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9 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
Half incomplete, 22 November 2014

Adjusting to life in the militaristic District 13(which is reasonably well-established, no Zion going on here), Katniss(Lawrence, strong female role model, compelling as always) is asked to be the Mockingjay, the face of the rebellion. She's not even sure if she can be, but when Peeta(Hutcherson, clearly abused, broken) appears on TV, calling for a ceasefire, she realizes if they win, he will likely be executed as a traitor. In exchange for his safety and rescue, she does agree – and has to convince the thousands of civilians in Panem to rise and fight the hundreds of Peacekeepers(with a very relevant image of a now-militarized country) and the evil, selfish and dictatorial Capitol, led by the vicious President Snow(Sutherland, sinister and terrifying).

Where the first two are satire on Reality TV and gladiatorial combat, this completely abandons the Games, instead exploring modern media and how it reflects and affects the culture, with both the State and the guerrilla fighting in part via propaganda, with this 2010 book predicting that aspect of IS. Going into this expecting it to be the same thing as the first two will lead to disappointment. Unfortunately, clever as this is, there are other issues. I'm not only referring to the love triangle, present but only annoying when it rarely flares up into passive-aggressive insults. This should not be merely a part of a story. There is some focus, but mostly, the structure(unlike the others, where the competition accomplished that) here does not work well for a movie. Not a lot really happens, and it certainly isn't as fast as we've gotten used to from these. They felt the need to add a few action scenes, and while they work and increase the scope, they are clearly "put in", and change little, if anything. The characters don't have enough to do, and we can tell there is something missing to their arc.

I recommend this to any fan of Young Adult fiction. There is a lot of mild violence and some disturbing content in this. 8/10

4 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Very nearly out-of-this-world, 8 November 2014

With Earth running out of resources, astronauts make a last-ditch attempt at locating other habitable planets within reach. This is possible via a wormhole, of unknown origin. And it *has* to work.

At its core, this is about the love between a father, Coop(McConaughey, an everyday man with vital experience and a good team leader), and his daughter, Murph(Chastain, independent and as stubborn as he is). This is simultaneously its greatest strength and weakness. Everything we are excited about rides, to some extent, on us, and them, caring about both of them, and what they share. Thus, we never stop caring, and it enhances all the thrilling space adventures(almost exclusively grounded in reality, and the best theories), where the mastery of movement(or relative stillness) of the camera and the volume of the soundtrack(and sometimes deafening silence) builds tension to its breaking point, and, crucially, never beyond it. And unfortunately, this emotional grounding does eventually lead to some sappy sentimentalism.

The ending will divide audiences. This owes a great, and openly acknowledged, debt to Kubrick's 2001, but it isn't a mere tribute to that, and to exploration of the stars and what that can bring, the latter of which it seeks to encourage a return to. It goes different places, and the third act will be long debated, as it deserves. The humor is well-integrated, not distracting and it eases us out of what would otherwise be relentless and unbearable heaviness. All of the effects are amazing, and the technology compelling. Watch this in the theater, it is made very much for that, as far as the visual and audible experience. The 2 hour and 45 minute running time, and that's not counting the closing credits, will scare some off, and it is perhaps too long.

There is some disturbing content and a little moderate language in this. I recommend it to everyone who doesn't outright hate Nolan… it is very much one of his films, for better as well as worse, however, even with the hokey aspects, this is one you shouldn't miss. 8/10

System Shock (1994) (VG)
A leap forward in spite of obvious stumbling, 29 October 2014

The year is 2072. Location: a big city. You're caught hacking into Citadel: the large, multilevel space station, with everything it needs, including Maintenance, Medical and Engineering, all distinct from each other, albeit the confusing layouts take some away from the organic, "lived-in" feel. Know where you're going, or if that's not an option, use process of elimination. You'll be moving between them in both directions, since you can't always complete one the first time you're there. This is done via elevators, complete with the cheesy music, one example of the humor, and it not taking away from the creepy tone. You're offered a deal: no jail time, provided you alter the on-board AI, SHODAN(Brosius, haunting, creepy) to remove ethical constraints. When you wake up from a coma 6 months later, having recovered from the implantation of a neuro-interface which was part of the offer, something has clearly gone wrong. In the half a year, the computer, seeing herself as a deity, used the large corporation TriOptimum's on-board genetics research and weaponry to mold the human and animal life that were crew and test subjects, respectively, into hideous mutants and cyborgs, which you can often hear and thus recognize before you see them, and that may die with a brutal, pained roar. You were not targeted since you were just an anonymous guest, who didn't know the area and didn't put up a fight. However, now you're the only hope… she already shot down one shuttle on approach, and is threatening Earth.

This is a haunted house in space. You are alone, everything you find that's alive is out to kill you. The echoing sound of a blast door closing behind you, the endless stars visible through the window, and your lack of knowledge about the place build an effective atmosphere. This is similar to its peer Doom… dark sci-fi, enemies are scary or even grotesque, some of them spider-like. That is more accessible and less complex, when really, only the latter had to be true. This is highly influential and groundbreaking, with a lot of things that we take for granted today. Unfortunately, some of these things were not sufficiently streamlined, and we end up with many elements that work well on their own, most of them great here and leading to more than the sum of their parts, but with a few highly frustrating issues. One is the counterintuitive controls which involves too many keys and several of which crucially go against WSAD/directional arrows with Ctrl/Alt. The other is the HUD which is too complicated, and simultaneously does things it thinks you want, and not always things you ask for. It is unreasonable to expect this to be as well-done as its successors, both spiritual ones such as Bioshock and Deus Ex, and the actual sequel. However, these aspects should have been worked out during development. A major thing is that a lot of the aforementioned would be fine if this were turn-based, but do not allow for comfortable, real-time play.

The mouse is used to interact, albeit it needs more clicking and fiddling around than it should, and it doesn't allow the smooth, 360 degree camera that the engine has… that, you have to do with the keyboard, or slowly. And some of the things require contortions of the fingers and hands, including the movements that this has which not all, in some case not many, of its peers does: strafing, jumping, looking up and down, leaning, and going crouch and prone. Not all readouts are required… fatigue can be almost entirely avoided, such as by not running much, for example. The dexterity of the menus puts too much information in front of you… there are those that will give up on this mere minutes in. Simultaneously, they may change or fully remove some of these on a whim. The inventory has too many separate and similar areas. This doesn't allow for selective customizing and upgrading, if you find it you can probably use it. In some ways this is straightforward even if you don't do D&D, in others it's hard even for those who engage in such.

You can use 7 different grenades, some of them timed, you choosing between 1 and 57 seconds, some mines, etc. 7 different Dermal Patches can either heal, make your melee stronger(so you can save on the sparse ammo), etc., but also lead to negative effects, so use them well. There are 16 weapons, and you can only carry 7 at a time, so choose carefully. They and their ammo types have specific uses… EMP takes down machines, and Gas easily neutralizes life-forms. Pistols, assault rifles, SMGs, and Energy Guns. That last one allows you to adjust how "hot" the projectiles are, the higher ones doing more damage, faster overheating the firearm and costing the Energy(which can be restored with Batteries and stationary Rechargers) that also power your Hardware. Those include a Shield, a Lantern, Nightvision, etc. All of these force you to not only explore to find them lest you suddenly find yourself facing foes you can't take out, but think about what to keep, when and how to use it. This is challenging right from the start, even on the lower of the 4 difficulty settings, which allow separately adjusting Combat, Mission(on the highest, it puts a 7 hour time-limit on it! For comparison, this took me 24 hours), Cyber and Puzzle. That last one includes a Minesweeper one, connecting lines and rewiring something by direct and diagonal lines. And yes, you can enter Cyberspace in this, and it's visually represented, straight out of a William Gibson book! It plays like a flight simulator, and in the simple-colored, geometric 3D corridors and rooms, you can unlock real-life doors, find codes for keypads and the like.

There is bloody, gory, violent and disturbing content in this. I recommend it to any fan of FPS, action, adventure, and RPGs, as well as of hybrids of them. 8/10

Stoker (2013)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
The flames either erupt or die out, 8 October 2014

Richard Stoker is being buried. He leaves behind his daughter, India(Wasikowska, quiet and restrained, with a hidden passion… you can't take your eyes off hers) and widow Evelyn(Kidman, resentful). But they won't be the only two residents of the family home for long. Uncle Charlie(Goode, equally devious and handsome) appears, out of nowhere, and moves in. Not only does this strain some already bad relationships… isn't there also something strange going on?

This is a polarizing one. You love it or hate it. It's difficult to argue for either side. Because on one hand, this is a beautifully filmed, edited, scored, acted(such subtlety) movie, creepy, full of suspense and tension leading to brutal violence, with a mystery that is gripping until the flat, climax-less ending that takes a lot away as we learn the truth… and the symbolism, great, though there's also a bit too much of it. On the other, the story doesn't flow, we never fully understand the characters or scenes(which stop suddenly, or start midway into a conversation), and ultimately, while it is well-told, the plot is not as complex as it may seem at first.

It matters a lot what mindset you go into it with. You should probably know something about director Park Chan-Wook, most known for Oldboy, the Vengeance Trilogy(which I have yet to watch, but they are on my list), going in. He doesn't seem to have been compromised by Hollywood, albeit the language barrier may have impacted the final product. It's very much a slow burn. It owes debts to De Palma, Lynch, Burton, and, especially, Hitchcock – without any of them being ripped off. As the first script by Wentworth Miller, this is good, and I hope he keeps working on that… this shows promise.

The Blu-Ray comes with the well-done 28 minute featurette Stoker: A Filmmaker's Journey, 16 minute interesting Theatrical Behind The Scenes, 15 and a half minutes of worthwhile Red Carpet Interviews, 10 minutes of good deleted(well, extended) scenes, a great 5 minute musical performance, slick trailers and TV spots(note that they contain big spoilers), and dozens of gripping stills in the Image Gallery, and a bunch from London Theater Design.

In addition to what I've already mentioned, there is some nudity and sexuality(and a lot of sensuality) and breaking of taboos in this. I recommend this to anyone who can imagine themselves liking this. 7/10

Now this is more like it, 1 October 2014

In spite of Conviction being dreck, this follows it, even leaving in the daughter, although we get good drama from the calls to her. A group known as The Engineers threatens terrorist attacks on US soil if they do not pull out of overseas bases. Thus, the charismatic villain does what he should, and bring up a debate. This is not a personal story, albeit there are flashes of such it never takes over, and they got the Bourne copying out of their system… hey, I love that franchise, but it does not mix with this. The plot moves fast, is highly detailed, not completely avoiding clichés. Tom Clancy(R.I.P.) lived to see the release of this, and it lives up to his legacy: mature, realistic, political spy thriller that follows the current climate.

This is the first of these to not have Michael Ironside, and it is a great loss. Recast(in part to allow motion capture by the same man) is Bland, er, I mean, Sam, Fischer(Johnson, driven, some Jack Bauer going on). While it's not his fault, that is still what we ended up with. No, he does well, albeit sounding too young. We have some cool dialog, with humor, banter, and clear relationships. The characters are archetypes, such as the nerd, who is sometimes annoying as the comic relief. Several return from earlier. Everyone is super-serious all the time, Grim isn't just the name of one of the characters, it's the mood of every one of them. The controls are somewhat stiff and not intuitive or fluid. Problems(a few, yes, still, there shouldn't be any at all) arise because one key can do more than one thing, in the same situation.

No, this isn't on par with the first four. Nevertheless, it is pretty good. The levels are organic and cool(reuse of some areas within one mission, and using someone who worked with the bad guys, gets monotonous), based on actual locations around the Middle East and the West, such as a water plant, a mansion, and, of course, in and on the outside of, a train(if it ain't broke). They allow linear progression through some areas, then opening up to ones that have multiple paths, and you choose whether, and how much to, blowing enemies up and away, or sneaking. You have a number of tools focused on the latter, and the former is enabled via the third-person-shooter elements of this. Go direct or use acrobatics: scale walls and go in through an upper window, or climb through a large room via a system of pipes. From up there, you can use one-handed equipment, unless a nearby foe is countering it(!). That means your pistol, stun gun/crossbow and gadgets, the last-mentioned two allowing use of sleeping gas, noisemakers and sticky-shocker. Of course, not your two-handed. These can be restocked at the relatively frequent boxes, or replaced with those of the fallen.

This retains the mechanics of hiding in the dark and in silence, as premiered in Thief. You note patrol paths and guard posts, keeping in mind that they can change when you return to the most saved checkpoint(yes, those get frustrating) and often intersect, and plan how you approach it. They check *everywhere*, and investigate(even when they don't see you do it) if something is toggled… a lightswitch, the state of a door(open/closed), and this means both that you have to be careful and maybe take that extra second or two to leave things the way you found them, risking being seen as you do… *and* it's a way you can lure someone away from where they were, to bypass them altogether. The sidemissions are samey, and made to be, and thus really feel, skippable. They're there to grind. The coop elements can be awkward. They do also give fun experiences. The graphics look great without requiring too much, and you can almost always turn the camera 360 degrees.

The multiplayer is addictive. There are 5 modes and 6 settings(including a decimated hospital, a Uranium mine and a silo). "Blacklist" and "Classic"(the same, though with almost no light, making it "hide and seek" with lethal results!), the most popular, focus on hacking or defending consoles, the three of which have to be taken one at a time, meaning it gets tougher the closer you are to victory. You have to hide in the area while it's underway, with you and fellow players(teamwork is key!) protecting you. There aren't that many playing today. You are at the mercy of the matchmaking when playing online, unless you set up a private match and/or invite friends. There aren't that many, certainly not enough to keep you around, things to buy and upgrade, unlike something like Assassin's Creed III, perhaps part of why it's less active today. Customizing up to three(in addition to the original 3, so you always have choices) for both sides(and for SP) does enable you to make very different setups, with stats(stealth, speed, armor, etc.), and specific features and counters.

The Spies are fast, agile, climbing walls, hiding and striking from there. Their 10 firearms are largely SMGs. They have defensive, hiding or "tricking" items to use... EMP, smoke grenades, cloaking. Conversely, the Mercs use destructive, revealing or disabling ones… proximity mines, tracking vision that detects electronic signals, and a small, flown drone that can explode. They run around each with an assault rifle, a shotgun or even a light machinegun(!), 15 total. Pitting the two against each other challenges and gives some strength to both. Sections and situations favor one over the other, such as camping, with only minor issues following. And they're not limited to using their own team's type in the dynamic and frantic Team Deathmatch, where diverse abilities are constantly in play, and it can be over in mere minutes.

There is a lot of disturbing content and some bloody violence in this. I recommend this to any fan of the series and of the genre. 7/10

4 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Worth a return trip, albeit a lesser outing, 29 August 2014

Marv(Rourke, hardened) wakes up not knowing where he is. Dwight(Brolin, a restrained, pre-surgery Clive Owen, and since this is one of several major characters who are in a very different place, the recasting works especially well) is trying to keep his rotten life in place, when Ava(Green, *the* femme fatale, and she's perfect for the role, one of the best elements in this. And yes, she's naked in all of this), who broke his heart, comes back into it… and he has to find out, is she really, as she claims, in danger from her millionaire husband and his huge bodyguard, Manute(Haysbert, physically powerful and intimidating, taking over very nicely for Michael Clarke Duncan, R.I.P. And it's worth noting that Brittany Murphy, R.I.P., for how solid she was and the role she was to play in this, was omitted, not replaced). Johnny(Gordon-Levitt, full-of-himself gambler, created for this) tries to beat Senator Roark(Boothe, despicable, a main villain in both of the new stories, and more of him is always good) at poker(you knew they had to go there sooner or later, the card game). And Nancy(Alba, alcoholic and desperate, and she isn't bad… it's not her fault that it's easily the least satisfying tale) wants revenge for the only man she ever loved.

This is very much neo-noir with a shot of adrenaline. The action is cool, well-choreographed, and varied. While the gore is more frequent than compelling, it's in no way tedious, and the rest of the violence is very effective, we feel every punch and bullet taken and dealt. Gender-stereotyping sexualizes every woman and renders the men pitiable at best. This is rushed and runs out of steam before the end of the 97 minute running time. That's 3/4 of the first one, which remains superior, though this is a good follow-up, and stands on its own as well, you can take in any one of the separate plots without the others(and this sets up the 3 big ones very early, so we aren't lost when they're followed through on), like with the comics that this is a satisfying adaptation that puts every panel and frame gloriously up on the screen… in 3D that adds depth. This doesn't bookend, and the ending falls flat… no consequences in a wish-fulfillment climax that almost takes away from that of the original.

I recommend this to any fan of the genre. 8/10

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
The distraction, 21 August 2014

Captain Colter(Gyllenhaal, driven), wakes up on a Chicago subway train, sitting opposite of Christina(Monaghan, adorable, if less so than she was in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang… which is still a ton). She knows, and clearly likes, him, yet he has no recollection of getting on, nor does he recognize her… or his own reflection! 8 minutes later, the car blows up. He comes to, back in that same situation. It has already happened, but he can keep going over that portion of time, and try to find and stop the bomb. And, lest you think there is no tension or reason for us to care(as is the case with Edge of Tomorrow), he has to do it fast… it was only the first attack, and he is the best chance of preventing the next one.

This gains a lot from the human story in there, with our protagonist's insistence on being more than a tool, by being allowed to contact his father outside of the "replay", and the studio-enforced, yet still sweet, romance. The explanation for the sci-fi aspects strains credulity, though not to the breaking point. It's fun to see him try to crack the mystery, and we are guessing right along with him. Ultimately, the solution has a number of problems: it feels so convenient and simple that I kept waiting for the twist to it, and it's easy once we get there, to the point where the audience wonders why it took so long to get there. The effects, editing and cinematography are very nicely done.

This isn't as clever as it thinks it is. It also doesn't realize all of the ethical issues the concept brings up, in spite of trying to address the ones it can. The subtle exploration of post-9/11 thinking is one of the greatest strengths here. With a running time of 83 minutes not counting the end credits(89 with), and the first(as we're waiting for the film to establish what we go into it already knowing, or at least be entertaining until it gets there) and last quarter of an hour not being all that compelling, we're left with a middle that is enjoyable enough… still, I don't expect I'll watch this again. While the ending does make sense, it's rather sappy, and we end up feeling more tricked than surprised.

The DVD comes with the three(the latter two alternate subtitles, every few minutes a short piece of text will come up, neither of them spoil anything, so you can just put them on for the first viewing) informational tracks: #1: audio commentary with Jake Gyllenhaal, Director Duncan Jones, and Writer Ben Ripley, #2: Access Source Code: Trivia(facts that have some connection to what's on screen, such as a "no smoking" sign telling us when such a ban was first done. They don't really have anything to do with the movie itself. It's funny in a quirky sort of way, since it's like watching the film with an easily distracted, sentient encyclopedia, which responds to the visuals with free association – after a while, I started trying to guess, sometimes successfully, what it would "pick" to spout stuff about.) and #3: Tales of Time Travel(titles and short descriptions of time travel stories, most of them films, in no particular order… decent, but it might as well have been text in a menu), three interesting featurettes: the 26 minute Cast and Crew Insights(interviews), 6 and a half minute Focal Points(the concepts are explained) and 18 minute Expert Intel(physics professor discusses the realism of different aspects of this), trailers for Unknown, Brighton Rock, Attack the Block and this, and an ad for Mars.

There is a little violence, disturbing content and moderate to strong language in this. I recommend this to the biggest fans of stories about time-travel, alternate universes, etc. 7/10

In Soviet Russia… game plays you, 20 August 2014

Niko(Hollick, angry yet hopeful; he is emotionally unstable, and his state of mind often doesn't match ours… and it's not like a distraught protagonist can't work, Kane & Lynch showed us that) goes to America, in part because his cousin Roman(Zumwalt, eternal optimist) claimed he had made it. All relationships in this are credible and dynamic, and theirs is no exception. He got involved with wrong people that and came to get away from that, only for it to happen again, and the theme of revenge and Capitalism are explored.

The multi-player is amazing. It plays like the single-player, as crazy and open, with only the deeper features removed. You can even go around the whole city(which helps us forgive that it's smaller, greyer and less varied, if more detailed)! The modes are sufficiently different from each other, and play to the separate strengths of these… race, steal, kill, escort, etc. One is specifically for missions, albeit their design is… meh, and they run together. This showcases the ability to pack a four-seater with four different players, all firing one of their two(that goes for every weapon class, at best) pistols, SMGs or throwables anywhere by the smooth 360 degree camera(you can turn as much as you want on the road without losing track of where you aim. You do have to manually adjust it whenever you aren't walking).

This tones down and/or removes a lot of iconic elements, humor, "over the topness", instead going for a more serious experience, with grit here meaning boredom. They add content, and little of it is interactive. The engines… graphics, physics(water, objects, rag-doll, dynamic lighting, etc.), etc… are improved upon majorly, with the game-play being the same or worsened(with a laundry list of features removed), when that was always something that we were patient with, since what wasn't average was fun, and that has changed here. It's just not as inviting.

The characters are well-cast, covering many ethnicities, with Italians, Irish, Russians, etc. There are offensive stereotypes, in the satire, which is clever, smart, thought-provoking, and targets everyone equally(the sad thing is that the Republicans have been so aggressive in moving further right-wing that when it comes to them, this doesn't parody, but represent). There are perverts, radical feminists, hipsters, reality TV, drugs, corruption, sex, money, a scared-of-sex Conservative, a sham psychic, health-care debate from all sides, global warming fought through T-Shirts, etc., through ads, shows, signs, logos, slogans, etc.

There's a lot of tedium and repetitiveness here. Plot points are repeated(you lose track of how many of your employers are killed or jailed, most before you really get to know them), murder is the solution to most problems(without the stealth we fell in love with), and gunning others down is just not that enjoyable(yup, huge problem right there…). Bullets knock down others(though the explosiveness of barrels is unpredictable and useless) in one of the countless awkward aspects of this, and the cover is awful, to the point where you vie for not using it unless forced to. You don't stick out when bringing up the reticule, only when you pull the trigger, and only while you're holding it down, messing up timing for both starting and ending a burst.

The cell is inspired. Make and receive calls(any "name" you meet in this is added to your contacts list) and photos, and, unfortunately, be harassed by Friends(at least earning favors, such as cheap guns, goons, a ride, all near you, with a cool-down and the requirement that you stay on their good side) to go take in one of the decent-at-best mini-games, or one of the hours' worth of shows, stripping, stand-up, etc. that you don't care about. You or they ask for it to happen "now"(so hurry up and get there, you barely have time, especially if you're far away, and there's at least one where you basically have to be right next to him to make it), you take them there, choosing where, then take them home. The internet allows emailing, engaging with companies, online dating and such, fleshing out the world, and you're not particularly forced into it.

This is less challenging than the earlier ones, albeit it still isn't an Assassin's Creed title. Still, for that amount, you gather guns and ammo(well, they throw both at you, loot bodies and you'll never need to spend a dime on either), explore the area, and come in with as much of a plan as you can, apply yourself during it, and you may still need luck, leading to satisfying, hard won victories. The trademark frustrating unevenly difficult areas return, now worse than ever, because of the contrast. Military, bicycles and planes are gone… well, the latter takes off non-stop at the airport, without us being able to block or blow them up and why wouldn't I try to don't you realize what series this is.

Steering a helicopter remains more involved than driving(it should be both or neither… yes, one is more complicated than the other, but you can't just sit down and master either just like that), albeit it doesn't handle as bad as cars with skidding and slow response(that goes for much of what you do on foot, as well), and you can use what you've learned before this. It isn't necessary often. Just Cause does far better on this, and there are numerous parts of this that that is true of, add the other Grand Theft Autos to that. The controls, in this and in general, are in desperate need of streamlining. Too often you end up looking at your keyboard, trying to find the right one. Why does your phone have separate ones? You can't do anything but move when you have it out, anyway!

In addition to what I've already mentioned, there is a lot of bloody, violent, disturbing content, strong language in this. I recommend this to the biggest fans, and mainly for playing with others. 7/10

8 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
The worst one yet, 15 August 2014

Arms dealer Stonebanks(Gibson, awesomely evil, and starts the trend of the aging icons who join this being the best part, especially from how they relate to the returning members, which is with tension and core conflict, often with Sly… we miss them and their energy and talent whenever they aren't on screen) turns out to still be alive, and is determined to kill his former team, The Expendables. So group leader Barney(Stallone, enjoyable; and his fun facing off with CIA spook portrayed by Ford puts the latter's gruff authority to good use) he fires the people we paid to go see, immediately after freeing Doctor Death(Snipes, yes, that's what he's called here, and his rivalry with Statham, both of them knife-wielding long-time colleagues and close friends with Ross) and hiring Galgo(Banderas, who never shuts up, and is easily the most fun… albeit it is a love-him-or-hate-him kind of thing), both of whom struggle to fit in with the established team. For a third or so, this is hijacked by the pilot for a spin-off series, or possibly the audition tapes for the next Mission Impossible movie... a modern spy thriller, at least. The young mercs are fine, even good at points, but they don't belong in this. And ultimately, the old guys are brought back in.

Three films in, and we've abandoned the 80's throwback "let's get these guys together" concept. The original had a huge(albeit exhausting) climax, the second a massive opening, this has neither. All we do get are epic shots, and this straight-up steals the setup for the last 45 minutes from what I'm told is a far better picture. Did I mention this is an overlong two hours? The excessive number of characters reaches a new high… or low, rather, and no one has much to do, even if the young blood actually have identities and roles in the missions. The PG-13 is felt, with bloody, gory violence completely trimmed(and the strong language toned down; people are still gunned down and blown up, you merely don't see any wounds or the like) to remove the edge, but it's the least of the problems here. In general, the "over the top" quality is just about gone. Every cool gag was in the trailer. In spite of the quality that aspect of the last sequel, the action here lacks variety, each sequence ends too soon, it's stealth-heavy and every mêlée fight is done in close-ups and edited to be too fast, eliminating the showcase of the martial arts of the youths that was part of the pitch here… they certainly weren't hired for their acting chops.

I recommend this solely to the most patient and forgiving fans. While never a good franchise, this is where it throws in the towel. 5/10

5 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
We're in good hands. I think., 1 August 2014

Peter(Pratt, playing it like a mix between Han Solo and Marty McFly, likable from the get-go) steals a coveted orb, and intends to nab the reward, until he… eventually… realizes that it's too powerful, and has to be kept out of the hands of religious fanatic Ronan(Pace, terrifying, psychotic, driven), or he will commit genocide.

Our unlikely and reluctant hero meets others like him(they fight at their first encounter), and these scoundrels(there weren't enough of those in the franchise) form an uneasy alliance, gradually connecting with each other and becoming selfless and heroic. Bounty hunters Rocket(Cooper, angry, bitter, smart), a cyborg raccoon(!) and Groot(Vincent… eh, or: Diesel, putting a lot of emotion into three words, naïve, enthusiastic, a big lug with a huge heart), a giant, sentient tree(did I mention this came out of the Silver Age? It's a Saturday Morning Cartoon every step of the way, and gloriously so). Assassin Gamora(Saldana, sultry, deadly, moral) trying to break away from adoptive father Thanos(Brolin, with all the gravitas that requires… with only a short appearance, he's not the main villain… see above… he makes a real impression), and "sister" Nebula(Gillan, sadistic because of her intense jealousy borne from their sibling rivalry), who hunts her down. And Drax(Bautista, who does remarkably well for little experience… everyone, character and actor, is solid), essentially Conan(the barbarian, not the O'Brien) of space, who wants revenge on the bad guy for his murdered family... or possibly aforementioned, since she worked with him…

There are too many elements in this(groups, people, allegiances, motivations…), and the scope and abilities of some of them is a little difficult to get a proper grasp on, but once you let it sit, probably after the end credits(which you must stay through!), it does all come together. Somehow it splits the focus and time fairly equally between them, if it only hints at, and doesn't explore. This is amazing from start to finish. Everyone has something to bring to it, in action, drama, humor, etc. This is a stand-alone that takes place in the same universe as the Avengers films, and you can go into this with no knowledge of those, or the comics it emulates and is based on. This takes inspiration from Star Wars and Indiana Jones, and lives up to the standards set by those classics.

There is some violence(it doesn't push the PG-13 as much as other recent entries in the genre) and a little strong language in this. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys big, fun Summer blockbusters. 10/10

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