Tag Archives: action

Saints and Soldiers

Complete Score: 25 / 42 = 60%

A while back when I was forced to break my addiction to Generation Kill, I stumbled onto Hulu.com and saw a World War II movie by the name of Saints and Soldiers. It looked intriguing enough so I clicked through to the movie’s page. Once there, the positive reviews and comparisons to Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan hooked me in.

The film follows a few American soldiers who are captured by the Germans but escape during a shoot-out. While hiding out in a cabin they hear some chatter about a downed airplane and go off looking for the pilot. They find a British soldier caught in a tree who tells them he has some very, very, very important information to pass along to command central. So the group of Allies sets off to cross enemy lines and inform their counterparts.

Right off the bat, the film immerses you into the time period with a radio broadcast describing the aforementioned massacre. The film keeps you immersed with soldiers who look the part with weapons that look straight out of a Medal of Honor or Call of Duty video game. In other words, the weapons look real, the soldiers look real and the film has a 1940’s feel. At the end of the film we see that the producers used WWII re-enactors to play the roles of many of the soldiers and it shows in the authentic feel of the film.

Saints and Soldiers

The actual actors do a good job too and are believable as WWII era soldiers. The camaraderie between the group feels a bit forced, though this group did come together spontaneously so it shouldn’t feel as though they’ve been together for too long. One of the reviewers on hulu.com where I watched the film (for the low cost of about 5-6 minutes of commercials) mentioned the stereotype of the characters, where the four corners of the USA are represented and the fact that the French people in the movie are woman and children while the British soldier needs constant rescuing. To a certain extent it is true, however it does not ruin the movie.

The comparisons to Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan are off. Saints and Soldiers is a nice film with some cool action sequences but it is in no way great. It’s an entertaining movie, but you’ll have to suspend your belief as this rag tag group of 4-5 soldiers fights off tons and tons of German soldiers.

Towards the end of the film it does get a bit too preachy, especially for a war movie but it’s still a solid way to spend an hour and a half, especially if you watch it streaming via Hulu.

Value

I viewed the film at Hulu for the cost of enduring a few commercials. It was a decent way to pass the time, though I personally would not purchase nor rent the film. Plus, the film was apparently shot for under $1 million so it’s a good value for everyone involved.

Score: 3.5 / 5

Quality

It’s good enough to draw you in and pass the time but it’s certainly not going to win any awards. The look of the film, however, is very well done and looks quite authentic.

Score: 3.5 / 5

Innovation

Nothing new here. If you enjoy authentic World War II films you’ll like but not love this one.

Score: 1 / 5

Social Benefit

There’s some social commentary between the Mormon sniper and the atheist medic on the perils of war, but it’ honestly nothing we haven’t heard before. War is bad. If this movie was powerful enough to convince us to stop fighting it would get a good score here, but in the end it’s just a film and is not going to change the world. +.5 points for streaming it for free via Hulu though.

Score: 3 / 5

Freestyle!

The movie gets big points for being streamed for free on Hulu and its use of WWII reenactors to fill out the supporting cast.

Score: 14 / 22

Complete Score: 25 / 42 = 60%

Watch Saints and Soldiers for free below (you can enable full-screen after the commercials):

Super Smash Bros. Brawl

Complete Score: 28 / 42 = 67%

Super Smash Bros. Brawl is the third entry in the beloved Nintendo fighting franchise and the first iteration for the Wii. It is a fighting game that brings together many popular and obscure Nintendo characters for a brawl fest on multi-tiered organic stages.

It has that “OK, only more game…” quality

In the newest installment, Nintendo decided to include popular characters from other companies, the main additions being Solid Snake from the Metal Gear franchise and classic Sega character Sonic the Hedgehog. With few gameplay changes, the game manages to keep the fighting as fast and intense as the previous editions. But can it stack up to the deep fighting experiences of games like Soul Caliber IV and Virtua Fighter 5?

Value

At $50, the game is priced the same as many of the Wii games on the market today. However, with the amount of unlockables in the game, the replay value is very high. The single player story mode will take most gamers about seven hours to go through. The game also features 35 characters and over 30 different stages to battle on. On top of the single player story mode, there are also numerous challenges to complete in order to unlock character art, game music, and trophies that encompass nearly every game in Nintendo’s library.

To go along with the single player, the multiplayer mode supports up to four players simultaneously. Adding four players to the levels can become overwhelming with the amount of objects on screen at once. However, this adds to the intensity when four people are huddled in a room yelling at each other every time a player gets knocked off the stage. Multiplayer is incredibly addictive and gamers with a good group of friends could challenge each other for months. For people who don’t have friends, there is the stripped down online mode where gamers can challenge anyone from the world. There is enough packed into this game to keep people busy for a long time.

The only reason this game doesn’t receive a perfect score in Value is because gamers who don’t have online or people to play with locally could easily become bored with the game. The carrot on a stick grind that the single player is based on could turn some people off.

Score: 4 / 5

Bowser smashing some fools
Bowser smashing some fools

Quality

The first thing that you notice about Super Smash Bros. Brawl is the presentation itself. It is the best looking game on the Wii, barely edging out Super Mario Galaxy. The colors are bright and vibrant with excellent character movement. The game sometimes slows down, but usually stays at 30 FPS. This is incredible when you see the amount of different characters and objects that can fill the screen. Also, the sound is amazing and will make many Nintendo fan boys tear up. The music ranges from popular games such as Zelda and Mario, to more hardcore beloved games like Excite Bike and F-Zero. The presentation is excellent and much credit goes to the game’s developers.

While there are many different characters and stages packed into the game, the most important aspect is the actual fighting gameplay itself. There are no health bars, but instead a percentage on the lower half of the screen. The more a player gets hit, the higher the percentage bar increases. The object is to weaken a player to the point where they can be knocked off the level and lose the match.

The levels can get crazy, with many moving parts to each stage. For example, one level is on an airship where different sections are falling off, forcing the player to jump onto different platforms. For a gamer new to the fighting genre, this can be fun and unpredictable, creating a different experience each time.

Speaking of new players, gamers who are picking up a fighting game for the first time will love Super Smash Bros. Brawl They can easily mash away at buttons and slowly ease their way into the fighting game genre. However, more experienced players can use the stages and certain power moves to their advantage to knock the players off the level.

The nature of the ever changing stages creates an imbalance that leads many cheap deaths, frustrating more experienced gamers who are used to pulling off precision combos. When stacked up against a game like Virtua Fighter 5, Super Smash Bros. Brawl is child’s play. The button mashing happy gameplay can become real shallow, real quick. After a couple of hours of play, I began to tire of hitting the same one or two buttons over and over, no matter what character you use.

Score: 3.5 / 5

The Princess punishing fools
The Princess punishing fools

Innovation

Super Smash Bros. Brawl feels like a minor tune up from Super Smash Bros. Melee more than a true sequel. Nintendo decided to keep the gameplay intact, instead focusing on overloading gamers’ senses with more character, trophies, and stages. If you have played any of the other games in the Super Smash Bros. series, you will feel right at home with this game.

The only major addition to the game is the Subspace Emissary story mode in single player. The story mode feels more like a platforming game with fighting game elements mixed in. While much more creative than the story mode in Soul Caliber IV or Virtua Fighter 5, the story isn’t that great, especially since none of the characters speak. It’s your typical evil villain tries to destroy the world and only the game’s characters can stop it. It is not enough of a change to make it feel new, only slightly refined.

Score: 1.5 / 5

Social Benefit

Super Smash Bros. Brawl is one of those games that can bring people together and keep them glued to the TV for hours. This can be a problem because it can prevent people from going outside and catching the occasional rays of sun light that the world has to offer. Fresh air is a great thing, and this game can prevent people from getting it.

But then again, you can get many people together in a room to play and have hours of fun. On weekends, this could prevent people from getting drunk and driving, leading to possible fatal accidents. It is also a good stress reliever and a good way to vent frustration, especially with friends. A heated argument between friends could easily be resolved with a game of Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

Score: 3 / 5

Mario vs. Zelda, the ultimate Nintendo brawl
Mario vs. Zelda, the ultimate Nintendo brawl

Freestyle!

Personally, this was a difficult game to review because I had so much fun playing it. Fun is a word that seems to pop up over and over again in this review, but the only time I really had fun was when I was playing with other people. I’ve had some sessions that lasted for more than three hours when I had a good group of friends playing. It has that “OK, only more game…” quality that many games lack.

However, the single player gets very boring very quickly. Part of the fun of this game is the competitive nature of trash talking and psyching out your opponents. If that element is missing you begin to realize how simple the gameplay is. Online play could have remedied this problem if it wasn’t limited due to the lack of voice chat and an easily accessible friends list.

While many Nintendo fan boys are already itching to respond to this review with nasty responses even before I’m finished, what I am saying is true if you really think about it. It’s a shame because you can tell that so much love and hard work was put into the game by the developers. I only wish that they focused more on creating a deeper fighting experience rather than throwing in more bells and whistles.

Score: 16 / 22

Super Smash Bros. Brawl for the Nintendo Wii is available at Amazon.com. (Note, Amazon.com is our affiliate).

Note, all gameplay images are via the Nintendo web-site.

Complete Score: 28 / 42 = 67%

Sons of Anarchy: The Sopranos on Motorcycles

Complete Score: 25 / 42 = 59.5%

After coming back from a nice little bicycle ride, I finally had a few hours where I could lay back and watch some motorized cycles wrecking havoc on small town California. The hype behind Sons of Anarchy has been great and I’ve been hearing over and over again how it’s The Sopranos but on motorcycles. Well, I never quite got into The Sopranos but a show revolving around motorcycles in California instantly seems more exciting to me than some mobster family living in suburban New Jersey.

Value

I watched the pilot of Sons of Anarchy via hulu, so I watched it relatively for free (minus the cost of my internet connection and the few commercials I endured). In either case, I certainly paid less than if I’d watched it on FX so keep that fact in mind. The show was just good enough to keep me entertained for an hour, but not good enough to draw me in enough to anticipate the next episode. After three episodes, I’m by no means attached to the characters nor the storyline, but it’s a decent way to kill some time. By no means would I pick up cable just to watch this show though.

Score: 3 / 5

One man fights California traffic
One man fights California traffic

Quality

The show is on FX so it’s not going to feature blockbuster special effects, but at the same time FX has produced several not upper echelon but entertaining shows so expectations were relatively high. The folks behind the show do not disappoint, as the explosions and gun play look and sound authentic and the Sons of Anarchy crew looks, talks, and feels like a motorcycle gang. For the most part the acting and action is believable. It’s not Emmy caliber but it’s entertaining.

Score: 3 / 5

Innovation

It’s not really breaking much new ground here, but there is enough new twists and turns to make this show more than just The Sopranos on wheels. For one, it seems the Sons of Anarchy gang was never really quite intended to be a gang, but rather just a group of motorcycle enthusiasts. They apparently just sort of fell into this whole major crime operation. In either case you’re not turning into this show to learn or discover but rather to see stuff blow up and people get roughed up or shot. To that end it does not disappoint.

Score: 2 / 5

Corrupt cops and criminals, together at last
Corrupt cops and criminals, together at last

Social Benefit

Well, it’s certainly not an educational show. The show gets one point for being released on Hulu pretty soon after its television premiere, thus letting those of us without the glamor of cable still watch and enjoy the show. Also, being on hulu is good for consumers and studios. Hopefully the trend of skipping TV and going straight to streaming internet feeds continues. The show is also realistic enough that it might deter people from this lifestyle. There’s people overdosing on meth, premature babies, burned bodies, and corrupt cops, in addition to the fast motorcycles and big explosions.

It’s tough to give out any more points to a TV show featuring a gang of outlaws, even though it seems the main character wants to reform them into law abiding businessmen. In the end, it’s just a TV show.

Score: 2 / 5

Freestyle!

It’s a cool show. The logo looks very slick. The name makes me think more revolutionary than motorcycle gang, but it’s still a cool name. Overall, if you’re trying to find something to fill in for The Sopranos or just see some action and motorcycles, you should enjoy Sons of Anarchy.

Score: 15 / 22

Son of Anarchy airs on FX and is also available at hulu.

Complete Score: 25 / 42 = 59.5%

Equilibrium: Better than The Matrix?

Complete Score: 32.5 / 42 = 77.4%

In 2002 a film was released to test audiences with a significant amount of positive reaction from movie going crowds, although critics mostly rated the movie as mediocre. At this point the marketing geniuses at Dimension decided to release the film with little promotion and only to a select few theaters. Of course the movie tanked, thus re-affirming the view of critics and seemingly supporting the marketers’ perspective that the film sucked and wasn’t worth distributing to the general public (who, again, actually liked the film).

Clerics look for sense offenders who choose to risk it all and feel!

The film is Equilibrium (though those aforementioned marketing geniuses very nearly released it as “The Cleric”) and it’s dystopian futuristic setting oozes detail while it’s storyline hints at very deep philosophical currents. Written and directed by Kurt Wimmer, the movie stars Christian Bale as a cleric who begins to question his role and his reality, Taye Diggs, the ever loyal to the fascist regime douchbag extraordinaire, Emily Watson, as the love interest of not just one but two characters (scandalous!), and Sean Pertwee as the big brother figure, known as Father in the film’s city state setting of Libria.

The world finally experienced World War Three and citizens around the world gave up their rights to liberty and reality for peace. After the war it was determined that humanity itself was to blame for the ills and dangers of humanity, thus a huge movement was started to basically sedate our emotions. To the characters in the movie, the secluded world of Libria is all they know and everything beyond the Librian walls is uncivilized and dangerous. Clerics, the elite police force of the government, patrol the wild environment outside of Libria looking for sense offenders who choose to risk it all and feel!

Value

As of the date of this review, the film is available on Amazon.com for under $10. Considering it’s worth at least two views, the value of this movie is quite good. It’s not the best of movies, but it’s certainly worth $10 and will entertain you at least once. The action scenes are worth the price of admission here, so even if you find the story a bit campy the action is tight!

Score: 4/ 5

Quality

The action scenes are great, some of the best I’ve seen! The movie revolves around a new form of martial arts that includes guns, called Gun Kata. Clerics are the grand masters of Gun Kata and work for the government tracking down sense offenders, who are people who’ve stopped taking their daily soma-esque treatment and instead experience the world naturally, with emotions! The storyline is a bit campy but it’s viewable a few times before the camp really sets in.

The artistic vision for this film is perfect and really immerses you in the dystopian, authoritarian future of the story. Even today, six years after the film was made I’m still awed by some of the special effects and imagery of the film. The filmmakers spent just enough time showing off the environment to give you a feel for the city without taking too much time away from the story. The writing in the film isn’t great but is good enough to keep the film flowing. The real stars here are Libria and Gun Kata.

Score: 4 / 5

Equilibrium's imagery is splendid.
Equilibrium's imagery is splendid.

Innovation

OK, so first time viewers of this movie will find a lot of similarities to The Matrix, but with it’s use of Gun Kata (yes, I’m a big fan of the Clerics’ fighting style) and focus on emotional control it breaks enough new ground that it’s not just another science fiction film but with gun karate. Still, it borrows heavily from 1984, Fahrenheit 451 and Brave New World. Books are burned, along with any other material that might induce human emotion such as paintings and music. Characters are turned into walking robots while Big Father is promoted as knowing all and being the ideal role model. It’s not the most original story but if you’re going to borrow ideas and mash them up these are three phenomenal sources to use so Equilibrium gets a small pass here.

Score: 3.5 / 5

Social Benefit

It is a movie, which means whether or not you buy a disc the disc exists and will exist longer than any of us so it has a negative aspect there. Movie production is a big, big process that uses a lot of energy during all stages of the movie, from production to distribution to viewing. Still, if people see this movie and are inspired to go read 1984 or Fahrenheit 451 or question authority or their own reality, then it’s worth it. We need more movies like Equilibrium and The Matrix and less Dane Cook romantic comedies.

Score: 3 / 5

Gun Kata is wicked cool.
Gun Kata is wicked cool.

Freestyle!

I’m a big, big fan of this movie and have seen it enough times to have progressed from getting annoyed by the campy bits, to growing to love the cheese. Once you’ve seen this film as many times as I have, you start picking out parts that don’t quite make sense. Everyone in the film, except the sense offenders, is supposed to not feel emotion, yet the Clerics and police force do show anger and paranoia. Perhaps it’s meant to show that we cannot eliminate all emotion, and that those last emotions to go are the very ones that supposedly caused World War III and all the other violent acts of human history. To eliminate the worst of the human experience is to in essence neuter us.

Without the range of emotions, can we still be classified as humans? There are multiple points in the movie where it seems characters are only pretending to be robots, for instance the older woman we see enjoy the feel of a steel rail against her hands or the revolution that lives in the under world of Libria with all their raw emotions flowing. Ironically enough, the government in the film takes such a zealous approach to wiping out violence that they become an extremely violent force themselves. Of course, the movie hints that the leaders, particularly Father, are aware of this duality and purposely act on it.

Equilibrium hints at deep existential questions but leaves enough out there for the viewer to take and run with and question further. It’s much more of a science fiction action film than anything else and the action sequences are outstanding. They still impress me every time I view the film, which counts into double digits by now. Equilibrium is not better than The Matrix, though some fight scenes do match up well with and even surpass those found in The Matrix. The storyline in The Matrix, however, is more original and deeper. Still Equilibrium is a great film and excellent in its dreary depiction of the dystopian Libria and its unique Gun Kata martial arts.

Score: 18 / 22

Equilibrium is available on DVD at Amazon.com. (Note, Amazon.com is our affiliate).

Complete Score: 32.5 / 42 = 77.4%