Friday, July 6, 2012

Moral Kombat (2008)

Number Rolled: 100
Movie Name/Year: Moral Kombat (2008)
Genre: Social & Cultural Documentary
Length: 85 minutes
Rating:  NR
Director: Spencer Halpin
Writer: Skylar James, Steven Kent
Actors: Vince Broady, Pamela Eakes, Jeff Griffiths, Lorne Lanning, John Marmaduke, Andy McNamara

No, you did not read the title of this movie wrong nor was it a typo. This is a movie about the morals surrounding violent video games.

Now, before I continue, I should inform you that I am a gamer. I like a little bit of everything, though I specialize mostly in RPGs (City of Heroes, WoW, Diablo, Guild Wars, Final Fantasy, etc.). That being said, I’ve had this argument many times in the past. Chances are, if you’re a gamer, especially my FPS buddies, you’ve had the argument too. The argument being: do violent video games make violent people?

This movie explores just that. Before watching it, I knew I was either going to love or hate it. I have very strong opinions on the subject and no movie, no matter how well done, was going to change my mind about it. Granted, no movie did change my mind about it, of course this movie didn’t really try either. It was less like a persuasive attempt and more like a compare and contrast.

Moral Kombat laid out the sides. On one side you had your gamers and professionals who believed that violent video games couldn’t turn Buckwheat (The Little Rascals) into Charles Manson and on the other side you had the people who did believe it. The flow of the movie was almost like a debate. They switched sides back and forth as if the sides were answering each other, but with flashes of video games and opinions of them stuck in the middle. Honestly, the photography was distracting and bit annoying. But the meaning of the movie was steadfast and interesting.

By the end, you have the closing arguments from each side and you are left to choose as you see fit. It’s fine, because I’m going to keep my opinion thank you very much, but a movie like that seems kind of lost without a final point. Like the director/writers couldn’t pick a side themselves.

Personally, I think video games are no different than movies, books or music. People are going to point their fingers at them when awful incidents like Columbine happen because they don’t know what else to do. As humans, it’s in our nature to need answers. When there are no answers, we’re bound to try and make some up.

Do I believe video games can be influential? Absolutely. Do I believe that video games alone can mold innocent children into mass murderers? Absolutely not. It’s ridiculous on any scale I think about it on.

I said it in Abnormal Psychology, and I’ll say it again. Violent video games are not on the shelves in order to train the next generation of killers, they’re on the shelves for entertainment. I can’t speak for the rest of the world, but when I play a violent video game after a long day of being screamed at by patients who think they know my job better than I do, I do it to unload. Flipping on a fighting game like Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat in order to beat the hell out of some pixilated figure, or Army of Two where I can shoot some jerk-off in the face, or even Fable where I can shoot an enemy in the balls, is not because I want to do these things in real life. I do it to prevent myself from doing it in real life! Everyone needs to lash out every now and again and what keeps this sweet little smile on my face while some doctor is telling me I’m an idiot is that I’m able to lash out in a world where my actions don’t matter.

Think about it. How many children play violent video games? Compare that answer to how many children flip out and start killing people. The ratio, I’m willing to bet, would be completely lopsided. One simply cannot make a broad, sweeping comment about how children in general are affected a certain way, when the majority aren’t. That’s my logic. What’s yours?

Overall Opinion –3/5

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Karate Kid (2010)

Number Rolled: 89
Movie Name/Year: The Karate Kid (2010)
Genre: Family Drama
Length: 140 minutes
Rating: PG
Director: Harald Zwart
Writer: Christopher Murphy, Robert Mark Kamen
Actors: Jaden Smith, Jackie Chan, Taraji P. Henson, Wenwen Han, Rongguang Yu, Zhensu Wu, Zhiheng Wang, Zhenwei Wang, Shijia Lu, Youyi (there’s some discrepancies between my sources on the spelling of this name, it might be Yi) Zhao

This, actually, wasn’t the first time I had seen this movie. As a bona-fide child of the 80’s, I was in love with the old Karate Kid movies. First Daniel Larusso moved and found a buddy and karate sensei in Mr. Miyagi, then they took the trip to Okinawa, followed by Daniel buying the Bonsai shop for him and finally, Mr. Miyagi found a new student in Julie Pierce – I was there for it all. Needless to say, I went to see this one in the theater when it came out.

I was nervous as all hell though. I both dreaded the remake and wished I would see the old “wax on, wax off” scene and the final uber kick from when Daniel hurt his knee. Why did I dread it? Because if they had been there, it would have been the same movie and, there-fore, there would be no point for it.

Now, don’t get me wrong, the plot was the same thing, just with a different script and different actors. With a younger main character, you also find it hitting a younger demographic. If I were thirteen though? I’d be pretending to be a kung-fu master all over my school halls because of this movie. However, there was plenty in there for those of us coming in from the old movies, enough to keep us entertained. The signature scenes were there, but they had different content which made them seem a bit fresher without losing the message for those new to the story.

I’m a huge fan of Jackie Chan. I love him in just about everything he does, even if I’m not so fond of the movie. This movie was no exception. He fit into that part so easily I almost wondered if he just goes around in his off time helping out bullied little kids and teaching them kung-fu.

As for Jaden Smith, this was the first movie I saw him in and, I have to say it, I can see his father in him. I hope he doesn’t just get labeled as some kid riding on his father’s coat-tail though, because he’s got some serious talent.

There were some minor issues I had with the movie, nothing really worth mentioning here – except one. It seems so minor and stupid, but I can’t seem to get over it. For a movie called “The Karate Kid” there was a distinct and total lack of karate. It was Kung-fu. There’s a difference. I shall here-after refer to this movie as “The Kung-fu Kid.”

Overall Opinion – 4/5

Monday, July 2, 2012

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009)

Number Rolled: 88
Movie Name/Year: G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009)
Genre: Action & Adventure
Length: 117 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Director: Stephen Sommers
Writer: Stuart Beattie, David Elliot, Paul Lovett, Michael Gordon, Stephen Sommers
Actors: Dennis Quaid, Channing Tatum, Sienna Miller, Brendan Fraser, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Rachel Nichols, Marlon Wayans, Jonathan Pryce, Christopher Eccleston, Ray Park, Arnold Vosloo, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Said Taghmaoui, Karolina Kurkove

I want nothing more than to say how much I loved this movie. I want to be able to say it was epic and it did the name “G.I. Joe” proud… but I can’t. Not honestly anyway.

I will say that I didn’t hate the movie. It had its good parts. For instance, some of the action sequences were ridiculous (in a good way). The main characters were played really well. Channing Tatum was a perfect choice for Duke and did his best to breathe life into the character. Marlon Wayans managed to bring out the action with Ripcord without losing that funny edge that suits him. As for Christopher Eccleston… the ninth doctor definitely made the switch from light to dark side seamlessly – though I often found his “accent” a little hard to believe. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was on screen a bit too little for my taste, but I still love him none-the-less. He also shows a great deal more depth in his acting ability than I’ve seen up until now.

As good as the acting was though, there were parts of this movie that I just couldn’t get past. There’s a point where there are some people who are not supposed to be able to feel fear or have any use of self-consideration. Yet those same people are pictured screaming in terror and trying to pull something out of their chest in panic rather than going after their target.

If that wasn’t enough to make one double glance at the screen, the storyline was flat. I knew just about everything that was going to happen within the first twenty minutes of the movie.

I think, perhaps, my problems with the script and direction is a case of too many cooks spoiling the pot. I checked IMDb for the Writer credits and there were five different people listed. I’ve been writing a book with ONE other person and it’s often difficult for us to be on the same page about where we want shit to go.

In the end, the movie didn’t suck. Perhaps I would have had more appreciation for it if I had been an avid watcher of the cartoon series, but even then – my problems still had to do with continuity more than anything else, so maybe not. I don’t regret watching it, but I doubt I’ll be watching it again either.

Overall Opinion – 2/5