Saturday 30 April 2016

Kickassia (2010) - Movie Review

As I mentioned previously, the reason why Meta Month is set during April is because it was this month six years ago that I first watched an Internet video review which lead me down the long, winding path to this spot. Well, April 2010 also served as another important point for certain Internet critics. Cross-overs between reviewers is nothing new; hell, Siskel & Ebert was very much a cross-over and that existed long before YouTube was even a concept in the back of some guy’s head. However, in terms of the online video realm, the Nostalgia Critic had been toying with the concept ever since he started, pretty much. From his feud with the Angry Video Game Nerd to his review of FernGully with the Nostalgia Chick, there’s been a collaborative air to his work for a long while now.

So, after the success of the big TGWTG team-up brawl as the capstone to the AVGN beef, Doug and co. got a bunch of the then-current site talent together for the start of what would be a yearly tradition for quite a while afterwards: The massive cross-over film. This was where the whole DIY aesthetic of the Internet video reviewer got turned its head a little, as not only were a large number of them congregating into a single piece but they were going for a feature-length production, when most of their work would usually range in the 5-25 minute market. But, with all the years of retrospect and advances made to the format as a whole, does this film still hold up? In fact, did this ever hold up? Let’s take a look as we close out Meta Month at a look at the TGWTG 2 Year Anniversary film. This is Kickassia.

Friday 29 April 2016

Top 20 Nostalgia Critic Episodes

Well, after my major spleen venting from last time (which was met by alarmingly warm reception, might I add?), I feel a certain need to reiterate the main point of me doing all this in the first place. As much as this makes me come across as a rather hopeless fan-boy (which is kind of true), these people do mean a great deal to me both in terms of entertainment and broadening my own personal perspective on a number of things and none more so than the Nostalgia Critic. Hell, if I had any belief in it, I could almost carry this off as a tribute to his Avatar Episodes lists and twist it into me just trying to ensure balance. But really, it’s just a means for me to air out some dirty laundry I’ve been holding onto for a little too long. We’re not here to talk about all that again, though, as this time around I’m counting my picks for the Top 20 best episodes of the Nostalgia Critic.

#20: Demolition Man

It’s rare that a film becomes more timely after its initial release, especially when it's an action film soaked in 90’s tropes and starring Sylvester Stallone. Where Spoony’s review of the game got me interested in the film initially, this definitely cemented it for me as the Critic’s jabs at how the over-sanitized future depicted in the film is like some sort of Tumblrite utopia… and right now, I’m just wondering why the hell the word ‘Tumblrite’ doesn’t come up on my spell check. Maybe that future really is more prevalent now than we first thought.

#19: Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Launch

An initial showing of Doug’s more lenient sensibilities on media fandom, this video plays out a bit like a geek version of Mardi Gras. Yeah, it’s over-the-top and most people certainly won’t comprehend a lot of it, but the infectious sense of joy that floods these sorts of events are so potent that, if you’re in the area, you’ll feel compelled to join in regardless. Such is the case with the Critic, who spends some time poking fun at the fans, but then ends up joining them as the launch clock keeps ticking down.

#18: Felix The Cat: The Movie

Even considering he did a whole video devoted the biggest nostalgic mindfucks (a video that introduced me to the insane brilliance of animator Cyriak), this would have to be the most insane film he’s looked at so far. All the noise, all the character clutter, all the painful colour choices; it just plain hurts to think about, let alone watch. As such, the Critic goes into full crackdown mode as he breaks down just how much of the film doesn’t work and its use of tropes concerning filmmaking for children that, quite frankly, need to stop before we get any more kids schlock like this and Home. Also, “I want you to make him look like he’s dry-humping a trash can.”

#17: The Haunting

A subversion of the Critic’s semi-regular comparison series Old Vs. New, he forgoes the traditional format of breaking the individual elements of each iteration of the story and instead strictly points out how much the remake pulled a Zeno’s arrow in how badly it missed the mark. Sure, he gives credit to some decent casting decisions, and his over-the-top lauding over Catherine Zeta-Jones is still hilarious, but I think it’s the Critic’s comments about the depiction of gay and lesbian characters in fiction that really strike a chord with me. Mainly because, even though he’s directly talking about how the 90’s treated them, we’re still using the same writing styles even today; more’s the pity.

#16: Let’s Play Bart’s Nightmare

Yeah, bet you weren’t expecting this one. And no, I’m not trolling; I genuinely love this video. Ignoring the hideous backlash that came as a result of this infamous little number, the core joke that Doug was going for with this video about how Let’s Plays aren’t as easy as the layman may think actually works here. It comes across more like the Critic as a character is in over his head more than Doug as a person and, after the rage has died down, it’s easy enough to get that from his performance. That, and it’s some good reaction porn with how he just raves like a manic chimpanzee at the game itself.

#15: Mamma Mia!

Far better than I have ever been able to articulate it before (despite my best efforts), this review manages to pin down just about everything wrong with the prototypical ‘chick flick’. He even gets down to brass tacks when it comes to the issue of the comedy part of the romantic-comedy, leading to a point that I seriously wish was referred to more often as it’s an issue that never ceases to irk general movie-goers.

#14: Conquest Of The Commercials

I should really hate this video for making sure that that bloody “Zestfully Clean” jingle never leaves my head, but as usual his picks for nostalgic commercials to look at is top-notch. However, what makes this higher up than the other commercial specials is the inclusion of a certain famous animator that Doug has discussed at length before. Not spoiling anything for those who haven’t seen it, but who knew such a legend could have a stare that can burn through sheet metal.

#13: We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story

Much like Sage’s review of Twilight Of The Cockroaches, this review might be affected by how well you know the material it’s referencing, this time with Doug doing it in character as Raoul Puke, a parody of the similarly-named main character from Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas. Also like with Sage’s Critic routine, this video still works without being familiar with the character source; once again, this was my first encounter with anything to do with the film and not only did it not bother me, it sold me on what is now one of my all-time favourite films.

#12: Titanic: The Animated Movie

Easily one of the most consistently funny of the show’s run, both past and present, the Critic had a lot of good material gift-wrapped for him with this unfathomably sugar-coated depiction of one of the most infamous sea disasters of all time. While the rapping dog (yes, there’s one of those in this thing; that’s how out-of-touch it is) allowed for some good riffs, I think the best material he got came from the mariachi rats, particularly when they start singing.

#11: Top 11 Cereal Mascots

This is another occasion where, if I was listing purely on amount of times viewed, this would be #1… except this time, I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe it’s a more natural exhibition of his riffing on nostalgic marketing than his already excellent commercial specials. Maybe it’s because of the hefty dramatic air he gives some of these mascots, like the Trix rabbit being a Greek tragedy and Sonny the Cuckoo Bird being a sickly drug addict. Maybe it’s because it shows a certain level of serious analysis that would later blossom into greater things once the reboot came around. Or maybe it’s all of these things, I don’t know.

#10: The Worst Christmas Special EVER

After the already-thrashed Eight Crazy Nights review, have to admit, I was not looking forward to this one when it was first released. And yet, he more than manages to deliver on the title with some of the most jittery and almost schizophrenic animation, coupled with absolutely weaksauce voice acting, to be found outside of a Phoenix Games production. It probably helps that he closes out the review with an impromptu “THIS is what Christmas is really about” sentiment including not only the rest of the Critic team but also his family as well.

#9: The Last Airbender

The only episode of the show that has so far required an entire video series worth of setup before he even got to the film itself, this video not only highlights how bad this horrendous adaptation is but also how good the TV show is by comparison. He shows a real respect and admiration for the original cartoon, almost inversely proportional to the amount of respect Shyamalan had for the show when he was making the bloody movie. It also helps that he ends on a sentiment concerning franchises that seriously needs to be brought up more: A bad story doesn’t negate the good stories.

#8: A Tribute To Siskel & Ebert

A critic doing a tribute to other critics… I’m not going to say that I entirely ripped this one off, but I will say that it probably influenced me somewhere along the way while preparing for Meta Month. Actually, that comparison is kind of apropos because this video definitely showed one of the bigger hints of the inner fanboy that floats around a lot of Doug’s work. The amount of respect he shows for Siskel, Ebert and even Richard Roeper (despite their flaws) is palpable and it is kind of adorkable seeing him gush over the signed book that he got from Ebert himself. And then Ebert saw this video, tweeted Doug and Doug framed the tweet. Yeah, more than anything else, that level of admiration has to be commended. After a few of the tweets I’ve gotten in response to Meta Month, I can honestly say that it is certainly a thrill when senpai notices you.

#7: Pearl Harbor

Depicting a fictionalized version of Michael Bay’s career is a decent idea all on its own, but using it as a Jesus allegory? This video turned out a hell of a lot better than anyone could’ve guessed with a setup like that. The second episode to be made after the reboot, this was the first real inkling that this new, more skit-heavy approach by Doug might have been the best move for him to make. It also helps that a lot of his points about the film proper, in particular the way Bay seems to both love the military and feel fit to show them as incompetent, are justified and make for some good classic Critic rage-outs.

#6: Bio-Dome

Probably as a by-product of having sat through so many horrifically terrible comedies over the last few years, it’s kind of comforting watching a review where I can relate to just how much pain a person can go through while watching a bad comedy. It’s something akin to going insane, especially if you’re watching something that other people find funny (which might be the case for this film, I honestly don’t know); you feel like your whole reality is fucking warped. Because of this, seeing the Critic sit through easily one of the worst comedies ever gets some real sympathy going, and his riffing on the action is pretty much the only way any clips of this movie can be watched without immediate bleeding from the ears and eye sockets.
#5: Animaniacs Tribute

Full disclosure: I first found out about the existence of Animaniacs through the Critic’s Top 11 Naughtiest Animaniac Moments. Afterwards, whenever Pinky & the Brain would be on the TV when I got home from school, I just had to sit down and watch it. However, where the Siskel & Ebert tribute had the Critic in full fanboy mode, this allows for a few more traces of professionalism in the questions he asks. Not that this is dead serious, as it closes out on a bit of improv with the voice actors questioned that is just made of pure joy, but he strikes a good balance between the two.

#4: Moulin Rogue

While the concept of a review done in the style of a musical had been done before (*cough*Oancitizen*cough*) and would be repeated by the Critic after with a review of Les Misérables, this was the one that really gave some attention to the format. A collab between the Critic, Nostalgia Chick and Brentalfloss, along with a slew of other CA affiliates, this review did a good job at portraying what works and what so doesn’t bloody work about the film itself as well as its potential entertainment value. The songs also are very entertaining, particularly Phelous’ monotone growling on El Tango de Pretense.
#3: Devil

Even though Doug would sort of lampshade what he feels is his own weak writing with this one, in all honesty, this is a pretty well-written attempt to take the decent premise of the film and make it work. This is the kind of video that honestly improves with re-watches, as the character actions and motives start to make more sense when you see how they act during the video after the fact. No spoilers here, but the setup, the characters used, the points made about the film, the ending; this would be my go-to video to point out where storyline reviews can work, even in a vacuum.
#2: A Simple Wish

I have a very vivid memory of watching this video for the first time, and having my mind completely blown. The review itself is mostly the Critic reeling at the sheer insanity on screen and the extremely overwrought attempts to be funny, but then the ending comes around with a cameo that I don’t think anyone saw coming. This head-on collision between two crucial figures from my adolescence was a glorious thing to witness, and it provided a nice means for the Critic’s character to maybe re-evaluate how he critiques certain actors.

#1: Batman And Robin

Yeah, this one seems fairly obvious for the long-time fans, given the presence of the now-legendary “BAT CREDIT CARD!”, but this tops the list for different reasons than just pure entertainment value. Sure, this is one of the classic episodes of the show with good reason as, even with a slight plot recount hiccup, his comments are still solid. However, this particular video reaches first because, quite frankly, this is my first in more ways than one. This is the video that I was shown in that computer lab all those years ago that started my cinematic journey that led me to where I am now; this 17 minute video has had some of the most profound effect on my cultural mindset and how I approach pretty much any form of media. It is because of this guy that I began to realize just how crap films like Batman & Robin and Kazaam really are, but it’s also because of this video and the progress I’d make after it that I have been able to see the sheer artistry in my favourite films and enjoy them on a much deeper level. This isn’t so much a case of undying loyalty, but more undying gratitude.

Well, after such a proclamation as that, you’d think we’d be done by now. But no, we still have one last movie review to do and, much like the Batman & Robin review, this one has a certain amount of significance to me as well.

Thursday 28 April 2016

Top 10 Worst Nostalgia Critic Episodes

It may be possible to overstate this point, but it still stands: The Nostalgia Critic may be one of the single most important people in my life in terms of my own personal growth. Ever since I first watched one of his videos after being shown it by a friend in high school back in April of 2010 (hence why Meta Month is set during April), I have grown a sense of respect and appreciation for cinema that I doubt I would have ever found elsewhere. It is because of him that this entire blog exists to begin with, not to mention the numerous amazing experiences I have had watching films in the past 6 years that wouldn’t have had the impact that they did without his involvement. And dear lord, of all the video critics that I make a habit of regularly watching, he also has the best track record for outright pissing me off. No, I am not talking about drama involving Channel Awesome and its questionable business practices, nor anything else related to Doug’s actions as a person. I mean strictly in terms of his product, this guy sure has a way of getting under my skin. As such, time to kick whatever sense of loyalty and restraint I have been showing over the past month to the curb as I count down my picks for the Top 10 (or Bottom 10, depending on your outlook) Worst Episodes of the Nostalgia Critic. Why only 10? Because even this many just plain hurts to recollect and I’d rather reduce the amount of pain I’m intentionally subjecting myself to this time around. Also, I haven’t felt a real need to emphasize this particular point yet but, considering who I’m dealing with, I might have to this time around: These are just my own personal picks and in no way an objective list of his absolute worst; I’m going by gut instinct on a lot of these, so don’t freak out if one of your favourites is on here.

Special Mention: Any time he brings up TMZ
This isn’t relegated to a single video, instead being spread clean across two along with a few miscellaneous mentions then on, but it highlights one of Doug’s biggest issues that I’ll get into far greater detail about later on down the list so the discussion as a whole gets a special mention. That, and the main videos where this gets brought up (Top 11 South Park Episodes and his review of Steven Spielberg’s A.I.) aren’t that bad on their own terms.

#10: Signs
This review, much like a few others on this list, did at some point take up a spot on my list of his best, but then got dropped for one reason or another. For this one, it’s because of fellow reviewer Chris Stuckmann, who did a very detailed breakdown of the same film and explained why he holds it as near and dear to him as he does. Honestly, after that compelling of an argument, hearing the Critic stumble over those same potholes isn’t nearly as enthralling. It honestly started to feel like a Bad Movie Beatdown episode for me, where my enjoyment of the thing is hindered by just how much I can correct the critic in question on concerning the film. What? I’m already showing apparent disdain for one critic; might as well throw another one under the bus while I’m at it.

#9: Congo

With this one, it’s just a matter of not having the right approach to the subject. I’ll rarely if ever say this, but Roger Ebert was dead-on about this film: This was intentionally silly. I mean, between getting big name B-movie actors like Bruce Campbell and Joe Don Baker, Tim Curry’s phenomenally silly accent, the ape who loves being tickled, the fucking laser rifle?! If there was any inkling that he knew that this film had any sense of self-awareness, this would be fine, but no; he takes all of it at face value, in effect doing the film itself somewhat of a disservice. This should get somewhat higher a spot on the list, since an argument could be made (not by me) that this is a matter of incompetence, but as the Critic would actually acknowledge this point in a later video, it gets some mercy for him potentially calling mea culpa. The rest of these videos? Not so much.

#8: Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie

Doug has always tried to convey the idea that there shouldn’t be such a thing as a ‘guilty pleasure’, as no-one should feel guilt or feel abnormal in any way for liking certain media, something I seriously commend him for… when he sticks to it. Otherwise, in reviews like this, he comes across as astoundingly patronizing and condescending to the fans of the original material. That’s a pretty big accomplishment when you’re discussing a film that even fans of Power Rangers don’t seem to like, and you still come across as a judgmental asshole. This unfortunately will not be the last time that this uglier side of the Critic will be shown on this list.

The initial concept of Doug in character as Optimus Prime reviewing the original cartoon is a fairly interesting approach to take with it. And then a wave of subpar jokes come marching in and… well, you have a video worthy of being on this list. However, more than anything else, it’s the teeth-grinding banality of Soundwave’s want for a romantic comedy that officially shoots whatever good this video had going for it square in the face, leaving it to just twitch its way to completion. Seriously, it’s rare that you’ll ever see a joke drag so damn much that, before too long, you’ll be praying for the rapid-fire wit of a Seltzerberg production.

#6: Osmosis Jones

To quote Oancitizen: Everything is a remix; originality is overrated. Case in point, this review that spends its entire time comparing the titular film to the then-recent release of Inside Out and pointing out the numerous similarities between them. It gets exceptionally tedious with how often its brought up, but what makes it even worse is that it ends on a note where the similarities are acknowledged and then brushed aside with “Well, this film did them better”. That’s a pretty spiteful way to close out what could’ve been a more nuanced take on the subject that I know for a fact the Critic is capable of doing.

I freely admit that this review actually has some fairly funny jokes, especially when he gets to the lunacy of Ice-T as a kangaroo. But one of the jokes he makes about how the money used for the extravagant musical number could’ve been used to feed starving children crosses the line between cringe comedy and just plain unfunny. Nevermind the fact that the joke itself is extended beyond its welcome, this is a statement that you could make about any film ever made. Yeah, instead of making films, why don’t we use that same money to feed starving children? That is a very slippery slope to take.

#4: The Matrix Reloaded

He had a potentially cool idea and completely pissed it away. The first Matrix review had a premise in its storyline segments involving an underground of people who don’t like the Matrix movies, something that honestly sounded kind of interesting even as a person who honestly loves the series (okay, save for Revolutions, which even I can’t find the wherewithal to defend). It at the very least managed a decent level of parallel between the film’s narrative and the film’s reception. And then came this review, which sabotaged that entire concept with some backhanded connotations that the people who actually do like the movies are in some way brainwashed to do so. Way to combine two things that I hate seeing you do (wasting potential and back-pedalling on your own morals) into a single unlikeable package, dude.

#3: It

My gripes with this review are mainly of a personal nature, given my sheer admiration for the film in question. That said, this marks an important part of my growth as a film buff as this was the first time that I had the feeling that maybe, just maybe, what a critic says isn’t gospel. And indeed, his constant showcasing of what I consider to be blatant misunderstanding of the material given and endless mocking that ends up reaching points of seriously uncalled for, was such an occasion. This is another review that flip-flopped with me on what I thought of it, and it does have some decent jokes, but after so much time thinking it over I’ve come to the conclusion that I flat-out hate this video. I’d even go so far as to say that this tapped into a specific vein of fanboy rage that I hadn’t felt this strongly before or since. Well, at least until Baz Luhrman’s The Great Gatsby came out.

#2: Airborne

I’m kind of surprised that this guy could honestly get to me on a purely ethical level, but here we are. His comments about the main character’s very 90’s ‘dude, just chill’ faux-philosophizing are founded and he makes some decent points… except the majority of his comments appear to be attacking the fact that he is a pacifist. Throughout the entire review, the Critic keeps bringing up the character’s stance of non-violence as him being a wuss, which I take some serious issues with and it really shows the Critic to be a bit of a jackass. Except where such things could usually be guarded by the fact that he is playing a character, that doesn’t quite excuse the fact that this goes beyond just character mockery and starts making the Critic (and by extension Doug to a certain extent) out to be the kind of person that would shoot flower-carrying protestors in the face. It’s fucking abhorrent and, no, it being a joke doesn’t excuse the matter.

#1: Eight Crazy Nights

This marks the absolute nadir of Doug’s attitude concerning letting people enjoy what they want to enjoy, with a video that outright mocks the fan base of the given film and does everything it can to belittle people who commit the heinous crime of finding joy in something like this. Nevermind that his mockery of Whitey gets especially grisly when it isn’t called for, and his joke about calling Adam Sandler goes on for way too long; this tops the list because it betrays a core principal of Doug’s film-going philosophy, even more so than he had already done, and it reaches a level of hypocrisy that is usually reserved for only the truly loathsome pieces of human refuse out there. No, I don’t care if this is a Happy Madison production that we’re talking about; I would be saying this exact same thing regardless of whoever’s name is attached to it. Unlike Mr. Walker here, I will not go back on my words as I say them: No-one, I repeat no-one, should be made to feel guilty/stupid/any way inferior for liking anything meant for popular consumption. You are not less of a person just because you like Adam Sandler movies, in much the same way that you are not less of a person if you happen to like any of the videos I have so far listed; that's your right. When someone time and again continues to belittle people for their tastes, that is where I rather vehemently put my foot down and no more so than with this utter waste of time and energy.

Good God, it actively hurts to think about all this crap and the fact that this guy means as much to me as he does only makes it worse. You know the old saying: Never meet your heroes. Well, for the three of you that are still reading this and aren’t already spewing bile in the comments section, next time will be a return back to our usual cheery selves as I look into the more positive works of the Nostalgia Critic and, hopefully, better explain how this guy could leave such a massive impact on me.