Review of Ghostbusters (2016)

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Something weird and it don’t look good – Ghostbusters: Answer the Call! Four months after its cinematic debut, I finally got round to watching Paul Feig’s reboot of the Ghostbusters franchise. The supernatural adventures of Peter, Ray, Winston and Egon are dear to my heart. Not only did I enjoy the original films but in my youth I also read the comics, played with the toys and watched the cartoons (both the Real Ghostbusters and the lesser known Filmation series featuring a simian and a talking car.) So why has it taken me so long to watch Ghostbusters 2016? Well, to be honest it looked like crap. Evidently I am not alone in that opinion, because the film’s YouTube trailer currently has a record breaking one million dislikes. Wow, not even Milo Stewart gets that much hate!

OVERVIEW

In case you have been living under a rock for the past year, the new Ghostbusters team is totally devoid of penis. Physicist Erin Gilbert and childhood pal Abby Yates start up the spirit extermination business after Erin is sacked from Columbia University, when an online vid reveals to the scientific community that she believes in paranormal entities. Joining the pair in their endeavours is Dr Jillian Holtzmann, an eccentric tinkerer who has a talent for fabricating phantom slaying gizmos. Completing the quartet is Patty Tolan, who happens to be the Ghostbusters’ first customer. She gets hired, as her knowledge of New York City lore could be an asset… ah who am I kidding? They only keep her around because she has access to a Hearse, which the group use to lug around their heavy equipment.

At first the fledgling Ghostbuster business struggles to make ends meet, not helped by the fact that they are ridiculed in the press as frauds. The New York City mayoral office are keen to discredit our heroines, despite knowing that poltergeists do actually exist, to prevent mass panic from erupting. Oh my goodness, it’s Roswell all over again! Unfortunately for the authorities, who wish to keep the truth hidden, spectre sightings continue to rise. What is causing this surge of undead I hear you ask? Believe it or not, a disgruntled janitor named Rowan North. The surprisingly intelligent caretaker plots to punish humanity by opening a rift that will unleash hostile spirits onto the mortal plain. When the apocalypse is upon us who are you gonna call? Four unfunny comedians.

VERDICT

My rating for Ghostbusters: Answer the Call is a two out of five. After decades of development hell we finally get a new Ghostbusters flick, but alas it is not the franchise revival most fans were hoping for. Even brief cameo appearances from the old cast couldn’t save this reboot from a below average score. Answer the Call pales in comparison to the eighties classic, in terms of comedy and even special effects. Yes the first film’s visuals may be dated, but I’ll take its monstrous creature designs over the 2016 neon coloured apparitions any day. Some people will say that my opinions are influenced by the gender of the cast, but nothing could be further from the truth. If I was opposed to a bloke free line-up why does my anime collection contain so many shows fronted by all female teams?

On the plus side the movie is better than the weak trailer suggests. Patty isn’t the obnoxious loudmouth implied by the promotional material and Melissa McCarthy (Abby) who I usually detest was surprisingly restrained for once. Holtzmann was my favourite Ghostbuster, although the scriptwriters fail to grasp that acting weird doesn’t necessarily equate to being funny. Overall I thought Ghostbusters was fine at the start, but by the end of its two-hour duration I was bored. Had they trimmed thirty minutes from the final cut and added some wittier gags I would be less negative. Failing to make me laugh after 116 minutes doesn’t bode well for a comedy and the finale was really stupid. Why would hitting a ghost (who has no genitals) in the crotch cause them harm? Ah, whatever. If you seek a proper Ghostbusters sequel I hear that the PS3 game will scratch that itch. Get that for your console and pass on answering the call.

 

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Review

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Watching the highly anticipated Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a little like spectating an overhyped boxing match. You patiently wait for the main event to start, only to then get disappointed when the one-sided scrap ends within a matter of minutes. On paper a duel between the most famous superheroes of all time should be epic, but alas setup for the upcoming Justice League blockbuster hijacks the whole thing instead. In case the script wasn’t bloated enough already we also get Doomsday showing up at the eleventh hour. Chris Terrio and David Goyer, who wrote the screenplay, must not subscribe to the adage that less is more. Couldn’t they have saved Doomsday for that Justice League flick that Warner Bros is so desperate to rush out?

OVERVIEW

Batman v Superman begins with Bruce Wayne witnessing first hand how the city of Metropolis was reduced to rubble, during Man of Steel’s final act. The scene establishes why the Caped Crusader despises Superman, as he helplessly watches innocents die and property get destroyed in the final battle with General Zod. If that doesn’t get his utility belt in a twist, the Dark Knight is further incensed when Superman turns up in Gotham and begins to interfere with his vigilante activities. Bruce isn’t the only one who detests Superman though. Fellow billionaire Lex Luthor also wants to bring Superman down a notch, which he intends to do by harvesting kryptonite ore and making use of the alien tech responsible for transporting Clark Kent to Earth.

To be honest I can sympathise with Bruce and Lex. Superman may be using his powers for good, but you can’t blame humans for distrusting an extra terrestrial who could potentially decimate a city with eye beams. Even if Superman is strong physically there’s no guarantee that his judgement is equally beefy. Early on for example we see that when presented with the choice of preventing a massive African massacre or rescuing Lois Lane, Superman opts to save the babe who jumps his bones. Out of Superman’s two rivals I have to say that Ben Affleck pulls off a convincing Batman. Jesse Eisenberg’s eccentric take on Luthor is another story entirely. Just because he previously played an entrepreneur in The Social Network doesn’t mean that he has the presence to portray Lex.

VERDICT

My rating for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a three out of five. The movie trails behind Marvel’s cinematic offerings, but it wasn’t as terrible as some others have made out. That said I did watch the Ultimate Edition of the film, which is supposedly more coherent than the theatrical cut – thanks to the addition of a few extra scenes. Maybe the movie would have received less flack from critics had it been released in this form, although I can’t blame cinemas for resisting to screen a three hour flick. Annexing all the Justice League nonsense, which added nothing to the story, could have condensed the running time. The brief Cyborg/Aquaman/Flash cameos felt shoehorned in, but on the plus side Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman was a badass and easy on the eyes.

Overall I think Batman v Superman is worth watching for the Batfleck moments. Not only did Affleck avoid becoming another Clooney/Kilmer disaster, but he also delivered the finest live action Batman fights I have ever seen. The finale were the DC Trinity squared off against Doomsday was also decent, even if the CG effects made the creature look like a Lord of the Rings troll. Zack Snyder, not content with blowing up Metropolis in Man of Steel, channelled Michael Bay by orchestrating another explosive conclusion. The writers pre-empted the naysayers, who condemn collateral damage, by saying that the clash took place in a deserted part of town. I’m not convinced. If we maintain this level of wanton destruction, in future DC universe features, there aren’t going to be any cities left standing by the time Justice League rolls along.

Review of Deadpool (PS4)

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After watching the movie (click here for the full review) I was in the mood for more Deadpool goodness. With this in mind I decided to download the Marvel anti-hero’s video game off the PSN store. Developed by High Moon Studios, and published by the much-reviled Activision, Deadpool is a high res version of a game that appeared on PlayStation 3 back in 2013. If you value bargains over visuals keep that in mind, because you can probably snag a copy of the original for dirt-cheap if you shop around. Alternatively you could wait for a Steam sale to hit, as a PC port of the game also exists.

OVERVIEW

Deadpool’s PS4 adventure sees the titular Merc with the Mouth battle against Mr Sinister; the genetics obsessed X-Men baddie who must hold the title for least imaginative villain name of all time. Wade Wilson is miffed with Sinister because the pale-faced antagonist had the gall to murder a target he had been hired to assassinate. Standing between Deadpool and vengeance is an army of clones along with a handful of Z-List mutants – including Vertigo, who has the power of twenty beers (she can make you feel dizzy.) Joining Deadpool for the ride are the likes of Wolverine and time travelling soldier Cable.

For the most part Deadpool is a third person action game, with the occasional platform section and stealth sequence thrown in to keep things varied. Deadpool starts the game wielding just a pair of swords and pistols, but spending the DP earned through slaying enemies will allow players to augment his arsenal with hammers, shotguns and explosives. The combat is reminiscent of Batman’s Rocksteady trilogy as counterattacks can be executed, by pressing circle, whenever the prompt indicating that a foe is about to strike appears onscreen. I’ll forgive High Moon for copying Batman’s melee mechanics, as they had the good sense to omit tedious Batmobile driving sections from their game!

VERDICT

My rating for Deadpool is three and a half stars. It’s a solid brawler/shooter hybrid that kept me entertained for eight hours. The game’s length feels just about right, as I suspect a longer campaign would have exposed how repetitive the button bashing combat can be. Although I had fun slaughtering Sinister’s lackeys it must be said that the gameplay is eclipsed by the comedy on offer. The one-liners and whacky cut scenes had me in stitches, as did the character’s fourth wall breaking antics. Some highlights of note include Deadpool conversing with his voice actor (Nolan North) and levels were the graphics devolve in quality because the studio openly admits to having exceeded their budget.

The politically incorrect humour won’t be to everyone’s liking though, especially if you have a low threshold for misogynist gags. I personally didn’t mind the lowbrow jokes, but the underwhelming boss fights and lack of effort put into repackaging the game for PS4 hardware did bother me. From what I can tell no extra content has been added to the PlayStation 4 edition of Deadpool and, apart from an increase in resolution, the graphics remain unchanged. The environments Deadpool traverses are dreary and the character models in particular look very last gen. What a shame. The game teases us with scantily clad ladies, but many of them look hideous due to the low detailed textures. I suppose that is the punishment we get for giggling at Deadpool’s sexist remarks!

Justice League: Gods and Monsters Review

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Call me bloodthirsty if you must, but I have never understood why the DC comic book heroes are so merciful. Seriously Batman, how many more times are you going to allow the Joker to paralyse and maim your sidekicks before you put him down for good? Real life law enforcement has slayed criminals for a lot less. If you are of the same opinion as me you may want to give Justice League: Gods and Monsters a gander. This direct to DVD animated feature stars an alternate version of the Justice League, who lack the compassion of the traditional DC trinity. Terrorists who get on their bad side can expect to be cremated with eye beams, sliced in twain with an extra terrestrial blade or even drained of their blood!

OVERVIEW

Gods and Monsters’ trio of heroes are the world famous Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman. In this dimension however Superman is the offspring of megalomaniac General Zod and was raised by Mexican immigrants. Wonder Woman on the other hand isn’t an Amazonian, but rather the daughter in law of Darkseid. The female New God relocated to Earth after her marriage ceremony ended on a messier note than the time when my uncle drunk a little too much at my sister’s wedding reception. Last, but not least is the Caped Crusader who happens to be Batman villain Kirk Langstrom (aka Man-Bat.) Kirk transformed into a vampire vigilante one fateful day when he injected himself with a vial of genetically modified bat venom.

Just like their New 52 counterparts, this iteration of the Justice League is a force for good. Their relationship with the White House, headed by president Amanda Waller, is however strained. Aside from their ruthless streak the Justice League are disliked because they routinely flaunt regulations. When you are blessed with superpowers it is easy to ignore the law after all. If the courts struggle to punish celebrities, due to their fame and fortune, what chance do they have of making Superman follow the rules? Things eventually come to a head when the Justice League is framed for the murder of three prominent scientists. Can they find the real culprit and clear their names or will Earth’s protectors be forced to wage war against the United States army?

VERDICT

My rating for Justice League: Gods and Monsters is a three out of five. Legendary producer Bruce Timm once again delivers a highly entertaining superhero cartoon. I enjoyed this edgier take on DC’s all-star team; so it’s a shame that viewers aren’t given more time to experience this alternate universe. The seventy-minute duration means that once you deduct the origin scenes and action sequences there isn’t much time left for plot. When the villain is eventually revealed their cliché motivations are summed up in a few quick lines and the finale wraps things up a little too nicely. All the animosity between Superman and the government is patched up faster than an NES Classic goes out of stock.

Apart from the speedy storytelling, I don’t have any other complaints with Gods and Monsters. The visuals, although not spectacular, will appeal to anyone who grew up watching Justice League Unlimited and the voice acting was competent. Tamara Taylor gave the strongest performance, out of the whole cast, by convincingly showing how Wonder Woman can be tender during romantic moments and fiery in battle. Speaking of battle, the action set pieces were solid and didn’t make Superman seem too powerful. The Man of Steel was given a run for his money by the liquid metal bots he was pitted against and even regular soldiers, who were armed with Kryptonian countermeasures. Perhaps president Trump should invest in those weapons. I don’t think a humble wall will suffice to keep Mexican Superman out of the country!

Review of Deadpool

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Back in 1998, when tax dodger Wesley Snipes assumed the role of Blade, who would have known that eighteen years later superhero films would remain popular. I expected the genre to fade into obscurity, much like Westerns have done in the past, but if anything the appetite for spandex wearing vigilantes continues to grow. Not that I am complaining though, because I am a huge fan of Marvel comics. Now that most of the A-list heroes have starred in their own feature films the time has come for lesser-known characters to get a moment in the spotlight. We can only reboot Superman, Batman and Spider-Man so many times after all. Enter Deadpool, the wisecracking merc with a mouth starring Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin and a CG character.

OVERVIEW

Wade Wilson, a former Special Forces soldier turned mercenary, is the man underneath Deadpool’s mask. The anti-hero’s origin began when Wade hooked up with a prostitute named Vanessa, played by unlucky actress Morena Baccarin (she seems to have a knack for appearing in cancelled TV shows, having previously starred in both Firefly and V.) For a while the pair’s relationship goes swimmingly, but all that comes to an end when Wilson is diagnosed with terminal cancer. In a desperate bid to beat the disease Wade abandons Vanessa to pursue an experimental medical procedure. The treatment proves to be successful and grants him immortality, although it does have the unwanted side effect of making Wade’s face resemble Freddy Krueger’s scrotum.

After assuming the mantle of Deadpool, Wade sets off to punish Ajax – the doctor responsible for his disfigurement. Standing between him and vengeance is a small army of armed lackeys and Ajax’s superhuman bodyguard Angel Dust (played by former MMA fighter Gina Carano.) Having seen Gina’s martial art skills onscreen I am left wondering why she wasn’t cast for the role of Wonder Woman. Oh well, I am sure the skinny model with a funny accent hired by Warner Bros will do just fine as the Amazonian heroine. Anyways, to even up the odds Deadpool enlists the aid of X-Men acquaintances Colossus and the awesomely named Negasonic Teenage Warhead. Why didn’t he recruit Cyclops to his cause? Deadpool explains that the studio can’t afford any more X-Men.

VERDICT

My rating for Deadpool is five stars. It’s probably the funniest superhero movie I have ever seen. Marvel Studio films tend to have plenty of gags, but this 20th Century Fox release is on another level when it comes to humour. Deadpool has the comedy stylings of Ace Ventura combined with the ruthlessness of Wolverine. Although sometimes fatuous, the jokes had me in stitches throughout the 108-minute running time. The script panders to the geek crowd, so be aware that some references may go over your head if you aren’t versed in superhero lore. On the action front it was refreshing to see blood spatter and decapitations aplenty, given that most flicks based on Marvel properties are family friendly. See Hollywood? You don’t always have to aim for a PG rating to earn big bucks at the box office.

It’s good to see Ryan Reynolds redeem himself in the eyes of superhero fans after his lacklustre portrayal of Green Lantern. The Canadian actor’s gift for the gab served him well in delivering Deadpool’s fourth wall breaking quips. I especially enjoyed the banter between politically incorrect Deadpool and metallic do-gooder Colossus. What makes the exchanges all the more impressive is that the Russian X-Man is fully rendered in CG. Out of all the live action films featuring the steel skinned Ruski this would have to be my favourite take on the character. Beware human actors; virtual thespians will soon make you obsolete. Caesar from Planet of the Apes was awesome, as was Gollum. For the sake of proving my point correct let’s ignore that Jar Jar Binks exists! Okay, enough typing for today. Penning this review has made me hungry. I am off to devour some Chimichangas.

Review of Moirai (PC)

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I seem to be in the middle of a gaming funk right now. The road to Christmas is paved with quality stuff to play, so much so that some weeks I end up buying several new releases on console and PC. Unfortunately I find myself in a streak were I play something for a few hours only to then abandon it midway through. Sometimes a difficult level is to blame and other times I simply get distracted by something else that has just come out. Determined to end my bad run of unfinished purchases I scoured Steam’s catalogue for something easy that isn’t too time consuming. My search led me to an indie title named Moirai, which has an average completion time of just ten minutes. No matter how bad my ADD is surely I can beat this! Besides, what have I got to lose? It’s free to download.

OVERVIEW

When Moirai begins a pastor informs the player that a widow named Julia has gone missing on the anniversary of her son’s death. It’s suspected that the grieving widow may have gone to a nearby cave, where her child perished one-year prior. Concerned for her safety the player sets off to explore the cavern in a bite-sized adventure created by a small team of three talented individuals named Chris Johnson, Brad Barrett and John Oestmann. Before the spooky spelunking commences it is possible to converse with the village’s townsfolk and harass the adjacent farm’s flock of sheep, which I most certainly did. Hey I can’t help it. My first name is Welsh so I am naturally disposed to poking woolly livestock.

The hunt for Julia will involve navigating a dimly lit subterranean maze, so be sure to snatch up the oil lantern situated atop a tree stump found beside the cave’s entrance. Once inside eerie moans can be heard emanating from the rocky labyrinth’s depths. What dangers lie in wait and will the knife a friendly lumberjack loaned you suffice in repelling them? I’d feel safer brandishing a pistol, but alas this isn’t Wolfenstein 3D – even if the retro style first person view is reminiscent of iD Software’s Nazi slaying shooter. If you are the type of chap who throws a wobbly because Mafia 3 wasn’t originally 60 FPS you may want to give Moirai a miss. The graphics, although charming in their own way, are blockier than a structure assembled with Lego bricks.

VERDICT

My rating for Moirai is a four out of five. Why such a high score? The plot is generic, the game lacks content and the visuals are primitive. Well, you’ll have to play to find out. Trust me, the game is greater than the sum of its parts. If you don’t believe me let Steam’s stats speak for themselves. At the time of writing Vegeta’s scouter informs me that the game has received over nine thousand reviews and an impressive ninety-six percent of them are positive. Sorry for being vague, but I’d rather not spoil the surprise. Playing through Moirai is a bit like watching The Sixth Sense for the first time. The ending will blow you away and unlike Shyamalan’s supernatural flick you don’t have to slog through one hundred minutes of Haley Joel Osment to get to the good part.

Log Horizon (Season Two) Part Two Review

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Living inside an MMORPG sounds like a dream come true. Who wouldn’t want to reside in a magical kingdom populated with hot elves that wear nothing more than skimpy bikini-mail? Not to mention that paying rent simply requires that you slay harmless woodland creatures, because every animal you encounter drops solid gold coins. Despite the benefits some of the adventurers trapped inside Elder Tales have had enough. It’s been a year since they were forcefully transported to the aforementioned virtual fantasy world, so it’s only natural that some of them would be desperate to reunite with their loved ones back in the real world. The question is whether it’s possible to escape Elder Tales’ confines, especially as the cause of their relocation still remains a mystery.

OVERVIEW

A good chunk of this DVD collection follows the younger members of Log Horizon, as they venture out of Akihabara to procure the materials needed for fabricating a wyvern skin bag. Said satchel can store an entire player’s inventory, which is most handy. I wish that I owned one of those things to transport my weekly shopping, especially now that those greedy supermarket chains have the gall to charge for carrier bags! The trek proves to be an eventful journey, culminating in a fierce battle pitting the younglings against a dragon swarm that is attacking a defenceless village. Along the way Log Horizon’s junior members also encounter a female bloodsucker, who shares an uncanny resemblance to their guild master Shiroe.

Things get more interesting in the final four episodes, when it’s revealed that a third faction exists in Elder Tales. Joining the People of the Land and Adventurers are a group known as Genius Monsters, who are presently based on the moon. Opening diplomatic ties with the geniuses could reveal how one could return to Japan, but communicating across the vast expanse of space will require the use of a radio transmitter. As luck would have it the nearby Shibuya Broadcast Building contains equipment up to the task. The area is however guarded by coma inducing giant moths. Can master strategist Shiroe formulate a plan to best the insects? I don’t see why not. Sneaking into the place is a cinch – just turn on a fluorescent light bulb and hey presto all the bugs will be distracted.

VERDICT

My rating for Log Horizon Season Two (Part Two) is three and a half stars. Out of the four DVD collections this one is the weakest, but I still had a grand time watching it. Quite a surprise given how much time was dedicated to the Log Horizon apprentices, who happen to be my least favourite characters from the show’s ensemble cast. Their seven-episode story arc did however succeed in making me warm up to the kids, partially as it fleshed out their origins. We learn for example that in the real world Tohya is confined to a wheelchair and that Isuzu lacks her father’s musical talents. One might wonder why either character would want to return home given the woes awaiting them. They definitely won’t be in a hurry to come back when they realize who has just won the election!

Despite enjoying the latest instalment of Log Horizon I must admit that season one was better. The biggest frustration I had with the show is that most of its cooler ideas didn’t come to fruition until the season was practically over. I also miss season one’s production values, because Studio Deen’s inconsistent animation can be an eyesore to watch. Even if the visuals could be better I am happy to report that the storytelling remains rock solid. In the MMO anime war Log Horizon can claim to have better characters than Sword Art Online and humorous comedy, which is something the overly dry .hack//sign lacked. Hopefully author Mamare Touno can stop getting arrested long enough to finish off the series on a satisfying note. After selling so many light novels you’d think he could hire a more competent accountant to handle his finances. If Starbucks can avoid paying tax without getting into trouble why can’t he?