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Pete's Dragon (2016)
Another great Disney Remake
15 August 2016
I didn't grow up with the original Pete's Dragon, so I didn't have much of a reaction when I heard it was being remade. I watched a little bit of the original a couple of months ago and, I think it's just okay. It's nothing I'd watch again, and there are certainly better Disney movies out there. But I can kind of see why quite a few people have an attachment to it. It's very wholesome, cute, and the actors are putting their all into it. So how does Disney's newest remake hold up?

Personally I think this remake is better than the original. It's not perfect, and I don't think I enjoyed it as much as the Jungle Book remake, but this was a good update to a movie, that I feel has gotten a bit dated.

The story itself isn't particularly original, it's the sort of E.T. or Iron Giant type of story. But they tell it really well, and it's a nice change of pace from the very complicated stories we've been getting lately. It's nice to have a more simple story for a change.

I was really impressed with the first 10-15 minutes of the movie, most of it doesn't really have much dialogue in it. It just kind of show's what daily life is like with Pete and Elliot. And it's all done visually, for the most part. I really liked that, and honestly think that's my favorite part of the movie.

This movie keeps up Disney's trend of fantastic special effects. Elliot the Dragon looked great. There wasn't one moment where I thought "That dragon's not really there." Every time Elliot was on screen it was just like when the animals in the Jungle Book movie were on screen, or when Rocket Raccoon was on screen in Guardians of the Galaxy, I believed he was real. I know a lot of people complained about Elliot's design in this movie, and honestly, I don't get it. Yes, it's not necessarily a "traditional" dragon design, he has fur instead of scales, but he still looks like a dragon, and they did a good job of making him look like an updated version of the Elliot from the original movie.

The acting is very good in this movie. There's not one actor I can name that I felt wasn't trying. Bryce Dallas Howard was especially great, as the park ranger who finds Pete in the forest. The child actors do a surprisingly good job as well. There's not one moment that felt like they were just reading lines, or weren't emoting enough. The boy playing Pete especially sells the performance of a kid who hasn't interacted with people for six years.

Some of the main problems of the movie come from the supporting characters. Outside of the main child characters, and Bryce Dallas Howard, most of the other characters are kind of one-note. The "villain" just kind of serves to be a villain, that doesn't really listen to reason. Bryce Dallas Howard's father just kind of serves to be the old supportive father figure. It's not as annoying as it might sound, but it just kind of feels like they could have done better with the characterizations. But I think the performances slightly make up for it.

The movie could also get a little too schmaltzy, specifically with the musical score in some scenes. I wouldn't say it's too much, but they definitely could have toned it down.

Overall I think this is another great kid's movie from Disney, and while I think the Jungle Book was better, this was still a nice movie to sit through, I'd give it an 8/10. I can't say how fans of the original are going to like it, seeing as how I'm not a fan of the original, but I would encourage them to give it a chance.
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Sausage Party (2016)
More clever than it has any right to be.
11 August 2016
Warning: Spoilers
I honestly didn't think I'd like this movie nearly as much as I actually do. I went in essentially expecting a typical Seth Rogan comedy, just random jokes and nothing else. But the rumors were true, it actually is more clever than it has any right to be.

I'll first say this, I don't think everyone will find it funny. If you aren't already a fan of Seth Rogan's movies, like I am, the humor probably won't do much for you. But I don't think anyone can deny that the movie's story is very smart, and I think might make up for some of the negatives you may have about the movie. The early reviews were right, it has a lot of clever things to say about religion, about taboos in society, about bigotry between cultures, and it's not lazy about any of these subjects.

Let me talk about the jokes for a second. Yes there are plenty of sexual jokes in it, a lot of which I found funny. But I think the majority of the laughs I had came from the different ethnic foods interacting with each other. I could watch the Bagel and Lavash argue with each other all day. If anything I think the majority of the sort of sexual jokes people expect from the movie happen at the very end, like the last 10 minutes of the movie.

The voice acting is also top notch. All the voices fit well with every character in the movie. I would love to see all of the actors in this in other animated roles. Some of the actors play there roles so well I had no idea which character they were. I had no idea that Edward Norton was the Bagel, or that Paul Rudd was the main Grocery Store employee. They all give great performances.

But don't get me wrong, there are problems. Probably the major one being that the villain really doesn't need to be there. He just kind of serves to be a slightly disturbing character, who sucks out other products' juice to become stronger. If they cut him out of the movie we wouldn't have missed anything, apart from a few jokes from him. Also the ending is very, well, an ending, in that it ends the movie. It's one of those endings I wouldn't really describe as "bad" or "good" it's just sort of "I don't really know how else they could have ended it, so yeah I guess that works."

The animation isn't all that great either, I mean it's not awful, but it really shows that this is this particular company's first animated film. One thing in particular that put me off was the designs on the human characters, they're so hideous to look at. I have a feeling that's part of the joke, but they really do look gross, and off-putting.

There is one more thing I have to say though. In the long run I'm a little worried about the impact this might have on other R rated animated movies. I'm a little worried that this might affect other movies in a similar fashion as how Shrek affected kids movies. Like how Shrek was funny and made a lot of money, so other studios, and Dreamworks themselves, tried to replicate the success, and we ended up getting really bad "Self-Aware Parody" movies like Chicken Little. I just don't want the same thing to happen with this movie.

I wouldn't call this movie "typical Adult Swim fodder" like I thought I'd be calling it. It's too clever to deserve that label. It's a movie that actually understands what "Satire" is, and in a day and age where we have people just posting racial obscenities and calling it "satire" when called out on it, I think it's great to see an R rated animated movie actually understand how to do satire.

I would recommend giving this movie a chance. I really respect that it doesn't just throw crap at the wall and expects you to laugh. I wouldn't go as far as to call this one of my favorite animated movies of all time, but I will say I'm glad I saw it, and I had a lot of fun watching it. I would give this movie an 8/10. It's not one of the greatest movies ever made, but I do respect it, and I want to see more good R rated animated movies come out of it.
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Excellent first chapter
4 February 2016
Warning: Spoilers
As someone who was only an infant when the Famous O.J. Simpson trial was going on, it obviously didn't leave as big an impact on me as it did to people like my parents who watched it unfold before them. Nevertheless, I've always been fascinated at what a train wreck the whole trial truly was. I've read and watched numerous pieces on the trial, and find it funny that many people I've talked with focus on the fact that O.J. was declared "not guilty," when the entire timeline of the trial was a complete mess from beginning to end. Which is why the first episode surprised me by essentially showing that it looks like that's what the main focus will be for the whole series.

Before it gets going, the first episode shows us the infamous Rodney King footage, and the civil unrest that resulted from it. This was something that I liked was shown, as the racial tension in LA at the time played a role in how many people saw Simpson being treated during the trial. The first episode starts out, obviously, with the horrific murder scene of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman being discovered. It then shows us the various pieces of evidence investigators find at the scene; the bloody leather glove, blood trail leading O.J. Simpson's house, the place where the killer injured their left hand. It then shows us the investigators pinning Simpson as a key suspect, and proceeds to show us how unusual Simpson seems to be acting, and how the odds are stacked against him, without going overboard and showing Simpson committing the murders.

We also see prosecutor Marcia Clark, played by Sarah Paulson, attempting to get O.J. Simpson put on trial, by any means necessary. Interviewing witnesses and looking into Simpson's past domestic abuse with Nicole. Along with Robert Kardashian and Robert Shapiro preparing to defend O.J. for the trial, with many of their attempts to form a good defense backfiring like when O.J. fails a lie detector test.

The episode ended where I hoped it would end, and they handled it well; with police showing up to arrest Simpson, only for them, Shapiro, and Kardashian to find the white Bronco gone, where we end on a shot of it speeding down the highway. An ending that really makes me want to keep watching.

The episode never really shows one person more than the others, they all get ample screen time, and are never given more focus as part of the story than the others. It's not particularly biased in anyway, even on the side of the people defending Simpson. Kardashian, though portrayed as a little clueless, is portrayed as a concerned friend who really doesn't want to believe his long time friend committed such an atrocious crime. Even in scenes where Shapiro is clearly trying to talk Simpson into considering a plea deal, it's understandable because that's what Shapiro is best at; plea bargaining.

The characters were perfectly cast. David Schwimmer does surprisingly well as Robert Kardashian, as well as John Travolta, playing Robert Shapiro. Sarah Paulson is fantastic, as usual, as Marcia Clark. And Cuba Gooding Jr. is surprisingly better job portraying Simpson than I thought he would. One of the only complaints, and it is very small, was that although Cuba Gooding Jr. looks and acts like O.J. Simpson, I didn't find his voice that convincing. I don't know, I just thought it should have been a little deeper, but that's just a minor complaint.

One other thing I was a little disappointed with, but am taking with a grain of salt considering it's the first episode, is that we see all the mourning for Nicole by her friends and family, but Ron Goldman isn't given much spotlight. I would have liked to see his family being notified, or even a glimpse at his funeral, but again it's only the first episode and I'm sure they're going to show the turmoil his family went through during the trial as the show continues.

Overall this was an excellent first chapter to a story most of us already know the details to. All the actors do a phenomenal job portraying the real-life person they're assigned, and the pacing is handled very well, with it moving to different details in the case, perfectly. If your interested in seeing what looks like is going to be a fair retelling of one of the most infamous trials in history, give it a watch.
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Games can be something greater
4 January 2016
This movie asks the legitimate question of "Why are games treated so differently, compared to movies?" "Why is it that a game like 'Super Columbine Massacre RPG' get pulled from a game competition while movies like 'Django Unchained' are hailed as art-pieces that should be allowed to do whatever they want?" And the movie offers one simple, very obvious answer, "They shouldn't."

Playing Columbine really shows how gaming can really evolve into something better. If developers are brave enough games can do anything a movie can do, if not better. While I don't like "Super Columbine Massacre RPG," I do admire the provocative nature of it, and of games like it. Most of the games featured in this movie could probably start a new genre of "documentary-style" games, set to inform people, through gameplay.

I also feel the movie did a good job of presenting both parties of "People who are more avid in video game culture" and "People who don't really know much about video games other than their kids play them." The film even had the balls to get a certain former attorney from Florida who shall not be named. I really didn't get very much bias from this film, even when it was talking about Danny Ledonne, the filmmaker and creator of "Super Columbine Massacre RPG," and how his game was pulled from the Slamdance festival.

I feel like this is a game that everyone should see, if not play, whether you consider yourself a "gamer" or not. As we've seen over the years games are changing. The past few years we've seen things like "Papers, Please" and "This War of Mine" come up on Steam and GOG. These are games that address important issues facing the world today, and they do it in a very respectable way. While I may not like SCMRPG, I do want it to be influential in the evolution of gaming. And hopefully games can continue to evolve to a point where they are held up equal to television and film.
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Batman: Arkham Knight (2015 Video Game)
Disappointing in almost every way.
4 January 2016
Warning: Spoilers
I really wanted to like this game. I loved Arkham Asylum, and Arkham City, and even though I didn't get to play Arkham Origins, I think I would have thought it was okay, from gameplay footage I've seen. But this? This is definitely the weakest in this fantastic series.

Let me start off by saying the writing is terrible, I mean it is just lazy! The "twist" as to who the Arkham Knight is, is so incredibly obvious, to the point where they're practically beating you over the head with it; "Look the Arkham Knight is calling Batman 'old man' and is acting like he knows him. Get it? Look he's calling Batman a coward and is acting like he's been betrayed by him. Get it?! Look the game keeps referencing Jason Todd's story over and over! GET IT?!" Batman, himself, makes so many stupid decisions, for no other reason other than "the plot demands it." And probably the most insulting part of the writing is that the game kills off a supporting character that I really liked, and I had a legitimate emotional reaction to it, only to bring that character back and say, "Whoop! It was all just a hallucination, they're fine!" Even the ending is terrible, it had me with my jaw on the floor saying "What the hell just happened." This was not a satisfying conclusion to a great series like this.

The gameplay can also be very monotonous and repetitive, notably the bat-mobile sections. Throughout the game I dreaded going back to using the bat-mobile, most of the time you'll be dodging and shooting at numerous drones, and they have little to no variation on it. Even when I had to travel across Gotham, I would just fly, because y'know, that's way more fun than driving a car that controls like you're on a skating rink. Do you remember all the fun, and innovative boss battles in the previous games? The fight with Bane, Poison Ivy, and of course, the crowning boss fight with Mr. Freeze in Arkham City. Well guess what? There are absolutely no boss fights to speak of in this game. I'm not joking. There's a, sort of, interesting climax at the end, but no boss battle anywhere in the game. Seriously, Scarecrow is the main villain in this game and there's not one fight with him, not even a nightmare sequence even close to reminiscent of the fantastic ones in the first game.

Another problem with the game is, I feel like the developers tried to cram too many things in the game at once. There are so many side villains, that could have been used much better. Arkham city had a lot of side villains, but they managed to weave them into the story well enough that they felt important, and like they had a place in the story. This game on the other hand just throws Two-Face, Penguin, Man-Bat, Harley Quinn, among others, in without much explanation for why they're there, that it just makes the content look like a cluttered mess. For example, Hush seriously shows up as a "side mission" that's just around 5 minutes long, Hush is such a cool villain, and they could have easily brought him in in a way that didn't feel forced and kept him around for a while, but no, it's one encounter and he's defeated. Hell I don't even feel the need to find all of the Riddler's collectibles, and there's actually less in this game than in Arkham City.

After beating up this game so badly, is there anything I actually liked about it? Yes, actually. The voice-acting as always is top notch. With people like Keven Conroy, Jonathan Banks, Troy Baker, Grey Griffin, the whole cast does a great job. Including, Spoiler, Mark Hamill reprising his role as the Joker. He is absolutely hilarious in every scene he's in. Hell He practically saves this game for me. Even though I hated the writing in this game, it did manage to pull out a few interesting twists in the game. One involving some victims of the Joker's blood toxin from the second game. I also still liked the stealth sequences in the game. They're just as strong as they've been throughout the series. Hell, they might even be the best of the series. The game keeps adding new and interesting stuff to these sequences that make them more challenging, and make you think about how to approach each thug to take them down.

But even with the fun I had playing some of the game, I can't deny my true thoughts, and I don't care if they're unpopular. This is not the conclusion the Arkham franchise deserved. The writing is lazy, the gameplay gets very monotonous, I was going to give this game a 6/10, but that terrible ending dropped it down to a 5/10, and this game is lucky I'm trying to be fair.

Hopefully in the future they'll be more cool Batman games like Arkham Asylum, and City, I need something else to wash this bad taste out of my mouth.
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