Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Host – review

The Host is a science fiction movie based off the Stephenie Meyer novel of the same name.  The movie is much like a The Invasion of the Body Snatchers or The Puppet Masters rip off with a sappy script, plot holes, terrible characters, and a love story less believable than a fairy tale.  The film is depressing considering there are cast members that are decent actors and have been in other things that are much better.

The Host begins telling us about how humanity was conquered by an alien parasite.  The alien species has basically taken over most of the population and created a world of peace; no more hunger or environmental issues.  They find a human girl named Melanie, played by Saoirse Ronan, who is running from them and implant one of their own in her.  The alien parasite calls itself Wanderer and begins to have dialogue with the stolen will of the body it now possesses. 

Melanie is an incredibly weak character. Considering the acting chops that Ronan usually brings to her roles. Diane Kruger and Emily Browning are also in this movie and seem to be looking to cash in on being in a Meyer’s film.  There is no reason for the romance between some of the characters other than pure lust, and their motivations are highly suspect.  It makes you root for the aliens and not the humans.

Upon first seeing Melanie as Wanderer, her family beats her like a police officer interrogating a suspect. While the humans threaten to kill her in almost every scene, the aliens promise peace and don’t desire to kill- just implant their own species in humans.  It makes you want the aliens to win. 

Then there are holes too numerous to mention. For example: If the aliens are helpless squid-like creatures, who implanted them in the first human to begin with?  If the creatures refuse to kill humans or use guns, how did they take over humanity?  If they are fine removing the aliens and sending them to another planet, doesn’t that simply doom another race? What’s to stop them from returning?  There are a lot of things that they just didn’t thing about at all.

I know this Melanie girl is supposed to have this amazing will power to be able to overcome this alien inside her. However, it is really too much to buy that a young girl with a lusty romance and a young brother has more will to live than say- a parent or a married couple.  It wouldn’t be as bad if it had any spirit or actually wanted to be something innovative.  Instead it plays it safe and goes the route of every other young adult romance and has a happy ending that is so sappy they should ride off on a unicorn.

The movie is a real stinker.  The Host shows no skill for story or for interesting characters that have useful motivations. The movie is annoying and should be avoided at all costs.   There are just too many movies that are similar concepts that you should watch instead like Invasion of the Body Snatcher or The Puppet Masters.  Those will at least give you the appropriate sense of dread from a true alien threat.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Bioshock Infinite - Video Game review.

The original Bioshock game is one of my favorite games.  The story and roleplaying elements mixed well with a first-person shooter game to create an experience that captivating to watch and play.  The third installment of the series, Bioshock Infinity, takes a new turn.  This time they have moved away from the underwater city of Rapture and moved to the floating city of Columbia.

You play as Booker DeWitt, a former Pinkerton agent who is attempting to find a girl in the city of Columbia and return her to New York.  Columbia is a floating city in 1912 so everything is decked in Americana.  There are a lot of perils that Booker must overcome to find the girl. When he does, he will never be the same.

The graphics are vastly improved from the former games.  The people you meet all look authentic and react well to events of the story and the time period.  It almost looks as if the main street of Disneyland is brought to life on a grand scale.  Many of the enemies you fight are normal looking instead of the spliced- up freaks, like in previous games. 

While this is a fun game, there are flaws that make it fairly weak at times.  During the past games there were enemies that would randomly roam a hallway or a room.  You sometimes would see them wandering around talking to themselves.  In this game what happens is: You walk into an area, the area becomes closed to you, you have to fight off all the goons, then you can proceed.  It gets tedious fast. 

I don’t mind that they decided to stray away from the Rapture world and try something new.  I think the story is overly convoluted and borders on Stephen King’s Dark Tower territory.   The final boss battle is frustrating and took forever to successfully complete.  With all the footage I remember seeing online before this came out, it makes me wonder what on earth changed this so much?  They seemed to put out a lot of stuff to entice gamers with this new concept but in the end they were signing checks their butts could not cash.

As a whole, Bioshock Infinite is an okay game. It is pretty and the controls are fairly easy to get used to.   However, if you are looking for the better games I’d look back and start with the first Bioshock.  The idea is interesting and I look forward to the downloadable content add-ons.  It can only get better since they scraped the multiplayer aspect, which they had on Bioshock 2. It does not seem to have a lot of extras although it does come with a copy of the first game. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Top 10- Most Insane Car Chase Scenes

Many movies are famous for their car chase scenes.  Bullitt, The French Connection and Smokey and the Bandit are famous for their scenes of fast-paced, high-speed action sequences.  The car chases that are most memorable to me are the ones that are so insane and off the wall that they stick in your memory like a popcorn kernel in your teeth.   Here are my top ten most insane car chase scenes from movies.

10. The Matrix Reloaded- Fighting the Freeway.
The Matrix Reloaded was a mediocre sequel but it had an exciting car chase.  In it, there are cars exploding, people leaping from car to car, and kung-fu fighting on top of semi trucks. The ghostly twins chase the protagonists are soon joined in the fight by the Agents. Besides having to make sure they stay alive they also have to make sure that the Key-maker stays alive. It makes for a visually interesting chase scene and was a clever place for a fight scene.  The story stays dramatic up until the point that Neo flies in and saves people like a leather-clad Super Man.

9. Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade- Chased by Nazi planes.
After escaping from a Nazi zeppelin, Henry Jones Sr. and Jr. take of f running from some Nazi planes by stealing a car.  “This is intolerable.” Indy’s father constantly repeats.  Together with some ingenuity they are able to dispatch the planes in a silly and exciting manner.  One crashes in a tunnel creating an explosion they need to outrun. They then use a flock of seagulls to bring down the last plane.  Like the mood of the rest of the series, it follows the pulp adventure serials of the thirties. 

8. The Dead Pool- Remote control bomb chase.
This was the final film of the Dirty Harry series. In it a killer sends a remote control car after Harry Callahan. The car has C-4 on it and is rigged to explode.  So the little remote controlled car and Harry race through the streets of San Francisco.  It looks funny but it works since the threat is large enough and the villain happens to be a special effects expert in this film.  The scene is played almost for laughs judging by the music they choose.  Still, it is an incredibly memorable chase scene through an iconic city that almost seems to be paying homage to Bullitt.

7. Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior- Final tanker battle.
In the post-apocalyptic world where gas is super rare, the bandits of the wasteland are trying to steal a gas tanker driven by Max.  Hordes of these dirty bandits attempt to take the tanker as he is driving it.  The people on board attempt to protect it to no avail. People fire arrows, throw Molotov cocktails, and crash themselves into one another in horrific fashions just to get at the gasoline. What folks do not seem to realize is that Max is essentially driving the tanker as a diversion.  He is driving the wasteland bandits away from the real gasoline tanker.

6. Terminator 2: Judgment Day- The Somewhat Unstoppable Truck.
When the T-1000 has spotted John Conner he chases him relentlessly.  When John takes off on his motorbike the T-1000 takes chase in a big rig.  He even crashes the rig into a levee in order to chase after John.  It isn’t until the T-800 shows up on his motorcycle to protect John that he even stands a chance against this monstrous threat.  The T-800 eventually finds a way to blow up the truck and get John to safety for the time being. It is a gripping scene that is enhanced by rapid music and heart pounding. 

5. Quantum of Solace- The Opening Tunnel Chase.
The James Bond film Quantum of Solace begins with a bang.  It becomes a tunnel chase with fast cars and lots of bullets flying. Cars are realistically spinning out of control and falling off cliffs.  After the villain is dispatched, he simply drives his damaged Aston Martin back into the Italian village where he is staying.  It’s a remarkable scene for a remarkable character. Bond shows that he is still a cool and collected killer when it comes to his job. After the events of Casino Royale, James Bond is clearly still dealing with anger issues.

4.  Drive- Sneaking in the Shadows.
Drive starts of with the driver taking a job as a driver for heist.  Instead of having the chase rely on speed and crashes, the driver cleverly listens to a police radio and drives wherever they are not looking then stops the car in a safe location. The driver gives his passengers his full skill set for a limited time.  When the time is up he parks the car and walks away expecting never to hear from his accomplices again. His stealth tactics are unique and suspenseful.  It is a fun and original way to experience a car chase.

3. The Dark Knight- The Prisoner Transfer.
After Harvey Dent turns himself into the police for being Batman, they decide to transfer him to another prison.  As they transfer him the Joker attacks.  He takes out the helicopters in the sky using wires and grappling hooks.  Then, he chases them in a semi-truck armed with a rocket-propelled grenade.  Meanwhile, Batman is chasing the whole time in his tumbler.  The tumbler is forced to take a massive amount of damage in order to protect Dent.  Batman even has a chance to kill the Joker but because of his sense of justice he doesn’t do it. It’s comic book action at its finest.

2. Death Proof- Hanging on the Hood.
While test-driving a 1970 Dodge Challenger, real-life stunt-woman Zoe Bell, straps herself to the hood in an attempt to play a game called “Ship’s Mast.”  Kurt Russell’s character shows up as a psychopathic killer and attempts to kill them by running them off the road.  It’s a suspenseful and gripping scene that works really well.  Zoe Bell’s stunt work is really impressive and it shows amazing talent.  Everything builds up to the tense finale when Kurt Russell is given a very powerful comeuppance.

1. The Blues Brothers- Driving through the Mall.
This movie has a ton of car chase scenes.  The most memorable one is where Jake and Elwood drive their car through the mall.  The cops even take chase.  It’s hilarious and chaotic as they tear though all the stores and magically seem to not kill a single person as they elude the police. During their adventure they do run afoul of the Illinois Nazis, a Country Band, and most of the police and military that is after them. It’s a fun and enjoyable movie that is totally worth seeing for the mall chase scene alone.

There are so many memorable movies with car chases. They span a plethora of various genres but you can always find something memorable in the destruction of property and vehicles. Movies will always find a way for extreme scenes that will impress and thrill audiences with highway stunts. If you find any of these intriguing, give them a shot, and as usual, happy watching.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Oz the Great and Powerful- review

I was genuinely excited to see this movie and Oz the Great and Powerful didn’t disappoint.  It’s a beautiful film that used 3D effects with amazing effectiveness.  The story is very charming and for the most part the actors bring forth good performances.  The movie is certainly full of heart and imagination. In terms of a movie, it is a horse of a different color; taking a selfish, male lead into Oz.

Oscar Diggs, played by James Franco, is a magician in a small-time travelling circus. After a show he is chased into a hot air balloon where he accidentally gets whisked away to the Land of Oz in a tornado.  When he arrives he is mistaken for the prophesied Wizard of Oz who is supposed to save the land from the Wicked Witch.  Can this small town magician keep people believing he is a great man?

James Franco is great as Oscar Diggs and is incredibly charming.  Michelle Williams is lovely and encapsulates the role of Glinda the Good Witch.  I was even impressed by Zach Braff whom I normally find very annoying.  He brought a very decent and likable performance.  The only exceptions were Mila Kunis and Rachel Weisz as the Wicked Witches. Considering both are normally decent actresses it was really lame see them phone it in.  Mid-movie Mila Kunis becomes the Wicked Witch of the West.  She turns green and gets funky prosthetics. She attempts to impersonate Margaret Hamilton and it comes off more like she is shouting at a neighbor’s dog.  Sadly the laugh is very off.  Rachel Weisz might as well be sleep walking though her part the way she blandly reads her lines.

The scenery and the effects are really lovely. Between the China Doll girl and the winged monkey it is really impressive and creative stuff.  The landscape is littered with amazing flowers and creatures that seem like they could be out of Fantasia.  The story theme is really positive too, even though it doesn’t fit perfectly with the 1939 film. They borrow interesting style choices from the 1939 film such as the choice to start off in Kansas in black & white then when they go to Oz they use very vivid color.  The plot has interesting ties between Kansas and Oz. For example, in Kansas a girl in a wheel chair asks Oscar to heal her legs and he feels helpless because he is a fraud and can’t help her. In Oz he comes across a girl made of China who has broken legs that he is able to mend with glue and help her walk which gives him a form of redemption.

This movie is really well made, well acted, and fun to watch.  It makes a good happy medium between The Wizard of Oz and Return to Oz.  There are many things that will keep your eyes glued to the screen.  The film has a lot of heart and will impress anyone who watches it, child or adult.  I recommend you see it in 3D in order to get its full fun effect.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Last Exorcism part 2- review

The Last Exorcism part one was a really good movie that showed good acting over a creepy tale.  I was genuinely excited for the sequel when I heard about it in development.  In The Last Exorcism part two, acting was the same good caliber but the story lacked a few plot elements; taking a turn away from the cult aspect and relying more on a demonic love story.

After the events of the first film Nell Sweetzer, played by Ashley Bell, is found in a local home.  After a visit to the hospital she is taken to a girl’s home where she is slowly rehabilitated.  Her life is finally getting back on the right track.  Then she begins to get demonic visions and she starts to feel as if she is being followed. Is the demon Abalam planning to corrupt young Nell again?

 The acting is very good.  Ashley Bell brings a great performance to Nell.  She is na├»ve, demure, and very believable as an actress.  Some of the other characters are alright but it’s not nearly as interesting as Bell as Nell.  They found a way to bring her father back into the movie, which was fun. I wish they found a way to write in Nell’s brother, or the reverend Cotton Marcus for this movie as well.

The story itself is okay.  The choice to go from POV camera to a more standard view is much better for this type of story.  The movie shows a different tone and attitude than the last since the focus is Nell this time around. There is less humor and more mystery involved in this one.  How the found footage from the first movie came to be released into the public is still a question.  The ending is also a lot darker and leaves very little room for a sequel. 

If you are a fan of the first movie then you should see this one as well.  It is different from the first film and in that respect the viewer will appreciate this movie’s style. If you’ve never seen the first movie, it’d be best as a rental or a matinee if you are desperate.  On its own this movie was fun, but is really a lesser movie when compared to the first.