31.10.14

IHAO on ... Saw: the Final Chapter



Good googly moogly is this film atrocious.

Yeah, I'm not even going to be close to pretending it is good.  This, THIS is the torture porn I've had quite a few conversations about since I started watching the Saw films.  I mentioned it in an earlier review, but let me go ahead and lay out my mindset here: films with torture do not equal torture porn.  That is like saying a erotic thriller film is a porn.  The term "torture porn" was created to describe Hostel, which came out the year after Saw and could not have corresponded to Saw II.  And torture films existed way before the Saw films.  The Saw films are not the "father" of torture porn.  Cannibal Holocaust, I Spit on Your Grave, lots of torture films existed for decades before Saw came out.  The Saw films, while having torture in them, are not actually about the torture.  It is about the mindset of a man who would torture, and the twisted morals he is trying to teach.  The films are made with an A-plot about Jigsaw, his past, his accomplishes, and so forth, and a B-plot that is the "test" or series of torture devices.  The fact that the torture isn't even the focus of these films narratively should absolutely help out.  The Saw films ARE NOT TORTURE PORN.

Except for this one, because this one is garbage torture porn.  And not even good torture porn that makes you cringe or feel something as you watch.  Just really really terrible crappy ... everything really.

Plot real quick: 2ish months after the events of the last movie, a survivor of a Saw trap, who has become a Tony Robbins style motivation speaker for three years now, is tested by Jigsaw's apprentice, maybe.  He's tested by someone, don't know who.  Jigsaw's apprentice, meanwhile in B-plot land, is once again dealing with cops and trying to get some personal revenge.  Yeah, that's right, the torture part is the A-plot this time, which is a first.

Ok, so I'm just going to list off all the problems I have with this movie.  List style.  Because I cannot get my mind focused any other way currently.  Here we go:

  1. The opening trap is absolutely 100% pointless with no narrative purpose, no setting purpose, and no way to even understand how it fits into the storyline.
  2. The timeline of the film, which is a huge aspect of the Saw series as a whole, is all janked up.
  3. The second trap is absolutely 100% pointless with no narrative purpose, no setting purpose, and very very little point in fitting it in with a featured extra's story that ultimately is also pointless.
  4. The casting is abysmal, straight across the bored, without a single good actor in the whole film.
  5. The blood is pink.
  6. The BLOOD IN THIS MOVIE ALL LOOKS PINK!
  7. A TRAP INVOLVES JIGSAW HAVING ETCHED NUMBERS INTO A MAN'S MOLARS, WITHOUT HIM EVER FEELING IT HAVING HAPPENED TO HIM!!!
  8. THERE IS AN AUTOMATED MACHINE GUN THAT IS NOT A TRAP, JUST A MACHINE GUN THAT IS THERE TO KILL PEOPLE!!!!
  9. THE TRAPS IN THE FILM ARE ALL COMPLETELY ILLOGICAL, RIDICULOUS, AND UTTLERLY FAKE LOOKING!!
  10. THERE IS NOT A SINGLE POSSIBLE WAY THAT ANY OF THE THINGS IN THIS MOVIE COULD HAVE HAPPENED IN THE AMOUNT OF TIME THAT IT SAYS THEY DO!!!!



I just ... cannot express to you how terrible this whole movie is.  The more I think about it, the angrier I become.  It is not only a very bad movie, it is an utter failure as a Saw film.  Which is ridiculous, because it is the same people that made the last film, which is my second favorite narratively.  I can make some leaps to plug in the holes in logic, consistency, and what not, but they are completely unfounded.  The two hooded guys, no answer.  When, where, how, and why the first trap of the film happens, no answer.  Who put together the enormous plot test, when it looks like everyone was focused on something else, no answer.  Ugh.

This movie is not worth watching.  There is no reason to watch anything beyond a youtube clip of the final reveal, the final puzzle piece.  I have nothing positive to say about this movie beyond some things were "fine."

Grade: F-, as a Saw film, F---

((0-0))            ((0-0))            ((0-0))

And that's it!  I made it through, and I am very happy I did.  It was ultimately completely worth my time and effort, and I'll absolutely watch a good amount of these films again in the future!  I was asked to make a list of my favorite traps at some point recently, as well as put my final ranking of the films, so let's do that now, shall we!

Jessel's favorite Saw films
Saw III - Grade: A++
Saw VI - Grade: B++-
Saw IV - Grade: B++
Saw V - Grade: B+
Saw II - Grade: B+
Saw - Grade: B

Jessel's top 5 favorite Saw traps
Survivor Roulette - Saw VI
Blood Sacrifice Trap - Saw V
Take My Breath Away Trap - Saw VI
Acid McGee - Saw VI
Arteries Husband-Wife Trap - Saw IV

There we go.  That is enough talk about Saw and torture and porn.  Next week, we get into some neato action stuff, and another really bad horror movie that I just didn't have time to get to, as well as a comedy based Arbitrary Numbers!  See you next week!

30.10.14

IHAO on ... Cuban Fury


Let's take a quick break before tomorrow's big horror review, finishing up all the Saw film franchise in one month.  Let's go with ... a dance flick romantic comedy starring the fat guy from those Edgar Wright films.  Yup.  Let that sink in.


I know, right?  Like a movie whose plot is just an episode of Dancing with the Stars.

Plot: As a young kid, Nick Frost's character, Bruce, was a salsa prodigy.  But just as he was about to win every award for salsa dancing as a kid, bullies made him eat the sequins on his shirt and beat him up in a puddle.  He quite after that.  25 years later, Rashida Jones moves to England, becomes his boss, loves salsa, so he gets back into salsa to win her heart.  But Chris O'Dowd from the IT Crowd and a bunch of other stuff, he is a big douchewaffle about it all and tries to steal the girl away from our fat dancing protagonist.  He doesn't, because of course he doesn't, that's not even close to a spoiler, it is just an obvious culmination of a stock film plot.

The movie is fine.  Shot very well, with great colors and some great actors, like the ones I mentioned above, plus Ian McShane, Kayvan Novak, and Olivia Colman.  But the film doesn't really ... do anything new or interesting.  Just your standard tropes.  The closest, and best scene, is a dance fight between Chris O'Dowd and Nick Frost.  But even that isn't really all that mirthful.  It's fine, just not great.

The problem with a romantic comedy that the male is the lead character is that it points out a huge problem in most writing: writing women tends to be one of the hardest things for men to do.  And Rashida Jones, who is a perfectly likable and fine romantic opposite for Nick Frost, ends up looking like an idiot because of the pacing of the film.  On top of that, it also means that the film focuses on the non-romance parts, with Chris O'Dowd being a sex-obsessed jerk, and the entire focus of the obstacles for the B-plot, which ... should be the A-plot, since this film is about the romance, except it is about the dancing.  Really, it is about watching Fat Guy Dances, a lot like how Here Comes the Boom is about Fat Guy Fights.  And just like Here Comes the Boom, this movie is fine, shot very well, has some stock characters, some decent emotion, and is clearly a labor of love, since Nick Frost is doing all his dancing, as do all the actors.  And that's pretty cool.

Best shot in the movie, this one.

There is some fun to be had in this movie, some great dancing, and some decent acting.  But it is basically forgettable beside the dancing.  If I wanted to watch a dance movie, I would watch Footloose or Take the Lead.  If I wanted to watch a romantic comedy, I would watch ... golly, so many other things.  I just cannot think of a reason that I actually care to watch this film again, even if it is pretty good.  I hope that there are others out there to love this film, because it is just quirky and different enough to be someone's favorite.  But its shortcomings in the script and my lack of interest in watching the same tropes as Happy Gilmore and Here Comes the Boom again means that this one just isn't going to be for me.

Grade: B

29.10.14

IHAO on ... A Fantastic Fear of Everything



Hitchcock meets Edgar Wright.  That is exactly what this film feels like to me.  If that isn't enough to sell you, then I don't know what is.  Oh, right, the rest of my review will be.  Or won't be, as the case may be.

Simon Pegg plays an author with crippling paranoia and suffering from delusions and hallucinations.  The film starts out as a clever deconstruction of the author and all the difficulties he is having with his paranoia and fears as we slowly learn more about him, his life that has been a very sad series of events and traumas.  It actually continues to be that as we watch the very solid cinematography and direction pile on the crazy and blur the lines between reality and paranoia.

Then the entire movie throws all of that out at the 2/3 mark and just becomes a comedic thriller where Simon Pegg has to save the hot girl he just made a fool of himself in front of from a silly serial killer.

Talk about the villain from the second Iron Man film, which is totally underrated, by the way.

It is very frustrating to me as a movie viewer to sit down to a movie that starts off promising to be a certain kind of film and then shifts to some ridiculous parody without any connection to the film before it.  It is painful to sit through.  Simon Pegg had such an incredible character, and the first 50-ish minutes were so incredibly fun to watch.  And then it became ... blah.

The direction is very Edgar Wright styled, which worked really well.  The writing was missing Wright's style of character depth and dialogue, but Pegg had something really interesting going on.  "Had" is the operative word here.  I can't even recommend the movie with how just awful the final act is.  It doesn't even feel like it was directed by the same guy, with crazy sound editing mistakes and horrible lighting.  My wife said a thing that I want to quote: "On the one hand, I'm really relieved that he gets a happy ending, but that makes it a worse movie."

I am not relieved.  I am not relieved the film is over.  I'm tired.  I'm sad.  I wanted this to be as good as Paul was, the film that got me writing these reviews in earnest again.  Or at least as good as The World's End, which also had a disheartening finale, though nowhere near as bad as this film's.

Grade: C-

28.10.14

IHAO on ... Saw VI



Let's get this out of the way: Saw, Saw II, Saw III, Saw IV, Saw V

I've been waiting for the shoe to drop since the third movie.  I've been waiting for that really terrible movie that ruins the series, turns it into torture porn and a gorefest, that strips away all the character drama and storytelling.  And, you know what?  It still hasn't happened.  In fact, The quality has become pretty consistent, and even better, in someways, it continues to improve.  Saw VI continues the trend of telling good stories, with interesting traps, and surprisingly deep characters.  I saw surprising because ... ok, let me do the plot set up first.

Spoilers (very minor) ...



Jigsaw is dead.  His apprentice has taken over completely by this point.  But John Kramer has one more trap he needs done, one last will and testament.  And it is all around the insurance guy who would not allow Kramer to do an experimental drug course on their insurance.  Even more interesting, the insurance guy, played by the really excellent Peter Outerbridge, ISN'T wrong!  The experimental treatment has a less than 50% chance, and that is just too high for an insurance company, especially for someone as old as John Kramer.  It isn't fair, it sucks, but he's right.  So he is tested.  At the same time, the Apprentice is trying to get his name cleared, but some unexpected turns happen as he finds himself in a seemingly losing battle to cover his tracks.

Saw VI has some HUGE PROBLEMS to begin with.  Some of the bad actors return, though the good actors that return all more than hold their weight.  It has a LOT of "color-coded" scenes, which drives me nuts.  You know what I'm talking about?  When a movie color tints EVERYTHING, generally with the REALLY stupid blue-orange color dynamic.  It gets really really irritating, and it took me out of the film.  A lot.  We are also introduced to a whole bunch of characters very quickly, so they are all basically just swathes of two-dimensional characters, including Outerbridge's character.  But that is just to begin with.

After about ... 15 minutes, things change.  And Saw VI becomes ... almost my favorite of the series!  The traps, all of them, are incredibly well done.  Sometimes the traps in these movies go a little crazy and overboard.  Saw V was really overboard with its traps, the ones that weren't stupid.  But there is a great combination of inventive, unique, and simple traps.  They are all visceral without being incredibly gorier, other than the very first trap of the film, which is a wonderfully difficult to watch section based on Shakespeare's "a pound of flesh."  The acting is so good, the writing is incredible, the cop plot is fantastic, the test of Outerbridge is wonderful, and ... I cannot say enough good things about MOST of the movie.

The opening makes me SO ANGRY because of how good everything else it.  But what is really great about it all is that the only really cringe worthy moment, for me, was an extended replay of the last movie.  And this film not only makes an excellent trilogy-ender for Saw's IV, V, and IV, but it is a fantastic stand alone.  I really really loved the parts I loved in this film.  But the parts I hated ... oooooo did I hate it.  Hopefully it will not get any worse than that stuff.



Grade: B++-

27.10.14

IHAO on ... WWE Hell in a Cell 2014




Hell in a Cell is a PPV that has almost always burned me whenever I've gotten it.  It is a flawed PPV in general because it is based around a stipulation.  This isn't like the Royal Rumble, a whole PPV built around its gimmick match that happens once a year.  Hell in a Cell has just become a regular PPV except they force one or two Hell in a Cell matches to happen, not matter what the storyline currently is in those matches.  You see, Hell in a Cell, as a match, is the a stipulation that requires a reason for it to exist.  The first time it happened was because Shawn Michaels kept running from the Undertaker, so he stipulated a huge cell with a ceiling put around the ring, so that Michaels could not get away from the Deadman's wrath.  Now ... it is just a no DQ match with a cage.  Normally.  Luckily, one of the two matches in the cells this PPV need it.

Oh, and quick reminder about the last PPV: it was awful.  Let's get going.




Dolph Ziggler retains the Intercontinental Championship v. Cesaro in a 2-out-of-3 Falls Match, 2-0

The show opened exactly how I would have hoped, with a really great match out of the gate.  The two have had a pure-sports competitive feud going, with both having wins over the other, which is why they went with this stipulation, to prove who was really the better of the two.  There was also some very good commentary work, with the very subtle reference that Ziggler holds the record for most pins at his college in collegiate wrestling.  They hit a lot of great spots, did some cool chain wrestling, had some awesome nearfalls, and a whole lot of great psychology as Ziggler worked on Cesaro's arm the whole match.  This was really good. Two guys working really hard, showing off their skills, power, and natural ability.


Verdict -  Outstanding, match of the night.  Spoiler.





Nikki Bella pins Brie Bella, making Brie has to be Nikki's personal assistant for the next 30 days

The stipulation is absolutely a heel-is-gonna-win-the-match stipulation.  There is nothing entertaining of watching a heel have to do things for a face, and there is no story there, so of course Nikki was going to win.  Also, Brie has been booked like a total loser, and she continues to be one.  All she does is lose, all the time, and I just do not have any sympathy for her.  Hell, she is normally the better worker of the two Bellas, but Nikki has really brought up her game and improved a whole bunch.

See, she countered that awful AWFUL diving shove move with a facebuster?

The crowd didn't care about this match, but that's fine.  The chant for JBL, that's fine.  The story is stupid, and that's fine.  The stipulation is stupid, but that's fine.  Because they worked hard, and they won the crowd over with every single move.  These sisters did not hold back once, and had a really visceral and fun match for the time given.  More good signs of the Divas division changing, which I'm a huge fan of, considering how lackluster the tag division is.

Verdict - Better than it had any right to be, considering the story.  They both worked hard, and Nikki has gotten surprisingly good now that she has found a wrestling style that more suits her.




The Brothers of DUSTruction retain against the only other tag team in the WWE

I was not tired of the Usos.  Not yet.  I am now.  Seriously, there are just no other teams.  You cannot have a division with just the Dusts, the Usos, and Slater Gator.  Ugh.  Please, WWE, soon bring up the Ascension as a face team, and go ahead and bring up the Vaudevillains, the Lucha Dragons, and the Dubstep Cowboys (Team Thick), and the Dude-bros.  Let's have some actual competition.

The match is fine.  Better than their last one, as it had more interesting things happen, the Dusts have really gotten their formula together, and the Usos are just fine.  The matches don't really ever crank up enough to make me care, but at least this time things were a little more interesting.  Very few dives over the top rope, which I'm super tired of, and no flying shoves, which is nice.


Stardust shenanigans to retain!

Verdict - Meh.  Could have been worse, though.  We need more teams in this division.




John Cena wins, is number one contender ... AGAIN.  UGH!

The only good thing I have to say about this match is that ... nope, I got nothing.  

Flippin' tables!

The match was boring, none of the moves looked good or like they connected, both guys just walked through their roles, and ... ugh.  It was a huge waste of time.  Even worse, we are now going to have our time wasted in the FUTURE so we can get John Cena v. Brock Lesnar III.  Yeah, let's take the guy with limited dates, and instead of putting him against a bunch of talent, let's have him face John Cena over and over and over again.  

There was a great sign that showed that this was Cena and Orton's one-hundred and twenty-first match.  I am very much not surprised.  The number could be wrong, but it certainly makes a point.  I could point out so many problems with that match, like how it was paint by numbers, how Cena hit only 5 moves all match, how it became just a finisher-fest at the end, how if Orton can counter the Attitude Adjustment into an RKO why doesn't he do that all the time?

You know what, I want to talk about that idea for a little bit.  This match had nothing going for it.  No one cared that it was for number one contendership.  No one cares about seeing Orton v. Cena again.  No one cared at the Royal Rumble when they teased it.  No one has cared for any of their run ins with each other sense then.  There is no heat here.  But let me just try to tell an interesting story with these two, if you'll permit me a little ...
Fantasy Booking

Ok, it was announced Cena v. Orton would be number one contendership on Raw last week.  Have during that match Orton counter Cena's Attitude Adjustment with the RKO.  Make sure he does it twice on Raw.  Then you have during the promo segment or video package segment an interview with Orton where he very confidently talks to Cena, saying that he knows him very well, and there isn't a thing Cena is going to be able to do, because he'll never be able to land the AA on him now.

You have now created a new way to tell the story, with Cena every time he goes for an AA, which happened in this match alone 5 times I believe, all of them countered.  How does Cena beat him?  There is some at least slightly compelling storytelling there.

Oh, I'm sorry, what's that?  Two main eventers weren't in the main event, so they pouted and put on a really $#!+3&^ match?  Ugh.

Verdict - I don't curse on this blog, but that match was utter $#!+3&^.




Sheamus retained the US title, Miz was overshadowed by his stunt double joke character

This match was pointless.  Well, not pointless.  It built up Sheamus so he can go on to a new feud, and it started the breaking up of Miz and his stunt double Mizdow.  Other than that, it was just a match with a comedy segment running through it and a comedy segment to finish.  They did fine, it was fine, I don't care about any of it.  Turn Sheamus heel again.  The most brutal thing he did was during a backstage promo when he kicked the camera.


Verdict - Pointless, but a perfectly fine breather now that Diva's matches are not the bathroom  breaks.




Rusev continues to beat America, Big Show taps out off camera

Yeah, the tap out happened off camera, which is really weird.  But yeah, this match was better than versus Mark Henry last time, mostly because Big Show is better than Henry.  Henry did have a fun segment with Bo Dallas on the Kick-Off show, though.

Rusev and Lana do not come across as heels any longer.  Big Show and Henry were both huge bullies on Raw two weeks ago, and then last week ... ok, sure, Rusev kicked a service man in the face.  But ... eh, I don't care.  Let's get him with in a feud with a guy who can go at the same speed Rusev does.  I'm looking at you, Sheamus.  Rusev going for the US title is what makes sense.

Also, wrasslormonkey made a great Mark Henry gif.  Look it!


Verdict - Better than last time, but still whatever.




AJ retains the Divas Championship, Paige still great
Oh, and Alicia Fox was there


Paige continues to have terrible storylines but great matches for the Diva's title.  I love that there were two pretty good Divas matches on this PPV.  They are easily, for me, the second and third best matches.  I implore you readers who do not give the Divas a chance, watch these matches.  The girls are working way harder than they have in probably ten years to put on really good WRESTLING matches, not just soap opera jokes and wasting time.  Paige and AJ are very talented in the ring, and they keep having pretty good matches.  The crowd is finally treating them with some respect.  AJ got chants for her, and they reacted to each move, including an awesome bump Paige took on the outside.

Verdict - A great sign of more good things to come ... if only the writing was better ... like ... at all.




Seth Rollins pins Dean after some ghosts and Bray Wyatt be ridiculous

I cannot diminish how great it is that this match, this match that is just a grudge match, that THIS is what ended the show.  THIS was the main event.  The old timers fighting for the number one contendership, stuck in the midcard.  These are our new stars on the rise.  That is awesome.  Dean and Seth are both great, and the crowd LOVES Dean.  They put their bodies on the line in this match and really worked, unlike two established main eventers who didn't do a single interesting spot their whole match.

Oof!

And I should say, I am not the kind of guy who likes these gimmicky things.  This is not my favorite type of match.  I prefer stuff like Ziggler/Cesaro that opened the show.  But the story here, the acting, and the emotion was off the wall.  Ambrose is a certified star, bigger than Reigns is, easily.  He is unpredictable, interesting, and has the heart of a champion.  He is the hero, the babyface, that the fans wanted Daniel Bryan to be, but Bryan was booked like a loser, and that they want Reigns to be, but Reigns is too limited in the ring to be able to give them anything worth watching beyond signature spots.

And then ... Bray Wyatt showed up with a pillar of fog and a ghost, and Dean got beat up and Seth stole a victory.


The more I think about it, the more I like this ending.  Bray Wyatt will hopefully get his mojo back, keep the heat on him as he screws with the fans most beloved babyface in the company currently, and finally be a threat like he started out to be in the beginning of the year with his Match of the Year contender with Daniel Bryan.  Seth stole a victory, continues to be able to brag, but has a new opponent in a turning face Randy Orton.  And Dean has someone crazy for him to fight, someone he cannot predict.

All that said, it was a kind of sour ending to a PPV that was sour after its first two matches.  The spots were good, the guys worked hard, but the ending just kind of ... stinks.  We don't get a real ending to the feud, we don't get to see Ambrose finally win, we just see him have another bad guy he has to fight through.  WWE really needs to look at NXT to remember how to book their faces, because they make it almost impossible to like anyone.  And that sucks.

Verdict - Very enjoyable, hard worked match with a sour note ending that should hopefully actually lead to really good things.


23.10.14

IHAO on ... Saw V

This is a GREAT poster, by the way.

We reach a point in these Saw films, after watching so many of them, that if the writing isn't really good then it all starts to blend together.  I'm not saying that the writing for this Saw is bad, but ... ok, lemme do the plot rundown.  I'm doing my best to keep the spoilers out of these, but as we get deeper and deeper in the story, it becomes harder and harder to avoid spoiling some of the overall plot.

The two stories here are one dealing with Detective Strahm chasing down Jigsaw, because now it is personal, and then five people, connected by their traps and their lives, have to try to live together or not.  Their traps are all tied to working together, which becomes the crux of their story.  We also get the backstory of the Jigsaw apprentice and how he got involved with Jigsaw, which started with a copycat trap.  I love the very loaded critique "inferior blade" Jigsaw gives him, and it is paid off in the acting, which is great.

Saw V has some bits I really like and some bits I really didn't.  All the flashbacks and the detailing of the apprentice and his interactions with Jigsaw are really great.  I very much understand some folks not liking the apprentice's acting, and I certainly didn't care for Strahm, but I like Clayface (our household nickname for the apprentice).  I also like the overarching schtick of the test plot, though its actual formulaic-ness ends up forcing characters to alter drastically between scenes in at least one case ... actually, I guess I could put that on the actress and not the writing.  The final scene in the test is phenomenal, truly horrific and the best scene of the film.  It isn't the final scene of the film, which is also pretty good.  You know, the more I talk about this film, the more I like it.

It is also the most cringe-making Saw I've seen yet as there is a sequence that, while it has some build up, the actual damage hit me like a sack of bricks.  It was very effective.  But once again, I do not feel it was unjustified or glorified.  Actually all the traps, except one, are great.  That one is awful.  Truly stupid.  Oh, wait, the first one is also, while a classic and pretty good, isn't as good as many of the others from pure filming perspective.  Really, the cinematography in generally is just a little under par.

This film is hard to for me to quantify.  It is definitely not as good, but it is still good.  Essentially, it just doesn't excel, but it is good.

Gameover.

Grade: B+


22.10.14

Arbitrary Numbers: Top # Saddest Songs on Jessel's Playlist

Not too long ago, I put my headphones on, grabbed my little mp3 player, and listened until I found the happiest songs I could!  It was a great exercise, and was incredibly fun for me to do, and I loved hearing other people's  playlists as well, and really enjoyed the game of making this playlist through randomness.  So I decided to do it again!  And I know I can do it again and again.

Music is magical.  I am a very musical person, myself.  I have played piano for twenty years at least, and have sung for just about as long, mostly as a choir member, but also working to get better on solo performance stuff.  Music lets you jump into emotions you need to get to, to work through problems, stresses, and feelings that you have a hard time finding the catharsis for.  You see, life has gotten very stressful for me recently.  Not necessarily in a bad way, actually it will all probably end up getting better than ever after this rough patch.  But still, it hasn't been easy.

So I've decided to put on my headphones (new better ones I got for my birthday!) and get my mp3 player going (new better one from my past that I got for my birthday as well, just one of the best gifts, even if it is an old old model!).  The goal this time around is to find songs about sadness.  Not necessarily songs that make me want to cry, but songs that help me find that melancholic state, that lets me sit in my emotion and release them slowly.  Happy songs make you want to dance and sing.  Sad songs make you want to sit, and wait, and listen, and feel.  They are melancholic, and cathartic.  It isn't as easy of a criteria, but I'm going to give it a whirl.  Also, links to each song will be provided.  Just click on the linky parts.

Top 12 Saddest Songs

The rules, so you can play along and share your playlists:
1) Turn on the mp3 player, preferably on Random
2) Skip anything that doesn't immediately make me feel that sadness and melancholic state
3) Write down what it is immediately
4) Sit and enjoy, breathing calmly and deeply
5) Keep going until you get bored of making this list


Daniel Bedingfield "If You're Not the One"



Freshman year of college was the first time I heard this song.  I remember walking into my college compatriot's room, Joe's room, and he had this playing on his laptop.  We were both dealing with long-distance relationships, and were both musical guys, and were exactly what we needed in that transition from kid to adult.  This song feels like fall.  It reminds me of all those emotions, the bittersweet yearning.  I am incredibly happy to now be married to a woman that is the "you" of this song.  I do not mean to be sappy about it, but it is true.  It is just the right mood and feeling to begin this whole thing correctly.  I should definitely drop Joe a line sometime, as well.  


Regina Spektor "Samson"

DEFINITELY what Regina was singing about, right there. ~sarcasm

I do not care for Regina Spektor.  As a piano player, I find her sometimes incredibly irritating, and as a writer, her lyrics come across as super super pretentious.  But this song ... is beautiful.  As she plays and sings of the doomed romance of Samson and Delilah from Delilah's point of view, it is beautiful.  The strings come in on the second chorus and it just moves me.  There's all sorts of simple imagery, interesting thoughts on the version of the story, and just an engaging performance in its simplicity.  It is powerful, and one of my favorite songs of yearning.


U2 "Sometimes You Can't Make It"

U2 is not a band I normally listen to.  Very similarly to my thoughts on Regina Spektor, just I find most of their stuff uninteresting and pretentious sounding.  Like Coldplay, really.  But man, does this song hit hard.  It is another simple song that has a deep longing and yearning, though now it is a pleading voice who is asking a friend or loved one to just let them in, let them help through all the fights and all the depression.  

I heard this song first performed at a church service.  The music leader for the church had philosophy I do with God and music: if it is truth, it is godly.  God = truth.  So he liked to find "secular" songs and perform them verbatim, showing that those songs' truth can be just as relevant to a church setting as anything else.  This song, and his performance live, will always stay with me.  Depression is difficult, and I've not only been going through it for many many years, but I have friends and loved ones who deal with it like I do.  And I absolutely want to let them know I'm here!  Sometimes, you can't make it ... on your own.



Poets of the Fall "Maybe Tomorrow Is a Better Day"

I see a recurring theme in some of these lyrics.  This song is more than just a beautiful song that helps me find emotional catharsis.  It is one of my favorite songs.  Just, period.  I don't remember how I found Poets of the Fall, I suspect it was a Pandora find, or a proto-Pandora find.  But I do know this was the first song by them I heard.  And it has stuck with me forever.  Heck, I could fill this list with just Poets of the Fall songs.  But luckily, this one came up.  Here, look at the chorus: 

"This day will die tonight and there ain't no exception
We shouldn't wait for nothing to wait for.
Love me in this fable, babe, my heart is in your hand,
Our time is waiting right outside your door.
And maybe tomorrow is a better day."

I don't normally like just leaving lyrics here, but this song just moves me.  And that chorus is powerful for me.  I love Poets of the Fall, and this song's chorus has become a mantra for me when stress gets too much and weighs me down.


Steam Powered Giraffe "Honeybee"

This song just keeps popping up this week.  My friends and I have a running joke that one of them hasn't heard this song, even when put on his page, emailed to him, or even played right in front of him in the same room.  This song is beautiful and incredibly simple (catching a theme?) as a love song.  It has incredible harmonies and the singers in Steam Powered Giraffe have wonderful voices, filled with emotion and character.  The gimmick of the band is that they are robots, come to life and singing songs.  But this song, more than any other song in their repertoire, is just a wonderful song.  Many times their gimmick can get in the way of the music, especially in their original album and their newest album.  But "Honeybee" is just a lovely song, filled with character and is just a joy to listen to.  Rabbit in particular, the lead on this song, has a lot of great moments.  One that always gets me, is this slight catch in Rabbit's voice before a sigh and going into the chorus the second time.  


I linked to the video above, like I do with all these playlist articles, but please, you have to watch and enjoy one of the most unique, original, and pleasant videos and songs I've heard.


Jars of Clay "Frail"

This is a song that I could just listen to over and over, allowing it to wash over me as I just listen and breath and let all my stress melt off.  It is the perfect next song on my Saddest Song playlist.

Jars of Clay, if you aren't sure who they are, are a Christian band.  They made a big splash when I was in middle school.  Their debut album, which featured Flood on it, did them very well.  But I always, ALWAYS preferred their sophomore album, Much Afraid.  Just like Poets of the Fall, I could fill this list with songs from Much Afraid.  

Frail is one of the first songs written by the group, though it was instrumental.  It got a lyrical addition and a slight change to the instrumentation for Much Afraid.  It's instrumental beginnings are easy to see, as the layering and work of the musicians is flawless.  This is a very complicated song, as opposed to many of the others on this list, as it is musical intricate and soft, masterfully crafted.  On top of all that, you have its lyrics,  The lyrics are about being broken.  Broken of the mask we where in life, and hide behind.  The walls we put up.  The song is about being vulnerable.  It is both terrifying and exhilarating, just as the instrumentation leads us on the same journey.  


Imogen Heap "Hide and Seek"

Yes, yes, yes, "oo whatcha say," Dear Sister, all that.  Got it out of your meme-y system?  Good.  Because this song is is three times longer than that meme.  


I'm not sure if you've heard this song from beginning to meme, but its opening is intoxicating.  It is just tight harmonies with an auto-tuney filter on their voices.  The song is haunting.  It is just their voices rattling around and their words, and their breaths.  The rhythm of their breath and the visceral nature of hearing them breath as they sing is intoxicating.  The imperfectness of their singing with their robotic voices creates an amazing juxtaposition.  I love this song, and hearing the actual opening 2/3's really makes the "oo whatcha say" section have a lot more weight.  Honestly, that is my least favorite section because of how beautiful and haunting the song is in its opening.  Give it a listen, and don't shoot anyone.


Incubus "Here In My Room"

Incubus.  Gotta love a mainstream, or formerly mainstream, band that really really knew how to make a complicated song.  The lyrics are visceral and heavy: "Your love is a verb here in my room."  The music is haunting and dripping with emotion.  

I remember taking my jogging class in college.  I took it winter semester, and while South Carolina never got THAT cold, getting up in November every Tuesday and Thursday at 8:30 and doing a two-mile jog ... it is very very cold.  I loved it.  I love that cold, I love that feeling.  I actually like walking and jogging, my headphones on and listening to music.  I was listening to Two Crows Left of a Murder a whole lot that semester, and this song always stuck with me.  I loved it.



This song is so hard to talk about.  Just give it a listen.


Trevor Jones "Sarah"

Labyrinth is my favorite movie.  Of all time.  Subjectively, of course, but objectively too-ish.  I mean, yeah, there are some movies better made.  But ... whatever, Labyrinth is the ONLY A++++ film for me.  Lots and lots of people know it, and they enjoy to "Dance Magic Dance" and other fun David Bowie songs.  But Trevor Jones, the composer who made all the score, very rarely gets any kind of recognition.  And that is crazy unfortunate, because his score is MASTERFUL.  

This song always brings tears to my eyes as I listen.  The subtle instrumentation and slight changes each time we hear the melody flip through in this small repeat that shows the passage of time and the creeping presence of the unknown, as nothing stays the same.  There is not a repeated bar, though the motifs are constantly repeated throughout the song.  And when the final chord hits, when all is still and finally all together, and we get a major chord out of all the minor arpeggios ... this song is masterful.  I love it.  Give it a listen, folks.


Jamie Foxx "Fall For Your Type"

I had just started my divorce a few years back.  It was Christmas.  It was not a happy time, even with family and Christmas and all that.  But I had my P-Chan and ... well, that was really basically it.  And I saw this video.  

I'd put a gif, but they are all of Drake, and that's ridiculous.

I was blown away.  No, not because it totally hit home or made me think of my former marriage.  In fact, it really didn't have any emotional resonance with that situation.  But musically ... musically this song kicked my butt.  I just cried the first time I saw it on the TV while everyone else was asleep in the house.  I got a copy immediately, and listened all night.  The music is so dark and brooding, and the visuals of the music video are so expressive.  This song just hit me hard when I was already emotional.  It made it ok for me to let my emotion out.  Not because I related to the song, but because I could relate to the music.


Vertical Horizon "Miracle"

What a sad, sad love song.  Not just because of its lyrics and its music, but my memories.  Happy, sad memories.

I was a hopeless romantic, still am really, growing up.  A poor boy who dreamed of romance and didn't have anywhere near the confidence to even begin dating.  I wrote so many really really embarrassing notes expressing my feelings for girls I liked.  It ... oh man, it was NOT a pretty sight.  I have normally, when counting relationships, only counted official relationships.  You know, boyfriend/girlfriend ones.  But my hopeless romantic nature was shaped by other, non-boyfriend/girlfriend relationships.  And one of them was with Kay.

Kay and I, with my best friend and a group of other online-friends, all roleplayed a long-running ridiculous X-Men based rp we called Mutant High.  It was incredibly fun.  I've always been a writer and a storyteller, playing Dungeons and Dragons and the like, and this just fit perfectly for me.  Some of my best friendships, both in real life and online, were fostered in that game, with Deamon, Wayne, Skye, Kat, Lee, Kay, and a good handful of others.  Well, my character, Wraith, and Kay ended up in a relationship.  Which means that I and the girl who played Kay (Amanda, I think, I unfortunately don't quite remember, though I vividly remember talking about her living in Michigan) became whatever the Instant Messenger Pen-Pal/Online friend word would be.  We talked all the time, and I had wonderful, teenage, hopeless romantic-y crush feelings for this girl, outside of just our characters.  We talked about David Bowie, comic books, movies, real life things going on (of which I had plenty I needed someone to talk to about them).  It was ... very special.  As special as an Instant Messenger Pen-Pal/Online friend relationship can be.

Miracle was Wraith and Kay's song.  I don't remember how or why.  Maybe Kay found it.  Maybe I did as I found most of my music then, just downloading everything I could of Napster and listening to it.  But this song is special.  I'm happy to still have it, buried in my many, many, MANY gigs of music.  

And no story like this is complete with me sharing my silly, only slightly embarrassing picture of my character.

Kind of funny that I finally have hair like Wraith's.  I really need to buy a maroon knit sweater with a cute in the left arm, patched with black thread.


25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee "The I Love You Song"

I heard a few musical's songs as I was skipping everything that didn't fit my criteria for this playlist.  Stuff from the Wedding Singer and Chess almost made it, though it never got to that melancholy ballad that I was looking to showcase with this article.  Then ... this song.

The song is powerful.  Moving, character driven, simple until it builds to its painful chorus as our singer sings her lament of her non-existent loving home life, with both her parents showering her with love, all of it a falsehood, all of it "Chimerical."  I love this song.  I love this musical.  And this song is the perfect way to end this list.  This song is tear-jerking, and incredibly beautiful and powerful.


((-=-))        ((-=-))       ((-=-))


Eesh, twelve of them, huh.  I bet I could keep listening and keep adding songs.  I added three as I was writing up the other nine, so I should probably just force myself to end it for now.  

So what was all of you guy's "saddest" songs?  I'd love to have all of you play this game like last time and share your saddest song playlists.  Put them in the comments.  Tell me if you liked the songs I showcased here.  Tell me if they are new to you, or if you have a song that hits that sweet emotional memory spot that a few of these did for me.

Bah, emotions are stupid!  See you tomorrow for more Saw!

EDIT: Here we go, a link to the full playlist on youtube.  LISTEN TO IT ALL IN ONE GO HERE!

21.10.14

IHAO on ... Smash Brothers for the 3DS



SUPER SMASH BROTHERS!!!


I am not much of a gamer, but this has been a series that has been incredibly fun to play.  The schtick is to play as multiple characters from Nintendo games as you build up damage and knock them off the stage.  There are 51 characters, which is an impressive roster, and the gameplay is some of the best, like most Nintendo games: easy to learn and be good with, but complicated enough to truly learn how to master it.

I wasn't going to get the game, but I won a raffle that required me to do a lot of fun challenges to earn tickets, including the incredibly difficult "4-body" fight, where I am able to in 2 minutes of the demo beat a level 9 PC character with 4 kills before they get even one on me, which is one kill every 30 seconds.  That was fun, and challenging, and I was very proud to have gotten the demo and really earned the game.  As of writing this review I now have 46 hours of gameplay, which even though I am not much of a gamer, has me feeling pretty confidant in my review of the game.

Super Smash Brothers 3DS has a lot of game modes, though there are really three basic types of gameplay (beyond small mini-games): Smash, which is the standard game pitting you versus up to three other players, computer or actual players; the "Run," a gauntlet of Smash matches all building up to a culmination, either a run with just one "life" as you try to beat every character in All-Star mode, or a series of challenges leading to the ultimate bad guy, Master Core; and Smash Run, a platforming and exploration version of the game, filled with enemies and power-ups, and ends with some kind of ultimate challenge.  Even ignoring Smash-mode, this game's single player aspects has plenty of hours put into it.  Then you add the carrot-on-a-stick aspect of customization for Mii Fighters and variable movesets for the other 48 characters, and this game really is great.  And I haven't even TOUCHED on the multi-player gaming, which the 3DS makes incredibly easy to do.

One of my favorite things in the game is the Mii Fighters, really working to make characters that I feel should have been in the game, and actually adding them.  My two proudest are Cooking Mama, which I named Brawling Mama (which I'm STILL working to get the Chef Hat for to finish her character's costume):


... and Arthur from Ghouls and Ghosts, though he is helmet-less, because you know, he took some damage!


I've made a few others, like a Weedle (that has to be named Kakuna Jr. because you can't have "weed" in a name) and Luffy and Usopp from One Piece, but these two are my favorites.

Now, the game itself, while the gameplay is fantastic, has some really irritating aspects.  The biggest one is that with all the carrot-on-a-stick aspects of collecting trophies, optional movesets, and Mii Fighter costume pieces, it is the most frustrating thing in the world to keep winning the same ones over and over.  To keep getting the same pieces, essentially meaning that the carrot-on-the-stick aspect is a rotted carrot or no carrot at all, it makes me so upset at times to go throw an entire Smash Run or some other game-mode to win those things, and to just get the same stuff I already have, ARG, I just put the game down and walk away.  Also, the menu system is incredibly frustrating.  There are so many things hidden in so many menus, none of them sensibly put together.  You'd think all the game-modes would be in one place, but they are separated out between 5 different menu systems.  And learning information you need to continue to earn those harder to get carrots is incredibly difficult to get to.  Such as, for a certain challenge, you need to beat Smash Run in first place with all 51 characters.  But to find out who you haven't beaten it with yet, you have to back out of the game, back out of that game's menu, go into a miscellaneous menu, go into the vault, go to the Records, go to Fighter Records, switch the load out to Smash Run, then go down the list of achievements that they bar graph for you to "Victories."  If you look at the "Losses" section, that will be incorrect, because you can not have a victory and also not have a loss.  That is a LOT of hoops to jump through just to learn which character you need to play the game with again.

When it comes down to it, the actual playing of this game is just one of the best.  It doesn't have a story-mode or anything, but it has a bunch of ways to play the game, and all of them are basically fun!  And then playing with your friends is even better!  There are some baffling design choices, but there is rarely a game as fun to play as this one.  And since the 3DS version will be compatible with the Wii-U version, there is no reason to not get this game!

I recommend.

NOW GIVE ME THE CARROT!  BRAWLING MAMA NEEDS HER CHEF'S HAT!!!!

20.10.14

IHAO on ... Saw IV



Coming off the heels of Saw 3, Bousman once again creates a new film, but now with a new writer.  How well does this one go?  Well, let's give a quick plot.

The cops find the body of one of their own, a detective trying to figure out who Jigsaw is.  A SWAT member, Rigg, has now seen two of his close friends die in their pursuit of Jigsaw, and it makes him entirely unhinged and angry, so he is sent home.  There, he is thrust into his own series of tests as Jigsaw tries to get him to truly understand Jigsaw's purpose.  In the other story, two new detectives, Perez and Strahm, come in trying to figure out who Jigsaw is, but who his second apprentice is, as the evidence shows that there is another person helping Jigsaw.  We also get to learn the backstory to Jigsaw himself as a man, John Kramer, and how he became Jigsaw.

The film opens with an amazing sequence of an autopsy.  Bousman shows his skill as a director in this scene, once more showing the "gore" and "torture" aspects of the film series in another subversion, as this is the absolute goriest part of the film.  Empathic-ly it is not the most disturbing, but it absolutely is the goriest, and the film tricks used to show it on an actor who was actually there on set is incredible.  It also is the "opening kill" which is a nice subversion of the entire series.

The traps in Saw 4 lack the skill of those written by Whannell.  Not completely, but partially.  Such as, the first trap we see does not have the signature Jigsaw story element of the explanation of the poetic justice of the trap.  There's a reason, but it is a very lame one.  Also, the characters we deal with this film are mostly uninteresting.  I personally like Rigg and I have no problem with the actors, but they certainly are not as compelling as Jeff or Lynn.

The themes and plot of the film are great, but under realized.  This movie is doing a LOT, and most of it works, but it doesn't go as deep as I wanted.  There is this subtheme of who the new apprentice to Jigsaw could be, and with Rigg being prepped to possibly become the new apprentice, but it doesn't quite come to fruition.

I need to say, by the way, something I haven't mentioned yet in these Saw reviews (Saw, Saw II, and Saw III): Charlie Clouser is incredible with the music.  He does so many small things that are wonderful with the music, and the actual Saw theme itself is one of the best parts about these films.  It is Tubular Bells or the Halloween Theme; it has a character of its own.

The writing of this film, like I mentioned above, is just a little off.  Not bad, just not as great as a cohesive whole.  But this is also Bousman's best work as a director.  The film flows beautifully, and is truly one of the best directed films I've seen.  The writing leaves a little bit to be wanted on the plotting, and the acting isn't great, especially the actress brought in to play John Kramer's ex-wife.

Despite its few missteps, this is easily another of my favorites in the series.  Just like 1, 2, and 3 made an excellent trilogy, an even stronger trilogy, in my opinion, is 2, 3, and 4.  Watching those films all with each other has made me really come to love this franchise.  Especially in 3 and 4, I'm so incredibly happy to have found this series and given it another chance.  I can understand if other folks do no want to give this one a chance, and it isn't as good as the previous one, but I really think it finishes the story in an amazing way.  Of course, it isn't the end of the story.  We still have three more films!  I cannot wait!

Cherish your life.

Grade: B++

17.10.14

IHAO on ... Gone Girl



David Fincher.  I'm shocked this is the first film of his I've talked about, considering how few I've seen and how well liked he seems to be in the general public.  For me he is a mixed bag.  Se7en is flawless, Fight Club I found incredibly dumb, Social Network was uninteresting and unlikable, Zodiac boring.  I dunno, I guess I respect the dude but just generally haven't cared for his films.  And that isn't particularly his fault, I don't believe.  Fincher seems drawn to very complicated plots and scripts, which I very much like.  But he also doesn't have a great ear for believable characters or dialogue.  I believe he eschews those things and prefers to focus on crafting a thrilling plot.

Gone Girl is no exception to anything I've said above.  I was very lucky to have found a movie friend who can go with me to matinees, which means I can hopefully be seeing a lot more "just out in theaters" films, and I was lucky enough to get a chance to see Gone Girl, which I'm positive will get some Oscar buzz.  Of course, I said that last year with Pain & Gain, so I'm probably super wrong.

Gone Girl is a tremendously tense thriller.  It is filled with complicated characters making difficult decisions, lies, and false public faces.  There are a lot of twists and turns, none of which I will spoil, but let me give a quick basic plot rundown.  A dude, Ben Affleck (who after seeing the film, neither I or my movie friend could remember his character's name, which is bad writing) is an unhappy husband who, on the day of his fifth anniversary, comes home to find his wife missing.  His wife, Amy (played by the phenomenal Rosamund Pike), is a semi-celebrity, being the inspiration for very popular children's books written by her mother, so the crime is immediately followed up on.  But things start to unravel quickly, as the crime ends up being more than originally thought.

The movie is tremendous.  And it is still flawed.  Some of the flaws are super super obvious, like the ridiculous amount of product placement.  And not just reality product placement, like at one point Ben Affleck has a headache, so he puts a Diet Coke to his head, though the logo is covered.  Nah, I'm talking center screen, characters move props to better show logos, ridiculous riDICulous garbage.  It completely junks up the movie around the halfway point and is terribly distracting, especially this one Mountain Dew bottle.  BAH!



On top of that, these characters are ... difficult.  They aren't quite real.  They aren't quite grounded.  That isn't necessarily bad, but it means that a lot of time in Act 1, before the plot really gets moving, we are listening to these not quite believable characters say not quite believable dialogue.  The movie is FILLED with great actors all acting very very well, including Neil Patrick Harris and Tyler Perry of all people.  But the dialogue writing and character choices written in the script boggle my mind a little.  Also, a few plot points are brought up more than once but never followed up on, which was incredibly odd to me.  It makes that dialogue come across as completely useless and a waste of time, and the movie is not short.

So yeah, I said a bunch of bad stuff with some good stuff mixed in, but let me reiterate: this was a phenomenal movie.  The ending is a little odd and might turn some viewers off, but the ride is incredible.  Amazingly enjoyable, and Rosamund Pike just does an amazing job.  I really really enjoyed this film.  I want to watch it at least one more time in an attempt to spot little things in Act 1, now that I know where Act 2 and 3 go.  And I bet you it'll still be a little distracting, and still incredibly engaging.  I would definitely suggest people see the movie.

Grade: A+  ... no, it needs to be a B+ ... oh gosh, this one's hard.  The negatives are just a little too distracting for me, so I'm going with the B+, but that is NOT an easy call to make.