Monthly Archives: April 2015

Dark Rising: Bring Your Battle Axe

DarkRisingPosterLandy Cannon as Jason Parks
Jay Reso as Ricky
Bridgitte Kingsley as Summer Vale
Julia Schneider as Renee Phillips

While I don’t hate teen movies the way some do, I do feel as though some have a definite focus on the least common denominator. And don’t think it’s just age, either. I remember reaching this conclusion at the age of seventeen, well within my adolescence. Dark Rising: Bring Your Battle Axe is a textbook example of such a movie. It may be the stupidest movie I have yet reviewed. Sure I have reviewed numerous worse ones (incompetence and stupidity are not the same thing), But none so devoid of intelligence as to make me so feel that I’m too smart to be watching this. Or am I? I did watch the whole thing, after all.

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Go ahead. Laugh.

Our story opens with an annoying young man named Jason who brings some friends on a camping trip This leads to some extremely unfunny comedy. For instance, Jason is still in love with an ex named Jasmine who turns out to be a lesbian with a girlfriend. You know, these lesbian sex jokes are really getting old, and should give you an idea of this film’s comedic wit. Also, another friend of Jason’s, Ricky, turns out to be a cartoonishly insensitive dude. But don’t worry if you think its just the comedy that’s lame and predictable. As hinted by the fact that they’re camping, you can also expect a whole bunch of horror cliches.

One of the campers received The Book of Shadows from a bookkeeper, and accidentally releases an obvious man in a costume (to be fair, this is an obviously low-budget production), er, monster from another dimension. She also releases a warrior princess named Summer Vale, whose role is to get convenient amnesia, kick ass, and play to male sexual fantasies.

Because of the "Sexual fantasies" part, don't expect much of this helmet.

Because of the “Sexual fantasies” part, don’t expect much of this helmet.

Another issue I have is with the annoying musical score. It’s full of awful “pop” songs. Why do they have to be everywhere, even at the Super Bowl? I should note that I can recall movies that made decent use of this kind of music, but Dark Rising isn’t among them.

Surprisingly, the acting is acceptable, despite traces of Canadian accents here and there. Still, it’s alright. Alas, that’s like the best thing in the movie.

Isn't it great when eyes look rock-hard?

Isn’t it great when eyes look rock-hard?

Some movies you can watch and feel that even if you personally disliked them, they would at least appeal to a certain demographic. Dark Rising: Bring Your Battle Axe is not one of them. What I see online indicates a negative consensus. As for me, I am absolutely certain I wouldn’t have liked it, even as a teen. It’s dumb, trite, awfully plotted, and predictable. Avoid.

Overall: 3 out of 10

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

Middle-earth™: Shadow of Mordor™_20141111145802Before I even begin, I must explain myself to all those who love Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. I thought this was going to be a good game. But after discovering how much this game is about doing the same thing over and over and how much it derives from the recent Batman titles, I have to view it as very overrated.

Plot: 6 out of 10

Going in, I thought that the main character, Talion, would be an Aragorn clone. You can see in the picture above how much the two characters look alike. Thankfully, Talion is very different. He is a generic ranger whose lovely wife is killed by orcs. Talion swears revenge on the orcs.

I like revenge stories even though the “many that live deserve death; and some that live deserve life; can you give it to them” line suggests that J.R.R. Tolkien did not and may not have even endorsed this story for any medium. Still, from a shallow perspective, it works. I say shallow because beyond the early scenes with Talion and his wife, there’s little effective emotion that a great revenge story needs.

Beyond how Tolkien would have liked this is a much bigger issue. Talion is killed early on, but the spirit of a dead elf-lord, Celebrimbor, who wants revenge on Sauron as well, brings Talion back so he can get vengeance. Mm-hmm. First of all, Tolkien’s elves are pure-hearted moralists who accept no excuses for not doing the right thing. Just the kind of people who would see greatness in revenge. Worse, this resurrection creates the following credibility problem: why don’t dead elves like Celebrimbor bring back everyone with common cause who died? Where was he when Boromir was killed? I wasn’t supposed to think that hard about this, was I?

Middle-earth™: Shadow of Mordor™_20141116233758

It never occurs to Talion to ask if his wife can come back, too?

There are some cool plot twists later that redeem things somewhat. But it can’t be a great story because the foundation is weak.

Graphics: 5 out of 10

Not all that next-gen, I’m afraid. Talion looks kind of bland. His orc foes and the landscapes don’t look much better. All said, this game looks to be barely above the PS3’s capabilities, but it’s not ugly or anything. For that I direct you to Duck Dynasty (yes, that show got a game).

Who the Hell holds a flower like a sword?

Who the Hell holds a flower like a sword?

Sound: 7 out of 10

I’ll give credit where it’s due. The voices strongly resemble the kinds of characters that are being portrayed, especially the orcs. Now, the voice acting is just above average, even though the dialogue is strong. But I’ll rate this category a little higher than that because of how fitting the voices are.

Gameplay: 6 out of 10

It becomes very apparent, very fast, that Shadow of Mordor is one of the most derivative games ever published. Although Talion uses a sword, we’ve got a combat system exactly like the one from the Batman series that began with Arkham Asylum. All that’s left is for Talion to throw up grappling hooks and climb on them.

Three orcs against moi? Surrender accepted.

Three orcs against moi? Surrender accepted.

However, the controls aren’t as good as the Batman games. You won’t notice it easily, but in tight situations, you’ll find that they can screw up. But not really except in a tight situation. They’re not horrible or anything. It’s just that they falter under pressure.

Challenge: 4 out of 10

This is a fairly difficult game, but what sinks it, challenge-wise, is that except for some mostly unimaginative quests here and there, the game is mostly about sneaking past an orc captain’s men and killing the boss. You can only do the same thing over and over so many times before it gets boring.

THIS is Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor.

THIS is Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor.

Overall: 5 out of 10

I know I’m inviting controversy with this score, but it’s my honest opinion. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is an OK game, but I can’t see it as a classic.

A final note I wish to leave you with is that the original Assassin’s Creed was originally praised by almost everyone. But over time many have come to view it as a disappointing beginning to what would become a great series. Why? Because the whole game is basically the same assassination mission over and over. Sound kind of like the game I was talking about? Perhaps Shadow of Mordor stands to be viewed differently in the future as well.

Youngblood

YoungbloodTitleRob Lowe as Dean Youngblood
Cynthia Gibb as Jessie Chadwick
Patrick Swayze as Derek Sutton
Ed Lauter as Murray Chadwick
Jim Youngs as Kelly Youngblood
Eric Nesterenko as Blane Youngblood

Some movies practically relish being cliche. Youngblood is one of them.

Our focus in on a 17-year-old farmboy and prospective hockey player named Dean Youngblood. His father hates the idea because he fears his son will get hurt badly, but brother Kelly, a failed hockey trainee himself, is just happy for Dean. Still, Kelly warns Dean that he should stand by for trouble. Sure enough, Dean ends up barely making the team and getting bullied by his fellow teammates, especially since he sucks at fighting. He does earn their respect when he scores a goal in their first game. But Dave Youngblood (or just Youngblood as he’s called in the papers) loses his taste for the game and quits it when star player Derek is grounded by injury. That is until Youngblood’s brother persuades him to come back with a speech about how big an opportunity playing hockey is.

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A young Patrick Swayze makes for quite the rough kid.

How is all this cliche? well, first of all, the main character is an underdog like so many leads in sports movies. Second, he has a hard time fitting in, Third, he’s got an unattainable girlfriend in Jessie, daughter of the coach who doesn’t want her dating any rowdy hockey players. Finally, there’s Youngblood’s brief departure from the sport. Plus, who watching really thought he was going to stay away? There might as well have been a caption that says, “you know he’s going to play again, don’t you?”

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And how convenient that he’s got a gimmicky last name like “Youngblood.”

Another problem is the logic of this movie. Remember how I said that Youngblood doesn’t do well in the tryouts and barely makes the team? We don’t see much improvement before he makes a goal in the first game. Hence, there is nothing up to that point that indicates that he should even come close to sending the puck into the net. Also, a big deal is made of Youngblood’s inability to win one of the fights between plays. That shouldn’t be a problem. Just refuse all challenges. It’s not like the ref is going to dock the team points. In fact, when a fight occurs in real hockey, both combatants go the penalty box. There are numerous other holes in this movie’s plot.

Considering all these problems, I’m surprised I don’t give this movie a 3 or 4. But the dialogue between characters is quite solid, although often peppered with 1980s xenophobia (among other things, there’s a mocking of Canada’s national anthem. what a class act.) Strong interactions include Derek telling Youngblood that players are but disposable machines to the coaches and owners. I’d say that these interactions keep this from being another awful teen movie.

It was inevitable that what hockey is most famous for would end up in this movie.

It was inevitable that what hockey is most famous for would end up in this movie.

Youngblood is an OK drama. You take some good, you take some bad with this movie.

Overall: 5 out of 10

Is alternate history just light entertainment?

AlternateHistoryEntertainment1I recently got done reading a book titled Surrounded by Enemies: What if Kennedy Survived Dallas? As its name implies, this book is about how the 1960s (supposedly) would have gone if JFK had survived the infamous assassination attempt. It was an interesting read up until the 1964 vote count but steadily deteriorated onward. The biggest issue is that although Kennedy wins reelection with an enormous 53-44 margin, the Republicans ride a congressional wave into control of the House. This is supposed to signify a deep divide in the country. Simply put, no, no, no. There is no way that could happen at the same time as a near landslide for Kennedy. I could buy mixed congressional results that don’t alter the balance of power there, but a Democratic bloodbath down the ballot and a big win for JFK up top? It makes no sense.

AlternateHistoryEntertainment2

“I believe it’s time to change into identity #573 (Paul McCartney).” Someone will write an alternate history about that, you’ll see!

Thing is, although there are many books about alternate history, the lack of logic in the conclusions the authors reach on what would have changed if ______ had happened run throughout almost the entire genre. Do you know that I’ve heard of a book about the South winning the Civil War because South African racists go back in time to give them machine guns so they can win despite the North’s superior numbers? I shit you not!

Clearly these alternate history stories weren’t as well thought out as their subjects and promises indicate. In fact, they resemble movies that never even tried to be in the Oscar picture. They more resemble, say, Indiana Jones movies, which are pretty entertaining, yet still have gaping plot holes like traps still working after centuries or even millennia.

If alternate history is not intended to show us believable “what if” scenarios, what is it? The answer is that it’s not an intellectually stimulating demonstration of how even a small twist of fate can change everything. No, it’s pure entertainment.

So perhaps we shouldn’t treat alternate history too seriously. Not only does it tend towards implausibility, it’s more Transformers than The Godfather when it comes to entertainment.