Thursday, March 30, 2017

Ghost in the Shell [2017] review

In the world of RT, I'd give it 70%. Visually it's very stunning and I thought the CG looked really good blended into the world it was presenting. The story was also good. It's not super complicated but it is your typical "who really is the bad guy" plotline. There were shades of gray so it wasn't completely cookie-cutter. I did find the characters interesting and wouldn't mind seeing more of them if they decided to do a spin off or sequel. I'm not a huge Scarlett Johansson fan but she did an OK job. I've seen bits and pieces of the Japanese anime that it is based on but not enough to spoil this experience so I went in pretty fresh.

This isn't a must see and normally I would recommend to just wait for this on Blu-ray, but the visuals in IMAX 3-D were really good and they did not disappoint.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Beauty and the Beast [2017] review

In a word, it was okay.  I think it had a lot of problems.

The director/writers had the ability to show and not tell us in the live action adaption of what happened with the witch and the prince in the beginning, but instead we were given voice over again. Why not let the actors speak the lines?

Emma Watson can sing and did a great job, but the standout was the Beast. I wanted to see more of him and it felt like he was in the movie the least.

I appreciated the movie fixing the cursed for "10" years to "many" years, and the brainwashing of the townspeople concerning the castle and the prince made sense. I don't know how much time Belle and the Beast spent together while the events of the real world were happening, but it can be easily explained that it was "magic" or "sorcery".

Gaston was good acting wise. He was believable and his actions in "helping" Maurice made sense compared to his actions in the cartoon. I guess I expected more power from his singing voice so I was a little let down there.

LeFou was also ok and funny for the most part. I liked him spreading money around the bar to get them to sing with him about Gaston. I wish I hadn't heard that his character was gay as I would have liked to experience that organically. It's a shame that when the media got a hold of the information that it blew up the way it did.

Maurice was pretty well done. I appreciated the backstory even though I didn't think it was really needed. He was a lot better than his idiot cartoon counterpart.

I was pretty disappointed, overall, concerning the enchanted objects. The attention to detail to make them look realistic and the animation were spot on, I just think the chemistry wasn't there like it was in the cartoon version. The candle cared more about the feather duster than the clock and one of the appealing aspects of the cartoon version is Cogsworth and Lumiere's friendship which seemed pretty non existent. In the end, I cared more about the coat rack than any of the ones that could talk.

Moana [2016] review

- the story: I enjoyed it and I didn't think it dragged at all. I was "hooked" pretty quickly.  I appreciated the South Pacific culture and my appreciation only grew after watching the bonus features. With the character of Maui, I thought it would be more of the story of Hawaii and/or how it was related to Hawaii, but realized it was much bigger than that.

- the music: While I thought the music was culturally appropriate and fitting, none really stuck to me after viewing like other Disney musicals.

- the voice work: My fear was that the Rock was going to be too much Rock (if that makes sense), which he was at first, but thankfully he disappeared into his role as Maui. I wanted Maui the character to stand on his own regardless of who was voicing him and the movie succeeded in doing that. Props to the director.

- overall: This movie didn't blow me away like Frozen first did, but I remember it fondly as I type this review and wouldn't mind watching it again. I know as a kid I would watch the heck out of the Disney movies and the songs would just stick over time.  I think the same would be true with this one after multiple viewings. It's a very fine addition to the Disney animated musical pantheon.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild [no spoilers] review

My first experience with the Legend of Zelda franchise was the third installment “A Link to the Past”.  It was a fantastic game, and I instantly fell in love with it.   I played it many times over, explored every part of the map, and bomb every crack I could find.  I was a big proponent of not just beating a game, but completing it.  I learned the game to the point that I could help my friends with it over the phone with no frame of reference other than my memory.  

Concerning the first and second games, I didn’t play those until years later, and when I did, I didn’t appreciate them.  Both were extremely difficult.  I remember using the Game Genie with "Zelda 2" and the game just frozen after the Thunderbird boss fight and it didn’t proceed to the final battle.  Even with “cheating”, I couldn’t beat "Zelda 2".  To this day, I don’t have a memory of beating that game, and I think I may have beat the original "Legend of Zelda" (LoZ) but I did so on an emulator with save states.

Fast forward to the present, and I recently revisited LoZ on the NES Classic console.  I actually did research to learn where the heart containers were located and I got the white sword before entering the first dungeon.  It made the game much more enjoyable, as I didn't have the patience to explore the entire map.  I know there are clues throughout to tell me where the secrets are, but my goal was to beat it and complete it at 100%.  At the end of the day, I did it and it felt good.  Even though the NES Classic does provide save states also, I found the overall experience was more enjoyable, and still very hard even with 100% item collection.

I recently read a review by Shigeru Miyamoto that LoZ was supposed to encourage social interaction.  You were supposed to chat with your friends, discuss your findings, and proceed accordingly.  I remember playing "Super Mario Bros" in 1986 and my dad coming home from work to show me where a secret warp zone was.  I assume that he was discussing the game with a coworker who found it and I recall him being excited to share the news, so it makes sense that LoZ was treated the same way; I just didn't have that experience during my childhood.

With all that said, after three years of development, we finally have Breath of the Wild (BotW).  With each passing game, the developers have challenged themselves not only to make a fun game, but for each game to be a little bit different so the franchise wouldn't get tired or boring.  They didn't want each game to be (1) collect items, (2) find dungeon, (3) defeat boss, (4) save the Princess. 

While each game does celebrate variations on that theme, BotW reinvents them by going back to its roots - the original Legend of Zelda (LoZ).  When a player begins LoZ, he/she has no items, no weapons, nothing.  The player is dropped into a world where there are monsters that damage him and when his hearts are depleted, he dies and must start over from the beginning.

BotW does the exact same thing.  There are a few breadcrumbs at the start to help push the player in the right direction, but those can be ignored and the player can essentially explore in any direction.  Even with the minimal amount of stamina that the player starts out with, one can achieve great heights in climbing in certain areas.  The game doesn't stop him until he reaches a height or an area that is too cold to explore without the proper protection so he is forced to retreat and explore an area where the temperature is more moderate.

Enemies don't drop hearts or rupees, but they may be cooking a steak over a fire that Link can obtain and eat to replenish him.  The enemies may keep their weapons leaning on a log nearby while they enjoy the fire they've built, so if Link is quiet enough, he may be able to grab one to defend himself.

I don't want to say much more as it may be regarded as a spoiler, but the game encourages exploration and it hands the player nothing.  In beginning, the player might find himself using a tree branch and only having a few apples to survive.  Once the player interacts with people, animals, and enemies in the environment, is when the game really begins to take shape.  There is a joy in finding and having a direction in the game only to be distracted by a task one may stumble upon and wanting to solve it before proceeding.

At the time of this review, the game has been out for 20 days.  During said days I've played it a total of 31 times and my total play time is 55 hours and 17 minutes.  There are a total of [redacted] and I believe I found and completed 56 so far.  I've completed possibly half of the objectives in the main storyline.  I've completed many side quests.  I feel like I've only scratched 1/4 of this game and I love coming back to it every day.  There are a few issues and nitpicks that I could only really address in a spoiler discussion, but those aside, I find the game very rewarding and enjoyable.  When I'm not playing it, I'm thinking about what I want to do next when I'm playing it.  Then when I start playing it, with tasks in mind, I find that I'm taken off task by something else fun I find along the way.


Side note, I’m playing the Wii U version of BotW.   If you have a Wii U, this is a must have.   I can’t speak to a Switch experience, but if I didn’t own a Wii U, I would probably have bought one just to play this game.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Daddy's Home [2015] review

Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg partner up in this comedy movie about the best step dad in the world verses the absent biological father.  Unfortunately most of the writing falls flat as there aren't really any jokes, but situations that are supposed to make the audience laugh. 

One of the most eye rolling moments is when Will Ferrell attempts to ride a motorcycle, loses control, goes into the house and the motorcycle comes out the window and lands on the family car.  The CGI was horrible and then finding Will Ferrell stuck in the wall inside the house yelling for Mark Wahlberg to put a shirt on elicited no laughter. 

Will Ferrell's boss played by Thomas Haden Church tells three random stories about his ex-wives that are supposed to be funny too, and where some might get a slight chuckle, most of the time the stories felt forced and out of place.  Also, since the boss character bonds with Mark Wahlberg, it just adds another character that is against Ferrell. 

Actually, even the kids don't bond with Ferrell for apparently no reason other than the fact that he's simply the step dad.  The daughter makes it plainly clear that they don't like him which one might find funny, but the childish humor from the child didn't land for me.

Hannibal Buress is shoe horned into this movie as the repairman who ends up living with the family.  He adds no humor in this movie and I'm not a fan of his standup in the first place, so he was already starting in the negatives and never reached positive.

The movie is essentially Meet the Parents where instead of everyone being against Ben Stiller, everyone is against Will Ferrell, and where Meet the Parents can be enjoyable on subsequent viewings, I don't see myself revisiting Daddy's Home ever again.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

It Follows [2015] review

The crux of the movie is that something follows you and it can take any form it wants. The only way to stop it from following you is to have sex with someone else, then it will start following that person. Unfortunately, if it kills that person, then it will come back after you again. Unfortunately, only you can see it so if your friends try to help, you just look like a crazy person running from nothing. "It" takes a couple bullets in the film but keeps coming. "It" walks towards you so you can get away from it, but if it touches you, you're pretty much a goner as it has super strength.

I found the movie pretty creepy, but not super scary. The soundtrack is just a series of repeated creepy sounds like you'd hear walking through a haunted house; it became slightly comical as the movie progressed. If you like fantasy horror mysteries, you'll like this film, otherwise you'll probably want to steer clear.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Hateful Eight [2015] review

As expected, the movie was very Tarantino, with the violence and the cursing, which I loved, but also very slow at parts.  I felt it spent a little too much time in the carriage.  I didn't realize that essentially the carriage and the Haberdashery would be the only two set pieces, but I enjoyed the mystery of it all once everyone was at the Haberdashery.  The use of the N word seemed a little overboard than usual, but only because my girlfriend pointed it out which made me more aware of it during viewing, otherwise it didn't bother me.  Most of the acting was excellent save for Jennifer Jason Leigh who seemed to be channeling Melissa Leo, Tim Roth who seemed to be doing a poor impression of Christoph Waltz, and Zoe Bell who seemed a little too over enthusiastic for her small part in the flashback scene (the scene itself felt very similar to the scene before the Massacre at Two Pines in Kill Bill V2 - needed, but too much happy in it and less normalcy if that makes sense).

Despite the above little nitpicks, I enjoyed this film and would choose to watch this again soon over Django.  Sam Jackson definitely steals the show and I loved the idea of the Lincoln letter.

***

My ratings of Tarantino's 8 films:
(best to least)
Pulp Fiction, (1994)
Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2, (2003-04)
Reservoir Dogs, (1992)
Inglorious Basterds, (2009)
The Hateful Eight, (2016)
Django Unchained, (2012)
Jackie Brown, (1997)
Death Proof, (2007)