A small new taste of Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been released. Nothing major, some shots we have seen before, a nifty frame of the First Order Stormtroopers and hmm, oh yeah JOHN BOYEGA WEILDING A MOTHER F*****G LIGHTSABER!!!! ..Ahem the link is below, do enjoy yourself my fellow nerds.
Straight Outta Compton (2015)
Directed by F. Gary Gray
Starring: O’Shea Jackson Jr., Jason Mitchell, Corey Hawkins, Paul Giamatti
The Power of Street Knowledge
By Mason Manuel
I have never been a follower of Rap or Hip-Hop; it just never spoke to me like other genres. Because of this, I went into Compton with the assumption that I would not understand its’ message and therefor find the picture unenjoyable. Holy s**t was I wrong. Straight Outta Compton is the most brutal, heartfelt film I have seen this year. Director of the intense Law Abiding Citizen, F. Gary Gray outdoes himself this time around in the telling of the tale of a few kids from the streets of California who changed the world with musical revolution. Powerful performances, an intense tale, and the knowing that the incredible tale is based on true events makes this one of the best films of the year.
Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), Easy-E (Jason Mitchell), Ice Cube (Jackson Jr.), DJ Yella (Neil Brown Jr.), and MC Ren (Aldis Hodge) are music loving, poetry writing, entrepreneurial nobodies who make most of their income through either drug dealing or DJing at shady clubs. Eventually collaborating and putting that hard earned cash into a single, the group finds themselves in a surprisingly successful situation which gains the attention of manager Jerry Heller (Giamatti). They gain the resources to start their own label and initially enjoy a successful run as up and coming artists. The group begins to write about their personal expereices from the dangerous streets of Compton which begins to reflect negatively on law enforcement and positively on violence and drug use. This obviously does not go over well with everyone, especially the police who do not find themselves particularly fond of Ice Cube’s signature piece, “F*** tha Police.” What follows results in a fight for equality and freedom of speech against a government and people that tried to silence Compton’s citizens.
As soon as the opening credits finish, we are thrown into a chaotic scene involving one of Easy E’s drug deal. Naturally the deal goes badly and greats a raw, intense introduction to Compton. This intensity almost never drops in the 2 and a half hour run time that Straight Outta Compton presents. It’s not all action either; we see these men mature and toil through discrimination, emotional hardship, and trying to rise above their pasts. There is more than one moment here where tears will fall and I must again applaud director Gray for his fantastic portrayal of this. Not only is the action mixed perfectly with emotion, neither style ever feels out of place or overused. Every moment of intensity and emotion feels earned and completely in line with the experiences the characters have gone through.
Speaking of the characters, the actor in this film are top notch. Most notable are O’Shea Jackson Jr. as his father Ice Cube and Jason Mitchell as Easy E. Jackson in particular is a revelation as he has never had a professional acting role before. Mitchell (Contraband) has a little more experience than Jackson, but deserves no less credit as he is given a great deal of heavy material that executes flawlessly on screen. Every one of the characters is a tortured soul in their own right and no one actor ever feels unbelievable or overtly cheesy in portraying gangsters. IT’s heartbreaking to watch as these close friends are inevitably torn apart by life and greed, even though we know that some live off to become huge stars.
Part biography, part documentary, and all eye opening, Straight Outta Compton delivers all it promises and more. The in-depth look into the lives creating Ruthless’ (The group’s label) and the eventual disbanding will give any viewer a reason to dust off their old cassette tapes. I know I have. A 9.8 out of 10.
The Witcher 3 (2015)
Developed by CD Projekt Red
Thrill of the Hunt
Reviewed by Mason Manuel
57 and a half. That is how many hours that my in game window told me I had spent galloping the vast expanse of a war torn Tameria by the time my campaign was over. I can honestly say that when the credits rolled I released a heavy sigh as if I had finished a long and hard day’s work. That’s not to say The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is not fun to play. In fact, it is one of the best games I have ever played. Just be prepared to commit yourself fully in mind, body, and soul to the adventures and well-being of your protagonist. Continue reading The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Review
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Back in 2013 to 2014, Philippine cinema had a myriad of stories on infidelity and third parties. The viewers, at that time, were receptive of plots set in patriarchal environments decorated with beautiful mistresses. In this cockfight featuring spiteful women willing to strike anytime, the Filipino bettors choose the character who delivers the ‘bitchiest’ line accompanied by the hardest slap.
It was undeniably a heyday for the mainstream film industry in the country. Big production houses such as Star Cinema and Viva Records have once again mined a valuable mineral that can be sold forever. The supply is infinite and the consumers are with endless appetite. Or so they thought. The showing of The Love Affair in cinemas this month proved that narratives of infidels have reached their point of exhaustion. They are at this point revolting.
The Love Affair banks on its casting of well-seasoned actors and actresses. From…
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Winter’s Tale (2014)
Directed by Akiva Goldsman
Starring: Colin Farrell, Russell Crowe, Jessica Brown Findlay
By Mason Manuel
While perusing the inescapable hell that is my Comcast cable, I ran across a film
named Winter’s Tale. Normally, I would have scrolled past this selection like the others, but the description listed that the flick starred Colin Farrell and Russell Crowe who are some of my top gay celebrity man crushes so I said “What the hell” and turned it on. In my blindness I forgot that good actors sometimes make bad movies too suffered for it. “Winter’s Tale” is an unfocused hodgepodge of too many different ideas that never lands into anything that could be considered a coherent plot.
Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) plays your regular down on his luck, illegal immigrant who works for the mob. In one of his numerous heists, he meets Beverly Penn (Downton Abby’s Jessica Brown Findlay), your regular girl-who-has-cancer-so-cue-tragic-romance-plot who is inexplicably fascinated with the burglar. But rather than just leave the plot in an old timey The Fault in Our Stars scenario, the story takes a more supernatural turn. Turns out, the mob is actually a front for Lucifer’s army led by his demon Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe) in their never ending mission to keep miracles from happening. As luck would have it, Peter Lake is in line for a rather large miracle revolving around Beverly that would be devastating to the demonic cause which unfortunately for the demon means he must kill his own man. And so our chase begins both through love and time in a number of twists that will even have Shyamalan saying, what the hell just happened?
I wish I could write this review back like my Trolls 2 one back in the early days of the RDR but sadly I must put effort forth this time around as Winter’s Tale at least attempts to feel like a solid flick. What is mind-blowing is that Academy Award winning director Akiva Goldsman was behind the whole thing, including writing the screenplay.
The source material comes from Mark Helprin’s esteemed 1983 novel of the same name but where most events work on page, the translation to film leaves much to be desired. Terrible CGI, ridiculous dialogue, and cheesy acting result in a very lackluster picture. The only real saving grace lies within Tale’s two leads. Crowe (who earlier had helped win the director with his award with A Beautiful Mind) and Farrell bring the most they can to what is mostly terrible material. Other actors are not as appreciated. Findlay’s dying girl in love story personification often feels ridiculous and contributes little to the plot other than give Peter Lake someone to be motivated for. Also Will Smith plays Satan… moving on.
For a movie that was released in 2014, the visual effects are downright laughable. Magical flying horses and mystic landscapes look like they came out of a 12 year old’s first time using IMovie. These visual catastrophes spell disaster every time they enter the frame and takes the viewer completely out of the moment. Add that on top of the terribly executed plot and bizarre acting from lesser characters (looking at you Jennifer Connelly) makes this a film worth forgetting. A 3 out of 10.
An oldie worth dusting off to check out. Read this review to learn more about it!
It is a testament to Jules Dassin’s direction that Rififi can still knock one’s socks off. In an era where the tropes of the heist genre are being repurposed for everything from Marvel films to spy thrillers, the fact that this film still feels innovative speaks to the brilliance of its construction. While most modern films see the execution of the heist itself as the climax, Dassin sees it more as a jumping off point. The theft itself is more of a gateway into the film’s study of both masculinity and unwritten codes that bind men of ill repute.
Setting the blueprint for generations of crime films to religiously follow, and measure themselves up against, Rififi’s premise is practically a paint-by-the-numbers affair when looking at it with modern eyes. A team of four skilled thieves assemble to pull off a crime that is seemingly impossible and risk everything on a…
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Reviewed by Mason Manuel
There was a time when the involvement of Batman meant certain death for video games. There was no one who could seemingly grasp the true unstoppable force of Bruce Wayne’s alter ego while still accounting for his most prevalent weakness of not being a super powered being. Even if they could, no one could find a way to make a player feel that they had control over the awesome might of the Batman. And then the players were gifted with Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham Asylum and superhero games would never be the same again. I would argue that no one has even come close to reaching the standard that Rocksteady has created for their Batman saga and I strongly doubt we will see one soon. Because now we have the finale to Rocksteady’s Batman trilogy, Batman: Arkham Knight and holy s**t, it’s a beauty. Continue reading Batman: Arkham Knight Review
Hitman: Agent 47 (2015)
Directed by Aleksander Bach
Starring: Rupert Friend, Zachary Quinto, Hannah Ware
A Hit for a Select Audience
By Mason Manuel
This weekend my wonderful girlfriend from Real Red Reviews of all people suggested that we go see Hitman: Agent 47 Unbeknownst to her, I was already planning on seeing this movie alone amongst my fellow nerds because I figured she would hate it, with her not being a gamer and all. Pleasantly surprised, I agreed to her proposition and went to the theatre. When we finally saw the film, I was loving a great deal whereas my girlfriend… well, not so much. Herein lies the main flaw of Hitman; Gamers will love this adventure, others will not.
Agent 47 centers around an agency of assassins which has genetically enhanced their members to be stronger, faster, and above all, smarter. Agents are created from birth and instead of names are given numbers, hence our protagonist’s title. 47 is a famed killer among the assassin world and is known for always closing his contracts, no matter the odds. This time around his targets are twofold; the creator of the agent program and a seemingly ordinary woman named Katia van Dees. Those familiar with French may realize that her name sounds an awful lot like “Quatre Vingt Dix” which means the number 90. As it turns out Ms. Dees was part of the same agent program as 47 and has all of the same skills, only upgraded by 43 versions (yay for math!). The unlikely duo is eventually forced to go head to head with the illusive criminal organization known as Syndicate, which has also taken an interest into the creator of the program. 47 and Dees must fight for their very lives in order to contest the criminal super power and finally bring justice to their bloody world.
Judging 47 is something of a dilemma for me. On one hand, the movie perfectly realizes its’ video game origin (The garrote wire! The Italian suit! The twin custom pistols!). On the other, the film has a rather lackluster plot with a number of forgettable characters who have rather large roles in the game. First, the positives. Rupert Friend plays a surprisingly excellent Agent 47. His cool and collected manner is as impressive as his methodical brutality and will have you shivering with anticipation at intense moments. Friend’s physicality and icy blue eyes finally give the big screen the 47 that gamers know and love. However, he would just be another guy shooting dramatically if not for the interesting addition of Hannah Ware. In a pleasant turn of events, Ware’s character Dees is more capable than 47 and proves this in a number of scenes that focus solely on her assassin skills. Ware plays the sleeper agent role with enough disbelief to be a good conduit for the audience but thankfully doesn’t take long to start kicking ass. She makes a welcome addition that will hopefully be seen in later iterations.
Also worth note are the stellar action sequences. Most of the fights stay grounded and raw which adds some fun cringe worthy moments at the sound of a breaking bone or a puncturing knife. The most notable of these can be found in the film’s opening sequence where 47 meticulously plans and executes a plan to isolate a high value target. Unfortunately, not all of the action stays so lifelike. Some action scenes are ruined by hastily done CG animations which pull you out of what is otherwise a decently choreographed fight sequence. Also disappointing is the lack of stealth sequences. Hitman games have traditionally been stealth based and yet the film focuses more on the Die Hard style of shooting everything that moves. In the isolated moments where stealth is a key factor, the kills and nail biting anticipation create some of the best moments of the film. Something about seeing the assassins successfully pull off an intricate kill makes the action so much more satisfying. Fingers crossed that they improve this in later iterations.
For gamers, the action, characters, and story are probably what you look forward to the most. For the most part, the film delivers on these first two at least. For regular movie goers, you look more for story and fun cinematography along with an engaging story and it is here where Agent 47 will lose you. The plot is convoluted at best and the villains are easily the weakest players on screen. Even Zachary Quinto who I was convinced would be the saving grace of the movie disappoints with the material he is given. His character John Smith is underdeveloped and has a need to be better than 47… for some reason that is never explained. The head of the evil corporation (Thomas Kretschman) is made to be this evil, Voldemort level bad guy but has maybe ten minutes of screen time and does nothing but talk manically. You basically have to force yourself to ignore the plot, otherwise your head will be swimming with strange character motivations and illogical developments.
If you are a fan of Square Enix’s Hitman then see this movie. There are fun nods to the player’s strategy (cheesy costume changes, variety of weaponry, ect.) littered throughout the hour and a half long run time. If you are not a gamer, probably best to steer clear. All of your nerd friends will be geeking out and you’ll be sitting there asking yourself why you payed 12 dollars for this. A 6.7 out of 10.