Friday, August 29, 2014

The Da Vinci Code

I loved the book and this film adapts that quite well.  Sure, some things are lost in the translation process, and there isn't as much discussion and explanations about the background of the clues as much as I would have liked.  The story's pacing is average, it can feel bloated during the middle and the ending felt stretched, like an extra long epilogue.  Granted, it is there to serve as a proper conclusion to the whole fiasco.  The treasure hunting style of plot could have made for a very intense movie but there was rarely a moment where that was the case.  It did tease you with shrouding the antagonist in mystery until the end and some of the other minor antagonists gets on your nerves.  Not because they were annoying or were bad performances, but due to their actions you can't help but side against them.  Some of the more prominent characters felt pointless, you would think with all their screentime that they would have a bigger significance to the plot.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch

Just from the title, you will be wary of the plot since it seems like one of those stereotypical tv episode plot in which Stitch has a problem, everyone misunderstands, he feels rejected and runs away but they realise what's happening and everyone is happy again.  That's basically the plot here too, which is disappointing.  The animation feels lower quality than the first film (understandable since this was a direct-to-video) and it shows in certain scenes.  Even at only 60 minutes long (excluding the credits), it feels bloated and very boring, like an overly long tv episode.  The plot doesn't capture your interest enough for you to care, the events aren't creative enough to keep your attention.  There are a few scenes where you will smile at the jokes but they are rare and far between.  The characters loses some of their charm simply because how boring everyone's actions are, there's no excitement here.  There are some inconsistencies in terms of character actions and not all plot points are explained, for example, we never got a reason on why Jumba suddenly lost all confidence in him as a scientist who can build stuff.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Lilo & Stitch

A fun movie that's very targeted towards a younger audience.  The animation is vibrant, colourful and carries a lot of charm.  The tropical island setting is beautiful and there were a few scenes where it dazzles you.  The concept of the story had promise but it didn't have enough emotional scenes to tug your heart.  It tried, however, the build up of the emotional attachment wasn't strong enough.  Still, the ending when Stitch talks and they're all a family is significant.  There were more than a few moments where it was funny, not clever funny, but amusing funny.  The titular characters weren't that likeable at the beginning, Lilo even started to get slightly annoying due to how difficult she is.  They grow on you and Stitch in particular is pretty awesome.  The other aliens were also great in their own way, their often bumbling actions adds to their appeal.  Overall, the plot felt slightly lacking in that there wasn't a clear objective.  A bit lacking, the journey was a lot of fun though.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Bruce Almighty

I loved the concept of the film and while it wasn't a amazingly funny comedy, it was enough to make it worthwhile.  One thing I found was that Bruce Almighty gets better with subsequent viewings, where you start to pay more attention to the details.  It had a strong beginning but once we've had our fun seeing Bruce have fun with his newly acquired God powers, it slowed down and became a little bit more boring.  The ending was touching and felt "just right".  It felt like the logical conclusion.  What was also good was that the film shows the responsibilities of having that amount of power as well as the benefits.  It found a nice balance.  As mentioned, the movie overall was funny but not something that would make you crack up, more like a smile here or there at the slight cleverness and parody.  Everything in this movie just... somehow works and flows on event to event well.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Kung Fu Panda

The idea of a panda doing kung fu seems so natural and just... works.  This was an excellent animation where there was a lot of humour, action and a solid story.  The animation was great for it's time (it seems a bit too plasticky now, there's a sheen and defined edges that it can seem odd).  It never got boring, every scene was worthwhile.  It's engaging too as you know the showdown between Po and Tai Long was forthcoming and you wanted to see how Po could elevate in his kung fu mastery to be able to defeat Tai Long.  Along the way, you get numerous fight scenes which was a joy to watch.  The humour worked really well here, there were more than a few places where it was hilarious.  It did sometimes rely on some kiddy humour (Po squishing on Tai Long, mild toilet humour etc) which wasn't as good (you have to take into account the intended audience though, so it is forgiveable).  The climax of the film didn't disappoint and I liked how it wrapped a lot of ideas that were foreshadowed earlier.  This meant that the way Po won makes sense and you didn't feel cheated.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Atlantis: The Lost Empire

The fabled lost city of Atlantis, an interesting and mysterious place and does this movie do it justice?  Yes it does.  It wraps magic around the mystery of Atlantis which feels plausible enough.  The story doesn't take long before getting into it, fifteen minutes after the opening and the team are already heading off.  This is good news as the character introduction and mundane life of Milo wasn't that interesting anyway.  The way into Atlantis was good, providing a balance between natural obstacles and more fantasy based ones.  It's easy to tell what the plot is going to be though and that there will be some antagonists.  That said, apart from Milo and Kida, all the supporting characters aren't very likeable or have much characterisation.  There wasn't too much humour (or humour that worked) so it can get boring at times.  The phenomenon of Atlantis also wasn't fully fleshed out and felt like a missed opportunity.  Overall, an enjoyable animation but doesn't have much "soul" in the story, it's lacking the hook that compels you to watch it again and again.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Fast & Furious 6

While not as fun as Fast Five, this is still one of the better Fast & Furious films.  The story is solid and gives enough excuses for all the action and car chase scenes that are scattered throughout the film.  Speaking of which, there are more scenes with cars in them which is nice.  It's fun to watch but it doesn't have the same adrenaline filled atmosphere as Fast Five did.  The story isn't as engaging and there is more than just a few instances of retconning (not only does it retcon events from Fast 4 but also from Tokyo Drift) which means that it can feel contrived at times, not to mention that it drags it down somewhat.  There were a few scenes where what happened was improbable, I guess it is a staple of the series and it makes for some nice visual effects.  The betrayal felt contrived as there was nothing beforehand to really suggest it.  While the huge cast creates some good dynamics, it also means that a lot of time is wasted as shots alternate between different characters to show what was happening to each of them.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Red Dead Redemption (PS3)

Red Dead Redemption is another critically acclaimed game from Rockstar, yet I didn't find the gameplay to be something extraordinary and the mission variety isn't exactly the best.  I hate to sound cliche but it does feel like GTA set in the West.  You race on horses (and sometimes with a wagon attached) and you have gun fights, it's nothing new.  However, it has been done well and the game play is refined enough for it to be fun.  The controls take some getting used to, especially if you have been playing some other third person shooter.  The controls also aren't as fluid as they can be, you can sometimes be struggling to pull off something you thought you could do.  Red Dead Redemption is an open world game set in the West and the in-game world is HUGE.  Just due to the inspiration, there are a lot of empty plains filled with cacti and other sorts of plant life.  This adds to the desolated feel when it's only you, your horse and the wildlife.  I loved the fact that you can hunt for wildlife too as it adds a nice distraction.  True to your expectations, there are a heap of side activities to explore and waste time on.  You can hunt bounties (i.e. capture or kill outlaws), gamble or performing fetch quests.

In playing this game, you really feel as if you're living and acting in that world, that you have the freedom to perform any action you want.  What helps with the immersion is also the fact that things can happen to you and your horse when you're out there.  Strangers may approach guns blazing, or a cougar can take down and kill your trusty companion horse.  While on the way to the next mission, you are easily sidetracked thanks to random events that happens and you can choose to either accept the side mission or just keep going.  The graphics aren't amazing, easily surpassed by games released after it (which is to be expected).  The environment and colour palette is a bit too dark and gritty.  There is a day and night cycle and weather effects, the voice acting is amazing and really brings the characters out.  What I found most compelling about the game was the story.  You follow John Marston, he is an unfriendly fellow from the start, a cold-hearted killer but as you get to know him, and the backstory is fleshed out, you start to admire him.  That isn't to say that he's an angel because every character kill without a second thought.

While the story stalled for a bit during the middle, it picked back up soon after, especially once Marston went to Mexico.  It stalls again near the end before the grand finale.  Some might say that the story sidetracks a lot and you do see that (there are 57 story missions in total), Marston just seems to be the errand boy that everyone calls out to.  He seems to be the person that's so awesome and everyone rely upon him to kill people.  Without going into spoiler territory, the general consensus was that the ending was good and worthwhile.  I didn't find that...  I thought it would be more emotional.  There's also a sense of injustice to the point where the final revenge wasn't that satisfying, you want more pain called to the guy...  As mentioned, the game is mission based, you arrive at the marker, cutscenes happen and another portion of the story is told.  You do the task and then go to the next mission.  It's tried and tested and while I was never a fan of this game structure, it works here and does its job.  I felt that each mission is perfectly balanced in terms of difficulty.

You won't get frustrated like you do when you have to try a particularly section again and again (the checkpoints are generous) like of the GTA games.  Some might say the game is too easy but at least this way, it doesn't break the flow of the story.  Maybe the developers could have added a few more difficulties.  I have to admit that I liked the game more during the second half, for some reason, I found myself enjoying it more.  Most missions involve shooting, which can get tiring.  There are an abundance of enemies in some of the later missions which feels dragging.  Another common gameplay element is riding your horse.  You will constantly be riding your horse with a NPC and there will be some dialogue between the two.  It's pretty interesting in the earlier missions but because you do this on practically every single mission, it becomes boring and you're just itching for the next bit to start.  Overall, this is a solid game but often I would feel that I am forcing myself to finish off the game to satisfy myself that I have finished it and know what people are talking about when they praise the game.


Other game reviews can be found here.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Blade: Trinity

Okay, so Blade:  Trinity was boring and doesn't retain your interest.  The story was even worse than the original and it felt very pointless, generic and bland.  The concept is interesting with it's take on the iconic Dracula but his design is basically your typical demon design.  There was a heap of unnecessary swearing that did not add anything, instead become very distracting and annoying.  The character Hannibal King was redundant.  They tried to make him funny with his wisecracking but every single joke (not kidding here) was either a tired cliche or just plain not funny.  It was horrible actually.  The fight scenes are not as good.  It tries to be dramatic with the "unexpected" deaths, needless to say, it didn't work.  A few scenes raised some questions but it was never explained in full or the plot point tied up.  The film lacks focus and it feels like you're watching a mess.

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