Mike: Oh man, oh man, oh man. Civil War in a few days!
I just got back from watching Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens. But do not worry this post is spoiler free.
Sixteen years ago the entire world was excited in anticipation for a new Star Wars movie and as we all know when it came out, it sucked balls. Two more films then followed the path of sucking balls. It has been analyzed inside and out by fans, all trying to wonder why it sucked so hard. Many feared the new trilogy would follow suit and I am happy to say that is not the case.
I’ll try not to spend too much time on the prequels, but it’s worth comparing why The Force Awakens is such a huge step up. There were many problems prequel but fundamentally there were three. Direction, CGI, and acting. You can’t quite fault them too much for CGI, it was a new and exciting technology and they did impressive things with it. Unfortunate filmmakers haven’t yet learned how to properly use it, there was a lot of trial and error and in the prequels case, more error. The acting is tied with the directing, so many times Lucas had the chance on every take to do another, but every time he approved it as is. During the original trilogy, Harrison Ford was quoted as saying “you can type this shit, George, but you sure can’t say it.” When I heard this I immediately thought “That makes sense”. There were so many brilliant actors in those films: Liam Neeson, Christoper Lee, Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor(perfect casting), and Samuel L. mother fuckin’ Jackson! So why is it they all give such wooden performance devoid of personality? It’s because Lucas had too much unchecked power. In the original trilogy he had to collaborate with others which helped push the material to greatness. In the prequels he did only what he wanted, not what the audience deserved.
Luckily for all of us J.J. Abrams has a great eye for special effects and acting. Episode 7 is exactly what a modern Star Wars movie should be. The use of new filming techniques, modern special effects, and acting. The ascetics of the film was perfect, unlike the prequels it actually looked like a Star Wars film. You can tell a lot of care went into the design and creating an extension to this established universe. The acting is tremendous I was afraid I may not like the new characters, that I would just want to see the original cast but man these actors did a great job. Each one had a personality, they were funny, entertaining, and showed a great range of emotions. This is probably the biggest step up from the prequels and what this franchise desperately needed the most.
The Lightsaber battles, my god the Lightsaber battle. In the prequels they were all flash and no substance. Just an overly choreograph dance with an absence of emotion and peril. Force Awakens has the best sword fighting in the series. Emotionally charged, with life and death hanging in the balance, and real. As real as a sword fight with lasers can be. This is what a modern Star Wars looks like.
The story is great, at times a little too familiar, but that’s not entirely a bad thing. There were a few twists I wasn’t happy about, but really that’s a nitpick because it was so tremendously well told. And when the film ended I had one thought. I can’t wait for Episode 8.
Star Wars is back and it’s better than ever.
So I have 100% Arkham Knight, though I have yet to do New Game Plus mode. I really enjoyed it, the Batmobile was fun as hell. But now that I’m finished I found a big problem with the game, the challenges. Now in previous games I loved the challenges, they were a great way to extend game play by giving us more difficult an unique obstacles and actually helps you learn what you’re capable of in the game. But here the challenges are dominated by the batmobile, which frankly I felt like I had enough of in the game, silent/loud predators and combats challenges felt nonexistent. I was finished with them in no time.
Now here is my gripe, in Arkham City you had four characters to choose for any challenge instantly quadrupling the amount of game play you get. Plus the unique traits of each character keeps the game fresh and interesting. In Arkham Knight, there are 8 playable character (Batman, Robin, Nightwing, Catwoman, Azrael, Red Hood, Harley Quin, and soon Batgirl). However all of the challenges are Batman only, aside from one Azrael combat challenge (The same one we played in his side mission) and one, I repeat, ONLY one dual combat challenge with Nightwing (Also the same one we played in his side mission). That’s right, to have dual play with both Catwoman and Robin you’d have to play through the game again. In the main story dual play felt like a tacted on feature, while cool it only gives you an unsatisfying taste of the other characters. I was expecting that there would be a number of challenges that would allow my to play as each individual character as well as dual play with Batman. I was even hoping to be able to choose any combination of characters, imagine how amazing that would be, it could extent replay value by so much.
The Last and most incredibly disappointing things were the Harley Quinn and Red Hood DLCs. While the game play was really fun like Arkham City’s character DLC, the “story” was insanely short. It takes about 10 minutes to finish each DLC and as I mentioned before, you can’t play these characters in ANY challenge map. Making those 10 minutes the only game play you get with them. I got these DLCs free with a pre-order, but honestly I still feel ripped off and if these cost more than $2, they wouldn’t even be worth the money. After the great job Arkham City did with this, it’s just huge let down to what is otherwise a great game.
While I’m at it, why are they so reluctant to let us free roam with a different character? Within a week a PC mod was available to play as ANY playable character in free roam, which looks fun as hell. I don’t have a gaming PC so I can’t take advantage of that, but it would make these “story” DLCs so much more fun and involved. We would even need the Batmobile, during the main game you just rush through Gotham City and don’t get a encourage to explore it like we did in Arkham City. Using other character can give us that encouragement. Rocksteady is said to have a bunch more DLCs planned, I really hope they address these problems because it’s the only thing keeping Arkham Knight from being the perfect game.
Update: I have played the Batgirl DLC and it is awesome, exactly the type of DLC I was expecting from the Red Hood and Harley Quin DLC. Still it’s annoying as hell that I can’t play any of the challenge maps with her.
Well James did a blog post for the first Amazing Spider-man movie so I might as well do one for the sequel. I only recently saw the film, I didn’t see it in theaters because I heard some negative things about it from some people. So despite really liking the trailers I couldn’t get the energy to go out and see it. Now after having seen it I’ve come to a conclusion: Fuck those people this was a solid film.
Now for a little background, I use to love Spider-man, for the majority of my life I’ve been a huge fan. I loved concept and really identified with the character. That ended with Spider-man 3. I was so looking forward to the film and despite their flaws I really loved the first two films. But then Spider-man 3 took all of those flaws and ramped them up to 11. It had actually killed Spider-man for me, I stopped caring about the character in the comics, television, etc. So when the first Amazing Spider-man came out I really didn’t care. When I saw it I thought it was pretty good. I was bit annoyed they redid the origin, which is just unnecessary. I would have preferred the origin handled in quick flashbacks, in the style of The Incredible Hulk, keeping the focus on the new instead of the old. We didn’t need to see the spider bite again, nor him discovering his powers, nor him showing up Flash or impressing the love interest, or Uncle Ben dying. Other than that I loved the casting, I loved the acting, I loved the writing, the direction, the style, just about everything. So I, and I think everyone else, was hoping for the sequel to really stand out and be, as the title suggest, Amazing. And it did, mostly.
Andrew Garfield is the perfect Spider-man. I always felt Tobey Maguire had the potential be a really great Peter Parker and he fell short. I don’t necessarily blamed him. Because the dialog wasn’t written like the character, the director kept saying “Cut, we got it”, and there was no one saying “Umm, that’s not how Peter Parker acts”. This is a problem that gets worse as each film goes by. Although, his voice acting in the video games are a significant improvement over the films and I believe that is due more to the writing and directing than Maguire as an actor. Though while Tobey Maguire has to be pushed to act like Peter, Andrew Garfield just fills the shoes so naturally, to the point where it doesn’t even seem like he’s acting. There’s just such an authenticity to the performance both in and out of the costume. A lot of this has to do with writing, where as the Raimi films Peter is quiet, wimpy, and stiff; Webb’s Peter is fun, sarcastic, and quick witted aka the Spidey well all know and love. Garfield captures each aspect of the character, the arrogant jokester, the kind dedicated hero, and the teen overwhelmed by life. There’s a scene where Spider-man protects a kid being bullied and typically a scene like this usually comes off as too “after school special” but Garfield handles it so well and brings such honestly it truly gives meaning to the phrase “Friendly Neighborhood Spider-man”. One last thing I want to point out that I really love is Garfield’s movements compared to Maguire’s. Tobey Maguire has zero body language as Spider-man. 98% of the time he just stands still and gives no physical performance, it’s like he forgot his face is covered with a mask. Any actor will tell you, if your face is covered you have to emphasize body language to emote or else the audience will have no idea what you’re feeling. Garfield certainly takes this to heart, every moment he’s in that costume he is constantly moving and performing with his entire body. Bringing so much life and energy that is desperately need with a costume like that. Andrew Garfield has proven he’s perfect for this role.
Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy is incredible, Garfield and her have probably the best on screen chemistry I’ve ever seen in a film. Every scene is entertaining. While Kirsten Dunst and Tobey Maguire had enough to get by and have you believe they like each other, Stone and Garfield have you believing they were made for each other. They play off one another so well understand why they are together. The ending of Raimi’s Spider-man felt forced to try to keep Peter and MJ apart but it’s the opposite here. You really feel that Peter truly loves and can understand him not be able to put her in harms way. So his going back and forth about being with her is reasonable, you sense he can’t bear to lose someone else, but completely understand why he can’t keep away, their perfect together. I hated Gwen dying not because it’s a repeat of the first movie’s ending, not because it’s too predictable, not because it’s too sad, but because it means I won’t see them perform with each other again. And these two actors need to be cast opposite each other in the future, I hate romantic comedies but I would love watching one starring these two.
Now on to the villains, one thing that bugs me about the criticisms of this film is when someone says “There were too many villains and that’s why the movie wasn’t any good” That’s bull shit. First off, There are only two villains, the third is a glorified cameo. Second, it’s never the number of villain but how you use them. Captain America: The Winter Soldier, one of the best superhero films ever had four villains: The Winter Soldier, Arnim Zola, Crossbones, and Batroc. And here both of the villains are great. I was expecting to hate Jamie Foxx, seeing in the trailers that he starts out as an over-the-top, socially awkward nerd, but then something happened that I didn’t expect. I knew that an unfortunate set of circumstances would make this relatively nice guy evil, but I didn’t think it would be done so well. When Foxx becomes Electro his performance is spectacular, he makes the character really seems like someone with a little bit preexisting psychological trouble, undergoing extreme trauma, completely loses it, and becomes twisted as a result (the sound design on the voice really helps, sounded awesome). It was a transformation that was believable and actually had me retroactively like the “over-the-top, socially awkward nerd” I would have never guess that be the case. Now our second villain is another example of what this series has done so well which is perfect casting. Dane DeHaan is a brilliant choice for Harry Osborn. He handles the fun and intelligent with the dark and unhinged so well. Like Stone he has great chemistry Garfield, they bond so well that they truly act like old friends reconnecting. He portrays the desperation so well and like Foxx brings an authentic performance to a villain.
Okay now for the bad. As I mention before the main criticism this films gets is too many villains, but that’s not the case. The problem is too much plot. Not so much that it makes the movie confusing or over bloated, but just enough to disrupt the flow of the film. In all honesty, I can’t blame them. Every plot line here is so good and filled with potential it’s tough to decide what to cut. From Peter and Gwen, to Spider-man’s adventures, Electro’s attacks, Harry’s fall, Peter’s Parents, the Osborn corruption, Mr Fiers, even Aunt May becoming a nurse. Each story is really fun and interesting, I couldn’t decide what to get rid of. As a result some of these stories didn’t feel like they were fully explored. For instance Electro has no real conclusion. His story has a beginning, a middle, but no end. Just a quick final fight. Peter’s parents should have been the beginning of unraveling a conspiracy instead just becomes back story. There’s only a handful of other things I didn’t like. I hated Dr. Kafka, stupid, over-the-top, and completely out of tone. Felicia was unnecessary and wasted. Paul Giamatti’s performance seemed dumb and cheesy (though to be fair we didn’t really have time to like it). I also fucking hate it how Rhino was in all of the advertisements. That helped the idea that there were too many villains. It would have been a fun cameo to go out on but they decided to show all the action that was in the film, in the trailer. YOU SPOILED YOUR OWN FINAL SCENE! I fucking hate when marketing does that.
And that’s it, I really liked this film. I loved the acting, almost every single line of dialog is perfect. The action is great, all of the choreography from fighting the villains, to distracting Osborne security is brilliantly planned and executed. The style and tone are spot on. The cinematography is amazing, specially the graveyard sequence; it said all that needed to be said without a single line of dialog. Overall a damn fine movie. For the first time in a long time I’m looking forward to the next Spider-man film. Unfortunately is sounds like Sony is hesitant, but there have been rumors of Spider-man joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe and I hope it happens, cause this Spider-man deserves to be in there.