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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Azure Striker GUNVOLT

So, after a week of playing GUNVOLT, it's time for the review!
The opening is probably the most awesome thing you'll ever see in you life. It shows you just how badass Gunvolt is.
The plot concerns the protagonist, Gunvolt (Nicknamed the Azure Striker, similar to Megaman being nicknamed the blue bomber) running around the world fighting these super-powered villains, known as Adepts. They serve the Sumeragi group, who seeks to control all of the adepts in the world.
Gunvolts' mission is to topple Sumeragi. Gunvolt works for QUILL, a covert ops team dedicated to bringing down the Sumeragi Group.
Gunvolt is a mission-based side scrolling shooter, similar to the Mega Man X series. You can play through the missions in any order, and revisit ones you've already completed at your leisure to attempt the challenges you can accept in exchange for rewards. That's pretty good, because it gives incentives to go back and replay older levels. Given that it took me about ten minutes to complete every stage (Not including bosses, those took me probably fifteen minutes or longer.) that does a good job of making me want to go through and look at the stages again.
Speaking of Mega Man X, the controls are very similar to that game, except that you can't slide continuously on walls, you just wall-jump up and then fall down at normal speeds. That's a little awkward at first, but I made it work for me.
You remember what I said about voice-clips being interjected at random? Well I was for some reason under the impression that, like Mega Man, everyone you were fighting was a robot. They're not. So those screams are the screams of people you're killing. I didn't notice that at first because they sound somewhat similar to the sounds that the Azure Striker himself makes when he gets hit. And he's not a robot.
I have to say, the music is still really cool. Everything is a joy to listen to. (Well, except the music from the haunted house, but still) I'm actually considering buying the soundtrack if and when it comes out. The only thing I really have to say about it is that a lot of the more peaceful music sounds suspiciously like the music from Ace Attorney. I'm serious, the track that plays when you talk to your girlfriend sounds almost exactly like Turnabout Sisters from Ace Attorney. That was jerking some tears from me...
The music really is evocative of times gone by. The thing that really gets me with the soundtrack is how it manages to got from upbeat and hectic to slow and eerie in just the right ways to press my music-lovers button.
If you manage to get a thousand or more kudos, you can unlock extra parts of the soundtrack. Which is something I've been unable to do, due to the fact that they go down when you get hit and there are a lot of ways to get hit. You rack up kudos from zapping people with your flash field or shooting them with your gun, but they don't count up quickly, and you lose them whenever you get hit, which will probably be quite often. So I'm not really sure how you're supposed to rack up a thousand kudos. Maybe you just don't get hit if you have super-fast robot hands?
Let's talk about some of the mechanics now. Gunvolt has this ability called "Afterimage" which allows him to dodge enemies and damage as long as he's got EP left. Afterimage cannot be used while your flash-field is on, which leads to a balance of of massively devastating attacks vs not dying. I didn't have a whole lot of issues with not dying until I got to a lot of the bosses, where I started taking constant damage if I left the flash-field on.
So anyways, onto the missions. The levels are all pretty cool to play. Despite their linearity they're still really fun to explore.
The one that stuck with me the most was the haunted house level. It was actually called "Underworld"
There were moments in there that actually had me frightened. Not just jump scares, it was actively somewhat frightening. The monsters in that level were tough to beat, hard to avoid, and drain your resources very quickly. It did a lot more to be survival-horror than Slender did, I'll give it that!
I actually felt kind of bad killing the boss of that stage, she didn't seem like she was a willing participant in this gigantic mess, and I would have spared her had I been able to. Unfortunately, I couldn't defeat what was truly evil in that lab without also killing her....
During one of the missions, I ran into what one of my support characters, Moniqa described as "A bi-gender adept." Essentially an androgynous floating red, black and pink armored person who looks like Galactus with a massive pink crystal protruding from the crotch. And you thought the tentacle monster from Mighty Gunvolt was weird!
You never actually get to fight Xe, which is a little disappointing considering that it looks like it would be really interesting to face in combat.
Anyways, I like the boss fights. They're creative, fast-paced and didn't even really get old after having to play through them ten times just to clear them. Although towards the end there are two bosses you have to fight in sequence, without a checkpoint between them and that took me three tries to clear.
Something odd I noticed is that when you die fighting a boss, instead of being restored to the state you were in at the last checkpoint, it actually resets the clock to the time it was when you cleared it and lets you keep your experience. I would've figured it would do what Sonic Colors did and keep the timer going, but it doesn't.
This is actually part of the whole reason I was able to beat the final boss. I managed to level up thrice when I was fighting him. That and the Kaio Ken Super Saiyan mode that sometimes activates when you die.
Perhaps I should explain. When Gunvolt dies, his girlfriend sometimes starts singing, and brings him back to life, with infinite electric powers (Which essentially translates into infinite health if you know how to use it) and a bright blue aura which essentially looks like a blue version of the Kaio Ken or Super Saiyan transformation. Plus, the musical cue that starts up when you come back to life is absolutely awesome! That's part of the reason why I want to know when the soundtrack is going to come out. Plus, Gunvolt lets out a cry of pure fury and it just ROCKS. Trust me, there is nothing more frustrating than getting beat down to you last sliver of health and dying right before you kill the boss. And in direct contrast, there's nothing more awesome than coming back to beat them down with electric fire to an amazing piece of music!
Remember when I said that there wasn't a way to shoot up, down, or diagonally? Well there's a kind of ammunition bolt that lets you do that, the Mizuchi, but it does it really horribly.
Instead of just aiming your gun and firing, you first must hold the D-pad or joystick in the direction you want to redirect it, then fire you gun and it arcs out at the angle you pointed it in. And you can't rapid-fire. And it moves out slightly when you fire it, making precision almost impossible. So it's essentially worthless. I only used two of the bolts anyways. The default one, Cerberus, and the Orochi, which ejects a drone that shoots in eight directions. Not particularly useful in normal combat, but it works great against some bosses.
Speaking of power-ups that got dusty, I unlocked a ton of abilities that I never used. I equipped three of them, but I mainly just used the Astrasphere and Galvanic Patch, which heals Gunvolt. That and Split Second, which restores your EP when it's overheating, but that more rarely.
Everything else just collected dust, because Astrasphere does a ton of damage if you time it correctly.
I haven't unlocked a whole ton of them, so I have no idea how many of them are actually useful.
Remember how I said the art looks amazing? Well it looks even better in 3D. I was surprised at the kind of depth they were able to simulate with 2D images.
The dialogue has a pretty cool noirish bent to it. Gunvolt himself comes off like a 40s style gumshoe, and that tickles the part of me that likes old detective stories. The fact that none of the dialogue is spoken lends to an archaic aesthetic that clicks with me in all the right ways. As a lifelong fan of the Zelda series, I find games without voice acting to be a nice little throwback to a simpler time when games didn't need millions of dollars budgeted just for the voice acting.
Something I feel I need to mention is that there's no way to speed up to text boxes other than pressing A or B. It would have been nice to have a setting in the options menu so that I wouldn't have to wear out my buttons trying to read the dialogue at a decent pace.
So at this point in time, I have beaten what appears to be the final boss and have gone through what appears to be the end credits sequence. By now I've clocked about two and a half hours into the game. (That's going by their clock, not mine since I forgot to time it, and it's not really easy to film 3DS games) I'm sincerely hoping that it's pulling a Sonic And The Black Knight and it's got a bunch of other things to do after a fake-out final boss. Otherwise it's a pretty short game. Then again, it's still more of a game than any of the other eShop games I've reviewed even if it did only take me three hours to complete all of the missions available. Mutant Mudds was too aggravating for me to finish, Dillon's Rollin' Western tried to combine The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask with a tower defense game rather poorly. Sakura Samurai was essentially Resident Evil 4 combined with a not so good beat-em-up, with a final boss who I couldn't defeat no matter what I tried. Tokyo Crash Mobs was a Zuma clone. Fluidity: Spin Cycle was fun at first, but it got real old real fast. Steel Diver: Sub Wars was a free to play submarine FPS, which sounds cool but it was glitchy, slow, and the paid version doesn't seem much better than the free version. And don't even get me started on Rusty's Real Deal Baseball.....
Anyways, the story is a lot like the X-Men. And I freaking LOVE the story from the X-Men. The adepts are becoming more prevalent, humans who feels threatened by them, adepts who want to live peacefully, and adepts who want to wipe out the human race.
Almost exactly like the X-Men story now that I think about it.
At the end of it all I was kind of disappointed that I didn't get to play as three of the other characters in the game, Asimov, Copen and Gino. I felt like it would have been really cool to be able to play as them, but alas it was not meant to be.
So unfortunately my SD card got corrupted and I had to redownload the game. Unfortunately I forgot to back it up and I had to play through the whole game again.
Going through the first level again I noticed that there are platforms and holes in the ceiling that appear as if they would go somewhere, but they do not.
I was originally going to skip all of the dialogue on my second run through the game, but then I decided against it. I'm glad I did, because I just realized the poetic tragedy of Gunvolts' words to Joule at the beginning of the game, and it, combined with the music that sounds like one of the saddest songs in Ace Attorney just broke my heart. Once you get to the end of the game you will know what I mean.
I managed to power through the main six missions, plus the first mission twice and a secret mission in just under two hours. The funny thing is, that despite having already played through them once already they were still really fun. Even though I managed to beat all of the bosses without dying, I still liked combating them. I guess that's a bunch of major points in the games' favor that it's just as fun the second time around.
On my second playthrough I decided to try out the Technos bolt, shown at the left. It fires in two directions, allows you two tags for Flash Field zapping, and is green.
Personally, I liked it at first because it let you shoot at things above and below you, but it's not as good as the Cerberus for CQC.
Because it fires in two directions diagonally, it won't hit what's right in front of you without careful positioning, and that's almost impossible in a hectic combat situation. Plus, in order to switch between weapons you need to go into the Start menu, select your gun, then select the bolt you want to change to, then hit B to exit the weapons menu, and then hit Start to leave the pause menu.
It would have been nice if they had some sort of active bolt-swapping system that you could use on the fly. Maybe something that took advantage of the Circle Pad Pro's extra pair of shoulder-buttons. Or hell, do what Ocarina of Time: 3D and Resident Evil: Revelations did and use the touchscreen to swap bolts. There's enough real-estate on it for all four abilities and a button or two to switch guns.
Something I forgot was that towards the end there's a boss-rush of about four tank robots, in addition to a few others, and that one of them takes place with two pits on either end of the screen.
Remember what I said about the HUD sometimes covering things on the screen? Well these boss-fights are critical reminders of that. One of them takes place in an area where bottomless holes lie to the left and right, in places just small enough to be covered up by the HUD. The final boss especially was annoying because the bosses health-meter covered up the hole on the right side of the screen, and Gunvolts' skill meters covered up another, so I kept falling down the holes on the first playthrough because I forgot they were there. And even in the second playthrough I kept falling down because the boss lets out a gust of wind you have to dash against, and sometimes you're moving too fast and wind up overshooting and falling down the hole!
During the boss-rush, I ran into the boss from the Underworld stage, and I felt even worse having to kill her again, especially after she was apologizing for having to fight me! Good lord that was depressing....
At time of writing, I've gotten up to right before the final boss. I've clocked about three hours, despite having taken less time to defeat each boss.
You know, I wasn't expecting the final plot twist. They did a good job keeping it from being obvious. Right down to the end I didn't suspect what was going on. Even the twist within the final twist was completely unforeseen, yet everything made sense.
I certainly hope that there wasn't something I needed to do to avert the way it ended. Because I got the same ending on both playthroughs.
The credits sequence just seemed like it was taunting me...... Trying to goad me into doing something to change what happened.... All the while knowing that I couldn't.....
That statement seems less and less apt the more I think about it. I suppose it's a metaphor for life, and how fragile it is. The song playing in the background was Joule's theme song, the one I said sounded so much like Turnabout Sisters. I figure they were trying to make it as sad as possible, and they succeeded.
After the credits end, they ask you to save, and then drop you back at the title screen.
Now, curious as I am I loaded up my save file and found that there was more stuff going on!
Or maybe not, because no new missions were unlocked. I just had a chat with Joule and Lumen and then wandered around the other missions looking for gems to give to Joule.
Which apparently was what I was supposed to be doing the entire time, because there was a hint hidden in the in-game manual to look for all seven to give to her. Wonderful. Now I need to play through the whole game a THIRD time just to reach completion!
All in all, I still had a lot of fun with Azure Striker: GUNVOLT. The hard-line critic in me is saying I should be trashing it for being so short, when you can easily get five to ten full-length games on Steam, GoG or the Humble Bundle for that same price if you play your cash right.
On the other hand, compared to everything else I've reviewed on the eShop it's pretty good. Short, but sweet.
And in the end, I'd rather play a short game that's fun than a long game that's not.
So I give it an 8.9* rating. You could easily spend you time and money in worse ways.
Azure Striker Gunvolt will be available on the Nintendo eShop on Friday, August 29th, 2014.
It will be bundled with the retro-styled demake MIGHTY GUNVOLT from August 29th to 9 AM November 28th.
By the way, in case you were wondering I will be forgoing my regular weekly article in favor of this one. We'll be back at regularly scheduled articles next week!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Jack Reacher

Jack Reacher is the 2012 adaptation of One Shot, the first book in Jim Grant's Jack Reacher series. Starring Tom Cruise as the titular character, I figured it was going to be just a lame James Bond ripoff like the Mission Impossible movies were. Considering that it came out in 2012, it was almost required by law to be good. And it was. Surprisingly so. It's one of the few movies I've seen in my life that was just as good as a film as it was a trailer. I remember having seen the trailers and thinking that this was the kind of film that will look good in trailers, but be a boring as hell movie. Sort of like Abduction.
Lo and behold, it was just as good as the previews suggested it would be.
Now, I really like the story of the movie. It's like the A-Team sequel we never got. Jack Reacher is a great character, he actually seems like a human-being while also having some supernatural elements to his investigation abilities. In fact, it's similar to both the BBC's Sherlock and Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes in how Reacher processes the evidence accessible to him, but not in the same style as both of those. It's got a lot of nice action scenes that tie in with the plot.
A man is arrested for killing five people, and instead of confessing or asking for a lawyer, he tells the police to call Jack Reacher.
So Reacher comes to Pittsburgh and teams up with the mans lawyer to investigate the case.
I'm not going to go much further because I don't want to spoil the story, but I'll try to analyze the plot without spoiling anything.
The way the plot twists and turns is quite interesting. Even though the movie is two hours and ten minutes it never really seemed like it was slowing down at any point. There was never any time when I really felt like going off and doing something else while the movie was playing. Not to mention that there wasn't much that felt out of place. Nothing ever felt excruciating or even uncomfortable to watch. Everything kind of clicked together in the end.
It even had some great humorous moments in it, and they were even funnier in the movie then they were in the trailer.
While there are a few cliched characters in the movie, there aren't very many and they wind up not being cliches after you finish up the movie. It's actually kinda cool how they pulled a fake-out on the characters.
Now, considering the film I watched immediately before this one, I might just be praising it because it's not the massive pile of disappointment that The Expendables was. But even if it is, it's still a good action movie. That which happens in it seems like something that could happen in real life, to and with real people. Unlike The Expendables, which was essentially something that seemed like it was executed by robots in a world of computers.
So, all in all I liked Jack Reacher. It was nice movie to watch for me to wash The Expendables and The Hunger Games out of my brain.
So I give it a 10.1* rating. It might have just been that what it was following up was one of the worst pieces of storytelling I've ever seen in my life, but it was still a good film to watch anyways. Yet another thing to add to my list of reasons why 2012 was a great year for movies.
So, I'll see you next week with my full review of -Azure Striker-: {GUNVOLT!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Azure Striker: GUNVOLT first impressions.

Azure Striker: GUNVOLT is a game on the 3DS eShop that comes out on Friday, August 29th.
I have to say, first impressions were good. Good music, good game, decent controls.
You play as Gunvolt, the Azure Striker. He's a blonde dude with a ponytail that goes down past his waist, and as his name suggests, he fights with electricity.

The sprites look absolutely stunning. So do the backgrounds. Visually it's a treat to behold.
Unfortunately, something I noticed is that bits on the HUD tend to overlap with other pieces of it. Gunvolt has an energy meter below him, and it is sometimes obscured by the forefront of the heads-up display. Not exactly game-breaking, but it's a little annoying.
The controls are a little less good. They're competent enough I suppose, but I don't appreciate only being able to shoot in two directions.
Years of Contra and Castlevania have trained me to want to shoot diagonally or upwards when there's an enemy in that direction. I hope it's not something really simple, because that would be pretty embarrassing.
And so onto the soundtrack. My god they did a great job on the soundtrack. It's like The World Ends With You almost.
I haven't heard a lot from the soundtrack so far, but what I've heard so far is great.
After dying once, a piece of awesome music starts up (More awesome than what's in the rest of the soundtrack) and Gunvolt gets a Super Saiyan aura around him. And he kicks tons of butt.

There are a few weird issues with the voice-acting, in that sometimes clips seem interjected at random.
All of the voice acting seems to be in Japanese, but to be honest that's actually kinda cool. It gives the game a certain mystical flair that a lot of games these days lack.

So all in all, aside from hand-cramps from the way I had to hold the 3DS, I had a lot of fun with Gunvolt in my hour or so spent with the game.

With the purchase of Azure Striker: GUNVOLT you can also get a free demake version of the game (Available between August 29th and November 28th), known as Mighty GUNVOLT. It features Gunvolt, Beck from Mighty No. 9 and the angel, Ekoro.
Ekoro is from a game that we never got in America. A rail-shooter called Gal*Gun.
Mighty Gunvolt is an NES styled demake of Azure Striker: GUNVOLT. A rare case that you see an official demake.
It marks the first appearance of Beck, the hero of Mighty No. 9 in any game, and Ekoro in an American release.
Maybe if there's enough positive response to this game Gal*Gun will get released here.
Anyways, it's a lot like Megaman in almost every way. The graphics, the gameplay, the difficulty......
The music is a pretty cool set of chiptune remixes of the soundtrack from Gunvolt.
At first, I thought that the enemies and stages were a little too nerfed compared to the ones in Azure Striker. Then I reached the first boss and found out that the difficulty had been seriously cranked up. I thought the first boss I got to in Gunvolt was hard...
Personally I think it went a little too far in the NES styling. First off, there aren't any 3D features. Second is that it uses the NES aspect ratio as opposed to the widescreen aspect ratio of the 3DS.
And third, it uses a lives system, which has always annoyed me. Plus, there's no options menu or save feature. It's got a lot of the good things about classic NES games, but it's also got a lot of the things I dislike about NES games.
The weird thing is, that if I was really good at Mega Man or Mighty Gunvolt I could probably beat it fairly quickly. It's only five stages, and I personally think that it's worth the price of free, but I wouldn't buy it myself.
NES style games have been taking a resurgence these days, but a lot of them are ignoring a lot of the good things we've gotten out of these almost forty years of gaming innovation.
Not taking advantage of the 3DS widescreen is a little bit annoying. Not having save features is also annoying because we've had them since the original Zelda and a game in this day and age not having any kind of save feature is bizarre.
I'm the kind of guy who likes to see the older things improved with better technology. That's part of why I like a lot of remakes. They usually polish the problems with the game while improving what we liked about the original.
So after having rambled on about the things I didn't like, I do have to say that if they would add in some modern save features and remove the lives system it would be a lot more tolerable to me.
Anyways, Beck seems a little overpowered. Gunvolt is pretty cool to play as, but Ekoro has her own stage.
Beck can slide under low ceilings, Gunvolt puts out an energy line you can control with the D-pad or Joystick, and Ekoro can make a defeated enemy join you and back you up with extra firepower, as well as fly short distances.
The boss for the stage Ekoro goes through is a tentacle monster that's held a girl captive.
And it sends out octopi to rub up against her cage suggestively.
Anyways, I'll see you on the 28th with my full Azure Striker: GUNVOLT review!
If I feel like being punished some more I might decide to go up against Mighty Gunvolt again.
Azure Striker: GUNVOLT will be priced at $14.99 on the Nintendo eShop, and will be bundled with Mighty GUNVOLT.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Expendables

The Expendables is a 2010 action film directed, written by and starring Sylvester Stallone. It's about an elite roup of mercenaries who are based in New Orleans and take on the kinds of jobs that other groups would turn down. It starts out with a nice action scene between The Expendables and some pirates. It's entertaining. After some character interaction between the leader of The Expendables, Barney Ross (Stallone) and his team, we move to a scene where, of all people Bruce Willis (Known in character as Mister Church) is hiring a mercenary group to fly down to a place in Central America or whereever and take out the local dictator. Then Arnold Schwazzenegger, playing an old friend/enemy/rival/friendly rival/it's not very well explaned of Stallone's characted turns the job down on the grounds that it's a suicide mission. This is all we see of them in the entire movie.
You heard me right. Bruce Willis's name is on the poster, he's listed on the DVD box, and he even makes an appearance on the poster, as you can see by looking to your left. So far there's not much story outside of some interactions between one of the team-members, Christmas, and his ex-girlfriends boyfriend.
We don't know who any of these people are, what they did before all this mess that pretends to be a cohesive plot, or even the background of Stallone's character. So far all I know is that they're essentially a discount version of the A-Team without the characters we all know and love. Speaking of which, where's A-Team 2? We've been waiting for it for four years now! And crap like this gets two sequels?! And makes back its budget almost three times over!
Well I guess that's my opinion of the movie given away in one sentence, but there's more review here, so I'd appreciate if you'd stick around for me to explain what I don't like about the movie.
So Ross and Christmas fly down to Vilena, the island that they're supposed to liberate to check out the situation and get the lay of the land. More action ensues and it's pretty cool. They lay out some pretty cool threads for a story, a story that gets laid to the side in favor of packing in as much action as possible into the ninety minutes that make this movie up. Granted that a ninety minute action movie can be good, Commando proved that. Unfortunately this isn't Commando.
Coming back to their base, the job having been declared completely unsafe even by their standards (But given that they utterly trounced the pirates at the beginning of the movie you start to wonder why) they begin looking into who hired them, and find out that Church and the guy pulling the strings of the dictator are both CIA agents and the guy down in Vilena went rogue.
Granted, there's no reason in the slightest as to why they couldn't just send an off-the-books team down to take him out themselves rather than hiring outside help that they'd need to kill or recruit later. Seriously, this is a major sticking point for me. There's zero reason for the CIA to do this! What's wrong here? Why did Church put out a hit on the guy instead of just using a black-ops wet-work team?
I hope this gets explained in the second movie, but I wouldn't be surprised if it wasn't.
So Ross meets with friend/brother/it's not very well explained Tool to talk about the mission, and we get the first little hint of information into the background of The Expendables. Tool talks about how jaded to death he'd become to let a woman commit suicide when he could have stopped it and laments not having done so. This sends Ross out on some kind of redemption quest to go back, save the girl who showed them around the island and bring freedom to Vilena. Now, given about an hour longer with the character, maybe going on a few more missions to show us who he and the other members of The Expendables were before we get around to them risking their lives to save a character we know very little about. Given about an hours more worth of character development and action and we might have had a better movie at this point.
So anyways, a member of Ross's team that got thrown out at the beginning of the movie (After having given us no reason to care about his character) has been hired by the CIA to take The Expendables out. Again, why don't they just send in their own people on an off-the-books mission to take them out rather than a guy whom the have no reason to believe won't just betray them and help out the people they want dead. So anyways, Jet Li's character joins up with Stallone to go down to Vilena, and they get ambushed by Dolph Lundgren's character, Gunner Jensen, the man who got discharged from The Expendables at the beginning of the movie. A dying Jensen tells Ross about the layout of Garza's, the dictator of Vilena compund.
Afterwards, Ross and Li's character, Yin Yang (And I've heard Jet Li speak, the accent he puts on for the role of Yin Yang is horrible) board their plane to head for Vilena and find the rest of the team waiting for them. This would be awesome or touching or whatever they wanted it to be if they'd bothered to develop any of the characters.
So anyways, the movie starts showing how little effort got put into it at about this oint. There's some nice action throughout the raid on Vilena, but the special effects look like they were taken right out of Alien 3. There are some really cool fire effects, and a lot of nice looking ones, but they had some really fake looking ones in a couple of scenes. I've seen better FX out of the average AVGN episode. The blood effects are the worst offenders, because they are in abundance during the last few minutes of the movie. They all pretty much look like the kind of plastic CGI you'd see in a PlayStation era FMV. IE, really fake against a background of real people and sets. Aside from the horrible blood effects and some noticibly out of place poorly rendered fire. Granted, not all of the fire looks bad, but there's some really bad CGI fire in a few of the close-up explosions. You'll know it when you see it.
So while the movie has some really bad CGI, and some terrible storytelling, and a disappointing ending, it's got some nice action scenes. I wouldn't recommend it though. Not when there are better action movies out there. Stuff like The A-Team and Die Hard 5. Yes, I know Die Hard 5 was't as good as the original three, but it was a good return to form from Live Free, Die Hard.
Now, I actually kind of liked how the liberation of Vilena ended, without Ross and Sandra getting together. It breaks some cliches, but unfortunately has followed too many more.
All in all, it's not a good movie. I don't know why it got two sequels, although considering how bad this movie was it did have a lot of room to be improved. About an hour longer and it might have been a better movie. There wasn't enough time in the 90 minutes of the movie for it to pack in enough characterization the way it was paced.
So I suppose I'll give it a 3.9* rating. I didn't enjoy it as much as the hype expected me to, and it wasn't as good as The A-Team. I'll see you guys next week with Jack Reacher!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is the 2011 sequel to Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. It takes place after Sam Witwicky has graduated from college, and most famously, broken up with his war-forged girlfriend Mikaela because Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg had a falling out with Megan Fox. But in universe she probably left him because he's an annoying ponce and he didn't stop her because she's a sadistic psycho.
Anyways, after a major coverup of the Autobot/Decepticon battle in Egypt, Sam Witwicky is now back to being a normal dude with the most annoying personality of all time. He's out searching for a job and living with his new girlfriend, Carly. In case you didn't know, Rosie Huntington-Whitely is a Victoria's Secret model turned actress who was chosen to replace Megan Fox.
So, in addition to Carly, Sam also lives with a pair of Decepticons who defected to the Autobots, Brains and Wheelie. I couldn't figure out who Brains was or even if he'd been in the last film. And Mikaela's dog. Why does he have Mikaela's dog? It's completely inexplicable and makes so very little sense that it just stinks of a movie that had characters thrown at the script regardless of their relation to the story. I mean, Sam's not even living anywhere near his old home town.
But that's not even the beginning of the movie. The beginning is the United States finding a crashed Autobot ship on the moon and decide to send someone up to investigate. That's the space program.
So, in a world where Transformers, Doctor Who and Men In Black exist in the same universe, this means that The Silence, The US Government and Boglodite's all want something to do with the US space program. Lot going on in a single week.
Anyways, I have to say that the guy they got to play JFK in the scenes where he orders a space program looks nothing like him. And whoever they got to do the voice sounds nothing like him. JFK's appearance and voice are some pretty famous things, and you know when they're not doing them right.
There's a montage and stuff with some footage and voice clips from the first moonlanding, and I have to say that instead of just re-using the footage we've all been seeing for the last five decades almost, I would have appreciated them just re-making all the shots, and maybe adding in new ones. They could have just re-used the voice clips if they wished, but a major sticking point with me about the opening scene was the usage of that decades old stock footage of the moon landings, it just seemed fairly uninspired.
Granted, Industrial Light And Magic was using its render farm at maximum capacity on the action-scenes, but still..... Granted, they did recreate some of the famous shots in CG, but not nearly enough for my liking. And they even had the actor playing Neil Armstrong lip-syncing to his famous voice clip, but why do that at all when he just has to start speaking in his own voice not thirty seconds from then?
Anyways, they find the ship and some Transformers inside of it (Obviously) and then the movie cuts to the Russian government requesting help from NEST at the Chernobyl facility. Optimus finds some piece of Cybertronian technology inside the facility and then they get attacked by Decepticons. The Autobots and NEST taskforce fight them off and return to base with the part. Apparently it's from the Autobot ship that crashed on the moon long ago.
Now, depending on your point of view Optimus's actions are either completely justified or utterly unreasonable, and I'm somewhere in between that. Granted that NEST not sharing information about the engine part would have been completely unjustifiable if Russia was part of NEST. Are they? Who knew about the engine part? These questions will never be answered and thus this part of the movie left me confused. Then again, considering how badly humanity has treated the Autobots I'm surprised that he didn't snap at them sooner. This is why Optimus is such a great hero, because no matter how poorly humanity treats him he will return and protect them. In a lot of ways he's like The Doctor. A wise, kind old man who returns to save his new home no matter what. I'm sorry, I need to remind myself that I'm not a Transformers fan sometimes.
Anyways, back to the annoying douchebag and his most certainly not funny parents.
For some reason, Sam didn't take the hint from the last movie and left Bumblebee to go with the Autobots on missions instead of sticking around. First off: The car Sam has is crap. Second: Bumblebee doesn't need fuel. Third: Bee is like a loyal puppy, and given how unlikable Sam is I'm surprised he sent the only friend he had away. AGAIN.
You see, this brings me to one of my problems with the movie. Sam hasn't learned anything since the last movie. For that matter, neither has any other members of the cast aside from Lennox and Epps. It seems like they reset to a default setting at the end of the last movie. That's..... Weird. And Sam has been passed over for anything other than a medal from the president. I'm serious, I thought he was going to be some sort of military commander by the time this movie rolled around. Sure a medal is nice, but he should have a job with them by now! Why isn't he at least serving with NEST? Why hasn't he done anything except devlove as a character? And how did he get a new hot girlfriend after the last one left? And why does the plot seem to bend itself around him to finagle a way to make him the linchpin of it all?
It was at this point in time I realized why. Sam is a Gary Stu.
For those of you who don't know, a Gary Stu is a fanfiction (And nowadays has been applying to actual literature more and more) term for a male original character that is essentially a blank slate for the reader, author, etc to project themselves onto. A blank slate isn't all that's necessary for the character to be a Gary Stu, because a story like that could be written from the perspective of personality-less bystanders to the plot. No, to be a Gary Stu the character has to be constantly catching the eyes of every pretty girl in the story, and the plot tends to bend around him to include him in it in some significant way.
Looking at the TVtropes page for Gary Stu's, Sam is almost certainly a variant of the "Geeky Stu" subtype at about this point in the story. The way the plot has to try to get Sam involved is so roundabout and it made me wonder why he was even in the movie to begin with. They could have made an entire series about NEST and the Autobots. Or better yet, just make that Transformers x G.I Joe movie I suggested last week.
But anyways, back to the movie and not my speculation.
Sam goes hunting for a job and gets turned down by a bunch of people because apparently getting a medal for saving the world twice carries absolutely no weight.
Okay, back to Sam. My perception of him is that by now he should probably have some kind of job advising NEST and the Autobots, or at least be a little jaded to his whole situation by now. The thing is, he's not changed a single bit in three movies and it really seems like he should have!
Meh, anyways. He finally gets a job at the one place that has a conspiracy nut who's been following the whole Cybertronian incursion since the beginning, who confronts Sam in the bathroom. Specifically inside a stall, after having jumped onto him. He introduces himself as....
......
"Deep Wang"
He says this three times. Three freaking times. And it doesn't get any less stupid the more he says it.
Jerry Wang then tells Sam about The Ark, the Autobot ship that crashed on the moon. Apparently Wang had been being manipulated by Laserbeak on behalf of Megatron and was trying to get a message to the Autobots.
Their boss, John Malkovich catches them and thus the mistaken for gay joke gets another century older.
Fortunately Wang gets assassinated by Laserbeak and Sam's office gets shot up so we can leave boringsville and the fun can recommence. Sam calls up Simmons from the last movie for some help in finding the Ark, and wind up finding out that almost everyone who was involved with the Ark has been killed by the Decepticons.
After having learned from the Russians about The Ark, the Autobots travel to the moon to scavenge the contents of the ship before the Decepticons can get there. On the ship they discover a comotose Autobot, Sentinel Prime. Along with him they find the Pillars required to transport matter from one place to another.
The Autobots bring Sentinel and the Pillars back to Earth. Optimus revives Sentinel with The Matrix of Leadership and we are introduce to Leonard Nimoy as a robotic version of Sean Connery.
No, I am not making this up. Sentinel Prime was modeled on Sean Connery.
Anyways, after locating the two surviving cosmonauts who had access to drone photographs taken on the moon, Sam and Seymour find that the Decepticons had been taking the Pillars from the wreckage for years on end and that they were laying a trap for the Autobots, as they lacked the means to revive Sentinel, the only one who could activate the Pillars.
I don't have a whole lot to criticize right here. Pretty good so far.
The Autobots and NEST rush Sentinel back to their base in what was probably the most confusing scene in the whole movie. You see, Sentinel turns into a military firetruck, but they never tell you take until about the time that he's in his vehicle form outside the base. I was wondering where Sentinel was until I realized that the truck must be Sentinel. What even? Anyways.....
Sentinel attempts to make off with the remaining pillars at the NEST base, and kills Ironhide after the latter attempted to stop him, revealing his alliance with the Decepticons to facilitate the resurrection of Cybertron.
He then teleports an army of Decepticons down from the moon, past all the early-warning Energon detectors NEST has set up all over the world.
While fleeing the Decepticon army, the car that Sam and Carly are in transforms, revealing itself to be a Decepticon. Since the car was given to Carly by her boss, Dylan Gould, we find out that him and his father before him have been working for the Decepticons.
The scene that follows is...... Well, kinda rapey. The car locks itself up and extends all manner of tentacles towards Carly. I've been on the internet long enough to see the implications of that.
Sam is forced to take a mini-con as a watch to find out what the Autobots and NEST are planning in retaliation.
The surviving Autobots are forced into hiding as Sentinel calls for their exile. Stupid is as stupid does, the new person in charge of NEST succeeds in exiling the Autobots from Earth.
The scene that followed is hear-wrenching. No contingency plan, no way to return, no possible way around the massive Decepticon army. Optimus laments this as they leave Earth. As the ship is taking off, it gets destroyed by Starscream, and for one of the few times in this and Revenge of the Fallen, Sam Witwicky shows some genuine human emotions, rather than just being an emotionless unlikable jerk.
So anyways, I actually kinda liked this so far. Granted, later on Gould starts showing a dangerous amount of genre blindness to his situation and grasps the villain-ball so tightly that I wonder if his character was written with any complexity at all.
The Decepticons seize Chicago, killing a lot of people in the process despite them having the ability to perform a completely bloodless coup. Since their main goal is to enslave humanity and rebuild Cybertron, they kill far too many potential workers and destroy too much structure for Chicago to be worth much to them.
Sam teams up with Epps from the last movie, who was working at NASA when the Autobots were killed and several other ex-NEST operatives to raid Chicago, stop Sentinel and Megatron, save Carly and destroy the Stargate that's being use to transport Cybertron into our solar system. This could have made for a really interesting adventure in guerrilla warfare between the humans and the Decepticons, and does for a while.
But when the rag-tag team is beaten down by the Decepticons, I still pumped my fist in glee when Optimus came in guns a-blazin'. Now there would have been a place to start playing "The Touch" but anyways.
The Autobots bailed out of a secret escape hatch they'd retrofitted into their ship. Not bad by trickery standards. Gives them the element of surprise when they attack and also makes for a great "Big damn heroes" scene.
Some awesome action scenes follow, my personal favorites were the ones with the Driller. Driller is one of the most complex renders in movie history, and it looks great. So the fights and action scenes were really entertaining, and while Sam takes a good deal of punishment that would kill anyone else in the movie.
The final battle is pretty cool, but the camera is too close in on Optimus, Sentinel and Megatron. There aren't enough wide shots of the fights for you to really enjoy them.
All in all, I know the movie has a ton of faults, but it's got some pretty cool action scenes. It's both a little better and a little worse then Revenge of the Fallen. Personally I think there was a great plot inside all of this mess. Removing Sam and his parents and his girlfriend from this movie and replace the plot role of Carly with Lennox's wife and we'd have a much better movie. Personally, I'd have preferred Lennox to be the hero of the series since he's a much more appealing character, and actually seems like a decent guy as opposed to an unlikable jerk.
So I give Transformers: Dark of the Moon a 6.3* rating. I'll see you next week with The Expendables!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is the 2009 followup to 2007's Transformers.
Some of you may be wondering why I'm choosing to review Revenge of the Fallen instead of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides this week, and the answer is the same reason why I'm not reviewing the first Transformers movie, or The Hunger Games: Catching Fire this week. To give those reviews context. You see, after we were done with the first three Pirates movies, we watched the Transformers movies we had. We'd already seen Transformers on TV several years back and it hadn't come in at the library yet, so we decided to go with it.
So anyways, before I begin I might as well just say this: I am a huge fan of Steven Spielberg, and for that matter I'm also a huge fan of Michael Bay's work. I don't think there's a single movie of his that I've seen that I didn't like. I also had no experience with Transformers outside of a Decepticon that I got for my birthday years before I watched the first movie (God I feel old now). And at the point that I'd watched this movie, the only other experience I had with the franchise was a Transformers Animated graphic novel I'd found somewhere. Going into the original movie I still knew who the main four were. I knew Optimus, Bumblebee, Starscream, and Megatron.
Someday I might get around to watching the movies in the right order, but for now I'm going to be reviewing them in the order I saw them most recently.
Now that the disclaimers have been gotten out of the way, let's get to the movie.
So Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen takes place some amount of time after the first movie. A cover-up of the Transformers means that not a lot of people know about the existence of the Autobots or Decepticons. An organization called NEST has been formed to replace the disbanded Sector 7. It's essentially the Joes from G.I. Joe with Autobots. Which leads me to something I thought during the film: Why didn't they make a Transformers x G.I. Joe movie? Or maybe just do what Marvel was doing at the time and have them at least take place in the same universe. It'd make for some really fun action and plots. I mean come on, wouldn't it be great to have Optimus Prime in the same movie with Bruce Willis?
*AHEM*
Anyways. The film opens with Peter Cullen narrating, as the last one ended and I have to say, if I was putting together a cast for an audio play, he'd be one of the people I'd call.
After that, it cuts to an action scene where the Autobots and NEST have tracked some Decepticons to a factory in Shanghai and something I have to say about it is that the action is amazing, and the CGI on the autobots is astounding. I was surprised by how good it was. I remember hearing Transformers fans complaining about the CGI, but good lord... Is there any other decent way they could have done it? Traditional animation would have just looked weird and there's no way in hell that puppets would have looked half as detailed as the CGI in this did. The level of detail they had on the Transformers is amazing. Pick a random part of one of them to look at and it'll have something interesting going on. Well maybe not interesting, but still. The computers they rendered this on must be BEASTS.
But anyways, in Shanghai they meet up with a massive decepticon and a smaller one disguised as a car. The massive one gets away, and they bring in Optimus to take it down.
Now, while I've never seen Transformers: The Movie, I have heard some of the things off the soundtrack (Thank you 331eRock) and the scene where Optimus drops from the plane to take on the Decepticon was absolutely begging to have The Touch by Stan Bush playing behind it. Granted, the theme they made for the movies is one of the few that have become as iconic as the original. Sort of like with the Spider-Man movies, I immediately recognize it as the Transformers theme.
After having seen the movie, I looked up the soundtrack and found that there was a version of The Touch made for this movie. And I listened to it. All the way through.
Good lord does it suck. They took an uplifting power anthem and turned it into a melancholic mess of disconnected rap-verses between crappy chorus lines and almost intolerable backing music.
Granted it was better after they took the rap lines out, but not by much. It's not better than the original, the remastered version, the 2007 version or even the Epic Guitar mix. What worse is that it was subtitled "Sam's Theme"
Again, I have very little knowledge of Transformers lore, but from what I've gleaned from the internet, The Touch was very much the theme-song of Optimus Prime. I read that they called it a "remix a-la Linkin Park." I don't know about any of you, but I like Linkin Park. Well, I like some of their work. Castle of Glass, In The End, New Divide, those are pretty good. This song was never suited for Linkin Park, or even people TRYING to be Linkin Park.
After a Decepticon beatdown the Autobots return to base with the NEST taskforce and proceed to get berated by an absolutely brainless bureaucrat who might as well have been dipped into the river of cliches as a baby for all he's a stock restraining boss character. Why does he exist? What purpose does he serve? Without him nothing would have been lost aside from a couple of absolutely pointless scenes, and there could have been a more creative way for the Decepticons to find out where the fragment of the allspark was. Then again, there are other things I'm going to get to later in the review.
And then we cut to the antics of Sam Witwicky, the least likable human being on the face of the Earth. After a bunch of pointless moments with his parents that could have been cut completely, he finds out that he's got a shard of the allspark in his jacket. It implants a bunch of Cybertronian knowledge in his head and then burns through his floor and brings the kitchen appliances to life, Transformers style. So Bumblebee fulfills his job as guardian and proceeds to bring the beat-down to these mini-cons. And then, for what seems to be a bunch of lines intended to fill space Sam and his parents berate Bee for destroying part of the house.
So. THE HELL. WHAT?! Come on people! They were trying to kill you and Bee saved your worthless lives! How does that make any sense in the least? None at all? That's what I thought!
Sometimes I like to play devils advocate and try to come up with a reason for the characters actions, but there's absolutely no reason for them to be berating Bee like that. Just call up the government and tell them that Sam found a piece of the Allspark in his jacket and it brought the kitchen appliances alive! In fact, that would have solved a good deal of the problems in the movie! I'm sorry, but who was writing this? Apparently three people did. I just have to wonder who thought that it was a good idea to NOT have Sam phone up NEST and tell them what was going on? And who greenlit this? Granted it'd probably be a completely different film without that but come on! Sam just gives the shard to Mikaela and then for an absolutely contrived reason, he leaves Bumblebee behind because the college doesn't let freshmen have cars.
Okay, I don't really have any experience with that, but Bee shows up at his school later in the movie anyways, so that's just plain pointless.
Although.......
Well the Allspark shard might be influencing Sam's mind into not turning it over..... But I'd have loved to have some kind of reference to that in the film.
Anyways, at college Sam's mom eats cookies that have some kind of drugs in them.
I say "some kind" because I've looked up the effects of THC on the brain and her reaction is nothing like what has been cataloged. Maybe someone laced the pot brownies with cocaine or purified caffeine? Who knows. Another scene that didn't really serve a purpose. It wasn't even funny.
Now Mikaela not going to college with Sam..... I don't even really know what the purpose of that is, since, like with Bee, she meets up with him later.
Speaking of Megan Fox, her character has locked the shard in the safe in her machine shop, but a mini-con comes along to steal it. His scenes are okay, they're actually pretty funny.
He winds up being caught by Mikaela, and she proceeds to torture him. Sadistically. Like she's taking some sort of sexual pleasure out of BURNING HIS EYE OFF WITH A FREAKING BLOWTORCH.
Not doing much to make the human characters seem sympathetic there people. I know he's a Decepticon, but A) Wheelie is less than two feet tall, and B) It's not like he poses any kind of threat to Mikaela. He has no weapons and isn't exactly strong.
Anyways, Sam begins hallucinating the Cybertronian language and essentially going nuts, drawing the answer to a problem in class all in Cybertronian and reading through one of his textbooks in under a minute. I don't really have any problems with this, since it's pretty cool and does a decent job of making Sam relevant to the plot of the movie.
 He then goes to a party with his conspiracy-nut roomates and winds up having Bee track him down because while Sam's been at college, the Decepticons followed up on what they overheard from that idiot of a security adviser, Galloway. They stole the Allspark shard that NEST had recovered (Remember, this is different from the one Sam has) and have used it to make more Decepticons, as well as revive Megatron. Guess that the pressure of all that water wasn't enough to crush Cybertronian metal.
At some point in time here, Sam meets up with Optimus and proceeds to ask why exactly he's necessary to the Autobots.
Asking something the audience was wondering. Thank you Sam! At this point in time this was exactly what I was thinking, and unfortunately Optimus doesn't tell him why. Just sorta vaguely says why they need him. Sam proceeds to do the stupidest thing he could in any situation and leaves Bee with the Autobots and the NEST taskforce. What even? Come on dude, you're hallucinating the language of Cybertron and probably have Decepticons coming after you and you leave your appointed guardian angel somewhere else?! Specifically telling him not to come with you?! COME ON!
Then Sam takes this girl, Alice back to their dorms and she proceeds to reveal herself to be a Decepticon. Granted I know I'm not remembering this correctly, so I'm gonna go watch the rest of that scene again.
Okay yeah. I knew that wasn't what happened. Instead the girl shows up at his dorm after some interaction with his roomate about the time when Sam was drawing cybertronian symbols all over the walls. I actually really liked the scene because Sam was freaking the hell out and it made for a nice spectacle.
Remember what I said I'd get back to? Well here it is. If you've got Decepticons that can turn into humans, why use them in an attempt to seduce Sam Witwicky? Why not use them to find out where the Allspark fragment is? There was a perfectly good, not cliched way they could have handled it and yet they wasted it on Sam! Yeah he's got info in his head but if the douche of a security adviser hadn't spilled the bolts on where Megatron was and where the Allspark piece was we wouldn't have had a plot!
Maybe they were trying to emphasize how very little the Decepticons can do right without Megatron, I don't know. Considering that at this point I hadn't seen Transformers in years I had no clue how competent they were under Megatron.
So Mikaela catches Sam with the Alice robot right before she was about to torture him for information. That's the Alice-bot, not Mikaela. So this leads to a bunch of pointless bickering and the Alice-bot almost strangles Sam to keep him from leaving the room while she tries to extract the information from the All-Spark from his brain. The action scene that follows is pretty cool, and I liked how it was resolved. Then the Decepticons air-lifted the car that Sam, Mikaela and Sam's roomate, Leo are in to their base of operations (In a pretty cool way I might add) and then threaten to rip his brain out unless he co-operates. Optimus and the Autobots show up and proceed to engage with Megatron until more Decepticons show up and overwhelm them.
Now, something I need to say is that, like At Worlds End, Revenge of the Fallen has some awesome fight-scenes. I especially loved the moment where Optimus shot a round at where he knew Megatron was going to be and hit. That was a great scene. In fact, the entire scene that followed was a joy to behold. Optimus Prime holding his own against an army of Decepticons? Awesome.
Now, the one behind this whole plan is the original Decepticon, "The Fallen". He betrayed the other Primes and they cast him out of their ranks. Megatron apparently answers to The Fallen, so one would suppose that the Decepticons' actions in the first movie were under orders by The Fallen, and that he was planning both incursions upon planet Earth. So why were the Decepticons' operating less efficiently under him in this movie? Maybe because he's a legend to them while Megatron is very real and very dangerous? Or maybe Megatron just comes up with the plans and The Fallen is resigned to let him do all the real work. Who knows?
Also, for some reason only a Prime can kill The Fallen, and guess who the last one is?
So anyways, while protecting Sam, Megatron stabs Optimus through the chest, killing him.
It was at this point I realized I was empathizing with the Autobots more than the human characters. I don't know if this was on purpose or a complete accident on the part of the crew of the movie, but I never really cared when Sam was in danger. He wasn't a very likable guy, and Optimus seemed like a kindly old leader who wished to protect everyone he could, even at the cost of his own life.
And it would just so happen that "The Death of Optimus Prime" off of The Transformers: The Movie soundtrack would start playing now wouldn't it? Good lord....
Anyways, Sam and company (useless as ever) retreat while the Autobots hold off the Decepticons to cover their exit. After the battle is over, Megatron says that the coast is clear for The Fallen to come down from space and start taking over the planet. The Fallen One hacks all (I repeat, all) of the telecommunication services on Earth to tell them to hand over Sam in return for not killing everyone on Earth. Sam, currently in hiding with Bee and two more Autobots in addition to Leo and Mikaela (WHY didn't they make it easier to spell her name?) sees the broadcast and decides to (finally) try and find someone who can help them decipher the stuff Sam has in his head. Leo conveniently enough knows someone who might be able to help and leads them to a deli where ex-S7 agent Seymour Simmons works. Simmons, who has spent some time researching the history of The Transformers tells them that Cybertronians have been on the planet for a long time. He apparently kept a log of a bunch of them. With the help of Wheelie, they track down the Decepticon defector Jetfire. Wheelie decides to follow Jetfire and join the Autobots. Jetfire explains what all The Fallen did to Sam and company and then teleports them to Egypt.
Now, I don't really have any problem with the exposition-dump Jetfire laid on us there. It was very informative, and it was something that the main characters genuinely needed to know. (To some extent anyways) It didn't really take away from the movie, and it filled in a few gaps. Too bad there weren't any scenes like that for why Sam didn't just call up NEST and tell them he had a piece of the Allspark. After some puzzle-solving the group finds what they needed to bring Optimus back to life, The Matrix of Leadership. Which is also the key The Fallen needs to activate his sun-harvesting machine that converts suns into Energon. Why it's spelled with a G instead of a J I don't know.
The Matrix crumbles to dust, but Sam gathers as much as he can into a plastic bag and takes it with him.
Now, at some point in time around here NEST dropped the body of Optimus off at their base. And I was practically screaming at the screen for them to treat him with a little more respect! The just. Plain. Dropped him. About sixty feet onto a concrete runway. First off, that would most likely damage the runway, and second off the man had just given his life to protect the human race! No gratitude, no respect, and no dignity! Galloway ordered the Autobots shipped off and Optimus's body with them. With absolutely no regard to anything else going on! He just ordered the one advantage they had to stop helping them and didn't even BOTHER seeing if they could fix Optimus!
Disregarding the orders given to them, Major Lennox leads a mission into Egypt to air-drop the Autobots in to provide cover while Sam tries to revive Optimus.
The Autobot/Decepticon fight is pretty cool, but after a while I wasn't able to figure out who was who. There's a reason why the Autobots were all brightly colored and the Decepticons were all drab in the original series, so you could tell them apart! I pretty much forgot who was who aside from the main handful of Autobots.
Now, Simmons and Leo were off running around during the fighting between the Autobots and the Decepticons with the two Autobots that came with Bumblebee and Sam earlier. Mudflad and Skid.
I know that they were accused of being racist, but considering they learned how to speak from the internet I'm glad they represented internet trolls in the Autobots. I actually kinda found them funny. Huh.
Anyways, they run into what was probably the most hyped bot of the entire film, Devastator. A total of about two hours into the movie and they introduce the single most hyped up Decepticon in the entire movie. I remember when Revenge of the Fallen was new thinking that "The Fallen" was probably going to be Devastator. And five years later I found out it was something entirely different.
Why did they do that? Leave the coolest robot of the entire movie until the end and then kill him off in a quick fight? Devastator could have made a credible villain for an entire movie!
I mean hell! Out of everything being said about the movie before launch the thing I most remember was promotion for Devastator being in it. Me having no clue about anything Transformers I figured he was what the title was talking about and figured he was probably going to be the main threat. Nope!
Anyways, moving on down from that little bit of disappointment I have to say that the climactic showdown was fairly fun to watch, despite it being a little confusing as to who was who at times.
During an airstrike called in by NEST on the Decepticons, Megatron shoots and kills Sam just as he was about to reach Optimus. In the afterlife, Sam met up with the spirits of the dead Primes, who gave their lives to keep the spark out of the reach of their brother. They heal him and give him the true Matrix of Leadership, saying that in his fight to bring back Optimus he has earned the right to wield it. Waking up from certain death, Sam slams the Matrix into Optimus' chest and brings him back to life.
I have to say, I wasn't all that broken up about Sam dying. It's just... Well I haven't exactly heard good things about Shia LeBouf (Understatement of the week right there brother) and I was having a hard time differentiating my dislike of the actor from my dislike of the character. Sam is a bit of a douche and not the smartest guy in the world, but he's not a terrible person. He did, after all risk life and limb to save Optimus. But at that point all I was feeling was relief that Optimus was going to take center stage away from Sam.
While Optimus was still recovering from death, The Fallen steals The Matrix and activates his sun-harvester. Jetfire, having been fatally wounded fighting alongside the NEST task-force sacrifices himself to give Optimus the edge he needs to beat The Fallen.
Here is where my love of these movies comes out. Optimus Prime, too noble to ask another to sacrifice themself for him refused to take Jetfire's parts, and Jetfire, too noble to let Optimus go into battle outmatched and die again defiantly rips out his spark and makes Optimus take parts from him, because he knows that he's dying and won't be able to help any other way.
No Sacrifice, No Victory just came on and I almost cried writing that line just above.
You see, for all its faults, Revenge of the Fallen was still a good movie. The robots are a great group of characters, and the action scenes are entertaining. It's not a great movie by any means, but it's still a good one. I can recount worse movies I've watched, certainly.
So Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen gets a 7.8* rating from me.
Check back next week for Transformers: Dark of the Moon.
Something I figured I should mention before I wrap up this article is that the ending credits were absolutely begging for Transformers by Lion to be playing during them. Granted, New Divide is a decent song, but with a couple of line changes Transformers or even a cover of it would have been a great way to end the movie. Funny thing, they actually made a version of the Transformers theme for this movie! By Cheap Trick of all people! You'd think that would be a recipe for success. 80s band for an 80s series, right?
I didn't research this, but I'm not even sure if Cheap Trick is the same lineup as it was in the 80s.... It's just that the version made for this movie was so.... Boring. No emotion, no decent beat to it... It starts out okay but it fails a short time into the song. I'm glad it wasn't used in the movie. Again, I'd rather they stick to Steve Jablonsky's score then use an unlistenable remix.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End.

At Worlds End is a 2007 swashbuckler fantasy film, and the last movie in the original Pirates trilogy, and an immediate sequel to Dead Man's Chest. If you remember the ending to that movie, then you should know that they killed the most popular character in the series and brought back the most definitely dead villain from Curse of the Black Pearl. Given what Hollywood has stooped to in the past to continue a series, this isn't the worst possible way to keep something going. Especially since they had a decent amount of foreshadowing to the twists.
Since Jack is dead and the Pearl has been sunk, the menace of Davy Jones has been running around the seas exterminating pirates. And apparently Jack is a member of the nine pirate lords, along with Barbossa. Barbossa brings in another of the pirate lords, Sao Feng to help find the entrance to Davy Jone's locker, where Jones keeps the people he's killed.
This raises the question as to why Jack and Barbossa are two of the nine pirate lords. Granted, you could just say they were in the right place at the right time, but that's just too much coincidence for two people to be named successors to two dying pirate lords, and also leads you to wonder why Jack didn't take Barbossa's piece of eight when he killed him in Curse of the Black Pearl. Unless this all happened between Curse and Chest. Knowing Disney it probably did and it was in a game or a novel that I didn't even know existed. Or I could just be trying to read too much into something that's trying to frame up more sweet action scenes for me to enjoy.
As far as the plot goes, it never really lost me anywhere. It got really contrived at points, but it's not like it took away from my enjoyment of the swashbuckling action and the humor of it all. I know that a massively complicated plot in a series like this essentially comes straight from nowhere, and I can see why a lot of people might not like that. It kind of muddled things for me, but I kind of liked it.
I know that plot points essentially come straight from nowhere and act like they've been there forever. Like the whole Pirate Lord thing, or the Brethren Council. Or for that matter, Barbossa being alive, why Tia Dalma, the random voodoo woman who happens to be an old friend of Jack is the woman that the Brethren Court imprisoned however many centuries before the events of any of the movies, Calypso. WHY is she Calypso? I guess it makes for a decently tight plot, and I've seen bigger coincidences in film history I suppose. Things that I haven't even addressed, and that get dismissed for the sake of the rest of the movie. Like A New Hope, or the first Pirates movie. There are many more, but I don't want to just fill space.
While At Worlds End's plot is so grandiose you'd think it was put together by George Lucas, it still doesn't take a lot away from the action and comedy. It's still heavy with all that makes it a good movie. Personally it's not how I would have handled it, but it still makes for a satisfying conclusion to the first trilogy. After the first two movies it makes for an extremely satisfying finisher to an epic series. While it's a little confusing, I'd still recommend watching it. It makes for an epic conclusion to the stories of Will and Elisabeth, and makes for a good continuation into the fourth movie.
And I guess you could say that it's similar to Return of the Jedi. It goes all out on everything. Special effects, the music, the action, the everything. I love it. It's still really great to watch and it holds up against a lot of movies that were made more recently with worse special effects and less cohesive plots. Not necessarily all in one movie, obviously. I haven't come across many like that in my film watching, but they exist.
All in all, I liked it. It's not as good as Curse, but it's still entertaining. I give it a 6.9* rating
Check back next week for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen!