Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Video Game: Sonic Generations

I have always been a pretty big Sonic fan.  From the first games on the Sega Genesis, the combination of speed and platforming really appealed to me.  When the Sega Dreamcast came out, I was highly interested and ended up receiving Sonic Adventure for my birthday.  While some had concerns with Sonic's leap into 3d, at the time I had a blast playing it.

The majority's consensus is that Sonic games have been on a general decline since the beginning, many regarding the fault with the leap into 3d, accusing the series of never fully finding a foothold of success in modern gaming. I've personally played the majority of Sonic games that have come out from the Adventure series up through Sonic Colors, excluding the Black Knight Wii title which I heard was awful.  That list includes the likes of Sonic Heroes, Shadow the Hedgehog, Sonic 2006, Sonic Unleashed, Sonic Rush and Sonic and the Secret Rings.  While each has had their share of respective flaws, some being universally panned by critics, I nonetheless trudged through them all and found something noteworthy about each of them, even if the games themselves didn't shine as a whole.  Now though, with Sonic Generations, I can finally once again recommend a Sonic game without the requirement being that one be a die hard Sonic fan that is willing to look past some subpar elements.  It's fast and looks great.  Sonic Generations is genuinely a good game.

As an homage to Sonic's 20th anniversary, Sonic Generations sees the classic Sonic as well as the modern incarnation of Sonic play through levels from other games in two different perspectives.  Classic Sonic plays the levels in a 2d sidescrolling with 3d elements, while modern Sonic plays through in a 3d field with some 2d sidescrolling.  Classic Sonic utilizes the spin dash, while modern Sonic uses homing attack and a boost feature.  Although this may at first sound like a rehash, it is pretty awesome.  The levels are handpicked from different iterations,  some being from the classic 2d Sonic games, some from the Adventure era, and some from the not so stellar modern era.  Regardless of which era the levels come from, each and every one of them is great.  All of them have been reimagined and play differently, while still retaining their original concept.  This makes for some very inviting nostalgic moments.  Even the music is similar to the original levels, but redone in certain ways.  Ever imagine hearing Chemical Plant from Sonic 2's catchy tune with the main instrument being jazz flute?  Well now you can bring that dream to realization.

The story is what you would expect from a Sonic game.  It really is just there to set the stage to be able to do what the game does, bringing you through Sonic history, so the story is largely not what the game is about.  What is really great about this game is its re-playability.  After you go through the actual levels, in both classic and modern sonic mode, as well as the bosses, many other unlockables remain, such as 5 challenges per level x2 taking into consideration that both classic and modern Sonic have 5 per level, plus S-ranking each of the actual levels, boss hard modes, and challenges.  As well, collecting red rings per level.  Each of these things unlock art, music and skills that can be applied to Sonic.  On top of that, you can compete on the world wide leaderboards against other people's fastest times, so there really is a lot to do in this game.

Potentially the greatest thing about this game is that it goes back to what made Sonic fun originally.  Rather than speed taking a backseat to other tacked on gameplay elements, it instead takes the forefront here.  Sonic is once again all about speeding through a level, looking for the fastest routes, mastering twitch reaction with, for the most part, tight control. 

If you were ever a Sonic fan but have been put off by the games as of late, give Sonic Generations a try.  It is available for the HD consoles, soon for the 3DS, and cheap on Steam for $30.00.  At least, it will bring you back to a different time in Sonic's career, when he could actually walk the walk and not just talk the talk with weird voice acting.  This is probably the best Sonic game ever made.  Welcome back, Sonic.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Television: Prison Break

Over the past couple months, I've taken the time to watch the show Prison Break, which originally aired on Fox from 2005 to 2009. The entire series is currently viewable on Netflix.  After recently finishing the last few episodes of the series, I'm pretty taken aback at how incredibly captivating the show really was.

This show felt big budget.  I suppose that's rightly so, being on network television, with the later episodes budget being around $3 million per episode.  So many startling over the top twists and turns would happen in each episode, by the end I would be extremely curious as to what would happen next.  Like many of the suspenseful shows I've watched archived in the past, I can't imagine how suspenseful these episodes must have been for die hard fans watching each week, or waiting for the next season.

Prison Break really brings to the forefront what we often take for granted on a daily basis; that being our freedom.  Prison Break tells the story of two brothers, one being wrongly accused of a high profile murder and sentenced to death.  When there is no hope of stopping the execution by legal means, the other brother, a brilliant structural engineer takes matters into his own hands, landing himself in the same prison to attempt to break his brother out.  The brothers soon realize that they are in way over their heads and must try to clear their names while trying to just survive.

The complex dynamic story and well done character development, each with their distinctive unique personality, results in one really caring for the characters, even at points the antagonists.  The writers use this to their advantage to really shake things up from time to time,  by placing the characters in perilous situations.  Any time things seemed to be calm in the show, I started to get concerned and begin to brace myself because of the sheer fragility of the characters.  Any one character you may have paid attention to and grown to care about may be plucked away and gone for good in a matter of seconds.  While the vast majority of action and events in the show made a lot of sense and panned out very cleverly, there would be the occasional blip of some inconsistent action done by some character, or something that would happen that would seem utterly stupid which would cause upset because everything until that point would lead one to believe the characters or the show itself was too smart for that.  I think that just stands as a testament to the shows ability to mesmerize, when some inconsequential action could be picked up upon because the story called for close attention.  It often would leave you guessing whether a character was genuine or had their own ulterior motives.

A lot of what I'm describing may not make sense without going more in depth, but that would also serve to ruin plot points and surprises, so I'll stop there and finish with a resounding suggestion that if you haven't given this show a chance yet, you do so.  It's an amazingly suspenseful and intriguing series that may keep you infatuated with it until the end, leaving you wanting for more after such investment in the characters and story.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Video Game: God of War

Simply put, God of War is a great game.  it is a near perfect blend of action, platforming, puzzle solving and storytelling.  I had always wanted to try it and had heard good things, but for some reason never did wind up getting it for the PS2.  More recently, I found the God of War collection fairly cheap for PS3, which contains the first two PS2 games with enhanced graphics.  I was not left disappointed.

Pulling from Greek mythology, God of War tells the story of Kratos, a mortal Spartan warrior, who's thirst for fighting never seems to be satiated.  From ancient Greek cities, to the multiple notable Greek Gods, God of War paints an epic story from start to finish, revealing the history of Kratos as the game progresses.  Eventually, this bloodlust results in Kratos having to make some difficult sacrifices.  Everything comes at a price.

As you journey through the game, you do a lot of killing of various demons and skeletons and collecting red orbs that upgrade your weapons and magic.  Seamless transition from fighting to puzzle solving is a trend the game makes as well.  The puzzles aren't anything mind boggling, but leave you with a sense of accomplishment once you've completed one and a grand entry to a previously blocked pathway opens up grandiosely.  At the end of each major area, you fight a major boss, smiting it with a combination of attacks and strategy, normally ending the fight with a cinematic QTE (Quick Time Event originally introduced in the game Shenmue and imitated in many other games henceforth). 

God of War is very atmospheric.  You really get the sense that you, as Kratos, are this coldhearted warrior with an unending drive to finish your objective.  Anything else is irrelevant and anything that stands in your way must be disposed of.  The game does a great job illustrating that Kratos is no ordinary human, as you watch as soldiers of various cities crumble or meet their demise, while you stand to the side and do nothing to help their situation, or worse, directly involve yourself with their demise.  A strong sense power and weakness is prevalent, with Kratos seeming like the only one who stands a chance against the conjured demons throughout the game.

If you have never gotten the chance to play God of War, pick it up cheap for the PS2, or the collection for PS3.  You're sure to have a blast.  After beating it, I'm anxious to try the second one and eventually the third specifically made for the PS3.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Movie: Batman: Under the Red Hood

Batman: Under the Red Hood is an animated film, currently available on Netflix.  Batman has had a stellar career when it comes to his animated adventures.  If you are a fan of the 90's series or any Batman that is not really campy, you will feel right at home watching this.

Most people don't adapt well to change.  Consistently, in most of the animated films and tv shows revolving around Batman, Kevin Conroy has voiced Batman, while Mark Hamill has voiced the Joker.  The most recent (and perhaps final appearance of these two voice actors together in the same media) would be the new Batman games, Arkham Asylum, as well as Arkham City.  At first I was a little disappointed to discover that neither of them were involved in this film.  Even further, I was disappointed to find out that the story would revolve around Robin.  A good majority of Batman fans will attest that when Robin is included in a story, it often times results in a less than appealing outing for Batman.

I was really content to learn that although most of these factors seemed to spell out disaster for this film, it is probably one of the better, if not the best animated Batman I've seen.  The film really captures what is so cool about Batman.  It also tells a pretty touching tail that makes one rethink Robin's position in the series.  It definitely made me eat my words.

If you're a fan of Batman, I highly recommend you give this a shot.  It is really well animated, dark, action packed and intense.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Video Game: Red Steel 2

I recently found the Red Steel and Wii motion plus bundle discounted in a Walmart bargain bin.  Although Red Steel 1 hadn't been my favorite game or anything, I had heard some really good things about Red Steel 2.  At the time, I also realized that at some point, Skyward Sword was going to require Wii motion plus, so I decided to give it a shot.  Man, Red Steel 2 did not disappoint.

Red Steel 2 shares only a few similarities with its predecessor.  The main character uses a sword and a gun.  That is about where the similarities end.  For those that never tried Red Steel 1, the game could be described as a very cheesy 80's action movie.  Horrible dialogue coupled with Wii launch controls and strange comic book cutscenes that didn't really help to immerse the player.  The game was not awful by any means, but the consensus what that it really left the player just wishing it would have been what they had hoped; a game that would satisfy the player's urge to wield a sword and slice up bad guys.  

Red Steel 2 delivers in this department.  Ubisoft once again didn't take the story too seriously, but this time its far more clear that zany is what they were going for.  In a heavily Western like setting, for some reason lives different samurai clans.  Some enemy samurai want a very special sword that the Kusagari clan has, so they slaughter all of the Kusagari.  Unfortunately the "hero" who had the sword was away while all this happened.  This premise allows the "hero" who looks like a mix between Vash the Stampede and a red mage, to seek bloodthirsty revenge.  The graphics are reminiscent of borderlands.  While there are a few things one could go about collecting in the game, like tokens and sheriff stars, as well as side missions, it is fairly linear.  This is a good thing in my opinion.  The game really just feels like a roller coaster of pure action.  You get a mission, head in that direction on the minimap, knocking into barrels and boxes that for some reason always have money in them, (money being used to upgrade your weapons and armor).  Once you reach the green arrow on the map, you fight the enemies.  Rinse and repeat.  This does eventually become a little repetitive, but a mixup between what type of enemies you fight and what type of moves you need to execute keeps it fresh.

Red Steel 2 is everything Red Steel 1 wasn't and more.  Pure action.  No extremely cheesy love interest with a damsel in distress.  Tight controls ala Wii motion plus.  Stylish graphics.  If you're looking for a game where you don't necessarily need to think about where to go next, but requires some good eye hand coordination and reflexes, give this awesome game a try!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Video Game: Portal 2

Portal 2 is just one more reason why the game developer's at Valve are master's at what they do. Valve has created some of the best first person shooter games in the past years, including my favorite multiplayer FPS, the Left 4 Dead series. During the Steam summer sale, my friend and I snagged a Portal 2-2 pack which made it even cheaper than what it currently was discounted to. Needless to say, once I started it up, I beat it in almost one sitting. That's not to say it is extremely short or anything, it is definitely longer than its predecessor. However I was hooked from start to finish.

Portal 2 is the sequel to the short but sweet Portal of a few years ago. In it, the protagonist is a human test subject, forced to go through demeaning "tests" while utilizing Aperture Science's Portal gun. It is a unique concept to the series. Basically, by using the Portal gun, one is able to step through walls, fall from ceilings, enter from the ground up and so on in order to solve puzzles that the infernal computer wants to put you through, all in the hopes of reaching the end of this maze. It makes for a lot of fun and is consistent with physics.

Without spoiling anything, Portal 2 starts up where Portal 1 left off. This time, the story is fleshed out a lot more. The game also plays like a sadistic comedy. The dialogue between the AI's is a riot to hear and really engages you in the atmosphere.

I have yet to try the Cooperative mode, which essentially is a whole other campaign in which you and a friend work together as portal toting robots, after finishing the single player game, but I will be doing so in the near future. If you enjoyed the first Portal, you are sure to love this next entry. It expands on the original concept in every way, going above and beyond.

 It is a shame to hear that Valve is considering not really focusing on single player games as much in the future, in lieu of preferring to create multiplayer games, as they certainly have a knack for it.
Give this one a try. It will not disappoint.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Television: Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad is an intense show.  It is one of my new favorites.  My brother had urged me to give it a watch over a year ago, but I only more recently took the time to do so.  I was hooked from start to finish.

Breaking Bad tells the story of Walt, a brilliant overqualified chemistry teacher, who becomes ill and has trouble paying for medical bills for cancer treatment.  Walt is a very prideful man and does not want to accept monetary support from his friends.  Through a series of coincidental events, Walt decides to put his chemistry background to use, cooking crystal meth and coming up with ways to sell it, in order to pay the bills.  This results in Walt and his partner Jesse, a former flunky student of Walt's, ending up in over their heads as they try and hide their second lives from their loved ones, try to stay out of the dangers that this line of work comes with, all the while trying to maintain a profitable albeit illegal business.

The first three seasons are available on Netflix instant streaming, while the fourth season just finished airing on AMC.  There will be one more major season of 16 episodes that promises to bring satisfying closure to an already stellar series.  Give this show a watch.  From the great acting and writing, engaging believable characters and genuinely intense situations will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Video Game: Ghostbusters: The Video Game

There is no denying that the Ghostbusters movies are classics, filled with poignant comedy in every scene.  They are so legendary that they have become ingrained within American culture.  A third Ghosbusters film has been in the works for years upon years but only recently has started to really take off.  If you are a big Ghosbusters fan, you are no doubt aware that between all of this, Dan Akroyd and Harold Ramis wrote the script for a video game.

The video game actually stars all of the original Ghostbusters, the secretary, as well as many other side character as voice actors.  You play as a recruit who has just joined the Ghostbusters.  In all honesty, it really feels like you're watching an extended Ghosbusters movie.  The game plays like a 3rd person shooter, similar to something like Gears of War or Resident Evil 4/5.  The dialogue is funny, clever and very nostalgic.  It will make you reminisce about and want to re-watch the movies for the 40th time.  To say that they captured the atmosphere of the franchise well is an understatement.  You revisit many settings from the films.  More story fleshes out certain parts from the films as well.  While they gameplay may get a little repetitive, mowing down ghosts with the assortment of Ghostbusting tools that fire with the uncanny rapidity of many modern firearms, and capturing them with the traps is pretty fun.
It is as cheap as $10.00 on Steam, or cheaper if you wait for a deal.  It is also available for the consoles.  If you're a fan of Ghostbusters at all, play through this game.  It is fun and engaging to hear all of the actors work their magic together after all these years, and will definitely make you anticipatory for the film that could come as early as next year.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Movie: Captain America

I went to another summer blockbuster with a friend.  The environment was less than pleasant.  Behind us we had a child who broke almost all movie theater etiquette, kicking my seat, talking and asking questions throughout, performing tap dancing, rattling wrapping paper, chomping popcorn and bursting out laughing at the elderly dying on screen.  It made me reflect on how I may deal with children someday.  On the one hand I really don't think I would want to raise a child to be another drone in society and fit so well into the safety of the norm so as not to break it and be noticed.  On the other hand though, I think I would want to caution my child as to what is expected in certain settings so they don't ignorantly break the rules while being completely oblivious as to them doing anything wrong.  To the side of us there was a couple of twenty somethings, texting away throughout the movie.  This was most prevalent during quiet dark scenes, suddenly from the peripheral, one could notice the shimmering face of this person who was clearly not an actor/actress in the movie, accompanied by ticking sounds of the keypad.

Despite the chronic external noise, I did like Captain America.  The majority of the film is set during World War II.  An unexpected fragile soldier with a big heart becomes a hero in fighting against the evil Nazi's.  It's always been a compelling propaganda story in history, and seemed to adapt to film all right.  It is very obvious that a lot of the film is setting up for "The Avengers" movie due out next summer, with cross overs from Iron Man, as well as the expected Nick Fury appearance.  It also made me realize that if you're strong enough, you can make a heavy frisbee a pretty deadly weapon.  It was entertaining to watch and action packed.  I will agree with what film critic Roger Ebert said, that it does feel like the film is "Going through the motions," but that doesn't necessarily make it bad.  It is more or less what you would expect from this film and nothing more... or less.

If you are a fan of comic book adapted films, you're going to want to see this one.  He is the first Avenger after all, and surely you will want to be prepared for the crossover film next year.  Just do not go in expecting to be surprised and you will most likely enjoy this film.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Video Game: Left 4 Dead Series

Happy Halloween season bloggers and bloggettes.

It is the season where everyone gets in the mood to scare people, or scare themselves via movies, games, trips to theoretical haunted places, etc. Whether it is scares, thrills, gore, or spooky eeriness one seeks, October is the time to hunt for it. There are plenty of options out there for the thrill-seeking, however I figured I would take this opportunity to talk about one of my favorite games.

The word "favorite," is brandished about a lot by people to try and dramatically convey the importance of what they are talking about, which really serves to dilute its meaning. I'll talk a little bit about why I consider this game one of my favorites. I would say I am a team player. I receive gratification in accomplishing things collectively with a group of people. When a goal can be reached by the fusion of a unified effort, one can witness the genuine and blissful feeling of successful cooperation.

In essence, The Left 4 Dead games are the definition of a cooperative game. If you are a PC FPS fan, there is a good likelihood that you have already heard about and played these games. Created by Valve, the company behind Half Life, Counter Strike, Team Fortress and Portal, The Left 4 Dead games, like many multiplayer games, focus on teamwork in order to achieve victory. The difference in comparison to the other multiplayer games Valve has made is that, it is near impossible to be successful without teamwork.

In Left 4 Dead, the premise is that a zombie virus has overtaken the majority of the population. You and three other survivors must work together to make it to the safehouse in a desperate attempt to work your way to a rescue point. The games don't really focus strongly on story, and actually play out as if you were watching a zombie themed movie. Even so, it is still incredibly immersive. There are hordes of zombies constantly flying at you, trying to rip you to pieces, as well as special infected with certain powers that can easily incapacitate you. The best strategy is to stick together, because as a team, you can help a fallen survivor. If someone separates from the group, there is a good probability they are done for.

There are the regular campaigns where you work together with three others to beat what the computer throws at you. There is also the incredibly intense multiplayer mode, where the special infected are inhabited by real people, who work together to take your survivor group down before you can reach the end. Other modes that have been introduced over time include a survival mode, where you attempt to hold out at one place as long as you can, before the horde of zombies destroys you, and the multiplayer Scavenge mode, where you work together to collect gas cans around a map to lead to your escape. Each mode is a ton of fun. One could spend days just mastering one of those modes, only to find a fresh game in the next.

Left 4 Dead 2 expanded upon the original. I prefer the original characters from Left 4 Dead 1, but everything else about Left 4 Dead 2 is superior. The introduction of melee weapons, uncommon common infected, new special infected and more help it surpass the already phenomenal original. At this point, the majority of the original Left 4 Dead levels have been added to Left 4 Dead 2, with the included use of melee weapons, new special infected and improved gory graphics.

If you do not already own Left 4 Dead 2, I highly suggest you purchase it. Valve is very giving with its own games. Right now, among other great horror themed games, Left 4 Dead 1 and 2 are on sale on Steam for $6.79 each. In my opinion, this is a steal. If you have 3 other friends, you can buy a 4 pack for even cheaper, (20.39). Do yourself a favor and invest in one of the funnest and exhilarating games to grace the multiplayer FPS genre, before Valve removes the deal and you are Left 4 expensive.

Alternatively, if you haven't played it in a while, check out some of the new things, like altered ending maps for the L4D1 levels, mutations of regular game modes, or user made maps. The utility from successfully surviving with your friends for me, still remains unmatched.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Movie: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

After seeing the stellar first part of the adaptation of J.K Rowling's 7th Potter book, it was a downright necessity to see the end.  I had read all of the books throughout life previously, so each time one of these movies came along, I've been quick to notice what I do and don't like about the movies.  For instance, many people didn't like the 5th book, but it stuck out to me as one of my more favored entries.  However, the movie for the 5th left me wanting.  It felt like it was on fast forward most of the time.  I also remember key parts in the book that seemed glaringly ignored in the movie, which made me wonder how they would explain things in the future movies.  I also didn't really like the 3rd movie, because it felt like half the movie summed up 90% of the book, with the other half summing up the conclusion; the end result seeming like an unequal lopsided telling of what was originally a pretty in depth story.
With these points aside, the majority of the movies were really good.  The 4th, 6th and these last two especially stuck out as very good adaptations that really worked well.  Before I talk about the movie itself, I might as well recap the obvious point that when you go to a movie, you are going to become absorbed in the film.  I had many distractions throughout the course of the showing, with a kid next to me continually waving his arms as if to press piano keys that would make the noise "DUN DUN DUN!!!!" each time some pivotal point by the villain would take place.  As well, the speaker above us was constantly making what sounded like someone finishing off their soda, slurping away.  At first I thought it was some weird sound effect for the snake, but unfortunately it was just a rattling speaker.  This caused many turning heads towards it in an effort to give it a dirty eye glance, with no such luck of stopping its persistent interruptions.  I mention these distractions, because although they sucked me out of the films grasp often momentarily, I had ease drifting right back in.

By this point, all of the characters are extremely developed.  You have genuine care and concern for what each of them represent.  Much of the credit of course goes to the author, for writing such a captivating story, but those who adapted it into a film did a really good job.  The only part I felt could have been handled better was the Snape's memory scene.  It really hit home in the book.  I kind of understand why they did it the way they did, but I didn't feel it left the same residual effect in the viewer, that those who read it would have most definitely felt.  Other than that, the movie deserves all the praise it has been getting and more.  It is dark, suspenseful, dramatic and powerful.  Many fans feel they've grown up with these movies, which in fact they literally have as the actors have aged into their roles.  If you are a Harry Potter fan and have read the books/seen the movies, I don't have to tell you that this is a necessary watch.  If you are interested but have never read or seen the others, I'd highly suggest viewing those first or you're going to be completely lost.

By the end of the movie, I felt a door closing.  Finally the film adaptations are complete.  Now for us all to await either another book in the series that J.K Rowling said she wouldn't be making, or a spin off movie that those who worked on the film will never secure the rights to,  or a reboot of all the films when the next jump in technology takes place. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

New BlizzCon Information

The two day Blizzard convention is wrapping up today.  Quite a few things were revealed at the event, such as new information about Starcraft II, Diablo III, a Blizzard DOTA title, and a WoW expansion.

Regarding the highly speculated WoW expansion, Mists of Pandaria, a new race called Pandaren will be playable for both the Alliance and Horde faction.  A new hybrid class, Monk, will also be available, that will play potential roles as tank, damage dealer and healer.  New dungeons, raids, talent system, dungeon challenge mode, pet battling, and level 90 cap are also notable features of the expansion.

One of the more notable reveals at Blizzcon was the WoW annual pass.  If you agree to pay the subscription fee for WoW for a full year, you will receive a full digital version of Diablo III for free.  This is an incredible deal for WoW players that don't see themselves stopping WoW anytime in the future, or Diablo fans that have been interested in returning to WoW.  It is a brilliant marketing scheme by Blizzard.  I am a little surprised that they would give away Diablo III, but it is great incentive to bring back subscriber numbers to WoW and keep interest held in multiple properties of theirs.  Blizzard isn't really in any position where it needs to be worried about making money either, so they can afford to give away their games if it means keeping the masses involved.  Other benefits from agreeing to this annual subscription include a free Diablo themed mount and access to the expansion beta (if that's something that interests you).

While people can and will be skeptical of these changes coming to WoW, as most are resistant to dramatic and perhaps risky adaptation, there is a reason why Blizzard has remained a top player in PC gaming for many years.  The company's persistence on quality products over quantity, as well as their malleability and flexibility to change over time in order to keep things fresh and exciting, has helped Blizzard to remain ever relevant, and most likely will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

You can learn more about what happened at Blizzcon 2011 here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Movie: The Godfather Series

Well then.  What is there to say about a series that has been hailed as legendary since before I was born.  There really isn't anything more I can add to the heaps of critical analysis and praise this series has received over the years, but I am going to talk about it anyway.  I had never seen The Godfather movies until just recently.  I have always admired De Nero and Pacino's work, so it is a little ironic I haven't seen these movies until now.  I finally got the urge to sit down and watch them.  Man, are they long.  They certainly evoke an epic aura of classic from start to finish.

Unless you have purposefully avoided classic crime movies, or the length of them has daunted you, you probably have seen these movies already.  If you haven't, I recommend you give them a try.  In The Godfather, the story follows the Sicilian Corleone family.  Don Corleone is the tired old Godfather who, like the other members of the great five families, is essentially is large and in charge.  He has a host of sons, one of which is Al Pacino.  Through a series of events, Italian opera music is played and dramatic scenes of disrespect and vengeance are rolled out.

The Godfather Part II is more of the same, only better.  It focuses on Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) once more, as well as a flashback younger version of Don Vito Corleone (Robert De Nero), which serves as background story on how the Don climbed his way to the top.  This movie was around 4 hours long and extremely well done.
The Godfather Part III has been held as the weakest of the films in the series. Without spoiling much, it revolves around a more tired, depressed, but wiser Michael Corleone.  In it, the older Michael wishes to expunge himself from all ties to crime and go a more legitimate route, while his other business partners want to maintain the way things have been.  While I agree that it is the weakest of the films, being that a lot of the key players from the earlier films are no longer involved, it is still a very well done film and worthy of The Godfather name.

Overall this is a great series from the past.  There is a reason why they are considered classics.  In an age before fancy special effects were largely incorporated, a special tale of blunt realism and well crafted dialogue was put forth. If you ever find yourself yearning for the best mafia flicks, or haven't seen them in a while, give this series a viewing.  You may like it now that you've grown a little more.  Now shut up, kiss the hand and pay the Don a little respect.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Movie: Cars 2

Before this goes any further, I think we should all take a step back and realize what goes into one's perception of how enjoyable a movie is.  Unfortunately, as unbiased and focused as one may try to be, there will always be external distractions that can create noise and subconsciously chip away at one's enjoyment.  When I go to a movie I try to quell all outside issues and solely focus on what I'm watching.  That is the best way to immerse yourself in the story being told.  No one can consistently and unwaveringly accomplish this.  Even Roger Ebert has admitted that his opinion on a movie from time to time has been skewed to one side or the other depending on what type of mood he was in that day.  On top of that, other variables exist to alter one's perception.  If someone is told a movie absolutely sucks, they will go into watching that movie with very low expectations and may find they like it a lot more than they would have, had the bar been set high.  This works vice-verca as well. 

With that said, I liked Pixar's newest film.  I watched it during a sweet spot of time where I felt no rush of an outside obligation, or worry.  This of course could also be attributed to Pixar's ability to captivate the viewer.  The friends I went with also liked it, but during analysis after the film, revealed that they liked the first one better.  This seems to be the common trend right now, as the majority of reviews are unfavorable concerning Cars 2.  I do understand a lot of their qualms with the movie.  At times it felt a little convoluted, being that there seemed to be 3-4 separate stories going on at the same time.  It felt like the main character of the first one took a metaphorical back seat to a side character.  It also had a drastically different type of flow too.  Cars 2 could be cataloged as a spy flick.  Unknowingly the tow truck is suspected as being an adept spy by other secret agent cars, which gets him into trouble.
 I heard a mother a few days prior to seeing the film talk about how it was a little violent to be bringing her kids to.  While it is true, that some cars do blow up and since the cars are alive, this insinuates murder, I don't adopt that same mentality.  I typically think parents should make their children aware of the differences in the world, but explain right from wrong while doing so.  Why deprive a child of a movie they are sure to enjoy, because it has some themes that we want to shelter said children from.  If we do that, the child will encounter those themes someday on their own when we might not be able to give them the guidance they need to conquer them.  Or worse, it may inject a sense of curiosity and defiance as to why these issues were kept from them or forbidden rather than explained.  Why weren't they trusted.  Didn't the parent believe in them?  That should be a separate post all together though.
I liked the first Cars film, but something felt off about it to me.  Like a lot of people, it really is hard for me to get past the fact that these cars have eyes and are driving around talking.  The same could be said about Toy Story, A Bug's Life and many more movies which don't bother me, but Cars stands out as a sore thumb because of the use of other vehicles as their transport.  What kind of communist society are these Cars living in where they dictate that the boat will be created for the cars travel, or the plane's sole focus in life will be to get Flashy Race Car from point A to point B?  What a great role that cog plays in the wheel.  The proletariat shouldn't stand for it!

Anyway, it was a pretty enjoyable film.  After a string of epic thought provoking films like Up and Wall-E(my favorite Pixar film), it is easy to see why people were underwhelmed by this Pixar entry.  It doesn't try to be anything other than a fast paced high octane film that conveys that the director has a true love for Cars.  If you enjoy Pixar films and don't go into this one looking for a life changing moral or more emotion than a laughable rusty tow truck can provide, I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Movie: Mrs. Doubtfire

Another classic comedy I had never taken the time to watch while I was younger. I recently by impulse watched Robin Williams' Mrs. Doubtfire. I found this movie hilarious. Maybe I was just in a really good mood, but I haven't seen a comedy this funny in quite a while.

Mrs. Doubtfire is a film about a man who winds up divorced because his serious wife does not want to put up with his crazy antics anymore. She has lost her love for him. It becomes heartbreaking for the man when it is determined that he will only be able to see his three kids on Saturday's. Out of desperation, he comes up with the idea to apply as their nanny by changing his voice and putting on old lady's clothing. The whole movie really is a ploy, set up to see Robin Williams switch in and out of voices and impressions. At times the characters such as the children, as well as the archetypal genuine father seem a little hard to believe, its enjoyability doesn't directly stem from one's ability to believe what they're seeing, but rather the comedy that ensues from these fake situations.

If you haven't seen Mrs. Doubtfire, give it a go on Netflix. You are sure to get several big laughs out of it, as well as a genuine respect for Robin Williams talent.