Monday, June 29, 2009

Movie Review: Okuribitio (Departures)

Some say "Okuribito" was a slow paced and predictable movie. In my opinion, pacing can very from movie to movie, but every movie is predictable nowadays. The fact of the matter is that originality is something that is almost dead. It's because of this that people need to figure out to film such predictable methods properly. If one can do that, than screw predictability. Now, a film can be cliche, which is totally different, as that revolves around something extremely trite and overly common. I'm sure your wondering which kind this film is.

"Okuribito" is film about orchestra cellist Daigo Kobayashi (Masahiro Motoki). When the orchestra he works for is dissolved, he forced to look at a new career choice, especially considering he is in debt, which is mostly due to the fact he bought an 18 million yen cello (which is roughly $180,000 to us). Daigo and his wife, Mika (Ryoko Hirosue) move to his old hometown of Yamagata, moving into a house left by his deceased mother. While there, he notices an ad for the "NK Agency," a nokan (encoffinment) business. He decided to check out the job, mistaking it for a travel agency (due to a misprint, which reads "assisting departures" rather than "assisting the departed). After meeting with the owner, Shoei Sasaki (Tsutomu Yamazaki) and being offered a 500,000 yen per month pay, Daigo decides to accept. Over time, he grows on the job, but people tell him to quit, calling it something shameful. Throughout the and confrontation, he is forced to make difficult choices, while going through a transformation process that gives him a better understanding of life, death, and acceptance.

What I Liked

The premise of the film felt original to me (although this is based on a book). The idea of dealing with death in a means in which one is responsible of taking care of was something that hasn't been used to my knowledge. The thought of focusing a film in one of the epicenter professions of death brings up questions of death in its greatest form, which strengthened the thematic elements of the film.

The themes themselves were properly expressed both in dialogue in imagery. The director made artful choices that were so well shot that one can't help but be entranced by the shots, as if it was made in a documentary fashion.

Of course, everyone reacts to death in different degrees, which this film showed in ways that are reflective while believable. Some reacted calmly, while others were forced to bicker amongst themselves, but all were deeply affected by such a thing. The diversity in seeing people attempt to cope with deaths of their loved ones always felt proper in placement and display.

I was actually intrigued by the the process and cultural ideals behind encoffening. The way it is done is done so in a respectful way, preserving the body in the highest possible form of dignity. Every time I saw it, it always drew my attention in.

Although the way the plot moves forward is formulaic (lets face it, it's hard to do otherwise), the way it was told was elegant and beautiful, which is the most important thing this film could have done. Daigo is constantly faced with life and death, which also makes him reflect on his own personal life, especially with a relationship problem he had with his father, who left him at an early age. Everything that happened had a purpose and was filmed in such a way that it all felt necessary, used to reflect on Daigo's enlightenment and enhance the emotional impact of what was trying to be conveyed.

Speaking of emotional impact, there is a moment in which many of the major characters surrounding Daigo are brought together and experience a revelation that changes their view of things. They way this scene was shot felt as if it had more care than some of the other scenes, acting as a concentrated emotional blast. Everyone was affected one way or another, bringing them together in a way so touching that I cried in the theater (and believe me, it was hard not to start bawling out loud). Not even the final scene could match this, despite being the most important part for Daigo.

The actors played the characters with finesse. Every character had an important role in this film, each one somehow creating an impact on Daigo one way or another. While certainly not the most original characters, they each had charm and good chemistry. Purpose, conflicts, and development make these characters enjoyable on the screen and very rarely cliche (if at all).

The movie is actually very humorous at times. Right away in the beginning, when we are introduced to the encoffening, something unexpected happens that I can't get into without absolutely ruining the humor and surprise of it all. The humor was very intelligent, coming from actions, dialogue, and even moments of charming innocence that never failed when it tried.

The music in this film was beautifully played. The cello was an instrument constantly played, but was done so in a soothing way that was subtlety complimented by other music. There were moments where it was basically just shots of him playing with various nature shots (which admittedly seemed strange at first, but the metaphors behind the images slowly became clear). Although some may find these pointless, I found these moments to be strangely relaxing.

What I Didn't Like

One thing I didn't like was Mika's overall reaction to Daigo's actions. She reacts to the debt as if it's nothing at all, although she's bothered by Daigo taking the encoffening job. Although she states that she did feel differently (and something in her eyes showed it in the beginning as well) about the move and such, it just didn't feel believable. There's something strange about being able to tolerate death but not an okay job choice.

Despite showing every other important moment in Daigo's growing as an encoffener, the director decided to leave out the first time he works on doing so by himself. He's called in and sets out... and then it shows him coming in the next day simply talking about it for a few seconds. I personally thought this was a rather odd choice and somewhat detracted from the narrative (although this was a trade-off for pacing).

There is a moment near the finale where a coworker of Daigo named Yuriko (Kimiko Yo) tries to relate herself to Daigo in terms of a situation to try and get him to see the other side of a personal problem he faces. Once again, I can't say what it is as this would ruin the overall impact of the finale itself. However, this was one openly cliched and contrived moment that annoyed me, albeit briefly. Thankfully, it was the only moment that really did so.

What Was a Mixed Bag

I'm not sure what it was about the pacing, but the way it was done so felt like a double edged sword. It constantly felt like it could have been trimmed down, but at the same time, all the shots felt necessary. The closest shots were some of the moments in which we see Daigo playing the cello. Although one might say that these moments were edited in a strange way and could be superfluous, I still feel that it would have been worse to take them out than to leave them in. I personally never felt bored or tired, but such pacing may bother some people more than it bothered me.

Another thing that may bother some people is the transition from comedy to seriousness. The opening scene is shot reflects the entire movie, being somewhat inconsistent instead of balancing out the pacing between the humor and drama. Once again, I was personally okay with this, but it can be somewhat annoying to some.


Okuribito was a movie that had me intrigued when I first heard about it. Although it only had a 72% on Rotten Tomatoes (with a 6.7 score), I felt this movie was so much better than that. The movie was rich in imagery and themes, and touches the idea of life and death in such a way that I can't help but wonder why some people didn't like this. Although there are some problems, I felt that they barely detracted from the overall experience of the film. If anything, they felt insignificant in comparison. Granted, if you have a trouble with slower paced films, you may have trouble sitting through this. However, I feel that if you can, the eventual payoff is more than worth the wait.

Sometimes humorous but always moving, "Okuribito" touches the ideas of life, death, and acceptance in beautiful and emotional way that will profoundly impact its viewers.

Score: 9/10

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Game Review: Infamous

"Infamous" is Sony's newest pet project, developed by Sucker Punch studios. This was one of those superhero games that got a lot of hype when it was first announced. Unfortunately, some superhero games had their share of problems and never fully delivered. I was worried that this would be the case for this game. For those of you who played the Spider-man games, this might make you think so. Although they were good, they never hit all the right spots, either having some moments of difficult combat or being too short (sometimes both). Thankfully, this was not the case for this game.


The game starts off right away with an explosion in Empire City (which looks a LOT like New York). You play Cole, a messenger who is the soul survivor of those caught in the blast, who seems to be okay despite the destruction. This is strange, considering he carried the package that went off. While trying to get out of the epicenter of the ground zero, strange things begin to happen... very shocking things (and now I'm done with the puns). However, the city is also in quarantine due to this blast, which results in all out chaos in the city, spawning gangs and other problems as well. Now wielding the power of electricity in his very hands (literally), it's up to Cole to find out who caused this and deliver justice to them.

Although this is a very watered down synopsis of the main story, it is considerably deeper than this. Cole is constantly faced with moral decisions that you control, which could either save the city or ultimately destroy it. To further create conflict, there is an anarchist group constantly trying to give survival tips to the people and constantly puts blame on Cole due to his "terrorism," which sets off every one's hate for him. All of this results in losing his girlfriend Trish and being a social pariah, with the exception of his friend Zeke, who also wants a taste of Cole's power. The fact that both people of great importance are wanting him to in different directions also furthers the depth of the story, giving Cole a large amount of depth. Even villains make him question who he is and what he's becoming.

What really surprised me though was a side story in here, which involved searching for dead drops. I won't say how you meet this person, but an FBI agent named Moya asks you find these dead drops to acquire information relating to an undercover agent named John. This part of a deal in which by helping her out, you can be let out of Empire City. Although not exactly necessary to follow, it helps one understand the characters that you are facing, as well help the player understand how everything happened.

Of course, depending on what choices you make, it will ultimately decided how everything goes. By going the good route, you earn the city's respect and clean it up. Going the other route will create fear, panic, and destruction of the city. If gives you a chance to create your own story, rather than go on a deceptively linear one (like most superhero games these days). I never thought I'd see a superhero game take the Alan Moore route in development. In this game, it worked perfectly.

Score: 10/10

Gameplay/ Playability

I'm not sure what it is about the gameplay, but something about it feels very... unique. If not unique, then definitely done properly (which is probably what I find so intriguing about it in comparison to other super-hero games). When you first start off, you're given a very bare set of powers: you can shoot lightning, create a blast from hitting the ground, and drain electricity. However, as time goes on, you have the ability to make these powers grow into something more, eventually earning grenades, the ability to glide, speedily slide across electric wires, and more. What's interesting about this is that only certain powers can be unlocked by going a certain route. For example, when going the good route, your lightning strike gains you health, while going the evil route makes it more powerful.

There are various things that change your Karma level, which is generally decided by taking down enemies or innocents, as well as decided their fate, being it capture or death. However, the actions that heavily affect your Karma rating are moments of moral choices. Every now and then, there is a moment where Cole needs to make a choice. What's interesting is how he weighs each choice, generally giving each importance. For example, there is a moment where Cole can choose a poster; one makes him respected, while another makes him feared. He actually thinks to himself how he can be a sign of hope or how he can just scare everyone. There are heavier moments (such as feeding either himself and his friends or letting civilians get a crate of emergency supply food), but every one of these have huge effects on Cole.

In order to use these powers, you have to absorb electricity. Because you're in a city, you're given plenty of things to absorb energy from: cars, stop lights, lamps, generators, etc. Of course, each source has a different amount of energy it can give as well, so if you're in a bind, you better hope there's a phone booth nearby and not just a dead car.

Although one is given a multitude of powers to use, controls were very simply to use. Everything is mapped in a way that you can use your powers effectively. You would be surprised how easy it is to take down an enemy with a grenade and lightning when speeding along train rails. Also, some powers are actually created to be used with each other. The overcharge shot, which is basically one big ball of lightning, can eventually be redirected once you use the lightning strike on an enemy.

Something also well created was the building scaling mechanics. In the game, Cole can basically climb anything he wants, as long as it's a ledge or some sort of prefecture sticking out from the wall. These prefectures include lights, statues, etc. This makes it possible to scale almost any building with ease, which allows total freedom in exploring the city. The one really good thing about this is that due to Cole's powers, you won't die if you fall. As for exploration, the city is divided into three different areas, with different sections of them being "unlocked" after a short amount of time. With each area there are enemies unique to the place (and obviously, they get tougher). Each area is given a different feel as well. This helps create enough diversity that the landscape never feels repetitive.

There is a lot of things you can do in this game. There's a the main story mode, plus side quests that clears up territory and prevents enemies from coming back. Although one might think that they'd all be the same, the moral path you choose can unlock different side quests for you as well. Going the good path unlocks missions were you side with the police, in which you either escorts prisoners, protect protesters, etc. The evil path can have you do other things like instigate riots. There are plenty of goodies to find as well, such as blast shards (which let you use your powers for longer periods of time without having to recharge), and dead drops, which acts as a side story involving an FBI agent searching for an undercover agent named John.

Now, this doesn't mean that there aren't problems. Although the controls are easy to use, there were times were I found it difficult to aim my lightning strikes. The reticule is rather small, so you generally have to get up close and personal to really hit them at time. Of course, for the bigger enemies, this wasn't a problem, but one would think that this wouldn't be a problem at all. Another minor complaint is that while I was "surfing" the lines (once I got the power anyway), it was impossible to stop. Although it never hampered the game play, it certainly acted as a minor annoyance. Also somewhat problematic at times was the building scaling. It was generally easy to deal with 95% of the time, but there were moments where I tried to collect something or tried to go to a different ledge. One of the things that this game does is an "auto-cling," grabbing whatever it can. When trying to get something, this can make it difficult to actually do so, as you may go a different way than you plan. There was no way to avoid grabbing these either (although it wasn't a problem to drop down from ledge to ledge).

Although there were problems present, I felt the overall gameplay was solid and sound. It allowed me to do plenty of things with general ease, and the amount I could do only grew over time. Definitely the pinnacle of super-hero gaming.

Score: 9/10


Displayed at max res. of 720p

Everyone knows that the PS3 has the potential to display great things. When it comes to the exclusives, if delivers. The city looks phenomenal. Great draw distances, heavy detail, and plenty of diversity in the buildings and structures make Empire City come to life. It always seems like cities are the best part of a game.

Character models are pretty solid. The various inhabitants are fairly diverse (although they do appear repetitive after a while). One of things that impressed me the most about them was the shading; it seemed that the character models were meant to showcase the complexity of lighting, as the slightest change in movement drastically changed how they appeared. As for the texture work on them, it was very good, although not as great as other games. Then again, considering the size and scope of the city, it would be pretty hard to appear much better. Even more impressive is that, despite all this, there was were only one or two moments of slowdown during the times I played.

I will probably say what I liked the most in the graphical department were the story cutscenes. Instead of using gameplay graphics or pre-rendered cutscenes, the game had comic book cutscenes, narrated by Cole. This fit the spirit of the subject matter, yet didn't distract me from the story. The quality of the cutscenes were very good as well; the art looked bright, vibrant, and highly detailed.

Although the graphics are great, there are some problems. One of the main problems are latent texture pop-ups. There were a definitely a few moments where these textures wouldn't appear for about a second. Also bringing down the score are the character animations. There were a lot of times that the movements just seemed robotic. Particle effects were a mixed bag. Things like Cole's power's looked great. Other things like explosions and electricity surging in certain areas seemed... generic. Despite these discrepancies, the overall graphics were solid.

Score: 8.5/10


Sound was tested on 5.1 DTS settings.

I have to say the audio in this was just astounding. It made sure to take full advantage of the system. There was always constant activity in the city: vehicles moving, people chatting, and the trains passing by all brought the city to life. It sounded just the way it should have... a real city. Other sound effects sound great and immersive as well, such as explosions, surges, and other various effects caused by chaos that comes with fighting. Of course, playing this is in DTS simply made it even better, boosting it's clarity and overall quality. What surprised me most about all this though was how they handled the people. It seemed that despite the multitude of people, there were heavy loads of different dialogue used between the people. It never felt like the dialogue or the voices I heard was repetitive. Such was the case with the voices. There was a vast diversity of voices throughout the city.

As for the main characters, they were able actors who delivered well-written dialogue with great professionalism. The acting always felt believable and the actors cast generally felt well cast. Although if I had one main complaint in this game, it's who was cast for Cole. Although a great voice actor, there was something that was up with hearing a Solid Snake wannabe while in a leather biker jacket and jeans. He always sounded like this, despite the path you choose. Admittedly though, I think it was the inconsistency in his voice that bothered me more than the voice itself. During gameplay (as I stated), he sounds like David Hayter. However, during the comic-style cutscenes, he sounds fairly normal, losing the grave voice. If it wasn't for this one problem, I'd probably give it a perfect score.

Score: 9.5/10


If you haven't figured it out from the gameplay, there is a lot to do in this game: missions, side missions, collectibles, trophies, and others. The fact that there are two different story paths, each with their own unique features, simply makes this game a joy and will never make you feel bored. Although it may seem repetitive to go over some of these missions again, the ability to make a different karma choice helps aid in the diversity. Being able to customize your character differently through another play through also aids as well. This game isn't Elder Scrolls in terms of length, but it certainly gives you a lot more do than most other games today, and that is a major plus. One can probably net a total of 20-30 hours of gameplay with this this. Definitely more bang for your buck.

Score: 9/10


This is definitely one of the best games of the year, if not THE best so far. With so many great things about this game, it would be hard for anyone to really dislike this game. One would be hard-pressed to make something better than this title in this particular genre as well. If anyone does though, I'll be waiting. While I do so though, I'll probably just be playing Infamous all the while.

An open ended game with a deep narrative and characters, long lasting playability, well crafted technical aspects, and solid gameplay; Infamous is the newest epitome of greatness in the super-hero game genre.

Score: 9/10

Thursday, June 25, 2009

What makes something good and another entertaining...

I made it pretty evident that in terms of quality film-making, "Transformers: RotF" had a lot of problems: bad dialogue, a plethora of hollow characters, and some major inconsistencies. You know what? I'm okay with that. The reason being is because I knew what this film set out to do and it delivered on my expectations. It entertained me and did its job. This brought up an interesting discussion with a friend of mine in which we were talking about the difference between "quality entertainment" and "mindless entertainment." My friend mentioned that if a movie is entertaining, there has to be some good in it. It took me a while to get my point across, but I eventually did it.

So makes a film simply meant to be entertaining just that and another film a "quality" film? It's all about treatment. Entertaining films are simply meant to (you guessed it) entertain, doing what the set out to do; if it's comedy it makes you laugh, and if it's action, it just slams it in your face. They don't always have to concern themselves with important factors such as character and story. Generally they just need to assault the visual and audible senses in over the top ways that you can't help but scream in your chair. Some films can do this by being so bad, that you can't help but laugh the whole way through at it. Now, what makes a film good are what critics look for: character development, an interesting plot, thematic elements, well-written dialogue, etc. Now some movies can still be both (certain sci-fi films, comedies, and action flicks). If you ask me, people who can do both really know how to make a movie.

Let me present you with a couple of examples. "Punisher: War Zone." It was a bad movie, but it was so bad it was funny and kept me in tune the whole way through. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying all movies set out to entertain are bad. One such example is "Wanted." The movie had its moments of camp, but it was still more intelligent than it looked on the surface. The movie had some great dialogue, interesting characters that had some depth, a twisting storyline, and thematic elements about fate. Granted, it wasn't the best film out there, but it still managed to entertain while retain qualities of what makes a film decent.

Of course, some movies can still be good, yet somehow not be entertaining in the way I use it. My favorite example is "The Godfather." Was I entertained by it? Not really. I was, however, invested heavily in the movie in a sort of scholarly way, which is what this movie aimed for. A film so serious and well-made does not beg to be found as entertainment, but rather something that deserves respect as a cornerstone of expert film-making. Deep and interesting characters, actual suspense, great dialogue, plenty of thematic elements, an intricate storyline, and memorable performances. Nothing felt like it was done wrong, and it could all be taken seriously. So was I entertained? No. But I was heavily invested in everything that made it.

Obviously, the definition of entertainment can very from person to person. In the film sense, I define it as a means to escape reality and just have a good time. Some movies do it, and some don't. One just needs to realize the difference between being entertaining and being good though. Still, in the end, all that really matters is that they enjoy what they see. As long as that happens with what I see, I'm happy.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen review

One of the talked about summer blockbusters was "Transformers." Featuring ground breaking special effects (which I personally felt got the shaft at the Oscars), good action, and entertaining characters. Now granted, it wasn't a great film, but it was still entertaining, which people probably wouldn't have wanted any other way. I can assure that this was the case for "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen," for better or for worse.

For those of you who don't know, the story is simple. Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is ready to start a normal life and go to college, while most of the Autobots (Bumblebee excluded, acting as Sam's "guard" and car) act as an anti-Decepticon task force, along with members of the military. However, while examining an old jacket of his that he wore during the fight between Megatron (Hugo Weaving) and Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen), a piece of the All-Spark is revealed to have been left. Upon touching it, he begins to see symbols and signs in his mind. Meanwhile, Decepticons bring back Megatron, who plans revenge to not only conquer earth, but give power to a Decepticon known as The Fallen, who is basically the one who started the group. With the Decepticons needing the All-Spark to find an object that can give them power, they decide to go after Sam, who has the information in his mind now. Aided by Mikaela (Megan Fox) and the Autobots, Sam must prevent the Autobots from finding this object and try to defeat them once and for all.

What I Liked

As I said, the first had amazing special effects. The effects were actually noticeably improved. The Transformers looked better than before, blending in better with the environments, and boasting a more real look to them. The carnage that ensued simply had me awestruck as well. The careful details they put into the destruction of environments, vehicles (especially the aircraft carrier you've seen in the trailer, which looks even better in the film), and even the Transformers themselves just made me stare in amazement. If you're watching this in IMAX, you're in for a real treat.

Also improved upon was the overall action. The first film had a fair amount of it, but it still felt like there wasn't enough at times for some because the amount of screen time of people overshadowed the Transformers. This time though, one would be hard pressed to feel there wasn't enough. It starts off with it and consistently gives it to the audience to never let them feel bored. Once again, it's a treat for those who watch the IMAX version as Bay apparently extended some of the battle scenes, which made it even sweeter.

The amount of Transformers was huge. They probably doubled the amount of Transformers present. When Bay said there would be more, he was NOT kidding. It was interesting to see how he made some of them, and I always looked forward to seeing some of them.

More back story was added to the Transformers this time around, showing more as to how the war between Autobots and the Decepticons started. One of the ones that intrigued me the most was "The Primes," which were a group of what some could consider the "elders" of the Transformers world.

I found the movie to be very funny. A lot of the dialogue was humorous, with some of the Transformers having interesting interactions amongst each other. Granted, a lot of it was cheesy, but it still made me laugh.

What I Didn't Like

This movie was meant to be entertainment, not some piece of art... which lead to many problems. There were a lot of things that jumped out at me, such as plot holes, editing problems, and other inconsistencies. For example, when someone (I won't say who) was tazed and rendered unconscious, yet five seconds later, he was awake and ready to go. These moments just jumped out at me and acted as a distraction.

Although it's good that there were more Transformers, there can always be too much of a good thing. This was definitely the case. A complaint of the first movie was that there weren't enough Transformers and too many two dimensional humans. This time, it was somewhat switched (except the two dimensional problem still stuck around). Many of these Transformers just acted as a fan service and served no purpose in appearing, if only to blow things up. Transformers like Soundwave, Arcee, and several others were just there. Unfortunately, the people suffered as well, as they were just taken down a notch in terms of development and quality. It made the movie feel... empty.

It doesn't matter if dialogue will make you laugh or not; if it's cheesy, it's cheesy, and this movie had a lot of it. The dialogue was worse in comparison to the first movie, which makes me think I might have been laughing at some of it for all the wrong reasons.

One of the things that bothered me was how two characters were made to be the most negatively stereotypical Transformers you could see. I had no problem with the characters... but the portrayal was something that was pretty offensive. There was an addition of two Transformers that some dub "The Twins" named Mudflap and Skid. These two were entertaining, but dear God... they were the most stereotypical "gangland" black guys that the media would ever seek to do news coverage on if a crime were to occur. They have the stereotypical talk, appearance (to make a point, they have big ears and one of them has buck teeth, one of them being gold), and even mention "that they can't read." I was just... shocked.

Things That Were a Mixed Bag

It seemed to me that the acting wasn't quite as good as the first movie for some of the actors. Shia LaBeouf was still decent overall, but there were moments that he felt somewhat flat and hurried with his dialogue. Megan Fox, who I thought did a fine job in the first movie, seemed a lot flatter as well this time. In my opinion, she did fine with the "emotional" scenes and moments where she treated a captive Decepticon like a pet, but as I said, the overall acting level amidst the actors was good, but just felt less decent in comparison to the first.

The music was also a mixed bag. On one hand, Hans Zimmer made a fitting score for the movie. However, there were a lot of moments were it seemed the music was just a variation of "New Divide" by Linkin Park. Every time I heard it, it just stuck out to me.


For those of you who watch Transformers, you know what you're watching it for: robots beating the metal and oil out of each other. This movie accomplished this to an even greater extent than the first accomplish. Unfortunately, in terms of overall quality, it was weaker as a film than the first one (which seemed somewhat difficult to do). It's because of this, I'm going to give the film to scores. If you want to just be entertained, this movie will do more than its fair share (I'd give it an 8/10 on an entertainment scale). If you're looking for an actual good movie, I'd recommend you stay away, lest you be bombarded by a myriad of problems. In short:

"Transformers: Rise of the Fallen" is an entertaining summer flick that's brought down by bad writing, disposable characters, and an fairly empty plot. - 4.5/10

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Game Review: Terminator Salvation (Playstation 3)

It's well known that "Terminator Salvation" was not a great movie. To its credit, it had some good action and good performances from Sam Worthington and Anton Yelchin. Now, just because a movie sucks doesn't mean a game will suck too. If anything, it can be the exact opposite. Anyone who's played "Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay" will know this. I'm not ragging on the Riddick films. The critics were divided over the first and less than kind on the second. I still found them both entertaining. Now that I've said this, I want to assure you... this is not the case for this game. If anything, it made the movie seem better in comparison. I never thought I'd say that...


The game takes place two years before the Terminator Salvation movie. It's been some years since Skynet, the mechanical army, has all but destroyed the world through nuclear annihilation. Groups of humans are scattered about, with some of them fighting back. These humans act as a military power, known as The Resistance. Part of this resistance is recurring protagonist John Conner. Through this game we see how John rises from being a foot soldier to a commander, starting him on his path to become the leader of the human resistance he was destined to be. We also get an introduction to other film characters, including Blair (who is a fellow soldier) and Barnes. Anyway, while on a mission gone bad and awaiting evacuation, John Conner receives a distress call from several soldiers at a Skynet base area, and John decides to go try and rescue them (due in part to his believe that "no one gets left behind"), despite orders not to go. The whole way through, he must face adversities, including the various terminators, traps, and falling morale.

The story feels somewhat typical. Good guy goes on a suicidal mission, meets people, kills the enemies, and encounters deaths of team mates, all before accomplishing his goal and dealing a fatal blow to the target enemy. I will say though that this game does a good job at setting up the story for the movie, as well as showing how John Conner got to where he was. The impact of his actions show how capable of a person he is. If anything, I would have preferred this storyline to the movie's. Also important is the whole belief of fighting for humanity is actually made important in the game more so than the movie. There is constant chatter about morality, perseverance, and what is important. Sure it might seem a little cliche, but Terminator is all about overshadowing these problems with humanity, and the story in this game does manage to do so, albeit barely. Then again, I could say that the movie might have lowered my standards. Still, it passes in my opinion.



I will say right off the bat that this felt like a poorly executed version of "Gears of War." You're given a third person perspective with an over the shoulder aiming reticule to kill enemies with. The shooting is probably the only thing in the game that really works in the game without any problems. The accuracy is generally consistent and it's easy to get your reticule where you want it. Also similar to "Gears of War" are the cover mechanics. When you take cover against a wall, you can aim from over the wall or along the side of it. When you move, you'll generally transition fairly easily between varying heights. You also have the ability to make a quick cover change, by moving the left analog stick over to the direction of nearby cover and press X to slide or dart over to it. Unfortunately, this didn't work as well as I hoped.

There were several moments in which I tried to take cover behind something that should have been easy to hide behind. For some reason, I wasn't able to, and I was left in the open to be shot at by various Terminators. There were other moments in which I tried to transition from one spot to another, but in many instances, I either couldn't do so (even though it was EXTREMELY close by and easy to get to) or I went to the wrong spot, despite the given direction of the spot. Even more annoying was that there were moments that when I tried to get off of a cover spot due to crowding from my AI teammates, and the moment I get off, the AI slides over and takes my spot, once again leaving me out in the open. This leads me to another gripe: the AI.

The AI ranges from fair to extremely stupid. In many instances, when surrounded by enemies, I have to rely on my teammates to distract them so I can flank them (which you will have to do all the time). Some of the times, they'll do a decent job in distracting the enemy. Other times, they'll just hide and let the enemy just shoot at you as long as they like, even when your teammates are safe. In terms of consistency, this is the same for the enemy. They'll either be diverse in trying to take you and your teammates out or they'll make some of the stupidest mistakes possible (and leave me wonder how in the HELL did they destroy humanity). They can also be extremely unfair. Despite the fact that T-600s should have been distracted by my team, there are various instances in which they walk towards me for no apparent reason and just punch me out in one blow. Unfair, I know.

"Gunner segments," in which the AI drives and you shoot, are short and annoying to deal with at times. It's easy to aim, but some of the targets are difficult to hit, due to the fact that they either move quickly or come at you in swarms (and generally it's both). The moment where you're given the chance to drive a harvester terminator unit is the one moment that it really works: you're given multiple weapons, fair levels of enemy activity, and multiple weapons to choose from. Unfortunately, this one, like all the other gunner moments, are too short, lasting only a few minutes at a time.

Controls were simple but unintuitive. You were given the typical set-up of the the analog sticks for looking and moving, one shoulder button to aim and another to fire with another shoulder button to toss grenades. Like I said, simple, but unintuitive. At least the controls worked well enough.

In terms of available weaponry in the game, you're given five weapons to pick from: an M4 machine gun, SAW machine gun, shotgun, rocket launcher, and grenade launcher. In terms of explosives, you can use either a frag grenade or a pipe bomb. The weapon selection is extremely limited, but each weapon is at least given their own strengths and weaknesses. As for the explosives though, I had trouble with them. My main gripe is that for some reason, I could never switch between grenades and pipe bombs (be it through picking them up or trying to switch to them through controls). I was forced to use grenades all the time. If there weren't any nearby when I ran out, I was SOL.

The sad thing is that this game is still relatively easy despite these problems. I played this game on the Hard difficulty setting, and I still found it relatively simple to blow through the game's story. In a matter of six hours, I beat the story mode (and in doing so, earned all the trophies). The game offers very little challenge despite the annoyances that are present. The fact the story mode was as short and linear as it was seriously hampered the experience about as much as the technical problems. Had they found a way to if these problems and expand the story mode, this would have been a solid experience. Alas, it's simply poor.



Game was displayed at max res. of 720p

The graphics were a mixed bag. A lot of the environments looked solid enough. They had good texture work and really resembled a ruined LA (from what I could see). There wasn't too much latency in texture pop up either (if any at all). With this environment came a cold, bleak color palette. Obviously, this was meant to match the ruined landscape, and it worked very well. The machines themselves looked decent, although not quite as good as the environments. Despite decent textures, there weren't many polygons used to build them up. Still, seeing the diversity in some of them intrigued me. In terms of conceptual appearances they were great. As for in game, they were slightly above average. Admittedly, the T-800 terminator head that is used in the loading screen looked astounding. While you wait for the game to load, you have the ability to look at the terminator head with 180 degrees horizontal camera movement and top-bottom scaling. Despite the constant loading, I never grew tired at looking at it. The characters, on the other hand, looked very poor. The character models looked bland, sometimes disfigured, and for the film characters (with the exception of Barnes), they looked nothing like their counter-parts. Particle effects also felt somewhat underwhelming. The cinematics were also mixed bags. The opening and ending cinematics weren't anything spectacular, but the detail was good, the overall quality was clean, and overall did the game justice. The rest, however, were barely a step above the in-game graphics, looking bland and making me feel like there was some compression. In short, certainly not the worst graphics, but definitely not the best.



Sound was tested in 5.1 Dolby Digital

Probably the best part of the game. The sound felt consistently good, both in quality and design. First off, the effects. I can assure you that it does what the Terminator Saga always does: take advantage of it. There is always something going, be it explosions, dialogue, or machines moving about. The effects are always used in ways that it makes you feel something is going on. Because of the frantic activity, you will feel like you're surrounded by war-time activity. The fact that the audio is nice and crisp helps as well. Also helpful was the fact that the weapons are given their own sound effects, each one sounding different. However, the weapons still sound generic over all.

In terms of voice acting, it did its job, although some things bothered me. I will say that Moon Bloodgood, who reprised her role as Blair, was actually decent as a voice actor. Certainly not the greatest, but she didn't over or underact. John Conner on the other hand, always bothered me. It wasn't that he was bad, but it was the fact that it was obviously not Christian Bale. Some games do a good job finding replacements, like in "Matrix: Path of Neo" and "Wanted." For some reason, Conner sounded like a deeper voice version of Cam Clarke at times, but never like Bale. As for rapper turned actor Common, who reprised his role as Barnes, he was simply average. While he wasn't emotionless, his lines felt like there they were underacted. Despite this, the VA's did a good job overall.

The music was less than thrilling however. The music definitely had the terminator feel. However, it also felt repetitive. It seemed like they repeated the same bits and instruments within the music every two seconds, which just got on my nerves after a short while. Also somewhat annoying was how they transition at times. When encountering enemies, the music was loud and exciting. If you retreated, the score changed with a simple fade; sometimes, the music would just go silent. If you went back in, the battle score would start up somewhere in the middle. It threw off the pacing and ruined the mood of whatever situation was occurring.



This game has basically no replayability whatsoever. As I stated earlier, this is a very linear game that I beat on Hard in approximately six hours, earning all the trophies. For the sake of mercy though, I will say that not everyone will play this in on the hardest difficulty. For those who don't, there's still replayability in attempted to earn trophies for beating the game on various difficulties, but by the time you beat the game, I doubt one would find them worth it. On the plus side though, there is a co-op mode (which I didn't get a chance to try out). It would really hurt (you) to bring a friend in. As the saying goes, "misery loves company."



This is another failure in the "movie-game" genre. Although the story itself wasn't bad and boasting a good sound design, the game is marred by the most important thing a game needs: gameplay. It's average and, even worse, dysfunctional. The lack of replayability doesn't help either. Even the graphics, despite being decidedly average, were better made than the gameplay itself. I'd only recommend this game for a very quick set of 12 trophies (11 gold and 1 platinum). But I even have a hard time recommending renting this game. Best to just stay away unless you were as bored with nothing to do as I was.


Beatles Rock Band: Favorite vs. Greatest

I'm going to say it out loud: I think The Beatles is the greatest rock band in the history of music. They had a great sound, original ideas in their later years, and hands down helped truly revolutionize rock and roll. Because of this, I know that "Rock Band: The Beatles" will be my favorite music game to come. The fact that their adding harmonizing (which is something I wanted since the release of the first game), along with other features only increases my desire to own this game. Now, this being said, I want to explain why this, despite most likely being my favorite game, will not be the best of the Rock Band games.

One Band = Little Diversity

I have no problem doing nothing but listening to the Beatles all night long. I could survive on these guys alone because of their huge music catalog. However, not all people are like that. Some people want to play a different group, and with this game, it's going to be impossible. Even Guitar Hero: Aerosmith and Metallica (and most likely Van Halen) had "guest acts," which were songs from other groups. Granted, AC/DC was a one group only disc as well, but these could be transfered over to the other Rock Band games as well. Rock Band: Beatles WON'T do this, which leads me to the next problem:

No Transfering

Rock Band: Beatles is a stand alone game. This leads to a problem of moving getting more tracks. The good news is that you can still buy DLC for the game. The bad news is that, like Guitar Hero: Metallica, you can only buy DLC that is related to the band. Even more bad news: the music can't be transferred to Rock Band or Rock Band 2, nor can music from RB and RB2 be transferred to RB Beatles (but of course, that's to be expected). One would think that they would just do what they did with the first Rock Band and allow it to be transferred to Rock Band 2 for a nominal fee. That isn't going to happen. I would prefer having one huge library that I can easily browse through instead of having to switch between discs and limitting what I can play.

Less Creativity, Less Freedom

This is a rather small gripe. I'm playing this for The Beatles, so I could care less about this. For others, however, one of the more "fun" and well-liked features in this game was the ability to create characters and instruments. Since you're playing the Beatles, you're playing what you handed. This means that you can't create anything, and the venues will be less liberal (if it will be at all) in the various venues. Like I said, though, I'm playing this for the Beatles and their history, so I'm good either way in this aspect.

Now, since this is my reasoning of the idea, this doesn't mean this will be the case. Plenty of this looked good and completely sucked. Other things looked like they'd be hampered by problems by in reality they worked out just fine. To further make a point, I'm still looking forward to this game despite these problems because I know the overall experience will be greater than the faults. I wouldn't be surprised if I had more fun with this than the other games, despite the setlist I've acquired over time.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Hangover Review

The Hangover
Genre: Comedy
Release Date: June 5, 2009

Right, to get back on track at this website, I thought I'd start off with a review. What better movie could I start off with than "The Hangover?" Seriously, nothing really good came out in the past couple of weeks so I might as well. Anyway, for those of you who don't know, "The Hangover" is a buddy comedy about three "friends" Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) going on to a bachelor party with soon to be husband Doug (Justin Bartha). However, things go wrong when the group apparently parties to hard; Doug goes missing and the group has no idea what happened during the night. With Doug's wedding nearing and with concern growing, they go out to see what happened to Doug, as well as what happened throughout the rest of the night. As the facts unravel, things turn out to be wilder than even THEY could have anticipated.

What I Liked

What can I say except this movie was really funny. The dialogue was offensively and disgustingly witty in a consistent manner, holding nothing back. A lot of the jokes felt original, and even if they weren't, they were used in the right way. Speaking of which, many people I've talked to and myself felt that Ken Jeong was golden as Mr. Chow. Every line he said was just hilarious. Even his introduction having me laugh due to disgusting hilarity. I really can't give away anything without completely ruining the humor, so I won't do anyone that injustice.

The scenario may seem outlandish, but this movie made it seem fairly believable, which is one of the most important things for any movie. Some movies can be realistic, but that doesn't make them believable in terms of execution (like Tears of the Sun). This goes the route of certain Apatow productions, where if such a thing were to happen, this is probably exactly how it would happen. Even the performances were believable. Nothing felt over or underacted by the characters (although admittedly, it's easy to get away with certain things in a comedy, so I might have lowered my standards in certain areas).

I was intrigued as to what happened to Doug, as well as the trio searching for him. This simply sucked me into the film. For the most part, all of these things are gradually explained at an even pace, which didn't leave me impatient with some factors or bored trying to figure out others.

What kind of surprised me was that the trio had some depth. Phil is constantly stuck in a situation where he had to either find Doug discreetly or Doug's fiance that he's gone missing; either way, he's in trouble (which helps prevent it from being completely unoriginal). Alan seems like an idiot, but he's always trying to do something for the better of the group and thinks he's doing the right thing (instead of being an idiot for the sake of being an idiot). Stu is probably faced with the most conflicts, including lying to his wife to be with Doug, being forced to choose between loyalty and being with a better-characterized woman, etc. It's hard to make these kinds of character without being cliche about it.

What I Didn't Like

There were a few things that irked me. The biggest one was what happened to Doug. I won't say what happened... just that they should have thought of it a lot earlier (but then again, there'd be no fun in that). Some things weren't explain either (namely what happened to the hotel room that they stay in).

Things That Were a Mixed Bag

This movie had a LOT of frontal nudity... a lot more than I would have wanted. I will admit, it was all used in disturbingly hilarious ways. Still, it doesn't matter how it's used, because it will ALWAYS disturb me.


This is a solid comedy movie... one of the funniest I've seen in a good long while. Featuring actually witty dialogue, some memorable performances, and an interesting take on mystery and buddy comedy genres, I think most people will like this film a lot. Fair warning though, there is a lot of disturbing content in here that aren't for those with a high gross out tolerance level. If you can get past that and a somewhat lame "revelation," I think it's a pretty easy flick to enjoy.

A consistently funny film that has interesting characters, sometimes disturbingly witty dialogue, and a nice take on the buddy comedy genre.

Overall: 8/10


I did not realize that I had disappeared from this failed site about one year ago (two days away no less). Anyway, I'm going to try and bring this back to life again in hopes of doing something good. That's all I can really say. I'm sure as hell not gonna make a "to make a short story long" speech here (cause for the people who will HOPEFULLY read this eventually) because I doubt anyone will want to. In the mean time, let me start over. "Hi, you can call me Jack!"