Thursday, April 6, 2017

Best of the Best: 2011

More movie poster should look like this. Less actors, more art.

Year: 2011
Movie: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2
Game: Kirby's Return to Dreamland
Album: Unto the Locust by Machine Head
Song: Darkness Within by Machine Head

2011 wasn't a great year for movies. A Green Hornet film came out, a project long in the making, that I feel would have been awesome if it had starred Stephen Chow of Kung Fu Soccer fame, as it was originally supposed to. At one point it was even linked to Jet Li. But the movie that finally did come out, while not terrible, starred Seth Rogen, and some Korean pop star, and honestly it just kind of came off like a Seth Rogen film. Didn't really live up to the spirit of the Green Hornet. Sticking with the Green theme, Green Lantern was also pretty bad. Which is too bad, because the character and concept are pure gold, but they miscast Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan (really miscast), and the film in general just wasn't very good, with a terrible villain. Spielberg made a Tin Tin film, which I appreciate, but I felt the film itself was too....I don't know...busy. I just didn't like it as much as I had hoped I might. There was also a "prequel" made to John Carpenter's The Thing, which I feel is one of the best horror movies ever made. The "prequel"? Was okay, but honestly, while I really appreciate the attention to detail they put into trying to recreate what might have happened in the Norwegian camp discovered in the original film, this movie just proves that the modern reliance on CGI and jump scares, is no substitute for the genuine tension and creepiness that classic horror movies relied on. Also, as a minor personal gripe, they didn't bother to give it a subtitle of any sort, just calling it The Thing again, which is both lazy and confusing to audiences.

There were some surprising films that I didn't see in theaters, but later rented, like Super 8 and The Adjustment Bureau. With Super specifically, it's an oddity, as I honestly can't stand most of JJ Abrams work (especially considering the fact that personally, I feel he helped ruin Star Wars a bit, nuff said). But Adjustment was actually very good, out of the various "surreal" films that came out around this same time-frame, I feel it was the best. Another I didn't see in theaters, but later rented, also ironically starring Matt Damon, is We Bought a Zoo, a drama about a family that buys an abandoned zoo, and I'll tell ya, there were all kinds of feels in that movie. I'd highly recommend both. I'd also recommend Tower Heist, starring Ben Stiller, Matthew Broderick and Eddie Murphy, a very funny and well done "heist", a dark comedy really.

On the superhero front, Thor was a mixed bag of both good and bad. The movie in general, and the casting of Loki and Thor (even Odin) were good. But the cinematic Marvel insistence (up until now) of NOT having anything truly mystical or magical in their movies, even though the Marvel Universe is RIFE with it, is outright idiotic. And because of that, they changed what is supposed to be Norse Gods (even in the comics), to a Hollywood multicultural array of "aliens"....even though their "planet" is literally still a flat-world island floating in the sky/space. Like I said, the movie itself is okay, but those little details are important, and their reasons for changing them are absurd. 2011 also saw the release of Captain America, starring Chris Evans who had already previously played The Human Torch in the non-shared-universe (and shitty) Fantastic Four films. It was actually really good, a nice 1940s period piece, very well done, with Evans being a very good Steve Rogers.

But of course the movie that gets my Movie of 2011 pick, is Harry Potter 7 (part 2). I honestly don't really like or agree with this new Hollywood trend of splitting adaptations of ONE book up into multiple parts, and while I can see the logic, I suppose, of "fitting more of the book into the film", the real reason they do it is to get twice as many millions in $$$ at the box office. I don't know that HP7 needed two films, even though I've admittedly still never read the books (plan to). But while it was a good movie, I feel Deathly Hallows Pt. 1 needlessly dragged in places, where as Pt. 2 feels like a rush to the finish line. In other words, the two films are uneven. I think if they had made one film, if the fucker wound up being 3 long hours, that they could have easily still fit in all of the key points of the story, and cut the fat of Pt. 1 especially, to make one balanced, complete film. But regardless, DH Pt. 2 is a great end to the film series, a series that it unusually accurate to the books (from what I've been told), which had great casting, mostly good film choices, little deviation from the source material, etc.

There's those angry NA Kirby eyes.

There honestly wasn't much that I played, gaming wise, at least new games, in 2011. The two biggest releases for me were on Wii, and they were Zelda and Kirby. First I'll talk about The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. On it's face, it's a decent game, and there were elements of it I liked that I wouldn't mind them bringing back in future games. Such as the upgradable items, a nice touch that wasn't ever implemented quite this way in previous Zelda titles. The graphics, while an odd pastel palette, were nice to look at, a more cartoony fare than Twilight Princess had been. And the game having a more personal relationship between Link and Zelda (basically childhood best friends), was neat. The negatives of the game, however, while I would never call it a BAD game, were fairly strong. For one thing, the game is big on repetition in a way that few other Zelda games are. There are only four major areas to the game, a sky world "hub", and three earthbound "overworld" areas. You go to these three areas, basically, over and over. And while there are a couple unique bosses thrown in, you literally fight the two main villains, Girahim and Demise, three+ times each, getting harder and more annoying each time. On the one hand, yes, it was a novel approach. But on the other hand, I don't prefer it.

However, all of that could have been forgiven, if the game had PLAYED better. Eiji Aonuma, the man who has been in charge of the series basically since Ocarina of Time, insisted (with some strong nudging I'd imagine from Shigeru Miyamoto), in heavily implementing the Wiimote and the "Motion Plus" attachment they made for it, in the gameplay. And for the swordplay itself, I was fine with that notion. But the problem is, they went fucking overboard with it, applying motion controls to EVERYTHING in the game. Even navigating simple menu screens, or aiming arrows, or flying, or swimming...ALL things that would have controlled 100% better using the analog stick or the IR pointer function of the Wiimote. And that over-use of motion controls almost ruined the game for me. I still had a relatively good time playing it, and had stretches where I enjoyed myself. But those controls were also often very cumbersome, and even at times quite annoying, and absolutely detracted from the overall experience. I think even with it's repetitious nature and other flaws, Skyward Sword would have been 100% better a game if it had only used motion controls for Link's swordplay, or even just used traditional "analog and button" controls.

My Game of 2011, goes to Kirby though. Seeing as how Kirby's Adventure is one of my Top Ten Favorite Games Ever, the Kirby series in general has always been one of my favorites over the years. They often deviate and do little side games, which is fine, and as explained I even liked little experiments like Epic Yarn. But while I prefer 2D sprite graphics to 3D polygons, at least for 2D styled games, as the name Return to Dreamland implies, this game was a nice return to form. What it REALLY was, in all blunt honesty, was the long-awaited culmination of a "2.5D" Kirby project that had been in development YEARS before for the Gamecube, but sadly never came out. I wish it had, but this game was still a lot of fun, and traditional Kirby fare, with the inclusion of limited-time "super powers" you could get, along with your normal powers.

Ugly album art, good album.

As for music....well, I honestly don't remember much of what music may or may not have come out in 2011. Which of course isn't a good sign. Granted, I am not really into a lot of modern music, especially various forms of pop music, but still, even of the stuff I DO like, there wasn't much. Trivium put out their follow up to "Shogun", called "In Waves", but while it featured two or three decent songs, it was honestly a major letdown to me, comparatively. But the one album that did come out in 2011 that I did really like, was "Unto the Locust" by Machine Head. It was a decent follow up to the album that got me into them, "The Blackening", and while it was on the shorter side (only seven tracks), it still featured some strong music. Most especially, the song that is also my pick for Song of 2011, and one of the best songs I've ever heard period, a ballad (of sorts) called "Darkness Within". Not only is it beautiful, but the lyrical theme of being "saved" from the pain of the harsh world around us by art, like music, really struck a chord in me.

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