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33 reviews in total 
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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
My all time favorite game...albeit with flaws, 29 February 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I don't know how many times I've played Warrior Within in the past decade. When this game came out, it was my Netflix series before Netflix series were a thing: I had to binge play so that I could see what was going to happen next. The game play is dynamic and it doesn't get old quickly like Sands of Time did. The graphics were excellent for its day, and it wasn't so hard you constantly got stuck, but not so easy that you could necessarily breeze through it and be done in just a single afternoon (plus, unlike some video gamers, I like to go outside and get exercise, so that extended the time in which I was involved with this game!). Plus, like a good movie, you want to do it over and over again even after you've gotten to the end.

The storyline was excellent, really fit for a good film! It followed the first game very well in terms of continuity all things considered, and character development was very good. The Prince is much darker and brooding than he was in the first game, but he's not yet an anti-hero, or a villainous protagonist like Kratos from the God of War series. He's still good, though now selfish and humorless. Kaileena, voiced by the beautiful and famous Monica Bellucci, acts as both a powerful antagonist and a conflicted love interest of the Prince. Throughout the game, it's left unclear whether your job is to save or kill her, and different choices made by the Prince will ultimately decide which one you'll do (kill or save). The Dahaka chases were always intense, especially when they dragged on for long periods of time; one little mistake like a missed jump or a hesitation and you're dead. All in all, this story-driven game keeps your interest and is often very intense and emotional.

Now, this game isn't perfect, and if it ever got rebooted, there's some glaring issues that need to be resolved. First, the game play can be glitchy; this was unfortunately made in the days before instant updates and patches, so the glitches have stuck around. It's not a constant problem, and I've gotten through a good number of games without a freeze or a glitch, but it's happened enough times that it's noticeable.

The other problem is in the dialog and the female characters. First, the dialog is very poorly written compared to the first game. Everything is rigid and characters reply to one another in an almost non sequitur fashion. I also groaned loudly when the Prince declared "At first the Dahaka filled me with fear, but now, it fills me with RAGE!!" Even Monica Bellucci and Robin Atkin Downes, accomplished actors, couldn't really make the script not sound amateurish.

Now, for the women in the game: It's possible to have a female character be beautiful and sexy without having them be obnoxiously sexualized. But having the Empress's henchwoman, Shahdee, fighting in a metal thong and bustier is not doing that very well. That was less powerful woman and more sexual fantasy roll play. And Kaileena, an immensely powerful woman, chooses to wear a revealing tunic that appears to be more like a designer Sports Illustrated swimsuit than a tunic...with high heeled knee boots? Really? In Ancient Persia? C'mon man! I'm a red blooded heterosexual male, but this was too much! They could have animated the women to be sexy without being exploitative...but they didn't.

The final problem: The end of the game in the 2nd ending (if you get the Water Sword) was confusing, and Ubisoft didn't really clear it up in the next game.

Okay, so I gave a few complaints about this game, but it's because I've had a lot of time with it. But my 8 of 10 star rating should be a hint of where I stand. One of my favorites, and one that brings back a lot of good memories!

Unbroken (2014/I)
1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Wanted to like this more because of the book, 23 March 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I know, it's what EVERYONE says about every movie based on a book: The book was better; don't see the movie till you read the book. Generally, I hate that pretentious attitude. However, in this case, I have to break my own rule and say, forget the movie, read the book.

Now, this movie wasn't Razzie terrible; the acting and the action sequences were good. But there was WAY too much left out, there was no chemistry between any of the characters, and the movie just seemed to drag at many points. There's very, very little dialog and for a movie that is supposed to be about overcoming, the tone was very unemotional and depressing throughout. They failed to show the camaraderie among the prisoners, the subtle insurgency against the sadistic guards, or just how The Bird affected Louis. I also was disappointed to see that they cut out Louis' whirlwind marriage, battle with PTSD, coming to faith in God, and recovery from his demons when he came home. We are treated to a brief epilogue explaining quickly that all this happened.

It was a very long, detailed book, and Laura Hillenbrand did an excellent job developing the story of who Louis was and the importance of just about everyone with whom he came in contact. When I first heard this movie was being made, I couldn't fathom how they could fit it into a 2 to 3 hour movie. To tell you the truth, I was right. They couldn't, and didn't. It's really a pity; the story on which this is based has "best picture" written all over it, but the filmmakers just fell short. As I said, a very difficult task considering their source material. In all honesty, it would have been better to adapt Unbroken to an HBO miniseries, ala Band of Brothers.

All in all, not a horrible movie, but a disappointment nonetheless. Read the book.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Very heavy for a kids movie, but good, 19 August 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I remember the first time I saw this movie, I was four and in preschool. We were on a dinosaur segment, much to the delight of just about every boy in the class including myself. So, this movie was part of the curriculum. I still remember thinking the tragic death of Littlefoot's mother and Littlefoot subsequently wandering alone through the wastelands was pretty sad and quite intense for a little kid to watch. Then, Littlefoot, looking for sympathy, meets the old dinosaur and is basically told that "life is cruel, pal. Deal with it". I barely had a concept of the finality and severity of death until I saw this joke. Not that I wouldn't recommend the movie for young kids, but one should take note for their kids that this is not like a Disney movie, which is typically made from the ground up for kids. Don Bluth usually takes pretty mature themes and packages them in a medium that kids can understand. His movies tend to be quite a bit darker than most animated Disney movies and Land Before Time is no exception.

With that intro let me say, having just watched this movie again recently, I forgot how well done it is. It's a very well thought out story that explores many important themes and delivers many deep messages beyond the usually fluffy "follow your dream and marry a prince" that you often see in kids' movies. This is one of the few animated films that I've seen that really conveys a feeling of anxiety and hopelessness throughout and brings the main characters through very obvious desperation and survival needs. You never really know if all five characters really are going to make it. Some may say, "It's a kids movie. They wouldn't kill off any of the main characters!" Think again. Take a look at some of Don Bluth's other stuff. He's never been opposed to killing of characters you wouldn't expect...and on screen. Also in the original script, NONE of the dinosaurs made it to the Great Valley; all died along the away. Obviously, that would have been hard to package. However, the film is very harsh and dark until the last 2-5 minutes when all five do in fact make it to the Great Valley alive.

All this talk about how dark this film is for an animated kids movie is not a criticism. I think that depth of the film makes it great and I wish more films like this were made for kids. I actually sometimes wished that some of the Disney Renaissance films (Little Mermaid, Aladdin, etc) as good as they are, were a bit darker and harsher in tone. Obviously, I think, especially with a kids movie, you need a happy ending, but that doesn't mean you have to constantly make it fluffy. It's too bad that this film didn't have a greater impact on cinema other than spawning a bunch of direct to video shmaltzy sequels with dumb musical numbers. All in all, great movie if you're a kid or an adult.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
What do People See in This Movie??, 3 March 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I saw this movie at running camp when I ran cross country in high school...that makes it about 9 or 10 years ago. I thought it was horrible, depressing, and depraved then. I saw the movie recently when it was on TV and, being one who likes to dissect movies, even ones that I don't care about, I watched a bit. It was every bit as bad as I remembered when I first saw it.

The characters are poorly conceived, the character development is empty at best, and there really isn't a single likable person in the entire movie. Everyone is a rich, over privileged, shallow psychopath. Not even the "good" and "pure" characters are all that likable or anyone that one can relate to. Every bad thing that happened to anyone in this movie, I thought, "Well, that's what you get for being an idiot and/or jerk. Action=Consequence." Plus, the acting and the script were laughable; it was as though this movie was written and acted as a group project in a high school drama class. Every last one of them, Phillipe, Witherspoon, Geller, Blair, all of them, while having little to work with, did not pull off their roles at all. Really sad for actors who already had pretty established careers. I thought Hayden Chrstiansen was better in Star Wars than Ryan Phillipe was in Cruel Intentions.

This movie was Mystery Science Theater bad.

The Words (2012)
5 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
It's about writing and books, so it has to be good...right?, 17 February 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

What was no doubt intended to be a deep, intellectual, quasi-indie film really ends up being no more than a shaggy dog story. The acting by Jeremy Irons was very good, but the rest of the cast really didn't seem to connect with one another. There was no explained connection between the Dennis Quaid/Olivia Wilde storyline and the rest of the movie, other than the inference that Quaid's character's book was autobiographical. Wilde's character's significance is never explained and it appears that she has no connection to the story at all other than the fact that she's there. None of the story lines weave together and there's no closure on anything. Maybe that was the intent, but even if it was, it just didn't seem to work.

This is a directorial debut by both the directors, and I can see that they have potential; the truth is, this movie had a LOT of potential and it just failed to deliver. It really felt rushed and unfinished. Considering how long these guys have supposedly had this idea, I would have expected more from them. Perhaps it worked differently in their heads than it actually appeared in the movie. At any rate, it was a good first try for a film and I hope to see them improve. But as for The Words, the final page of their book was apparently torn out.

Red State (2011)
1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Unbiased, well acted, dark, and gritty, 15 October 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I'll start by saying that find it kind of odd that this film is billed as a horror flick. I'd say it's more of an action/drama with some horror movie elements. The beginning plays out like Hostel meets the Westboro Baptist Church, but pretty quickly turns into a political thriller/crime drama.

Here's a basic outline of the story: Three teens meet a woman they found on the internet for sex. The woman drugs and kidnaps them; it turns out the woman is a member of the Five Points Church: A cult/domestic terrorist organization that believes they have been called by God to judge the corrupt United States by capturing and murdering those they deem to be sinners (namely homosexuals). We also find out that this organization is in the process of planning bombings and attacks on government buildings, synagogues, and churches they deem apostate. Basically, The Five Points is a combination of the Westboro Baptist Church, the Branch Davidians, and the Sovereign Citizens movement, among other things. While being held hostage, the teens witness the execution-murder of a gay man the cult captured earlier. In the ensuing confusion after the murder, two of the teens escape, resulting in a shootout overheard by a sheriff's deputy. The shots-fired call gets forwarded to the BATFE, which sends agents to surround the cult's compound. A shootout between the agents and the cultists, based very heavily on the infamous Waco, Texas siege, ensues.

I admit, being a conservative/libertarian, Christian NRA member, I was a bit leery of watching a movie about Christian extremists entitled, "Red State". I was ready for a movie that was going to try and paint all conservative Christians as radical nut jobs. This was not at ALL the case. This movie was not anti-conservative, anti-Christian, or anti-gun rights as far as I can tell. It's emphasized early in the film by a teacher that this group is so extreme that even Neo-Nazi groups and the KKK distance themselves from them. Agent Keenan (John Goodman) mentions that Five Points has much of the same ideology as the Westboro Baptist Church (which exists in this movie's universe; Five Points doesn't "replace" it). However, Five Points is violent and dangerous while Westboro is more just annoying and insulting. It's driven home that this does not represent even ideologies that director Kevin Smith might disagree with; the movie shows violent extremism is evil no matter what views it claims to fight for.

However, the Five Points Church is not the only bad guy in this movie. Red State also decries the denial of constitutional rights in the name of anti-terrorism. Agent Keenan's commander orders that the ATF agents on scene slaughter EVERY cultist, even those that surrender, and then falsely report that each dead cultist was killed in self defense. An unarmed surrendering cultist, as well as an escaping hostage, are executed in cold blood by an ATF agent, according to their orders. Agent Keenan's superiors chide him for disobeying the illegal orders and taking surrendering survivors into custody. They also tell him, off the record, that the arrested survivors will be locked up for life without a trial. When asked for justification of denying Americans their constitutional rights, the ATF supervisor responds, "Because *bleep* them." It's post-9/11 and the constitution no longer applies to those the government deems enemies. Basically, in this movie, no matter who wins the fight, we all lose.

Kevin Smith obviously did a LOT of research for this movie. An ATF agent announces a search warrant of the compound for violations of the National Firearms Act. This particular violation was the illegal modification of a semi-automatic firearm to fire fully automatic. Not too many people know what the NFA was, let alone what it says. It also mentions that the ATF was tipped off by firearms salesmen who were suspicious when members of the cult had consulted them, wanting to know how to make full auto modifications to semi-autos. The movie also correctly identifies various firearms, shows agents using them properly, and shooting accuracy is realistic: Most cultists "spray and pray" and very few bullets hit their targets. Only shots lined up by the shooter are shown to be accurate.

Most chilling of all was the dialog and the ideology espoused by the Five Points pastor; it was radical, but not cheesy and over the top. Having dealt with hateful, fundamentalist so-called "Christians" many times before, I can tell you from first hand experience, that Smith was SPOT ON with his portrayal of extremist, apocalyptic churches. The wording, theology, tone of voice...everything, was horrifyingly accurate.

All in all, a gritty, dark, chillingly realistic movie that surprising takes a stance that pretty much every level-headed person, whether religious, non-religious, liberal or conservative, can agree on: Extremism in the name of anything, whether terrorism or anti-terrorism, is wrong. Good job, Kevin Smith, on a well written, well researched movie.

Insidious (2010/I)
A Scary Version of Poltergeist, 11 July 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Yikes! I haven't seen a movie in awhile that both jolted me multiple times AND creeped me out for a long time, simply with it's worldview! (The worldview being that pretty much everyone goes to a dark, creepy hell after death and there is no God). Also, the scares do not let up from the opening title screen to the end of the credits. Plus, the soundtrack, including the use of Tiny Tim's annoying but innocent sounding "Tiptoe Through the Tulips", shot my blood pressure up for most of the film.

Quick summery: Josh and Renai find their son, Dalton, in an unexplainable coma. Immediately after this, the hauntings begin, and become increasing violent, evil, and horrifying. They hire a medium who tells that that Dalton is not in a coma, but has had an astral projection (out-of-body experience) and his spirit has wandered too far from his body and is lost in the netherworld (or "The Further" as it's called in the film). As such, Dalton's body is unoccupied but alive, tempting spirits and demons to possess him in order to enter the world of the living; some to simply live again, and some to wreck havoc. Josh is told that he also possesses the ability for astral projection and thus, he must be the one to enter the netherworld to find Dalton.

I agree that there are two "halves" to the film, but I strongly disagree that the second half killed the first. The first half is a typical haunting film (slamming doors, strange figures moving around at night, malevolent spirits, etc). The second half goes beyond strange phenomena and has Josh actually go to the other side to get Dalton. This sounds a lot like Poltergeist, but The Further is not a bright light filled with creepy clown dolls and giant skulls. No, this a completed dark parallel universe filled with creepy corpses in suspended animation...until they are disturbed by the living and attack. There is also a demon that I think is the weak point of the film: The face looks like Darth Maul (like spitting image...look it up), but he has a long forked tongue like Venom from Spiderman, and a body like the Hell Knight from Doom and Doom II (look it up). Not that scary. But the lack of lighting and music are creepy enough that it makes up for Darth Maul/Venom.

All in all, a very scary movie that I probably won't watch makes you jumpy and uncomfortable from beginning to end. If you need a good fright night movie, this a good choice.

Moonstruck (1987)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
One of the most quoted movies in my house; Masterpiece, 24 May 2012

Every big full moon my family sees gets dubbed "Cosmo's moon." When I worked in sales, I would stick in a Moonstruck reference when trying to convince someone to buy the step up, saying "This is pretty good, unless something goes wrong. And something ALWAYS goes wrong." When cooking in our house, the request for someone to hand the cook the butcher knife is always, "CHRISSY, BRING ME THE BIG KNIFE!" (and there's no one named Chrissy in my family). If anyone says the word "temporary" someone will inevitably say, "EVERYTHING IS TEMPORARY!" Yes, we've seen Moonstruck a lot! Awesome movie. Great acting, great cast, likable characters...and it's not even a movie that needed to have a twisted storyline or absolute angst. It's one of those rare movies that really doesn't have much in the way of weaknesses. It's a simple slice of life film about two Italian families in Brooklyn. Simple as that. With the lovably passionate, eccentric personalities that come from such a culture as New York Italian, there's little need to insert "jokes" into this movie. The reality of the almost poetic communication among the family members is funny (at times hilarious!) enough. Plus, anyone who is passionate about Italian food like I am gets the urge the take a day trip to Little Italy to pick up a good loaf of bread every time they see the bread Ronny takes out of his bakery's old coal-fired brick oven!

Every character is believable and likable, flaws and all. Loretta is a superstitious, but smart and level-headed widow who, in a rare loss of self-control, makes a passionate decision that causes a riotous chain of events within her family. Cosmo, Loretta's father, is a successful plumber who, now in his mid to late 60s, has begun to feel he has done nothing with his life and fears death. He turns to extramarital affairs in order to fill gaps he feels are in his life. Rose, the cynical, dry-witted wife of Cosmo and mother of Loretta, remains supportive and loving of her husband and daughter despite their moral failings. There's Johnny, Loretta's soft-spoken fiancé, is still controlled emotionally by his mother, who lives in Sicily. Ronny, Johnny's estranged brother, is an impulsive and tortured man who developed a vendetta against happiness ever since he lost his hand in a bread slicer (causing his then-fiancé, who did not want to be with a crippled man, to leave him). That is, until he meets Loretta. There's Raymond, Rose's brother, and his wife, Rita, who are still madly in love even after being married for many, many years. And there's the Old Man, Cosmo's immigrant father who spends most of his time sneaking table food to his many dogs (much to Rose's dismay), scolding them in Italian, and grunting his displeasure and exasperation with his family's chaos and morally questionable activities. Despite being frail and old, he is shown to still be very wise and authoritative, condemning Cosmo for breaking the family and demanding that Cosmo pay for Loretta's wedding.

All these personalities come together and make a very ordinary story interesting and funny.

All in all, I offer one piece of advice: See this movie. It's unforgettable.

Courageous (2011)
5 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
Christian movies: take notes of this movie!, 17 February 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

FINALLY, a Christian movie that is really well made, well acted, and with a good plot! The movie was unapologetic about being Christian, and did not water down anything about what they (and I) believe. At the same time, this was not a groan-inducing, in your face, fire and brimstone story. There are many scenes of overt faith and witnessing and they are done in a loving and very realistic manner. Nothing feels forced in the movie.

Unlike most films of this type (church produced), Courageous did not shy away from real world issues such as drugs, crime, consequences of promiscuity, police corruption, and violence. There is a shootout, many chases, hand-to-hand combat, and various arrests. This happens in police work and the makers of the movie realize it. With the exception of profanity (there is none in the movie), nothing really is watered down. Guns are fired and bullets wound. Gangsters attempt to murder police officers. A young man is 'jumped' into a gang (that is, he endures a beating from the veteran members as an initiation to joining); kudos to the producers for researching gang recruitment methods and rituals. This movie did not come across as a "Christian version" of a cop movie. Rather, it was a cop movie made by people who are Christians and, as such, their beliefs and morals are expressed in what they made. They don't try to show life looking out from a protective Christian bubble; rather, they show reality for what it is. Also, the movie shows what a real Christian life is (or can be) like. Sometimes, the movie is less than flattering. Some Christians are shown to lack integrity and/or forgiveness and mercy. Why? Because it's the truth. People, regardless of their beliefs, can be like that. Once again, the producers went for realism, rather than idealism.

My only real complaints: Some of the tactics. The actors should have spent some time with advisers and trainers on how to safely hold a weapon. In a church as big as Sherwood Baptist, there's got to be some soldiers, police officers, or firearms instructors who could have taught them some basic gun safety and shooting drills. Too many of the officers were running around with their fingers on the trigger when not ready to shoot (keeping your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot is one of the MAIN rules of carrying a gun). Also, during a scene with a traffic stop, two officers stand in the space between their cruiser and the car they stopped. That's pretty much rule number one of what NOT to do on a traffic stop! All the guy has to do is back up fast and boom! Dead cop. Also, during that scene, which was in broad daylight, I can't believe that none of the officers noticed any suspicious movement from within the vehicle and gave an exit order. Also, when an armed and dangerous criminal, who has just made multiple attempts to kill police officers, is trying to flee, for the sake of safety, it is considered reasonable to use deadly force while they are running away (basically, if they're dangerous and running: Shoot them in the back). So, yeah, there were a few tactical errors, but I can't fault this movie any more than I can fault about 99% of movies released every year.

All in all, excellent movie. Now, I've left out the main point of the movie until now. It's about men (four cops and a hard working day-laborer) who vow before God and their families to be dedicated fathers and husbands. Nothing, no job, no hobby, nothing, should take away the priority of honoring God and your family. Even if you are not a Christian, if you have a family, you can probably relate to this. Courageous calls for people to stop and take a look at what they're missing not as much because of a judgmental condemnation of fire and brimstone if it is not done, but because if one does not stop for a moment, they may miss what they will never get back.

It's a heartfelt, touching, exciting, high quality movie. I'd recommend it to anyone, Christian and non-Christian.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Easily lives up to its reputation as one of the greatest films ever, 17 February 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Godfather is one of those movies that could be considered perfect or near perfect. It's a perfect ten in just about every category of what makes a great film: Cinematography, story, character development, action sequences, acting, plot twists...this movie is an absolute masterpiece. There's no clichés or corny moments, no annoying, useless characters, and its about as original as it comes in all aspects of story. The Corleone family is both evil and moral, both sympathetic and begging for hatred, both understandable and from another world. Vito Corleone is a ruthless crime boss, but at the same time, has standards and a sense of right and wrong. Michael Corleone goes from being a war hero who claims that he is not his family, to a mafia don more ruthless than his father. Sonny, his older brother, is a loose cannon, but with method to his madness. Every time I watch this movie, I ask myself: How did Coppola and Puzo do it? How can this movie be described as anything except perfect? If I have ANY gripe with The Godfather, at the toll booth, there's no way that somebody could take that many rounds and still not be incapacitated. Yeah, people don't always drop with one round in real life, but fifteen guys opening up on full auto with .45 ACP rounds from a Tommy Gun is going to kill pretty damn quickly! But I'm a gun nut, so that's a nit pick. That, I guess knocks the Godfather down to about a 9.999999999999999999 out of 10!

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