Monday, September 29, 2014

Review Sin City: A Dame To Kill For (2014)

genre: comic book, crime, action, film noir

How the mighty have fallen! Robert Rodriguez one of the most versatile and creative directors there is seems to have lost his ability to make good movies. Not that his latest movies have been that bad but none of them were of the caliber we are used to. The original Sin City was a visually impressive and incredibly stylish film that actually had some substance to back it all up. When the sequel was announced I already suspected it was going to be very hard for him to top the original but I was certain that if anyone could do it, it would be Rodriguez. But after having seen Sin City: A Dame To Kill For I am flabbergasted. It actually took me two days to recover from the disappointment to write this review. Is it really that bad? Well, if you have not seen the first then the visuals and the style might impress although somehow they feel less inventive and creative or surprising. Story wise, action wise and thrilling wise it's average. With a few moments and some characters that stand out. Mickey Rourke as Marv still is a compelling character even if he is like a watered down version of himself in the original. Eva Green again manages to bring what is needed and never seizes to amaze me. As for the rest I am dumbfounded. So many big names and apart from the ones I just mentioned none of them impress in the slightest. And it's not their fault. This is all because of sub par writing and even worse direction. In the first Sin City, story lines crossed over into each other that made sense. If something was left out in one story you would get to see it in another. Here they aren't even trying. It's basically very linear and when one story line has played out it rarely has any consequence for the next. The whole Joseph Gordon-Levitt story was pointless and just filler. The fact that other actors were playing Dwight and Miho was a little confusing. Well, Miho much less but Dwight who is an essential character should have been introduced properly again. Only in case of Manute it was understandable since he was played by late Micheal Clarke Duncan that this role would be played by someone else.  In the original the violence and action also was one of it's biggest appeals. And in this sequel there is enough to be enjoyed also. Only it never felt as exciting as in the previous film. There seemed to be a real lack of choreography and even the CGI effects failed to enhance this. A Dame To Kill For simply is one huge disappointment from start to finish. Every time you thought it was going to get better something would ruin the flow or vibe to give you that feeling and experience. A real shame but I can't recommend this title at all. You are better off re watching the original.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Review The Giver (2014)

genre: science fiction, drama

The Giver might not present a new concept. But it is a movie that should be made for every new generation that comes into existence. This movie might not be high on style, action or flash but it does convey the deeper thought even if it is presented in a very simplistic way. The Giver gives us a little taste of a totalitarian society that is closer than we think. People are basically being told how they should live every turn they make. I won't go in detail how or why because that might ruin the journey or the experience. But it is a message that is beautiful and very important to be aware off. Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep bring exactly what is needed to convince the audience of what Jonas (our main character) should do. They also show why a totalitarian society like theirs seem preferable. Which was a very nice touch since it does help you understand why the majority go along with it. One of the reasons why people are so willing to give in to give up on their rights and more. The film has a very nice pace but at times may feel a little slow because it is less eventful although it is one very high on concept. But it does show enough to understand of what is going on. A film that has to be seen by all the generations even if it is only because of the idea and theme. Go watch it!

Additional note:
The Giver might not impress all the way or perhaps even lack depth and drama to make a lot of impact. It is one that conveys an important message about freedom Which should always be absolute. Only more and more this freedom is being restricted and piece by piece taken away from us. Very important to realize is that they can't take away this freedom if we oppose and fight back. Or at least be critical and not go along with it. 

Review Pilot Gotham (2014)

genre: crime, comic book adaptation

Gotham starts out pretty good for obvious reasons. But then soon after it's a mess. Basically it's a crime drama like any other. Only thing that might be considered nice is how some Easter eggs and references are thrown in. Thing about these is that they aren't left to your imagination. You are not teased with it. Like hang on, could that be Cat Woman? Wait a minute could that be The Riddler? That would be so awesome. Instead you are downright being told, yep it is. Happy now? Let us move on to this generic tale of Gordon against his fight against crime and corruption. It does not even capture the complexities like in The Chicago Code, The Bridge (2010-) and Person of Interest. The first two shows did not get beyond a first season. And I am telling you those shows were epic. Person of Interest shows how you can have a Batman type like show without naming your character Batman. Commissioner Gordon never has been really that interesting to me. He only was because he was the one man who did not see Batman him as a threat but as an ally. And now they are giving him more importance because of his dealings with Bruce Wayne very early on.  I am pretty sure that is not how they meet in the comics. But I am willing to go with this angle because we would get to see how a young Bruce Wayne evolves into Batman. Only come on writers, to have this many future villains already thrown in the mix so early. Mythology wise that does not even make sense. It could though if they focus on the characters and how they evolve from who they are into the people we know. Although for a lot of them they are already shown like younger versions of their future selves. The writing needs to be improved considerable otherwise this show will be doomed. Make a believer out of me Fox. Do better!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Review The November Man (2014)

genre: action, thriller, spy

All this time I was under the impression Pierce Brosnan did not want to be James Bond any more. But did a little reading (just briefly) and it seems that he got fired as they wanted a younger Bond. I never understood why Brosnan would keep playing secret agents after Bond if he stopped out of free will. But now it makes sense. So it is nice to see him do films like The Matador , The Tailor of Panama and this one. He does pull it off. He has that charisma and clearly loves playing these roles. And he is the one that makes this film worth it as much as possible because everything else is below par or average at best. In one scene it looked like it was going to be spectacular then suddenly the fast pace and tightness got replaced by pretension and old school spy nonsense. Of course it is nice to have a decent plot. But then it does have to be the least bit compelling. And it simply is not. How about the action then? Well, it was not bad, even decent in some places but was it super exciting and awesome like for example in Brosnan's adventures as Bond? Hell, no! To be fair that is quite hard to achieve and I wasn't expecting gadgetry or wild stunts. It felt like they wanted to set up some grand shootouts but realized it was too hard to do and left it as it was. It's over before you know it. And with so much focus on a dull plot it's hard to sit through it. Olga Kurylenko also no stranger to these kinds of movies does add something only she is not given that much time to do so. In that aspect she handles herself very well. In the trailer Luke Bracey was set up against Pierce Brosnan. Pupil versus Master. Maybe that is a theme that is done too much but the way it was presented it looked to be much more interesting than how it really turned out. It's just one predictable sub plot to fill up the running time. So much more could have been done with this title and they dropped the ball. This is one of those action thrillers you watch late at night or on rainy Sunday afternoons.  

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Review The Wire (2002 - 2008)

genre: crime, drama

The first time I heard of "The Wire" was on some forum discussing TV shows. After checking out some clips on Youtube I wasn't all that impressed. With nothing left to watch I decided to give it a go. And I must admit that this show is very rewarding on many different aspects even if it can be relentless and it doesn't hold back one bit. Don't expect any mercy from this show. And I mean none since most of what you see happening to these people on the screen is true to life (at least the core of it). You will learn to appreciate the characters even if they aren't really likable. And here lies the strength of the show. There is a wonderful story present but is not something you haven't seen before. The attention to detail however is. This show has a depth that is not present in other crime dramas. "The Wire" shows all the sides and aspects involved in (mainly) drug trafficking. We will follow the police,the criminals,the politicians and the victims of the drug trade. While the overall tone of the show is meant to be serious and educational, it doesn't mean that there is no room for entertainment. I can't remember another serious crime drama where I laughed so hard as I did with this show. "The Wire" is filled with the most funniest scenes you will ever see. And considering the context you will not see these jokes coming. It has been a while now that I have seen this show and I still think about it. If that isn't a sign of a true classic than I don't know what is. If you haven't seen this yet then do so, you won't regret it.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Review Castlevania: Curse of the Darkness (XBOX)

genre: action, adventure, hack and slash,

After having played Castlevania: Lament of Innocence I was psyched to play everything Castlevania which lead me to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow and this one Castlevania: Curse of Darkness. This title does not disappoint. It's a little different from Lament of Innocence but it adds some stuff that give the game more depth and therefore becomes more fun. Curse of Darkness is more an action rpg with bigger rpg elements. Your character Hector is a Devil Forger who can create Innocent devils that aid him in battle. They are very essential in beating bosses and harder enemies plus you need them to get past certain obstacles. So you will have to pay attention to them. These devils level up alongside Hector and each Innocent Devil (ID) has it's unique abilities. It's too much to get into it. But it is important to know that they are similar to familiars like in Symphony of the Night but at the same time very different as you simply can't advance without them if they aren't leveled up properly. It does take a little while to get into this system especially if you are coming from Lament of Innocence. Since the pacing and the action is a little less tight and slower. Only once you see the skills you gain by taking care of your ID's the game will become incredible fun. There is also a crafting system that will spare you to buy items. In fact it is encouraged to craft since you are also given the ability to steal weapons and items. Which is not easy but rewarding if you manage to pull it off. Once Hector and his ID's become stronger it becomes a joy to slay your enemies. But very much like in Lament of Innocence it's the accompanying soundtrack that makes fighting the monsters even more fun. It simply puts you in the mood to defeat them. 

Here is an example of a beautiful track in the game:

Story wise I have to say, it's even more simplistic as the one in Lament of Innocence but I think it references enough to other games and characters in the franchise to make it worth your while. One complaint that keeps coming back is the fact how repetitive the scenery and the combat can be. And with the first one I agree with the latter I don't. Because even when you think you are strong enough or have enough skills there are enemies and side quests hidden that require you to even become stronger. And in order to do that you will have to visit secret locations with some very challenging foes. (Two hidden bosses of which one is named Legion. Yes, he is back again.) These are optional. But having more content in a game is always good I think. And perhaps wise to take on since these side quests are far from repetitive. Curse of Darkness is a game where you will have to take your time to get into the mechanics to get the most of it. And when you do you can look beyond the simply story and visuals and be immersed since it offers a lot of depth. 

Additional Note:
After having played both Lament of Innocence and Curse of Darkness I can honestly say that these Castlevania titles very unjustly so have a bad reputation. I think most of the criticism is that they are 3D titles and did not offer the same gameplay as the the 2D platformers. Well, ask yourself this? Do you think it is possible to translate 2D gameplay to a 3D title and get away with it? With such titles you simply need other mechanics. But spiritually these are just as much Castlevania as their predecessors were. Both of these titles got me excited about the whole franchise so much I want to try out and play the older titles. While I like older games very much, those Catlevania titles I stayed clear from since I don't have the patience for them. So that should tell you something. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Review The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

genre: adventure, science fiction, drama

Don't let me beat around the bush. I enjoyed this sequel very much and with it's ending I am actually looking forward to the third one. This second part was an improvement when it came to the characters. More emotions and depth were given to them and thus we cared for them in a way I had been missing from the first. However there still is not that much background given on what the world looks like and how happy or unhappy the people are. We are shown some horrors in how the authorities deal with protests and resistance. And while effective it is left unclear why suddenly people are revolting. Even main character Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) keeps wondering and questioning how she is the one that inspired these people. It's not that I am unwilling to believe that sometimes having one person take a stand will be enough to go against the powers that be. But I think it would be nice to show, at least in one or two scenes how that works. If only to educate the audience the importance of being critical and taking a stand if tyranny rules. Only the film makers aren't really bothered by the why and how. I haven't read the books but I am thinking that the book delves deeper into the defiance and the rebellion. Now I understand that the movie tries to offer more on adventure and action but a little more focus on the people revolting would have given it much more meat. Still the action and adventure parts are more than solid and even thrilling at times. I do have a little problem with the Katniss and Peeta relationship. Maybe it is me, but that feels forced and I know that most of the time that is the idea. But it also occurs when the relationship is supposedly better and warmer. I keep reading how amazing there chemistry is. And somehow I am not seeing that at all. They seem more like siblings or friends without any sexual tension. I guess we will have to see if that will increase in the next part. I wished that books and movies would be more bolder and try to show that you don't need love to create drama. Anyways like in the first Jennifer Lawrence carries the film on her shoulders but this time she got some decent backup by the rest of the cast. Even the characters that were annoying in the first were very likable in this one. Which is proof that the characters are a little more fleshed out. Overall Catching Fire is pretty exciting at times and worth your time. 

Also read review The Hunger Games (2012)