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Review – Movie – John Wick (Chapter 1)

Occasionally a movie comes along that’s just so simplistically perfect in what it’s trying to present.  Recently it seems there have been two such movies, and John Wick is one of them.  Where so many movies try to make everything a deep metaphor or some sort of social commentary on the world at large, John Wick gives us a straight forward tale of revenge, with hints at a deeper world beyond.

I feel like this layered simplicity is what really makes this film work.  That and the top notch action choreography.  This movie is loaded with shoot outs and guys getting shot and beat up, but it all works extremely well and flows along very well.  Everything is intense and tight and fast, but it manages to keep some level of gritty realism as our hero gets injured and tired and remembers to reload his gun from time to time.  The centerpiece moment is the fight in the middle of the film in The Red Circle Club, as John Wick, chases his target through a crowded night club battling henchmen all along the way.

But the action isn’t the meat of this film, and neither is it’s revenge based plot, the meat is the rich criminal underworld created as the film moves along.  Specifically, the way John Wick never stops to explain anything to us, but still presents everything in a way that’s clear as to how things work.  Take the Golden Coins we see several times in the movie.  They are simple gold coins, probably valuable in their own right, but they also seem to represent more than just a coin, favors perhaps.  A way of trading trust throughout this world of mobsters and assassins where everyone knows everyone else.  John has many of them, and spends several of them in clear logical ways that give us the idea of what they are without hand holding the viewer along.

There is also John Wick himself.  John is a retired hitman for some powerful criminal organization.  We never get to see John Wick in his “glory days”.  Instead, we get the feel of just how much of a bad ass John Wick is by the way other characters react to seeing him “back in action”.  The way his old boss has nothing more to say than “oh” when learning that his son has pissed of John Wick.  The way his colleagues immediately respect him and treat him highly.  Through the vague story of what length John went through to retire and get married in the first place.    And of course through how determined and skilled John is at dispatching dozens of grunts along the way despite being “retired” for some years.

It’s this little detail that helps keep the action flowing without stopping to get bogged down in the details while simultaneously not leaving tons of “well what the hell does that mean” moments.  It’s a fine line that other similar movies often fail at because they are too vague with the details or too talky about it.

The movie itself may not be quite for everyone, mostly because it’s pretty violent, though it’s also violent in a way that’s not overly gory.  Another nice point of this film, it would have been easy to get gratuitous with the violence, with constant blood splatters and whatnot, but the film avoids these cheap gimmicks which just helps push that subtle layer of realism that I mentioned earlier.

The bottom line is, this movie is pretty fantastic, especially if you are at all into action movies with excellent fight choreography.

Review – Gunman Clive (3DS)

The Good

  • Quick classic style gameplay
  • Interesting and different art style
  • Game becomes more complex than it initially feels

The Bad

  • Game can be frustratingly “cheap” in it’s difficulty
  • Not an overly long game with not a ton of replay value
  • Some mechanics such as the weapons could be a little more refined

In Depth

Gunman Clive is a game that harkens back to a simpler time of gaming.  There isn’t a super deep story going on and the levels are all relatively short.  It’s very “arcadish” at it’s core, with it’s time tracking and death tracking, that is to day, the idea is more to beat your high scores, than experience some deep endless story or gameplay.  This isn’t a bad thing mind you, and there’s more going on here than it initially seems.

The basic plot is that you are a cowboy in the west and your girlfriend, or wife or whatever has been kidnapped.  You chase out, armed with your trusty side arm to rescue her.  The basic controls and gameplay remind me a lot of the old Mega Man titles.  Not for crazy power ups or level selection, but just the basic jumping and shooting only straight ahead sort of mechanics.  The levels themselves are much more classic platform shooter, something akin to a Contra game, especially with the power ups you collect along the way.  The game starts out simple enough, there are opposing cowboys to shoot down, sometimes there’s rabbits or birds swopping in.  As the plot advances along though it becomes apparent there’s a lot more behind the scenes as you travel through levels with more and more crazy technology and eventually head off into space battling aliens.

The game is divided into several themed “worlds” with 5 or so levels in each world.  Each world can be completed in around a minute once you get the hang of things, though chances are you’ll spend longer on each level working it out.  Each time you die you simply return to the start of the level to try again, there are no lives here.  As the levels advance, things get more and more complex.  Enemy cowboys start hiding behind things for example, and later you encounter robot cannons and various environmental hazards such as spikes and electrical beams.

At the end of each world is a huge boss.  The bosses are all pretty interesting and varied in their mechanics and design, I particularly liked the giant transforming train robot at the end of the Train world.  All in all the difficulty across the board is pretty simple, a lot of the puzzles and traps though fall into the category of trial an error.  You play through learning the proper timing of everything until you manage to get through to the end.  The most annoying aspects involve the enemies constantly respawning if you slide their spawn location on and off the screen.  Also annoying is that sometimes enemies drop new weapons which are worse than the one you have, except you can’t avoid picking up the inferior weapon.

Probably the main gimmick of this title is the neat art style used throughout,  The entire game is rendered in this sort of yellow and gray hand drawn motif.  It looks pretty cool without being super distracting.  Despite it’s simpler art design, there’s a lot of fun complexity going on, especially in the bosses and as the world progresses into the later worlds.

Gunman Clive isn’t a super complex title, but it’s a fun little indie game platformer.  It’s not the most replayable game though unless you are into score challenges.  There is a “Play as a chicken” mode that unlocks after completing the game though.

Review – S.H. Figuarts Sailor Mercury

Sailor Mercury is the second of the team behind Sailor Moon and the second to get a Figuarts.  She serves the brains of the outfit as well as the techie of the group.  She also has one of the lamest abilities in the history of people with abilities in any medium which involves throwing bubbles at her enemies.  Not even cool bubbles like say, Mega Man’s Bubble Man, but lame bubbles.

She does gain some more powers as the series progresses though, themed around water and ice.  Plus her usefulness to the team is more than her ability to be less useful in a fight.  Sailor Moon tends to just one shot all of the bad guys anyway with her crown.

Sailor Mercury isn’t a straight repaint of Sailor Moon, though not surprisingly, they do share many parts.  The basic design and uniform of the Sailor Senshi is pretty much the same across the board.  Ami has a different head of course, but she also has different boots and an entirely different set of hands than Usagi.

She also includes her little hand held computer device, in both open and closed models.  While it would have been neat to have had one computer with a hinged lid, having the open and closed versions are probably better at this scale for the sake of not losing parts and because the hinge probably would have just ended up being a floppy mess anyway.  She also includes an alternative hair bit that includes the visor she sometimes uses.  It’s a nice way to help differentiate the design more when standing the Sailor Senshi all in a group.

Otherwise she’s definitely very similar to Sailor Moon.  I haven’t had the same problems with loose hands that I had with the Sailor Moon Figuarts however.  Also, while the boots are similar in design, I feel like there must have been some minor tweak on Mercury because she also seems like she is easier to stand up without the stand accessory.

Figuarts Sailor Mercury is the logical next step after Sailor Moon and seems to do a good job of improving the little flaws with the design of the first Sailor Senshi.

Review – From Dust (PC, PS3, Xbox360)

2011 – Ubisoft – One Player

The Good

  • Interesting Gimmick where you manipulate the world using literal God Power
  • Eventually there is a sandbox mode, which is neat.

The Bad

  • The gimmick is way more limited than it is made out to be and the world tends to “right” itself
  • The above makes a lot of the levels frustrating since you try to do X but it just sort of fails…
  • By the time you unlock the Sandbox, you’ll hate the game play.

In Depth

Ok, I tried… I really tried. If possible, I try to complete a game before I do a review of it. This means being late to the game most of the time but it also means I get to experience all that the game has to offer, which is the way it should be. There are exceptions for various reasons, some games don’t have a real ending, some are repetitious enough that it’s clear nothing more is going to be gained by continuing onward.

Others become so frustrating and irritating I just can’t being myself to finish it no matter how hard I want to. From Dust is one of the latter set there. (more…)

Review – Movie – Xmen Origins: Wolverine

You know what’s quickly starting to become a ridiculously overplayed part of the X-Men Cinematic Universe?  The origin story of Wolverine.  I mean, ok, I get that he is a big part of the X-Men universe, and he’s been in every X-men movie so far except for Deadpool.  His origin was sort of touched on in X-men 1, X-men 2 went into much more detail as they return to Alkali Lake, Wolverine Origins gives us the details and events actually surrounding one origin of the event, Days of Future’s Past touches on it a bit with Stryker, we see it again, sort of, in Apocalypse.

How many times do we need to see this?  It’s honestly not even super interesting.  Maybe the upcoming Logan movie can give us a retelling of it with X-23 instead!  It’s also kind of fishy and questionable about how much this film is still considered “canon”.  Probably not a lot other than maybe the general idea.  Obviously the events of the Adamantium infusion are different, since they show up in a different film which occurs later.  Probably the most glaring part of out of canon is the Deadpool movie, which gives Deadpool a proper origin.  The Deadpool film does make some reference to Wade Wilson’s time doing wetworks ops though, depicted in the early part of this film, and Ryan Reynolds plays Deadpool in both films.

Speaking of Deadpool, the biggest travesty of this film, is the butchering of Deadpool.  I mean, ok, I “get” reimagining characters for the big screen.  Not every character will be identical to their comic counter part, some may be quite different.  There is a difference though between reimagining, and more or less name slapping a popular name on a nobody that has nothing to do with the character.  Not to get too many spoilers here, but the creepy shirtless mute with Wolverine Claw style swords that shows up in this movie, isn’t Deadpool, in any way shape or form.

The other big offender here is the special effects, in particular, just how god awful they get throughout the film, especially later with Wolverine’s Adamantium claws.  Considering this is like 90% of the identity of this character, the CGI is incredibly poorly done.  The lighting is all off, and often they don’t properly match his arms and hands properly, especially during movement.

There is some pretty decent Wolverine action in this film, and a lot of interesting appearances by other mutants such as The Blog, and Gambit.  Gambit’s almost wasted however.  He shows up kind of randomly when he does pop up and despite dropping Wolverine off to his final confrontation, he doesn’t actually participate in the battle.

There is also a subplot involving Sabertooth and Wolverine being brothers at odds.  As in literal blood related brothers.  The opening montage shows them working together through several wars, and eventually during a special operation involving Deadpool, a skinny Blob and some other mutants, they have a falling out as Sabertooth starts to get too violent for Wolverine to handle.  This whole plot point is honestly, a little awkward.  Wolverine and Sabertooth have always had a confrontational sort of two sides of the same coin relationship, but they were never brothers.  It’s a little bit of a weird change that doesn’t really serve a huge purpose.  The implication before this revelation was they simply lived in the same household, one a servant family to the other, this kinship would have served just fine as a catalyst for their later adventures, especially coupled with their shared “problem” of being mutants.

Generally speaking, there are just soooo many flaws in this movie, both large and small, that really kind of ruin it.  If you pretend Deadpool is just some sort of unnamed Super mutant and can forget about how ugly Wolverine’s claws look during many scenes, its not an awful movie, but at this point it’s also pretty much non-canon to the Xmen universe, so it’s probably not really worth bothering with.

Review – Overwatch (PC, PS4, X-Box One)

The Good

  • Fun Team based Gameplay
  • Loot system that never feels like you need to buy anything (though you can)
  • Large variety in game modes

The Bad

  • No way to trade duplicate item drops with other people
  • Game can feel a little repetitive after a while, several maps feel like facelift copies of each other
  • Social aspects could use some work

In Depth

It’s really hard not to compare Overwatch to Team Fortress 2.  They have vaguely similar art styles, the game play is the same sort of class based team shooter game, and the whole attitude in design is sort of “fantastical cartoon” without seeming overly kiddified.  Having played more TF2 than probably any other title except possibly World of Warcraft, I will say they are definitely similar and definitely gunning for the same audience.  Overwatch takes some different queues though in how it works things, which help to differentiate itself a lot from TF2, which leaves some space for both titles.

If you enjoy Team Fortress 2, you will very likely enjoy Overwatch, especially if you’re like me and got driven away from TF2 once the whole economy thing became the focus of the game more than playing the game.  This touches a bit on both a good and bad aspect of Overwatch.  Item drops come in the form of loot crates, which each contain 4 items, skins, sprays, emotes, voice lines, etc.  Nothing that drops is game affecting in any way, it’s all cosmetic.  The things that you’re likely going to care about the most, ie skins, are more rare than things that are kind of useless like sprays.  As of this time, there isn’t anyway to trade items with other players.  Extra items are converted into in game currency that can be used to buy different items.  This is a good thing and a bad thing.  It’s kind of bad because I’d much rather trade an extra rare skin for a different skin I want rather than converting it into a tiny pile of coins.  It’s good be because it helps keep Overwatch from developing an economy, which personally, kind of ruined Team Fortress 2.

You can also buy Loot Boxes, they aren’t a super great price, but they aren’t overly expensive.  Unlike Battlefield 1, you get a lot of them just by playing the game, and each contains 4 items.  You get a free box for every level you gain on your account, and you can get an additional 3 boxes each week for 9 wins in Arcade Mode.  There are also seasonal ranked matches which I believe give some kind of reward in the form of loot.  There is also the currency you collect in game through drops and duplicate items, so you can simply save up and buy the specific cosmetic item that you are after for your favorite character.  The point is, you can more than get away with getting plenty of items just by playing the game.

But enough about loot, it needed mentioning, but it’s also kind of an aside to the game.

The real core of the game is of course, gameplay, and with it, the roster of characters.  It’s also where Overwatch and Team Fortress 2 really differ.  Team Fortress 2 has 9 classes, though each of these classes can be set up through different loadouts to have different play styles.  Demoman for example, plays differently than Demoknight.  Overwatch instead simply has, more characters, 23 of them, with more being added over time to add more variety.  For example, both Sombra and Ana were added after the game’s launch.  Each character is surprisingly unique in play style and design and for the most part the game is pretty well balanced.

For the most part.  Some characters are definitely more played and more powerful than others.  That isn’t to say that you won’t see every character at some point while playing.  However you’ll see way more D.Va and Roadhog than Zaraya for the Tanks.  Also, each character gets an Ultimate Ability which can be unleashed after filling a meter by dealing and taking damage and even just over time.  Ultimates such as D.Va’s exploding mechsuit are super useful at wiping out an entire team, while other’s such as Sombra’s EMP or Tracer’s lame little grenade are kind of less useful.

There is definitely enough character variety to suit any preferred play style.  Also, except in certain game modes, characters are limited to one per team, so no need to worry about having a dozen snipers hanging around in the back ala Team Fortress 2.  There’s only one real sniper, (two but one is a healer), so you’ll only have one useless player hanging around 500 miles back.

Speaking of game modes, there’s the regular Quick Play, and Arcade.  Quick Play works as you might expect, select a character, then play in one of several pretty standard play modes, control points, push a cart, king of the hill, etc.  There’s also Arcade Mode, where things get a little more varied.  Most of the maps work the same, but there are elimination modes, where you die and don’t revive, unlimited mode where there aren’t limits on how many heroes can be on a team, 1v1 matches, or even specialized holiday maps.

That said, some of the maps can get a little repetitive.  The basic designs tend to be pretty different but many of them feel like there was a punch list of features to be added, main path, side path to the right, one upper platform.  It’s kind of subtle but there’s several that feel like at a base level, they are the same map.  Like if you took out the buildings and just made everything squared out walls, you’d have identical layouts.

Things like the arcade mode really help to break this repetition up a lot though.  There are several modes available and they cycle occasionally on what’s available.  Things like Mystery Heroes, where you get a random hero each death, or All Brawls, where all sorts of crazy rules come into play.  Some of the All Brawls limit teams to certain types of heroes such as all offense only.  Some let you pick only Genji and Hanzo, the two brothers.  One of the craziest is This is Illios mode, where Roadhogs and Lucio’s battle it out over  giant pit, the goal is more to throw your opponent in the pit than kill them.

Possibly my chief real complaint is that the social system seems kind of crappy, especially coming off of Team Fortress 2.  Granted, I was admin on a Team Fortress 2 server with a forum and a community and a clan, but Blizzard as a whole just has a pretty mediocre social set up next to Steam and Valve.  This is more of a complaint with Battlenet of course than Overwatch.  For example, I can’t just friend someone by saying I am “RamenJunkie”, because Battlenet adds these lame numbers so I’m “RamenJunkie#1476”.  There also just feels like there is less of a community in Overwatch vs Team Fortress 2.  No one uses voice either, which makes things feel a little lonely.

The bottom line is, Overwatch is a lot of fun and a great game.  If you’re not into FPS games you may not like it, if you prefer some gritty “realism” FPS games you may not like it, of course, but it is a good game.  I picked up Battlefield 1 and Overwatch around the same time period, and while Battlefield 1 started out as my preferred of the two, it grew really stale, while Overwatch has grown on me as being a lot more fun, and feels like it’s going to ultimately have more staying power of these two FPS titles.

Review – Marvel Legends – Juggernaut Wave – Havok

Someone working on this wave seems to have a hard on for Cyclops’ family, we’ve got his wife, Jean Grey (Phoenix), his son from the future, Cable, and his brother, Havok.  There isn’t a Cyclops, but we got one in the first wave of X-men with Jubilee and there is one in the next wave coming in 2017.  He’s Cyclops’ younger brother in the comics but older brother in the movies, though this is a decidedly comic book design.

He definitely doesn’t have the most amazing design for a super hero.  There’s nothing complicated going on here, he’s a dude in spandex with a funky helmet.  It’s a pretty well done figure, he’s just a little on the boring side.

He does have a pretty cool power, though not really any good way to portray it in toy form.  He absorbs energy and re-releases it.  As he absorbs energy he gives on energy waves, for the figure this is depicted using these attachable bubble effects.  These are similar to the circular effects we’ve seen a lot lately with Doctor Strange and Scarlet Witch, though it’s not the same effect piece.  Also, given how his power work, I find they work best attached higher up on his arms than on his wrists, since it looks more like he’s “emanating energy”.

Considering Hasbro seems to be against including things like fireball effects with these figures, there’s not much else he could have come with to make him more exciting.  Articulation is decent, though if you put the effects higher up on the arms things can get a little limited.

I do like his design though.  He’s pretty basic but the effect parts work pretty well and there’s something elegant about his design despite it’s blandness.

Review – Movie – 10 Cloverfield Lane

What an interesting psychological thrill ride here in 10 Cloverfield Lane.  The tagline “Monsters Come in Many Forms” is also a very appropriate descriptor, as there are monsters who are not monsters and monsters who are not monsters who are monsters.  There’s also a tiny cast, there’s only three actors involved in most of the movie, a fourth for a few minutes and a fifth who is only a very brief voice (Bradley Cooper, incidentally).

The core of the movie revolves around Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who is involved in an accident and wakes up locked in a bunker with Howard Shambler (John Goodman) and Emmitt DeWitt (John Gallagher Jr.).  According to Howard, he rescued Michelle after her accident and brought her to his underground bunker to save her from an unknown catastrophic event that has made the world above uninhabitable.  Emmitt also showed up at the bunker, having helped Howard build the place previously and this knowing of it’s existence when things in the world started to fall apart.  Howard isn’t sure if it’s aliens or nuclear fallout or just invading armies, but he knows things are not safe up above.

As the plot rolls on, things end up possibly not being too safe inside the bunker either, and is the outside world actually a radioactive alien infested dead zone?  Twists and turns to keep you guessing all the way to the end here.  The real flaw of the movie is that it’s the “Spiritual Successor” to the movie Cloverfield, and so if you know anything about Cloverfield, you kind of already have some idea of some of the truths this movie tries so hard to keep a secret.

The whole cast does an exceptional job here, especially John Goodman, who does a great job with being slightly slow and a little creepy while doing his best to just be the savior he thinks he is to Emmitt and Michelle.  It’s clear he’s not quite right in the head right from the start, just how not right is part of what keeps you wondering the whole time of his true motivations.

It’s a pretty good movie that I enjoyed a lot more than I expected.  It’s not quite a horror movie, more suspense, though it felt like it was somewhat billed as a horror film.  It’s also relatively clean with it’s PG-13 rating.

Spoiler-tastic thoughts beyond so be warned… (more…)