Archive for September, 2013

This Is The End (TheByteScene Review)

Date: September 9th, 2013


This Is The End

3.5 Drug-Fueled-Apocalyptic-Nightmares out of 4

Everybody likes comedy – that’s not a statement that anyone can really argue with. Everyone likes to laugh in whatever way one may choose, and therefore everyone likes the idea of comedy. Everyone, however, does not like the same kind of comedy because toilet humour and incessant references to popular culture isn’t funny for some in the same way that it is for others. That being said, make no mistake, everyone likes comedy. That Arnold Schwarzenegger claims to love comedy during YouTube’s comedy week shouldn’t come as a surprise since Arnie is human, and therefore likes laughing.

This Is The End opens with Seth Rogen waiting for Jay Baruchel (both playing – hopefully – loose versions of themselves) in an airport. The friends are supposed to spend the weekend together, but due to personal friction, and Rogen’s career taking off faster than Baruchel’s, the two end up attending a party at James Franco’s house. The party is played as a hedonistic affair with comedians and Hollywood B-D listers appearing as inversions of characters they frequently typecast. Eventually the entire affair falls apart due to an unearthly seismic event, and James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, Jonah Hill, and Craig Robinson are left awaiting rescue because they are, after all, famous movie stars.

The fact of the matter is that comedy is an artform that’s really easy to quantify. If the audience is laughing, then something is funny, if the audience isn’t then a similar extrapolation can be made. I should mention that This Is The End, a film described as watching James Franco, Seth Rogen, and the new Frat Pack fall apart in a post-apocalyptic nightmare, is funny. In fact it’s very funny. It’s so funny actually, that it actually made me physically upset. Well, not physically upset, but as upset as I could be watching Danny-McBride-as-himself-as-Kenny-Powers dance around the screen like a morbid, alcoholic, narcissistic pixie.

Suffice it to say, this is a funny movie that’s absurd, unnecessarily over-the-top, moronic, engaging, sweet, and morbid all at once, but it still upset me.

This Is The End is not a parody of recent hollywood horror movies. Calling it a parody would be an insult to itself because A Haunted House is a parody of the recent horror genre, and these two movies are in no way related. This Is The End is a remarkably intelligent satire of the horror movie genre, while also rising to the level of being a satire of the many genre parodies that already exist. I daresay that This Is The End is the Airplane of horror movies; taking genre staples and playing with them, instead of making fun of them for their already obvious absurdity, This Is The End is able to be a satirical film while simultaneously existing as a true horror movie. Seriously, it manages to be scary and funny without sacrificing either horror or comedy.

Ultimately, a horror movie literally lives and dies due to the actions of its cast. If the characters are poorly written, or they’re written to act in irrational ways, then the movie falls apart because it’s no longer about being scared but watching stupid people do stupid things.

In a twist on this convention, the main cast does nothing but stupid things. They smoke pot, get drunk, flagrantly waste supplies, fight amongst each other, form schisms and alliances, and lead themselves to downfall and subsequent success. What’s remarkable is that these stupid people do and say stupid things, but they’re also very realistic, very human characters.

Yes, Danny McBride rudely uses James Franco’s stuff. Yes Seth Rogen spikes Jay Baruchel’s drink can with ecstasy. Yes Jay Baruchel hates Jonah Hill because the latter is supposedly faking his benevolent demeanor, but while they waste their time bickering amongst each other (and thereby producing genuine humour), they also force themselves to work together to survive – existing in a horrific landscape and providing the necessary horror to satirize.

These fake people act in moronic, self-destructive ways, while simultaneously working to benefit each other.

This movie upsets me because of how good it is. This movie upsets me because it proves that satire is not a dead literary form, nor is it a dying form. This movie upsets me because it raises the bar for other, similar movies, in ways that other movies can in no way replicate without becoming derivative or shallow. In summation, this movie upsets me because it’s a perfect representation of everything that’s right and great about comedy.

As always, this has been your Admin, the blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!


Pacific Rim (TheByteScene Review)

Date: September 9th, 2013


Pacific Rim

3 Giant-Robots-Fighting-Giant-Monsters out of 4

It’s a movie about giant robots fighting giant monsters from a different universe. No, really, Guillermo del Toro, the famed director behind Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy, The Devil’s Backbone, and a wide array of other films has returned to create a movie about giant robots fighting giant monsters from a different universe. And it’s awesome. No, seriously.

The movie’s premise is simple, succinct, and straightforward: Giant monsters from another dimension named Kaiju attack Earth from a breach in the Pacific Ocean and the world’s governments work together to create giant robots named Jaegers to fight the unearthly threat. Taking place days after the Jaeger programmed is decommissioned, four remaining Jaegers set up a final resistance against the Kaiju menace in an all-or-nothing gambit for the fate of the world. Again, the movie’s premise is straightforward, and little time is spent on meaningless exposition; despite, or perhaps due to, the film’s ambitious nature, the plot is streamlined and all character interactions are limited by purpose.

What is the point of the conversation, what purpose does it serve to have these characters meet, how is the plot affected by this piece of dialogue? Once a scene answers these questions, the movie quite literally returns to the action, drawing in the audience with visuals, CGI, graphics, robots, monsters, and set pieces that are operatically epic. The film’s pace carries the audience from set piece to set piece choosing to spend time on creating a world where the Jaegers and Kaiju reign supreme.

Above all else, Pacific Rim is an exercise in visual mastery.

Created by artists whose love for the Mecha and Kaiju genres, and tokusatsu is abundant and evident, the movie radiates in subtle homages, references, and pastiches to the works of masters such as Ishiro Honda, Hideaki Anno, Go Nagai, Akira Kurosawa, Yutaka Izubuchi, and Yoshiyuki Tomino.

To those unversed in the staples that these creators and their works pioneered, the movie is loud, beautiful, epic, and awesome. A score by Ramin Djawadi creates a powerful atmosphere that the movie relishes in exploring, and though blockbuster action is present, watching Jaegers pummel, and get pummeled by, Kaiju is akin to watching master warriors dance around a large apocalyptic canvas. The fight choreography is akin to watching violent ballet; Jaegers and Kaiju match one another’s moves like dancers who have spent years learning each other’s intricacies and idiosyncrasies, and discovering new ways to adapt and conform to them.

Yes, the film’s plot is thin. Yes, the characters are fleshed out just enough to explain their motivations. Yes, the action is loud, bombastic, frequent, and worthy of the “Summer Blockbuster” distinction. Beyond these criticisms, Pacific Rim is beautiful, expertly choreographed, beautifully directed, and spectacularly scored.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

– SC(EK)

Understanding Film Critics; Yet Another Frivolous Article on the Importance of Argument

Date: September 7th, 2013


Understanding Film Critics; Yet Another Frivolous Article on the Importance of Argument

I fear becoming a movie critic.

To anyone who claims that fear isn’t real, and that it’s nothing more than a metaphysical extension of danger, I say this: Start writing movie reviews. There’s something about criticizing movies – compared to criticizing music, books, or even theatre – that somehow manages to enrage entire populations of the educated world. Truthfully, there’s something about criticizing movies that makes me fear writing too many movie reviews without producing a completely unrelated article. Even if I consider writing an opinion piece about movies instead of an actual movie review, I still manage to send nervous chills down my spine. Interestingly enough, for anyone who pays attention to my frequent absenteeism, it can be noted that most of the articles I write before a major hiatus are about movies.

There’s no need to be needlessly ambiguous with my critical fears; my worries have nothing to do with the enormous public backlash my reviews conjure within society. Quite the contrary, I absolutely love it when I start a needlessly detailed and incredibly laid out argument about the current trappings of the silver screen. Putting it delicately, I’m afraid of writing too much about movies because of the small percentage of the population that doesn’t understand the need for criticism, critique, reviews, or opinion pieces on the current state of art, media, life, the universe, and everything.

Putting it indelicately, there are people who don’t understand why it’s important to criticize everything, and these people scare me. Granted, previous articles have approached the ridiculous notion of “Questioning Everything” with the necessary quizzical-questioning glare that Socrates himself would surely embolden. Still, I find it’s far easier to tackle a single sample rather than the entire population, so I’ll continue discussing my fears nonetheless. Back to my point, I’m scared of becoming a movie critic because of the people who unironically argue the need to criticize.

I hope my point is made clear even at a perfunctory glance: I’m scared of becoming a movie critic because of the people who argue that we don’t need to argue about movies. I’m scared of writing too much – too often – about movies because of the people who attempt to dismiss, dismantle, and destroy the idea of criticism while simultaneously exercising, employing, and engaging their very rational desires to criticize and argue. Despite what a poorly educated pacifist might say, the universe runs on the intrinsic idea that there are positives and negatives, and these positives and negatives always interact even on microcosmic scales.

I admit that my explanation of quantum theory distracts from my argument regarding criticism, so I’ll be brief in my digression.

Why is it so important for me, or anyone, to criticize anything? Because that’s the whole point; without criticism, without argument, and without debate, things have a tendency to fall towards calculated tyranny and an eventual acceptance of blatant complacency.

Certainly, for all of my criticism of Transformers: Dark of the Moon not a single penny was withheld by the people who helped produce its billion dollar profit margin.

That is a very strong argument against film criticism.

For all the time invested into pointing out cinematic flaws, people still watch “Bad” movies, and for all the work done pointing out cinematic ingenuity, people will still avoid “Good” movies like I imagine medieval Europeans avoided the bubonic plague.

This is a strong argument regarding all forms of criticism.

Eventually, regardless of the work one might put into criticizing anything, one’s effort will be an exercise in futility. Presidents won’t be impeached – they’ll be re elected; governments won’t fall – they’ll simply become more intent on inconspicuously brutalizing their people; and Michael Bay won’t be driven out of Hollywood by a crowd carrying pitchforks and torches – he’ll go on to direct another Transformers sequel and Pain and Gain (which, admittedly, wasn’t absolutely terrible).

I argue that results are only one part of the overall structure, and that meaning and knowledge are equally important derivatives.

Why is it so important for me, or anyone, to criticize anything? It’s so we can learn something instead of sheltering ourselves in a cocoon of safety and self indulgence. Why is it so important for me to call a movie bad? It’s so I can start an argument and try to understand why I might be wrong, and why someone else might be right.

I’m still scared of becoming a movie critic, but thanks to this article I’ve learned that I’m only scared of being called one. I might never pursue cinema in any way after this article, but at least now I know that my fears are less physical and more entirely immaterial.

In any form, criticism is an extension of self-examination, and I argue that there are few things less frivolous in this universe than attempting to understand this universe.

This has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-SC (EK)