and it really isn't all that thrilling to watch. The stakes aren't that high, even, since they don't steal all that much money anyway. The gimmick is there, and that's fine, but no one in their right mind should care about the end-product of what we got for a "heist" movie. 

Then there's the fucking title, which is absolutely misleading. What the fuck does Graceland have to do with the entirety of the movie? Yeah, Elvis is from there, but Elvis, and the impersonation of such, is all that the film even brings up. The action plays out as far as the Midwest, but then slingshots back to the west coast. The title could have been totally different and it wouldn't have mattered anyway.

The film has quite an ensemble cast, with Courney Cox being the eye-candy (and she's really not a bad actress) and Russell being the anti-hero. Costner is obviously the big bad, but Costner lacks the gravitas to really sell it. Everyone else doesn't matter because they ALL die. And the movie fucking hates black people, because none of the black cast members get a good showing (the only one who doesn't die instead gets a broken nose, courtesy of Costner). And that fucking kid should have been killed. We also get David Arquette, Christian Slater, and even the meager Kevin Pollak. But all of them are wasted, even if David Arquette's role is relegated to that of 'comic relief' (note: pulling terrible dance moves, farting all the while, isn't my idea of comic relief), or Bokeem Woodbine is destined to fulfill the tired trope of "Black Man Dies First."  It's like if Steve Buscemi's "Carl" character from Fargo was fed into the wood chipper within five or ten minutes of screen-time; it would have sucked.

And the action isn't all that good. It's all flash with either a lack of or plain infuriating substance. Sometimes I felt like I was watching several different movies throughout its duration, accidentally spliced in and of course, doing nothing for the material at hand. And the direction is terrible. Lastly, why the fuck would you even put "Maryland" in the title when they don't go anywhere close to Maryland? It has nothing to do with the movie!


The Good:

+ Courtney Cox was sexy. Still kind of is today.
+ Kurt Russell TRIES, at least, to act in this role.
+ There's a Steve Ray Vaughn track that plays somewhere
+ There could have been something halfway decent here...

The Bad:

- ...however, the end result came out terrible.
- The plot
- Wasted cast.
- Kevin Costner hardly even tries as the bad guy.
- The heist plays out much too early.
- The "Black Man Dies First" trope is in full effect here.
- Those two fucking U.S. Marshalls don't do anything for me. Oh, they finally do something at the end, which is killing Murphy, but everything before that is an annoying distraction.
- This movie, in fact, hates black people. No black person is given a good role. And I'm Caucasian!
- Inconsistent soundtrack that hardly ever plays to the mood.
- I wanted to kill that Jesse kid.
- Poor editing. (The shootout in the casino is a strong example of this)
- Contains 5 or more fart jokes.
- The final third of the movie is sleep inducing.
- Ice-T is a "one-man army" who ends up only killing a couple of cops. Gets killed because he's spinning on an overhead hook-line shooting two sub-machineguns because ACTION MOVIE!
- Uncle Kracker music in the credits? Fuck you.
- Nonsensical plot twists.
- Totally insane diversions from the plot, including that gas station sequence. What is up with the girl? Why blow it up?

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Doom IV/2016 (PC, PS4, Xbox One, 2016, id Software/Bethesda)

Doom is back.

Then again, it has always been here. From 1993 onward Doom has shaped and re-shaped the First Person Shooter genre with each release. Yeah, even the re-hashes of the "classic" era. The very first title gave us the gift of shareware distribution, a new way to play with others, and truly visceral & in-your-face gameplay. Doom 2 didn't introduce much but gave us a more honed experience with tougher (new) monsters, the infamous double-barreled shotgun, and far more effective level design. Final Doom made the series start to look stale and the ever-increasing difficulty didn't help matters. And Doom 64, love it or hate it, was the epitome of how atmospheric and creepy the franchise can be. 

Doom 3 took the series in another direction almost entirely. Or at least it was initially supposed to, much to my disappointment. If you're going to do something new then go with it, but if you're going to play it safe with old mechanics, don't do it worse than with previous installments. While it was graphically outstanding for its time (in spite of the decidedly saran-wrapped look of everything and the low polygon counts that were never addressed with the advent of improving gaming hardware) the game seemed to lack an identity of its own gameplay-wise. It didn't help that because of the loss of John Romero, the genius behind the superb level design of the classic games, Doom 3 had decidedly underwhelming (albeit more grounded in reality) aesthetics in mind. And most of the game was set in tight corridors. It could challenge you, sure, but the old games were far better in this regard. And more fun. Oh and don't get me started on the flashlight mechanic. Many people loved that but I found it to be an example of laziness on part of the team. I mean, the game is set in the 2100's after all...

Now, 12 years of waiting has given us a game that had many of us worried, but delivered far more than we had thought. Initially envisioned as a sequel to Doom 3, set on Earth (!) no less, that was scrapped due to being dubbed a "Call of Duty" clone, with too many set-pieces and lack of thrilling gameplay. Plus being on Earth should afford you much more breathing room, right? Well, a newer iteration of id Software seemed to remember what made this series fucking badass, and gave us this game. While the entire suite isn't perfect *cough* derivative multiplayer *cough*, the one aspect of the game that really matters is what makes this title better than the franchise has been in practically two decades. Yeah, better than Doom 3. 

Immediately you realize that this title was made for the sole purpose of giving you a total joyride, blowing demons apart as you would. Our marine, or whatever he is now (he's the Doom Slayer now, but still Doomguy nonetheless), outright smashes a possessed guy's head as it attacks him after he wakes up in shackles. You proceed to do the same to all of his immediate buddies. We get treated to a view of who is definitely the game's antagonist, and stumble upon a newly realized suit of marine armor. He puts it on, hears some decidedly robotic voice plead for his co-operation, and hearing about how the UAC fucked up again he smashes a screen. You better get used to him smashing important things throughout the game, because it seems like Doomguy has now had enough of everyone's bullshit. After all, if this is the same Doomguy as of yesteryear then how can you blame him for having to destroy Hell numerous times by now? Thanks to the UAC, of course.

Anyway, it immediately dawns on you that this is, no kidding, a fast-paced shooter. Not only do you move fast but your enemies, at least demonic ones, do as well. And if they're not lobbing fireballs at you while keeping a modest distance from you, they're closing in to get a swipe at you. Get used to that, too. It gets harder and harder from here. You are not going to be playing this like Call of Duty at all, so if you're used to sitting behind cover, then you're going to be out of your comfort zone entirely.

It's been said that this game follows a very similar formula to that of Painkiller, another FPS title that I enjoy playing that, too, has been compared to the likes of Doom. Painkiller gave us sequential progression, wherein you get sealed up in a room and have to clear out the bad guy quota to proceed. It's not as obvious in Doom 2016, but you will notice it if you play enough, or even care to realize it. Not that this detracts from the experience because the game is a fucking blast to play.

One aspect that I admired about this outing is that it encourages you to play with an open mind. From exploring the levels for all of its secrets & collectibles, to changing up your tactics as the forces of Hell bear down on you with the countless combinations of tactics they are capable of. It opens up replayability and promotes active participation. To stay still is tantamount to throwing in the white towel, but you still know that Hell will just fucking gut you like a pig anyway no matter how they get you. Just like you did to them the entire game. Pay Hell unto Hell, they say? Pay Hell unto Doom Marine, too. You're sick of the UAC and of Hell, and Hell is sick of you.

It has awesome pacing; the story is kind of nonsensical but funny & interesting in spite of that; you can acquire various upgrades for your weapons, suit, and runes that grant you additional functionalities like increased pickup range and others. Enemy designs are as good as ever, often paying homage to the classics and to Doom 3. And rather than lumber at you, many of them haul ass in your general direction to get as much of a furious, hate-filled punch or swipe in as possible. Weapons have "oomph!" again and when you think the game isn't cleverly mixing things up enough, their various upgrades present more possibilities in battle. 

Level design was important to the single-player aspect of Doom 4, because had it been slouched at all, or reduced to the very tedious and restricted corridors of Doom 3, then this game wouldn't be as impressive as it actually is. You're not going in straight lines this time around, and you're not going to be restricted to just backpeddling away from an oncoming threat. Levels tend to be not only very open, but have many twists and turns and, most noticeably, height plays a huge role this time around. Since Doomguy now lifts himself up on ledges and can gain an upgrade in the game to make this process more efficient, you WILL be climbing ledges, crates, cliffsides, and whatever else there is in the environment. There are also secrets strewn about in all of the levels, multiple ones each, and often just outside of your general vision. The game encourages exploration in this way, and it's fantastic.

I can't really say the same about multiplayer. Doom has never, in my opinion, had truly breathtaking multiplayer. The classics definitely brought some big new technology to the table, thus opening up multiplayer options at the time, but they have not since stood the test of time. That distinction actually belongs to the franchise's sister series, Quake. Nonetheless, there's no excuse for what we got here, given all the "this isn't Call of Duty; this is Doom!" hype we were given leading up to its release. While that statement was mostly true, there's one glaring elephant in the room that makes the game resemble COD; load-outs. People did tell Id that they didn't like that functionality, but someone didn't listen and it made it to the final product. So instead of having to grab weapons in the level as you compete against others, you can now start with two weapons of your choice at the expense of getting others as you play. By resorting to this method they've actually created, inadvertently, massive weapon balancing issues. Because of this damn near everyone equipped only certain weapons, making it another missed opportunity. And that game narrator just sounds uninterested. Where's the deep, booming voice we heard in Quake 3 Arena? Unreal: Tournament?

SnapMap is another major feature of the game and while the potential for greatness was there, there were a number of issues at hand. The limitations are those issues. You can only play with up to 4 players in your creations, you can only use pre-made tilesets in your designs, and the maps tend to be rather small because of the limits. Some very creative, sometimes hilarious results have come from the community because of this mode, sure, but unless Id/Bethesda commissions some major overhauls to this mode, it won't have lasting power.

But like many who are enjoying Doom 4, I mostly judge a game by its single-player experience. And in that regard, Doom 4 succeeds admirably. Doom is relevant again, and I'm fucking happy about it. Let's just hope those guys who made the multiplayer suite don't come back in the event that we get a sequel. And can it be set on Earth, this time?


The Good:

+ Fast-paced, brutal combat
+ Enemies are fun to fight again.
+ All of the weapons are useful, and they're all a blast to shoot with.
+ Much better level design than Doom 3. Why? Because it's not a corridor shooter, now!
+ Even zombies pose a threat, unlike in the aforementioned game.
+ Levels are made for you to explore, promoting growth in the process
+ Many upgrades, boosts (runes), and the like open up more gameplay options
+ The Hell levels are worth the time to experience.
+ That fist-bump sequence.
+ That opening sequence. Holy shit!
+ Doomguy doesn't give a shit anymore, and would probably give Duke Nukem a brutal Glory Kill if he ever ran into him. You've been warned, Duke.
+ Generally nice to look at
+ SnapMap is great, in theory.
+ So too, could have been the case for the Multiplayer suite...

The Bad:

 - Texture pop-in issues
-  SnapMap ends up being a disappointment.
- The Multiplayer was an even bigger disappointment.
- Classic levels (these are secrets found in each level) were translated quite strangely in this game. They do bring nostalgia factor, but they don't function the same and it's awkward to play in them.
- It eventually ends.
- It may remind you a bit too much of Brutal Doom, which is a starkly overrated mod for the classic games.