Category Archives: War

“Wonder Woman” Movie Review

Sometimes, movies can teach its audience a valuable lesson. The lesson I took away from this one? Never question a woman when she has an opinion in the war room. Ever. This historical superhero adventure released worldwide on June 2nd, 2017, grossing over $220 million in the opening weekend. It took years for the character to make her onscreen debut, with Joss Whedon making attempts at it in the late 1990’s. Under the reigns of Monster director Patty Jenkins, Warner Bros. finally gave her a solo film this year. The titular character from DC Comics, played by Gal Gadot, lives on her paradise island of Themiscyra with her fellow female Amazon warriors. When American pilot Steve Trevor lands on their doorstep, Princess Diana is swept up into the War to End All Wars. Now, she must find the God of War Ares, who she believes is causing the conflict, and save humanity from tearing itself apart. Going into Wonder Woman, there was a certain level of expectations I had set. In the past, I was probably way too forgiving to Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was a massive disappointment. But listening to the initial critical reactions, I was wondering if it would truly be the first great movie of the DC Extended Universe. Well, I’m very happy to report that that is the case. The biggest thing at the forefront of this film is the character interactions, particularly between Steve Trevor and Diana. And that is arguably the strongest aspect of the entire movie. Gal Gadot is practically flawless as the main hero, showing off all the charisma and charm of any cinematic male superhero you could think of. Her gradual discovery of mankind’s capability for violence and compassion gives her a genuine arc, rather than some god who is perfect at everything. Chris Pine is a magnificently funny counterpart to her in both essence and philosophy. While Diana believes strongly in the inherent goodness of man, Trevor is more world-weary and idealistic. Their back-and-forth banter is written sharply. In fact, the biggest thing distinguishing this film from its predecessors is just how funny it is. Previously, both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman were total gloom-fests and Suicide Squad has some trouble finding its identity with a lack of balance. But Wonder Woman emerges with zero shame in its protagonist, highlighting much of the absurdity in a comical light. Is it cheesy and cliched sometimes? Yes, it is. You’ll likely hear this in many other reviews, but this charm is reminiscent of Christopher Reeve’s Superman from 1978, the granddaddy of all modern superhero films, regardless of license. The period setting and “God-is-a-fish-out-of-water” premise are also familiar with 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor. To be clear, Wonder Woman is better and funnier than either of those two, but seeing that kind of influence is just so amusing. The funniest segment comes in the portion set in London when they come to visit higher-ups. Not only does Lucy Davis nail the role of Steve Trevor’s secretary, but there was a scene when Diana saved Trevor from thugs in an alleyway. Yet again, that reminded me of Richard Donner’s classic. The main villains were a mixed bag for me. Two of them were actually interesting and it was rather nice to watch their plans unfold. However, I felt that the reveal of Ares in the final act was ruined by a bit of miscasting and predictability. And like the previous installments of the DC Extended Universe, as well as arguably Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Wonder Woman‘s final battle is a CGI-heavy festival of explosions and fantasy elements. It wasn’t necessarily a mess, it was relatively easy to follow but felt drawn-out. Speaking of action scenes, when they do happen in the movie, they are absolutely riveting to behold. The greatest and by far most memorable sequence in the entire movie is when our heroes are trying to help their comrades survive a bit of trench warfare. Diana brings out her outfit, shield and God-Killer sword, and walks into No Man’s Land determined to bring down the Kaiser’s men. In some ways, this was the centerpiece of the film, elevated by Martin Walsh’s fast-paced editing and Rupert Gregson-Williams’ pulsating orchestral score. Mixing the titular character’s electric guitar-driven theme song from Batman v Superman with swelling strings and horns is an interesting play. Also worth noting, pop artists Sia and Labrinth wrote an original song for the soundtrack called “To Be Human,” which plays as the credits begin to role. Fans should hold out to listen to a rather inspirational song. Just don’t expect any post-credits scenes of any kind while you’re at it. Ultimately, this movie has a message. A very important and relevant message that all of mankind, let alone comic book fans, need to be reminded of. As most of the film is told through the eyes of Diana/Wonder Woman, we see the human world as she does: grimy, desperate, washed away, and on the brink of self-destruction. But she also sees that as deeply flawed as it may be, and as evil the atrocities it can commit throughout history, humanity is still worth saving from the darkness. Incredibly challenging and uplifting, this message is the kind of optimism and hope our world desperately needs right now. My faith in humanity has been what it’s always been, but movies like this remind me of something that seems impossible to conceive of, yet easy to grasp. That, or I have no idea what the hell I’m actually talking about. With thrilling action, tons of heart, great acting, and clever homages to the original films of the genre, Wonder Woman is a love letter to female empowerment and a celebration of man’s worth for salvation. Go see this movie and support it actively. And then buy it on Blu-Ray. That’s what I’m doing next.

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“The Lost City of Z” Movie Review

Sorry for the lateness. I just had to take a few showers after that war scene in the middle. Holy crap, that shook me. This biographical adventure drama from Amazon Studios made a splash at the New York Film Festival in 2016. After a run at a few more festivals, the film opened in the United States on April 17th, 2017, earning back rave reviews but less than half it’s $30 million. Written and directed by James Gray, and based on the nonfiction novel by David Grann, the PG-13 story follows the account of real-life explorer and British soldier Percy Fawcett, played by Charlie Hunnam. After getting sent to Bolivia in 1901, he makes many more expeditions later to try and find an ancient lost city in the middle of the Amazon simply called Z. Essentially, this is a story about obsession and the consequences impending from it. The main protagonist is so determined to find this piece of civilization that may not even exist that he will sacrifice anything, including his marriage and relationship with his children, to prove its existence. But how do you show your fellow scholars that the indigenous people of the New World are capable of building foundations and structures infinitely more complex than those in England? What will you do if they ridicule your ideas and call your thesis a fraud? These are questions that James Gray poses in The Lost City of Z, but they’re not always answered. Rather, they show you these concepts and then leave you to discuss them on your way out of the theater. That kind of filmmaking is rare these days, as many directors are eager to share their interpretations of what it all means. Charlie Hunnam is masterful as Percy Fawcett. Beating out three other bigger names that dropped, he former Sons of Anarchy star shows a remarkable range with the complex protagonist, shifting from being an apathetic opportunist to a genuine man who cares about his crew and family. It’s not an easy transition, let alone to occur consistently throughout the picture, but Hunnam does it very nicely. In fact, I would dare submit his performance under consideration for Best Actor next January. By his side for a majority of the film are Sienna Miller as his independent wife and Robert Pattinson as a drunkard-turned loyal expedition partner, who are both great and relevant players. Their dichotomous relationship with Fawcett provided an interesting contrast to his split love: the jungle or his family. While several European character actors such as Angus Macfayden, Franco Nero, John Sackville, and Star Wars‘ Ian McDiarmid in key roles, Tom Holland felt some conflicted. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great actor and gives a good performance in this film. But as far as his character goes, being Fawcett’s oldest son, his relationship often felt contradictory and somewhat superficial. On a technical level, The Lost City of Z is visually stunning and gorgeous. The atmospheric shots of the jungle by Darius Khondji are contrasted by the stuffy and condensed space of the English socialite buildings. The fact that most everything was captured on film on location in South America is impressive enough for this epic. Speaking of film, one of the formats available for showing is in 35 mm print. I urge you, if possible, to see it in this format, as it adds to the immersion and overall feel of adventure. And boy, doesn’t it ever truly feel like one? The running time of 2 hours and 20 minutes notwithstanding, it’s clear that Gray takes some inspiration from epics of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Specifically, it looks like he took cues from the dramas of filmmaker David Lean and epics of his such as the amazing Lawrence of Arabia or earlier films like The Bridge on the River Kwai. From the massive amounts of extras for big set pieces to contemplative verbal moments, everything about this film feels old-fashioned, and that’s not a bad thing. James Gray has been dealing with subject matter he’s not familiar with before, so why not again? Despite all of these homages, there’s still something about The Lost City of Z that feels modern. One of those factors comes in the soundtrack, composed by Christopher Spelman. Unlike classic films, this one doesn’t feature a sweeping orchestral symphony in large scenes. Rather, it’s mostly based on a feeling of ambiance and nature. It felt very natural to the environment presented and added even more to the atmosphere of the Amazon. In fact, the sound design is so immersive, you will actually feel as if you are with Percy Fawcett and his expedition team in the jungle. Although the less patient and those wanting an answer may not find satisfaction, The Lost City of Z is still a sprawling piece of contemporary epic filmmaking. I think James Gray has crafted something very special here and Charlie Hunnam gives easily his best performance to date.

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“Sophie’s Choice” Movie Review

And we all thought that there was no way Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins could be matched in performance. Released in the fall of 1982, this drama received both critical and commercial success just in time for awards season. After leaving his small-town home in the South, aspiring novelist Stingo moves into a shared boarding house in Brooklyn in 1947. Soon after settling in, he meets his upstairs neighbors, Polish immigrant Sophie Zawistowski and pharmaceutical worker Nathan Landau. While they immediately become the best of friends, Sophie and Stingo must brave Nathan’s emotionally tempestuous behavior and violent mood swings. It’s only a matter of time before Sophie trusts Stingo enough to share her harrowing experiences in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. As the synopsis suggests, Stingo acts as our primary point of view for much of the runtime. A young man in his 20’s, his inexperience in the large city of New York, and his desire to understand human love allows the audience to relate to him in his struggles. When he discovers new locations across the city, it’s as if we’re walking in his shoes, seeing what he sees, learning what he learns. The city is a massively scary place for someone of small town background like Stingo, almost as if it wants to suck you in and never let you leave. The desired effect worked well for the most part. That being said, it felt as though the scope was very restricted. Most of the turbulent scenes are told inside of the characters’ boarding house, only one floor apart from each other. In that, it sometimes felt more like a stage play on Broadway, with nondescript locations and a plot that mostly develops from various characters exchanging bits of dialogue. One notable exception to this occurs early on in the picture when the trio goes to Coney Island for a day. While they move through a variety of different rides and attractions, the whole sequence plays like a silent film with color without any verbal or background noise. We only see these three people have the best day of their life, backed by Marvin Hamlisch’s beautiful and subtle score. This is undeniably creative, but it sometimes felt unappealing. However, Alan Pakula makes up for this in the latter half of Sophie’s Choice, when we start getting glimpses and flashbacks of Sophie’s life in Auschwitz. Many colors are desaturated or muted, similar in style to Steven Spielberg’s later Holocaust film Schindler’s List. It is clear that as the situation becomes bleaker, the colors fade even more. To add further authenticity, a rather large portion of the film is spoken in either Polish or German, a choice that throws me into the admittedly conventional drama. This is contrasted by scenes of Sophie explaining her every action in the present day to Stingo. These cutaways to the modern setting are filmed in a first-person perspective, giving the impression that we are listening to her talk to us in person. This allows the audience to better relate to her and her story; especially in the final act when everything comes to a gut-wrenching head. All three leads are terrific in their respective roles. Peter MacNicol, in his second movie ever, does convincing work as Stingo. Right at home with his Texan accent, his naive demeanor and great ambitions make him a man of great compassion. While he may be better known for comedies such as A Fish Called Wanda, Kevin Kline is fantastic as Nathan Landau. An unpredictable paranoid schizophrenic, some scenes were just uncomfortable to watch. But he’s still an indelible figure to look up to and find some warmth in, like when he first met Sophie and they bonded over reading Emily Dickinson poems. Or later, when he declares in a touching monolog that Stingo is destined to become one of the great American writers, alongside Whitman and Wolfe. But the true standout, as you may already know, is Meryl Streep, who completely deserved her Academy Award for Best Actress. It really can’t be overstated how incredible she is. Aside from her near-perfect Polish accent, she manages to hit almost every single emotion imaginable. She bounces between joy, anger, confusion, and unspeakable sadness with ease. If anyone else was cast as the titular character, this performance (as well as the movie) would probably be forgettable. Aside from being an experiment in acting and emotions, there is a point and meaningful purpose in the story of Sophie’s Choice. Through the eyes of Stingo, we are subject to the capacity one man (or woman) has for both love and suffering. When Sophie first arrives at the concentration camp, she is forced by an SS Officer to choose: will her son or her daughter go to the gas chambers? This is nothing easy for anyone. While she has endured so much pain, she still finds the ability to love other people. No matter how many times Nathan hits her, they keep reconciling and rekindling their relationship. There are brief moments of humor, like Sophie incorrectly mistaking Stingo’s seersuckers for “cocksuckers.” But aside from small moments like that, this film is not uplifting, or even very enjoyable to watch. By the time the credits start to roll, you will be left either speechless in your seat or in ugly tears of sadness. Maybe even both. If you aren’t brought to either one of those states, then it’s questionable if you’re truly human. Although it may be too upsetting for some and a little too conventional for its own good, Sophie’s Choice is a fantastically written and beautifully poignant drama about the distinction between love and suffering. It features one of the greatest performances ever put to film and an ending that will haunt viewers for many weeks after.

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“Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi” Trailer Analysis and Speculation

*Disclaimer: The following post contains huge spoilers from the events of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. If you have not yet seen the movie… stick around cause you need this.

Happy Easter weekend to all of you. Speaking of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, we now have our first official teaser trailer for Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. This is actually what consider to be a late reaction. I’ve watched the trailer roughly 88 times, and after carefully looking at each frame, I’m ready to give my thoughts. It begins with what we initially believe to be the stars of the galaxy before the frame fades into a rock. We then see Rey falls down onto it, breathless with something she has just witnessed. My guess is that she has just experienced a Force vision that Luke Skywalker has given to her as part of her training. In fact, much of this trailer is spent showing some of Rey’s time on the mysterious planet of Ach-To, training with the self-exiled Jedi. One shot shows her approaching a shelf of old books at the center of an old tree. This makes me think that she will not only be learning the ways of The Force, but also its history and how the Jedi and the Sith have been fighting for eons over the same cause. When it isn’t, it cuts over to quick cuts of the Resistance trying to hold its own against the might of the First Order. Seriously, we see what looks to be a fighter hanger get destroyed and the Resistance fleet is under an intense space combat scenario. That’s actually something I’m looking forward to most because it’s been a long while since we’ve seen a real space battle in the Saga films. And now, with improvements in technology and visual effects, I’m eager to see it all unfold. The thing I’m looking forward to the most, however, is how different of a movie this will be from the others. As much as I loved The Force Awakens, it’s impossible for me to deny how similar it was to A New Hope in terms of the plot and character development. Well, writer-director Rian Johnson has repeatedly professed that The Last Jedi will try to distinguish itself as much as it can from the other entries in the franchise. And of course, the trailer is filled with an epic montage of awesome, with zero context given for any of it. Why, you might ask? To keep the plot in the dark, obviously. The people in charge of marketing these films bend over backwards to ensure that the movies remain shrouded in secrecy and that absolutely nothing about the plot is revealed until the release this December. But that doesn’t stop us fans from scrutinizing every single frame of the trailer(s) while we still can. In this montage, Finn is shown to be asleep in a ship during hyperspace. I’m very curious to see what the Resistance plans to do with him in this film, as John Boyega has been very mum on information regarding his character’s new arc. Still, considering that this film begins immediately after The Force Awakens ended, it wouldn’t be surprising that he’s still recovering from his battle wounds with Kylo Ren. Speaking of Kylo Ren, who else saw that shot of his helmet completely destroyed on the ground? And later we see a tiny glimpse of him pointing his jagged crossguard lightsaber at someone. Something tells me that not only are we getting a new costume from him, but also more internal conflict. Because if you saw the previously film, you’ll remember that he was both literally scarred in battle and torn between his allegiance to The Force. But the real star of this teaser trailer is the star of the original Star Wars trilogy, Luke Skywalker. I was one of the only people who felt satisfied by his 30-second cameo at the end of The Force Awakens, and now it’s established that he’ll be taking center stage. His voice-over is heard throughout the 90 second-long teaser, mostly telling Rey how to prepare for her training of the ways of The Force. But then it takes 180 turn when he mysteriously announces, “I know only one truth. It’s time for the Jedi to end.” Which is something I’ve been thinking about for a while now. Most of the Force users in the galaxy are dead now, and the ones that aren’t are nearly spent on their energy. Maybe by the time that Episode IX ends, every Force user from both the Light Side and the Dark Side will die and there will be no more religion or space magic. Just the age of technology. Some ask me why I do this, and I have answer for you: Because it’s fun to theorize! That’s the purpose of the Internet: Criticism, speculation, and entertainment- sometimes all wrapped into one package. I can’t wait to see how The Last Jedi unfolds when it hits theaters on December 15th. Have you seen the teaser trailer? What are your thoughts on it and your theories?” This is definitely a trailer worth talking about. Put your thoughts in the Comments, and if you want more cool content like this, be sure to Like and Follow my Blog.

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“Tropic Thunder” Movie Review

And so this is why I choose not to enter the film industry, no matter how much I love it. This satirical war comedy from director, producer and co-writer Ben Stiller doubled is $92 million budget after releasing on August 13th, 2008. Also starring Stiller in the lead role, the story follows a group of prima donna actors who are struggling to make a film about the Vietnam War. Frustrated with them, the director has them dropped into the dangerous jungles of Lao and, with the help of some hidden cameras and their own acting skills, they hopefully get something good out of the experience. Ben Stiller and his so-called “Frat Pack” are apparently a very acquired taste in terms of comedy material. Their jokes and timing are undeniably clever and witty, but it often sinks into low-brow territory with stints about drugs, sex, and farts. If that kind of humor puts you off, then Tropic Thunder may not be for you. But those willing to give it shot will experience their ribs bursting out their sides from sheer unstoppable laughter and enjoyment. The cast largely consists of comedians who are typical in their respective roles, along with a few surprise players worth mentioning. Stiller plays a special kind of character not consistent with the rest of his filmography. He’s a narcissistic, egotistical maniac trying to relive the glory days of his once-prominent film career. As with his other characters, he’s a lovable idiot whose situational hazards make him awkward yet hard to hate. Other players, include Jack Black as the star of a zany comedy franchise, Steve Coogan as the stressed director of the titular fictional film, Brandon T. Jackson as a rapper making money off seemingly misogynistic products, Danny McBride as a pyromaniac demolitions expert, Nick Nolte as a crazy veteran for whose “experiences” the film-within-a-film is based on, Jay Baruchel as a straight-laced novice in the acting world, and Matthew McConaughey as a TiVo-obsessed acting agent. They all turn in some fun and memorable performances that add more personality overall. But to get right to the point, the two stands are, first of all, Robert Downey Jr. as Kirk Lazarus. Lazarus is an intense Australian method actor who undergoes a controversial skin tone change to look like and sound like an African-American soldier in Vietnam. And he refuses to break character until the DVD commentary. In terms of social commentary on whitewashing and pure comedy, that’s genius, nabbing Downey an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. This is especially impressive considering it’s a comedy released in August. Even more surprising is Tom Cruise’s against-type, almost unrecognizable performance as Les Grossman. I know Cruise mostly for his mile-long list of action films, as well as some dramas. But here, he plays a sleazy, profane, and ill-tempered studio executive who constantly threatens to pull the plug on the film. Late in the movie, when he should be worried about the fate of his stars, he simply starts dancing to a Flo Rida song, and the results are nothing short of hilarious. Hopefully, he is encouraged to take more comedic roles in the future where he just gets to go all-out crazy. Technically, the editing by Greg Hayden is fairly impressive, particularly when the main antagonists start firing their weapons at the actors. And the camera work from John Toll captures the vastness and beauty of the on-set jungle pretty well. But if I told you that this film had a memorable soundtrack, then I’d be lying to your face. Now, if for nothing else, Tropic Thunder should definitely be commended for the way it opens up. Bucking the trends of gratuitous voice-overs from one of the lead characters as well as an epic opening credits sequence, the movie instead begins with faux advertisements and trailers. It hits everything imaginable in just under 5 minutes: stupid fart comedies, endless action sequels, offensive rap products, and shameless Oscar-bait arthouse porn. It also serves as a creative way of establishing each of the film’s main characters. Speaking of faux, the whole movie’s marketing campaign was rife with fake websites containing “spoilers” for the Vietnam War film as well as fake ads for products used in the film itself. Ben Stiller has to be commended for trying to forgo the cliches of marketing a movie. Then again, the movie faced a rather significant real-life controversy in its allegedly insensitive portrayal of mental disability. In context, Ben Stiller’s character, at a low point in his career, played a mentally and physically challenged farm boy who loved prancing around with horses and girls. The other actors in the jungle make fun of him for it, with Lazarus sarcastically informing him, “Everybody knows you never go full retard.” It’s important to remember that this is a comedy, meaning anything that appears onscreen isn’t supposed to be taken seriously. And it’s not like the whole purpose of the plot is to make fun of disabled people, but it instead makes fun of all Hollywood. Behind every satire is a bit of truth, and the truth is that filmmaking is an incredibly stressful business. The director has to keep his actors in line while pleasing the corporate hierarchy that is investing their money into these projects. It’s not easy at all. The controversy aside, Tropic Thunder is a hilariously accurate depiction of what happens when a director goes too far to make the movie they want. Bounds better than Stiller’s Zoolander, this has to be one of the funniest comedies from the 2000’s, with lots of quotable dialogue and a truly bizarre and unexpected performance from Robert Downey Jr.

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“Mass Effect 3” Game Review

And now, we come to the end of the trilogy. The third installment in Bioware’s epic science-fiction action-RPG franchise launched on March 6th, 2012, selling over 3.5 million copies in the first quarter of its release. Unlike the two previous games, this one was released on all major systems at launch, even getting a Wii-U port which- I’ll tell you right now -is grossly inferior in controls and visuals to its counterparts. Set a mere 6 months after Mass Effect 2, Commander Shepard has been grounded on Earth for his/her involvement with Cerberus. Right when his trial begins, the Reapers- ancient hyper-advanced machines floating in the dark space -begin their cyclical purge of the Milky Way Galaxy’s organic life, starting with Earth. Barely escaping by the skin of his/her teeth, Shepard and the crew Normandy make a mad dash across the galaxy to rally as many allies as possible, while Admiral Anderson holds down the fort with the human resistance. So this game is a mixed bag if ever there was one. Let me be clear: Mass Effect 3 is a great game and deserves to be played, but some of the controversies it caused are earned. Let’s start with the gameplay because it is perhaps the best in the series. Expanding on the cover-based combat from the second game, you’re given more ways to approach a gunfight than before. And that’s partially thanks to the improvements made to the guns, as well as the addition of new ones. Rather than overheating, it does rely on ammo. Word of advice: the 2 guns you want to use the most are the shotgun and the sniper rifle, simply because they’re the most powerful against enemies. Much of the action is shown from an over-the-shoulder perspective, so when you jump over cover or run across the room, the camera is shaking. This made the experience feel more cinematic, really placing you in the middle of an intense war zone with almost no way out. Mass Effect 3 does get rid of the loyalty missions for your teammates, but this is supplemented with various side-quests and activities. This feeds into the feature of War Assets. The more you complete, the higher your reputation will climb and the more aliens commit to your cause. A good chunk of time is also spent onboard the Citadel, where millions of refugees are housed in the docking bays and politicians can’t figure out what to do. Considering the events unfolding in Syria and the controversial executive order signed as a response, the game couldn’t be more timely in its themes of unity and prejudice. The soundtrack, composed by Clint Mansell and a handful of others, is beautiful and unforgettable. The score utilizes a simple piano melody established at the very beginning, when Shepard is forced off Earth as the Reapers slaughter much of innocent human life, as the backbone for many of the tracks. By far, it’s one of the most memorable emotional suites I’ve ever heard in a video game. And yes, Mass Effect 3 is a super turbulent ride of dichotomous emotions; hope to despair, joy to sadness, optimism to desperation, but all human. This is a war, and it isn’t pretty to be a part of. Especially considering the fact that the game really makes the player feel as if the entire fate of the Milky Way Galaxy rests on your own shoulders. So the choices you make on each mission, main or otherwise, has a relatively big impact on the finale. Also, it’s highly recommended that you play the first two Mass Effect games before starting this one. To be clear, it is possible to jump into this installment fresh, but you won’t have the necessary attachment to the characters. Because some of the things that happen to them in the story are just so tragic, it’s almost hard to watch. Props have to be given to the writers for allowing gamers to feel that kind of emotion. Then, there’s the end. This is the subject of controversy, a lot of fan division, and is polarizing to the point that it makes the series finale of Lost look like it was universally praised. Okay, that’s pushing it, but you get the idea. Basically, at the very pinnacle of the epic climax, you’re given a choice of 3 different endings, each one essentially distinguished by a certain color. I will not fret from saying that I hated the ending of Mass Effect 3, and was one of many people who demanded something different. While Bioware refused to change it outright, they did throw us a bone with a rewritten Extended Cut. It added much more resolution to the conflict and its aftermath and added an additional 4th ending, that was a far more pessimistic outlook of everything the series has led up to. And honestly, this Extended Cut gave me everything I wanted the first time, and I’m interested to see how Andromeda uses the different outcomes in the story. Despite that somewhat anticlimactic ending, Mass Effect 3 is an overall fitting conclusion to one of the best science-fiction epics you’ll find in any media out there. Also worth noting, get the “From Ashes” DLC with it, as it adds new missions and one of the most fascinating crew members in the series. One of the most emotional and unforgettable trilogies in the history of video games, you’d be a fool to miss out on it.

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“Kong: Skull Island” Movie Review

Real Talk: How can one critic blame a monster movie for being completely shameless in genre and execution? It’s as if I’m expected to take every movie I review seriously. Well today, I feel in a rather forgiving mood. This monster action film from indie director Jordan Vogt-Roberts released worldwide on March 10th, 2017, earning back $151 million against its $185 million budget, and will no doubt double that in the coming weeks. Rather than a straight-forward retelling of the classic King Kong from 1933, this one is more of a revision told for a different generation. The 2nd film in Warner Bros.’s newly proposed MonsterVerse, which kicked off with Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla in 2014, this soft reboot also serves as a lead-in to an eventual crossover between the two. Set in the remote Pacific in 1973, the breezy 118 minute-long narrative follows a group of American soldiers, a war photographer, a washed up British SAS, and government agents on an expedition into an uncharted piece of land known as Skull Island. Once they start dropping bombs on the surface, the “King” of the island, a 100-foot tall bipedal ape named Kong, crashes them in retaliation, leading to a deadly game of survival. One of my favorite aspects of these new monster movies is that I walk into the movie theater knowing almost nothing about the plot. This has been going on since Matt Reeves’ found-footage thriller Cloverfield from 2008 and has arguably been perfected since then. I love going into a film shrouded in secrecy, and this film achieved that before anything else. Now, how is the movie as a whole? First and foremost, a moviegoer has to have a certain list of expectations to set and manage when viewing a film like this. Me personally, I wanted it to accomplish at least one purpose: To capture what monster movies used to be like back in the day, as well as capturing the era in which it is set. And for the most part, Kong: Skull Island fulfilled what it set out to do, and a few other things along the way. On the human scale of it all, the movie has a rather large ensemble cast. Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston, Corey Hawkins, John C. Reilly, Toby Kebbel, John Ortiz, Jason Mitchell, Jing Tian, and Shea Whigham all make up the cast, but not all of them are given enough backstory or screen-time to get an emotional attachment to. As with the problem with moist ensemble films, the majority of characters don’t really elevate themselves above the expected layers and cliches. The standout players are Jackson, who delivers one of his most committed and enjoyable roles in recent memory, Larson as a strong woman who tries to resist action female character cliches, Hiddleston as a broken alcoholic who suddenly finds a reason to live again, and Reilly whose sense of humor was appreciated despite his character’s rather tragic history. If for nothing else, this isn’t going to get any nominations come next January, but they were all fine and somewhat memorable. But let’s get right into it because he’s the reason why we all bought a ticket to see the movie. Kong. Or King Kong, rather. How is he? While he may not be in the film for many scenes, he kicks complete ass and is really the character with the most layers and substance. Despite his intimidating size and presence, he evokes the behavior of a 14-year-old stuck in an adult-oriented life. It’s almost as if he doesn’t want to be a King, but has to be for the sake of other lesser beings on Skull Island. His design, along with the rest of the creatures and visual effects by Legendary Pictures, is quite impressive to behold. While on the subject, the fight sequences involving Kong are truly exciting fare. Larry Fong’s sharp camera work is impressive, especially considering the absurdity and longevity of some of the fights. What the MonsterVerse has achieved better than anything else is showing the scale of the humans compared to the monsters very well. I’m telling you, this lonely ape is absolutely ENORMOUS. It has become a commonality for filmmakers to use helicopters as a scientific measuring tool for their creations, and this PG-13 movie is no exception. Very early on, he’s bashing away at military helicopters like they’re nothing. At the same time, Kong: Skull Island attempts to use its story as a parallel to the Vietnam War, which had ended just before the events of the plot. These are veteran soldiers going into an unpredictable island, where all manner of beasts await them. And they don’t really go to war, so much as get chopped up and eaten by a variety of creatures. And while that aspect of the story can seem a bit pretentious, it does serve as a nice foil to an otherwise formulaic monster movie. While Kong: Skull Island is far from perfect, it still does a great job at doing an iconic character justice in the modern era. It hits all the right notes required for action monster cinema and hits a few more targets it didn’t need to- with decidedly positive results. This is certainly a fun, rewatchable film for all fans, as long as you know to kick your feet back and have a good time. Now, bring on Godzilla Vs. Kong as soon as possible, guys.

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