Friday, February 20, 2009

"Eff You!" A Review of "Fired Up!"

Sometimes a movie is good because of a great concept, sometimes because the characters are really likable, sometimes a movie is good because of great direction, sometimes a movie is good because it keeps you guessing what will happen next, and sometimes a movie is good solely based on the dialog. “Fired Up!” is the last type of movie.

Shawn (Nicholas D'Agosto: “Heroes”) and Nick (Eric Christian Olsen: “Dumb and Dumberer”) are a couple of the best players on the Gerald Ford High School football team, and they are also a couple of horndogs. The pair are such horndogs that they only joined the football team to better their chances at getting girls. This tactic has worked well, as the pair have pretty much worked their way through every girl at school.

When faced with two weeks under the hot Texas sun with no access to women at football camp, the guy discover that the cheerleaders have a camp of their own at the same time. Cheer camp is three weeks, but they would surrounded by hundred of cheerleaders that they haven't even met before. Sure they're supposed to go spend time at a friends house after football camp, but they decide to try to get into cheer camp, get their fill for the first two weeks, and then skip out.

Getting into cheer camp means getting onto the cheer leading squad, the Tigers, and with the help of Shawn's scheming sister, Poppy (Juliette Goglia), they are able to fool most of the cheerleaders into believing they are genuine. The one holdout is the team's leader, Carly (Sarah Roemer: “Disturbia”) , who sees through them, but is quickly circumvented by going straight to the team's coach.

Predictably enough, while working their way through the girls at camp, Shawn and Nick fall in love. Nick falls for Diora (Molly Sims: “Yes Man!”, “Las Vegas”), the wife of the camp's head coach. Shawn of course falls for Carly, which wouldn't be too much a problem once he's convinced her that he is genuine if not for her douche bag college freshman “pre-fiance”, 'Doctor' Rick (David Walton).

By the end of the first third of the film you should have the rest of the story pretty much figured out. There is almost nothing in the movie that I did not see coming. Predictability combined with the fact that this movie is PG-13 (so no female nudity, sorry guys) means that the only thing going for this are the performances of the cast. Luckily this is the film's strongest point.

It's clear (especially by the outtakes during the credits) that there was a lot of ad-libbing on the set of this movie, and that combines with some fairly talented character writing to give the movie's characters a lot of smooth fast-paced banter. If you are familiar with the show “Psych”, that is what the interaction between Shawn and Nick feels like, and this is the great thing. The dialog is really the one thing that keeps this otherwise unremarkable film from just being an hour and a half of homophobic humour, shots of girls in tight-fitting workout apparel, and little else wrapped up in an actually rather dull story.

The movie's ad campaign refers to it as “Superbad meets Bring It On”, and this is actually a perfect description of it. The movie does not relegate the plot line of the Tigers trying to show up their ultra-perfect rivals, the Panthers, to the back burner, but instead gives it the same amount of importance as the two-guys-trying-to-get-laid plot. Most of the cheerleaders are shown as being relatively dim and shallow, but cheer leading itself is treated as the highly athletic sport that it is.

This film dances that fine line between PG-13 and R ratings; while there are plenty of shots of girls in shorts, skirts, and even underwear, the only actual nudity you ever get is a couple of shots of man-ass. Also, there is a lot of foul language in this film, it escapes an R rating for that alone only for not using the “F”-bomb, although a four letter “S” word for feces is used a few dozen times (most of them in one scene early in the film). There is drug usage, sexual innuendo, drinking, and other behaviour that may be inappropriate for younger viewers.

If you really want to see a new movie this weekend, and you're not a fan of Tyler Perry in drag, then “Fired Up!” is in theaters today. It's not awesome, but it doesn't suck either. It will keep you laughing, but for the cost of a movie ticket you could do better. There will no doubt be some “Special Unrated Pom-Pom Editon” coming out on DVD in a few months, and I would say wait for that unless you are really into cheer leading movies.

Check out ”Mallville – A Journal of the Zombie Apocalypse”, my free ongoing blognovel.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

"Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch, Ah-Ah-Ah-AH" A Review of "Friday the 13th"

When I was young, a monster roamed the movie screens, and his name was Jason Voorhees. Every couple of years he would come back from the dead to wreak havoc on another group of immoral teenagers before being put back to sleep again. Unfortunately as I grew older, his movies grew lamer; Jason battled a telekinetic girl, took a cruise to New York, was revealed to be some sort of demon slug, and was eventually sent into space and made into a cyborg in what could only be called outright parody. It was sad to see this once proud beast become a joke; that ends now!

“Friday the 13th” is not so much a remake as the type of reboot that comic book heroes tend to go through every decade or so once it becomes implausible that a guy from the forties is still running around in tights battling villains who are also from the forties. The opening moments of the film retcon the events at the end of the original “Friday the 13th”, and as the film progresses we see sackhead Jason (a la part 2), and eventually the hockey mask wearing Jason we all identify with the series.

This is not the exactly the Jason of my childhood though; that Jason was a slow hulking monster who could catch up to you with a fast walk no matter how fast you ran, and would generally just kill you without much of a show. This new Jason is slimmer, faster, smarter, and, if possible, more sadistic than his past self. He runs, he builds, he plans, he sets traps, he plays with his victims, he even takes prisoners. Normally I dislike these kinds of changes (like my opinion of the running zombies is the “Dawn of the Dead” “remake”), but I think this really works well for a modern Jason.

The film starts with Whitney Miller (Amanda Righetti: “The O.C.”, “The Mentalist”) and her friends head off to Crystal Lake in search of a mythical field of marijuana and a weekend of camping. They do find the weed, but then fall prey to the standard rules of the “Friday the 13th” series. Wander off on your own? Dead! Drink? Dead! Have sex? Dead! Do drugs? Dead! This all happens before the title even comes onto the screen.

Flash forward a month, and we find Clay Miller (Jared Padalecki: “Supernatural”, “Gilmore Girls”), Whitney's brother, still looking for her. He runs across a group of teens who make up the standard crew of slasher movie victims; the douche bag, the slut, the stoner, the good-girl, the token black guy, etc. Once we've introduced all of the players, the fun begins.

This movie is very by the books, but that is part of what makes it so faithful to the spirit of the original series (before they got into all the truly supernatural drek). It obeys the traditional rules of the 80's morality tale slasher flick, but is not afraid to tweak them periodically because it knows that you, the viewer, know the rules. The overall effect of this is a film that feels fresh, but also feels like it can stand along side the best of the original series.

If you like to be scared, you're going to want to check this movie out in theaters. While most of the scares in the film are of the booga-booga Jason jumps out, or a body drops out of nowhere variety, there is a constant sense of dread once things get going. Is Jason in the shower? Behind the door? Outside the window? Is he right behind you? He could be in any of these places, or none of them, and the fact you know he is going to kill any given character at some point makes this film a very tense experience.

Ultimately what makes “Friday the 13th” work where other remakes have failed is that it doesn't try to totally re-invent Jason or re-create the earlier films; instead it tries to recapture the feel of the early films, and it succeeds on nearly every account. I got a real sense of what I loved about the original series as I watched this. Oh, and don't be afraid that Michael Bay's name is on this movie; there's only one unnecessary explosion in it.

While it would be incorrect to call this a “great” film, it has been so long since there has been a good traditional slasher movie that fans of the genre should have a hard time not walking away with the feeling that it was great. Everything a fan of slasher films could want is here, atmosphere, boobs, gore, screaming, and some inventive and incredibly brutal ways of dispatching the not-so-innocent.

If I had any real complaints about this film, it would be the ending. The events of the climax seemed to bend reality a bit too much, and what happened afterwards made no sense from the point of view of the characters. From a writing/directing point of view the ending makes perfect sense (as the logical ending sort of makes sequels impossible), but I just don't think it is what the characters would have done.

All in all this is a film for fans of the slasher genre; it's not too different from its source material, but it's not a straight re-hash either. Filled with scares, nudity, and gore this movie should have your jumpy significant other clutching you close for safety. Check out the new “Friday the 13th” when it hits theaters everywhere this Friday the 13th.

Check out ”Mallville – A Journal of the Zombie Apocalypse”, my free ongoing blognovel.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Rock Band DLC I Want to See

Like a lot of people, I love Rock Band 2; it addresses almost every issue I had with the original game, and is loads of fun to play. Also like many people, there are songs I would love to see come to the game that so far have failed to. To remedy this, I have decided to write about what track packs I would create if I were in charge (regardless of any licensing issues that may get in the way)

Halloween Pack 01
They came out with a Holiday Pack last year with Christmas and Hanukkah songs in it, so why not Halloween?

Monster Mash - Bobby (Boris) Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers
Zombie Me – No More Kings
RE: Your Brains – Jonathan Coulton

Holiday Pack 02
I enjoyed two of the three songs in last years pack (I did not care for that version of Blue Christmas), so this is what I would like to see this year.
Chiron Beta Prime – Jonathan Coulton
I Want an Alien for Christmas – Fountains of Wayne
Green Christmas – Barenaked Ladies

Bowling for Soup Pack 01
This band has a perfect sound for Rock Band, and a lot of their songs are just plain fun.
Shut-Up and Smile

Weezer Pack 02
Pork and Beans (it is a crime that this was not in the first pack)
In the Garage
Buddy Holly

Fountains of Wayne Pack 01
Red Dragon Tattoo
92 Subaru
Too Cool for School

Jonathan Coulton Pack 01
So we've been able to get “Still Alive” and “Skullcrusher Mountain”, but there are so many more good songs out there. They should probably just do full albums, but this is what I would like to see first.
Shop Vac
Code Monkey

No More Kings Pack 01
Geek influenced pop at its best. I discovered this band through Pandora, and if you have not heard of them, you should definitely check them out.
Sweep the Leg
The Grand Experiment
Michael (Jump In)

I could frankly do this all day, but these are definitely the first ones that come to mind. So come on Harmonix, give me good reasons to spend my Microsoft Points!

If you could make any track packs, what would you make? What songs do you want to play your plastic guitar to?