Review of Looper

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My job sucks. Long hours, tedious work and low pay. I cannot wait for the year 2044 to roll by. When that magical date arrives I can quit my dull office life and become a Looper. These mob assassins have it pretty easy. All you have to do is turn up at a location, wait for a tied up person to materialize and blast them with a Blunderbuss. One second of work and in exchange you get paid loads of silver bars. Who are the victims that appear from thin air you may be wondering? They are folks from the year 2074, who have crossed the mob. In the future time travel exists and the gangsters of that era have decided to dispose of bodies by teleporting their prisoners to the past. Sounds like a needlessly complicated way of destroying evidence. Why hire hitmen when you could just teleport people into an ancient volcano instead?

OVERVIEW

Joe is a Looper who is saving up for retirement. The floor safe, in his apartment, houses a pension’s worth of stockpiled silver that he plans to spend in his later years. Joe’s dream, for when he leaves the Looper business, is to move to China. There he can find a nice Asian waifu and indulge in all the drugs he desires. His narcotic of choice is an addictive eye drop. Gross! I hate applying eye drops. When it comes to illegal substances I’ll stick to snorting powder and injecting myself, thank you very much. Anyways, enough about my hobbies. Let’s get back to discussing the movie. Early in the film, Joe finds himself in a pickle when the target he has been hired to kill manages to escape his clutches. The mob is unlikely to forgive this blunder so, in order to avoid punishment, he’ll have to make amends by tracking down said fugitive.

Unfortunately for Joe, the guy he is pursuing turns out to be his future self. Outsmarting someone who is more experienced (and knows what you are thinking) is not going to be easy. Thankfully, he has a clue as to where the older Joe may be headed. Inspired by the Terminator, old Joe realizes that child murder is a great way of resolving life’s problems. Seriously, give that a try next time a toddler starts kicking your seat on the bus. I guarantee that shooting them is more effective than moaning at their parents. Anyway… if Old Joe can kill the boy, who eventually grows up to become the boss who ordered his execution, history will be rewritten. Thus the stage is set. Young Joe heads to an isolated farm, where a single mother and her creepy kid reside. He’ll have to protect the family from his older self, whilst also evading the gangsters who are hot on his heels.

VERDICT

My rating for Looper is four stars. It’s a movie that I can highly recommend, providing that you are able to turn off your brain. In my case that wasn’t a problem, as I have already revealed that I enjoy dulling my mind with copious amounts of cocaine. Looper is a very entertaining movie, but it does have a fair number of plot holes. That’s to be expected, as it was written by the hack who butchered Star Wars. In defense of Rian Johnson, time travel stories do require a suspension of disbelief. They just don’t work otherwise, due to all the paradoxes. For a science fiction tale I was surprised by how contemporary the setting is. The year 2044 resembles modern times, aside from the existence of hover bikes. Some humans have also developed telekinesis by then, although the ability is only strong enough to levitate small coins.

Quibbles about some aspects of the story aside, Looper is an excellent movie. I didn’t spot a weak performance throughout the two hours it lasted. The supporting cast includes the likes of Emily Blunt and Jeff Daniels. Young Pierce Gagnon deserves a mention too, for being a rare example of a child actor that doesn’t suck. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis did a good job of playing the two versions of Joe. I don’t think they look alike at all, but thanks to makeup and JGL mimicking Willis’ mannerisms, I was able to buy that they were the same person. Willis is often accused of phoning in performances, but that wasn’t noticeable in this film. He acquitted himself well enough during the brief scenes were his character suffered anguish. If you have a Netflix subscription, Looper is worth checking out. You would be loopy to miss it.

Review of Castlevania (Season Two)

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A year ago I signed up for a seven-day Netflix trial, in order to watch the Castlevania animated series. Fast forward to present day were the second season has just been released. Eager to check out the next installment of Trevor Belmont’s adventures, I went to the Netflix site with credit card in hand. Time to reactivate my account I thought. For some reason however Netflix informed me that there is no account on their database registered under my email address (even though by inbox contains receipts stating otherwise.) Long story short, instead of paying for a subscription I am now on a one month free trial. Looks like I get to watch some shows for nowt and then deactivate the service before they bill me.

OVERVIEW

The first season of Castlevania left most viewers wanting more, as it was only four episodes long. Netflix, emboldened by the success of series one, have thankfully doubled the episode count this time round. The series continues from where it left off. Vampire hunter Trevor Belmont has teamed up with Dracula son’s Alucard and a sorceresses named Sypha in order to prevent the bloodthirsty count from carrying out a genocide of the human race. I expected this season of Castlevania to be an action packed affair, were the heroic trio would journey to Dracula’s mobile fortress slaying any creatures that get in their way. The show subverted my expectations by instead dedicating its opener to the villains. In fact, writer Warren Ellis focuses so much attention on the antagonists that they end up getting more screen time than Trevor and chums.

Dracula’s army is led by various generals, including a viking named Godbrand who lives just to drink blood and to fornicate. He is easy to read, unlike the ambitious seductress Carmilla who is adept in the art of manipulation. Dracula’s minions are mostly made up of fellow vampires, but his ranks also contain two humans who are tasked with gathering the deceased and forging them into demonic soldiers. Just like in season one, Castlevania’s script takes the time to explore the motivations of these characters. No one is evil just for the sake of it. In the case of the aforementioned humans, they both turned their backs on the living due to tragic pasts. Isaac for example is a former slave who was abused by the clergy. Hector meanwhile was exiled and despised by his mother due to his necromancy research. Turns out that mommy doesn’t approve of kids that reanimate dead pets.

VERDICT

My rating for Castlevania (Season Two) is four stars. Netflix have once again proven that video games can be successfully adapted into other forms of entertainment. Fans of the console titles should however be made aware that the cartoon is slower paced than the Konami titles it is based off. Much of the series revolves around vampire politics, as Dracula’s lieutenants squabble over how best to enact their lord’s wishes. Meanwhile the heroes spend a good chunk of time at the library rather than kicking butt. I didn’t mind the dialogue heavy episodes, as the story is well written. Ellis knows how to keep things interesting via character development and by using the more duplicitous characters’ schemes to build up anticipation for the inevitable conflict that is to follow. When the action finally kicks off it is well worth the wait. Episode seven sees Belmont and co finally storm the castle. His battle with the vampire generals is excellent, as is the confrontation between Alucard and his father.

In terms of performances I think that most of the voice actors did an adequate job. My first impression of the bloke who played Godbrand wasn’t great. He grew on me though, as the series ticked along. Visually the show resembles a lower budget Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust. The creature designs were generic and lacked detail. More impressive was the artwork depicting picturesque scenery, such as the shots of Dracula’s castle. On the animation front there were times when I felt a few extra frames here and there would have made things look better. I have no complaints however about the flashy episode seven showdown. Overall I was very pleased with how Castlevania panned out. Season two wraps up the story in a satisfactory manner and also lays down the groundwork for future tales. Whenever season three sees the light of day I will be sure to renew my Netflix subscription to watch it. In the meantime I have a few more weeks of free Netflix access to enjoy. Are there any other Netflix exclusives I should check out? Leave your suggestions in the comments section below.

Angels of Death Review

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A more organized blogger would have posted this Switch review a week ago and called it a Halloween special. I am however not known for planning out site content in advance. Opportunity missed! Instead of reviewing a horror game, on the 31st of October, I ended up writing about a horror-ible Fantastic Four movie instead. Angels of Death has a handicap, when it comes to instilling terror, as it was developed on RPG Maker. Scaring people is far easier with realistic graphics, rather than sixteen-bit pixels. With the right atmosphere it is still possible though, as Corpse Party has proven in the past. To be honest I am a coward at heart, so a horror game that is low on frights is fine with me. Heck, the only reason I braved this six-hour adventure was because some folks, who I follow, have praised the anime adaptation that recently aired.

OVERVIEW

Rachel Gardner is an emotionless thirteen-year old who has been sent to counselling after the death of her parents. When the game begins she awakens in a mysterious building with no knowledge of how she got there. Ray explores her surroundings and soon encounters a bandaged man who wields a scythe. Said mummy look-alike is a serial killer who answers to the name Zack Foster. He chases after Rachel, with the intentions of adding her to his murder tally. The pursuit doesn’t go as planned however. Rather than culminating in homicide, the pair’s meeting ends with them forming a temporary truce. With the aims of escaping the skyscraper that holds them prisoner, Rachel and Zack elect to team up. Can the partnership’s mix of brains and brawn overcome the dangers that await them? Probably. The game isn’t very hard.

Over the course of four episodes Rachel and Zack descend down the edifice. Each floor is littered with traps and is guarded by bloodthirsty lunatics. Despite being coded in a role-playing-game engine, Angels of Death features no turn based combat. Players cannot fight off their assailants and must instead flee from attackers. Getting caught will result in an instant game over, which can be frustrating. Thankfully the game auto saves whenever Rachel is in immediate peril. No significant progress is therefore lost should the heroine perish. Bypassing traps on the other hand requires some basic puzzle solving. Like adventure games of yore, the brainteasers involve using an item in the right location. The inventory Rachel carries is never large so sussing out what object needs to be picked is usually pretty obvious.

VERDICT

My rating for Angels of Death is three stars. The game doesn’t make a good first impression. I was underwhelmed by the rough looking artwork and the early gameplay. Episode one started with me dying multiple times, during a sequence were you are given seconds to evade a fast moving enemy. I suck when put under pressure and fare even worse when a game hasn’t explained that it’s possible to dash by pressing B. Thankfully things improved after that. As the story progressed I got more invested in the game. I dug the colourful cast of characters that Rachel meets and the mystery, of the building she’s trapped in, piqued my interest. Binding it all together is her relationship with Zack. Prior to buying the game who would have known that I would end up shipping a thirteen-year old girl with a guy who slices up people with bladed weapons?

Those seeking horror may leave Angels of Death feeling a tad disappointed. It lacks the creepiness of Corpse Party and is devoid of jump scares. Players, like myself, who appreciate dark humour should however enjoy their time with the game. The cartoon visuals and silly dialogue counterbalance the plot’s more disturbing moments. Episode four’s reveal, in particular, is not for the faint of heart. Speaking of dialogue, keep an “eye” out for a character named Danny should you decide to purchase the game. I challenge anyone to take a sip of their favourite alcoholic beverage whenever he utters the word “peepers.” I guarantee you won’t reach the end credits before your liver gives out. Maybe I’ll give said drinking game a “shot” whenever I get round to watching the anime.