Friday, September 25, 2015

The Green Inferno (2015) Review

Written by Stu Cooper

Nearly one year ago theaters and horror fans alike were supposed to be treated to Eli Roth's newest horror incarnation The Green Inferno. Due to several financial issues within the production company, the film was delayed almost an entire year. This is one of those films that was hot and heavy out of the gates with advertising, but due to the massive delay, a lot of people have most likely forgotten about it's release. I remember seeing trailers for this film over a year ago in theaters, and being quite excited for it. It wasn't until about two weeks ago that I saw a short TV spot, and thought oh wow that movie still hasn't come out. Several films have endured similar fates. One that comes to mind was Joss Whedon's Cabin In the Woods which was delayed several years. Thankfully the substance of "Cabin In The Woods" was able to save it and create a fan base. Unfortunately I cannot say the same for Eli Roth's odd Cannibal Holocaust satire film The Green Inferno. After over a year of waiting, I was able to finally sit in a local theater to watch the film, and it made me cringe...out of embarrassment.

The Green Inferno is a film that was made almost two years ago, but is just now seeing it's first commercial release. The film was written and directed by Eli Roth, and co-written by Guillermo Amoedo. The film stars Lorenza Izzo, Ariel Levy, Daryl Sabara, Kirby Bliss Blanton, and Aaron Burns. The film began shooting in early 2013 and had a 6 million dollar budget. A sequel was also greenlit by the production company but due to financial problems, it is unlikely to see the light of day unless the project finds a new home.

The film begins at a college in New York City as we follow the stunning Lorenza Izzo who plays Justine, a freshman. Despite most of this cast being awkward and amateur, Izzo stands out as a stunning beauty who brings a lot to her role. She has incredibly piercing eyes that the camera focuses on quite a bit. The eyes end up being a big part of her look later in the film when she is covered in white tribal paint. I have a feeling that is part of the reason she was cast in the lead. Sadly she is one of the only interesting characters in the film. The film is riddled with actors and characters that seem poorly written and amateur. Starting with her roommate Kaycee (Sky Ferreira) who is one of the most unlikable characters to ever grace the screen. Not only does she deliver her lines with the enthusiasm of a second year high school senior in detention, but she appears to have just woken up. I'm not sure if they did her make up a certain way to convey this, but she looked like a tired strung out homeless girl. She also delivered her lines with a dialed up obnoxious attitude. At first I thought this was intentional so the audience would be rooting for her to get killed, but it never really leads to anything other than annoyance. As quickly as we are introduced to this bond between two best friends, she disappears from the film and bares no importance. Then we are introduced to a group of incredibly annoying college social warriors who have founded their own environmental group. The group marches on campus and does hunger strikes, often preaching for a cause that goes unnoticed. Justine runs into the group and finds them interesting after meeting a slap happy member of the group named Jonah (Aaron Burns). Jonah asks her to come to a meeting which is where she meets the rest of the group.

The group consists of some of the douchiest, dumbest, and most obnoxious characters imaginable. Some seem to be written this way, while others seem to just act that way. One thing I immediately notice is that a majority of the group seems to have very thick foreign accents, despite them being at a college in America. I actually had to double check and make sure she wasn't attending school in a foreign country because some of these people sounded Spanish, while others sounded French. I'm not sure if that's just supposed to be representative of the melting pot in New York or what, but it comes off like a bunch of amateur actors delivering cheesy English dialogue they seem to struggle with. I would say the film's biggest downfall is the acting and dialogue. This problem is showcased immediately when we meet Alejandro (Ariel Levy) and his girlfriend Kara (Ignacia Allamand) who both deliver their lines like they are reading off of cue cards. To say the dialogue was amateur is an understatement. You can blame the actors for their awkward delivery, especially since English is apparently their second language, but you cannot blame them for the script. I found some of the lines laughable, in scenes that weren't meant for comedy. Anytime Alejandro or Kara spoke...I laughed. I'm not sure what the writer was thinking with these characters, but the vision was not coming out on screen. Needless to say, I was ready to see all of these terrible actors get killed off and it couldn't happen soon enough.

After Justine blindly joins a social warrior cause led by fellow oblivious college kids, she flies to Peru with the group. Once the group arrives in Peru the film starts to pick up and we are introduced to the main storyline. The group of kids is trying to stop part of the rainforest from being destroyed because it will kill off a local tribe. The club shows up to the construction site and attempts to delay this from happening. Without spoiling it, their journey becomes slightly more complicated and they find themselves stranded in the hands of a cannibalistic local tribe. The tribe doesn't speak English and they seem to have fun skinning people alive and putting their heads on posts. Through some visual storytelling the tribes people are made out to be rather terrifying. I was concerned about this film until the moment the tribe came in, then I had a bit of hope. The fear that the people experience seems genuine and you can really feel how overwhelming the whole experience is just by watching on screen. The film does bring some terror onto the screen through these moments of hopelessness. Unfortunately whenever the film starts to get a real scary vibe going, it's completely ruined by bad dialogue or misplaced comedy. At one point there is intense drum music happening, leading you to believe something intense is about to happen, and it's actually just building up to a girl having diarrhea. That's right, there's an orchestral build-up to diarrhea. I would say that is actually symbolic of my feelings on this movie. Lots of epic build up, ready to jump out of your seat, then BOOM! ...diarrhea.

Now one thing everybody wants to know is, is it gory? Eli Roth isn't exactly known for making quality films, but he has always delivered on the gore factor. He became famous because of his association with HOSTEL, so fans of his have come to expect a certain level of violence. I think you won't be disappointed in that aspect, as there is some pretty gut wrenching scenes involving dismemberment and cannibalism. There is some practical effects used early on that provide an extremely visceral scene, which makes for good horror. I also noticed Greg Nicotero's name attached to the film so I'm guessing that was him who helped with that scene. Unfortunately one scene involves some pretty terrible CGI and it totally kills any intensity that death scene had. So it's a mixed bag in terms of effects.

Overall The Green Inferno is a sub-par horror film that reeks of bad student films. The dialogue is poorly written, the acting is awful, and the storytelling really falls flat. However the film does supply a few scary moments and it explores the idea of social media warriors. So if you hate all of those people on the internet preaching and posting petitions, you might dig where this film goes. It's truly a hipster's worst nightmare. It pokes fun at the absurdity of social media campaigns and how easily young minds can be fooled into thinking they are intelligent. I have to give the film some points for being clever in it's choice of victims. Unfortunately for this young mind, I was fooled by the trailers, and I thought this film was actually going to be good.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Star Trek: Renegades Review

Written by Stu Cooper

Ever since Star Trek: Enterprise left the air, trekkies have been dying to see another series hit the airwaves. From petitions to kickstarters, fans have been rallying behind various projects trying to get them made. Unfortunately Star Trek: Renegades hasn't made it to the airwaves yet, but it was released on YouTube, DVD, and Blu-ray. Fans of the original canon universe finally got another edition to the mythos, and it comes in the form of an epic 90 minute fan film. The film is written by Ethan H. Calk, Sky Douglas Conway, and Jack Trevino. The film was directed by Star Trek Voyager alumni Tim Russ who served as the promotional mascot for most of the film's appearances at various conventions. I actually first heard about the film when Russ and Walter Koenig appeared at Space City Con here in Houston to promote the film. The film was created by the makers of another famous fan-film Star Trek: Of Gods and Men, and serves as a sequel in some ways. Jack Trevino apparently came up with the idea for the series on the last day of Of Gods and Men. Thanks to campaigns on IndieGoGo and Kickstarter that have been going around since 2012, the project finally saw the light of day.

Star Trek: Renegades takes place ten years after the finale of Star Trek: Voyager which featured the crew of Voyager returning from their epic journey across the Delta Quadrant. The film picks up in the middle of a crisis revolving around a dilithium crystal shortage as the result of a mysterious alien race who is apparently folding space and time. The folding is causing entire planets to disappear, which is obviously bad for business. The Federation is unsure how to react to the situation, so Admiral Chekov (Star Trek: TOS) and Tuvok (Star Trek: Voyager) decide to get together with the ole Section 31 and put together a crew of misfit toys. The crew is ordered to investigate the madness and stop it before it reaches Earth. The crew consists of several sci-fi and Star Trek alum including Blade Runner's Sean Young, Alien Nation's Gary Graham, Terminator 2's Edward Furlong, Star Trek Voyager's Manu Intiraymi returning as The Lone Borg Icheb, Voyager's Robert Picardo as Dr. Zimmerman, and many more recognizable faces. Leading the crew is Captain Lexxa Singh (daughter of Khan) played by the stunning Adrienne Wilkinson, whom you may recognize from her run on Xena: Warrior Princess. The crew is essentially a sci-fi version of the expendables, which is consistent with the “Renegades” name. There are TONS of actors in this film, and if you blink you may miss some of them. The film also features several stunning females such as the crewman Ronara (Chasty Ballesteros), Andorian bombshell Shree (Courtney Peldon), and the Vulcan T'Leah (Larissa Gomes). It's certainly a crowded film and I'm not even mentioning the OTHER crew on the other ship that follows the Renegades around.

Despite the massive cast, the film manages to tell an incredibly riveting and tense story. The new aliens in the film seem to be a hybrid of Klingons and Hirogen, which makes for a rather intimidating race. The race is seeking revenge against the federation for inadvertently sabotaging their planet 300 years ago. The aliens use some kind of stone artifact to screw with time and space. The Renegades go on a mission to figure out exactly what is going on, and they are pursued by federation loyalists led by Captain Alvarez (Corin Nemec). Alvarez's crew strongly resembles the new look displayed in the JJ Abrams films, which leads me to believe that the film acknowledges both universes. There is also a lot of character ties to the other Paramount series, so there is a bit for everybody to enjoy. The film is about 90 minutes and you can tell the writers were trying to cram as much story as possible into that time-frame. Pretty much every scene is important to the plot, and if you take a break to get a snack or go to the bathroom, you may get a little lost.

The main focus is on Khan's daughter Lexxa, who is quite the bad-ass. She displays strong leadership qualities and some killer martial art skills. Not only is she beautiful and strong, but she is also poetic. The character often recites a beautiful little poem that streams throughout the film and serves as kind of a beacon for the story. Adrienne Wilkinson is perfectly cast in this role and I'm glad she is given a chance to shine. The writers could have easily focused on Chekov and Tuvok the entire time, but they take a chance and give a lot of screen time to the new characters. You can tell this film was intended as a pilot of sorts, as it has a real big series pilot feel to it.

The star of the film has to be the amazing special effects on display in the film. The film looked beautiful displayed on my HD television and I found myself absolutely speechless at how great the ship and space sequences looked. I dare say the ships looked better than they did in Voyager and Deep Space Nine (though there is a 15 year gap). There are a few awkward green screen shots throughout the film, but considering it's a fan film the quality is way beyond anything I could have expected. Whoever did the ship effects deserves a serious pat on the back. Another impressive effect that I noticed was the arm of the Borg Icheb. Since Voyager Icheb received a series of upgrades which include a shape shifting weapon arm. The arm effects are totally seamless and caused me to say “WHOA” out loud every time he used it. The make-up on most of the aliens is also top notch, especially the Andorian and the Cardassian characters. The only ones that were questionable were T'Leah the Vulcan whose eyebrows looked off in most scenes, and some of the villain aliens who suffered from bad wig fit.

Another aspect of the film that really shines is the soundtrack. The sound design is on par with most modern action films and greatly improves the tension of the film. There are pretty intense drum sequences during the action scenes that greatly elevate things to another level. It adds to the professionalism of the project and really makes you feel like you are watching a real full fledged Star Trek series.

Overall Star Trek: Renegades is a pleasant surprise that features TONS of tributes and fan service for all those loyal trekkies out there. Not only do you get to see a lot of familiar faces that you probably grew up loving, but you get to see a lot of young talent like Adrienne Wilkinson, Corin Nemac, and Chasty Bellastros who all knock it out of the park. The only downsides to the film would have to be the intense pacing, which can sometimes cause a lot of confusion, and the poor acting performance of Sean Young. I found myself cringing during all of Sean Young's scenes, but thankfully her character is not a focal point of the film.

If you can keep up with the story, the film serves as a terrific launching off point for more beautiful fan films. I was a little disappointed with how little Robert Picardo and Tim Russ showed up in the film, but Walter Koenig has quite a bit of screen-time and hasn't lost a step. If it got turned into a series, I imagine they would have returned to do a bit more. When the film ended, I found myself hoping that this isn't the last time we see this crew together. I certainly think this production has what it takes to support itself on something like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime. If you'd like to check the project out, visit the official page or simply click the YouTube links below which will take you to the actual production.

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Guest (2015) Review

Written by Stu Cooper

America is a country that constantly seems to be on the brink of war. Whether it's a war in the middle east, a cold war, a war on drugs, or a war on terror. It's clear war is something we breed into our culture. The press usually perpetuates the blood lust, often preaching ideals to stop war, while simultaneously invoking it. Children of today have grown numb to the violence they see on the news, but for the soldiers being trained to enter the battlefield, it's very real. In some cases soldiers are left mentally scarred and develop PTSD, otherwise known as post traumatic stress disorder. Now what happens when something like that goes unchecked? The film I'm discussing today dives head first into that concept. The Guest is a film that was released in September of last year, but it has just now made it's way to Netflix. The release on Netflix has garnered a lot of views, and the film is quickly becoming a personal favorite of many cinemaphiles. Since I missed the initial release, which I believe was only at a few select theaters, I just now saw the film. I am confident in saying that The Guest is one of the best movies to come out this year, and far surpasses some of the mega franchise blockbuster films that have come out this summer. The film was written Simon Barrett and Directed by Adam Wingard. It stars Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe, Brendan Meyer, Sheila Kelley, and notable character actor Leland Orser. The Guest is a surprisingly chilling thriller that resembles eerie stalker films like The Stepfather, Copycat, and FEAR. Not only does it resemble those kinds of films, but I believe it takes ideas from those films and makes them even creepier.

The Guest is about a young soldier who travels to the hometown of a dead friend and decides to visit the friend's family. The solider's name is David (Stevens) and he claims to have been apart of the same platoon as the family's dead son. At first this news completely shatters the mother but soon after she invites David into their home. The mother introduces David to the rest of the family, and he begins to bond with all of them. Since the parents lost their child, they are very happy to see someone else in the house. The mother often cries in private, and the father drinks heavily, so it's clear the death of their son is still heavy on their minds. David consuls the family and starts becoming a surrogate soldier son of sorts. David is about as clean cut, intelligent, and confident as a man could get. He oozes sex appeal whenever he is around females, and most males are instantly intimidated by his bravado. He is essentially the man every dude wants to be, and the guy every woman wants to fall in love with.

The parents have two children, a young son named Luke (Meyer), and a 20 year old daughter named Anna (Monroe). The son is a sophomore in high school and the daughter is a rebellious waitress with a hint of white trash. David instantly connects with both of them and proves throughout the film that he has a special interest in them. David helps Luke overcome his fear of high school bullies, which proves to dramatically help Luke's confidence. David also plays the hero whenever he sees a woman being harassed, or something he considers immoral. You really grow to appreciate the man David seems to be...until he shows you another side. Without giving away any major spoilers, the film takes a dramatic turn once you find out more about the REAL David. David has a Pandora's box of secrets and he slowly reveals them one by one. David slowly reveals through a series of unsettling acts, that he is suffering from some type of psychosis. I believe this is where the director was trying to show the effects of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and how someone experiencing immense amounts of isolation and military training, may return home a changed man.

The film highlights how PTSD can affect a former soldier, but it also highlights how the death of soldiers can also affect families. The father (Orser) has a massive drinking problem and often finds himself mumbling through sentences full of frustration. The mother seems to be the rock of the family, but you can tell her family is slowly growing apart. Each member of the family seems to have their own story and dynamic, which adds a lot of emotion and tension to the film. You are really rooting for this family to find some sense of peace, whether it's through David or something else. The government also finds it's way into the story and the film introduces the idea of brainwashing soldiers, which has been a questionable real life practice for decades. The film seems to hit all the right beats with it's story telling, whilst simultaneously being an allegory for PTSD.

It's clear that the storytelling is strong, but the aspect of the film that really sold me was the amazing soundtrack. This film has one of the best soundtracks ever. That's right, I said it. It doesn't feature any epic Robocop scores or anything orchestral, but it has a lot of great melodic tech-noir tunes that flow like water through each scene. There is also a particularly violent moment that features a totally absurd love song, and it adds a nice cheese factor to the film. Just cementing the insanity taking place. I'm tempted to say the film's soundtrack is so good that it overshadows the film, but thankfully it just rides the line. The soundtrack and lighting throughout the film resembles the likes of DRIVE and Only God Forgives, so if you enjoy the somber techno vibes in those films, I think this could be a good choice for you. You may also spot some pretty neat easter eggs throughout the film, including the Halloween masks used in John Carpenter's Halloween III, but I won't spoil which scene they are in. Regardless, it's clear the filmmakers have a big appreciation for 80's filmmaking. It pays off and results in the perfect suspense movie.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Terminator Genisys Review

Written by Stu Cooper

In an age of remakes and sequels, it is no surprise that the Terminator franchise is once again taking over theaters nationwide. A couple weeks ago Jurassic World proved just how powerful an old franchise can be, but would Terminator: Genisys have a similar effect? While I don't think the box office will reflect it, I do find the film to be a worthy entry in the Terminator mythology. I saw both Terminator 3 and 4 in theaters and I was underwhelmed by both. Genisys however left me satisfied and giddy.

Terminator Genisys was released on July 1st, 2015 and stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, Jason Clarke, Jai Courtney, and Matt Smith. The film was directed by Alan Taylor whose previous works include Thor: Dark World, Sopranos, Game of Thrones, and various other television shows. The screenplay was written by Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier. The screenplay is of course based on characters created by James Cameron. Genisys marks the 4th film in the franchise which also birthed a television show and a ride at Universal Studios. The film had a $155 million budget and was shot mostly in California and Louisiana. Schwarzenegger and James Cameron have both come out publicly supporting the film and calling it a rebirth of the franchise we know and love. The film marks Arnold's first time working with Paramount. The script and ideas in the film were written around his age and as a result you get a rare appearance of Schwarzenegger with NATURAL grey hair. The film was shot over the course of 90 days, not including post production and CGI.

Terminator Genisys tells the story of the seemingly endless battle between the human race and Skynet. Skynet is the evil cyborg organization that creates the terminators. Skynet has served as the main villain of every Terminator film and is the cause of a nuclear holocaust. As usual, this film deals with time travel and efforts to stop the apocalypse from happening. In the film they refer to this event as "Judgment Day". The film seems to completely ignore the events of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and Terminator: Salvation, so if you are fans of those films I hope you do not find that disappointing. Both films are considered disappointing by most critics, even Schwarzenegger. It's not surprising they would choose to ignore those films. I find that it actually helps the film, as it gives you less to remember and keep up with.

The film begins by showing John Connor (Jason Clarke) leader of the human resistance, helping a young Kyle Reese. The film highlights how Reese and Connor met, as well as showing the two of them bonding through war with the cyborgs. The film revisits the popular "future war" sequences, so you do get your share of that. I do wish the film could have spent even more time in that time period, but the film would be 3 hours long. Knowing the popularity of sequels now, I wouldn't be surprised if we see a future war sequel. After the backstory of the time travel is explored, you follow Kyle Reese as he travels back into the 80's to save Sarah Connor. Since most Terminator fans have seen the films, they know what is going to happen next. But thanks to the uncertainty that is time, things are totally mixed up and multiple timelines are mixing. It's a big "what if" terminator adventure. Sarah Connor joins up with Kyle Reese to battle the T-1000, T-800, Skynet, and more. The two of them are accompanied by the fan favorite T-800 "Guardian" (Schwarzenegger). Things are just a bit different this time around, as the machine has dawned the role of Sarah Connor's father! Pops Terminator is born and we get to see an entirely different take on the iconic character. The relationship between Sarah (Emilia Clarke) and Pops is quite endearing and adds a nice layer to the story. You find yourself caring about the machine just as much as you did in the second film. The T-800 also has a few noticeable changes this time around. The biggest of which would be his aging. Since the tissue remained on the endoskeleton, it continued to age like human skin would. This leads us to Old Terminator. I actually LOVE this aspect of the film, and i'm so glad they went this direction. It adds a level to the character that is slightly satirical. As if the writers say "hey...look we know Arnie is old, but he is still badass". There is even a scene in which Arnold has problems with his "old joints".

As with most time travel films, the three main characters encounter a slew of mishaps with timelines and "what if" scenarios. It provides a nonstop adrenaline ride through time. You get to see appearances by some of your favorite Terminator characters including the T-1000 (Byung-hun Lee), The Dyson family, and an absolutely stunning CGI incarnation of 80's Schwarzenegger as the Terminator. The CGI is almost flawless in that scene and puts the Salvation CGI Arnold to shame. I was very pleased with the work there. We also get to see Jason Clarke explore a very creepy side of John Connor that we never thought we'd see. He does a great job and brings a truly eerie vibe to the role. I also enjoyed Emilia Clarke as Sarah Connor. I feel like the fans reacted negatively to a lot of the recasts because they are young actors and they are unproven, but this casting was no mistake. Emilia brings bravado to the role of Sarah Connor and in a few cases sounds like a clone of young Hamilton. There are more than a couple shots in the film that reminded me of Hamilton. Jai Courtney as Kyle Reese was serviceable in the role. I didn't love him but I didn't hate him. I found his acting to be better than his performance in the newest Die Hard. He is given a totally different path than the original Kyle Reese, so I think it's best not to compare his performance to that of Biehn's in the original. The last remaining role worth discussing would be J.K. Simmons, hot off the award winning Whiplash. He plays a nerdy cop of some sort that works with Skynet. He is one of the only humans smart enough to figure out that time travel is real, and that the terminators exist. He does a great job and provides some memorable moments. He unfortunately disappears for the latter part of the film, so don't get too excited about his appearance.

One thing about the film I really appreciated was it's bit of commentary. In the near future, it shows a world totally consumed by technology. Not just computers, but it shows most humans glued to some type of Ipad tablet device. It even goes as far as showing doctors, nurses, and mechanics staring at them while working. It's a nice little bit of commentary on the modern society and the direction it is heading in. Connor and Reese even point out the absurdity of it. The film also addresses aging, and doesn't try to hide or ignore Arnie's age. I found myself connecting with Sarah Connor and her relationship to the Terminator as a father. He was getting older and he would try to ignore it, so he would not upset her. It's the father figure role from Terminator 2, revisited in an entirely different way. It finds itself to be almost as effective.

The film does have a few drawbacks, but they are minor. The dialogue seems wooden at first but you can tell the cast grew comfortable with each other as the film progressed. By the end of the film I feel like the characters were really connecting as a family. I was also happy with the way the director and writers handled the time travel. It was quick and fast, but not insulting or brainless. The film even pokes fun at itself by having the characters argue about paradoxes. There are a few moments that rubbed me the wrong way such as Sarah jamming to "I wanna be sedated". Part of me wanted to hear some Guns N' Roses or Dwight Yoakam! Unfortunately a big negative for this film is the soundtrack. The score has some familiar beats at the beginning, but quickly loses its way. The tracks float towards generic action music, and I don't remember any particular beat that stood out. It's a real disappointment as the music is often a strong point of the Terminator films.

Overall I found Terminator Genisys to be an interesting and fun addition to the series. I would definitely rank this film above the likes of Terminator 3 and Salvation. I found the characters to be endearing and well acted. I do feel like it came off a bit hammy at times considering they are playing established characters, but it works. About half way through the film I found myself really liking the old Arnie Terminator. Schwarzenegger really nailed it and is the center of most highlights in this film. I was also pleased with how Matt Smith was used in the film, but since this is a spoiler free review I will not comment further on that. If you're one of the many internet fans worried about the trailers that spoiled plot points, don't fret because there is still plenty of meat on the bone. I found myself surprised with several parts of the film. I would definitely recommend this film. Go into the film expecting to have fun. At the end of the day that's what robots fighting people is all about.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Jurassic World Review

Written by Stu Cooper

This past weekend dinosaurs invaded your local cinema and Colin Trevorrow's Jurassic World was released. The film stomped the box office, raking in over 500 million dollars worldwide! The toy lines are lining your local Toys R' Us and there is a Lego game adaptation being released this week. This film marks the fourth entry in the series, but serves as a direct sequel to the original. The film completely disregards the events of 2 and 3.

Jurassic World takes place 22 years after the original. The park and technology has advanced beyond anything Hammond could have imagined in the first installment. The park itself has gotten a massive upgrade which includes a petting zoo, a shark feeding show, and a brand new breed of dinosaur! Geneticists that work for the park decided to mix the DNA of various dinosaurs, creating the Indominous Rex. The Indominous Rex serves as a new attraction, which the park owner's hope will boost dwindling attendance. Unfortunately for park attendees, the chaos theory returns and dinosaurs escape.

The film revolves around Owen (Chris Pratt), a raptor trainer and ex-navy soldier who serves as the stories Han Solo. He is reluctant to help serve the park's leaders and does not support the new dinosaur idea. While Owen does not seem to enjoy working for Jurassic World, he does enjoy the bond he shares with the raptors. Not only does Owen bond with the raptors, but he gives them orders, which they follow! It's pretty cool to see a human working with raptors, but the cgi kind of takes away from any real threat element to Pratt when he is close to them. They are often not even in the same shots together.

While the focus of the film is mostly on Pratt's character, the other main characters are of course...helpless children. Two brothers named Gray and Zach are visiting the park with their nanny when all the sudden chaos ensues. The children find themselves trapped in the middle of it, much like the original film. The boys are also there visiting their aunt, who happens to be the manager of the park. Her name is Claire, played by the absolutely gorgeous Bryce Dallas Howard. She also has some kind of past relationship with Owen (Pratt). The four of them end up going on an adventure through the park, trying to escape the clutches of the Indominous Rex.

Another part of the story revolves around the evil human element of this world. Not only are dinosaurs a threat, but a private military organization called InGen is trying to get their hands on the trained raptors. The leader of the group is played by Vincent D'onofrio, who plans to use the raptors for military attacks. He partners up with the evil geneticist played by B.D. Wong. The geneticist is actually the only reoccurring character from the original. Which is odd because the character was not sinister in the original. He seems to be corrupted by the power that creating dinos has given him.

After chaos ensues and dinosaurs escape, we follow Claire and Owen as they go on a search for the two children. Pratt and Howard's chemistry is questionable. They seem to be channeling a classic Han Solo/Leia vibe. Unfortunately it doesn't seem too real, which becomes a problem through out the film. Claire is an upper class cold business woman and Owen is the down and dirty animal trainer. The film plays up the whole “we are from different worlds” love story. It feels somewhat forced, but both actors are beautiful people so naturally audiences don't mind.

The two children involved in the film are one of the films weak points. I found them to be extremely bland and annoying. The older brother is very unlikable and really does nothing in the film to show he is someone you should root for. The younger brother is harmless and serves as the child spirit of the film. Sadly I think the child actor was a little too excited in some scenes, and looks like he is about to laugh most of the time.

As for the effects, the dinosaurs look absolutely stunning and rather realistic. I would say the Indominous Rex is the most unrealistic looking dinosaur, but what can you expect when the creature doesn't actually exist. The T-Rex and raptors return and look just as stunning as the originals. You also get to see a parade of various breeds of dinosaurs as the film tours the park. It actually feels like you're at some type of “what if” futuristic Disney. In this world, lions and tigers are old news and dinos are the new attraction.

While the film was beautiful and served as a great homage to the original, it wasn't without it's problems. I found the two child characters to be boring and the film spends a lot of time on them, which grows tiresome. I just have to remember that ultimately this is a children's movie and children relate to child actors.

I also found the love story between Claire and Owen to be superficial and by the book. It really serves no purpose other than a reason for the four of these people to be in the same room. I will say I really loved Bryce Dallas Howard as Claire, who played the cold boss perfectly. The only objection I had to her character was that she wore heels the entire time, despite the fact that she is literally running from a T-Rex. She must have some major balance skills!

The score of the film was a refreshing rehash of the original tunes. The film inserted the theme song into a few scenes, some of which fit, some didn't. I remember thinking the first time the song cues up, it was a tad awkward and forced. Regardless, I'm glad the original theme is back.

The film certainly had it's ups and downs, but I think it really served it's purpose. It's the best sequel and a worthy addition to the franchise. It's a solid sequel/reboot for a new generation of kids. The children of the original Jurassic Park fans are the ones going to the theaters, so you can't help but feel a little nostalgic watching it. The park itself almost seemed like a satirical take on the original film. You have a character that makes merchandising references and you have the crew of the park creating a BIGGER, BADDER dinosaur because “the attendees demand it”. You could say the whole thing is satire on the genre. The films tone is all over the place. You see a peak of darkness in a particular death scene, but overall the film is very light. Most of the violence comes in the form of combat between two or more dinosaurs. I'm certainly not complaining about seeing that!

When you think third sequel in a franchise, you think chances are the film will not be very good. However, my early impressions of Jurassic World were very positive given the impressive trailers and the youthful talented cast. I was going into this film fully ready to experience another trip to Isla Nublar, and I didn't leave disappointed. Jurassic World is a nonstop adventure through a parallel universe where dinosaurs have replaced apes and whales at the zoo.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

WWF Wrestlemania (NES 1988) Review

Written by Stu Cooper

Today the WWE will be presenting WWE Wrestlemania 31 on PPV and the WWE Network. 31 years of the biggest wrestling show on the planet, but it didn't start that big. Most historians of pro wrestling know that the original Wrestlemania was quite the gamble and the WWE (WWF at the time) didn't really know if it would work or not. It all started with closed circuit TV being aired in local arenas in the New York area. 30 years later, 70,000+ people attend on a yearly basis and the show rivals the Super Bowl in terms of performance and showmanship from entertainers and competitors alike. To celebrate this glorious day I decided to take a look at my NES (Nintendo) collection and pick out the first ever WWF game that was released for a major console. That game was "WWF Wrestlemania" and it was released in 1988.

WWF Wrestlemania marked the first officially licensed game in the WWF universe. The game was developed by RARE, who would go on to make such classics as Donkey Kong Country and Banjo & Kazooie. The game was published by Acclaim, which was actually the start of a near 20 year relationship with the company. The company would go on to publish all of the WWF's games on home consoles for several years, including the NES follow-up "Wrestlemania Challenge". The game was released right before Wrestlemania 4 and was released to hype the event. The game itself carries a Wrestlemania 3 theme tho. It features the tagline from that event "Bigger. Better. Badder." despite the fact that this makes no sense in context of gaming, since this is their first attempt. The game itself bares little resemblance to Wrestlemania 3 other than the cover, which is a photo from that time period, and the fact that in the game Hulk Hogan is the only wrestler that actually possesses the ability to bodyslam Andre The Giant. Kind of a neat design note there.

The game features six unique wrestlers, all of which were quite popular at the time of the game's release. The six wrestlers are Hulk Hogan, Andre The Giant, The Honky Tonk Man, Bam Bam Bigelow, "The Million Dollar Man" Ted Dibiase, and this year's Hall of Fame inductee "Macho Man" Randy Savage! To quote Macho, they certainly picked the "cream of the crop" for this game. The roster while small is certainly memorable. If you are a wrestling fan and you aren't a fan of at least one of these guys, something is wrong. Each wrestler features a little image and profile on the character select screen. You get to see the basic stats of the wrestler and it even lists the wrestlers manager if they had one. For Bam Bam it lists "Oliver Humperdink" as his Manager, for Million Dollar Man it lists "Virgil", for Honky it lists "Colonel Jimmy Hart". Pretty neat but would have been even better if they had a little 8 bit version of the manager cheering you on in between matches, similar to the coach in Tyson's Punchout.

Each wrestler has a set of pretty basic moves consisting of punches, kicks, bodyslams, elbow drops, leg drops, etc. In terms of unique moves some wrestlers like Macho Man have alternate moves. Macho will use his elbows more and also does his top rope elbow drop. Bam Bam does lots of kicks and even does a little cartwheel. Hogan actually possesses the power to bodyslam Andre and that is a feat that no other player in the game can do. The game lets each wrestler do a top rope move, but Andre and Bam Bam (despite him doing moonsaults) cannot climb the rope. There is no outside ring action or finishers unfortunately. Despite the lack of depth in the game, there are a few little bonus things that make the game interesting. Each wrestler will start to glow red if they are losing, and that can cause the wrestler to be angry which increases the damage of each move. Also some wrestlers have little bonus icons that appear inside the ring throughout the match. Each item that appears is representative of that wrestler. For example Hogan has a crucifix that appears and Honky Tonk man has a guitar that appears!

There isn't many options in terms of gameplay. You can basically either play one on one, fight a friend, or run through the 5 other wrestlers for the title. The atmosphere and venue of the match unfortunately never changes. You can beat the game in a matter of minutes, so longevity and replay value is limited. Given the time the game came out tho, I would have been happy with it if I was under the age of 10. The highlight of the game really comes from the sound. Each wrestler has a nice rendering of their theme song in the game, so you get a chance to jam out to "Pomp and Circumstance" or the "Real American" theme without a problem. The theme song to the game is also quite catchy. Where the game really fails is the level design and lack of depth. You basically wrestle inside of a giant black box the entire game, and if you beat the game with every wrestler, you are left with nothing to do. If you are like me and don't have many friends who actually like wrestling, you would be stuck playing 1 player most of the time.

WWF Wrestlemania for the NES is memorable mostly because of it's licensing and not because of the game itself. It's a fun collectible for wrestling fans, but there are far better NES wrestling games out there. In fact, "Pro Wrestling" for NES predated this game and it's much better. That game actually features tons of moves, but no licensed wrestlers. I wouldn't recommend this one unless you are looking for a quick 80's WWF nostalgia trip. Regardless, it's a decent way to celebrate Wrestlemania and kill some time before the event begins!