Watching: Freaky Friday (2003)

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Much of the 2000s flew right by me, and upon finally watching Walt Disney’s Freaky Friday I never really understood exactly how much I ignorantly passed by. A barrage of teenage comedy films. Questionable fashion fads. Normal Lindsay Lohan. But while these things may have been a thing of the past and I now live in a completely different world, I thoroughly enjoyed this family comedy for what it was – a heartwarming, albeit whimsical, story about family ties.

I’ve always managed to scroll past this film when browsing the listings on what I should watch next. I’m a very big horror junkie, and so I never really payed any attention to a Lindsay Lohan (Mean Girls, The Parent Trap) film until I noticed Jaime Lee Curtis (Halloween, A Fish Called Wanda) was also in it. Seeing as I absolutely loved the Halloween series, I gave it a chance. I was not disappointed.

Anna Coleman (Lindsay Lohan) and her mother Tess (Jaime Lee Curtis) couldn’t be anymore different – while Tess is an uptight mother trying to keep her family in line, Anna is a rebellious, rocking teen. Really, the only thing they seem to share is… arguing and fighting. On a visit to a Chinese restaurant they’re at it again, fighting, until an old Chinese woman (Lucille Soong) offers them fortune cookies. Unfortunately (heh), the next morning not all is at it should be, as both mother and daughter find they have switched bodies – and must learn to walk in each other shoes.

I’m not sure if I’m starting to enjoy comedies a lot more, but I had a great time watching Freaky Friday. Yes, while the premise is more common than it should be, and the strained mother/daughter relationship a tad cliché, the film is more than deserving of praise for the amazing Curtis/Lohan performance. They seem to work well off each other, and both did a great job in portraying the other’s character. Props definitely go out to JML though: my eyes were glued to the screen whenever she was on it. She was vibrant, exciting, and most importantly, genuinely funny. It amazed me when I found out she was put on the cast only four days before filming, which made me all the more impressed with her performance. Other than that, dialogue in the film was above average at best and average at worst, and the rest of the film pretty much plays out on that line. The supporting cast does well to compliment the unique personalities of the mains, and a very special mention goes out to Lucille Soong for making me burst out in laughter at the end scene.

I have to say, I quite enjoyed a taste of early 2000 Disney. Freaky Friday overall was a great film to pass my Sunday morning, and I have no regrets about watching it. Oh, except for the music video-esque performance by Lindsay at the end – yeah no, I cringe at those things, really, skip right past it and onto the scrolling credits. But other than that, I suggest you don’t do what I did – don’t hesitate! Enjoy this fun and heartwarming film that is sure to leave you laughing.

Bry Rating: 3.5/5
Recommended? Go for it!
Country of Origin: America
Language: English

Playing: PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale (PS3) (PSVITA)

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Unfairly compared to it’s Nintendo counterpart, Sony’s PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is a platform fighter that manages to hold its own in the genre, despite Smash Bros.‘s immense popularity. Even so, while it can be considered it’s own game in it’s own right, many aspects of the game were less than stellar, which is a shame considering the positive points it has to offer.

All the playable characters have their own storyline and reasons for joining the tournament being hosted by a mysterious entity. The players soon find themselves in familiar and unfamiliar settings as their worlds are amalgamated into hybrids, creating areas that are lethal if they do not adapt.

I can understand why Nintendo-biased fans would attack PASBR – although they might be similar in their gameplay, idea and genre, this is wholly unjustified. The game provides a new take on the platform fighter, while retaining elements of the genre that are exciting and invite fans to play. This in itself gives it enough credibility to be considered it’s own game and not simply a Smash Bro. rip-off.

The game features 20 (not including DLC) unique characters to enjoy, each with their own skill sets, combos, stats, and finishers. This gives players a large sense of diversity, keeping the game from being too repetitive. To gain points, characters must fill their AP meter in order to gain finisher levels that can kill other characters. All characters have distinct Level 1, 2, and 3 finishers, the lowest of which being the easiest to reach and hardest to use while the latter of which is the hardest to reach, yet easiest to use. The playing field is set in platformer style and are dynamic, often changing at intervals and introducing hazards that can injure or affect a player in some way. Items in the game also range from Playstaion franchises, and can be used to either enhance player performance or damage enemies. It features the standard game modes that you would normally expect from a game like this – Arcade (which is one of the lowlights when compared to the overall game), Challenge, Versus and (most importantly) Online Multiplayer. I must say, while the overall gameplay is good, it would become boring very quickly if it weren’t for it’s Versus and Online Multiplayer mode.

The character models, backgrounds and fighting animations are really well done, and are in my opinion much better than any other platform fighter that has been made. The game is not entirely perfect though – it suffers in it’s poor menu execution (honestly, it seems very amateurish) and the story still-frames in Arcade mode. This is an important note to ANY game: If you include a storyline, do not oversimplify it. It needs to be engaging, and two still-frames just don’t cut it. Moving on, the music fares slightly better in it’s presentation. It can be said that Smash Bros. does this better due to it’s large variety of well known hits, and while PASBR does this to a lesser degree, players are only given a below average score that rely on sudden shifts, sound effects and voice overs to keep players engaged.

Overall, while it’s music and some visual aspects are subpar, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is an absolute delight to play against other people. It’s actually a shame that it didn’t receive more attention, as it costs fans from more DLC characters, but I suppose there may have been some reasons for that. If you enjoy platform fighters, or enjoy the cross-over aspect that is more commonly observed in Nintendo’s Smash Bro. franchise, be sure to check out PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale for a newer and different experience.

Bry Rating: 3/5
Recommended? Don’t bother playing by yourself – go online!
Country of Origin: America
Developer: Superbot Entertainment; SCE Santa Monica Studios; Bluepoint Games (Vita)

Playing: Zombies Ate My Neighbours (SNES) (SEGA Genesis) (VC)

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Saving your poor, defenceless neighbours as you fight your way through hordes of zombies, mummies, vampires, and even chainsaw wielding men is the aim of the cult classic, Zombies Ate My Neighbours. With a musical score and enemies that would make any B-Horror film lover squeal, this particular game was – and still is – a personal favourite.

I’ve never actually been able to finish ZAMN, causing me much frustration as grew up. I first played it at the age of 9, and until last year, I had no idea there actually was a story that (kind of) tied the game together. It stars Zeke and Julia as they save their neighbours from a wide array of monsters that have been unleashed on their suburbs by the deranged Dr. Tongue. Armed with only a water gun and a first aid kits, these teenage monsters hunters set out on their journey, traversing lakes, castles, pyramids, dungeons and even shopping malls to set things right.

This game is basically the embodiment of any respectable B horror movie – it’s very tongue in cheek, not only through it’s presentation, but it’s quirky gameplay dynamics, plot and characters. It has what any good homage to the genre has: film references, over the top music, loveable characters and a constant stream of humour. The game simply shines through it’s humour, especially through it’s monster cliches and level names (Such as ‘Forty Feet of Terror in: Level 8: Titanic Toddler‘, ‘Level 33: Fish and Crypts‘, and the special ‘Credit Level: Monsters Among Us‘).

It features an overhead view that allows the player to see the field with ease. It’s pretty useful, especially when you need to know how to access certain areas or avoid a horde of enemies waiting on the other side of a fence. The player starts with three lives and ten victims, the number of which carries over depending on how many you saved in the previous round. The loss of all neighbours results in a game over, as does the depletion of your life bar, which can sustain ten hits before you’re knocked out. A password system is also available, although inserting a password results in the player being only equipped with the standard water pistol and a single first aid kit. Although it’s not necessary, it’s highly recommended to play in cooperation with another player. It gets difficult saving your teachers, cheerleaders and whimpering soldiers when you’re fighting giant babies, evil dolls and beady eyed martians just by yourself, so having a trusty sidekick is preferable. Speaking of fighting, ZAMN has the most interesting weapon arsenal at your disposal – which includes silverware, soda grenades, weed whackers, and bazookas to name a few.

The graphics are, as you would expect of 1993, 16-Bit and work well with the chosen dark pallet of the game. Not only does it give the game visual appeal, but it causes it to reflect the dark, grainy and almost superficial tones that are indicative of B horror movies. The music does well to accompany it, utilising a quirky score that fits the game perfectly. It’s a sort of second rate “scary”, being both whimsical and spooky at the same time. They’re also highly memorable, especially for the first theme, and specific tracks are used for specific settings to essentially create miniature films for the player’s pleasure.

I have loved this game ever since I discovered it at the very end of my brother’s emulator back in my childhood. Standing the test of time and the progression of technology, Zombies Ate My Neighbours is an addictive game that will frustrate you and just as equally satisfy you. Whether it’s raging at the tourists who transformed into werewolves or the pleasure of entering the end stage door at the last second, ZAMN is a game that should be – no, deserves to be considered in Gaming’s Hall of Fame.

Bry Rating: 5/5
Recommended? A Must-play Cult Classic
Country of Origin: America
Developer: LucasArts
 

Watching: Frozen (2013)

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How do you write about a film, when it seems the rest of the world has already seen it? Arriving fashionably late to the hype of Disney’s Frozen, I managed to savour the newest addition to the Disney archives. I will admit, the film is genuinely funny, moving and is an excellent film for families or the Disney viewer. That being said though, I found the movie to be overrated by the fanatics of the internet (I’m looking at you Tumblr) and I expected more out of it, though I do agree with the aray of awards it has garnered.

I managed to finally get my hands on a copy of Frozen through the release in Australia. I watched it with my family on a Sunday afternoon (as we often do), and began listening to the story. At this point my older brother and I had already learnt the lyrics of all its songs, as such was the hype of the newest Disney film. While we were mostly happy with the overall film, I personally felt wronged. It’s story – although good – just wasn’t as fleshed out as I had hoped it to be.

Frozen takes place in the Kingdom of Arrendale where King & Queen rule with two daughter, one of which – Elsa (Idina Menzel)- possesses cryokinetic powers. After hurting her sister Anna (Kirsten Bell) with her powers, Elsa is shielded from the world and lives her life in isolation.  Years later, Elsa and Anna live very different lives – whereas Anna is an optimist, Elsa has become a recluse, creating a rift between the two. Elsa’s powers seem to be affected by her emotions, and so after she becomes stressed at her coronation, she runs away from the kingdom, accidentally setting off an eternal winter. Feeling responsible for her outburst, Anna teams up with Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), an iceman; Sven, his loyal reindeer; and Olaf (Josh Gad), a living snowman, in order to return summer to Arrendale and reconcile with her sister.

As expected of modern computer animation, Frozen’s characters and world are essentially flawless. There’s no doubt that a lot of detail went into the film’s creation, and it seems to have payed off – character movement is fluid and believable, structures are impeccable and objects rival their real counterparts (have you seen those snowflakes?) . Minor points are filled with information that would otherwise be overlooked (i.e. the symbolism of both princesses’ dresses), making it ripe with secrets and facts. The characters, namely Elsa and Anna, are portrayed in a realistic manner, and it isn’t an overstatement to say that both Bell and Menzel give life to the sisters. Anna’s quirky and joyful personality is rivalled only by Elsa’s stoic and refined behaviour, presenting to the audience two princesses that stray from the fairy tale norm. Whether this is the product of the string of films Disney has produced in recent years or the desire to portray a larger variety of female characters (and not just the damsel in distress stereotype), it seems Disney is headed in the right direction. The musical score of the film doesn’t fail at all, possessing a variety of memorable songs that I find myself humming to every now and again. The one point I think the film failed for me was its story – it’s not that it was bad, in fact, it is smartly written. It’s just that through all the hype and the commotion, I thought that there’d be more to it than what I was presented with.

In total, Frozen has become a hit worldwide, and personally one of my favourite animated films. I do think that Disney is returning to it’s roots, simulating the inspiring hits of the 20th century (In particular The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast) with a new formula that seems to be working quite well. While I wasn’t completely satisfied with it, I think that its been one of the better movies of 2013, and one of the best movies to come out of the 2010’s so far. If you have been left completely in the dark on this snowstorm of adventure, like I was until a few days ago, be sure to check it out. There’s nothing better than a Disney film to put you in the right mood.

Bry Rating: 4/5
Recommended? Don’t miss out on another Disney hit!
Country of Origin: America
Language: English

Watching: Sharknado (2013)

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Living in Australia, the hype and controversies of American pop culture frequently falls on deaf ears. That being said, the so-bad-it’s-good film Sharknado is one of the few things to hit our shores that had a relatively big impact. Mostly everything about it is bad – from the acting, to the plot, from the effects to the humour. Oh god, the humour.

Everyone knew it was going to be bad, but that didn’t stop the unique “attention” that people gave to it. It’s an know fact that movies aired on SyFy are generally bad, but why do they gain an overwhelming following? By all logic, films like these should have been rejected and hated by any self-identified film lover. But we don’t.

As the title would suggest, the film is about a tornado. With sharks. After this sharknado starts developing on the coast of L.A (and moves gradually inland), Fin, the lead and ‘hero’ of the group, must lead a group of friends from his pub to higher ground while finding and dealing with his estranged ex-wife and daughter. To make matters worse, the deluge from the storm and the traffic of the city make it almost impossible for the group to reach safety.

To put it bluntly, everything is cringe worthy. The sharks are all computer generated and to be frank, I’ve seen better CGI in films pre 2000. This film is total rubbish, pointless and a waste of my time… but It’s just so charming. On one hand, I sincerely hope  director Anthony C. Ferrante was completely aware the it was unbelievably stupid and an atrocity to film history. But on the other, I really hope he didn’t – it would make it just that little bit better. In the wake of terrible, scripted lines and mundane graphics and visuals, everyone eventually comes around and enjoys the film.

To be fair, the whole point of the film is to simulate the loveable feel of old B rated movies. If it was directed in any other way, I’d probably hate – but it’s that humorous mix of satire and (for lack of better word) ‘terrible-ness’ that makes it so good. Anyone would be happy watching it – but just remember, it’s meant to be laughed at. It’s begging for it.

Bry Rating: 3/5
Recommended? Yes… But don’t take it too seriously.
Country of Origin: America
Language: English

Watching: Anastasia (1997)

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Taking the spot as my favourite animated film of all time, Fox’s Anastasia gives the audience a unique take on the urban legend of the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia’s survival of the execution of her family. It draws on the mystique of the infamous Rasputin and has a loveable cast, excellent musical score and an intriguing plot.

I remember when I first watched it, it didn’t really stick in the mind of my 9 year old self. The only thing that did seem to stick was the song titled “Once Upon a December” (Do yourself a favour, check it out). It was so unbelievably catchy that 5 years later, it forced me watch the movie yet again – only this time, I actually understood what I was watching and I fell in love.

Anya, an orphaned girl with no memory of her past leaves her orphanage and heads to St Petersburg to find out about her family. When she arrives, two con men, seeing her likeness to the long lost Princess Anastasia, decide to take advantage of her likeness to the long lost Princess Anastasia to receive a reward for her return. Unsure of whether or not she really is the lost Duchess, Anya and the two men, Dmitri and Vladimir, make their way to collect the reward whilst the evil Rasputin attempts to kill the girl once and for all.

Anastasia is an incredibly charming story that combines both drama, suspense, humour and innocence in a superbly balanced form. The film, which sustains an engaging plot, receives most of its praise from its animation, visual style, voice acting and (My favourite) the song sequences. Although some may see similarities between the film’s art style and that of Disney’s past movies, the film is authentic in its own right, providing viewers with an original and intriguing tale. It did, unfortunately, receive some criticism for its fairy-tale like depiction of a historical figure, but inaccuracies aside, this retelling of one of Russia’s most known figures is undeniably entertaining for kids, adults, and all those in between.

Whenever I’m asked what my favourite movie is, I can’t give a straight answer. I’ve got one for each genre, and so to narrow it down to a single film is impossible. In saying that, I immediately mention this film when asked what my favourite animated film is – every time. The plot, the visuals, the music – Oh, the music – simply make this movie an absolute delight to watch. If you are ever in need of a good movie on a rainy day or it’s one of those days you just crave for an animated children’s movie, be sure to consider Anastasia. It will, without a doubt, be worth your while.

Bry Rating: 4/5
Recommended? Yes – and you won’t regret a thing
Country of Origin: America
Language: English