Telltale’s Batman: Enjoyable story, tiresome gameplay

Well written and thought out piece

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This evening I finally got around to finishing Telltale’s Batman game (on the Xbox One), and although overall it was an enjoyable experience, I did have some issues with it. Its strongest element is the story, which adds some unique twists to the typical Batman tale. The story unfolds at a pace that feels right, and there isn’t a lot story wise that feels unnecessary. Everything has a purpose and often a payoff at some point throughout the story.

The game features some unique takes on typical Telltale gameplay, with a system that allows Batman to slow down time and set up a series of attacks that play out through a QTE sequence once completed. The first time this happens it feels awesome. You get to decide how to take out each enemy and once it gets going and you hit all the buttons you’re presented with an action sequence…

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Transformers: The Last Knight Review

Ooh boy. Well it’s the fifth installment in the Transformers film franchise. Michael Bay is back once again to direct this installment after directing the previous entries. Mark Wahlberg, Josh Duhamel and John Tuturro reprise their roles from previous entries as well. They are joined by Anthony Hopkins, Isabella Moner and Laura Haddock. So how is it? One of the worst movies I’ve seen all year and definitely the worst Transformers movie. 

What’s the plot? It’s the same as every other entry in this franchise. A Cybertronian artifact must be located to stop the latest plot by the Decepticons to restore Cybertron. There is a government sanctioned anti Transformers group as well as the creators of the Transformers playing a part but it’s all a jumbled mess. Oh if you came for Optimus Prime then prepared to be disappointed as he’s barely in the movie.

I think Michael Bay is a good director except when he’s working on Transformers movies. He has complete control over these films and you can tell. You get the sense that he thinks he’s funnier than what he is. The jokes and gags in this rarely work. Characters stop speaking so the audience can get their chuckles in. For a movie about a robot species warring on Earth, there sure are a lot of ass and titty shots for no real reason. 

Once again the Transformers take a back seat in their own movie for the humans. It really is a Cade Yeager (Wahlberg) movie. Except he’s not a likeable character or even a well defined one. Lennox (Duhamel) has an interesting wrinkle considering he’s fought side by side with many Transformers and now has to hunt them but this is never explored in any good detail. Anthony Hopkins is clearly taking a paycheck role and it’s really weird to see him crack wise and say things such as “dude”. The rest of the humans are just there. 

Optimus Prime is really a non entity for most of the movie. Bumblebee is our main Transformer but I could care less. The whole talking through the radio thing has worn out its welcome. Megatron only has a few scenes and while it’s nice to hear Frank Welker voice the character again, he does nothing. The rest of the Transformers are once again just there with the only one notable being the John Goodman voiced one. 

If there’s one thing that never disappoints, it is the action. Michael Bay knows how to direct action. But by the end it becomes old hat. Really it becomes visual noise as things are just happening. Since it involves characters we can care less about and Transformers we’ve barely seen. So it’s a middle area where the action is cool but you’re numb to it. 

If there was ever a film franchise that needs a reboot, it’s this one. All the plots are the same as the previous ones. The jokes are juvenile. The characters are as bland as cardboard. The Transformers is a rich franchise to deserve better film entries than the ones we’ve been given. I do like the first one but it’s all been downhill since then. 

Score: 3.5/10

Resident Evil: Vendetta Review

Not to be confused with the awful live action movies, Resident Evil: Vendetta is the third CG animated movie that ties in with the video game canon. Set after Resident Evil 6, the story follows returning franchise stalwarts Chris Redfield and Leon S. Kennedy and they are joined by the returning Rebecca Chambers. As with most things in a post Resident Evil 4 but pre Resident Evil 7 world, the plot deals with the growing bio organic weapon attacks throughout the world. An arms dealer, Glenn Arias, is looking to pick up where Albert Wesker and Derek Simmons left off with a new virus to unleash upon the world.

If you played the Resident Evil games, this film is in the same vein without the whole playable aspect. The plot’s of the games have never been sophisticated to say the least and this is the same for the film. A madman is out to either make a profit off of bio weapons and/or watch the world burn with his weapons. Glenn Arias is similar in the Albert Wesker vein as he has clearly experimented on himself to make himself stronger but the film never goes into detail about it. He is a serviceable if forgettable big bad which the franchise has struggled with since Wesker’s demise in 5. The dialogue is filled with melodrama and encapsulates the cheese that comes with the games.

When it comes to the characters, Leon takes a backseat as this is much more of a Chris and Rebecca film. We have not seen Rebecca since the very first Resident Evil and she is now a world renowned scientist as she gave up her gun to use a different weapon to fight the bio weapons. The film has a missed opportunity to explore Chris and Rebecca’s relationship since that first game. It is implied that they have been in contact with one another since but not much is really brought up about their relationship. In fact Leon seems to know her as well. I guess we can infer now that all protagonists of the Resident Evil games know each other off screen. The film does delve somewhat into the toll all the violence is taking on the heroes. While Chris has seemingly come to peace that this is his life as he is destined to lose people but keeps on trucking. Leon is in a similar state of mind as Chris in Resident Evil 6, drowning his sorrows in a bottle until spurred into action.

The CG in the movie is really good. The only thing that is a little off is the mouth movements. This may be due to dubbing but every now and then, the characters speaking looked off. Other than that, I found no real issues with the animation in the film. It was especially great during the action scenes.

Now if you’re here for off the wall action then this film is right up your alley. Seeing Chris and Leon tears through the undead never gets boring. The way they move highlights their experience in dealing with these situations while pushing on the wall of absurdity. It is a nice touch to see the focus on reloading and the importance of bullets as bad guys frequently take advantage of these things. But the action is fluid and never gets too chaotic despite the chaotic nature of the action. The final boss is typical Resident Evil with a hint of some Man of Steel type of city destruction.

If you like the Resident Evil franchise, the games and the CG movies, I can’t see why you wouldn’t like this movie. It is par for the course with the rest of the franchise. The film is not too long and is a good way to spend about an hour and a half. If you’re not a Resident Evil fan, then this film is certainly not for you and probably won’t make any new fans. But it is solid and the best of the three CG animated films so far.

SCORE: 7.5/10

First Ever Woman Money in the Bank Match

If you’re reading this, you’re fully aware that I am a big fan of the women’s revolution that has gone in the WWE. After the recent Superstar Shake-Up, I’m less hot on the Raw side. But the Smackdown side is killing it right now. All six women in the division; Naomi, Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, Carmella, Natalya and Tamina Snuka are all very unique with their own personalities. Sure there are some such as Tamina who have yet to really shine but you can see the potential there. I was getting a little wary of the women’s wrestling in the WWE once again as they were all frequently put into multi woman matches and individuality was not let to shine. But after the most recent Smackdown exclusive pay per view or event, it was announced there would be a five woman multi match to determine a number one contender.

The day finally came and the match didn’t even officially get started. Instead all women immediately started brawling with one another. It was clear that they were out to make a highlight of the night and they achieved that. All of the women got a moment to shine during the brawl. It ultimately culminated with Charlotte putting Natalya through a table (with Natalya breaking character with a grin on her face as she heard the cheers). promo320481947.jpg

The Smackdown Commissioner Shane McMahon came out and quickly announced that all of the women involved would be in the first ever woman Money in the Bank match. I’ve never actually seen a Money in the Bank match other than highlights on YouTube and such. This will be my first time watching not one but two Money in the Bank matches and one is making history. The following week, the women even got their own Money in the Bank briefcase (which has a feminine touch to it).

Becky, Charlotte and Natalya are the three that I am not worried about. Those three are some of the best performers working in the WWE at the moment. Though I have only seen her in action in small bits, Tamina should do just fine in the match as well. The biggest question mark is Carmella. Now I don’t think she’s the worst wrestler but she falls somewhere in the middle. This will be a true test to what she can bring to the table. If her performance in the skirmish is anything to go by, she should be okay. Plus I expect her to win because she has that x-factor in James Ellsworth by her side.

Either way it should make for an interesting match to say the least. It might be bad all things considered but that doesn’t take away the importance of the match. As the women’s roster continues to grow and grow, it is only a matter of time before we start seeing specialty matches that have been exclusive to the men become part of the women’s roster as well. I have been saying for some time I think there should be a midcard and tag team belt in the women’s roster. Now it is only a matter of time before that happens.

The Mummy (2017) Review

On one hand this is another reboot of The Mummy which started in the 1930’s. On the other hand it is the start of Universal Pictures’ Dark Universe. A franchise of interlinked monster characters that Universal has the rights to. It was originally supposed to start with 2014’s Dracula Untold but that movie was dead on arrival. So how does this start of a new franchise hold up? You have Tom Cruise who really doesn’t do franchises unless he has a substantial amount of control over. You have Russell Crowe as Dr. Jekyll. You have the titular mummy who this time is a woman.

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Well the movie is okay. It suffers from the fact that it has many masters to serve and thus you never really get a complete film. It’s like if they started the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Iron Man 2.  The movie follows Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) who is some sort of mercenary. He and a team of other military personnel unearth the tomb of Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) who was entombed because of her ambition for power led her down a path of evil. After an accident leads Nick crossing path with Dr. Jekyll (Russell Crowe), who is the head of a secret organization who is dedicated to stopping monsters in the world. it is up to Nick and others to stop Ahmanet from beginning another reign of destruction.

As stated earlier, the biggest conflict comes with the movie having to serve too many masters. As a Mummy movie, the film works for me. I like Ahmanet and her power set which helps differentiate her from the versions of Imhotep from previous Mummy movies. If the film had stuck to just that, it would have worked. The problem is when they are trying to really hammer home the shared universe thing. The film comes to something a halt whenever Dr. Jekyll appears and especially when Mr. Hyde finally makes his appearance. The whole product does not gel together to make a complete picture.

Dr-Jekyll-Mummy.jpgTom Cruise is serviceable in the role but the role is thin. The best thing about it is that his character is a complete jerk. There is something refreshing about seeing a movie where the main character is actually scared of the danger around them. Russell Crowe as Dr. Jekyll is pretty much doing his Jor-El thing. Sofia Boutella as Ahmanet is the standout as the physicality and presence that she carries is great and you never doubt her threat. The other characters played by Jake Johnson and Annabelle Wallis are okay. Wallis is probably the worst though as her character is just the designated love interest but the only problem is that she and Cruise have no chemistry.

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The action and special effects are top notch. The destruction of London while being something of a repeat of the 1999 Mummy is still a sight to behold. The fight scene between Nick and Mr. Hyde is also interesting even if it takes away from the actual Mummy. The airplane crash scene that is featured in the trailer is quick but still stressful. Don’t see this film in 3D though as even though I saw it in 2D, it was still very dark. Couldn’t imagine seeing two particular set pieces with a dark lens over my eyes.

The Mummy isn’t a bad thing. It just crumbles under its own ambitions. The rush to create a franchise ultimately hurt the main starting film. The potential is there and if they had simply taken a few steps back and focus more on The Mummy herself and the plot, it would have been a much better film. It is still enjoyable and it is a movie that you can go into and watch. You probably won’t love the film but there are worse ways to spend your money. Plus the film is only a little over an hour and a half long. It’s an easy watch.

SCORE: 6.5/10

Wonder Woman (2017) Review

The time has come for the premiere woman superhero to finally get a feature film after 75 years. Sure there has been a TV show in the 70’s but after that, it has been little to nothing. There have been numerous attempts at feature films and live action shows that have never materialized. There was a fairly popular animated movie in 2009. But now that the DC Extended Universe is off and running and making a small appearance in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Wonder Woman’s chance has finally come. How does it succeed?

Arguably this is the best movie in the DCEU canon and one of the best superhero movies in years. Origin movies are usually the best way to go especially with heroes whose origins aren’t commonly known. So this was the route chosen for Wonder Woman as well as setting the bulk of the movie in the past during World War I. Wonder Woman is usually tied to World War II but since Captain America: The First Avenger handled that war, you can see why they shifted it. After spy Steve Trevor crashes on Themyscira, Diana (Wonder Woman) agrees to take him back to mainland Earth where he has information on a new weapon to help end the war of wars. People tend to forget how brutal World War I was and this change does not diminish Wonder Woman’s plight against the God of War, Ares.

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Gal Gadot as Diana/Wonder Woman is serviceable as the titular hero. She is not necessarily great in the role. No fault to her as her acting resume is thin with a lot of roles that asked nothing of her. But when she does shine, she does. I can see her growing into the role and becoming a better actor in the process. Chris Pine steals the show for me in the movie. I’ve always been so so on him as an actor until fairly recently. In this movie, he plays a spy who has become world weary due to the war happening. While he is jaded, he always shows that he believes in the good of people. This is a good contrast to Diana’s more naive black and white view of the world. When these two interact, their chemistry is great and help sell the movie. The Amazons played by Connie Nielsen as Queen Hippolyta, Diana’s mother and Robin Wright as General Antiope, Diana’s aunt are strong presences in the movies despite limited screentime. Diana and Steve’s compatriots played by Saïd Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremner and Eugene Brave Rock are solid and help flesh out the war side and also help flesh out the world for Diana. Danny Huston, Elena Anaya, David Thewlis and Lucy Davis are the rest of the supporting cast are solid and help flesh out the movie.

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Patty Jenkins deserves all the credit in the world for this movie. The tone for the movie was perfect. There wasn’t humor just thrown in for the sake of humor. A lot of humor comes from Diana being a fish out of water. The contrast between Themyscira and the actual world is such a beautiful contrast. When Diana enters the modern (circa 1918) and sees London, you can just feel the pollution on the screen. When the war scenes happen, even though it is not an R rated film, you feel the effects of this horrific war. There are no hidden shots of missing limbs or anything like that, you see them. I think it was a tricky balance to not be too heavy but also show the effects of the war and what it is doing to the world. So when Diana finally does step in and become a beacon of hope, you really feel it.

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The action in this movie is top notch as well. Since Diana comes from a warrior group of people, they are much more melee based combat. This reflects in her combat style as she frequently goes for the legs. The opening action scene between the Amazons and German soldiers is unique to see this group of trained warriors go up against modern weapons that they know nothing about, which helps makes things even. Whenever Diana steps into battle, it is memorable since she is no normal person and can do things like no other. A unique battle shows that even though she is all powerful, she can not do everything and it is juxtaposed with her teaming with soldiers and their weapons to help turn the tides of battle.

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This is also a gorgeous movie. As mentioned earlier the contrast the modern world and Themyscira is palpable. Themyscira is a gorgeous place (probably why it’s nickname is Paradise Island) and the hues of greens and blues make you just want to visit the place. Then when entering the modern world and seeing the effects of war and everything is black and gray helping to sell that the world is really at war. Seeing the world in 1918 is also pretty much being like in a different world. Seeing London in this era and war torn Europe is nothing like the world today. The fashion, the vehicles, the lingo, everything about it.

Is it a perfect movie? No. The third act is a little long winded. The whole thing with Ares is a bit on the thin side. He’s a serviceable villain but not much to him. But it is nice to see a movie about a superhero who actually wants to be a hero. Everyone involved in the movie should be proud of themselves for creating one of the best superhero movies in recent years.

 

SCORE: 9/10

 

Baywatch Review

Remember how the movie version of 21 Jump Street was a welcome surprise? It was smart and witty with a real heart to it. Well Baywatch is everything we feared that 21 Jump Street would be. No real need to beat around the bush with this one. This movie is horrible. I grew up when the television show Baywatch was on the air. It was that international phenomenon that has made a legacy, for good and bad. The movie does not take advantage of the obvious parody material from the TV show and just makes something completely senseless and wannabe.

What’s the plot? Something about drugs being run through the beach or something like that. It was so generic and forgettable in that sense. Much humor could have been drawn from the fact that they are not cops and just lifeguards. Other than a few jokes here and there about the fact, they just play it straight. Not really pointing at the ridiculousness of the whole thing. Pretty much it plays like an episode of Baywatch just with a few more dick jokes. How many times does Dwayne Johnson use the word “taint” in this movie? I’ve never really heard anyone use that word in real life.

Dwayne Johnson is an actor who can help save any project. Not this though. He is the highlight though and you can tell that he is trying, which goes a long way. Zac Efron is pretty much just playing his character from the Neighbors movies. The rest of the cast are just there and really add nothing to the movie. The one actor that really does nothing is Jon Bass. He seems to be the new Dan Fogler or Josh Gad as the guy who is only there so that they can make fat jokes and just improv (aka scream) when the scene is going nowhere. This is a trope that is tired and needs to go away.

Just rude and crass for real no reason other than to justify the R rating. Every line is filled with profanity and not in the clever way. It is more like the way that little kids curse when there are no adults around. This movie is really trying to get by on that simple fact and fails on all aspects of it as well. More polish could have been spent towards the script to escape the more juvenile aspects of it. I shouldn’t even say juvenile because I don’t even think they will like this.

Also, this movie has a fairly decent budget. The CGI in the movie is terrible. I guess the budget would have went towards the actors. For a film set at the beach, the blue screen background is so obvious in some parts. I can forgive some of the big action pieces that involve fire and such. But not something that could have simply been filmed or had a better background palette.

Arguably this has been one of the worst movies in 2017. It’s unfortunate considering the talent in the cast and even the director. But it’s a big misfire and all cylinders. It’s hard to recommend this to anyone. I doubt even fans of the original television show would like this.

 

SCORE: 3/10