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  • Justin Garrett Blum says:

    I didn’t want to spoil this review by including any non-required information, so I’ve left it purposefully brief–those four words are, basically, all that you need to know.

    For the record, however, I will state that Tomb Raider is easily one of the best games that I have ever played. It is perfectly intuitive on a PC with keyboard and mouse, it ran at 40 FPS on my 5 year-old POS and looked amazing, and finally, everybody involved with the game has every right to be extremely proud of the final product.

    Brilliant work of entertainment.

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Tomb Raider (2013)

Tomb Raider (2013)

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Off. The. Fucking. Chain.

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  • fuwalda says:

    If you’ll remember, I hated District 9. I skipped this one because I disliked the director’s previous film, and because it didn’t look very good. District 9, at least, had an interesting premise, at least in regards to constructing an intriguing trailer (the actual film was trite and stupid), while this film’s trailer just made me think, “I’ve already seen this.”

    I was *kind* of interested if only because I really like Matt Damon. He’s a fantastic actor and he has one of the best track records for picking good scripts of any actor in recent memory, but… yeah… it just looked bad.

    • Justin Garrett Blum says:

      I thought I remembered somebody hating District 9.

      Matt Damon is wasted here. I’m honestly not sure what sort of person his character is meant to be. He didn’t seem to know either.

      This film probably called for more of a Vin Diesel type.

  • fuwalda says:

    I remember when this movie first came out, I read a story (on TMZ or US weekly or some other shitty tabloid site) that Eminem was originally attached to star but he dropped out because of other commitments or something. It was intended to be his return to acting after 8 Mile. That would’ve been interesting. I actually thought he did a pretty impressive job in 8 Mile. I’m not saying he would’ve saved the movie, just that he was good in 8 Mile so maybe he’d be good in other things.

    As for District 9, it’s one of those movies where (and I’m totally talking out of my ass here) a smart person probably came up with a really interesting premise, and then a really bad writer was given the assignment to turn it into a script. Neil What’s his name isn’t a bad director, at least in terms of action, so it’s entertaining, especially since that guy who was also in the A-Team movie is a great actor, but it was just so fucking dumb. You should watch it just to see if you agree with me. A lot of people love it.

    Then again, District 9 is one of those movies that is beloved by people who don’t otherwise care about sci-fi, if you know what I mean. If you’ve ever read a novel by, say, Robert Heinlein, you’ve already seen this story done a thousand times better.

    • Justin Garrett Blum says:

      Eminem. I could see that. It wouldn’t have made the movie any less shitty, but yeah–he’d have been better suited to it, maybe.

      I do want to see District 9 just to see it. The guy who played Howling Mad Murdoch was also in Elysium. Entertaining, but a performance hampered by the many character problems running throughout the film. Still…probably the best thing about the movie.

  • fuwalda says:

    Funny little thought that only you will appreciate (which is good because only you will read this far… except for maybe Josh in a few months after he remembers his brother has a blog and it’s easier to comment on his posts than call and say he loves you): Remember back in college how we once had a facetious conversation before the premier of 8 Mile were we said that Eminem shouldn’t make his acting debut as a raper, since that’s boring and predictable, but as Hari Seldon in an adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation? Remember that? That’s still funny.

  • fuwalda says:

    Rapper, not raper. Oops.

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Elysium (2013)

Elysium Movie Poster

Rating: ★½☆☆☆ 

There is good science fiction, and there is bad science fiction. Elysium is the bad kind. Don’t bother.

Elysium is the sort of film that just doesn’t quite sit right with you while you’re watching it–for all the obvious reasons when in the moment–and then later on, as you’ve taken the time to properly digest it, you come to realize that there isn’t really a shred of story that holds together on any level. It’s not necessarily offensive viewing, but the entire concept is broken on so many layers that it’s impossible to be kind about it in any kind of objective analysis.

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2 Comments

  • fuwalda says:

    I think you liked this more than I did. I thought it was ok for what it was, but having watched it, I’ll never watch it again. In fact, I barely even remember it.

    But I love Kurban. One of my favorite actors.

    • Justin Garrett Blum says:

      Yeah, I liked it. I actually wouldn’t mind watching it again. Probably not immediately, however.

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Dredd (2012)

Dredd (2012)

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

About three minutes into 2012’s Dredd, starring Karl Urban, my wife said to me, “This is like a video game.” This turned out to be a fairly apt assessment, though I think my wife only half realized how correct she was, owing to the fact that she isn’t particularly a fan of video games and she fell asleep roughly 30 minutes into this movie. So yeah…Dredd is that kind of film.

This is essentially a beat-em-up game in cinematic clothing. There are no real surprises, so you can go fix yourself a sandwich in the middle of the film, come back 10 minutes later, and the same sorts of things will be happening. The plot doesn’t evolve. Judge Dredd’s goal to ascend to the top of the megablock tower is a constant. We know who the villain is from the start, we know why, and we know Judge Dredd will eventually kill her, not before killing an army of her goons. Dredd doesn’t follow any sort of conventional three act narrative structure. It’s extremely linear. You get the idea.

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The Hunt (2012)

the-hunt

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆ 

(unrated)

Clarification: the rating above indicates only that I did something while watching The Hunt that I almost never do while watching even the most tedious films: I paused it, ranted about it to my wife, listened to her rant to me about the same exact thing, and then we jointly agreed to turn it off and watch something else. So I’m not qualified to provide a rating for The Hunt, since I only experienced the first half hour.

I can, however, give a recommendation I think. But I’m going to make you read my subjective synopsis before I supply a recommendation. The Hunt was nominated for the Best Foreign Film Academy Award and currently claims an 8.3 on the Internet Movie Database, so I think I owe an explanation for why my wife and I so fervently resisted continuing past the first act. 

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  • fuwalda says:

    I felt similarly to you going in to this film. In fact, I actually put off seeing it in the theater because I wanted another Chronicles movie, not another Pitch Black movie. But after time had settled, I decided I just wanted any Riddick movie… and this was a Riddick movie. That alone makes it worth watching, but the fact that it’s actually a pretty good movie made it a must see, in my opinion.

    Basically, I think I went in expecting not to like it all that much, and was pleasantly surprised when I actually loved it. But you were maybe unfairly prejudiced by my perhaps too glowing review so you expected too much. Or maybe you’re just a dick. You should rename this blog “Chronicles of The Dick.”

    • Justin Garrett Blum says:

      I should. I’m a dick. Even as I was writing this, I was thinking, “Why am I shitting on this? I enjoyed it.”

  • fuwalda says:

    More thoughts: I actually thought that considering how Chronicles flopped, this film still took chances and got really weird. The entire first thirty minutes or so where Riddick was just wondering around alone on the planet, eating fishheads and killing scorpion monsters was unlike anything you see in most mainstream Hollywood films. This movie was just weird.

    • Justin Garrett Blum says:

      Yeah, that’s a good and fair point. I really did think the first 30 minutes or so were pretty neat, and maybe I didn’t express that enough. The creature design for the scorpion aliens was effectively very creepy, and the relationship between Riddick and his dingo dango worked. If the entire movie had been that neat, I’d have probably given Riddick a much better rating.

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Riddick (2013)

Riddick (2013)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

So I guess I’m going to have to be that guy who laments for the Chronicles of Riddick series that never was. Without going into extensive detail, I was a tremendous fan of the second (live action) Riddick film (i.e., The Chronicles of Riddick), because flaws notwithstanding (e.g., it tilted toward operatic), it was a tale built upon ideas. Perhaps, in a way, too many ideas, but I admired it on many levels for its storytelling and worldbuilding, and ultimately, for setting up a fascinating arc for its protagonist–I looked forward to watching it play out.

As a star vehicle for Vin Diesel, it fit like a glove, so understandably, it felt like a real labor of love for Diesel, as well as director/writer David Twohy. Almost as if they were so amazed that somebody had greenlighted a science fiction epic as a follow-up to the straightforward Pitch Black, they got kinda giddy about it, resulting in a film that included all but the kitchen sink. I can understand why some critics may have thought it all seemed overwrought, but from my perspective, I loved the filmmakers for what they tried to pull off, and I will forever wish The Chronicles of Riddick had been the hit it deserved to be.

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  • fuwalda says:

    Is this the kind of thing I can watch even though it was cancelled? I don’t want to watch some story that goes unresolved.

  • Justin Garrett Blum says:

    No, it wasn’t cancelled on FOX, so it was actually allowed to resolve the major storyline. To be sure, some of the best stories in the season are in the winding down. The writers had found a pretty good formula in the end, though it’s also the point where things come completely off the hinges for Isaacs’s character, and improbabilities mount to the point that it does sort of leave you with a lot of questions. But intentionally, and in a good way (mostly).

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Awake (2012)

awake_nbc1[1]

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Awake is the sort of series about which I could probably spend way more time talking than I really want to, so I will endeavor to confine this to essentials. Ultimately, my recommendation is going to be as follows: watch the pilot (currently available on Netflix’s streaming service) and decide for yourself. For my part, I won’t mince words here: Awake was a brilliant, I think.

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  • fuwalda says:

    Good review, but I’ll never watch this movie because it sounds boring.

    • Justin Garrett Blum says:

      I don’t blame you, because I believe you would be bored watching it. I was a little bored watching it, to be honest.

    • Justin Garrett Blum says:

      It’s funny, because even as I started writing this (and originally, I was only going to write about three sentences), I was thinking, “Why am I writing this? The two or three people who might even possibly read this would never even think about watching it.” 😉

  • fuwalda says:

    Don’t blame yourself because I’m an idiot.

    • Justin Garrett Blum says:

      ha! That’s not what I meant. I just mean it’s not the sort of movie somebody who isn’t super-interested in the financial crisis is going to go out of his or her way to watch, even if it is available streaming on Netflix.

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Margin Call (2011)

medium_Margin_Call[1]

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Margin Call is a film that features an ensemble cast of talented actors digging in to a script seemingly developed with the intent to provide an ensemble cast of talented actors something to dig into. It isn’t quite the Glengarry Glen Ross of high finance films–it isn’t nearly as over-the-top, nor is it nearly as entertaining–though there’s the sense, perhaps, that the screenwriter, J.C. Chandor, probably watched Glengarry Glen Ross at some point in the planning stages. Make of that what you will.

As an indictment of the investment banking system that over-leveraged itself to the brink of, or even fully to, destruction, ushering the United States (and by extension, basically, the world) into the financial crisis of 2008, it’s pretty damning. Only…if you aren’t already up-to-speed on the finer details of precisely what the hell happened, don’t expect Margin Call to answer that question for you. (more…)

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  • fuwalda says:

    I’m sure this game is awesome, but I never finished the first game. The first game was also awesome, but I stopped playing midway though because I got a little bored.

    • Justin Garrett Blum says:

      You know, it’s funny. I did the same thing with the first game. It wasn’t boredom, really, but I just got to this point about midway where all the enemies started carrying weapons, and I kept messing up trying to complete some objective, and I couldn’t be bothered to continue.

      I never had that problem with Arkham City. I don’t think it was easier–I just think the controls are a lot better on a PC, so I never felt like I was battling with the game mechanics.

      Anyway, I loved it. I’m waiting to see Arkham Asylum go on sale on Steam so I can pick that one up and finally do a full play-through.

  • fuwalda says:

    Arkham City is currently five dollars on Xbox Live. I’m downloading it now. I’ll check in later on.

  • fuwalda says:

    I got sick of this game even quicker than I did the other one. Then again, it’s basically the same game, just in a slightly different environment. Technically speaking, they’re amazing games with some of best graphics I’ve ever seen, excellent voice acting, and well written stories… but I dunno. As games, they both bored the shit out of me for two reasons:

    Combat stinks. It’s just button mashing. I just tap the x button and wag the stick around until everybody is dead. That’s it. It’s well animated so it’s fun to watch, but it’s so boring.

    Detective Mode stinks. I do applaud them for making an attempt to show that Batman is also a detective, but detective mode is this antithesis of actual detecting. It literally has captions pop up that tell you exactly what to do, what item to equip, where to use them, etc. How is this being a detective? It’s not a puzzle if the game presents the solution alongside the problem. Also, since you have to use detective mode in order to make it through the game, it’s easiest to just keep it on all the time, which makes the graphics look like shit.

    So… yeah, I dunno. These games just aren’t for me. I want to make it through because it is a great Batman story, I just wish the game mechanics were more fun.Then again, everybody else loves these games so maybe I’m just missing something.

    • Justin Garrett Blum says:

      I disagree with everything you just said. 😉

      I get that the combat isn’t…I dunno…Tekken, but for a beat-em-up, it’s pretty damn good. If all you’re doing is button mashing, you’re either playing the game on too easy a setting or you never got past the first few fights or never leveled your character to unlock new combat abilities. Using the counters is absolutely essential, as are the quick attack abilities, advanced moves like the beatdown, redirecting attacks, etc.

      I suppose I don’t disagree entirely about detective mode–sometimes I think they could have made me work a little harder to discover some things–but overall, I like the depth it adds to the gameplay. I didn’t really keep it on all the time either. You learn when you need it and when you don’t. A lot of the time detective mode is just about teaching you how to notice things, so once you learn that skill, it’s not essential to keep it turned on.

      I think it’s just not for you, but I do wonder if maybe you didn’t play it long enough to discover the real challenge of it. Personally, I totally get the reason the game has a 94 meta critic rating. As I said, I played this obsessively right up to the end and beyond. I almost never do that.

  • fuwalda says:

    It’s true I only played this for a few days, but what I saw wasn’t an improvement of the previous game, that I played for a few weeks. I just don’t find it fun.

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Batman: Arkham City (PC)

video-game-noir-batman-arkham-city-catwoman-via-digitaltrends[1]

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Batman: Arkham City has restored my faith in adventure game ports from the console to the PC. The game plays so intuitively and fluidly that I’m inclined to believe it’s actually quite a bit better suited to playing with a keyboard and mouse than it would be with a game controller. While Batman: Arkham City is a spectacularly entertaining game on its own merits, the sheer playability of the PC version puts it over the top for me.

Just a quick note, I played the Game of the Year Edition, which in addition to the base game, includes a Harley Quinn’s Revenge expansion, a Nightwing bonus pack for the challenge modes (non-campaign), and other sundries. If one were considering purchasing the game, I would suggest this is the version you would want (especially if you can pick it up for $7.50 on Steam, as I did).

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Europa Report (2013)

Europa Report poster

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

I watched Europa Report because Netflix thought that I wouldn’t like it; I found that suggestion both mysterious and slightly offensive. For the record, I did like the film, but in fairness to Netflix, I suppose that I didn’t love it.

Briefly, Europa Report focuses upon Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, and perhaps the most likely place within the solar system to find life outside of Earth. Specifically, the movie follows the journey of an international team of astronauts and scientists that embark upon an ill-fated mission of exploration to the eponymous moon. Is that a generic enough synopsis for you? On the one hand, that’s intentional, in order to avoid spoilers, but it’s also because the film is, to be sure, rather uncomplicated, though it is very sophisticated.

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  • fuwalda says:

    I did not watch this movie, but I did just watch Olympus Down… and it was awful.

    • Justin Garrett Blum says:

      I actually read some people on the IMDb saying Olympus Has Fallen was the better film, but I dunno…hard to believe. Not because White House Down was so great (though, obviously, I liked it), but just because I assumed Olympus Has Fallen must have been terrible.

  • fuwalda says:

    Olympus Fallen had a decent cast and a good action director behind the camera, but it was just so stupid and the budget made the film look like a sci-fi channel original film. The sets were awful and all the effects were so shitty and fake. All of the shots of the White House, for example, were really bad CG green screen shots. They couldn’t send a second unit crew to DC to take some footage of the actual building in which the film takes place?

    • Justin Garrett Blum says:

      It’s too bad Morgan Freeman didn’t play the president in that film (I kind of assumed he did until I just checked the IMDb), because this could have been like the Armageddon/Deep Impact thing all over again.

      White House down was pretty convincing with the locations. They didn’t have a lot of obvious CGI.

  • fuwalda says:

    The poster for Olympus Has Fallen has Gerard Butler on one side, Aaron Eckhart on the other side, and Morgan Freeman right in the middle, so I also assumed he was the president. When it turned out he was the speaker of the house (I think), then I assumed he would be revealed to be the villain behind the whole terrorist plot. SPOILER WARNING!!!! Morgan Freeman was just the speaker of the house (I think). He does nothing. Literally.

    • Justin Garrett Blum says:

      It is kind of funny how similar these movies sound, though. I almost feel like I have to watch Olympus Has Fallen now just to know how they compare.

  • fuwalda says:

    Has anybody ever made a movie where the president was a dick? You know… like in real life. Not a dick so much as, you know, not a hero when pressed with a terrorist attack turns into an action hero. Outside of that show 24, I can’t think of one.

    • Justin Garrett Blum says:

      Hmm…I can’t think of one off the top of my head. Surely, some movies where the president has been dickish. Like that movie Dave. Or…I dunno…Nixon.

  • fuwalda says:

    I watched this movie. I kinda liked it. It was fun.

    • Justin Garrett Blum says:

      Yeah, it does what it intends to do–that’s all I’m saying. How does it compare with Olympus Has Fallen?

  • fuwalda says:

    White House Down is a bad movie, but at least it’s an actual movie. Olympus House Down (or whatever the fuck it’s called) is just a piece of shit.

  • fuwalda says:

    Olympis Has Fallen took a lot less time to get going, I’ll give it that much. Opened with an action sequence then pretty much kept going. It was just… shitty. It was more serious than White House Down, but it just didn’t have the budget or the chops to back it up. At least WHD felt self-aware about how dumb it was.

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White House Down (2013)

White-House-Down-HD-Wallpapers[1]

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

I’m going to make a statement at the outset that I am sure to contradict at some point in the future (perhaps within this very review!), but here we go: one can only honestly rate a film on a scale that comports with its intentions and the efficacy with which it is executed. Through a critical lens that accounts for the expectations commensurate with a genre film of this ilk, White House Down is a very decent action smorgasbord and much better than many other recent offerings in its weight class.

In other words, if one were to attempt to review a film like White House Down on, say, plausibility…well, you’re doing it wrong. If one were to become flabbergasted by the naive political agenda driving the narrative…well…you’re doing it wrong. Basically, if you’re unable to disassociate the more rational part of your mind from the part of your mind that can simply appreciate technique and style, then you shouldn’t be allowed to watch this brand of explosive, sweaty, guns-blazing, car-chasing action film. To be clear, I don’t mean to imply that White House Down is a dumb film–in some ways (for example, the way it parcels out its surprises), it’s quite smart. But don’t expect it to be a compelling political treatise, because it’s not.

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