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Wonder Woman (2017)
When Steve Trevor(Pine, charming, wry) lands on Themyscira, it is the first contact between it and the world of man(the species) in a long time, and the first experienced at all by Diana(Gadot, bringing to life the idealistic titular character. Her smile, her grace and her world are all stunning. Their chemistry is strong). He tells the ethnically diverse group about World War I. Might Ares have returned, creating the conflict he lives for?
There are chunks of this that pass without action. Especially in the middle section. The climax is less chaotic, loud and, well, blinding, than Batman V Superman's, albeit not entirely dodging those problems. And the first few aren't as consequential. The initial one is essentially combat training. However, when it's there, it is always good, and frequently amazing. It's not there purely because that's part of why we came to watch. Never does it just make people look cool, and let the heroine stack up a body-count. Heck, she barely kills anyone, and she clearly isn't interested in it. In one of the (too) many similarities to Captain America: The First Avenger(a movie it does largely match in overall quality. Nevertheless, it feels derivative), she "doesn't like bullies". No, first and foremost, she's doing it to save people.
This as the leaders of the countries involved are shrugging off massive casualties. As No Man's Land is treated as an unfortunate reality, not one that is likely to be brought to an end. While the two villains, who could easily have been combined into one, spend their compelling screen-time either using horrible poison gas on the defenseless, or studying hard to make it even worse. She's there to rescue those she's never met. From a race she hadn't even encountered days earlier, in her whole life. We're in the middle of a comic book movie boom. And yet this seemingly obvious value and goal so often goes forgotten these days.
Other than the leads, a lot of the performers, talented as most of them are, get lost in the shuffle, with only a couple of moments to really shine. The Amazons are almost all bad actors I figure they went for physical types, instead. I would say it could have been handled by hiring talents specifically for when they have dialog, and then those would be ones we didn't see in other scenes. Mostly, they are there to convince you of Paradise Island as somewhere people live, work, not only fence. And they succeed. There are pacing issues. The ending is bad, and borrows from great, but mismatched, sources. Occasionally, the message and themes get cheesy, and the final resolution is one example. Although the humor is rapid-fire, using the fish-out-of-water element well, it frequently feels forced, and I don't blame those who find it obnoxious and, indeed, at no point actually funny. The DCEU(no, saying that this is the best of the four isn't saying much) has yet to balance jokes with seriousness. It's not a perfect film. What it is, is genuinely engaging and moving. Warner Brothers? Keep Patty Jenkins around. She'll help you properly compete with the MCU.
There is a lot of disturbing content in this. I recommend it to everyone. 7/10
Just add water
This is the sole featurette on my library's bare-bones DVD copy of...hm, should we call it 300 #2 or 302? What's the empire the title refers to, and where did they show it rising?
It goes into a number of subjects. The more varied action. The fact that, in spite of all the sea we...see, it's shot entirely dry. The CG, and that, this would not have been possible to make were it not for how much it had grown in complexity over the years it took for everyone to stop caring about a potential sequel...prequel...midquel...heck, all of them at once. All the effort put into ensuring that it's stylistically consistent with its parent. Using hand-held cameras. The use of shorter swords, enabling them to get closer with every hack, pretend-thrust and such, without risk to the performer on the receiving end. And of course the extreme blood and gore.
This is made up of interviews with crew and some actors, clips from the film as well as possibly from its predecessor, behind-the-scenes footage, stills and design artwork. It doesn't answer all the pressing questions such as "why do people from Ancient Greece (still) have British accents", etc. The running time is 8 and a half minutes.
I recommend this to anyone interested in learning more about the picture it goes into. It's legitimately informational and an enjoyable watch. 8/10
Alien: Covenant (2017)
The survival of the human race, for reasons not even attempted explained(Earth seemed perfectly habitable until Resurrection, where it was still at least OK), rests upon the titular ship and its thousands of popsicle colonists and embryos. Unfortunately, the roughly dozen awake seem to be experiencing that thing where you think you're ready for the day but your mind is clearly still asleep. Their idiocy and clumsiness repeatedly worsen their circumstances, to the point where you wonder if maybe they joined the mission to purposely sabotage it.
1 star for Fassbender, whose dual role, distractingly thick American accent and awkward scenes "together" notwithstanding, is amazing as always. And another for the technical competency Ridley Scott retains, despite his passion, interest and ability to critically read a script being gone. He's entirely on auto-pilot, outside of the android subplot that belongs in Blade Runner not this franchise, and takes up the uneventful middle. It sits between the first and last third which have meaningless Alien action, wherein the Xenomorph is simultaneously barely present and overexposed. That's the case even if you somehow go into this blind. The gore feels mean-spirited, nearly every character walking around with the running time remaining before they're turned into minced meat practically stamped on their foreheads. The biggest questions of Prometheus are left entirely unanswered. Don't expect more than seconds of the Engineers.
I recommend this only to those famished for the footage of people taken out by the hard-to-kill(albeit as evidenced here, easy and fun to kick and wrestle) creature being previously unseen, if it and the scenes surrounding it can be almost entirely made up of material from the first two entries in the series, done worse. Everyone else, just go rewatch those two. Vote with your wallet. Don't let them believe that something this lazy is acceptable. 3/10
La piel que habito (2011)
Looks can be deceiving
What exactly is plastic surgeon Dr. Robert Ledgard(Banderas, brilliant, obsessed) working on in the top-level facility in his home? And who is his subject?
I haven't read the book, or watched much else by Almodóvar. This is about fathers and daughters, mothers and sons, identity, how do we define ourselves and who we are. Like a lot of genre fiction, this explores the things men do to women. To their bodies. Claiming to do it out of love. Even specifically of that girl. Then why do they fight through her protests? Even complain at them? Say she should be happy about it? Take advantage of her trusting nature? Justify, excuse, but not apologize for, what they're doing to them? "There's some sex in all violence, and vice versa", Cronenberg is quoted as saying in 2005. If not for when it came out, this film could easily be the main reason for him saying it.
There's a huge exposition dump a quarter into this, with one bit after another of backstory. It's literally one person telling all this to another. The revelations are powerful, and couldn't have been done much smoother or such, but it does stop the pace dead for a little while. And almost halfway through, it jumps chronologically. I'm not sure it could have been done very differently. Still. It does have an effect. It's disorienting. A few story elements come off as sloppy and convenient, albeit they do clearly fit. Maybe one or two more drafts would have ironed out these problems.
This has a lot of deeply disturbing content: not everyone will be able to handle the material. The running time is 115 and a half minutes with end credits, or 109 without. My DVD had no special features, only subtitles. I recommend it to any fan of horror-sci-fi. 8/10
Second verse... same as the first?
Our team now work as mercenaries. Now, they run afoul of the Sovereign, the Ravagers come into an unexpected circumstance, and everyone's relatives show back up... well, the ones that are still breathing. What? Everybody's got dead people! So the big theme is family. Because Vin can't keep that out of his franchises. Siblings, even if not by blood. Father *figures* if not biological ones. And it's explored incredibly well. It does grind the story to a halt.
By and large, this recreates, does twists on, and always increases in scope, what everyone loved in volume one. And most of the time, it's enjoyable. It does feel like it was written specifically to ensure it does well, where last time, it came out of the blue. The size is immense. At times, the amount of CGI on-screen is almost excessive. The smaller, personal scenes ensure it doesn't reach sensory overload. Fights get vast, and yet we can follow it. Heck, there are times where, intentionally, the action itself is literally off-screen, while we're watching something amusing or even "boring". The 3D is some of the best I've ever seen. There being so many jokes in this does end up slightly excessive, even forced, and there's too much low-brow stuff(and that's coming from someone who in general digs that kind of material).
There is a lot of content in this that is disturbing and/or violent. I recommend this to anyone who liked the original. And if you loved it, I will do more, I will implore you: you *have* to watch this one, too. 8/10
The Producers (1967)
Don't listen to him, he's crazy
In order to take advantage of a tax loophole, theater producer Max Bialystock(Mostel, flamboyant) and accountant Leo Bloom(Wilder, a nervous wreck) put on a play together that's sure to fail: Springtime For Hitler.
This is the only version I've watched. I've loved every Brooks-directed film that didn't have Dracula in it, meaning, Young Frankenstein, Silent Movie, History of the World: Part 1, Spaceballs, Robin Hood: Men in Tights. And, yes, this. You can tell it's his debut. Quality, and thus, laughs, range greatly over the course of it. It's really broad. And vulgar from frame 1. For the first several minutes, it feels as though it's (possibly unintentionally) meta. Like the movie itself wants to offend the audience, not entertain. Then it starts to come together. The material that's strong in the good way piles on. And honestly, even when I wasn't laughing, the effort is still there.
This has tons of great personalities. Everyone is on the verge of a complete breakdown, many for different reasons and in other directions than the others. Adolf himself is portrayed by a flower-child whose mind is just barely still there from all the acid. He remembers his name only because the initials are LSD. Do note that the first performance of the piece itself, which is almost the only place that has musical numbers, is two thirds through the running time. This mocks all aspects of show business, and of Nazism. The aesthetics, the idea to wage war, and, yes, the devoted supporters that it still had when this came out. And sadly, to this day. Nothing disarms like comedy. Any moment that imagery from The Third Reich(which, as you might not know, meant Germany) is shown, it is ridiculed. The person, the clothes, the sound accompanying, the reaction, *something*, about it is risible.
The DVD has trailers for this, and movies like it. OSS 117: Cairo: Nest of Spies, OSS 117: Lost in Rio, The Last Remake of Beau Geste, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990), Silent Movie, High Anxiety, To Be Or Not To Be and The Cannonball Run. And since it's from Scandinavia, the ones with Brooks involved is listed under an alternate title involving the words "Springtime For". It also has posters for this, and pictures from it. I recommend this to any fan of those involved in making it. 8/10
What's in a name
You were there for an abortion. Which is ironically fitting for the quality of this. You wake up in a place you don't recognize, and they're going to take your baby. Hey! This kid is not dying! ...at the hands of anyone other than its mother. Watch as I, constantly, and fairly comfortably, fall hard front first, jump down, pull myself up... it's Prometheus all over again. Do these people have any experience whatsoever with pregnancy? And it all leads to an ending that feels as unearned as it is unsatisfying. This is a sequel to Stasis. It essentially does stand on its own. Still, there isn't much plot, or even backstory here. This is free, on GOG.com, as well as Steam, that one isn't(hence I haven't played it), and this one is to attract attention and support, for their Kickstarter, so it really ought to. I have to say, if this is indicative of how good it is, and I've heard it's in some ways better, I really am not interested in their other work.
You are Hadley. She's as mature, much or little, as the situation calls for. And like everyone else in this, in a desperate plea for the attention of teenagers, udderly(I had to), obnoxious, chatty, and miserably voice acted. Unlike the rest of them, she isn't largely expressing herself in PDAs that are trying wayyy too hard to be edgy, dark, bleak and gross. It's just awful people chronicling them being terrible towards each other. One of them is a literal bro, who calls another man "beta". And there must have been a drought of epic proportions, they're so freaking thirsty. Why yes, this *does* mean sexual kinks! They stop the gameplay dead, they are interminable, taking forever to read through. I would suggest you just skim them, since they do sometimes have information you need. Keeping in mind this is coming from someone who loves that aspect in Irrational's classic System Shock 2, BioShocks 1(and unfortunately, similar to that, all characters in this are crazy and hostile, just variations on that, it's old before it even starts), 2 and Infinite, and in Frictional's Games, such as Amnesia: The Dark Descent and SOMA.
There is some promise here. The level design requires an inordinate amount of insipid backtracking, and the hub areas are too open, with very little direction, and you forget which door leads where. Would a map have been too much to ask for? However. The various areas have personality. Medical ones contain chilling instruments: once ethics are out the door, what you do, and how you do it, faces almost no restrictions. Maintenance shows the tremendous power of the facility: this place is huge, and appears to have one, or a few, centralized sources of it. You get the sense that it could tear apart its immediate surroundings with little exertion. And then you realize that this is exactly what you have to make happen. A religious shrine, showing devotion. Quarters, displaying the luxury these... people lived in, while performing monstrous experiments on others. Anywhere that wasn't creepy to begin with, has been viciously attacked. And the genetically messed up, biological creature is still out there. Why would you be safe from it? All that blood, gore, so much destruction. The body horror here can be really effective.
This snarkasms at us, so we, in turn, start MST3King it. And it shows that it can rise about that, so why not do so all the time? When it's serious, the descriptions, events and the like are often compelling. The graphics are impressive, and not just for an indie. The isometric nature is rare today, and it makes an argument for a return to it. At least for some titles. The 3D is gorgeous. Beautifully animated full CG sequences. This knows that making everything dark grows stale, so instead the lighting underlines the perverse nature of this place. You can see a lot, and you'll wish you couldn't. Runs on PC/Mac/Linux.
This took me 3 hours, and others took less, or more. It depends on your speed at figuring out what you're supposed to do, or giving up and looking it up. No shame. As trite and inane as this is in general, it's at its worst when you look at the frequently simplistic, illogical and weird puzzles. Combinations, what you do with what you pick up and where you use them. I eventually stopped counting how many times I opened a door by a password, and then all I have to do is walk into the new room I, find a log or such, read it for the next code, and go all the way back, taking a whole minute or two, type in the new one, rinse and repeat. Like a children's game. I mean, a really bad one. One of the brain-rotting ones you try to avoid subjecting your offspring to.
Controls are straightforward and useful. The Inventory is in the lower left corner, and stores every item you've picked up. Put it together with another, or select it and go back. Point to anything, and the cursor will change accordingly. An eye if it's something you can only look at: you'll get a brief written, detailed description of it. The hyper-link, index-out hand if you can interact with it, either directly or with some item. And if you can walk down a path, an arrow. Er, the "return" one. Not sure why they chose that one. LMB to activate. If it's an in-engine cutscene that you can't interrupt, there'll be a small helix icon in the upper right. These don't tend to go on for overly long. The opening does take time, but it uses that to build suspense and a feeling of helplessness.
I recommend this only to those who play everything that they don't have to pay for. Money, I mean. The hours and IQ points, those are gone, wave bye-bye. 5/10
Body of work
You're a regular person. You need work done on your brain. You wake up afterwards, and you don't know where. When. How. Or what. But there's definitely something wrong. You will find out why you woke up in the situation you did. And you might end up wishing you hadn't. You're at PATHOS-II, a research station. Medical. Labs. Maintenance. It's located at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. And its cramped, worn mechanical innards bare only passing resemblance the grand Art Deco of Rapture.
You're Simon Jarrett(Zeus, sometimes nice, or a jerk, and occasionally dense). You live in Toronto. Work at a bookstore. You're in a car accident, and need work on your brain. You go in for an experimental scan. And the moment it's over, you find yourself displaced. It seems abandoned, and you'll find yourself wanting it to be. Everyone around is hostile. Well, almost... thankfully. Most prominent is Catherine Chung(Mooney, optimistic), who you spend a lot of time with. The extensive conversations between the two were unexpected, and they're a gamble that pays off. You'd think silence and solitude were necessary, or at the very least superior, when making someone scared, when shocking them to their core using themes of consciousness, body, identity, and other elements of transhumanism. And you'd be wrong.
She'll keep you focused, keep you from sulking, get you to snap out of your funk. Pointing out that you are lucky, both of you. Because where this could so easily be completely bleak, there is hope. A glimmer. A ray. You're not merely trying to escape(I'm looking at you, BioShock Infinite), the methods of doing so all failing for some reason or another. Big mistake. Obnoxious, repetitive, boring. You have a real goal. One that matters. Heck, the only one that does, that ever could again! I don't care how detached you might think you are, there's no way it won't inspire you. I won't reveal it here.
Anytime you face someone who you can converse with, you click to lead to a few more lines, or you don't, and move on. No dialog trees. Seriously, those would kill the tremendous immersion of this. And you aren't made to sit still and listen: you'll *want* to. This is also when you'll be faced with a difficult moral decision. Each time, there's some distinct aspect to it. You're not Harvesting/Saving adorable, huge-eyed 8-year-old girls ad nauseum. There's something to their situation. Their personality. History. Maybe they even ask you to... and maybe they don't. Perhaps they can't. At times they'll be tied to an enigma. Regardless of your choice, you'll have to live with it. And I'm not talking about your avatar anymore.
This has more different, in design and behavior, enemies than all previous Frictional's Games combined. Distinct, memorable. Some teleport, are blind, or leave you alone if you don't bother them. Noise will attract them, which is about the biggest use this makes of your ability to pick up, rotate, throw, just about everything that isn't nailed down. And sometimes, you'll be forced to do something loud. Maybe something breaks when you go near it. Or you have to activate something. Sometimes it'll be a door. Open, close, it'll be heard by anyone nearby. Whether it's you using the pathway... or if it's one of them. That's a lot like the travelling sound of the Thief series, and emulating those is always a plus in my book.
Ultimately, they do end up tedious. A little too often, you're already having trouble figuring out where to go since this has you disoriented so frequently. I wouldn't say I was ever truly lost. That would suggest something like playing Grand Theft Auto III and not having a printed out map. I never found myself having gone extremely far in the wrong direction. There's always a blind path if you keep going. It's just frustrating if you eventually reach that, and then there's someone or something in your way when you try to go back. Actual chases do tend to have you knowing where to go.
They went further in the direction of something like Outlast and Whistleblower. You keep an eye on where they are, you seldom stay completely still, you're always ready to bolt from where you are to where you need to go, which you keep making sure you know from looking. Doing that almost always works. As long as you don't slow down, you can outrun most of them. You don't randomly blunder into any. A lot of this is the journey to the destination. You often can't get very far "just" on foot. And unlike, say, Dead Space 1, it doesn't remain the same means for very long. So you fix, start back up and hitch a ride on, several major vehicles and systems.
You get to walk, and Sprint, across the surface down there. The one big chunk of it should maybe be trimmed by a third. Still, I am baffled by those who call it, well, anything less than stunning. Things float slower, and you have greater freedom of movement. That is one place where you can really enjoy the physics engine. It's gotten another immense upgrade, and it shows. Why it isn't used more for puzzles, I do not know. In general, those are made much easier, and, largely, simpler, albeit not to the extent as in A Machine For Pigs. They wanted exploration and storytelling to be more prominent. It leaves a hole in its place. You have no Inventory. You can carry one or two small things. Yes. They'll automatically be taken out or put away when appropriate.
I recommend this to any fan of cyberpunk, the survival horror game subgenre and this bunch of creative Swedes. And make sure you stay through the end credits, for the culmination of what took me 9 and a half hours to do, and will take decades upon decades to forget. 8/10
Bio Menace (1993)
You are Snake Logan, top CIA operative, awesome in name and all other respects. After you parachute out of the plane you were flying to do recon, you find yourself in the thick of it, in the city. You have to stop Dr. Mangle(oh, like Mengele... that fits pretty well), who's unleashed countless untold horrors upon it.
Though this is called Bio Menace, you go up against robots, in addition to the genetically mutated. They walk, run, hop, fly, drive. In patterns, at you. Ranged, up close, kamikaze. Lasers, energy, explosives. You can use those, as well, in addition to bullets. Once they spot you, a lot will remain focused on you, which is something you have to be ready for, and can take advantage of. Same goes for the fact that they and you can attack something that isn't on the screen as it moves centered on you.
If you don't have special ammo, you will fire in bursts(from your thankfully infinite supply, since you'd be out of luck without it), otherwise, you may be able to use the fully automatic nature of your rifle. You can aim left, right, and whether you are or aren't crouched or stationary. Never up or down, and not from ladders, though those could be incredibly useful. Your throwables are, and you have to use them in this order when you have more than one of them: the Landmines that you typically have too many of for how relatively, well, useless, they are. To be fair, they can take the brunt for when you're really being rushed, and some enemies can't be taken out with your gun. You *can* kill anything that moves. Incendiary, meaning they spit out a few flames, and then plain old pineapple, grenades. Careful when something goes boom... you'd be surprised how much of it can hit yourself, too.
This uses the same engine as Captain, sorry, *Commander* Keen: Secret of the Oracle. And, The Armageddon Machine and Aliens Ate My Babysitter!, , since it's the same. He even makes a cool cameo at one point! Stating he's on his way to, once again, teach Mortimer McMire who's boss(1 point higher IQ, my butt). Well, Id Software? You promised it here, in 1993, and then you didn't deliver until 2001! And then it wasn't even you who developed it! Cancelled for the sake of Wolfenstein and Doom, pfft... I demand you feed my addiction for Billy Blaze adventures! Here, though, you can't grab ledges. It sacrifices saving anytime(now only at the start of any given level), in favor of a replenishable health bar rather than contact meaning insta-death, which is now reserved for the toughest foes. While I miss the original way, here, hey, we do have VG's that way, and this is another flavor, and, in the immortal words of Cameron Poe("you... have been...near death... the entire... trip?" Con Air for life!), it tastes good.
And then, there's, of course, the adult tone. We've gone from Goonies and Flight of the Navigator to Commando and The Terminator. Giving a headache, complete with stars flying around the head in cartoony fashion? Nope! Let's blast them apart like it's StarCraft. Gore is plentiful in the corpses strewn about, as well. You die, you won't bounce out of sight, looking like you're in pain. No, you turn into a skeleton that then falls apart. Yeah, you'll wanna keep the kids out of the room for this one. They'll just try to yank the controller from you, anyway. From my cold dead hands! The story is paperthin, and yet, wonderfully, takes itself very seriously and is played straight. Twists aplenty, you'll have to go through all three episodes to see it all, and, thus, to figure out what is even going on, behind the scenes. Remember, you'll miss some if you don't click F1, in all 3. You can also use PageUp and, well, down, to look above or beneath you. Why did they move them from the arrow keys? ...well, you got me.
In order to complete any given section, you, well, uh, reach the exit. Except for the boss fights, which, to a greater extent than the rest of this, increase exponentially in how difficult it is(you may want to settle for Easy of the three settings), this means rescuing a hostage. They have the keycard that lets you leave. Why did they bother capturing anyone, when they annihilated everyone else with seemingly no regard for who? Hey, evil master plans are complicated, OK? It'll all make sense when you realize that...look over there! Of course, they're not merely tied up. Some including to a chair, which they hilariously kick back and forth with no impact on how trapped they are. No, there's a beam of electricity between them and you. Don't cross the stream. It'll need turning off, with a crystal. And you may need at least two to progress. They grant passage to an area you hadn't been to.
They're hidden inside doors. Of course, there are tons of those. And every last one of them requires a key. You will find a seemingly endless series of ones that don't have anything of the sort. Instead, they have point items. Not power-ups, such as health and armaments. Those you get elsewhere. So you spend a lot of time seemingly not getting anywhere.
It doesn't help that clearly, you're meant to know where to go and what to do, or you'll have to adjust inhumanly fast, based on where sources of your demise are and how you interact with them. So it may be useful to redo a portion after you've done it once. Inflating how long it'll take you, annoyingly. You already have a high score table. Which once full of players, not the standard it comes with, will grant you a scene of your character knocking off a small group.
I recommend this to any fan of action platformers. 7/10
A fitting farewell
Logan(Jackman, truly understanding the role that made him a star off Broadway too) is faced with helping a young female mutant who's having trouble with her powers. So it ends in much the same way it began. He's also taking care of Xavier(Stewart, grumpy and foul-mouthed, and we love it, but still some hope left). They're both dealing with aging, losing control of their abilities. The next generation need their protection. One last ride.
Third time's the charm. As close as the second solo outing got, this is what we've wanted from Wolverine right from when we saw him cage-fighting. And with X-23, or Laura(played to perfection by the incredibly talented young Keen), the torch is passed. The way is paved for the X-Force, as well as the New X-Men. This is a slow burn, and a road movie. The action is amazing, using the R-rating for the ferocity and brutality that is called for, never gratuitously. There is not as much of it as in other entries in the series, and if you're not that interested in the characters this studies, you probably won't be that compelled to watch this. You can go into this blind.
This has a lot of strong language, and brief nudity, in addition to what I've already described. I recommend this to anyone who even considers themselves a little bit of a fan. 8/10