Saturday, September 20, 2014

Review The Wire (2002 - 2008)

genre: crime, drama

The first time I heard of "The Wire" was on some forum discussing TV shows. After checking out some clips on Youtube I wasn't all that impressed. With nothing left to watch I decided to give it a go. And I must admit that this show is very rewarding on many different aspects even if it can be relentless and it doesn't hold back one bit. Don't expect any mercy from this show. And I mean none since most of what you see happening to these people on the screen is true to life (at least the core of it). You will learn to appreciate the characters even if they aren't really likable. And here lies the strength of the show. There is a wonderful story present but is not something you haven't seen before. The attention to detail however is. This show has a depth that is not present in other crime dramas. "The Wire" shows all the sides and aspects involved in (mainly) drug trafficking. We will follow the police,the criminals,the politicians and the victims of the drug trade. While the overall tone of the show is meant to be serious and educational, it doesn't mean that there is no room for entertainment. I can't remember another serious crime drama where I laughed so hard as I did with this show. "The Wire" is filled with the most funniest scenes you will ever see. And considering the context you will not see these jokes coming. It has been a while now that I have seen this show and I still think about it. If that isn't a sign of a true classic than I don't know what is. If you haven't seen this yet then do so, you won't regret it.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Review Castlevania: Curse of the Darkness (XBOX)

genre: action, adventure, hack and slash,

After having played Castlevania: Lament of Innocence I was psyched to play everything Castlevania which lead me to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow and this one Castlevania: Curse of Darkness. This title does not disappoint. It's a little different from Lament of Innocence but it adds some stuff that give the game more depth and therefore becomes more fun. Curse of Darkness is more an action rpg with bigger rpg elements. Your character Hector is a Devil Forger who can create Innocent devils that aid him in battle. They are very essential in beating bosses and harder enemies plus you need them to get past certain obstacles. So you will have to pay attention to them. These devils level up alongside Hector and each Innocent Devil (ID) has it's unique abilities. It's too much to get into it. But it is important to know that they are similar to familiars like in Symphony of the Night but at the same time very different as you simply can't advance without them if they aren't leveled up properly. It does take a little while to get into this system especially if you are coming from Lament of Innocence. Since the pacing and the action is a little less tight and slower. Only once you see the skills you gain by taking care of your ID's the game will become incredible fun. There is also a crafting system that will spare you to buy items. In fact it is encouraged to craft since you are also given the ability to steal weapons and items. Which is not easy but rewarding if you manage to pull it off. Once Hector and his ID's become stronger it becomes a joy to slay your enemies. But very much like in Lament of Innocence it's the accompanying soundtrack that makes fighting the monsters even more fun. It simply puts you in the mood to defeat them. 

Here is an example of a beautiful track in the game:

Story wise I have to say, it's even more simplistic as the one in Lament of Innocence but I think it references enough to other games and characters in the franchise to make it worth your while. One complaint that keeps coming back is the fact how repetitive the scenery and the combat can be. And with the first one I agree with the latter I don't. Because even when you think you are strong enough or have enough skills there are enemies and side quests hidden that require you to even become stronger. And in order to do that you will have to visit secret locations with some very challenging foes. (Two hidden bosses of which one is named Legion. Yes, he is back again.) These are optional. But having more content in a game is always good I think. And perhaps wise to take on since these side quests are far from repetitive. Curse of Darkness is a game where you will have to take your time to get into the mechanics to get the most of it. And when you do you can look beyond the simply story and visuals and be immersed since it offers a lot of depth. 

Additional Note:
After having played both Lament of Innocence and Curse of Darkness I can honestly say that these Castlevania titles very unjustly so have a bad reputation. I think most of the criticism is that they are 3D titles and did not offer the same gameplay as the the 2D platformers. Well, ask yourself this? Do you think it is possible to translate 2D gameplay to a 3D title and get away with it? With such titles you simply need other mechanics. But spiritually these are just as much Castlevania as their predecessors were. Both of these titles got me excited about the whole franchise so much I want to try out and play the older titles. While I like older games very much, those Catlevania titles I stayed clear from since I don't have the patience for them. So that should tell you something. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Review The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

genre: adventure, science fiction, drama

Don't let me beat around the bush. I enjoyed this sequel very much and with it's ending I am actually looking forward to the third one. This second part was an improvement when it came to the characters. More emotions and depth were given to them and thus we cared for them in a way I had been missing from the first. However there still is not that much background given on what the world looks like and how happy or unhappy the people are. We are shown some horrors in how the authorities deal with protests and resistance. And while effective it is left unclear why suddenly people are revolting. Even main character Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) keeps wondering and questioning how she is the one that inspired these people. It's not that I am unwilling to believe that sometimes having one person take a stand will be enough to go against the powers that be. But I think it would be nice to show, at least in one or two scenes how that works. If only to educate the audience the importance of being critical and taking a stand if tyranny rules. Only the film makers aren't really bothered by the why and how. I haven't read the books but I am thinking that the book delves deeper into the defiance and the rebellion. Now I understand that the movie tries to offer more on adventure and action but a little more focus on the people revolting would have given it much more meat. Still the action and adventure parts are more than solid and even thrilling at times. I do have a little problem with the Katniss and Peeta relationship. Maybe it is me, but that feels forced and I know that most of the time that is the idea. But it also occurs when the relationship is supposedly better and warmer. I keep reading how amazing there chemistry is. And somehow I am not seeing that at all. They seem more like siblings or friends without any sexual tension. I guess we will have to see if that will increase in the next part. I wished that books and movies would be more bolder and try to show that you don't need love to create drama. Anyways like in the first Jennifer Lawrence carries the film on her shoulders but this time she got some decent backup by the rest of the cast. Even the characters that were annoying in the first were very likable in this one. Which is proof that the characters are a little more fleshed out. Overall Catching Fire is pretty exciting at times and worth your time. 

Also read review The Hunger Games (2012)

Monday, September 1, 2014

Review Intruders Pilot (2014)

genre: mystery, drama

Don't read this if you have not seen the pilot because this will contain SPOILERS although most of it is speculation on my part.

Saw the pilot today of #Intruders. And it is deliberately vague, mysterious and confusing. But here is my take on it:
There are these creatures that don't die but transfer themselves into other bodies. Only they somehow do it while the host is still conscious but unaware of this happening. Then these creatures go dormant until they are woken up by those guys in black coats. Must be their guardians or something similar. If I remember correctly in the beginning of episode a cat also was present when the girl went into the bath. The cats must be some sort of vessel that transports the creatures. The jazz song is one of the frequencies that awakens the creatures inside the human bodies. It seems that the creatures are fighting amongst themselves since the man called Marcus inside the little girl is defiant against the one who awakened him. A lot of questions arise. What are these creatures? Are they aliens? Are they ghosts? Why do they need hosts? Why does John Simms has to play an American? Do we need to call animal control for possible abuse of cats? Do I really care about what is going on in this show?

"Don't beat around the bush man, tell us what you think?"
You really want to know what I think. Ok here goes:
Rubbish, complete rubbish. Incredibly poor writing. Yes Yes, I know it is supposed to be mysterious and all. Still, it is expected of us to care for characters we hardly know. We get to see #MiraSorvino like two minutes. And most of those minutes we are told she is not acting like herself. Would have been nice to have been shown how she is when she is normal. Same goes for John Simm's character. He is a fine actor but hardly any background is given on him. We know he is a retired cop turned writer. We don't even know the profession of Miro Sorvino's character. Then the little girl and her mother. The mother is conveniently absent when strange things start to happen to the little girl. In the first minutes when we get acquainted with them the mother is all over her and now suddenly she is not there. That is so unbelievable and poor storytelling. And I could have lived with this had the characters themselves been remotely interesting. But they aren't. Guess I will have to watch the second episode to see if this improves or not. Although I have a suspicion it is only going to get worse. A pilot should grab you. It should tease and intrigue to a point so that you can't resist to watch what happens next. And Intruders fails to do this. I will have to force myself to watch this. If you ask me avoid !

Review The Lunchbox aka Dabba (2013)

genre: drama, romance

The Lunchbox aka Dabba is an Indian movie and not your typical bollywood masala flick which is refreshing. What is even more wonderful about this one that it's a story about real people told in a real and sincere way. Most of what unfolds on screen is relatable and universal. The story is based on a lunch box delivery system of Mumbai where lunch boxes are collected from homes to be delivered to workplaces. It is said that it's most efficient as they rarely make mistakes. Which is quite extraordinary if you consider how many lunch boxes are being delivered and fetched. In this film a mistake is made though where a lunch box from Ila (Nimrat Kaur) gets delivered to Saajan Fernandes (Irrfan Khan) instead to her husband. When she finds out she starts writing to Saajan and he starts writing back. They connect and it is beautiful to see how that unfolds into something more. It starts out as a friendship that becomes more intimate where it is left upon the viewer to interpret of what this relationship is about. What I enjoyed immensely was that you see growth in the characters. Especially Saajan. The man seems like he has given up on almost everything. He is going through motions and does not really want to be among people that much. But because of the friendship with Ila he finds back his passion and slowly opens up again to her and the world. There is a hint of romance although I think this is more about connecting and a form of intimacy that friends can have without it being romantic and sexual. For me this was a beautiful tale without it ever getting over the top or dramatic. A must watch!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Review Maleficent (2014)

genre: fantasy

Maleficent shows real promise right from the start. It's sweet and endearing. That should have been a direct contrast to when Maleficent becomes the evil person we know from Sleeping Beauty (1959). However here is where the biggest problem of this film gets exposed. Angelina's version of Maleficent is not really evil. The Disney version was even more evil than Angelina. Here she is actually just justifiably angry and a good person through and through. And believe it or not that is exactly what has ruined the viewing experience for me. They changed the personality so much that you begin to wonder what the point is. Angelina Jolie can do evil and creepy very easily. So why did they make her out to be so nice. Sure she looks like she could bite your head of any minute but the most evil she does is put a spell on Aurora. Her further actions will contradict this spell so in the grand scheme of things it makes no sense. The real villain is King Stefan played by Sharlto Copley. It clearly shows that he is asked to hold back as we know he can do much better. Again this hurts the viewing experience. I understand that this version is aimed at children. Still it shows that the film makers don't really know what kids can handle. Actually they are insulting their intelligence. Just take a look at the Disney's Sleeping Beauty. Maleficent is evil personified in there. She is not someone to mess with it. Angelina Jolie's Maleficent is basically a pushover. Most of the action is cute and looks good but it could not hold my interest because it never really dazzles or surprises you. For me this was very disappointing. Not bad, but not one I can recommend.

Review The Expendables 3 (2014)

genre: action, adventure

With this third part The Expendables has become a franchise that every action aficionado has to check out if only because of the huge names involved that bring us old school action for the masses. The Expendables always has been about bringing old school action back and paying tribute to the early action heroes that back then made our day. This one is no different and adds Wesley Snipes, Mel Gibson and Antonio Banderas into the mix. While this part definitely is a little slower and less surprising it still packs a lot of punch. I mean the action sequences in the final part are among the best I have seen in a long time and makes you forgive for the uneven pacing previously. But best of all it helps us remind why actors like Wesley Snipes and Antonio Banderas were big when they ruled the cinema. Both bring a charisma to the screen that is magnetic. Antonio Banderas more so than Snipes. But I mean Antonio is charming as hell. Even if he would do mundane things it is hard to dislike the guy. I sincerely hope that this adventure will bring them back in the roles they excel in. One remark about the PG-13 rating. Does it hurt the overall enjoyment of this film as a standalone ? No, it does not. But compared to the previous parts it does considerably. In this case there is something to be said about not seeing the blood and gore that comes with the brutal action that is displayed. Somehow it feels cartoony. As Sylvester Stallone said himself the comedy was toned down a lot also. And those were exactly the elements that gave the Expendables movies their edge above current action films. Overall I enjoyed The Expendables 3 and I want them to continue this franchise as long as possible.