300: Rise Of An Empire is in theatres now, much to the excitement of fans of slow motion and gratuitous violence. This prequel/companion story/sequel shows more of Xerxes attempt at conquering Greece. The original was a pretty unique film, so how does this one do? Does it fill the big shoes of the original, or should it be covered in tar and set ablaze?
300 was a weird film for me. I loved the graphic novel it was based on, due in part because of its simplicity. It was Frank Miller’s signature style, and that had been transfered to film wonderfully with Sin City. I hoped like hell they could do it again with 300. While I loved what they attempted to do with 300, I feel that Zach Snyder went a little overboard. While there was a lot of substance, he seemed to go overboard with style. I know, it wouldn’t be a Zach Snyder film if he didn’t, but it was almost a detriment. It’s still a fun movie to watch, it has its problems. When this prequel/sequel/whatever was announced, I was excited.
A lot of the plot early on happens while 300 is happening, and gives Xerxes a bit of a backstory. After seeing why Xerxes has been hell bent on dominating Greece, we catch up with General Themistocles seeking out Leonidas for help in battle. Leonidas is seeking out the Oracle, as shown in the first movie. What follows is a lot of Themistocles kicking ass at sea, followed by alot of him and his army kicking ass on land, then some of the Spartans doing what they do best. The plot, while convoluted at times, does a pretty good job of showing the much larger conflict that we’re shown a glimpse of in 300. While the armies of Persia seemed pretty insignificant to Leonidas and his men, they seem to be much more of a threat this go round. The familiar faces of the returning cast easily brighten up a pretty dull cast. Of particular awesomeness is seeing Queen Gorgo get her revenge, which is the highlight of the film. The one thing that hurts the film as a whole is a lacking lead. Gerard Butler as Leonidas made 300 enjoyable, and was easily one of the best parts of the film. While Sullivan Stapleton as Themistocles isn’t bad, it doesn’t compare. They were might big boots to fill, and while he valiantly tried, he didn’t quite get it.
The visual style of these films has always been interesting. Bright, high contrast colors, odd lighting, and camera trickery are all used to make a visually unique look. While it works well in the first film, some of it here falls a little flat, due in part with the color pallet of the Greek soldiers, who wear blue instead of the Spartan’s crimson. It still looks pretty good, it just lacks the pop that the crimson gave. The CGI has been vastly improved on, and they worked really hard to avoid any spatial errors. Gone are the horrible elephants and odd canyon angles, and now there’s huge fleets of awesomely rendered ships and plains full of soldiers.
Over all, its a fun flick. Tons of slow motion, tons of blood and flying limbs, and assorted ass kickery. A decent plot propells it, and it’s a great follow up. If it wasn’t for the weak lead, it would have been an over all improvement over 300.
4 out of 5
Non-Stop, Liam Neeson’s newest intense ass kick-o-rama is in theatres now. Continuing his run of badasses, this time he’s stuck in a plane, where his yelling is sure to make quite a few people mad. But how does it do? Is it a worthwhile thriller, or should it be sent to the back of the plane to detonate?
I love when actors get to go crazy in a roll. Sometimes its good, like Hugh Jackman in Prisoners, or sometimes its over the top like Nick Cage in the second Ghostrider film. There’s something entertaining when an actor gets to loose his shit, and the line where acting and being genuinely crazy is hard to draw. In this flick, Liam Neeson is back in his askicking boots, and let off the chain here and there, and its amzing. Its a great contrast to his subtle, normal demeanor, and it’s really fun to watch.
Neeson is a sky marshall with a troubled past. On a random flight overseas, he gets a random text, saying that someone will die every twenty minutes until a set amount of money is put into a random bank account. People die, conspiracies are uncovered, people get yelled at, and ultimately, the good guy prevails. It’s a really well thought out plot line, actually. Going in, it seems like it wouldn’t be that hard to find out whose doing these things, but that’s not exactly how it plays out. It’s a well crafted story, that will be surprising all the way to the end. Lkam Neeson is the perfect choice for the roll. He’s gets to use his smarts, he kicks to kick some asses, and it’s all done very well. The rest of the supporting cast does its job, but don’t expect any stand out performances.
Like I touched on above, going in, I expected the story to play out a whole lot differently. Youre on a plane, there’s not a whole lot of room for sneaking around and quietly murdering people. I was expecting a whole lot of dialog, a small amount of action, and a very lame conclusion. But, my expectations were blown away. I guess thats what happens when you go in with very low expectations, but this film was a very good surprise. Once the plot really kicks in, it feels tense. The atmosphere in the plane changes, and you can feel the tension. My only complaint, which is a small one, is that it drags here and there. Especially in the beginning. It takes a while for the film to really kick into gear, but it does so with a bang.
All in all, it’s one of the better films this year so far. Neeson is great, and the plot, while it could have been very lame, ended up being really good. Definitely worth a watch.
4.5 out of 5.
RoboCop, the remake of the classic film of the same name is in theatres now, and is the most recent victim of Hollywood’s bloodlust for rehashing every movie that did even mediocrely well in the 80’s. But how is it? Is it worthy of the RoboCop name, or should it have died on the table?
You know the drill. Cop gets almost killed in the line of duty, seedy corporation rebuilds him using the penacle of technology, bad guys get shot, robots blow up, all around the inner struggles of a man trying to come to grips that he is more machine than man. Or, at least thats what it should be about. The original struck a good balance between the whole man vs. machine thing, and still had a decent plot around that. This one decides to throw in some issues of the day, the use of drones. This film really strips down what was the heart of the original, the whole aspect of free will, control, and more or less what it is to be human. While thats still kind of touched on in this one, its used as more of a plot point, and at one point a pretty crappy Deus Ex Machina.
The film itself, outside of the horrible decision to alter the plot, is typical mass produced studio garbage. The design choices for RoboCop, ED-209, and most other things in the flick are uninspired, and just feel lazy. The script is widely mediocre, with the few big names they got to use going to waste. Sam Jackson feels like the same character from the Capital One commercials, and Gary Oldman is underused, while he seems to just dial in the role. While the script and acting isnt bad, it just feels dull most of the time. Even the heartfelt family moments just seem forced. The action is another wildly mediocre point. There are a small handful of cool scenes with RoboCop using his fancy tech, but overall its nothing special. There are a couple of cool throwbacks to the original that are worth keping your eyes peeled, if you can stay awake.
Here’s my biggest problem with it. Its a totally different movie than RoboCop, and not in a good way. The underlying message is totally different, and it ends up stripping down the overall meaning of the flick. Its quite sad, because it just feels totally different. You want to make a film about a cop that almost dies, gets turned into a cyborg only to be used as a puppet to gain support for unmanned police drones? Make one. Dont tie it to an existing franchise, though. Sure, there are parallels, but not enough. Im fine with remakes, reboots, whatever if they carry the soul of the original. But strip away everything that made that film good in the first place, you’re going to have a big steamy pile of RoboPoop. Would my opinion of the film be any different if it wasnt a remake? Not really. A crappy movie is a crappy movie, regardless of name.
All in all, its not a good flick. Its boring, and its whole existance feels contrived and pointless.
2 out of 5.
You know what I hate? Im so damned girly sometimes. So often someone shows me a little interest, or a little sexual attention, and I get all mushy and develop a stupid little school boy crush. Especially when said person is pretty fucking awesome. But all to often theyre on the other side of the country, unnavailable, or some other circumstance will keep anything from developing.
I get so happy that its happening, then I get super bummed when I come to the realization that nothing more can come of it. I really need to learn to live in the moment better.
Fuck. I hate feelings.
It seems like HD remakes of classic games are all the rage nowadays, and the newest to get the treatment is Fable. Originally an xbox game, the title throws you into the realm of Albion, to discovery your heroic destiny. Or, something along those lines. But how does it do? Is it worth the scratch, or should it banished between realms?
I’m a huge fan of most of the Fable franchise. I spent hours upon hours playing the first one years ago, and the second one ate up just as much time as bigger titles like Fallout 3. It’s something about the games that is just super appealing to me. It’s an easy, fun game that you can waste hours playing. They’re actually fun to play, and cause very little mental stress. Throw in some great writing, some awesome cameo voices, and you have some great games. The first two are easily in my top ten favorite games of all time. Fable 3 was a huge disapointment to me, as was the Fable: The Journey. Looking back, I know why. They strayed too far from the formula and setting I loved so much from the first two. When this was announced, I was downright giddy, but nervous as crap. Lionhead has had a way of turning a great idea into complete crap, so I didn’t get my hopes up to high. And, well, when you do that, this game can easily jump over them.
If you havent played the game, here’s a quick plot breakdown. Kid’s village gets ransacked, parents killed, sister kidnapped. Kid gets taken to the Heroes Guild, were he’s trained in all manners of swords and magic before being turned loose to track down what happened to his village and sister. It’s one of the first games to really have the morality aspect that plagues some games nowadays. But, in this one the choices have consequences outside of how a cutscene plays out. You can either take the quest as a mission of discovery and justice, or you can say fuck all to civility and go on a quest of murderous revenge. While this system in this game is relatively in it’s infancy here (it’s much more fleshed out and works alot better in fable 2) it still manages to affect gameplay pretty well. While the main plot hasn’t changed much, they did add in all the bonus quests and big bad final boss from The Final Chapters version of the game, which is pretty awesome.
My biggest peeve with the series as it went on was how the controls kept devolving. In the first Fable they were a bit convoluted, but still accessable. In Fable 2, they dumbed the magic and combat down drastically, but hit a sweet spot where it all seemed to flow. While magic had to be managed a whole differently, it still worked. Fable 3 took all of that and threw it out the window. They tried to simplify it even more, and it turned into crap. This was my biggest fear heading into this game, was how they were going to handle the controls, the menus, and the hud. Thankfully, Lionshead must be reading some player feedback for once and made it alot more like the Fable 2 controls, while retaining a bit of the flexablility of the first game. The menus have been visually overhauled, but overal still function the same, which is a sigh of relief.
But here’s the thing. Some HD remakes do it very well (RE4, Halo: Anniversary) and some do it just mediocrely (Metal Gear Collection, Silent Hill collection) but this one falls somewhere in the middle. The graphics, while improved, still seem to run on the Fable 2 engine which looks really dated nowadays. Theres a good amount of texture loading pop in, sometimes entire areas won’t load properly. But, it still looks better than the original by a quite large margin, so I guess the achieved what they were aiming for. The sounds and music have also been retooled for the release, and it sounds better than ever. For a game that took so long to develop, it really lacks some of the polish that it needed.
All in all, it’s great, and alot of fun. Is it worth the 40$ price tag? I’ll leave that up to you. Personally I think it would have ben alot better as a 20$ arcade download, but hey, I didn’t make it. If you’re a fan of the franchise looking for a great visit back to the original, its everything you could ask for, done relatively well. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got chickens to kick.
4.5 chickens out of 5.
(Note - The only reason Im marking any score off is the pricetag. To me, 40$ is ridiculous.)
I try not to get that personal on here… But I need to vent like crazy.
I hate doing musical things in my town anymore. Its turned from something I loved doing, to the biggest pain in the ass thing ever. Theres been some new people pop up here and there, and I despise them. Theres one. Shes the worst thing to happen to the “scene” here since I started playing here. She does absolutely nothing but sponge off of what other people do, and try to act like they’re the big deal. The shows she books are usually fucking horrible, have crap turn out, and just reak of pretentiousness. She booked shows on a night that Rancid was in town, and during FEST (you tampa people will know exactly who Im talking about now) and then whines and bitches that the turn outs were crap. She thinks she runs the fuckin’ gamut, but she has no idea what the fuck she’s doing. And she tries to dip her fucking hands into everything. She’s really being a dtriment to the area, and Im glad people are starting to see through her facade and not putting up with her crap. I swear to god, if I see her at another show she had nothing to do with with her fucking lanyard, Im going to shit, and throw it at her feral ape style. I’m not mad that she’s trying to be ambitious and do things, but she’s doing it 100% the wrong way. Self importance is a door to failure, and shes already turning the knob. Besides her, there’s been a handful of other people that have come and gone, but she’s the worst. There’s still a handful of awesome people (one of which I know will probably read this) that make this town worth it. But after playing a handful of low key shows in Orlando and Miami and Gainesville, it really makes me sad that Tampa isnt better. It has super potential, and sometimes it is pretty fucking awesome. And its just getting super cliquey, and just unfun nowadays. If you’re not at these shows, youre at these shows. You cant like this band and that band. Its all just dumb. And to me, its about havin fun. If im too worried about stupid scene politics to have fun, then fuck it. I dont want to play anywhere near that negativity pot.
Maybe I’ve just outgrown it. Maybe im getting old and bitter.
I cant wait to get out and start touring, and get the fuck out of this state musically for a while.
Devil’s Due. the newest found footage horror film is in theatres now. Part Rosemary’s Baby, part Paranormal Activity, it tries to be a fresh take on a genre thats steadily going stale. But how does it do? Does it revitalize the genre, or should it return to hell?
I’m really getting tired of found footage flicks. Most are done on a tiny budget, and it just looks and feels cheap. Its a fast, easy, profitable turnaround kind of genre. There are some notable attempts, but for the most part the genre really doesn’t get pushed as far as it should. One of my favorite little chucks of found footage material was the last sequence in VHS. The directors of that got handed a pretty decent script, a chunk of change, and let loose. What we got was Devil’s Due. And, well, it’s not that bad.
So a couple of newlyweds were on their honeymoon, when they have a night they just can’t remember. A few weeks later, it gets revealed that she’s pregnant. And it seems like the baby she’s carrying isn’t just any baby, and tons of weird crap starts to happen around the house. And, as any young couple would do nowadays, they’ve been recording all of it. It really could have been branded the Rosemary’s Baby remake, and it would have still worked. Over the rest of the flick, we follow around the new family as they discover just whats going on, and the lengths that Satan is willing to go to make sure that baby survives. While it’s a relatively rehashed plot, it still adds in a few new twists and turns, and it’s fairly interesting. It does a decent job of keeping you engaged in the flick, and that alone for a found footage flick is a huge feat.
Now, here’s where things go a little pear shaped. Is it scary? Here and there, it is. There’s some damn good scenes that will stick with you. But, quite a bit of the flick just comes off silly. There’s some scenes that were supposed to illicit a scare, but me along with the majority of the theatre I saw it with just giggled. But, on a plus side the movie looks and feels a lot more polished than most found footage turds. There’s a few good scenes that couldnt have been done on a tiny budget. But, in doing that, it detracts from the flick at certain parts. Part of the charm of at least the first Paranormal Activity was that it really felt like we were jumping into someones lives. With this film, it feels ans loks like a set. The home doesn’t look and feel lived in. While it’s not a huge complaint, it does make a difference.
All in all, its a fun little flick. While it doesn’t breathe a whole lot of new life into the found footage genre, it does well enough to make it worth watching. Its scary, but not empty your pants frightening. Hardcore horror fanatics might not flinch, but it’s still enjoyable.
3.5 out of 5
The newest Paranormal Activity flick hit theatres this past weekend, and it tries to expand the PA universe a little more. A spin off of the main series this film focuses on a new victim, and a new form of torment by the paranormal forces. But how does it do? Is it a return to form for the now tired franchise, or should it be banished?
The Paranormal Activity films are the prime example of when hype for a movie is better than the movie itself. There was so much hype and promotion surrounding the first film, and an interesting take on promotion in general. The film was a guaranteed blockbuster before even hitting theatres. Then it came out. I was excited as crap for it, only to be let down hard. It had its moments but overall it wasnt anything special. The thing that pissed me off the most? They blew the final moneyshot of the film by puting it in the bloody commercials! But, I thought the franchise had promise. The second one predictably rolled out, and it was a slight improvement. Then the third and fourth, and you could tell that the films hate plateaued and started declining in quality. The films relied on such a simple gag, that it was tiresome. The event of promoting the films ended up being a bigger deal than the films themselves. The past couple flicks have had entirely differently movies in the commercials than the ones we see. This is the first spin off, breaking away from the main narative of the films. It’s meant to target the hispanic culture, and focuses on a new group of people that loose their minds and common sense when weird crap starts happening. But, its just falling right in the footsteps of the previous flicks.
The film follows Jesse, a young man who just graduated high school. After a couple days of partying, he finds a weird bite mark on his arm, a few surprising abilities, and a dead downstairs neighbor. Over the next hour and a half, Jesse falls into the typical rhythms of the possessed, and his friends race to find answers before they get knocked off. Sounds interesting, doesn’t it? On paper, the plot sounds fantastic, and it’s a pretty interesting take on the franchise. But in practice, it completely falls apart. Especially the last act, which is quite a clusterfuck of connections to previous films. It takes a few pages of Chronicle’s book, and focuses on Jesse, his new bite given powers, and him exploring them a bit, before the narrative switches to a group of his friends running from him. But, while the whole plot is a bit of a clusterfuck, I have to give credit where credit is due. This is the first out of five films with enough of a plot to carry an entire film, hands down. But, is seems like the plot is hurried and pushed aside at times in favor of cheap scares, the series trademark.
But who gives a crap about the plot? It’s a Paranormal Activity flick! If you go to these expecting a good plot, then well, you need help. It’s all about about the scares! How many times do doors slam closed or crap move around by itself? Not as much as previous flicks. As much as I hate to say it, this one really relies less on cheap jump scares. Although they are still used heavily, so dont relax your sphincter too much. There’s some actual decent scary, tense moments, which I totally didn’t expect. When you’re disapointed with a series so often, even when its mediocre its a relief. On a positive side, the production value is fairly good on this one. You might be saying to yourself, “Its a microbudget found footage lfick, what production value does it need?” and you’d be mostly right. But with a little more time, money, and a handful of people behind the scenes that know what they’re doing makes a huge difference overall on the film. It feels more polished, more finished, more professional. It doesn’t have the direct to dvd feel that some of the previous films have. which that alone is a great change.
All in all, it’s just another Paranormal Activity flick. If you’ve liked them so far, you’ll really like this one. If you’re on the fence, its one of the best in a widely mediocre series, so take that as you will. Its not bad, but it has a ways before its really good.
2.5 out of 5
Dead Rising 3, the xbox one exclusive launch title is in stores now. The series has been a pioneer in the sandbox zombie slaying genre, and this one takes it even a step further. But how does it do? Is it a great launch title, or should it get firebombed into oblivion?
I love the Dead Rising games. They’ve always been insanely fun, had a pretty fun take on the whole zombie outbreak, and really story driven. I was pretty bummed when I found out Dead Rising 3 was going to be an xbox one exclusive, since Im not going to get it for a while. Luckily for me, I got to babysit an xbox one for the past couple of weeks, and Ive loved every minute playing this game. The story picks up with protagonist Nick Ramos a few days into the newest outbreak. It’s been ten years since the Fortune City incident, and the repercussions of it are pretty severe. While Nick tries to survive the week in Los Perdidos, he runs into friends, acquintances, and a handful of characters from the previous games. The story is pretty thick. There’s crosses and double crosses, tie ins with previous games, and the ultimate plan that started with the first game finally coming to fruitition. Its pretty heavy stuff. There’s so much to keep up on, and later in the game it all happens so fast that it’s easy to miss some pretty important things. Which, makes events later in the game a little confusing. And if you haven’t played much of the first two games, expect a little confusion later on in. But overall, it’s brilliant. It’s a great expansion of the universe, and it adds some new interesting things to the mix.
The Dead Risings has always introduced some interesting mechanics, and this one improves on pretty much everything that’s been thrown in the mix so far. Saving was always one of the must frustrating things, and now you can save pretty much anywhere, at any time. Which makes the whole saving thing a lot less of a headache. Crafting also makes a comeback, and has been improved on. You no longer need a crafting table, and can be done on the fly. With the introduction of vehicles there’s some truly awesome combinations, and they’re all a ton of fun to use, after you scavenge the parts. The inventory has also been tweaked and streamlined a bit. All of these improvements really take out a lot of the headache with the previous games. With such a huge world to explore, the introduction of vehicles was a great addition. Driving itself is a little odd, but maybe that’s because I was playing an insane amount of GTA V before starting this. The biggest change is how time flows. In previous games, time flowed regardless if you were in mission or not. Now, time only flows while missions are active. Thats a huge load off, and makes it an overall more enjoyable experience.
Now this is a next gen title, so how awesome does it look and perform? It’s amazing. It looks amazing. The water and fire effects are brilliant. There’s an insane amount different zombie models, and they are all pretty well modelled. They gib up nicely, and spurt blood with gusto. Its fun to kill mass hordes of these mindless zombies. The whole game engine has been overhauled, and it looks, controls, and feels amazing. The physics are a little wanky here and there, but thats to be expected. If a launch title performs and looks this damned good, I’m downright giddy to see where games will be in a few years when the hardware is exploited better.
All in all, it’s awesome. It feels like GTA with zombies at times, and its extremely fun. If you have an xbox one and are waiting to play this, dont. If you’re looking for a launch title to get with your console, make this one it. 5 out of 5