Movie Review: Inglourious Basterds

Inglourious Basterds. If you didn't like it, well, sucks to be you.

Inglourious Basterds. If you didn't like it, well, go watch Transformers or something.

So I saw Inglourious Basterds over the weekend. The quick review: it was awesome.

Seriously, don’t listen to the haters who slam on Quentin Tarantino just because it’s the cool thing to do. Don’t listen to the butt-hurt sci-fi nerds who think District 9 is the greatest movie ever made, and since Basterds dethroned it as box office champion, it must be inherently flawed (on a related note, I thought District 9 was decent, but flawed, especially in the way it abruptly ditched the documentary style two-thirds of the way through the film in favour of generic sci-fi nonsense).

Indeed, despite the mixed review from the professional critics, Basterds is the real deal, and definitely up there with Tarantino’s best. Of course, what exactly constitutes Tarantino’s best is a gargantuan topic all  by itself …  with the exception of Death Proof (which I’ve only seen once when it first came out), I like all of his films for a variety of different reasons — Jackie Brown has great performances, Kill Bill is just fun plain fun to watch, etc. To pick just one and declare it head and shoulders above the rest is no easy task.

But enough about Tarantino’s previous exploits — this review is all about his latest work, Inglourious Basterds. Well, it’s not really a review so much as it is a random series of thoughts pertaining to Basterds. No in-depth analysis here, kids — after all, I’ve only seen the movie once while in a packed theatre — just a few simple observations from the film.

(WARNING: HERE THERE BE SPOILERS!)

  • Brad Pitt was awesome. Sure, it wasn’t the greatest “acting”, per se — in fact, it was campy and hammy as all hell — but every time he was on screen you were sure to be entertained (especially the scene in the theatre where he absolutely butchers the Italian language).
Rumour has it that he wants his scalps.

Rumour has it that he wants his scalps.

  • For the people complaining that it was “all talk and no action”, well, it’s a Tarantino flick — what the hell were you expecting? Okay, so the final act of Kill Bill Vol. 1 is an exception to the rule, but for the most part, Basterds follows the Tarantino model to perfection.

    Is there a lot of dialogue in Basterds? Sure, but if anything its dialogue serves a much greater narrative purpose than those of Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction. While those films featured bloated pop culture references that ultimately humanized the thugs and thieves — hey, Jules and Vincent are chatting about burgers, they seem like likable dudes — the conversations in Basterds creates palpable tension and a sense of dread that has you fearing for the characters’ safety, as the dialogue is usually just a cover for the subtext of hiding / uncovering true identities in life-or-death, make-or-break situations (Col. Landa in the farmhouse, the Gestapo officer in the pub’s basement, etc.).

  • Hitler finally gets what’s coming to him. Yes, I can understand why some people might be upset about Tarantino’s “alternate ending” to World War II, especially those who say it disrespects the actual soldiers that sacrificed so much marching into Berlin to end the war. But hey, this was never advertised as an historical re-enactment — it’s a work of fiction that just happens to be set in Nazi-occupied France and uses some “stock characters” from that time period (Hitler, Goebbels, etc.). It’s an alternate reality, an alluring “What If?” scenario — nothing more, nothing less.
    You gonna die.

    You gonna die.

    And besides, since when is killing Hitler a bad thing? In real life, he never really got his comeuppance. Sure, the Nazis lost the war, but nobody actually got the chance to shoot Hitler down, riddle his corpse with bullets, then blow up the corpse in a fiery inferno. The history books say that it didn’t go down in that manner, but we all wish it did. Although they do say that the winner writes the history books … so why not have a Jewish hit squad take down the Fuhrer? Hitler deserved to die, anyway, if only for that wheezy, inhaling laugh of his. What an annoying jerk!

  • Nice to see that Mike Myers still exists and that he didn’t hang himself after the failure of The Love Guru. Sure, he was basically playing an elderly Austin Powers, but still, maybe some of that Tarantino magic will rub off on him and he’ll get his career back on track.
  • Even if they despised the movie, all of the critics agreed that the acting of Christoph Waltz as Col. Hans Landa absolutely stole the show. And I definitely concur, Landa was a superb villain. Of course, the question remains — when he served Shoshanna that glass of milk in the restaurant, did he know who she was? The logical answer is that he couldn’t possibly know, having never even seen her face before, and that it was all a coincidence carefully constructed to make the audience worry for Shoshanna’s safety. But you know … Landa did have the same menacing look in his eyes as when he was interrogating the French farmer and revealed that he knew all along that Shoshanna’s family was hiding under the floorboards …
Col. Hans Landa was a deliciously evil villain.

Col. Hans Landa was a deliciously evil villain.

  • If there was on area that Basterds fell short, it was with the soundtrack — it just wasn’t as memorable or catchy as the music found in Pulp Fiction or Kill Bill. Perhaps a better appreciation of the soundtrack would come with multiple viewings, but at first glance nothing really stood out like Miserlou or Battle Without Honor or Humanity.

All in all, Inglourious Basterds is undoubtedly one of my favourite movies of the year and  I definitely recommend checking it out. Due to its 1940s setting there is a distinct lack of pretentious pop culture references, which should make the movie more palatable to even the harshest of Tarantino’s critics.

RATING: SUPER FANTASTIC COOL

The Jurassic Park III Dinosaur Killcount Showdown

Hey! If you missed the first two installments of the Dinosaur Killcount Showdown, you can find ’em right here: Jurassic Park (won by the tyrannosaurus) and The Lost World: Jurassic Park (which saw the velociraptor claim victory).

The Scene: Isla Sorna, Costa Rica. We once again travel to the infamous InGen Site B, now a protected wildlife preserve administered by the Costa Rican government.

The Participants: A bunch of awesome dinosaurs and a few idiot humans who are seemingly impervious to destruction.

The Question: Which dinosaur from Jurassic Park III is truly the most effective prehistoric killing machine?

The Methodology: Each encounter (defined as “an edible foe being easily within reach”) will be scored as either a “KILL” or a “MISS” by our panel of judges. Half-points may be awarded for effort or merit, where applicable. Final scores for each prehistoric creature will be tabulated in a manner similar to a batting average in baseball, with additional adjudicator commentary as required.

Allez cuisine!

Tyrannosaurus

Come on, I'm tryin' to eat here!

Come on, I'm tryin' to eat here!

The mighty tyrannosaurus is always a threat to take home the title, and make no mistake, the former champ is looking to get back to the top of the mountain after a somewhat disappointing outing in the previous tournament.

Its brute strength has worked to its advantage in the past, and you certainly can’t ignore its massive serrated teeth and powerful crushing jaws. But will those weapons be enough to fend off a whole new batch of challengers in what is sure to be a highly competitive event?

  • MISS — Dr. Grant as he interrupts the T-Rex’s dinner. To be fair, the tyrannosaurus probably wasn’t expecting to be pestered in the middle of a big meal, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that it simply let Grant and the others run away instead of doing what anybody would do when they’re bothered during dinner — chewing them out (in this case, literally). 0 for 1.
  • MISS — The spinosaurus. Enraged at the intruder coming into its territory, the T-Rex attacks the spinosaurus and nearly emerges victorious. Its powerful jaws were wrapped around the invader’s scrawny neck, but it appears that age has finally caught up to the T-Rex, as it was unable to finish the job. Has the former champ lost its edge, its fighting spirit? 0 for 2.

FINAL TALLY: 0 for 2 (0.000 killing average).
Truly a sad fall from grace for the former king of all dinosaurs. With no kills to its name, the tyrannosaurus fared no better than many of the lame herbivores it once feasted on. Could retirement be in the cards for Big Rex?

Velociraptor

Do you like my new hat? I like my new hat.

Do you like my new hat? I like my new hat.

The defending champ from The Lost World, the velociraptor is back and it’s looking to register a much more decisive victory than last time, which saw it go to a tie-breaker against the diminutive compsognathus. Indeed, the raptor is determined to run away with this competition and prove to all the naysayers that last year’s title was not a fluke.

Everybody knows about its outstanding agility and razor sharp claws, but our panel of experts are saying that this edition of the raptor is smarter and more cunning than ever before. Can brains prevail over brawn once again?

  • MISS — Amanda in the laboratory. Perhaps wanting to demonstrate its intellect to the rest of the field, the raptor tries to play mindgames with the woman, “hiding” in plain sight by pretending to be a test tube speciment. Clever? Yes. Practical? No. I can understand wanting to give the woman a sporting chance, but come on, points are at stake! Just jump out and destroy her before she see you! 0 for 1.
  • KILL — Udesky in the forest. This guy stood no chance whatsoever and the raptors knew it, deciding to play with him for a while before putting him out of his misery. 1 for 2.
  • MISS — Amanda as she dangles precariously from a tree. Again, aren’t you guys supposed to be able to jump really high? And if you’re so smart, why didn’t one of the raptors simply use the other as a springboard to get to her? This lack of effort is not impressing the judges. 1 for 3.
  • 2x MISS — Dr. Grant, surrounded by four raptors. The very definition of “epic fail”, folks, as the raptors have Grant completely at their mercy. Do they attack as a pack from multiple angles, ensuring the kill? Of course not! Instead, they pose and taunt and hiss at him for about an hour until he’s saved by a little wiener boy with gas grenades. Multiple points are deducted for the sheer ineptitude of it all. 1 for 5.
  • 2x MISS — Dr. Grant and his posse, this time surrounded by five raptors. No, this isn’t an instant replay of the previous scenario (not that instant replay is allowed in this league, anyway) — but it is one more example of the lackadaisical attitude that is dooming the raptor’s chances of repeating as champion. 1 for 7.
  • MISS — Amanda as she hands over the eggs. The lead raptor gets right in her grill, face to face like two UFC fighters before the main event. Instead of chomping on her skull, however, the raptor gives her some sort of prehistoric eskimo kiss before running away into the forest. Seriously, are you idiots even trying any more? 1 for 8.

FINAL TALLY: 1 for 8 (0.125 killing average).
My, how the mighty have fallen. Once an unstoppable killing machine, it appears as though the velociraptor might not be able to defend its title after putting up some rather pathetic numbers this time around. But which dinosaur will takes its place at the top of the mountain?

Spinosaurus

Maybe if you had better posture you wouldn't have that hump.

Maybe if you had better posture you wouldn't have that hump.

A highly-touted prospect from the Jurassic Park Developmental League, this nasty up-and-comer is determined to make a name for itself in its big league debut. But does this behemoth have what it takes to compete with the big boys of Isla Sorna?

Without any professional experience, it’s hard to say what exactly the spinosaurus will bring to the table. We do know that it possesses some very different tools than the competition, including a long crocodilian snout, an insanely huge frame (up to 18 metres in length, making it larger than the T-Rex and perhaps even the largest carnivorous dinosaur to ever walk the planet), and long, sharp claws on its forelimbs, which are considerably more dexterous than those found on the tyrannosaurus.

The question is, can it make the most out these impressive implements of destruction when the pressure is on?

  • KILL — Cooper as he is trying to catch the plane. Nice work on getting the blood to splatter on the plane’s windshield — a very good first impression for the rookie dinosaur. 1 for 1.
  • KILL — Nash, the plane’s pilot. Using its narrow snout to its advantage, the spinosaur is able to easily reach into the wrecked plane and pull the puny human to his doom. So far so good. 2 for 2.
  • MISS — The rest of the people trapped in the plane. Hey, all rookies are bound to get the jitters now and then. It’s understandable. Still, these points were practically gift-wrapped for the spinosaurus, as the people were trapped in the wrecked fuselage of the plane like a can of delicious sardines. 2 for 3.
  • KILL — The tyrannosaurus. The rising contender puts the former champ out to pasture with a thrilling come-from-behind knockout victory — except replace the word “knockout” with “neck snap” and “victory” with “mercy killing”. 3 for 4.
  • MISS — Dr. Grant and Eric, the little wiener kid. The spinosaur has Grant and the boy trapped with their backs literally against the wall, but it is unable to finish the job as they escape through an extraordinarily convenient human-sized hole in the fence. A disappointing turn of event, to be sure … 3 for 5.
  • MISS — … Until the spinosaurus smashes down the fence and continues to chase! Now that’s showing some heart! A true passion for the game! This kid could go places with this kind of attitude. Unfortunately, the humans escape into a building and lock the door, which apparently cannot be smashed down even with nine tonnes of accelerated mass on your side. Those are the breaks, though. 3 for 6.
  • MISS — The people on the boat. Sneaking up on the boat from under the water, and then rising up and causing it to capsize? An excellent plan, but the execution was severely lacking, especially in the “capsizing the boat” department. If you’re not going to use your size to your advantage, its working to your disadvantage. 3 for 7.
  • MISS — Amanda, trapped underwater inside a cage. Come on, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel here — all you have to do is reach inside the cage, wraps your claws around her, pull her out, place her in your mouth, and swallow. Unfortunately, the spinosaur suffered a severe brain cramp and stopped at step two, apparently forgetting the rest of the set play. Typical rookie mistake. 3 for 8.
  • MISS — Paul Kirby, dangling from a crane. It appears as though the scouts missed the spinosaur’s most glaring weakness — a lack of conditioning. Perhaps as it matures it’ll get into better shape, but there’s no excusing the rookie’s lack of effort during the late stages of the game. I mean, you’re inches away from the dude’s feet — suck it up and finish the job! 3 for 9.

FINAL TALLY: 3 for 9 (0.333 killing average).
The spinosaurus started the season on a very strong note, but at this stage of its career, it clearly lacks the mental aspect of the game that is the hallmark of a true champion. But with the previous winners choking harder than the Sens and the Sharks combined, the spinosaurus could still pull off an upset go deep into the tournament.

Pteranodon

Dramatic pteranodon.

Dramatic pteranodon.

Another new entrant to the tournament, the pteranodon is perhaps the most unusual dinosaur to ever compete in this event. First and foremost, it can fly, which gives it a rather distinct advantage over the rest of the field. In addition, its long beak is useful for delivering vicious rapid-fire strikes that, while not killing blows due to the lack of teeth, are still capable of dishing out incredible damage.

Some critics will say that its smaller size and relative lack of weaponry compared to some of the more established veterans will hurt the pteranodon’s chances — but this unique competitor is bound to turn some heads no matter what happens on the field.

  • KILL — The boat crew. Critics could debate this point, as the kill is never actually witnessed. However, the damage done to the boat, as well as the bones seen in the pteranodon nest, provide more than enough evidence in the eyes of the judges. 1 for 1.
  • MISS — Eric as he crosses the bridge. An opportunistic pteranodon clutches the kid in his talons and flies off into the sunset. But instead of soaring really high and dropping Eric on a bunch of pointy rocks, or even pecking his eyes out as a mid-flight snack, the pteranodon simply gives him a first-class flight back to its nest. While that would score points for customer service, a kill it most certainly is not. 1 for 2.
  • MISS — Eric in the nest. The baby pteranodons try their damnedest, but they prove incapable of bringing down a young boy. This is rather odd, considering that the much smaller compsognathus was capable of killing Peter Stormare in The Lost World. Clearly, the pteranodon’s youth and inexperience worked against it here. 1 for 3.
  • MISS — Grant, Amanda, and Paul on the walkway. With the humans trapped on the rickety walkway, the pteranodon slowly batwalks toward them … and then falls into the water when the whole thing collapses, proving that slow and steady doesn’t win this race. Pteranodon supporters will undoubtedly point that it had no room to fly, and while this may be true, you gotta be prepared to play the game under any conditions — and this pteranodon was not. 1 for 4.
  • MISS — Billy in the paraglider. In what should be an easy target, the pteranodon — which can, you know, actually fly — somehow fails to take down Billy, who is lazily gliding through the air on a dead guy’s parachute. While the pteranodon does manage to clip the paraglider, its unwillingness to go hard into the corners and grind out a victory could cost it in the long run. 1 for 5.
  • MISS — Billy in the river. With Billy flailing around in the water, a pteranodon swoops down and grabs him in its talons. Unfortunately, it lacks the explosive strength that is need to succeed in this type of situation. The pteranodon is unable to maintain its grip on its prey and Billy falls back into the river. 1 for 6.
  • 1/2 KILL — Billy in the river, part deux. With the clock winding down, the pteranodons smartly abandon the “grasp and fly” technique and simply start pecking the living hell out of Billy as he is swept downriver. It initially seems like the pteranodons emerge victorious in this encounter, but it is later revealed that Billy somehow, against all logical odds, escaped with his life. However, since he was covered in numerous bloody bandages, that will count for a partial kill in the eyes of the judges. 1.5 for 7.

FINAL TALLY: 1.5 for 7 (0.214 killing average).
In what is the year of the dark horse (or dark dino, if you will), another upstart newcomer has scored more points than both of the previous champions. While the pteranodon could not quite match the output of the spinosaurus, the “scourge of the skies” definitely made quite an impression on our panel, which looks forward to seeing what the pteranodon can do in future competitions.

Ceratosaurus

I promised not to use a "me so horny" joke here.

I promised not to use a "me so horny" joke here.

Yet another newcomer to the Jurassic Park roster, the ceratosaurus certainly has the tools to make a difference in this tournament. Utilizing the classic theropod look (large powerful jaws, razor sharp teeth, and pathetic little forelimbs), the ceratosaurus is very much like a T-Rex — albeit on a much smaller scale (at about 20 feet long, it would be half the size of the tyrannosaur). Still, emulating a former champ, regardless of scale, is never a bad idea.

The ceratosaurus does have one major distinction over its larger brethren — a blade-like horn on its snout, proving that nasal protrusions is not solely the domain of the herbivore. Whether it can use this horn to its advantage remains to be seen.

  • MISS — Grant, Amanda, and Paul as they dig through dino shit. In an unexpected turn of events, the ceratosaurus stumbles upon the group of humans while they are elbow-deep in spinosaur droppings, attempting to find a digested phone. In what should have been the perfect time to strike, the ceratosaurus refuses to get its nose dirty and take one for the team, instead opting to turn tail and run from the smelly, gross people. Question — if it doesn’t like the smell of shit, why was it lurking near the steaming piles in the first place? This blatant lack of heart won’t win over many fans, that’s for sure. 0 for 1.

FINAL TALLY: 0 for 1 (0.000 killing average).
It coulda been a contender, but the ceratosaurs simply didn’t have the will to get the job done. You simply can’t teach heart, kids — you either got it or you don’t. Hey, maybe the ceratosaurus will learn from this experience and come out ready to compete next time … or maybe it won’t. Either way, the judges definitely did not see the full potential of the ceratosaurus during this event and are hoping for a much better showing next time.

Corythosaurus / Parasaurolophus

Running away is the only tactic these guys know.

Running away is the only tactic these guys know.

A tag team entrant, this herbivore duo (characterized by their distinct cranial decorations) is looking to reverse the overwhelming trend of grass-eater ineptitude and finally score some points for Team Green.

History, of course, is very much against the hopes of the corythosaurus and parasaurolophus. Will it continue the legacy of herbivorous letdowns? Probably, but the judges have to look at all the entrants equally, regardless of whether or not they actually have a chance to win the competition.

  • 2x MISS — The stampede sequence. Despite outweighing the puny humans by several tonnes, these herbivore suckjobs seemingly go out of their way to avoid running over any of the fleshy primates. Seriously, there are raptors behind you and people in front of you — why not just trample them and be done with it? Is that too much to ask? It’s survival of the fittest after all. Remarkably, one of the corythosaurs actually hits Udesky, but naturally it’s just a grazing blow that sends the man to the ground in comedic fashion. 0 for 2.

FINAL TALLY: 0 for 2 (0.000 killing average).
The judges weren’t expecting much, but this was outright terrible. Despite having several very real, tangible possibilities to score points, the corythosaurus and parasaurolophus came up lame. Let it be known that the Costa Rican Athletic Commission is looking into the possible bannination of these numbskulls from future competitions — and not because its looking out for the safety of the humans.

Brachiosaurus

Durr ... we're dinosaurs!

Durr ... we're dinosaurs!

An absolute monster of a dinosaur (measuring in at 25 feet long, 43 feet tall, and weighing 78 tonnes), the brachiosaurus could probably clean up the competition if it could just put its minuscule brain to the task. Armed with a whip-like tail and staggering size, the brachiosaurus could undoubtedly do some damage — but alas, like some sort of prehistoric cow, it never does.

Hardly a favourite to win the competition (or even score any points, for the matter), the brachiosaurus is simply hoping to to embarrass itself too badly.

  • MISS — The humans as they drift down the river. Intrigued by the potential to maybe score points and make their parents proud, a group of brachiosaurs come to the river’s edge to see what’s going on. Instead of crushing the people like the bugs they are, the dinos just lean over and make stupid faces at them. Idiots. 0 for 1.

FINAL TALLY: 0 for 1 (0.000 killing average).
No comment. Well, apart from this: “Hey brachiosaurus, you suck!”

The results are in! The winner, and new heavyweight champion of the (lost) world …

Congratulations! You still look stupid, though.

Congratulations! You still look stupid, though.

The Spinosaurus!

While a 0.333 average might be really good in baseball, it’s actually the worst ever showing for a champion in Jurassic Park history. What does this say about the spinosaurus? And more importantly, what does it say about the level of competition? Our analysts see this as a transition year, where the older champions have clearly lost their touch, but the new breed of dinosaurs coming up to replace them haven’t quite mastered their skills yet. As a result, nobody really stands out and it only takes a couple of big points to rise above the rest of the mediocrity.

Still, newcomers such as the spinosaurus and pteranodon laid some interesting groundwork to build upon for future tournaments — if there are any, of course. Dinosaurs in New York? Dinosaurs in Space? Time will tell, friends. Time will tell.

Montage Overload: The Insanity of Rocky IV

The day is approaching to give it your best
You’ve got to reach your prime!
That’s when you need to put yourself to the test
And show us the passage of time.
We’re gonna need a montage! (Montage!)
A sports training montage! (Montage!)


Rocky ended the Cold War, you know.

Rocky ended the Cold War, you know.

When it comes to awful ’80s movies, my guilty pleasure is, without a shadow of a doubt, Rocky IV. It’s such a trainwreck on so many levels, yet I still feel compelled to watch it again and again, drawn to its terribleness like a moth to a flame.

My previous post comparing MMA fighter Fedor Emelianenko to Ivan Drago has put me in somewhat of a Rocky mindset, so I’ve decided to finally tackle something about that movie that’s been bugging me for quite some time — just what is the ratio between actual narrative progression and montages / musical numbers in Rocky IV? I’ve always been aware of the unusually high number of montages in this flick, but the extent to which Stallone and the crew mailed it on this one has never been truly known — until now.

Montage #1: Exploding Gloves / The Rocky III Recap

Duration: 0:00 to 2:00 (2 minutes)
Song: Eye of the Tiger by Survivor

I know, I know. It’s not exactly a true Rocky montage in the tradition of showing the passage of time and whatnot — it’s just the final fight scene from Rocky III with Eye of the Tiger playing over top of the action, with the occasional cut to Soviet and American boxing gloves that rotate, slam into each other, and explode for some bizarre reason. Still, it’s a pretty bad omen — the damn movie hasn’t even started yet and Stallone is already scouring the archives in order to kill time.

Well, it does encapsulate the entire movie fairly accurately.

Well, it does encapsulate the entire movie fairly accurately.

Montage #2: Apollo Creed and James Brown Get Funky

Duration: 23:15 to 26:05 (2 minutes and 50 seconds)
Song: Living in America by James Brown

Okay, so once again this isn’t a Rocky montage in the truest sense of the word. Still, it’s a three minute musical number that serves no other purpose but to have James Brown appear in the movie, so that’s good enough for me. Maybe if Apollo Creed hadn’t wasted so much energy dancing with The Godfather of Soul, he might still be alive today. On a related note, “The Count of Monte Fisto” is such an awesome nickname for a fighter.

"The Count of Monte Fisto" makes another spectacular entrance.

"The Count of Monte Fisto" makes another spectacular entrance.

Montage #3: Rocky’s Car / The Rocky, Rocky II, and Rocky III Recap

Duration: 41:20 — 45:45 (4 minutes and 25 seconds)
Song: No Easy Way Out by Robert Tepper

Apollo’s dead, Adrian’s pissed, and Rocky’s about to leave for Russia to fight Drago. Great, now that we have all that pesky plot out of the way, it’s time to strap in and take the express lane to Montage City, because we have just passed the point of no friggin’ return. In what is perhaps the greatest montage in the history of montages, Rocky starts his car, drives around at night, and reflects back on better times with Apollo and Adrian (by showing several clips from all three Rocky movie up to this point, of course). The film studies bullshit artist inside me could interpret this as Rocky seeing his life flash before eyes, knowing that he faces certain death at the hands of Ivan Drago. The realist inside me, however, would simply call this extremely lazy filmmaking on Stallone’s part.

The greatest montage sequence ever? Quite possibly.

The greatest montage sequence ever? Quite possibly.

Montage #4: Rocky Arrives in Russia

Duration: 48:25 — 51:05 (2 minutes and 40 seconds)
Song: Burning Heart by Survivor

Less than three minutes after the previous montage, we’re back at it once again. I mean, who needs dialogue when you’ve got the dulcet sounds of Survivor, am I right? This time, Rocky’s plane touches down in Russia, a bunch of snow-covered Commies look in his general direction, and he’s escorted to his cabin in the middle of nowhere. I always get a kick out of the guy pictured below who gives Rocky a subtle nod, as if to say “‘Sup, dawg?”, as he steps off the plane. Hey, in a rather uneventful montage, you really gotta step back and appreciate the little things.

Welcome to Russia, bitch.

Welcome to Russia, bitch.

Montage #5: Training Montage, Part I

Duration: 55:00 — 58:40 (3 minutes and 40 seconds)
Song: Training Montage by Vince DiCola

Less than four minutes later (which was mostly spent by Rocky’s trainer, Duke (aka, the black Mickey), telling Rocky that “he knows what he needs to do”), it’s time to get down to brass tacks and give the audience what they’ve been waiting so patiently for — the training montage!  Rocky, despite being heavyweight champion with unparallelled access to the latest training equipment and world-class sparring partners, decides to borrow from Fedor Emelianenko’s training program of cutting down trees, lifting rocks, and carrying logs over his shoulder prior to a big fight. Meanwhile, Drago (the cold, heartless Commie bastard that he is), uses science. Boo! Hiss! Down with modern athletics!

Okay, we get it. He's a Commie. But does he really have to train under harsh red lights?

Okay, we get it. He's a Commie. But does he really have to train under harsh red lights?

Montage #6: Training Montage, Part II

Duration: 59:55 — 1:04:10 (4 minutes and 15 seconds)
Song: Hearts on Fire by John Cafferty

Ivan Drago is a pretty bad dude … did you really think that a single training montage would be enough time for Rocky to get in shape to face the man nicknamed “Death From Above”? Hell no! Stallone refuses to take his foot off the gas pedal, bombarding us with a second epic training montage a mere 75 seconds after the first one wrapped up. Sure, it shows pretty much the exact same stuff as the previous montage, except this time Rocky has grown a badass beard, outruns a car, and climbs a fucking mountain.

Sorry, gonna have to call bullshit on this one.

Sorry, gonna have to call bullshit on this one.

For those keeping score at home, Stallone had the balls to include nearly nine straight minutes of training montage in Rocky IV, with the only break in the action being a minute of Adrian and Rocky talking outside of their cabin. It’s almost as if he knew that the movie would bring in a truckload of money no matter what, so why should he even bother with dumb things like character and story development? Been there, got the Oscar for it, so it’s time to make nothing but montages from here on out! Still, when the montages he gives us are of such awesome quality, who am I to complain?

I've seen videos of Fedor doing this. Seriously.

I've seen videos of Fedor doing this. Seriously.

Montage #7: The Final Battle

Duration: 1:15:50 — 1:20:25 (4 minutes and 35 seconds)
Song: War by Vince DiCola

While an amazing 10 whole minutes have passed since the last montage, don’t worry, nothing of substance has actually happened — those 10 minutes consisted solely of entrances, ring introductions, and the first two rounds of the fight between Rocky and Drago. Of course, even Stallone knows that he can’t show an entire 15-round boxing match, so you know what that means … it’s time for the fight montage! Both men absolutely destroy each other with a plethora of power shots, and I’m pretty sure Rocky actually loses the fight at one point, but I guess the Soviet system doesn’t use the three knockdown TKO rule. Their loss (literally).

When one montage isn't enough ... it's time for a split-screen montage!

When one montage isn't enough ... it's time for a split-screen montage!

As far as fight montages go, this one is probably my favourite in the entire Rocky series. According to IMDB, Stallone and Dolph Lundgren were actually hitting each other in order to make the footage look more real. Naturally, Stallone ended up in the hospital after taking too many body shots from the Siberian Bull. He wasn’t lying when he said he must break you! All in all, the music is great, the action looks decent, there’s a Gorbachev lookalike watching the fight, and even the bearded dude from the airport is in the crowd to check in on his homeboy. Awesome.

Get that water outta my face, sucka!

Get that water outta my face, sucka!

Montage #8: Victory / End Credits / The Rocky IV Recap

Duration: 1:26:35 — 1:31:20 (4 minutes and 45 seconds)
Song: Hearts on Fire by John Cafferty

The movie started with a montage recapping the previous film, so it’s only fitting that Rocky IV concludes with a montage recapping the previous film — that film being Rocky IV, of course. After Rocky Balboa singlehandedly ends the Cold War with his stirring speech (“If I can change, and you can change … everybody can change!”), the song Hearts on Fire kicks in once more. We see a few scenes of Rocky, draped in the American flag, celebrating his victory, and then the credits begin to scroll — overtop of rapid-fire, black and white still photos from every scene in the movie. Wait, what?

Come on, hardly anything actually happened during the past 90 minutes — do we really need to see it all over again in condensed format? Perhaps Stallone thought that the audience would be so emotionally drained after Rocky’s upset victory (and the fact that he just brought down the Berlin Wall all by himself) that they would be unable to remember anything that happened prior to the climactic showdown. And if this is the case, Stallone would be wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong.

That being said, it’s better than plain ol’ credits over the black void of nothingness.

A montage about the movie we just watched? Drago's "WTF?" face expresses my opinion quite nicely.

A montage to recap the movie we just watched? Drago's "WTF?" look says it all.

TOTAL MONTAGE TIME: 29 minutes and 10 seconds

TOTAL MOVIE RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes and 20 seconds

PERCENTAGE OF ROCKY IV THAT IS MONTAGE: 31.9%

That’s right. Nearly one-third of the entire movie is montage / musical numbers. The numbers are even worse if you look at just the last 50 minutes of the movie (aka, the point in the movie where Stallone said “screw it, this movie stuff is too hard”). Starting from the No Easy Way Out sequence, there is a total of 24 minutes and 20 seconds of montage — which means that during the second half of the movie, Rocky IV is approximately 50% montage. Absolutely incredible.

Going back to the movie as a whole, we now know that one-third of the total running time is devoted to montage. Another third is taken up solely by the two boxing matches, which means that only one-third of Rocky IV actually involves the characters doing things other than training or fighting. And to top it all off, most of those scenes feature that friggin’ robot, which means they might as well not even exist since the robot was so mind-shatteringly retarded. Seriously, what the hell was the point of that thing? Damn you, ’80s!

Stallone, you insane bastard. How you managed to get away with this, we’ll never know. But I’m sure glad you did, because Rocky IV is, despite its flaws, nothing short of awesome.

This image was taken from a boxing movie. True story.

This image was taken from a boxing movie. True story.

I Fight for Me: What Fedor Can Learn from Ivan Drago

Despite the hopes and dreams of all mixed martial arts fans around the world, UFC President Dana White announced today that although he has tried his damnedest, he has still not been able to sign free agent heavyweight fighter Fedor Emelianenko to a UFC contract.

The baddest man on the planet? Or is he ducking Brock Lesnar?

The best of all-time? Or a coward?

If the reports are true, White’s offer to Fedor’s camp was apparently quite substantial (or as White himself put it, “insane”) — a guaranteed six fight / $30 million deal (including an immediate title shot against UFC heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar), an agreement that would allow Fedor to also compete in Russian Sambo events when he’s not fighting in the Octagon, and perhaps most shocking of all, the UFC would even provide Fedor’s management team, M-1 Global, with a portion of all pay-per-view revenues.

But apparently that wasn’t good enough, because Vadim Finkelchtein, the head honcho of M-1 Global (a rinky-dink MMA league based in Russia), is demanding that any fight card featuring Fedor must be co-promoted under a joint UFC / M-1 banner. Finkelchtein obviously doesn’t care about what the fans or the fighters want (which is a Fedor vs. Lesnar superfight to determine who is truly the best heavyweight in the world). Instead, he only cares about leeching off of the UFC’s established brand in hope of gaining some sort of foothold in the North American market for M-1 Global. And as we all know, Dana White will never allow that to happen, which means Fedor will continue to fight freak shows and UFC castaways like Tim Sylvia until the day he retires.

If only Fedor would do the same to Vadim Finkelchtein ...

If only Fedor would do the same to M-1.

A lot of people have compared Fedor Emelianenko to the character Ivan Drago in Rocky IV — the ultra-dominant Russian athlete that can murder people in the ring with his bare hands (although to be fair, former Pride fighter Sergei Kharitonov looked a lot more like Drago than Fedor ever did). Only now do we see even more parallels to that film — the ultra-dominant Russian athlete that is constantly getting jerked around by a posse of managers and politicians, and the fact that Lesnar, in the Rocky Balboa role, would probably have to drop the UFC title and travel to Russia in order to make such a fight a reality.

In my opinion, Fedor should continue to emulate Ivan Drago’s character arc by standing up for himself and becoming his own man (savage beating of Apollo Creed is optional, of course). Much like how Drago got fed up of taking orders from the Commies and being used a pawn in his country’s Cold War ambitions, Fedor needs to nut up, grab Finkelchtein by the throat, and announce to the whole world, “I fight to win! For me! For me!”

Then, once he tosses the M-1 Global trash aside, he does the right thing and takes Dana White’s offer, battles Brock Lesnar in the biggest heavyweight fight in UFC history, and finally proves once and for all that he is the best pound-for-pound fighter in mixed martial arts.

Or he could continue to damage his legacy by hiding behind a two-bit, small-time MMA promoter until the end of his career. It’s his call.

Would Fedor love to fight in the UFC and challenge himself against the best of the best? Most likely, yes. He is a fighter and a warrior, after all. But until he can separate himself from Finkelchtein and get a manager that actually cares about the progress of his fighter’s career (and not the bottom line of his own company), that day will never come, despite the hopes and dreams of all mixed martial arts fans around the world.

The question is, when will Fedor fight for himself?

The question is, when will Fedor fight for himself?

The Men With No Name: Yojimbo vs. A Fistful of Dollars

Known fact — Clint Eastwood is a badass. In fact, I never really understood why Chuck Norris got all of the attention, when everybody knows that Eastwood is superior in every way.

Forget about Chuck Norris. Eastwood is the true power.

Forget about Chuck Norris. Eastwood is the true power.

While Inspector “Dirty Harry” Callahan might be his most famous role, I much prefer the character that Eastwood used to propel himself into Hollywood superstardom — The Man With No Name. I recently rewatched all three movies in Sergio Leone’s fantastic Spaghetti Western trilogy starring this character (A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly), and while The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly is clearly the best of the three movies (albeit a bit too long, in my opinion, clocking in at nearly three solid hours — I mean, was the “blowing up the bridge” sequence really that critical? Just get to the damn shootout at the cemetery already!), I must admit that I have a genuine soft spot for A Fistful of Dollars.

First, it’s because Fistful is Eastwood’s film and his film alone. No Lee Van Cleefs or Eli Wallachs to steal the spotlight here — it’s nothing but Eastwood being Eastwood, which is pure, unadulterated awesomeness. Second, the movie has a very solid cinematic and narrative foundation, mostly because it shamelessly rips off some very excellent source material — Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, starring the always exciting Toshiro Mifune as the Samurai With No Name. Now, it’s not quite a Gus Van Sant’s Psycho, but it’s damn near a scene for scene remake of the original jidaigeki samurai piece. Which definitely isn’t a bad thing, since Yojimbo is a hell of a fine flick.

Granted, since Kurosawa Yojimbo was more or less an homage to the Hollywood Western, it wasn’t much of a stretch to replace the Japanese actors with Americans and Italians and swap out the katanas for pistols. It’s still the same dusty town, the same shootouts on the desolate streets. Whether it’s cowboys or samurais, it all adds up to one excellent cinematic experience.

But the real question is … which film is superior? A Fistful of Dollars or the O.G., Yojimbo? Buckle up, kids, it’s time for some science!

The Heroes

When comparing these two films, it really only boils down to one question — Eastwood or Mifune? Which film god reigns supreme?

So he wears a housecoat. Are you gonna tell him not to?

So he wears a housecoat. Are you gonna tell him not to?

Man … is it actually possible to pick one over the other? I mean, Clint Eastwood is Clint Friggin’ Eastwood — quick on the draw, rocking an awesome poncho, and staring a hole through his opponents with his rock-hard glare. He’s not a very talkative character, but you know he’s gonna whoop some ass when the time comes.

Mifune’s Sanjuro Kuwabatake (a fake name, of course) is a bit more laid back that Eastwood’s Man With No Name. He likes his rice and sake, sports a pimpin’ kimono, and is more likely to pause and think things through before taking action. But like Eastwood, when the time come, he can carve suckas to shreds with the best of them.

However, it seems that Mifune’s lone ronin has a bit more character to him that Eastwood’s mysterious cowboy. He’s not just some guy out to make some easy cash — he’s at a crossroads in Japanese history and is attempting to make a new life for himself. Due to his samurai past, it’s clear that he has a sense of right and wrong and a strong code of honour. But hey, if he can make a few ryo while cleaning up the town’s scum and villainy, well, why not?

Don't you dare make fun of his mule.

Don't you dare make fun of his mule.

Still, can you argue with that look? It’s the squint that launched a thousand ships. A true movie icon. While Mifune’s character is more well-rounded, Eastwood is much more memorable.

So let’s call it a draw, shall we?

The Villains

Of course, no villain could ever hope to stand up to power of Clint Eastwood or Toshiro Mifune. But hey, somebody’s gotta try. Ramon Rojo and Unosuke are decent villains, I suppose, but aren’t all that special. They are both the brother of the gang leader and ultimately the meanest, cruelest, and smartest members of their respective gangs, but that’s about it.

However, there is one big difference between Ramon and Uno that tips the scales in Yojimbo‘s favour — weaponry. In A Fistful of Dollars, it’s supposed to be a big deal that Ramon is an excellent shot with a rifle, and he emphatically states that in a duel between a man with a pistol and a man with a rifle, the man with the rifle always wins. It must be one hell of a rifle then, because I’m pretty sure Eastwood mowed down four dudes in about half a second with his revolver when he first walked into town. Yet we’re supposed to believe that one guy with a rifle is gonna be pose a major threat? Sorry, but I ain’t buying it.

But when you bring a gun to a swordfight … well, that changes things considerably. It doesn’t matter how badass Mifune is with his katana — Unosuke has a gun, and that makes the audience truly reconsider Mifune’s strengths and advantages over his rival. After all, how can a sword beat a gun?

Always bring a gun to a knife fight.

Always bring a gun to a knife fight.

Well, as Mifune proves, it’s rather easy, actually, as he uses a throwing knife to get the jump on Uno before rushing in and gutting him with his katana. As quickly as it ends, however, it’s a much better final battle than in Fistful, which requires a little too much from the suspension of disbelief department. To counter Ramon’s deadly accuracy when “shooting for the heart”, Eastwood wears a giant hunk of metal under his poncho and dares Ramon to blow him away. This is acceptable for the first couple of shots, but it gets rather silly as Eastwood shrugs off about a dozen shots and Ramon still foolishly aims for the chest instead of going for, I dunno, a headshot? Sure, Ramon may be proud, but in a life or death situation I doubt he’d act that stupidly.

His gun is bigger than your gun.

His gun is bigger than your gun. That makes him better than you, no matter how skilled your revolver is.

In the end, I have to give the edge to Yojimbo, simply because the lame gun versus gun dynamic in Fistful really, really bugs me.

The Goons

Perhaps it’s just me, but I find that Yojimbo can be quite confusing at times (especially the first time you watch it), since all of the Japanese names sound the same, the two gang leaders sorta look the same, and it’s hard to keep track of which guys work for Seibei and which guys are part of Ushitora’s crew. Thankfully, A Fistful of Dollars doesn’t have this problem, as the gangs are easily marked and instantly identifiable — it’s the boring white guys versus the villainous Mexicans.

The face only a mother could love.

The face only a mother could love.

Unfortunately, the way Fistful draws such a definitive line between the two gangs goes against the very core of Kurosawa’s original. In Yojimbo, Mifune made several visits to both gangs and a good chunk of time is spent on the samurai playing both sides against each other. Both gangs are equally vile, and Mifune knows he will wipe them both out — but you never really know which gang will get the upper hand until actually happens. Fistful, on the other hand, has no such shades of grey (and not just because the movie is in colour). The Rojos are evil, and that’s that. In fact, the Baxters are practically irrelevant and hardly have any screentime at all, making it more “Clint Eastwood versus the Mexicans” than “lone cowboy versus a corrupt town”.

Another problem is that while the Mexicans are easily identifiable, they are all rather generic (with the exception of Ramon). The Japanese gangs, however, had some truly memorable characters, such as the ugly monobrowed son and the giant thug with the mallet, which made the movie a bit more fun to watch.

Giant man with a giant hammer. I see nothing wrong here.

Giant man with a giant hammer. I see nothing wrong here.

Gotta give the edge to Yojimbo once again. While their appearances are perhaps played more for laughs (keeping with the overall lighter tone of the film when compared to Fistful), the goons are definitely more memorable in Kurosawa’s film. Plus, the equality of the two gangs actually works within the framework of the plot, which, you know, is a plus.

The Crowning Moment of Awesomeness

Apart from the final showdown, the big scene in each film occurs when the lone samurai / cowboy first arrives in town and wants to make a strong first impression on their potential employers. Naturally, he decides to slaughter a few local homeboys and proceeds to ask the undertaker for some coffins (“… better make it four.”). The Fistful version is ultra cool, simply because Eastwood is at his squinting, scowling, and growling best, delivering the classic lines about how it’s not wise to make fun of his mule before prematurely ending the day of four of Baxter’s toughs.

The equivalent scene in Yojimbo, on the other hand, directly influenced Star Wars:

"No blasters! No blasters!"

"No blasters! No blasters!"

That severed arm was, and still is, pretty hardcore. Still, Mifune’s lines aren’t quite as excellent as Eastwood’s (the samurai mocks the gangsters, saying that they look cute and probably couldn’t hurt a fly), and the low angle from behind The Man With No Name as he shoots up the Baxters allows the viewer to soak up all of the action as opposed to Kurosawa’s quick, frenetic swordplay.

Let’s call this one a draw, too, as both scenes are equally great.

And so, the winner is …

I guess the scorecards say Yojimbo, and I think in my heart I want to say that Yojimbo is clearly the better film due to its superior characters and narrative … but there’s just something about Clint Eastwood wearing that dirty brown poncho and smoking that cigar to the sweet, sweet sounds on Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack that is the very essence of cinematic awesomeness. It just goes to show that film is an intensely audio-visual medium, and that certain images and characters can burrow their way into our brains and make us overlook the obvious flaws that a movie may contain (such as Fistful‘s absolutely atrocious dubbing and voicework).

Try as I might, I truly can’t pick one over the other. Hmmmm. How about I say that we all win for having the chance to witness two great version of the same story? Unless, of course, you haven’t seen either movie. In that case, you’re clearly the loser of this contest.

The Lost World Dinosaur Killcount Showdown

The Scene: Isla Sorna, Costa Rica. In particular, InGen Site B — the breeding ground /research facility for the dinosaurs that would ultimately end up at the infamous Jurassic Park.

The Participants: A bunch of awesome dinosaurs and dozens of tasty people (albeit mostly of the generic variety).

The Question: Which dinosaur from The Lost World is truly the most effective prehistoric killing machine?

The Methodology: Each encounter (defined as “an edible foe being easily within reach”) will be scored as either a “KILL” or a “MISS” by our panel of judges. Half-points may be awarded for effort or merit, where applicable. Final scores for each prehistoric creature will be tabulated in a manner similar to a batting average in baseball, with additional adjudicator commentary as required.

Allez cuisine!

Compsognathus

Isn't he adorable?

Isn't he adorable?

An curious little creature that is just slightly larger than a chicken, compsognathus can hardly be considered an intimidating foe. While widely thought to be nothing more than a jackal-esque scavenger, it is a viciously aggressive little bastard that travels in packs, meaning that when it does hunt, it has overwhelming numbers on its side.

Its critics maintain that its puny size makes it ill-equipped for a tournament of this nature, but many supporters believe that the compy’s quickness and strength in numbers can triumph over its diminutive stature. So, just how effective of a killing machine was compsognathus?

  • 1/2 KILL — Cathy, the spoiled little rich girl on the beach. While a mere child should be no match for a freakin’ dinosaur, the compy starts the competition on the wrong foot by merely wounding the girl instead of completely devouring her. Partial credit for inflicting injury shall be awarded, however. 0.5 for 1.
  • MISS — Dieter in the forest. Proving to be braver beyond its size, a single compsognathus gets up close and personal with the dude that always gets cast in movies when you need a generic Russian or Swede or German. Unfortunately, it just stands there like an idiot until it gets zapped by Dieter’s cattle prod. Uh, you’re doing it wrong. 0.5 for 2.
  • KILL — Dieter in the forest, part II — The Revenge. While it was extended struggle, it must be noted that the compy does not possess the one-hit killing power of its larger brethren. As such, there shall be no deductions or penalties as a result of not immediately killing Dieter the first time he is jumped by the pack. 1.5 for 3.

FINAL TALLY: 1.5 for 3 (0.500 killing average).
Emphasizing teamwork over individual glory, the compsognathus has proven itself to be an adapt warrior capable of taking down prey several times its size. While it needs to work on its consistency, there’s no reason to believe that this “little dino that could” won’t make a big name for itself in this legendary sport.

Tyrannosaurus

If you close the blinds, he can't see you. True story.

If you close the blinds, he can't see you. True story.

The reigning heavyweight champion of Jurassic Park, the mighty tyrannosaur is eager to defend its title. While it still brings incredible size, massive serrated teeth, and brutally powerful jaws to the competition, like any good champion, it knows that it can’t simply rest on its laurels and hope to emerge victorious once again. That’s why the tyrannosaurus comes to this year’s event with a nasty new parental defensive instinct and a pimped-out sense of smell — perhaps the best olfactory senses this side of the turkey vulture.

While it still has the same glaring weaknesses as before, including useless forelimbs and poor eyesight, they sure as hell didn’t stop the T-Rex from taking the title before. But that was on Isla Nublar — how well will it fare on Isla Sorna?

  • MISS — Nick and Sarah as they carry the wounded baby tyrannosaur back to the trailer. Yes, we understand that it was injured, but in this type of competition, you have to be able to play through the pain. Instead of crying like a little bitch, how about you try clawing or scratching or biting at the stupid humans as they kidnap you? Just a thought. 0 for 1.
  • MISS — Sarah outside the trailer. After putting a cast on the broken leg of the Baby Rex, Sarah opens up the trailer door and places the infant at the feet of its parents, who are just standing there politely at the door like a couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Come on, the chick is right there under your nose! Devour her! Could the T-Rex already be choking under the pressure of defending its title? 0 for 2.
  • 1/2 KILL — The car and the trailer. Realizing how badly it screwed up, the T-Rex goes apeshit (dinoshit?) on an assortment of vehicles. While they can’t be scored as kills (since a car is not alive, of course), a half-point is awarded for mass destruction. 0.5 for 3.
  • KILL — Eddie in the car. Putting the shame of not being able to eat Tim and Lex behind, the tyrannosaur finally snacks on somebody inside a vehicle … and it tastes good. 1.5 for 4.
  • MISS — Sarah and Kelly in the tent. Demonstrating its awesome dino-ninja capabilities, the tyrannosaur somehow sneaks into the human camp unnoticed and pokes its head into the ladies’ tent. While Kelly makes a bunch of noise and squirms around, undoubtedly drawing attention to herself, the T-Rex is apparently not a fan of dark meat and decides not to put the child out of her misery. 1.5 for 5.
  • KILL — Some generic InGen grunt during the chase sequence. While the T-Rex prefers the taste of blood on the tip of its tongue, it’s not averse to just squashing some poor bugger under its massive feet when the opportunity arises. 2.5 for 6.
  • MISS — Everybody else during the chase sequence. The T-Rex can run nearly as fast as a moving vehicle — this fact has been established on several occasions. So why can’t it chase down a disorganized mob of half-asleep people who are very slowly fleeing for their lives? Pundits are already questioning as to whether the tyrannosaur let its cardio slip during the off-season. 2.5 for 7.
  • KILL — Dr. Burke in the waterfall, who decided that a snake was more of a threat than a pissed-off dinosaur. Bad move, buddy. 3.5 for 8.
  • MISS — Everybody else in the waterfall. The tyrannosaur could taste victory — literally — but it couldn’t push itself (or at the very least, its tongue) those last few inches to finish the job. Plus, it was completely oblivious to the location of Dr. Malcolm, who must have been riding on the dinosaur’s back based on how quickly he got into the waterfall once the T-Rex pulled its head out of the cave. 3.5 for 9.
  • MISS — The police officers and security guards fleeing from the boat. The tyrannosaur half-heartedly lunges at one of them, but the officer dives off the dock and into the water just before the T-Rex can get its jaws around him. Close, but no cigar. 3.5 for 10.
  • KILL — The family dog. Yeah, it’s an easy kill, but at this point, the defending champ will take any points it can get. 4.5 for 11.
  • 1/2 KILL — The bus and its passengers. Frustrated with the way the game is going, the T-Rex smashes the hell out of a city bus. As an unexpected bonus, when it rams the side of the vehicle, several people go flying through the windows, undoubtedly causing numerous lacerations and broken bones. While the full extent of the casualties is unknown, this type of damage is easily worth a half-point. 5 for 12.
  • MISS — The rest of the people in the city. While the T-Rex can clearly run as fast as bus when he wants to, a stampede of terrified people once again proves to be too much for the big dinosaur to handle. Perhaps too much motion is overloading its tiny little brain? 5 for 13.
  • KILL — The unlucky bastard in front of the store. Tired of chasing people around the block, the T-Rex goes for the easy kill by scarfing down some schmuck who thought running into a wall would be a good escape route. 6 for 14.
  • KILL — Peter Ludlow, the nephew of John Hammond, in the boat. A truly touching moment in the history of parenthood as Big Rex lets Baby Rex finish the job. 7 for 15.

FINAL TALLY: 7 for 15 (0.467 killing average).
While the T-Rex still put up some impressive numbers, scoring a total of seven points, it doesn’t come close to reaching the impressive 0.600 average that it scored on Isla Nublar. At some points, it looked as though Big Rex’s heart simply wasn’t in it. Has the champ run out of gas? Is the “big dino” era of supremacy finally coming to an end? These questions will dog the tyrannosaur throughout the off-season if it doesn’t come home with the gold.

Velociraptor

Clever girl.

Clever girl.

The velociraptor. According to some, it is nature’s greatest killing machine. However, like the San Jose Sharks choking in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it fared extremely poorly in the first Jurassic Park Killcount Showdown. Now, it hungers for redemption and is determined to defeat all comers and claim the title.

Make no mistake, it is definitely a creature to be feared due to its cunning intellect, incredible agility, and razor-sharp claws. But are those strengths enough to put it over the top and forget about the past?

  • 6x KILL — The generic InGen guys in the tall grass. As far as quick starts go, this is one for the record books, as the velociraptor ruthlessly demonstrates its hunting prowess, brutal speed, and savage killing power. 6 for 6.
  • MISS — Sarah in the compound. Sarah’s backpack takes the brunt of the impact, but that does not excuse the fact that, for whatever reason, the raptor decided to tear at the bag instead of the fleshy bits located only a few inches above the leather and canvas. 6 for 7.
  • 3x MISS — Dr. Malcolm in the compound. During the tall grass sequence, the raptors were silent, efficient killers that could pick off a half-dozen men in mere seconds. Why then, during three separate incidents, does a velociraptor pause mere inches from Dr. Malcolm’s face in order to bare its teeth or hiss at him before going for the kill? Showboating has its time and place, but your selfish actions are only putting your team in jeopardy and reflect very poorly on raptor-kind in general. 6 for 10.
  • MISS — Kelly, as she attempts to crawl through a hole to the other side of a wall (where there are obviously no dinosaurs). Unfortunately for Kelly, a raptor is lurking on the other side. Fortunately for Kelly, the raptor (being the intelligent creature that it is) is utterly gob-smacked by her stupidity and is ultimately too confused to bite her head clean off when she pokes it out the other side of the wall. 6 for 11.
  • 2x MISS — Sarah leaps tries to leap to a rooftop, only to miss and dangle precariously from the edge. Does the raptor chasing her jump directly onto her back and drag her to hell (especially now that her magic raptor-repellent backpack is gone)? No, of course not. It jumps over her so that it can hiss and look menacing. To add insult to injury, the second raptor chasing her from ground level has a piss-poor vertical, because it can’t quite jump high enough to grab her by the drumstick and pull her off the roof. 6 for 13.
  • KILL — The crew of the S.S. Venture. While there’s no video evidence, there’s no arguing with the severed limbs scattered around the boat — and the T-Rex sure as hell couldn’t have killed them, what with being locked in the cargo hold and all. There’s no doubt in the mind of the judges that the raptors had a hand in it — it’s just that they didn’t like the look of San Diego and decided to go for a swim before reaching shore. 7 for 14.

FINAL TALLY: 7 for 14 (0.500 killing average).
The velociraptor means business, coming back strong after its disappointing performance on Isla Nublar. Yes, the majority of its kills are just nameless grunts, but they all count in the end. While it scored a plethora of points this year, raptor fans still have to be concerned with the troubling trend of coming up small when the stakes are highest.

Stegosaurus

Rumour has it that he's got a brain the size of a walnut.

Rumour has it that he's got a brain the size of a walnut.

A new entrant to the competition, the stegosaurus definitely has the size and strength to make a difference. Its primary weapons are the two pairs of long spikes extending horizontally from the end of its tail, and it also boasts a double row of kite-shaped plates along its back for defensive support.

However, it has a tiny head, which means it has an even tinier brain — is the stegosaurus capable of forming a winning gameplan? Or will it come up short?

  • MISS — Dr. Malcolm and the group when they first arrive on the island. Despite being within tail-whipping range, the stegosaurs ignore all of their ingrained dinosaurian instincts by walking right past the humans without batting an eye. Wimps. 0 for 1.
  • MISS — Sarah, as she examines the baby stegosaurus. A severed pinky finger wasn’t entirely out of the realm of possibility here, but the baby stego didn’t even snap at her once. Come on, man, stand up for yourself! 0 for 2.
  • MISS — Sarah, after examining the baby stegosaurus. Angry at such a blatant example of child molestation, the adult stegosaurs finally remember that they’re freakin’ dinosaurs and try to attack Sarah. However, they get tired and call off the chase after a single swing of the tail. Suck it up, boys, this is a competition! We need to see more effort than that! 0 for 3.

FINAL TALLY: 0 for 3 (0.000 killing average).
It tried valiantly (once, anyway), but the stegosaurus just couldn’t cut the mustard in this year’s competition. While it has the tools, the big dinosaur lacks the brains required to shine when the spotlight glares its brightest. Better luck next time.

Triceratops

Triceratops smash!

Triceratops smash!

Suffering from illness during the previous competition, the triceratops never really got a fair shake at proving itself worthy of the hunt. Completely recovered and raring to go, the triceratops should not be taken lightly, as it brings to the table a surprisingly sharp beak and ferocious triple-pronged assault capabilities — not too mention its massive bulk, which is damn near unstoppable once in full flight.

Now that it’s at 100 percent, can the triceratops make up for the disappointing performance on Isla Nublar? Or will it once again hang its frill in shame?

  • 1/2 KILL — The InGen basecamp. Locked up in a cage for most of the tournament, it seems that the triceratops just can’t catch a break. Once released from the shackles of oppression, however, the triceratops goes on a berserker rampage, putting the phrase “bull in a china shop” to shame. While it didn’t wound anybody, it did cause a significant amount of destruction in a very short period of time (including completely obliterating the InGen satellite), which is worthy of a half-point in our eyes. 0.5 for 1.

FINAL TALLY: 0.5 for 1 (0.500 killing average).
Well, the triceratops finally got a chance to make things happen, and the judges were definitely impressed. While its technique can only be described and uncontrollable and reckless, there’s no doubt that the triceratops is capable of delivering massive damage. However, with no legit kills to its credit, it can’t be considered a true contender — yet.

Pachycephalosaurus

The always popular "Friar Tuck" look.

The always popular "Friar Tuck" look.

Another new challenger approaches! The pachycephalosaurus, meaning “thick-headed lizard”, features a large, bony dome on top of its skull — up to 10 inches of solid bone. It can use this built-in helmet like a battering ram to knock its foes to the ground when the going gets rough.

What sort of an impact will the pachy make during its debut? Will it continue the legacy of sucktitude associated with herbivores, or will it use its distinct weaponry to carve out a new niche?

  • 1/2 KILL — Generic InGen grunt. When the InGen poachers are rounding up the dinosaurs, the pachy proves to be a harder catch then anticipated. During the struggle, it delivers a devastating headbutt to the side of a car, sending the man inside flying out the window on the other side. While it’s doubtful the man died, he probably suffered serious blunt trauma, plus the car will definitely need a trip to the repair shop, which makes this attack partially successful. 0.5 for 1.
  • MISS — The InGen basecamp. Nick and Sarah have freed the dinosaurs, and during the ensuing chaos … the pachycephalosaurus does dick all. Instead of headbutting the nearest sucka to death, or at least taking a cue from the triceratops and smashing shit to pieces, the pachy just runs away. Weak. 0.5 for 2.

FINAL TALLY: 0.5 for 2 (0.250 killing average).
There’s potential there, and while we caught glimpses of what the pachy is capable of, it ultimately needs more experience if it wants to be able to score consistent points in this type of competition. We look forward to seeing how it progress in the future.

Parasaurolophus

A relative of Elvis, apparently.

Coward!

Finally, we come to the parasaurolophus, a docile herbivore known for its distinct long crest on the top of its skull.

Included in this competition primarily for the sake of posterity, these guys are the New York Islanders of Jurassic Park — they have no hope in hell of winning and mostly just happy to be there.

  • MISS — InGen poachers. When InGen first arrives on the island, they cause a massive stampede involving all of the hippy vegetarian species on the island. Unlike the pachycephalosaurus, which at least goes down swinging, the parasaurs just run away like the cowards they are. It had its chances — I mean, how hard can it be for a two-tonne animal to knock down a dude on a motorcycle? — but the parasaurolophus chooses not to engage the enemy. For shame. 0 for 1.
  • MISS — More InGen poachers. When captured, the parasaurolophus puts up a meek struggle, gently lifting a couple of wranglers off the ground for a couple of seconds before surrendering. It could have swung them around violently or trampled them or something, but it didn’t, because he’s a coward and a disgrace to dinosaurs everywhere. 0 for 2.
  • MISS — InGen basecamp. During the escape sequence, the parasaur runs away with its tail between its legs instead of trying to exact some measure of revenge on its captors. Seriously, what a useless sack of meat. No wonder you went extinct! 0 for 3.

FINAL TALLY: 0 for 3 (0.000 killing average).
A pathetic display of supreme patheticosity, these dinosaurs should be truly ashamed of themselves. An absolutely travesty, to say the least, and here’s hoping that these losers are banned from future competitions.

The results are in! The winner, and new heavyweight champion of the (lost) world …

Yes, you're scary, we know. Just eat the guy already!

Yes, you're scary, we know. Just eat the guy already!

The Velociraptor!

Yes, technically, the velociraptor tied with the compsognathus for the best killing percentage of all of the dinosaurs on Isla Sorna (barely edging out the defending champion, the tyrannosaurus). However, in a tie-breaking scenario, victory is awarded to the creature with the most number and highest quality of kills — and in this case, that is most definitely the velociraptor. Butchering several people in tall grass is worth much more than a single Peter Stormare, no matter how charismatic the guy is.

Congratulations, velociraptor! You have restored honour to your species and brought smiles to millions of adoring fans around the world! But can you do what the T-Rex could not and defend your title in the next competition? We shall see …

Movie Review: Hunger

Hunger. Great art, terrible movie.

Hunger. Great art, terrible movie.

I saw the movie Hunger the other day. A darling of the film festival circuit and recipient of rave reviews, I went in with high expectations.

Unfortunately, what I witnessed was nothing but pretentious art-house bullshit.

Now, I’m not saying it was entirely bad with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Far from it. For all intents and purposes, it was very well crafted. The cinematography / framing / mise-en-scene was outstanding, the acting was excellent, and delivered powerful, raw, gut-wrenching imagery and messages about the treatment of the IRA prisoners and the effect the hunger strike had not only on them, but the prison officials as well.

But it simply wasn’t my cup of tea.

While I’m not saying that every film should be a formulaic summer blockbuster piece of tripe, I do appreciate it when movies have certain essential elements — you know, things such as plot, characters I want to care about, dramatic conflict? Yeah, Hunger really could have used some of that stuff.

Regarding the issues of plot and character, I know it’s based off the real life of Bobby Sands, but in my opinion, the goals of Sands and the rest of the prisoners were rather ill-defined. Sure, they wanted to be recognized as political prisoners / prisoners of war, and in the bigger picture, for the IRA to win and the British to leave Ireland, but that’s a big pie-in-the-sky type of goal that the characters in the film can never actually physically achieve. I would have liked to have known about their hopes and dreams on a more personal level, the day-to-day goals of the prisoners, how they interacted with the “criminal” prisoners, whether all of the IRA prisoners were on board with the hunger strike … in other words, the type of stuff that can make us actually care about these characters and, as an added bonus, form some semblance of a flowing, cohesive storyline.

On a related note, it doesn’t help that the main character isn’t introduced until halfway through the movie. We first see Sands get beat down by the guards, and then the next time we see him it’s for a 15-minute conversation with the priest about his decision to start the hunger strike. It’s a wonderful scene which is amazing done in one continuous take, but why should I give a damn about him or his cause when we’ve never really been introduced to the character?

If the movie is supposed to be about Bobby Sands and his death then make the movie about friggin’ Bobby Sands — don’t waste half the picture on some prison warden and a couple of random prisoners. Even when the movie switches to the Bobby Sands story, we never really know all that much about him. From a quick Google search, it appears he wrote a diary during the first few weeks of his hunger strike. The filmmaker could have used this material, but why flesh out his character when we can see some more bed sores?

Sorry, but I don't know anything about you guys, so I don't really care what happens to you.

Sorry, but I don't know anything about you guys or what makes you tick, so I don't really care what happens to you.

At times it felt like I was watching a live-action art gallery exhibit, in that it was nothing more than a series of images about a common theme or topic. Case in point — the scene where the prison official is mopping up the piss in the hallway. Normally, a scene in a film is designed to advance the plot or alter the level of dramatic conflict between characters. Not this scene, however, which is simply a guy mopping up piss in a hallway. For five whole minutes.

While watching that scene, I couldn’t help but think of Family Guy — in specific, the scene where Peter scrapes his knee and spends a minute wheezing in pain, or the scene where Peter randomly cuts to a Conway Twitty song and the show proceeds to play the entire song from start to finish. I thought to myself, they’re not really gonna show him mopping the entire goddamn hallway, are they? Really? Seriously? Come on, get to the point already!

In conclusion, Hunger is a gritty, yet appallingly beautiful, piece of art that showcases what life was like for the IRA prisoners and how the human body can be used as a form of protest. In addition, by not really taking sides, it allows the viewer to form his own impressions and draw his own conclusions as to who’s right and who’s wrong. However, as a function of cinema, it fails terribly, as it was structurally weak and overall quite aimless and meandering, not really sure where it was going or why it was going there.

In the end, this movie can only be recommended for pretentious art-house types. You know who you are.