Friday, January 29, 2016

Video Game Review: Gears of War 3 (Xbox 360)

Gears of War 3 (Xbox 360)
Developer: Epic Games
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Genre: SciFi Third-Person Shooter
Platform Played For Review: Xbox One via Xbox 360 Backwards Compatibility

" of the best games, shooter or otherwise, of the last generation."

Two years after Jacinto, a new enemy has emerged, the Lambent, forcing to COGs to find refuge at sea on helicopter carriers...

Gears of War 3 continues the story of Marcus Fenix, his band of allies, and the fight for survival. The COG have essentially been crippled due to the disappearance of Chairman Prescott and several other losses. The survivors find themselves adrift at sea, continuing the fight for Sera against a new foe – the Lambent. When Prescott reappears, Marcus discovers the status of his father, Adam Fenix. Adam is alive and well, working on destroying the Lambent once and for all. So, Marcus, Dom, Baird, Cole, and a set of new active Gears, such as Anya and Jace, head out to save Adam and win back Sera. Much like the original, most of this game feels like a grand adventure from one place to another a la Lord of the Rings – I enjoyed this vibe. The story takes you on a roller coaster with massive action set pieces and effective drama. The ending is also superb, including the strong final boss. This is how you finish a trilogy and leave an impression.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Film Review: Visions (2015)

Visions (Review)
United States/2015
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...a very boring and hollow film."

After a fatal car accident, Eveleigh (Isla Fisher) and her husband, David (Anson Mount), move to a vineyard in hopes of creating a new life. However, as the pair settle in, Eveleigh begins to experience strange visions...

Visions begins with a fatal accident – Eveleigh is involved in a car crash involving a baby. One year later, David and a pregnant Eveleigh move to a vineyard. During a party, Helena (Joanna Cassidy), a locally famous wine steward, has a bizarre incident in the home. The couple try to shrug it off, but Eveleigh soon begins to suffer from bizarre hallucinations. David tries to put her back on antidepressants, but she vehemently refuses. She meets a fellow pregnant friend, Sadie (Gillian Jacobs), and... basically tries to cope with her visions. That's really all that happens throughout the film. A vision, discussion about going crazy and medication, another vision, another discussion, repeat. It eventually reaches its conclusion. Most of the ending is, unfortunately, predictable. It's a bit different from the typical supernatural horror film, but most of it can be seen from far. It's not bad, especially since it finally picks up the pace, but it did feel poorly-executed. I mean, the film has this dramatic pause when it reveals its revelation, but I barely felt anything since it was figured out beforehand.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Film Review: The Veil (2016)

The Veil (Review)
United States/2016
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"It's not a poorly-made film, but it is utterly disappointing."

Twenty-five years after a religious cult commits mass suicide, filmmaker Maggie Price (Jessica Alba) contacts Sarah Hope (Lily Rabe), the only known survivor of the suicide, in hopes of creating a documentary about the incident...

The Veil follows Sarah, Maggie, and Maggie's documentary crew. The group visit Heaven's Veil, where the mass suicide occurred, and begin investigation. Sarah leads the crew to an old house that was not found by the FBI during the raid. At this dilapidated shed, the group stumble upon a recording room, a tape, and several rolls of film. So, the group watch the film and discover details about the incident. We learn more about Jim Jacobs (Thomas Jane), the cult leader, and his intentions – escape the human form and live for eternity. From here, the film jumps back-and-forth between Maggie's work and Jacobs' found footage. (It's not shaky found footage we know from other films, but they do technically find his footage.) There are a few interesting plot points here, but nothing surprising. Even at a measly 90 minutes, the film felt a bit bloated – some notable filler and unnecessarily long-winded scenes. The ending was decent. It felt a bit rushed, but it was okay.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Film Review: Sleepaway Camp (1983)

Sleepaway Camp (Review)
United States/1983
Format Viewed For Review: Amazon Instant
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...with today's state of horror, you surely won't find any films taking as many chances as Sleepaway Camp."

After a horrendous speedboat accident, Angela Baker (Felissa Rose) and her cousin, Ricky (Jonathan Tiersten), are sent to Camp Arawak. Soon after their arrival, the bodies begin to pile in a string of 'accidental' deaths...

Sleepaway Camp is a slasher film. In terms of plot, there really isn't much more to say. Angela and Ricky arrive at camp and people start dying – the menacing camp staff, the obnoxious camp counselors, and the campers. Angela is picked on for being quiet and Ricky constantly gets into trouble for fighting – often while trying to defend his cousin. Anyway, people linked to Angela and Ricky suffer violent deaths. The staff try to sweep them under the rug as accidents, but it eventually worsens. It's nothing out-of-the-ordinary, but that's not too bad. The movie released during a bustling time for the slasher genre. Okay, maybe I lied a bit. Wait until you get to the ending and you'll be hit with quite the surprise – wow!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Film Review: Tremors 5: Bloodlines (2015)

Tremors 5: Bloodlines (Review)
United States/2015
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"Despite the generic story and inconsistent pacing, the film is entertaining."

Monster hunter Burt Gummer (Michael Gross) and his new cameraman Travis Welker (Jamie Kennedy) head to Africa to hunt down creatures known as "Ass-blasters," as well as many more...

For those who took a hiatus from the franchise, Tremors 5: Bloodlines starts off with a faux promotional video from Burt Gummer's program. And, fortunately, this introduction is quick and efficient, catching us up to speed within minutes. The rest of the plot is fairly basic stuff. Burt and Travis head to Africa when they're commissioned by Erick Van Wyk of the South African Wildlife Ministry to capture an "Ass-blaster." So, the pair arrive and begin the hunt. To their utter surprise, the creatures have evolved with the change in territory Рthat includes changes in form and method of attack. There's a twist here and there, but that's practically the entire plot for you. The twists in the film can also be seen from a mile away. The ending is clich̩ but decent.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Film Review: The Complex (2013)

The Complex (Review)
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"The combination of the been-there-done-that story and the ridiculously slow pace create an often dull movie."

Nursing student Asuka Ninomiya (Atsuko Maeda) moves into an apartment complex with her family. All is well until she begins to witness strange occurrences in the complex...

The Complex follows Asuka as she settles in her new home. She tries to meet her elderly neighbor, but to no avail – the man does not answer. In the meantime, she goes to school and befriends a young boy at the park. While living in the apartment, she hears her neighbor's alarm and strange scratching on her wall; she also witnesses her parents having the same conversations multiple times, which is a blatant hint of what's to come. At this point or so, the film reveals some of its 'twists.' Unfortunately, it's the same old bag of tricks. To be blunt, if you've watched hundreds of films in your life, you'll see everything coming from a mile away. The ending still packs a nice punch, though, so it's not an 'all-is-lost' situation.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Video Game Review: South Park: The Stick of Truth (Xbox 360)

South Park: The Stick of Truth (Xbox 360/PS3/PC)
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Genre: RPG
Platform Played For Review: Xbox 360 via Xbox One Backwards Compatibility

"From its visuals to its audio, from the witty writing to the direction, Stick of Truth is a superb recreation of the show."

The New Kid moves to South Park, lacking memory of his peculiar past. His parents send him to play outside, where he quickly befriends Butters and joins Cartman in the Kupa Keep...

South Park: The Stick of Truth is a role-playing game. You play as The New Kid – quickly dubbed "Douchebag" by Cartman. As Cartman prepares to show you the almighty Stick of Truth, Kupa Keep is attacked and the stick is stolen. From here, you go on an absurd quest to retrieve the Stick of Truth – more than once, at least. This wild quest includes school raids, abductions and UFOs, government agencies and a huge Taco Bell, as well as the wonderful cast of the series. Your quests, main and side, will take you through iconic South Park locations to meet and aid hilarious characters; your journey will perfectly spoof and poke fun at some of the most popular video games. So much more happens in this plot, but I don't want to spoil it. I played with barely any knowledge prior and the story brought a glowing smile to my face. The ending was hilarious, too.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Film Review: Tomie: Unlimited (2011)

Tomie: Unlimited (Review)
Format Viewed For Review: Amazon Instant
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: Yes

"It's bizarrely entertaining, I suppose."

Tsukiko (Moe Arai) is rattled when her older sister, Tomie (Miu Nakamura), returns home one year after her death...

Tomie: Unlimited is a very strange film. The story begins by introducing us to a set of characters; siblings Tsukiko and Tomie are the most significant, though. Anyway, Tsukiko is jealous of her sister's beauty and popularity, especially since Tomie has Tsukiko's crush wrapped around her finger. Out of nowhere, Tomie is impaled and killed – really, it's completely out of nowhere. Fast forward one year, Tomie shows up at her home, shocking Tsukiko and her parents. Although she seems fine, unscathed and human, bizarre events begin to occur and Tomie's monstrous side eventually emerges. Tsukiko finds herself struggling to cope with her sister's inexplicable return and strange powers. The film leads to an interesting ending, as well.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Film Review: Pay The Ghost (2015)

Pay The Ghost (Review)
United States/2015
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...I was more disappointed than anything."

One year after his son's disappearance, Professor Mike Cole (Nicolas Cage) begins to see and hear his son, which leads him into a haunting underworld...

Pay The Ghost is a run-of-the-mill horror film. The film begins on Halloween. Everything is falling together well for Mike and his family – his wife, Kristen (Sarah Wayne Callies), and son, Charlie (Jack Fulton). On Halloween, Mike and Charlie visit a fair. During the fair, Charlie vanishes without a trace. Fast forward a year, Mike is still searching for his son and Kristen is trying her best to cope – add in an obligatory "You were supposed to watch our son" line from Kristen. Eventually, Mike begins to see and hear his son – he begins to feel his presence. Mike begins investigating with the help of Kristen and the pair delve into a phantom's poignant story. I liked bits and pieces of the ending, but I did find it a bit cheesy and underwhelming – the former due to the visuals and the latter due to the lack of impact. The pieces of the ending that I enjoyed, I can't really explain or I'd be spoiling the film.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Video Game Review: Pneuma Breath of Life (Xbox One)

Pneuma: Breath of Life (Xbox One/PS4/PC)
Publisher: Deco Digital & Bevel Studios
Developer: Deco Digital & Bevel Studios
Genre: First-Person Puzzler
Platform Played For Review: Xbox One

"It has an interesting story, but the execution was flawed."

Pneuma: Breath of Life is a rather simple video game, so I won't ramble much in this review. (Far less than the main character in Pneuma, at least.) The character you control believes he's a god. His creation is spontaneous, much like the world around him. He goes from one place to another, yammering about his purpose and his abilities. Occasionally, he questions his existence – if he's a god, why can't he walk through walls? It's a very blatant existential crisis. That's... That's about it, really. It all leads to a very interesting ending. Unfortunately, due to the lack of subtlety, it's a fairly predictable finale. I didn't hate it, I actually liked it, but it did feel underwhelming.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

TV Review: Darknet (Season 1)

Darknet (Season 1) (Review)
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"There are moments in this series that were amazing, then there were the moments that were disappointing."

A horror anthology series based on a website called "Darknet," which allows users to share videos and ask questions about the macabre...

Darknet is a horror anthology series revolving around the titular website. Each episode, except for the fifth, tells several short stories, which are often masterfully woven together for some surprise endings. The stories range from a creepy phone installer inadvertently terrorizing an already unnerved woman, a suicide hotline caller with horrifying messages, an office worker who is emailed videos of people being murdered, and everything in between. For the most part, the series sticks to the realm of human terror – don't expect zombies or ghosts to grab you. I generally enjoyed most of the stories, despite some glaring issues. However, I should note, I am a sucker for horror anthologies. The season leads to an ambiguous ending – you can either take it as a teaser for a future season or as something a bit more symbolic. (I thought it was more of the latter.)

Monday, January 4, 2016

Film Review: Bastard (2015)

Bastard (Review)
United States/2015
Format Viewed For Review: Amazon Instant
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...Bastard paints a new portrait of terror while paying homage to the classics."

At a remote bed and breakfast, five strangers find themselves stalked and attacked by a vicious masked murderer...

Bastard is an interesting slasher. For the most part, it's a throwback to classic slasher films, filled with quirky characters, nudity, and plenty of gore. The narrative follows a group of select strangers. You have newlywed killers Hannah (Ellis Greer) and West (Dan Creed), runaways Jake (Will Tranfo) and Betty (Rebekah Kennedy), and suicidal cop Michael (Burt Culver). After some decent character development (we get an 'okay' idea of their personalities and backgrounds), this group ends up at a bed and breakfast. To their utter dismay, they're picked off very quickly with brutal and often surprising methods. The film ends up at familiar territory, but it is executed well enough to forgive it – every film doesn't have to break new ground anyway. The actual ending is decent, but it's one of those endings that keeps on going. You know, you're watching the scene and thinking, okay, that's it, then it throws another scene at you. It's not really bad, but it felt a bit rushed and disjointed.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Video Game Review: Gears of War 2 (Xbox 360)

Gears of War 2 (Xbox 360)
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: Epic Games
Genre: SciFi Third-Person Shooter
Platform Played For Review: Xbox One via Backwards Compatibility

"...Gears of War 2 in its entirety feels more epic and refined than its predecessor."

The COG army enter the Locust tunnels, known as 'The Hollow,' to attack the Locust in their home...

In Gears of War 2, you once again play as Marcus Fenix. (Or Dom if you're a younger sibling playing split-screen coop...) The plot follows Delta Squad, which consists of Marcus, Dom, Baird, Cole, and Benjamin Carmine – it wouldn't be Gears of War without Carmine. This time around, though, it's more focused on Marcus and Dom as Baird and Cole play backup and escorts for other units throughout most of the game. Anyway, the group delve into The Hollows, discover a Locust plot to sink cities using a giant worm, then find an even more dastardly plot as they approach the Locust Queen's castle. When they resurface, they find hell breaking loose during one final assault. I liked the ending. The final 'boss' leaves a bit to be desired, especially compared to RAAM, but it did feel a bit more epic and refined.