Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Energia’s army of geeks review films, games, books and other stuff.

Die, Art!

November 21st, 2007 by Antti Hukkanen

The things we find on the Internet! Today, it’s the thesis work of a German film student. Check it out; apart from the pretty CGI, the music and graphic design combine to depict a haunting, surreal world that reminds me, at least, of the decidedly otherworldly French science-fiction animation, La Planète Sauvage (translated to English as Fantastic Planet).

It’s also artsy-fartsy as all hell! It is a question of personal preference whether that is a good or a bad thing (I like it, director Vuorensola seems to disagree). It also says “die.art” with a fancy logo at the beginning of the end credits, which is just asking to be punned (like in the title of this post), if you ask me.

Oh, and in case you’re worried, no, Iron Sky will not look like this… or will it?

Hot Rod: Internet video stars done good.

November 9th, 2007 by Jarmo Puskala

Hot Rod is a film from the Lonely Island comedy troupe, who made their name by posting their rejected Fox pilot Awesome Town online. They released it under a Creative Commons licence and it got quite popular, getting them hired on Saturday Night Live.

Awesome Town

The main players are Akiva Schaffer, Andy Samberg and the curiously named Jorma Taccone. For you foreigner readers, the curious part is that “Jorma” is a rather traditional Finnish name pretty much equal to the english “Dick”.

Check out the Awsome Town intro above with it’s undying lyrics like “My name’s Jorma motherfuckers”. Check out the whole episode on their site. I recommed watching the “dude’s cut” first, it’s less traditional, but a lot funnier than the Fox version.

Hot Rod

Hot Rod is their first feature, shot between seasons of Saturday Night Live. It was released last month and thus far has made some $14 million worldwide. I think that can be classified as step up from YouTube fame.

It tells the story of Rod Kimble, a self-proclaimed stuntman who decides to sget the money needed for his step-dad’s operation in order to get to kick his ass in a fair fight. The plot, as usual, is pretty meaningless. Many of the funniest parts of the film look like they come straight out of the fictional tv show “Ow My Balls” in the non-fictional film Idiocracy, with Rod getting hit, punched, set on fire and crashing in to large objects. But the plot does it’s job without getting in the way of the funny stuff. And yes, the film is funny. Not constatly, nor does it come anywhere near to suffocating you with laughter, but it’s funny. The humor ranges from slapstick to weird and post modern – quite like what Awesome Town had, even pulling some of the jokes straight from the pilot.

The main thing for the film is that it has the feeling of being honest and natural, that’s enough to make it stand out from the sea of *movie and *trip franchises. I wouldn’t be suprised if the Lonely Island dudes would be the next comedy superstars to come out of SNL. Indeed, internet video stars have done good. It’s a shame there isn’t a SNL in Finland to hire people like the Huba guys. We’re still waiting to see a TV series from them. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

Trailer

Stardust.

October 22nd, 2007 by Jarmo Puskala

Falling stars in Stardust.

If I hadn’t been watching Stardust in a movie theater, I could have been mistaken to think that is was made for HBO or Scifi channel. Now, I know that sounds like an insult, but I assure you I mean it in the nicest ways possible.

Stardust is based on a novel by Neil Gaiman. All in all I have a quite weird relationship with his writing. Somehow I keep imagining that I’ve read a lot more of his work than I actually have. From his novels I’ve only read American Gods and from Sandman I’ve only the earliest stories. I haven’t read Stardust the book, but those better educated tell me it’s quite different from the movie.

There is a lot of good in the film, but let’s start with the bad. Most of the film the main characters wander around locations in rural England without any clear direction. Then, in many scenic locations they stumble on something fantastic or dangerous and there is a scene of action and/or special effects. Then, without actually doing anything themselves they get out of that situation and onto the next. There is a plot running in the background, connecting all these seemingly random encounters, but that’s not helping. The main plot offers no suprises. It’s very clear where everyhing is going and how the film’s many characters will come together in the end. It all feels both too random and too convenient at the same time.

This isn’t the first time I say this of things Neil Gaiman has been involved in, but I think the script would have worked a lot better as a miniseries. There really isn’t that kind of a tight narrative that would keep the film together for two hours. However spreading it our over several episodes would let the good things shine. Either that, or then a lot of the random wandering should have been left out and more meat given to the remaining parts of the story for it to work better as a movie.

If the script feels more like a miniseries, then the effects make Stardust look more like a movie of the week. They’re not exactly bad, but they don’t look like they belong to a $65 million film. I wouldn’t mind the obious bluescreen work or airships that look like CGI, but I do object to effects sequences being boring. Most of the effects in Stardust are either green or purple glowing things zipping around the green. This becomes boring very fast and there’s a lot of that in the film.

Among the smaller annoyances there is certain Ricky Gervais, who – for some un-godly reason – has been cast as a merchant. The Office is completely unwatchable and the most overrated comedy since Seinfeld, but I don’t really hate the actor, I even like his new sitcom Extras – but Gervais can only play one character and as a lightning dealer in a fantasy world that character sticks out like a sledgehammer banging on a sore thumb. He just doesn’t fit in.

The good things in Stardust are numerous as well. First of all, it has Airships in it. They’re pretty much the coolest thing ever not really invented. And it has lightning pirates. In the cool ladder they’re just step below steam-powered dinosaurs and alien ninjas. And I have to admit that the idea of falling in love with a fallen star is a romantic one.

There are some great scenes and characters. Claire Danes is always beautiful and lovely and most of the actors do a good job. And the goatman Billy is excellent. If there was an Oscar for the best potrayal of a goat I’d bet my money on this guy.

In the end we have a film that has great parts, some parts that are less than great. It’s a fun movie to watch and very likable, but it’s not as good as it should be.

Trailer

(the trailer has spoilers)

Forever Awake.

October 8th, 2007 by Antti Hukkanen

Peace and War, the Omnibus Edition

I finally finished Joe Haldeman’s novel Forever Peace last night. It kept me up until 4 in the morning just because the story kept kicking on higher and higher gears so I couldn’t leave the book with only fifty or so pages left. It was funny in a way. After all, I’d been reading the book for quite a while already, in tiny snippets every night before bed. (Oh, what I’d give for the time to sit down with a good book…)

I bought the omnibus edition Peace & War at Finncon last July, after listening to the author being interviewed Actors Studio style and realising three things at once. One, the man is funny, intelligent and an incredibly gentle person. Two, I’d only read two pieces by him: a translation of his seminal Forever War back when I was in school, and the Vietnam-themed poem (!) DX in the anthology Demons & Dreams edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling (ISBN 978-0712630214, good luck finding a copy). And three, those two works – a three-page poem and a translation (for crying out loud!) – had left me with a lasting impression of a terribly skilled novelist. It was time to reacquaint myself.

True, the title of the omnibus – Peace & War – is a reference to a classic (I should really say, another classic). But it’s also very accurate: that’s what Haldeman writes about. Not content with merely describing either, he recounts the lives of people taking part in war in a way that makes the necessity of peace achingly evident. His style is remarkable – friendly, casual, like listening to a friend relate something that happened to him. That style gives his works a light and approachable quality, but also emphasises the understated way he describes moments of savage action. No build-up of tension, no deceptive calm before the storm, it really brings home the horror of combat when you have to re-read the last two sentences before it sinks in that an ambush has just been sprung and someone lies dead from stepping on a land mine.

And the sheer scope of it! Not for Haldeman the simple statement that war is hell. No, he goes right ahead and demonstrates that if war is indeed an intrinsic part of human nature, why then, the evolutionary quantum leap necessary to rid us of war is worth it. True, being one of a dying breed (as his protagonists tend to be in these stories) does leave one feeling rather forlorn. But then, war also leaves one feeling rather forlorn, or rather dead. Think about it.

Hey, there’s even a way to link this rant with Iron Sky. In 2004, Mr Haldeman split the James Tiptree, Jr. Award with Iron Sky writer Johanna Sinisalo. According to her, he was so much of a gentleman that he spent most of his acceptance speech praising her work. Having listened to and read the man, I’m inclined to believe it.