Monday, August 31, 2015

Review Z for Zachariah (2015): Decent post apocalyptic tale but leaves you wondering and I am not sure if that is a good thing!

genre: drama, science fiction, thriller

Let me breakdown the comments on this poster. Not a gripping thriller. You can easily miss it since it is not the best film of this year. And perhaps some
people might find this film incredible or mesmerizing. I personally don't think so.

Z for Zachariah is a decent enough take on lifer after an apocalyptic event. Here the event itself has happened and is barely discussed. You just have to accept it did and go from there. The part of the world we are introduced to seems intact and is very beautiful. The first main character we get introduced to called Ann (played by Margot Robbie) seems to have managed to stay alive and build up a life for herself. She is under the assumption she is the only survivor. Until she meets John Loomis.

Loomis (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor) has quite some impact on her as within time she develops feelings for him. He is more hesitant for whatever reason and just when he seems to be warming up to her a character named Caleb (played by Chris Pine) shows up. Now until this point the film was simple and nice but with him coming into the mix obviously life would be a little more complicated. At first both Ann and Loomis don't know what to think of him although Ann does thinks he is a good person and treats him with kindness in the same fashion she did with Loomis. Loomis of course sees Caleb as a threat and this is where things get interesting. Or at least that is what I hoped. And apart from one event nothing really happens. And the one thing that does happen never gets addressed any more leaving it up to the viewer to imagine of what happened. Whenever they do something like this I am very critical of such a decision. Sometimes I really don't want ambiguity. Just tell me the way it is and I will deal with it. However sometimes it's nice to be able to make up your own story. In this case it doesn't really matter much since the relationship between John and Ann has been altered forever. If that is a good or bad thing I could not tell you.

Z for Zachariah could have offered some interesting and explosive interactions but for the most part keeps the events calm and composed. I don't really understand the reasoning behind this. The way the film is set up it depends on the characters delivering the fireworks. And when that does not happen it make me wonder why this film has made me invest my time into them and the story in the first place? This film did not raise that many questions so that it would keep me occupied long after I have watched it. Only briefly I wondered about two things. But more for the sake of closure than anything. Although I do think that the acting was good. Had it been lesser actors I would have been able to stomach such an uneventful film. This movie is not slow however. The pace is quite good but it can appear slow because there is not that much to the story. It easily could have been but it was not.

Like I said initially. A decent film but nothing more than that. People expecting a thriller full of excitement and suspense will be very disappointed since a lot is subtle and brewing underneath and ultimately left to the viewers perspective and not shown. The science fiction element is limited to the apocalyptic event. I don't think it is an entire waste of time but I would not recommend this. One of those movies you should watch when you are at home having a lazy day. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Review Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015): Good addition in the franchise but perhaps a tiny bit underwhelming

genre: action, adventure, espionage, thriller

This really is Tom Cruise hanging from a plane. That is nothing short of amazing if you ask me.

Before I start let me explain where I am coming from to then let you decide if you agree with me or not. I am a huge fan of the franchise. I liked the shows long before the films were made. The original show (1966 - ) was already pretty impressive in the way the episodes played out and were set up. Each episode put you on the edge of the seat to see if the team would pull it of or not. The revival show (1988 - ) did the same but this time it was more updated to modern times. Then Tom Cruise starred in one hell of a movie, which I still consider the best of the film franchise. And from there I went with it all the way.

Now I think it might have been quite clever of producer Tom Cruise to let each film in the franchise be directed by a different director. It does give each film an uniqueness while with Ethan Hunt and some other cast members returning to maintain a certain continuity. And so far I think all of the directors managed to add their stamp that made me appreciate their take on it. All of the films have offered thrills in their own original way. Except for Rogue Nation. While I really enjoyed the comradery and how the known characters interact with each other I do think that plot wise this one was not as spectacular as I hoped it would be. Premise wise it was full of promise but in the end it did not bring me the fireworks that could have been. I only have to think of an old episode of a British show called Dempsey and Makepeace where super cop James Dempsey was confronted with a crook who was more than his match and made him doubt himself. It seemed like they were going for this in this part but failed to execute that effectively. The one guy that is supposed to be a match to Ethan Hunt never really makes an impression as someone to watch out for despite that being said multiple times. It would have been real fun to see the two play cat and mouse. Only sadly this happens one time only which you could see coming from a mile away. However the lack of plot was more than compensated with the adequate and entertaining action scenes although I must admit they weren't as big as in the previous parts. My guess is that they tried to play it safe this time and perhaps were measuring if people still would go for a Mission Impossible film.

I personally would not hesitate to watch the next film or show (if that is in the works). And this fifth entry does proof that it still can go strong. But hopefully they will take more risks and do something truly fresh again. Certainly worth your time but be aware that a lot of the chemistry between the team members is based on their adventures in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. So be sure to watch that one before you go into this one.

Also read:

The making of a tiny bathroom (scale: 1:24)

Mrs. P. has done it again. This time she created a tiny kitchen from scratch. If there was ever doubt then she has proven once and for all that she is genius. So behold her creation!

The making of a tiny bathroom slideshow 1

The making of a tiny bathroom slideshow 2

And here is the end result:

Review Zombeavers (2014): Bad and not the so bad it's good kind, just bad!

genre: comedy, horror

Some of the most memorable horror comedies are the ones where they have a premise that is so unlikely but executed so well that you can go with it and actually have a lot of fun. Zombeavers is not not one of those.

Why? Because right from the start Zombeavers tries too hard to go for the laughs with it's incredibly juvenile humour that it completely detracts from having any enjoyment and fun. Also this film showcases the worst animatronics you can imagine. They could not even be bothered by showing real beavers. Our first introduction to the creatures they were already looking unsavory and of the flesh eating kind.

I can understand that a low budget could limit the options although i have seen films that managed to do much more with so very little so I don't think this can be used as an excuse. More likely that the filmmakers here were lazy. Except maybe for one little spark of creativity the whole film is predictable and dull. And fails to show something fresh.  I am very aware that you can't take these films seriously. I never do when it comes to these films. But you do have to find the right balance between horror and comedy.  And here all of what you see fails to reach the desired effect. Maybe if you are intoxicated it would made you appreciate this more. I wished the people involved with making this film would have watched and learned from films like Gremlins and Critters. Those movies were going for laughs as well but at the same time they took the creatures more seriously and made them scary. The zombeavers never look scary. This could have been compensated with a genuine buildup of tension. But like I said the filmmakers were incredibly lazy so they could not even bothered. 

I really tried hard to look for some nice and good moments. Apart from the one surprise there were none to be found. So trust me when I say that Zombeavers is no fun at all. Not worth your time!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Review My Heart is that Eternal Rose (1989): There is something odd going on with this flick........

genre: romance, crime, heroic bloodshed

As I have mentioned in the title of this post something odd is going on with this flick. In my search for everything heroic bloodshed My Heart is that Eternal Rose has popped up several times. And when you read the reviews most of them are positive. I only could find one negative review on HKMDB but that was more because the reviewer could not remember the film and was unable to track down the title to do a proper review. I don't know about you but whenever this happens my Spidey sense goes into overdrive. Even the most perfect masterpieces get negative reviews. So if those are non existent then I question the honesty of the reviewers.

Especially after having seen this film I am astonished that it gets so much praise in the first place. There is nothing extraordinary about it. In fact I think it is pretty average bordering to incredibly bad. Maybe a case could be made in favour of the camera work with the use of it's colours. But that really is about it. The supposedly brilliance of director Patrick Tam (He is known as the mentor of Wong Kar-wai.) is nowhere to be found. In fact if you ask me this film was stylish in all the wrong places. There are a lot of scenes where slow motion was used when there was no use or point to it. It only delayed the already super slow action. At one point it's used for like thirty seconds in a scene where all you see is a black wall and a little smoke. (Ok exaggeration on my part. It was more like ten seconds. But that is similar to two hours in cat years.) In another scene slow motion is used where character played by Tony Leung gets pushed out of the car. It takes forever with very little positive effect. I mean what was the point of that? Then there were some freeze frames undoubtedly for dramatic effect but here it came off as comedic. I could have overlooked the shortage of action and the misplaced stylization. But not the overly melodramatic empty triangle love story. It was tragic just for the sake of being tragic devoid of any logic or reason. It did help to have Toney Leung Chiu-Wai and Joey Wong to portray the characters. They did bring this film a little credibility. Still they were not given that much material to work with and you can tell that for the most part they felt lost. Which I assume a lot of people are confusing with artistic and symbolic depth. 

This scene lasts 10 seconds. Why? 

Apart from the title there is nothing artistic or poetic about this film. It simply is a very poorly made movie that drags on throughout. The few action scenes that are present are far too short and not very enjoyable and therefore ultimately pointless. This film would have been more effective had it just been filming the roses (that are shown in the beginning) for 90 minutes.  

Seriously this film is a waste of your time. Especially if you are looking for a decent heroic bloodshed title. This is just an overly melodramatic but incredibly minimalistic love story with no redeeming factors whatsoever. AVOID!

The best FMV adventure games I have played

The first games I really got into were the old adventure games from Sierra like Kings's Quest, Police Quest and Leisure Suit Larry. By today's graphical standards they might not look like  much but they offered the best gameplay and storytelling you could imagine. The passion for these types of games grew over time and I played every adventure game I could get my hands on and / or afford. I specifically looked for the ones that contained full motion video. Back then this was the next level in adventure gaming and the closest of having interactive movies. Me being a huge film fan I naturally could not pass up this opportunity. So I very gladly dove into this genre. I have played all kinds of FMV games and there are quit a few I can't even recall meaning they were not that good or memorable. However there are some I do remember fondly of and I actually consider them to be the best of all the FMV games I have played. And those I will list here. Mind you there is no significance to the order. 

I will start with naming the one game that seems to pop up in my mind the first when I think of FMV games:

1. Gabriel Knight: The Beast Within (1995)

This was the first Gabriel Knight game I played and instantly got me hooked to the other games in the franchise even if they weren't FMV. The creator of these games Jane Jensen knows how to write good stories. And more importantly she knows how to make you immerse into those stories by backing up that with good gameplay. In The Beast Within she masterfully combines fiction with history. Believe it or not it made reading the high number of books present in the game a lot of fun. Not to mention the fact that she played around with some old legends and myths and managed to make them fresh and exciting. They even composed an opera for the game and made me appreciate this art form a lot more than I did before. 

Another title that immediately comes to mind is:

2. Black Dahlia (1998)

Even knowing how it ends I have replayed this game many times because it really is that good. From all of the FMV games made I think this has to be one of the most underrated. Right from when you start this game you get sucked into the story where you play a FBI agent trying to solve the Cleveland Torso Murders. And very soon you discover there is much more to these killings and that it is far more sinister you could hope for. This game has an incredible good build up of tension and suspense and above all puts you in the middle of it. You actually feel like you are in the 1940's. The ambiance of that game is that good. And they did it long before L.A. Noire did it. It almost looks like that the developers from L.A. Noire must have been inspired by this game. Only Black Dahlia is by far the superior one since despite some illogical puzzles it really makes you feel like you have accomplished something when you have finished the game. Once the hunt is on, you can feel the adrenaline rushing inside you. Because it is then when the story really gets thrilling. 

When you are talking about the best FMV games then you will have to include the Tex Murphy adventures. (I have yet to finish The Tesla Effect, but after all this time the developers behind this still show they are supreme masters of the genre).

3. Under a Killing Moon (1994)

The first Tex Murphy game I played and I can't tell you how much it had surprised me. It had a good story, good actors including some big names, and good gameplay. And above all a big sense of humour while still managing to keep things serious if needed. Tex Murphy played by Chris Jones is excellent as the Sam Spade wannabe. 

4. The Pandora Directive (1996)

With this game the developers managed to improve on the predecessor Under A Killing Moon. It was one of the first games that offered you multiple endings depending on which path you had taken. There were three to choose from. The Pandora Directive is a huge game. But with the multiple paths and the endings it made me want to replay it many times just to see if the story truly would play out differently. And for the majority it does significantly. I never had seen that done in a game before and till date I think it is one of the few that showed us how to do it right. 

5. Tex Murphy: Overseer (1998)

I will always remember this one as the most tragic one because of how it ended but also because of the story and the actors. Michael York is not some glorified cameo but he actually brought something to the role he played. Visually and gameplay wise this game was top notch. And it made me sad to see it would not get the sequel that was planned.

Sierra were the ones you would go to for good adventure gaming and they proved that again with the Phantasmagoria titles. 

6. Phantasmagoria (1995)

It is one of the first games (at least as far as I can tell) that featured some gruesome and gory scenes. But this game was more than just that. It actually tried and managed to put you in this eerie and dark tale by slowly showing you some changes that occurred in the house you were living in. Some were done very subtly and others very obvious but done right. You really felt like your house was haunted.

7. Phantasmagoria: The Puzzle of Flesh (1996)

The Puzzle of Flesh is hardly subtle compared to the first but it also knows how to build up tension. Although very different from the original. This tale is more psychological of nature which also can be very haunting depending how much you can relate to the main character. 

8. Zork: Grand Inquisitor (1997)

This one was a real surprise to me. As it plays out in a fantasy setting but contains a lot of pop culture humour. And it stars Dirk Benedict. How awesome is that.

9. Spycraft: The Great Game (1996)

Not sure of how much of what transpires is real and true to life but it sure made me feel like a badass spy.

10. Urban Runner (1996)

One of the first adventures where the puzzles you need to solve are timed. Well, you could take your time but that always ends up in death and failure. Don't get discouraged though, it is what makes this game a lot of fun. Some of the solutions are quite obvious. And I know that many fans of the genre have the tendency to over think. Here you are forced to do the opposite. Underrated.

11. Harvester (1996)

Most people will be unprepared for what this game asks you to do. You can be sure of it that it will be very weird and ultra twisted. It will make you question your own morality and depravity. This is far from your normal point and click game. There is even an option to type in your own words and dialogue next to some given to you. Even when you type in something randomly the people will respond to it. Eerie sometimes but mostly incredibly amusing. This game is also very underrated if you ask me. 

12. Dark Seed II (1995)

A sequel that surpasses the original in many ways. A lot of the atmosphere and weirdness is still based on the art of Giger (creator of Alien creature) but also how the story is told and unfolds. Very well done ending. It sure is one you won't forget that easily. But keep in mind that this is an old game. Now after so many years it might be less surprising as it was back then. Although I think it will still surprise the hell out of people. 

13. Star Trek: Borg (1996)

Being part of a Star Trek adventure is already very cool if you ask me. But one where you get to deal with the Borg is incredibly awesome. This adventure plays out as an episode of one of the shows but where instead of the famous characters now you get to play the hero because Q makes that happen. 

14. The X-Files Game (1998)

My expectations for this game were quite high back then and in some ways it came close and in others it felt underwhelming. It was marketed as being the first adventure where Mulder and Scully would be featured prominently. And that simply is not true. You do get to interact with them but very briefly. Despite this you do get to meet some well known characters of the show and you do get to feel like you are part of the X-Files universe. Overall it was a real fun game that I replayed several times. 

And I almost forgot The Journeyman Project games. All of them are good within their own right but two of them really impressed me. The first that did so was:

15. The Journeyman Project: Buried in Time (1995)

This was an extremely stylish and slick game where you could travel in time and where some of the puzzles only could be solved if you changed things in the right time. 

They improved on these mechanics and the visuals even more in the last part called:

16. The Journeyman Project: Legacy of Time (1998)

Apart from the many improvements visually you get to interact with Genghis Khan. Isn't that something? Like the previous games in the franchise they mash up real history with fiction in a way that it is engaging and fun. Plus it is pretty neat to be able to alter and witness the change in the future because of that.

Some of these games have been released on GOG so you can play them on current systems. However for others you will have to do some work in order to get them running. Or if you still have an older machine you could play them on that. If you find these games lying somewhere I can guarantee you that they are worth the purchase and the time. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Review San Andreas (2015): Solid action and impressive visuals but predictable as hell killing of any tension and suspense!

genre: action, adventure, disaster

San Andreas had been one of the few movies I was looking forward to watch and now when I have I feel slightly disappointed.

I wasn't expecting a lot other than to be thrilled and swayed by some epic destruction. And there is more than enough of that in the film but still it wasn't enough. All of the events in this film are predictable. Not one surprise in this whole damn movie. The consequence is that there is zero tension and suspense in San Andreas. Even when you know how a movie is going to end shouldn't you at least try to make it seem like things could go wrong very badly. I think that is disaster film 101. Back in the day they rounded up some big names who then got killed off giving the illusion of unpredictability which was incredibly effective.  Then those boring back stories. The Rock playing a character separated from his wife gets served divorce papers. You just know they will get back together at the end of it all. Why? Would it not have been more dramatic to make the characters very likable without resorting to this old plot device and then kill them off crushing people's hope? (A bit too sinister?) I know that some Hollywood directors go overboard with it's use of darkness and that I sometimes prefer films not to have any of that. In this case though it was very much needed. Not knowing what can happen to important characters puts the audience on the edge of their seats. Do I really need to remind people of a show called Game of Thrones? And that one of the reasons it's so popular that it is merciless when it comes to beloved characters. In this film it would have really added some thrills. Especially since there is barely any characterization. Granted all of what we see is supposedly taking place in one or two days. But that is why they have invented flashbacks. Doesn't it just aggravate you that when there is a real good reason to use flashbacks the film makers neglect to do so. So what is left? The visuals are impressive. And the action sequences are good. But that is all there is. 

San Andreas is nearly not as good as I had hoped it would be. It is not nearly as bad as some people say that it is. It is decent enough but yes you do have to accept that this film is incredibly predictable killing of any tension that it could have build up otherwise.