Square-Enix Announces Final Fantasy VII Remake


Need I say more?

Well, there’s not much to say just yet. The announcement was just made at E3 yesterday. The good news is that, while it’s coming out on the Playstation 4 first, Square-Enix imply that it will be available on multiple platforms eventually. Since I only play PC games, that’s pretty sweet news to me. As far as staff goes, the trailer credits Yoshinori Kitase as producer, Tetsuya Nomura as director, and Kazushige Nojima as writer. This maintains a decent bit of continuity. Original producer Hironobu Sakaguchi is long gone, but Nojima it maintaining his role as writer from the original PSX Final Fantasy VII while Kitase is switching seats from director to producer. Nomura will be the wildcard. He was involved in character design in the original, but he didn’t make his directing debut until Kingdom Hearts.

The bad news is, well, Square-Enix have not exactly been batting 1000 lately. They’ve earned a bad reputation over the past decade or so for rushing products, pushing quantity over quality, and releasing sham smartphone games mainly designed to gouge your wallet. It would be nice to think that a remake of the legendary Final Fantasy VII will receive an extra dose of attention. I mean, in all likelihood this game’s going to make more waves than the upcoming Final Fantasy XV. But considering the original release of Final Fantasy XIV was so terrible that the company issued multiple public apologies, it might be wise to wait for early reviews to trickle in before getting your hopes too high. The narration in the trailer feels hopelessly contrived to me, and that’s not a good foot to start on.

I’m still waiting to learn whether or not the most important staff member returns for this one though: Nobuo Uematsu!

Jurassic Art


This weekend, Jurassic World’s opening of $511.8 million was the biggest of all time.  It was also the first time that a film has generated over $500 million in a single weekend.  People have always loved and been fascinated by dinosaurs.  If you need further proof, check out the dinosaur paintings below!

Agathaumus by Charles R. Knight

Agathaumus by Charles R. Knight

Brontosaurus by Charles R. Knight

Brontosaurus by Charles R. Knight

Leaping Laelaps by Charles R. Knight

Leaping Laelaps by Charles R. Knight

Double Death by Robert Nicholls

Double Death by Robert Nicholls

By Ray Harryhausen

By Ray Harryhausen

Dinosaur Community Policeman Helping Youngster by Martin Davey

Dinosaur Community Policeman Helping Youngster by Martin Davey

Dinosaur Fun Playing Volleyball On A Beach Vacation by Martin Davey

Dinosaur Fun Playing Volleyball On A Beach Vacation by Martin Davey

Dinosaur Mum Out Shopping With Son by Martin Davey

Dinosaur Mum Out Shopping With Son by Martin Davey

Wildlife Photographer by Bob Orsillo

Wildlife Photographer by Bob Orsillo

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #122: Calvary (dir by John Michael McDonagh)


Calvary_movieposterCalvary was probably the best movie of 2014 that you did not see in a theater.  I missed seeing it during its brief theatrical run in the States.  If I had seen it when it was originally released, my list of the best films of 2014 would have been far different.  Calvary is an amazing film that takes a serious and intelligent look at issues of faith, morality, guilt, and absolution.  It is one of the best films about Catholicism that I’ve ever seen.

The film, which was written and directed by John Michael McDonagh (who previously gave us The Guard), tells the story of an Irish priest, Father James (Brendan Gleeson).  During confession, an unseen parishoner tells James about the horrific sexual abuse that he suffered as a child.  The parishoner explains that the priest who abused him has since died so the parishoner plans to get his revenge on the Catholic Church by killing James.  He tells James to meet him on the beach next Sunday.  He also informs James that his death will mean more because James is a “good man.”

The rest of the film follows James over the course of what could be the last week of his life and we watch as James struggles to fulfill his priestly duties in a world that seems to be moving further and further away from the Church.  While everyone seems to come to him with their problems and their questions, few people seem to share James’s faith and James is often left to wonder whether he’s doing any good at all.

For instance, when he confronts the local butcher (Chris O’Dowd) for beating his wife, the butcher refuses to admit that he did anything wrong.  When he goes to prison and talks to a serial killer (Freddie Joyce) who wants forgiveness, James replies that he can’t be forgiven because he feels no guilt.  The local millionaire (Dylan Moran) offers to donate money to the church but also confesses that he made his money through illegal means.  A local doctor, a hedonistic, cocaine-snorting atheist played by Aiden Gillen, takes perverse pleasure in taunting James for caring about death.  When James attempts to talk to a local girl, the girl’s father accuses him of being a pedophile.  When the local church catches on fire, nobody in the village seems to care.  And finally, one night, James returns home to discover that someone has murdered his beloved dog.

And yet, there are good moments as well.  James prays with a woman (Marie-Josee Croze) who has just lost her husband.  James gets chance to bond with his emotionally unstable daughter, Fiona (Kelly Reilly).  James successfully counsels a troubled young man (Killian Scott) and befriends an American writer (M. Emmett Walsh).

And, as Sunday approaches, James is forced to decide whether to leave his parish or to go to the beach.

Calvary is a great film, one that consistently takes you by surprise and forces you to think.  In many ways, James serves as a stand-in for the entire Catholic Church.  He’s made mistakes, he’s been battered, and he struggles with doubt.  And yet, at the same time, he is still capable of doing so much good.  Calvary is one of the best Catholic films ever made.

And it also features Brendan Gleeson’s best performance to date.  That is truly saying something because Brendan Gleeson is one of our greatest actors.  Gleeson is onscreen for every minute of Calvary and his emotional and, at times, warmly humorous performance is an amazing thing to behold.  When we first see James, he’s a weary and burned-out man.  Over the course of the week (and the film), he goes from being frightened to angry to sad to eventually achieving a state of grace.

It’s a great performance in a great film.

You may have missed Calvary in 2014.

Don’t miss it again.

Embracing The Melodrama Part II #121: No Good Deed (dir by Sam Miller)


No_Good_Deed_2014_movie_posterSo, this weekend, my BFF Evelyn and I were watching the critically reviled 2014 film No Good Deed.  As we watched Idris Elba (playing the role of Colin) viciously and violently choke to death a character played by Kate del Castillo, Evelyn said, “He can strangle me any time that he wants.”  My first instinct was to reprimand my friend and remind her that it’s not empowering to allow a man to murder you, regardless of how unbelievably sexy that man may be.  But then, by the time that Idris was murdering Leslie Bibb, I found myself agreeing.  Seriously, Idris Elba can do anything he wants to me….

Idris is pretty much the only reason to see No Good Deed.  No Good Deed is one of those crappy suspense films where every plot point hinges on someone acting like a total idiot.  Colin escapes from prison.  Colin murders his ex-fiancee after he discovers that she’s been cheating on him.  Later, Colin crashes his truck outside of the house of Terri Granger (Taraji P. Henson).  Terri’s husband is out-of-town and when Colin shows up at her doorstop and asks to use the phone to call for a tow truck, Terri invites him inside.  Terri’s friend Meg (Leslie Bibb) shows up.  Mayhem follows.  Of course, there’s a big twist at the end.

This is where I’d usually say something like, “DON’T REVEAL THE SURPRISE ENDING OF NO GOOD DEED!” but, honestly, you’ll figure it out within the first few minutes of the film.  It’s pretty obvious and it’s pretty stupid.  I won’t reveal it but if you see the film, feel free to tell all your friends about the big twist.  Some films were meant to be spoiled.

As I watched No Good Deed and found myself hissing at the terrible dialogue and the total stupidity of all of the characters and wondering if any of the filmmakers had ever actually met any real human beings, I found myself wondering how this film could be so incredibly bad.  I hopped onto the imdb and discovered that the film was written by Aimee Lagos.

If you don’t recognize that name, Lagos also wrote and directed the absolutely terrible movie, 96 Minutes.  And I will say this: No Good Deed is slightly better than 96 Minutes.

That’s the power of Idris Elba.

(Incidentally, it bothers me that nobody in this film is actually named Deed.  If Colin’s full name had been Colin Deed … well, that would have been pretty stupid but it would have at least been kinda fun and entertaining.)

(Also, for those keeping track, that’s 121 reviews down and 5 to go.)

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #120: We Need To Talk About Kevin (dir by Lynne Ramsay)


We Need To Talk About KevinThis is a historic occasion!

Two months and one week ago, I started on this journey that we call Embracing the Melodrama, Part II.  At the time, I announced that I would be reviewing 126 film melodramas and that I would get it all done in 3 weeks.  Well, I was 6 weeks off as far as the timing was concerned but I am going to reach the 126 mark.

(And then I’m going to pass out and sleep for a year…)

We started this series by taking a look at the 1927 silent classic Sunrise and now, 119 reviews later, we have reached the disturbing 2011 film, We Need To Talk About Kevin.

We Need To Talk About Kevin tells the story of Eva (Tilda Swinton).  Eva was once a very successful travel writer, who explored the world and lived a life of total independence and sophistication.  Now, however, she has a demeaning job at a travel agency.  She lives in a dilapidated house that is the frequent target of vandals.  Everyone in town views her as a pariah, either deliberately avoiding her or greeting her with open hostility.

You see, Eva is the mother of a teenager named Kevin (Ezra Miller) who is currently in prison.  One day, Kevin locked all of his high school classmates in the gym and, using a bow and arrow set that was given to him by his father, Franklin (John C. Reilly), Kevin proceeded to kill or maim them all, one-by-one.  When Kevin finally surrendered to police, he looked over at his mother and he smirked.

We Need To Talk About Kevin unfolds in flashback as Eva looks back on her former life and tries to understand how her son could do something so evil.  From the time that Kevin was a baby, Eva suspected that there was something wrong with her son and found it impossible to bond with him.  While Franklin spoiled him and refused to accept that there was ever anything wrong, Eva went the opposite direction.  When Eva became more and more convinced that Kevin was evil, Franklin refused to listen to her.

And, make no mistake about it, Kevin is evil.  For the majority of the film, he is one of the most evil characters that you’ve ever seen.  (It’s even suggested — though thankfully never shown — that he may have deliberately blinded his little sister.)  We, like Eva, wonder if Kevin was born evil or if he became evil as the result of the way he was raised but there’s no doubt that he’s evil.

And then, one day, Eva goes to visit her son in prison and we see a different Kevin.  Kevin is about to turn 18, which means that he’ll be transferred to an adult prison.  Kevin admits that he’s scared.  In this scene, the cocky and hateful Kevin is one.  This new Kevin has shaved off his previously unruly mop of hair.  His face is bruised and he has a cut above his eye, suggesting that, within the walls of the justice system, he’s no longer the attacker but instead the one being attacked.  He no longer smirks or glares at his mother.  Instead, he looks lost and vulnerable.

And, at first, I actually felt sorry for Kevin when I saw that scene.  I guess it was maybe my own maternal instinct coming out or maybe my own tendency to feel compassion for those who have no freedom.  But, at that moment, I felt as if maybe Kevin finally understood that what he did was wrong.  Just like Tilda Swinton’s Eve, I suddenly felt compassion for this hateful creature…

Until, of course, it occurred to me that the only time that Kevin showed any fear or regret was when it came to his own situation.  As scared as Kevin is, Kevin never expresses any regret over what he did.  Instead, he’s scared for himself and upset that he no longer has control of his situation.  Though the film never states it, that’s classic sociopath behavior.  (One is reminded of the BTK Killer, who unemotionally talked about those he killed but then cried when talked about having to spend the rest of his life in prison.)

At that point, I realized that Kevin hadn’t changed at all.  Much like Eve, I wanted to believe that Kevin had changed because that, at least, would give the story some sort of closure.  But, unfortunately, the Kevins of the world can never change.  We may not know how someone like Kevin is created, whether he’s born evil or becomes evil due to circumstances.  But we do know that evil can never change.  That’s the burden that both Eve and the audience must carry.

We Need To Talk About Kevin is a lot like Million Dollar Baby.  It’s well-directed and fiercely well-acted but, at the same time, it’s so sad and disturbing that I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to watch it again.  There are a few moments of very dark humor, mostly connected to just how oblivious everyone, with the exception of Eve, is to Kevin’s evil.  But make no mistake, this is a seriously dark film.

(For those keeping track, that’s 120 reviews down and 6 to go.)

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #119: Shutter Island (dir by Martin Scorsese)


Shutter IslandThe 2010 film Shutter Island finds the great director Martin Scorsese at his most playful.

Taking place in 1954, Shutter Island tells the story of two detectives, Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio, giving an excellent performance that, in many ways, feels like a test run for his role in Inception) and Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo, also excellent), who take a boat out to the Ashecliffe Hospital for The Criminal Insane, which is located on Shutter Island in Boston Harbor.  They are investigating the disappearance of inmate Rachel Solando, who has been incarcerated for drowning her three children.

Ashecliffe is one of those permanently gray locations, the type of place where the lights always seem to be burned out and the inmates move about like ghostly visions of sins brought to life.  It’s the type of place that, had this movie been made in the 50s or 60s, would have been run by either Vincent Price or Peter Cushing.  In this case, the Cushing role of the cold and imperious lead psychiatrist is taken by Ben Kingsley.  Max Von Sydow, meanwhile, plays a more flamboyantly sinister doctor, the role that would have been played by Vincent Price.

When a storm strands Teddy and Chuck on the island, they quickly discover that neither the staff nor the patients are willing to be of any help when it comes to tracking down Rachel.  As Teddy continues to investigate, he finds himself stricken by migraines and haunted by disturbing images.  He continually sees a mysterious little girl.  He has visions of his dead wife (Michelle Williams).  A horribly scarred patient in solitary confinement (Jackie Earle Haley) tells him that patients are regularly taken to a lighthouse where they are lobotomized.  When Teddy explores more of the island, he comes across a mysterious woman living in a cave and she tells him of even more sinister activity at Ashecliffe.  Meanwhile, Chuck alternates between pragmatic skepticism and flights of paranoia.

And I’m not going to share anymore of the plot because it would be a crime to spoil Shutter Island.  This is a film that you must see and experience for yourself.

This is one of Martin Scorsese’s most entertaining films, an unapologetic celebration of B-movie history. He knows that he’s telling a faintly ludicrous story here and, wisely, he embraces the melodrama.  Too many directors would try to bring some sort of credibility to Shutter Island by downplaying the film’s more melodramatic moments.  Scorsese, however, shows no fear of going over the top.  He understands that this is not the time to be subtle.  This is the time to go a little crazy and that’s what he does.

Good for him.

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #118: The Kids Are All Right (dir by Lisa Cholodenko)


Kids_are_all_right_poster

Dare I admit to thinking that the 2010 best picture nominee The Kids Are All Right is overrated?

The Kids Are All Right tells the story of Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore), married lesbians in Los Angeles.  The pragmatic Nic is an obstetrician while the more flighty Jules has a landscaping business.  They also have two children, Laser (Josh Hutcherson) and Joni (Mia Wasikowska).  When Laser and Joni decide to track down their anonymous sperm donor father, the trail leads to Paul (Mark Ruffalo), who owns an organic restaurant.  (Of course, he does…)  After Paul meets Nic and Jules, he eventually ends up having an affair with Jules, which threatens the family’s stability.

It’s been five years since the film first came out and, as a result, I think it’s easy to forgot what a big deal The Kids Are All Right was back in 2010.  It got a lot of attention for being both a film about a lesbian couple and a box office success.  To a certain extent, every LGBT-themed film to come out since owes a debt of gratitude to The Kids Are All Right for proving that audiences are willing to see films with LGBT characters.  As well, the film’s box office success was an early sign of the growing support for the legalization of gay marriage.  The Kids Are All Right can make a very valid claim to being a landmark film.

But, once you look past the film’s historic importance, it doesn’t hold up as well as you might hope.  The performers are all good, especially Annette Bening.  The film’s script also has a lot of good lines.  However, it also has a lot of lines that feel just a little bit too glib and obvious.  It’s not surprising that HBO considered turning The Kids Are All Right into a TV series because the entire movie really does feel like an above average episode of an hourly drama.  Lisa Cholodenko’s visually flat direction also feels more appropriate for television than for the big screen.

As much as I hate to admit it, I’d probably be more into The Kids Are All Right if the characters were a little less wealthy.  If you can look past the fact that this is a movie about a happy lesbian marriage being threatened by a clueless straight guy, you discover that The Kids Are All Right is essentially just another movie about rich white people with problems.

I guess my problem with The Kids Are All Right can be summed up by the scene where Jules fires her Mexican gardener because she suspects that he’s seen her with Paul.  The scene is largely played for laughs and, after the gardener has lost his job, he’s never seen again.  At one point, Jules does say that she feels guilty for firing him but again, the scene is played for laughs.  The film asks us to laugh with the rich white characters and to laugh at the one non-rich non-white.

The Kids Are All Right is a historically important film but that’s not necessarily the same thing as being a great film.