Django Unchained (2012)


Kill White People and Get Paid for it? What’s Not to Like?

Django Unchained (2012)It’s a heavy spoiler for this review that today’s movie made it into my top films of 2012, but I still feel obligated to give it the full review it never received. Near the end of the year, I was trying so hard to review as many movies from 2012 as I could that I pushed this one off so much that I didn’t feel like the memory was fresh enough to still write the review for it. I knew it was only a matter of time until I got around to reviewing it because there was no way that I wouldn’t be picking it up on BluRay the day it released. Well the time finally came that I could present you with my review of Django Unchained, written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, and starring Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins, Don Johnson, James Remar, Tom Wopat, Russ Tamblyn, Amber Tamblyn, Bruce Dern, Zoë Bell, and Jonah Hill.

A group of slaves is being driven by the Speck Brothers until they’re stopped by a German dentist named Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), who stops them looking to purchase one of their slaves named Django (Jamie Foxx). When the Speck Brothers decline, Schultz guns them down. Schultz reveals himself to be a bounty hunter who needs Django to identify the Brittle Brothers, who Schultz has a bounty for. After dealing with the Brittle Brothers, Django reveals that he’s been separated from his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), and Schultz decides to help reunite them, taking Django on as an apprentice bounty hunter until they get a chance to free Broomhilda from the slave owner Calvin J. Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).

This movie is awesome, but I don’t even know how comfortable I’d be in saying that it’s Tarantino’s best movie to date. And that is a huge compliment. When your movie is potentially coming in third to Pulp Fiction and Inglourious Basterds, you know you’re doing alright in your career. And Django does not disappoint Tarantino fans, at least not this one. It’s far more fun than you’d expect a movie about slavery to be. Tarantino takes what could be a really heavy premise and injects it with his particular brand of humor, which you can see all over the place, such as Don Johnson’s character telling one of his slaves to not be so hasty when jumping to the conclusion that she should treat Django like a white man when he suggested to treat him better than she’d treat other slaves. Even though the scene could’ve technically been left out of the movie, I also enjoyed the scene where the racists were preparing to lynch Django and got into a discussion about the eyeholes on their hoods because it was pretty damned funny. Of course, Tarantino usually writes some funny and/or compelling dialogue, my favorite in this movie being between Django and Schultz more often than not. I guess the dialogue did seem a bit off in their unrealistically low use of the N-word for a movie taking place in the South, but I’ll let that slide as well. The only thing I took issue with in the whole story was the plan to rescue Broomhilda. They determined that they couldn’t just offer to buy her, and they also couldn’t offer to buy one of Candie’s fighters unless they came at him with a ridiculous sum of money, so they had to come up with this big ploy to offer the money and ask to take Broomhilda as a signing bonus. I don’t know why they didn’t just offer a crazy sum of money for Broomhilda in the first place. I suppose part of their idea was to only pay $2,000 for her and act like they’d come back with the rest later, but if they’d just offered $5,000, Django would’ve been good for it. It’s not like he didn’t help him raise at least that much money, thusly earning it for himself. And it’s not like he had anything else he wanted, so he could drop all that money to get his wife back. It’s a major point in the story, but a minor qualm from me. I got over it.

The action in this movie was over the top, but always in a fun way. It was like the Expendables in that when someone gets shot, they are sent flying in an explosion of red mist. But unlike the Expendables, this movie was good. And watching Django go into Candieland and fuck shit up was fantastic. The only real problem I had with the look in the movie was having to see someone’s hairy black nutsack, up close and personal.

The biggest sell of this movie had to be the performances. Everyone in this movie put on a clinic for amazing performances. Jamie Foxx started off pretty meek, but quickly turned into a badass. We already knew he had the comedy chops, but I don’t really recall seeing him as a badass action hero that often in the past. He wears it well. Christoph Waltz cannot seem to go wrong when pairing up with Tarantino. Waltz is great in everything I’ve seen him do, but he’s magic with Tarantino. My mom tried to get me to describe what it is about him that makes everyone talk about him with such reverence. I don’t really have the words. After more than 450 reviews, I still don’t know how to put what I think of Waltz into words. But I also can’t tell my mom to watch the movies to see him in action because my mom can’t handle violence, and his two best performances that I’ve seen were in movies lousy with violence. I think you just haveta see him to believe him. Leonardo DiCaprio is also fantastic in this movie, playing Candie as very charming but believably sadistic. Samuel L. Jackson is awesome in this movie as well as the racist asshole slave, and it was also the first time I’ve ever seen Jackson allow himself to look closer to his age. He’s 64 years old! Black don’t crack. Speaking of racist things, Walton Goggins is also in this movie. I’m not saying he’s actually a racist, but he does give good racism. He’s really good at saying the N-word. Speaking of which, I think that must be tough for all non-racist white people in this movie, as I’m sure all of them were. If I were in this movie and I had to sling the N-word around like that, I’d be ruining every take by yelling, “I’m sorry! I’m so sorry, everybody! Alright, back into the scene.”

Django Unchained is awesome. Excellent story with great –and often hilarious – dialogue that I’ve come to expect from Tarantino. The action is lots of fun and every performance in the movie is what other actors should study for their own betterment. This movie is easily in Tarantino’s top three best movies, which is the best compliment I can give with an already illustrious career. This is a movie you should’ve seen when it was in theaters, but if that time is passed then you should go buy it right now. Django Unchained gets “Our mutual friend has a flair for the dramatic” out of “I like the way you die, boy.”

WATCH REVIEWS HERE! YouTube OTHER JOKES HERE! Twitter BE A FAN HERE! Facebook If you like these reviews so much, spread the word. Keep me motivated! Also, if you like them so much, why don’t you marry them?!

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)


Enjoy These Final Moments of Peace.

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)Tuesday again.  Time again for a double feature at my local theater.  It’s problematic for a film critic to hate crowds so much that he doesn’t like to go see new movies until the theaters have slowed down, but that’s the kind of critic you idolize.  Me.  This would normally be too soon for me to want to go see a movie of this magnitude, but there weren’t a lot of options in theaters right now, and my desire to see this movie was pretty strong.  I was never a fan of the TV series this movie comes from, and I didn’t see the greater majority of the movies that helped make the series so popular.  But I did see the movie right before this one and it made me a fan.  I absolutely loved it.  So when they put out a new one, it made me very excited.  Did it live up to those expectations?  Find out as I review Star Trek Into Darkness, based on characters created by Gene Roddenberry, written by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon Lindelof, directed by J. J. Abrams, and starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch, Peter Weller, Bruce Greenwood, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, Anton Yelchin, John Cho, Karl Urban, Alice Eve, Noel Clarke, Nazneen Contractor, and Leonard Nimoy.

On a mission to the planet Nibiru, Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) violates the Prime Directive in order to rescue First Officer Spock (Zachary Quinto) from danger.  This causes Admiral Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood) to be forced to relieve Kirk of his command of the USS Enterprise.  Elsewhere, a man named John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) offers Starfleet Officer Thomas Harewood (Noel Clarke) a way to save his dying child in exchange for blowing up a Starfleet archive.  Admiral Alexander Marcus (Peter Weller) calls together the captains of Starfleet to figure out their next move, falling directly into Harrison’s plan.  Harrison attacks the meeting, killing many of the Starfleet commanders.  In retaliation, Kirk is sent out with 72 prototype Photon Torpedoes with the order to destroy Harrison, while trying not to bring on a full scale war with the Klingons.  But all is not as it appears…

For the first half of this movie, I admit that I was feeling a little underwhelmed by it.  It was good, but it was not living up to my expectations for it.  Then shit started to get real.  Some might be embarrassed to say that they started to tear up near the end, mostly on moments between Spock and Kirk, but I’m not your usual man.  I’m barely a man at all!  What I am is a nerd, so it’s completely appropriate.  The story is also heavy with references to the past of Star Trek, which I’m sure I missed a bunch of because of my relative inexperience with the franchise, but I still got most of them.  I know Khan, for instance.  I know Tribbles.  I also know what happens to Spock at some point in a radioactive room.  But I like that these movies are taking place in an altered timeline so thing happen close to what happened in the past, but occasionally roles are reversed to be able to still catch the audience off guard.  But I was beginning to get trepidations in the beginning because a few things made me think they’d be treading the same ground as the previous movie, like when they took away Kirk’s ship and wanted to put him back in the academy, but they didn’t waste that much time in that.  Then Kirk would start getting at odds with the crew again, although he had a good reason.  I got most worried about how I’d feel about this movie when Kirk and Scotty parted ways.  BRING PEGG BACK!!  But then they did, and I could calm down.  But the end of the movie was filled with some great action and great emotional moments, and I’ve always said that ending strong is more important than opening strong.  I won’t spoil what was happening, but when Uhura told Spock to, “Go get him,” I got some wood, and surprisingly more because of the awesomeness than Zoe Saldana’s hotness.  I would have to admit that I saw the ending coming, making it not that much of a surprise when we find out Kirk’s fate.  I even wrote it in my notes just after I first saw the Tribble.  That being said, I didn’t feel like it was any less effective just because I knew how it would turn out.

There’s really no point even talking about the look of the movie, is there?  You saw the commercials and how awesome and epic they make the movie look, right?  Yeah, that’s what it looks like.  They were not lying to you.

I loved all the performances in this movie as well.  Chris Pine is great as Kirk.  He does the funny parts as well as he does the emotional parts.  He also plays a dick very well, easily making me silently curse him in the theater for making Simon Pegg leave.  I find it hard to talk about Zachary Quinto’s performance as Spock.  Through most of the movie, he’s acting really robotic.  On the other hand, that’s exactly what he’s supposed to be doing.  And he’s able to convey quite a bit of emotion through his performance while still being such a Vulcan, and he kind of breaks down at the end of the movie in an awesome way.  Zoe Saldana is hot.  Simon Pegg is awesome.  Peter Weller was Robocop.  I was unfamiliar with this Benedict Cumberbatch before I went into this movie.  I had heard him talked about a lot in nerdier crowds, so I knew he must have some nerd cred of some sort.  I think it’s because he’s in that Sherlock show, but I’ve never seen it.  And you never see him in The Hobbit because he only lends his voice to it.  That being said, I still thought he was pretty awesome in the movie.  Maybe not quite a Ricardo Montalbán, but pretty damned solid.  Even with the emo hair that occasionally happened in the middle of a fight, he maintained a certain level of quiet badassdom.  And the starring role in this movie for me is the white-haired chick on the command deck of the Enterprise.  I don’t know who she is, but I want to be in her.

Star Trek Into Darkness is another addition to the series that wins in my book.  The movie starts off a little slow for my taste, but ends strongly with a great deal of awesome action and emotion that actually made me tear up.  It looks great and all the performances were also top notch.  I’ve never considered myself a Star Trek fan, but if Abrams keeps this up, I might actually start watching the stuff that inspired the guy to make these awesome movies.  In the meantime, I recommend getting yourself to the theaters to check this one out as soon as you can.  Star Trek Into Darkness gets “If you test me, you will fail” out of “Because I am better.”

WATCH REVIEWS HERE!  YouTube  OTHER JOKES HERE!  Twitter  BE A FAN HERE!  Facebook  If you like these reviews so much, spread the word.  Keep me motivated!  Also, if you like them so much, why don’t you marry them?!

Aliens: Colonial Marines (2013)


Hey, Hicks. Man, You Look Just Like I Feel.

Aliens: Colonial Marines (2013)I have a weird disorder that makes me continuously want to give things a chance even though they’ve disappointed me so much in the past. It usually starts with them putting out a few things that I love, and then usually devolves into a series of shit in a row that I still try based on my love for the past. After enough of these, I can break myself of this habit, but not of the addiction. I still WANT to try these things, but I can restrain myself. Well Alien and Aliens were great movies, and some of the early Alien games did some things very well. Then there was a bunch of shit in a row. Has that continued to their most recent release? We’ll find out as I review Aliens: Colonial Marines, developed by Gearbox Software, published by Sega, and including the voices of Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen, Mark Rolston, Al Matthews, Travis Willingham, Derek Phillips, Nisa Ward, and Jason Douglas.

The “story” of this game takes place between Aliens and Alien 3. 17 weeks after the events of Aliens, people in the world desire to make more mistakes. A ship responds to a distress signal from the USS Sulaco, in orbit around LV-426. Xenomorphs are everywhere, and killing as they are known to do. Then Weyland-Yutani sends in mercenaries to kill you as well. Then they ruin what Alien 3 already ruined. Then other stuff and the game ends.

This game was pretty shitty. Let’s get that out of the way up front. Well, let’s be honest and agree that we all already knew this game was going to be shit, but let me tell you about it because I was dumb enough to rent it. It’s hard to pin down what is worse though. There are tons of problems with this game that could be what causes it to be terrible. I’ll start with the story. The story was crap. It’s simplistic while simultaneously ruining the continuity of the Alien franchise. I believe I’ve already complained about the fact that Aliens got the audience super involved in Newt and Hicks as characters, just to have Alien 3 crap all over that by killing them before the opening credits had even completed. Well this game ruins Alien 3’s story by having Hicks show up in this game. How did he get off the rescue vessel without bothering to save Newt and Ripley, but having plenty of time to drop a decoy body in his place? This game will answer that by having someone ask Hicks and him responding with, “Long story.” Great. Fuck your face. I hate you. Best I can assume is that they were able to get Biehn to be a voice in this game and they would figure out how that worked out later. And then it came to crunch time and they had forgotten to do anything about it. “Write it off. Fans of the Alien franchise aren’t at all protective of their continuity. Also, I know it LOOKED like Hadley’s Hope was destroyed by Ripley on her way out, but you can act like that didn’t happen either.” They even happily spoil their own story in the game. There’s a point where we’re supposed to be surprised that our teammate Keyes has an alien in him, but all you needed to do was look down from the place you freed him to see the dead facehugger on the floor to realize that he was infested. And speaking of infested people, they also didn’t pay attention to the fact that the Xenomorphs don’t really bother attacking people that are already infested with the aliens, so why would they attack that Bella girl? Ripley got out of that on more than one occasion.

The look is also crap. The videos of people look awful and are never even trying to convey emotion on their faces. And they have the dude whose face they’re using! Why can’t you do a scan of Biehn like they do in so many other games? Hell, I’ll settle for you slapping Biehn’s face down in a Xerox machine and stapling pieces of paper to the character. The acting would be no more stiff than what you’re already showing us. They also have a pretty hard time capturing the feel of the Alien movies. The ship they’re in early on is too clean and bright for a place where a sci-fi/horror movie is supposed to be taking place. They got a little better at it later on, like when they were aboard the Derelict ship and just had to recreate the H.R. Giger look. They also were able to get the guns to look right, and you’ll be able to tell because you’ll be looking at them a lot. And though the nerd in me appreciates that they included the motion tracker, the gamer in me doesn’t like having to stare at it while being unable to shoot while holding it.

You’ll probably be shocked to find this out, but the gameplay is also not enjoyable. On the surface, it’s a standard first person shooter. With slightly more playing, you’ll find that it’s also an awful first person shooter. Too difficult in parts, and made more difficult by stingy armor and health drops and stupid AI. I understand the idea of trying to capture the feel of the movie by making the Xenomorphs very difficult in their ability to swarm you and by making you take damage if they get too close because their blood is acid. All that stuff is in the movie, so why shouldn’t it be in the game? Because it makes the game not fun. If I were in the movie, I’d probably die because Ellen Ripley is the only one allowed to survive in the world of Aliens. But why would I want to play that? The short answer is, “I wouldn’t.” That is also probably the long answer. Another issue I took was with the battle they threw in with the Power Loader. It’s a nice reference to the movies where Ripley gets into the big yellow suit to fight the Queen, but they probably should’ve made it more interesting than just having me swing wildly hoping I connected, and then wrapping it up by making me twist one of the Loader hands like a drill with no graphical reaction from the Xenomorph. And if the Xenomorphs aren’t hard enough for you, don’t worry because your teammates will probably do something stupid to get you killed. Multiple times in this game would I be going for a frag grenade kill, just to have my AI teammate run in front of me causing me to blow myself up. In fact, the only reason I found the challenges in the game difficult was because of the AI teammates. There was a challenge for never missing a shot from a rifle, which would’ve been vaguely difficult on its own, but my teammates decided that they should amp that up by getting in my way and fucking everything up.

I can tell you the same thing about both the multiplayer and the achievements: nothing. I don’t know how many achievements the game has or how easy they are because I didn’t care enough to get them. That’s one of the biggest insults I can give a game. With as big of an achievement whore as I am, I could not stomach playing this game further to get them, regardless of their difficulty. And with as bad as the single player campaign was, there’s no way they knocked it out of the park with the multiplayer. I wasn’t even willing to give it a shot.

Aliens: Colonial Marines was an expectedly terrible game. The story was either uneventful or filled with events that ignored the story set up by the movies it based itself on, it was mostly ugly, and the gameplay was frustrating. There is nothing in this game that would lead me to recommend it to you at any price. Aliens: Colonial Marines gets “We can’t afford to let one of those bastards in here” out of “This bullshit that you think is so important, you can just kiss all that goodbye!”

WATCH REVIEWS HERE! YouTube OTHER JOKES HERE! Twitter BE A FAN HERE! Facebook If you like these reviews so much, spread the word. Keep me motivated! Also, if you like them so much, why don’t you marry them?!

Iron Man 3 (2013)


I’m Gonna Offer the Choice: Do You Want an Empty Life, or a Meaningful Death?

Iron Man 3 (2013)The release of the Avengers set a high bar for superhero movies that I imagine filmmakers will find it very difficult to meet.  But it would be horrible if they decided that they had done it and that they had to stop there.  Of course they needed more.  Nay … I needed more.  I was worried that I might go into the follow up movie with expectations too high for any movie but Avengers 2 to match, but I found myself able to manage my expectations fairly well.  And it certainly wasn’t the movie that made that so easy to do; it has quite a pedigree of its own to live up to.  And not just the Avengers.  The first movie in this series was probably the first step in the process of Marvel (and probably Hollywood in general) taking comic book movies seriously.  The second one let a lot of fans down, but I wasn’t altogether opposed to it.  And I finally got to see the third.  And so I present to you my review of Iron Man 3, written by Drew Pearce, co-written and directed by Shane Black, and starring Robert Downey, Jr., Guy Pearce, Ben Kingsley, Gwyneth Paltrow, Rebecca Hall, Don Cheadle, James Badge Dale, Jon Favreau, Ty Simpkins, Paul Bettany, and Stephanie Szostak.

In 1999, Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) meets a scientist named Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall), who has been working on something she calls “Extremis” – an experimental cellular regeneration treatment with the nasty side effect of making some of the patients explode.  He also meets a disabled scientist named Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), who offers them a place in his company, A.I.M. (Advanced Idea Mechanics).  But Stark is mainly interested in banging Hansen, so he neglects the other things in favor of that goal.  Years later, Stark is mentally unstable in all sorts of different ways.  Because of the events with the Chitauri, Stark cannot sleep and instead spends his time building new suits of his Iron Man armor, he has occasionally debilitating panic attacks, and his relationship with his girlfriend Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) are strained.  And to make things worse, a terrorist named the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) is laying siege to the world with random explosions that leave no bomb residue.

I liked this movie … but I had a few problems with the movie that hindered my ability to love it.  And a big portion of the problems surround the problem with being a fan.  I loved what I thought they were doing with the Mandarin in this movie by making him a terrorist, but I did not like what it turned out they were actually doing with him.  I’m okay with you removing the magic rings element of the Mandarin if you want to keep the series based more in real life (even though the Avengers introduced someone that also relies heavily on magic rings in a matter of speaking), but what you did with the Mandarin in this movie was take one of Iron Man’s greatest villains and make him completely insignificant by the end of the movie.  And it wasn’t even a surprise!  I started getting sad that I was seeing it coming when I first saw the movie studio the Mandarin would broadcast from.  And they did the same thing with another of the biggest characters in the Iron Man mythos: Iron Man himself!  I didn’t come to see Tony Stark 3; I came to see Iron Man 3.  But the greater majority of this movie is Tony Stark fighting outside of a suit because his suits were destroyed or ineffective.  And then – almost to apologize for that – they spend the last fight scene of the movie dripping with Iron Man suits.  You’d think I’d appreciate that since I was complaining about the lack of metal suits through the rest of the movie, but that’s also not the case.  The suits Stark kept jumping into in that last fight were so disposable you’d think they were made of Post Its.  The bad guys would slice through them like a hot hand through Iron Man suits.  Then he’d run around for a while and jump into a new suit for a few seconds of fighting.  And he didn’t even get to be the ultimate hero at the end of the movie!  Though how it happened was fairly badass, it wasn’t Iron Man doing it.  I need my hero to defeat my villain.

That amount of complaining might lead you to incorrect conclusions about my thoughts on this movie.  I did not hate it, but parts of it bummed me out.  It was still a good movie, and I’d even recommend seeing it in theaters if you haven’t already.  It’s still got some decent writing in the story, and Tony Stark has some great lines as always.  For instance, I liked when he called that little kid a pussy.  When an enemy asked Tony Stark if all he had was “cheap tricks and cheesy one-liners” and Tony responded with “that should be the name of my autobiography,” I still laughed.

The look of the movie remains fantastic, and I could not bring myself to complain about that.  Even though I didn’t like that most of the action didn’t involve Iron Man, I appreciated the action that was there.  And I could not stop myself from getting a little excited when the large group of Iron Man prototypes shows up to throw down, but I found myself thinking that it was good that Tony fucked around and created all those disposable Iron Man suits, but why wouldn’t he create just one of them that could withstand tremendous heat?  In the comics, Stark has different armor for all sorts of different occasions.  He has one that can go underwater, he has one that can go into space, he has one that can take on the Hulk, but he doesn’t have one that can withstand heat?  I find that farfetched, and I refuse to realize the irony in calling something in a superhero comic book movie “farfetched.”

The performances in the movie also remained excellent.  I find it impossible to not like Robert Downey, Jr., especially as Tony Stark.  He’s got more than enough acting and comedic chops to go around.  Gwyneth Paltrow remains great as well, able to go toe-to-toe with Downey in every way.  I thought Guy Pearce was a little over the top in the nerdy version of his character, but he did the rest of it very well.  I thought Ben Kingsley was amazing and badass throughout the greater majority of the movie, and he even brought some (unwelcome) comedic parts to the movie.  I welcome comedic stuff when Tony Stark brings it because it’s true to his character, but it’s really not something I want to see the Mandarin doing.  When I saw Ty Simpkins in the movie, it made me nervous.  You see, I’ve been watching Married With Children recently and I’ve just reached the part where they unleash the character of Seven upon the world, effectively destroying every episode he was in, as is generally the case when they decide what something needs to boost ratings is to add a child sidekick.  Thankfully, I didn’t have those feelings with Simpkins.  He didn’t specifically bring very much to the table for me, but Downey did in his interactions with him.

Iron Man 3 was a good movie, but my nerdiness made me resent certain parts of it.  The story was good, but I didn’t appreciate the angle they went with the Mandarin.  The action was good, but I didn’t appreciate the relative lack of Iron Man, nor did I appreciate how disposable his armor was.  And anything I didn’t like about the performances was not to be blamed on the actors.  They were all fantastic.  Overall, I was torn in my feelings about Iron Man 3, but I am not torn in my belief that you should watch this movie.  It could have been better, but it remains worth the price of admission.  Iron Man 3 gets “Lesson number one: heroes, there is no such thing” out of “You know, it’s moments like these when I realize how much of a superhero I am.”

WATCH REVIEWS HERE!  YouTube  OTHER JOKES HERE!  Twitter  BE A FAN HERE!  Facebook  If you like these reviews so much, spread the word.  Keep me motivated!  Also, if you like them so much, why don’t you marry them?!

Mortal Kombat: Legacy (2011)


Finish Him!

Mortal Kombat: Legacy (2011)My interest in today’s review was born from a short film called Mortal Kombat: Rebirth that hit the internet on my birthday in 2010. As with most things that came out on June 8th, it was pretty awesome. It took the world of Mortal Kombat that had previously been rendered goofy and unwatchable into something intriguing and vaguely realistic. I was entirely intrigued. But apparently Warner Bros. was not, and they passed on turning it into a movie. What they did instead is allow the director to turn his idea into a web series. But I found out that this had happened well after the first season had been released, so I felt like I had to do it all at the same time, which doesn’t really matter because the episodes are only like 10 minutes apiece. And so I watched, and prepare to review, Mortal Kombat: Legacy Season One, created, written, and directed by Kevin Tancharoen, based on characters created by Ed Boon and John Tobias, co-written by Todd Helbing and Aaron Helbing, and starring Michael Jai White, Jeri Ryan, Darren Shahlavi, Matt Mullins, Sam Tjhia, Jolene Tran, Ryan Robbins, Ian Anthony Dale, Devan Ohtsji, Shane Warren Jones, and Peter Shinkoda. Find it here on Machinima’s YouTube channel.

The story of the show is basically a prequel to the original game and we get introduced to the characters a few characters at a time. Sonya Blade (Jeri Ryan) gets captured by Kano (Darren Shahlavi) and Jax (Michael Jai White) has to rescue her. Johnny Cage (Matt Mullins) is failing to get his acting career back on track. Shao Kahn (Aleks Paunovic) overthrows the kingdom of Edenia, taking Queen Sindel (Beatrice Ilg) and her daughter Kitana (Samantha Tjhia) as his own, and creating an evil twin of the daughter that might actually love him who he names Mileena (Jolene Tran). Raiden (Ryan Robbins) comes to Earth and is put in an asylum. Sub-Zero (Kevan Ohtsji) kills the family of General Hanzo Hasashi (Ian Anthony Dale), and the anger and vengeance turns him into Scorpion. And Kano’s early endeavors lead to the creation of two robots from Lin Kuei warriors, Cyrax (Shane Warren Jones) and Sektor (Peter Shinkoda).

It’s hard to complain about something that is readily available for free on the internet … but I will do my utmost. Actually, I kind of liked this series. I’ve been really hit and miss with the Mortal Kombat franchise over the years. I liked about 50% of the games, and probably a much lower percentage of the live action endeavors. In the defense of the games, I never was that big into fighting games. There’s really no defense for most of the movies though. As for this show: it works. The episodes are a little short for what I’m used to, and the story is not surprising to people with a basic understanding of Mortal Kombat, but it was interesting to watch a half real world, half supernatural interpretation of Mortal Kombat. It wasn’t quite as based in the real world as the original trailer that drew me into the show, but it was good enough. But when I say it was unsurprising, I refer to events like what happens when an explosion is about to go off and Jax is nearby. Spoilers: there was damage to his arms. The devil, you say! Then, even though I really liked the way they set up Raiden’s story, it was almost what I expected. I thought it was cool (and made sense) that some dude falling out of the sky claiming he was the God of Thunder (without looking like Chris Hemsworth) would be put in an asylum. I expected him to be able to escape because they tried to give him electroshock therapy. A Taser is almost as good. It takes them until about Episode 4 to start getting into the supernatural, but they never really went that overboard with it. You kind of need to go supernatural when you start putting Outworld into it. The whole part of the story when Shao Kahn overthrows the king works well enough, but Shao Kahn also proved himself fairly stupid. Why would you send Kitana to kill her father if you’re trying to keep it a secret? There’s a huge chance one of them will recognize the other and unveil the whole thing.

The look of the show was solid, especially when you take into account the fact that it was made for YouTube and probably did not cost them a lot of money. Most of it was probably fairly practical until they started getting into the supernatural stuff, but the look kept up. And when it seemed they couldn’t afford the look they wanted, they supplanted it with a Kill Bill style animation that was still pretty awesome.

The action was fine, but it took a little too long to get there for my tastes. I mean, this show IS based on a fighting game, right? But it did eventually start into it, and I found it very satisfying.

I was pleasantly surprised by a lot of the cast for this show. They actually got some fairly decent sized names for something with such a low budget, and from what I’ve seen on Wikipedia, they got a few more. This season had Michael Jai White and Jeri Ryan, and next season adds Casper Van Dien and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa. Perhaps some names that some people wouldn’t recognize, but most are faces that they definitely would. But Van Dien replaces the guy that played Johnny Cage in this season, a guy named Matt Mullins. I thought he did an excellent job, so I’m not sure why you’d bother to replace him just because you can get a slightly bigger name, especially when that bigger name can’t possibly do the martial arts as well as Mullins did. And Johnny’s episode was actually fairly interesting for a character I have no interest in. I especially liked that Johnny Cage used to be a Power Ranger. The weirdest thing about the characters of this show was how long it took for them to introduce two of the biggest Mortal Kombat characters: Sub- Zero and Scorpion.

I would say that I definitely recommend Mortal Kombat: Legacy for a number of reasons. First, it’s an interesting, vaguely real world prequel to the Mortal Kombat series with some decent – albeit simple – writing to the story. Second, it looks pretty damned good and has some decent enough action in it. Third, they actually got some decent actors, and a few well-known ones. And finally, watching the entire series is shorter than most movies, coming in at about an hour and a half. So what could it hurt? Mortal Kombat: Legacy gets “Solid” out of “Toasty!”

WATCH REVIEWS HERE! YouTube OTHER JOKES HERE! Twitter BE A FAN HERE! Facebook If you like these reviews so much, spread the word. Keep me motivated! Also, if you like them so much, why don’t you marry them?!

BioShock Infinite (2013)


The Seed of the Prophet Shall Sit the Throne, and Drown in Flame the Mountains of Man.

BioShock Infinite (2013)I generally try not to review two games back to back, but this review simply could not wait. Not only did I talk about it in my previous review, but I just beat it and simply had to tell people about it. I don’t really know anyone that’s played this game but me, but I’ve seen lots of talk about how amazing it was before I finally purchased it. And I didn’t wait to purchase it because I didn’t expect much out of it. I waited because I had other games that I should finally play and knew that my drive to play this game would not wait. I loved the first game in this series, and I was even fond of the sequel, but now the game has been returned to the hands that treated it so well originally. And so let’s talk about BioShock Infinite, designed by Ken Levine, developed by Irrational Games, 2K Marin, Human Head Studios, and Darkside Game Studios, published by 2K Games, and including the voices of Troy Baker, Courtnee Draper, Kiff VandenHeuvel, Kimberly Brooks, Jennifer Hale, Oliver Vaquer, Bill Lobley, and Keith Szarabajka.

In 1912, Booker DeWitt (Troy Baker) is taken to an island lighthouse off the coast of Maine. Inside, he finds a rocket silo that transports him to his destination, the floating city of Columbia. His mission here is to find a girl named Elizabeth (Courtnee Draper), daughter of the revered Prophet of Columbia, Father Zachary Hale Comstock (Kiff VandenHeuvel). If he’s able to find this girl and return her to New York, he can wipe away his massive debt. But Elizabeth is not a normal girl; she’s able to tear holes in reality that go to either parallel universes or through time. And, quite frankly, this game is far too complicated for me to tell without spoilers, and I wouldn’t dare. Here’s a spoiler: go buy this game right now!

Damnit. I just ruined my whole review. I guess you can close out this review now… Okay, I’ll tell you why this game is amazing: because it is! It’s smart, it’s deep, it’s vaguely confusing, and it’s amazing. I doubt it was because of this, but the game I played right before this game was Duke Nukem Forever. Very similar games, though. Both first person shooters, both have some form of everlasting in their title, but only one of them you will wish will last forever. The other one will welcome you into eternity by making you want to kill yourself. But we’ll discuss the Duke later. The story of this game is better than any game I can currently think of. BioShock was already a brilliant story by having deeper messages within, but this one jumps past that one by also being mind-bending in all the best ways. People talked a lot about the racism in this game – as they talked about the “rape scene” in Tomb Raider – but I have the same reaction to both: get off their nuts. This game is like a snapshot of that time, and people were racist back then. But what I loved about the depth of their story was the hidden messages, the ones that were confusing at the time but (as I make my way through my second playthrough) actually hide messages that you only see once you’ve beaten the game, which leads to it being a total mind-fuck. I won’t spoil it, but the ending was amazing. It was even better for me because nobody ruined it for me beforehand. I would say that I kind of had an idea of what was about to happen – or at least one part of it – but explaining that too much would ruin it. In fact, I liked it so much that I won’t even put it in spoiler alerts here. Go play it and find out for yourself. But, during my second playthrough, strange things are starting to make sense, mostly dealing with the Lutece twins, or when they dropped hints that you were about to be ambushed at one point with things like a violin player that couldn’t play violin. I would say that I wish the ending were happier, but it’s what helps set the game apart as artwork and not just giving me what I want. And I do think this game would be my leading argument for games as artwork, and probably as my favorite game of this year.

We could use this time to go through the whole process of me saying that the game wasn’t perfect and that there were things that didn’t sit right with me, but let’s face it. This is all just an excuse for me to fit jokes I thought of into a review. There were a few things that popped into my head while playing, but I wouldn’t dare say they took away from the quality of the game. One thing I thought that could’ve been done better was how surprised Booker and Elizabeth seemed to be when they found out that she was Comstock’s daughter. I thought we knew that from the beginning! Was that supposed to be a Shyamalan twist on the story, because I thought everyone was just aware of it. It’s revealed at one point that Comstock was taking credit for things that Booker actually did at Wounded Knee, but Booker won’t tell Elizabeth what he did. Why be so shy about it? You’re walking around a city that worships the guy that says he did those things, so why should you assume someone would judge you for being the one that actually did it? Well, she probably would have though… What you can’t judge me for is my reaction to the Vox Populi. (Good transition, Robert!) These guys want me to help them out right? Shouldn’t they start by trying to endear themselves to me? Y’know, instead of throwing me out of an airship when I already have a head injury? The other thing was one I had heard complained about before, but the items you find when searching things was sometimes odd, like finding a pineapple on a dead body, or coffee in a mailbox. Even stranger that I would eat a hotdog I just found by searching a trash can.

The only thing that I would say seemed problematic about the story to me was that I never really felt the impact of the choices I made. As best I can tell, there’s no good or bad ending to the game, but there are choices that make it seem as if you’ll have an impact on the game. I’m okay with both existing, but not really okay with them existing together. Why bother making me choose whether or not to throw a rock at a guy that was fraternizing with a black lady if the only thing that happens because of it is that later the show up and say thanks for not throwing a rock at me. I haven’t beaten the game twice yet, but my investigation on the internet leads me to believe that there’s only one ending to the game, which I’m torn about. Part of me says that I should have more control over a video game and be able to make choices that end me up in different places, but the other part of me appreciates that the game makers decided that this was the ending they wanted to represent their art. I guess I really just wanted a happily ever after…

Since I mentioned it in my review of Tomb Raider, I feel like I have to close it out here. My friend Phil was complaining that he had heard people talking about how spectacular the look of BioShock was when Tomb Raider existed, whose visual style was far superior in his mind. Now that I’ve beaten BioShock, I have to disagree. I wouldn’t say either game is far superior to the other visually, but I thought of a comparison to describe my feelings about the look. Both games are beautiful in their own ways, but I don’t feel that they should even be compared to each other. The difference to me would be like comparing the Mona Lisa to some beautiful photograph (I admittedly don’t pay attention to photography as an art form). Tomb Raider is photorealistic and an impressive work of art in that sense, where BioShock doesn’t try to be photorealistic and instead goes for an artistic style all of its own. Both beautiful in their own way. Going to Columbia is as spectacular as going to Rapture was, and similar in feel even though it’s much brighter and sunnier in contrast. Two issues with the look though. Why does everyone have to look at their wrists when they’ve been released from shackles? Can you not just feel that they’re off? And there’s one scene shortly after that where you walk down stairs that have water rolling over the steps. Very pretty, but pretty impractical. You must have people breaking their necks all day long.

Speaking of beautiful, I think the thing that made me get into the game most of all is that I fell in love with Elizabeth. No girl will ever live up to Elizabeth. No girl is as innocent, as adorable, as pretty, and as able to tear reality asunder. It was clear to me that they spent a lot of time giving Elizabeth such life in the game. Her expression always matches her situation. She explores the environment when nothing else is going on, she’ll have a seat on a bench when she’s been walking too long, she’ll buy cotton candy, she won’t go into the men’s restroom when you do and she’ll criticize you for going into the women’s restroom. She’s like a real person. And she only gets cuter when she changes her clothes into the gear that she’s wearing in most of the promotional stuff for the game. And the best part about her is that she’s always an asset and never a burden. Most people figured that you would have to drag her ass around, trying desperately to keep both you and her alive, like a new version of Ico. But in combat, she can’t be damaged. She just hides in the corner and occasionally throws you something you need, like ammo, health, and salt (that’ll make more sense when you play the game, which you should be doing already). You can even have her tear reality and bring a turret in to assist you. Even when not in combat, she’ll throw you money, unlock doors, and point out items you should pick up. She is a pleasure to have around in every way.

Not much to say about the gameplay here. It’s not really revolutionary to me because it’s not far removed from a regular first person shooter. And at first, I was resentful that the right trigger was fire and the left trigger was for your Vigors. The left trigger should always be aim. How many times did I use some ability when I was just trying to aim, having forgotten that that is done by the R3 button? …Eleven. But I got used to it pretty quickly … especially when I realized I rarely felt the need to aim. I just think that shooters need to get on the same page and the big things – like shoot, aim, melee – on the same buttons, and then the rest can be used for the stuff that makes your game special. I also took issue with the fact that I could only carry two guns at a time. That felt a little low for me. The big thing that set this game apart from other shooters was the Skylines, that you could jump on to for travel, shoot from them, and jump off to kill enemies. I was unimpressed by Skylines. They were fine, but I could’ve done without them just as much as I enjoyed them. It seemed more appropriate for the game just as a method of transport than something I ever cared to use in battle. Also, the Handymen in the game were not nearly as cool as the Big Daddy. Just as difficult, but not as cool.

The achievements are roughly the same as I remember from the other BioShock games. The greater majority of them are not insurmountable. You have some collectables that you actually want to get because they make you better in a fight or give you insight to the story behind the story. A couple of easy to get combat related ones too. The only one that seems to be a problem is getting through the game on 1999 mode (which is what they called Very Hard for some reason). Getting started is very rough on this mode before you get the shield, and then it’s more about playing it safe. Also, you can’t use a vending machine that I never used because I saved my money to buy upgrades to weapons, so that was much easier.

BioShock Infinite is amazing. It’s not only the best game I’ve played this year, but it’s the best I’ve played in some time. I would expect to see this game again when the end of the year reviews come up. The story is great, deep, and mind-bending, and the combination of the great story and the fantastic visual style of this game makes it lean closer to a work of art than simply a video game. I don’t only want my readers to play this game; I demand it. Seriously, I need someone to talk about this game with without spoiling it. Get this game now! BioShock gets “You’re still fuckin’ reading? Go buy this game!” out of “…No seriously.”

WATCH REVIEWS HERE! YouTube OTHER JOKES HERE! Twitter BE A FAN HERE! Facebook If you like these reviews so much, spread the word. Keep me motivated! Also, if you like them so much, why don’t you marry them?!

Tomb Raider (2013)


I’d Finally Set Out to Make my Mark, to Find Adventure

Tomb Raider (2013)From the moment I first saw the video for this game, I was on board.  A super realistic reboot of an already solid franchise is alright by me, but I knew there was a chance that it could be disappointing because several of the games in the franchise had been already.  But I’ve always had a certain spot in my heart for Lara Croft and her bodacious breasts.  I didn’t buy the game when it first came out, but seeing about it and reading about it made my passion boil to the point where it had to be purchased.  Then, for some stupid reason, I started playing Darksiders while Lara sat next to my TV, staring at me confused as I played something far inferior while I owned this game.  Well, it’s time had come.  Let’s review Tomb Raider, developed by Crystal Dynamics and Eidos Montreal, published by Square Enix, and including the voices of Camilla Luddington, Robin Atkin Downes, Chieko Hidaka, Arden Cho, Robert Craighead, Cooper Thornton, Tanya Alexander, Earl Baylon, Andy Hoff, and James Walsh.

Lara Croft (Camilla Luddington) sets out on a ship called the Endurance to find the lost kingdom of Yamatai with friend Samantha (Arden Cho), mentor Conrad Roth (Robin Atkin Downes), archaeologist Dr. James Whitman (Cooper Thornton), and crew Joslin Reyes (Tanya Alexander), Jonah Maiava (Earl Baylon), Alex Weiss (Andy Hoff) and Angus Grimaldi (James Walsh).  Lara suggests a change in course, to venture into the Dragon’s Triangle, east of Japan, and the crew agrees with her against the contrary opinion of more seasoned archaeologist Whitman.  A freak storm attacks the ship, splitting it in twain, and leaving few survivors stranded on the island.  Lara is separated from the rest of the group and gets knocked unconscious by a strange man, who strings her up in a cave surrounded by corpses.  Lara must make her way out of the cave, battling the crazy stranded people, led by a man called Mathias (Robert Craighead), and get her people off of the island.  But it seems that Samantha’s ancestor, Himiko, is somehow controlling the storms that surround the island posthumously, and no one will be allowed to leave.

This is perhaps a controversial opinion, but one that I feel very secure in making: this is hands down the best Tomb Raider game ever made.  After I played this game, I started to wonder why I ever liked the other Tomb Raider games in the first place.  It’s so superior in every way possible.  The story especially.  I honestly don’t remember much about any of the stories in the other Tomb Raider games, but my recollection is that they were fairly weak.  Perhaps they met the standard of the day a little better as the greater majority of games didn’t have much by way of story, but this new game sets the bar way high.  The story is great here, and it has some real moments of emotion and resonance that I wouldn’t really have expected out of a Tomb Raider game.  People that are important to Lara die within the story, and the characters are given enough time to be important to the player to actually feel something when they die.  Sadly, one of the characters that didn’t die was Reyes.  The emotional response that lady elicited was hatred.  She blames Lara for every death on the team, even though she’s also the only one that ever saves anyone’s life.  I understand that it was Lara’s idea that turned the group towards the island that started this shit, but what was the alternative?  Continue following Whitman and never find what everyone on the crew signed on to find?  I found all the collectables in the game, and I never read any journals talking about how Lara twisted any arms or held anyone at gunpoint to sign on for this expedition.  And everyone that survived at the end of the game did so by the grace of Lara, so shut the fuck up.  And thank God SOME of the people on my team survived, because I was getting to think that I’d make it off the island alone with how quickly the game was killing everyone.  I was also happy that the greater majority of the game was rooted in reality and then it’s unveiled that there’s actually something supernatural going on as well.  That’s kind of a staple of the Tomb Raider games.  Also a staple is Lara’s sense of humor, which they maintained in this game to some extent.  This was Lara’s first outing, so she was a little over her head, but she had time to throw a funny comment in now and then.  I thought it was a fine joke when you’d examine a relic only to find out that it was fake, but they went to that joke a few times as well.  I also liked that there was a fast travel system in the game, but I found it difficult to use because of how the story was paced.  You rarely reached a site where you could fast travel from without having something in the story that seemed time sensitive, and the game had immersed me so much that I didn’t feel like I could go running around looking for hidden tombs and relics when my friends were in peril, but that’s really more a compliment to their story than anything else.  At least one of those frenzied situations could’ve been Lara’s fault, because how is she going to respond to her friend saying she has to hide her Walkie Talkie by yelling into the Walkie Talkie?  Your options are either the other girl turned it off and hid it like a smart person, or the people she’s hiding it from now know she has it because you’re yelling into it.

Another thing I wanted to talk about briefly was this alleged “rape scene” that I had heard so much about before going into this game.  What happens in the game is that Lara gets captured by the crazy people and one of them starts running his hand down her side towards her ass before you get a quick time event to stop him.  I thought this was really overblown.  First, he almost touched her ass.  He didn’t really try to rape her.  And if you fail the quick time event, he strangles you to death.  He doesn’t rape you.  I couldn’t promise that he didn’t then try to rape you AFTER strangling you to death, though.  My point is that it was not nearly as overt as they made it out to be.  I had heard some people refer to it as the “rape scene,” but if I had not, I don’t even know if I would’ve assumed it was going there.  This is something that I imagine would actually happen if a pretty girl was captured by a group of guys that had not seen a girl they weren’t going to kill in decades, and movies get away with this stuff all the time.  Why don’t we just get off the game’s nuts for this?  If we’re going to make a big deal out of something, I’d take more issue with Whitman telling Lara to just do what the guys said.  How are you going to tell an attractive woman to do whatever the crazy dudes that haven’t seen a woman in decades say to do?

This game also improves on the series visually.  The thing that was on my mind throughout the game was that my friend Phil was complaining that everyone was lauding the visuals of Bioshock Infinite when this game looked so good.  This game does indeed look fantastic, but I can’t really speak on the comparison yet as I’ve only just started Bioshock.  But this game benefits from an ultra-realism to its visual style.  It was so realistic that I actually started to get vertigo while climbing a radio tower in the game.  Lara also improved drastically in look.  Lara was always considered a sex symbol, but she’s much better now with realistic boobs and looking much more like a normal girl.  Plus, power is sexy.  And I would not mind dating a chick that much more badass than me.  And she is indeed badass, as the visual style helps to remind us by keeping the damage she’s taken visible through the entire game like how Batman’s suit gets beaten up as you progress through Arkham City.  And, like Batman, Lara just keeps pushing forward.  As I would with her in the bedroom.  I’m not sure that that makes sense…

The gameplay was also phenomenal in this game.  It’s pretty reminiscent of Uncharted in a lot of ways, but that’s far from a bad thing.  I love the Uncharted games!  It uses cover a lot and it’s a third person shooter, so the comparison is not a drastic jump to make, but they made it their own by making the guns somewhat secondary to the bow and arrow.  It was just more fun to put an arrow right between someone’s eyes.  And there was a lot of climbing as well.  But, technically, most of this stuff was done in Tomb Raider before, so maybe the comparison isn’t that apt as Uncharted probably got more from Tomb Raider than they did from it.  But there was one part where Lara climbed over the wreckage of a plane that was very similar to Nathan Drake climbing over a wrecked train car.  The puzzles that Lara can solve are often interesting, but none were entirely challenging.  I’m still okay with that.  Also, this game is put out by Square Enix, so of course there’s going to be experience in it, which seems to not fit, but it also works well enough that I don’t take issue with it.

In my opinion, this isn’t the greatest game for achievements for one specific reason: the multiplayer.  The single player achievements weren’t insurmountable, and were generally a pleasure to get as the game was so enjoyable, but I found the multiplayer to be a bit of a trudge and not really worth investing the time into.  And they want you to invest quite a bit of time into that multiplayer to get up to the level necessary to complete the achievements, so it just wasn’t worth it to me.  I’ll feel content with the single player achievements.

It’s probably too early in the year to make this prediction, but I could easily see Tomb Raider making it onto my list of the best games of 2013.  Well-written, visually photo realistic, and a damned joy to play.  Lara Croft is back in a big way if these guys keep it up, and I’ll be in line next time they make an attempt.  You should all be playing this game already.  You probably shouldn’t have been able to read my words without the persuasive power compelling you to make a run to the closest store to buy one, even if that store deals exclusively in linens.  Tomb Raider gets “The extraordinary is in what we do, not who we are” out of “Go buy this now!!”

WATCH REVIEWS HERE!  YouTube  OTHER JOKES HERE!  Twitter  BE A FAN HERE!  Facebook  If you like these reviews so much, spread the word.  Keep me motivated!  Also, if you like them so much, why don’t you marry them?!