Monday, January 21, 2013

Borderlands 2 - Video Game Review

The Borderlands series is an interesting mix of POV shooter and loot grabbing role-playing game. It takes elements of post apocalyptic fiction and science fiction.  While there are a lot of things that are fun and interesting it has some very strong moments that will make you want to pull your hair out.  The game is fun and worth purchasing.

Borderlands 2 takes place 5 years after the first game.  There are a new group of vault hunters now with new skills out to make it rich on the planet of Pandora.  The problem is Handsome Jack, the local head of the Hyperion Corporation, is out to kill your character. Finding out why is the huge undertaking.

The art style is still as good as it was in the last game.  There is a lot of humor woven into the story.  These factors make it pretty worthwhile for some of the quests and dialogue alone.  If you love a long game this one will certainly be up your alley.  They have already created several pieces of downloadable content with new quests and new loot. 

It’s a fun game that will entertain for many hours.  It has many optional quests that that will frustrate you or you will enjoy as you make your character more and more powerful. If you enjoyed the last game you will like this one.  If you enjoy RPGs or shooters this is a unique game that will entertain you for a long while.

Saturday, January 19, 2013


Mama brings a great new vision to the cinematic ghost story.  The acting is really well done.  The story is very interesting and displays some intelligence.  There are even some cleverly filmed scares that work really well.  It has a lot of imagination that is like watching a nightmare come to life.

Victoria and Lilly are left in a cabin after a ghost kills their father during a botched murder-suicide.  For five years this apparition cares the girls as they become more feral.  When Victoria and Lilly are found they move in with their Uncle Lucas and his girlfriend Annabelle, played by Jessica Chastain.  Strange things begin happening as they take on the task of caring for the girls.  Are Lilly and Victoria being visited by someone or has the ghost returned?

The acting is really well done. Jessica Chastain does an amazing job playing a rocker girl turned reluctant mother of two feral girls.  The child actors they cast in this movie do a fabulous job.  They are very good, chilling when they want to be, and can easily steal any scene they are in.

The story is well paced and builds suspense in a clever way.  The movie doesn’t rely on jump scares but shows skill by using other camera tricks to build up scares.  The story hits the ground running and starts very fast paced.  The biggest flaw is that it has an ending that is a mixed bag at best. You’ll either love it or hate it. 

As a whole the movie is pretty clever.  It’s an original and fun ghost story that is really worth watching.  If you are looking for something different and creepy go for a matinee or rental viewing.  If you are a fan of movies like Insidous or The Ring this will probably be right up your alley and a must see.  

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Gangster Squad-review

In the realm of gangster movies there are a lot that have really raised the bar.  Gangster Squad is not one of them.  This film takes the clichés of just about every other mafia movie and adds a great cast to the mix. The biggest problem is that it’s a rip off of The Untouchables

In post-WWII Los Angeles Mickey Cohen, played by Sean Penn, runs the mob with an iron fist.  The Chief of Police gets together with Sgt. John O’Mara, played by Josh Brolin, and they decide to start a Gangster Squad where they will take down Cohen’s operation.  John gets a crew of misfit cops together and they start to really put the hurt on the Cohen operation.  How will Mickey Cohen retaliate?

To this movie’s credit the acting is really good.  There are a lot of talented stars that bring their A-game to this movie.  Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, and Josh Brolin just to name a few.  The problem is that the writing is super clichéd. The only thing truly original they bring to the table is a stream of nearly constant action scenes, where the stars pepper each other with an obscene amount of bullets.

After the August 2012 shooting in an Aurora theater they pulled the trailer in order to reshoot the scene involving a shoot out at Grauman’s Chinese Theater.   Frankly, I don’t think it would have been too bad to keep it in the film. They could have released it even later than they already did if they were really worried about backlash.  Taking out a scene like that and making the change so vocally really makes me wonder how the movie might have been better or worse if the scene would have stayed in the film.

This movie is not horrible.  It’s also not great. It suffers the crime of being bland and contrived to the point that no one could possibly care.  I can’t recommend this unless you are really a hardcore fan of one of the actors.  There are just far too many better mafia movies out there that are really more interesting.  Watch any of those movies instead of the poor imitations.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Faces of Villainy

Throughout films we have come to see some epic villains brought to the screen.  There is a great deal of amazing villains ranging from chaos incarnate to tyrants of their own megalomania.  Whatever drives them, we can’t help but sometimes be mesmerized by the well-rounded characters.  Here are my top ten villains and why they still chill me to the bone.

10. William “Bill the Butcher” Cutting (The Gangs of NewYork)- In this film Bill the Butcher is both a ruthless gang leader and a savvy businessman.  He is smooth and dangerous and almost always seems to be the sort of person that would gut you while your back was turned, yet he also has a sense of fair play and respect for his enemies,which makes him a very interesting and keenly defined character.  He knows how to talk to the rich and rally the gangs for his cause through shear muscle and numbers.  He has a sense of patriotism and strong values that never waver.  It shows thathe can have interests beyond a blood thirst, which he is clearly capable of bringing to the streets

9. The Kurgan (Highlander)- The Kurgan is the ultimate in over-the-the-top villainy.  He is abombastic lout, an immortal with his “eyes on a prize” that will spell doom forthe rest of the world.  He fears nothing because he has no fear of death.  It makes for a really funny and outrageous performance. He takes the appearance of the biker whom terrorizes nuns, the elderly,and just about anyone in his path.  He does it because he is the one with the power and because he sees himself asabove the mortals.  He knows that if he is going to meet his end he wants to “burn out rather than fade away.”

8. The Joker (The Dark Knight)- Much like the Kurgan the Joker fears nothing.  Where the Kurgan fears nothing due to his immortality, the Joker does so because he is insane.  His madness is brilliant in a strange way because it’s chaotic and almost contagious.  What is worse is that that in some ways he almost seems like he is part of the natural order in his chaos.  The best line that describes him comes right from Alfred in the movie.  “Some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied,reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.” This character is writing and acting at some of it’s most astounding.

7. Baby Jane Hudson (What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?)- Baby Jane is a gripping character that is driven mad with envy.  She is a horrid and violent person that isi nsulting, bitter, and clinging to a childhood stardom that she lost many decades ago.  It would be easy to pity her if she didn’t do so many despicable acts and bring pain to others.  In the end it’s her own misery and psychotic behavior that is her undoing.  In her mind she is still the spoiled brat she always was but in the body of an older,bitter shell.

6. Alex Delarge (A Clockwork Orange)- Alex is a sadistic child who delights in bringing pain to others. We learn that he also has asophisticated musical taste for Beethoven. The fact that he is a schoolboy and is brought close to nirvana through violence is disturbing. Delarge is the narrator and is healed of his compulsion in a very peculiar manner. It is safe to say that the turn of events that befall Alex truly creates an ethical dilemma for the audience.  Is right for a villainous character to change simply because they are forced to, or should it be because they honestly choose right from the wrong.

5. Col. Hans Landa (Inglorious Basterds)- From his first scene at the French dairy hunting for hidden Jews, Col. Hans Landa is nothing short of terrifying.  He is the sort of devil that could talk you into slitting your own throat.  Only in one scene did he loose his cool and get incredibly violent; that aside says a lot. He is calm, controlling, and clever. He even betrays his German superiors in order to gain an upper hand after the war.  He is the sort of fiend that you can imagine making a deal with to save your own neck only to realize that you’ve sold your soul.  Brilliantly written and expertly acted. 

4. Anton Chigur (No Country for Old Men)- Here is a man whofollows his own rules.  He is a paid assassin but he does things how he wants and he kills whomever he wants. He creates reasons to kill his victims so that in his own way the murder is justified.  He is the criminal mind incarnate, and as such we can never really understand it fully. He simply does what he does.  Woe be unto the poor soul who gets in his way.

3. Conal Cochran (Halloween III: Season of the Witch)- This is a perfect example of a mad corporate genius. Here we have a man who spends millions to steal a piece of Stonehenge.  Then he creates a huge ad campaign to sell masks made with the stone, to kill millions of children allover the world.  Why?  One big practical joke.  That is hilarious and absolutely insane.  Even when he is sure that he is found out he knows that anyone that he kills will just be a bonus for a Halloween joke.

2. Emperor Palpatine (All the Star Wars movies)- The one great thing about the prequel movies for the Star Wars films is that we got to watch Emperor Palpatine’s rise to power. It is actually kind of interesting. Palpatine is a Senator who helps begin a war. During the war he obtains special powers that eventually assist him to disbanding the Senate that gave him the power in the first place.  It is carefully orchestrated and it’s much more interesting to watch then the tragedy of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader.  Where Anakin is a tool and manipulated by the dark side, Palpatine uses politics and theidiocy of others to remove obstacles that are in his way.

1. Biff Tannen (Back to the Future Trilogy)- This guy had tobe number one.  In every reality, in every time period, (with the exception of 1985 Good Biff) this guy is a jackass.  It seems to be ingrained in his DNA since members of his family are jerks as well.  They are all stupid, belligerent, and bullies.  There is no escaping them.  If there is a Hill Valley, there is a Tannen and he is going to be a butt-head.  Biff does not even seem to have much reason for villainy.  Like his forefathers he is a jerk and invariably all his kin will always be jerks.

As I said before there are many other villains out there.  Be they Sauron, Hannibal, Roy Batty, or Darth Vader, there are too many to count.  Whatever face of villainy your favorite movie villain happens to be wearing, let’s hope that it’s one that you never bump into in real life. Happy watching.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The New Daughter- review

The New Daughter is an obscure horror story from 2009.  It features some good acting and is a genuinely creepy story.  It’s a tale that is somewhat Lovecraftian in nature and leave audiences with a freaky ambiguous ending.  The film is eerie, subtle, and very underrated.

John James, played by Kevin Costner, is a recently divorced writer who moves into a country house with his teenage daughter Louisa, played by Ivana Baquero, and his young son, Sam.   It turns out that the land has a large burial mound on it.  Louisa has a fascination with the mound and eventually she becomes possessed by an evil spirit within the mound.  John is now having to fight to figure out what is wrong with his daughter and if he can save her.

Kevin Costner brings a very real and vulnerable character to this film.  He shows that he has range for all sorts of various roles.  Ivana Baquero shows that she has not just hit her peak with Pan’s Labyrinth.  As Louisa she plays a troubled teen that has basically two personalities in flux. 

The story is very dark and mysterious.  There are eldritch forces in this story and it works in a H.P. Lovecraft fashion.  The ending is left up to the audience whether it’s a positive or negative.  It’s a clever tale of sinister forces and the people that interact with them. 

This movie is certainly worth checking out.  It’s dark and it doesn’t rely on gore but on eerie suspense.  It seems more like a modern pulp magazine story brought to the screen.  I recommend this movie to anyone who is a fan of the horror genre or anyone who is looking for something different. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Texas Chainsaw 3D-review

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was a gritty and horrific movie from 1974.  It didn’t have a lot of gore but it still left audiences feeling dirty and foul.  This new movie clearly wants to capitalize on the name.  The film takes off where the last ended but its mood is nothing familiar to the last film in any regard. 

After Sally escapes the Sawyer house in the first film a group of redneck vigilantes kill the Sawyers and burn down the house.  The only remaining members of the family are a baby girl that gets kidnapped and raised by one of the redneck vigilantes and Leatherface who manages to escape the fire and hides and his Grandmother’s house.  Years later the baby has grown up and has inherited her Grandmother’s house.  She brings her friends to visit the amazing new mansion. Little does she know that Leatherface is staying inside the wine cellar and he begins his killing spree anew.

Texas Chainsaw 3D does a few things right.  It has some cameos from many of the original actors of the series.  However, that is not much help to save it.  The acting is very subpar and the story is very weak.   The family tone of the movie is so out of place that it felt like Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2.  The movie seemed to borrow so much of that tone that it tried to make Leatherface an antihero. 

The gore was over the top and the effects were laughable.  The other problem is that the movie seems to have an ambiguous time period. It wants to look like it takes place in the 70s. The characters dress in 70s clothing and they drive 70s cars and don’t have cellphones but they listen to modern rap, listen to CDs, and have to pay top-dollar for gasoline.  It just doesn’t make much sense what their aim was for the time period. 

This movie is just a cash-in on a franchise name.  It’s not that well thought out.  It’s not well acted and the characters are basically so poorly made you are not supposed to care that Leatherface is turning them into paper dolls.  It’s not a good movie and it’s certainly not worth seeing if you are a fan of any of the other films.