Zelda – 25 Years of Greatness

Zelda. The very name conjures up so many images. Oddly enough, most of them are of Link. Say Zelda and almost anyone will know what you’re talking about. Whether new fans of games like Twilight Princess for the Wii, Phantom Hour Glass for the DS, somewhat older fans of the classics Ocarina of Time (which is even being re-released with added difficulty and other changes because of its lasting greatness) and Majora’s Mask for the Nintnedo64, or if its for the nostalgia, hardcore gamers of yore, playing The Legend of Zelda or Zelda II: The Adventures of Link for the ancient 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), people love these games. Even some have started playing them from their NES years and followed them all the way into the next generation systems. These games are great. They’ve instilled in our hearts a sense of adventure, excitement, and fantasy. It was created by Shigeru Miyamoto when he was a 33-year-old video game designer (who’s responsible for many infamous titles including Mario, Donkey Kong, and Star Fox). In 1985, The Legend of Zelda was released in Japan, and then eighteen months later in the United States. When I bring up the title screen I see “copyright 1986,” and note this game was released in the states the year I was born. These games are older than I, and there’s many good reasons they’ve survived all these years with game after game after game. In celebration of this great milestone, I want to go back and express my nostalgic gratitude for the original NES games (The Legend of Zelda and Zelda II: The Adventures of Link), as well as break them down as games. This entry will be on the first Zelda game to reach our homes: The Legend of Zelda.

Let me start off by saying: I love this game. My brothers and I spent hours in my room playing it to no end. My dad forced us out of the room one afternoon because we spent our entire weekend listening to Silverchair’s Frogstomp and playing The Legend of Zelda. I remember having to kill myself to save the game as the song “Suicidal Dream” conveniently came on. There’s a wonderful nostalgia to it, as well as a strength in its feeling of adventure and excitement. The music is classic, and some of the sounds have survived, to this day, into the later games. Everyone knows that sound when you unlock a secret, the song of the Overworld, or Gannon’s stupid laugh when you die. With a plethora of different enemies, areas, and labyrinth-like levels, it’s no wonder this game was so popular. This was also one of the first games to introduce the ability to save your progress. To this point, beating a game seemed damn near impossible, and not just because of the absurd difficulty, but because you couldn’t walk away. You either had to beat it in one sitting or accept that you were just going to be playing the first four levels over and over. Zelda gave a big fuck you to that, and gave you the hope that if you were stubborn enough, committed enough, you could beat this goddamn game and show the world you could accomplish something. And with a game this hard, it is damn satisfying to see that end screen–even if it isn’t the most elaborate thing.

Now on my replay of this game, it wasn’t just about nostalgia for me. It was also about reliving the experience. One thing, however, that I wanted to change from my childhood, was that I didn’t want to be sitting next to my Nintendo Power Magazine staring down all the screen shots and arrows directing me to the next level, to all the necessary items, and reading every piece of strategy before I even played the game. I wanted to venture through this game on my own, lost in the big wide Overworld, overrun with all of Gannon’s foul monsters. As I played, at first my wandering was enough, but then I found myself relying on my memories, and finally, I found myself engulfed in utter tedium having to go back and forth onto a screen so I could use my blue candle on a different bush. I quickly realized something: it’s impossible to beat this game without a FAQ, Walkthrough, YouTube Video, or Nintendo Power Magazine. At first this was really disheartening for me, and I felt kind of weak. Then when I discovered the plethora of help available on the internet, I realized it wasn’t just me. People realize this game BEGS for a Walkthrough. When I played it as a kid with the Nintendo Power, sure I probably over used it, but regardless, I still needed the thing to beat the game. To beat the game without it would take–sincerely–months of regular playing. Running out of bombs, buying/finding new bombs, back and forth on screens to use the blue candle on every suspicious bush, blowing the whistle every where, etc. As far as my personal feelings: this cheapens the experience. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, however, Nintendo thrived on these kinds of games and obviously there was some really exciting elements to the secretive aspect of the game. It really did give you an added feeling of danger and adventure. Of course, sometimes it felt pretty stupid when you finally found a hidden staircase and some old man forces you to pay for his bush or rock of a door.

Seriously? How much does it cost to push another rock? Can’t you find a seed for a bush? How do you get outside without catching the place on fire? Could you imagine having to bomb your way out of your house? WTF?! It’s a little nitpicky, but when you’re playing this game, you’re playing it for a while, and you’re going to be venturing all over the place, and if you’re not looking for help, you’re going to come across these pricks occasionally, and you’re going to feel the same way I did.

So aside from needing help simply to find essential items to the gameplay (power bracelet, blue ring, master sword, magical sword, most of the levels, etc.), the game has a few other things that would really not work for the average kid, especially the ones with ADD. Getting rupees is a huge problem. The second one eliminates this all together, and the later games introduce stealing and just cutting grass, but in this game it’s still super tedious. You have to walk around the Overworld and levels simply killing enemies and hoping that they drop a rupee or possibly a five-in-one rupee. If you go hunting you can find the famous Moblin–i.e. “It’s a secret to everybody”–and you’ll get anywhere from ten to one hundred rupees. The problem with this is if you’re simply hunting the Moblins you’ll also find the Old Men who claim bushes and rock-faces are their doors and you need to pay the fee, even though they never replace them. So sometimes you’ll take hits, and ultimately the search is tedious unless you have a walkthrough that tells you where they are. Hunting money can get extremely frustrating for other reasons, when Like-Like’s eat your magic shield or how Zola constantly reappears on nearly every screen with water, even if you killed it on that screen and all the other enemies haven’t respawned there, yet.

Aside from the game’s requirement of tedium as well as extreme patience, it has a few other nit-picky shortcomings. Most of the enemies charge you, requiring the constant use of the boomerang to stun them, because all the enemies know they can just run into you and take your health. The invincibility you get after being hit doesn’t last long enough and you may got knocked into a corner and hit three times before you have an opportunity to recover. The enemies have better hit detection against you than you have against them, with the boomerang and sword, so often times you could think you’ve stunned them or should have stabbed them, but it doesn’t work and then they run into you and you have to start the closing in process all over again. The candle, though a cool-looking weapon, can only be used once per screen (until the Red Candle in level 7), and even though it knocks most enemies back, it doesn’t do decent damage. It gets extremely annoying when going through levels and every other room is “dark” and needs to be lit up with the candle. Most of the time you don’t have the candle out, and so you have to tediously pause the game, pull out the candle, light the room, and then the weapon is useless for that screen so you need to pause again and replace it with something like the bow or boomerang. This gets old when you’re lost in a level trying to find the special item, returning to dark rooms or if you accidentally back into a bombed opening. I think I should just simply say: Blue Wizzrobes. That really should be enough for any hardcore gamer. Sometimes a room is cluttered with eight blue Darknuts, a stone statue in each of the four corners, and sometimes even a few Bubbles. The screen is so overwhelmed the game begins to glitch and slow, the Darknuts are extremely tedious as is, and while constantly being berated by the stone statue fireballs which, between four, can only be avoided more than blocked, and sometimes getting run into an unbeatable Bubble where you can’t use your sword temporarily, the screen becomes a frustrating mess. It gets worse in the Second Quest when Bubbles can be defined blue or red, and red ones make sword use permanently disabled unless you run into a blue one, or get a Triforce shard (I discovered once). This is horrible. Sometimes rooms are filled only with red ones, and finding a blue one can get hard, all the while you’re traveling without your main and most valued weapon (I mean, it’s not switchable, it’s always A). Nothing is more frustrating than having to chase down the one blue Bubble in a room of three red ones and a sea of blue Darknuts. Sometimes I just kill myself.

Speaking of killing yourself, I mentioned how Zelda got the infinite continues right. Most will also notice that if you die at a specific level, you can continue and start at the beginning of the level, rather than where you start in the Overworld. I’ll admit this is convenient, but there’s one huge mistake in the game that still, to this day, I can’t seem to forgive: you start with three hearts. In what other game do you not start at full health? In what other game? Name one! NAME ONE! Yes, at the beginning of the game you have only three hearts, but you collect heart containers throughout. This is part of what makes the game an RPG (along with the blue ring, the swords, and collecting the special items that help you proceed further). And yet getting these heart containers, for whatever reason, doesn’t mean you get to start with that health. Oh no, you always stay starting with three. So, especially in the harder levels, and ultimately the entire Second Quest, continuing at a level is USELESS. Hearts and fairies rarely present themselves and usually by that point you’re simply trying hard just to keep up at three after having been hit so many times. This is one flaw that becomes so glaringly frustrating and obvious, so consistent as you’re constantly saving and coming back for later, constantly dying in the hard-as-hell levels where a continue is almost essential, that I can’t just let go. Everything else is forgivable, but I will forever hold a grudge on Zelda for making me think I could continue at a level, only to realize it’s not worth it. You’re simply better off starting at the main screen, going to the very nearby fairy to fill up your health, and then going back to the level. Might as well not have had that feature to continue at the beginning of the level. No, seriously.

Finally, the last nit-pick, some general inconsistencies. My least favorite is fireballs. With the magic shield, which is usually 130 rupees unless you know/cheat/find the special place for only 90, you can block fireballs. This becomes essential later into the game, and it’s a much nicer stroll across the Overworld when you can block Zola’s constant recurring annoyance. The problem, here, however, is that sometimes fireballs can’t be blocked. Even if they look exactly the same, animated with the exact same sprites. The game has little intricate inconsistencies of this nature that get really frustrating. Ultimately, it’s safe to say that if it’s not a regular villain, assume you can’t block the fire balls. Sometimes a glitch happens and Dodongos don’t eat the bomb. Generally, however, this isn’t the case, and the game is usually very consistent. So much so that even as the game gets harder, adds additional maze elements, bosses, etc., you can pick up on what must be done all on your own. Towards the end of the Second Quest, you’ll really start to come into your own and figure things out. And by then, even though you’re almost through, you’ll be accidentally beating levels and finding items, and if anything, the Second Quest Level Nine is anti-climactic. That being said, you just played a hell of a game, and you should feel accomplished. It wasn’t easy getting there and it won’t be easy the next thirty times you play it.

So that’s it for my replay of The Legend of Zelda for the Nintendo Entertainment System. And despite my nitpicks, it’s truly an amazing game. There’s no doubt I loved it and played it as a kid, and it’s no doubt thousands did as well. And when Zelda moved into 3D with The Ocarina of Time on the Nintendo64 (a blog for another time), it was truly seamless. It’s like he belonged there. And each game learned from its predecessors successes and failings. Each game experimented with the basics, the game play, the RPG elements, and found what worked the best and what fans loved most. Though this first game doesn’t let you go back through the game with all your leveled-up power (like many RPG games like to do now-a-days), Zelda II: The Adventures of Link, definitely bring this into play. Nintendo truly is proud and excited about such a great series that has spawned an elaborate Wikipedia page, it’s own Zeldapedia, Zeldawiki, Zelda Universe, Zelda Dungeon,, and of course it’s own website, it’s clear how gamers and fans feel. And even though the game experiments with gameplay, RPG, and story, it always stirs in us a sense of adventure and excitement, expands our imaginations and concepts of a completely different fantasy, romantic world. Thank you, Shigeru Miyamoto, and leave your timelines be damned.

Next Week: Be Ready for some more Zelda! Oh? Could it be? One of the most controversial of the series? That’s right! Some strange side-scrolling Zelda-action in The Adventures of Link!


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Star Trek (2009) – Successes and Shortcomings

Star Trek (2009) was released into theaters on May 8th, 2009. Despite my own personal reaction to it, it’s received a very impressive 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s not to say that Star Trek (2009) isn’t a good movie. It has some great action, interesting characters, and implements a nice dose of fan service to all the old and young die-hard fans of the old TV show. It’s no wonder J.J. Abrams, co-creator and director of the hit TV show LOST and one of my personal favorite shows of all time, would be picked to direct this film. Being a sci-fi nerd himself, and the show LOST even having references to Star Trek in it, aside from being a science fiction show, J.J. Abrams made a reputation for himself that fit the bill for a reboot of the shattered Star Trek feature film franchise.

I have to admit, as much as I love J.J. Abrams and even enjoyed Star Trek (2009), this movie is cluttered with plot holes, repetitive action, and poorly developed character arcs. I know it is rather bold to say, but the 94% on Rotten Tomatoes and the ultimate reverence from film critics around is short-sighted and, dare I say, unfair. The film begins with a very interesting start and development for Spock, and follows through rather well until the end, where he is in no way truly forced to face many of his inner demons. Kirk’s character is changed much from his original form. No longer is he truly a skilled leader with a natural inclination to lead The Enterprise, he’s a punk kid, albeit intelligent, who eventually “enlists” in Star Fleet because Captain Pike told him to. And then for some reason he has this motivation to not only join Star Fleet, but to be captain in three years. Perhaps if we actually understood his motivation, or at least felt it, it would be satisfying when he made it. The other characters, including Uhura, Sulu, Bones, Scotty, and Chekov, are all taken from their base characterization and amplified time a thousand. This, however, I find to be good aspect of the film as it made it much more enjoyable and idealized the importance of what it takes to be on such a ship as The Enterprise. It makes it an exceptional ship rather than a normal ship, which is great fanservice as it is more important to the fans. It also makes the characters more engaging and gives them each “their thing” so that newcomers can tell everyone apart easily.

Though Spock is well-built, the follow through in the final action sequence is squandered. At no point does his logic/emotion conflict come to a head after he has a talk with his father. Spock never has to make a decision on his own about this very inherent Star Trek conflict. Though the writers’ did find ways, albeit cheap, to finish both Kirk’s and Spock’s arcs as well as their friendship arc. All of this is in result of none other than: Leonard Nimoy–I mean Spock Prime. In fact, Spock Prime is what is used to complete almost all the standard story-telling techniques. Before I go into this, it is important to point out that it was smart for them to get Nimoy to show up in this film. It’s unfortunate to say, but William Shatner’s reputation as an actor and presence in certain Star Trek films (i.e. Generations), as well as his presence in things such as American Psycho II, left a certain taint on the memory of the classic Kirk. It was also wise because to have both Shatner and Nimoy would have taken away from the new, younger cast (Chirs Pine as Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Spock).

So as I said, it’s a good idea to bring in Nimoy, and better than bringing in both Nimoy and Shatner, and definitely better not bringing in Shatner–though he was upset about not being included. Anyway, Spock Prime, though a great fan service element, is too central to the plot for the story arc to end up having the payoff it wishes to have. In a standard story, the first act sets things up, and introduces a problem. Star Trek (2009) did this very well. The second act is where the characters go through the drama, the significant difficulties, but then overcome it for the third act, where everyone sets out together to tackle the problem. I’m not saying all films should be forced to follow this structure, but most do and it’s a tried and true method. And for a film like Star Trek (2009), trying to reboot a fallen, cursed franchise and bring in the masses while not alienating the fans, one should stick to the safe and powerful structure. Instead, act two is littered with coincidence after coincidence, resulting in Kirk meeting Spock Prime who sets up the friendship arc by pointing out how they are/will be friends, ruins the difficulties by instead giving Kirk everything he needs, which includes Scotty (Simon Pegg) who just happens to also be on this planet. Sometimes a coincidence is forgivable, or even a device used since ancient Greece, the “Deus Ex Machina” (Machine of the Gods). But when Kirk “happens” upon Spock Prime, who “happens” to be on the same planet as Scotty who “happens” to have the necessary beaming technology, the hand is overplayed and underwhelming. It also cheapens the arc for the characters to pull together, prepare, and go back and face the problem. Spock Prime is used, however cheaply, to attempt to finish Spock’s character arc. Though not very satisfying, it is nice that the writers’ at least attempted to accomplish this. But because the second act was ruined, the third act lost much of its payoff. Even in the action element.

The shortcomings in the action element are due to too much action and intensity earlier, as well as the failure in following through on the character arcs. If the story had built to better character climaxes during the final action sequence, it wouldn’t have mattered that the action was already over bearing. In the first confrontation with Nero (the end of the first act), the characters split up into three plot lines: (Captain Pike, Kirk, and Spock). This is only halfway through the film and the action is spread out three ways already. So when the action at the end is split three ways, it’s not as important or intense. It also doesn’t help Kirk and Spock with the friendship plot line when they are split up on the mission and thus don’t really get to show their growth into a friendship, which is already cheapened because of Spock Prime showing up and telling Kirk they’re friends. This is classic “telling” rather than “showing.” Basic writing flaws.

It is important to point out, however many flaws, that this film did what it wanted to do: reboot a fallen franchise and make it expansively profitable. And to its credit: it did just that. It did not alienate fans and it brought in many new viewers. If thinking from a purely production standpoint, this film is a success. Most importantly, it didn’t take any risks. And why should it? It needed to be as safe and malleable as possible in order to make the franchise worth rebooting in the first place. Though successful in its goals, the critical response has been, to me, still utterly shocking. To pretend a film is complete or perfect simply because it accomplished its goals is to leave the New Trilogy of Star Wars alone, as well. However, on Rotten Tomatoes, they received 62%, 67%, and 80%. And furthermore, many of the plot holes in the film (creating a black hole in our solar system, glass cracking on the view screen and the fact that the ship didn’t position itself farther away, Spock’s mother being ten feet in front of everyone else so she can fall and die, etc.) could have been easily fixed in a manner of minutes. An extra day or two spent on the script, a few more hours spent in editing, and these things would not have further alienated any audience members, but brought in more for those who enjoy consistency, believability, and re-watchability. As is, the film is an entertaining summer blockbuster, an enjoyable popcorn stuffing film, but it fails to reach beyond. Though it didn’t need to, it could have done so easily, and been much better and much more successful. I can only hope that if this franchise is continued, that it takes advantage of these lacking elements and makes a more solid film, now that they are less afraid of a risk or two. Though my point was not to take story-telling risks, rather–interestingly enough, to take less and to pull it together more solidly.

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Coming Soon

Coming later this week: A more concise review of Star Trek (2009), unlike my last one which was split into four parts: Overview, The Characters, The Plot, Themes and Motifs, The Tone, and Bitches. I’m also going to review Red Letter Media’s review of Star Trek (2009).

Be wary, this part is almost a half-hour long.

Also, I’m working on a huge project that will be coming towards the end of March or mid-April called: Why Everyone was Disappointed in Spiderman 3. I know it’s an easy target, but it’s something that I feel must be done, especially with the reboot coming out next year. There’s also a lot that hasn’t been said, and it’s not even five full years ago that it came out. Anyway, I already have about ten pages of material, but I’m still working on some more, and there’s still more that needs to be said. Once done, however, I’m not just going to post up in sections what was wrong. I’m attempting to put it into a lengthy video review much like Red Letter Media’s Plinkett-style reviews. Though I’m not interested in creating a character or doing any actual filming, I am attempting to accomplish the depth, insight, critical thinking, and thoroughness that those reviews have. To do a long blog entry wouldn’t be very satisfying, so I’m going to try and edit the footage of the films to really show my point. So it’s a new thing for me and we’ll see how it goes. Below I’ll give you a taste of some of the points I’ll be covering.

Here I discuss all the mistakes with Harry Osborn in the third film, and there are a lot more than you may already have in mind.

I think this is pretty obvious, but I go into some detail and accomplish painting a more accurate picture of the first two films but why they were better than the third.

So you know how I was saying this third film was just the last two all over again? Well, actually, it’s worse. You know why? Remember how Peter had to deal with vengeance right after his uncle died, and how through the second one he had to face the fact that he shirked responsibility when he could have easily stopped him, and then it came back to bite him in the ass? Then in the second one he had to own up to it to Aunt May. He dealt with some painful moments because of the complicated death of his uncle, but both films, though had Uncle Ben and Ghosty, they were building from one to the next, progressing the plot line and forcing the characters to grow. In this final installment we’re just rehashing and opening old wounds! WHAT KIND OF ASSHOLE JUST REOPENS OLD WOUNDS?! Oh…wait…I’m sorry…BUT THIS IS IMPORTANT! We dealt with Uncle Ben, we dealt with his killer, even if it was simple, even a little cheap, it had its time. And now, even though there’s no mention of this in the second movie, we’re going back and rewriting the first one. Isn’t enough that you’re fucking ruining the end of the trilogy? Do you really have to sully the good name of the first one? What are you, the fucking Saw sequels? STOP REWRITING THE OLD ONES YOU FUCKING UNORIGINAL ASSHOLES!

Below I’ll give you the trailer, to remind you what Sony wanted you to think the movie was about, vs. what the movie really was. (Note: Just look at how little Sandman is in this trailer and how much is covered with Venom, Harry, and Brock, yet note that the film is centered more on the prior and the latter are all peripheral.)

And that’s all I’ll give you for now. I’ll leave you the second clip of Red Letter Media’s Plinkett Review of Star Trek (2009). As you can tell with the first part, it’s long, so only watch if you’ve got another half hour to spend.


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C Me Dance – A Hilarious Mess

C Me Dance is a Christian film made by Producer/Writer/Director/Actor/Retard/Pastor Greg Robbins. It was released on April 3rd, 2009, with limited theater release. He has worked on quite a few other projects, mostly as a producer, and they’re all Christian-themed. The only thing you need to know: if they’re half as bad as C Me Dance, don’t bother.

C Me Dance is utterly horrific. It received a complete 0% on Rotten Tomatoes. You have to truly be a lazy, rushing filmmaker to make a film that’s this bad. The main character is a ballerina named Sheri, played by Christina DeMarco, another Christian Writer/Producer/Actor. The film begins with overwrought horror elements with a woman later established as Sheri’s mother driving in a panic from what can best be described as a Demon-Semi Tractor Trailer. Eventually the truck closes in and then the car is suddenly upside down and someone lights a fire under it. Then the film drags out an emotionless scene meant to be dramatic as the father tries to run to the car. This, my friends, is quite literally, only the beginning.

Rather than breakdown the entire film and everything that’s wrong with it, merely visit the IMDB page. The most frequently asked question is Is this film a satire, spoof of something, or some type of joke? The joke is that it’s not. The film tries to take itself very seriously, but hardly has a developed plot, let alone character development or decent acting. DeMarco is great to look at, but her acting consists of incessant and horrific blinking. Robbins stars himself as the father, only he got a much better-looking younger actor to play him as a young man, so its jarring when we see someone who doesn’t look anything remotely like the last guy we saw. The biggest problems are as follows: DeMarco clearly doesn’t know ballet, and where in something like Black Swan, a professional might notice mistakes made by Natalie Portman, the average viewer can’t tell. In C Me Dance, however, anyone can clearly tell why we are seeing only shots of feet doing ballet and then DeMarco’s face acting like she’s doing ballet. They were so lazy they didn’t even try to teach basic moves. The worst is during a ballet scene where we see her stunt double and she doesn’t even look remotely like DeMarco, and isn’t shot in ways where we may be fooled. Instead, we’re confused as to who we’re supposed to be watching and what the purpose is for this scene. Which leads me to the truly biggest problem: this film as ADD. A girl in the beginning has a foot problem that is then completely ignored as they run around the mall. In the span of five seconds we go from happy-at-the-mall, to coming-home-dad-looks-sad, to at-the-hospital-you-have-cancer-YOU-WILL-DIE! As if this isn’t enough of a plot line, the film gets distracted and Sheri develops powers. She’s also pointlessly attacked by kids from school that look older than their parents, only to “make them see god.” If this isn’t enough, suddenly the devil is “ticked off” and decides he’s going to “threaten” and “scare” and “manipulate” Sheri, in hopes to get her to stop spreading Jesus like HIV. I kid you not, all of this is in one film, and there’s still more.

My only guess is that this film was a brainchild of Greg Robbins, who thought if he added “sensational” elements haphazardly into a film, that it would draw in viewers who would then see the “deep” and “dramatic” Christian themes. A film that would send a Christian message to all the heathens. Instead, he created a film with too much in it and yet nothing going on. The worst part of the film is that there’s simply no tension. The devil is the most impotent devil ever on film. He has absolutely no power and is not a physical threat in anyway. To make matters worse, whenever Sheri is in trouble, all she needs to do is say something like, “I need a ride,” and then a creepy motorcyclist pulls up and says, “you need a ride.” And sexy Sheri with her busty chest gets on, and he doesn’t pull into an alleyway and rape the shit out of her and leave her for dead. Nope. He takes her exactly to where she needs to go.

To be honest, this film, as horrible as it is, is a laugh out loud riot. Get your friends together, make a drinking game out of it, crack jokes, laugh your ass off, and rewind some of the most unbelievable and poorly acted parts. Some people may still prefer Troll 2 back from 1990, but nineteen years later this film is truly a rival for funniest worst movie ever made. Others may bring up Tommy Wiseau’s The Room, but, quite frankly, that movie is so bad it’s most often boring than funny. C Me Dance will have you giggling and pissing your pants. The end is so melodramatic and stupid you’ll have tears streaming down your face–and not because you’ll find it sad. Your abdomen will ache. I guarantee it.

In fact, if you’re so bold, it’s both on Netflix Streaming and on YouTube. I’m also embedding it right here down below, in case you want just a little taste. I hope you enjoy it as much as my friends and I have.

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Red Letter Media Finally Meets Revenge of the Sith

Red Letter Media grew in immense popularity with the release of their review of The Phantom Menace. It was first released on YouTube in seven parts on December 10th, 2009, the first part to this date has accumulated over two and a half million views. Though Red Letter Media is made up of more than the Plinkett Reviews, it has become one of the main reasons they’re so well-known. They’re known as Plinkett Reviews because of a character known as Harry S. Plinkett, the name, though clearly a pun, is attached to a much more complicated character who reveals strange and dark aspects of himself during each review, including domestic violence, nearing 150 years of age, and an admitted offender of bestiality. Created by Mike Stoklasa, an independent filmmaker in Milwaukee, he gained a lot of press after The Phantom Menace (TPM) Review. It was reported on Slant Magazine, Blastr.com–a Syfy envisioned blog–Slash Film, and most famously on Aint It Cool in “Quint Renders a Verdict on THE PEOPLE VS. GEORGE LUCAS at SXSW.” Eventually it even spurred an absurdly lengthy 108-page rebuttal. Not to say that the reviews aren’t absurdly lengthy, but 108 pages? Really? Get an editor. It’s also not as approachable as a well-crafted, expertly-edited film. Put another way: Is it faster to watch a movie or to read a novel?

As their popularity grew, many were excited for their Attack of the Clones (AotC) Review, which was uploaded on YouTube April 3rd, 2010. Due to the elaborate nature of the reviews, both in material and video editing, the build up for those who discovered TPM Review early was intense. Again, Mike Stoklasa received a lot of attention for creating the character and, specifically, the reviews of Star Wars’ New Trilogy. Despite the lateness in these reviews, as The Phantom Menace was released on May 19th, 1999, ten years did not provide the insight that these reviews possess. Upon the release of the AotC Review, Stoklasa was interviewed again by the A.V. Club, giving him an opportunity to speak through his own voice. The AotC Review gained enough attention to even be discussed by The Huffington Post. On YouTube the video accumulated about one and a half million hits, though at this point Red Letter Media began hosting them on their own site, which is likely why it didn’t receive as many hits as its predecessor. At this point the review was so big that it even caused tension with Cartoon Network and Lucas Film with the first YouTube part being claimed as copyright infringement and being removed from YouTube, but after a large fan revolt and pointing out The Fair Use Policy, the video was allowed back on.

Finally, at the end of 2010, in time to celebrate with the new year, the Revenge of the Sith Review was released on December 31st, 2010. Though not on YouTube, the review stirred up additional reports from Filmmaker, a magazine on independent films, as well as on the A.V. Club again, Slash Film again, as well as ComicBookMovie.com and Nuke The Fridge.

Only having been out for about a month, now, I think it’s finally safe to give this review a little review. For starters, it’s the longest of the Review Trilogy, coming in at 110 minutes, TPM being only 70 minutes and AotC being 90. This final installment is nearly as long as A New Hope, and might as well be considered a feature film in itself. This all to say, the length is by no means a weakness. Once again, Stoklasa is very thorough and breaks down Revenge of the Sith, the New Trilogy of Star Wars, and George Lucas very well. These reviews would be too long if they were fanboy rants, but as you would see in many other reviews I’ve already linked to, this is not the case. In the review, Stoklasa intelligently breaks down even the use of the camera in the New Trilogy, and pinpoints subtle flaws that even the most thorough viewer and irate faboys have never found. The most important dialogue scenes–nay, almost all dialogue scenes–take place on a couch or by a bed, two people standing and talking, or one person getting up and walking. He plays example after example after example, reiterating his point and emphasizing its redundancy and the basic cinematography of shot-reverse shot film making. At times the review loses the Plinkett tone that had been so prevalent in the previous films. In the first review, it was perfectly subtle at times. “Obviously you’ve never suffocated a hooker who was stuck in your crawl space.” Other times it was a bit overwrought, like in his basement when the camera strangely and for no reason keeps panning back to a tied up hooker.

In the second review, AotC, the storyline got a little out of hand with “Nadine,” the same hooker from the first one. She appears at the end of most of the nine parts, with an alternate storyline progressing along with the review. Though a bit too much and taking away from the review, at times it had some strength, when Plinkett approaches Nadine with a trash bag, claiming she needs to see something, and then pulls out a bloody copy of Episode II: Attack of the Clones. (Which was sold on ebay, signed by Stoklasa and the actress who played the hooker, Jocelyn.) Not to mention one of my personal favorites, “…imagine if someone has dumped five different puzzles into a pile on the floor, mixed them all up, and told you to put them all back together in one hour or they were going to stuff you into an old fridge filled with flesh eating cockroaches.” Suddenly we’re gifted with a shot of two women in his basement over scattered puzzle pieces pleading “Why are you doing this to us?!” Only to have him respond, “Fifty nine minutes!” I have only to turn to some of my friends with my Plinkett impersonation and say, “Fifty nine minutes,” and we all erupt in laughter. Not to mention the analogy of both these aforementioned situations paints a dark and horrific picture that still somehow relates to the fans’ response to the New Trilogy. A line like “Why are you doing this to us?!” pleads the very same thing we did so many years ago when we watched these fuck fest films. Stoklasa relates us to tortured whores, and considering how much these films made…well, you get the idea.

For whatever minimal flaws these reviews may have, RotS has probably the fewest. As I said, the Plinkett-tone has almost completely fallen away, with only a few twisted jokes thrown in, though they don’t tie in as well with the review. A good example is Plinkett suddenly whispering, “I like to fuck my cat,” and then a horrifying clip representing this bestiality. Hilarious to us, and though it gives a metaphor for what these films have done to us, the viewers, especially to someone as obsessive as Plinkett, the power behind the metaphor isn’t as strong. At times it even feels as if the voice is different, not as dry or full of strange grammatical mistakes, “That don’t make no sense.” To add to this toned down element, they balanced what was too many bits with Nadine into three very solid scenes to end their much lengthier parts (now unhindered by YouTube’s ten-minute limitations). Though it’s fair to say the amount of jokes dwindled, I think it’s important to note that the insight doubled. Not only that, but many of the running gags, i.e. “and Kevin Bacon” or a reference to his ex-wife, were eliminated. Which, for me, was a relief. They were only funny the first time because they weren’t simply nostalgia gags, but a punch line, and though they had a little nostalgia value, it was not enough for them to keep them into the final installment. And for Stoklasa’s ability to recognize that: I thank you.

It is also a great end to an elaborate series, considering they are just reviews. Not counting the final Nadine skit in the reviews, it ends with Luke putting technology aside, using the force, and destroying the Death Star. What a better analogy to use than one that involves an allusion to the Old Trilogy? Though they weren’t perfect, they are far more iconic and linger in our hearts in a way that the New Trilogy deliberately waters down with diarrhea in order to sell it to as many groups of people as possible. And where the Old Trilogy started with a creative spark, the New Trilogy started with an emptiness in George Lucas’ wallet. These reviews may reopen some old wounds, but they sew them back up better than the fanboy rants and angry nerds ever could: with intellectual breakdown. These reviews provided a closure that had not yet been achieved. They discussed, in painstakingly accurate detail, everything that was wrong with these films. Whether or not you agree with every complaint, the overarching and most powerful points remain. It gave a voice to all those angry fans who couldn’t find the right words all those years ago, and could only express it in simplistic yells, “JAR JAR SUCKS!”

Plinkett has reviewed much more than what made it famous, including a more concise, twenty-minute Avatar Review, and a twenty-five minute Baby’s Day Out Review. This also doesn’t include the entire set of Star Trek: The Next Generation movies, which beautifully outline the sloppy action style of the films in stark comparison with their beautifully crafted episodes, as well as character contradictions (specifically in Picard). There were even articles written on some of the other reviews, including one by The Sly Oyster. Unfortunately, these reviews are not as noticed as those of the New Trilogy, left out entirely on Red Letter Media’s Wikipedia page.

Not only are there more reviews, but Red Letter Media has more films and accomplishments to offer. Their twitter page is a great source of advertisement as well as their Facebook page. They have three feature films including a new one released called Feeding Frenzy. It received numerous and positive reviews. There are also countless film shorts on the website, including my favorite: The United States of Nooooo!!!

Red Letter Media is painfully aware of its success with the reviews of the New Trilogy and how many of its fans are only of the surface. Some of their best videos to date are Plinkett talking to Palpatine (who is wearing sunglasses) where they draw attention to fans’ impatience for the Episode III review, starting with this one and becoming a recurring theme with a Christmas Episode and one where Plinkett shocks Palpatine with his review of Star Trek(2009). Plinkett and these reviews will remain infamous not only because of their popularity, even among celebrities such as Simon Pegg (Hot Fuzz, Star Trek) and the creator of LOST, Damon Lindelof, but also because of their insight. As Simon Pegg said using Twitter many times to promote Red Letter Media, the reviews are “effing brilliant.”

I’ll leave you with a link to several more articles below, knowing full well you’re not interested in reading everything I’ve linked to here in this entry. At the very least, check out Red Letter Media’s Website and Plinkett’s section with all his reviews. Though the Star Wars ones are the most famous, and this new one certainly is brilliant, do check out the others, which are also very good, though I will say he was a bit too nice to the newest Star Trek film, not digging into all the plot holes like he does for Star Wars, which seems unfair even if the film is significantly more entertaining. Nevertheless, they’re all very insightful and these reviews are a great example of intelligent analysis and some of the best critical thinking skills I’ve ever seen. Finally, as a friend of mine once said: “I don’t care if he never makes another review. He MUST keep talking to Palpatine!”

Some fans are embittered by the reviews. Though, really, whether or not you’re a fan of the New Trilogy, these films make you face the faults and demand that you admit your love is of the other world, not Lucas’ genius writing. Also, Plinkett even has his own YouTube page, though it is not viewed much and hasn’t been updated in three years. Even more recently, the Red Letter Media got attention from “The Totally Rad Show.” They are very excited and intrigued by them for good reason.

Finally, check out my earlier blog entry on the consolation of fans with Red Letter Media. A shorter, less thorough entry more focused on why fans of the New Trilogy shouldn’t hate Red Letter Media and their Plinkett Reviews.  Feel free to comment if you have any thoughts or questions.


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Welcome to Review Breakdown

A few simple things you should know if you’re interested in this blog:

It has a clone: It’s through blogger. I’ve taken a step outside of it to try and bring in more viewers.  Either way, I’m hoping to have my voice heard.

As far as film reviews are concerned, I can get vaguely vulgar and very opinionated, but I assure you I will provide you interesting and factual information in the process.  I’m interested being both informative and opinionated.  With that in my mind, I have a rating system from best to worst respectively: Worship It, Shelve It, Buy It, Rent It, and Trash It.  A more detailed explanation is at the bottom.

I also review video games, and sometimes even reviews themselves (just a teensy bit meta).  The purpose is to hold everyone responsible for their creative work, even if it is just in the way we talk about other creative work.  Creative work on creative work about creative work?  WHAT THE HELL

Finally: please comment.  Any feedback is helpful, even if it is vulgar berating.  The point is to get people thinking and to get people talking.  Hopefully the best outcome will be the more commonplace: people forming an informed opinion of their own.

Worship It: This film is beyond simply good or important for your collection.  This film is a holy artifact and needs an elaborate shrine with incense and possibly even a means of copulating with it.  (EXAMPLE: The Dark Knight)

Shelve It: Though not worth your sacrifices and homages, it is definitely worth putting in your obviously elaborate library for historical and referential purposes.  It has value as a progression in film history.  (EXAMPLE: Slumdog Millionaire)

Buy It: A fun film you’ll watch over and over again either by yourself or with the family.  Something you can pop in the DVD or Bluray player or Xbox 360 and just eat popcorn while some people pay attention and others distractedly chat about something dull like politics.  (EXAMPLE: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World)

Rent It: This is just something you need to see, mostly out of curiosity or for a few small intellectual reasons, and then you need to give back to your friend or return it to Netflix because you’re really not interested in watching it ever again.  Nor should you.  You just wanted to keep up to date on pop culture or see some stuff go boom.  (EXAMPLE: Transformers)

Trash It: Sometimes you’re just better off not wasting your time.  Sometimes your better off going for hike or reading a book.  Sometimes your better off subjecting yourself to horrible unsatisfying torture than watching a crappy film Hollywood didn’t even like when it decided to make it, let alone when they released straight to DVD.  And this isn’t the same as watching a shitty horror movie for laughs, this film isn’t even bad funny.  It’s just shit.  (EXAMPLE: Vampires Suck)

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