Saturday, December 31, 2011

Video Game Assessment: Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception (2011)

Hell yes. Hell yes!

My review of this game was originally going to be me saying that simple sentence above about fifty times. That's what this game is. It's a can of "Hell yes!" This game is fantastic through-and-through, great levels, great gameplay, great characters, and great story. There's almost nothing to dislike here, unless you dislike mass slaughter in video games or Nathan Drake as a character. Well, I guess you could be in the audience that doesn't like it because it rips off of Indiana Jones. Fair enough, I say.

Well, despite being a bit of a rip-off, it's a fantastic rip-off. It's a game that looks and feels original even while seeming to be a bit of a love letter to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It's a good movie to give a love letter to, easily my favorite Indiana Jones film, and despite being similar to the movie, Uncharted 3 does a lot differently. The story is wholly original. The gameplay feels sublime. The characters are realistic and wonderfully done through and through. Sully is fantastic. Cutter, a character introduced in this game, is also fantastic. Drake himself is wonderful as well. The game plays the same as its always played, but there are some interesting innovations, mostly with fighting mechanics. Boy, did they love those fisticuffs mechanics.

And you know something? It works. The fights have weight behind them and never really feel old or tiring. The places where a gun fight is going to be difficult, the gun fight is difficult. The places where climbing or running from something is going to be difficult, it's difficult there too. The game feels right. It feels good. Certainly there are some rougher things, but innovation is going to get you that. Some of the scenes and story moments go on a little too long or don't make as much sense as they should, and, like the second game, some parts of the game can be incredibly frustrating and trial-and-error.

Now, that's not a bad thing. It just simply is. Games should be difficult to feel like you've accomplished something in the end. And I feel like I have simply by playing this game. I feel like I can't say as much as I want to or need to. I can't say enough good things about this game.

The locales are gorgeous as is expected in these games. And the first half of the game is brilliant in my opinion. The pacing, the gameplay, the look and feel of the game... everything is right. The characters and situations works well together, blending ideas and emotions, and making something suitably awesome in its wake. The villains are some of the best villains I've ever seen. They're easy to hate and wonderful to hate. There was even a scene near the middle of the game that made me recoil from the screen seeing how ruthless the main villain of the game is. I don't think that any other game has ever made me do that, and that's a testament to the power of writing in this game.

The second half is also well done, but also very challenging. There are fewer characters to interact with, and that buddy system throughout the first half of the game seems to go away in the second, and, honestly, it felt disappointing to leave certain characters behind. I did like the Arabic levels though. I can speak and understand a smattering of basic Arabic, and it was cool to hear and understand some common phrases. I thought it was neat, but that's just because it personally wowed me.

The ending and some of the more psychological elements to the game are also fantastic, but knowing me, they would be, wouldn't they? I have a thing for well done psychological stuff and this game has a good heap of it, especially towards the end. Hell, it kind of throws in some dark psychological horror like stuff, and how could I not like that? Seriously.

I also loved the voice acting and the music and everything about this game. The difficulty could be a bit bad at times, but never bad enough that I couldn't finish a level. Honestly, altogether, it was a fantastic game and I have nothing bad to rant about and only good things to say, so I'm going to recommend it and stop.

Anyway, this was my favorite new game of the year, and what a year it's been. I've played through a few games for the first time this year, including Kingdom Hearts, Kingdom Hearts IIDragon Age II, Uncharted 3, The Lord of the Rings: War in the North, Portal 2, Psychonauts, and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Honestly I've liked them all. Uncharted 3 is still my favorite of the year though, and, honestly, I kind of like it better than the second game as well. But anyway, those are my two cents.

I do have some more reviews coming in January, don't you worry, but this will be my last review of the year. Expect a heavy review of Mass Effect 2 as well as a possible review of Dungeon Siege III if I finish it in time. I have some movies I'll probably check out as well, and maybe a book or two if I get the time to read. Anyway, I'm off for this year! Have a great new year! 2012, fun times, right there... yup.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Video Game Assessment: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011)

This game is a juggernaut of immersion and space. This is... you know what? It's not just a game. It can't be simply a game. It feels like a reality simulation. Not that it, in fact, deals with reality at all, being fantasy and all, but it feels more real than reality, looks more real than reality, and takes you in more than reality. It's incredible. This game has an immersion level that, I think, is unprecedented. Its locales are topnotch, beautiful and wonderfully rendered. The weapons have weight behind them as you swing them, or shoot them at enemies. The items are all there, from cups to any kind of food a fantasy realm should have, to books full of words. It's incredible how much detail is in this game.

Now, I'm going to put a few things out in the open right now. In my opinion these kinds of games have very specific weaknesses, and I'll get into that in a few lines. The biggest thing to remember though is that this game is quality whether you like it or not, and you'll probably like it, it is a well put together video game that is basically everything a video game should be. You fight things, you explore, you do quests, you level up. BAM. And that's just on a basic level. You want to do other things, you can do those things too. Kill off an entire village? Go ahead and do it, buddy. Want to go and explore thousand year old ruins of a forgotten civilization ending up in a place called Blackreach that glows and is full of that civilization's former slaves that are now insane and evil creatures bent on destruction of all other forms of life? Well, you can do that too.

There's so much here for Bethesda to be proud of, and I hope they are. Their sales numbers for the game should be making them happy at least. And that's fantastic. Despite what I'm going to say later on, this is the direction video games should be taking. This is the right direction despite Skyrim's faults and missteps. And thats what you should take away from this review. I have a huge recommendation for you to go out and buy this game and play it if you have the time and the console (or PC) for it. Seriously, if you haven't played it yet, you're missing something special. It will take up a bunch of your time. There's no escaping that. There's no 100% in this game either. It goes on, quite literally, forever, having sidequests that appear randomly and the ability to just keep doing things for as long as you want to do things.

The exploration is done well in that Oblivion and Fallout 3 kind of way in which dungeon exploration is unique and feels like an adventure within itself. You'll want to explore every dungeon, but God speed on that. There are a lot, and by a lot, I mean a ton, of dungeons to explore. And every one is unique and worth exploring. WOW.

As for the negatives, sure there are negatives, and anybody who tells you there aren't is just stupid, not paying attention, or maybe they hate you. That could be a good reason for not telling a person the faults in the game.

Well, the first fault is the bugs (and the glitches). Whew boy are there a lot of bugs. People seem to trade the bugs they've seen in Skyrim like old war wounds or something. It's kind of incredible. I've never seen a game's bugs be almost as popular as the game itself before, well except maybe in Red Dead Redemption when people acted like animals. But that was incredibly strange too. The biggest bugs I found in my game were pretty mundane in comparison to a lot of people's bugs. I found a lot of textural issues, especially with water just disappearing and I'd be swimming through... what seemed to be nothing at all. So, yeah, that was odd. I also found myself, once, dying from a foot high fall. For some reason the game decided that I was falling from a huge height when i was just stepping down  about a foot or so. So, yeah, that was odd. Some enemies also acted kind of strangely in my game, not attacking me simply because I was on the opposite side of a door they were standing on the other side of. Well, it made it easy for me to kill them, but it was strange, again. For the most part I didn't encounter a ton of glitches. Floating things happened quite a bit too, like floating cups or corpses, but that happens in all of Bethesda's games, so I'm used to that by now. But the biggest glitch or bug I encountered was rather game breaking though. I was in a dungeon and tried to go back through a door I had come in previously and the game would crash every time I went through that door. I had to go forward. The game was making me go forward. It didn't help that I thought I missed something important in that last room and I was really lost. That was particularly bad.

But those are bugs. Who cares about bugs? I usually don't complain about them unless they are like that one bug in Dragon Age: Origins- Awakening, the expansion pack for the first Dragon Age game, where certain quests literally couldn't be completed, some of them important to characters or plot. I hated that bug so much. I also have to say one more thing, I hate people complaining about some games with bugs and praising other games with bugs. I like Fallout: New Vegas. I like it a lot. It was one of my favorite games last year if not my favorite besides Deadly Premonition, and people constantly complain about it having bugs when I have not seen a single one in THREE PLAYTHROUGHS. Yes, the game crashes on me a few times, but there's a chance that any game will crash. Mass Effect crashed on me last month when I was playing it. It's stupid to complain about something that happens in every game. I hate the people who rag on New Vegas for seemingly no reason. Go get a life, trashwads. If you're not going to complain about Skyrim, Fallout 3, or Oblivion, do not complain about New Vegas when it is clearly better than at least two of those other games. Actually I like it better than Skyrim too, but that is literally personal preference.

And I guess this is the time I go and say why my opinions of Skyrim have gone down since really playing the game in depth. Not that I think it's a bad game. I don't. It's just that there are some very shallow aspects of the game and it really takes me out of the immersion. And they're things that the studio should have concentrated on more. It was always their weakness and... they could make a brilliant game if only they concentrated more on it. The thing I speak of are realistic characters and good plots. Yes, the game goes on forever, but without good quests and sidequests, why the hell would I want to play it forever?

First up: characters. Why, oh why, Bethesda do you insist on making games without good characters? Yes, there are several good characters in this game, almost all exclusively in the Dark brotherhood sidequest like Oblivion, but most of the characters are shallow to the extreme, with no discernible personalities or characteristics. Even the main characters in the game like the ones involved in the rebellion or killing the main enemy of the game... well, even they're mostly very shallow. Why? Companion characters have no real depth besides what the player put on them. They have no sidequests, no real anything... And this is where New Vegas wins, with its focus on character (Think of almost any companion character from that game or House or Benny or Caesar or... the list goes on and on.) and plot. Skyrim's characters are just weak messes on the floor compared to New Vegas and it shows. It shows time and time again. I like strong charactered games. It's why I liked Dragon Age II so much despite seemingly every person who has a computer literally hating that game so much that I feel their brains are going to have rage aneurysms. Characters matter to me and Skyrim did not do its best there, and I feel bad about that. I dislike that failure on their part. The depth and the immersion is gone when I realize that all the characters around me are shallow automatons. And maybe this is just a problem specific to me, but I doubt it. I think it's an issue for everybody. Maybe you don't actively see it as an issue, but your brain certainly does when you finally put the game down because you can't get into it anymore.

Second: plot. Why is the plot so shallow and irrelevant? You don't really even need to do the plot. I know that's almost standard in these types of games but... come on! Go kill a dragon. It's vitally important. Okay, I'll do it after I explore for fifty hours in dungeons and such. But VITALLY IMPORTANT! Nah, bro, game's not going to end. I can do what I want. The whole issue here is that there is never a feeling that you have to do anything... which means that the plot is literally unimportant. It's about exploration, not about story, and, again, there is a shallowness to it. This could very well just be me and my own preference as well. My girlfriend who's been playing the game as well has no issue with this complaint, liking the freedom, but she also hasn't played it anywhere near as long as I have, so there's that. This doesn't bother me as much as characters, but it does bother me when there is a strongly put together plot in the Dark Brotherhood sidequest and the VERY END of the main quest and nowhere else. I mean, yes, I guess the Thieve's Guild quest is all right, but again... the plot is just nowhere near where the Dark Brotherhood's quest is. And I love the Dark Brotherhood and that quest. It works so well and is brilliant through-and-through. I mean, the only good quest with believable characters from Oblivion was the Dark Brotherhood one too. Well, at least they're consistent... I guess I want more from my quests, some sense of urgency, some reason to care and I haven't really gotten those at all, not in Skyrim, not in the way I feel urgent about New Vegas, or even Fallout 3. It just... it feels like it was made to be a wandering simulator with characters and plots as an afterthought, and when those are two of my favorite things about a video game, it ruins my desire to play the game more. I just reviewed War of the Ring and I really liked it. It had good characters and a plot that I could get behind and support. I wanted to end the bad guy and win the game for the good guys because it made me care by good writing and a good plot. Skyrim really has neither with the exception of the Dark Brotherhood. For such a big game, it is quite shallow.

Well, those are my complaints. Altogether though, this is a good game for the people who have the time to play it and get really immersed into it. I complain because I like the game and want it to be better, not because I think it's bad at all. A lot of people have put this game as their best game of the year, and I can see why. It's brilliantly crafted and put together even with the faults, but this isn't my favorite game of the year  because of those faults and because I think another game or two were better in terms of a lot of things including characters and plots. So, this game is tied for third in my game of the year title with Dragon Age II, both good games in their own rights, but both with some fairly fundamental flaws.

My game of the year will be my next review by the way. Portal 2 came in second for me.

Anyway, my final thought for Skyrim: great game, well put together, great music, great gameplay, repetitive voice acting, lack of plot and characters besides Dark Brotherhood, a great time sink, fun game, dragon killing is the BEST, and draugrs appear way too often and lose their mystery. Seriously though, if you have the means and opportunity to play it, I recommend it. It's an experience at least, one that won't soon be forgotten. There's something about wandering the beautiful environments that's ridiculously awesome. And everything looks gorgeous. Get out on your adventure, and have a great time killing those stinkin' dragons!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Video Game Assessment: The Lord of the Rings: War in the North (2011)

So, let's end the year with a few reviews of various video games, shall we? I think I'll be reviewing The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, and The Lord of The Rings: War in the North.

First up is this game, The Lord of the Rings: War in the North, and let me say what a game it is. You might be expecting a weak video game here, based off the movie, hastily put together, a big cash cow for the new studio that took over the Lord of the Rings video game franchise. And you know what, you silly person you? You'd be wrong.

Now, I have to say that EA Games has never really enamored itself to me, and the Lord of the Rings video game franchise is one of the BIG reasons that I have a dislike of the publisher. There seem to have been a lot of missteps with the franchise... The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age, the only "RPG" game in the franchise before this one, really sticks out in my brain as one of the subpar ones. I played that game, years ago now, and hated it. I wanted to like it. The Lord of the Rings is one of my favorite things in all the world, and I wanted to play through it in the worst way... and I came away from that basically vowing to never touch another LotR game again. It was just that bad. But then I heard some good things about this game, War in the North. A new studio had taken control of it, Snowblind, and everything seemed to be moving in the right direction.

Then I saw some reviews. The first review I ever saw was a brilliant one, telling of the game's positive qualities for fans of the movie or the book. The reviewer seemed to be positively beaming during the entire course of his writing the review. So, that was good. Then I saw some other reviews tearing this game to ribbons, and I grew worried and anxious. I was still very anxious about the game until I started playing it and...

Well, the game is interesting, I'll give it that much. It's brilliantly put together in a bunch of ways and combines tactics, RPG elements, lore from the book and the movie, and interesting characters and locations to make a decidedly very decent idea for a video game, but does it hold up? I guess that's the question. Does it perform well under scrutiny? Especially for the game having an M rating, the first in the franchise to have one... Does the game blow my socks off? Or does it disappoint?

Well, this is going to be a somewhat different review than I usually do. Sure, I'll go over what makes it good or bad, but mostly I want to talk about how this game is put together lovingly.

Yes, lovingly. I have to talk about it because, damn... it's absolutely true. I want to clap and cheer for Snowblind for absolutely loving this franchise enough to make something that FEELS like LotR and acts like LotR. It's not just the lore or the locations that they use that tells me this. It's the dialogue, which sounds like it should in the settings. It's the characters that act like they ought to act. It's the voice acting in general that really speaks of the fact that everybody involved seemed to have a stake in this franchise. Maybe I'm reading too deeply into it. Maybe none of what I'm saying is true. I guess it seems like these things are true to me. It's seems that this game was put together with loving hands, and, to me, it shows and is fantastic.

Yes, this game is really good. No, it's not the best game ever. It's certainly not a great RPG, but that's not what I wanted. I wanted a good LotR game and that's exactly what I got with this game. It's a pretty weaksauce RPG all around, being some kind of strange hybrid of a hack-and-slash game and a RPG like Dragon Age II or Mass Effect 2, going around with a hub system of friendly areas and fighting areas. There are sidequests and there are elements of exploration, and those feel great. I have to say I really like that here. In general though, the game is mostly an RPG in name only. Certainly there are choices one can make throughout the course of the adventure, and there are three characters that one can play, but there never seems to be a reason to really explore the RPG elements in depth. It feels very lightly put in, and that's neither good nor bad. It just kind of is. It works well here though, for what it's worth, and that's not always true with every game of this type. I think it's because the story has a foregone conclusion. But anyway, it works in my opinion.

The characters that are unique to this game and the characters that don't appear in the movie, but are mentioned in the books... those two groups of characters... well, they have fantastic voice acting and are really great to listen to. The characters that were in the movie though... UGH... it's painful to listen to Aragorn, Elrond, or Bilbo... I think because their actual actors were better... or maybe because the voice actors were trying unsuccessfully to imitate. Anyway, it didn't work.

The gameplay is mostly fun, but can be on the challenging and even frustrating side, especially in the areas of Mirkwood and, God help me, the defense of the Dwarven city... my God that was the frustrating side of difficult. Man, oh man... I must have died about fifty times there. It was particularly painful there. Anyway, for the most part though, the gameplay is fluid and fun without too much hassle or problems. It works like it should and I like it for what it is.

The soundtrack is also quite good, having a fantasy feel all around. It reminded me slightly of the Dragon Age games, and that's a good thing, I think. It sounded good.

The environments and locales are pretty well done, but sometimes felt a little too large, especially earlier on in the game. Fornost and Rivendell are examples I have to point out about this because they seemed such strange ones. Fornost is the first real area, fighting-wise in the game, full of goblins. You meet the big bad guy of this game there too. But it goes on so long, much longer than so many of the other levels in the game, and I'm not sure why. It's not really particularly engaging. Rivendell is pointed out here too because, for a hub world, it feels a little too large. Only select members of the Fellowship are there too... and I'm uncertain why. Why have any of them at all if you're not going to show all of them? It seemed strange. Rivendell is much larger than I would have thought as well and I have no idea. It sticks out in my mind because I don't quite get it.

Other than some hiccups in level design (which do seem to get better as the game progresses, just pointing that out), most of the game is really solid. I've seen a lot of average scores for this game, and, to me, it's easy to see how a person who isn't a fan of LotR can give this a middling review. It's nothing special for the audience of regular people out there. I'll tell you something honestly here: Don't get this game if you aren't a fan. You won't appreciate it. You won't. I'm sorry, but I think the reviewers just don't seem to understand how good this game is for the fan of the movies or the books. It's basically perfect because the game developers seemed to really care and put that extra effort into it. The eagles were a particularly nice touch, as well as Radagast the Brown, and the Barrow-Wights. Those were some of my favorite things in the game and they worked really well. Oh yeah... the dragon too. He was all the right kinds of awesome.

This game mostly made me want more of it and that's never a bad thing. It made me want The Hobbit to come out sooner than next year and that's not a bad thing either. Hell, in general I really enjoyed this game. It had an interesting a solid story and worked for the most part. I recommend it to fans. The game also looks very good at times if you're into that kind of thing. The ending is particularly noteworthy, but the eagles in general were lovingly rendered.

Anyway, that's my two cents about this game. I really liked it, maybe you will too.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas: A Review

Hey, everybody, I hope you all have a great Christmas and happy holidays in general! That Harry Potter book review took a lot out of me, but I was thrilled to finally do it. Expect some more reviews sooner rather than later. I have Skyrim, Mass Effect 2, and a few movies on my radar before my next semester starts up.

Anyway, I'm reviewing what I think Christmas is all about.

So, here goes nothing: Christmas is somewhat hard to categorize. You could find yourself like Scrooge or the Grinch, or a thousand other characters in Christmas movies. Maybe you get excited like Jack Skellington or maybe you hate it all... well, Christmas isn't a movie. It's a time to spend with your family, friends... or, I guess, yourself if it comes down to it. I can't say what Christmas means objectively, so I'll tell you what it means to me.

A Christmas Carol is a good place to start with what I love about the idea of Christmas. Scrooge finding the true meaning of it has always been a soft spot in my heart. Perhaps that story, with its ghosts, was the first real "horror" story that I absolutely fell in love with. Also: I'm showing my hand here about what I like, but Retsupurae makes the holidays special with their lighthearted humor in making fun of people playing video games or video games themselves! It's like an MST3K for the internet-goers among us! I recommend it. That video in general has a nice holiday feel to it, and should warm your heart if it's not warm already.

A Christmas Story, which plays on TBS for God knows how long on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day is another movie that has defined Christmas for me. I love that little guy's pursuit for his Red Rider BB Gun. God speed, little man. Actually, I like the father's leg lamp best myself, but who doesn't? Am I right? It's sad, but I have a cousin who was literally the spitting image of little Ralphie when he was younger. It was seriously uncanny. So, the movie was always a favorite around this time of year as it continues to be today.

I'm not going to say that I'm in love with Christmas or that you should take away some message to my utter Christmas morning ramblings, but... I think the thing that makes me the happiest is seeing someone's eyes light up as they open that gift they really wanted or never expected. I also like getting stuff too. I can't deny that one.

Anyway, have a Merry Christmas and this was stupid, I know, but I felt like writing something... so here you go.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Series Criticism: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (1998) by J. K. Rowling

The Harry Potter series is like a wave. Everybody (and by that I mean people who have the chance to live in first world countries and to read) knows about it, knows the little guy with the circular glasses on the cover above this writing, with his orphan-status, his sad state of affairs living with his aunt, uncle, and cousin, and his entrance into the magical world of witchcraft and wizardry. That one is kind of a main point for this series, wouldn't you say?

I'm actually going to be rereading all of the Harry Potter books, and I will be looking at them from, I think, a unique perspective. I was a crazy little person in love with this series from around the time I was eleven until I hit about eighteen, when the final book of the series came out. I was really into the books for about the same amount of time that Harry Potter was in his magical school having his tales told to us... but then the seventh book happened as well as all of the abortions that call themselves films, and I became jaded and cynical. I had a deep and terrible falling out with the Harry Potter series. I started hating the world. The ending of the Harry Potter series along with the Star Wars prequel trilogy, the fourth Indiana Jones film, and Futurama and Firefly being cancelled all helped to create the jaded and cynical madman writing this review. Sure, there were probably other reasons, like maybe possible mental imbalance and a massive overload of psychological horror films (and Jacob's Ladder), college, House of Leaves, and massive overdoses of caffeine, but those are totally not the point of this review.

This review is about the first book of the Harry Potter series as reviewed by a person who can no longer stand Harry Potter. I say this because I lived in the years of this book series. I was ten or eleven when I read the first book and all of eighteen when I read the final abomination of the English language, but you know, I'm going to be fair here, not letting my own personal history hating the Harry Potter books get in the way of an honest and reliable review for all of you who might want that. I will be rereading the books, even the ones that make me angrier than I've ever been, bringing me to the verge of a heart-attack and a massive brain aneurysm together making a double-hatred death... but I will do this, mostly because I love torturing myself, and partially because I feel like I should give the series another chance, let it try its best to redeem itself in my eyes. And well, I wrote this introduction before reading the first book, so everything that follows will be my honest opinion of the book twelve years after first reading it, taking into consideration that I am no longer ten, and pretending very strongly I have never read the books before. Expect a large review, full of plot analysis. I will be going all out here. I will be looking at the five musts of book writing as well: tone, theme, plot, characters, and setting, and will also drive a focus on writing style and skill, trying to accurately describe my experience. Anyway, this will be a ride-and-a-half and I hope to get it all done before the end of summer, so sit back and enjoy this sucker. I hope I do too!

Okay, I did not finish the book by the end of the summer. Hey, you get busy, it happens. Then my October reviews came along and college, blasted college, and I've been playing catch up for a while now, but here it is: my crown jewel reviews, the ones that I am really looking forward to. This first book in the series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Also subtitled as Philosopher's Stone in most other markets that aren't America... and that would make more sense too. The Sorcerer's Stone isn't anything, while the Philosopher's Stone is what is featured in this book as used by Nicholas Flamel and desired by Voldemort and his "host" Prof. Quirrell.) Oh, by the way, expect spoilers. I say this after I just wrote a major one, but I am heavily expecting only people who know about Harry Potter to read this. If you don't, it's been out for over ten years! I think I can spoil something that was spoiled over ten years ago, you hypothetical stupid git.

Okay, I'm going to start with plot and plot analysis first because the plot here is pretty meaningful to the book. It starts off years before with an opening prologue discussing the recent deaths of certain characters we won't see again for some time. These characters include Harry Potter's parents as well as Voldemort, the great evil wizard who has it out for the wizard world because he's evil and terrible and likes death and pain and he's evil. Did I mention that he's evil? Because he is evil.

Well, we are introduced in the prologue to Dumbledore and McGonagall, a wizard and a witch who respectfully work as the headmaster and Transfigurations professor (and deputy headmistress) at Hogwarts, a school for witchcraft and wizardry. Oh, God... this is hurting to write. You all should know this already if you're reading this review... Anyway, eventually a hairy big dude named Hagrid comes down from a flying motorcycle thing owned by one Sirius Black with a hairy potter in his arms... uh... wait... I mean, Harry Potter, the titular character of the series in his arms. Harry's a baby by the way and he has this wicked lightning scar on his forehead, surviving the spell of death, which his parents had succumbed to, and vanquishing Lord Voldemort (he's evil by the way) because he's a baby who's pure and innocent and bleh. I get it, book. I get it. Evil versus good. Fight!

So, little Harry Potter is given to his aunt and uncle because he has no other family to speak of. They happen to be horrible guardians of this unnatural  ilk, often treating him as one might treat a dog or a cat rather than a sensitive young person who needs to be nurtured and made into a hipster. Wait... look, he's treated pretty awfully, to the point of it being incredibly fairy-tale-like. And I have to say, it's pretty well done. You sympathize with him. You want him to get out of his bad situation. And yet you know that he's stuck there, stuck there with no way out, under the thumbs of guardians who can't stand him and a cousin who uses him like a punching bag. He has no friends to speak of, rarely goes outside, and is basically stuck in a cupboard constantly. In short, he has a pretty horrid life.

This is all written in a highly convincing manner. Certainly there are some amateurish parts here and there, but you can certainly feel what's going on. The language is not superb, but it is well done and sufficient to get the point across. There is a little while spent on Harry being weird, doing stuff no normal person should be able to do, disappearing glass, talking with a snake... you know, the usual. And then he starts receiving the letters, the letters of his acceptance to Hogwarts. Well, the Dursleys, his aunt and uncle, are incredibly unhappy about this, going so far as to nail things shut and never go outside so that the letters will not reach their nephew. They eventually flee to a house on a rock in the middle of a body of water and are confronted by an angry Hagrid, telling them off for not saying that Harry Potter is a................. WIZARD.

Most of the introductory chapters are written in an almost surreal fashion. It is extremely over-the-top, but not unenjoyable. I could compare it to Roald Dahl and some of his more absurdist books that I read when I was younger. James and the Giant Peach and  Matilda really stick out, both having somewhat similar feelings and even plots to this book in the very beginning of it. And yet... it's enjoyable. It's fun. You like the main character of Harry Potter. Hagrid is new and interesting. The Dursleys are horrible people, petty and antagonistic in some ways, and Harry's goal is one of being accepted, growing in a nurturing environment rather than being stifled and stepped-upon. And it works. The tone is fitting, the plot interesting, the characters, while not three-dimensional, are engaging and mystifying.

And then the book gets better.

Think about all the possibilities that a normal kid, treated in a subpar way, can think of after this. The scenarios, the everything... it's mindboggling. And this giant, Hagrid, basically kidnaps Harry away to a sleazy alley. Oh... oh God... Hagrid... I hope this isn't going where I seriously don't want it to go. No. No, of course not. Hagrid's a good person, which is very good, and the sleazy alley is Diagon Alley, the mall of the wizards. I have no idea if British people... I can call the British, British people, right? Well, I have no idea if they even have malls or if those malls are all set up like this, but where I'm from it sounds like some kind of cozy little seedy mall. And I like it. The feeling here is somewhat claustrophobic and hectic, but neither feeling is wrong in this circumstance.

Hagrid leads Harry to Gringotts, a wizard bank, and learns that his parents were fairly well off before they died. Harry takes out as much money as he'll need and goes off to get the things he'll need for the upcoming school year. He gets a wand, robes, books, and... well, of course, a pet owl from Hagrid because owls are where it is at. Hedwig becomes Harry's friend throughout his adventures, a stalwart and constant companion. Anyway, Harry also meets a few other people in his adventure in Diagon Alley, including one little blond boy named Draco Malfoy and scores of strange characters.

Well, the story has to keep moving on. Harry is brought back home by Hagrid and Harry has to wait for a while until school starts up. He feels like a prisoner and a villain within his house and is glad when he gets to leave for school. He's eventually, after the long summer, dropped off at the train station with everything in hand, only to discover, OH NO! The platform that he needs is nine-and-three-quarters. Well, that's strange and kind of weird and probably doesn't exist. Harry's been duped! And the rest of the story is him getting legal action on Hagrid for fraud.

No, I'm yanking your chain, foolish reader. Harry just has to believe in it. Yes, he starts doubting, but then a family of friendly gingers come and board the platform, helping Harry out because they are simply very nice people. Harry meets Mrs. Weasley and some of her children, namely Ron (a new student like Harry), Percy, a prefect, twins George and Fred, and the young lady who is not old enough for school yet, Ginny.

Well, it's all very interesting. Harry and Ron become fast friends as Ron explains to Harry the knowledge of Hogwarts that he has gained whilst being in an actual wizard family. Some shenanigans ensue, Draco Malfoy is met again, this time clearly disliking Ron and very much desirous of Harry's friendship, which Harry does not seem to want to give.

The story moves on then. Hogwarts is seen, the Sorting Hat sorts the kids into one of four different houses in the school... uh... kind of like how you might have been in different teams in middle school or something. Each house has its own flavor and only certain personalities go into a certain house. Gryffindor is populated by smug, self-righteous people who think they're better than the rest of the school population. I suppose they are supposed to be courageous or something, but that's not always entirely true and seems vaguely stupid. Ravenclaw is full of know-it-alls and clever people even though nothing interesting ever seems to ever come out of Ravenclaw. Slytherin is made up of evil people and bullies, which seems kind of smart if you want a way to get rid of them all quickly, but really stupid if you have a house made up of the biggest pricks of the school population just reinforcing their own shoddy ideas. And then there's Hufflepuff that... uh... I still have no idea what Hufflepuff does. I think they're the rejects or something...

The rest of the story is about Harry and Ron learning about their studies, learning about their classmates, and finding adventure in the worst places. Harry joins a sports team as their seeker, which is him basically playing a big game of hide-and-seek with a small golden ball called a snitch, while the others on the team play the actual game. Quidditch sounds interesting, I suppose, if impractical. Ron and Harry meet a girl named Hermione eventually, who is Gryffindor and a know-it-all, which shouldn't be the case given the rules for the houses, but... okay, I guess? Anyway, she becomes their friend as well and they get into all sorts of trouble with an invisible cloak that they, for some reason, can all fit underneath, a baby dragon, and detention in the forest which leads Harry to start looking for some great Unicorn killing villain. Also, there's Neville Longbottom, who has one of the most unfortunate names in history and is treated like a butt-monkey throughout the book by our lead characters and others despite being a fairly good person. Let's yell our praises to the heroes for that, huh?

I like the Christmas scene for some reason. I feel that it is incredibly appropriate to the feeling of the book as a whole. Characters opening presents and being happy on a day that should be happy is kind of neat. Harry's awkwardness around Christmas also expands upon his character quite a bit. He has never really had a good Christmas and... well, it works here. It is very effective.

The forest scenes, though, are some of the best of the book, equal parts mystery and creepy. Harry being forced to share the scene with Draco makes it all the more interesting as the two characters act as interesting foils for one another even this early in the series. Draco is somewhat selfish and somewhat cowardly, but is only eleven years old, whereas Harry is much more brave and willing to put himself in harm's way to do something good.

The story moves on and reaches its climax as Harry suspects that Severus Snape, his Potions professor, is up to no good. Ron, Harry, and Hermione go and explore a labyrinth of tests to reach a magical mirror introduced earlier in the novel. They solve these tests saying once again that one should not design an impregnable labyrinth to be solves by an eleven year old. Well, solved it is and the figure at the maze is none other than cowardly and stuttering Professor Quirrel who wore a turban to disguise the fact that he had Voldemort on the back of his head. Huh, that's an incredibly odd climax to this book, I have to say.

Well, Harry defeats Voldemort with the power of his mother's love somehow and ends up happy and alive in the end while Dumbledore praises him all over. Then Harry goes home and... that's it.

Well, the book was certainly fairly good for a while. The earlier half of the book is incredibly well thought out and well paced. Once the train is boarded though, it seems as if the pacing goes all to hell and the story starts making some peculiar choices. The houses being made up of the stereotypes I mentioned is just the tip of the iceberg. Why are there no math classes here at Hogwarts? Isn't math important? What about literature classes? Or... anything really? How can an entire society be absolutely removed from the "muggle" (non-magical) world? I guess that always confused me. It still does, especially with what little we see of actual magical society. They seem completely removed from the muggles, almost a completely separate offshoot of humanity, ignorant of our life as we are ignorant of theirs... but that makes no sense. Certainly it makes sense in something like Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere because it's all happening underground or secretly, but that's because they can't get back up into the real world. They're stuck beneath society, forgotten. The magical society though, is right next to the muggle one, right in the same area, and everything and yet... they don't meet, or at least rarely do. I don't quite get it and it doesn't seem right to me.

The latter half of the book, besides the forest part and Christmas, mostly feels too quick-paced and unneeded for my taste. There's a lot of hints for the ending of the story, what with fluffy, the mirror, and Quirrel, but they are absolutely superfluous and just seem to make the story longer without any real character or plot development to speak of. Honestly, besides the Quidditch matches, classes, Christmas, and the forest, there is very little development of anything in the latter half of the story. With such an interesting opening, the ending of the book feels very much stagnant and dry.

Certainly there are some other set pieces that work well, like Harry and Ron saving Hermione from a mountain troll in the girls' bathroom, and some of the scenes that Neville gets kicked around in. I have a lot of sympathy for Neville and also for Draco. Both characters are very well characterized, but mostly seemed very undeveloped, used instead as comic relief, butt-monkeys, or as a distinct bully character. Both have the issue of not appearing three-dimensional despite the reader's desire to want to make them three-dimensional. It almost seems as if J. K. Rowling had an issue with both character types.

The fantasy elements are mostly well put together, if a little amateurish, and the school itself very much feels like home after just a little while there. There's something cozy about it, something very much warm about its atmosphere except in the very depths of night. That being said, the writing for the most part is well done for a young adult/kid's book, and for the most part flows very well from beginning to end even in the more extraneous parts. The tone is fairly consistent throughout, with a fairly dark feeling that emanates from every corner of the story. The characters are mostly fairly strong except those that are very one-sided, like Snape, Draco, Neville, and most of the side characters. Only Harry, Dumbledore, and perhaps Hermione have any real depth to them, something that becomes more apparent over the course of the series rather than less apparent. 

Anyway, I have to end this review now. It's taken a long time to get this one out because of the complicated nature of the material and also the fact that I have a dark history with the Harry Potter series. It took a lot of cajoling to get me to read this book again, and... the second half of it I wasn't very happy at all. The main characters solving the puzzles despite being eleven seems to be a particularly glaring example of lazy writing all around. Why would the school even do that? It seems so dumb and ridiculous. Yes, the story is fairly ridiculous already, but come on, you know exactly what I mean here.

In the end, I found this book to be satisfactory. It's nothing incredibly special, but it is certainly not terrible. The beginning is very well put together and the character of Harry Potter is both complex and interesting. I guess the next book beckons.

God help me.
God help us all.
Six books left and I could barely get through this one. Somebody help me. Somebody shake me and tell me "No!"

*Sigh* I do this for the writing, readers. I do this because I want my voice to be read by somebody and maybe, just maybe, I'll have somebody agreeing with me... or people screaming at me telling me that the story is perfect, how dare I say anything critical about such a masterpiece... I don't really care what people say. These are my thoughts and opinions and... well, first book down...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wait... What's Going On?

Here's a picture of two ferrets sleeping next to one another. Their names are Syphilis and Donovanosis.

They have nothing to do with what I am about to write, I don't think, but they make a good picture because they are sleeping ferrets and they're adorable, especially the fat one. Look at how fat he is! He is gargantuan! He is mega-fat-ferret!

Anyway, I'm just going to write about a few things that have been getting me incredibly annoyed. Mostly final exams and the whole final exam system. That's about as stupid a system as has ever been invented. Yes, let's make people tear their hair out and lose time from their lives because we require them to memorize everything you'd ever need to know about John Milton's Paradise Lost, even down to specific quotations. Because, right there, that is more important than things like: working, living, breathing, doing anything else... etc. I'm sorry, I hate to be that guy, but it makes no sense to me. Why do I have to memorize this stuff when the professors themselves don't even know it? I digress. That's not the rant I want to pull out today.

I've been spending my time mostly between studying, writing papers, and every once in a while playing an hour or two of video games, mostly Mass Effect 2 and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. I'll put reviews out for both in the eventually, but that's not my point either. My point is video games as a genre... or maybe it's ferrets. Maybe that's what the past month has been for me: all about sleeping fat ferrets. I'll have to think about that one.

Video games are really good today. They are really good. Look at that "really" that I wrote there. It's kind of important for those sentences to work. The "really" implies both truth and a statement way above that of simply good. While movies and books go to hell, video games move to a place of importance. Well, not all movie and books are bad. Older books still rock my socks, and there are some good authors out there that consistently write the bees' knees kinds of books... men like Stephen King and arguably Clive Barker. F. Paul Wilson too. That man can write a solid novel. I suppose there are others, but I can't think of them at the moment. Books are a dying art-form, being replaced wholesale by digital media. That sounds like a good thing... until you realize the future of what books will become. Why do you think that books are more and more like fanfiction? Why do you suppose that the writing has gotten worse and worse over time? Well, there are easy answers to this. First is the demand among teenage girls (the most likely to read books and read in general) is trending towards crappy supernatural romance crap. This started, arguably, with Harry Potter (I'm still working on my reviews for that series. Just you wait, children. Just you wait.), but became noticeable with Twilight and the crappy television shows and movies that are all about romancing a vampire or some crap like that. I mean, yes, teenage girls are the worst decision makes in the world (unless you reading this are a teenage girl, in which case: keep on trucking!), but at least they read. They also are so much more likely to read or write fanfictions, draw or look at fan-art. Deviantart, a website full of fan-made stuff and some original stuff, is mostly made up of teenage girls.

Now, this isn't what I wanted to rant about either, but it's a good start. It isn't that teenage girls are ruining are society, it's more like society is trending towards teenage girls. Teenage guys are into naked women, crappy music, and video games. but teenage girls... they are exactly where society is. They are in between, wanting to fulfill fantasies that can never be fulfilled. They will end up, like most of society, disappointed that they can never truly be happy, and will find out eventually that, yes, they are going to lose their beauty and die a lonely death more than likely.

Now, that's a sad reality. It's a blunt truth. But I'm a twenty-something guy who's been jaded longer than many of the people I know have been alive. I can't get angry about the way society and books are moving. They are trending towards the teenage girl market and the market of digital media, which in turn is going to make every book that comes out averagely worse as a result... but there are reasons for this. It's sad, but it's reality. Good stories, good novels, good paper books... well, they're history and it's awful.

Movies are in even worse shape. Hollywood, that overencumbered fat-bottomed idiot, seems to have no desire for even the simplest of intelligences. They want to make money. They need to make money. And mindless drivel makes money. That's why there are no profound movies that do well in theaters. Writing is dead in movies, replaced by big names, mindless CGI, and flashy girls. And what do we care? Movies are either sequels, rehashes, or the same plot done over and over again. The only place where an intelligently minded director or writer can get his or her kicks is in the independent film market, which makes little in the way of money. No, better to release drivel that makes millions, hundreds of millions, than release a movie on par with Casablanca or even Dirty Harry. There are some filmmakers that are consistently good, but for the most part the value of movies has gone down. I just want to see better movies. I want to see something that piques my interest. Instead, all I've seen is nothing. It's awful.

Music and television seems to be moving along as they always have, so I'll not speak of them.

Then there are video games. They are the place to release content, intelligent content, content for the person who wants a brain challenge, who wants something viscerally pleasing (not just in terms of viscera either). Portal 2 is a great example of fantastic writing, intelligent story, and brilliant everything else. It brings more to the table than simple drivel. It has becomes something over the course of its existence. It has become an interesting story to follow, one that shows elements of character, AI, and the bleak future. And it's fantastic. Let's look at Skyrim. As buggy as it may be, it has a world that is, for all intent purposes, almost as real as our own. Characters have personalities and you can care for them just like you might care for your own friends or family. The game is brilliant a bountiful, showing so much more than just a simple fantasy realm. It shows a life, a story... Fallout: New Vegas brings philosophy into the gaming world, both in terms of political philosophy and in terms of actual philosophy. Mass Effect, as a series, provides us with science... maybe not the best science, but at least something approximating science. Certainly as hard science fiction as any video game can manage. And there are others besides, classy games like Red Dead Redemption or LA Noire. I may not love either game. They're a bit too mainstream and free-roaming-without-any-characters-that-I-care-about for my taste, but they show that the future of gaming looks fantastic. There can be improvements and for the most part, besides the gimmicks that Nintendo seems to love offering, the future of gaming is as bright as it gets. There is a right direction for these things and a wrong direction, and it seems that gaming as a whole is working towards innovation, improvement, and overall quality rather than drivel.

I think that's my rant. I hope you liked my ferrets. One was fat and both were sleeping, and I'm am going to start posting more, just let me get through final exams, which ends in like two days for me. Then I'll start posting like mad again. I promise... probably...

Monday, October 31, 2011

Movie Appraisal: Cronos (1993)

Cronos, the Guillermo del Toro movie, is beautiful and different from anything else I've ever seen. That DVD cover poster right above these words is no indicative of the film itself either, mostly because that right there never actually happens in the movie.

I like del Toro's movies as a rule. I can't think of a single movie of his that I haven't liked. This one was no different. To me it's much better than Pan's Labyrinth, although not quite as good as The Devil's Backbone, which is his best work that I've seen, and I've seen all of his stuff besides Mimic. Cronos is a beautiful take on the vampire genre, making it into something different, alchemical rather than natural or based in evil. The whole movie is a retelling or re-imagining of vampires and how they might work in real life.

The story is actually quite good, starring Federico Luppi as Jesús Gris, an antique dealer who finds a hollow angel statue in his shop that had something strange hidden inside of it. This strange thing, called Cronos, is a device with an insect implanted within it that basically gives the user eternal life and a younger quality to their features.It also gives them an unnatural bloodlust. Vampire film! YES!

A very young Ron Perlman plays the nephew of a dying business man, Claudio Brook, and although his performance is campy and ridiculous, he plays the part so well that it's hard not to like him. He and Claudio Brook play the de la Guardias, who are looking for Cronos so that the elder de la Guardia will not die from his debilitating diseases.

This all comes down to an ultimate and beautifully done conclusion, that is both gruesome and amazing to watch. Absolutely sublime really when it comes down to it.

Cronos was a fantastic film. I really enjoyed it. I can't really think of a better vampire film off the top of my head.  I will say that the English speakers (all two of them) were not as great at acting as the Spanish speakers, but I enjoyed watching both of them regardless of their non-Shakespearean acting skills. 

I thought the music choice in some of it was pretty odd, and some of the stuff going on seemed a little convenient at times, but the story on the whole was really very good. I liked it for being an origin story of vampires, and I thought some of the grittier (or bloodier) scenes were absolutely fantastic. They were lovely to watch as well as being horrifying.

The Devil's Backbone is better in my own mind. Cronos didn't quite reach that level for me, but it was better than Pan's Labyrinth to me, not much better, but better. I think it was because the structure of the story was more coherent and less kind of meaningless. One of the reasons Pan's Labyrinth isn't one of my favorite films is because of the fantasy parts which I feel are pretty much useless and don't fit. I feel like this film fit together much better even if the acting was worse in every scene.

This movie is also very 1990s. It basically reminded me of other great 1990s horror films like... um... Jacob's Ladder for example. The cinematography was remarkably similar in some areas. The horror tropes found within the movie itself are beautifully done, a mix of old vampires myths and stories, and its own new kind of scientific vampire approach. A lot of the horror comes off as a bit campy though, and a little over the top at other times, but I don't think that the bloody or gory scenes were meant to scare. I think the scenes of Gris drinking blood are probably the most gutwrenching and terrifying, because you are seeing what he is becoming and you get the idea that a man can become a vampire without selling his soul, but to survive as a vampire, to have the eternal life of a vampire, the soul must be sold. Drinking human blood tends to make one a monster, and it's absolutely fascinating to watch as Gris makes his ultimate decision.

Anyway, this movie is ridiculously good and needs to be both watched and enjoyed by the masses. I can see why it may not be as well known as other del Toro movie, but this one is really well done and needs to be seen. It's very well done.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Movie Appraisal: The Mist (2007)

Well, here's another Stephen King horror movie, this time brought to us by Frank Darabont, who had previously directed such great Stephen King prison films like The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. This is not a prison film. This is not set in the past. This is a film that is completely against Frank Darabont's strengths... and it shows.

Now, that doesn't mean that I hate this film. I actually like it a decent amount. It's an interesting film with quite a few decent set-pieces to it. I also love the source material of "The Mist", the novella that Stephen King wrote, and this movie is a fairly good adaptation of that novella, although it does make the entire story feel more like a social experiment... and... well, the ending isn't painful to watch in the novella.

Altogether, this is Lovecraftian horror at its finest. With nameless abominations and an all-consuming mist, permeating the world that is in the movie, it is a story about despair and unreasonable things. The social interactions show a lot about human nature, from religion to bravery to cowardice. Survival in the main instinct shown and everybody in the film is vying for it for themselves. There are sacrifices and unbelievers, but the main goal is always survival, maybe not for a single person, maybe for the human race... or maybe just for one. It may depend on the selfishness of the character.

The Mist is not the best film in the world. In fact, it's fairly rough in general. The acting is never really there. It never gets to a level that one can brag about. It's always close to the mark, but never really hits it. The CGI, at times, can be brilliant, and at other times, especially in the store room of the grocery store early in the film, it can be painful to watch. It has such a rough cut to it, and looks so obviously fake, and well... it's hard to justify that. The practical effects look much better on the whole, but the pterodactyl monsters and the  big daddy at the end of the film are done really well with CGI, and happen to be some of my favorite parts of the film.

It is an atmospheric film for the most part, but undermines itself constantly with needless dialogue, insipid and sometimes stereotypical characters, and with a plot that is barely existent. In some ways this is the first movie in the vein of a survival horror video game that wasn't based on a survival horror video game. Instead the original story gave rise to many of them, being the partial inspiration to video games like Silent Hill and Half-Life, both fantastic games that capture the feeling of the story itself with having some of the worst parts of this movie.

Is this movie good? Not really... but I can't call it horrible either. While it's never scary and the ending is horrible and should be avoided at all costs, the movie itself is fairly solid, having decent acting performances by many relatively unknown actors, and a decent plot to fall back upon. The creatures, the mist itself, and the social ramifications of the two really make this movie, but they made the story itself better. Imagination is often much more horrifying than CGI, and the point is proven in this movie.

I wouldn't recommend it, but I wouldn't say avoid it at all costs either. It's a decent way to waste time if you have time to waste, but I wouldn't go out of my way to ever watch it again. Fun, but forgettable.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Movie Appraisal: Dagon (2001)

H. P. Lovecraft stories have had quite a few problems over the years. They are known for having racial overtones, strange gods, emotionless writing, and are carefully crafted cosmic horror stories. There are good things and bad things to every single one of H. P. Lovecraft's stories or novellas and the pros and cons come out the best in "The Shadow Over Innsmouth". You may be asking why I'm talking about that story and not "Dagon". I am because this film is actually based upon "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" instead of "Dagon".

"The Shadow Over Innsmouth" is one of H. P. Lovecraft's best known and most terrifying novels, mixing the unknown with genuine fear and adrenaline pumping horror. It involves the fleeing sort of horror, running from destiny, from death, and from an awful town full of strange folk. The racially charged overtones can be seen everywhere in it, as well as the ideas of strange religions and folk unlike ourselves.

I personally like Lovecraft and the types of stories he wrote. They come off as genuine even if the writing is not perfect or crazy emotional like most horror is today. He wrote the strange as if they were normal. Insanity was simply a side-effect of seeing something incomprehensible and suicide an easy out for the insane. The gods were deadly, evil things, and there was a rhythm to the stories and the plots. The characters were cookie-cut out of the same mold, but the situations were wholly new and beautifully done.

That being said, Dagon is... in a word... a mess. I'm not certain it knows what it wants to be or even should be. It'snot a horror movie, not really, although it has enough gore to suffice on that mark. But the out of place comedy does not work for horror or... well... really anything. I have found again and again that Lovecraftian stories, except by John Carpenter, tend to be overdone or cheesy, hardly worth the time or effort. This movie is no different. It feels hammy in all the wrong ways, but seems to want to be taken seriously, which I simply cannot do. The gore tells me that this movie does take itself seriously. The make-up effects are good for this kind of movie, and without the dialogue, characters, or sounds, this movie could have been wonderful, but ham and cheese acting, characters without any obvious motivations, and a plot that seems to convoluted to be fun to watch, this movie is an all around mess.

I can't say that I hate this movie. I just can't say that. I'm fond enough of Lovecraft and the story that I don't hate it, but I won't ever watch it again. I can't recommend it because it really is just that bad. Some scenes are better than others, but none are really all that good. None of the actors, except possibly the Spanish actors, are really good enough to pull this one off, and it comes as a disappointment. It could have been better, but ended up very hard to watch, with set-pieces instead of actual plot, and no characters to relate to.

Avoid this one. the stories are better and much more worth your time. Hell, even the video game Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth is better and should be played over watching this.

This brings me to my last point: Why are Lovecraft films so unfilmable? I don't get it. They should be easy to make, but no... they are all universally terrible. It saddens me. I guess I'll stick with John Carpenter for my Lovecraftian fix. Into the Mouth of Madness and The Thing are genuinely amazing movies. Watch those instead of this ambitious failure.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Movie Appraisal: Pandorum (2009)

I don't know what it is about critics, but I rarely agree with them about horror films, except possibly the more beautiful and artistic "horror" films like Jacob's Ladder, I suppose. After watching this film, I decided to see exactly what the critics thought of it, and I was unsurprised to find that they mostly hated it. This kind of film simply is not something a film critic could ever like. I say this knowing that a lot of films I like critics seem to hate. I almost get the feeling that these critics don't like psychological horror, science fiction, action-intensive, character-driven, beautiful films... and those are the very things that drive me to fall in love with any given film.

I think very obvious comparisons can be drawn to Event Horizon. Both films enjoy very similar ideas of a spacecraft dying on a mission. Paul W. S. Anderson was also attached to both films. He directed Event Horizon and he was a producer of Pandorum. The psychological horror aspects of both films are also very obvious and, to me, very well done. As a lover of the psychological horror genre, it was no hard for me to predict everything of this movie from nearly the first moment I knew what the plot was, but it was riveting, playing with twists and turns like a crazy road leading to a creepy castle. I think I prefer Event Horizon though. I think Sam Neill really made that movie into something amazing. Dennis Quaid does a good job in his role, but I feel that he never really does enough to have this be an outstanding performance. Most of the psychological horror involves his character and he never really leaves the room he starts out in. What I'm saying is that if you want a film involving space madness and you want a good actor to be the crazy dude, I'd choose Sam Neill over Dennis Quaid every time.

The plot is basic at best, but a basic plot is still interesting. I find this film to pretty much be something like Event Horizon mixed with Mad Max (1979) and maybe having a little bit of some kind of creepy alien or monster movie in there for good measure. It's a good film with a simple premise. The actors are decent although there were times I had trouble figuring out what they were trying to say or do. I felt some of the characters motivations were spotty at best sometimes, and some of the solutions to plot points seems a little forced at times.

Any movie that deals with amnesia is always a tough one to sell. I thought this one did a good job though... kind of in the same way I thought Unknown (2006) did a decent job with the same kind of plot point. I did have to question a few things at the end, but a character actually questioned a plot hole for me, and really received no good answer. So,what I'm going to believe is that the filmmakers saw the plot hole, put the line in, and then just figured it was all cool. All right. I have no real complaints. It had bothered me before it was questioned, but having the question out there, even if the plot hole remains, makes me feel better.

I guess I have a thing for movies about dead ships, be they actual boats or spaceships. I never knew I actually had a thing for movies like that, but it really seems as though I do. I really did enjoy this film. It captivated me from start to finish. If you've ever seen Event Horizon and you liked it, you'll like this film because it's more of the same kind of thing. If you hated Event Horizon or Ghost Ship or hate the whole premise of these kinds of movies, then you're going to hate this film, guaranteed. I really liked this film. It was fun to watch and I'm glad I did get to see it.

I do have one other complaint and that's the monster/alien/mutant... things. I liked them, but I liked seeing less of them. I like the less is more style of filmmaking, and I feel that showing us these things all over the place in the second half of the film wasn't as interesting as not really seeing them and not knowing what they are like in the first half. I think that's just a personal preference though. They did look pretty damn creepy and I thought they worked well as primary antagonists, although I think that I would have rather had more explained about them or less... it felt like the filmmakers took a very middle ground and it kind of ended up with me being kind of confused and wondering exactly what was going on.

Anyway, I did like this film. I thought it was fun. It may not be the best film ever, but some of the scenes are incredibly memorable. One in particular occurs during the end with the main character, Corporal Bower (played by Ben Foster), doing some shenanigans very near a bunch of the creatures. I liked that scene a lot, thought it was very tense, very fun to watch... and I guess that's really all I can say about this film. It's a nice science fiction, psychological horror film that's fun to watch. It's never going to be the best film ever, but it works as a fun little horror flick to make one happy in these interesting days.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Movie Appraisal: Dreamland (2007)

Okay... okay...



Well, this is certainly a movie that was made and it has characters in it. I'm relatively certain about those things. Everything else though... Well, those things are up in the air. The title of this movie is appropriate. Most of the movie is very dreamlike and incredibly weird. Dreamland is directed by James P. Lay, written by James P. Lay, Kenny Saylors, and Kyle Saylors, and stars Jackie Kreisler, Shane Elliot, and Jonathan Breck.

I had actually first seen this movie not long after it came out three or four years ago when I was binging on every type of horror movie I could find. I watched this, cocked my head to one side, narrowed my eyes, and proceeded to not understand. The movie certainly stayed with me, probably because of its more nonsensical nature compared to many other movies that I watched at the same time. Sure, some of the movies were strange, Reeker stands out, as does a Japanese film that I can't remember the name of that revolves around the apocalypse or a quarantine or something... but this film was one of the last ones that I watched during that binge and I did not understand much of it. Honestly I even forgot its name entirely in the ensuing years, having it only come back to me when I actively sought to find this movie and stumbled upon a description that read, "This movie has Hitler propaganda playing on the radio and also Hitler... and it's a modern day horror film involving Area 51." I'm paraphrasing, but not by much. I instantly said to myself, "Yes, that is the film I have been hunting for these last two years!" Then I proceeded to find it and watch it again, for this blog, and for the people, you people, you crazy, creepy, weird, and somehow incredibly awesome people, who somehow, through no fault of my own, found this blog and have either read simply this one article or many others. I went and did this for you, and I feel that everybody should be grateful for this.

I've heard and seen a lot of people get to this blog by searching what particular movies mean, or their interpretations, and maybe I haven't done as much interpreting as I should have been. I may even go back and interpret and reassess some of the denser or harder to understand movies that I have watched. The Objective stands out as a weird one that nobody really seems to understand. Well, call this an experiment. In addition to reviewing this movie, I will also attempt, to the best of my ability, to interpret meanings out of it. I do this for my literate audience, as well as for myself, because this review will not be possible for me to do without heavy interpretation on my side. There is this caveat that I will put out here though: This is all purely subjective on my part. I have no idea what the filmmaker and the writers intended for this movie. I am only going by what I've taken in through this film medium. If you disagree, I will heartily listen to what you think even if it does not change my opinion. If you have seen the movie and agree, let me know. So, this is an experiment, but, I believe, one that is with merit. I will try my damnedest to parse this movie, even if that means that I have to rip it apart and put it back together again.

So, here goes nothing.

So, the first scene starts out dreamlike. The clown doll's eyes move. Music sounds almost like an organ, church music? It's Nevada, 1973. Snowglobe in the man's hand, light from a UFO or simply a flashlight? Yells “get down!”? it seems, but the snowglobe doesn't break when it falls from his hand. Music is pretty decent to start off with. Intro sequence is reminiscent of a very science fiction type of media. Hyperspace from Star Wars or the whole thing that Doctor Who does.

Then a girl wakes up after dreaming about the title sequence. She seems a little freaked out. I would be too if I were traveling around hyperspace with names floating through the ether (or lack thereof). Her boyfriend is foaming at the mouth (Literally). He's having a seizure. It's now Present Day. 

“You didn't touch me, right?” “Of course not.” I guess you're not supposed to touch people having seizures? The lamp is on the floor from the seizure. Girl is younger and certainly not terrible looking. She's in sleep clothes. Takes some pills. More than one kind. And then she smokes. She's not supposed to smoke. Hiding it from her boyfriend. They have to drive to her family's house (Foster Family). The sound effects of the rain are pretty decent and where I'm watching this right now, the power seems to be twitchy, so it's making the movie even more effective. Sweet little scene as they cuddle.

They're driving across the desert. Girl wakes up suddenly again with a gasp. Dylan=the boyfriend. Nevada. Megan=the girl. Plot device and bad acting of talking about the car not being in great condition. Government auction to buy "forty year old piece of shit car." She bought it. He's a dick. Girl in white behind a tree in the desert. Not her parents they're visiting but her foster parents. He wants to gamble because he's a dick. “We're FUCKing broke!” Why are they together when they seem to hate one another? Ah, he's a funny jerk who also seems to be a narcissist by calling himself extremely attractive. Well, at least she laughs and lightens up a bit.

They're still driving. She makes an ugly face for some reason and falls asleep. She dreams of some very obvious sci-fi imagery and a girl in white. And a face. Gasps awake again. “Are you okay?” Look, dude she's not... Oh, she's hungry. Suddenly it goes from the middle of the day to nighttime. Nevada isn't that big, no way that it should... well, maybe, I guess. I don't freaking live in Nevada, but I've driven out west before. Eight hours or so across the whole of Nebraska, longways. I don't think Nevada is wider at any point than Nebraska is at its widest. It's weird is what I'm saying.

The cinematography is good here though, at least. I like how the cool old black car blends into the darkness with only its lights showing. Why does old black car have electric windows? Or is there something about old, black cars that I don't understand? Did cars 40 years ago have power windows? I should ask that of somebody who knows cars. 

Okay... I just looked it up with my limited knowledge of automobiles... it looks like they did exist. I'm... kind of impressed actually. The first ones started to become decently prominent in the 1940s or so.

Dog with alien headband. Little AleInn. Bar full of dudes staring at Megan. All of them look fairly rural in nature. Younger and working class. Hat that says BEER in red letters. I can appreciate that. Nice older music, a 1950s styled bar, I assume. Uh...with aliens. OR ALEINNS. Bartender or... uh... the dude who runs the food... cafe... drinkin' and eatin' place! He seems nice enough. Yelling into the back, kind of awesome. Time warp theory? I'm interested since I hate time travel and abhor any mention of it in fiction because I think it is improperly handled constantly, but sure, nice bartender man, I would love to hear your very obviously intelligent theory on time warps. (Let's do the Time Warp!) You must know everything, being a tobacco eating bartender... oh no... wait, I'M JUDGING BOOKS BY THEIR COVERS! Groom Lake=Area 51. Roswell, NM 1947- UFO crash. 

The Grays Dylan makes a hideous joke. Dylan's a jerk. “The day it crashed, the papers reported it as a flying saucer.” “I love beer.” (Thank you, BEER hat man. I love you. You deserve all the Oscars.) Crashed Weather balloon. NO WEATHER BALLON, y'hear? Anti-matter proportion bullshit. Time Warp theory. (Let's do the Time Warp again!) 

Fantastic. Papoose Lake- get people to travel back and forth in time. Blake=bartender. Glen=BEER. Dylan=Jerk. Glen calls Megan "Topheavy" (I can see it.) and makes a fairly sexual innuendo. Dylan is not happy about this development. Megan throws some amber liquid in Glen's face. I... uh... think it's... BEER? But I have no idea why he's wincing in pain. Blake stops them before they get into a fight. Locals don't like visitors and Glen is going to do something to their car. Thunderstorm over the mountains. He's about to slash their tire when he gets abducted by a bright white light of thunder. (Let's do the Time Warp!)

DIS? Blake finds Glen's knife and a rapidly running away bunch of clouds and... seems unsurprised? Truck pulls up. Department of Internal Security. Blake gets weird around Megan for some reason. NO clue why. He was just talking to her fine then suddenly he's Bashy McBashful. Blake talks about the DIS as people step out of the truck onto cigarette. Ominous much?

They walk out of restaurant. Government agents? A flash that Megan points out. Blake talks to the Government agents, but it makes little to no sense. “Pretty dead.” “Funny.” “Have you seen 'em?” These seem relevant, but I can't see how right now. Music is odd in the entire scene. It doesn't quite fit. It's a little too silly. This scene never makes any sense and I have no idea why it's in the film at all.

Driving scene. I like how they start filming it. The dark road at night is reminiscent of Lost Highway. I like that. They don't have much chemistry, these two. Their very flat towards one another, like they barely know each other. Dylan's still a jerk. Megan has rage issues. REAL BAD RAGE ISSUES. Dylan's just a jerk. I guess I can't blame her. He doesn't care. You're a jerk, Dylan. Oh no, they're screaming at each other and he just pointed out her rage issues. Well, she is constantly yelling at her jerk of a boyfriend. Starts playing music, but the radio sucks and it hits weird static and then Hitler's speech to the 1936 Olympic games. Why do both characters act so dumb?

OH NO. Car dies. Does this girl get angry about everything? She's a... I'm not even going to say. THIS BLOG IS PG RATED. Dylan is an idiot and a jerk. Wonderful... I think Megan is supposed to be the smarter of the two, but... uh... she kind of sounds like a ditz. It's hard to take her seriously, and the acting is not... well, it's not pleasant to watch. The yelling is pretty well done though. Dylan gets pissed and Megan gets all naggy... and then... a sound comes from behind the car. I like some of the shots here. It's kind of suspenseful. And then somebody bangs on the car and they run and scream. Not terrible. They run and Dylan faints and has a seizure. Car turns on as Megan tries to help Dylan. Tries to run them down. Car door opens as Hitler plays in the background. Backs up as Megan runs away leaving Dylan behind.

A voice calls out her name as “Crazy” by Patsy Cline plays in the background. The shots are really strange, changing perspectives as something says and calls out her name. Little girl calls out her name and then she sees the girl in the white dress. (Little girls are not scary.) Dylan wakes up to find car over him. Door opens as undead Hitler (YES YES YES YES YES THIS IS WHAT I NEED MORE OF IN MY LIFE) says his speech and drives the car after the fleeing Dylan, who flees right into the desert.

Megan at abandoned construction site? Why is she yelling for Dylan? She left him behind to die, remember? I remember. She doesn't seem to remember. Stop being stupid, Megan! Oh no, it's the husk of a building and blood from Glen AND his rockin' BEER hat. RIP BEER hat. Stuff starts shaking after she sees Glen's body above her, dripping blood. Crazy bespectacled older dude is watching her kind of obviously. What's he doing watching her? She runs.

Guy is near a truck talking in a weird whispering kind of voice, calling for a medic for help. His leg is gone. He looks kind of like he's made of lights and tubes and from a television. It's hard to explain. It's similar to the transmission people from the 1408 movie. He sees Megan and asks for her help, but she freaks out and gets out of there. Another shadow, unseen, comes up to army man. Rachel is the little white dress girl. She confronts Megan and asks her name. Megan doesn't believe it's real, then meets up with Hitler calling out her name. “Megan, you are not who you are.” I think that's the line. Dylan's a jerk even when looking for his girlfriend. Dude, you're not getting any sympathy from me.

AREA 51. That is all.

Rachel appears again scaring Megan and the clouds come for Dylan. Bad, bad special effects. Like The Objective bad. Flashlight still flashes, but Dylan just got vaporized. He's now anti-Dylan or A-Dylan. You can tell because he looks more serious and less like he's going to call her a raging witch constantly. His voice has weird inflections. Like an alien. He's phonebooking it. AND then he glows... oh, boy... this is a hard movie to get through... It's not exactly pleasant to watch... plus, at this point the whole thing is kind of straightforward so far. Yes, there are some weird and kooky things, but there's nothing happening that we have an obvious explanation for yet except for the "Time Shenanigans!" response.

Oh, now he's not glowing anymore. He must have pushed the off switch. This isn't Dylan; he's not being the biggest jerk! Can't you see that, woman? She starts freaking out like a crazy person where he is perfectly calm. I have no idea which character I'm supposed to be on the side of. Am I supposed to be thinking that she is the protagonist? Or Anti-Dylan? She gets in the car. Then he drives the car away and does some crazy time shenanigans. Wait, I thought he knew nothing about cars... Why would she believe that he could fix anything? Especially in a car that was turned on by something inexplicable. 

No... Megan's just stupid.

The radio makes some weird noises and Megan looks like she's about to freak out again. Her previously jerkish boyfriend tries to calm her down. Elvis is on the radio? Moving through time? She doesn't know that Elvis is dead. But Elvis isn't on the radio. It's that same song from before. They pull up to the diner again, but it's locked and closed. Megan's twitchy like a drug addict. Blake answers.

Megan has meds because of strange dreams. A-Dylan is supposed to be evil the way he stares at Blake. Ah, Rachel, Nevada is represented by the little girl in the white dress named Rachel. Or she's named after it... or it after her? I have no idea. I think the former. 

Dream sequence. And now she realizes that Dylan is an idiot who doesn't know how to work on cars. She takes a cigarette. Hat on top of an alien plushie is called “Blake” and Megan starts freaking out again. She then sees a donation bucket for the Rachel's eighth birthday and an article with the little girl named Rachel that she saw. Rachel is Blake's sister and she's “been gone a long time.” She then sees his apron which says “Dreamland” on it after quickly speaking about her issues or lack thereof, and she asks Blake about Dreamland and the lights go out. A-Dylan's gone. Blake goes to check on the circuit breaker. Megan runs off. She hides in the truck of the government men, while Blake fixes the circuit breaker. Somebody pulls on the truck door that Megan's hiding in and then scares her with a fake alien mask. It's a kid messing with tourists.

Seriously? Movie, you just pulled that? I can't even take you seriously after that BS.

Blake drinks and the radio changes. Same song as twice before. A-Dylan is behind Blake suddenly asking where Megan is. A-Dylan is no longer behind Blake as he turns around. Kind of creepy. She's hiding and A-Dylan finds her. She's... uh... not good at hiding... at all. They drive away again. A-Dylan is jerk-lite. I kind of like him more than regular Dylan. He even has a sweet moment with her as he says "You know I love you, right?", but she doesn't answer him. 

Oh no, he's lying to her because he said with hyperbole that they could make it to Maine on one tank of gas! He's obviously an imposter and up to no good... even though he's arguably a better person who is no longer an absolute jerk to her. She hasn't even raised her voice once to him. But no, the car is on full and he's a transparent liar and EVIL EVIL EVIL. Obviously.

And she catches him with his not hating cigarettes like Dylan does. Yes, now that he allows you to do what you want, he must obviously be the worst person in existence. No key in the ignition either. This guy is magic, so much better than the real Dylan, and you're complaining? What the hell is he going to do? He hasn't done anything wrong! He hasn't even tried to hurt you! If anything, he's been a perfect gentleman who seriously loves you. What is wrong with you, Megan?

Well, she attacks him (EVIL EVIL), he turns glowy and stops her and she screams. A glowy-eyed man steps out into the road. A-Dylan stops the car and Megan runs into the desert yet again. Glowy-eyed man looks into car, but sees no A-Dylan.

Hitler talks to Megan again, telling her that he knows who she is. She meets the army man again. Her flashlight goes out. And she sees Rachel again who tells her to follow her. She finds a house and some articles. Dreamland, government experimenting with time travel. Parallel universes. Eye color changes. Missing persons, government agents. Disappeared people. The astrophysicist's house. He took a picture of her and Dylan. She's hiding from him as he comes into his own house. She runs out and her phone rings with no service. It's Rachel calling to tell her A-Dylan's behind her. 

“There's nothing out there for you except a dream you can't wake up from.” "There's no such thing as time.” “There's no such thing as this place.” “There's no such thing as you.” “Megan's a figment of her own imagination.” These are all delivered by A-Dylan and they are the best of the movie. It's probably the best scene in the entire movie. Creepy and mostly well done.

Blake and A-Dylan stare off at one another as Blake inexplicably shows up where Megan and A-Dylan are... somehow... A-Dylan disappears like he first appeared and Blake asks Megan to come with him. She follows. They end up at a badly CGIed place... kind of like a plane with some kind of symbol on it. She says that she's scared and Blake leaves telling her that she'll be okay. Then she's called Rachel by the astrophysicist, who was at the beginning of the movie. He walks to her. “I loved you.” Okay? I guess he doesn't love her anymore? 

Montage of her being hinted at being a different person. RACHEL. SHE's RACHEL. That was so obvious that it sickens me.

Then the flashback from the beginning of the movie plays with the lights through the window being government men. Then Dr. Niedlander disappears. And Dylan is a government man who finds the baby Megan/Rachel. “I know who you are.”

I... I don't even... I don't even know where to begin. Without the ending this could be a simple parallel universes/time travel movie, but the ending literally confuses me to no end. I assume she (Rachel/Megan) goes back in time and instead of disappearing she stays with her family? Or is it that the baby Rachel dreamed everything up, including her being with Dylan? Is that why there is no sexual content, because babies don't know what sex is? Maybe that's why she sleeps so much too? Or is she remembering everything about her childhood and baby-life (You can't remember that far back. It's scientifically impossible to have those memories.) and remembering them as she meets her father? I mean, I assume at this point that people taken in the light either cease to exist, are replaced by a parallel universe counterpart, or exist later on as just figments of character's imaginations or some such thing. Why Dylan appears to the baby Rachel at the end of the movie is incredibly confusing for me. I have no idea why that happens. Was he brought back in time by the light and clouds time warp (Let's do the Time Warp Again!) and replaces one of the agents? Does that change history because he knows that Rachel and Megan are the same person? Does he know that?

Okay, here are the facts: time travel and time warps are involved. Megan and Rachel are the same person. Blake is her brother and Dr. Niedlander is her father. Dylan may or may not be Megan's boyfriend. Since the movie ends with Dr. Niedlander's disappearance and Rachel doesn't disappear until she's eight, does that mean that history will repeat itself? Blake told A-Dylan "Not this time." or something like that in regards to repeating stuff. Does that mean that somehow Blake or Megan/Rachel prevented everything? Does Megan still exist or is she officially the baby now?

Part of the problem with this film is that we as the audience are not given enough information to even start bringing out credible theories, never mind hair-brained ones. This movie is never good enough, put together well enough, shot well enough, or written well enough to make sense on anything but the most cursory of levels. Thinking about the film and trying to put it together is incredibly difficult if not impossible because important puzzle pieces are missing to this already very short film.

My interpretation isn't exactly bold or even right at all. I think the film either showed an alternate timeline/universe with Megan in it being fostered and having Dylan as a boyfriend... for some reason... but it explains so little. Why does he have seizures? Why does she have flashbacks to Dylan's face from when she's a baby if he didn't exist back then at all? And if he did exist back then, then what the hell is he going out with her for? He doesn't seem to remember stuff and he freaks out and acts normal like she does. I'm nitpicking now instead of interpreting.

The only explanation that makes sense is that the entire movie is from the baby Rachel's point of view... somehow from that five minute ending clip. She takes all that information and extrapolates a story onto it. It's a dumb theory, but it's literally the one that fits Occam's Razor the best. It is the simplest explanation that takes the least amount of thought or words to describe. Yes, I could go on a rant about time travel and parallel universes, but... we know of so little about that stuff that we can't extrapolate a plot from that... and maybe that's the real explanation here.

Maybe this movie is supposed to be convoluted and impossible to understand to mirror that time travel itself is infinitely complex and impossible for us to comprehend. Maybe this movie is just playing off of what we expect. Maybe it literally is the most complex explanation imaginable and we're meant to not have the information to explain it. That would be both ballsy and awesome on the filmmakers' parts. I would respect that. I doubt it's the case because the writing in here isn't that good by any means, but if that explanation is the real one, my liking of this movie grew exponentially.

Oh, or the story could be all about a troubled young woman who starts seeing things and getting paranoid and then running off into the desert and dying. I guess that's an explanation too... especially with all of the references to her dreams, her medications, and her very obvious issues. I guess it's an alternate explanation... if you don't like my others.

So, a tiny wrap-up here: this is not a movie I would recommend to anybody. It mostly isn't very good. It isn't scary. It doesn't use any science. It feels like scenes, especially running in the desert scenes are recycled and revisited time and time again, and frankly for a movie that is only a little more than an hour long, it feels incredibly long. Nothing really happens. The character's are underdeveloped and with little to actually like about them except BEER hat man (and only for his BEER hat) and Blake, who seems like a decent sort of fellow. The main two characters never feel real. They never felt like they should have even been together. The pacing is all off. The plot is literally incomprehensible. And besides a few jump scares and suspenseful moments (and undead Hitler), the movie doesn't even offer any really great atmospheric moments.

Altogether, I have no idea why this film was made. I have no idea what its purpose is or was supposed to be, and in the end it all falls very flat. I guess if my play-by-play descriptions of the movie aren't enough for you then you should check it out, but they should be. Be warned about this movie. It's not bad, but I guarantee you'll have a bad taste in your mouth by its ending.