Ghost in the Shell – Review

Image via imdb.com

For a ninety-nine cent rental it was worth every penny and more.

In the future, robots live among us and serve us. Many believe that the next step of human evolution is to become them. To this end, the Hanka company is developing this hybrid by merging a human brain into a robotic body. The result is Major, the first of her kind. Neither truly robotic or human, she is assigned to Sector 9 as a weapon used to aid humanity in the fight against its detractors.  After several higher-ups within Hanka are murdered Major slowly begins to realize that her own existence and the world around her are not what she has been lead to believe. She must question everything she has been told and everyone she has known in order to find the real truth.

As a matter of full disclosure, I have no exposure to any of the source material used for this movie. The fact that it was originally anime is about all I know of it. My review and thoughts will be solely based upon my experience of watching the movie in question.

Whether by intent or not, this movie is stylistically and thematically reminiscent of a variety of movies. Comparisons to RoboCop can be made when considering a human brain being put in a robotic body and the struggle to find which identity is real. The are shades of Bladerunner when you see the city and consider that Major is essentially a cop just like Deckard was. Again we see robots that are trying to become more human-like whereas the humans are seeking the immortality of the robots. Some of the gun play and action scenes invoke the same imagery as the Matrix films and there is also the same idea of riding a ceaselessly endless network of consciousness.

The movie is visually stunning nearly to the point of distraction. The environment and characters are done in such a stunning a beautiful fashion as to match the beauty of Scarlett Johansson herself. Robots that can blend in and out of humans, neon signs reflecting in the water, or holograms the size of skyscrapers make the movie feel wondrous and vivid. It also lead to the feeling that the scenic rolls were being drawn out to give a false sense of wonder and taking time away from actually telling parts of the story. Clocking in at one hundred and seven minutes, the film probably could have been condensed by simply shortening these bits without loss of exposition.

The movie starts out slow but gains its own momentum. After a certain amount is revealed one may find themselves leaning in waiting on that next key piece of the story in a heightened state of anticipation. There is just enough foreshadowing that the plot feels believable but has not been given away at any point. One thing that did not feel as natural was the pace of the movie near the end. Something made it feel abrupt at the conclusion and whether the filmmaker’s intent was to leave things unsettled or open for a sequel.

With the movie being only ninety-nine cents via a PlayStation Store sale, there is no complaint on the price. Even if I had paid full price to own it there would be no disappointment. Others may disagree based on an attachment to the film’s source material but that is not this writer’s vantage point. Although not perfect, as no film is, the movie was entertaining and worth another watch.

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Paul Novak

Owner, Proprietor, Typer of Words, Gamer, Jester

A self described Polish ninja toiling away as an IT professional but more into gaming and writing. Physically existing on the western side of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania yet existentially flowing with the ether of the Internet.

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The Flash: Season 3 – Review

Good but lacking.

Barry Allen has used his speed force powers to change time, again. After going back to save his mother Allen finds himself in a present day where things aren’t right. Although he has his parents he is finding that many other things are not as they should be. As much as he tries to make this reality work it is still wrong to him. Once again, he must go back and change time again. Even after letting his mother die, again, the present still isn’t exactly as he originally left it. Allen must now face all the pitfalls and consequences of his actions. Even across time will his mistakes haunt him.

This show is generally clever and fun. Granted it is based on a comic book and sometimes it seems more cartoony than necessary. The characters help drive the show beyond what it is really about, a guy that can run really fast. The relationships Barry Allen forges and holds dear are the true heart of the show.  Without giving spoilers, one of the key parts of the season follows an arc where a member of Team Flash has taken a dark path but the team never gives up on this person showing just how much they really are more of a family than a team.

As much as the show is fun it has its faults. Any show that uses time travel as a device ultimately has issues. Perhaps I missed something but it was never explained why things are slightly different after Allen resets the time line. Then there is the whole idea of something needing to pre-exist itself in order for it to exist at all. That idea only got worse when the show itself tried to explain it and made it seem even more ridiculous when after the explanation the characters just through their hands up in the air essentially say “yeah, what a pickle” and then walk away. It is as if the writers just couldn’t even convince themselves that what they were trying to convey worked.

It is unclear how much longer it can go without some retooling. For me, there seems to be serious issues about Barry Allen’s inability to learn from his mistakes. How many times does this guy have to change time before he realizes it messes things up and he shouldn’t do it? Then there is the layering of time travel on top of the multiple universes. If that weren’t complicated enough, there is an awful lot of cross show tie-ins with Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow, and Supergirl. At first all these were fun but then it makes me wonder how it is this show cannot stand on its own?

I enjoy the show but I’m not anxious about the next season. Where this season left off leaves some possibilities open. However, I can only wonder if they will keep doing the same type of writing instead of makes a few changes.

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Paul Novak

Owner, Proprietor, Typer of Words, Gamer, Jester

A self described Polish ninja toiling away as an IT professional but more into gaming and writing. Physically existing on the western side of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania yet existentially flowing with the ether of the Internet.

Dana Carvey: Straight White Male, 60 – Review

Image via newonnetflix.info

This guy still makes me laugh.

Dana Carvey hasn’t done much stage work over the years and that is sad. This Netflix special is a fantastic display of the comic’s talent. Time has not dulled Carvey’s sense of humor or his ability to deliver it. If anything it has given him more insight and material. The comic already had an impressive reservoir  to work with and this special only shows that it has deepened.

There are few styles or topics Carvey will not employ in order entertain. Anything from telling a joke about the Apple store, singing a mock Italian song about space travel, or an impersonation of Barack Obama explaining the Middle East. Much of the humor is politically oriented but equal in that he makes fun of both Democrats and Republicans. For me, the special’s best parts were when he talked about his own life.  It may be that the stories are exaggerated but it is hilarious to hear about his travel experiences and past gigs he has done. The part when he discusses his Millennial children is perhaps my favorite. Hearing his experiences with them were funny on their own but they made me think of people I know and that made me laugh even harder.

Watching Dana Carvey’s special was both nostalgic and fresh.  Other than a reference to making the original Wayne’s World movie and reviving The Church Lady for a corporate gig he doesn’t speak about his past material. The vast majority of the special is based around his life after his heyday and Saturday Night Live work. Given that he is now sixty, it could be that having raised his children is what has kept him in tune and on the pulse of what is going on.

Being old enough to have seen Carvey as a regular on Saturday Night Live gives me an appreciation for seeing him again. His absence probably wasn’t very noticeable given that things change and people have access to comedy, and other entertainment, outside of television and movies, for which Carvey is most known for. Doing a Netflix special may have been the best move for him at this point since it is a newer delivery method and one that is readily accessible to both new and old audiences.

On a personal note, Dana Carvey is a long time favorite of mine. I even enjoyed some of those movies that he did that weren’t so good but I tried to enjoy his performance more than the overall movie. He was an early idol to me and I always wanted to be able to do impersonations like him. I don’t know if he plans on doing any more of these specials but I sure hope so.

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Paul Novak

Owner, Proprietor, Typer of Words, Gamer, Jester

A self described Polish ninja toiling away as an IT professional but more into gaming and writing. Physically existing on the western side of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania yet existentially flowing with the ether of the Internet.

Extraction – Review

Image via imdb.com

Remember when Bruce Willis made good movies???

A CIA agent nearing the end of his career is sent on one last secret mission. He has had a fall from grace and this is his last chance to redeem himself. In contrast, his son has been working hard to rise through the ranks of the CIA to become a field agent like his father but he keeps getting passed over for the position. The father/son duo have had a strained relationship after the wife/mother was murdered years ago. Now the pair have a chance to come together again when the father’s mission apparently takes a wrong turn and the son takes it upon himself to save him.

Normally I would try to say something nice about a movie and go through all the positives. Here is the only positive – see that graphic I used at the top of this post? That has a great throwback vibe to it and screams of an old Steve McQueen movie. There.

What this movie ultimately turns out to be is a total disaster.  Bruce Willis all but mails in his performance and given how little his is actually in the movie, he must have only been on set for about a week. The rest of the cast doesn’t do much better but maybe its not completely their fault. There is supposed to be a romance element in this movie but the pair involved in it pull it off in the most uncomfortable and unbelievable fashion as if they are step-brother and step-sister. As far as the dialogue overall goes, not only is it delivered poorly, it was written poorly. Maybe the delivery was bad because the actors were reading it during their takes thinking to themselves “is this right?”. If you are looking for plot just keep looking. The setup and rollout of the story is not only unbelievable but somewhat ridiculous. There is a machine capable of taking over major communications systems that can be operated by a common street thug. Kind of like the world’s most versatile smartphone.

This movie is a big step in the Nicholas Cage direction of films for Bruce Willis. I don’t think this movie ever had a theatrical release and it may not have even been direct to DVD. This one could have gone straight to forgotten and then Netflix got the streaming rights on the cheap. Granted that at this point in his career, Bruce Willis can make his choice of films. The question is why he would agree to do this film. There is no great direction in this film or deep meaning. The only passing thought is that he was trying to do a friend a solid by being in their movie.

The hour and a half I spent on this movie feels like a waste. As much as I love Mr. Willis and all he has done in his career, I cannot endorse this movie in any way. At least with the lower tier Nicholas Cage movies I can get some entertainment, this movie just left me sad about where Bruce Willis is at with himself. In hind-sight, I should have started watching Breaking Bad before watching this movie and then I would have never even seen it. (P.S. – Breaking Bad is damn good even though I’m only four episodes into it.)

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Paul Novak

Owner, Proprietor, Typer of Words, Gamer, Jester

A self described Polish ninja toiling away as an IT professional but more into gaming and writing. Physically existing on the western side of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania yet existentially flowing with the ether of the Internet.

The Legend of Tarzan – Review

Image via imdb.com

Not sure if it says more about me or the movie that I feel asleep while watching it.

Tarzan has left the jungle and is living in London with Jane. However, he is convinced to return to jungle he grew up in to help investigate what is going on there. Reports of corruption and slavery are crossing the land. Tarzan reluctantly takes Jane with him along with his new acquaintance George Washington Williams. What they find is that they must not only fight the jungle and its danger but their pasts as well.

The movie is ambitious to a fault. Like so many films before it, it quickly becomes a stage of grandeur and less of substance. The lush jungle and all of its creatures are used ad nauseum to fill time in the movie with drawn out sequences that bring little to the story. Out of almost two hours comes a convoluted story that gets less attention and clarity than its backdrop is given. Through out the movie it is a struggle to stay interested enough to figure out all the characters intentions and motivations much less care about them.

Star power did not lend any help to this film. Not to say that any performances were not to par. Samuel L. Jackson plays a fine character but it felt somewhat cookie-cutter as he yells a lot and tromps around like a badass. One performance that puzzled me to no end was that of Christoph Waltz. He plays his role well, I suppose, but its awkwardness never settled with me.

Having mentioned that I fell asleep while watching, I’ll also tell you I didn’t go back and watch what I slept through. It didn’t seem important enough for me to do so since the movie had no draw to begin with. After sinking two hours into it and not getting much enjoyment, it really did not entice me to invest more time into it than I already had.

If you’re looking to see Margot Robbie, just go watch Suicide Squad – you know that’s what you really want.

 

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Paul Novak

Owner, Proprietor, Typer of Words, Gamer, Jester

A self described Polish ninja toiling away as an IT professional but more into gaming and writing. Physically existing on the western side of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania yet existentially flowing with the ether of the Internet.

X-Men: Apocalypse – Review

Image via foxmovies.com

Image via foxmovies.com

Previous thoughts on the weakening of the Marvel Universe may have some legs.

Its feels like they’ve been making X-Men movies for an eternity even though it has only been since 2000. There have been many spin-off and off-shoots of the core X-Men movies and it is starting to feel that some of those are better than the core movies themselves.

X-Men: Apocalypse picks up ten years after the events of X-Men: Days of Future Past. Professor Xavier is running his school, Magneto is living a secret life, and Mystique is out in the wild. Unbeknownst to most, a hidden group has been trying to resurrect what they believe to be a god under Egypt.  Turns out that they are really awakening the first mutant who is bent on world and universal domination.

The previous movies was both intriguing and entertaining. Whereas this movie abandoned those things in favor of grandeur. Instead of developing a cohesive plot and bringing the viewer into it in a meaningful way, the movie is crammed with characters and plot lines that don’t necessarily work together. It quickly becomes a confusing mess of who is on which side and what they may be fighting for. Magneto had the worst of it flipping and flopping on to every side of a cube throughout the movie.

Although the movie had good production value it was just too much. Some of the scenes get to be so elaborate and cluttered with effects that you lose track of what is going on in the scene much less in the movie. This also is one of those movies that could have been shorted for its own benefit if many of the scenes were either shortened or removed completely. Clocking in at about two and half hours is a lot of time to ask people to invest in just to give them eye candy but not much meaning. Sure the special effects were pretty but after the oh-ah feeling was gone they didn’t add much to the movie.

Was the movie good? Eh. Was the movie bad? No(?). The term underwhelming might be more accurate in this case. When the previous movie and some of the other more recent movies were better this movie fell short of expectations. Bringing back together the likes of McAvoy and Fassbender should have been an easy win especially when adding young talent like Sophie Turner, hot out of Game of Thrones.

When the movie was over I wasn’t disappointed with the movie. I was more disappointed that the amount of time I invested in it was not as well spent as it could have been. I’m not the biggest Marvel fan and would never claim to be anywhere near an expert but I just have the notion that film could have been a better entry in the Marvel Universe than it is.

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Paul Novak

Owner, Proprietor, Typer of Words, Gamer, Jester

A self described Polish ninja toiling away as an IT professional but more into gaming and writing. Physically existing on the western side of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania yet existentially flowing with the ether of the Internet.

Dude’s Chronicles 2-23-2017: I’ll Let You Entertain Me

Image via Fanpop

Image via Fanpop

This week was slow on news but I did manage to watch a lot of stuff. I guess that is all I really got accomplished with my extra day off from work.

Entertainment

  • Shameless – Finished all six seasons that are on Netflix. Sort of sad that there is no more available to me. I know season seven is out there but I don’t have access to it anywhere within a price range I’m willing to pay. Seems that my desire to be a cheap ass is out-doing my desire to see more of this show.
  • Batman: The Killing Joke – I enjoyed everything about this one, with one exception. The animation was great and having the traditional voice actors for the leads, Conroy for Batman and Hamill for the Joker, made it feel like it had all the fixings of Batman. Where if failed was right at the end, it just didn’t payoff as well as it could have and left me somewhat disappointed. I don’t know how true or close this was to the original comic but it gets didn’t work for me at the finish.
  • Safehouse – I like watching movies where Denzel Washington plays the badass.
  • The Nice Guys – Russel Crowe and Ryan Gosling have great chemistry in this flick but the overall movie just doesn’t have it. As much as the duo plays off of each other the film just lacks story and ultimately lets you down.
  • Criminal – I think they were trying to make Kevin Costner into Matt Damon in this movie. The way they played things out had a Bourne style to it but it wasn’t nearly as good. There were big names associated to this film, like Tommy Lee Jones, but they were barely present in the film and contributed even less.
  • Hudson Hawk – This a classic. It was one of those movies that become noted for how bad it was when it was released but has garnered somewhat of a cult following over the years. All these years later I still long for a sequel.
  • Point Break – I tried watching the remake but couldn’t get more than 30 minutes with it.  The original was contrived and silly but this one just felt awkward and forced to point that it was unbearable.
  • Halo Wars 2 – Confused? It’s a game but I have it under entertainment. That is because I watched the cutscenes via YouTube. After having watched the story line of the game I’m even more glad that I didn’t buy the game since the story wasn’t that interesting and I already wasn’t interested in the combat.

Games

  • Overwatch – Didn’t spend much time in the game this week. Grinded out a couple of levels to get loot boxes but didn’t care for the game modes in arcade so I didn’t manage to snag any of that loot.
  • Paragon – I gave the MOBA a go this weekend just to see what it was like. Doubt that I will be putting more time into the game but you never know.

News

  • Ghost Recon: Wildlands open beta – You get the chance to play for free if you haven’t already in the closed beta. I’ll likely just skip this but would encourage other to play especially if they are unsure about buying the game.
  • Nintendo Switch early reveals – Well, obviously Nintendo is not happy about the hardware leaking early so much so that those involved may be facing criminal charges associated to theft. I guess this is one of those times being on the cutting edge involves getting cut.
  • Horizon: Zero Dawn has a 250MB patch – Really? That is the smallest day-one patch I have seen in years. The fact that it is so small is shocking in the day and age of patches clocking in with GB’s after the numbers.

Closing Arguments

I give up on Watch Dogs 2. No matter how many times I’ve tried I just can’t do it. Horizon: Zero Dawn drops next week and it is scoring well. That should give me something else to do.

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Paul Novak

Owner, Proprietor, Typer of Words, Gamer, Jester

A self described Polish ninja toiling away as an IT professional but more into gaming and writing. Physically existing on the western side of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania yet existentially flowing with the ether of the Internet.