Friday, August 27, 2010

No 'Go' for Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep

A PR rep handling Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep says Square Enix has no plans to release the game as a download, bucking the trend of PSP publishers releasing games as downloads alongside UMDs with just about all PSP games that have been released in the 11 months since the download-only PSP Go came out.

A representative from Ogilvy, which handles Square Enix games writes:

"Just found out that there unfortunately are no plans to release KHBBS on PSP Go. If that changes, I will certainly let you know!"

Bad news for the 7 PSP Go owners out there, myself included. The game comes out Sept. 7.

Review: Going the Distance

This review is posted over at OK.

Justin Long’s character in Going the Distance is a Mac and Drew Barrymore’s is a PC. He lives in New York, she’s a NorCal girl. He takes two steps forward and she takes two steps back. But they go together like Janet Jackson and animated music video cats. And they overcome the travails of their long distance relationship to get together every 15 minutes to make sweet PG-13-rated love in a movie that’s rated R for no reason.

The rating is one of the many confusing things about the movie, which underuses It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia genius Charlie Day in a throwaway role as Long’s dirtbag roommate and gives Christina Applegate far too much screentime as Barrymore’s disapproving nag of a sister. The movie has some wildly funny moments, such as all of Day’s lines, a scene in which Long gets a comeuppance for texting too much at a driving range, and the part in which wannabe newspaper reporter Barrymore is denied a job when her would-be boss tells her he just laid off 100 people.

I was the only one in the theater who laughed at that one, possibly because it wasn’t meant as a joke, but Barrymore’s crack that she thinks the newspaper business is about to rebound drew big chuckles.

The funny stuff is canceled out by too many story-intensive stretches, which dispense with the humor and make the movie feel as long as Braveheart. Director Nanette Burstein expects you to dangle in suspense, wondering whether Long and Barrymore will be able to settle on a place to live together and sort out their trust issues. Meanwhile, Day sits offscreen with nothing to do, waiting for the chance to come back into the film, breathing life into the otherwise dull affair before slipping back to crazyland.

Long and Barrymore lack the chemistry that makes you believe they’ll run away together after filming to start adopting African children. Long, who is better in supporting roles as a put-upon straight man, struggles to stay interesting as a put-upon music promoter who’s forced to recruit boy bands instead of striving to uncover the hipster garage bands he loves.

Barrymore conjures up a mix between her Wedding Singer waitress character and the Never Been Kissed reporter. Her character earns your sympathy for her tireless efforts to strive for low expectations. She goes to Stanford with the goal of becoming a print reporter, hoping to land a job that won’t pay off her student loans for four lifetimes. She stays single, fending off advances from a British coworker to pine for a self-hating, directionless commitmentphobe who lives on the other side of the country.

Much like her sister does, you glare at the character with scrunched eyes, wondering why she can’t do better for herself. Or maybe you just stare through the character, at Barrymore herself, wondering why an actress as talented as her signed onto a mess like this.

Starring Drew Barrymore, Justin Long and Charlie Day. Written by Michael Geoff LaTulippe. Directed by Nanette Burstein. Rated R. 102 minutes.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Review: Nanny McPhee Returns

Oh, to be Nanny McPhee. To travel early-20th century England, using your magical powers to torture bratty kids into behaving at will. To be able to command your pet bird to disarm Nazi bombs with a wink of an eye. To possess the benefit of inexplicably vanishing your unsightly blemishes whenever you correct a family crisis.
What we truly need as a society is an Aliens vs. Predators like extravaganza in which McPhee goes nanny-a-nanny against Mary Poppins.

But until then, we’ll have to settle for McPhee sequels such as Nanny McPhee Returns, which one by one grant the good Nanny Google-search superiority over her American Idol descendant, Katharine McPhee.

This time around, screenwriter-actress goes all out with the poop and flatulence jokes, as though she’s just discovered her inner 1990s Kevin Smith. If you ever wanted to see a close-up of a cow heeding nature’s call, a geriatric woman use manure as a picnic seat cushion or a bird lay waste to a wheat field with a titanic gas blast, this is your film.

This second dose of McPheever covers the bases of the first movie, peppering in a little more humor while removing some of the sentiment. Set during World War II, a ranch-at-home mother (Maggie Gyllenhaal) struggles to corral her three wild kids and live-in niece and nephew as her husband battles it out against Hitler’s cronies.
The farm kids despise their city-slicker cousins and make mommy want to tear her forced British accent out, but in comes McPhee to save the day with her snaggletoothed witchcraft.

McPhee clearly holds herself in high moral regard, ignorant of the fact that she’s truly a tyrant who forces others to bend to her will by tossing around her supernatural heft. Believe me, you’d start sharing your toys too if the alternative was to be stuck in a perpetual zombie state spanking yourself over and over until you finally tell McPhee “sorry.”

Luke, my 3-year-old, enjoyed the movie while also becoming mildly terrified of the heroine. Only time will be able to tell whether or not the nightmares he’ll have about Nanny McPhee coming in to trap him in his room with a wild elephant until he agrees to share a bed with his cousin turn out to be worth it. Until then, I can always warn him that if he doesn’t pick up his Legos I’ll revel in the ability to send Nanny McPhee and her farting shoulder bird after him.

Starring Emma Thompson, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Rhys Ifans. Written by Thompson, based on characters created by Christianna Brand. Directed by Susanna White. 109 minutes. Rated PG.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

This is posted over at OK.

If you allow video games to warp your brain enough, you start to view life as series of pixilated levels to be conquered. When you get out of work, you see the fireworks that Mario gets when he slides on the flagpole. On the drive home, stuck in traffic, you dream about clearing the way with a lightning bolt that makes everyone in front of you shrink and spin out. On payday, you hear the “dingdingdingding” of jumbo-sized coins accumulating in your bank account. When you go to sleep you see the outlines of falling Tetris pieces inside your eyelids.

OK, so maybe it’s just me. Well, me, Scott Pilgrim graphic novel author Bryan Lee O’Malley and his legions of fans.

If you haven’t wasted a significant portion of your life on video games, particularly those in the 1980s and 90s, the magical realism-infused Scott Pilgrim vs. the World may seem about as relatable as a non-subtitled Czech comedy. But if you have, discovering the movie is as blissful as hitting a random coin block to see it spawn a fast-growing vine that launches you into coin heaven.

Michael Cera stars as the same waifish, insecure bundle of post-adolescent nerves he always plays. Some are tired of the schtick, wishing he’d branch out and try different roles, but not me. When you do something well, I say run it into the ground until the paychecks stop coming in. Cera’s characters are some of the few leading men in movies who make you feel better about yourself. You think, hey I could take that guy in a fight.

Except you’d be wrong, at least in this movie, because Scott Pilgrim is an unstoppable dynamo of ass-kicking fury. He’s tasked to defeat the seven evil exes of
his dream girl, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth WInstead).

Sometimes the fights are Street Fighter-like throwdowns, with yoga flames and tiger uppercuts, while other times they’re guitar hero bass battles and Tony Hawk rail sliding challenges gone wrong. Each tangle ends with Scott dispatching the mini boss into a poof of disappearing pixels, and naturally, a pile full of coins.

Director Edgar Wright, who’s proved to be an ace of offbeat humor in Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, maintaings his niche momentum in the movie, collaborating on a ridiculously quotable script and peppering the screen with infinite sight gags. It’s a movie you could probably watch five times and still find new sneaky references on each additional viewing. It’s filmmaking that makes you feel –well – not smart, but well informed on a trivial, arguably pointless topic.

The only knock on the film I can fathom is that the theater seems like way too formal of a setting to watch it. It’s destined to be playing in the background at bars and house parties. It will be worshipped in pot-smoke filled dorm rooms and cause rubber-necking when played on commuters’ iPads. The movie taps into something shallow and false that too few will be able to relate to. It’s an obnoxious, navel-gazing, uproarious tribute to a life well wasted.

Starring Michael Cera and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Written by Michael Bacall and Edgar Wright, based on the Bryan Lee O’Malley graphic novel. Directed by Wright. Rated PG-13. 112 minutes.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

How To Survive Stay At Home Dadhood

I wrote a guest post for the Noob Dad. An excerpt:

Lesson 3: Trick the Poop Gods. Toddlers, much like grandparents, do not control their own bowel movements. Instead they’re determined by the Greek or Roman, I forget, god of poop. What’s his name? Always skips my mind. Oh yeah, Satan! Satan waits until you’re about to head out somewhere before giving your child’s lower intestine the go-ahead to start filling the diaper with stinking waste. The goal of Satan is obviously to trap you at Costco or Barnes & Noble story time with a putrid load that somehow doubles your toddler’s weight, rendering you a Keystone Kops-like mess of madcap 1920s silent comedy as you grab Luke by the scruff of his neck (or ankle) with one hand into the bathroom while hauling the crying post-baby in the other. Once inside you’ll have to use a spare elbow or knee to tae kwon do open the ancient changing table that was installed in the 1970s as a token nod to the women’s lib movement but never intended for actual use. Then you will change Emma’s diaper with one hand and half an eye as you unsuccessfully verbally warn Luke not to pick up the urinal cake with both hands.

To avoid this situation, simply say you’re going to take the kids somewhere, wait until Satan has you on record, and then pull a fast one on him and say “Tricked ya, fool! We’re not going any damn where!” And then call up Sesame Street from Comcast On Demand for like the fifth time that day. Once Emma has finally been tricked into pooping, you can be on your way.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Review: The Other Guys

This is posted over at OK.

The people who cut the trailer for The Other Guys had an interesting strategy: Rather than show all the funniest moments in order to sucker people in, they chose to make the movie seem as terrible as possible, lowering expectations so much that even if the movie was only sort of bad people would still be happy because they were
expecting ludicrously awful.

So since the movie -- a buddy cop comedy teaming Will Ferrell as an uptight Murtaugh to Mark Wahlberg’s testosterone-bursting Riggs – is actually pretty good, I’m pretty much ready to declare it will sweep the Oscars, cure cancer and repeal Arizona’s SB 1070.

Director Adam McKay is master of the first half hour. Each of his previous movies – Anchorman, Talladega Nights and Step Brothers – is rib-shatteringly funny in the first act, golf-clap, half-smirk OK in the second act and get-me-out-of-here-now bad in the finale. McKay breaks his routine in The Other Guys, which is impossibly funny for the first half and half-smirk OK in the second half. With comedy being one of the most difficult arts to accomplish in moviedom, that makes The Other Guys a breakthrough on the level of Lethal Weapon or Pineapple Express.

Or not. I’m probably getting a little too carried away, and the more I think about it the more I’m sure the movie isn’t quite good enough to one day notch a spot in my crowded DVD case, but then again, maybe it just might sneak in. Moments from the movie keep playing in my head in a cycling highlight reel:

*Ferrell sprawled on the ground, wailing that he needs an MRI.

*Ferrell smacking Wahlberg in the face with a wooden gun. OK, that was the one funny part of the trailer.

*Ferrell spontaneously pretending he’s a pimp, referring to himself as “Gator.”

*Two important characters plunging to spontaneous, unexpected death.

*The background revealing an approaching, impossible-to-avoid car accident that no one onscreen is aware of.

The movie is pretty much a shameless ripoff of Lethal Weapon, aping its ludicrous, though amazing, set pieces and relentless banter. But that’s just fine because big, fun, grown-up action flicks don’t come around often enough. The Other Guys is everything I hoped Cop Out would be but ended up being the complete opposite of. This thing sings. Wahlberg’s angst-ridden thuggishness clashes nicely with Ferrell’s tactless buffoonery, and the plotting actually surprises you as it rumbles toward its inevitable conclusion, with the partners solving the big case.

This is the sort of movie that will turn up on Spike or TNT in a few years. You’ll stop channel surfing, give it a few minutes and before you realize what happened it’ll be two hours later and you’ll be reciting Will Ferrell quotes in that special method of yours that renders them in no way funny. A true sign of a great film.

Starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg. Written by Adam McKay and Chris Henchy. Directed by McKay. 107 minutes. Rated PG-13.