Thor: The Dark World (2013)


I Only Ask for One Thing in Return; a Good Seat from Which to Watch Asgard Burn!

Thor: The Dark World (2013)I would like to offer you some backstory to why I saw today’s movie, but it simply doesn’t exist.  It’s a sequel to a movie I’ve seen and vaguely liked.  But more importantly than that, it’s a comic book movie.  That is all that is required for me to find interest in seeing it.  And then the movie came out and I watched it.  What do you want from me?  There’s not always an interesting story leading up to these reviews!  Sometimes I just watch movies!  And this one was Thor: The Dark World, written by Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus, and Stephen McFeely, directed by Alan Taylor, and starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Christopher Eccleston, Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hiddleston, Rene Russo, Stellan Skarsgård, Kat Dennings, Idris Elba, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Jaimie Alexander, Ray Stevenson, Zachary Levi, and Tadanobu Asano.

Eons ago, the Asgardians defeated the Dark Elves on the battlefield of Vanaheim –where Disneyland will someday be built – before they got the chance to plunge the universe into darkness with a weapon known as the Aether, but their leader Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) manages to escape with his lieutenant Algrim (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and some of their men.  In present day, the realms come close to aligning again, bringing the return of Malekith when he senses that the Aether was discovered by Dr. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) when it started to use her body as a host.  Her “boyfriend” Thor (Chris Hemsworth) returns to Midgard to take her back to Asgard with him to see if it can be removed.

I didn’t really go into this movie expecting much.  The first Thor movie was okay, but not really anything special.  This one was slightly better.  Not the greatest thing ever and not the worst, but it was an enjoyable enough watch.  The story was your basic “Bad thing’s gonna happen, hero’s gotta stop it” storyline.  And some of the subplots were a little predictable.  If you were the type that kept thinking during the Avengers, “Why did they make Coulson’s part so much bigger?  It’s like they’re trying to get us attached to him for some … Oh …,” then you may think the same thing about a returning character that had one or two lines in the first movie and was suddenly Chatty Cathy.  There’s also a fight near the end of the movie between two characters who – though they are technically enemies – are clearly faking it.  I don’t think anyone watching thought they were actually fighting instead of feigning a fight.  Though the writing can be predictable, there are some well-written funny moments to be had.  The scene where Thor and Loki are walking down and Loki was changing his appearance was pointless, but funny.  I also thought the moment where Loki and Thor are arguing over who’s a better pilot and Thor says, “Out of the two of us, which one can ACTUALLY fly,” was a funny line, but Loki really dropped the ball on that one.  Thor doesn’t fly!  He throws his hammer and gets dragged through the air by it!

Not much to say about the visuals of this movie.  It looks pretty great all the way through.  One thing that stood out to me was the singularity grenades that the enemies used.  Those were pretty awesome, and pretty brutal.

We’ve all probably seen this cast before, either in Avengers or the first Thor movie.  They do that.  But they still do it pretty well.  Chris Hemsworth is all around solid, in both performance and body.  And Natalie Portman is sexy, in both performance and body.  …I don’t think that one makes sense…  Tom Hiddleston is also very good.  I think the stand out performance in this movie for me was Kat Dennings.  She was comic relief in the first movie, but they really gave her a lot of funny to work with in this one, and she made good with it.  She’s one of the few comic relief performances I’ve enjoyed in recent memory.  I was really curious about the Warriors Three, or more specifically the Warriors Two out of Three.  Ray Stevenson came back as Volstagg, but new actors were portraying Fandral and Hogun.  They did fine jobs at it, but what the hell are the other two doing that they can’t be in an epic Marvel movie?  Once Upon a Time?  Worth it!

Thor: The Dark World was a step up from the original Thor.  The story was basic, but entertaining, and even managed a good couple of laughs.  The look was great and the action was solid, and all of the actors did fine jobs, especially Kat Dennings, who was typically hilarious.  This was an enjoyable movie and definitely worth the money to check it out in theaters.  A rental would also work if you would rather wait for it.  Thor: The Dark World gets “Look at you!  Still all muscly and everything!” out of “If we do nothing, they will destroy us.”

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The World’s End (2013)


That’s Why I Drink Using a Crazy Straw.  Not So Crazy Now!

The World's End (2013)When this movie was out in theaters, I was very excited to see it.  It was the third outing for a director I love, two writers I love, and two actors I love.  I even saw this movie while it was still in theaters.  And then I forgot to review it.  My notes must’ve gotten covered up on my desk and I eventually just forgot that I hadn’t done it yet.  I’ve even reviewed the other two movies in the trilogy in preparation for this review!  Then, when this movie came out on DVD on Tuesday, I went to repost my review to let people know if they should buy it, only to find that I had failed you all.  Well no more!  Today, I bring you my late review of The World’s End, written by Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg, directed by Edgar Wright, and starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Rosamund Pike, Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan, David Bradley, Michael Smiley, Pierce Brosnan, and Bill Nighy.

Gary King (Simon Pegg) sets his sights on getting the band back together, recruiting his old high school friends – Andy Knightley (Nick Frost), Steven Prince (Paddy Considine), Oliver “O-Man” Chamberlain (Martin Freeman), and Peter Page (Eddie Marsan) – to finish the 12 bar pub crawl that they attempted and failed 20 years earlier.  The other friends have all grown up and none are interested in making the attempt, but Gary manages to persuade all of them anyway.  But when the group arrives in Newton Haven, they find that things have changed.  Is it because they’ve all grown older, or is it because the town has been taken over by alien robots?  Who can say, really?

The problem I had with this movie is that it was part of the Cornetto trilogy.  On its own, I imagine I would’ve thought it was fantastic.  I guess I still did, but the problem is that Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz were superior.  So it’s the worst of the Cornetto trilogy, but still one of the best comedies of this year.  It’s a lot of the writing that makes these movies so enjoyable.  They’re chock full of fantastic wordplay and the stories are so well thought out that they you have to really pay attention to the little things to see all of the hidden jokes.  But I greatly appreciate some good wordplay.  Their Peter/Paul run was good, Dr. Ink was great once I figured it out, the white lie of his mother’s death line was hilarious, and many of the selective memory jokes were all the reasons that these movies stand apart so well.  I also appreciated all the ways Gary misunderstood what people were saying to him, like when he said, “What the fuck does WTF mean?”  But I think the thing I always appreciated most about these Cornetto movies is how they foreshadow everything that’s going to happen in various different ways; be they from off-handed remarks people make to the names of the bars and the order they’re in.  They’ve always been expertly hidden in their movies.  I know that I had to watch Shaun of the Dead a second time before I truly saw the brilliance of the movie.  This movie does the same thing, but part of the problem is that I expected the foreshadowing because of their other two movies, and it can kind of spoil the outcome.  Though the outcome isn’t the biggest twist in the world, so it isn’t that big of a loss.

Another thing that sets the Cornetto movies apart from most comedies is that they are legitimately good examples of the movie types they’re parodying.  Shaun of the Dead is one of my favorite zombie movies.  Hot Fuzz is one of my favorite action movies.  And now The World’s End would definitely fit towards the top of my science fiction movies.  They have some great special effects and some fantastic action as well.  Where else might you see Simon Pegg Rock Bottom someone and Nick Frost deliver a People’s Elbow?  Then there’s a big fight where Nick Frost lays a beating down on a room full of robots and Simon Pegg fights like Jackie Chan in the Legend of Drunken Master.  I’m 100% behind all of this!

No surprises here, but I still love all the people I loved before I even started watching this movie.  And I started loving those I was indifferent to.  Simon Pegg is still fantastic.  He did a great job of being funny and always appearing jovial while still seeming like there was some depression hiding just beneath the surface.  Nick Frost was losing me towards the beginning of the movie when he was straight-laced and generally being a dick to Simon, but once he starts slamming down the shots he got back to the Nick Frost I love.  Also, this movie has the second James Bond in one of the Cornetto trilogy (Pierce Brosnan.  Hot Fuzz had Timothy Dalton) and the first one to have a Bond girl (Rosamund Pike).  Interesting fact, but not interesting enough to give me something else to say about it.

I would say that The World’s End is the weakest of the three movies in the Cornetto Trilogy, but with the level of competition offered by the other two that’s not saying much.  The World’s End is a great movie on its own, but it can be somewhat hindered by the comparison.  The story is good though it gets a little heavy handed at the end, but how well it’s planned out and how well the jokes are written can easily overcome that minor problem.  It’s also got some really good action scenes and a phenomenal cast.  This is still definitely a movie that’s worth seeing.  In fact, it’s good enough to just go out and buy.  The World’s End gets “I still think nothing that has been suggested in the last 10 minutes beats ‘smashy smashy egg men’” out of “There’s only one Gary King!”

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The Grandmaster (2013)


Remember When I Told You That There is Nothing to Regret in Life?

The Grandmaster (2013)My inspiration to see today’s movie started years ago when I saw a movie called Ip Man.  This movie was so awesome that it drove me to then see the sequel and the prequel.  In fact, it seemed to inspire me to see anything that had to do with the character that the movie was based on.  I watched more Bruce Lee movies because Ip Man had trained him.  I even researched the man … on Wikipedia.  Where I research everything.  When I started in my Film Criticism class, the teacher pointed out similarities between some movie and today’s movie, which I had not yet heard of.   When I looked into it, I found out it too was based on the life of Ip Man.  I’m in.  Let’s see how that turned out as I review The Grandmaster, written by Zou Jingzhi and Xu Haofeng, co-written and directed by Wong Kar-wai, and starring Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Zhang Ziyi, Wang Qingxiang, Zhang Jin, Song Hye-kyo, Chang Chen, Zhao Benshan, Xiaoshenyang, Cung Le, Lo Hoi-pang, and Yuen Woo-ping.

Ip Man (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) was a dude that was good at martial arts, but bad at deciding if he wanted his name to be spelled “Ip” or “Yip”.  A martial arts master named Gong Yutian (Wang Qingxiang) announces that he’s going to retire and leave Ma San (Zhang Jin) as his successor.  Representing the South, Ip Man agrees to fight Gong Yutian, but they instead dance around a cookie and talk philosophy.  Not a joke.  Yutian’s daughter, Gong Er (Zhang Ziyi), decides to challenge Ip Man because her family has never lost a fight OR a cookie dance, and she manages to defeat Ip Man on a technicality.  But the two of them remain on friendly terms and may or may not have been in love with each other even though Ip Man is married to Cheung Wing-sing (Song Hye-kyo).  Then some other stuff happens and Ip Man trains Bruce Lee to be awesome.

I suppose I would have to reach the conclusion that I liked this movie, but I did spend the majority of it being bummed because it wasn’t anything like what I expected/wanted it to be.  But my expectations for this movie kind of confuse me.  Basically, I wanted this movie to be Ip Man.  But if I really want a movie to be Ip Man, I can make a movie Ip Man by popping in the Blu-rays that I already own.  But I feel like it was a mistake for them to make the movie seem like a martial arts movie in the trailers when it was really more of a drama or biography.  On the other hand, I paid for a ticket, so maybe it wasn’t that much of a mistake after all.  Another problem I worried about when comparing this movie to Ip Man was that this movie might be spoiled by having seen Ip Man, but the stories really weren’t that similar.  Plus, the second half of the movie feels more like the Gong family legacy and barely involves Ip Man at all.  And some of it is also a history and explanation of different forms of Kung Fu, like when the three different masters showed and explained their styles to Ip Man for no discernible reason.  I found it interesting, but I wasn’t here to watch the History Channel’s documentary on martial arts.

The real problem I kept having with this movie was with the fighting.  There was not nearly enough of it, and when it happened they were too in love with making the movie artsy fartsy to make sure we could watch the thing.  They did have a couple of fights in this movie, but they spread them out so much that I felt like I wasn’t getting nearly enough.  And some of what they might consider fights were far from it.  Like the different masters showing their techniques.  That’s more a demonstration than a fight.  And then when he fights Gong Yutian they were really just dancing around a cookie.  It really did feel like there were more scenes of people sitting down to have their picture taken than there were scenes of fighting.  When they had actual fights, they were pretty good from what I could make out, which was hard to do since they took the Hunger Games style of action editing by being too close to the action to see most of what was going on.  And they go into slow motion for them way too often.  How awesome was Ip Man without bothering with any of that artsy bullshit?  Answer: Very!  I still would say I liked the fights, but I would also like to say that I’m no doctor, but I think that getting your head slammed into a moving train – even if it was the side of it – would probably keep you from speaking directly afterwards as you’d probably be overcome with a serious case of death or retardation.

I do acknowledge that they were going for something different with the look of the movie and that apparently overrode their desire to show their action scenes.  And it was very stylized and pretty.  Lots of fights happening in the middle of a rainy day, because apparently Foshan is the Seattle of the Orient, but it makes it look good and Yuen Woo-ping showed us in the Matrix Revolutions that he loves fights that happen in pouring rain.  They did a lot of slow motion outside of the fights that started getting on my nerves because it was really jerky, as if the movie was glitching out.  I don’t know what they were trying to say with that jerkiness, but I just assumed that they didn’t film it to be in slow motion and did it after the fact because their movie was too short.

I had no problems with the performances in the movie, but as always I have problems with the characters.  Tony Leung Chiu-Wai played Ip Man very well.  I also know that he wasn’t meant to be a perfect hero in the movie and so was meant to have flaws, like the fact that he’s married but still having an emotional attachment to Gong Er.  But was it custom at the time that no one mention the fact that he’s married and coming dangerously close to cheating on her?  If he was in the presence of Cheung Wing-sing, the movie acted almost as if Gong Er didn’t exist, and vice versa when with Gong Er.  The only time I recall them even bringing up the scenario was when Ip Man was with his wife and brushed the hair out of her face and she looked like Gong Er, but I can’t blame him for that.  Asian people look the same to me too.  The only other time they dealt with it was when Gong Er was telling Ip Man that she wouldn’t be seeing him anymore, to which Ip Man should’ve just responded, “That’s cool.  I’m married with two kids anyway, so I’ll still get mines.”

The Grandmaster was a fine movie that bummed me out for not being what I hoped it would be.  I wanted it to be a martial arts movie, but it was really more of a love letter to the guy that trained Bruce Lee.  It worked well enough as a drama, but the low number of actual fights and the emphasis on the artistic value of fight scenes at the expense of the fight itself kept it from working as the martial arts movie I wanted it to be.  I guess I would say this movie is worth watching if you go in wanting drama and biography more than martial arts.  If you want a martial arts movie along these lines, just watch Ip Man.  The Grandmaster gets “If life had no regrets it would be really boring” out of “No news is news.”

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Gravity (2013)


Clear Skies With a Chance of Satellite Debris.

Gravity (2013)In my film criticism class, my professor practically beat us over the head with today’s movie.  Every day he would ask us if we had seen it yet.  The first time he asked us was probably the first I had heard about this movie.  It was just such a bland title and I had no real interest in the people starring in the movie.  But after a few weeks of this questioning, I felt like I just needed to see what all the hubbub was about.  And that’s what led me to see Gravity, written by Jonás Cuarón, co-written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón, and starring Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris, Paul Sharma, and Orto Ignatiussen.

The crew of the Space Shuttle Explorer – veteran astronaut Lieutenant Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), flight engineer Shariff Dasari (Paul Sharma), and first-timer Mission Specialist Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) – are on a routine mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope when an unexpected Russian mission strike on a defunct satellite starts a chain reaction of debris that heads straight for the Explorer.  When the debris reaches the Explorer, Shariff is killed and Dr. Stone is sent hurtling out into space, but Kowalski manages to recover her before it’s too late.  But their troubles are not over.  Their only hope is to make it to a Space Station and use its module to return to earth, but oxygen and fuel on Kowalski’s thruster pack is cutting their time window very close.

Okay.  I kind of see what the teacher was going on about.  This movie was very well done, but I wouldn’t actually put much stock into the story.  It was a pretty basic survival story.  IN SPACE!  But since they kept the story basic, I really couldn’t find that many issues with it.  The only issues I took were with the things that probably exist in real life that they used in the story.  Like fuck those Russians for starting all this shit in the first place.  You couldn’t give America a phone call just as a heads up?  I also take issue with whoever designed the doors on the space stations.  I understand there’s probably some pressure reason for them to fire open as fast as they do, but don’t you think it might be a little dangerous to have something fling open so fast in an area where people cannot stop themselves from travelling infinitely in a direction they are flung?  There simply must be hinge technology available that can reduce that potential problem.  There were also a few parts to the story I felt were unnecessary, such as Dr. Stone’s entire interaction with Aningaaq over the radio.  It also made me mad that these people wouldn’t just start speaking American like good, civilized folk!  They also had a little reveal with Kowalski as Stone was going unconscious at one point later in the movie that I wasn’t entirely shocked by as it seemed they had intended.

The real reason to see this movie is entirely how it was presented, and the credit should go to Alfonso Cuarón.  It’s gripping almost the entire way through.  At first I found myself worried by the fact that the camera movements were so disorienting and nauseating, but I imagine being in space would actually be pretty disorienting and nauseating.  I also noticed that they barely used sound in the movie, but then I remembered that in space no one can hear your soundtrack.  That’s a classic cliché!  There was one time that they played some music, and it kind of made me laugh, but that also might have been the relief I was feeling by that point.  It’s when Dr. Stone is standing up near the end of the movie.  The music they play (and how they film it) makes the simple act of standing up look so epic, but it kind of was by that point.  I then realized that I was being disoriented and nauseated from the edge of my seat, because that’s where the movie kept me.  Everything was a close call and a brush with death, and on more than one occasion they did more than get brushed by death.  They kissed death straight on the mouth.  If you were able to peel yourself from the moment long enough to look around, the movie was also very beautiful.  The Earth was in the background of most scenes, and looking at the aurora borealis (or whichever aurora they showed) from above was very beautiful.

The performances in this movie are another reason it works so well.  This is by far the best thing I’ve ever seen Sandra Bullock in, and I’ve seen Demolition Man!  But she really kissed this movie’s ass!  She was really good.  Granted, she mainly just had to be scared a lot, but she did that very well.  The only issue I took with her was that she perhaps gave up on trying to save someone in the movie a little too easily.  George Clooney was also very pleasant for what he did in the movie.  It really was more the Sandra Bullock show.  And that is it!  This has got to be the most limited cast movie I’ve ever seen.  This movie had a couple of other people involved in the cast, but most of them were voice only and the movie would’ve worked just as well without them.

Gravity is a fantastic movie.  The story is basic, but who cares because I was riveted the entire time with a nervousness I’ve scarcely felt for a movie I’m fully aware is completely fake.  This is not a movie for the weak-hearted or the weak-stomached, because I consider myself strong in constitution and even I was a little queasy in this movie.  And Sandra Bullock is better than I’ve ever seen her.  I don’t know if this movie is still in theaters, but if it is I recommend you go see it.  And if it isn’t, just go and buy it when it comes out.  Gravity gets “Either way, it’s going to be one hell of a ride” out of “Houston, I have a bad feeling about this mission.”

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White House Down (2013)


Special Agent Todd Keeps Making Those Sounds, I’m Gonna Start Looking at Him.

White House Down (2013)I decided that I needed something to watch, and my response to that whimsy is ever to check with my old friend RedBox.  The movie I was most excited about is one we’ll get to later, but I also saw today’s movie and decided it needed to be done as well.  Some people might argue that I’ve already reviewed this movie when I reviewed a movie called Olympus Has Fallen.  Many have argued that this is the exact same movie.  And I’m always excited by the proposition of reusing old reviews.  It makes my life so much easier.  Well we’ll find out if that’s a possibility as I review White House Down, written by James Vanderbilt, directed by Roland Emmerich, and starring Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Joey King, Richard Jenkins, James Woods, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Jimmi Simpson, Michael Murphy, Nicolas Wright, and Rachelle Lefevre.

John Cale (Channing Tatum) tries to repair his damaged relationship with his daughter Emily (Joey King) by getting the job that she would think is the coolest job in the world: Secret Service to the President of the United States, James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx).  He interviews with a former college acquaintance who heads the Secret Service, Carol Finnerty (Maggie Gyllenhaal), and even gets a pass for Emily to come with him into the White House, but Carol decides that he’s unqualified for the job because of his tendency to show a lack of respect for authority and lack of follow-through as mentioned in his military record.  While on the tour, John and Emily get separated when the Head of the Presidential Martin Walker (James Woods) leads a raid on the White House with ex-Delta Force operative Emil Stenz (Jason Clarke) and hacker Skip Tyler (Jimmi Simpson).  John must try to save Emily AND the President before all Hell breaks loose.

Sure, this wasn’t that great of a movie, but I would say I found it preferable to Olympus Has Fallen.  They are basically the same movie, but this is the more fun version of that movie.  Sure, it was dumb, but Rolland Emmerich has a great gift for winning me over with plenty enough fun to overcome the potentially crippling stupidity in the scripts that he chooses.  I’m even able to ignore the super-obvious moments in the scripts.  Like this whole played out “Daughter calling her father by his first name until the time is right for an emotional moment to call you Dad” thing.  That’s been done to death, and the second I heard her call him John I started a mental stopwatch for my smug satisfaction at being right yet again.  The same could have been said about the part where the President is talking about the pocket watch he carries next to his heart that was a gift from his wife.  The only reason I didn’t realize how that would turn out at the end of the movie is because it had been so long since they initially introduced the watch that I had forgotten that I had already predicted the result of it.

Most of the performances in this movie were decent.  They got some great actors to be in the movie, and most of them seemed like they were giving at least 50%.  Good enough!  Channing Tatum manages to be funny and charming enough.  I don’t get some of his character’s choices though.  What does John have against picking up guns from the people he’s killed?  He’s always running out of ammo.  Those guns probably have bullets.  Those dead bodies probably have extra ammo on them as well.  Is it a moral thing?  I think most people would be okay with this particular form of theft.  Jamie Foxx is usually entertaining, but I felt he was a little tuned down for this.  Also, he got bitch-smacked unconscious by an old ass James Woods.  When Jamie had the drop on him!  Thug shit, homie!  I found myself entirely unconvinced by Joey King as Tatum’s daughter.  She just didn’t do a good job, and I tried to give her a pass.  But every time she tried to emotionally yell, “DAD!” I just wasn’t buying it.  It’s never good to be able to see someone trying to act when they just should be acting.  Also there was that flag-waving thing she did at the end of the movie.  That shit was cheesier than Mac and Cheese commercials act like their product is.  And that is the cheesiest.  I did like that girl Jackie Geary, who played the assistant to the VP, but her negotiation skills need work.  She said her payment for getting Tatum an interview for the Secret Service was a date where Tatum had to at least attempt to get to second base.  When he upped that favor, it is only fair that you up your compensation to at least a finger blasting.

White House Down (much as almost everything Rolland Emmerich does) was stupid, but it was enjoyable in how aware of its stupidity it was.  Emmerich is gifted at overcoming stupid with fun, which sets this movie above Olympus Has Fallen, where the director did not possess such gifts.  The story is predictable, but most of the performances are decent, and I had enough fun watching it.  I could at least recommend this movie for a RedBoxing, but just barely that.  White House Down gets “I lost the rocket launcher” out of “As the President of the United States, this comes with the full weight, power and authority of my office.  Fuck you.”

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Grand Theft Auto V (2013)


I Gotta Go Meditate.  Or Masturbate.  Or Both.

Grand Theft Auto V (2013)The game I’m reviewing today is from a series I have liked.  LIKED!  But I’ve always had some level of irritation with the series because of everyone else’s reactions to the game.  Many people act like past entries in this series are some of the greatest video games of all times.  In fact, last I had heard one of these games overthrew one of the Zelda games to become the highest rated game of all time, a title I still staunchly oppose.  These games have all been typically fun, but I’ve never really found any value in the game beyond occasionally hopping back in to relieve stress by blowing up random things in a city.  But they’ve released another one, and it’s already saddened me by breaking world records and selling over $1 billion in the first three days.  …sigh…  Well, let’s see if it’s worth all this as I review Grand Theft Auto V, developed by Rockstar North, published by Rockstar Games, and including the voices of Shawn Fonteno, Ned Luke, Steven Ogg, Jay Klaitz, Gerald Johnson, Jonathan Walker, Vicki van Tassel, Michal Sinnott, Danny Tamberelli, Julian Gamble, Robert Bogue, David Mogentale, Matthew Maher, and Bryan Scott Johnson.

Nine years ago, a bank robbery went wrong, leaving Brad dead, Trevor Philips (Steven Ogg) on the run, and Michael Townley (Ned Luke) in witness protection.  Today, in Los Santos, San Andreas, Michael is living under the pseudonym of Michael De Santa with his wife Amanda and children Jimmy and Tracey.  Franklin Clinton (Shawn Fonteno) comes into the mix while working as a repo man for a car dealer that sells Jimmy a car as credit fraud and Michael goes down to straighten him out.  Franklin decides that he wants get out of small time crime and up his game a little bit, and he thinks mentoring under Michael is the best way to do that.  But Michael’s got problems of his own, including conflicts with a Mexican narcotics gang, working with the corrupt FIB (FBI), and the fact that Trevor is still alive and if he finds out that Michael’s still alive, some shit could go down.

I think the biggest problem I have with the GTA games is that I enjoy games that are some simple dumb fun, but I prefer games that help further video games as an art form by having a great story.  Some of those innovative and/or story driven games never get made because they will never be as successful as a GTA.  The reaction of other people also bothers me with these games, because I’ve never seen what the big deal is.  Everyone acts like the GTA games are the greatest games that have ever been released.  I don’t even think they’re the greatest games the Rockstar has made!  Give me a Red Dead Redemption any day.

That being said, we should go into the story of this game.  It’s unimpressive.  I’m sure anyone playing this game will have absolutely no problem with that either.  The overarching story of the game is just about some bank robbers that encounter some wacky things on their way to one big, last score.  Sounds like every bank robbery movie ever.  And a lot of times it seemed like the writers were trying to use this game to push their agendas.  Some of the most notable occasions of this were some pro-homosexual parts, some pro-legalization of marijuana parts, and pro-immigration parts.  I have nothing against those agendas, but this game doesn’t really seem like the place to make your political statements.  And then other side missions were just weird, even for a Grand Theft Auto game.  Like the section of the game that turns into Franklin’s ability to take on skydiving missions.  The game brings us to that section by having Franklin have a Lassie moment with a dog, where the dog is apparently talking to him and leading him to a skydiver caught in a tree.  If you’re going to do that, the least you could do is have Franklin get out of his car in a massive puff of marijuana smoke before he sees the dog talking to him.  But though it wasn’t a very creative story, there was a lot of creativity in the dialogue.  And there is hours upon hours of it to listen to.  That’s not a critique, as if to say that there’s too much of it.  I’m just saying I’m impressed by how much writing they would have had to do.  But perhaps do something a little bit more interesting with the story instead of spending so much time on that.

The characters weren’t entirely creative either, but you do get three of them.  Michael seemed like Al Bundy if he killed people instead of selling shoes.  Sex starved wife, slut daughter, and nerdy son.  And I knew they weren’t going to go this way, but I REALLY wanted his family to be taught a lesson by the end of this game.  I hated every one of them and I really would’ve preferred that they all ended up broke and out on the street by the end of the game.  Or at least that they would get off Michael’s case.  Not that I agreed with the things that Michael was doing, but I was playing as Michael, so they were getting on MY case.  Thusly, fuck those people.  Trevor was a pretty interesting character, but I never felt like I wanted to play as him.  I just don’t have much in common with a psychotic meth head that will fuck anything that walks past him.  I’ve always been more into cocaine than meth.  I preferred playing as Franklin, just because he was the nicest and most normal person I could use, but that also made him really boring.  Also, when he’s talking with Lamar those guys use the fuck out of the N-word.  It’s just about every other word.  Also, is this game trying to indicate that black people don’t know about convertibles?  When they get into them in the beginning, they seem completely shocked by them.  They even call them “robot roofs.”

The look of this game is so vastly improved from any other game Rockstar has made.  It’s hyper-realistic.  They captured the look and feel of Los Angeles extremely well.  Their map is also enormous, and varies the environment from rickety desert towns to industrial city to lush forests and even underwater expeditions.  It would be nice if that gigantic map would tell me which one of my three characters could purchase a property I was interested in though.  I don’t want to drive 15 minutes just to find out one of the other characters is the one allowed to purchase it.  And the environments also have a lot to do with the writing, like the funny company names and billboards, and the fact that someone put a Xenomorph in the ice in the Fargo-esque level you start in.  I was also a big fan of how they did switching between the characters.  The camera will zoom out overlooking the city and zoom down on the other character, like someone’s fucking around with Google maps.  And it’s made even better by the fact that the character you’re switching to isn’t just waiting around for you to jump back into him.  He’s living his life while you play as someone else.  Michael and Franklin weren’t usually doing anything interesting, but there was usually something fun to be witnessed by switching to Trevor.  He’s either waking up in the desert surrounded by dead bodies or waking up in bed with one of his male subordinates or stumbling drunk out of a strip club.  There were only two minor gripes I had with all of these things.  First: the size of the map made loading times to start playing a little ridiculous.  Why did I spend an hour installing this game just to spend 2 minutes waiting for it to start?  The second problem was with switching to characters.  Why the fuck do they have to change their clothes?  Why did I waste all that time getting them to look exactly the way I wanted them to look just so you could change it because I had to switch away for a little while?  That being said, $65 is still a great price for being able to make me grow a full beard in under a minute.

The gameplay in this was a little hit or miss for me.  A lot of it worked very well, and then there was the driving.  Most of the cars handled like shit.  I assume they were going for some super realistic thing.  I don’t have a basis for comparison because I don’t tend to drive like they do in this game, but I do know I don’t want to drive like this IN a game.  I’d rather be able to complete the races without hating life.  And I also don’t know how realistic I would consider it that I t-boned a car in a race and yet I was the one that spun out.  And the cars also take damage realistically, which is something that I also don’t want.  I don’t want my car rendered useless by the fact that I took a big jump and would’ve broken my axel in real life, or by pinning one of the wheels because I sideswiped a car a little too hard.  The planes were much more fun for me, but some of the flight school missions were just bullshit.  Mainly the one where they made me land on a bridge.  What kind of certified flight school would make their students practice an emergency landing on a bridge and not close the bridge off from traffic?  It’s not that much of a problem when the cars are small enough to drive under my wing, but when you let that semi-truck on so that it could tear the wing off of the plane, that’s just stupid.  Not just for making the mission more difficult, but I’m using YOUR plane.  And those missions that tell you that you must fly super low to the ground to avoid radar don’t make sense to me either.  You can say that flying super low keeps me off the radar all you want, but I think it’s slightly more suspicious that my landing gear are scraping rooftops.  A few people might call in about that.  You should really think this through more.  I also took a lot of issue with trying to lose the cops in this game.  Again, it’s probably more realistic, but it’s also very frustrating.  And shouldn’t diving underwater or being on the opposite side of a building make it impossible for them to see me?  And I liked the stuff underwater, and I agree that in real life there might be sharks down there, but if you’re going to put enemies underwater, might you be so kind as to make it possible to purchase a weapon that works underwater?  Spear guns DO exist in real life, y’know?

I also had a problem with the stupid iFruit app that I downloaded for my phone.  What part of the way most people play Grand Theft Auto made Rockstar think that the thing the fans wanted the most was an annoying Gigapet?  I already have pets that I am forced to feed every day.  I don’t need a new, fake one.

This game also has online content … or so I’m told.  All of my friends that play this game really want me to play it, but I just don’t feel that interested.  I played one race and left.  I’m sure the time will come for me to play the multiplayer on this game, and when I do perhaps I’ll review it separately if I have anything to say about it.  For now, we’ll just say, “I heard it was good.”

I also can’t arrive at any conclusions about the achievements.  I can say they’re terribly time-consuming to achieve, but I don’t think I’m interested enough in the game to dedicate that much time to getting them.

Grand Theft Auto 5 is definitely an achievement in gaming, and a record-setting success.  I’m not surprised as this series has always been extremely popular, but it’s never been that popular with me.  The story is lackluster, and I only enjoy playing it about half the time.  It seemed like the most recent Saint’s Row game and this game took exactly opposite stances on realism, and I didn’t care for either because of it.  I don’t want over-the-top, Matrix-like antics of Saint’s Row, and I don’t like annoyingly realistic Grand Theft Auto moments.  Grand Theft Auto IS a great game, but it won’t be making it into my good graces until it focuses a little more on story and has something more to contribute than mindless violence.  I do recommend this game, but I don’t need to.  I’m sure you’ve all already decided if you’re buying it or not.  Grand Theft Auto 5 gets “I’m rich, I’m miserable – I’m pretty average for this town” out of “You know, I’ve been in this game for a lot of years and I got out alive.  If you want my advice – give the shit up.”

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