5 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
Panzer Dragoon Orta (2002 Video Game)
Lovely, in a variety of ways
24 January 2008
This game has three main things going for it which make it worthy of a ten by me.

First, the gameplay. Rail-shooting does not appeal to everyone, but for those of us who find it almost meditative to sit back and concentrate on our marksman skills, this release is almost pure bliss. There is the added feature of being able to bank at any angle slightly, as well, which is helpful if you just can't destroy that incoming missile soon enough. The ability of the dragon to morph into different battle-types adds many strategic possibilities also, though if your mind is not in the mood to strategize, the default type works pretty well in every level.

Second, the imagination. The worlds, characters and creatures are stunningly gorgeous. I recently replayed this game (in January of '08), and even with all the jaw-dropping titles of the current generation systems, the visual and conceptual creativity that went into PDO is absolutely phenomenal to me still. It makes me want to shake the hands of everyone involved in this project. It also makes me sad how little recognition it received.

Third, the two title characters. The Dragon, particularly in its default form, is a beautiful creature. There is one cut scene in which it arises slowly from the snow, very majestically, and it never fails to give me chills. And Orta. Orta is, of course, a video game heroine, and therefore by law she is required to be gorgeous. But, perhaps on purpose or by accident, she has more depth to her than any other fantasy-game character I have seen. There are very genuine expressions of sadness and wonder in her face, and someone clearly got her essence dead on in designing her. The bond she has with the dragon is very moving, and by the end, I felt very attached to both characters.

I know Panzer Dragoon Orta is a thing of the past now. It's done, and there's not much chance of people suddenly realizing what a great game it was. But I come back to it often, and have yet to not find something to marvel over in it. For the few of us who love this game (I notice, as of the time I write this, that there are 27 users here on IMDb who rated it!), it at least kind of feels like a very intricate piece of art, composed just for us.
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So much fun...
4 January 2008
Ever since my parents bought the original musical in the early 80's, around when I was born, I've become more and more interested in it as I get older. After watching this concert -or rather production- I began asking myself, "Why is this so great?" I mean, when you tell people what it is, they look at you funny, and it does sound a little silly: "It's the novel, only in a funky, techno-rock incarnation." But there's a number of elements Jeff Wayne's musical has that I think keeps it enduring through the years...and endearing.

First, the sheer composition and arrangement of the music is extremely unique. Without exception, every single song on the album sticks in your mind. The themes range from beautifully stirring to just plain bizarre, and are all memorable. I personally reveled in watching the guitarist perform the "heat-ray" themes throughout this video, and the bass player picking the famous line during the "Horsell Common" section.

Second, out of all the "Big Time" productions of War of the Worlds, this is not only the most unique, but surprisingly the truest to the novel. I recently re-read Wells' book, and couldn't help but hear in my head the music which accompanies certain chapters. Somehow, and I don't know how, late-70's synth-rock does a 19th century novel justice.

And finally, the music and lyrics are extremely straightforward and non-abstract. There is no digging that needs to be done to "get" a song. The listener simply knows that this piece of music represents the characters fleeing, this piece means alien weed is creeping across the ground, and this song is about a heroic battleship facing the invaders. You certainly can find deeper meaning if you look, but it isn't necessary.

All of these elements were present in the original production, and have translated over to the stage, decades later, flawlessly. Now one can witness the beautiful artwork of the original album come to life in animation, and watch the Martians destroying towns, the "Thunderchild" attacking the tripods, the red weed crawling, and the Parson losing his mind (a favorite part of mine). You'll notice people who enjoy this album talk about the chills they get when they listen; being able to see it come to life only makes it more so.
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Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (2007 Video Game)
Thoroughly impressed
17 December 2007
I generally don't like war games, or even first-person shooters very much. But something about this title gripped me from the beginning. I think it must have been the way it made my heart pound as I worked through the campaign, sweating every time I threw an enemy grenade back and wondering if I had enough time on the fuse. Or being severely outnumbered with just myself and a wounded sniper, feeling doomed yet somehow making it through. This is one of the few games which takes me out of myself (the way a really great movie does) and throws me into the shoes of an SAS soldier or Marine, and has me wondering if I'll make it to the end.

I'm not a game reviewer, but these are some things that have earned Infinity Ward high marks in my book with this title: Graphics - As of today (December '07), these are the best visuals a game has to offer, and sometimes I find myself just walking around an area admiring the detail that went into it. The frame rate (at least on the 360) remains pretty consistent, and the fluidity of movement is silky smooth from start to finish.

Pacing - Not once was I bored during the campaign. It's fast paced, but not in an unrealistic way - you're on the edge of your seat because there's "hostiles" all around you, and you can't afford the luxury of being bored.

Difficulty - I'm glad to see that a higher difficulty here does NOT mean an enemy who takes more shots, but rather one with faster reflexes, sturdier aim, and more strategic grenade-lobbing.

Sound effects - I don't know how many people look for good sound effects in a game, but for me, they tend to be a major factor, and I appreciate the satisfyingly diverse sounds of each weapon, or the "ping" grenades make as they bounce towards you, and yes, even the "thup" of hitting your target.

Story - About the highest compliment I could give this game is that it plays like a superbly made war drama. It's one part story driven, and one part simulator. The overall story and character involvement make it feel like something much more epic than just a first-person shooter, though if all you happen to care about is shooting, the story doesn't get in the way of that, either. The campaign ends with a dramatic conclusion, and I frankly hope there are never talks of making this franchise into a movie, because Call of Duty 4 goes beyond the limits of what films are capable of.

(also, the music is commendable, simply because I generally don't think I'd want much of a soundtrack for realism's sake, but Stephen Barton's work here is beautifully sublime, and sets the mood well)
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An overlooked addition to the series.
5 November 2006
I should note that this 10 star rating reflects my feelings within the Godzilla franchise, and isn't really meant to reflect against any other movies other than Godzilla's.

I dunno. I love Godzilla himself, but I'm one of those annoying purists who likes Godzilla best when a) it's just him versus a large city and/or b) he's set within a dark movie. Granted, that narrows my options quite a bit, but I still faithfully watch any film involving him.

This film, while its plot may feel made-for-TV, brought out the best in Godzilla since the 1954 film, I thought. He's mean, he's not lovable (which makes me love him more), and his enemy, despite being a mutant rose (heh heh), is ultimately meaner and darker than his other enemies of old. I especially like the lack of time travelers, aliens, and miniature people in this film; I said the plot felt made for television, but ultimately, I would prefer the side-stories to involve normal human beings struggling to control the awesome power of the monsters (as is the case here) rather than mutants or time traveling people or robots trying to save/conquer the planet with the help of Godzilla and company. Biolante is a creation of biological science, as is Godzilla (unintentionally, of course), plain and simple. No strange alien cyborg implants or bionics or what have you. The humans panic, the monsters destroy. It's beautiful.

After watching Godzilla: Final Wars recently, I yearned for a return the "Biolante" form. I know it sounds silly to talk about Godzilla's believability, seeing as how it is the campy cheesiness that made the franchise popular, but the first film, reaching way back to the gritty black and white days with its dark hospital scenes and broody score, was on some level believable to me. Yes, it's obvious the monster was a guy in a suit, yes you could still tell they were models, but the panic seemed more real, the aftermath more devastating, and the sympathy for the human characters greater. Godzilla versus Biolante is closest to that original form, as far as that believability goes. Despite a hovering tank, futuristic lightning cannons, and killer monster rose, this film feels more organic than most. In this one, it's "Godzilla's awake! Call the military and then RUN!", rather than the usual "Godzilla's awake, and aliens have made a giant cyborg, and this kid is bonding with a baby monster, and this guy invented a robot that can grow...if you find time, RUN!".

I mean no disrespect to the rest of the G films, and the fans of the many-monster mythology, I can understand why people love it, but this is the kind of Godzilla film I personally prefer.
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Still Impressive
3 July 2005
I won't compare this film to the recent remake simply because they are two very different tellings of H.G. Wells' story, and deserve to be looked at in different manners. This film, while not free of some silly dialog or FX goofs (I.E. suspension strings!), it remains to me the single most convincing science fiction invasion film I have ever seen; there are a number of reasons for this.

First: The dialog, as mentioned, is silly at times, but for a 1950's sci-fi film, the acting is generally top-notch. While Gene Barry's Clayton Forrester maintains the same expression throughout the entire film (which irks some viewers, understandably), he at least remains believable as a scientist who is dumbfounded and awestruck that earth is being invaded. Other roles in the film range from semi believable to very believable, and the panic and sorrow that the invasion creates feels genuine as well, unlike most films from the era where panic is portrayed by women clutching their cheeks and screaming helplessly.

Second: The effects hold up. Yes, we know the war machines are models, and here and there we are reminded of that. But thanks to wonderfully detailed craftsmanship, as well as good set lighting, the machines are nonetheless very convincing, and effectively menacing. The first battle scene between the Martians and the Army feels so real, with so much noise, confusion and destruction (for a movie of that era), I determine how much I appreciate all other films depicting battle between the human race and aliens by comparing them to this scene.

Finally: The feel of the film is genuine. It is creepy, dreary, and just plain well done. The music is one aspect which dates it, but it remains an essential part of the experience, creating a feel of urgency, depression and eeriness, as if it knows the end of the world is near. One thing I will compare to this film in Spielberg's latest is the feeling of mass panic. While we do see people running and fleeing on an epic scale in both, in the latest, it feels all too convenient for a good action scene. In this version, it feels desperate and real.

Is it worth seeing after having the hype of the remake still present in our consciousness? Yes, considering two things: First, the remake pays homage to this film in a number of scenes, with some aspects that never appeared in the book (such as the nature of what happens in the basement scene). It's fun to go back and look at what originally gave Spielberg some of his ideas. Second, while everyone has their favorite S/F movie which they're biased towards, and this one is obviously mine, I still believe this is the most well-made piece of cinema depicting a hostile alien invasion ever to come out of the fifties and sixties. I still look at the effects and am amazed that it was made in 1953. It's a rare thing when watching a 1950's science fiction movie and the word "cheesy" pops up in my head fewer than three times.
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