@MeekinOnMovies On: ‘Ted” and “The Witcher II”


For the uninformed, Ted follows the exploits of John (Mark Whaaahllberg) and his talking Teddy Bear, Ted (Seth MacFarlane). Things become complicated when John’s girlfriend, Lori (Mila Kunis) starts to think that Ted is a negative influence on John’s life, as surely smoking that much pot, and watching that many cartoons, can’t be good for a fully grown 35 year old man. I know that premise sounds a bit “Script writing 101” but that’s actually pretty okay.

The ultimate take away is this: Seth MacFarlane is fluent in cliche. it’s pretty clear that there really isn’t an original thought or idea in his head when it comes to the direction of this movie. There are about a half dozen scenes within Ted that show Seth MacFarlane communicates almost exclusively in references to other media.

Take the  moment where Ted vows to leave forever if Lori agrees to take John back. This shot, with the characters bathed in shadow as the camera moves in on both of them, slowly, has been in about six dozen movies. It’s funny because this otherwise serious scene involves a talking Teddy Bear. There’s the scene that involves Ted retrieving his recently  torn off ear to a sly  “Indiana Jones” musical cue. There’s endless references to 90’s music and 80’s movies. This is great stuff if you’re a media junkie.



A lot of folks tend to assume that Seth Macfarlane is a cheap shot artist. That his jokes rely on shock humor or evoking a guttural gasp of “I can’t believe they said that” in-lieu of a truly earned laugh. Personally, I think the opposite is true. I think Seth Macfarlane’s work, including this movie and his television projects, give the audiences far more credit than most other comedies on television.

The word satire is tossed around a lot, but essentially satire takes a known entity and makes fun of it. The problem with satire is that if your audience doesn’t understand what you’re satirizing, you’re going to be going a long way for a joke that won’t hit. What MacFarlane does, and deserves credit for, is assume that most of the people watching his stuff are big huge nerds.

There are references in this film from Star Wars to Taylor Lautner to Teddy Bruschi. Your enjoyment of Ted will greatly come from how many of these references and asides you get, and smile at. The opening sequence of the film includes classic gaming systems, Patrick Stewart, and a cameo by Johnny Carson of all people.

What deserves special mention is the use of music. It’s obvious that while MacFarlane may be a writer / director, his soul lies with big band. Most of the big camera moves to open up scenes typically involve Seth panning over bands, orchestras, and other sources of music to set the tone. It’s the most unique soundtrack of the summer.

 

The beauty in all of this is that the movie means well. At it’s heart, Ted’s about friendship and compromise and understanding. It’s also about getting a laugh out of the audience in any way it can, much like MacFarlane’s Family Guy. As a result some of it falls flat if you’re not sure what they’re making reference too, and you’ll probably miss out on a great deal of the movie’s appeal if you’ve never heard of the best-bad-movie-of-all-time Flash Gordon, or aren’t familiar with the various nuances of New England living. It’s important to note that Ted fully knows what it is, too; A dumb raunchy comedy with a touch of heart. There’s no exceedingly heavy handed subplots involving Alzheimer’s, like in Mila’s previous Rom-Com “Friends With Benefits”, and everyone is pretty jovial and upbeat. Even a kidnapping plot involving Giovanni Ribisi is played for laughs.  

So, if you’re looking to laugh, don’t mind a potty mouth, and got 12 bucks burning a hole in your pocket, you could do a lot worse then see Ted. Heck, it may even warm your cynical, shriveled heart.


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The Witcher II: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition: The Best Polish JRPG Ever
 
The Witcher is preceded by its reputation. Namely that of being a hard ‘M’ rated game featuring graphic violence, intense gameplay, mature themes, complex storylines, and boobies galore. I’m not joking about the boobies. I bought the collector’s edition of the game, and even the included map had four boobs on it.

Which would be fine, seeing as how I’m a red blooded american male who likes boobs almost as much as I love whiskey and oppressing minorities. But I was going to be playing this game in a living room, where my uppity roommates could walk in at any moment and cast a disapproving glance at cinemax-esque proceedings on the HDTV screen. Digital boobies, ladies and germs, aren’t great casual conversation starters.

Yet, Gametrailers, IGN, and my Polish friend all assured me this was a quality game. Perhaps the best RPG on the Xbox 360, even. The bountiful booby bouquet barely a bonus to the proceedings. With that in mind, I started to play The Witcher II: Enhanced Edition. Immediately a world filled with unique characters and a soul-crushing amount of fiction presented itself. The game’s world was miles deep, and almost just as wide, with mini-games and side quests galore. Simply put, from the get-go, I was astonished.

TWIIAOKEE (Even the game’s acronym is complex!), focuses on the continuing adventures of amnesia stricken Geralt of Rivia. A tall, pale-skinned, cat-eyed, silver-haired fellow who’s covered in scars, and at the start of the game, being held in prison in connection with the murder of a king he was sworn to protect. Geralt may be of human blood, but the intense and painful “Witcher” training he underwent as a child has rendered him something of a mutant and outcast – and easy target to scapegoat. Oh and did I mention Geralt is basically a Jedi? No? Well, he is. Mind-tricks and all.

Eventually you escape from prison, reunite with your friend and possible lover Triss Merigold, and embark on a quest to hunt down the King Slayer before he strikes again.

From there you’re thrust into a world of poverty, chaos, and racial tension. The humans and elves are at war with each other, each thinking the other are an inferior race. The subtext being that since Geralt is not quite human, and not quite inhuman, he’s really the only person who is capable of being respected by both races. In a game filled with choices, this fact becomes the driving force between every ‘damned if I do, damned if I don’t’ situation, all of which have serious consequences, foreseen or otherwise.

Then there’s the question of Geralt’s missing memories to contend with, his possible love for Triss, a series of awesome animated sequences depicting Geralt’s past that feels like something out of the 7th Harry Potter movie, and I’m not even counting the side quests that serve as incredibly well told short stories of despair, betrayal, and moral quandary.  

This is incredibly fascinating if you’re inclined to dive head first into a game’s fiction. The well-written journal entries in the menu are paragraphs long and detail nuances and events from the previous game, inform you of character histories, and so on. Character interactions with strangers and comrades alike is varied and lively. You rarely find yourself talking to someone who feels like a cardboard copy and paste of a character you meant two towns ago.

Part of the problem with most western RPGs, particularly the lauded Elder Scrolls Franchise, is that the main attraction to those games are wide open worlds with hundreds of hours of content, deep caves, secret locations, and a whole bunch of other stuff that sounds great on paper, then once you start playing, you find the entire open world is inhabited by the same seven people wearing different hats and armor. It makes the world of the game flat and uninteresting. When you combine this with the generally loose FPS combat, there doesn’t seem to be much of a reason to stick around in the game at all, especially when you find yourself asking “What should I do now?” in the bored sort of way, over and over and over again as you wander the game’s endless plains.

The Witcher wisely narrows its focus. Each chapter gives you a wide open area to explore, sure, but the scope is limited as to create a great deal of quality content per digital square foot. The first chapter alone contains an Eleven encampment, a secret laboratory, a cursed prison (and awesome side quest to go along with it), and a giant tentacle monster straight out of Alan Moore’s Watchmen to contend with. It’s all enthralling in the “I can’t wait to see what happens next” sort of way. This feels like what RPGs should be these days.

Think about Final Fantasy 7. Think about how much time you spent in Midgar before the world opened up. It was a visually distinct city with a least a half dozen memorable locations, because each one was given care. Similarly, think about all the interesting things that happened at The Golden Saucer, (and the mini-games, so many excellent mini-games) or the amount of time you could spend mating chocobos to obtain the famed Knights Of The Round Materia. It wasn’t focused on creating a world that was X number of miles wide. Towns didn’t have a copy & paste sameness that most console RPGs seem to have now. There was a distinct reason for each location within the progression of the plot.I think that level of care shines through in The Witcher II, thus making it the best JRPG of all time, despite it not being developed in Japan.

It’s a top notch production and surely one of the best games on the Xbox 360 if you’re feeling up to the occasion. It’s deep and satisfying, and intensely personal. It’s an epic game with an epic storyline that requires your attention, and feels as deep as the series of novels the game is based on. Plus, ya know, boobs and stuff.

Ten Thoughts

1. True Lies is an underrated classic. It’s the most lighthearted of all James Cameron’s films for starters, and could be viewed as a parody of all things spy-fiction. The skis and snowmobiles shoot-out to open the film, the horse and motorcycle chase, and the epic false climax involving a limo, helicopter, and too-short bridge are some of the most exhilarating filmmaking of the 90s. The romance between Jamie Lee Curtis and Arnold is probably more personal than you’d expect from a movie like this. In a perfect world, it would have been the start to our own American James Bond.

Also: Bill Paxon is great as the character David Arquette was meant to play.  

2.  If you’re curious when action movies started sucking, it was when Starship Troopers came out as a major action movie in 1997 and utilized CGI enemies. it was a big flop (100 mil to make, roughly 22 mil at the box office) but from that point out CGI replaced practical efforts exponential regularly, thus making almost all action spectacle glorified cartoons. 
  

3. Transformers 3 is probably the best film of the CGI era to properly incorporate technical mastery, practical effects, and camera work. The best shot in that movie is when Bumblebee transforms, ejects Shia from the drivers seat, catches him mid air, then transforms back into a car again. Seeing this in Imax is one of my favorite movie moments of all time.

 


4. Does anyone here play Madden Football on Xbox? I wanna get an online league started and would hate to do so with strangers. I’d much rather do it with wrestling fans. We could even cut promos on each other.

 
5. I wonder if James Cameron wrote True Lies about how he saw himself during his relationship with Linda Hamilton, or Kathryn Bigelow. Part of the fun of reviewing movies is that when a single person has script credit, in this case James Cameron, often times many subtextual and psychological subtexts are put into the script completely unknowingly.

 
6. I think good music production goes unnoticed, particularly because I’m the one unnoticing it most of the time. Listen to all the sound effects in the Big and Rich song “Rollin” and tell me it’s not a technical feat.

 
7. Seeing Tom Arnold in True Lies sort of reminds me of a Seth McFarlene character prototype; Crass and loud and gimmicky, but somehow lovable. 8. More NFL: I think Drew Brees is the NFL’s CM Punk: Take a gander at the Pipe Bomb he lays on Commish Goodell.

 “Nobody trusts him. Nobody trusts him. I’m not talking about a DUI, or using a gun in a strip club, which are pretty clear violations. I think there’re too many times where the league has come to its decision in a case before calling a guy in, and the interview is just a façade. I think now if a guy has to come in to talk to Roger, he’ll be very hesitant because he’ll think the conclusion has already been reached.”  

Credit: Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback (Look for his interview with Drew Brees)
 

9. Who’s injury do you have to sell to get a job in these parts?!

I’ve been off and on looking for a production job in the pro-wrestling biz for the better part of my entire life. But much like the mafia or Molly Holly’s vagina, it’s so tight knit that’s it’s almost impossible to get into. Of course I probably didn’t do myself any favors when the first thing I said to the promoter of Top Rope Promotions was “Oh you’re the dudes with the Scott Hall thing, right?”

I’m totally out of shape, marginally talented, passionate for the business, have my own video editing software, and am balding rapidly- I already fit the part for every single Indy Promoter out there, someone give me a chance!

 
Netflix Queue Tips (Let’s get busy Edition)

 


1. What’s Your Number – A cute raunchy rom-com with Anna Faris and Captain America himself Chris Evans. Lots of implied nudity and gross out humor, Ana Faris runs around in skimpy underwear at least 60 percent of the movie, and Chris Evans is the kind of stud where every part of his body sprouts perfectly groomed body hair.  My Review

 
2. 9 Songs – I don’t know why I have such a soft spot for this hardcore porno-in-pretentious clothing. Certainly the most graphically sexual movie I’ve ever seen, it’s essentially a story about a couple who meet, get busy, listen to some live music, then get busy again. Rockin’ bodies, hot tunes, if you’re the kind of person who likes to watch the occasionally steamy flick with your significant other – this is the cream of the crop.



 

3. Enter The Void – Enter The Void is one of the most unique movies I’ve ever seen. I don’t know if that makes it good or not. Graphically sexual, graphically violent, visually abrasive, and something like two and a half hours long, Enter The Void is the indie film to end all indie films. From the moment the credits start to assault your eyes, you know you’re in for something special. Whether or not it’s the good special, I suppose, is up to you.

Next Week:
Aaron Sorkin. Who? Aaron Sorkin. The writer guy? Yeah him. What about him? The column next week. What about the column next week? It’s about him. Who? Sorkin! Sorkin who? Aaron Sorkin! Now where’s my magic mushrooms?

Plus:
Public Flashing: The best free-to-play flash games of all time.