All My Friends Are Fictional Characters
I take all forms of entertainment (video games, films, books, TV shows, comics, etc.) and review it for the delight of the readers of this blog.
I’m just going to say this now to save myself some time, I have not read the books. I am reviewing this film from the perspective of someone who has not experienced the books. And I recognize that the view I take is at least partially unfair, it would be like reviewing Harry Potter without having read the books. However, my opinion on this is simple. If it is the first in a franchise that is being adapted to film, it is acceptable to see it and not actually read the books in advance. Getting back on topic then…I never actually even heard of The Hunger Games until the trailers for the film came out, I guess I’m just too old. Or at least I act like I’m older than I am. I mostly just don’t understand why 20 year olds are seeing films based on young adult books. It’s the same reason why I don’t understand the Harry Potter franchise. But I digress.
The Hunger Games takes place in a dystopian future, in a nation known as Panem. As punishment for a past rebellion, the capital initiates what are known as The Hunger Games which takes a girl and boy from each one of the twelve districts and has all 24 combatants fight to the death in an arena until one remains. The event is televised and from here begins the part that interested me the most. The audience can send supplies to the combatants. That’s right, the more popular you are on the “show”, the more support you can get. Throws an interesting wrench into the usual archetype of deathmatch brawls doesn’t it? Anyway, from here we meet Katniss Everdeen, from District 12, as she volunteers to take the place of her younger sister after she gets chosen to compete. A boy gets chosen, obviously, and they both head out to the capital. The set up itself, is rather intriguing as I find the whole deathmatch archetype to be extremely interesting, however, they do spend an annoying amount of time focused on the actual introduction. Once again it is necessary, being that this is bound to be part of a series, but I found myself somewhat frustrated.
The design is something I rarely talk about but I feel it’s quite necessary here. I actually really love the design of the movie. We first see the poorer class in the districts obviously and it reminds one of a town from the early 1800s then, BAM Elizabeth Banks’ character shows up and looks just completely alien. The fact is that the way the design of the movie goes, color seems to be reserved specifically for denizens of the capital. Not only that but the design decides to go straight up bizarre with their clothing style. It looks great in my opinion, especially when contrasted with the rather normal looking combatants. Also I happen to love me a decent looking futuristic city. So there’s that too.
The acting is quite good actually. I say actually because at this point I am generally used to the first movie in the series not really having that good of acting from the main stars. But once again, these aren’t child actors like the Harry Potter series so they do wonderfully. The characters are very interesting and the writing is overall excellent. Katniss is easily the most interesting protagonist in the young adult genre in a long time in my opinion as she clearly has the smarts and the skill to stay alive unlike some chosen one stuff like in Star Wars or others. Peeta on the other hand, while intelligent, managed to just bore me. And that feeling applies to a lot of the younger actors. Either the parts themselves are rather two dimensional in the books which, after hearing some of the things left out of the movie, I rather doubt. Or the actors just aren’t that amazing. The great actors are the older cast. They manage to truly sell this futuristic world which, considering the set up, is quite a feat. Hell, just looking at the names you can figure out why. Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci and so on. Also, Lenny Kravitz is in this. Yeah that threw me off too.
The action is the one thing that really will not stop bothering me though. Here’s my general opinion, in a deathmatch archetype movie like say Battle Royale, Death Race, the book that I’m writing…forget I just said that. Anyway, you’re supposed to be able to not count the main character as an instant winner. In my opinion it just makes it boring if there’s a guaranteed win in their hands. A deathmatch story is supposed to cover other people and not really have a main character that way everyone can be a target. And I have got to say, I knew she and Peeta were going to win. I never even had a doubt in my mind. I know the whole star-crossed lover thing was in their favor and they were probably going to go for the Romeo and Juliet thing at the end but honestly it just seemed…forced. And I do recognize this is a movie for a younger audience, so asking for it to show grit would probably be out of place but the whole thing seemed so…defanged. Even the actual action didn’t seem to carry that much weight. Sigh. I really am getting old.
I did hear, pretty consistently, from the people I went to go see this with as well as friends of mine that the movie did not follow the storyline exactly. Pieces were missing, certain sections were replaced that could have gone better and I find that interesting. After hearing some of the parts that I missed by not reading the book I realized a lot of my complaints would have likely be satisfied. For one example, Katniss apparently suffers incredibly bad dehydration before finding water, almost dying in the process. That would have certainly made it seem a lot more survival based rather than suffering from main character syndrome (somehow managing to survive despite stupidly impossible odds. Just think of every storm trooper missing when firing at Luke, Leia and Han). I would have actually felt that syndrome disappear a little if the dehydration thing came up. Also, a few fights were missing, the narration was also gone (although that was obviously a stylistic choice, I see how they could have worked it in) and the list goes on. Once again, I can only review what I saw, but I thought I would mention these complaints.
So how is the movie in general? The acting is great, the design is shockingly good, the writing is interesting and the plot is intriguing. And yet I still can’t give it higher than a 3. Why? Well…I just couldn’t latch onto the movie. I don’t know why. It did everything right and yet struck me as so…boring. Once again though, I’m a different person than the target audience here. There’s a high chance that I didn’t like it simply because it wasn’t aimed at my age group. And I can openly accept that. I can’t give it higher than a 3 because I just didn’t care and I can’t give it a 2 because it did everything so well. So there’s my final judgement everyone, if you like the series, you probably already saw it by this point and if you haven’t heard of it like myself, try reading the first book then go see this. And if you’re a fan of more violent movies when it comes to the deathmatch subgenre…don’t bother. Just go watch Cabin in the Woods or something to burn some time. I’m giving The Hunger Games a 3 out of 5.
Game of thrones is once again something I never really have gotten into. To explain that statement I feel like I have to offer another explanation: fantasy has generally bored me. I don’t honestly know if that’s just because I have never enjoyed the whole Tolkien-esque fantasy deal with elves and dwarves and men and blah blah very rather banal stuff. Not to say I don’t like Lord of the Rings but I don’t like the fantasy films and books that intentionally try to imitate everything that made the series great while failing miserably. So for the longest time I dodged most forms of fantasy novels, movies and games and such because they were simply bland (most notably Dragon Age: Origins). However, Game of Thrones has been something that everyone has been saying I should watch and honestly I never really…wanted to. It took seriously far too much convincing but I finally got around to watching the first season.
The story deals with the aristocratic inner politics of the lands of Westeros and Essos and the various islands and such in between. The plot from there separates into a ridiculous number of plotlines dealing with the various families. These families start out with only a few members followed by the audience and then slowly grow more massive in number. You start with following Lord Starke and grow into following at least 4 members from the main families and good god it gets ridiculous to keep track of. Although I managed it, I will openly admit it’s a feat to pull off without any prior knowledge of the books…although I could just be an idiot. There is that distinct possibility. Anyway, it’s basically the ridiculous politics between the various families, wars, skirmishes, various dealings with each other for control, and so on.
The acting is, to put it simply, quite likely the best acting I’ve seen on television. I’m not even kidding is the interesting part (yes I do at least realize that I’m usually some form of sarcastic). There are a few rather big name actors, at least for some people but most of this cast, at least by my standards is completely unknown. The actors are extraordinarily convincing in their roles which, for a fantasy, is extraordinarily hard to come by because convincing people that magic, dragons and such really exist is quite hard to do. Also, I have heard a bit of complaining regarding the child actors. I can see where the people complaining are coming from although I don’t agree. The child actors do extremely well and, considering my main references for child actors are from the star wars franchise and indiana jones, that’s pretty impressive.
That’s really all I can easily review right now due to, not necessarily a lack of memorable action, but my need to not give out spoilers as when the major action comes, it is definitely plot relevant. Let me just say it’s great and call it good.
The series so far has been nothing but fantastic. The plot, although occasionally convoluted and a bit of a mess at first, cleans up and you truly begin to understand the intricacies and deals of the court. The acting is absolutely phenomenal and has a cast deserving of a high budget oscar worthy movie rather than a tv show. One quick note before the overall score, the intro scene is one of the best I have ever scene and uses amazing music. Just thought I’d mention that as I do appreciate a TV show that has a good introduction. Anyway, if you can’t tell, the score is a 5 out of 5. Go out and watch it, the show is currently in it’s second season so you can easily catch up in a week. Season 2 Episode 3 came out this Sunday so hop to it people.
This one is…it’s going to be hard ladies and gentlemen. I love this series…quite a bit. I remember when I grabbed Mass Effect at a Half Price books back home thinking nothing too much of it. Hell, I actually stared at it and Fallout 3 for a while before finally shrugging and deciding on Mass Effect because it was five dollars cheaper. I came home and actually started playing it though. I stopped for a while then finally got back to it and…good god. I loved it. Sure the Mako handled like absolute garbage. Sure the AI on both enemies and allies were crap. Sure the weapon system was stupid and the fetch quests got annoying but it was just so involving. I have never run into characters more interesting and well developed then the characters of the Mass Effect series. Not only that, the plot is utterly amazing and so very intriguing. I couldn’t put it down. I loved every moment of it. And the ending…just made me want the second one immediately. I’m not going to sum up my feelings on the second one as well but let me just put it this way, I loved it to. This series is very close to my heart. I love the combat system due to Mass Effect 2′s improvements and I love the dialogue and story due to the original. This one was supposed to have everything the other two did. So the question remains, did it? For those of you who came here specifically for my views on the ending, take a look about two paragraphs down and you’ll find it. Pre-warning, spoilers will be in those paragraphs. I’ll try as hard as I can to dodge it, but I don’t know if I can do it.
The gameplay is…truly something to behold. The combat system is absolutely fantastic, adding in far more mobility then the second one, giving combat rolls and easy transfer of cover to up ease of moment. Your moves react faster, with your crew acting especially intelligent as far as AI programming. The level system is fantastic, allowing the evolution of skills taken from Mass Effect 2 and adding it to a lot of the whole skill tree. The skills seem more intuitive in their development and implementation which, once again, allows for ease of use. The dialogue trees have actually been significantly simplified which has the unfortunate conclusion of forcing your Shepard into a lot of situations where their really is no easy answer. However, this makes sense considering what the world of Mass Effect is going through in Mass Effect 3 but it’s still annoying. The gameplay is perfectly crafted although it did take upping the difficulty into Hardcore to actually be able to injure me, although by the end of it I was able to easily crush the game without really trying amazingly hard. It’s still great though, well crafted, interesting, and incredibly fun.
The story in Mass Effect 3 truly does feel like the third segment of a massive trilogy. All of the threads are coming to their conclusion here. The Krogan Genophage, the Geth-Quarian conflict, every single defining incident of the predominant racism that exists in the galaxy comes to a head in this game and it’s absolutely fantastic. It…it was actually quite touching to see these end. I found myself on the verge of tears more than a few times. Deaths are inevitable in war and it’s just sad to see those affect Shepard’s journey, however, they obviously need to happen. And that’s the truly compelling thing about this game: it’s war. You spend the entire game gathering support, soldiers and everything you need to win. Your job is to unite all the races and that’s easier said then done. The entire game’s story is exceptionally well done and is overall one of the greatest story that has ever been told in the entirety of video game history. Hell I would even say in the entirety of science fiction history. The story of Shepard is the stuff of legends and it’s truly an epic franchise.
Until the last ten minutes. Here we go everyone, I’m going to be addressing this.
PRE-WARNING TO EVERYONE WHO HAS NOT PLAYED THE MASS EFFECT FRANCHISE: YOU SHOULD DO IT. PLAY THE SERIES. THIS WILL REVEAL THE FINAL ENDING.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s continue. The ending is…well it’s bad. I’m not going to sugar-coat it. I find the ending to be one of the worst written and most frustrating endings on the planet. There is just nothing redeemable about this. There are enough plot holes for me to drive an 18 wheeler through (and I don’t even know how to do that). It’s just so very bad. It’s short, lacking in any explanation, any sense of conclusion, has a huge number of plot holes, and is overall just…utterly utterly terrible. Until one single scene, that caused me to rethink the entirety of my emotions upon the ending. That is a single scene at the end. I now hold the core belief of what is known as the Indoctrination Theory. I’m not going to explain it all because the spoilers are ridiculous. If you desperately want to know look up indoctrination theory on youtube and the first hit will be the best video on the topic. But there in lies the question, was it all a conspiracy by Bioware? The clues are there. They are clear as crystal. Hidden, but when exposed to light, shine for what they really are. It explains what I consider the outright stupidity of the original ending.
SPOILERS END HERE
Alright everyone, so then, what is the score? Everything about it is great except for those final moments. Does this make the entire game worthless? It doesn’t make it worthless, although it manages to damage the entire series as a whole. It makes all of what you worked for on the other two games completely pointless. It still manages to be a game that plays great and has exceptional endings to the individual races and their conflicts as well as great combat but the ending is truly that terrible. However, if the theory that I hold to be true is correct, then the game is the most amazing epic saga in the history of science fiction. I’m not even kidding on this one. If they managed to do what the theory suggests, then this is truly the most epic saga imaginable.
So I’m going to give it two scores here everyone.
If the Indoctrination Theory is correct: 5 out of 5
If the true explanation is the ending given straight by the game: 3 out of 5 (might think it would be lower but seeing the races conclusion and the combat helps the score a great deal)
There you go everyone. Me being hopeful that one of my favorite science fiction properties of all time has not had it’s development department taken over by a roaming band of howler monkeys. I really really do hope that the Indoctrination Theory is true. I truly do. But hope is sometimes completely pointless. The cynic in me shouts that I’m wrong and yet I still hope that the Indoctrination Theory is true and, even then, if DLC is released, that it’s free. Because I will have one massive bone to pick with EA otherwise.
Fighting games are generally things that I have always been a huge fan of. Mortal Kombat, Soul Calibur, Marvel Vs. Capcom, etc. are generally games that I love. I love the competitive atmosphere of it all, I love the characters, and, occasionally, the outright brutality. However, there is one reason that I do not play them as much as I should: because I absolutely suck at them. No really. I am just terrible at them. Except for one series. And that is Marvel Vs. Capcom. I first played the original on the playstation with a working team of Mega Man, Jin and Captain America. Played the second on and off with Jin M. Bison and Shuma Gorath and finally FINALLY own one of the games for myself.
The story is absolute nil. There just is nothing here. Unlike other fighting games where I actually care about plot (Mortal Kombat specifically and another friend of mine seems to have it in his head that Soul Calibur has a decent plot, although I argue to the otherwise) there is just nothing here. Marvel characters vs. Capcom characters and that’s really all that matters. So let’s just discuss the fighter selection then. The fighter selection compared to the last game is smaller and there is a distinct lack of joke characters (no servbot style characters anymore). The character selection, although small, is actually pretty distinct and definitely interesting and, after two months of owning it, I happen to still find new ways to play the available characters. A few do play remarkably similar, but that’s probably just me thinking that. Any pro would be able to pick up these characters and notice their distinctly different playstyles. I am kind of pissed at the lack of some of my favorites: Bison, Mega Man, Jin, Captain Commando, Cyclops, so on, and yet I do like the new additions: members of the Devil May Cry series, Deadpool, Zero, new Street Fighter characters, Resident Evil, etc.
The gameplay is where this game absolutely shines by comparison to other fighters. The gameplay might be some of the most strategic, complex, interesting and yet outright insane fighting games I have ever born witness to. The fighting in this game is just too crazy. Each player chooses a team of three fighters to kill each other. You attack, block, build up hyper bars which let you unleash your hyper attacks, call in your allies from offscreen for assists and try to kill the opponent before you die. It’s simple at first, but as you learn more, you see the intense complexity in it all. Infinites, aerial combos, hyper interrupts, x-factor interrupts, assist kills, different playstyles like aggro, zoning, and so on. The gameplay is crazy to put it lightly.
Two things that I really do feel the need to talk about when compared to the last game, the graphics and the sound. The graphics in this game are distinctly different from the other two in the series in that they ditched the comic style and felt the need to go for a more cell-shaded look. It really does suit the game well in my opinion and it looks absolutely fantastic when compared to the others in my opinion. The sound is another thing that got a MASSIVE upgrade. Anyone who has played Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 knows how absolutely terrible the music is for that game. It’s mostly smooth jazz and just seems to not fit the state of the game in any way whatsoever. Capcom seemed to recognize this and gave the game the epic rock/orchestral soundtrack that all players of MvC believed it deserved. The games themes are honestly deserving of being on my ipod and manage to keep the game sounding suspenseful while being suspenseful, unlike the others.
Before I end this review let me make quick note of the upgrades in UMvC3 when compared to MvC3. Certain characters have been patched to allow them to play differently, Wesker has received a few nerfs (downgrades in his stats) as well as Sentinel and Phoenix. If you want to look into the whole explanation as to what the changes are, you can find the notes online. Also, when you buy Ultimate you get 12 new characters, 6 from each side (Vergil, Phoenix Wright, Nemesis, Firebrand, Strider Hiryu and Frank West from Capcom. Doctor Strange, Nova, Rocket Racoon, Ghost Rider, Iron Fist and Hawkeye from Marvel). The characters actually manage to be pretty good although a few of them are a little bit lacking once you start getting better at the game.
Discussing the issue of the Ultimate version as a whole, I’m not a huge fan of the fact that Capcom released this, instead of just DLC, kind of shafting the people who bought the original version for a full 60 dollars. When looking at the situation though, you realize that Capcom only did this due to the Earthquake. Capcom’s offices were hit and rather than releasing a ridiculous amount of DLC they decided to release the whole version for what would likely be a cheaper price. I don’t really agree with the idea of DLC as a whole but I can acknowledge that this was because of extraordinary circumstances, therefore I can’t blame them.
The game has easily taken the spot of my favorite fighting game of all time, just managing to take it away from Mortal Kombat 9. The game is incredibly complex, flashy and manages to be extremely entertaining. The game is just straight fun and, with friends rather than online, becomes a great party game. Also, it is the most rewarding feeling in all of video games to figure out what you’re doing in this game. Mainly because half the screen usually explodes when you get it right. The game does lack story and I am frustrated because of that, due to the fact that Mortal Kombat pulls of a story while still keeping the fighting great. Also, it’s distinct lack of single-player modes means you better have friends you can convince to play this or you better have an internet connection. I’m giving Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 a solid 4 out of 5.
2001: A Space Odyssey is generally a controversial film among film snobs. Most recognize the brilliance in the film but I have run into more than a few people who just hate all the metaphysical stuff involved in it. One of the rather vocal opponents of this film happens to be a good friend of mine. However, during one of these discussions, he mentioned that he has a film that he believes to be a perfect representation of what 2001 should have been. And that film is 2010. And I finally got around to watching it. And it’s a great movie.
The plot is exactly what you think would happen after 2001. A Soviet ship known as the Alexei Leonov is being sent up to find out what happened to the Discovery (the ship from 2001. You know, the one with the insane AI and the giant orbiting monolith and AH GOD EPILEPTIC SEIZURE). Anyway, they end up recruiting the former head of the NCA (Nation Council of Astronatuics) Heywood Flyod. I’m going to give you a very simple rundown as I really don’t want to start revealing things. But to put it simply this movie offers an explanation for basically everything you see during 2001. And the fact is, the answers are great. It’s one of those movies that could be seen as ruining the mystique of the original however, the answers offered in 2010 actually work quite well and in fact make the concepts of 2001 more intriguing.
The acting is, just like the original, quite solid. I was actually shocked at the cast, I suppose because it’s a sequel to a famous movie and I generally expect those sequels to have horrible casts (look at any horror movie sequel). Roy Schneider, John Lithgow, and Helen Mirren show up along with some other people that I had never heard of. Anyway, the cast is small and filled with exceptional actors. Also, despite being released 16 years later, they managed to get both the voice actor for Hal 9000 and David Bowman, who shows up a few times in the film which was certainly a nice surprise.
Let’s discuss the effects shall we. One would imagine that after 28 years the effects would generally look like crap by comparison to modern effects. However, I was more than a bit shocked that the practical effects used looked as great as they do. By practical effects I mean effects done through practical means, like models and sets and what have you rather than CGI. In general the effects look excellent, although I found myself making fun of the look of the original discovery to the realistic looking Leonov ship. Because the original discovery looks like a sperm cell and I’m extraordinarily immature.
As far as things go, this movie is an excellent science fiction film. The question remains though, did a movie like 2001 ever actually need these explanations? To me. No. 2001: A Space Odyssey was a brilliant film that, although metaphysical, was so interestingly bizarre that it really never needed an explanation. However, 2010 is meant for that other crowd that desired those explanations and in that 2010 succeeds. The explanations given manage to give answers while still keeping some of the original’s mystery. I give it a solid 4 out of 5.
My god, a review of a brand new game from me? This is a rather new concept. I mean honestly, most of my reviews are of games and movies that were released years ago. But let’s do this shall we? Okay so one thing that I generally find interesting about more modern video games is the fact that a lot of games from this era have taken to using ancient (or occasionally modern) mythology as a general basis for the ideas, world, characters, and plots within their games. Bayonetta, Dante’s Inferno, Assassin’s Creed (to an extent), God of War, Too Human, and so on. Asura’s Wrath is one of the few games I had actually had on my watch list for the past couple of months for this exact reason. It’s a combination of eastern mythology (pretty much all of it thrown in a blender) spliced with Sci-Fi action. It just sounds utterly ridiculous and amazing at the same time. The question though, is how it would fare against the others in it’s genre (God of War, No More Heroes, Bayonetta, etc.). Let’s take a look.
The plot to Asura’s Wrath is shockingly deep for something of this genre. Most of the time it’s just this person has x attribute, which causes them to fight or they want to get revenge on x because they killed their best friend/family/master/other-cliched-relation (Bayonetta notwithstanding). Asura’s Wrath takes place in…I’m just gonna go with Alternate Reality Earth, because that’s the only way this stuff makes any sense. Essentially there is a race known as the demigods which reign over mankind and Gaea (the planet). There is a force they fight against known as the Gohma (those who know anything about eastern religions know where this is being taken from). You find the General Asura in what will be known as the War of Creation. Him and the other seven Guardian Generals are all waging the final battle upon the forces of Gohma and manage to subdue the beasts. The narrative goes from there to Asura being betrayed by his fellow Guardian Generals (as Asura’s daughter works as the power source for the Demigods and he is deemed too dangerous) and eventually to Asura’s rise from Naraka (Hell) 12,000 years later. It’s a simple tale of revenge put into a rather interesting philosophical debate.
The gameplay is…interesting. It’s really actually hard to review this. I know I seem to say that a lot and usually just say to go out and try the game but this time I’m honestly lost. There is no way to adequately describe it. Sure there are combat sections which involve building a rage meter which will cause you to activate Burst Mode which will take you to the next stage of the level in a very traditional format. And sure there are bosses that you must destroy to continue your journey. And sure there are Quicktime events that do occur (and are in my opinion one of the best parts of the game because (to quote Ben Croshaw) “QTE’s can be effective when they are the basis of the gameplay”). However, the fighting ends up being the most visceral, brutal, and outright exhausting combat system I have ever had to deal with in a game. Each fight left me as exhausted as Asura. This isn’t just with a wiimote or something either, where your body physically moves, but through simple buttons the programmers managed to give each attack weight, each opponent strength and make me as tired as the protagonist would be after each battle.
The art style is one thing that really sets this game apart from anything that modern games have produced. This game reminds me of Okami, if it’s art suddenly started being semi-realistic rather than just calligraphy. It’s striking and vibrant and gives the game this amazingly unique feel that is unattainable outside of the game. I still want some of the art from this game framed and on my walls. This game is truly a feast for the eyes.
Once again, I find myself discussing the score. The score to this game is one of the greatest scores that gaming has ever produced. Let me put it this way: every single musicians has their own individual credit at the end of the game. Every. Single. One. You wanted to know who was playing the trumpets during that fantastic part in the fight with Wyzen where they blasted, alone, as Wyzen burned that village? Yeah. You can find that out. The music is on par with some of the best classical music I have ever heard and for only the second time in my life I am considering paying for a game’s soundtrack.
This game is, simply put, an interactive myth. It is the pure glory of the psychotic stories of the Greek Gods given life in an interactive medium. Combine that with Eastern myth and art, science fiction, one of the greatest game soundtracks ever made and sheer unadulterated insanity and you get a game that I would legitimately use to argue for the medium being an art form. I’ve beaten it and yet I crave more. I want to go back, beat it on every difficulty. Unlock everything and crush that too. Buy all the DLC and crush that as well.
Let me explain this game through an experience from it. I have fought one of the Seven Deities, on the moon, while using six arms, have assisted in the moon being cut in half, been spiked back into Gaea with the same blade, all to the glory that is the 4th Movement of Dvorak’s New World Symphony. All in one fight. How, in video games, can you possibly top that? I don’t know. I don’t think it’s possible. This game is easily one of the best experiences the medium can offer and is an easy 5 out of 5. If you have a 360 or a PS3 you owe it to yourself to play this. You’re in for a true wonder.
Ah yes, the SNL movie. For the one person out of my five usual viewers who is reading this and has no idea what I’m talking about, let me explain. Saturday Night Live has been…no I’m not explain saturday night live to you. Waste of my time. Now anyways, this show has a habit of creating characters that eventually create movies. Most of these movies range from meh to oh please god make it stop, although there have been a few standouts among the bunch (namely Wayne’s World and it’s sequel). In my opinion rarely these characters are even deserving of a film (despite the fact that I like Wayne’s World, was it really deserving of a film? Probably not). It’s usually just cashing in on a familiar character to gain more box-office sales…where am I going with this you ask? Well, the original SNL character movie, made in 1980, is easily the greatest. I’m talking, of course, about the Blues Brothers.
Now let me explain the concept a bit. Basically Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi made a soul and blues band with them at the head, in the characters of the Blues Brothers (“Joliet” Jake and Elwood Blues). They performed as SNL’s musical guests once and the band did other performances around the city. Eventually the band took on a life of it’s own, they made an album and then this movie came. I really don’t know what more to give in history. Now that the background’s out of the way, let’s get on with the film.
The plot starts out with Jake getting out of prison and meeting up with his brother. His brother then drags him to their old orphanage after picking him up as Jake had promised the head nun, the Penguin (get it? huh? get it?) that he would visit her after getting out. Turns out the orphanage is getting closed down, as they don’t have the money to pay the property tax. So yeah, that’s the plot. Jake and Elwood gathering the band back together to get the money to pay the orphanage, simple, concise and open to so many forms of wacky hijinks. Trust me, it gets nuts.
Once again, I have to talk about something that I barely ever talk about in these reviews, which is the music. The music is an integral part of this movie, acting as a driving force in the plot as well as having more than a few moments where the movie goes on Jazz musical which I do NOT count as a bad thing. But the music is absolutely amazing, whether it’s weaved into the storyline or pulls the whole out of nowhere, the music is just utterly amazingly well done and sounds absolutely perfect. I really don’t know what to say but if you like Blues, Jazz, any of that good ol’ nonsense you need to see this movie, right freaking now.
The greatest part about this movie is really just how absolutely hilarious it is. The set up isn’t really that funny, I mean saving an orphanage sounds like your usual dramatic film but they manage to make it literally the funniest thing ever (and I realize I’m a huge fan of hyperbole but overall this is tied with Dogma as my favorite comedy ever. For those who know me, that’s saying A LOT). Honestly, ever minute is the funniest thing you’ll ever see. Let me sum it up: Bridge jumping, mall car chase scene, Carrie Fisher trying to kill them, incompetent cops, last minute escapes and easily the greatest car chase in the history of Cinema (once again, realize I’m in another hyperbole moment but trust me it’s ridiculous).
Let me put this in terms you can easily understand: Go watch this movie. If you are in any way a fan of comedies, you owe it to yourself to go out and see this film. So honestly, in my opinion it is just that simple: It’s hilarious, jazzy, and helps brighten up your day and the world. Just go see it now. Easy 5 out of 5.
The superhero movie is always something that I’ve always found to be incomplete. They remind me far more of mythology than anything that could be seen as remotely realistic but don’t get me wrong that’s not a bad thing. I do however believe that a realistic superpower sci-fi is something that had never really been done. Or I never have seen it done. But let’s get to the movie at hand shall we? Chronicle struck me as just another entry in the “found footage” genre that I have really never been a fan of. It just never really had an entry that struck me as that amazing. However, Chronicle really did hit the ball right out of the park. Let me explain.
So the story starts out by following the life of a kid named Andrew. Going with the whole found footage angle, he decides to start filming his life and we see his life through the camera. He’s an exile from school life, his dad’s a drunkard, his mom’s incredibly sick and he really only has one friend, his cousin. From here he ends up going to a party where his cousin and a friend of his, a kid running for student body president, find a giant hole in the ground. They drag Andrew and his camera over and go inside the hole where they find god know’s what which knocks out the camera and it cuts to the next day. From here shenanigans ensue and things start going absolutely crazy.
The plot is extremely simple but easily one of the best things I have seen at the theaters in years. The plot takes so many twists and turns that it’s actually far less predictable than one would imagine. Sure there is one of them that takes things too far as one might expect, but honestly it makes sense. Each one of the three are very well developed and interesting characters that act like real high school kids. There is no sense of that Hollywood or comic book cheesiness that does seem to hinder the modern sci-fi superhero craze. This is completely gritty real and outright brutal.
One thing I usually don’t mention but I feel must be mentioned to give this a complete review is the cinematography. The “found footage” idea worked wonders here, for once. Andrew decides in the beginning to start to film his life for the sake of…well for the sake of why not? From here it actually gets a little more intriguing. The movie uses a very nice workaround, as the boys gain telekinesis, the camera just floats. Not only that, but they work it into the plot as Andrew actually ends up having the most finesse with his skills so the telekinetically floating camera can actually be seen as a plot point, rather than just being something to work into. The movie later on also ends up bringing in security camera footage, helicopter cameras, iphone cameras, etc., etc. etc. Once again, each of which is a plot point. This works into the plot so well that I just have to mention it to give the filmmakers credit.
As far as things go, this movie is just absolutely amazing. The characters are intriguing and given depth, the plot is complex while still being easy to identify with, the shots are well done and easily manage to give the movie an extremely unique feel. Also, might I just say that I do find watching Seattle (a local I am rather familiar with) getting wrecked to hit home. Let me just state ahead of time, the ending scene involves the Space Needle and anyone from Western Washington that knows Seattle would likely be freaking out. This movie is easily one of the best films of 2012 and is probably number 10 on my favorite films of all time. I am not even kidding. Go see this. An easy 5 out of 5.
Beat em ups seem to have a list more than a little ground in the world of gaming. We had games like Final Fight and River City Ransom and they’ve generally had a place in modern gaming but it seems that, all in all, they seem to have kind of left the generally gaming world after the arcades left. This was always something that infuriated me as I happened to have enjoyed the genre and silently regretted its departure (yes, I do realize the dynasty warrior games exist but I don’t know why I just never really got into them). However, with the creation of Devil May Cry and the general popularity of that series, the beat em up seems to be getting a come back in a very different format, the spectacle fighter. What this term can be loosely defined as would be a game where the main enemies are basically very easily killable henchmen and the main character essentially kills them in the most ridiculous ways possible (usually getting points for style and combos).
But let’s discuss Bayonetta specifically shall we? The gameply is easily the best aspect of this game. Essentially it’s a three button combat system that takes into account the sticks. You have a punch button, a kick button, a ranged attack (which is just you firing your hand guns incredibly fast) and you can create combos off of those using the sticks (much like in any decent fighting game). The thing is you combine this stylistic fighting with an immense amount of cannon fodder style enemies and it’s an absolute delight. Slaughtering minions left and right is a fantastic amount of fun and the customization offered by the game is absolutely amazing, offering melee weapons and ranged weapons, aerial fighting and ground fighting, single target or multiple etc. Of course killing enemies get you more points which you use to upgrade techniques and health and your magic meter (which is used to pull of Bayonetta’s more ridiculous attacks).
However, here’s where things go insane IN THE EXACT WRONG WAY. The story is just mind-boggling. I asked the friend of mine who introduced me to it “What is this game about?”. He answered “It doesn’t make that much sense just trust me. You’ll love playing it but will not understand it.”. And my god was he right. I’m not gonna bother on this page but just let it be known now that if you play it don’t bother trying to comprehend it. Let’s just say for now you’re a witch who hunts down angels for the sake of money and a “why not” sort of attitude. Your newest job sends you to a town in europe that is apparently ludicrously close to heaven (known as paradiso following the dante’s inferno format) and you’re looking for an artifact known as the eye of the world. There we go. I’ve given you the set up, good luck trying to understand the rest.
One thing I generally don’t talk about is the soundtrack when it comes to games but I feel obligated to talk about it this time. I don’t think I have ever heard of a video game attempting to actually stop you from playing it by way of soundtrack. I have heard of frustrating controls, I have heard of horrid plots but soundtrack? That is new to me. Okay so maybe it’s just that I’ve played this game after I watched my roommate play it so I’ve heard it a decent amount but nasally J-pop just isn’t my thing. Also, they kind of butcher frank sinatra so I think I have every right to hate the soundtrack. Don’t get me wrong though, it’s not all bad. It has it’s moments of epicness when fighting the virtues or the introduction of new enemies but overall, it’s pretty bad.
The game is annoyingly a mixed bag. The gameplay is certainly worth every accolade it gets. It’s amazingly stylish, intuitive, incredibly fun and is just generally rewarding which puts it more than a bit above it’s contemporaries. However, the story is stupidly complex, the music is cringe inducing bordering on offensively bad and I haven’t mentioned this but the camera is more than a bit frustrating (as I currently have someone sitting next to me who is shouting every cuss word known to mankind at the game’s camera). It had a lot of potential and could have been one of the greatest games of all time if it just received a little bit more attention to story details and audio. I give it a very frustrated 3 out of 5 stars. If you happen to enjoy these kind of games, it doesn’t get much more definitive than this. If you’re not than honestly dodge it. It’s clearly built for a certain style of game players.
MMORPG’s just one thing that I never really got into. I enjoy the community aspect but, in my opinion, it just gets too large. League of Legends is a weird case as far as MMO’s go simply because of it’s set up. It takes the concept of DOTA (a famous Warcraft III custom game) and makes it it’s own style of game, with upgraded graphics, new champions and more maps. This one is actually going to require a little more explanation than usual, so bear with me.
1. What is DOTA?
DOTA was a Warcraft custom game, its an acronym for Defense of the Ancients. The setup is that there are two bases on the map, with three lanes which connect the two, a river runs through them and forests with various paths exist in between the lanes. There are minions that are mindless and travel down the lanes which give the champions (player characters) gold and experience upon killing them. Two teams of five each are split between the two bases and the objective is to destroy the opposing team by killing enemy champions, killing minions, destroying towers (three of which cover each lane) and finally to destroy the opposing nexus, using level ups and items to enhance your champions specific skills.
2. How does League of Legends differ?
League of Legends differs by having different champions than DOTA (although some are distinctly based on the old DOTA champions), different items (although once again, some homages) and new maps (a two lane 3 player map and a control point style map so far).
Now that those two main questions are out of the way let’s get into the review.
The gameplay is, as explained above, based on fighting in the lanes (gaining levels and gold from minions) and team combat . I was always a fan of DOTA back in the day so I was extremely impressed to see how well Riot (the game’s creators) handled this upgraded variant. The new combat is great, with new champions being released and adding new flavor to the metagame, and feels generally quite fair. Of course there are misclicks and what have you, but the game is generally based on skill which makes you feel fantastic when you manage to personally kill all five of the opposing teams human players. The champions are all generally well balanced (although I’ll get into the problems later), the minions feel balanced, items too etc etc. What I’m trying to get across is the game treats all it’s combatants fairly.
The graphics are actually something that distinguishes it distinctly from it’s predecessor. Warcraft III’s engine generally at least attempted to have characters that looked slightly less cartoony. Not necessarily realistic but not amazingly stylized. League of Legends took the exact opposite route. The game has a very distinctive art style which looks absolutely fantastic. Everything from the champion profiles to the in-game graphics to the game launch screen all looks wonderful and very mystical.
Here’s the problem with reviewing an entity like this though, you have to take into account two extra things: community and patches. The community of this game is actually one of the main factors working against it. The community of this game is absolutely toxic. If you happen to start up the game with a solo queue you’ll have leavers (people who leave midgame), spammers (people who constantly type in chat), internet tough guys (people who will threaten you over the internet for various reasons), trolls (people who purposely cause defeats), and more than your fair share of racists. This gets infuriating incredibly fast. Also, they have a habit of absolutely raging on each other, with full game insult streams on chat being a rather common occurrence. The worst part though is that this slowly begins infecting normal players. You see this stuff happening, it makes you frustrated and slowly but surely you become one of them. The good thing is that Riot understands this and has put in a way for the community to judge it’s own in the form of The Tribunal. This is a court where all cases are heard and judged on by level 30′s that have not received a warning or ban notification. What this means is that the game’s law abiding max level players pass judgement on disputes between other players. Not all cases are heard by everyone obviously, but each case is judged by a predetermined number of people. Also, you get a certain amount of the game’s currency for doing it. This is certainly a step in the right direction and has really helped bring some discipline into the League of Legends community, although it’s still pretty bad.
The patches are where things really get interesting. Being an online game, League of Legends has to keep changing to add new and continuous content to satiate the players hunger. Riot puts out new characters and new items all the time but what this also means is that Riot has to constantly “fix” the game. This means they change stat ratio’s to make characters more balanced against each other, allowing for a fairer fight. These patches have caused more than a bit of controversy in the past, one recent one completely rebooted an entire section of the metagame by completely changing the neutral forest minions, but are generally pretty good in my opinion. These changes have helped make the game far more balanced and generally keep things fair. Sure there are fixes I could do without (ripping out dodge the dodge statistic entirely did not sit well with me), but in general Riot does a fantastic job at what it does. One warning though, I have found playing after a new character release to be infuriating because Riot has had a consistent habit of releasing champions that are far too powerful and then rebalancing later that week. It leads to days of constant loses and if you ask any player, you’ll find this a very common occurrence.
Whew, long article today. Anyway, how does the game fare? Well I think it fares very well. The graphics and art style keep the game from looking dated and the concept of the game is something I can truly stand behind as I loved it’s predecessor. The gameplay is amazingly strategic and very deep, forcing the player to always think on their feet. The community is very toxic though, Riot does occasionally perform very unnecessary patches and it overlooks more than a few things. But this doesn’t outweigh simply how fantastic the game is. It’s strategic, social and extraordinarily fun. League of Legends gets a 4out of 5. I say go out, grab some friends and I’ll see you on the Fields of Justice.