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Destrega (1998 Video Game)
A Concealed Gem of a Game.
31 July 2020
This is one of those hidden gems that has slipped under the radar for some inexplicable reason. I've seen some reviewers eg on YouTube (I don't want to mention anybody's name) not doing it justice; seemingly by picking some random "unknown" title off the shelf just for the sake of doing another review.

The gameplay is fun beyond belief. The fights are great, move balancing between characters not the best, but above all there is fun to be had with so much replayability. Also on hard mode the AI is actually unforgiving. There are many memorable characters and each character has unique abilities and effects. On a technical aspect the game is more than capable: good graphics, animations (+ some nice treats), no bugs. Exploits have been found to cheat the AI, but this isn't something a player will likely find; The AI on hard is unforgiving and it doesn't cheat.

Multiplayer is where this game shines and gameplay is send up to the next level. This was back in the day of something kids born on the 2000s and later have little knowledge of: The epic 'split screen' multiplayer. How I wish this technique was more adopted nowadays (it very slowly starts to make a comeback)

The music is *PHENOMENAL* ; arguably the best part of it. After 20+ years it still finds its way in my mind and I can sing tunes of the main theme. Not every character has his own theme, but the existing tracks are so cool and badass that make up for it and keep you on the edge. The sfx sound effects like spells, taunts, kicks & punches are top notch; gritty, precise, intense.

The story is the major downfall. It is kind of cliche; but still it is presented dramatically with acceptable, decent quality cinematics and voice acting that at the minimum deliver the tension and stress of the situation.

The overall atmosphere is great; more than enough to provide the necessary escapism you absolutely need to get from a video game. Escapism is the most important aspect of a video game; you play games to escape to another world. I will say something controversial here, but the story is actually of secondary importance in video games. The atmosphere (= lore + music + visuals + characters) coupled with solid gameplay is the endearing factor of a video game. A good story is the icing on the cake of course, but in my opinion not a critical factor in video games (as in books or movies of course which is absolutely pinnacle). Think about it. Does anybody remember Tekken 2 or 3 for its ... story? Both are better than Destrega, all three are fighting games, but those 2 are arguably top 3 contenders for top fighting games of all time. Still Destrega is not far below them. Probably a bad example now that I think about it, since a fighting game's appeal is definitely not the story anyway, still Destrega manages to deliver a mediocre and somewhat cheesy story; and just for that alone is a plus.

Rating: 9/10 - Amazing

Note: If you deeply care about video game stories then consider this an 8/10.
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The Big Blue (1988)
Mediocre and Pretentiously Cheesy Summer Drama
10 June 2020
Warning: Spoilers
This movie was worse than I expected. The story is very poor overall and is the major letdown. It starts us off well, in a black-and-white rendition of the past, where we briefly explore the childhood of the protagonists, two guys later becoming world-class divers. This past narration ceases with a climactic bad event that will scar the life of one of them.

Afterwards, the story goes downhill in what feels like a very slow-paced film, almost reaching semi-tedium proportions. The good aspects of this movie are the the stunning visuals, the cinematography, the scenes and the beautiful music by Eric Serra, which has accompanied other of Besson's films, and will kind of transport you to these locations. If you saw this movie when it came out or a few years later that alone may have been enough to keep your attention. These alongside the decent acting abilities are the reasons why I gave this movie this rating.

The worst part of the story is the unbelievably shallow, romantic relationship that is formed between the protagonist and the female lead; who takes notice of him and all of a sudden we go into a multitude of one/tenth slomo sequences showing how she has fallen out of the stars for him. Why? Well It's the "love on first sight" trope which is so childish; She simply saw him and apparently her genes themselves started yelling at the top of their lungs informing her that he's a handsome healthy looking guy, and therefore this is enough for him to be a compatible partner and even enough for him to lay his man eggs on her. I am not exaggerating, this woman literally goes nuts when he first sees him right out of the blue, that she becomes obsessed, she can't stop thinking about him, even though he hasn't shown THE slightest of interests. Later on this is actually confirmed; when the female lead has her motherhood bells ringing out again and she desperately wants a suitably-capable sperm doner; that's all this seldom-speaking protagonist is for her - the guy couldn't care less whether he is living or sleeping. Their relationship is almost entirely sex-based and they are barely seen exchanging more a few sentences of meaningful conversation. It is so unrealistic, uninteresting and childish.

There's not enough humour here to break the moody tone of this film. The ending is cheesy-at-its-finest and so! predictable that I personally figured it out less than 30 minutes into the film.

This is a summer movie; best to watch it during summer-time.

I sincerely had higher hopes here.

Rating: 5/10 - Mediocre
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The worst popular movie of the Year, or even the Decade.
26 January 2020
You rarely see incompetence of this level in any form of art, or practice.

This is the worst popular movie of possibly the entire decade 2010-2020. If people accept this movie and think it is a 3.3, or a 4, or a ~5.5 (med rating on IMDB as of Jan 2020) then this is the end of good taste in entertainment (which is already going Downhill for a long time now).

I've also read that a crew member died by an accident during the sets as well as a stunt woman losing half her left hand (look it up).

It is unfathomable that this movie franchise has garnered so much money. The previous movies were barely watchable too, but this one is in an entirely new level of disgrace.

The editing rarely focuses more than a few seconds to a single shot just so you can even establish what is going on. I am NOT exaggerating. I won't keep writing because it is making me sick and it will make you too if you dare watch it you brave soul.

Rating 1-/10 : Abysmal - this movie (and the movie franchise) is actually offensive to the viewer on every level.
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Spider-Man (2002)
The most Down-to-Earth Superhero movie - Experience the story of your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man!
19 January 2018
Spiderman is a movie based on the homonymous comic book created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. It follows the story of Peter Parker (played by Tobey Maquire) an intelligent, candid, but slightly inept and shy high school boy. Peter is in love with Mary Jane (M.J.) since 6th grade (basically the girl next door who also goes to his school). Peter's parents have died in a plane crash accident and Peter has been living with his uncle Ben and aunt May since he was very young. One day he goes on a school tour to this government/university laboratory and gets bitten by a genetically engineered spider. The spider secretes dna altering enzymes into his organism that gradually give Peter extraordinary abilities, Spider-sense (sensing danger before it occurs), superhuman strength & reflexes, spider web generation and more. Peter's life changes drastically thenceforth. He becomes powerful and he receives a great uncle quote about how to use his power (which is in my opinion one of the most memorable and quite important irl as well). After a fatal accident/crime? befalls his uncle Ben, Peter is supercharged by anger and revenge to find and stop the ones responsible. In the meantime, Norman Ozborn, who is Peter's best friend's father, an influential and rich genius with a huge corporation on his back "Ozcorp" becomes "evil" as the DOD pulls out government funding from his seemingly groundbreaking research project due to lack of satisfactory results. Mary Jane is not a plain love interest, you can definitely empathize with her situation as well.

Spiderman has long been one of my favorite comic book stories, because it is so down to earth. The audience can really relate to Peter, because what happened to him is a possibility that could really happen to anyone (minus the graphics). Sam Raimi's excellent direction does justice to Spiderman's story in the best way possible. The story is unfolded in a surprisingly mature way, realistically with a tone of appropriate teen sarcasm every here and there, with only a few spicy details thrown every now and then to remind the audience of the movie's comic nature. All this is executed marvelously and you never get the sense this is a kid's or just a super hero movie. This is also a personal and mature film. The plot is driven by the excellent pacing; energetic, everything flows naturally. Also the fights are well choreographed but nothing too amazing. vfx, sfx are very good. The soundtrack work of Danny Elfman enhances the dramatic moments of the film and fits it so well throughout; it is so memorable and will stay with you for years to come. The movie is very entertaining and enjoyable to watch and re-watch and is suited for all audiences above ~13. vfx could be improved now in 2020 from a digital remaster even further, but that's not really needed.

The cast of characters is truly impeccable. One cannot simply forget the role of J. Jonah Jameson (played by J. K. Simmons) as the chief news editor of "The Daily Bugle" a news company, who employs Peter to take Spiderman's pictures. His casting choice rivals ones such as Gandalf's in LOTR. The acting is great, except one or two scenes that in my opinion are a bit exaggerated. The dialogue is great too. (Kirsten Dunst was perfect in her role). The film contains some of the wittiest quotes you'll ever hear; aside from the oscar-worth, historic speech of uncle Ben to Peter (which I won't spoil), the antagonist the Green Goblin is utterly ruthless and a worthy menace to our hero.

Cinematography encompasses some spectacular visuals in here, especially when Spiderman webs around the city's skyscrapers, it is something you've never seen before.

Spiderman is an amazing movie. I first saw this film when I was young. I rewatched it again yesterday and saw that it only gets better with age. It is a refreshing story, released at an important time for comic book movies that were rising at the time with Blade and X-Men before it. There are only a few dramatically exaggerated scenes, that although serve the story, could have been streamlined a bit for realism, but I understand the director's intentions.

Rating: 9/10 - Amazing
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Terrible, Definitely not a Universal Soldier movie!
17 January 2018
I'm debating right now in my head which movie was better, this one or Universal Soldier 2, The Return. Objectively speaking as a movie this one is better, but if we put the Universal Soldier in the equation then Universal Soldier the Return is a better Universal Soldier movie and not because it has JVCD, but because it is in the Universal Soldier universe. This one is nothing like Universal Soldier. There are not even Universal Soldier inspired tunes, theme songs!

Acting is hardly bearable. The girl wears a frightened + sexy expression in almost every single scene, so as to appear cute. JVCD and Lundgren appear for ~5 minutes in the entire movie combined!! Gunplay is probably the worst EVER I have seen in a movie. It is comical, it seriously resembles The Naked Gun movies where Nielsen and the enemy were shooting at each other from a 3 meter range (there is a take in this film between protagonist and Lundgren where this is EXACTLY what happens and even worse now that I think about it).

Cinematography that will make you cry, with a plethora of scenes that will certainly give you seizures (I was covering my eyes for about 3 minutes of the entire film).

The story is ridiculous, makes barely any sense, not that the plot ever stops to focus a bit on dialogue and to what's going on. The movie is utterly semi-devoid of dialogue. Scene after scene depicts either memories or brutal, sadomasochistic violence. The violence in this movie is over the top, just a notch below Sin City.

The only good aspect was the choreography, I really liked the antagonist guy (Andrei Arlovski) that hunts the protagonist to kill him, he had some nice moves. Fighting is savage and does feel authentic; at times it will knock you off the edge off your seat. The rest of the movie is plain boring.

Finally, the cgi and sfx are poor.

I cannot believe how the critics gave an aggregate rating of 58/100!

WARNING 1: This isn't a universal Soldier movie by any stretch of the imagination!

WARNING 2: If you are an epileptic or prone to it, don't watch this movie!! You will be damaged! You have been warned.

Rating: 3/10 - Bad - For choreography & bearable acting. This movie will pretty much only appeal to hardcore JCVD or Lundgren fans.
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10,000 BC (2008)
What a waste. It had potential.
11 January 2018
Despite the horrid acting, bizarre fantasy setting (don't think this is even trying to depict how 10,000 BC was like), dullness, an inconsequential predictable plot and corny dialogue the film manages to be somewhat entertaining due to some action scenes and some nice visuals. I just don't know what Roland Emmerich was trying to accomplish with this movie. This guy was like "place a couple Hollywood actors there, make up an elementary plot, throw them some cheap customes, make tiger cgi so that we can create a poster (tiger only appears in one scene which last ~ 1-2 minutes), come up with some cheesy dialogue and paste it all together in some form or another". Style over substance here.

Rating: 4/10 - Failed.
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Manhunter (1986)
Excellent Psychological Thriller
10 January 2018
This is a great intellectually engaging psychological thriller movie. Suspence and thrill is ever present and intensified by the selection of music, eerie personna of the protagonist Will Graham (William Petersen), Hannibal Lector and others. Acting is overall pretty good, although not the best, because I find some moments over-racted. For example, I don't find that convincing that Will uncovers everything during his investigations and speaks it out loud for everybody to hear. Maybe it's just me, but it is a minor annoyance I have with the film. However I absolutely love and feel the conversations he has with Hannibal, some very deep meanings are uncovered though those and you get to understand the very well written characters. Michael Mann's direction is brilliant. Don't think that it's going to have huge criminal takedowns and the like, eg. if you don't catch the criminal the entire world cliche is at stake. Mann directs the actors to discuss amongst themselves meticulously all the key details before an important scene. I love that. Cinematography is beautiful, further enhancing the dramatic feel of the movie. The plot is very well laid out. Pacing is good; I analyzed it, and I don't think there are any loopholes; it's solid. The 2h duration is acceptable, but a second viewing will probably be required in order to understand everything. Brian Cox as Hannibal Lecktor delivers, he's spot on (not as iconic as Hopkins in the Silence of the Lambs though, but 2nd only to him). The tooth Ferry (Tom Noonan) acting is disturbing and unsettling perfectly fitting to the character. I thoroughly enjoyed this film; if you like action, thriller, mystery, crime genres you'll love it.

Rating: 9/10 - Great
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The Smartest, Slickest Heist movie ever.
9 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
I had a blast with this movie when I first saw it with my parents when I was very young, even though I couldn't comprehend as much.

It's a movie about a slick Las Vegas casino heist, that is seemingly impossible to pull through. Therefore Ocean (Clooney) tries to assemble a team of "experts" to make it possible. The planning has an attention to detail that you don't normally witness in movies like these. I have analyzed the heist after a couple of viewings, to check for any plot holes, but I can't really find any (other than the "pinch" which is kind of fictional). There's a large cast of main characters, each with a different personality and even if you thought it's hard to present them all well and good, then you will be pleasantly surprised that by the end of the film you will be able to name all of them. The only aspect of the plot I feel was totally unnecessary is the inclusion of Julia Roberts, her role is generally on the surface; she's the love interest, nothing more - except for that one event which implicates her directly .. (but it could definitely be handled in some other way); which I won't spoil.

The acting is impeccable. Character development is excellent. Dialogue is handled gracefully. Visuals are stunning and memorable, direction is top-notch. The director allows you to see exactly what is needed in each scene. It leaves you to do some thinking of your own (not too much) which I personally enjoy. The ending is the best part. It is Unbelievable perfectly executed. With only one viewing you definitely won't understand what happened, how everything was executed with such finesse and professionalism and you may have to wrap your head around it all to figure it out. There's a positive vibe throughout and this movie can be enjoyed alone, with a partner or with the entire family. There's not much violence or other adult elements; the movie doesn't need them.

Are there negative aspects? Yeah, there are 2 things that bother me.

Even though the selling point of this movie is the heist, after lots of thinking I realize that Ocean's primary incentive to hit these 3 casinos was to get back Tess. As I said, I disliked Tess, she's superficial, her performance is lacking and It saddens me a little that Daniel would go to all this trouble to get her back and avenge Garcia for stealing her away from it. Even though it is not actually stealing, he didn't force her, yet she gave way. This is where the whole thrilling experience leaves me with a slightly bitter taste. They could have made such payoff from a much less complex task; but Ocean decided to hit THOSE places just to win Tess back, all the while he hid his true motives from his partners until Rusty figured him out. It is hard to empathize with him and his whole romance affair when we don't have enough background on it. Also how come Tess knew Rusty? These fellows certainly have history, which is completely glossed over. An intro or even a flashback lasting no more than 5 minutes should have existed to give the audience some insight.

Another minor thing is we see that they stash all the cash inside an armored SWAT truck inside a getaway building. Therefore the money is live cash, not deposited in banks. This makes the whole escape thing dangerous. I would like to see more of how they handle it after this, how they distribute it to each member etc. My guess is they can't simply deposit it out of the blue unless they have a way to justify such a gross surge of money; especially Danny who was on his parole and he has a record.

These two prevent me from awarding the perfect title of masterpiece.

Rating: 9/10 - Great
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Red Dead Redemption (2010 Video Game)
"The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" of Video Games
9 January 2018
This is a tale about Redemption in a period set during the decline of the American Frontier. John Marston a former outlaw, is instructed by the Bureau of Investigation who have abducted his wife and son, to bring the members of his former gang to justice, ie. "Capture or Kill" them. Along the way he's found nearly dead and rescued by Bonnie McFarlane, a nearby ranch owner, when he goes against Bill Williamson and his newly found gang situated in Fort Mercer. Then he takes the slower way to get to him. He makes new connections, among those is the nearby town's Sheriff. Trail eventually leads him to Mexico which is on the brink of war, between revolutionaries and conservatives. You will have to make moral choices throughout, in your progress to find Dutch Van der Linde, the leader of your former gang. The story may sound as a western cliche, but it's actually a trap. It grips you and keeps you wanting more. The end is also one of a kind and you will remember it for ever. In time you may realize why the ending was inevitable. This is a very mature and realistic depiction of a southern wild west state bordering Mexico and the events taking place when a man does what needs to be done to protect his family. Story, Plot: 5/5

John meets an intriguing cast of characters along the way. Inspiration from the best American movies is clear, from John Huston's movies, to Leone's and other contemporary directors. Each character is unique, an individual, with his own problems and attitude. There's not many overly dramaticized characters. All characters are struck by the problems of the Wild West and act authentically. You can feel their burdens, or their happiness and you genuinely care. Friendly characters feel warm, enemies are hateful. Direction is top notch, rivaling the best Hollywood movies. Player dialogue is presented with multiple shots, over the shoulder, panning, close-ups, mid-shots etc depending on the occassion and player's disposition towards the other member. It never feels confusing though. The game spans three vastly different regions, 2 inspired from places in California, Arizona, Texas etc. namely "New Austin" and "West Elizabeth" and another "Nuevo Paraiso" set in a Mexican-like environment. New Austin and West Elizabeth are adjacent to each other and share a southern border with Nuevo Paraiso. The atmosphere is totally western. From wide shots of the beautiful red rising sun to bugs, insects concentrated around the night lamps. Above all, the game world is a spectacle of unparallaled beauty. Up to this day 2018 i don't think any other game has managed to achieve such a feat. From a long time western movie fan (from a family of western lovers), Rockstar has captured perfectly the atmosphere of the era. You will find yourself completely immersed into the game's story. Direction, Characters, style: 5/5

Singleplayer: You can mistake this game as a reality simulation. You control the players through a third-person perspective. Everything is smooth, transitions from combat to non-combat circumstances, from dialogue to sight-seeing. All, affluent as they are, are handled gracefully. Gameplay definitely feels close to Grand Theft Auto, which is understandable, why not adopt and expand on an already great formula. There are so many things to do in this game that i'm afraid to list them all, in fear of leaving something behind, so here goes: bounty hunting, hunting animals, skinning, economy system, trading, law-enforcement, dead-eye/slow motion system, brawling - salloon fights, treasure hunting, random strangers, steal people or stores, gambling, cinema-plays, unique challenges, a ghost town (or you can "make" a ghost town yourself by annihilating everyone in it), so many interesting side quests, multiple unscripted, randomly generated scenarios such as "help the guy's brother", rescue his wife and many more. All of them (and i'm not exaggerating) have been ideally implemented and integrated into the game as a whole extending it, never taking away. Each adds so many opportunities to an already huge sandbox. Player's deeds are measured with a karma system, that will count towards either your fame, or your notoriety. Folk will treat you differently depending on how you treat them! There are numerous weapons and some special items providing gameplay-changing options to mission approach. Multiplayer: Multiplayer portion of the game can be considered as another game entirely. It could be thought of as Red Dead Redemption Online. You create a new character out of hundreds, you choose a mount and you progress levels of experience. The entire world is your game lobby. From there you can join, or host matches, eg. Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Hold Your Own, Team Deathmatch and more. Or you can form a posse and raid gang hideouts, go hunting, partake in various interesting challenges and activities such as assault the train (unfortunately you can't perform the Great Train Robbery :D)! Extensive leaderboards allow you to compete with friends and rival enemies from all over the world. Unfortunately most of the multiplayer components of the PS3 platform have been terminated since 2015. I believe, you can still play in a private session with your friends though (as of today 9 January 2018, but i'm not sure). Almost everything that can be done in single player can also be done in the 16-player (max) multiplayer. Gameplay: 5/5

The graphics are impeccable. In the 3000 hours of gameplay (you read correctly three thousand hours) i have noticed only a tiny amount of visual glitches. However, i have to say that i didn't play the game until 6 months after release. I remember hearing that there were some issues at release time. Animations are out of this world. Horses galloping, their animations are UNBELIEVABLE. Without a doubt, the best ever seen on screen. The entire game breaks new ground in every technical field of the industry. Graphics: 5/5 - Technical masterpiece

The soundtrack is mostly inspired from early hits by Ennio Morricone's work and classic western themes. Coudln't be more fitting and story enhancing. The game has won an award for best game music. There are also some tunes similar to harmonica hisses and short western guitar riffs making an appearance every now and then. The soundtrack by Bill Elm and Woody Jackson is truly a blast. Soundtrack, Score: 5/5 - Equivalent to "Ennio Morriconne" for video games!

There's an attention to detail here that you don't normally see on video game design. The scope of this game is enormous. It was Rockstar's most ambitious attempt. Rockstar is truly able to captivate the audience. The company has been around a long time and possesses a relatively greater amount of resources than most game-dev companies, stil they have truly mastered the art of (open world) video game creation. This game killed the industry. People say that nothing is perfect. Well, believe it or not, but this game feels perfect to me. There are only a few hiccups and bugs, which are sometimes funny! There are no crashes, or game-breaking bugs (if you exclude the first couple of weeks of release). I was starstruck when i first played this game. I thought i was free-roaming the old west. The single best aspect of this game is the sheer beauty of the world. Such a big variety of animals, with working predator - prey systems enabled. Every animal is different, vastly different looks and behavior AI, from the rabbits to the cougars. All characters feel alive and every area of the game is unique, with backstories you can read on papers. The game itself is updating, responding to game events particularly the completion of critical story missions. Everything transitions so smoothly and is so enjoyable. You can start a bar fight just to have fun, ride across the beautiful countryside (something that alone is enough to keep you entertained; such is the immense beauty of this game), explore almost all interior locations, freely greet people and more. Each region and town has its own character. Inhabitants can have (slightly) different jobs and react differently to certain events. A gunslinger may choose to draw his firearm and shoot you when provoked, a woman will start screaming and a coward will start to run for his life. You will find plenty of value in the numerous dlc packs and of course the game-of-the-year-awarded dlc Undead Nightmare, which features John Marston trying to find a cure for the zombie illness that has spread throughout the American frontier. Almost anything you can and can't imagine doing in the wild west, as an outlaw or a man of the law is in this game. Entertainment, Replayability: 5/5 - Near-infinite replay value

Rating: 10+/10 - Legendary Masterpiece - My noumero 3 favorite video game of all time. Do not miss this game.
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Syphon Filter (1999 Video Game)
Become a secret government agent in this fully fledged action adventure title.
7 January 2018
You are secret agent Gabriel Logan. Together with your partner Lian Xing, you track down a terrorist named Erich Rhoemer. When contact with fellow agent Ellis is lost, "The Agency" (a covert US investigation bureau) dispatches their best operative, Logan, to find him. Logan learns of a deadly virus, code-named "Syphon Filter" and Rhoemer's evil scheme to use it. Thacking down his trail the game transports you to exciting places and ventures, all with highly varied environments, from the snowy mountaintops of Nepal, to tropical rainforests and in Washington DC. Tables turn and Logan realizes that "The Agency" director Thomas Markinson and his subordinates, did not reveal all information to him. He must uncover how deep the rabbit hole goes while simultaneously stop Rhoemer and his goons.

I find the story mature and well structured. Intriguing cast of characters, coupled with top direction & excellent pacing you will find the game riveting. Not once does the game stop you from being intrigued. The many cinematics are nicely depicted (FMV), further immersing you into the story. The combat system is highly enjoyable and the controls are decent. Boss battles are exciting and hard, to say the least. Each boss has some weakness that you must find and exploit to defeat him. This weakness isn't obvious at all. You start thinking of alternative ways only after you've failed and died aplenty. Each boss has a unique style and character making them memorable, requiring a tactical approach to confront them, instead of going full guns blazing and hope for the best. The action styled UI will never confuse you. You control the character from a third person perspective. Graphics were amazing at release time (I remember being blown away when I played it first in ~2001). This is more of an action game, rather than a stealth game, but there are many game levels in which stealth is absolutely essential. The stealth system isn't as thorough as other games, like MGS, or Splinter Cell, but it's there, it's decent and additive to the experience. You progress the game through a lengthy amount of missions (each "mission" is a game level). In most of them you assume the role of Logan, while in a few others you play as Lian Xing.

You have to notice a certain amount of detail placed upon everything, from the environment to animation, to generic dialogue and muzzle flashes. The weapons (the tazer!) all immersive, nothing too excessive, in the game's setting and timeline (1999). I find myself that the more I investigate and learn more about the game the more I learn things from it as I grow up. Little things that are there and you probably wouldn't expect from such a game. It plays like an action packed, espionage movie, with engaging environments and highly entertaining gunplay/gameplay.

Of course, I can't review this game without speaking about the soundtrack. The original score is absolutely fantastic. It has a 90s fast-pased synth, electro vibe to it. Part stealthy, part hackery, All badass! It is captivating after so many years and it remains in my dreams ever since.

A true accomplishment by 989 Studios, even though they experienced a lot of technical difficulties as they hadn't before worked before on such a type of video game. I remember when my Dad bought this game for PS1 and we played it both together. It has been one of my fondest memories of my life that I will treasure forever. Even if you haven't played it before, I am sure you will be pleasantly surprised if you decide to get it now and I recommend you do so. The video game did sell well spawning a series of sequels, but not as good as it could have, possibly due to it being rivalled by Metal Gear Solid also released just a little while before this one.

5/5 story & characters 4/5 graphics 5/5 audio & soundtrack 4/5 gameplay 4/5 length & replayability

Rating: 9/10 - Amazing
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Mass Effect (2007 Video Game)
Mass Effect - The beginning of the best Sci-Fi story epic ever conceived.
7 January 2018
You are commander Shepard, a war hero, or a sole survivor or a ruthless & notorious cutthroat who knows how to get the job done. You will get to pick your background. Shepard is called on a mission to salvage an unearthed Prothean beacon uncovered at the remote human colony of Eden Prime. It turns out that this mission isn't that simple after all. The colony has already attracted the Geth, a synthetic race who have formed an alliance with what they consider their God and have seized control of the colony. Saren the principal antagonist, a member of an elite, peacekeeping squad called the Spectres has gone rogue, by siding with the Geth. He plans to find and activate the Conduit which will allow Sovereign to signal the return of the Reapers, an enigmatic civilization which recycles all life in the galaxy every 50,000 years. Shepard is on Saren's trail to stop him. In order to accomplish his mission he must assemble a team of diverse & talented individuals, each one experts in their fields and essential to the mission, scour planets to acquire intelligence, form alliances or go to war. It always seems as though Saren is one step ahead of him though. Will he manage to succeed and how will his choices affect the future of the galaxy?

The player decides how the plot will unfold. If there's a game in which you feel that your choices do matter it is this one. It's not just minor or secondary objectives, you actually get a say on many major outcomes of the game. You will explore and make decisions that will shape the future of a planet, or colony, in ways you cannot begin to fathom (play all 3 games and all DLCs to find out how deep the rabbit hole goes; save games carry over to the ME2 and ME3). Bioware has made all players interactions with NPCs so realistic, due to its cinematic design to conversations. Character development is off the chart, and second to none (except the sequel Mass Effect 2). You will love meeting new squad members and talking to NPCs everywhere. Depending on species, race, gender, personality everyone feels totally different, in fact each one is unique. This level of realism is in part attributed to the perfect voice-acting and lipsync of all characters and to the vast lore that has been meticulously crafted for each location the plot takes place in the universe. 5+++/5 for the lore & story (best one EVER in a video game)

To learn more about the overwhelming new amounts of information on this universe you can can visit the Codex menu which gets automatically updated with new entries as you progress through the game. I found myself reading and listening to everything in the Codex because i wanted to learn as much as i could about this amazing world. Never again have i felt like i wanted to read inside a game (i was never interested in books and the lore in Skyrim, or Oblivion, but that's partly because i prefer sci-fi to fantasy). Everything seems so real and likely to occur in real life, in the future. In fact it's all taken from real life and you can use it to expand your own knowledge. This game has got me interested in science and technology and i now have a Bachelor's degree in computer science. In this game your choices matter deeply. 5/5 for characters, direction & impact

What i consider a negative aspect of the nearly perfect plot is that it sometimes feels overly dramatic, like it is leading you to the next part by very unlikely scenarios. For example ((SPOILER IN THE NEXT PARAGRAPH)) you originally learn about Saren because of a lazy soldier who was sleeping behind the crates before the Eden Prime attack started. As such he was able to hide from the Geth (who along with Sovereign have super advanced tech and as such would be most likely able to id everyone in the colony) when everyone else got wiped out AND he happened to stand on the best spot to listen when Saren killed Nihlus. If that soldier wasn't there, there was no way that Shepard would find out about Saren. This one simple act of his, simply created the entire Mass Effect story arc, involving Shepard. I'm sure the developers could find a more believable reason to track down Saren, but anyway, i am nitpicking here. Pacing isn't the best either, but that's not necessarily bad, because you are simply given plenty of freedom to explore the galaxy between main quest missions (even when a lot of things are pressuring the continuity of the primary quest, which breaks immersion a bit; but anyway). 4.5/5 for the plot

The graphics are fantastic. I noticed very few graphical glitches every now and then. The cutscenes are fantastic (somewhat dated for 2018). The system requirements for PC aren't that high, especially for a modern PC. The score is phenomenal. The main theme rivals that of Star Wars (which was composed by the legendary John Williams) and that says a lot. I personally got the soundtrack separately and listen to it whenever i feel like it. It is so soothing and transports you into space whenever you hear it. No other major technical issues that i noticed. Even mods are possible now if you are an advanced computer user (if so check out "Mass Effect Explorer" program). 5/5 graphics & technical achievement, 5+/5 for Audio & Soundtrack

The combat system is very good as well. Bioware has expanded on the old system they use in KOTOR, primarily RPG focused and modified it such that it is more fluid and fast paced like an action game. Combat is faster, yet tactical, as you get to pause the game during combat and tell your squad members who to shoot, where to go/cover, which abilities to use. Everything can be micromanaged, or if this distracts you from the action, you have the option to let the AI automatically make these decisions. You won't be disappointed either way, because the AI is decent. I rarely felt the need to micromanage everything, unless i was playing in max difficulty, or was in a very difficult or boss fight. Overall the combat system isn't great though and could certainly be improved by various alterations to the system. For example sniper rifles are wielded like the player has Parkinson. It would be nice if the squad management was simpler, or if the AI was a bit better. Most of these negatives are fixed in the sequel. 4/5 in gameplay.

The secondary objectives give you an opportunity to explore new planets and star systems. Some of them are actually quite good, but unfortunately most are repetitive and are a go there - kill that, or fetch that kind of missions. They aren't as varied as i would like. Nevertheless you'll still want to complete them all. This drawback in side quests is pretty much the only significant one (which is thankfully also fixed in Mass Effect 2). 3.5/5 for length.

I played Mass Effect for PC in 2008 when it was released. I remember after seeing the epic trailer i thought it was some Star Wars offshoot. It is my favorite science fiction universe ever, even better than Star Wars, yes even better objectively speaking. In fact, i will go as far as to say that the Star Wars universe is childishly explained in comparison to this. Star Wars lore involves more fantasy than science, ie. less emphasis given on scientific explanations, technology and more in fantasy. Mass Effect universe and the lore is very mature, it is an expansion of our own universe (in fact it is set ~170 years in a -very possible- future). Bioware did not simply create a game but an experience. After they crafted the universe they wanted and the laws that govern it, they conceived the storyline, which is unfolded through the eyes of Shepard. 5/5 for enjoyment/entertainment & impressions

Finally you can find value in replaying the game with new character classes. There are 6 to choose from and each one has 2 unique specializations. Each player class plays drastically different, with unique talents, abilities and personalities. The combat and progression is linear, but you can replay to explore many different scenarios because of the choices you make which can be completely different on a new playthrough. 4.5/5 for replayability

The Mass Effect franchise is in my top 3 video games of all time, and it is my No1 fictional universe of all time.

To sum up: Do not miss Mass Effect. Grand, epic story. Deep universe of unprecedented scale. Cinematic feel and intense cutscenes. Living, breathing characters. Choices that impact the future of the universe and carry on to the sequels.

Rating 9/10 - Amazing
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Decent series for the entire family
6 January 2018
Follows the adventures of Hercules (Kevin Sorbo), the demigod birthed by "Zeus" - the king of the gods (and a god himself) and a mortal woman Alcmene. Hercules wanders the earth (Greece mostly) along with his friend Iolaus (Michael Hurst) as vagabonds in search for a job, or to save the princess, or to kill a monster ( giants, you name it, or to bring down a nearby tyrant that has subjugated the people and wants more power. Hercules is pretty much the embodiment of justice, honor and strength and he uses all three of those aspects to solve problems. His friend Iolaus who appears on most of the series episodes is not just the funny sidekick; he's also a formidable ally who adheres to his own principles and can stand on his own, which is a pleasant change form a cliche recipe; still he's a "mere" mortal though. Iolaus is in fact often the primary star, he steals the show with his energetic acting. Over the course of the series the producer (the renown Sam Raimi and crew) have utilized Hurst to the max by using him for many other roles as well. I like the duo, they have good chemistry together, I remember reading way back that the actors became friends too, which is great. The terrific duo kills the bad guys, save the day and some times even get the girls. Note that this is a PG show, so don't expect to see much blood, overly frightening or violent scenes or erotic scenes. Make no mistake, the series still has appeal though to adults. Hercules is often tempted and/or trapped by devious opponents sent by the mischievous Hera, "the all powerful Queen of the gods" and Zeus's wife. For all intents and purposes Hera is the principal antagonist. She's both fervently jealous and utterly furious of her husband who often transforms himself into a mortal man plants himself to earth and chases beautiful women (who wouldn't). Hera wants to get rid of Hercules, the spawn of mortal + Zeus, he reminds her more than anything her husband's wretchedness. Hercules does have various interesting encounters in his journey, even other gods, notable mentions are Ares - the god of war (who isn't bent by vengeance to kill all other gods as in the homonymous video game), Aphrodite and others.

Filmed in the exotically beautiful New Zealand, like the similar show "Zena, Warrior Princess". As far as I'm concerned both of these shows belong in the same universe and we even see some episodes co-starring Zena and Hercules together. The series was my guilty pleasure as a kid, I loved every bit of it. It will mostly appeal to children but it has its adult moments from time to time. The acting is campy to decent at times, the dialogue is cheesy, the plot is self existent per one episode or two and it's mostly corny. The show is entertaining, light hearted, often funny and can prove to be educational for teens with regards to Greek mythology. Never take it too seriously though as it is tongue in cheek. There are over 111 episodes. Choreography of the fights is kind of bad but is intended to be funny, not realistic, it's pretty much childish action (picture Bud Spencer and Terence Hill fist fighting); for this reason it's redeemable. Eventually Hercules (Kevin Sorbo) grows on you and you will find yourself asking for more. The visual effects are passable but nothing special, though the sound effects are mostly comical in nature. Last but not least, I have to point out that I love the score and the intro is very well made and sets up a good mood for what's to come. I love the heroic intro music and theme and it has often slipped in my mind as a remembrance. Others might give this one a lower rating, but I don't think it deserves less than a 6; don't forget it's an action, comedy with a light hearted PG tone to it and all aspects of it are just decent, so I can't give it a mediocre score of 5. Maybe I'm biased a bit, since this series was a part of my childhood but I will go with something higher than that, a deserving 6/10. The show has a refreshing charm to it that is lasting. I still watch it every now and again.

Rating: 6/10 - Decent
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Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (2002 Video Game)
The pinnacle of video game badassery and entertainment.
5 January 2018
The year is 1986 - the 80s. You are Tommy Vercetti, an ex convict released from Liberty city (R*'s fictional version of New York city) prison after serving a fifteen-year sentence. His boss Sonny Forelli promotes him to a higher rank in his crime business and sets him loose in Vice City (R*'s fictional version of Miami, Florida). Tommy is instructed to participate in a cocaine deal and see that everything goes according to plan. Unfortunately for him, it all goes to shit when unknown mobsters start firing mid-cocaine-exchange and all hell breaks loose; the job fails. Tommy and his crooked lawyer Ken Rosenberg barely escape intact. After reluctantly explaining the mess to Sonny, they try to find out who "stole the money!". They devise plans and get to know Vice City's criminal underworld, make contact with the biggest players in the city and extract information.

From then onwards Vice City is your sandbox and you can do pretty much everything you can imagine. You can progress the story, you can dance at night clubs, you can do stunt driving. You can drive a variety of cars, motorcycles, helicopters (even drones! later in the game) or you can massacre everyone and the US army itself will hunt you down (this would be the perfect opportunity to grab "Rhino" - an army tank - if you can). Progressing the story unlocks new abilities and areas in the game; the in-game radio tracks your progress with news reporting. There are multiple side quests you can partake in. Vice City felt like a breathing city at the time of release. The developers have done a PERFECT job in capturing the essence of 80s Miami 100% American (at least how it's portrayed in movies etc), the architecture, the lights, the music, the neon lens flares, the pink touch in everything, the sun. It's all there. The game's style is a clear mix of 80s Miami Vice, with the greatest inspiration from the 1984 movie Scarface, coupled with a satiric, but realistic nonetheless struggle for the American dream. The map/game world is big enough for you to explore and find many unique secret locations. There are multiple interiors, like shops, cafeterias, purchasable safe houses, hotels, night clubs, hospitals, police stations and more, even a HUGE mall! There are dozens of different guns and tools you can use in the game, from handguns and meat cleavers (my then personal favorite) to miniguns and missile launchers. There are a bunch of miscellaneous things to do, and I won't try to list them all in fear of leaving something behind. Those mentioned already should be enough to hook you up for the ride of your life.

Everything in this game is perfect. The mature story rivals that of the best movies. You meet plenty of complex and deep characters along the way leading you on the path to the top of the Vice City. Those characters develop fully as you progress. If you play as a kid you won't understand why you're doing what you're doing, you'll just enjoy doing it and have a good time. And of course none can talk about Vice City without mentioning the music. The music includes fictional, hand-crafted radio stations, complete with radio hosts that talk & feel completely in the mood and interacting on the multiple game's current events as the plot unfolds. Make sure you check them all out. The songs for the various stations couldn't have been selected more meticulously. Finally, visuals and Graphics are top notch. For it's time VC was a technical achievement (not as groundbreaking as GTA 3 though). Also, I don't even remember experiencing any major bugs at all, although I've heard of a couple.

Grand Theft Auto Vice City is my second favorite video game of all time. This game was the reason I bought a PS2. Suffice to say that I played it to death. While I was playing the game nothing else mattered in the world. I was Tony, a super badass crook doing as I please, basically just chillin, riding n' killin. I remember back then almost every friend of mine was playing it for years to come. Me and my friends were visiting each other's houses to play together. To this day, those are one of the fondest memories I have of my childhood. Overall, the amount of laughs that have come from this game is unmeasurable. I am grateful for them and will treasure them forever. Vice City remains my favorite GTA game. You could argue that before Vice City I had pretty much no taste, no personality (especially in music). Afterwards I was a new person, with new experiences. VC was a controversial game, because it allows anyone to commit extremely violent stuff and have a laugh at it. I was ~11 years old when I first played the game and I never once thought that I could do stuff like that in real life, in fact I was more prone to be opposed such violent behaviors than many other people I've met (and I'm old enough now - in my late 20s - to know what I'm talking about). I just felt cooler at times, particularly seeing how Tommy Vercetti talks & walks. In Vice City the World is yours.

Rating: 10/10 - Masterpiece
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Ip Man (2008)
Donnie Yen is Yip Man
5 January 2018
This movie will appeal to all, not just martial art movie fans. It follows the life of Yip Man, the grandmaster of the Wing-Chun martial art style of combat. Wing-Chun was originally invented in southeastern mainland China by techniques devised primarily by women for self defense. Part of this is mentioned in the movie. Yip Man is played by Donnie Yen in, without a doubt, his best performance on screen. Donnie Yen's acting skills shine throught this film. I should mention that, Donnie Yen is an established martial artist, trained in Wing Chun by the son of Yip Man himself! Yip Chun. Yip Chun (84 years old at the time) was a supervisor to the movie and was very pleased with the outcome. He praised Donnie and the studio. By the way, this is not a Hollywood movie, it's a Hong Kong / Chinese production and it is AMAZING. The sound design is top notch. The musical score is excellent, composed by Kenji Kawai (a master composer of other great Eastern cinema movie scores, such as Ghost in the Shell). It is so memorable it will stick to you for years to come. The main soundtrack theme also returns -expanded- in the sequels. Cinematography, setting, costumes, atmosphere will immerse you into the time period. Acting is very good overall. Donnie Yen's acting though is impeccable. You will see Yip Man in the face of Donnie Yen from then onwards. The choreography is of the highest tier. The kicks and punches are pummeling with an audio impact that sounds so real they will make you touch your limbs to see if they are still in place. There is of course some subtle cgi in the movie, which is there only to augment the story and the fights. The movie isn't gory, or bloody but it does a perfect job at conveying the proper feelings at the right time. The villains are powerful and relentless, both the chinese northeners and the japanese general.

The movie is not that historically accurate. Indeed Yip Man didn't officially start a school in Foshan, but he did occassionally teach people. Yip Man wasn't staying home all the time, as depicted in the film. He had a job, soon after returning to Foshan he was appointed as the chief of police, due to his unprecedented honor and honesty. When the Japanese arrived (in 1941 and not 1938, they didn't sieze Foshan until 1943) he joined the rebellions against them. It is true that word of his incredible skills has reached the japanese chief of police in Foshan and he was requested to teach his art to Japanese students. But Yip refused. A fight was later arranged between Yip and one of Japanese masters, in which Yip threatened promised that if he loses he will teach the Japanese his style. Yip won with ease (as in the film) but he wasn't shot, nor left Foshan until after WWII in 1949, when the communists won the civil war and confiscated Yip's estate. Yip initially left alone for Hong Kong, leaving his wife and 3 young songs behind. When he established his place in HK, opened a dojo he brought his family along as well.

Now the film's genre isn't documentary, but action and martial arts. These historical inaccuracies were inevitable, as a certain drama level has to be reached in order for profit to be made. HOWEVER the changes are not significant and in actual fact, this movie captures the spirit and character of Yip Man perfectly, which is the film's most important achievement. Yip Man was a family man, incredibly gentle and ever-smiling. He cared for his compatriots and loved them all deeply. He trained mostly alone with his Mu ren zhuang (wooden man post) perfecting his skills, which ultimately helped him to find balance and lead a happy and healthy life. This is clearly portrayed throughout the film by the masterful acting of Donnie Yen. There are multiple moments throughout that your eyes will tear. It is likely that Donnie Yen must have drooled when he was presented with the role. He loved Bruce Lee and Yip Man, his primary influence as a martial artist was Bruce Lee. Donnie Yen's performance is so authentic, it may seem otherwordly to (very-)Westerners. The other actors are all very good. The acting of Yip's wife Cheung (played by Lynn Hung) isn't the best, but it's decent and mostly fitting the real personality of his wife.

You will never notice the few flaws of the film in the first viewing. You will be completely blown away. It has to be seen more than 2 times to start noticing negatives. I saw it once on cinema when it was released and two times in BluRay ever since to review it. I always loved martial arts movies, like my dad who grew up with Bruce Lee movies. This is probably my favorite martial arts movie ever. Others include Bruce Lee's movies (Bruce Lee's moves will always of course be unparalleled - no cgi involved), Hero and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon as far as i can recall right now. One real disadvantage of the movie can be the excessively and totally unnecessary dramatic fight scenes at the near start of the film involving swords and lances. That was unrealistic and never needed. Note that the director placed heavy emphasis on the fight sequences, as expected, which may bother some of the audience who will find the movie simplistic. The action of the movie is immensely entertaining. The movie is riveting. I bet that even non martial arts fans will be pleasantly surprised and engaged with it.

I definitely recommend Yip Man.

Rating: 9/10 - Amazing
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This movie is so bad it's actually good! It's fun entertainment.
4 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
A martial arts master owns a karate dojo in LA, he teaches kids, including his son. He gets a proposition from some shady crime business guys that they want their dojo, or at least him to cooperate with them, by signing a contract. He refuses and in turn he must be taught a lesson.. Van Damme breaks his leg. His son (the protagonist) wants revenge, but his father stops him. The father (dojo owner) being an honest man and feeling ashamed of his defeat in front of his students, but mostly scared about his family, decides that the best option is to leave his hometown. So the family (himself, his son and wife) move to Seattle. There both father and son make new acquaintances. Father finds job in a local bar. The son continues training and tries to join a new dojo, but due to some newly found enemies he's beaten and humiliated twice, once during a fight in the dojo and lastly on a party of a girl he started to like. He isolates himself, seeking an answer in Bruce Lee's grave in Seattle cemetery and after a while the ghost of Bruce Lee has apparently come to his aid. Training montages one after the other follow, weeks are passing by, things between father and son start to get better, especially after the son saves his father from a fist fight he had with some fellas from the bar. Then the original bad guy from LA comes in Seattle seeking the contract of that dojo as well and he's determined to take it. He meets the owner, who is the brother of our protagonist's crush and the Seattle Karate champion, and since he clearly refuses he threatens his sister. In the meantime, our protagonist has trained hard and has seemingly become tough and he kind of goes out with the love interest. Finally a Karate exhibition/tournament is held between Seattle's fighters (the best 3 of them) and Van Damme alone. Van Damme single-handedly takes em all out (he had a hard time with the 3d one - the champion - but he too falls), but all of a sudden our hero steps into the ring to save the day ultimately throwing Van Damme out. The result is he is congratulated as a hero and the movie ends in a "Rocky"-like fashion.

The best thing in the movie are the good, meaty, fast-paced, authentic fight scenes throughout. Most actors seem to be capable of real fighting, or at least they must be athletes of some kind. Only one thing i noticed is that in some scenes Van Damme can be subtly seen to hold on to his kicks a bit though, as not to inflict full damage on the actor. But overall the fights are well choreographed and executed. And that's primarily what this film is all about, martial arts. The protagonist's black friend must be a dancer, or something similar. Also Van Damme here is in one of his first appearances in film ever. Note that this is not a Van Damme movie, Van Damme only appears for ~12 minutes tops.

The movie is very similar to Karate Kid, but much inferior. Karate Kid could actually stand as a solid movie. This one, objectively as a movie, is terrible, but if you look at its spirit and what it wants to deliver, primarily entertainment and 80s energy, it does a decent job.

Acting is so atrocious, it may even compete with porn movies. Van Damme keeps a wooden, hateful face throughout, which NEVER changes. All performances are very pretentious and they're trying to be. The bad guy desperately acts like the bad guy, the good guy acts honest and decent. There's no grey areas in the characters, there's no depth in them, mostly only black and white. Silly, funny comedy. The love interest is the only decent one.

The father especially is literally shouting (instead of talking like a normal human being) throughout the entire movie. His whole dialogue is shouting. He does it, as to appear more dramatic (80s B movie logic). His performance is so bad, it's actually hilarious, the guy is screaming, no joke.

However the movie does possess a certain 80s charm who will definitely appeal to the fans of the genre. The omnipresent 80s montages to cheesy music (even break-dancing) during the training sessions. Aside from that sunny atmosphere, the occasional laugh and some mild romance. You can respect it for that.

The final fight is so unrealistically funny bad, it's unbelievable it was made like this and it's so hilarious you will laugh your ass off. You see this kid protagonist, who has near-zero muscles and Van Damme with muscles that could knock the kid's teeth out with a single punch. But instead, the kid recollects the teachings of Bruce Lee's ghost and coupled with his friend shouting from the audience "No Retreat No Surrender!" the kid becomes Rambo at an instant and hurls J.C.V.D. out of the ring.

You saw that coming, but of course the plot is extremely predictable. This was really a chinese Hong-Kong movie, chinese director & writers, just filmed in USA.

Rating: 4/10 - Failed - A guilty pleasure movie of mine though, for Van Damme, the fights, entertainment and 80s nostalgia.
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