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Not "The Hobbit"
Did I read the right book? After seeing this last night I'm not quite sure Peter Jackson did. I get it. One small book, into three films, you have to elaborate. I was a stout defender of the three film decision and I stand corrected by all those who called it folly. PJ & CO. have not given us what they did a decade ago with Tolkiens The Lord Of The Rings. His reach exceeded his grasp. Let me be honest, the film itself is wonderful. Its fantastic and powerful and dynamic and bursting with action. Yet....somehow it is not anything at all like The Hobbit.
Take the beginning, after the prologue, Beorn looks ridiculous. He looks more like a centaur from the Harry Potter movies than he does like his description in the book. Meager time is given to him and his scene is droll and dreary. They could have started the movie off fun and lighthearted again like in AUJ with a great feast scene with Beorn's trained animal companions! Then we hasten (and by hasten I mean FLY YOU FOOLS) into Mirkwood, which is again HASTENED. No Elvish lights and dinners, no desperate and famished company, no magic river...
Then, we come upon the spiders. This, in the book, is a gigantic moment for Bilbo. His courage and bravery to (in the book) insult, distract and "sting" the spiders to save the Dwarfs is another of his turning points in the book. The scene you read is breathtaking and on the edge of your seat intense. What you see is similar...but the arrival of Legolas (somehow looking 20 years older) and his girlfriend Tauriel send the entire vision of Tolkien into disarray.
I will allow you, if you have not seen this, to explore the mind of Jackson yourself. I will say again that this is a great movie. If Jackson had called this movie "The Dwarfs and The Hobbit" or "How The East Was Won", changed some names and removed all copyright infringements this movie would be one of the best ever made. BUT! You have to take source material into account. If this was an essay on The Hobbit I would have given Peter Jackson an F. A 4 will just have to do though.
Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
WOW! J.J. Abrams does it again! Ten years ago who would have thought that somebody could completely revamp the Star Trek franchise? And not only revamp but REVIVE a franchise that had seemed to have long since seen its hayday. Sure, Star Trek fans were still in the millions and their passion was strong. Yet, here we are after the second installment in the new Star Trek series and it feels as though the original shine, shimmer and intrigue never left.
Abrams gives us his follow up to his amazing re-imagination of Star Trek. Leaning more towards the kind of recipe that often leads to disaster in action films these days, he blew our minds with something truly new. Fans of the original Star Trek went crazy, and non-fans went crazy. Like me, I had ALWAYS been a Star Wars fan through and through. After seeing Abrams Star Trek I put away my saber and hood and adopted a phaser and Starfleet garb.
It had all the right ingredients (despite what I said before about the recipe), furious action, the wild expanse and intrigue of space, a cast of actors/actresses who feel as at home in the Enterprise as Shatner and Nemoy did so many years ago. It included a villain in an insane Romulan (played the unrecognizable Eric Bana) that not only you could hate but one you could fear. It opened with one of the most powerful scenes in a film from recent memory, one that altered the normal recipe to make your viewers cry at the end, Star Trek made you cry at the beginning. You saw the relationship and development of Pine and Quinto as they embraced Kirk and Spock, fulfilling every footstep set down by their predecessors, and creating a few of their own.
This presented one HUGE problem for Abrams. How could he possibly top it? Like many before him, Coppola, Nolan, Lucas, Spielberg etc, he now joins that elite group of filmmakers who can best their first attempts.
Into Darkness stays true to its name, emerging you headfirst into a much darker realm of Star Trek than we have seen before. Despite the darkness, the film maintains a light mood and some good comic relief from time to time. Like Bones always says "Dammit man I'm a doctor not a....*insert tag here*". This is STILL funny. It also helps that Abrams starts this movie off AGAIN with another powerful scene. Not as emotional as the first films intro but this one was lighter, including lush greenery (reddery?) that is in complete contrast to the darkness of the rest of the film. Yet when the Enterprise departs and we hear the new Star Trek score an overwhelming feeling of "OH YES! HERE WE GO AGAIN!" cheers and swells inside of you like a child waiting for the ice cream truck.
I won't give much away because surprisingly this film had a couple unexpected twists and turns. I will suffice to say that you are in for quite a treat once you go to see this film. The acting again, is superb. Another problem I felt that Abrams faced was how to make another iconic villain like Nero. Benedict Cumberbatch to the rescue anyone? By deepening his voice to a rumble usually only found in the minds of those reading The Hobbit (Cumberbatch will be voicing Smaug in the upcoming film this December) he can fill you with chills as you stare into his icy, inhuman eyes.
This film surpassed all expectations. If anyone had doubted Abrams talent before, he has hushed the naysayers. Be prepared to be plunged Into Darkness....
Sherlock Holmes (2009)
Not A True Guy Ritchie Film
When you think of a Guy Ritchie film...what do you think of? Corky, goofy, hilarious and always in your face. Sherlock Holmes didn't do it for me. Ritchie seemed to pull away from the interesting way he likes to make films and tried to make a movie closer to the likes of the typical, everyday boring Hollywood filmmaker.
His films Snatch and Lock, Stock, And Two Smoking Barrels are the best examples of his directing career. Filled with never before seen characters with never before seen attitudes he concentrated on characters and a strong story. However, with Sherlock Holmes he abandoned those virtues I grew to love and just...didn't seem to be fully devoted.
Sherlock Holmes seemed almost a sure fire win and when it came out I was very eager to see it. But for some reason it didn't feel like a true Guy Ritchie film. It felt forced and not altogether there. I also thought that with Jude Law the movie couldn't have been entirely bad, but even Jude failed to impress.
Even though this was quite a fail I am still looking forward to Ritchies next film in hopes that he will bring us a movie that includes his zany attitude and glowing characters.
Definitely Not Final Fantasy
Final Fantasy, as many know, is a series of video games that has spanned over two decades and is arguably the most successful video game franchise of all time. Final Fantasy (the original) was released in 1987 and since then 13 games have been released, including one sequel as well as countless spin-offs and two in-development projects. Growing up with Final Fantasy I grew to love everything about the series. The stories, the game play, everything little thing. When Squaresoft (now Square Enix) released Final Fantasy VIII I was given a copy for Christmas '99. It was the first FF game that I played through entirely and since has been my favorite of the FF games. I've played em all, beat em all and loved em all.
When I first saw the trailer for this film my first thought was (I was only ten) "OMG! MOM! WE HAVE TO GO AND SEE THIS!" On the day of its release, July 11th, 2001 I believe my mother took me to see this at the beautiful Cinemark in Moosic. Even at that age I wasn't deceived by Hollywood in that they merely took the name Final Fantasy in order to market a product that had no relation to its source whatsoever.
The movie follows Aki Ross, a scientist in a future Earth inhabited by Phantoms. Phantoms are alien like creatures. Remaining survivors live in "barrier cities" as they struggle to save humanity and the planet. In certain Final Fantasy games, especially FF VII, saving a dying planet is the main problem you face. Oddly enough this is the only relation The Spirits Within has to the Final Fantasy gaming series. Also there is a power hungry military man named Hein who is dead set on using a space cannon to destroy the Phantoms. Problem with this is the cannon would cause extreme harm to the planet and probably kill it but he's from the military so we can excuse him for lacking intelligence or humanity.
Like I said before, the creators of this film only took the name Final Fantasy to help sell this movie to fans of the series. As a stand alone film it is exceptional in its class of CGI/sci-fi blend. Unfortunately I have to give this film a low rating because of its failure to rely on source material or follow any story in the FF galaxy. Even the story to FFX (which IMO was the weakest of the games) would have served this film much better. I always think about Stephen King's novels when I watch this movie. King has written very, very great novels in his time but the majority that are made into films are just crap. Why, because they don't follow the story of the original and they try to make it "Hollywood-style" and it just doesn't work. If a book is a national bestseller, why change it for a movie? If a game is an international bestseller like FF, why make a movie called Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within if the film is devoid of any spirit that was within the games? A five for a film that is great on its own but with a name of something entirely different.
Mass Effect (2007)
Fun RPG but no Fallout 3 or Oblivion
Mass Effect, released by Bioware in 2007, delivers the best in futuristic military "RPGin". It utilizes the great over-the-shoulder 3rd Person view that became very popular due to Resident Evil 4. Not being a big fan of military games (except of course Call Of Duty 2...love) this game did not catch my attention for a while. I gave it a chance two months ago and didn't fall in love, but very close to it.
Mass Effect is great mainly because of its combat system. Somewhat like Halo in that your shields fade as you take damage, then recharge after a few moments. Unlike in Halo, where the whole game was the same thing over and over again, Mass Effect offers non-linear game play, great voice acting, and an infinite amount of choices that you can make. Anyway, the combat system of this game is fantastic but not without the occasional glitch, but I can deal with that. All games have some glitches, this is no exception. Yet the creators did a very good job bug testing this game and before I updated it it did run very well (only one crash during the fifteen hours of play). One of the things that really caught me was the voice acting. Games always fall short on voice acting but this game really hits it out of the park! Besides for combat scenes, the voice acting is the best part of this game. I have to comment on the character creation and the character advancement. Experience is handed out at a very reasonable rate and the skills plentiful to choose from. Also, enough weapons and armor to give gamers an unlimited amount of choices to gear up.
This game is not without its flaws though of which I will name a few. For a game Mass Effect feels a lot like a movie...which is a very bad thing. Not to say that the dialog and story line is bad, because its not. Its just that when I play a game, I expect more game than film. Also, the planets you go to are all the same except for color and minor landscape differences. The same goes for the buildings, all the same with cabinets and junk just in different setups. For the most part the planets are all covered with horrendous mountains. Some of them have deep gorges that you need to get to to reach anomalies, crash sites and resources which can be such a pain in the ass to get out of which is to say the least extremely annoying and frustrating. Some characters are just plain cliché. Like Ashley Williams for example. A soldier who is painfully Christian that it is actually insulting to listen to her for someone with no religious beliefs. Even though the combat system is amazing, combat gets repetitive and you find yourself doing the same thing over and over again. Especially during the side quests. Finally, for a modern, non-linear, open-ended 3D RPG this game is unbelievably short. Only about thirty five hours to complete 100% is a bit ridiculous. Considering that it took me nearly 150 hours to do the same with The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (that means every main and side quest, exploring every single map marker, leveling up as high as I could, mastering every skill, getting every item, owning one of each horse, visiting every shop, every house, getting and finishing all of DLC's and closing every Oblivion Gate...its a lot to do).
Yet, despite all of its flaws, this game is undoubtedly fun. However, being a fan of apocalyptic and medieval based games, movies,novels and other entertainment. This game was a splash of milk away from a cappuccino. I found the fact that you couldn't visit Earth or even a quarter of the planets felt very restricting. In an RPG, I hate restrictions. Not to mention that you couldn't have conversations with anybody, most people just made some obligatory comment and moved on. Oblivion and Fallout 3 allowed you to have conversations with everybody, aiding you and giving you advice to things you would otherwise never know about. Mass Effect is very good, its just not great. Its exceptional and a landmark in Sci-Fi and military RPG's as well as in its voice acting. Not for everybody, but I suggest everybody at least give this game a try. A 7 goes to Mass Effect for an extremely entertaining game with just too many restrictions and flaws.
Note: Urdnot Wrex is the most hilarious character from a video game...EVER!
Another Modern Outdated Point & Clicker
Torchlight, a game released by the newly formed Runic Games run by the previous executives of Flagship Studios which went out of business in August 2008 due to financial difficulties. Flagship Studios released Hellgate: London which was IMO a plagiarism of Two Moons, an online RPG available for free download. Hellgate: London was a game with extremely repetitive action and little to offer in the modern RPG era. With that said it barely even qualifies as an RPG in that it is entirely linear, involves little character creation and development, and no good/evil character change.
Torchlight is a game, released in 09, that stands on the outdated ground of RPG's past. Point and click is not only a thing of yesterday, but also something that has only been successful in very few games like Diablo and Diablo 2. It offers absolutely no character creation besides for choosing three painfully crafted classes. The Destroyer, a large beastly man with heavy armor, a large sword and a bald head. The Vanquisher, a female with light armor and a gun. Finally, the Spellcrafter, male with a magicians robe. You also get a pet companion which is as pointless as NO CHARACTER CREATION in an RPG of today.
Analysis: Torchlight is a dinosaur in a field dominated by vastly superior games not just in graphics and game play but in character creation and beyond. Modern RPG's should allow to shape the look of your character, his/her class, race, stats etc. Games like The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Fallout 3 and Neverwinter Nights 2 are examples of RPG's with infinite character possibilities. Torchlight as an RPG fails epically and tragically. Invest your time and money in one of the above mentioned games or even the not-so-great but slightly fun Hellgate: London. While you're at it, download Two Moons. A fun online RPG with tons to do, tons to buy, tons to kill and tons to learn.
Fainaru Fantajî VIII (1999)
The Best Game of All Time
Let me start out by saying that I grew up with Final Fantasy and (even though I dislike most of the games, especially FFVII) the PS1. I had played and beaten FFVII and hated every bit of it. I thought the dialogue was cliché and poorly written, the backgrounds kindergarten crayon-style looking and the overall game play to be very boring. As a kid I got FFVIII for Christmas, played it and beat it. It took me over a hundred hours to do it, but I did it! That was the most intriguing part though! Every other game I had ever played was beaten in a couple of hours and barely played again. Final Fantasy VIII gave me something I had never seen before in a video game...a challenge.
Not to mention epic beauty and dialogue that still fascinates me today. When I was maybe thirteen or so I lent this too a friend and he lost the third disc so for a long time I was replaying the first two discs or just crushing Ultimecia as best I could in the finale of the game. I had the PS2 at the time and spent a lot of time playing Tekken Tag, Devil May Cry and the GTA games. Yet I always kept the PS1 hooked up...until it broke. Also, my copy of FFVIII which I received the year it was released (1999) was in pretty haggard condition. Unfortunately I was without my favorite game for about four or five years! One day while speaking with a friend, he mentioned he had found a working PS1 emulator for the PC. What did I do? I found the PS1 emulator and pirated every FF for the PS1. Illegal yes, but totally necessary for a FF addict. Plus the PS2 FF's left a bad taste in my mouth, all of them missing the greatness which was FFVIII. Being eighteen at the time when I started to replay FFVIII I was more intelligent and had a better understanding of how all the junctioning worked (when you're ten years old and just looking for fun this can prove to be the most confusing thing ever). Playing it again I was brought back in time; the epic beauty, the to-this-day unparalleled cut scenes and the infinite possibilities with junctions and GF's (Guardian Forces). I always have wondered why they never brought that aspect back to any of the later FF games. It was what made the series unique instead of MP which always runs and you never have enough ethers for the last battle!
Now, being nineteen years old and having played some of the finest RPG's out there like Oblivion, Fallout 3, and Star Wars KOTOR. Being nineteen and having played some of the finest action games out there like Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Call of Duty, and Batman: Arkham Asylum. This is still the greatest game I have ever played. A video game epic on a level that no PS3 or Xbox 360 insert has achieved. With a love story that feels real and that actually moves you and evokes your emotions. Characters that live in a world of fantasy but are similar to people we all went to school with and an ending that deserves GREATEST FINALE OF ALL TIME AWARD! If you have never played this game, go out and get it now! Or played it and just rushed through it so that you'd be able to say you played all the FF games, play it again! You will not be disappointed when you take a hundred hours and play this game straight down to the bone core and suck all the marrow out of it.
Best Game Of All Time.
Better Than The Godfather?
Martin Scorcese has always had success with mob films. Its something we have all grown to love about him. Matteo Garrone, like most foreign filmmakers, was virtually unknown to us American audiences. With little film making experience under his belt, he delivers.
Having not seen this in theaters, I rushed to the nearest Blockbuster to pick up a copy the day of its release. Never before have I felt like more of an idiot for not seeing a movie in theaters as I did with this film. It delivers a very strong plot, fantastic acting (which you can always count on in European films), and enough action to satisfy without bludgeoning itself to death.
Is this mob film better than the Godfather? I say yes, and here's why. Its not extremely drawn out with a second or two of thrill every few hours like the Godfather. It keeps things short and sweet while getting its point across. The characters feel more real and with that reality comes more of an attachment to the characters. In one scene a woman who is not given much background is shot and killed yet it has a terrifying and crushing gravity to it. Another thing that in my opinion makes this a better film as a whole is that you get a look at those who have no ties whatsoever to the mob but are still affected by it. The dialog is taut, suspicious, and overwhelming at times. Visually and verbally I believe that this is the single best, straight up mob film ever. At just under two and a half hours you can avoid a yawn fest while still getting an extremely moving motion picture.
Bicentennial Man (1999)
This movie is fantastic, sheer brilliance, in my opinion the most beautiful love story ever told, while not being anywhere near a classic love story. The first hour of the movie is pure old fashioned fun, and it doesn't take itself too seriously. Yet when you enter the last half of the film, it takes a dramatic turn for the better. A lot of people bashed this film, and even though for the most part it was a box office flop, I believe it to be one of the best romance films I've ever seen.
This was the role that Williams was born to play. Before this he was mostly cast in overly clichéd comedies with flawed scripts. He was known for being one of the funniest men in the industry, but he really shows his true colors in this film. While being generally comedic he makes sure that he keeps his character light-hearted and optimistic. He is a robot who wishes to be human, and will never rest until his goal is completed. The defining moments of the movie are not in its comedy, but in its drama and the social conflict Andrew (Williams) faces with trying to change. The final scene of this movie will have tears flowing and the tissues flying. Every time I watch this film, the ending always gets me, its more powerful than Titanic or King Kong, Capote or Gone With The Wind.
Supporting Williams in this brilliant film are "Sir" Richard Martin (Sam Neil), his caring master and provider. Sam Neil notices the extraordinary originality and difference in Andrew from other robots and uses this to teach Andrew of the ways of man. A career high for Sam Neil, he portrays a character both enlightened and later distraught by Andrew. Little Miss Amanda Martin (Embeth Davidtz) is the daughter of "Sir" Martin who soon befriends and becomes very attached to Andrew. Andrew and Little Miss form a bond that is lovable and innocent. Embeth Davidtz later portrays Portia Charney, the grand-daughter of Little Miss, whom Williams has a hard time dealing with. Oliver Platt performs as Rupert Burns, an intelligent yet underestimated engineer of robots who helps Andrew on his journey to change. His comedic excellence truly lifts this movie and like I said before, makes sure it doesn't take itself too seriously. The other performances in this film support it greatly, whether it is comedic and dramatic.
Altogether, I find this to be one fantastic film. I cannot understand now how this movie was so overlooked and bashed by the public and critics alike. I found it to be a gem and one truly heartbreaking yet uplifting movie that brings hope in believing that this world can make the right decisions. Yet it also brings very sad feelings knowing that it can take so long to be acknowledged for what and who one is. The ending of this movie will leave you breathless and simply taken aback. Trust me, forget all of the things you've heard about this film and give it another shot with an open mind and an open heart. This movie deserves to be noticed among some of the greats, as it is a beautiful portrait of life outside human existence, and how one man can change the way the entire world views one thing. I hope this review was helpful, and "In the words of the great Andrew Martin, one is glad to be of service."
Great Story Of True Friendship
I saw this movie on Saturday with my girlfriend and we absolutely loved it. I can't remember having this much fun watching a Disney flick besides for Wall-E, but before that, jeez, Aladdin comes to mind. Yet this movie along with Wall-E were really, in my mind, the boosts that Pixar needed to really pick up from their last few films, that one with the rats (not Ratatouille), Shrek 3, Shrek 2, and others. Bolt is a heroic dog on a television show, yet he has no idea that it is a show and he believes that he has all these superpowers and what not. When Penny (his owner) is "kidnapped" he flees the set in hopes of finding Penny. Little does he know of the dangers that await him.
Bolt is voiced beautifully by John Travolta, who I was skeptical about at first considering how old Travolta is and Bolt looking like a very young and restless pup. Yet Travolta's energy and charisma bring a wonderful dynamic to the brave lil pup. I hate Miley Cyrus, but her voice can be quite charming at times, I was actually drawn in by her. Mark Walton does the voice of Rhino, a fat hamster who is Bolts biggest fan. His crazy antics and adorably funny lines such as "I eat danger for breakfast" we'll have you laughing throughout the whole film.
The pigeons in this film are, like others have stated, truly stunning. Their motions are perfect, including one beautiful scene when they fly off. The delay of the lift off to the actual movement of the wings is unbelievably choreographed. Great job on the pigeons Pixar! The animation of this film is great, definitely on par with other Pixar greats like Wall-E and Shrek.
Overall, a great family film. I would recommend this to anyone who wished to avoid the Twilight crap, or someone who is just looking at watching a movie with some great laughs, along with some subtle comedic references to other media, and just altogether fun.