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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Final Fantasy Mystic Quest HD

 As some of you who have been following the news may know, a remake of Final Fantasy Mystic Quest was recently announced for the PC, Mac, Linux, iOS and Android.
It was apparently contracted out by Square Enix to a United Kingdom based company known as Dark Design Games.
After the news was broken, Kotaku reached out to Square Enix for word on the project, and they gave the following statement:
We are aware of the 'FINAL FANTASY MYSTIC QUEST HD Remake' project, and can confirm that it is not a Square Enix project nor endorsed by Square Enix in any way. We take the protection of our IP very seriously, and will be speaking with Dark Design Games to address this matter.
Jake Jackson, the head of Dark Design said that Square Enix "have their wires crossed a bit" and that Square Enix of Europe had officially endorsed the project.
I spoke to the author of the Kotaku article I have linked in the "Sources" section and he linked me to a reddit thread alleging that the installer was infected with adware.
I reached out to Jake Jackson to see if he could provide me with a copy of the game for review, but I was unable to obtain one and either confirm the rumors of adware, or debunk them.
The next day, I saw the Kisareth Studios logo on the Dark Design website (You'll remember them from my Chronicles of a Dark Lord reviews) and reached out the the company president, John Sierra to see if they were actually partnered with Dark Design.
Unfortunately, I was unable to get word from him at the time.
And today, I found a status update on the Kisareth Studios Facebook page stating that they had acquired Dark Design Games and they were able to confirm for me that the Mystic Quest HD project was indeed an officially license Square Enix product, quoted below;
"It is an officially licensed Square-Enix project and is being published by them. A forthcoming statement from Square-Enix will confirm this, in addition to a statement from Dark Design Games regarding this matter that will be sent to all major media outlets."
The release is scheduled for next Friday, and I would hope that it will see a Steam and major console release soon afterwards.
I haven't got any word on what engine the game is built in, so the potential for an Xbox Live, Nintendo eShop or PSN release is an unknown quantity at time of writing.
In addition to aforementioned Facebook post, when I hit up the Dark Design website I noticed a yellow version of the new Kisareth logo on the Dark Design website.

So, here's hoping that when the game is released it will be awesome! As always! Why would we hope for a game to be bad? Maybe if we lived in !dnal etisoppo
So, that concludes this unplanned little foray into reporting on current events, I'll be back to regular reviews come Sunday!

All sources are cited below, for those of you who wish to read into this further!

Cover taken from: www.thecoverproject.net/view.php?game_id=2493 and edited with Paint.net

Update notes;
Blogger apparently deleted one word and rearranged another while it was publishing the article, so I had to paste in the correct version to make the opening make any kind of sense.

Sunday, March 1, 2015


Another movie from 2012, and it's just as good as everything else I've reviewed from 2012.
Aside from, you know, The Hunger Games. Which honestly wasn't as bad as we reacted to it, but was still below-par compared to everything else that came out that year.
So after having completely given my opinion on the movie away, let's get into the actual review.
Brave was announced back in 2008, as The Bear and the Bow. That name is a little less abstract than the one they went with, as bravery is central to the plot, and The Bear and the Bow gives away a little too much of the plot.
Now, while Brave doesn't have the same grand scale as its 2012 Disney Animation Studios counterpart, Wreck-It Ralph, it's fairly unfair to compare the two (As I just did) because they're setting out to do two very different things.
Since I'm not going to be talking about the plot, I'll go ahead and start on the visuals.
Pixar re-wrote their animation system for the first time in a quarter of a century so they could create the most complex animations they possibly could. And they pretty much succeeded. The environments look like they're high-definition footage of places in the real world, and I fancy myself a good eye for computer-generated images. Can't wait for off-the-shelf PCs to be able to do that, right?
So anyways, the skin effects pretty much look like they're CGI, but the cloth and hair look amazing. The sheer amount of detail that went into rendering the clothing and hair is simply astounding. Not to mention the amount of detail that went into the rocks, wood, rope, and almost everything that you might take for grated is practically true-to-life, if not literally.
So after having gotten the praise for the animation out of the way, let's criticize something.
There's this one liquid effect in a cauldron that looks like it was ripped from a screen-saver. It looks pretty cool, but it's visually inconsistent with the rest of the film. Granted, that effect is supposed to be surreal, so who knows? That little thing stuck with me, and I couldn't get it out of my head. But that's really the only problem I had with the animation.
Brave is Pixar's first movie with a female director, and a female lead. And nothing really stuck out at me as stupid, idiotic, or offensive. This is a perfect film, with in both content, and running time.
The movie clocks in in ninety-three minutes, and it's not too short, or too long. And a lot of movies that only last an hour and a half come off as rather anemic, like something was cut because the studio wanted something shorter, or something like that.
This is one of those movies that was made for its running time, not taking up too much space, and not understaying its welcome. The pacing is pretty much perfect, from start to finish, and that's something that a lot of movies could learn from.
Now, to the acting and cast.
I recognized quite a few voices, namely those of Craig Ferguson, Robbie Coltrane, and Emma Thompson. Pretty much everyone will remember Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid from the Harry Potter series, and the Bond fans in my audience will remember that he played Valentine Zuckcsky in Goldeneye, and The World is not Enough.
Emma Thompson has been in all kinds of movies, from Agent O in MIB3, to Sybil Trelawney in the Harry Potter movies, to Nanny Mcphee in the eponymous film, to all kinds of other movies throughout the years.
Craig Ferguson played Gobber in the How to Train Your Dragon films, as well as being a late-night talkshow host, and being in a ton of other stuff you might not have heard of, like Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, and plenty of what I presume to be obscure movies and stuff. Some of which I didn't even know he did, including 2006's sandbox crime-game Saints Row.
Since the plot is an essential part of the movie, I'll suffice to say that it is heartwarming, touching, tear-jerking, funny, and all those other quotes that people love to stick on DVD boxes. It's very good, and it's something I would watch again.
Hell, when I have kids I'll show them this movie. It's a great film, and I'd rank it up there with The Lion King, Wreck-It Ralph, and Beauty and the Beast as far as some of my favorite Disney movies go.
And now, the soundtrack.
It rocks. That is all need be said. And the best part is that none of the characters ever actually sing during any of the songs. All of the music is just there, and it fits so well. The movie would have suffered if it had been a musical, and I did like several Disney musicals I've seen. It uses Scottish instruments and styling to its advantage, and that's one of the best ways to make me love a soundtrack, is to stick bagpipes into it, and use it well.
All in all, I loved Brave from beginning to end. It's a great movie, and it's definitely worth your time.
Yup, just keep adding to the reasons why 2012 was an amazing year for cinema. I give Brave a 10.1* rating. There's nothing wrong with it that I can find.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sharknado/Sharktopus double feature.

Well, here we have it folks. Two of the worst movies I've seen in my life. No joking, no exaggeration. These are both pretty bad. Worse than Catch .44, worse than most things that I've ever watched.
But there is a clear winner in this, Sharknado was made a little better than Sharktopus, and it was certainly funnier than Sharktopus.
The science for both movies is essentially nonexistent. Sharknado has a laughable view of both physics and... Actually physics covers a lot of the issues with the science in Sharknado.
Sharktopus, on the other hand, has gotten its ideas of genetics and anatomy from a plot summary of the Resident Evil series and a fundamental misunderstanding of how genetic engineering and modification works.
Come to think of it, Sharktopus has taken most of its premise and ideas from Resident Evil. Only the characters are completely unlikable, the villains aren't nearly as bombastic as the would be in Resident Evil, and the monster isn't scary in the slightest.
And by the way, the animation in both films looks much worse than anything you'd have seen on the original PlayStation, or the GameCube. And I mean that. The rigging on the Sharktopus looks awful, and apparently The Asylum can't afford to render a single shark realistically...
The real difference between these two is the fact that Sharknado is fun to watch because it's funny, and because it being bad is at least partially intentional (But don't let that be any kind of excuse for how bad the rest of The Asylum's output is) and Sharktopus just seems like a failure. Sharknado is a ridiculous concept at first glance, but Sharktopus might have worked if it had been made by say, Capcom, or Michael Bay, or Steven Spielberg, or James Cameron. And if it had a higher budget, and better actors.
The big problem is that nobody in Sharktopus is any shade of likable. They're all jerks, and none of them are anything that could be considered smart!
And that just makes the story hard to care about. I care about the story in Resident Evil because Chris Redfield, Barry Burton, Rebecca Chambers and Jill Valentine are all good characters, they're likable people, with motivations one can sympathize with. At heart, they're all good people, and they all want to get out of the mansion alive. And they do their best to survive, and they don't make stupid decisions.
The characters in Sharktopus are dumb, and unlikable, and impossible to root for. I don't get what some people say about horror movies being about the villains, and the characters are supposed to be unlikable because you want to see them die. Alien and Aliens had likable characters and those were both great films.
That leads me to the conclusion that it's mostly the bad movies that do that. Because a movie lives and dies on its characters. If it's impossible to like the characters, and you wind up rooting for the villains to take them down a peg, that just means that someone else has to stop the villains, and they unlikable pricks would normally be an aside that's mentioned once and never brought up again in a good movie. Or they're one character, and the rest are all sensible.
If the characters in Sharktopus are all eaten, that means that they've got to call in more people to take it out, and that begs the question as to why they went the whole movie without calling in more than a handful of military forces to combat the creature. It's shown that the Sharktopus can't stand up to gunfire or explosives in the end of the movie, and the thing was rather obviously leaving plenty of survivors in its wake, so why wasn't there some kind of fast response?
Anyways, the damn thing eats a bunch of people, and then gets blown up. That's about it.
Now, let's talk about why this movie sucks.
First off, there are so many effects failures that it goes well beyond the point of being anything but sad.
The execution on this project is nothing short of remarkably horrible. It's hard to think of one thing this film doesn't screw up.
Onto Sharknado.
The effects suck, they use the same shots a few times when once would have sufficed, and some of the jokes are less than funny, but the movie is somewhat decent for a laugh, I suppose. But there are better movies out there to spend ninety-minutes watching. And for that matter, you could watch any number of better comedy TV shows...
Honestly, these two movies made me look upon most of the movies I watched last year in a new light. And just thinking about both of them makes me look upon The Amazing Spider-Man 2 more charitably. And especially having watched the rest of the Paul W.S. Anderson version of The Three Musketeers around the same time, it makes that movie look like freaking gem by comparison. With the existence of movies like Sharknado and Sharktopus, it makes me not only look upon the not-so-great stuff more fairly, but also upon the good movies better. It also makes me thankful that we've come as far in filmmaking as we have. We can make a gigantic transforming robot the size of a building and it looks like it's actually there! Fifty years ago, that was but a fantasy! We can generate animals that look and act like their real-life counterparts, we can generate entire cities, and worlds with computers that look like you could reach out and touch them!
And that just makes these two movies all the worse. They're produced by uncaring executives that just want to make a quick buck, putting in as little effort as possible to maximize their profit margin.
And that's why I hate these movies. The fact that they're horrible helps too, but the obvious lack of any effort being put into both films, plus the fact that one is made by The Asylum shows that all they really care about is money. That or they really are that stupid. I've seen movies put together by YouTuber's that are better than both of these.
Now, I might as well explain why the science sucks.
In Sharktopus, the titular monster has two mouths. It's even animated with two. Not sure why they decided to be accurate about that, scientific accuracy sure isn't a problem the rest of the movie has.
If you can't tell by the posters up at the top of the article, the Sharktopus doesn't have a tail. The tentacles come out of the rear of the creature. Which doesn't make any kind of sense. If you wanted to cross a shark and an octopus, you could stick the tentacles around the head of the shark and leave the tail alone. Or stick the shark mouth in the underside of the octopus.
Which begs the question, who greenlit this program, the head of The Umbrella Corporation?
No, because their super-weapons weren't strange crosses between creatures, they were just straight mutations of other creatures. The Neptune was just a giant shark. The Tyrant series was essentially just giant humans with enhanced stamina and regeneration with maybe some built-in weapons.
But I suppose we know now who the forebearers of the people who crossed Ripley with the Xenomorph in Alien Resurrection were. It only took them a few hundred years for them to get it right. If you can call bringing the Aliens back "Getting it right"
Sharknado, on the other hand, is an affront to physics, as opposed to genetics, as I noted earlier.
And anatomy and biology to lesser extents, but that's a minor thing compared to how badly they screw up weather physics.
Towards the end of the film they decide to blow up the Sharknadoes. While that's something that could possibly be accomplished, it certainly wouldn't work with the puny-ass bombs that they did use. Even if they managed to get all of the explosive material they had access to into one of the Sharknadoes, it probably wouldn't have dispersed it.
It makes the characters look stupid for thinking that would work, and it makes the filmmakers look stupid for having it work!
No, I won't be giving either of these a score, because they don't deserve it. It's so far below-par that I don't even want to try to quantify how bad they are.
So, on that note we'll be moving on to the best year for movies in recent memory next week, 2012! See you then with Brave!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Grave of The Fireflies (Finished)

So here's that review I promised of the 1988 animated film from the legendary Japanese Studio Ghibli.
Grave of the Fireflies is one of the most heartbreaking films I've ever seen, I'm just gonna lay that out there.
Don't go into this movie expecting a lighthearted fantasy story like Kiki's Delivery Service or Ponyo. Yes, studio Ghibli is famous for their family movies. Just a warning, this movie will make even the most stone-hearted of people cry.
The movie is only eighty-nine minutes long, but it was one of the most brutal eighty-nine minutes I've ever experienced.
You see, it's about these two orphans in Japan. Towards the end of World War II, their mother dies in an air-raid and they have to go live with their aunt. Their aunt steals from them and says that they're worthless.
All throughout, you keep expecting their situation to get better, but it doesn't. It just gets worse. And worse.
I've studied a lot into World War II, and if you look into how badly the Japanese treated their POWs, then you've got an idea of how badly they treated their civilians.
So since this is one of the most heartbreaking movies I've ever seen, let's just talk about the technical aspects of it.
Towards the beginning of the movie, the frame-rate was taking a nosedive every now and again, making it look extremely choppy, which is kind of odd since the Dragon Ball anime predates this film by two years and had very smooth animation. You'd think a feature film such as this would have a higher budget than a television series that predates it by two whole years.
Or better yet, fix it for the DVD version the way they remaster pretty much everything these days.
Anyways, I noticed that the lip-sync is sometimes a little off, but it's not too far from what's being said.
You know, at the beginning you know exactly how the movie is going to end. Unfortunately, that doesn't make the ending any less crushingly painful. It's sort of like how I was rewatching Doctor Who: The End of Time earlier in the year. I had already seen it before several months prior, but we were powering through the series to prepare for the 50th Anniversary special. And right at the end, I cried my eyes out.
Even though I knew what was going to happen, even though I hadn't shed a tear the lats time I saw it, when the ending rolled around my heart just burst open and the floodgates came crashing down.
I've seen lots of movies in my lifetime. None of them have ever made me as physically depressed as Grave of the Fireflies has. And yet, it's still an extremely powerful film. The way it ends is so sudden, so sad, and yet somewhat happy. In the end, I'm glad it didn't go on more than an hour and a half. The sheer brutality of the contents of this film manages to make it feel like it's nine hours long, and DEAR GOD is the a horrible, wonderful movie.
Personally, I would rank this right up there with Casablanca and To Kill A Mockingbird in my book. It's one of those films that everyone needs to see at least once, and I can tell you that it's certainly something that I'm going to show my kids someday.
So all in all, it's a terrible film. I had to go read a lighthearted story about a monkey-boy from outer-space travelling the world collecting wish-giving artifacts.
I give it a 10.9* rating. If you have not seen this movie, you need to, I cannot stress this enough.
And now, to follow up a somber review such as this one, next week I'll be reviewing...
I can't believe I'm actually doing this.
Don't worry, I'll have a better review out the week after.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Three Musketeers. (Completed)

The Three Musketeers is a 2011 film by Paul W.S Anderson, of Resident Evil, Mortal Kombat, and Alien Vs. Predator fame. Considering that The Three Musketeers is one of my favorite pieces of classic literature, I would like to think I'd be a good judge of this movie. I saw the trailers when it was new and I thought it was going to be a good movie. Then after it came out I saw that it got fairly bad reviews. I figured it couldn't be that bad. One Sunday afternoon a few years ago nothing was happening, so I was flipping around on the TV and found something that was halfway decent right before I was about to turn it off. The Musketeer was just starting, and I loved the hell out of it. I then looked it up and found that it wasn't very well received. I haven't seen it since, but it was naturally what I was comparing this to throughout. Well, that and the 1998 film, The Man in the Iron Mask. That's another Musketeers' movie that wasn't very well received, but I liked.
So, moving on to this movie. At the beginning it starts out fairly strong, with some cool espionage and action with Athos, Portos, and Aramis. So far so good.
After being betrayed by their partner in espionage, the name unknown Femme Fatal, Milady.
Played by Milla Jovovich, Milady doesn't have any accent outside of the General American/midwest standard for newscasters. Given that they didn't bother with some of the accents in Iron Mask and that nobody really knows what accents sounded like back then that's not particularly annoying. Granted, d'Artagnan (Played by Keanu Reeves look, sound and act-alike Logan Lerman, famous for his role as Percy Jackson in the god-awful Lightening Thief adaptation) not having some kind of French or British accent is fairly jarring when his father has a vaguely European accent. It sounds really out of place against everyone else, especially since he seems to go into and out of a vaguely British accent every now and again.
Aside from Lerman, who seems a little out of place against the rest of the cast but has room for improvement, I don't have any problems with the casting of The Musketeers. They're good. I like them. Even Lerman is decent at it. I actually recognize a few of the people in the cast even though nobody's listed on the box aside from Milla Jovovich and Orlando Bloom, who plays the villain in the film.
It's kind of odd, especially considering that Luke Evans, who plays Aramis could be mistaken for Bloom. The irony of it all is that Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides came out that same year. Granted that I did mention that the story of Will and Elisabeth was pretty much over with At Worlds End. The plot seems like part of it was taken from Alexandre Dumas' original book, and part from a rejected Pirates of the Caribbean script. The original three are looking to steal the plans for an airship from a vault in Italy and then get betrayed by Milady to Lord Buckingham, played by Bloom. Nothing to complain about there. It's entertaining. Granted that there's very little reason for him to leave them alive after they stole the plans. Then again, it was an espionage mission and three dead musketeers might have raised more questions then them arriving empty handed. Whatever.
A year later, d'Artagnan is headed off to Paris to become a musketeer. It gets a little weaker here, but nothing that's too terrible. It's decent. Not offensive, not great. Moving through the rest of the movie it gets stupider. It gets fairly tedious and unoriginal in the middle of it all.
And something else, there's a reason why the French are rude, because everyone portrays the men as weak and effete. Then again, if the portrayal of Louis the XIII is accurate then there's a reason that stereotype exists. Historical accuracy be damned, give him some manlier clothing! He looks like Boy George for gods sake! The Queen looks more masculine then him! He looks like a girl with a mustache and goatee!
Anyways, I know this was a lame summary so far, but here we go.
So after an awesome fight scene between the four musketeers and about forty of Cardinel Richelieu's men the movie gets significantly lamer. After some crappy character interaction they decide to get back to that which makes the movie interesting, the action and espionage. During character interaction there's a plot to make it look like the Queen is having an affair with Buckingham, one that was the brainchild of Richelieu and Milady. So one of the ladies in waiting tells the four members of the main cast about the plot, having overheard it apparently or the Queen having overheard it or something. The disc skipped four minutes because it was so scratched up. So they agree to go off on one last mission for their country and steal the jewels back that Milady planted in Buckingham's vault. I have to say that the movie really comes into its own about this time. They send in d'Artagnan to steal the jewels while they provide the distraction after having put together and thrown out a plan they knew wasn't going to work. It twists and turns a bit with the way they mislead the audience.
d'Artagnan gets captured by the British and rescued by the other musketeers with the ship that Buckingham showed up in earlier in the movie.
And about now we realize what it was trying to be. It's trying to be Pirates of the Caribbean. Especially ironic considering Orlando Bloom is in this and that it came out the same year as the last one. Speaking of which, why's it taking six years to get Dead Men Tell No Tales out?
Anyways, that's what this is. Diet Pirates of the Caribbean. And I didn't even realize this until they started with the ships and the swashbuckling action. Funny thing, the music sounds like it was actively trying to be composed by Hans Zimmer. It wasn't, but almost every bit of original music composed for it is almost note for note identical to Zimmer's Pirates score.
For a movie like this, it's not bad. Not great, but the way it ended makes me want to see a sequel to it, because I think that it has a lot of room to improve on it. Cut out all the lameness, improve the characters a bit (Aside from the initial Three Musketeers, those three are pretty good.) and amp up the action a bit and we'd have a good movie.
Then again it'd essentially be Pirates, but given that we're not slated to have another Pirates movie for another three years at least, this could fill the void nicely. Given enough time, effort and quality put into it and we might even get a good replacement. MAKE IT HAPPEN!
Anyways, I don't dislike it, but I don't particularly like it too much either. In the middle of the movie I was willing to dismiss it as the absolute worst adaptation of one of my favorite pieces of classic literature, but then I decided to watch it all the way through and found that it actually got better later on. It's a mixed movie. I don't know.... I really don't know. This movie is the first in a while that I've been kind of ambivalent about. I don't know much what to say. It's good, then bad, then gets good again, and I really want to see a sequel out of it. I think that it could really be made into a great franchise. I know they were trying to make a franchise out of it because of the ending, but I still support them making a sequel. So I guess I'm going to give it a....
6.5* rating. Not horrible, but the bad parts took a lot away from the good ones. I'd love to see a second one made correctly. So anyways, coming up next week is the reason why my review of this was kind of lame, Grave of the Fireflies.

Sunday, February 1, 2015


I remember the marketing for this movie. I remember the backlash for this movie. I remember thinking how stupid it was that people thought that the world was going to end in 2012. Considering we're in 2015, and that I saw this movie in 2014, I'm pretty sure we're past that being a possibility.
2012 is a sci-fi disaster film from 2009, paradoxically. It's about the end of the world, as the marketing and the poster to the left would imply.
To be honest, I didn't think it was that bad. At the time I'd seen it, I'd just seen Batman Forever, and comparing the two, I'd rather watch this one.
Granted, there are other movies I'd prefer to see.
So, as a nerd myself, I might as well point out that a lot of the supposed "Science" in this movie is the reason this is called a "Science-fiction" movie.
So, the movie is pretty long, clocking almost three hours. If you watch all of the deleted scenes (Which I did) it becomes just slightly longer than that.
And despite numerous attempts, it didn't provoke much emotional reaction from me. I don't think the movie is all that great, but I also don't think it's terrible. Granted, watching the extended ending on the DVD made me like the movie a little more, so I can see not liking it as much if you saw it in the theater.
I'm just gonna put this out there, and say that there are too many characters in this movie. The biggest problem is that A) It's got too much happening, and B) it's flat boring at times. And finally, it's just a weak concept. The world didn't end in 2012.
And anyone with a PC these days could find out that most (if not all) of the scientific, historical, and mythological references this movie makes are wrong.
It's like trying to read Dan Brown's Digital Fortress when you know anything about linguistics and computer technology.
The funny thing is, I didn't even know Roland Emmerich directed this when I watched it.
Emmerich has made two films that I really like, Stargate and Independence Day.
This ain't no ID4, my friends.
Look, nobody really liked this movie. I didn't even like this movie. I thought it was a waste of time. I'd rather have watched something else.
The plot is atrocious. It strays beyond willing suspension of disbelief for me.
The characters are fine I suppose, but there's nothing that makes them stand-out.
The acting is decent to a certain extent, but there's too much going on for any of it to really matter.
Honestly, the movie only really hits its stride later on, where the actual action is going on. The rest of the movie is just kinda boring.
I know some movies skip too much buildup to the action, but 2012 isn't very well paced. It's a decent concept on paper, but Emmerich has already made a better movie than this that does essentially the same thing, but is easier to watch. It's called Independence Day.
Which brings me to a criticism I have, it seems like they just took Independence Day and re-wrote it a little bit. If you've seen ID4, you don't need to see this. Unless you really want to for some reason.
Hell, the only reason I watched it was because it was on my list of high-profile movies from the last few years that I hadn't seen that I felt like reviewing, and I'm kind of sorry I watched it.
The movie doesn't give you anything to think about, and it just takes away about three-hours of your time.
It's one of those movies where it's best to turn your brain off and don't think about some of the more questionable parts, like whenever the characters start talking science and history.
To be honest, this movie sin't worth your time. It's not worth my time to write any more about this either. I feel depressed just talking about it.
In the end, I give it a 2.01* rating, I'll see you next week with The Three Musketeers.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is the 2013 sequel to 2012's Hunger Games adaptation. Something I have to say about this is that while it's not a perfect adaptation of the book, it's probably better than the last movie. While it's cut out a ton of story elements, it's actually got less problems then the first one. Now unlike with the first movie, it had been about two or three months since I'd read the book. My summer movie and book marathon had crammed so much into my head that it started to blur into a huge mess. Plus, I had just finished up on the last two Transformers movies, and The Expendables. I don't know if you've read them yet, but if you have you'll know the kind of contrast we've got going on here. After seeing The Expendables, almost anything looks good. Remember what I said about not putting out my review of the movie until after I'd put a few others out? Well that's why. I wanted you to know what my mindset was going into this movie.
So they cut out all mentions of District 13 until the end of the movie. All the little bits of it. The inspection of the footage of District 13 that exists to find out that they're re-using the same stock footage over and over again was cut. They cut out the refugees from the other districts fleeing to District 13, even though they kept the scene with Katniss and Gale noticing the hovercraft looking for them. That means that a lot of plot elements for the Mockingjay movies have been cut out. Two whole characters in addition to the other characters they've cut out from the rest of the series.
Anyways, they re-contextualized the scene to show the arrival of the new head Peacekeeper. Not a horrible use of the screentime, but not a great thing for the series as a whole.
So anyways, they show the new head Peacekeeper and his team executing the old head Peacekeeper, which isn't something I was too fond of. I liked it better leaving his fate to the imagination, because for all we know they locked him in a room with flesh-eating beetles, or just left him out in the wilderness. It can be as horrid or pleasant as the viewer likes, but I suppose it could have been executed worse....
Anyways, some more scenes have been cut-out and added as with the last movie, with varying levels of quality. The victory tour is way more involved than it was in the book, but with the rioting having been more overt. You see, I liked that you weren't sure how much support the resistance actually had, lending more mystique to the whole story. Especially when they show the man being executed in front of them. I also liked how the Capitol's retaliation to the rebellion was also more covert, trying to deal with things on the down-low (For the most part). They've cut out a lot of how District 12 was affected by the new, harsher Peacekeeper regime. And they also cut out a lot of the character development between Gale and Katniss. And this is a lot of important things.
Leading into something else I disliked about the movie is that you learn how big a bunch of monsters the resistance are sooner then you did in the books. Philip Seymour Hoffman's character, Plutarch Heavensbee comes off as completely and totally unconcerned with anything other than the mission he was supplied with by District 13. Granted, he does a good job of seeming like he's on Snow's side throughout the movie, but I don't like that they revealed the level of monstrosities that District 13 committed while combating the Capitol. Granted, they haven't shown how very little that District 13 cares about its citizens and soldiers yet, so they've got something left over for Mockingjay, so it might just be some decent foreshadowing. I don't know. The scenes with Plutarch don't ruin the story as much as the scenes with Seneca Crane did in The Hunger Games, so I suppose that's an improvement.
Now, the end of the tour at the capitol has had a scene cut out that punctuates the importance of The Mockingjay, which is where the last book in the trilogy, Mockingjay got its name. One with Heavensbee showing Katniss the Mockingjay hologram in his watch. Granted, they sort of made up for it by showing the Mockingjay emblem painted on a wall in one of the districts while Katniss and Peeta are coming in by train.
Now, there are a few more gripes I have with the movie. I would have figured that Finnick would have been a little older then he was in this. They also had a similar problem with the chariot scene as did the first movie, in that they didn't have enough shots of all of the tributes in their costumes on their chariots. I complained about this in my review of the first movie too. I really want to see extended versions of those scenes in future releases of the movies.
The interviews of the Tributes are good. They could have been a lot longer, but whatever. I actually liked how they rounded it off. Something I didn't really like about it though was that Peeta came off as unassertive. In the book he delivered his lines with a lot more fervor and hatred, but in the movie he came off more meek and nervous. Granted, I liked the crowd's reaction to what he said but if he'd been a little more assertive with his line delivery it would have been a little better. Also, they were sitting down during the interview in the book if I'm not mistaken.
When they killed Cinna it came off similarly to the death of Rue in the first movie, sad but less sad because you didn't know him very well.
Now, you remember when I said that them cutting out Katniss's deaf-ear would affect the plot of this movie? Well it did, but not as much as I would have thought. It's actually implemented really well. Despite that, I still wish they'd done it the way it was in the books.
Throughout the movie I don't really have anything to say about it. It's pretty much a good experience. They abridged the plot fairly heavily again, but it's much better than how they treated the plot of the first movie. There are a ton of things added into it, but they're all very good. They don't feel like unnecessary padding at all, strangely enough. And it ends fairly well too.
All in all, I liked it a lot better than the first movie. Then again, after hours of lying on a bed of gravel a cheap foam mattress would feel like heaven. So at the frame of mind I was in when I was watching the movie, I have to say that it's an 8.2* rating.
I'll see you next week with 2012!