Monthly Archives: June 2015

Zombieland

ZombieLandTitleJesse Eisengurg as Columbus
Emma Stone as Wichita
Woody Harrelson as Tallahassee
Abigail Breslin as Little Rock
Bill Murray as himself

I’ve never gotten the whole “zombie” thing. Not that I don’t enjoy the George Romero classics. It’s just that zombies, as monsters, I don’t find inherently scary. They’re very plain monsters that walk around looking for victims. I prefer the antagonists of slashers and supernatural horror, not zombie flicks.

And zombies are intended to symbolize excessive capitalism? I suppose if you see political themes everywhere, you might reach that conclusion. But how do wolves hunting prey not make a better point of comparison?

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It may be cliche, but why wouldn’t the fat guy go early?

Zombieland is a parody of zombie movies in which the world has been taken over by a zombie apocalypse. There seem to practically few other than four humans left. We begin with a young, love-starved guy named Columbus. He soon meets a badass redneck with an unhealthy obsession with Twinkies named Tallahassee. They meet a woman named Wichita and her little sister, Little Rock. At first, the ladies trick Columbus and Tallahassee into giving up their guns and steal them (the awful state of the world leaves them so paronoid of who to trust that they double-cross first), but circumstances eventually have the two pairs together again and traveling together to defend each other from zombies.

This movie is funny but gory. As per zombie factor, there’s a lot of violence involving these monsters, complete with bloodshed. For American cinema, it’s pretty good.

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Zombie apocalypse or not, gotta get some twinkies.

The humor is the core of this movie. With the rules of surviving in this world, Garfield (the live-action movie) being Bill Murray’s one regret in life, and Tallahassee’s never-ending search for a Twinkie, the jokes are really funny and clever.

Well, mostly. When the setting changes to Hollywood (where there are no zombies), things get rather lame until it’s zombie time again. Writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick must have had a gag order on what they could and couldn’t mock when it came to their institution or something because things go downhill in the period in which they’re having fun in safety.

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I would think sleep on a road trip in Zombieland would be harder.

Fortunately, this doesn’t last too long. We have a fine ending that ends things quite well.

I admit, maybe I would appreciate this film more if I were a zombie fan. I still rather liked it. I didn’t love it, but it made me laugh. If you like zombies, it just might make you howl.

Overall: 7 out of 10

Terrorism in Charleston

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Booking photos of our terrorist.

I wondered whether or not I even had anything to add to what is being said about the recent tragedy in Charleston, South Carolina. But one thing that caught my eye is that the family members of the victims say that they forgive the shooter, Dylann Roof. With all sympathy to these people, why? Do they really feel that the rat bastard who committed these murders is remotely sorry for what he did? I mean, this ABC News piece shows that Roof was not only a racist, he planned this six months in advance. If he never thought the better of this in those six months, I doubt anything anyone says from here on out will make him feel sorry for what he has done.

But I should be more sensitive than that. The family members have, after all, been through a lot. It’s one thing to lose someone you love to old age or disease. It’s another for that person to be murdered in a hate crime. I really can’t say how I would react in that situation, other than that I would want justice.

As for Dylann Roof himself? Think of him as the next Charles Manson, for he actually intended to start another civil war with this incident. This is a sick individual who hated black people and decided to shoot some of them to satisfy his hatred.

Needless to say, Roof faces a grim fate. Since he confessed, the verdict is pretty obvious. He will either get life or spend some years on death row before execution, quite possibly getting raped in either case.

If there is one thing to learn here, it is that hatred is a problem, not a solution. As a young man, Roof could have been living a happy life. Instead, he got caught up in hate and became a terrorist. Not that I mean to generate sympathy for him. If only nobody followed this path, the world would be a much better place.

Perhaps I finally understand why they might forgive after all.

Perhaps I finally understand why they might forgive after all.

Dragon Age: Inquisition

DragonAgeInquisitionTitleBioware’s Dragon Age series continues on the current batch of consoles. This philosophical, somewhat dark RPG series has proven to be outstanding, and I must say that Dragon Age: Inquisition delivers. From the story to the battle system, it gets the job done in every way.

Plot: 9 out of 10

The story of Inquisition is pretty good. While I could live without this series’ obsession with religion, its characters are as good as ever, as are the dialogue and the relations between the (fictional) races. Plus, the fact that your character ends up becoming not an everyman/woman but a Lord adds a sense of importance to him/her.

Bioware sure does know how to showcase interactions between the protagonist and his/her party members. Interesting conversations with these members happen in this game as well.

Of course, there's all too conveniently crap like this statue.

Of course, there’s also all too convenient crap like this statue.

Graphics: 9 out of 10

In my review of the original Mass Effect, I pointed out that it had so-so graphics because Bioware used to make PC games with outdated graphics but low hardware requirements. It wasn’t used to making high-tech games. That didn’t last long, as indicated by this game. Models, structures, and landscapes all look top-notch!

Just one more step and graphics will... hit a ceiling. When they look real, where's the next mountaintop.

Just one more step and graphics will… hit the ceiling. When they look real, where’s the next mountaintop?

Sound: 8 out of 10

Music is very good and fitting of the fantasy setting. Voice acting’s also pretty good, with one exception. I was surprised to learn that Claudia Black voiced Morrigan again, because she has a distinct lack of passion this time around. She’s definitely the low point of this game, audio-wise.

Gameplay: 10 out of 10

After choosing your protagonist’s gender, race, and character class, you begin. Before long you are named Inquisitor and Lord of a land that serves as your base of operations. There you buy and sell things, converse with teammates and townspeople, make improvements to your castle,  and decide the fate of criminals sent to you to face judgement.

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Great graphics even with military figurines.

When you leave to go on a quest somewhere else, you choose up to four teammates to accompany you. You have 3D platformer controls for most of the game, but when in battle, you can switch to the Tactical Combat Mode, which freezes time until you specifically choose for it to advance and changes the camera to a birds-eye view. To give me total control over the party, I definitely prefer this method of fighting over real time combat. And the great view it gives you makes it pretty much perfect.

Challenge: 8 out of 10

This games’ biggest problem is the climbing up mountains by making difficult jumps in a game not suited for it or finding that one smooth area in the lower part of a mountain that takes a while to walk around. This kind of stuff has been done before. The Elder Scrolls and (3D) Zelda games have long been famous for long, pointless walks in the countryside or wilderness in an attempt to make the game seem longer than it really is.

Other than that, this game is very challenging. Be aware, though that you do often have to go through easier places to level up for the tougher ones. Fortunately, you have recommended levels listed in the missions before you activate them at the base. The battle with the prime antagonist, Corypheus, is really hard, but that’s to be expected of the final boss.

Saving the world apparently leaves enough free time to pose for Leonardo da vinci paintings.

Saving the world apparently leaves enough free time to pose for Leonardo da Vinci paintings.

Overall: 9 out of 10

One of the best recent games, Dragon Age: Inquisition is a wonderful experience from start to finish! Just remember that as an RPG, this is not a short game.

Mortal Kombat: Conquest

MKConquestPaolo Montalban as Kung Lao
Daniel Bernhardt as Siro
Kristanna Loken as Taja
Bruce Locke as Shang Tsung
Tracy Douglas as Vorpax
Jeff Meek as Raiden and Shao Kahn

Gamers have long accepted that it is a cold fact of life that movies based on video games, with like three or four exceptions in all these years, suck. However, this does not hold true for TV. The Super Mario Bros. Super Show and its two sequels modeled after later games have generally been well-received by fans. So have a number of the various Sonic shows. Actually, they’re pretty much the one thing the blue hedgehog’s had going for him on what has otherwise been a road to Hell.

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Or maybe just the prison that Shang Tsung was banished to for much of this show.

In short, while TV hasn’t had as many adaptations of games as the big screen the gap in quality between the TV and movie attempts beg the question: why not?

Mortal Kombat was not as successful here. I thought the first movie was quite good. Alas, the sequel was terrible and bombed at the box office. In between these movies a kids’ show came out that would probably be hated if more people had actually seen it. I, myself, have seen exactly one full episode and not a second or any other. Suprisingly, a second shot at a Mortal Kombat show was taken. And while this one wasn’t particularly successful either, I have to view it as quite underrated. Watching it as a teenager, I found it to be a very effective combination of drama and martial arts action. This is a belief I still hold.

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I’ve never been this tense except when I was playing video games like those this show is based on.

Mortal Kombat: Conquest is a prequel to the first film. The first episode begins with the original Kung Lao (ancestor of Liu Kang) defeating Shang Tsung to Win the Mortal Kombat tournament. While Shang Tsung is punished by Outworld Emperor Shao Kahn for failing to win Earthrealm through tournament battle (in the movie it was pointed out that this was necessary for Kahn to legally enter our realm) by being banished to the Kobalt Mines (prison), Kung Lao is preparing to live the rest of his life with girlfriend Jen. But Raiden, thunder god and protector of Earth, tells him that must prepare for the next tournament, and that he has been granted the gift of not aging a day until he is killed in a battle. Not wanting to give up his love, Kung Lao isn’t sure what to do. As it turns out, the decision is made for him when Shang Tsung, in one of the many secret escapes from the Mines and attempts at revenge he makes throughout the series, fails to kill Kung Lao but does slay Jen. Kung Lao realizes not only that his decision has been made for him but also that he should have killed Shang Tsung when he had the chance. In the process of foiling Shang Tsung’s attempt at revenge, Kung Lao does meet two other warriors, a former thief named Taja and a former bodyguard named Siro. They are Kung Lao’s allies as he awaits Shang Tsung again in the next tournament, but he must defend himself from the forces of Outworld in the meantime.

The acting is surprisingly solid, especially Bruce Locke as Shang Tsung. Locke makes a perfect villain: power-hungry, vengeful, cruel, and determined. With the background of a tragic and reluctant hero, Kung Lao shows the right mix of sadness and determination. A pre-Terminator 3 Kristanna Loken also does a good job as a reformed thief. The only letdown is Daniel Bernhardt as Siro. He never shows any emotion. He just speaks plainly no matter how the script says he should react. As a result, he’s the show’s low point.

I actually liked this character as a teenager. Harder to do so now that I notice acting.

I actually liked this character as a teenager. Harder to do so now that I notice Bernhardt’s acting.

The show has a pretty simple formula for quite some time. Then plot twists emerge with a mystery or two. I won’t give anything away for anyone wanting to check out the DVD set on Netflix, or wherever, except to say that there are some interesting turns, especially in its late stages. It’s really too bad that this show wasn’t renewed for a second season. The result is that it ends with a cliffhanger that is never resolved. No doubt there’s been some awful fan-fic that tried to explain how the series could have continued, though.

In conclusion, this is a worthwhile TV series that does justice to Mortal Kombat. Just don’t expect much of an ending.

Overall: 7 out of 10