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Six young people go to a cabin in the wilderness to celebrate their
graduation(well, the four of them). The couple Ivalu(Johansen, loving)
and Mika(Fleischer, a little bit of a practical joker), her little
brother Piitaq(Høegh, shy, the youngest), Ulla(Kruse, sweet, the one
who knows the most about the supernatural) who has a crush on him,
Kiistat(Lennert, decisive), and Aqissiaq(Lennert-Sandgreen, obnoxious
without losing our sympathy), who wants to get with her. This vacation
soon loses its appeal when they see signs of the territorial, avenging
spirit of a hermit who was rejected by society - what their ancestors
call a qivitoq.
I should clarify from the onset that my deeper appreciation of this was on account of watching and, at the same time, discussing this with my father, who spent 6 years studying Eskimology(Inuit language and culture). This is a healthy marriage between modern horror cinema(with isolation, desolation, even a little claustrophobia) and, the lesser known, history and mindset of Western Greenland. This is clear with its title, which translates to In the Shadows of the Mountain, and aforementioned local mythological killer, here depicted wearing the otherwise seldom, in the contemporary, seen(thus placing it distinctly in the past, as many other icons of terror) article of a seal-skin coat(and the first person who brings up PETA, Greenpeace is getting slapped sideways... it's one of a few, important exports, the meat is also eaten, and the respect of the animal is assured by a long background of a love of any of the food they hunt).
But I digress. This is drenched in aspects that are(granted, some are well-known outside of it, as well) of the area - all behavior and dialog, every song on the score, and those behind and in front of the camera. This works as both a treat to those who already know about that part of the world, and as an introduction for those who don't. Certainly, you won't appreciate everything if you go in blindly, however, with the recognizable elements right out of a Hollywood piece, you can follow it, and find it downright engaging. The production values are amazing. Cinematography, editing, sound, music, acting(one in particular is asked to do a lot, and is stunning), every step of the way. You can tell this had a budget, not to mention professionals crafting it. Granted, the use of CGI is a tad frequent - blood, flies... sometimes even snow! This doesn't detract from the countless beautiful shots of fields and sea, and the impeccable, silent atmosphere, giving us both the relaxing distance from the stress of the city... and of course, the deep dread of the middle of nowhere, with predators and the merciless void of threatening stone and ice that has led to one story after another reaffirming the bitter, destructive will of nature itself.
The genre has its share of common weaknesses and clichés, and sadly, some of them are present here. After a while of setup, the pace picks up about an hour in, only to then going back and forth between gaining and losing steam. With a running time of 2 hours and 1 minute, or 1 hour and 53 not counting the end credits, this could have been a good half hour shorter and only be tighter for it. The theme of revenge is gripping, and endemic to the monster chosen for this, and yet it's not explored too much. True, that does increase in the last third, though that does have problems of its own. Unsure of what to do with the creature, it goes for a couple of different ideas of it, and these are quickly dealt with in start-stop fashion. The ending and the conclusion to the mystery is commonly troubling for tales of this sort, and this is no exception. Had it gone further in the direction that otherwise defines this, of the indigenous and their ingrained fears, the climax could have been better. Ultimately, certain things just happen one time(at least) too many: Deciding to split up, some disappearing from the others(and thus us, the audience), following a plan that was inherently flawed, refusing to accept what the evil being has been shown to be able to do. And oddly, the items set up as useful(a radio, for example) pay off in distractingly unexpected ways, to the extent that they feel like hasty rewrites. Yes, the couple of takes on what to do are repeated. There is a lack of depth. However, these things aren't frustrating on initial your viewing, because the presentation is just so impressive, with an underlying current of tension. At no point do the personalities irritate, instead, the various dynamics of them keep our eyes intently on the screen, hoping for their survival. This employs effective use of perspective, with the early POV of the outsider(as long as he is not accepted, something that doesn't remain unaltered) and the continued focus on the group, and often locked by their living quarters("home is the safest place", and the very clear, and accurate, notion that being outside for long can mean death by means not necessarily unexplainable). And this has one of the least contrived elimination of cell phones I've seen. Indeed, this delivers on the goods of the concept, in fact being a great deal more appealing than the average fare coming out of L.A.
There is a bit of violence and disturbing content and some sexual(a little of it graphic) references in this. The DVD comes with an 8 and a half minute making of and 7 and a half minutes of interviews with the cast - I can't comment on them, unfortunately, as unlike the film itself which has Danish and English subtitles, one has to understand their mother tongue to follow along. I recommend this to any fan of slashers, and/or those interested in what primitive(keeping in mind that words means "first", and any negative connotation is something we give it) peoples look like today. 8/10
The Asylum couldn't contain all the madness. It's shut down. Gotham's
slums are walled off, armed helicopters patrol the area, and even
Blackgate Penitentiary is closed. Every criminal is now in the titular
Arkham City. No guards or cells, everyone in there is free to do what
they want, short of attempting escape. Turf wars erupt, with Two-Face's
goons controlling one area, those of The Penguin another. Bruce
Wayne(Conroy, determined and calm) is put in there, and soon dons the
cape and cowl. The Joker(Hamill, simultaneously scary and comical; he
pops up and steals the show every so often in this) hasn't forgotten
him, of course, and poisons him, threatening that civilians have the
same ailment. As if one ticking clock wasn't enough, the voice of the
installation's director(and this whole idea makes sense as a twisted
psychological experiment), Hugo Strange(Burton, calculated), ominously
threatens that within a number of hours, Protocol 10 will commence.
I will be covering the Game of the Year edition, complete with all DLC, including the meh, set-after-this Harley Quinn's Revenge(hence why I am not reviewing that one separately). Most of what you can download for this, I would personally say to pass on unless it's simply part of the price anyway. Essentially, it boils down to being able to play as Catwoman(also available in the main story; caltrops, bolas) who can climb on ceilings, Robin(bullet shield) and Nightwing(wrist darts) in the 31 (evenly divided between the only two game-play types, which I will define shortly) challenge-maps and 15 -campaigns(made up of a few of former levels, with modifiers that have to be used before the end of it, some of them positive, such as more power, others negative, like less health; you can also customize your own). There are online leaderboards, three medals to each, and you can use alternate costumes for these.
One of these elements is the fighting. There is a rhythm to it, it's smooth, brutal, easy to learn and difficult to master, and you'll look awesome doing it. With only four commands to keep track of, you can take on a dozen without losing track or struggling with combinations. These are Strike, Counter, Stun and Evade. Time it right, use the corresponding one when appropriate, and voila. Now with more combo attacks and other options, these things are built onto the foundation in the first one, so that you don't have to learn an entirely new system. With more gadgets and upgrades to old ones, you can now use them during these situations, via quickfire buttons. Spray explosive gel on the floor, knock down enemies when you detonate it. Hit someone with an electrical charge, and they'll attack in random directions.
The other is stealth, aka Predator. Hide and choose the right time to Takedown(we get more of those here, mostly area-specific ones) a foe, whether under, behind or above him. Get one, get to a different location as they rush there, rinse and repeat. You can attract with noise and use different things, such as a Batarang that reverses once behind someone, to knock them out, a trigger that detonates selected mines(only two per area), etc. In general, you have to avoid being spotted by the armed ones snipers give away their position with laser-sights. Well, that is, if you aren't engaged in Detective Vision, that you can now no longer just leave on, since it also removes the compass. It of course aids in certain places, such as when trying to "solve" the "puzzles"(too simple, hence deserving quote marks), like the 440(! No, that is, indeed, quite a lot) Riddler Trophies(heck, even if you don't go for those, you will visit every area at least twice, and it's not like a closed one will suddenly make an arena, or vice versa).
The graphics are amazing, with life-like(without betraying the novel roots) designs, a free 360 degree camera, and stunning FX. A Gothic atmosphere is ever-present, without that particularly limiting the locations a courtroom, a museum and a police station are among them. Of course, this does bring up one of the problems with this being all at night and in a desolate spot, sure, it fits the titular hero, however, well, this isn't Grand Theft Auto in this corner of the DC universe. This is open-world(at times confusingly so, you can kind of get lost), and yet everything looks the same, there's little interaction with the environment, and it's much too streamlined(overall, too). No vehicles, few choices(bypass or engage the guards outside), and the reasonably varied side-missions boil down to one of the two earlier mentioned approaches. Why not placing GPS-y stuff on tall buildings, switching between fast/tough armor, maybe stealthing into a base(and once cleared, maybe 2/3 less rifles, or the like, in the rest of this, because it was a gun-runner) belonging to one of the dozen or so villains, since they're not doing anything here other than showing up and giving you someone to punch.
Story here is mainly to work in all of the familiar faces, and the poor writers bend logic and coincidence far past their breaking points in order to put them all in there, give them *something* to do(in the first, our nemesis was pulling off a clever plan, and we were at his mercy here, you forget that it's a bad guy who's in charge; there is escalation, and it feels excessive). The problem here is that while some things have been improved upon, such as boss battles now being as involved as they are expected to be in the medium, so many things are left the way they were, or merely upgraded, which would be fine if this was a mere expansion pack. This is an underwhelming sequel, more eager to deliver a lot of fan-service than to make it distinct from the first.
There is some bloody, violent and disturbing content in this. I recommend this to fans of the franchise. 8/10
Get your feet wet Upon a terrifying nightmare that is clearly an omen,
Noah(a roaring and fanatically determined Crowe), along with his
family, begin building an ark. They get some unexpected help, but will
it be enough? Especially when the king of the land(Winstone at his most
vile, representing the wickedness of our species) shows up with his
army, threatening that if that boat is the only safe place, they will
board it one way or another.
Causing controversy from before anyone had watched it, this is a non-literal update-for-our-times take on the Bible story, that nevertheless seeks to engage with the same, genuinely universal, values honestly, everything added here is not only critical to even make it a feature length drama(such as adding a present, physical form to the evil that is being drowned out, as it were), it serves to flesh out what was already there. This is aggressively environmental, thus rendering it highly relevant; the Earth(which could be 1000 years in the past, or the future) is here a barren, post-apocalyptic wasteland, and while it could have been made clearer, the idea is that excessive and relentless mining of resources is the cause. Not only are we beyond rescuing, the storm that will come will deliver water sorely needed to reinvigorate nature.
This has everything we've come to expect from Aronofsky: solid production values in every aspect, with a solid, and nicely limited(so that there is room for them all to represent some element endemic to us Homo Sapiens, and this is very much a character study of our titular protagonist, and an examination of humanity) cast, a compelling Clint Mansell score, and, of course, amazing(and all with a distinct purpose, artistically) visuals(the desperation of a dying breed is one of the images that will stick with you, something that is in everything Darren has helmed), employing techniques not often seen in the mainstream, including silhouette(such as a brief and stunning extrapolation of Cain) and time-lapse photography(the construction process itself). If you at all intend to watch this, and your first viewing is not a 3D showing, you will be committing a cardinal sin.
There is a lot of brutal, gory, violent and disturbing content and some sexuality in this, none of it gratuitous. I recommend this to anyone not put off by it being based on a Genesis account or the fact that it takes liberties with it. 7/10
When Fury(L. Jackson, tough as usual, for him and these) is attacked by
an unknown enemy, the Captain(Evans, will of steel, heart of gold) and
Black Widow(Johansson, sultry and devious this uses her right,
finally) find themselves(they have a great chemistry, with a charming
running gag of her wanting to pair him up with a girl, going through a
list of ones they both know; and with his straightforward nature, and
her relative lack of integrity, they both affect the other towards
them, benefiting both) with no one else to trust, except perhaps the
veteran Falcon(Mackie, amiable), as they uncover a genuinely
devastating truth, while on the run from a considerable force
including the elusive assassin, The Winter Soldier(Stan, terrifying,
pure awesome pretty much every second he's on screen).
This is just short of the level of The Avengers. It uses the strong continuity of the cinematic Marvel(as in, their own studio) universe better than any of the others, and does justice to many different elements, most of them set up prior to this. Events occur in this that will have serious consequences for future entries. The plot-driven nature and approach of a 70's political thriller(where some characters, all credible and with something to do, happen to wear a flag or the like) in a contemporary setting and with biting satire(on foreign policy, something not entirely new to these, but never before this sharp commenting on mass surveillance and executions taking place before any trial against the (supposed) perpetrator) is spot-on. From a 40's war flick, with heroism and defined lines between good and evil, to the modern method of taking on the opposition with spying, and questionable tactics(compared to one army versus another).
The action all comes about naturally, it's personal, hard-hitting and, on account of next to no CGI, it's "real". Each intense set-piece is varied(fighting, shooting, chasing both on foot and vehicular ), you will remember them, and except for one bit, they feel fresh and original. Among the very few weaknesses are that Sharon(VanCamp, another compelling and strong woman) has nothing to do in this, appearing as if her important scenes were cut, and/or that she was setup for the next one. She is the only one that that goes for, a pleasant surprise considering the seemingly bloated cast of characters. This explores S.H.I.E.L.D., and how the iconic super soldier fits into it or, whether or not he does, at all. The 3D is unobtrusive, adding depth and atmosphere, similar to Avatar.
There is violence and disturbing content in this. I recommend this to any fan of, well, blockbusters. 10/10
When Betty(Field, determined) go with Moody(Molina, transforming from
loving to cruel) and their daughter Mahtob(Rosenthal, cute, devoted to
her mother) back to his home country of Iran for a two week vacation,
they find it very different from last time he was there. Since the
revolution, the laws are more strict. And when the fortnight is up, he
tells them that they will be staying. It's a dangerous place to be,
women have few rights, and a divorce would just mean he gets custody.
But she knows she has to get out, and her girl is coming with her. One
way or another.
I don't know enough about the period to say how realistic this is, but it comes across as credible. We see some of the local customs, and the choice to keep it entirely from their perspective was smart - as long as they are in that country, so are we. The acting is good for all concerned, including children. Some of the dialog and cinematography are odd, taking you out of the experience, when they easily could have been better. Other than that, this is fairly well-produced. This is 108 minutes without the credits, or 111 with.
There is some solid tension, albeit these sequences tend to be over too quickly, and removed from any greater context. The pacing is decent at best. This stops and stalls, and it's one of the "based on a true story" pictures that focuses so much on being accurate, it forgets that it's also, ultimately a piece of fiction(not a documentary), and as such, has to entertain. There are plot strands that end up going nowhere, and this is easily 20 minutes too long. By the end, you've simply stopped caring.
There is some violent and disturbing content. I recommend this to those who badly want a film about these events. 6/10
With Alan(Porretta, still an obsessed, troubled writer, albeit here it
isn't really explored) where we left him(not giving it away, for anyone
who don't know the ending), he is now chasing his evil double, Mr.
Scratch, who leaves behind video recordings(live-action, as most
cutscenes in this) that show his exploits, brutally torturing and
murdering people in his path. What exactly are his motives and the
limitations to his powers? These questions and more, will not be
answered here in Night Springs, AZ(no, seriously
yes, it's framed as
an episode of the Twilight Zone-esque show, compete with Rod
Anyway, our protagonist is trapped in a time-loop, which would be an excellent way to do a straight adventure title, where you have a time limit before you go back to the start of that scenario, and you have to gather clues, figure out what to accomplish and how, and only when you do it just right do you get to progress to the next one, with compelling characters and a gradually unfolding plot that explains what's going on. Unfortunately, nothing like that is here. It's 3 hours long, with few settings, since, well, it has nothing to say that isn't there purely to make a single-player campaign. It's another recent release that has to include that to justify its own existence.
The focus here is on the gunplay, the amount of which has been increased, in spite of there already being a bit much in the original(and that one, we loved for its engrossing story and carefully built atmosphere, neither present here), which this is an in-universe spin-off to not sequel, that one is supposedly and hopefully still coming. It also wasn't a third-person shooting experience that you'd really drop everything to go get. With a handful of new weapons that don't really fit the otherwise unaltered gameplay(SMG, nailgun, etc.), and uninspired enemies, it's meant to be rejuvenated. Why are Taken, blue-collar workers using the tools of their trade(firemen with axes, etc.) possessed by a dark, Venom-like substance, still your foes? The tone has shifted without bringing the engine along.
This was made for the Arcade mode, where you have to survive for ten minutes in one of five arenas(cemetery, ghost town, etc.), in one of the two difficulty settings(and you have to do well on early ones in order to unlock later ones) of this, against increasingly dangerous opposition. There are international leaderboards for this. And that's about it. This is meant to attract more people to the franchise, but how? By showing off an OK aspect, one that is outdone by many others? This should have been a free DLC for those who already had the first one it's what you'd have called an expansion pack some years back. They didn't even fix the few actual issues, like when you try to pick something up from a group of items, and it doesn't cycle past(or just pick up what it can they're nearly always in piles!) the closest one, even if that one is at your full capacity.
You still have a flashlight to remove the "dark halo" before you can take someone out with bullets, and you have to balance those two(use it at an "unnecessary" time, it'll essentially stun) with the time-it-just-right dodge mechanic in order to do well at this. Lampposts serve as checkpoint saves and the way to heal. This is too stand-alone for it to be worth it, with a thin, poorly done(although in spite of what some have said, it does make sense) plot that doesn't affect anything. The people you come across in it have nothing to do, and could have been replaced with the now-manual-like, this-time-devoid-of-subtlety manuscript pages that grant access to boxes that each have a high-level weapon.
This is not well-paced. It starts with you fighting(rather than letting you absorb where you are and what's going on), after an exposition dump that doesn't recap previous events(this doesn't give away anything that has already happened it also spends almost no time of its 3 hour length explaining something that was built up and explored over the 9 and a half hour 1st), no, it sets up what's going on! Show, don't tell! There is no suspense, dialog is seldom as clever as it wants to be, and the whole thing lacks the production values of first. It feels lazy, rushed.
In a lot of ways, this is similar to the two chapters that came as DLC. Surreal, you having to get through unpredictable areas and having encounters with others that are "off". However, that was much more creative, had a lot of fun with the concept and actually added thematically(if not with progression in the overall story). While I wouldn't spend money on it if it didn't come with purchasing that full game, something I wholeheartedly encourage you to do, it easily beats this.
The mini-map/GPS shows icons for the new ammo refill spots( ugh), and other things you might need to find. You can carry one sidearm(pistol or the like), one two-handed(shotgun, hunting rifle, etc.), flashbangs, flares and a gun for the latter. If close enough, those can be highly useful in the fight. You can only carry 3-5 extra clips for any of them, so you do have to stay on your toes, look around for more. Well, mostly in the "survival" part, in the single-player, you have to work hard to come close to running out. Heck, this threw three different secondary arms at me before I had anything to use even one of them on! Barry(Berman, enthusiastic, big-city type) returns, often on the radio, now managing The Old Gods of Asgard(!). That's not the only nod/reference, either.
There is some disturbing, violent and suggestively sexual content in this. I recommend this to those who want everything with Mr. Wake's name on it, and no one else. Anything this offers, you can get better elsewhere. 7/10
Hartmann takes to the stage again, in this 'creatively' titled
show(guess how many he'd made before this). He gets into the mainstay
subjects of sex, women and children/parenting, and applies his
tremendous talent for verbal comedy - such as in the extended bit where
he rattles off puns, "things that sound good when your brain needs
sleep". It's well-paced at 84 and a half minutes without credits, or 85
This is less angry than others he's done, and he's still hilarious. Not many moments ever pass without the audience cracking up. He can be silly, crude, clever, and of course rather offensive. In spite of a few great running gags, there is not much of a theme to this one(early on it seems to be "space", but that is dropped so quick, you wonder why they did the intro in that style), and, honestly, the material doesn't stick in your mind the same way Denmark's best in the field, Anders 'Anden' Matthesen.
There is a lot of strong language and disturbing content in this. The DVD comes with his uncut(with more of a live experience than the previous releases from these same ones) Stand-up.DK from 2001(23 minutes) and '02(26 minutes) 18 and a half minutes of decent Deleted Jokes but with horrible sound, for some reason. I recommend this to any fan of this type of comedy. 7/10
This is the shorter of the two featurettes on the DVD of Ladder 49, at
a well-paced 13 and a half minutes. A tribute to firemen, it gives a
brief peek into their lives, as delivered by interviews with them and
their families(it was the right choice to barely even include John
Travolta, and no one else from Hollywood).
They talk about the legacy of the job, the generational nature of it for many, the unpredictability, the long waits leading to practical jokes at each other's expense and yet they immediately abandon that when that alarm goes off, the experience of finding children inside the buildings and the amazing sense of fulfillment that it is to be able to rescue others.
This is what the film itself wanted to be, yet when they added production values(and thus increased their audience), all it led to was a two hour recruitment ad. What that meant to be, this is. Real, inspiring, beautiful(and not sappy or self-important) and haunting.
There is some disturbing content in this. I recommend this to anyone who wants to know more about firefighters. 8/10
This is the longest of the two featurettes on the DVD of Ladder 49, and
it is, indeed, a making of documentary. Or, rather, an On Location, a
training short and an Anatomy of a Scene on the warehouse scene
combined into that. It consists of clips of the film, behind the scenes
footage and sitdown interviews with cast(reflecting on the experience
of the faux firefighting they did on screen - and having to go through
"the maze"!) and crew. This is well-paced, going through numerous
topics in a lean 21 minute running time.
Covered is how epic it is, that it was made to look like a battle scene(they succeeded!), how passionate they were to create a tribute to the (real life) heroes it is about, the realism(that's not CGI fire) of both production and finished picture and thus the relative lack of visual effects and danger(culminating in thankfully minor injury) involved for even the stars, the freedom and craftsmanship of the set for the inside of skyscraper, how vital the sound is and the challenge of editing.
Ironically, without trying to, this does highlight several of the problems(let me be clear: this was made with the best of intentions, and a lot of it pays off), mostly through what isn't said. Little mention is made of the characters, outside of brief, well-deserved praise of the actors. The focus is on highlighting the, indeed vast, difficulty, importance and expertise that make up the job of firemen - not on a drama, a script memorable beyond it's accuracy, or in general anything that would have set this apart from, well, fitting more a simulation, either via, with all due respect, a carnival ride or a video-game(think America's Army).
I recommend this to anyone who wants to know more about the movie itself, and it's worth noting that this doesn't particularly contain spoilers. 7/10
Jack(Phoenix, suitably bland in order to allow the entirely male
audience to put themselves in his place; and they say Twilight is only
for girls) joins a Baltimore fire station, gains experience(with gritty
depictions of scenarios, that rarely lack realism), and starts a
family(time passing shown effectively by their status as a couple) with
Linda(Barrett, starts out fun and feisty enough to keep up with the
guys, although this is soon replaced with Hallmark cards of ideal
moments, with the occasional prototypical "one day you may not return"
bit). This is all shown through flashback, as he struggles to stay
alive, and aid his team in finding and rescuing him, from a
) that's on fire, and full of volatile materials. If he
even gets out in one piece, which will he choose his loved ones, or
This is done as full immersion, with a lot of slang and situations(nicely varied, showing many different jobs of the occupation this captures both the tedium of the wait and the sudden explosion of action) that you have to "follow along with", we're given no hand-holding audience proxies are largely educated off-screen. We see the macho subculture of the station, with practical jokes, hazing, etc. There are a ton of details, and not only about aforementioned, also, at least in relation to them, the larger community. The idea of this clearly is to present them as courageous, but still human beings. It's highly tense, exciting and expertly filmed in general, the technical aspects are top-notch. Many shots will stay with you. The pacing is pretty good, for the 105 minute length without credits, and 110 with.
Let's not mince words, firefighters are brave, tremendously skilled and vital. However, given the time this was made(read: 9/11 exploitation), it's clichéd, tonally unfocused, manipulative, more of a tribute than a drama, too careful, and hero worship to the point of this essentially being a recruiting film. Of course, this makes the fact that it's unapologetically steeped in traditional values the reaction to homosexuality is telling, as well as (intentionally?) humorous less troublesome than it otherwise would be. The hyperbolic score, telling us what to feel when, is ridiculous.
The DVD comes with an interesting, informational and even sometimes amusing commentary by director Jay Russell and editor Bud S. Smith, the Making of(21 minutes) and Everyday Heroes(13 and a half minutes) documentaries which I will review on their separate pages, 14 minutes of good deleted scenes, the 4 and a half minute music video for "Shine Your Light", and trailers for The Last Shot, Shall We Dance and National Treasure. I recommend this to those who want an inside look of this environment, provided they can suffer through the problems. 7/10
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