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Crunching the Numbers: Year 4

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    Have time to knock out one right now.

    But first, some music to set the mood:

    SPARK

    Brought to you by Spaghetti and his brothers Fettucine, Tortellini, Manicotti, and Ravioli

    Spark is the tale of a teenager who suddenly finds out he has superpowers and that he may be the key to stopping a inter-planetary reign of terror. So, standard enough premise. Thankfully Spark takes this well-worn stock setting and gives us a fun and mostly original spin on it with excitement and adventure. Alex Spark is your typical teenager though he's a bit smarter and has a bit more common sense and empathy. It's a good mix that sets him apart from the other humans in the story but keeps him as a believeable and relatable character for the audience to latch onto. His progression of character through the film feels natural and real, so the film does it's biggest job well, which is to make us give a damn about whether the hero accomplishes anything. The supporting cast of characters aiding Spark on his galactic quest is well-rounded and goes beyond making everyone human-ish in appearance. Ezen will surely be the fan favorite, stealing many scenes with his cunning and wit.

    The final act is of course action-heavy and tries to juggle a bunch of different things, some more successfully than others. I think the film is held back somewhat by its PG rating. We have a lot of heavy sci-fi action, particularly in the third act and it would feel more natural and tense if it had a PG-13 rating to go with it to allow the filmmakers a bit more leeway in showing some of the grit and experience (not saying we need a hard PG-13, a light one like say Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire would have been sufficient. But this is a minor quibble on my part and I must say that for most of the ride the film does a great job of depicting action and thrills while also showing a clever restraint and focus to keep it family-friendly. Hugo Weaving as always delightfully digs into his villainous dialogue with gusto, like a man savoring a delicious meal. The relationship between Alex and Zenta is well done, slowly building over the film and the film rightfully doesn't try to force a more rapid development of their feelings when it wouldn't have felt natural in the course of the action.

    All in all, Spark is the best non-Numerator Pictures animated offering released this year. But is it the best animated offering overall? Well, that's a question that won't be resolved until the Top 25 countdown later, so Spark fans need to stay tuned to see if wins the prize.

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    The film begins with a talk about horror films and how they don’t really scary audiences anymore. They say that situational or disturbing horror are the only horror that truly frighten audiences. Taking something that you think is safe and making it frightful. Rather focusing on blood and gore, this film focuses on jumps and suspense. They say that the film is R rated and view discretion is advised. They say that they have permission from authorities to share these compliation of six actually events.

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    UNBALANCED

    Or: When Film Theories Go Wrong

    Unbalanced is a two hour film that tries to turn the tables on modern horror filmmaking by saying the slasher genre is all wrong and horror films need to focus on pure suspense and atmosphere. Ok, I'm with you so far. Unbalanced then decides to prove this theory by showing six unconnected vignettes in sequential order as a way to demonstrate thrills and chills without violence. And here is where the problem begins. By making the film an anthology, you break things down into bite-sized, easily digestible chunks, which while good for mass consumption, essentially means you have to tell your horror story in a quick-and-dirty fashion, with minimal buildup and minimal payoff. In essence, what Unbalance is is a collection of campfire spooky stories and the film will only be as good the aggregation of those stories. So, let's look at them to see if they match up to the hype.

    The first film is your typical young woman being stalked story. She finds doors unlocked, she finds things missing, gradual odd stuff, and suddenly via camera placement she discovers some burly dude is breaking and entering into her place and she calls the cops. Okay, problem solved, save for the inevitable twist of "OMG HE IS UNDER HER BED" which then gets tied up in about five seconds.

    Verdict: A little creepy and suspenseful, but not much room to breathe.

    The second film is about a strange chatroom experience that OMG IT'S COMING FROM HIS APARTMENT. I'm starting to sense a theme in this anthology. So eventually the dude figures out it is from his roommate's closet and goes to check and...a scream, a flash of light, nothing there at all, and he runs for a while. So basically no payoff, no scares, just a "What?" resolution.

    The third film is about someone being creeped out by a guy with a smile on his face who looks up and walks around...and that's it. It's 20 minutes of the character saying "Yo dawg I saw this dude with this weird-ass look and it was like...weird, man. I don't walk anymore dawg for real, weird people out there." So yeah, it's tedium with no payoff, just a whimper.

    The fourth film isn't scary at all. It's a heartwarming but sad story of friendship amidst a terminal disease and everything is all nice and dandy until our character decides he wants to cuddle with a necrotic corpse. It's a disturbing ending, but it's not horror or scary, but rather depressing.

    The fifth film is a typical babysitter being stalked story. Yeah, nothing to go on here.

    The sixth film is essentially a different version of the second film. Instead of a guy being asked for help over chat, a girl is complimented and flattered over chat until suddenly, the twist that OMG HE IS INSIDE THE HOUSE (aka the twists for three previous films in this anthology) and our girl gets murderized. It'll make some people jump a little, but it's just a reprocessed package.

    Verdict: Unbalanced is not scary, is not innovative, is not original, and utterly fails to make it's point. If you want to prove that suspense and situational horror films are the best, then actually make a good film using those techniques instead of bundling together six short stories that wouldn't scare anyone beyond 12 year olds at a slumber party. Unbalanced is a bad film that fails to deliver.

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    I'm taking a vacation, going to go to some nice tropical island and relax on the beach with the sun and the waves and....

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    Oops...

    Hopefully the inhabitants of this island I washed up on are nice.

    TOMB RAIDER

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    Yeah, that's what I figured.

    After a pair of cartoonish entries a decade ago starring pre-anorexia Angelina Jolie, Tomb Raider returns to the basics with an origin story based on pure environmental survival. Jennifer Lawrence is in full-on Katniss mode as the first half of this film is her simply trying to stuggle to survive hostile plants, wildlife, nature in general after she is shipwrecked on a random tropical island. Aside from a few lines of narration here and there, the entire first half of the film is wordless and just Katniss doing her darn best to stay alive and figure out where she is and how she can make it just one more day. It's definitely not a Tomb Raider movie, but it's like a more visceral version of Cast Away with Jennifer Lawrence instead of Pudgy (then Caveman) Tom Hanks.

    The second half unfortunately is not as strong. Katniss ends up being saved by Pierce Brosnan, finally retired from his MI6 days, and he begins to train her in the way of the Raider, us getting a montage of her physical and skill training with acrobatics, combat, and other handy moves. It's a good enough series of scenes, but in a way it breaks the flow of the film since after half the film being a survival drama we suddenly get a training sequence a la Batman Begins minus the ninjas. Then all of a sudden mercenaries show up to do...something, they never really explain what they want, and Katniss has to go into full action mode to screw with them. We get some minor action and then suddenly the threat is defused and Katniss is told it's time to go to Raider Headquarters and BOOM Tomb Raider pops up as the title.

    Basically, this film had a lot of promise and an excellent first half, but then it remembers that it's an origin story and bogs down in typical origin story stuff like training, random action threats, and so on before an abrupt ending. Because the second half was such a letdown, this missed my Top 25 list by a single spot. So, it's good, but it should have been loads better.

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    The Aviator 2: Electric Boogaloo

    Christopher Nolan's one busy guy. Aside from being one of the three gurus for the new Bond he's tackling none other than Howard Hughes in his latest outing: Citizen Hughes. We've had The Aviator, so Nolan wisely avoids any of that time period, covering roughly the last 20 years of Hughes' life with a framing device set around Christian Bale's writer character learning some of the real scoop behind Hughes' life. The framing device is effectively done, though it is a tad unnecessary.

    Jim Carrey stars as the title role and boy does he not disappoint. It's pretty much a guaranteed fact that when Carrey is given a chance to shine with quality material and guided by a quality director, he can turn out quite the powerful dramatic performance. Though some elements of the writing are a bit stale and seem to rehash certain elements of The Aviator, Jim Carrey is electric in powering through the stagnant bits to give us a performance worth remembering. Not as much can be said for Matthew Modine, whose character is meant to be our window into Hughes' world. Modine does a fine enough job, but his character is rather flat and uninteresting, simply being the way for the audience to witness Jim Carrey scenery-chewing to his heart's content.

    Overall the film is riveting whenever Carrey takes center stage though it gets less compelling when he departs for whatever thing Hughes is up to. One issue is that the film is a bit too episodic, too drawn out over the 20 years with too many segments that don't connect well other than the fact that they're fragments of Hughes' life. If the film could have condensed the episodes into a few main ones and really dove into those, and given us a stronger window character to interact with Hughes, then this would have been a surefire Best Picture contender. As it stands, it's pretty good, but can't quite close the distance.

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    Yeah, I felt like I could've extended it more, but I honestly couldn't come up with a huge overarching story to connect it all. A question for you, though: It currently stands that I am campaigning for Best Actor for Jim Carrey, and although Modine's character is more likely the main character plotline-wise, I'm campaigning him for Best Supporting Actor. Should I switch them so Carrey's for Supporting and Modine is for Actor, or leave them as they are?

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    Yeah, I felt like I could've extended it more, but I honestly couldn't come up with a huge overarching story to connect it all. A question for you, though: It currently stands that I am campaigning for Best Actor for Jim Carrey, and although Modine's character is more likely the main character plotline-wise, I'm campaigning him for Best Supporting Actor. Should I switch them so Carrey's for Supporting and Modine is for Actor, or leave them as they are?

    If Modine runs for Actor he has no chance. If Carrey runs for Actor he has a chance.It's like The Last King of Scotland. James McAvoy was the main character but Forest Whitaker who played the big title character got the push for Best Actor and won.
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    Next up is a film by Batman's butler.

    THE TRIPLE NICKELS

    In a random blast from the past, Taylor Hackford has come back into the world of cinema to deliver one of those feel-good inspirational drama about courage and character triumphing over racism. Terrence Howard takes the lead as our main character, a guy who washed out of officer school early on in World War 2 but after being sent to work with other black NCOs got the drive and courage to become a successful leader of men and helps organize the titular parachutist unit. The film weaves in and out of its major flashback storyline with the Nickels' present task: fighting a major forest fire in the Pacific Northwest. The weaving is very well done, keying on the sound of airplanes to take us back to Howard's character in the airplane, waiting for the time to jump into hell on earth.

    The film has a good ensemble and the characters pull their weight, though only Howard's character really has a lot of meat to his role. The climax of the film is when they actually fight the fire and though it's tense and has some thrilling visuals and cinematography, you never get the sense that the main characters are in any danger. That's okay though since this film is about perservance and destroying ignorant barriers through victory. In many ways it's by the numbers but that still doesn't diminish the majority of the film's poignant drama and slow build from internal failings and external loathing to triumph over both.

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    Thanks for the Tomg Raider review....I'm really glad you enjoyed the first half...wasn't sure how the no talking would go! My temptation to pander to the general audiences is what brought about the 2nd half lol but I can see that it wasn't all well done in itself with the villain motivations etc. Gonna make the 2nd part much better.Brutal review for unbalanced :( ...Don't worry Hiccup I'll buy 10 DVD's of the movie lol

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    *Movie begins, we see lush wildlife, near-human people, and narration*

    Hmm, interesting, is this Avatar 2: Nuke the Site From Orbit? Oh wait I see this is a Spielberg film, nevermind. Besides it's going to take Cameron another 10 years to make Avatar 2 anyway.

    *We see the white-skinned aliens being persecuted by the dark-skinned aliens*

    Yeah that's totally not racist.

    *Main female alien rambles about her people being crushed, her being raised by the rival race, etc*

    Okay, this is enough narrative exposition, I want to see something in the way of plot! Or at least a title sequence.

    NIRVANA

    Oh shit...I'm in danger of being killed off any second now.

    For those unfamiliar with this franchise, brace yourselves, because our good friend Ueka out-epics himself with each film in the series, and this film is pretty epic in its own right with massive space travel, interstellar empires, race wars on an exotic world, human-alien romance, and so on. The one thing you have to accept going into these films is that no one is safe and I mean that. This is Ueka playing around with entire fictional worlds and species to his heart's content and you can only watch as he will commit all sorts of horrors that will make the audience squirm and shift and utterly wowed.

    But that's all concerning the original version of the franchise. This film seems to be a bit different from the first time around.

    Russell Crowe does his full brooding mode in the first half of this film as his spaceship wanders around deep space. Apparently it's been three generations since it's left and they haven't met any alien races in all that time. Then all of a sudden they meet an "alien" race that looks very much like humans, rules a huge empire that has dominated worlds for some time and has found many worlds with life. Very interesting and I'm going to return to this at the end because something occurs to me that never did during the original run of the series. Anyways, Nao tells Russell and crew that they can go on their way so long as Marky Mark hangs with them. Very kind of Nao to let them go, he and Marky Mark totally don't have some other plan going on.

    Eventually the ship locates the world from the beginning and we get lots of exploring, Russell and Marky Mark get all rival on each other, and finally after lots of nature stuff we are returned to the again totally not racist plot of the pure white Sensetti being oppressed by the darker Chitan. Oh yeah, Russell apparently has an idiot gene, because he freaks out when Marky Mark kills a predator that is literally about to tear another crewmember to shreds. Apparently Russell has a zombie gene too and wanted to feast on human flesh, since he values some predator he's never met over a crew member he's known his whole life. But eventually Russell and crew meet narrator lady from the beginning along with her protector Mace Windu. Mace Windu doesn't trust them for good reason while Amira, the narrator, gets all super-interested in the humans and Russell, because you can't have a good ol' sci-fi exploration epic if the hot alien chicks don't want to bone the male hero upon first sight.

    Anyways we get semi-convoluted tribal politics, imperial plotting, and other shenanigans for a while until things erupt into the third act of almost non-stop insane sci-fi action with a four-way conflict or something like that and things go explodey and people betray one another and people get ripped apart and lots of stuff happens to overload your brain. Anyways, eventually the big race war stops when everyone realizes that these imperial folks maybe aren't the best people around and kinda want to take over the world for themselves, and so they all unite to fight the small imperial force. Since the small imperial force is defeated, Nao gets all pissy and decides to unleash the supreme dick move of destroying the planet. Okay, this is the part where the film jumps the shark a bit. You have a super-powerful intergalactic empire that sends a smallish force to manipulate a previously unknown world's tribal conflict and it doesn't work. So the force leader's next move is just to kill everyone, with random superweapon technology we had no reason to think existed? Aside from coming out of nowhere, it's an escalation of the most extreme order when loads of middle-ground options exist. Then we get the obligatory deus ex machina to stop this superweapon when the Emperor appears in a holo to say "Hey I hear we have a sweet new world to play around with and I sending you backup to make sure we secure it so good work and I can't wait for the postcards." Yeah Nao, good going you've destroyed the planet's atmosphere and environment and- what's that? You can push a button to stop it all and life on the planet will be like nothing even happened to drain its atmosphere and wreck its geography? Okay sure go ahead *cough*bullshitdramaticcockteasemoment*cough*.

    So to sum things up, Nirvana is a very epic, very visual, and very complex sci-fi film with strong acting from most of the cast members. That said, the entire superweapon business is a brainfart of the highest order and really should have been canned, because it mars the whole climax of the film.

    And now returning to my thought from earlier, I ask Ueka a question: Since you explicitly mentioned that the imperials look pretty much like humans, whereas you go out of your way to mention the different skin colors and physical attributes of the Arenians, are the imperials Earthlings who advanced in the generations the Exodus was wandering around space? If so, then that's a nice bit of culture twisting to have the idealistic space wanderers becoming the oppressive empire.

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    Remember Flight 175Remember Flight 175 has a problem. You see, it wants to be two different movies at the same time. First, it wants to be a dramatic depiction of a family's tragedy on September 11th, depicting innocent people on a normal flight suddenly being thrown into chaos, terror, and finally death. We spend tons of time following Logan Huffman and Dev Patel around on rather mundane everyday stuff and then suddenly the terrorists take over and they freak out and bad things happen and BOOM plane crash and things are just terrible for thousands of people. All of this is about half the film, but then the film decides that it's not really a film about 9/11 after all, it's a film about a family trying to recover from losing a member on 9/11 instead and we suddenly switch gears from melodramatic disaster to melodramatic family drama with the cliche of one parent being in denial and the other being hysterical. But this film takes things way too far. James is like "Okay my son died yesterday so I'll be away at work for a few days. I mean, he will literally be hanging around his job for a few days straight. Do they have beds at his office? Do they have showers? It's such an over-the-top depiction of denial it strains believeability. All of this family nonsense goes on for the second half with no real emotion other than OMGOVERTHETOPCAN'TYOUTELLIAMANGRYANDSADANDDEPRESSED. Remember Flight 175 tries to be emotionally manipulative and deep, but it just doesn't work at all.And a special mention for the worst part: Agatha and James drive separately to NYC right after the towers are hit...because...no, they're just freaking out with no brain cells. They then manage to immediately find one another because Lower Manhattan is five feet wide and then, here comes the absolute kicker, standing right next to them the whole time and coming out of nowhere were the parents for their son's best friend and they're in freakout mode too...What. The. Fuck. Someone actually thought that scene was a good idea? That it wasn't the most obvious attempt at emotional manipulation ever? That it possessed even a slim amount of credibility? No, I will tell you all now, this scene of everyone magically appearing in the same spot of Lower Manhattan within seconds of one another to stare despondently at the burning Twin Towers and have a good cry is the worst scene of Year 4. And that includes the scene in Vast Dark III where Edward Norton is tortured for 30 minutes straight and Zachary Quinto eats his balls.

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    Just for reference Remember Flight 175 was my first film I ever made on CAYOM 1.0. I didn't update it for this cause it actually got solid reviews in the previous CAYOM. But yeah it is flawed greatly.

    I remember it from the old days. You improved a lot since that film.
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    Numbers, you stumbled onto something that I didn't know if anyone would, but yes you are correct, and that was going to be revealed later.As far as Nirvana goes, it's never been my favorite in the Nirvaniceration trilogy, this time and last time. I tried to incorporate it this time more into the Avarice and Obliteration films of last time by introducing the empire this movie rather than in the 2nd one. But Nirvana is always the lamest one in the trilogy, and Obliteration also the best...like uber-duber-super awesome, like last time. Can't wait to kill off the main c-...I mean play around with my characters a bit in that film.

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