Tag Archives: Fantasy

Review: Beauty and the Beast

batb poster
via Pop Sugar

Beauty and the Beast (2017)

PG / 129 mins.

Family / Fantasy / Musical

Starring: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans

Director: Bill Condon


When the adaptation of the classic Disney animated musical Beauty and the Beast was first announced I was instantly sold.  Not only was Beauty and the Beast released during Disney’s golden era of musicals, but the remake was set to star Emma Watson as Belle, the musical’s lead lady.  When you add in the fact that it was being directed by Bill Condon (of Dreamgirls and Chicago fame), it did not take much more for the remake to become a must-watch for me.  Now that the movie, a tale as old as time, has finally arrived, I can report that the live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast has met my expectations, delivering an experience more magical than the original.

batb 1
via Digital Spy

If you have watched the original, then the remake should have you feeling right at home.  Aside from a few minor changes, the remake walks in lock step with the source material.  The Beast, played by Dan Stevens, is still under a curse that has trapped him in his own castle as a monstrous beast and his friends as a collection of inanimate objects.  He is still in search of someone who will love him before the last petal of his rose withers away.  Belle is still the young woman who, after going to search for her father, finds herself a prisoner in the Beast’s forgotten castle and soon begins to fall in love with the beast himself.  The rest is history.  It is still an endearing tale, only made better by the fact that Belle is not a damsel in distress this time around.  By Emma Watson’s demand, Belle is a more intelligent and capable character.  She is an independent and bookish woman, who will most likely act as an inspiration for a generation of young fans for years to come.

It is obvious that Emma Watson’s performance serves as the seat-filler, but the rest of the performances compliment her well.  Dan Stevens plays a good Beast, who shows both a beastly side as well as a charming side in his performance.  I think both him and Emma worked well together.  Then there are everybody’s favorite talking objects, Lumiere and Cogsworth, played by Ewan McGregor and Ian McKellan respectively.  The two acts as the comic relief throughout the entire movie and share some of the movie’s best moments.  Gaston, the narcissistic and charming antagonist played by Luke Evans, also does a wonderful job with his role.  He is even better than the original in that he starts off as a rather harmless goof and then quickly turns into a terrifying figure blinded by rage in the end.  It is still a fun character arch to watch develop onscreen.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
via Gamespot

Emma Watson not only plays a good Belle, but it also turns out that she has a great voice as well.  Her performances, especially her opening number “Belle,” show off her great musical talent.  There were times where it seemed like her voice was digitally enhanced or modified, but it never felt too egregious.  The rest of the songs are just as great as the original classics.  Some songs have modified lyrics to fit the story while some songs are completely new.  While I don’t know how I feel about the modified lyrics, they never go too overboard with it.  Songs like “Beauty and the Beast” performed by Emma Thompson (who plays Mrs. Potts) and “Be Our Guest” sung by Lumiere and the rest of the castle crew feel livelier this time around and they will surely bring back some nostalgic memories.

The biggest differentiator (if it was not apparent already) is that the remake is live action.  CGI is the name of the game and it is well done in this movie, for the most part.  Lumiere and Cogsworth, as well as the rest of the castle objects, look amazing in CGI.  They are more fluid and move around with ease.  Mrs. Potts might look a bit creepy, though.  (What is even creepier is her Funko Pop figure) Then there is the Beast, who looked a little too rigid.  His movement did not feel natural which was especially evident in scenes like the ballroom dance.  CGI aside, there are some very nice looking shots throughout the movie.  It is a colorful film that is really pleasing to the eye.  There was some great cinematography that brilliantly captured the picturesque beauty of the original.

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via ComicBook.com

While it might not be a popular opinion to most, I think that the adaption easily surmounts the original Beauty and the Beast, despite some of its technical issues regarding the Beast and some pacing issues in its story.  I really enjoyed the original movie, but I do not highly regard it as some do.  In my opinion, the original provides a good backbone while the adaptation takes the story and runs with it, filling it with more energy and magic.  While it might not seem instantly apparent, there are going to be a new generation of kids that look at the live-action version of Beauty and the Beast and they are going to view it as the definitive version.  While this might seem like a bonkers idea, it is not necessarily a terrible thing.

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Review: Unravel

unravel-cover-art
via Wikipedia

Unravel (2016)

PS4 / Rated E

Puzzle / Platformer

Publisher: Electronic Arts

Developer: Coldwood Interactive


When this little indie game from Coldwood Interactive named Unravel was first announced at EA’s 2015 E3 press conference, it immediately caught my attention.  A very nervous Martin Sahlin, the game’s creator, came out on stage and proceeded to introduce us to the game, and its adorable little star, Yarny. (Seen below)  I remember being instantly intrigued with its mechanics and instantly charmed by the games irresistibly cute visual style.  It later went on to release in early 2016, but it seemed to be a game that largely flew under people’s radars…including mine.  After about a year I finally dipped my toes into what Unravel is all about and I was met with a very charming experience with some unique platforming elements that make it standout from some of its peers.

As I mentioned before, the game stars a small red, cat-looking creature named Yarny, who is made entirely of yarn.  Yarny is constantly in awe and wonderment as he explores the objects and environments around him.  The game starts you in a small house that includes pictures of different locations that are important to the homeowner’s life.  Yarny explores these environments and collects memories along the way, slowly telling the emotional and nostalgic stories of the homeowner and their family throughout the years.

It is a very gripping story structure that drives you through the game.  There no cut scenes and a scant amount of characters, but the whole story is told through pictures and mirages in the environments that you explore.  Some of these stories were a little tough to understand, but the game does a fantastic job at capturing the various moments and emotions that families experience, whether it is the happy moments or the sad moments.  It is harrowing at times and will most likely relate to your life in some way.  Unravel, despite its simple concept, has a way of resonating with players, making it a special experience.

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via Coldwood Interactive

The game is made up of twelve different levels spanning environments like forests, mountainous hilltops, and snowy valleys…to name a few.  These levels require you to use Yarny’s body made of yarn to get pasts its various obstacles and dangers.  Yarny can create rope to swing across gaps, make bridges, and maneuver objects.  If that was not enough, Yarny also unravels (insert title card) as you make your way through the level.  If you are overzealous with your yarn usage, you will eventually run out of yarn and Yarny will be stripped down to his basic frame.  To combat this, there are various “checkpoints” in the levels that allow you to re-spool, giving Yarny more yarn to work with.  I did not find myself running out of yarn too much, but it does add another layer of complexity to the levels and their thoughtful design.  In terms of overall difficulty, the game is not too challenging.  There are moments where the game will get you, but death is never really a burden given the generous checkpoint system.  You also can warp back to the latest checkpoint if you find yourself stuck.

One gripe I have with Unravel’s mechanics are the floaty controls that sometimes make tougher platforming sections a little frustrating.  There were some moments in the game were tighter controls would have been more helpful.  There is a trophy (on PS4) that requires you to go through each level without dying and I quickly found myself giving up because the controls were not as up-to-snuff as I would have liked them to be.  There is also the tiny issue of freshness when it comes to the game’s mechanics.  Unravel does a commendable job, for the most part, of giving you new challenges that change things up, but this evolution in gameplay starts to taper off when you get to the later levels.  Due to the game’s simplistic nature, it is tough to constantly give you new ways of using the mechanics at your disposal.

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via Coldwood Interactive

But let us talk about the game’s main attraction: just how darn cute the whole thing is.  There is an enormous amount of detail that went into the game’s visual style from the environments to Yarny himself.  Everything has a tactile feel to it and Yarny looks super realistic.  Coldwood Interactive most likely drew some inspiration from Nintendo’s games like Kirby’s Epic Yarn and Yoshi’s Wooly World.  The game’s score is also well done, meshing perfectly with the game’s heartwarming story of family and nostalgia.

Despite the few issues I had with the game’s mechanics Unravel still manages to invoke tons of feeling, something you do not see too much from puzzle-platformers.  The game’s eye-popping adorability is what pulls you in but it is the gripping and emotional story that convinces you to stay.  It is a relatively short, but powerful, experience that manages to do some cool things with its yarn-based mechanics.  Unravel is worth your time.  It is worth it alone just to see Yarny’s curiosity of the world around him.

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Review: Doctor Strange

doctor-strange-poster
via Nerdy Rotten Scoundrel

Doctor Strange (2016)

PG-13 / 115 mins

Action / Adventure / Fantasy

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams

Director: Scott Derrickson


I am pretty much at the point where I will go to see any Marvel movie when it comes to theaters.  I have reached a level of confidence with these movies, knowing full well that I am going to enjoy the product that is presented to me on screen.  Maybe I am going to get burned one of these days, but that has not stopped me yet.  Doctor Strange was one of the few Marvel movies that I was not totally hyped for.  I have no affinity or familiarity with the character, so I had absolutely no clue what I was getting myself into in terms of the story it was going to tell and the characters it was going to present.  These preconceptions quickly fell to the wayside as Doctor Strange turned out to be one of my favorite movies of the year.

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via Wallpapers Insider

There was a brand of complexity to this movie that made it enticing and engaging from the start.  We are quickly thrown into a world were reality is promptly turned on its head as sorcerers manipulate the world around them in alternate dimensions.  Based on the trailers that I saw before going into the movie, I knew that this movie was going to be complex and abnormal.  It only took a couple of minutes before what looked like London was being manipulated as if it were a kaleidoscope.

But let us get this out of the way right off the bat: Benedict Cumberbatch makes a great Doctor Strange.  Going into the movie I was unfamiliar with the superhero, his origins, and his personality.  After some conversations with some people, I was told that he is intelligent, egotistical, and kind of a wise-ass.  I quickly made connections, relating him to Tony Stark, who happens to be one of my favorite characters in the Marvel universe.  After seeing Cumberbatch deliver a role that matched these traits down to a T, I quickly realized that I was going to enjoy this character.  He sells the role perfectly which makes him instantly likable, or not likable if you are not a fan of wise-cracking know-it-alls.

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Although the movie is structured around him, his supporting cast is great as well, especially when you look at the names that adorn the cast list.  Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Mordo, a master sorcerer who finds Doctor Strange, a broken (both physically and emotionally) neurosurgeon on a quest for healing, and takes him to a secret place where he learns about things like mysticism and alternate dimensions.  There’s also his love interest Christine, a fellow surgeon who’s played by Rachel McAdams.  Although her role in the movie is semi-small, she still does a great job with it.  Tilda Swinton plays the role of the Ancient One, a mysterious sorcerer who’s essentially the teacher, bringing Strange under her wing.  Finally, Mads Mikkelsen (of Hannibal fame) plays Kaecilius, the movie’s primary villain.  He has the looks of a fallen sorcerer turned evil, but he was the one character that had me wanting more.  There’s not much to his character, which was unfortunate.

The story involves Doctor Strange looking for healing after suffering from a bad motor accident that heavily damaged his nerves in his hands…his tools on the surgeon’s table…his claim to fame.  His ego drives him to find curing, but he is essentially put in his place by the Ancient One who opens his mind to the world of mysticism and sorcery…a world Strange never knew existed.  He then takes on the path of knowledge as he quickly learns about the world of sorcery.  In his studies, he starts to learn about darker magic and begins to uncover some darker secrets that spell trouble for the Marvel cinematic universe.

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via Just Jared

In my opinion, it is the movie’s visuals and cinematography that really make Doctor Strange shine.  Like I mentioned before, the world is constantly being manipulated by the sorcerers in the mirror dimension (a dimension that “mirrors” the real world but the actions that take place in it have no effect on the actual real world), giving the movie an Inception-esque appearance.  There were multiple times throughout the movie where I was like, “huh, this would make for a really bomb-ass wallpaper!”  There are some other scenes, like the surgery scene in which Strange’s astral body (I’m not going to explain that) is directing Christine who’s operating on Strange’s physical body.  There’s some cool cinematography going on in some of these scenes that really make this movie a visual delight.

After going into Doctor Strange with absolutely zero expectations, I can officially say that I am sold on Doctor Strange as a character and I am excited to see his role in the larger Marvel cinematic universe.  The movie’s cast is nothing to scoff at and the movie delivers some of the best visual effects that I have seen in a long time.  Even if you have no familiarity with the characters, like I did, Doctor Strange is still worth checking out.

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Review: The Mummy

mummy poster
via Pintrest

The Mummy (1999)

PG-13 / 125 min

Action / Adventure / Fantasy

Starring: Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah

Director: Stephen Sommers


I love myself a classic 90’s adventure movie, especially ones that involve a hunt for an ancient foretold treasure.  These kinds of movies have the potential to be cheesy as hell, but that’s what makes them so special.  The Mummy, director Stephen Sommers’ Egypt-based creature feature, scratches that itch for me.  The film has a reverence for Stephen Spielberg’s Indiana Jones franchise while providing a new adventure, one that involves an ancient mummy that comes back to the land of the living.  The movie is nowhere near perfect; it’s predictable and splattered with cheese, but that doesn’t mean it was a bad time.

the mummy 1
via Fan Pop

After an evil high priest, who goes by the name Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo), is mummified alive thousands of years ago, a team of archeologists has the bright idea of messing around in his lair in hopes of finding the City of Gold, inevitably resurrecting the cursed mummy, which in turn set’s the mummy’s wrath free.  It’s then up to a rag-tag adventurer, an Egyptologist, and her very smart brother to put a stop to Imhotep’s evil fury on the city of Cairo.

Adventurer Rick O’Connell, played by Brendan Fraser, can essentially be described as Indiana Jones’ brother from another mother.  He’s charismatic and hungry for a good adventure, especially one that involves a good haul.  The Egyptologist Evelyn Carnahan is played by Rachel Weisz.  Despite what some of the other characters think, she is tremendously capable, although extremely clumsy at times.  The movie begins with her character bringing down an entire library of bookshelves, so you know that kind of character you’re getting with Evelyn.  Her brother Jonathan (John Hannah) reminded me a lot of Simon Pegg, not because of his looks but because of the type of supporting role he played.  He’s got the book smarts, but his common sense comes into question a lot over the course of the movie.  He’s the comic relief of the movie, even though the presence of another early character made me think otherwise.

the mummy 2
via Radiator Heaven

B-movie cheese can be found all over this movie.  Some of the acting performances, from both the main cast as well as the supporting cast, seemed phoned in at times.  Whether it was over expression or selling the emotions a little too hard, it could be found everywhere.  Arnold Vosloo might be the biggest culprit here.  His Imhotep was prone to frequent bouts of over-acting.  The Mummy is also pretty predictable.  It doesn’t take a genius to realize that the movie falls into the same mold as Indiana Jones and other movies of similar ilk.  We get the backstory to the treasure and then the adventure begins.  There’s another team of explorers who have the same mission as O’Connell and his gang, which then leads to a competition as to who can find the ancient treasure first.  The mummy, and his horrible curses, are found and then the different adventurers start to be picked off one by one.  It’s stuff we have seen before, especially if you have seen any treasure-hunting adventure movie.

Okay, so what?  The movie is flawed, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy my experience with the movie.  In fact, I enjoyed the movie quite a bit despite some of its imperfections that would plague most movies.  What makes The Mummy different is that it leans all the way into its cheesiness.  It has a certain level of self-awareness that allows you to laugh with the movie, not at it.  There’s a scene late in the movie where O’Connell literally breaks down the entire back half of the plot to another character, straight up.  Save the damsel, defeat the bad guy, and save the world.  This kind of predictability would be looked down upon in most movies but The Mummy realizes what kind of film it is and runs with it the entire way.  I realized that this movie, on paper and script, isn’t art but I still found myself with a smile on my face the whole time.

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via Theiapolis Media

This is a movie you shouldn’t take too seriously.  The minute you start measuring its merit is the minute you stop having fun.  The Mummy might not rival Indiana Jones, a set of movies it so desperately wants to be, but it’s fun enough that it doesn’t matter.  If you’re a big fan of Indiana Jones or other movies like National Treasure, then this will most likely be your cup of tea.

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Review: The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

ethan carter coverThe Vanishing of Ethan Carter (2014)

PS4 / Rated M

Adventure

Publisher: The Astronauts, Nordic Games, EuroVideo Medien GmbH

Developer: The Astronauts


Never have I felt more alone while playing a video game than I have in The Vanishing of Ethan Carter.  The game literally throws you straight into the world with no guidance or hand-holding.  I’m serious, the game straight up tells you that from the very beginning.  There was a lush landscape in front of me that was just calling my name.  The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is game chock full of discovery, beauty, mystery, and sometimes horrifying imagery.  There’s some weird things going on and it’s your job to investigate.

ethan carter 1
via Push Square

Players assumes the role of a nameless detective who’s tasked with finding a missing boy.  As a detective, you have the power to rip holes in reality, giving you visuals of horrible crimes that have taken place within the game’s world.  It’s necessary to go around and put these visuals together to solve the mystery of the missing child.  A lot of this legwork involves stumbling upon a rift in reality in the environment and then proceeding to investigate the rift.  A lot of these investigations involve piecing together the events of crimes and forming a clear picture of what took place.

The game sets a tone of loneliness as there is no one to be found as you roam around the gorgeously lush world.  The sense of discovery that the game provides is immense.  The game doesn’t tell you where to go…leaving the exploration to the player.  There’s forests, lakes, cottages, and caves that you will end up exploring.  Each of these environments are beautiful and look wonderful on the PS4.  I haven’t seen the PC version but I can only imagine that the visuals are heightened on the platform.  Sometimes it’s a little tough to figure out where you need to go next, but you’ll most likely stumble upon the places you need to go without having to worry about it.

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via New Game Network

The amount of interaction you have with the world is limited, but the game does a good job at enticing you to move forward.  Most of the gameplay involves pressing a button to open up a visual of a previous crime or walking around and piecing together different events of a crime. There’s also some lite puzzle solving, but nothing that will drive you crazy. That’s about it.  There’s not much to be found in terms of gameplay, but the exploration more than makes up for the lack of interaction that you have with the world.  There was a multitude of times where I just wandered away from my objective and just took in the sights and sounds.  There were many vistas and landscapes that seemed screenshot worthy.  In fact, 98% of the game is screenshot worthy.  98% is an arbitrary number…there’s no science behind it.

Remember the game Everybody Has Gone to the Rapture?  Yeah, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is basically that game but better in almost every way.  (Graphics wise, the two are comparable) In both games you are walking around the environment piecing together the events that took place prior.  There’s a sense of mystery and intrigue in both games, but TVOEC captured my interest way more than EHGTTR.  The story in TVOEC is a lot more interesting and gave me more incentive to explore and dig deeper.

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via New Game Network

I feel like The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a game that passed everybody by.  It didn’t make a big splash when it was first released and the talk surrounding the game waned as weeks went on.  Hell, I even passed up the game when it first came out.  I remember looking at it and having interest in playing it, but I never went back to it.  I am glad I finally visited this short and unique experience.  Its full of interesting ideas and intrigue-driven exploration.  The game also looks fantastic, probably one of the prettiest I have seen in years.  It’s an extremely immersive experience that is worth sinking some time in.

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Also available on PC.

Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

dawn of justice poster
via The Reel Word

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

PG-13 / 151 min

Action / Adventure / Fantasy

Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams

Director: Zack Snyder


Batman v Superman is the worst movie you will see this year…maybe even ever.  The movie will make you hate Batman.  It will make you hate Superman.  It will make you hate Wonder Woman.  It will make you hate the Justice League and everything they stand for.  Oh, and how about that Lex Luthor guy?  Lex Luthor?  More like Lex Goober, am I right?  How did director Zack Snyder let this piece of garbage see the light of day?  It spits in the face of comic fans.  The movie will make you lose faith in comics.  In fact, you might as well take all the comics you own and take them outside and thrown them in your front lawn.  Once you do that, light up a match and throw them on the pile of comics you just threw outside.  Watching your prized collection of comics burn in the Spring sun will probably be more entertaining than Batman v Superman.

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via Uproxx

If you have been paying attention to the preemptive reviews for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the above paragraph is a summation of what you will find.  Alright, maybe I’m being a little too harsh but I’m not that far off.  The movie is getting slaughtered by critics.  Currently the movie is sitting pretty at an overripe 30% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes.  That isn’t good by any stretch of the imagination.  However, the fan score is a little more generous, sitting at 74% last time I checked.  In summary, the reviews are mixed.  It’s a polarizing movie that suffers from an overhyped promotion and release.  Dawn of Justice is inherently a fun movie to watch.  Who doesn’t want to see DC Comics’ best go at each other?  However, the movie has some drawbacks related to the story as well as the existence of its spoiler-heavy trailers.

Dawn of Justice, directed by Zack Snyder (who doesn’t really have a spotless track record when it comes to these types of movies), acts primarily as a story about Batman and Superman and their quests to take down LexCorp’s Lex Luthor.  Secondly, it serves as the springboard for future Justice League movies, introducing us to some of the superheroes that we are going to see.  I would have rather had a movie that just focused on its main objective, but instead it gets a little muddied with the Justice League stuff.  Lack of focus is a common theme as we get a wide collection of different ideas that Snyder just doesn’t seem to execute on.

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The question of whether the world needs a man like Superman, played by Henry Cavill, is brought up as one of the movie’s major themes.  The destruction that he leaves in his “heroic” wake is a concern for Batman, played by Ben Affleck, as well as Gotham and National city.  This idea has some weight behind it.  It’s an idea that could make for a strong movie if handled right.  Unfortunately, the last thirty-forty minutes of the movie, filled with fighting and destruction, kind of negates what Snyder was trying to set up.  This is just an example of the kinds of holes you will find scattered throughout Snyder’s over ambitious plot.  Snyder tries to cram too much stuff into one movie in hopes of creating some megalithic epic.  Instead we get an overcrowded and incoherent plot that left me exhausted instead of exhilarated.

The characterizations of Henry Cavill’s Superman/Clark Kent and Ben Affleck’s Batman/Bruce Wayne are where the movie exceeds.  The two do a great job at playing their respective heroes.  I didn’t know if I was on board with Ben Affleck’s casting at first, but he has grown on me as time has gone on.  Lois Lane, Clark Kent’s coworker/girlfriend at the Daily Planet, played by Amy Adams, does a pretty good job as well.  Unlike past depictions of the character, she is more than just a damsel in distress this time around.  Although she has her moments where she’s in need of the man in the cape, she is her own character that does her own things.  Her relationship with Clark Kent is a little more fleshed out which was nice to see.  She also does her own sleuthing during the middle part of the movie.  This whole aspect of the story seemed unnecessary but at least it made her feel like an integral part of the story.  Finally, Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman was very promising.  We don’t see her too much in the movie, but some of the movie’s best moments are when she’s on screen.  It gets me excited for her solo movie if nothing else.

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via HitFix

A character I did not like at all, and one of the most common criticisms of the movie, is Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor.  Putting it simply, he just didn’t work for me.  I’m not your biggest DC fan on the block, but I always pictured Lex Luthor to be a more serious and menacing figure.  Jesse Eisenberg captures Luthor’s intelligence, but almost nothing else.  He’s a little too off-the-walls crazy and goofy as if he was trying to mimic the Riddler or the Joker.  Any time Lex popped up in the movie I just couldn’t take him seriously whatsoever, which usually points to a weak villain.  The villain isn’t supposed to be the source of comic relief, at least in my eyes.

Perhaps the most unfortunate thing of all is the presence of Dawn of Justice’s trailers prior to the movie’s release.  The trailers just straight up gave away too about what was in store for the movie.  We saw Wonder Woman and Doomsday in the trailers, a publicity move that just doesn’t pay off.  The two were shown in the trailers to get people to flock to the theater, but the two characters would have benefited the movie a lot more if they were big surprise reveals.  Doomsday, the movie’s final villain (it’s not really a spoiler that I say that because hey, it was all in trailer), did not leave a big impression on me.  I can thank the trailers for that.  His presence in the trailers can also lead you to more conclusions about the movie, which I am not going to reveal because they would be spoilers.  However, if you go into the movie with these conclusions drawn up in your head, then prepare for the movie’s final scene to fall a little flat as well.

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Cinematography is where Dawn of Justice excels.  Snyder might not know what he is doing when it comes to the movie’s story and ideas, but the movie is a visual treat.  The fight scenes are beefy and well-shot.  They’re a little slower when compared to the Marvel movies, but they are still fun to watch.  The final fight scene, which spans the movie’s final forty minutes, is a big piece of eye candy.  There are times when it becomes a garbled mess of action, but watching Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman fight Doomsday was thrilling and exciting to watch.

As far as Summer blockbusters go, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice might disappoint some people.  In a post Nolan Batman trilogy world, we expect a lot more from superhero movies these days.  When compared to the Nolan Trilogy, Dawn of Justice doesn’t have a prayer.  The movie is a dumb fun superhero popcorn movie that has some issues that will polarize fans.  I personally enjoyed myself, but it’s not a movie that I will be itching to go see again.  Dawn of Justice is a movie that tries to do too much.  It’s a movie that crumbles under the weight of expectation, but it doesn’t break.

dawn of justice score

Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

the force awakens poster
via iDigital Times

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

PG13 / 135 mins

Action / Adventure / Fantasy

Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac

Director: J.J. Abrams


Duuuuuuuuh-duuuh-duh-duh-duh-duuuuuuuuh-duuh-duh-duh-duh-duhhhh…. (Just imagine the rest of this review like it’s the iconic Star Wars intro title crawl with the iconic music in the background for added effect)

The Star Wars prequels left a bad taste in the mouths of fanboys across the world.  Episodes I, II, and III had their moments but they were largely underwhelming and incomparable to the original masterpieces of IV, V, and VI.  Making matters worse, it’s been ten years since Episode III came out, meaning the bad taste has just lingered and festered for years.  Fans started to become anxious for the next installment in the storied franchise, just something to cleanse their palette.  Enter Disney.  Famed Star Wars director George Lucas sold his baby to the entertainment juggernaut that is Walt Disney and soon to follow this news was the announcement that a new trilogy would soon be making its way to the big screen.

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via Vanity

Star Wars: The Force Awakens slowly became one of the year’s most anticipated movies.  Directed by J.J. Abrams, the movie would continue the story of famed movie heroes like Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia, along with some newer characters joining the fray.  It is made clear that The Force Awakens is on a mission to set the series back on the right track of what made the classics great.  Now we have something else to talk about instead of the prequels sucking so much.  I don’t know if you’ve heard, but The Force Awakens has been selling gangbusters and breaking records left and right.  It has become one of year’s biggest movies.  J.J. Abrams has successfully accomplished his mission and has made a Star Wars movie to rival the classics.

The Force Awakens takes place thirty years after the events of Return of the Jedi.  A lot has happened since then.  The First Order, led by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver of Girls fame), is the omnipotent evil that spans the galaxy.  The Jedi are just a myth of the past.  The characters from the previous films are all doing their own thing now.  Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) is still the general of The Resistance, Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) are still the rebel bounty hunters that we came to love, and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) is missing, which is the main crux of the movie’s story.

the force awakens 2
via Daily Actor

Within the first couple of scenes we are also introduced to the new faces that will drive the new trilogy for the years to come; Daisy Ridley and John Boyega.  These two are the new fresh faces that this series needs.  Daisy Ridley plays Rey, a scrapper from Jakku who is under the impression that one day her long lost family will come back to find her.  John Boyega, on the other hand, plays Finn, a Stormtrooper who wants to change his ways.  The two character’s paths meet up in a play of destiny and they are set on a mission after finding the cute little droid BB-8 that has part of the map that will lead the Resistance to Luke Skywalker.

the force awakens 3
via comicbook.com

John Boyega’s Finn was probably one of my favorite new characters from the movie.  His humor is a refreshing change of pace for the movie and he has an energy that is undeniable.  Daisy Ridley is amazing as well.  I believe that both of them will have what it takes to carry the monolith that is Star Wars into the future.  This movie was their proving ground and they took the baton from the established cast and are ready to move on into the future.  I also want to mention that Adam Driver did a fantastic job as Kylo Ren.  His character was perhaps the most intriguing of the bunch.  Ren is a unhinged and emotional apprentice to the Dark Side that is afraid that he will never live up to Darth Vader.  Driver captured this character’s unstable nature amazingly and I really look forward to perhaps taking a deeper dive into the shroud that this character withholds.

the force awakens 4
via Flickering Myth

The nostalgia factor is out the roof the second the notorious title crawl starts scrolling up the big screen.  Everything from the sights to the sounds bring back pangs of nostalgia and reverence to the original trilogy.  The use of practical effects in The Force Awakens alone is super cool in that it adds to the old school mantra that this movie upholds.  It really made the movie feel like the original trilogy.  In fact, this movie was super similar to A New Hope, maybe a little to its detriment.  Everything from the locations to the story seem to fit right in line with A New Hope, almost like it was trying to play it a little safe, using the already established classic as a crutch to carry it forward.  This doesn’t mean too much right now, but if the next movie starts to fall in line with The Empire Strikes Back, then maybe we should start to feel alarmed.

There’s also the convenience factor that started to make me question a lot of the things that happened in the movie.  I fear that if I started to go deeper into what I mean by this, spoilers would start to arise so I am going to stay out of the mud for now.  If you see the movie, you’ll know exactly what I mean.  Things line up in ways that seem impossible and characters run into other characters at opportune times that make you shake your head a bit.  Don’t get me wrong, this is a problem that a lot of movies have, but that doesn’t make it excusable.  Similar to my point about The Force Awakens being too similar to A New Hope, this isn’t a big problem in the movie, but you can add it to my list of small gripes that I have with it.

the force awakens 5
via comicbook.com

It’s been a while since a movie instilled a feeling of pure childish giddiness in me but The Force Awakens really did that for me.  The feeling of going to see a new Star Wars movie in theaters again was just a delight in itself.  Luckily the movie was pretty fantastic to go along with these nostalgic feelings.  The movie took its time and established the new characters and paid homage to the old in ways that seem to set up the future movies pretty well.  (I should also mention that the movie’s last shot was pretty amazing, setting up the cliffhanger that will be picked up in Episode 8) Whenever J.J. Abrams had his hesitations with signing on to the iconic series, I understood why he would have these feelings.  He can rest easy now because he accomplished a lot of great things with The Force Awakens.  This is the Star Wars movie you have been looking for.

the force awakens score

Review: Costume Quest 2

via True Achievements
via True Achievements

Costume Quest 2 (2014)

PS4 / E10+

RPG

Publisher: Majesco Entertainment, Midnight City

Developer: Double Fine Entertainment, Midnight City


I guess it only makes sense that Halloween, every kid’s favorite holiday, would be taken away by a slightly deranged and selfish dentist.  He was never able to enjoy the fun that came along with Halloween, so no one will.  This is the basic idea surrounding Double Fine’s follow up to Costume Quest, Costume Quest 2.

via Game Side Story
via Game Side Story

A new dystopia has been created by dentist overlord Orel White, and the responsibility of saving the beloved holiday is thrust upon two kids, Reynold and Wren, who are returning from the original game.  With some help from some friends, the two have to travel back and forth through time in order to put a stop to Dr. Orel’s squeaky clean and candy-free dystopia.  Who would want such a thing?

Double Fine, along with Midnight City, have crafted another simple RPG, much like their original outing with Costume Quest.  You control Reynold and Wren, along with others, and dress them up in different costumes that give them special powers in combat.  There is a nice variety of costumes this time around and their move sets, along with their names, pay some homage to different elements of pop culture.  Combat is pretty similar to the first game, employing a turn-based model.  There are regular attacks that you can use, along with specials and Creepy Cards, which allow the player to use a plethora of different special effects.  When attacking, you can press the button at just the right time to score a more powerful attack.  The same goes for defense, allowing you to perform a more effective block.  As you get deeper into the game, you learn a couple more combat abilities, but things are relatively simple, which is appealing for anybody who is new to the genre.

via Polygon
via Polygon

Clever writing and genuinely funny humor is where the game shines.  The interactions between the different characters make for some pretty funny moments.  The game has a cutesy look and feel around it, but the game manages to be funny no matter who you are.  The game’s flavor text also contains some hidden comedic gems.  More specifically, the Candy Corn costume (which is pretty much useless in battle) has a ton of flavor text surrounding it that is really witty and amusing.  The dialog is all handled through text blocks, which kept me wishing that there was some form of voice acting in the game.  The game could benefit from some good voice acting if it was handled properly.  With Double Fine’s success with their Kickstarter game Broken Age, I have confidence that they would be able to find the right voice acting for a game like this.

All in all, the presentation is pretty on point.  The game maintains the same look and feel as the previous game, throwing in cartoony visuals with a mix of comic book style cut scenes, especially during the character’s special attacks.  The game runs into a couple of hiccups in terms of performance here and there, but the game looks just fine for what it is trying to do.  Everything looks a notch over the top which makes for some of the humor as well.

via Overclockers
via Overclockers

Costume Quest 2, just like its predecessor, is a short game in terms of length.  However, it managed to keep me pretty entertained all the way through.  You spend an equal time in the past as well as the future.  There is a total of twenty eight quests, both main and extra, to occupy the player’s time with the game.  Although a good bit of them are different and original, there are some quests that start to get a little boring after the third iteration.  I’m mainly looking at the hide-and-seek quests and the trick-or-treating quests which require the player to go door to door in the game’s neighborhoods asking for candy.  They were fun the first time through, but they started to get a little old and rotten after a while.

The general package that Costume Quest 2 provides is sweet and delightful, just like the candy that this game is all about.  The game’s mechanics are super easy to pick-up, with no strings attached, making it quick to get into.  The story is pretty funny and the interactions between the characters are comical and clever.  2015 has a ton of great games still in the pipeline, leaving the amount of free time to play new games relatively low.  If you haven’t already, Costume Quest 2 is a great little game that you should try out in between the big releases still to come.

costume quest 2 score

Review: I, Frankenstein

via These Fantastic Worlds
via These Fantastic Worlds

I, Frankenstein (2014)

PG13 / 92 min

Action / Fantasy / Sci-Fi

Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Bill Nighy, Miranda Otto

Director: Stuart Beattie


Some movies make me wonder about the design and production that went in to them.  I, Frankenstein, by director Stuart Beattie is one of them.  The idea and concepts behind the movie are inherently interesting, but there were probably a lot of design decisions that were made that made the movie lackluster in appeal.  I, Frankenstein, based off the graphic novel by Kevin Grevioux, is not a good movie, far from it.

Frankenstein’s monster is the centerpiece of this action-packed fantasy.  Aaron Eckhart plays Adam Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein’s creation.  He’s in possession of Victor’s journal that chronicles the creation process that went into Adam.  It’s invaluable to the demons of the world, led by the evil Naberius (Bill Nighy).  Naberius is after the journal, and he sends forth an attack on Frankenstein, who is saved by the Gargoyle Society.

via The Star
via The Star

Now, the Gargoyle Society is led by her majesty Leonore (Miranda Otto), who has her trusted warrior Gideon (Jai Courtney) by her side at all times.  They want to destroy the journal, or at least stop it from getting into the wrong hands.  Demons and Frankenstein have been done in movies before, but gargoyles haven’t.  There were numerous times during the movie where I wanted to just watch a movie about the Gargoyle Society, because all the other stuff was just a bore.

About halfway through the movie, the journal ends up switching hands a couple of times.  Naberius and his underlings end up getting ahold of the journal, only to have Frankenstein take it back again.  One of Naberius’ trusted scientists, Terra (Yvonne Strahovski), is the one person that can bring Frankenstein back to Naberius, because Frankenstein will most likely have questions about the journal, which only Terra can understand.

i frankenstein 2
via Ace Showbiz

The story is dull and often unimaginative, leaving a pretty drab movie in its wake.  It’s funny that the movie talks a lot about “souls” and the “souls of the dead”, because this is what the movie lacks; soul. Aaron Eckhart plays a good Frankenstein, and Bill Nighy does his best with what he is given, but the rest of the characters just seem lifeless.  There were some moments where the movie tried to portray emotion, but when you don’t care about the characters, the emotion just wasn’t there.

The relationship that starts to stir up between Terra and Frankenstein had the potential to be one of the highlights of the movie, but it just ended up turning into a cliché action romance.  The two meet on hurried terms, then the man goes after the woman who helps save him in the end.  The two end up happily together by the end.  It was often predictable and due to the lack of emotion, the relationship really wasn’t that exciting.

via Out Now
via Out Now

If you like a plethora of CGI, then this is the movie for you.  You can tell where most of the movie’s budget went, given the fact that a majority of the movie is just a visual CGI onslaught of flames, explosions, destruction, monsters, and more.  The scenes of war were pretty hard to follow when there was a ton of stuff happening before my eyes.  In short, it looked nice, but I would rather have less in this department.  A little more focus on the story would have been preferred.

However, that probably wasn’t the goal of the movie.  It’s a fantasy action fest with more onscreen eye candy then you could point a finger at.  I, Frankenstein might be interesting in concept, but it really didn’t deliver a product that’s worth anybody’s time.  During one of the later scenes, Leonore says to Frankenstein that “he found his purpose.”  I have to disagree with this statement because that is the thing that this movie lacks. Purpose is nowhere to be found with this one.  It sure does look nice though…

i frankenstein score

Review: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

hansel & gretel posterHansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013)

R / 88 min.

Action / Fantasy / Horror

Starring: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Peter Stormare

Director: Tommy Wirkola


It’s hard to find someone who hasn’t heard or seen the classic story of Hansel & Gretel by the Brothers Grimm.  It’s the tale of two children, Hansel & Gretel, who wander off deep into the forest and stumble upon a cottage built entirely of candy and other sweets.  They decide to go in and start eating whatever they could see.  Then the witch appears, the witch that successfully lured the children into her abode.  She captures the two, but in the end, they escape and defeat the witch by outwitting her.

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is basically the same story, but at the same time very different.  The 2013 film, directed by Tommy Wirkola, is a grittier, darker reboot of the story that follows Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) on their Witch Hunting escapades.  But how do they become Witch Hunters?

hansel & gretel 4

Well, the first couple of scenes in the movie are familiar to most.  Hansel and Gretel find the candy cottage in the woods, get captured, and defeat the witch, just as the story goes.  However, the story doesn’t stop there.  Because of these events, they decide to hunt witches for a living, to rescue the children that they capture and abuse.  It’s a twisted spin on the familiar tale that we knew as kids.  Does the reboot provide an interesting story though?  Unfortunately the answer is a no.

The story, most of the time, is predictable.  Hansel and Gretel are now famous witch hunters that are summoned to a small village by the mayor  to investigate the disappearance of eleven children.  After some investigation, it turns out that the two witch hunters are up against the powerful dark witch Muriel (Famke Janssen).  The two aren’t alone though because along the way, they enlist the help of Mina (Pihla Viitala), a women they rescued who was being accused of witchery, and Jackson (Bjorn Sundquist), a wannabe witch hunter.

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Half of the time it was easy to see where the story was going.  There are some strategically placed flashbacks in the beginning of the movie that pretty much reveal what the story is going to evolve into.  As disappointing as this is, the story didn’t seem to be the main focus of the movie.  Perhaps attention was placed elsewhere, like the ridiculous action that takes place in between.

The movie is an all-out blood and guts fest with the f-bomb sprinkled over it for good measure.  The action sequences are borderline unbelievable and absolutely insane.  People get crushed, blown-up, split into a million pieces, hit by trees, and basically everything else you can imagine.  Hansel and Gretel are ruthless hunters, who seem to have matured a ton from the characters that most of us are familiar with.  These two aren’t innocent children anymore.

hansel & gretel 3

In fact, there is nothing innocent about this movie.  It’s a dark story, with a lot of dark action that takes place.  The child abuse and the elements of rape that are introduced in the story might put a lot of people off.  The witches are pretty brutal as well.  However, the make-up department did a great job at making all of the witches awful to look at.  They’re disgusting to say the least.

Hansel & Gretel: The Witch Hunters is a laughably ridiculous and dumb movie.  It’s far from being good but it manages to keep you the slightest bit entertained by its crazy and relentless action.  It’s a story that you just kinda have to go with in order to enjoy.  But honestly, don’t see this movie is you  are interested in a thoughtful story twist on the original fairy tale of Hansel & Gretel.  All your getting is a movie about killing witches in the craziest ways possible.

hansel & gretel 2