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The Monuments Men

18 Mar

An innumerable amount of movies, books, T.V. shows, and plays have been dedicated to the events that transpired during World War II, but in this movie the story focuses on a more intriguing subject not often looked upon in media.

The Monuments Men, released on Feb. 7, 2014, is an American-German war film produced and directed by George Clooney, and details the exploits of the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program members, who return to service in the pursuit of retrieving and protecting art stolen by the Third Reich.

The Monuments Men is based off the novels of the same name, written by Robert M. Edsel, and was written by Clooney and screenwriter Grant Heslov. The film is home to a story that might have some movie goers scratching their heads at the notion of going into war torn territory with the intention of risking their well-being to protect pieces of art. And therein lays the strength of the film in both how it presents its characters and its overall moral on the importance of preserving culture.

The movie features the altered version of the book and the history it’s taking from but still represents itself as a non-fiction period piece that tells a bloated yet poignant story of how a small group of men realize that art is more than just a fleeting past time that doesn’t hold any importance. In a surreal self-representing metaphor the movie delivers the message that any and all art is not just a piece of paper, or a carved rock, nor just a collection of sounds but a reflection of the people who make it. The movie asks a very difficult but ultimately soul stirring question that is going to reach a lot of people, whether they like the movie or not, and that question is whether art is worth dying for.

As melodramatic as the movie may sound it is still an enjoyable experience that has the ability to balance comedy from natural camaraderie and the dramatic weight that comes with telling a story set in World War II. The film’s cast, featuring a few known comedians, knows just the right amount of attention, inflection and expression with every scene to make it fit together nicely. The movie is also filled to the brim with memorable and timeless moments that people will most likely be referencing for the rest of movie history.

The Monument’s Men isn’t a ‘Triple A’ blockbuster, nor is it anyone’s dream project, but  feels like home movie made among friends and filled with enough heart and care to warrant a second look. Not wanting to make waves the movie represents itself better than anyone can say and if this was the intent then the film makers have surely succeeded.

Thanks and see you later!



The Lego Movie(Everything is Awesome!)

10 Feb

It’s a rare sight to see the stars align for a film, but when the gears mesh they sing like angels, and what better movie to represent this allegory then The Lego Movie.

Released on Feb. 7, The Lego Movie is a computer-animated adventure comedy film based on the Lego construction toys and the different licensed products made from them. From the trailers and initial speculation The Lego Movie seems like a hodgepodge of references and nostalgia, with a little star power thrown in for extra measure.

The Lego Movie actually houses a cleverly written and engaging world built with enough fervor and heart to rival the Pixar classics. The film tells a familiar yet unique story about an average construction worker, Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt), who goes about every day following the instructions given to him and never going outside the lines. Eight and a half years before this, an evil dictator by the name of Lord Business (Will Ferrel) steals a weapon called the “Kragle” and wants to use its power to make the Lego world perfect by his personal instructions. Emmet becomes wrapped in a prophecy foretold by a wise man named Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), who sees a chosen one called, “The Special,” as a the one who will use an artifact called the Piece of Resistance to destroy the Kragle and defeat Lord Business.

Seems simple enough but looks can be very deceiving. First off the first surprise of the film would be its cast and its refreshing lack of celebrities. Sure there’s Liam Neeson and Ferrel but the main cast consists of TV actors such as Pratt and Will Arnett as Batman. The best part is that The Lego Movie uses these actors to their full comedic potential and several scenes will have you chuckling throughout the movie.

Which goes by quick with a frenetic pace that seems to fit the movie perfectly as the beautiful faux stop-motion animation direction is incredibly fun to watch. But nothing is perfect and the film does lead to a few flaws such as the fact that since it has such a fast paced feel, the more slow moments seem out of place. The sound design seems a bit muffled and it’s not clear whether this was intentional or not.

Regardless of personal taste or the want for something that “seems” original The Lego Movie is a must watch for anyone looking for a fresh idea and film that stays 100% true to its name.

The Last(PS3 Game) of Us

10 Feb


It’s not surprising that the team at Naughty Dog, the people responsible for the beloved Uncharted series, to pull off a game that not only keeps the player engaged with great gameplay but also legitimize story in games. In games it’s rare to come across a good story since it’s just a framing device to get the players in the game that you don’t mind sitting through but it’s different in the case of The Last of Us. At face value TLOU may look like your typical, generic zombie shooter, but it looks can be deceiving as it’s played.

In TLOU you play as Joel (Troy Baker), a middle aged man who, after 20 years of surviving the disaster of the cordyceps virus that creates the zombie-like hordes, must escort a young orphan girl Ellie (Ashley Johnson), who was born and raised in the new desolate world, to a group of mercenaries in order to get a weapons cache. The pathway there is rife with zombies and the occasional group of “sane” survivors who will shoot first and ask questions later.

Speaking of the zombies, they come in three flavors: Runners, which are basically feral humans in the first stage of the virus; Clickers, who are the iconic cauliflower, faced biters that cannot be engaged physically; and finally the Bloaters that throw fungus bombs with pinpoint accuracy and God help you if it gets a hold of you.

The gameplay is probably the best thing about the game as you have to make do with what you find in a wonderfully realized scavenger system. Everything you use from health items made of rags and alcohol to more Macguyver-esque smoke bombs made of fire crackers and sugar is crafted in real time. As for the firearms you use, it’s all up to what particular ammunition you can find and you’ll want to horde every bullet and only use it in last resort scenarios.

The reason for this being that the shooting is less arcade and more simulator, with aiming being more realistic, jostling with natural movement and the fact that it takes multiple bullets to take a human down unless you get a headshot and good luck with that.

The game also emphasizes stealth and that the fact that there is always different ways to go about different situations. All that is well and good but what about the game giving you an A.I. companion that runs around in tense situations? Thankfully Ellie doesn’t technically exist as she’ll give her position away but not make the enemies alert which is one of the smartest decisions made in game design but will inevitably make the games immersion break from time to time.

On top of all the greatness there is still room for a game that looks absolutely gorgeous. A perpetual sunset beams across the dilapidated buildings covered in luscious overgrowth and water effects that look like water and not bunches of paper Mache.

TLOU is a beautiful game that keeps its finger on the tension and applies more pressure as you explore the world in an effort to face past problems and create a more enjoyable future.

See you later!


Games of the Year-2013

25 Dec

Hello one and all, it’s the end of the year and that means it’s time for ranking various products side by side and figuring out which one is the best! Just kidding, I’m going to indulge in the new trend of picking, “Games,” of the year and telling you why a handful of games deserve more attention than the rest. So sit back and enjoy my ramblings as I recount the 2013 year in gaming.

Top 10 Games of the Year

10. Rayman: Legends

Not completely surprising but all the same this game is a testament to staying true to your-self. Michel Ancel keeps the colorful, cartoony spirit that was present from the first Rayman game from 1995 alive. A current example that not only is the 2D Platformer genre is alive, but that it’s also able to thrive and innovate in new ways. The main game is enough to warrant a purchase but the game is packed to the brim with musical levels that are some kind of magic and it even features a pseudo HD re-release of the first game. Here’s to more Rayman in the future.

9. Pokémon X/Y

Finally the Pokémon game fans have been waiting for since the old days of color. A slew of New Pokémon and a beautiful presentation come from developer, Game Freak’s, latest title. The one thing that’s been missing from Pokémon has finally returned i.e. effort. Interesting, fun, collecting and strategy gameplay with a traditional story will put older fans’ hearts at ease for the new generation of children entering into the Pokémon fandom.

8. The Stanley Parable

Don’t call it a copout but this game is one that can’t readily be explained. The epitome of non-games, The Stanley Parable satirizes current gen games while keeping with its own unique feel. Explore the office building where Stanley works as you try to find out where your fellow employees have gone all while the narrator keeps pushing you in the right direction, if you want to of course.  The narrator alone is something magical, but coupled with a game that always keeps you guessing this one is an immediate recommendation.

7. Papers, Please

There are games that are made by hundreds of people and still attain panning from critics and end up feeling like a waste of time. But the indie hit Papers, Please, which was made by one person, stands as one of the most unique experiences ever birthed from the mind of a creator. Experiencing a world through the eyes of a checkpoint guard puts things in perspective. Simple gameplay and a rustic presentation keep Papers, Please above the rung and in our heads as a source of intrigue.

6. Bioshock Infinite

After Bioshock 2, the lackluster sequel to one of the best games of all time, everyone was spinning in anticipation before the release of the latest foray into Philosophy: The videogame. Infinite presented a new look into the world crafted by the folks at Irrational Games which saw the player in the preverbal opposite of Bioshock’s Rapture. The opulent Columbia, a floating city in the sky filled with a living breathing society that the player gets to explore. Even though the gameplay may seem generic the experience as a whole will stand tall in the halls of gaming history.

5. Tomb Raider

Reboot the dying franchise by taking notes from more successful games in the genre, an amazing amount polish and keep its own “girl power” flavor and you have the best Tomb Raider game to date. Shrugging off the years of meme worthy campiness that the older games and Angelina Jolie put on and comes out like a glorious butterfly from the cocoon of mediocrity. Square Enix and the developers seem to love the series and while the game takes a more serious tone it’s all for the setup of a strong character so that future adventures can have that added, relatable layer in the newest addition in the action genre.

4. Injustice: Gods Among Us

What do you get when you marry the tight intuitive controls of street fighter with the colorful and diverse nature of the DC comics universe? One of the greatest fighting games in recent history Gods Among Us is an example of a company pouring its time and resources in what’s really important, the game, or more or less everything you see for the most part. The cut scenes are stiff and the story is old but the game is new and fun which is why it outsold.

3. Ratchet and Clank: Into the Nexus

Ending the year in a surprising little treat the good folks at Insomniac games delivered a short but sweet addition to the Ratchet and Clank Franchise. Into the Nexus is packaged as a sort of epilogue to the PS3’s “Future” series and stays true to the run and gun/platform gameplay. Complete with ridiculously fun weapons like a gun that turns enemies into snowmen while playing Jingle Bells and a new jetpack mechanic that made the game 10 times as fun as you live out your Looney Tunes/Rocketeer fantasy. A welcome return to form and a sign of goodwill that the franchise is still alive and will most likely thrive in the coming generation.

2. Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

A lot can be said about this game but one factor remains clear and that is that this game is the shot of juice that JRPGs needed. Not adrenaline but “juice,” the juice of heart, effort, and a story that can stand among the greats. Ni No Kuni captures that same magic that made the old Final Fantasy games great. Able to balance pathos and levity and create a world filled with endearing characters brought to life by the beautiful artwork done by Studio Ghibli. The gameplay may be frustrating at times but it never gets old and here’s hoping that a franchise was born.

1. Grand Theft Auto 5

The latest in the world sized series that takes the best of the genre and makes the most of its seemingly bloated budget that has since seen turn a profit on at least five times the investment and for good reason. The parodied world of Los Santos and Pike County are the tremendous settings to the parody of California with deserts, mountains and a beautifully realized city are a gigantic playground for madness and mayhem. Three different characters to play with, the game never gets old and gameplay that addresses fun over function. A game that is a non-stop thrill ride that left its mark this year as the greatest.

Have a Merry Christmas and happy holidays! Here’s to a great New Year and may 2014 be a better time for all. Thank you for reading and as always I’ll see ya later!


Fro(m the Renaissance)zen

2 Dec


Frozen, a CG musical-fantasy released November 27, is the latest film done by Walt Disney Animation Studios that keeps the Disney spirit alive.

In a surprising return to form for Disney, Frozen, takes the tried and true princess formula and succeeds in making it feel as fresh and vibrant as it did during the Disney Renaissance.

Loosely based on the Hans Christian Anderson Novel, The Snow Queen, the movie sees two sisters deal with powers out of their control as they try to keep their kingdom of Arendelle afloat. Elsa, the elder sister, was born with the ability to create and control the power of snow and ice and after an accident that almost killed her younger sister Anna she was told to hide her powers from the world. This led to, her and subsequently Anna, being shut off from the outside world until the day of Elsa’s coronation where she must introduce herself to society. An incident during the coronation forces Elsa to reveal her powers and accidently cause an eternal winter in Arendelle and run away to a self inflicted exile. Anna with the help of ice salesman Christophe, his reindeer Sven and the animated snowman Olaf must find her sister and attempt to reverse the winter and save Elsa from not only the fear mongered populous but also herself.

The story at first glance already has enough twists to spin audiences upside down but it gets even more interesting as the whole movie is explored. The first twist is the absence of an identifiable villain as well as a lead. But this all works in the movies favor as it keeps you guessing throughout the entire movie and never leads itself into predictability. The movie is the greatest example of, “show don’t tell.” There’s no obnoxious narrator and the characters don’t say haw they feel, you see it in the beautiful animation.

The CG animation is standard Disney high-quality and uses its setting to the fullest extent in using snow, ice foliage and architecture to  

The movie has a break neck pace as literally years of plot and exposition is told within the first 10 minutes of the running time. But the film knows exactly when to slow down and take a breath from the action subtly introducing set pieces and characters and giving them all enough time to develop and interact with each other, such as when Christophe argues with Anna on how ridiculous “love at first sight” is.

Olaf, who serves as the token comic relief, brings the heart and laughs without the annoyance. Where similar characters like Mater from Cars seem obnoxious, Olaf does his job of being a nice break from the tension without ruining the investment. 

 Did I mention Frozen was a musical, cause you’ll find that out quick as the movie opens with a big booming catchy song about sawing and collecting ice. The characters all get their big songs, except for Christophe, who really needs one. The centerpiece of the music being Elsa’s “Let it go” song, which mirrors similar songs done in Mulan or Beauty and the Beast in terms of both inspiration and being memorable.

MINITORIAL-Two Princesses?: Frozen breaks the mold of having not one but two female leads who are for all intensive purposes Disney princesses on the side of good. Elsa being the one imbued with a magical gift and must learn to hide from everyone is an all too good metaphor for girls who grow up and discover more about who they are and not conforming to society’s wishes. Anna on the other hand wants nothing more than to conform as being shut away from the world has made her crave for attention and love and serves as a metaphor for girls who jump into situations too quickly without considering the consequences. Both juxtapose one another perfectly and let the movie have an interesting identity outside of being a rehash of an old story.

Frozen keeps the formula fresh and proves that no matter what may come Disney is still more than capable of turning out instant classics. A beautiful return to the female oriented fairy tale classic and a movie so good and filled with enough interest that a franchise would be obvious. 

Thor: The Dark World

13 Nov

Thor: The Dark World, released on Nov. 8, is the latest in the generous offering peddled by Marvel Studios and its revolutionary ideas on building an Avengers trilogy.

Thor: The Dark World is set two years after the events of the first Thor film and one year after the events of The Avengers and sees Thor(Chris Hemsworth) finishing up building peace amongst the nine realms and ready to take the throne of Asgard. Unfortunately his mind is towards Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) as she is imbued with an ancient sealed power called the Aether. The Aether is being sought out by an old enemy of Asgard, the Dark Elf Malakith (Christopher Eccleston) who has sworn vengeance upon Asgard for a war that killed his race. Thor must enlist the help of his enigmatic brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and fight to defeat Malekith and protect the realms he worked to make peaceful.

MINITORIAL-Divided They Fall?: The biggest question for people who enjoy the Avengers team dynamic is whether or not it works with only one Avenger. It’s gotten to the point where the individual hero movies cannot ignore their past exploits. The attention to previous details helps the films tremendously and keeps the entirety of the franchise alive and not repetitive. New problems, new villains and new macguffins that will be collected and used for different plots in the future. 

It’s at this point in the Marvel movie universe that no wrong can be done. Anything resembling a mishandling of an individual property or characters is immediately met with a good screenplay, great acting and love for the art of film that’s not found in many places today.

That’s Thor: The Dark World in a nutshell. Not perfect or fantastic, but just the right amount of dynamic between drama, action and comedy.

When the Avengers are together it’s a typical superhero flick with a team dynamic but when you pull them apart and you get some interesting possibilities. Namely that Thor and everything having to do with him and his world is a fantasy and the movie makers know this all too well.

Giving the Director’s chair to Alan Taylor, who handled various episodes of Game of Thrones, and can make the goofiest set pieces, wardrobes and colorful characters be taken seriously as they fight power ranger villains in plastic masks.

The biggest problem with the first film was the fact that Thor wasn’t actually Thor throughout the film and remained a human as he regained his power but that’s apparently resolved in The Dark World. Hemsworth played the fish out of water cocksure Thor we saw in the first film but now the actor gets to remain in the characters’ fantastical element and fight everything hammer, cape and honor in hand.

Special mention goes to Idris Elba as Heimdall, as he can go from dead serious to lighthearted in a second.  The highlight of the movie is definitely the banter shared by Hemsworth and Hiddleston as Thor and Loki respectively.

The biggest problem with this film is the villain and the somewhat plain performance given by Eccleston. Those hoping Eccleston would bring his “Doctor Who” charm to the role as an engaging villain will be disappointed yet he still serves the purpose of a legitimate threat and fits the movies wiry feel.

Thor: The Dark World is a great movie and deserves to stand among the ranks of the Marvel pedigree but if you’re a hardcore Thor fan it might seem like a wasted opportunity.

Grand Theft(of time) Auto V

7 Oct

The Grand Theft Auto games, since the first release in 1997, have always been the poster child for the worst side of video game culture, the sex modification “Hot Coffee” scandal, the promiscuous artwork and the fact that the main action of the game and its identity is associated with a criminal offense.

But when a game is around as long as the GTA series, it has the ability to grow into a pop culture phenomenon to not only rival but also obliterate blockbuster movies in terms of sales.

GTA V, released on Sept. 17th, cost around $270 million to make and in the first 24 hours of going on sale it made $800 million dollars. Trouncing previous records set by the likes of Call of Duty: Black Ops which sold more $200 million in about a week.

The effect this game has on the population is immediately apparent, as numbers don’t lie. Grand Theft Auto V has instantly become the best-selling game of all time.

So, is it deserving of its success? Or is it just an overblown fluke of titanic proportions?


GTA V is the latest installment to the massive series, created by Rockstar Games and subsequent branch Rockstar North, and features similar gameplay and atmosphere from previous titles.

An open world game, advertised as being three times larger than any other map the team has developed, a do whatever you want action game, with guns, cars, planes, bikes, and a myriad of activities ranging from skydiving to tennis, all tied together by a coherent narrative.

The story itself puts the player in the shoes of three separate protagonists who live in the fictional state of San Andreas, and the city of Los Santos which mirror California and Los Angeles respectively.

Franklin, the black youth who’s tired of the small time repo work and has something to prove; Michael, the retired big time criminal whose materialistic family is driving him insane; and finally Trevor, the most deranged, frightening, and nasty videogame character to date.

As light hearted as the GTA series may seem this entry especially needs a gigantic red, “Not for Children or the Squeamish,” sticker plastered on the box art.

GTA V has intense scenes of gory violence, extensively horrid language, and an un-ironic handling of the satirized material found in games like these.

MINI-TORIAL-Everyone’s bad, so it’s okay to kill them.: One thing I’ve noticed about the GTA games is that I never feel guilty about a single soul. This could be that I’m a rational human being and that I’m not actually hurting anyone, or it could be that everyone you meet in the games, NPC or otherwise, are awful ugly people. You never see children or kindly old people, just a wide array of 30-something A$$-holes waiting to curse at you or flip you off for no reason. This of course makes it easier to expend these jerks as you revel in your own debauchery as one of the three awful human beings you play.But amidst the vulgar story and presentation there is a beautifully realized game. The city of Los Santos feels alive with the chatter of NPC’s, sounds of sirens music and driving cars makes you feel like you’re living in the world.

You can level up different abilities of each character by performing mini-games. A shooting range will improve weapon handling, as well as performing in triathlons will increase a character’s stamina.

Driving and handling vehicles in the game has been incredibly improved from the more “realistic” driving found in titles like GTA IV. The graphics are top notch, as the game squeezes every last bit of power out of the PS3 and Xbox 360. Buyer, beware though since this working of both systems has led to some major graphical issues.

On the PS3 the game will randomly crash or become corrupted to the point of being unplayable and requires a reinstall of the game data which can take up to 10 to 20 minutes at a time.

As for the Xbox 360 the game has to install the data from one disc and play it on a separate disc just to keep up, and if you install both discs the game will lag to a third of the games actual speed. The PC version couldn’t come sooner.

But when the game is playing successfully it’s easy to get lost in the world as you switch between the different characters and commit to different missions, the highlight of which are the Bank heists that allow you to plan out from different angles and let you make your own team to perform the job.

As GTA and open world games in general go this is the gold standard. While the story and character dialogue is hit or miss the game as a whole is fantastic, filled with time sinking side missions, a whole city to explore and three different perspectives in which to enjoy it, GTA V does indeed deserve its phenomenal success.