Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Hateful Eight Review

The Hateful Eight
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast Headliners : Samuel L Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh , Walton Goggins
Original Release Date : December 25th/slow wide rollout in weeks ahead 2015

(Briefer since done from relatives on mobile )

 Quentin Tarantino is the kind of director who's style is distinct in everything he does. One can expect plentiful cusses, interesting characters, intricate plots and so on. 2012's Django Unchained showed his first foray into the Western genre worked quite amazingly with his talents. His second Western , The Hateful Eight , uses most of them well but a bit different yet still incredibly enjoyable take is used than that heroic tale or his past grit being somewhere in the middle.

  The film takes place in post-Civil War, deep winter , wilderness Wyoming as Major Marquis Warren ( Samuel L Jackson ) has some bounties to take to town and he runs into fellow bounty hunter John Ruth ( Kurt  Russell ) with his highly valued captive Daisy Domergue ( Jennifer Jason Leigh ) and company. Events transpire which leaves them stranded together with the titular "hateful " strangers in a blizzard who include gentlemenly Brit Oswaldo ( Tim Roth ), former Confederate general Smithers ( Bruce Dern ), Bob from Mexico (Demian Bichir), and soon to be sheriff Cliff Mannix ( Walton Goggins ) amongst others.
    Every single one of the characters in this piece are both incredible perfroamances by their actors as well as fascinating characters .  Jackson and Russell especially are in their finest charismatic form , and have some great scenes. Leigh's Daisy also brings a cool angle to the film as a sort of villian. One can't wait to see these different eccentric characters interact , and oh they certainly do.  Channing Tatum is also great in a role that has to be seen first hand.

   the  film uses one  sole primary setting but Tarantino makes things interesting. Beautiful shots are used inside and out and the world feels so real which makes it more played straight then the anachronistic parts of Django.   This is stretched at times when shots are used for awhile...
   One could see merit in the long drawn out approach Tarantino takes , but that doesn't hide its a lonnnnnng film running almost three hours. Not all of it is needed , but if one has the time to spare its worth it to see the great slow burn dark mystery of a plot unfold.  there's some, emphasis on that, bloody  action hiding deep within too.
  It's big and long and stuffed with plot twists but it shows a different spin from Tarantino on a Western. In the end it's worth it to see these acting legends do their thing and expectations to be surprised. 9.05 out of 10

Monday, December 28, 2015

My Top 10 Favorite Films/Video Games of 2015

Here it is, the end of this crazy big year. Not just for personal life, but for media as well.  Without further ado, here are my FAVORITES of the year moreso than objective quality.

TOP 10 MOVIES OF 2015:

#1: Star Wars (Episode VII): The Force Awakens, for being a dream come true both in the fact that it happens and in quality following on the end of the legends before
it bravo JJ and every part of it.

#2: Mad Max: Fury Road, for being SHINY AND CHROME yet really in its intense atmosphere and beautiful visuals and plentiful action, performances simply woah.

#3: Avengers (2): Age of Ultron, for somehow being just as crazy and cool as the groundbreaking first and just about upping the notch for scale if not more of the
cool superhero same

#4 : The Hateful Eight, for it's interesting characters and dense mysterious Tarantino plot and shiny Western style if long but worth it for the resolution.

#5: (Fast and the) Furious 7, for having insane action, plentiful laughs, and mainly from the epic amount of intentional cheese as well as feels for Paul Walker
handeld well wit this ensemble cast.

#6: Inside Out, for being Pixar's best original idea in years and offering their best laughs and emotion and artistic beauty as those legends.

#7: The Martian, for being funny, realistic, intense, and a happily inspiration space Damon adventure.

     (I would put the excellent animated Song of the Sea but its year status is shaky so) #8: Kingsmen: The Secret Service, for its crazy action and laughs in bound
while also being thoroughly unique fun ride dat SLJ villian.

#9: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, for offering a emotional , intense action packed finale for the series making up for some flaws on the way with a powerful
set of showdowns.

#10: Ex-Machina, for chilling cinematic shots and thrilling dialogue with powerful performances and big ideas.

Honorables with a word:
#11: Ant-man (funny !)
#12:Spectre (Waltz!)
       (Would do  powerful Selma but shaky year release status) #12: Jurassic World (Dinos!)
       #13: Southpaw( boxing!)
       #14: Crimson Peak (ghosts!)
       #15: Tommorowland(imagination!)


#1 and GOTY:  Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain, for offering an incredibly dense and lengthy set of missions and things to do, with a story that is at
times sparse but when powerful its so powerful, yet mainly wins this for offering the most dynamic stealth gameplay of the series if not ever and a pinnacle achievement
of Hideo Kojima before their closure under konami as it breathes excellence, beauty, and craft.

#2: Fallout 4, for finally happening and bringing a massive world with it that belongs right up there with the legendary Fo3 if not in newness but wonderful
exploration times and detailed crafting, fun combat, for endless stories in the wasteland.

#3: Splatoon, because offering the chance to be a squid now or a kid now with unique colorful visuals and innovative multiplayer shooting gameplay with a great
campaign/boss battles on the side making it Nintendo's freshest game in years.

#4:The Witcher III: Wild Hunt, because of dat writing and sidequest complexity as well as a beautiful massive world larger than any others on this list as well
as immensely fun intricate hardcore combat in a long epic saga of a story.

#5: Super Mario Maker, by making 2d game design fun and casual with the legendary brand as well as some fresh ideas that come from its remix nature; endless levels
online literally infinite fun crazy replay value.

(Would put Majora's Mask 3D here for being an amazing game with nice remake and features, but remakes dont count imo so actually).....................
............ #6: Star Wars Battlefront (EA), for bringing back most of the fun aspects of the gameplay core of the past ones in this series but most of all
for having some of the best visuals ever and capturing that Star Wars feel with some sweet mp maps and modes that will get even cooler in time.

#7: Yoshi's Wooly World, for its excellent  charming visuals, music, level design, and simple smooth platforming gameplay that perhaps even surpasses Epic Yarn
and some of the past in the series.

#8: Batman: Arkham Knight, for having more of the same excellent  sneaking and combat, beautiful visuals, and a epic story/characters if not brought down by
 a little bit too much of the alright but not the best batmobile as well simply not being as excellent as its past games in the series if not still really cool.

#9: Undertale, for having amazingly amazing music and unique time based combat in a otherwise funny interesting Earthbound style RPG and thats something it
well earns being compared to.

#10: Halo 5:Guardians, intense shooting gameplay and some sweet levels if not the best plot but certainly awesome multiplayer with the cool warzone and crazy

Honorables with a word:
#11: Guitar Hero Live (live play!)
#12: Bloodborne (atmosphere!)
#13: Call of Duty: Black Ops III (content!)
#14: Mad Max (cars!)
#15: Pillars of Eternity (classic!)

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review

Star Wars (Episode VII): The Force Awakens

Director: JJ Abrams
Cast Headliners: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyongo,  MANY  many many others
Original Release Date : December 18th, 2015

(whew 100th post! and so crazy to be finally doing this review wow, dreams!)

TO START WOW; disclosure in that the Star Wars franchise , from films to animation to novels to merchandise to video games and more aka all of this amazing universe is my favorite media anything in my life ever.  George Lucas' legendary creation changed the world but it also influenced my life immensely as well offering impactful lessons, adventurous action, and sparked my imagination from the highest height of excellence  to the lowest of  holiday wookiee specials.... I take it all. So of course I would have taken anything that came out of Disney's acquisition of the godly IP. Even more of a dream besides the franchise being thriving once again is that Star Wars: (Episode 7) The Force Awakens is FINALLLLLLLY delivering the tale of what happens after the end of the 1980s' Episode VI Return of the Jedi. Dedicated fans knew the prequels were one promise but that Lucas promised we were seeing a 9 (or perhaps 12 as he mentioned in a small comment decades back, though “trilogy” implies one thing)  film saga. So it was an amazing shock this is here, but also its like that gift I and the fandom were promised a long time ago. It's a dream that THE saga is back and I can so happily says it overall delivers on belonging amongst the best.
The film picks up, just as real life, around 30 years after the end of Episode 6 and Luke, Han, Leia and crew defeated the Empire's second Death Star.  It's immediately revealed in the opening crawl that Luke has gone missing and both the First Order(formerly the Empire ) and Resistance (formerly the Rebels) to search for him. As always its a tale that must be seen first hand but what it is effective on is providing a sucessor to the end of the original trilogy. It answers a lot of questions, but it keeps large swathes of what happened in between the trilogies vague and perhaps thats a good thing as this is just the start of a era and Star Wars has always been best when piquing our interest for more with hints to a bigger world. It certainly does that without leaving the audience's feeling entirely lost. It is effective as both a sequel and new beginning and that's Disney's most impressive accomplishment.   While it's literally integral to the plot, I wish we'd seen more of Mark Hammil's Luke but well that ties into its marketing and other great themes as well...... all part of the “legends” angle that's in the film.
There's so many things to discuss so there's no better way than to just dive into it.  First are the new younger characters to the franchise introduced here.   The main heroes come in Rey (Daisy Ridley) a desert scavenger on Tatooine-but-more-surreal ( in a post-apocalpytic way carried throughout the film as wreckage of past battle dots it)Jakku and Finn an ex-stormtrooper of the First Order.  Rey, much to a delightful surprise, is actually the film's lead protagonist. Ridley showcases an wonderful talent from naivity of the past Anakin/Luke to dramatic emotion to humor to combat skill.  Equal remarks can be said of John Boyega as Finn, who brings a aspect to the franchise we've never seen in the core films with dealing with  his changing  of factions.  Each brings a energetic fresh set of interesting personalities when theyre alone, but together they have great  exciting chemistry for the ruckus that occurs.  Both grow ever more enjoyable as the film progresses and I cant wait to see more of them as they are worthy of joining the best. There's also the adorable and perhaps even moreso cooler-than-R2  droid BB-8, viley evil General Hux(Domnhall Gleeson) who has dynamic interactions with his peers nuanced Kylo( who I'll get to shortly), mysterious Supreme Leader Snoke (a mocapped Andy Serkis), and the cold but ultimately more minor than expected yet still cool and in a way integral Captain Phasma(Game of Throne fame Gwendoline Christie).  Word is that she'll get an expanded role in the sequel, along with hopefully equally solid if sparesely seen Resistance pilot Poe Dameron ( a great Oscar Isaac) and wise Maz Kanata( a mocapped Lupita Nyongo) amongst others. 

Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) has within the span of these couple hours cemented himself as an incredible actor and villian as well. While he looks like a  helmeted dark menace Vader, and he very much is, he brings a nuance that evokes what someone like Anakin in the prequels didnt have due to his talent, occasional failure , rage, and overwhleming force of  unique personality. This is raised tenfold as the movie goes on, but just know youll love every minute of him whether one's scared or other reactions. And of course there's his tri-lightsaber seeing some action. A fitting young edgy adversary for the new generation. It's an impressive cast and I admit I'd totally have loved the movie even if it was just all these newcomers. But it's more than that. 

      That's because this film is both a new start and a legacy to the past.   It certainly feels fresh with its wonderful visuals and directorial style trademark of JJ Abrams, but more expertly is the overall tone of THE best of the old ones.    Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca(Peter Mayhew) end up finding their way into the plot and its not a spoiler to say they are kings of the show for coolness and humor.  For perhaps decades Harrison Ford has seemed like he's bored and grumpy in any roles he's taken but here he's simply, amazing. It's like Return of the Jedi and the other OT were made yesterday for his enthusiasm and passion, and as a fan that makes this so perfect from a Han angle.   Besides being the Han we remember, the movie contains more of that fun swashbuckling vibe that was slightly missing from the prequels.  The humor, some of the best ever, is delivered by veteran and newcomer alike and it is just witty and feels natural like the classics.  There's also a bunch of references to old lines and happenings, important and for comedy, but it just works.   C3PO (Anthony Daniels) adds to this, Leia( Carrie Fisher) adds to this, R2, and so on making it have  a classic  very Star Wars core and overall well done one at that.    
Besides characters' personality and humor from the old one this comes into the film itself too. Action brings the visceralness of the Millenium Falcon , X-wings, TIE fighters and so on but aided by Abrams visual touch.   Planets are perhaps less varied than the prequels but invoke some beautiful shots (See in IMAX!).   Music is done by John Williams, leaning more torwards ambient than iconic with the new stuff but some old themes are used well and however there's some golden moments buried in the new competent material.  Physical proprs and locations are used making it very much like it was actually made like a 70s/80s film too and it shines in  the trademark wacky aliens, creatures, and hints to a larger world (vague just as the early Star Wars were as well, up to one's interpretation if thats good or not but I enjoy that they can go from BB-8's great reactions to including staple OT moments like “ have you heard of the Trillian Massacre?”.  The movie's star wars magic levels are high on the charts.  This also ties into the cool meta angle that the main heroes and villians have when it comes to the plot and viewing the past, but that's a story for another day for fans to dissect for years and its sparked by it being presented so well. 

     While JJ and crew have overall taken what was great about the originals and brewed up a pretty crazy cool followup, it of course is true that not all of it is entirely new. The elements which seem familiar are so because they're drawn from a greatest hit of homages to the franchise. Most of the scoop in this Star Wars sundae comes specifically from Episode4, with their being a desert planet opening, a important droid,  wacky cantina to visit with Han Solo and Chewie, and climatic battle against a big First Order/enemy base. There's also moments of Episode5 (Twists, darkness, a snow planet), 6 (a hologram emperor and a bridge), and even some of the prequels (Prophecy talk and well ...Kylo's Renning).  But while this holds it back from being a true legend as it draws from so much of the actual milestones in film history, that's not a bad thing as its using the best of those materials while still bringing in some fresh stuff hidden within for a new adventure.  I think that's JJ Abram's greatest life accomplishment in this balancing of old and new, and Id say this has been my favorite film and his best for that reason.  Before he was trying to be Star Wars in his Star Treks, here he actually did it to amazing effect. Though I will welcome someone for future entries to take it off the rails from the homages perhaps now that we have all this out of the way. 

           The Episode VII we all hoped for could have been anything, especially if George Lucas would have had a more heavy hand on it oh boy, so I am of course very happy and glad for Disney/Abrams and co taking it on. No it's not too family friendly, no it's not too much like the Marvel cinematic universe since its Star Wars through and through in every way.  It brings the legendary aspects back and creates some fresh possibilities. While its familiar in many ways thats an incredibly fine thing to me and many Id say. As Han says, “We're home.”  And now that the dots are connected from old to new, it's even more exciting for where the franchise can go that it lives again.  Almost a new legend in itself, but as always the way it should be and as Lucas said “poetry.” 9.76 out of 10   

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Video Game Review : Metal Gear Solid 5 : The Phantom Pain

(Something new , once in a while )

Metal Gear Solid 5( - 2) : The Phantom Pain :  Well that was a whole lot of stuff. Both in that the game is really really long, longest one in the series and surprising for a game like this. But also in that alot is going on in it. Where do I even begin..... Just with all of it! What shines the brightest is the core stealth gameplay. Mgs is always about using one's own approach in big areas with cool gadgets, and well the open world design was the next logical step and leads to some crazy things. Sneak in, guns blazing, helicopter assault, use comrades..... the same scenario can go zillions of ways which was so fresh. The open world takes a little bit of red dead redemption and a little bit of far cry into it with its outposts and so on, with crafting components galore which meant there was always something to do. That's a good thing though since while there was some exceptions, the same formula of sandbox play is in nearly every mission and gets slightly old after dozens and dozens of hours . but by that point the amazing has been felt .This is certainly a   kojima game, and it shines in its superbly beautiful visuals , music choices, and cinematics. But maybe it became a little too much game instead of cinema influenced game like the past , since there's so few actual cutscenes. much of the juicy stuff of lore is saved for hours of audio logs, I wish some were integrated into the main action.   but the characters are all so good personality and voice actors wise , and even Kiefer does a good replacement as Big Boss, it just fits.  However if one is stubborn to change it feels like bits of classic mgs are between these huge empty stretches , but a kojima fan should know to expect experiments
The core storyline is great as a self contained story  and side ops fine within reason .  But as for the game we were promised, the fall of big boss....welll one has to play to see but things get messy here and there, with some cut stories and other bizzare choices (though it is cool to see the Ocelot/Miller dynamic, some of the best of those mentioned great voice actors ).  This is especially messy in chapter 2 with its wonky mix of challenge levels and actual great story bits which I wish were in the first part. Also there's grinding which just doesn't belong at this point.  but those good moments are worth it , it can be thought of as "bonus round " .    The other thing that got tiresome was boss fights, for a franchise which has had some of the best of all time its disappointing there's so few and so few good ones. 

The mother base system is also great once one gets a hang of it, blowing away peace walkers and making everything count. 

Oh also if all of this huge worlds and missions and secrets and bases and customizing and story wasn't enough. There's the newer patched in versus mp. The same fun gameplay but limited in maps and modes, and with barely any players it seems. But just another side dish to an meaty main course.

It's hard to say if this is the best mgs game, because of all the new things and presentation change. But if kojima never comes back, he went out with a bang and overall contender fsho for goty 2015 to me. A wild ride it was Big Boss , may the diamond dogs live on forever. 9.45 out of 10