Archive for January, 2010

Review: “The Book of Eli”

Considered the first major epic of 2010, The Book of Eli has a lot going for it: a great cast, incredible visuals, and plenty of kick-ass action.  Underneath it all, the film also has a layer  of something deeper, something that requires a little more than a suspension of disbelief.

If you haven’t heard, or guess, by now, the ‘book’ is a King James Bible.  Not just any King James Bible, the only King James Bible left on the planet.  The Book of Eli takes place several decades after a nuclear war has devastated the Earth.  American society has devolved into something akin to the Old West, with small dusty towns and roving bandits preying on people as they travel.  Eli (Denzel Washington) is a man on a mission.  He must get his Bible from one end of the country to the other.  He understands that there are those willing to kill him to take that book, and he goes to extreme measure to ensure its safety.  Gary Oldman plays Carnegie, an educated man who, like Eli, was alive in the ‘world before’.  He understands the power religion has on people and wants to use it for his own purposes.

I won’t go any further into the plot, as knowing little going into this movie will serve the viewer better.  While there can be plenty of religious and philosophical discussions that could take place as a result of this movie, there’s enough that anyone looking for an enjoyable popcorn flick will enjoy it.

Washington and Oldman are fine in their respective roles as good guy and bad guy.  Obviously, Oldman looks like he’s having a ball playing the villain, although he’s toned down quite a bit in comparison to his performances in The Professional and The Fifth Element.  Washington seems to be putting in some really good work here, and you can feel his committment to his character coming through in every scene.  The only squabble I had was with Mila Kunis’ character of Solara.  While she’s not bad, per se, I just didn’t fully believe in her character.

Visually, the directors (Albert and Allen Hughes) and their DP Don Burgess have nailed it.  If you’ve ever played the 2008 video game Fallout 3, you know that the world ain’t a pretty place after a nuclear war.  Here, not only is the environment and the general landscape desolate and barren, it’s downright haunting.  Everywhere Eli turns to there is a reminder of our current state of society (roads, cars, buildings, technology), but it’s wrapped up in this unforgiving backdrop of desperation.  The colors are desaturated to enhance its bleak look.

Also, the music fits perfectly.  Composed by Atticus Ross, the score resembles a bit of Vangelis’ score for Blade Runner, and accompanies the visuals perfectly.

The Book of Eli may turn off some with its overt tones toward religion, but I applaud screenwriter Gary Whitta for crafting something that definitely takes its chances.  It’s suspenseful, action-packed, and thematically very beautiful.

8.5/10

(images from Yahoo!)

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January 23, 2010 at 2:51 pm Leave a comment

Review Catch-Up: “Sherlock Holmes”

The famous 19th-century detective has been reimagined for today’s 21-century audiences, and has led to some mixed results.  While the film, as a whole, is enjoyable, it suffers from real stretches in logic, unnecessary scenes, and for just being too damn long.

Good news is that the acting pretty much saves this movie.

Robert Downy, Jr. (who just received a Best Actor Golden Globe for this role) plays the title character.  He’s not your stiff, well-mannered English detective; Holmes is indeed intelligent, which gives him the uncanny ability to analyze every situation, no matter how dangerous.  But, it leaves him lacking, especially int he etiquette department.  He’s constantly the social foil of his crime-fighting partner, Dr. John Watson.  Watson acts as Holmes’ agent, finding him crimes to solve.  He’s no slouch in combat either, after having spent time in the British army, Watson can hold his own in a fight alongside Holmes.  But his want of a ‘normal’ life puts him at odds with his famous detective partner.

Rounding out the cast is Rachel McAdams as Irene Adler, a former flame of Sherlock’s; Mark Strong as the seemingly immortal Lord Blackwood; and Eddie Marsan as Inspector Lastrade, Holmes’ liason to the police.  While all are good, McAdams seemed the most wasted here.  She’s a real talent, but in Sherlock Holmes, she’s reduced to playing up the sexy femme fatale role without any real ‘bite’.

I won’t go over the plot, as it becomes nonsensical (it involves some crazy rich guy’s scheme to take over England, and then the world).  What I will say about it is it leads to some great action scenes, although a few are unnecessary.  For example, during the movie Holmes and Watson investigate an apartment belonging to an underling of Lord Blackwood’s.  They get into a fight with a few thugs, including one giant Frenchman.  It’s a funny and inventive fight, but all of a sudden Holmes and the giant carry the battle to a shipyard, where it continues for another five or so minutes.  Long story short, the Frenchman gets away (as he did when he fled to the shipyard), and nothing had changed since leaving the apartment.

The shipyard scene wasn’t needed at all, and it’s scenes like that which make the movie drag into the 2-hour mark.  While I’m not saying every movie needs to come in an 90 minutes; once you breach 120 minutes, you’d better have a damn good story to back it up, and Holmes doesn’t have it.

Sherlock Holmes is still an enjoyable ride, though.  Guy Ritchie knows how to handle his visuals, with stunning views of 19th-Century London (albeit mostly CG).  Kudos also to the sound team for some great sound design.  As flawed as the story and pacing of this flick are, I can say that I’ll most definitely be watching the inevitable sequel.

7/10

(images from Yahoo!)

January 18, 2010 at 6:02 am Leave a comment

Review Catch-Up: “The Twilight Saga – New Moon”

I’m not a fan of the Twilight series.  I’m not against it, I’m just not the obvious target demographic for this franchise.  If all the tween girls and their moms want to read and watch it, that’s fine by me.  The only reason I actually paid money to go to the theatre to watch the latest offering was because I owed my girlfriend since I took her to see Paranormal Activity (which, needless to say, scared the crap out of her).

So, that being said, I’ll get right down to it: this movie is better than Twilight, but that’s not saying much. The acting on Kristen Stewart’s part is improved, but someone needs to give Taylor Lautner some acting lessons, quick.  Can’t really tell from Robert Pattinson, since he’s gone for much of the movie.


My issue with Twilight, which I saw only because director Katherine Hardwicke (whose Thirteen I’m a fan of) was speaking at my school and I wanted to have a better knowledge of her body of work, is that nothing happened. There’s no character development and barely any story.  Also, the whole thing felt like some made-for-TV flick on the SyFy Channel.  I know that fans of the books will come to its defense, but I’m not talking about the books.  My opinion on adaptations is that they exist separately from the source material; if you make a movie out of a book, treat the movie like a movie and not like you have to cram everything in from the book.

Now, this second movie comes along, and more stuff happens.  We do get way more character development here than we did in Twilight, but that’s also part of the problem.  New Moon is nothing but character development.  Instead of the ‘movie-of-the-week’ quality of Twilight, we get a movie that felt like a long TV episode.  We learn more about Bella and her schoolgirl obsession with Edward, more about Jacob and his infatuation with Bella.  But, what we don’t learn is that driving force behind the movie.  The only interested part I can remember is at the end, when Bella goes to Italy to save Edward.  That’s the only part in the movie that I enjoyed.

And about that Italy part.  What the hell was going on?  People dressed in red?  A vampire court that governs all vampires?  At least it was way more interesting than watching Taylor Lautner’s friends go shirtless for half the flick.  Honestly, all those boys wearing nothing but jeans made me think I was watching some gay porn fantasy or something.

Bottom line: more character development, but less story.

If this doesn't look like gay porn, I don't know what does...

If you look at the way the Bourne films are handled, they truly exist separately from the books.  The plots on the books are very different from the movies, which is fine by me.  As long as you get the mood and themes of the book across, you’ve done your job in adapting the work.  I hear they’ve got David Slade (30 Days of Night, Hard Candy) to direct, so hopefully he can inject some action into this.  It’s just so damn boring.

4.5/10

January 11, 2010 at 9:34 am 1 comment

I’m the Juggernaut, Bitch!

After spending many hours with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2′s multiplayer, I’ve arrived at what I consider my best weapons and perks loadout:

Weapons:

  • Riot Shield
  • Any shotgun (most likely, you’ll be in CQC with the shield)
  • OR throwing knife

(grenades don’t matter too much to me when I use this setup)

Perks:

  • Marathon (Pro)
  • Lightweight (Pro)
  • Commando (Pro)

Killstreak:

  • UAV
  • Supply Drop
  • Sentry Gun

Deathstreak:

(doesn’t matter)

Why do I like it so much?  When used properly, you are almost unstoppable.  Here’s what it can protect against (it being a shield and all): most, if not all, small arms fire; sentry guns; non-artillery/explosive fire from above (AC-130 gunships, pave-lows, Harriers, attack helicopters); frag grenades and mines; RPG’s (as long as the RPG strikes the shield directly and not your feet, you’re probably fine).

Another bonus: you get extra points for distracting opponents and for surviving attacks by sentry guns and from above, so what I like to do is, for example, stand in front of an enemy sentry gun and absorb all the hits while a teammate goes around and takes it out.  Or, rush in front of a group of enemies and hope I survive they volley of fire, while my teammates take cover nearby and start shooting.

The riot shield is also a pretty decent offensive weapon, when combined with the Commando perk (it’s especially deadly when combined with Commando Pro).  Usually, opponents don’t know how to handle a guy charging at them with a riot shield.  Their first instinct: shoot.  The problem: the riot shield will most likely protect against the gunfire.  Then, they usually back up, sometimes backing up against a corner or wall.  At that point, it’s pretty much over: two quick thrusts with the riot shield, and your opponent is dead.  The first thrust disorients the victim, second finishes them off.  Unfortunately, you can’t earn any upgrades for the riot shield.

Also, drawing your secondary will cause you to move your shield to the back.  This is particularly useful when running away from someone as the shield will protect your rear (again, as long as the bullets strike the shield and not any exposed body part, like legs).

However, this doesn’t mean the riot shield class is invincible.  The more bullets the shield absorbs, the more cracks appear to hamper your vision.  Though partially blinded with the riot shield equipped, it still doesn’t lose it’s protective capabilities.  Here’s how to take down a player (like myself) that’s using the riot shield:

  • Teamwork
  • Good aim
  • Fast melee
  • Semtex

If I’m charging at you with the shield, your best bet is probably to have a buddy nearby.  One to distract me, another to flank me and hit me from the side or rear.  As long as I’m not accompanied by a teammate, I’m dead.  If I am, I’d still probably die, but I’d get assist points for being a distraction while my teammate (hopefully) takes you and your friend out.

When charging, or moving at all, with the riot shield, your legs are exposed.  Hit my toes enough times and I go down.  Same goes for exposed shoulders and arms.

If I do manage to close on you, intent on bashing your face with the shield, you can still get the kill if you’re quick enough with the knife (or another shield).  Maneuver around me and stab me anywhere will result in a kill (works best if you have Commando Pro).  However, if I manage to hit you, it’ll make things a little harder since the first shield impact slows you down for a moment.

And the one that probably kills me the most when I use the shield: semtex explosives.  These sticky bombs stick to pretty much anything, including shields.  If it sticks to my shield, I have absolutely no way of getting it off, meaning I’m finished.  However, if I’m close enough, I could still rush you.  The resulting explosion, in close proximity to you, will kill you as well.  You’d get points for the kill, I’d get points for an assisted suicide.

January 3, 2010 at 12:51 am Leave a comment

Old vs New: The Resurrection of Electronic Gaming Monthly

Like many, I was totally bummed when I heard Electronic Gaming Monthly was being shut down (especially after that digital Hugh Jackman cover…ewww).  And, of course, I was totally stoked when EGM founder Steve Harris bought the mag and had plans to resurrect it sometime in 2010.  But I’ve noticed something regarding this new EGM ‘experience’ that troubles me: it sounds a lot like the old EGM.  From what I understand, Harris plans to revamp the magazine and launch it alongside a digital version (EGM[i]) and an online counterpart (EGMNOW).  Details about these new properties are slim, and I do expect that more info would be released as the launch day draws closer, but so far, it doesn’t seem like all that much has changed.  Area 5 will produce video content for EGMNOW, which sounds a lot like the stuff Ryan O’Donell and Co. did for 1UP.com, Dan Hsu and the good folks here at Bitmob will contribute editorial and news, and they will all tie together somehow for a seamless integration of print and internet media.  Which is what 1UP said they were doing when they were part of Ziff-Davis.


Don’t take this as some sort of negative criticism of how I think 1UP sucks or that the new EGM is going to fail; I still enjoy 1UP.com and continue to read articles and features posted there.  I also watch Area 5’s CO-OP show (being a huge fan of the 1UP Show, myself), and, of course, I’ve been reading blog posts and editorial here at Bitmob.  Given the great opportunity Mr. Harris has to completely revamp his EGM brand, I just don’t want to see it wasted on something that has been tried before, and has met with mixed results.  Now, I can’t speak much of what I’d want to see done differently for the online features, given that the internet is still an evolving medium, but print has been around since the first Bible rolled off the press (like 10 zillion B.C. or something), and I think we all have our own opinions of what works and doesn’t work in a magazine.

What I don’t want to see in a video game magazine are:

1) Reviews
2) News
3) Hints, guides, or cheats

I believe it was one of the latest episodes of 4 Guys 1UP, where they had Hsu and some of the Bitmob guys discussing their roles in the new EGM.  I believe they mentioned something about doing game reviews for the magazine, and this automatically started setting off alarms in my head.  My thing with print is that it is less and also more convenient than online media.  You don’t get the immediacy of online with print, but you don’t need an internet or phone signal to be able to pull out a magazine and read it.  If a review is in the magazine, who cares?  It’ll probably be old news, and that reviewer may have already posted it online somewhere else.  The internet is full or instant access, from watching TV shows on Hulu whenever I want, to browsing RSS and Twitter feeds for the latest news.  Everything is NOW, NOW, NOW on the internet.  Even though I said I read features on 1UP, it’s usually pretty rare, as I’m accustomed to perusing stories and only fully reading maybe a handful of articles (game reviews I generally read all of, since I prefer an explanation of a score, rather than a score itself).

That makes any kind of ‘breaking news’ or ‘exclusive review’ almost non-existent for a magazine.  If it’s in print, it has probably already been online for days.  So, where does that leave the brand-new Electronic Gaming Monthly?

I think the magazine should focus on the gaming lifestyle rather than the business.  I always enjoyed reading the interviews with the developers, like the ‘Afterthoughts’ segment of EGM.  Let me read about how Street Fighter IV fans are getting ready for the latest tourney, or what developers and publishers think of the potty mouths on Xbox Live, or the gradual merging of the “casual gamers” crowd into “hardcore” gamers.  Don’t give me the latest NPD numbers, show me the gamer that paid the money which fuels those numbers.

Um... no, thank you.

Also, while I appreciate the idea of combining print and internet, I disliked how, in the old Electronic Gaming Monthly, some articles pointed you to 1UP.com to “read more interview questions with the developers”, or “for more on this story, go to 1UP.com.” My thoughts were always, “I’ve already read what I wanted to; I’m not going to bother going to a computer, punch in the web address, find the story, and read the continuation.  If they wanted me to go to the website to read this article, they should just post the whole thing online instead of having me pay a subscription to read only part of it.”

In short, I want a reason to stuff a paper magazine in my bag as I catch a ride on the BART.  Why should I flip through real pages when I can pull out my phone and read while on my lunch break?  Again, I don’t mean to criticize anyone or Steve Harris’ latest endeavor, especially since the public hasn’t yet seen what it is he’s trying to do.  I just don’t want the same old magazine.  I do trust the talent behind this project, and I will still pick up the very first issue once it’s released. I wish nothing but the best for the new Electronic Gaming Monthly team.

January 2, 2010 at 6:18 pm Leave a comment


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