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uncharted

One of the best PlayStation 3 trilogies has finally come to the PS4 in Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection. The 3 games have been re-mastered and retooled to give PS4 owners a taste ahead of next years Uncharted 4. The first instalment released way back in 2007 was probably the first title that gave the PS3 the chance to show off the true graphic capability of the machine. The bright and vivid color scheme of tropical islands was really brought to life, a trend that continued in Uncharted 2 with the snowy mountains of Nepal and then again in Uncharted 3 with the deserts of the Sahara. Each game has always improved on the graphics and the action set pieces.

Now given that these games looked amazing on the PS3, they look even more amazing when matched with the PS4’s graphic capability. The smooth transition of game’s control system makes it a game that is easy to pick up and play if you haven’t played the games before. The makers Naughty Dog have always been by their own admission a 30 frames per second studio and given that they have doubled that for this re-mastered collection really shows as the game feels faster and a quicker pace to the action really shows.

The one thing that has always made the Uncharted trilogy stand out in my opinion is their attention to detail when it comes to their characters. The voiceover and motion capture work of Nolan North (Drake), Emily Rose (Elena), Richard McGonagale (Sully), and later on Claudia Black (Chloe) is top notch, they really bring the characters to life with performances that make you feel like you are watching a movie. I cannot recommend this trilogy enough for PS4 owners to pick up if they haven’t already yet.

Batman Arkham Origins

Batman: Arkham Origins is a prequel to the hugely successful and critically acclaimed Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City from developers Rocksteady. This is the first title in the series from new developers Warner Bros. Games Montreal.

The difference is not a big deal, but I’m afraid Origins feels like a copy and paste of Arkham City with very little added in terms of gameplay. The Bat-gadgets aren’t exactly an upgrade and no new combat has been added. The script is pretty decent, especially when you consider that Batman expert Paul Dini didn’t have any input on it. The voice acting is top notch with Troy Baker and Roger Craig Smith making more than worthy successors for Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill.

Batman Arkham Origins Penguin

As for other characters, Black Mask is severely and disappointingly underused. I liked some of the re-imaging of characters, such as Nolan North’s Cockney Penguin, who is a joy to behold. The new female Copperhead stands out as well.

I really did enjoy the game, but I felt it was too short. I completed the main story mode in under a week and when I came to load to do side missions I found the main story mode only makes up 30 per cent of the overall 100 per cent completion. Call me crazy, but I find that criminal. Games should be made to last, not just for online value as well as side missions. Like I said, Batman: Arkham Origins was enjoyable, but I couldn’t just shake the feeling that I’d been here and done it before. So I’d give it a…

***½

Posted on November 11th, 2013 by Kris Greet | Leave a Comment (2)
Filed Under Entertainment

escapeplan-still

To be honest I almost didn’t see this, from the trailers it looked like a rental, and after the abysmal The Last Stand I wasn’t excited about another questionable movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger in it. Yet I’m glad I let myself get dragged into seeing this because to my delight I found a lot more to Escape Plan than I’d expected.

Sylvester Stallone stars as Ray Breslin, a man who breaks out of maximum security prisons for a living so their deficiencies can be fixed. His latest assignment a privately owned, off the record facility called the Tomb where the world’s worst of the worst are disappeared to. When Ray is double-crossed and set up for a permanent stay he must put his talents to the test and escape a supposedly inescapable prison that makes a stay at Guantanamo Bay look like a honeymoon at the Bellagio. Aiding him is Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Rottmayer, a tough resourceful inmate, and watching over the facility is the cruel warden played by Jim Caviezel, designer of the Tomb and a man who has literally read the book Ray wrote on prison security (he’s got a copy on his desk.)

Escape Plan isn’t interested in tackling weighty subjects like incarceration in the United States or the legally and morally questionable extrajudicial prison systems where some secretly wind up. There are explosions, shootouts, and slugfests in this film. Yet they don’t dominate the entirety of the movie so this isn’t exactly the typical rollercoaster action vehicle you’d expect from either of these actors. For most of its 115 minutes it’s more of a thriller with an elaborate escape plan and twists and turns in the plot. Breslin must outwit the system and its architect Warden Hobbes, probing and observing to find the Tomb’s vulnerabilities.

At times it’s too convenient and our villains deaf, dumb, blind, and stupid when required. For example, early in his stay at the Tomb we see Breslin with Rottmayer casually walking near a guard, openly talking about an escape plan. Breslin and Rottmayer are easily the two most dangerous inmates but no one sweats them being inseparable until two-thirds of the way into the movie. Things like these strain your suspension of disbelief, but its never actually broken so the attempts at escape keep you interested and excited over the course of the movie. Okay… maybe it’s kind of broken when Stallone’s character MacGyvers a sextant out of random trash and is able to more or less figure out exactly where he is from the latitude and climate during that time of year… but it’s mostly never broken!

The performances are solid. Stallone puts in a strong showing with his usual acting, I think it will just come down to whether or not you like what Sly’s built his career on. Jim Caviezel is delightfully evil as Warden Hobbes. In The Last Stand Arnold Schwarzenegger was tired and dull just like that movie, making me question why he bothered unretiring. However, with this film I had to eat a healthy plate of crow and I did it with a big grin. Arnold dominates as the funny and tough Rottmayer with undeniable screen presence and charisma, reminding you there’s a reason he was one of the world’s biggest stars in his prime. He supplies plenty of laughs and keeps the film from taking itself too seriously.

Considering each of Sly’s and Arnie’s last movies bombed, Escape Plan likely won’t be in theaters for very long. This isn’t necessarily the special-effects heavy action extravaganza that benefits from a theater-going experience, but if you like Stallone or Schwarzenegger, heck even if you just want to see a decent flick, think twice before passing this up. It’s true that for the box office this pairing would’ve been better thirty years ago, but it’s still great to see these two legends have lengthy screentime together. Not because of any sense of novelty, but because they have great chemistry and play off each other well in a genuinely good movie that’s a little different from their usual fare.

***½

Poster - Pacific RimI’ve always been confused by the popularity of Guillermo del Toro. Fanboys and girls have been nuts over his properties for years; yet, whenever I watch any of his films, I feel like I’ve been letdown. Why is that? Is it because of the hype, most of which he can’t control? Maybe. Is it because of his enthuasim for projects that, quite frankly, I have interest in? Possibly. Or is it because of the visual edge he always seems to bring to his project? Again, that’s a real possibility. However, save for Pan’s Labyrinth, I’ve always walked away from a del Toro film with a feeling of wanting more from this supposed creative genius.

So, when I found out about Pacific Rim and its concept — I was intrigued. Giant Robots vs Giant Monsters — what testosterone fueled man wouldn’t love that? Add to it a stellar cast (Charlie Day, Idris Elba, Charlie Hunnam, Ron Pearlman, etc) and a script from Travis Beacham (who wrote the great “Killing at Carnival Row” script that has yet to be made) and my expectations were heightened. This could be one of the most epic films ever made and I couldn’t wait for the experience. Needless to say, I wish I could have waited because what I saw was a letdown — a major letdown.

A weak story killed this movie. Aside from the epic fight scenes, there was no real story and no real characters. People went through the motions and at no point did I feel anything for any of the major characters except for the Asian lady. And, the only reason I felt anything for her was because the child actress playing her in a “drift” sequence (A flashback sequence, essentially) was so good as a terrified little girl that it was the only part that made me feel for any character, at their core. Raliegh’s (the lead guy) brother’s death at the beginning did not make me feel anything when it should have. There was also a distinct lack of females in this film and was surprised by it. Normally, it’s not a critique that I’d make but there was only one lead female in this ensemble. Although, I liked his performance, Clifton Collins Jr’s character could have easily been made into a female to add an extra shot of much needed estrogen into this picture. Hell, you didn’t have to change any lines for him, and could’ve gotten away with making his character a lesbian. Charlie Day stole the film and was the standout as a Kajiu loving scientist named Newt and he cemented his status as a bonafide movie star with his performance here.

Pacific Rim

The big selling point, the fights, were surprisingly hidden. What do I mean by this? Well, every major fighting sequence occurred at NIGHT. What? At night? What does that mean? Essentially – you never saw anything during the fights because the Kajiu and Jaegers were masked by the night. Now, I’m assuming this choice was made to cut down on the CGI costs but come on — when you know your final battle is going to be (SPOILER ALERT) AT THE BOTTOM OF THE OCEAN (/SPOILER) then you can set your second act fight during the day. Sure, there were glimpses of daytime fights, seen in a flashbacks, but those were only that — glimpses. Nothing longer then a few seconds here and there. The big battles — were all at night. A choice I HATED and did not understand from a purely story perspective.

There was also some very weird character choices made throughout this film along with some very obvious allegories being thrown in for good measure (like the fact that the governments decide to build giant walls to “keep the Kajiu’s out” ala the wall being proposed by the US to stop Mexican’s from hoping the border). I blame this on the writing and well, del Toro’s influence over the project. I have a feel he was behind all of these decision’s and Beacham was just following orders because he’s a good writer (as seen in glimpses in Pacific Rim).

At the end of the day, a weak story, hidden fights (again, why were all the major fights at night?!?), some weird character choices, and the lack of emotional connection to the story and characters caused Pacific Rim, sadly, to be a letdown. I wanted more because I thought there’d be more to love about this.

My recommendation? Wait for this to hit the dollar theaters then watch it. If not, wait for it to show up on Netflix.

**½

Evil Dead Remake

“Oh great, another boring horror remake!” That’s probably what went through most horror movie buffs’ heads when they heard that Sony Pictures Entertainment was remaking the 1981 classic horror film The Evil Dead. “They are going to destroy the character of Ash from the original Evil Dead, just like they did to the iconic Robert Englund version of Freddy Kruger in the remake of Nightmare on Elm Street, aren’t they?!” Well, not quite. As a matter of fact, the character of Ash isn’t featured in this remake at all. This is one of few films where diehard fans of the original (and even some critics, scoring a 62% on Rotton Tomatoes, which is high for a horror film) have actually praised the remake.

The film, directed by Fede Alvarez, centers around four friends who gather in a cabin out in the woods to help another friend kick a bad drug habit. Upon arriving to the cabin, the young adults start exploring the place when they come across a book that appears to be made of flesh and written in blood. Of course, one of the nosey teens just HAS to pick up the book (which clearly says in it DO NOT READ) and reads a passage out loud, thus putting a curse on one of them. Once this happens, eerie stuff starts to happen to one of the girls, and any time blood spread from one person to another, they get infected, just like a virus. It eventually infects most of the crew and the only way to save them is an ancient burial of sorts and other rituals.

This movie is pretty brutal. There’s definitely plenty of blood and missing limbs in this remake. Now, this film was not only backed by original director Sam Raimi, but he himself actually helped produce it, along with Bruce Campbell, who played the main character “Ash”, in the original Evil Dead trilogy back in the 80s and early 1990s. The film used practical effects for most of its gore, and there’s a lot of it! As a matter of fact, it didn’t pass its’ first few rating screenings due to the amount of gore it contained and several scenes had to be edited or re shot to cut down on the goriness. Was this movie perfect though? No, it’s a horror movie. Of course you’re going to have your clichés (teen/young adults in a random cabin in the middle of nowhere, getting into stuff they shouldn’t be doing), your terrible acting, and your unrealistic plot. But, once again, it’s a horror movie, it’s not meant to be perfect.

Overall, I’d say this was a pretty well made and fun film. If you’re a horror film fan, you should definitely check it out. Also, if you’re a fan of the original “Evil Dead” franchise, make sure to stick around after the credits for a little surprise. It is not much, but it is still something that will make your inner fanboy feel “Groovey” on the inside.

****½

This guest post was written by Eddie D. Shackleford. He is a Senior Editor with Cable.tv and writes about entertainment, movies, sports and more. You can follow Eddie @Eddie20Ford

The Last of Us

Left 4 Dead, Resident Evil and several other games have cemented zombies into a sub-genre for survival horror gaming just as Romero managed to pull off with cinema. Yet, something always felt like it was missing. Sure, us gamers had our Night of the Living Dead equivalents with games like Valve’s cult classic and hell, we’ve even had our version of campy Return of the Living Dead type of horror with last year’s Resident Evil 6 or House of the Dead: Overkill. But when would we get our character studies, our 28 Days Later that mixed brutality with extensive character development and equally interesting set pieces. Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead delivered the emotional goods but left fans wanting when it came to gameplay, and that’s where Naughty Dog comes in.

The Last of Us, released on June 14, is a game that I believe will be thought of as a turning point for gaming. Oh, and it’s fun.

You play as Joel, a survivor who isn’t uncomfortable with the idea of getting down and dirty to survive. Your task? Deliver 14 year old Ellie from the safety of the Boston quarantine zone to just outside city limits so that she can be picked up by local anti-military militia, the Fireflies. Of course it’s not that easy, and of course things don’t go exactly as planned.

The Last of Us

You face two immediate threats. First, the zombies, which are humans infected by a fictionalized strain of the real cordyceps fungus (though the real-life version can only infect ants) and come in multiple different flavors, each more terrifying and threatening than the last. Second, hunters that seek to kill in order to get the supplies that they need, and sometimes for fun.

From a gameplay perspective, the game is fun, brutal and bolstered by smart AI. A scenario that caught me off guard occurred during the game’s first act. After being encouraged to sneak past a gang of three hunters who linger in front of a department store, I decide to take them head on, first with sheer firepower. Two of the hunters wield pistols of their own, the third (unarmed) realizes he’s outmatched and runs behind cover. After his two friends perish in a hail of gunfire, he hears my pistol click empty. He bellows a feral shout, part predatory, part joy and attempts to beat me the ol’fashioned way. Little did he know about the pipe strapped to my back which after a couple of brutal (this point exclaimed by Ellie who shouts “Oh my god Joel!” after the climactic strike) hits destroys the man’s face. After the battle, I decide it’s time to continue on, and the moment I enter the department store I realize my mistake. Another goon begins to choke me out from behind, but Ellie quickly tosses a brick at his head. After I manage to strike him down with the wrath of my pipe, I realize that his six other friends might have something to say about it…

The game’s tight, and sleek controls help the combat system and the crafting system adds to the feel that Joel is a scavenger and the world is a scavenger’s playground at this point.

The sounds of the game cover a range of emotion, from fresh and relaxing, to the intense fervor that accompanies imminent attack. Composer Gustavo Santaolalla showcases the skills that guided him to two Academy Awards. Past the actual soundtrack, the voice-acting by Troy Baker (fresh of a magnificent performance as Booker DeWitt in spring’s Bioshock Infinite) and Ashley Johnson is original and always welcome, with the least amount of recycled lines possible.

The Last of Us

The Last of Us also comes with a multiplayer that seemed to be a tacked-on addition, but it adds legs to an already strong game. The two game modes Supply Raid (4 on 4 deathmatch with an emphasis on scavenging and crafting) and Survivor (4 on 4 deathmatch with no respawns) either lead to all-out 10 minute shootouts, sneaking/flanking escapades that leave chilling silent moments as you search for items or a crazy mixture of the two.

Ellie tells me she can’t swim, but the only way across the area in-front of me involves an impromptu lesson in aquatics. I eventually find something she’s able to cross on, and after she gets to the other side, and I climb up onto the ledge beside her, a small triangle hovers over Ellie’s head as she raises her hand up. I hi-five her and she comments on it, and I think that’s one of the things in the game, the small things that shows why Naughty Dog are one of the premier developers heading into the next console generation.

To end off this review, to call The Last of Us the game of the year would be insulting to it, as its quite better than any other game I’ve played this decade. Hell, its plot which is rich with development and emotions and raw intensity is better than quite a few films I’ve seen this decade either. The Last of Us reads more like a promise if anything, or even a manifesto. A promise for changes to come, and a future for gaming that can’t arrive soon enough.

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES
With The Dark Knight Rises now on Blu-Ray, we thought that this would be a perfect time to revisit it with a Mini-Review. The scope here was great and that was my favorite part of it. The cast was amazing, the writing top notch, and the directing was great. I liked this more than The Avengers which I felt became too cluttered as it went along. Lots of recognizable faces in this one. Definitely better then Batman Begins, but just a step down from The Dark Knight.

Overall, this is a great way to end one of the greatest trilogies in film history. Nolan did with superhero films what Coppola did with mob movies. He reached and got to a bar higher than what anybody would ever expect from a film like this. It was definitely worth seeing in theaters (twice) and you should own it on Blu-Ray. I hope Warner Brothers sees what Nolan did and allows for that spin-off to happen, if you know what I mean (and those who have seen it will know what I’m talking about).

If you haven’t seen this one yet, make it the next movie on your list.

****½


Check out these Batman related Blu-Rays for sale…

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