Saturday, July 4, 2015

Donnie Darko

What is the plot? In 1988, Donald "Donnie" Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) has visions of Frank (James Duval), a mysterious figure in a bunny suit that only he can see. After saving Donnie from being killed by a falling jet engine, Frank tells them the world will end 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds and to commit various crimes.
What is good? Some of the dialogue was pretty funny especially Donnie's speech about the sexuality of Smurfs. The film has interesting ideas presented. The special effects were good.
What is bad? Although many praise the story for being a mind screw, the story came off as a fairly standard narrative that poorly constructed. Despite being the driving force of the plot, Frank gets no development or explanation for his presence: incredibly basic information, like his motivation and what his abilities are, is denied to the audience. There are tons of filler. Extended sequences are devoted to explaining the science behind time travel, which Frank violates. A large chunk of the cast, such as Donnie's therapist Dr. Thurman (Katharine Ross), the teachers and pop psychologist Jim Cunningham (Patrick Swayze), are superfluous to the plot despite the latter being a main villain. The explanations for how this universe works don't work because they all get contradicted. For example, they establish you need a large metal object to time travel. However, Frank is able to time travel without one.
I know a lot of people like this movie and they are allowed to do so. However, I did not like it. I found the plot seemed incomplete. I give this 4 out of 10.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Dark Dungeon

Debbie (left), Frost and Marcie
Dark Dungeon is odd movie. It was based on the "Dark Dungeon", a religious comic book made by Jack Chick that accused role-playing games of being gateways to the occult. The movie, despite being an "official" adaption, is actually meant to be a parody of the original.
What is the plot? College freshmen Marcie (Anastasia Higham) and Debbie (Alyssa Kay) join the local role playing club. However, their game master Mistress Frost (Tracy Hyland) is actually a cultist manipulating them into summoning Cthulhu.
What's good with the movie? Despite being made on a cheap budget, they managed to make the movie look professional (sans the special effect for the magic). They managed to get real locations and role playing game material for the movie. Some of the comedy in the first half was good especially RPGers having a rave party.
What's wrong with the movie? The movie has tone problems. At first, the movie is an over-the-top parody (à la Naked Gun) then it tries to be more stealthy about its mockery (à la Starship Troopers) and devolves to being completely serious. They should have chosen to one tone instead of randomly shifting gears. For some reason, the Witches' Coven, in the original comic, is replaced a conspiracy about cultists trying to summon Cthulhu. This change doesn't help the narrative at all. The subplot with the cultists gets resolved out of nowhere and nonsensically. Meanwhile, Satan, who is a major villain in Jack's works as a whole and is implied to help cause the events of original comic, is never mentioned. A lot of the references to role-playing culture (such as the steam tunnels (referring to the disappearance of James Egbert and the result media hysteria) and the live action role playing session) are intrusive and bog down the movie. As I mentioned before while the movie otherwise look professional, the special effects for the magic are very fake-looking.
Dark Dungeon is a confused mess to the point it can't decide if it wants to parody or be a straight forward adaption of its source material. This and adding the conspiracy that adds nothing to the movie made this movie unenjoyable. I give this 3 out of 10.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Problem Sleuth

The unofficial logo of the series
I normally talk about movies on this blog. However, I thought this comic deserved to be talked about. The comic can be found at along with its sister comics Jailbreak (which is complete), Bard Quest (which has been abandoned) and Homestuck (which is what Hussie is currently working on).
Before we get into the actual review, I want to talk about the comic's format. Problem Sleuth is presented as if it was a video game. Each page has an instruction that was based on reader input. This instruction would affect the character as if they were in an interactive fiction game. In the actual story, the characters have stats and level up as if they were in a role playing video game. I point this out because the format might seem odd to the uninitiated.
What is the plot? The protagonist, Problem Sleuth, is a detective that finds himself trapped in his office and tries to escape. He soon discovers his fellow detectives, Ace Dick and Pickle Inspector, are in similar predicament and is forced to team up with them.
What's good about the series? Despite being a largely gag-driven series, the comic forms a cohesive (albeit a bizarre and ludicrous) plot. For example, a minor joke about building a fort out of an office desk ends up becoming a major mechanic for the "game". The humor is extremely good. For example, Death has recurring gag about playing games, such Hungry Hungry Hippos and breaking piñatas, with other people. While normally this would get repetitive, the writer, Andrew Hussie, managed to use this to tell a variety of jokes. The series manages pull off being both insane and awesome at the same time. The best example is a villain being defeated by a jawbreaker-firing cannon. On a similar note, the fight scenes manage to be good despite the humorous tone of series. They manage to be fast-paced and action-packed. The art, while employing a minimalist style, manages to impressive especially toward the end where we have pages where loads upon loads of characters assemble and Andrew doesn't skimp on the detail on any of them.
What's bad about the series? Even for a comic where the pages are mostly one panel, it is a long series. If you include the epilogue, the comic spans 1892 strips. The plot gets very complicated. To put this perspective, "Recap Part 2" (strip 1696), which recaps the plot up to that point, spans nearly five pages. While I personally found these to be non-issues, I know this can turn some people off. At least one or two images would not appear on my computer, but these were unimportant to the plot and seemed minor compared to the other 1890 pages that worked. The characterization is rather weak due to the focus on jokes.
This is my favorite web comic of all time. The comic is the most crazy awesome thing I have ever read yet has good writing at the same time. I give it a five out of five.