The Last of Fuss

The Last of UsNaughty Dog’s 2013 epic release is truly that. All the fanfare and industry praise it received was deserved but certain elements of the game may not be what some players are looking for. Be warned though, this game will take the player to mental and emotional places that few games have dared to draw near to.

The Last of Us begins with Joel and his daughter at home. On the news are reports of a spreading epidemic that is causing great concern and unease among people. The symptoms are of people in zombie like states with wild and uncontrollable behavior. Almost immediately, we find that this epidemic has come to the home of Joel. Quickly he grabs his daughter and they begin to flee with a friend only to find that the entire area is in complete chaos as everyone is also fleeing for safety. Their escape is not going to plan and they are forced from their vehicle and must make a mad dash for their lives. They come upon a military soldier they believe will help them but…this is the first turn that will grab and twist the player happens.

Even thinking about this game starts to warp my mind. I intentionally left out a lot of specifics in my opening description of the game. If you are truly interested in this game just be warned and be prepared that this game will venture into many dark places. Most games, and other forms of entertainment, somewhat protect whomever is built up as the hero of the story but that is not always the case in this game. I’ve played my fair share of games in my time, but there were several points in this game when I sat the controller down and found myself saying “That was f#@*ed up”. This game doesn’t even follow the normal zombie shooter model of facing packs and hordes of the undead. There are more battles against others that are not infected than the zombies and these are used to point out the brutality that humanity is capable of inflicting upon itself.

From a technical stand point, this game is both brilliant and frustrating at the same time. The graphics are absolutely top notch and show just how far the existing hardware of the Playstation 3 can be pushed. Of course, you will still find those glitches here and there but that can happen in any game. At one point the NPC with me started floating just above the ground like a ghost and it would not correct itself until I saved and reloaded the game. The weapons in the game work well and seem to be accurate to the real life counterparts with one exception. For whatever reason, the bow and arrow has more stopping power than some firearms. Don’t know how or why this may be like this. Some of the weapon mechanics were questionable though. Why do shivs break after one use? You’d think that someone forced to make the use of scarce resources would take care to make them endure as long as possible. The bombs you can craft will exploded if an enemy comes near but if they aren’t exploded you can retrieve them to be reused. How do they sense between friend and foe? I guess every game has its own mechanics and this is how they chose to implement them in this game. The player does get rewarded for collecting certain items as they are able to use these to upgrade their weapons and abilities. Given that the story is so compelling and the gameplay rewarding, I can look past any issues and thoroughly enjoy the campaign.

On the other hand, as much as I loved the campaign I despised the multi-player. For the purposes of full disclosure, I am not that big into online mutli-player experiences to begin with so I am somewhat biased to enjoy campaigns and story modes more. I will compliment Naughty Dog in that they did incorporate some unique dynamics that differentiate this multi-player experience from any other. The need to capture supplies for your clan makes these online matches a more calculated and teamwork oriented effort than the style of ‘kill the other team more than they kill yours’ of most online matches. Unfortunately, there seems to be some balance issues in the matches. Again, we find the bow and arrow to be curiously over powered. You can buy in-match upgrades like armored vest but it seems like you can still be taken down just as easily as if you didn’t have them. If you add a silencer to a weapon, it is just as if not more powerful than before. This does not coincide with how that device effects a real weapon. I could understand that if headshots were being used but this isn’t always the case. I’m not the best online player but I like to think that I’m capable of having won more than one of the forty plus matches I played in. My solution was to simply not play online any more.

I haven’t started my second play through of this game but I am both looking forward to it and dreading it. My recommendation is to play this game in short to moderate lengths of time. I would highly advise against the marathon play-through approach.

Get your own copy at the retailer of your choice, Amazon, GameStop, Walmart, whomever. Prices are probably still close to the original $59.99 at the time of this posting. If your looking to try it out first, GameFly or Red Box may help you out.

Samuel L. Shaft

ShaftI cannot imagine any better actor to play the lead role in this film. Samuel L. Jackson does a fantastically entertaining job as Shaft.

Detective John Shaft of the NYPD finds himself at the scene of a racially motivated murder. The assailant, played by Christian Bale, is the son of a major real estate mogul and is convinced he will walk. Shaft only furthers the assailant’s confidence by breaking his nose after mouthing off about the victim having rhythm as he is seizing. Much to Shaft’s ire, the murderer is able to make bail and flee the country. There is a time-lapse of two years in the movie but Shaft has nonetheless continued his pursuit of the murderer and is waiting for him when he returns to the country. When the murderer makes bail again, Shaft quits the police and goes on his own. But things don’t go to plan for the murderer either and he ends up aligning himself with local gangsters to make sure he stays out of jail.

This movie was a throw back to the 1970’s detective series of the same name. True to its roots, the movie exudes the same attitude and style that made the series a classic. Perhaps it is the movie’s dedication to the original that hurt is box office numbers. If they would have gone with a more modernized approach and used some more hip-hop style music perhaps it would have been more successful. The inclusion of Busta Rhymes as a supporting actor probably didn’t do much to bring in the younger demographic.

There is no denying that Samuel L. Jackson was perfect for this role. I can’t even imagine another actor in this role. Even Denzel Washington doesn’t seem to fit and he is the only name I can come up with. If some of the feel of the story and cinema feels familiar then you have may have seen some other movies by the same director, Richard Donner. His most familiar movies are the Lethal Weapon series and you can see some of the same aesthetics cross over from that.

If you like bad ass detectives then watch this movie. It’s on Netflix and will only take about an hour and a half to get you that bad ass mother@#%$ing feeling. If you love it enough to own it, of course Amazon is more than willing to accommodate and you can even get some of the old school movies and shows while you are there.

Hansel and Gretel: Bitch Hunters

Hansel and GretelA fresh take on a children’s classic. Fresh with a testosterone kick and bullets. Kind of like Pulp Fiction meets The Muppets.

The forest is dark as a father carries a lantern back to the house. His wife tells him to take the children to the forest immediately. He does so and tells them to stay there. The children wander through the forest and come upon a house made of candy. They become trapped inside the house with a witch but are able to defeat the her. Move forward several years and we find a mature Hansel and Gretel working as witch hunters. They are called to a town that has had several small children go missing. These children must be found and the evil forces kidnapping them must be stopped.

Some things aren’t so clear in the movie but remember this is an adaptation of a fairy tale. Exactly what time period they have this set in, I’m not sure. One would think it would based somewhere in the 1800’s but the fact that the heroes have advanced weapons like shotguns and electric shock devices, it’s hard to say when this movie would be taking place. Keep in mind though that we are talking about a movie with witches so I think we can suspend our disbelief.

The things that are clear in the movie are what makes it worth watching. The story was an interesting take on a fairy tale to make it more action oriented for Hollywood to be able to sell it. There are plenty of chase scenes, gun battles, and fist fights to make the action lover happy or at least appeased. Don’t let the kids watch this one though, with a sprinkle of foul language and nudity it may not be appropriate. The movie manages to not slow down at any point and it is less than ninety minutes thus fighting the trend of unnecessarily long movies. Predictability was somewhat of an issue though. Some of the plot was telegraphed a little too well and some things that were supposed to be surprises fell flat when revealed as it was apparent well before the reveal occurred. Take this a positive as they did not try to make any overtly crazy twists happen.

Apologies to all the Netflix fans but you can’t get this on your streaming plan. You may find movies with Hansel and Gretel in the title but none of them are this movie. I got this from Red Box but it was worth it, especially since I had a code for a free rental. Free is always a good price. Amazon, however, seems a little pricey at this point and you may just want to hold off a little bit before purchasing.

The Averagers

The AvengersAt first you might expect that a movie trying to pack so much into itself would come down to the most mediocre parts of each character. Fortunately, this movie managed to become much bigger than the pieces it was put together with.

The Avengers is the coming together of Marvel’s superheros. This particular vision of them centers on Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk, Nick Fury, Hawkeye, Black Widow, and Captain America. Their unlikely alliance is forged as Thor’s brother Loki has stolen the Tesseract from Nick Fury and his S.H.I.E.L.D agency. The team is not anywhere near a team when they first meet up but through trials and sacrifice they unite to face the alien war force Loki has summoned.

If you like, you can ooh and aah at the special effects in the movie. They were quite good and deserve it. How the writers were able to bring this band of heros together without stagnating the movie was far more impressive. The movie clocks in with a total run time of almost two and a half hours and could have easily ran much longer. The writers did an amazing job to not only keep things moving but to cover all the points that needed to be. The only thing that made the movie uncomfortable to watch was those awful movie theater seats that haven’t been replaced since the seventies. Hopefully you did not suffer from that fate as well.

Bottom line, this was a very ambitious endeavor. Marvel and Paramount banked on people being willing to come see a movie with characters from movies that had not necessarily done well. Think about the lack luster reviews that the previous Thor and Captain America movies received. I dare not mention the two Hulk movies and their woes(although I really thought the second was much better than the first). Perhaps The Avengers was a total gamble on the over the top popularity of Robert Downey Jr. and his portrayal of Iron Man. Look at the rest of the talent they brought in on this as well – Samuel Jackson, Jeremy Renner, Scarlett Johansson, etc. Consider changing the actor of The Hulk to Mark Ruffalo and making the character an integral part of the story. Don’t forget the risk taken when the director was chosen. Joss Whedon was best known for his work on the small screen(Firefly and Doll House). In fact his only real big screen credits was Serenity and I don’t think that was anything near as big.┬áStill, looking at what it did and how well it did doing it, it deserves its praise.

Catch this while you can on Netflix. My guess is that it won’t be a permanent fixture. If you feel the need to have it always on the ready then Amazon asks for $33.96(per the time of this writing) but you get multiple formats to view it on. That should keep your one friend happy that just refuses to invest in a blu-ray player.