Review: BoJack Horseman (Season 1)

bojack horseman posterBoJack Horseman (Season 1) – 2014

Animation / Comedy – TVMA


 

The story of the average Hollywood star is one that has been told numerous times in the past via numerous mediums.  The celebrity starts on top, living in a world of fame, vanity, and luxury.  From there, their life travels down a downward spiral till they have become a “has-been.”  How do you keep a story like this fresh and original?  BoJack Horseman, Neflix’s newest comedy tries to accomplish this goal, but ends up falling a little short, despite having it’s moments.

The story begins with BoJack Horseman (Will Arnett), a famous 90’s TV star from the past that has turned into a “has-been” with a drug and alcohol problem.  He lives in his mansion in the Hollywood Hills with his freeloader of a  roommate Todd Chavez (Aaron Paul).  BoJack’s washed up, but he wants to somehow save his career from going too far into the dumps.  He decides to have a book written about him, to perhaps get people interested in him again.  He hires Diane Nugeyn (Alison Brie) to ghost write the revealing and tell-all book for him because he can’t write the book himself.  Among other problems, he also has to deal with his nagging ex-girlfriend/agent Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris) and his friend/rival Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins).

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The thing that is the most jarring about the world that BoJack lives in is the presence of anthropomorphic animals that live alongside humans.  There is some humor that goes along with this notion, which is probably the only fresh thing about this comedy that deals with the Hollywood lifestyle of a washed up star.

Don’t get me wrong, the show is funny.  There were numerous moments that had me laughing out loud.  The eleventh episode (out of twelve) was probably the highlight of them all.  It involved a massive drug trip that BoJack Horseman goes on with his roommate and the child star of the sitcom “Horsing Around”, in which BoJack was the main star.  The only unfortunate part is that most of these moments are spread out between the episodes.  I was not asking for a high laughs-per-second ratio but it would have been nice to see these moments closer together.

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Another thing that may detract viewers from the show was the turn that the series took a few episodes in.  The first couple of episodes gave of the impression that it was going to be a total comedic affair but then the plot started to get a little more serious as it started to dive into the story of BoJack Horseman and his quest for a renewed relevance.  Naturally, you can’t tackle this kind of story without getting a little serious so it’s hard to knock the show for this.  It almost felt like the show was turning from a comedy into a drama at some points.

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All of the actors did a pretty good job with their characters.  Given that the series has an all-star voice cast, this should have been the case anyway. Will Arnett was obviously the star of the show, providing the grizzled voice for BoJack that fit the part.  Paul Tompkins also did a good job with Mr. Peanutbutter.  His character was a surprise.  I didn’t expect him to be funny but he gives viewers a lot of comedic moments.

BoJack Horseman is a show that suffers a little from un-originality but it still turned out to have it’s moments.  The series got a generally positive response from viewers which warranted Netflix to pick it up for another season.  Season one ended in such a way that season two should be interesting to watch.  It’s hard to tell where the series will go from here, but I hope it takes a step on its own, without the help of all the similar shows of its kind.  I enjoyed my time with the show, and I look forward to what comes next.

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Live from New York, It’s Saturday Night Live…Season 40

Yes, that’s right, Saturday Night Live has returned for it’s 40th season tonight.  It has been a while since season 39, but that hasn’t meant that it has been a quiet off season for SNL.  In fact, it has been pretty busy.

There have been some notable departures from the cast.  Wheelan, Milhiser, and Wells have all moved on from the show.  Mike O’brien has also left the cast, but only to go back to the writer’s room for good.  As for the people joining the show, Michael Che and Pete Davidson are the two new incomers.  Michael Che is now one of the co-anchors for the Weekend Update and Pete Davidson, interestingly, is the fourth youngest person to ever be on SNL, as well as the fourth person in SNL history to be on the show and not be of legal drinking age.  I found that pretty intriguing.  It is also rumored that this might be Kenan Thompson last season on the show.  It’s a shame because he has been one of  my favorite cast members.  However, this only means that he will probably have more screen time as the season goes on.

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Tonight’s episode featured Chris Pratt, the actor of Parks and Recreation fame, as well as Guardians of the Galaxy.  The musical guest was pop singer Ariana Grande.  So how well did the first show go?  Well…

The show started off with a bang.  Some good ol’ jokes against the NFL.  This was expected given the crappy situation the league has gotten itself into.  It featured Kenan Thompson and Jay Pharoah as Ray Lewis and Shannon Sharpe respectively.  Pharoah, with his spot-on impressions, stole the skit with his on-point impersonation of Sharpe.  It was a good start to the show.

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We then heard the voice of Darrell Hammond, who  is the new announcer for the show, taking over for Don Pardo, who passed away on August 18th.  Don Pardo was the longtime announcer for SNL with his signature voice to start the show.   It sounded different and it will take a couple of times for my ears to get used to it, but it seems that he will be a pretty good fit for the job.

Chris Pratt’s monologue showcased  a very “pumped” Pratt.  He cracked some jokes at all of his weight changes, which was expected.  He also performed a “folkish” sounding song about himself.  During the song,  Anna Faris also made an appearance.  He mentioned their childbirth, which produced a beautiful baby.  It wasn’t the best monologue I have seen on the show, but it was still entertaining nonetheless.

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There was a skit that featured a boy that wished his toys would come alive for his birthday.  He blew the candles and then his wish came true.  Out of the blue, Chris Pratt and Taram Killam, who were playing action figures appeared.  They’re introduction to the human world was quite amusing.  We also saw Ariana Grande who played “the other sister”.   As you would expect, this got the biggest reaction from the audience.

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Later in the episode, we saw more of the NFL, and more specifically the Ravens and the Panthers.  The skit ran through the two teams and their players, as well as the crimes that they committed.  There was child abuse, domestic violence, and more for everyone!  They also announced that there was a Chris Brown halftime performance and a special tribute to Pacman Jones.  It probably could be considered a Key and Peele rip-off of their famous “College Bowl” sketches.  I’m sure Roger Goodell, if he was watching, thought all of this was hilarious.  I know I couldn’t help but laugh.

 

snl weekend update

We saw the first Weekend Update of the season, with Michael Che and Colin Jost.  The update featured cracks at Apple’s iCloud, Derek Jeter, and the NFL.  I personally liked it better when there was just one person running the table, but Jost and Che seem to work pretty well together.  The update’s funniest moment featured “Leslie Jones”,  a woman who has had a pretty awful experience with men. This Weekend Update is a pretty good sign for the future of the desk.  It had a lot of good laughs, and ended with a musical number about Barack Obama, and how “things are going to get better.”

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Pete Davidson, who was featured during the Weekend Update as the “resident young person” seems like he is going to a pretty good addition to the company.  I am interested to see more of this kid in future episodes.  Aidy Bryant had a lot of screen time on the show, which is not a surprise.  She is humorous and provides a lot of memorable moments.  She started coming into her own last season, and I hope to see more of her this season.

One thing that I couldn’t help but notice was the lack of Chris Pratt.  He had some funny moments, but he wasn’t a knockout punch.  He is naturally a funny guy, but it seemed like the  actors around him stole the spotlights.  Perhaps it was an issue with the material he was given.  I applaud him for the effort that he gave all of his parts though.  He did a pretty good job with what he had.

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Ariana Grande’s performances were pretty good.  When it comes to live performances, it seems that she knows what she is doing.  Her first performance was an acoustic version of her hit song “Break Free”.  It was an intimate performance, which then  transformed into a very high-energy performance.  They’re seemed to be more lip syncing then actual singing, but hey, she was dancing so give her a break.  Her second performance was of “Love Me Harder”, which was also spot on.  It features The Weeknd, who joined Ariana on the stage for the song.

Judging by the buzz that was circling during the show, it seemed that the show received a lot of negative feedback.  I have to agree that there were no standout “knockout sketches” but I still thought it was a good show overall.  I laughed numerous times throughout.  So, that’s all that count’s right?

Gotham Pilot Impressions

When I first got word that a new TV series was in development that would take place in the Gotham, Batman’s stomping ground, I was surprised that it would have nothing to do with the caped crusader himself.  Gotham, the new series that debuted last night on Fox, puts the spotlight on the Gotham Police department.  More specifically, detectives James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue).

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The series will take a look at Gordon’s rise through the ranks of the Gotham City Police Department.  The city of Gotham is a pretty dark and crime-ridden city and the division that Gordon is in “gets the most action” according to his words.  He will have to deal with a bunch of tough scenarios, as well as the corrupted GCPD itself.

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The pilot starts of with a bang, a bang that should be recognizable to most fans of the Batman lore.  We see a young Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova) roaming around the streets of Gotham, pick-pocketing a couple unsuspecting citizens.  She then quickly retreats to a dark alleyway when she begins to witness a couple and their son walking home from the movies.  Yep, she sees Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) and his parents.  A shady figure rises from the darkness and shoots both of Bruce’s parents in cold blood, right in front of him.  The killer then retreated into the shadows, once again.  Thus begins the first case that Gordon and Bullock will tackle in the series.

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Gotham almost seems like it will be a fusion between a procedural show, like CSI or Criminal Minds, and an action drama.  Each episode is looking to tackle a different case but there will be an overarching story that will link the cases together.  It’s an intriguing mix.  I have never been one for procedural shows, but Gotham might keep me interested given the characters and the back story I am already familiar with.

In the pilot we also meet characters like Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor) and Carmine Falcone (John Doman), as well as my favorite character Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith).  Mooney and Falcone seem to drive a lot of the organized crime that takes place in Gotham so I expect that we will see a lot more of them.  There also seemed to be a relationship between Harvey Bullock and Mooney that I want to see explored in future episodes.  They gave us a taste of their relationship in the pilot, but not enough.  I am also interested to see the rise of Cobblepot, who is more commonly known as Penguin.  In the Pilot, he is an underling of Mooney and a bunch of Mooney’s henchmen call him “penguin”, which gets on his nerves.  I hope that we get to see Cobblepot and how he becomes the villain that most know him as.

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Another character that intrigues me is Alfred Pennyworth (Sean Pertwee), the famous butler who takes care of Bruce after the death of his parents.  In the movies he is portrayed as a lovable guy who always looks after Bruce.  In Gotham, he seems to be a more stoic man who has some gruff to his voice.  He seems like a no-nonsense kind of guy.  I will be interested to see how his character plays out as well.

One thing that might have detracted from the experience as a whole was the amount of fan service and Easter eggs that were littered throughout the first episode.  This might be understandable given they want to rope people into the series on the first go, but it doesn’t make it right.  We seem extremely brief glimpses of characters like Poison Ivy (Clare Foley) and Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith).  It seemed like too much for so little time.  I hope that his kind of fan service trickles off as the series moves on.

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The pilot also suffers a little bit from some shoddy writing, but that is something that can get ironed out as time goes on.  The characters and their back stories are all interesting to begin with, so it shouldn’t be too hard to get the writing on the right track.  These characters haven’t been explored too much in the movies so the show  is a real treat for fans of the series.

The series shows a ton of promise and the pilot really got it’s hooks in me.  I was interested before I started but the pilot got me excited for the future of Gotham and the stories behind it’s characters.  The prospect of a TV series based off the Batman series that explores the character’s deeper stories is truly exciting.  All of the casting work for the characters was also really well done.  Hopefully show show can bloom into something that is wonderful for fans of the Batman universe.

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Review: Don Jon

Don Jon posterDon Jon (2013)

Comedy / Drama / Romance

Director: Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Rated R / 90 min


 

Don Jon is a movie about porn.  Now wait, before I lose you, let me tell you that it is more specifically about porn addiction.  Okay, that probably didn’t help.  Movies that deal with porn are more often than naught distasteful and sometimes offensive in how they are handled.  You often feel weird watching them because let’s be honest, your basically watching porn.  However, Don Jon, directed by Joseph Gordon Levitt (and also the main star of the film), is actually kinda tasteful in how pornography and the physiological effects that come with it are dealt with.

The film, as previously stated, stars Joesph Gordon-Levitt who plays Jon, the all-around definition of masculinity.  The things he cares about?  He cares about his body, his house, his ride, his family, his religion, his boys, his girls. and….his porn.  Now why would a man that has a pretty active sex life care so much about porn?  This is the basic question that drives the movie.  The question that is constantly explored by the different characters.

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One night at the club, he discovers a lady that he can’t forget; love at first sight.  Her name is Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) and she plays the “hard to get” type.  Jon decides to go after her and they eventually get into a relationship, which starts to change the way he lives.  She makes him go to a night class, makes him go with her to see the unrealistic romantic movies, and probably most importantly, makes him stop watching porn.  It’s one night that she walks in on Jon who is in the middle of the act when she forces Jon to make a promise with her.  She is the type of woman that will change Jon from a boy into a man.

don jon 2

It’s from this point on in the movie that we really start to see the physiological effects that porn can have on someone.  Jon has an addiction and it is near impossible for him to stop.  It’s the fictional and unrealistic scenarios that the girls in porn are put into.  His perception of women is based of those unrealistic models in those videos that he masturbates to every night.  As he puts it, “porn is better than the actual thing.”

While at night class, he meets a woman that really puts it into perspective for him.  Esther (Julianne Moore) stumbles on Jon during one of the classes who is watching porn on his phone.  This really awkward meet-up actually springs a relationship between the two that is probably the weirdest things in the movie, but also the thing that just makes the most sense.  I don’t want to spoil anything but lets just say that Esther probably has some of the deepest wisdom for Jon that really changes the way he goes about things.

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The subject matter that this movie can be off-putting but is the most intriguing part of the whole experience.  We see a man who is totally consumed by his addiction and we see how it affects his everyday life and his interactions with everybody he is close with.  It almost feels like we are observing a specimen the whole entire movie.  It’s almost voyeuristic in nature, but it’s interesting nevertheless.

The ending left a little to be desired.  It felt like the movie did make a point, and it got it off pretty well, but it just seemed a little abrupt.  It was a little weird and I feel like it was just missing a final scene or two.

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Another thing that might leave some people with a bad taste in their mouths is the handling of the porn that is featured in the movie.  Even though the movie is trying to handle the subject matter in the best way possible, it is still tough for anybody to have a movie about porn without it being graphic in nature.  There are numerous women that are seen being taken advantage of in the scattered clips throughout the movie and you just can’t help but feel a little weird watching it all.  It will most likely be offensive to women, even though the movie is not being made with that intention in mind.  I commend Don Jon for the interesting look at a pornographic addiction, even though it might not be for everyone to see.

Don Jon can probably be considered one of the best, and probably one of the weirdest movies I have seen this year.  It is funny, it is smart, and most of all, it is a movie that had a point it wanted to make.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt in his writing and directorial debut did a great job.  If he can make films like this in the future, I will definitely be sure to pay attention to what he has to say.

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Review: The Spoils of Babylon

Spoils of Babylon Logo

The Spoils of Babylon (2014)

Comedy Mini-Series


 

Here we have the epic piece of storytelling that is The Spoils of Babylon.  It took three long years to film and it was originally formatted to be twenty two hours long…at least that is how fictional author/director Eric Jonrush (played by Will Ferrell) told it.  The Spoils of Babylon is a miniseries, which is presented as if it was an actual miniseries.  It’s a pretty funny idea, and for the most part, the idea was executed pretty well. spoils of babylon 3

The miniseries, which first debuted on IFC, has a surprisingly top-tier cast.  The story features Jonas Morehouse (Tim Robbins), the esteemed patriarch of Morehouse Conglomerated.  His daughter Cynthia (Kristen Wiig) and adopted son Devon (Toby Maguire) are brought up from the oil fields of Texas all the way to the boardroom lifestyle in New York City.  One of the common threads through the series is Cynthia and Devon’s forbidden love for each other.  Their love for each other gets them in to trouble in the funniest ways possible.

The story-line that this series follows is so dumb that it is hilarious.  It is designed to be a satire of the serials that populated American network television in the 1970’s and 80’s.  Each of the six episodes begins and ends with director Eric Jonrush giving his commentary on the “epic” TV event.  These parts were perhaps the most amusing parts of the series.  Will Ferrell did a great job of playing this plump filmmaker who seems to have lost his touch with the world.

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Kirsten Wiig and Toby Maguire both played their respective characters pretty well.  Their character’s love and lust for each other gets them into some pretty strange and bizarre situations.  Throughout the series, Devon finds himself falling in love with other women, much to the dismay of Cynthia.  These conflicts between the women and Cynthia are also well done and quite comical.  (Especially the situation that involves a burning mansion.)  However, Dixie Melonworth (Jessica Alba), Devon’s colleague and lover, is one of the characters that I found pretty unnecessary to the whole story.  Although Jessica Alba did a good job as the ocean-loving scientist, I just feel that her position in the plot just didn’t do much to advance the story.

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The first four episodes in the series were the funniest episodes of the bunch.  A lot of the situations that the characters got themselves into were often laugh-out-loud hilarious and just plain stupid.  The last two episodes, the ones were the most stuff went down story-wise, made me chuckle a lot but nothing was super great overall.

As a satire, the mini series was a home-run hit out of the park.  I thought it captured the feel of the period-TV era of the 1970’s and 80’s.  As a comedy, it is also pretty good too.  Although some of the jokes may not do as much for some, it is a pretty sophisticated piece of comedy that most will admire.  The series was popular enough among its viewers that it even warranted another go-around.  The Spoils Before Dying is set to debut during the summer of 2015.  Expect another dumb “epic” story that will make you smile.

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Review: V by Maroon 5

v album coverMaroon 5 | V (2014)

Pop Rock

Released: August 29th, 2014

Interscope Records


 

It’s hard to believe that after ten years of being together, Maroon 5 have just put out there fifth studio album, properly titled V (pronounced “Five”).  After coming off the major commercial and critical success of Overexposed, the group’s fourth studio effort, it seems like it would be tough to overcome such a popular release.  With their newest album, they decided to replicate the sound and feel of Overexposed.  This approach, in the end, seemed to have produced another memorable experience.

All of the catchy hooks and fresh new sounds that Maroon 5 are known for can be heard all over the album.  It was actually hard to pick out a song that didn’t somehow make it into my head.  “Maps” is the first song on the album and it really gets the party rolling.  The song has a lot of energy and it hearkens back to the days of Songs about Jane, the group’s first commercial album.

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You can also catch a sense of confidence coming from Adam Levine on some of the trucks, most notably “Animals.”  It’s a sex-fueled song that somehow contains a bunch of metaphors relating the hunt for love to the wild.  There are also some edgy songs like “New Love” and “Feelings” that gave me the sense that the band, although ten years old, are starting to mature and find their place in the business.

Adam Levine seems to have the spotlight on him during the entire duration of the album.  It almost made me stop and think about the name “Maroon 5” for a little bit.  It’s hard not to think about the band changing their name to “Maroon 1”, because let’s all be honest, whenever someone mentions Maroon 5, all you can think of is Adam Levine.  I am not that much of a pop-rock fan myself, but I always come back to Maroon 5 because Adam Levine’s voice is probably the most unique sounding voice in music.v adam levine

Most of the songs on the album are pretty good, however, there were some that fell a little short.  “My Heart Is Open”, a duet with Gwen Stefani, and “Sugar” are the two that stuck out to me the most as being underwhelming.  Two songs out of eleven isn’t bad though.  You could honestly play the entire album at your next party.  All of the songs would fit right in to the party atmosphere and they would keep you on the dance floor the whole entire night.

Maroon 5 have slowly begun to display themselves as masters of keeping it fresh.  I have noticed that over the years, they have kept up with the times and they have noticed the trends of the industry.  Overexposed was the best example of their adaptation to the current climate of the industry, and V seems to be another viable example.

Review: Escape from Tomorrow

escape from tomorrow posterEscape from Tomorrow (2013)

Not Rated – 90 Mins.

Director: Randy Moore

Fantasy/Horror


Disney World is the place where nothing bad happens right?  Disney World is the happiest place in the world.  The kingdom for kids and adults alike. An eternal playground for anybody who walks through the gates of the magical place.  Escape from Tomorrow, directed by Randy Moore, seems to contradict everything about Disney World as a whole.  This is what makes the movie so eye-grabbing…but also hard to watch at the same time.

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Escape from Tomorrow gives us a glimpse into the last day of vacation at Disney World for Jim (Roy Abramson) and his family.  In the opening minutes of the movie, we see that Jim gets a phone call from his boss informing him that he has lost his job.  Not wanting to upset his family and ruin the vacation, Jim decides to keep this information from his wife Emily (Elena Schuber) and his kids Sara (Katelynn Rodriguez) and Elliot (Jack Dalton).  From here on, we start to see what dark pit that Jim falls into over the course of the day.

The movie’s tone is quite disturbing.  We see a man dive into a pit of insanity in the world’s friendliest and joyful location.  Can’t you see the contradiction here?  Viewing Disney World through the lens of a black and white camera is also sort of jarring.  A land full of color and happiness seems foreign and different in black and white.  This contradiction drives the movie and makes it hard to stop watching, even though you constantly want to look away.

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As the day goes on, we see Jim become attracted to two teenage French Girls who roam the park.  He also starts to have disturbing visions on different rides.  He is forced to protect and watch his kids, while trying to ward off the suspicions from his wife.  His wife knows that something is wrong with him.  He acts strangely as he goes deeper and deeper into his pit of despair.  Towards the end of the movie, he ends up getting himself into more trouble as his fantasies for the teenage girls becomes harder to resist and his focus on his kids slowly starts to fades.  We see him become more alone.  In a park full of thousands of guests, it seems as if he is totally by himself, fighting his temptations and dark fantasies.

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It was after the intermission that things started to get really weird and really dark…and fast.  The last twenty minutes of the movie is horrifying, as we see a lonely man totally consumed by his insanity.  It was hard to watch, but so enticing and exciting at the same time.

What makes this movie so interesting is the way in which it was shot.  Randy Moore and his crew spent a series of days in the Disney parks filming the whole movie, without Disney’s permission.  As you could imagine, a task like this would be deemed impossible to many, but somehow Moore did it.  He used a guerrilla style of filming, which involved numerous stolen shots and quick takes on the different rides.  The actors would say their lines, do their scene, and then get out of there before anybody would notice what was going on.  Moore even took the effort of editing the movie to South Korea to hid the whole project from Disney and to keep it a secret.  When the movie was first screened, it was amazing that Disney took no action against the film.  Even though they were “aware” of its existence, they decided to ignore it, hoping that the film would die off in publicity.

Jack Dalton

I have to give credit to Moore for carrying out such a task as filming a full feature-length movie in a Disney park without anybody noticing.  Filming the movie in a place like Disney World really helps the movies atmosphere, but it didn’t help the movie’s acting.

Although it’s hard to fault the acting in the movie given the circumstances of their situation, but it really detracted from the experience of the movie.  Roy Abramson did an alright job as Jim, but you could sense the inexperience.  In fact, you could sense the inexperience among all of the actors in the movie.  Not much of these actors have that much credits to their name on other projects, and you can see why if you watch their performances in this one.  No one’s performance was exceptional.  The two french girls (Danielle Safady and Annet Mahendru) were probably the best acting performances.  However, this isn’t that impressive given the lack of lines that they had.  They were basically the muses that teased and attracted Jim deeper into his madness.

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Despite it’s faults and missteps, Escape from Tomorrow tells an interesting tale about a man’s descent into darkness in the most happy place on Earth.  It’s a black comedy of sorts, that’s terrifying at times, and it provides an interesting commentary on Disney as a whole.  The tagline for the movie was “Bad Things Happen Everywhere”.  After watching this movie, it’s hard to look at Disney and Disney World the same again, and I can’t tell if I should be mad at Escape from Tomorrow because of this or not.  Even though it’s not the best movie by far, it’s the concept, not the execution, that made it hard to turn away.

 

 

Review: Papers, Please

Papers Please 1When you think about it, being a border patrol officer must really suck.  Think about the kind of stuff you have to deal with.  You have to deal with stubborn people who want to get in to the country, terrorists, drug smuggling, and a bunch of different policies.  Not to mention you are the one that denies a person of their dreams of starting a new life.

Papers, Please, a game by developer Lucas Pope, puts you in the shoes of Arstotzka’s newest border patrol officer.  You were chosen for this position and now you, and your family, are moved into a class 8 household near the border.  Perhaps you can provide a good life for your family while you start your new job.  You will get paid everyday based on how productive you are at your post and then you can use this money to provide heat, food, medicine, and rent for your family, among other things.

Papers Please 6

You get to your post on the first day and you notice that you have a lot of work ahead of you.  The line seems endless and everybody in that line has a different story, and one goal…to get into the glorious nation of Arstotzka.  The game is simple in premise but quickly gets bogged down in complexity.  Each day, the Ministry of Admission will give you certain objectives and policies that you have to carry out and enforce for the day.  For example, on the first day, you were ordered to not let foreigners into the country.  As the days go on, these policies and rules get more complex, which means there is a lot more stuff that you have to pay attention to.

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The basic gameplay involves you cross checking each persons papers, thus the name of the game.  A person will give you there stuff and then you have to check to make sure that everything is credible and legit.  There are a bunch of people that have forged their papers and it is your job to catch those people and interrogate them.  If there info doesn’t match up, you don’t let them into the country.  When there is a bunch of rules and policies that you have to follow, this can get pretty challenging to do, especially with a time limit for each day.  It is a race against the clock to get as much people through the line for the day as possible.   That is why each time you notice a discrepancy in someone’s papers, it is a pretty satisfying experience.  You can almost consider Papers, Please a puzzle game in concept.

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The game gives you a rule book that has all of the policies, countries, issuing cities, and a ton of other information.  However, with the limited space you are given to work with, it is hard to totally have this book open at all times.  You find yourself memorizing different information to make the task at hand easier.  It also saves you time so you don’t have to open the book every time.

Not everybody is the same though.  You will encounter some people that try to bargain with you and try to sweet talk you into letting them in even though their papers don’t stack up.  That is where the conflict of the story comes into play.  Are you the stone-cold officer that stays true to his policies and rules or are you the kind-hearted and lenient officer?  It’s a question that you will often have to contemplate.  If a person offers you money, will you let them in?  When you have a family at home that could use this money, is it a risk worth taking?

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You also have to deal with terrorists that try to run through the border.  You will have to use your quick thinking to unlock your gun and shoot them down before they cause too much damage on the top screen.  It’s just another thing that you have to pay attention to as the days go on and the work gets harder.

The game has twenty endings, which means that your thirty day campaign probably won’t end the same each time you play.  My campaign ended with my character in jail because I forgot to let in a certain person that was important in Arstotzka.  I was totally guilty though because I totally forgot about that person among the chaos of the people coming into my post.  When a higher-up came in and told me about this person, I quickly forgot about the name he gave me.  This hurt me, and my family, in the end.

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The game looks beautiful, but dreary in a way.  There are no bright colors, just a lot of blacks and grays.  The border doesn’t seem like a happy place, but this choice probably makes sense.  A border checkpoint probably wouldn’t be the brightest spot on the map.  The music plays well into the atmosphere as well.  It has a dark undertone that really adds to the dreariness of the situation.

Papers, Please was a game that I decided to play because of the good things I heard about it.  When it originally came out in 2013, it made a bunch of people’s top ten lists.  The game has an intriguing, and dark, story to tell.  I never wondered what it was like to be a border patrol officer but I think this game did a good job of showcasing the hard job that they have.  It was not easy being on the border patrol, with people’s fates in my hands.  This is not an easy power to  have…and maybe it is too much power.

The Monster that is Aiden Pierce

The story starts with a failed electronic bank heist at the Merlaut Hotel.  Our hackers Aiden Pierce and Damien Brenks are on the job, with Aiden handling the transferring of the funds through his smartphone.  However things go south when the two find out that there is another hacker in the system.  Damien tries to find this hacker, which meanwhile, gives away their position.  Alarmed by the matter, Aiden decides to escape the hotel before anything could get worse.  Unluckily for him, things get much worse than before…

We soon discover that Aiden is a family man.  He is fearful that his family will be put in danger.  So he decides to take his sister Nicole, and her children Lena and Jackson, on a “surprise trip” which is a disguise for their escape of the city.  Things look like they are going smoothly until some hit-men catch up with Aiden.  Maurice Vega, one of these hit-men, has a clear shot and takes out the vehicle causing Aiden and the crew to get into an accident in the tunnels on their way out of the city.  This accident turns out to be tragic for Lena who ends up in a coma, and later passes away.

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This devastates Aiden, as it would any other person.  Aiden has gotten himself into a pretty big mess that ends up catching up to him in the worst way possible, the involvement of his family.  Any normal person would shelf the computer and smartphone and walk away from the hacking game.  Yes, Aiden lost his niece because of what he has done, but he has a clean plate to work with.  He can walk away from it all and start a new life with his family.  A new life free of the misery and hardships that come with his criminal hobby.  Instead, Aiden can’t seem to let go.  The “vigilante” in him comes to the forefront.

This is where we start to see who Aiden really is.  He seems like the kind of guy that cares deeply for his family.  The kind of guy that would do anything in his power to take care of them and to make them feel safe.  So why does he continue to dive deeper in the hole that he has already dug himself?

He decides that it is a better idea to try to find the man responsible for his niece’s death.  He goes on a massive romp through the city, taking out hundreds and hundreds of people along the way.  People who have families.  People who have loved ones that wait for them to come home from a long work day.

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Aiden kills people just like him…all because of his niece?

How does this make sense?  Does he really think that his niece will be at peace with half of Chicago torn up in her uncle’s rage-filled bounty hunt through the city to find her killer.  If anything, Lena would want Aiden to take care of Nicole…to take care of Jackson, a boy who has lost his sister.  Aiden should be consoling the two of them, and through this he could console himself.

Aiden turns out to have different plans and instead of consoling Nicole and Jackson, he ends up driving them away from the city…for good.  They also really see the man that Aiden is.  Aiden, up to this point, has cast a veil over the line of work that he does.  It’s been a secret to his family.  He is a cold-blooded hacker and killer by night and a family man by day.

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There is a pivotal moment later in the story where Aiden has to kill a bunch of people to save Jackson from his captivity by criminals.  This moment reveals the monster inside Aiden in two ways.  First off, he gets his family involved in his line of work.  After seeing his sister die in a car crash, Jackson now has to witness countless murders by the hand of his uncle.  Secondly, we see Aiden contemplate who he really is as he drives Jackson home.  This is the part that gets me the most.  Aiden realizes what he has done, but that is all.  He continues to go on and find the killer.  Once again, he could have stopped what he was doing, and go back where he belongs…with his family.  Instead, he just drags his family deeper into a twisted game of cat and mouse that almost ends up with them dead.

aiden 2I wish that the story of Watch Dogs could have been handled a little better.  Aiden turns out to be a monster, even though I really wanted to be on his side.  By the end, I was frustrated with him, having to see him drive his family to the outer rims of the city.  He has driven away what has meant the most to him.  I’m sure that Lena was happy to see the outcome.  A family in shambles…all because of one man’s ability to not let go…

One man’s love for hacking game….

One man’s monster…