The Walking Dead Episode 5: No Time Left

PSN, X-Box Live, PC

Contains spoilers

In the final installment of Telltale Games The Walking Dead, Lee’s story comes to a close and Clemtine’s is open to possibilities. The game play is the same. Point, click a button. Very little timing or precision is required. The game, like the other installments, relies on the narrative to propel it forward, but that is slow going. Players start in the “hospital” looking for Clementine and her kidnapper.

Lee’s tale ends with repetition of previous Walking Dead Storylines. This coupled by the fact that your decisions don’t change the plot, make this the least satisfying episode in the series.  In the opening, Lee is affected by his zombie bite and the party wants to remove your arm to save you. What you choose does not affect the events that transpire or how long you live. Who is in your party and whose resolutions depend on past actions but you don’t change Lee’s much. In fact, TWD fans have been presented with the limb chopping idea in every facet of the series whether it is the comic book or TV show.  Once again, fans are presenting the zombie guts theory but by now the gruesomeness has worn off.

In fact, the episode is rather boring. The scares are few and far between. The resolution of Clem’s kidnapper is in left field, and their isn’t a lot of action at all. The best part is when Lee’s storms the hotel and dealing with Lee’s demise. Gamers, who have played previous installments, know how this one ends but there is a wide open facet that is unsatisfying as a conclusion. This open ending suggests what Season 2 will tackle, but that is not certain. After all the time and energy on protecting Clem, you are not rewarded with much.

Sad and poignant at moments, this installment is the slowest and weakest entry in the series. Let’s hope that Season 2 will play more like earlier episodes.

 

 

Action Movie Throw Down

A beloved franchise goes up against the remake of a ‘80s classic. Which comes out on top?

Skyfall Falls Flat

Skyfall has all the hallmarks of a James Bond film: insane stunts, impossible missions, familiar characters, and an epic theme song. But the movie tries to become too self aware and muddles past and future.

The third installment staring a boring and uncharming Daniel Craig as James Bond has more faults more than just the main character casting. Like most Bond movies, there are plot holes and story lines that don’t quite add up. But in this installment, there are many moments where the audience puzzles at the actions of the characters.  It seems no one in the movie knows the simple answers. Plus, it seems they also like to shoot at things they can’t see. Everyone just starts shooting blindly.

Skyfall delights fans by brining in Q and Moneypenny. But the time spent with these characters is minimal.  The movie spends too much time with Bond and his John Malkovich knock-off villain. The sibling rivalry/ homoerotic scenes are painful to watch.

The movie is at its best when Bond is chasing or being chased. As always, the action is suspenseful with mind boggling stunts. But the action is slowed with tepid romances and enemy soliloquy. The best performances come from Naomie Harris and Ben Whishaw as Q.

The biggest issue isn’t with the cast or the story line; it is the overt self awareness that drags it down. The movie constantly states in its characters’ dialogue how old is not good, and we cannot move forward while being stuck in the old. An occasional line mentions the merits of the old, but with so much time spent on bashing the past, the movie takes a lot from the old franchise. If old is so bad why is Q finally introduced? Why borrow plots from two other Bond movies? It’s this contradiction that confuses me the most, and the preachiness of “out with the old” is overdone.

Faught with flaws, Skyfall pales in comparison with an underdog, the Red Dawn remake.

Red Dawn Rising

I didn’t have big expectations for the remake of the 1980’s communist ass kicking movie, but was pleasantly surprised by the action flick. It stars a pre-Avengers Chris Hemsworth and a pre-Hunger Games Josh Hutcherson. This Hemsworth vehicle is probably the best movie he has done to date.

For those of you who haven’t seen the original, a foreign government takes over pockets of the United States leaving a group of teens to act as a resistance. Hemsworth does a magnificent job as the Marine leading the gang of rag tag high school kids in a rebellion in Spokane, Washington. Hutcherson is once again fabulous as a scared kid who turns into a warrior. Only Josh Peck’s performance leaves something to be desired. I image Liam Hemsworth playing the role; the chemistry between the two would be awesome.

The great thing about Red Dawn is that it doesn’t take long to get to the action started and it very rarely stops. There is small lag in the middle for character development but you are moved by these kids’s journey into adulthood. I shed a tear on several occasions including the shocking ending. It is amazing to see what theses teens accomplish against the North Koreans.

The movie has had difficulty after difficulty. First, was getting it into the theaters, and the second was recasting the villains. Originally it was Chinese that overtook the United States, but with CG and voice over work, the North Koreans are now behind this siege. In today’s political climate it is a wonder that North Korea was not the original choice. But it seems they wanted to make sure the “red” of Red Dawn apparent.

A Red Dawn fun fact: the original staring Patrick Swayze and Lea Thompson was the first movie to be rated PG-13. The 2012 version makes efforts to keep this rating.

Full of thrills, patriotism, and spirit, Red Dawn excels at thrills while Skyfall entertains momentarily. Maybe 007 should stick to some of its old tricks.

By the Book: Breaking Dawn

Contains Spoilers

The Twilight Saga movies have a tumultuous history. The first adaptation was a horrible movie, slicing and cutting at fan favorite books passages. The movies became increasing better culminating with Eclipse. Break Dawn Part 2 takes after Eclipse as an adaptation; it takes the best from the book and makes it better.

Breaking Dawn Part 2 includes material from the last 400 pages of the book and picks up where the last movie left off: Bella’s transformation to vampire. Overall the movie is a loyal adaptation to the source material. The movie cuts out small portions in order to move the story along. The only real loss was the fear J. Jenks felt for Jasper (and I was hoping for a created flashback for that).

But like the other installments, it reduces or cuts out character completely. With this being said, the movie does include the majority of the Cullen’s witness though it cuts down on the Volturi clan. These new characters are well cast and, unlike previous installments, look like the characters in Stephenie Meyer’s book. And many of the characters lines come directly from the book.

Changes in the movie do make correct some issues with the novel. I personally was quite upset that there was no fight after the build up of other vampires. Other complained that there were no deaths and fans did not have to mourn. I understand this point, but I like for my characters to live. The twist ending changes these complaints making the movie compelling and keeps fans on their toys. It’s like watching The Walking Dead and getting a great surprise in the TV that wasn’t in the comics. Fans should stick with the movie through the twist, no matter their first reaction. In fact, the ending gives a more “happily ever after” outlook than the book by including scenes Alice envisioning the future.  Even the credit give homage to the whole cast and fans feel like they are saying good bye to old friends, just like they felt when they closed the final book.

The movie also makes Bella a little less perfect. She has great self control but in the movie she actually gets close to the human before turning back. Unfortunately, the acting does not hold up in her fury towards Jacob though Stewart does well with the mother/daughter bond. It boggles me why Bella has more color as a vampire than she did as a human. Otherwise, seeing beloved characters come to life is a treat for fans.

Breaking Dawn Part 2 is one of the better movies in the Twilight Saga and Melissa Rosenberg expands on the material already written by Meyer. Fans will be please with the ending of this installment as a stand alone movie, and also as an ending to a beloved movie journey.

Watch This Not That Twilight Edition

The Twilight Saga

Watch This…

Eclipse

This is the best movie in the series. This installment does what a good movie adaptation should do: cut the boring weaker parts of a book and concentrating on the best parts. The teen angst is minimal here cutting out a lot of Edward/Jacob from the novel. The screen writer makes the appropriate choices of focusing on Jasper and Rosalie’s back stories and the training for the upcoming newborn battle. This movie lets several of the Cullen clan shine instead of giving them minimal lines. Even Emmett gets a little attention. Eclipse allows allowing the vampires to truly show their power.

…Not That

Twilight

If it weren’t for the tale is a beloved story for fans, this movie would have been an epic failure. The teen angst was overdone to the point of being overly melodramatic and if I never ever hear a “dramatic pause” again it would be too soon. This drear look into a dazzling vampire world suffers from lack of vision and casting. The character’s make-up was horrendous and the two main actors have no charisma or spark. The movie only picks up for the baseball scene and ballet studio fight showing what this world could really be.

Breaking Dawn

Watch This…

Part 2

With a Twilight movie, it’s hard to get away from the emotional sappiness. This one has this of course but it also includes Bella truly developing into a person. In fact as a vampire, she has more color than she did as a human. Part 2 also brings back the Volturi, one of the best aspects of the mythology. Michael Sheen is amazing as Aro and creeps out the Cullens and viewers alike. This adaptation corrects criticism of the book (no battle, etc.) while keeping the true intention of the book clear. The surprise ending is exciting for fans and they will forgive any deception they may feel. This last Twilight leaves with a punch.

…Not That

Part 1

The first installment of the adaptation of the 754 page book is great for those fans that are Team Edward and love Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson. For the rest of the world, we cringed at every badly acted scene about the honeymoon or pregnancy. We enjoyed the wedding for the funny moments not the horrible dress Bella wears. This is the epitome of emotional sap that goes to far in the books (or I could just be cynical). The wolf CG scene looks like something from a B movie but Jacob and his new pack are truly the best part about a movie based on a girl loosing her virginity and getting pregnant.

Ralph in Videogame Land

Wreck-It Ralph

2-D, 3-D

I have a thing for Disney movies, and I have a thing for video games. Combining the two puts me in Nerd Girl heaven. I had high hopes for Wreck-It Ralph and was not disappointed. WIR combines video game icons, moralistic story telling and humor to make a family friendly film for the generations.

Ralph is the delightful villain of the fictitious game Fix-It Felix Jr. After his stump is moved to a landfill, Ralph is so mad that he takes his anger out on the local apartment building reeking havoc on the citizens. Felix Jr. uses his magic hammer to repair the building and earn a medal that makes him the hero of the complex. But the animosity doesn’t end when the arcade closes; Ralph is shunned by everyone within the game. In an effort to win a medal and become a hero himself, Ralph leaves his game. On his road to self discovery, he travels through a first person shooter and a carting game that gives him a new perspective on life: he’s not the only misfit.

Gamers will be excited to see homages to their favorite games. Either in physical representation or verbal mentions, the movie runs the gambit of genres. In the Villain Support Group,  legends from Mortal Kombat, Sonic and Super Mario Bros. get together to accept their roles as villains. Game Central Station is teaming with character life and you can familiar creatures such Marlboros floating around. These are just a few examples how the movies take you into the game world, and I could spend all day making connections.

It’s more than just the cameos that make this a movie worth watching. In fact, non-gamers will enjoy the humor and story in this movie. The age old tell of discovering who you really are gets a 20th century face lift, but still tugs at the heart strings. In Sugar Rush, Ralph meets Vanellope, a glitch that is shunned by her fellow racers. The two makes friend and Ralph start to overcome his lack of self confidence by helping this little girl. The character’s growth is evident through out the movie keeping this from being some nonsensical child’s entertainment. It balances its sappiness with side splitting humor.

John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman really carry their characters. Reilly’s Ralph is great with the ones lines, and Vanellope shines with Silverman’s iconic potty mouth. (This includes the best gag in the movie involving a homophone gag on Hero’s Duty). The two actors are like their character, completely opposite but come together in a very harmonious way. This gives true depth to the character’s relationship.

WIR looks great. While it does not maximize its 3D capabilities, the CG is well done and brings a variety of character into a uniform look. The various video game characters do not seem out of place at all. But the best moments are when you see the games through the gamers’ eyes. The film takes on the look of the 8 and 16 bit games having some great fun with nostalgia.

This is a great family film that will thrill children and entertain adults. Gamers will be excited to see their favorite games represented on screen. It seems that this movie is on thing Ralph hasn’t wrecked.

Giant Sparrow’s Swan Song

The Unfinished Swan

PSN Exclusive

Games for download only are quickly becoming popular but haven’t been taken very seriously. Often these run as episodes that aren’t released on time or are filled with bugs. But every so often a downloadable game shows that they are capable of unique premises and quality gaming.

The Unfinished Swan takes a peculiar concept and invents a twisting puzzle game. A young boy’s mother dies and all he is left of her is her unfinished paintings. One day his favorite one, a swan, comes alive and goes missing. In his search for the swan he is taken in the blank canvas with only his mother’s paint brush to survive with. The boy must move through the painting’s worlds to find out the true story about his family.

This puzzle game arms players with a paint brush or garden hose depending on the chapter. At some points you must paint the scene to finish building it or make vines in the garden grow to find a new path. The outside of the box thinking is reminiscent of Portal. Players must manipulate their surroundings to get to their destination. More than just splattering paint, players must navigate dark areas and house building to reach the missing swan. These challenges flex the game play of a game that could potentially be boring.

The Playstation version is programmed for a regular control as well as the Move Controller. But the mechanics of the Move are sloppy, and it is hard for players to aim the camera in functional manner. Switching to the regular control makes the game easier and manageable. Unlike many downloadables, I didn’t run into constant bugs or issues with game play.

The game is rather short, and I blew through the five chapters easily. While there are balloon collectables, replay values is not high after a completion. Like Portal, a player has to give themselves enough time to forget the solution in order to get that puzzle solving high.

While not high on story, the unique game play and thought put into the game is a refreshing foray in a world of shooters and survivor horrors games. Giant Sparrow proves that the public loves a game that makes them think outside the box.

Fun with Kung Fu

It is rare when a movie finds a sense of balance between satire and a stand alone film. Many films are complete spoofs while movies like Galaxy Quest tell its own story while picking fun at a timeless classic. The Man with the Iron Fists manages to walk along the same line. It gives you best of the kung fu action world while happily making fun of itself the entire time.

This is no Kung Pow. This feature is the love child of RZA. Staring, co-written and directed by the man, it gained the attention of Quentin Tarantino. And it stars big names like Lucy Liu and Russell Crowe because of the dazzling fight scenes and raunchy humor.

In feudal China, the Lion Clan is rebelling against its leader. It seems that the betrayal was caused by the transportation of massive amounts of gold through a small village. The Lion Clan plans to steal the gold and defeat the Gemini Assassins to receive the riches. What they didn’t count on was the leader’s son seeking vengeance, and escaped slave, a British solider and a brothel Madame to get in their way.

RZA and Eli Roth worked for two years on the screen play working out every detail and it shows. The weapons are scary and innovative adding for some kung fu action fun. But if you are looking for detailed historic China, don’t look here. The characters seem as if they would never blend but the tale weaves everyone together. The movie blends together kung fu and hip-hop but like A Knight’s Tale it works. The costumes are not period but neither are the stereotypes. The brothel whores turn out to be the killer Black Widow Clan and Liu’s Madame Blossom is deathly.

The action sequences are stunning. In the kung fu tradition the battles are impossible and graceful. The colors are blended well making it have very sensual appearance. My favorite battles happened to be the ones including women. Watching Liu glide across the ground with her fan was as stunning as the dance scenes from Memoirs of a Geisha.

But the biggest draw is the humor and how the movie subtly makes fun of the genre. No bad dubbing hear, but humorous one liners and injuries nod at the absurdities of the genre.

Need a movie just for fun? The Man With the Iron Fists will awe you with action sequences and humor. Suspend your disbelief and enjoy the ride.