Tag Archives: positive

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!

DBSLAYER7

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Fre(aking Hard!)eze

18 Mar

Although it seems as if Nintendo is going into a financial crisis in the wake of the Wii U’s paltry sales, the humble company still puts out a fantastic product for those who did buy one.

The game sees the Kong family celebrating DK’s Birthday when an army of arctic animals called the “Snomads” attack. Using a magic alphorn the Snomads blow the Kongs out of their home and put the tropical DK Island in a perpetual winter a la “Frozen” style. The Kong’s must traverse the different Islands taken over by the icy invaders and take back their home.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is the latest game in the DKC franchise and employs the same 2D platform gameplay the games are known for since the first one developed by the OG’s at Rare. In single player you play as the titular Donkey Kong whose larger body feels realistically heavy but still tight to control and can use one of his three relatives as assists which change up the dynamic of your controls.

With Diddy you can use his jet pack to get an extra second of air time, using Cranky allows you to pogo with his cane to avoid spiky terrain and kill horned enemies and last but most useful is Dixie who uses her ponytail to give a lot more amnesty and control during tricky platform sections. In Multiplayer Player one controls DK, while a second player controls one of the three supports independently and both can still come together to perform the same actions.

The game consists of six different vibrant worlds, from Bavarian mountain tops to deep sea caverns, all with an icy coat to keep up with the game’s theme. Each level provides a surprise in terms of gameplay, with fast mine cart sections and in look, such as certain levels turning the in game characters into art deco silhouettes. This is all made better by the fact the great optimization of the graphics keeps the game at an extremely smooth frame rate  Each world is finished by defeating a boss character,  each with their own strategy and theme that tests the player to their limits.

The music is composed by David Wise who helped compose the music for the original DKC and returns with old remixes and new scores that will stay in your head as you play the game.  The new voice acting for the Kong family is also a hilariously campy and will alleviate the frustration when you miss that split second jump.

DKC: Tropical Freeze is a beautiful game that keeps the hardcore, challenging platform spirit alive and makes a cool way to pass the time in waiting for the next masterpiece.

Thanks and see ya Later!

DBSLAYER7

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

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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!

DBSLAYER7

The Hobbit: The Desol(ook at that f$&#ing dragon!)ation of Smaug

16 Dec

Like the awkward middle child in an oversized family The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug seems to be going through puberty, finding all sorts of new things about itself while not being sure of what it’s supposed to do.

The movie takes place directly after the first Hobbit film and continues the unexpected journey towards the Lonely Mountain original kingdom of the dwarves. The protagonists, including the 13 dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), the wizard, Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellan) and the titular hobbit, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), must traverse the remaining land as they find their way back to the dwarf’s homeland. Along the way they must evade orcs, consult with the high elves and prepare to come face to face with the larger than life fire-breathing dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch).

Viewing movies such as The Hobbit trilogy piece by piece is equally as exciting as it is frustrating.

The ending cliffhangers still smack you in the face, even if you are someone who knows these movies are ensemble works, which is actually more of a testament to how engaging these films can be.

As the title suggests the main focus of the film is the inevitable encounter and interaction with a dragon by the name of Smaug, who is the same dragon from the beginning of An Unexpected Journey. I mention Smaug as a “who” because he is not your typical big dumb fire-breathing dinosaur. He has as much if not more personality as any of the other characters and is the main villain in the film.

As much as the movies defend their long running time, here it seems to put padding on top of padding, including a boring love triangle, single-shot filmed fight scenes, and an entirely different movie, with Stephen Fry playing a foppish aristocratic dictator of a lake top village adequately named, “Lake Town,” that just so happens to be next to the Lonely Mountain.

But with more padding comes quality filmmaking in both the acting and photographic departments. Every character, whether from the novel or not, is three-dimensional, with flaws and strengths brought to light by the actors, who do a great job of making the film a very organic experience. This is most evident with the group of battle ready dwarves who are now discernable from one another in big action vignettes and dialogues.

The visual effects are also some of the best seen in recent years, while the CG is still noticeable it’s very natural and never takes you out of the experience. The work done on Smaug alone is something that must be seen on the big screen.

A must see for fans of the book and the fantasy genre in general, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is a movie that pushes the boundaries even further. The film is filled to the brim with something for everyone and a testament to good filmmaking that still includes the likes of fun in an industry that says otherwise. As frustrating as it is to see a cliffhanger the feeling of disappointment comes because the audience wants to see more.

This is my opinion, Thanks and see ya later!

DBSLAYER7

Fro(m the Renaissance)zen

2 Dec

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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. 

Rayman Legend(ary)s

2 Dec

Video games as a medium and as a vehicle for stories have advanced beyond the point of just being toys for children. Video games can tell stories that intrigue people as much as Shakespeare, and look as gorgeous as a new Pixar movie. It’s pretty surprising however to see simplistic games such as the Rayman titles not only survive in the current market but also thrive.

Rayman Legends, released Sept. 3, was developed by the Montpellier branch of Ubisoft and directed by series creator Michel Ancel and the same, beautiful cartoony atmosphere and presentation. Even though Ancel and the team that worked on Origins is present, Legends takes what Origins perfected and attempts to take it further, but it ultimately misses what made Origins a nearly perfect experience.

Set in a surreal world created by an old shaman like character called the “Bubble Dreamer”, Legends features the titular character of Rayman, a limbless hero of sorts, his best friend, a blue frog named Globox, a new character, the warrior princess Barbara and little creatures called the “Teensies” jumping back into action as the nightmares caused by evil Teensies plague their world once again. The group must traverse through different worlds via magical paintings in order to save kidnapped Teensies and magical sprites known as Lums from the Nightmares’ clutches.

RaymanLegends

As convoluted as the story may sound it, like the one found in Origins is extremely cut and dry and borderline random, which is the point. It’s just a simple framing device for the game. There is only one line of discernible dialogue in the whole game while the rest is comedic gibberish.

Legends is a basic 2D side scroll platform game reminiscent of old Mario games with 4-player co-op, and has you jumping, punching, and floating your way through six themed worlds including a Medieval fantasy setting with dragons and ogres, and a mouth-watering food world designed after the Mexican holiday, Dia de Muertos filled with colorful skeletons and cake.

Origins was noted as having incredibly jarring difficulty spikes and Legends addresses this with more forgiving checkpoints and ample foresight into what you have to do in each level, reducing the need for frustrating memorization. Legends features new content like a soccer mini game, costumes, pets and daily challenges for those with internet access.

One major downside with Legends is the new “Murphy” levels which need the assistance of a timed button prompt to let the character of Murphy perform a necessary action in order to advance through the level. These levels came from the game first being a WiiU exclusive and work well with a touch screen but the PS3 and XBOX360 versions of these levels seem tedious and slow down the fast pace the games are known for.

One thing Legends and other Rayman games do get right is the jaw dropping presentation. For one thing the visuals are some of the best produced by artists with expansive, hand-painted backgrounds, environments. While it looks could it sometimes looks “too” good as the characters are as detailed as the backgrounds and leads to them blending in, instead of popping out like in Origins.

MINITORIAL-More detail is bad?: As said above the art has been incredibly improved since the last game but it has also turned into something that is a bit ugly. Having everything, characters, items, enemies and backgrounds have the same level of detail makes everything blend together. While its all still beautiful it actually affects the game itself and not in a good way. Being harder to differentiate characters from the fore ground makes a myriad of levels that much harder to traverse and while more detail is appreciated it should still have good conveyance.

Another source of majesty in this game is the music scored by Christophe Heral and Billy Martin featuring original tunes and some more notable melodies. One of the highlights of Legends is its newly introduced, “Orchestral Chaos” levels which have the player performing actions to the beat of familiar songs like a hard rock cover of Ram Jam’s “Black Betty,” or a flamenco style cover of “Eye of the Tiger.”

As good as the music is it couldn’t be help feeling repetitive, some of the more prominent songs from Origins were pulled into the game, and multiple levels will use the same track with little to no difference.

Legends is a fantastic title but it is nowhere the level of a complete experience as its predecessor is and feels more like an experimental expansion pack, but consider this experiment a success.