36 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
The only star in this movie was the crow: avoid at all cost
8 March 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Wicked Prayer(wp) is a badly directed movie in which the action is constantly broken up and players are badly casted and under-performing.

The plot for wp is simple. Band of bad dudes want to summon Satan to take revenge for something. They kill the lead character and his love interest. They kill a lot of other people as well. Lead character turns into the crow and takes his revenge on the bad dudes and fights it out with lead bad-dude-turned-Satan and defeats him in the end.

To make such a movie spiffy we need something that kicks ass: stylish direction, sizzling conversations, fast and bloody fights and captivating lead characters. This movie fails in everything.

In reversed order:

  • Lead characters. Furlong is boring and unconvincing. In the love scenes he looks like he is about to nod off. His eyes squint, his face expressionless, his jaw slack. As crow he looks like a goth boy who find himself teleported into a country and western bar. He neither looks cool, nor dangerous, nor sad. He looks like a loser with paint on and clothed in black leathers. I was expecting people to fall over laughing whenever he entered a bar. Look at the dumb-ass goth boy.

The lead bad guy put's in a bad guy performance, but he never excels in anything.

The sidekicks of the bad guy have a constant look on them which boils down to: Am i really doing this? Gee. I am a real bad dude ain't I? What am I going to do next? The only one who actual looks the part his the female bad girl. Although most of her performance ends after the first half of the movie.

Then there are a bunch of Indians who count a cop and priest amongst their number. During the entire movie they perform like the keystone cops, without meaning to be funny. They spent their time talking, praying, meandering about and rifling the bad guys and the crow without actually hitting anything. In fact in the end scenes the bad guy fighting the crow actually kills more bad guys that the Indian posse. I can't think they hit anything. There is a superb dumb moment when the bad-guy-turned-Satan exits the satanic church and confronts the group of morons. Armed with pistols, rifles, shotguns they do nothing. And when mister Satan passes them they just gawk at him and then when he has left they do an sort of Indian dance that looked dumb to say the least.

  • With this I come to the fights. Well nothing spectacular, nothing interesting. At the end there is a fight between the crow and Satan and it is just boring. What amazed me was that this crow dude could actually defeat Satan without help. So Satan is actually weaker than the crow?

  • Sizzling conversations? Nothing. No memorable quotes. I can't think of anything interesting that passed the lips.

  • stylish directing? Nope, unless walking around in goth makeup and dark leathers and the satanic church scene is considered stylish. The problem with directing is that the action is constantly interrupted. There are odd scenes. There are many many flashbacks. I think I have seen the hanging at the beginning of the movie being flash-backed at me a zillion times.

This movie is sad thing and I would advise you to avoid it. There are hundreds of better and more entertaining movies.
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Near Dark (1987)
Great start but rapidly degenerates toe curling bad movie
5 March 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is a balance of good ideas and bad plot as it starts out great but degenerates rapidly into a toe curling bad movie. As such it isn't worth the trouble to watch it a second time. And I would advise people to think twice before buying it.

At first the movie starts out great. It is a kind of a road movie. Cowboy meets girl. Girl turns boy in a creature of the night. Cowboy get's drawn into a life of violence as he is dragged along the road by a group of undead who travel around killing people and sucking their blood. These are't the sleek and nice vampires that say sorry when they bite, but the kind that kill for the fun of it and leave a trail of corpses in their wake.

Well this is at least a new take on the vampire movie. In fact the new cowboy vampire has to earn his place. The other vampires pressure him kill. Killing is graduating to full vampire stardom. It is the point of no return.

But then suddenly the bright idea's stop and the movie degenerates into misdirected violence. On it's own violence can be something that adds to the movie, but this movie just serves up fights that are odd and illogical. Let me explain.

The turning point is actually the bar scene halfway. The group of vampires descend on a bar and start to kill everyone inside. Oddly enough the normal people don't even make a break for it after one of the girls cut the throat of the waitress. They sort of blink their eyes as if someone just downed a pint of lager in one go and then stand around waiting to be killed. The bartender in the meantime takes forever to get is double barreled shotgun loaded and apparently two loads of buckshot in this movie doesn't do much to a vampire. Aim for the head I always say. One of the customers is allowed to flee by the cowboy vampire as he still reluctant to kill people.

The next step is ridiculous. The vampires hide from the sun in a bungalow. The police, tipped by the escaped customer, surrounds the place during the day with two cars and four man. This customer has previous seen the vampires survive a full load from a shotgun up close. He has seen the vampires drink the blood of their victims. He has seen the whole shebang. But the police turns out with four men and two cars.

Then the vampires escape during the day because the cowboy runs out with a blanket, jumps into a van and drives it through the bungalow so the other vampires can get in. Then he drives it out at the other side. And the police can't chase them for their two cars have been damaged in the fight.

At this point one unbelievable scene tumbles over the next. The vampires escape. The family of the cowboy happen to be in the same motel they lurk in. The family is threatened by the vampires, but they escape because the young daughter throws open the door and the sun streams in, while a few minutes before it was still dark.

The cowboy and family take a hike. The cowboy get's a blood transfusion and is human once more. Then they totally forget that they have been chased by a bunch of killers and sit around idly at the ranch in the night with the windows open. So the young daughter is kidnapped.

The cowboy chases the vampires. He confronts them, without any weapons. Then a fuel truck comes along and he get's in and whacks the vicious vampire when the truck blows up.

Next cowboy somehow manages to get his sister free in a scene which involves one of the vampire girls throwing his knife at another vampire by mistake because the cowboy ducks in time. The girl lets cowboy and young girl run. The vampire pulls out the knife, tries to fire, good vampire girl pushes the gun way and then he decides not to fire his gun a second time, instead they jump into the car to chase the cowboy and his sister.

The cowboy and his sister run out of town into the surrounding countryside. The vampires chase them. They grab the little girl again. The sun pops up. The daughter and the nice vampire girl escape the car. The bad boy vampire runs after them and is then blown to smithereens by the sun(but the nice vampire girl not). The remaining vampires get the same treatment when the sun sizzles them and the car to kingdom come.

The nice vampire girl gets a blood transfusion and everything is forgiven and forgotten(including the mountain of corpses she has created.)

Happy end.

For some reason the vampires are continuously active around sunset so the director can serve us burning vampires, humans who escape the clutches of the vampires, and vampires scrambling for cover. This ploy is used again and again. For another reason it is unclear why the vampires don't just kill the cowboy vampire. They give him a week to kill someone and he fails to do so. In fact he let's someone escape who then sets the police on them. Why?

The movie shows that great ideas and a able cast do not make a great movie. It starts out well and then becomes a badly directed action movie. Can't think of a reason why I should watch this twice. Seen better.
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Black Book (2006)
Verhoeven returns to his native country and brings with him....
15 February 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Verhoeven has come back from that Walhalla of movie making. What did he bring with him in his little bag?

Clueless warfare.

I am cursed by the fact to be interested in warfare and astounded again that even the simplest of warfare concept are trod upon in this movie. Some examples: almost all firefights see the Germans stand up in full view fire-hosing their MP 40's. Might I point out that the essence of modern warfare is to take cover. Nobody in his right mind is going to survive combat this way. Another example: during the movie a armored vehicle is driven into the building. Argg. That is the first and foremost fault one can making in armored warfare. Even tanks might get stuck or shed a track. Weapons are transported with their magazines and in a lose fashion. More number one mistakes. People seldom reload their guns. During the armored car incident a Thompson is used to kill five Germans in a prolonged firefight and not once is the magazine replaced.

Cardboard baddies.

The story boils down to the fact that a resistance fighter hero is in fact an egocentric, selfish bastard who has entered into a deal with the SS to exploit the Jews and has no problem in killing off all his resistance buddies. And this then is the pivotal story. Oh and the German bad guy has no qualms about this resistance fight massacring German soldiers. And oh. The resistance people are all happy to lay down and die. Tow being murdered by the bad guy with a knife in broad daylight. It was one of the baddest scenes.

Unbelievable plot.

No believable plot is made to explain these actions. No anguish on the part of the killer. No the bad guys are cardboard baddies that need to be hunted down and killed. And of course only the hapless heroes know the truth of it. (and they are not believed by anyone).Break out the guns boys.

Poinless scenes.

The movie is filled with pointless scenes. Examples: the Israel shoot at the beginning and the end. The abuse scened after the liberation. The bomber flying at the beginning.

Bad directed scenes.

Did you note how fast the relieve column arrived after the bomber dropped the load on the farm? Within minutes. Even in modern times with cell phones such speed would be amazing. Another one: within a minute after the resistance fighter are found out by the police to transport guns an armed force of Germans arrives. Such speed is amazing considering they had no helicopters. Why are the resistance to entered the SD HQ by the SS when it's a trap. If caused them a lot of dead Germans.

Bad music directing

Music is important to a movie and Verhoeven shows that even his budget has it's limits. So we are treated with the same melancholic string music most of the time. Only at some key moments the melancholy is dropped for something more fitting.

Let's compare this movie to let's say L'armee des ombres and this Zwart Boek just falls flat on it's face. Karakter and Antoina are far better movies with better story lines and believable people. And they had far less budget to work with.

Verhoeven has returned to bring us nothing in particular. Welcome back, mate.
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Dalziel and Pascoe (1996– )
14 February 2009
This series is the epitome of the concept that you have to scoff, abuse, badmouth, down talk, jeer and deride your inferiors to get the best out of them. Clues are handed to Dalziel and his team without any proper investigation and usual by people who get scoffed at by Dalziel. Not a word of thanks will ever pass his lips. What Dalziel actually does for a living is unknown because he just follows the trail of corpses to find the perpetrator. Not very difficult because with each death the circle of suspects diminishes. Lucky for D and his team the baddie get's whacked off at the end or confesses his guilt because none of the evidence or methods used to acquire them would stand up in court. The investigation general sees D and his trusty sidekick Pascoe talk to various people who talk and talk and then say something that doesn't fit the story of others. "Aha" they will say! The two investigators will drop the hint to the public so they will know if they had missed it. But how they know themselves is a riddle as nobody ever writes anything down.

For proper detective series one turns to A touch of Frost or Morse.
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Beautiful scenery, but told in a casual offhand and thus sloppy way
24 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
The four feathers is the latest addition to a list of movies with the same name and theme. The story: It is the high tide of the British empire. Harry Feversham, a young officer in the queens army, asks and gets dismissed from his regiment after he hears it will be sent to the Sudan to fight against the Mahdi insurrection. His friends and fiancé don't appreciate this behavior and each sent him a white feather as a token of their disfavor. Harry then tries to redeem himself by going to the Sudan and help his friends against the Mahdi.

I watched this movie to get a better understand of how movies are made. This movie certainly has amazing scenery that bring tears to your eyes by their beauty. The sharp sand color, the exotic people and desert landscapes, it all is impressive, as is the moist misty green england. But while the landscape, people and buildings are given much attention the story is told as if in afterthought and with a lot of movie errors. So many that even I noticed. Things in the movie just don't add up.

The first pivotal moment in the story is when Harry gets to hear that he is off to the Sudan. We seem him have an anguished talk with his friend Jack, then see him have bad dream and then next he gets himself dismissed in one go. It all happens in three minutes flat which seems enormous hurried compared to the ten minutes the movie takes to show the happy live. It is somehow too brief, too unexplained and too unbelievable that he can leave on the same day hey he tenders his resignation, without letting his friends know or him being thrown in the brig for cowardice?

You might expect that an important moment in the film is when his bethrotted sends him a feather(thus breaking off the engagement). But we are only told when someone comes visiting Harry: oh by the way who's the fourth feather? My former wife to be. The entire scene is also strange because we hear someone knock on the door, Harry opens the door and next the visitor is inside and they are talking about the feathers. Since the scene was dark I had the distinct feeling the visitor was still standing in the door opening.

Harry takes a trip to Egypt and then travels as part of a small caravan to the Sudan. The caravan brings hookers to the English army(we are told), but they aren't hookers(we are told later), but black Ethiopian princesses? And how come someone is bringing black hookers from Egypt to the Sudan? Should it not be the other way around? Anyway they kill the obnoxious caravan leader(who seems to be alone and unarmed?) knock out Harry who drags himself on a camel and rides to some place. After a while Harry drops to the desert-floor, the camel wanders off and in the next minute someone finds Harry! In addition we see in the background tracks in the sand. The desert seems quite a busy place.

Jack is chasing a Mahdi sniper, he carries a rifle, the next moment Jack has a pistol in his hand. The sniper is chased down a street and a minute later he is chased down the same street again.

Harry, disguised as a Mahdi, is charging amidst the Mahdi horde, first he carries a sword. Then he drops it when his horse is shot. Then he is on his horse again without sword, next he has the sword again. All the while he is at the head of the Mahdi horde even though he fell behind in a previous scene.

The English are attacked by a Mahdi horde. The Mahdi horde is killed to the last man with gun fire, but only the people fall, the horses are bullet proof. In fact the horses seem unimpressed by the fire.

A cavalry Mahdi horde attacks across the desert and we see the shot alternating between cavalry and infantry who arrive at the same time by the English forces.

We see in the background a Gatling gun twice, it is never used. But Gatling guns where never used by the English. English guns are limbered, the next scene unlimbered. The guns hold fire until the position is about to be overrun by the Mahdi. Rifle fire is used at the latest moment? English troops march in close order? Nope that is not normal.

The English cavalry is called tirailleurs? Tirailleurs are light infantry not cavalry. The cavalry chases the retreating Mahdi horde, then is ambushed by Mahdi infantry buried in the ground the Mahdi horde just moved over twice. Come on. English cavalry(now on camels?) movie into a village. They ride without guards. Of course such ineptitude must be punished with an ambush.

The entire movie has a feeling of careless sloppyness. Kapur seems to be in a hurry to get to the desert and it's fine scenery and the story is second to those nice views. Important moments are hardly played out, unimportant events are dragged out because they seem to offering nice pictures. This movie has a remarkable sloppy feel which is a shame really. A six for effort.
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History for the masses: another 'historical' movie.
7 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Summary If you are into beautiful landscapes, genuine looking Mongolian customs and music, and the typical slow moving tale with the obligatory sex scene(it is at the end), then this is the movie for you. If you want a historical accurate story of one the greatest conquers of all time or a saucy epic tale of conquest( with steamy sex scenes) then give this one a pass.

With great effort I am trying to fulfill the promise that I would try to focus on a movie as a work. This time however I break this promise because first and foremost I have a love for history and I am a historian with a particular interest in warfare. Invariably the depiction of warfare in mainstream (Hollywood) movies has not progressed much since the days of Errol Flynn, whose movies, by the way, are fun to watch as long as nobody tries to claim they are 'historical' in any way. So when someone makes a movie suggesting that we will be told the 'untold' story of one of the greatest conquers in history, one would expect that somehow the current state of historical research would find it's way into such a movie and thus finally some historical accurate fights will be shown. The more so because this movie shows a pivotal development in history and one would expect to be enlightened in how this Temudjin(aka Genghis Khan) succeeded in forging the loose tribes of the Mongols into a powerful conquering force.

What a utter fool I am to think that would happen.

At heart this movie is as historical inaccurate as any other Hollywood flick and in addition it lacks consistency: in this movie things just happen without any explanation. An example: the opening scene shows us Temudjin as prisoner in a Chinese town. He looks to be in his late thirties. Wait a moment, I thought, wasn't he by then khan of all Mongols? Yes, but not according to the movie. Another example: at the end of the movie his wife liberates Temudjin from the Chinese by bribing the guards and posing as a rich woman. But when she travels to the city, she has no money and she pays a merchant for the trip with sex. The merchant then disappears. Did she kill him and take his money? We are not told. More: Temudjin travels back and he is able to raise a big army out of the blue in no time. How? Where? What? Who? And more: Temudjin becomes the blood brother of Jamukha, one sons of the most powerful of khans. Why? It just happens.

The biggest part of the movie tells us how Temudjin and/or his wife are being hunted down, captured, escape, get captured again, escape again, get captured again, get liberated, get captured again(argg!!!!!) and escape again(!!!!!). In between we witness the odd fight that only shows that Temudjin has no power to speak off because he is being captured, on the run or being defeated and needs the forces of others to liberate his wife.

With combat we come full circle. Historical warfare, I suppose, is boring, so the director comes up with ridiculous fantasies. Examples of such: Temudjin and Jamukha ride at the head of an army to liberate the wife of Temudjin from the Merkits. The all cavalry force ride into broken country totally unsuitable for cavalry: there is no vanguard, no scouts, it is just a bunch of horses. They are subsequently ambushed by infantry. Serves them right.

Another smart tactic. Temudjin is chased by Jamukha and his army. To allow wives and children to escape Temudjin remains behind with a small force to hold of Jamukha. What does he do? He erects a makeshift barrier between two hilltops that are easy to climb. What does Jamukha do? He attacks it frontally while it would have been no effort to outflank Temudjin and occupy either or both of the hilltops with his superior force. What does Temudjin not do????? His men are equipped with bows, but they don't use them, instead they let the enemy advance over the barrier to engage them in close combat.

Then finally, after these examples of how not to conduct warfare, the final battle is upon us. Temudjin has gathered a force, Jamukha has gathered an even greater force. They face of somewhere on the plains. Jamukha orders a compliment of his cavalry to attack Temudjin. Temudjin answers with a ploy that is totally pointless. A group of cool looking black cavalry equipped with double swords attacks then enemy frontally(!) holding both swords in a way they couldn't bring muscle power to bear. Then these men turn tail and run in their own line of hidden archers with the enemy cavalry in hot pursuit. Even without this absurd attack the enemy would have run into the hidden line of archers: what use was this attack? This entire fantasy attack, worthy of lord of the rings, is based on no historical evidence whatsoever. The final charge ordered by Jamukha is another sad affair. The army streams forward as an amorphous mass: there are no units, no tactics, no lines. Just a vast group of soldiers that run at the enemy. Oh, and they finally get defeated by a thunderstorm.

I am completely baffled again and again directors even fail to grasp the simplest basics of warfare. If you don't know, phone Sandhurst, West Point or Saint-Cyr, but if you don't want to know, then don't make a movie about guys like Genghis Khan. And don't render these ridiculous battles.

What amazes me though, that even if you forget about history, that this movie is so boring. The fights are bloody enough, but most of the time you watch things progress at a snails pace. I don't understand why people give it such high scores. It is a boring inaccurate inconsistent movie.
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More is less. How to make your directors life difficult
3 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
(In this comment I try to focus on the movie as a work. When you judge my comments please sent me a message to tell me what and why as I can then work to improve the comments)

I recently bought the DVD with comments from director Tommy Lee Wallace, which gives me some idea of the directors choices. I like explore if the directors ideas worked as well as he hoped it would.

The movie tells of Derek Bliss who earns a living as a vampire exterminator. He gets a assignment to help a Mexican village get rid of a vampire infestation. He tries to assemble a crew, but soon finds that each veteran vampire hunter he tries to recruit is either dead or otherwise unavailable. Finally he gathers a group of unfit who nevertheless help him defeat the main villain: a female vampire named Una.

Wallace tell us he wanted a movie that was at the same time a sequel and one that could stand on its own. Wallace also remarks how he likes cowboy movies like the magnificent seven in which a group of gunslingers are hired to get rid of a band of scumbags. In addition he wanted to have both a scary movie with funny moments. For a low budget vampire movie this is quite a lot to strive for.

The main problem of the movie is that it a lot of it's consistency has been lost in the editing room. Una at one moment kills a handful customers in a diner in the space of time that the main hero needs to throw a bit of paper in a waste basket. This, so tells Wallace, is to show us how incredible fast she is. Most of the associated scenes have been removed. At an important moment Una discovers that one of the vampire hunters(Zoey) has a medicine that prevents her from turning into a vampire herself. Yet story wise there is no reason how the vampire can make this link, but Una somehow knows and then tries to acquire the medicine for herself. How did Una know? Because of her incredible listening powers. But since the associated scenes had been removed the entire part is illogical. But consistency is lost in other ways too. In itself however Una's superhuman power creates a problem on it's own. Someone who can move as fast as her would kill the heroes in no time, even if they are armed with guns. So in the end battle Wallace made her less powerful but also create the problem that he has to shoot movie with a low budget and speed tricks work nice when the actor is on her own, but would create problems in a big battle. Another problem is that Mexico has a lot of daylight and a lot of sun. A subplot in the story is the attempt by Una to become immune from the sun by conducting a old ritual. The vampires that are caught by the heroes and dragged into the sun burn to death instantly, yet all the places in which vampires lurk, are all lightened by the sun. The vampires seem to be hardly affected by this light. In the same vein during the movie Ray, one of the vampire hunters, gets turned by Una He however hides his condition from the others. We see him subsequently move about in broad daylight without any ill side effects before he is finally found out by Bliss. In addition at some point in the movie there moments of bloody gory violence. For example: a bartender who get's his head ripped off and then is turned upside down so the vampires can drink his blood. This scene by the way has also been heavily cut to the point that it seems to be pointless. Violence that leaves a lot of dead body alerts the authorities and triggers their involvement.

If we take a look at the story and the conversations in the movie then both are hardly great stuff. The entire story seems to be developed during the shooting of the movie. What do we do next? Well maybe have a car explode. OK we can do that.

It seems to me that Wallace overreached himself. Where he states during the comments that less is more he does it the other way around. He tries to do more, but ends up with less. There is a big clue at the end as he frankly confesses that he lacked the money for a big end battle. The movie has some strong things going for it: the beautiful landscapes of the Mexican country side; the plot development in which Zoey has a medicine that prevents her from becoming a vampire: if she loses the medicine she will turn into a predator; finally the music score made by Brian Tyler. For some reason I had to think of Reservoir Dogs: a low budget movie that works. Less is more and Wallace should have taken that lesson at heart. I think that the movie would have had a better change if the entire part of traveling towards the Mexican village had been replaced by the more horror like thing of a group of reluctant heroes who find themselves trapped in a Mexican village and try to escape to safety but then are compelled to face the horror that is stalking them. The interaction between the group has a lot more potential. The Mexican country might still have been used as a backdrop for the story. The medicine ploy might then be used in such a way that brings dynamic in the group and is should have been the sole MacGuffin. Simplicity is the key
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Interesting vampire movie, but could have been better, because now it's neither fish nor foul
31 August 2008
Warning: Spoilers
(In this comment I try to focus on the movie as a work. When you judge my comments please sent me a message to tell me what and why as I can then work to improve the comments)

Rise is not an ordinary vampire movie. I expected it to be one as the text on the DVD hinted at this. But the word vampire is never used and the persons afflicted by the condition never show fangs or fall to pieces in the sunlight. Yet on the other hand some vampire signs are on evidence: the dependency on blood, the fact that they don't cast a reflection in the mirror and that the afflicted are uncommon strong and resilient. What is different is that the movie spends time on how Liu feels when she finds out that she has become a thing of the night, forever barred from normal live.

At heart rise is a revenge movie. Lucy Liu is a reporter who is killed when her investigation set her on the trail of a weird sect. These people turn out to be a sort of vampires and Liu becomes one of their victims. Liu however rises from the dead(hence the title)as one of the creatures and hunts them down one by one.

Woven into the revenge story is the story of Chiklis who plays a police cop whose daughter got the same treatment as Liu. He is hot on the trail of both Liu and the top bad guy, either in the hope to find his daughter or find out what happened to her.

At the end both stories interconnect as Chiklis catches up with Liu and face each other and finally the top bad guy.

The choice of having both stories into the movie makes the revenge story more intricate as Chiklis as 'normal' human can as well help Liu as sabotage her desires. In this way also him being a cop is at odds with him being a concerned father.

The story itself plays at night, in dark and usually uncomfortable places(I use this word as this is what all these places are meant to be). This is also interesting as it illustrates how Liu's world has suddenly become estranged.

The story is mostly made up out of one-on-one confrontations that exist mostly out of conversations. The camera is close to the person and shots are medium and close up mostly. The fight scenes are short and unspectacular: most are more like executions.

The story itself is easy to follow, yet at some turns one wonders about the choices made. Liu comes in contact with someone called the alchemist who has been usurped by the leader of the weird vampiric sect. He gives her a small crossbow with which she kills all the others, yet seen doesn't turn on him. Also the choice of the crossbow feels odd as it's such an unhandy weapon to use in a fight. The killings of their victims by the vampiric sect are strangely bloody, with bodies and surrounding furniture covered by blood and blood splashing and spraying everywhere. It somehow doesn't fit in with the mood of the movie, certainly as compared to the subdued fighting scenes. It seems as if at regular intervals the movie needed to interrupted by a horror scene.

It is a common thing that 'vampire' movies are associated with seduction. In Rise this is downplayed. Liu herself seduces one(well she actually more or less jumps her victim). In all the other cases seduction seems more or less a side story then a pivotal event.

Acting is reasonable but it loses at the point where the script seems to bare the actors from playing out their role. Liu seems to be shocked at first time and there are some tears when she realizes what she has become. But you would expect someone to show more emotions after she has been brutally murdered and risen from the grave: just some sign of mental stress beyond the anger Liu displays. Also Liu is somewhat too certain she needs to kill herself. Liu lacks things like doubt, uncertainty and fear. She show mostly anger. Chiklis also does not a really great job when he moment of truth comes as he is confronted by his daughter turned-vampire. She pulls a gun out and shouts abuses at him and he is quite emotionless. Nor is he in doubt once Liu has shown him that she can't be seen in the mirror. This latter seems actually a plot device that is needed to convince Chiklis of Liu's condition. I found it so unfitting as everything else vampiric is merely hinted at and then suddenly this inescapable proof is offered.

Rise makes me think of The Brave One. Both involve women who undergo a traumatic experience that changes their world forever and exact revenge on perpetrators that are the cause of the change. But where Jodie Foster convinces in the role of a woman that suffers a lot and who's action are in tune with her person and experiences, Liu fails to convince as she mostly displays anger. Her change from an reporter into a determined one-woman-murder-squad leaves enough to desire. The movie seems neither fish nor foul: for those people who expect another underworld there is not enough fighting, beauty and sensuality. For those who like movies like the brave one, there is just not enough reality in the movie. The gory bloody scenes are in either case misplaced.

Rise is a reasonable movie that I think could have been better if the creators had decided either to infuse more of the fantastic or if they had introduce more of the realistic. They could probably have played out the break between her normal life and her undead life better. Nevertheless a interesting vampire movie.
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Mass Effect (2007 Video Game)
Despite being a short game it is a benchmark game that mixes rpg and shooter elements well
22 June 2008
Remark: this review addresses the PC version released in Europe on 5 June 2008.


Mass Effect is a good game with a captivating story and offering a stunning movie like gaming experience. It thus belongs among the top ten of rpgs despite the fact that the story is short, it reuses known science fiction aspects and has a limit in choices in equipment and classes.

First let me start with the good points.

Without a doubt the strongest point is the way it integrates a life like movie experience in an astounding way. Gone are the days that there was a distinction between in-game playing, cut-scenes and movies. ME let's you determine the looks of you character and it will be part of a integrated mix of graphics, sound and story development.

I give you two examples. First, when you start the game you can determine the look of your character. Once done the game will immediately start like a movie. You look at your character from the side while he/she looks through the window of the star-ship Normandy towards the Earth. A conversation, in over-voice, starts between the ambassador Udina and your commanding officer discussing your background. Music starts to play. You hear the ship computer start a countdown, your character steps away from the window and walks up to the bridge. The camera follows from behind. Music changes pace, the camera swings around to give you a look on your character, the countdown ends and then the star-ships blasts into space.

The second example is the conversations. In this game your character no longer looks like a lifeless dummy spurting out line, but any conversation let the participants show facial expressions and support it with movements of the body.

Another good point is that ME successfully combines rpg and a shooter aspects. A rpg is always somewhat at odds with a shooter. Where a rpg has a tendency to let you win by leveling, a shooter requires tactics. Me has achieved to combine the two in such a way that you have to feel that you play both a rpg and a shooter. ME achieves this is in two ways. One, by having the opposition level in relation to the players level: a system that is also used in Oblivion. Two, by getting rid of the turn based mechanism. None of this hasn't been used before, but ME raised the bar by integrating it seamlessly.

A third point is that ME let's you roam around the Milky Way in the space-ship Normandy and travel across planets in your all terrain vehicle(called Mako). When you do you will be treated by very impressive sights. As another comment has said: when you go to the moon you can see the earth rise above the landscape and this is just one of the astounding landscapes the game has to offer. The mako also let's you fight with a vehicle, which gives you an different experience.

A fourth point is that the game offers to gain achievements(like killing 150 creatures with an assault rifle) that give rewards and even unlock skills for other characters you can play later on. This way you can play the weaker classes without getting massacred.

A fifth point is that the story is interesting and has nasty twists. Also you are allowed to choose your characters reactions which allows a certain freedom in the way the story develops.

But next to those good points there are also some lesser points. First the game is remarkable short. When I blinked my eyes at the end credits I had played less then 30 hours and this includes about 15 hours of the main story with about 15 hours of side missions. The game offers you to do the game on hard and insane levels, but this doesn't offer you new content. So you need to play it twice to get to the insane level.

Second: on higher difficult settings your squad members start to show their failures. When the going is tough you need to constant be alert that you companions are not doing something dumb and placing them on the spot you want to have them is difficult.

Third: while you can choose from several classes, you find that some classes are better suited to the game then others. As an example the 'magic' class is so weak that in fact playing it on normal level gives you an insane experience without having to set the difficulty to insane.

Fourth: you might find the shooter aspect somewhat disappointing as there are only a few categories of weapons, equipment and armor, and only a few classes can use them all. You will find many upgrades and new types, so much that you will be ridiculously rich at the end of the game. In addition some weapons are somewhat disappointing. The sniper rifle for instance allows you to snipe, but as far as I can see there is no such thing as a head shot in the game. The shotgun hardly does more damage up-close compared to the assault rifle.

A last point is that the game uses much of the established features of science fiction. The sand-worms for dune, the Aliens, the Borg, the Daleks, all these appear in the game in one disguise or another.

Yet, all in all the game has kept me entertained for a long time. So I like it.
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A story of a bored vampire and his bad tempered super-vampire girlfriend
22 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Let me state beforehand that I have not read any of Anne Rice's novels nor seen the movie Interview with the Vampire, so I will concentrate on this movie as is. Also you need to be prepared as the movie is a bit confusing as there are no less then three threads woven in the story. I have read that the movie is based on two of the novels of Anne Rice, which the writers then try to work into one movie. This might explain the obvious complexity.

The main thread of the movie tells us of the vampire Lestat who gets involved in awakening Akasha, a god-like vampire, who's first and only thought after rising is to destroy anything in her path. Since us mortals can have a sour mood after one night, this might reflect the hangover an immortal can have after sleeping several thousands of years(and been fed upon by Lestat somewhere along the line). Not an unreasonable sentiment I suppose. This first thread is getting more confused because for some reason Akasha has decided that Lestat will be her consort and therefore is excluded from the list of beings to exterminate. We are not told why. Maybe this is what sucking on super-vampires will do for you.

The second thread of the movie is taken up by the story of the world-weary vampire Lestat in which we are told that his unlife is dull. In fact he is bored from the moment he is turned into a vampire and in the end he is so bored that he exposes himself to the public by becoming a Gothic rock-star(hint: Marilyn Manson) thus invoking the wrath of the other vampires, who don't like to be exposed to the general public. Anything for a little bit of excitement I suppose.

The third thread is the story of a girl named Jesse who's only mission in life seems to be to offer herself as a sacrifice to Lestat. Lestat refuses to do his duty as a vampire and serves anyone else but this girl up to the very end. Maybe not unreasonable in hindsight, as this girl chases away his boredom this way. However this idea is never brought forward in the movie.

But with all this complexity you need to have a good crew to make the movie work and here is where it starts to falter. This movie has an obvious tight budget with it low budget gci graphics and inexpensive movie tricks and works with a unremarkable crew starting from the director down to the screenplay writers and cast. The director might not be bad, but in this movie he is certainly not great. The writers(Anne Rice seems to have declined the honor of participating) have difficulty to work the novels into a proper story line. Not strange since they have no track record to speak off. Unfortunately the movie for a large part is made up out of dialog and while this might sound easy to achieve, it is in fact very difficult to keep an audience captivated with dialog for more then five minutes. And in this movie more then half of the running time is made up out of dialog only. The main cast isn't inspiring. Stuart Townsend I found uninteresting. Aaliyah certainly is interesting and she was around that time a popular singer, but as an actress she had almost no experience and in this movie she moves and speaks in an awkward way as if she is partly a snake. Maybe this was on purpose, but the reason is not explained and to me it just looks likes bad acting. Perez and Moreau are decent actors, but their characters are so locked down that they can't save the movie whatever they do. What I found a bad point for the movie is the fact that it to obvious tries to attract various audiences. Aaliyah is added to attract her admirers, Townsend is a Gothic rock artist to attract the Gothic crowd(and gives away a almost ten minute performance halfway the movie for this end only) and the story itself is set to entice Anne Rice fans. None of these people will watch the movie with satisfaction I think.

My entire point is that the movie could have been better if the team had concentrated on one main thread, added more action and had made more of Aaliyah's other talent: performing. Personally I would have replaced Townsend by Perez. The entire 'Jesse' story was pointless and could have been left out. The look back on Lestats past seems also rather pointless so it could have been left out as well, or maybe only brought up as flashback. The Gothic look of some parts of the movie is so overused that leaving it out would alone have improved it instantly.

All in all the story was to much for the crew and in the end they where overwhelmed by it. So when you go and watch it, don't expect too much as it is a mediocre movie at best.
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