Ghost in the Shell Review

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All right, it’s time for another Sci-Fi film. Fortunately this one embraced that side of things a lot more than Power Rangers. From the start you can tell that everything is a little more on point from the attire to the backgrounds. The whole movie takes place in a very futuristic NYC (Basically) which was instantly a good sign of things to come. The second half starts to lose focus a bit and I would have liked for Major to be a little tougher, but overall it was a pretty solid film.

Major is the first human to have had a full transplant into a machine body. Essentially, only her brain is still the real deal. Everyone else has dabbled with cybernetic implants though and normal humans are basically extinct. It’s all about Big Business and corporate money now as everyone tries to get richer and richer. Society has essentially fallen to the slums despite the enormous wealth to the top 1%. Major is an assassin who takes down all of the targets that she’s ordered to eliminate. The government has a lot of targets of course, but a hacker has surfaced who threatens the status quo. Even the Major isn’t immune to the hacking, but she decides to look into this anyway. She is being haunted by visions in the meantime though and is there something that the scientists aren’t telling her?

So as I mentioned, the costumes here are pretty good. I’m iffy on the Major’s since the costume has no real design. It also felt like it was basically just there for fanservice. I liked her black cloak that she wears for part of the film though as it’ll remind you of Mirror’s Edge or Sword Art Online. The trench coat that her sidekick wears is also really good and will remind you of Final Fantasy. Everyone just looks really cool and this is what a futuristic sci-fi is all about. FF XIII did it better than most and you can see a lot of similarities between the two. The city also looks great and the advertising also makes sense. The place has truly sunk even more as the ads are not for kids, but I can easily see this kind of thing happening.

The film doesn’t really have time to talk about all of the scientific advancements, but I’m fine with that since such an explanation would take an incredibly long amount of time. The effects are also pretty good like Major’s camouflage mode and the fight with the giant robot. Major’s suit has a nice energy feature to it where you’ll see it glow more as she exerts herself. Every part of the film felt like it had a good budget.

I was also pretty satisfied with the writing. It was pretty good and the characters stayed serious while not all sounding like high school delinquents or being over the top. They followed orders and just completed the missions efficiently. The movie even made the old boss pretty hardcore as he can apparently fight despite being at least 70-80 years old. The scene of him getting out of the car and shooting everyone was really quite good. Even the shooting scenes are better than the average film as they aren’t violent or anything. You can feel the impact without the film showing you everything.

I also thought Major was a good character. She makes for a very good assassin and her character arc is good. My one gripe with her is that she tends to get sucker punched a lot and it felt like she lost most of her fights by the end. She’s great in a fair fight, but villains rarely play fair. Giving her a little extra strength and speed would have been nice, but I suppose she’s technically supposed to be a normal robot. It’s her hand to hand skills and sharp intellect that separate her from the rest so that’s why she would be susceptible to a sneak attack.

Batou is a pretty good supporting character and the best one in the film if you ask me. He likes dogs and feeds the strays in the alleys between missions. He may not be as talented as Major, but he’s probably the next best agent on the force and can handle himself in any environment. He’s always ready to stick up for Major even if it’ll put him in a sticky situation and is just a really good guy. I was glad that he got a pretty large role in the film. The agency had one or two other agents, but they didn’t do much. I suppose they couldn’t fit everyone in, but the film did its best.

Cutter is one of the main villains and he’s a part of the shady government. He’s okay with murdering 100 people if it means he can get himself a new weapon. He’s completely evil the whole time, but does a decent job of hiding that for a while. He’s a good villain who takes himself seriously and has some good plans. He’s not over the top and he doesn’t try and take on the robots by himself. Cutter just thought everything through and he also didn’t go out quietly. Honestly I wouldn’t have minded having him as the main villain for the whole film. He was much better than the hacker.

Kuze was the official main villain. He had a cool design and looked like Starkiller II, but once he took off the mask the character died. He suddenly got emotional the whole time and while it was related to his tragic backstory, it destroyed the mystery of the character. I think the film should have just played it straight with this guy trying to destroy the world or something. That would have been neat.

The film starts off with a lot of cool action scenes and just cool moments in general. Seeing Major lead the interrogation was nice as it shows how you do that without becoming a villain in the process. She got her intel and didn’t have to act drastically. The team respected her authority and she earned it. The second half started to taper off as we didn’t get a lot of action and Major trying to find her identity wasn’t quite as interesting. The whole plot was a little anticlimactic and so we didn’t get a big Terminator esque final fight.

I also didn’t like the doctor at all by the end as she become another Professor Hamilton and just betrayed the heroes. So I can’t say I sympathized much when she was approached at gun point. If I have any real negative with the film beyond the lack of action and muddled plot in the second half, it’s that some of the imagery can just be odd and meant to look creepy without having any real depth. Everyone connected to tower, people thrown in test tubed, experimentation everywhere, etc. Fortunately this film was classy enough not to delve into those things as others probably would. It’s a glimpse at how dark the world is, but the film takes care not to go too far. It’s not violent, but the film has a dark tone throughout. It’s finally another example I can use for how you do a good dark tone.

We also get a pointless filler scene where Major has to poke at someone’s face for a while. I didn’t get the purpose of that at all. How I see it, maybe that was because she was wondering whether she was really different from a robot or not, but I don’t get how feeling it would help. Maybe she wanted to feel like a human, but certainly there are better ways. Either way, the scene just felt like it was there to be there, but it had no real purpose in the film.

I don’t know much about the original Ghost in the Shell anime, but I know it’s supposed to be a pretty deep series that tackles themes like humans vs machines and what a soul really is. This movie didn’t really tackle those topics so I can see fans being upset about that, but since there wasn’t a lot of time anyway, I was pretty okay with it. Especially since at this point we likely all have our views on that. You have a soul? Then you’re a person. Game Set, Match. Robots can’t develop souls, but it’s always a nice hypothetical if they could I suppose. It’s just not something I actually believe can happen. Nothing like that happens here either way, but if it did I could still roll with it since it is a Sci-Fi.

It’s also worth noting that the soundtrack is pretty good here. It’s the classic sci-fi themes that you’d expect. Coupled with the visuals, it really helps you get into the film more than you could have otherwise. The long intro felt like something out of Resident Evil, which despite its many flaws, certainly knew how to be epic. It was also able to do this without showing the title off twice during the opening, but I assume Ghost in the Shell did that in case you missed it the first time.

Overall, Ghost in the Shell is pretty fun and it’s a well done movie. I always like the premise of the elite assassin who goes around knocking people off and eventually wonders if it’s the right job. It’s sort of like Jason Bourne, but in this case Major actually has comrades who care about her and help her along the quest. If I had written the film, I would have added in more fight scenes with killer androids and it would have been a total action blockbuster. After all, the fights that we got here were really good, we just needed more of them. I’d certainly be up for a sequel since there’s still a lot of things you can do with this series. If you haven’t checked it out yet, then this movie is worth watching.

Overall 6/10

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Power Rangers Review

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All right, it’s time for the recent Power Rangers film! I’ve always been a big fan of the franchise from the concept to the video games to the costumes. It’s just a series that is brimming with so much potential and there is something for everyone. The trailers for the film came out and while they had some potential, the film started to bring up some concerns. Would the heroes get enough screen time as the Rangers and would the Dinobots get too much screen time? I prepared myself going into the film, but unfortunately it just didn’t understand what the series is all about. It’s really not a Power Rangers film at all and merely borrows the name.

The film starts out by introducing us to a group of teenagers and trying to get us to dislike them as much as possible. First is Jason, a “misunderstod” delinquent who steals Cows and tries to evade the police. He’s caught since the authorities aren’t messing around this time and not only sabotages his entire town’s chances of winning the Football championship in the year but also doesn’t seem to regret his actions at all. This lands him in detention. Next is Kimberly. She decided to humiliate one of her former friends by sending a risky picture of her all around the school. This got that person in trouble and also destroyed Kimberly’s social life. Kimberly blames everyone else for this and winds up in detention. I forgot why Billy is in detention, but he’s good at annoying everyone so it probably wasn’t too hard and he does go around breaking the rules and blowing things up for no good reason. Trini is a kid who likes to be alone and goes to the mountains to meditate, but she is being spied on by Zack. Zack has a sick Mom so he worries her further by getting home late and hanging out in restricted areas. This group was clearly made for each other.

The heroes are busted by the cops yet again, but this time they manage to evade capture. They secured some mystical amulets from the rocks nearby and were all granted super strength and speed. The characters try to point out that they all got different powers at the beginning, but the film forgets this so they all end up with the same powers. They then fall inside a spaceship where the formerly heroic Red Ranger has now turned sinister and wants them to transform so he can come back to life and destroy Rita. Rita is an evil ranger who wants to destroy the world to grab a shard and then she’ll use that shard for her own purposes. The heroes get ready to rumble, but realize that they may be in over their heads. Can they do this!?

All right, there’s a lot of problems with this film, but also some good things. I’ll just mention them all scatter shot style so there’s no real rhyme or reason to this review. For starters, I have to say that these kids are impressively slow on the uptake half the time. After they obtained their powers and saw an actual spaceship, Trini still believes it’s all a big joke and only stops talking when the door slams. At this point, I can’t picture anyone actually saying that. It’s a common trope for the characters to constantly doubt everything, but it just comes across as rather annoying. Can’t we have a more quiet character who just takes all of this in stride and nods along? The art of bluffing is truly lost on these guys.

The heroes also do make sure to make quips every other second and they’re all pretty annoying. The writing is quite bad in this film to say the least so don’t expect any good lines. Aside from the language and everyone getting worse and worse as the film goes on, this also makes the film a little too dramatic. This may come as a surprise, but the film takes itself way too seriously at times. One such scene is when one of the Rangers seemingly dies. It’s not a spoiler because there’s no way they’d actually kill off one of the main members. It would have been a PR nightmare to do that since it would be like killing off Superman or Green Lantern right away. Film 3 could be a different story, but the first one? I don’t think so. The death scene is still around 15 minutes though as everyone carries him back and the music picks up. There are many similar scenes like the campfire where everyone starts sharing their secrets. The film tries to be incredibly somber and I just wasn’t sold.

The proper way to handle dramatic scenes is to be quick and not dwell on them. If it was a powerful enough moment, the audience will get it. Grabbing a 30 second scene and stretching it to 5 minutes doesn’t make the scene any more powerful. Usually this is where I’d bash the romance for being just as dramatic, but fortunately the film actually stayed away from that landmine. I admit that this was rather impressive.

The film also completely ruined Rita’s character. She spends most of the film as an undead zombie who loves to caress all of her opponents before finishing them off. It’s an old trope that I wish had died in the 60’s with all of the old Vampires. It doesn’t make her any more intimidating and is just hard to watch. Her design could have been cool, but they decided to make her a troll by giving her a ton of wrinkles and scars the whole time. She never even got to actually use her cool Power Ranger suit. Get this…she doesn’t even get a big fight. There is one action scene where she beats up the heroes before they turn into Power Rangers, but that’s it.

See, this is where the film forgot its origin. Power Rangers is all about the high speed hand to hand battles where they duke it out with the villains and you get amazed at the choreography. If you ask someone about Power Rangers, the first thing they’ll think of are the hand to hand fights. It’s like having a Dragon Ball Z film without the characters powering up and shooting energy blasts. The action in the film is very limited throughout as we only get a small handful of actual fights. Again, the 5 teens against Rita is the only real fight scene. The rest are against small rock golems that don’t put up any more of a fight than the NPCs in Dynasty Warriors. I think we deserved more action.

I think it’s partially because the film decided to add in the Zords. Their fight scenes aren’t particularly good either because….they’re up against a giant stone golem that is extremely slow. That’s the last thing I was hoping for from the climax, but it happened all the same. They just keep blasting it and jumping on the thing and it shakes them off. Rinse and repeat for quite a while. The only good part of that fight was when they merged into a giant mecha robot and then fought it. I could at least get behind that fight a little even if it was even slower paced. At least it felt more like a fight. I just don’t see the appeal of having giant machines fighting an even bigger opponent who can’t move. For some reason that is mainstream and people like it so it’s here to stay, but then at least give me my classic hand to hand fights.

That’s where the potential was. For example, we see that Jason has a cool energy sword as the Red Ranger. He just never gets to actually use it in a fight. What was even the point of showing it off? On that note, the effects were pretty good though. Ignoring Rita, everything looked very crisp and flashy. It felt like a good sci-fi film and you can see that they used most of the budget on it. Maybe they ran out and couldn’t use it much, but that’s still a big mistake.

I also can’t forget to mention that the soundtrack is pretty bad. Most of the songs are just really sad rap songs with no heart or the lyrics just make you wish the scene was silent. We do have some good themes like the electronic battle theme or the Power Rangers theme song. They were just outnumbered by the bad tunes. The film also heavily overused the slow mo effect which goes back to the being too dramatic thing. Once or twice is okay and more than that can be good if the film is poking fun at itself. Otherwise it’s just wasting time.

On a positive note, it was nice to see Jason just shut the bullies down right away instead of thinking about it for a while or waffling on whether it was the right thing to do or not. He just walked into detention and took names. He also made the right call in deciding to go after Rita right away even if everyone else was too scared to do anything. She would come after Trini again otherwise so not doing anything would have put her in danger. He also doesn’t care about everyone’s dark secrets and just wants them to move on. He’s the best member of the team even if it pretty much is by default. He’s like a badly written Captain Kirk from the recent movies. Similar backstory but less heroic and less sympathetic. I think he’s past most of the negatives though so he should be more likable in the next film.

Billy wasn’t too bad, but he’s more annoying than anything else. He’s the classic “Are we really heroes? I should keep on asking that so that’s exactly what I’m gonna do” character. He keeps repeating things to let the audience know that this is important. When you think about it, this film is really just filled with cliches. So, it takes Billy a long while to actually understand what’s happening, but at least he was the first one to learn how to transform. He’s the smart member of the group so he helps them find the Krispy Kreme’s. I still wonder why he was going around blowing stuff up at the beginning though. Isn’t that one of the worst things you can do when you’re at a restricted area you’re not supposed to be in? He went from being a nice guy who was getting bullied to suddenly coming out as a delinquent himself. He was quick to help trick the authorities with Jason’s home arrest button after all.

I know the whole point of a sob story is to show us that a character made a mistake and all, but Kimberly’s was pretty drastic. I don’t think we ever really got a proper reason for why she sent the picture. The bullying was also extremely tame which I was cool with, but why would she even think that she could maybe get back on the cheering squad? Once we learn why everyone isolated her, then that should have been a given. It all just seemed out of character, but the Kimberly that we do see is reasonably good.

Trini is the tough character who tries to be a loner. Honestly, if she had escaped the other Rangers and stayed a loner that could have made for a good plot point. She is probably the second best ranger though. Her origin story is the least sympathetic since she runs around with a bad attitude the whole time, but at least she doesn’t get buddy buddy with the others too quickly. It would have been nice if she could have put up a better fight against Rita though.

Finally, Zack is the worst ranger and supremely annoying. He spends the whole movie basically flirting which never works and is the main comic relief character. Well, everyone is comic relief at one point or another, but he tries to crack a bunch of jokes even if none of them ever actually work. He breaks the rules just because he can like when he almost squashed everyone with his robot, but no worries, he’s not apologetic about it either. That’s something that the characters always have in common.

This review has come off as rather negative and deservedly so as I would give the film under a 5, but it’s not a 2 or anything so keep in mind that the film does have its positives. As I mentioned, the effects are good and the little action that we do get isn’t bad either. Aside from the fact that the characters are unlikable, the scenes of everyone insulting each other and getting into fights aren’t bad. It makes for reasonably entertaining moments. The pacing is also good so the film never gets boring at all. It actually moves from scene to scene with ease. Jason’s Dad may not have been on the same page as him, but I thought they did a good job of not overdoing it with making him very antagonistic. He was upset with Jason’s decisions, but he should be considering what a big mistake that was. He still drove out into the battle zone to save him if necessary. I wouldn’t mind him being the down to Earth adviser for the team in the next film as he eventually gets accustomed to the whole Power Rangers thing.

On a side note, anyone else find the Rita eating teeth scene incredibly random and out of nowhere? It seemed like it was just trying to be creepy and disturbing for no reason. Honestly, it was just one of those things that makes you shake your head. The whole gold issue is one thing since she needed it for her staff, but eating it to get younger was really out of nowhere. The scene of her just eating it all and various other things while hanging out at the scrapyard just cemented the fact that she wouldn’t be a good character. At least the film is taking some cues from Teen Titans Go assuming the episode came out first.

Is it just me or were the main teens pretty bloodthirsty the whole time as well? Their first instinct when entering the alien ship is to try and murder the little robot. They mention this 2-3 times and when they are told by a giant floating head that they must destroy a girl named Rita they don’t hesitate at all. They basically just yell “No prob” without question. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised though.

As a positive note, the film’s atmosphere is pretty enjoyable though. It’s light hearted so at least you will leave the film on a high note. That’s why getting through the film is easy since you won’t constantly get turned off from it. There’s no animal violence which is always important. Not that any film wants to be compared to Pixels, but that’s a good example. That was a bad film, but it’s one I could easily watch again. It’s not quality entertainment, but it is entertainment.

I did like the fact that the film included Krispy Kreme’s. That doughnut shop doesn’t get enough screen time anymore and hopefully the film paid them for the endorsement and not the other way around. I’m always up for a good doughnut scene after all and maybe that will become their base. By the way, the film does have an after credits scene. It’s pretty underwhelming and the film clearly phoned it in, but at least we see more destruction of school property. He’s going to fit right in with the rest of the gang. I won’t say who it is, but prepare yourself!

Overall, The film may not have a lot of heart, but Power Rangers can be decently fun. The effects are nice to look at and the banter can be enjoyable. The writing holds it back considerably and the lack of action is disappointing, but you can’t have it all. I think a sequel would likely be able to fix a lot of the film and would hopefully regain its identity. It needs to put the Power back into the Power Rangers. I wouldn’t really recommend this film as it just isn’t good, but at least it’s an entertaining bad film. That’s the optimal kind of bad flick to watch as it does have a reasonable amount of replay value. The issue is that most films can say “I’m you, but better” to this movie with a straight face. There isn’t much original about this one and honestly it would have been a better film if it had simply not called itself Power Rangers.

Overall 4/10

Star Wars The Force Unleashed II Review

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It definitely didn’t take too long to get to the big sequel to the original Force Unleashed. I enjoyed the first game quite a bit so I was excited to see what the sequel brings to the table. Ideally a sequel should always be just as good or better in every way. This sequel managed to pull that off in all areas aside from the plot. Is it enough to get that extra star and nab a 9 or will it continue to elude the game? Time to find out!

The game starts with Starkiller waking up in one of Darth Vader’s training rooms. The Sith explains that this Starkiller is the only clone to have been a success and that the original Starkiller is dead. This clone has all of his powers and memories and Vader will make him destroy the Jedi. Clone or not, Starkiller decides to escape instead and manages to find his old resistance teammate, the blind Jedi. The Jedi claims that Vader is lying and Starkiller is the original. Starkiller’s not sure what to think about all of this, but the main heroine is in trouble so he decides to launch a full scale attack on Vader’s base. Ultimately, his origin won’t matter as long as he can save her.

I don’t really mind the game keeping it ambiguous as to whether Starkiller is the genuine article or not. It adds a little tension and who doesn’t want to see some of that in the story. As long as it isn’t overplayed, it works well. Unfortunately, the story still was a step down from the first. It’s still cinematic and feels like a movie, but it’s a movie that doesn’t have much of a plot. It takes a while for Starkiller to decide what to do and by the time he does, the story is over. You could sum up the game’s story in a few sentences. Starkiller returns and meets up with his old pal. The two of them make it to the resistance base, but it was destroyed. They head over to Vader’s base and blow it up as they save the heroine. That’s really all that happens in this game.

Of course, the game was quite short so it was never going to have the same amount of content as the first game. Still, I was expecting a little more. Admittedly, part of the fault is in the fact that I thought the game was more about choosing between good and evil the whole time like in the Shadow The Hedgehog game. It turns out that only the ending matters like in the first game so it’s quite different from what I had assumed. The game is supposed to be roughly 5 hours long and that sounds about right. Hardcore gamers can finish it in one sitting although it took me 2. 5 hours of straight gaming may have been something I did more back in the day, but that is really a long time to be sitting down.

Granted, the ending is quite great just like in the last game. I ended up obtaining the dark ending. I wanted to make the hero call of course, but then the villain started to goad me on and I decided it was time to end him. A pretty shocking moment occurred and honestly it was all handled beautifully. As always the blind Jedi was supremely annoying, but I suppose that couldn’t be helped. Personally I’d say that the Starkiller in this game is a clone. It’s not really a spoiler since I know people have gone either way with this although most see it the way that I do in this case. That being said, he may have been more likable than the first one.

The gameplay is a lot smoother than the first game and I was hoping that would be the case. It’s the same core gameplay as it’s a 3D hack and slash title where you have other abilities at your disposal as well. You can shoot lightning and harness the force to protect yourself. This time you have 2 Lightsabers and you can switch out their crystals to give the weapon other special abilities. I recommend the extra EXP ones since those really add up by the end. The combos are a lot more fluid and the tutorial is fast while also being comprehensive. You’ll really feel like a Jedi Master as you slice through dozens and dozens of opponents.

There are a lot of cubes to find and trophies to collect which should add to the replay value. It has about the same kind of bonus content as the first game so there’s not much new to be on the lookout for. Just grab all of the cubes that you can and level up. It’s considerably easier than the first game as well I might add and that is probably because of how much smoother it is. I died quite a few times in the first game because my lightning wouldn’t lock on, but that’s never an issue here. With the original’s story this would instantly be a 9. As it is, it is a close call. The gameplay is amazing, but the experience is relatively short.

You probably figured this from the first game, but the graphics are still quite great. They have improved from the first title which is saying something. This is definitely pretty high end even for the PS3. The soundtrack is a little more forgettable though. Surprisingly both games didn’t really have any memorable tunes. I guess this game had to have a weakness somewhere right?

Speaking of weaknesses though, I did think that some of the quick time events were a little too hard. Not in terms of timing as that was pretty normal, but the events where you had to press a button really quickly. I just couldn’t push it fast enough and had to keep trying different ways until I finally nailed it. There were around 3 bosses like this and they just didn’t feel fair or balanced. I can’t imagine how a kid would get through these levels. I definitely have to respect their button mashing skills if they pulled it off.

Beyond that, I am still a big QTE fan as always. Personally I think it makes the boss fights more epic. I know some don’t care for it and I can see the negative side (Losing near the end of a long QTE sequence and having to do the whole thing over again) but it’s certainly still a positive in the end. As for the story which I keep taking subtle shots at, I just felt like the writing for Starkiller was a little all over the place. At times he was fairly quiet and treated like an experienced veteran. Then he would suddenly talk and then he wouldn’t stop as he panicked about everything and did a ton of yelling. The former is what I expected of Starkiller while the latter just feels out of character. He’s just a lot more emotional than I would have expected at times although he still makes the rational choices in the end.

I did say that I liked him more than the first Starkiller though and that’s because he’s just a little more intense. He makes the controversial decision to abandon the alliance so he could save the heroine instead, but it’s a move that I can go with. The rebellion is always falling to pieces anyway and they were okay with sacrificing her so naturally that was not okay. Starkiller made the right move. The game’s ending is quite dark no matter which ending you ultimately ended up going for. Naturally mine was incredibly dark but probably the more hype ending. It just seems like Starkiller can’t catch a break. I’d love a sequel to this game, but it seems like it isn’t to be.

Overall, The Force Unleashed II did everything you could ask for from a sequel. It tightened up the already solid gameplay to make it even better. It improved the graphics and still gave us a full cinematic story. There’s also a good amount of replay value here and none of the trophies are too crazy. You’ll have a blast from start to finish. Even if the story isn’t quite as intense as the first game, you’ll still be pretty reasonably hooked during it and the climax ends the game with a bang. Now if only we could get a multiplayer mode.

Overall 9/10

The Day The Earth Stood Still Review

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It’s time to look at a really retro Sci-Fi film that would change the way we all looked at the genre…forever. It’s a title that you’ve probable heard many times even if you’ve never watched it before. It’s definitely a solid movie that has aged well. The monster is good and the effects actually aren’t half bad. It may have been the first big Sci-fi classic of the 50’s since it even came out before Godzilla.

The plot is relatively straight forward. A mysterious object shows up on the scanner and everyone starts to panic. It is moving too fast to be a ship and it’s unlikely that it’s a bomb. Either way, the army gets set to fend off whatever lands. A human walks out of it and reaches for his gun so the army sends him to the hospital. His pet Robot disarms a lot of the guards, but the human stops him. After a brief rest, the mysterious being reveals himself as an alien named Klaatu. Klaatu is here to wipe out the threat that the Earth poses to the universe. He’ll blow it up if necessary but he wants the world to abandon their space program otherwise. If they do that, then Earth can continue to exist. America knows that the Soviets won’t be on board with this so they prepare for the biggest fight yet!

Klaatu doesn’t actually state his mission for quite a while though. He wants to talk to everyone at once which isn’t really possible and you can’t help but feel bad for the army at times. Klaatu really doesn’t make it easy for them with his large demands and the guy should realize that humanity can’t unite on a whim. He basically states that their affairs don’t affect him in the slightest, but they kind of do. Ah well, in the meantime, Klaatu will hang out with a kid and learn more about human customs. He learns that not everyone is ruled by fear, just most of them.

Klaatu is very annoying, but hes a good character. At his core he seems to be a nice guy who really doesn’t want to destroy Earth. The fact that he came here at all supports that since he could have let Gort go on alone to destroy everything. He seems to possibly have some abilities as he escaped a hospital room quite easily. He also carries around sand that speeds up the healing process and a ray on his ship that can help to stall death. It’s all pretty useful when you’re in a hostile environment. He’s a nice guy and always stays polite to the rest of the cast. Here’s why he is annoying though.

Klaatu just can’t take a hint. He constantly asks the impossible and then ends up going with threats by the end anyway. He basically took it out on the scientist I felt and while he doesn’t fly off the handle, he’s a little unfair to the humans who are actually trying to help. He’s not supposed to be perfect though and those laws I can live with. He’s a fun lead and takes things in stride a lot better than most aliens. The rest of the cast isn’t quite important as they are merely around to help fill in the plot. The main kid gets a pretty large role as he isn’t yet old enough to fear Klaatu and instead enjoys all of the cool new inventions that he finds out. The media also does a good job of burying the story as per usual.

Helen is the main heroine and she is all right although a little slow to act. She is glad that KIlaatu gets along with her son so well at first, but then her friend shows up and tells her that it’s a bad idea. She ends up just listening to him even though the guy seemed very selfish and uncaring. Their romance falls through anyway as he chooses riches over her in the end. It’s hard to see how they ever gt together in the first place since the movie does its best to write him as a very unlikable guy. He never leaves a positive impression on you. Helen cuts it a little close when delivering her final message to Gort, but she gt the job done in the end so that worked out.

It’s always fun to see everyone talking a good game about the alien while sitting at home and drinking coffee. You probably wouldn’t see that much paranoia in real life if an actual alien showed up as here even the radio kept having people talk about how they needed to destroy it. It was all handled so casually which made it all the more fun. The few dissenting opinions were quickly dodged so everyone could be in unison.

Of course, while Klaatu may have barely been an alien, Gort certainly was one. He has a cool laser blast that can disintegrate whatever it touches. That makes him a very formidable threat in this film and he looks good throughout. He comes across as a very reliable friend that you can count on and it’s never personal with this guy. He just destroys people as part of his job. No apologies accepted and none given. It would have been neat if the film ended with him firing off one last giant energy blast to destroy the world, but I suppose that would have been rather dark right?

As expected, the writing is quite good. I can’t really think of any bad lines here and all of the characters looked pretty good. Even the unlikable ones were written well as they weren’t too exaggerated. They simply went into their roles and did a good job. The film’s pacing is also rather good. If I have one complaint, it’s that the middle of the film starts to clue you in on how nothing is really going to happen. After Klaatu is rejected a few times and goes to meet with the first scientist, you know that he’s doomed. There’s no way he’s going to get his audience because the film has already told us what his goal is. By that point you can figure that he’ll never get his audience but at least he’ll get to hurl a few last insults before leaving. It may not have been the most satisfying way to end the plot, but it was still an enjoyable ride throughout.

Overall, The Day The Earth Stood Still is a good film. It reminds us that paranoia is no good and you’re better off sticking to more productive things like making memes with good messages at the end. The climax/ending of the film may not have been all that satisfying, but the build up was good and it’s still a really good premise. The opening act was probably the best part of the film and it usually is in a film like this as I love the opening reactions from everyone. Klaatu will have to work on being more subtle about his alien knowledge if he ever returns for a sequel. If you haven’t seen this film yet, then you should definitely fix that as this is a must watch for Sci-Fi fans.

Overall 7/10

Star Trek Encounters Stats and Records

Stats time!

Character Cards

Enterprise 4/5
Star Trek 4/5
Next Gen 4/5
Deep Space Nine 5/5
Voyager 3/5

Level Stats
Incursion Silver
Xindi Superweapon Silver
The Expanse Gold
Savior Silver
Cat and Mouse Silver
A Specter’s Shadow Silver
Dead In The Water Gold
Battle at Genesis
Shadows and Dust Silver
Into The Wormhole Gold
See No Evil Silver
Behemoth Silver
Into The Badlands Gold
Fire At Will Gold
The Chase Silver
The Luddite Prophecy Silver
My Enemy’s Enemy Gold
The One Who Is Many Gold
The Orion Syndicate Silver
Against All Odds Gold

Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 2 Review

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Well, it’s been a long time coming, but it’s finally time for the sequel to the original Guardians to see if it can live up to the reputation of the first one. Unfortunately, it definitely could not. The film’s own premise hurts it quite a lot as the main characters succeed at all being very unlikable jerks for the most part. That seems to be the point so to the film…You’re welcome! Unfortunately, this just isn’t an angle that they should have pursued. Still, thanks to a key scene and some nice action scenes along the way, the film was able to avoid an unfortunate fate.

Peter and the Guardians start the film out by getting into trouble as per usual. They decide to steal from their employers and are quickly found out. Fortunately, they have the help of Star Lord’s Dad who destroys most of the attacking ships and helps the heroes escape. He wants Peter to come to his planet to hang out so Gamora and Drax go along with him. Rocket and Groot stay behind to watch Nebula, the villain that the heroes picked up so they could get the bounty on her head. Unfortunately, they have a run in with Yondu. Meanwhile, Peter’s Dad may not be what he seems!

This is a pretty big movie so there’s certainly a lot to talk about. Lets start with the worst character in the film, Groot. I don’t know how this guy got to be such a fan favorite character. He was bad in the first film and he’s extraordinarily terrible in this film. He’s nothing but a big bully and he gives the film an extremely rocky start from which I don’t think it ever truly recovered. It can’t really be totally blamed on the opening since the film never really tried to get away from this, but it was a sign of things to come. Groot picks on a pair of creatures for no reason and then tries to eat a poor butterfly. It’s supposed to be a funny scene which shows just how twisted the humor is nowadays.

Now, Groot’s appeal is supposed to be that he’s cute because of how dumb and mean he is. Groot only cares about himself and never moves an inch to help his friends. Any scene with him is incredibly hard to sit through. One scene in particular which drags on a lot has him try to find something during a prison escape scene. He keeps on bringing the wrong things including a severed toe which was just gross and completely unnecessary. We get it, Groot is brainless. We knew that during the first film…why did the film have to shove it in our face the whole time? Groot was just terrible and I agree with critics that he was a scene stealer…just in the absolute worst possible way.

Next is Drax…who somehow found a way to be even worse and more unlikable than in the first film. One running gag as per usual is that he takes everything literally. If that wasn’t bad enough, he’s also grown even more grotesque and barbaric with his mannerisms. He talks about how his people are proud of talking about rather vile stuff and calls Mantis ugly multiple times. It’s fortunate that she is extremely naive so the insults went over her head. He’s just a very mean person which is why he fits in with the gang quite well. It’s just a shame that he’s such a terrible character. When you have Drax and Groot on the same team…you know that something’s wrong.

Next up is Rocket. Finally, we’ve got a step up from the other two. He’s the same Rocket that you’ll remember from the first film only he’s a lot meaner. Gee…what a surprise Rocket gets the gang into a lot of trouble but the team wouldn’t last long without his gadgets anyway so I suppose it’s a fair tradeoff. He’s surprisingly not very smart at times as Rocket can’t pick up on sarcasm or recognize insults when he hears them. I feel like he’s less intelligent than he was in the first film. Still, that’s fine since he still has his personality fully in tact. Rocket knows how to use his guns and does a good job of annoying Peter. We fortunately don’t dive too far into his origin story either as I got worried for a minute when Yondu started talking. Crisis averted. The winking subplot probably has Rocket’s best moments.

Gamora is my favorite character in this film. She’s still the only member who really knows what she’s doing. Gamora is actually trying to make the world a better place and she also knows all of the members well enough to know when something is wrong. She gives Peter a pep talk, helps Groot most of the time even when he doesn’t deserve it and she comes close to figuring out the sinister planet’s secret. She also does a good job of handling the situation with Nebula. It was a little hard to take Nebula seriously the whole time as a villain since she wasn’t very powerful but the film helps to fix that as well.

Finally, there’s Peter. After watching the TV show for so long, it took a little bit to get used to this version of the character again. At least he is trying to get away from his old flirting tendencies. If he can keep this up, this will really help him as a character. Peter is certainly a much better character than he used to be now that he is just focusing on one person. He does get a little unsympathetic though when he is tricked so easily. Thinking that Gamora is just jealous was pretty silly and I don’t think he was being mentally influenced at the time so it was all him. His reaction after learning a certain plot twist was also on point as well. Instantly blasting away and hitting all of the vitals was the optimal response. No questions like “But why!”, stuttering, going into shock, or any of the other terrible responses. Peter should never have been sucked in so easily prior to this, but at least he rectified the mistake.

There were also a few supporting characters. Yondu gets a fairly large role along with a lot of character development. I’m still not a fan of the character, but I do like his arrow. It’s certainly a potent weapon. Similar to Quicksilver getting a larger version of his scene in Apocalypse compared to Days of Future Past, Yondu gets a larger scale scene to use his arrow in this time. It’s a very good trick and if he was going all out he could likely do well against the cinematic Avengers. I highly doubt it would have an effect on the Hulk and Thor/Vision would be able to endure it as well. The others would be in a pickle and I’d include Iron-Man in that since his suit hasn’t been the most durable as of late. Now, why wasn’t Yondu the character convincing for me? Well, he did just kind of sit there when all of his men were being executed. He was also taken in pretty easily considering he had the really cool arrow and should have done something the instant a mutiny was starting. Take no chances when you’re the Captain! The transporting kids part didn’t do him any wonders either.

The Sovereign people weren’t bad either. I liked their video games and the idea of a virtual army is like something out of World Trigger. You actually feel bad for them to an extent since they held up their end of the bargain while the Guardians broke theirs. Still, we’re supposed to side with the Guardians since they’re the protagonists. I just couldn’t blame the Sovereign for wanting revenge. They just gotta work on their 3D Galaga skills and they’ll be all right for the re match. Their new secret weapon should help as well.

Nebula has probably improved the most since the first film. Her transition into being more of a rival went pretty smoothly. I think there was a little forced emotion when she was reminding the audience of her backstory since I don’t think Nebula cries easy. The whole film was maybe trying a little too hard in that end, but I guess as long as we get the “almost” death of the main character each time than it’s a good tradeoff. They always come so close, but don’t end up kicking the bucket because someone else is there to save them.

Mantis is an alien being who doesn’t know much about anything. She was raised by Ego in exchange for her assistance in getting him to rest every day. Unfortunately, the Guardians are the ones who help her expand her horizons so the lessons that she learns aren’t the greatest ones. She’s a decent character. Mantis’ character tropes aren’t really my style but I guess you can say that she did all that she could with them.

Finally, we have Ego. There’s nothing really likable about him and I can definitely say that the character fell flat. He didn’t do anything for me even if he did have cool abilities. The problem is that he’s way too overpowered. You know ahead of time that the heroes will need some plot hax if they want to come out on top. It delivers as it always comes through in the clutch, but they should have made him a little weaker. At least what wasn’t plot hax was the brief Man of Steel homage fight scene. That was pretty neat as you can instantly see where it took notes on the Zod vs Superman battle. If strength correlated with likability than Ego would be at the top, but it’s just not the case. He works well enough as a villain, but don’t expect to root for him.

As far as the soundtrack goes, the tunes are pretty good again. Most of them aren’t all that memorable, but it’s always nice to hear songs from the 80s. They’re just very catchy and it will remind you of the good ole days. The themes stand out and the best part is that you know the film had a soundtrack. There are a bunch of films that you’ll finish and wonder if they actually had any music to begin with. This film just didn’t have that problem.

The visuals are also pretty sharp for this film. Marvel is still a few years behind DC when it comes to the effects, but they’re getting closer. The brief fight with Peter and Ego was a lot of fun and I liked the Mass Effect Ego design. Peter’s element gun looked a little weaker this time as the blasts were quite small, but as long as it’s a blast I’ll take it anyway. You’ll go into the film expecting the graphics to be good since this is a space film and all so it’s good that you will not be disappointed.

One thing that the film definitely did right was its references. It was fun to be reminded of what we all loved about the 80’s. There’s a certain reference/guest star appearance in particular that worked really well. This iconic figure reminded me that I definitely couldn’t give the film a negative score. It had its issues, but the film reminded me that it could be classy. Moreover, you’ll probably gain some respect for the character who uses this guest star. It was a really exciting moment and the only thing that could have made it even better would have been an extended fight scene where Ego fights the Sm4sh version of this icon.

That was an example of humor done right. Unfortunately, as a whole the film did have an issue with the humor. The problem is that Guardians just isn’t a very funny film. Airplane probably had more laughs in 10 minutes than this film had in its whole generation. I blame it partially on the terrible writing, but it’s also because the film really televises all of its jokes ahead of time. For example, when a guy with a scarred face calls the gold villains. You instantly know what the joke will be and how it will be handled. That’s a bit of a problem because it’s not going to be as funny if you see it coming right? That’s how the film handled most of its jokes. It could have learned a thing or two from the Plane film.

One thing that made that film so funny was how sudden the jokes would occur. When the main character was asked if he wants a smoking or no smoking ticket you didn’t expect a good joke, but then they pull out a ticket that has smoke coming out of it. That was an excellently handled joke. Granted, the film had some bad jokes as well, but the ratio was in its favor and the good jokes wee really good. The best joke in Guardians would have trouble breaking even in Airplane. In this case, I don’t even think we can blame it on the characters all that much since they should still be good at humor.

Also, I’m not saying that the humor is terrible or anything like that. The film still did have a few moments here and there and you can definitely tell that it tried. It’s probably just a writing limitation. Unfortunately, the writing is fairly weak. There’s a lot of language throughout and edgy lines that serve no purpose being here. Some of the dialogues between the characters will make you wince or try to tune them out. Rocket threatening to place something vile on Peter’s bed was just sad and Ego talking about how he built his body was unnecessary. It’s little scenes like that coupled with everything else that begin to add up through the long haul.

Despite all of this, you should be satisfied with the action and explosions here. The film gives you everything you could want in a summer blockbuster. There’s a lot of banter and excitement around most corners. There are points in the film where not much happens, but I still wouldn’t really call these parts boring as the setting and characters are interesting enough. There are two kinds of films. Those that are fun to watch regardless of their quality and those that are not. I can safely say that this one is still enjoyable enough where you can try to overlook the negatives until the film ends. Your opinion of it will then start to deteriorate, but that’s an after effect. I’d also see this any day of the week over many other films.

One thing I’ll hope for in the third film is a longer fight. We had a brief fight with Peter and Quill, but that was the only real fight in the movie. The rest of the action scenes were just general action scenes against giant monsters or massacre fight scenes with the heroes wrecking a lot of flunkies. I’m hoping for more actual fights since the first film had quite a few of those. The Nebula vs Gamora fights here would be a highlight in that regard although again…they were pretty short. I always place fights above action scenes, but naturally having both of them is always a good thing.

There are quite a few post credit scenes 80’s style. They’re filmed like bloopers in a sense, but take place after the film. Some are important and others aren’t. One of them teases a new character who may show up in the 3rd film. Honestly, I wish he had shown up here since a fight with Ego probably would have been a lot of fun. Also, this guy is a personal favorite of mine so I have no doubt that he would have elevated the film. Another scene showed a group of classic characters. I can’t say that I’m super hyped for the group, but I did think that the rocky actor stole the show so it’d be pretty fun to see him return. A certain teenager who appears in one of the scenes is someone that I hope to never see show up. Luckily this wish will likely be granted. It was fun to see various cameos during the film as well. Referencing the rest of the Marvel cosmic mythos is always a good idea. Sadly Thanos didn’t show up this time, but Infinity War is finally getting closer so that’s good.

Overall, Volume 2 had quite a lot of problems. It started out really rough, had a bumpy ride during the middle, and then had a reasonably good climax. It’s still a fairly engaging film, but it tries way too hard to be funny. It’s an unsuccessful attempt. The characters are unlikable which takes you out of the film at times especially in Groot’s case. This is one of those films that I wouldn’t want to watch again at least not for a very, very long while, but for a one time viewing it wasn’t bad. At the very least you can’t say that the film isn’t engaging. There’s a good amount of action and excitement all around with witty dialogue in between all of the “witty” dialogue. I’d make a parallel to films like Suicide Squad, Lucy, Batman vs Robin, and other such films. They’re pretty entertaining while you watch them, but afterwards you still can’t give them a positive It’ll be fun to see the team show up in Infinity War, but beyond that, the Guardians don’t need another film. That or we just need a fresh new take on the Guardians. Get some new writers and we’ll see what they can do. In the meantime, I’m cautiously optimistic about Thor: Ragnarok (Gladiator scenarios don’t have the greatest track record and I can totally imagine some animal violence there, but I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt) and Spider-Man. (Worst Peter Parker…ever!) With the summer just starting, we’ll see how the rest of the films stack up. King Kong and Guardians may not have led it off to the strongest of starts, but the year is young.

Overall 5/10

Westworld Review

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Peter and his pal John decide to visit the world’s most popular amusement park, Westworld. It is a futuristic life simulator where you get to live your life as a farmer, king, freelancer, etc. It acts as a very expensive vacation which is ultra realistic as androids play the parts of the rest of the town. It is billed as a place where you can do anything without worrying about your conscience or morals. It’s also extremely pricey though and honestly you wouldn’t catch me checking it out even if it was real. You can still have more fun at an arcade with a roll of quarters. Back to the park though. In Westworld, you are able to play as the hero or the villain and by the end of your experience you may even learn a thing or two about yourself. There is only one rule, have fun! Unfortunately, the robots pick up on this message as well. Why let the humans get everything? Why indeed…..

If Westworld is supposed to make you dislike the humans and really root for the robots, then it succeeded quite easily. It goes out of its way to show that all of the humans are fundamentally bad people who will use any excuse to shed their boring 9-5 jobs and become full fledged villains. One guy uses his vacation to cheat on his wife, others use it to murder people and have one night stands with robots, etc. There is nobody to root for except for the robots, but I was probably going to be rooting for them anyway.

Peter is the main character and he’s pretty terrible. He’s portrayed as the average joe, someone you can sit down and have a beer with. He’s in awe of this big amusement park and can’t wait to try it. Once inside, his bad influence of a friend named John shows him how to have fun in all of the wrong ways. Peter quickly picks up on this and becomes just as corrupt. It’s a shame, but the guy had no will power. Also, it was hard to believe that these two were friends since John was basically ignoring Peter the whole time until they actually landed on the island. As bad as Peter was, John could match him step for step. He’s just a terrible collection of the worst tropes for a movie lead and I was anticipating his big duel with the android quite eagerly.

It’s a fairly small cast in this film as those two characters basically get all of the screen time. There’s also a third traveler who is the most corrupt of them all. The robots make sure to deal with him right away though via a stab straight to oblivion. The guy was a terrible fighter though as the android gave him a fighting chance for quite a while. Finally it got tired of the whole thing and just took him down for the count. The main villain was a pretty good robot. He definitely had Peter on the run for quite a while and he’s like an old fashioned terminator. He’s a pretty good shot as well which is useful when you’re in the Wild West setting. None of the other androids got particularly large roles but they were around to help finish the job when necessary.

Unfortunately, the film really stresses the pleasure part of this vacation which drags the film down quite a bit. After all, I think we get the implications of the “You can do whatever you want” message that Westworld gives out. We don’t have to constantly be reminded of it via the two main characters that this means you can have as many fake romances as you want. That’s the element that gets them the most excited along with drinking beer all day and shooting people. It’s certainly not a family friendly destination. It would have been nice if the film could have focused on the fact that you’re essentially living another life for these few days and the thrills of having safe gunfights and old styled competitions.

Also, the concept definitely doesn’t hold up if you actually think about it. The characters are using live ammunition and getting into real fights during their vacation. The guns are set to not work if you target another human, but you can still get hurt during the ballroom brawls. There’s one such fight in this film that lasts for a very long time. The heroes get lucky as they dodge most of the glass cup attacks and don’t get seriously injured, but they could have easily had some broken bones if they missed a step. I guess you may sign a waver or something before entering, but based on John’s reaction to getting bit, it seems that Westworld guarantees you will not be injured. That’s quite the stretch if you ask me.

Also, we see that in real time, a few operators juggle everything around for the various plots to ensure that every guest gets his/her desire. I guess they’ve never had conflicting goals from players since they have a 100% satisfaction rate. Hmmmm, well no need to dwell on that. Lets just say that I wasn’t buying it. The film isn’t super violent or anything. I did assume that Westworld was R to be honest and was surprised that it wasn’t, but I don’t remember any scene in particular being all that gruesome. It was fairly standard action stuff if I remember right. If anything, it’s more the shock of the situation that may get you if you weren’t expecting some big characters to die.

The ending of the film is pretty fitting though. I definitely thought that it was handled well since the humans were already in enemy territory when the androids made their move. The whole thing is pretty realistic even if the engineer who designed the room to only open from the inside should be fired instantly. Poor designs are timeless and we still get them nowadays. I always think doors should open outwards instead of inwards because it’s safer (Infamous factory fires) and more convenient yet people still make it the other way around. It is what it is I suppose.

Overall, I didn’t really care for Westworld. Good (Even if unbelievable) concept, but poor execution. The main problems all can be traced back to Peter and John. They’re just absolutely terrible main characters and the third guy didn’t help their case at all. There’s just too much of a focus on the wrong aspects of Westworld. The special effects were good though and it did have a lot of fun visuals. While I don’t see this ever happening in the real world, we are getting to the point where it could be possible through Virtual Reality. I think it’ll be easy to do such a thing someday, but there will be a ton of risks involved so I certainly wouldn’t be a beta tester. If you want a film where someone gets trapped in a cyber game, check out the new Sword Art Online film. In this case, the game comes to the real world, but it has some similar themes and it’s certainly a lot more enjoyable.

Overall 3/10

Max Steel Review

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It’s time for a superhero film that isn’t a part of the main DC or Marvel comics line. It takes some cues from the classic Spider-Man origin story and the Power Rangers series. By all accounts, this should have led to a film that was leagues above the average film. Unfortunately, this wasn’t to be as Max Steel isn’t a great film. It’s a decently good movie, but parts of the plot just end up being unintentionally funny or even cringy.

The film follows a kid named Max. He’s enjoying his day like normal when a robot appears and tells him that he’s gonna die. For some reason, Max has been emitting explosive particles and unless he expels them once in a while via energy blasts…it will consume him. Max doesn’t want that to happen, but he’s not really sure what to do about it. He’s not given much time to think things over as the robot gives him as Iron-Man suit which completely gets Max on board. “Why didn’t you mention that sooner?” is something along the lines of what he’d say. Unfortunately, a privately owned company filled with antagonistic share holders is after him. Run Max!

One of the things that you’ll notice right away is that the film had a bit of a limited budget. Max doesn’t even get to use his suit all that much because of this. There are only a handful of scenes with him in costume. Granted, those are the best parts of the film. Max’s fight against the Evil Max (Can’t spoil who the main villain is right? Hint, he gets the Golden Parachute) was pretty well done and if the whole film was like that, it would have been quite good. I’m always up for a solid hand to hand fight like that. Max’s training montage also wasn’t bad although it had nothing on Rocky.

Where things get tricky is the human side of things. As Max is your stereotypical Hollywood lead, he believes in love at first sight. This causes him to fall for Sofia instantly. The problem is that Max can be…cringy. That word is overused so I rarely use it myself, but it applies a lot here. We’ll get long scenes of Max just staring at Sofia because he’s at a loss for words. He tends to mumble a lot when they talk because he’s nervous. Max even brings back the 80’s trope of not being able to talk when Sodia is around so he starts spouting gibberish. Max then blows her off at least 10 times for the most mundane of reasons when he could easily explain the situation to her.

Sofia is evidently a nice character as she approaches Max most of the time and helps him fit in at school. Without her, things would have been pretty tough for him. Max just never appears all that grateful. He wants to be with her, but not enough to actually tell her much of anything. The only reason why she sticks around is because this is a Hollywood movie. It doesn’t make much sense otherwise. The biggest issue with Max is that he’s constantly running out of the room in a panic attack. See, he gets these visions and moments of disorientation. Instead of telling people, he dashes off. It becomes so much of a running gag that it’s even played for laughs in one scene. I can’t say that it was very funny though. It just made Max look insensitive again.

At the very least, this film isn’t very subtle. You can accurately predict most of the film right away. The main villain is incredibly obvious when he shows up. It’s meant to be a big twist, but there were no other suspects which is actually the problem. If you only have 4 main characters, Max, his Mom, the heroine, and a rich guy who knew Max’s father before his mysterious death…well it all points to one conclusion. The one part of the film that was a little surprising and came out of left field was the twist about the share holders. The whole time, it felt like the guys who were after Max were black ops mercenaries who destroyed anything in their path. Nah, it’s just a bunch of 9-5 guys who work for the share holders. They were also working for the wrong person as the majority shareholder had to step in. The scene made no sense by the way.

So, the Mom controls the company, yet she is out of the loop on everything. She knew about the aliens and everything, but didn’t know that Max would blow up. She kept the secret of how his Dad died from Max because “he wasn’t ready” but didn’t warn him not to go to the company since it wouldn’t bode well for him. I don’t think that the writers really thought this plot through at all. Don’t worry though, they squeezed in some aliens. There are living tornadoes that live among us. Yeah, I was pretty shook by this news as well. The only way to beat them is for Max to…land a hit against them. That’s not too hard, but it doesn’t make for a very thrilling fight. Also, the film didn’t have time for all of the fights so we get a good way of taking them out all at once at the end which will delay them for a bit. The sequel would probably wrap that up, but this film’s not getting a sequel anytime soon.

The villain’s not one of the smarter figures either. Since Max is a pretty inexperienced fighter with terrible plans..he takes advantage of that. See, the villain can absorb energy so Max figures that he’ll give the villain all of his energy. This will overload him right? I get the concept, but it’s a terrible plan. If the villain is trying to get your energy, then he has probably already thought of a way to do it effectively. The villain has the win in the bag, but then decides to bring Max next to his power supply at the end to make things more personal. After all, he wants Max to be back at full power so he can power up a machine. What he didn’t count on was the fact that Max wanted to use his powers on the villain instead of on the machine. The rest is history, but those two decisions were some of the worst ones that I’ve seen a superhero and supervillain make.

Steel is another one of the main characters and he’s the mini robot mascot of the film. He can’t really fight and is also not that intelligent. This isn’t a great combo. He’s always threatening to destroy Max’s friends and is always trying to drain his energy unexpectedly. Steel never really grew on me. I suppose he gets in a lot of burns, but they typically aren’t all that clever. He could have been worse though and maybe he was just overshadowed by Max. Max really is the worst character of the film with his constant panicking and being slow on the uptake for the new developments. He even uses Bing/Yahoo as a search engine if I recall correctly and that’s a rookie mistake. Sure, the freebies are cool, but you end up losing so much time that it’s just not worth it. A few dozen less “epic” zoom ins on Max and less shirtless scenes would have done wonders for the film as well. They’re just around to pad the time and to try and distract you from the plot holes. That strategy’s never been effective though as scenes of filler are the perfect time to think about past scenes and piece the puzzles together. At the very least, that’s what I like to do. Multi tasking and mentally prepping your review are always good things to do in those scenarios.

Overall, Max Steel was a funny film, but it wasn’t meant to be. It’s one of the rare examples of a cheesy/campy film in the modern era. That at least earns it some points even if it did completely bomb and I doubt we’ll be seeing a sequel. At least the cartoon series did a little better. The visuals are actually pretty good when they happen so it’s a shame that the film didn’t get a bigger budget. The writers/directors are probably glad that they didn’t spend more money on it though considering how hard it bombed. They would have lost even more money at that point. The main thing that could have improved this film would have been a better human subplot or more action scenes. Either definitely would have sufficed since the core premise of the plot is sound, the execution was just a bit off. Max Steel really played it safe on all accounts which may have limited its options, but also prevented it from falling into any cinematic pot holes. As the saying goes though, you can’t win by playing not to lose. This can suffice for a 6, but if the series wants to get any higher, it’s gonna have to improve. I’d recommend checking it out for a decent laugh and to remind yourself that independent superheroes still exist. That being said, it’s nowhere near as good as the average Marvel or DC film.

Overall 6/10

Alter Echo Review

alterecho
This is one of those games that I knew next to nothing about, but decided to buy on a whim. Lets face it, a cool cover and solid gameplay is enough to warrant a purchase. It’s why I like surfing Amazon’s retro games once in a while to find the hidden gems. Alter Echo’s definitely quite a lot of fun. It’s not quite on the same level as Eve of Extinction and Oni as those games were phenomenal, but it’s another good entry for the PS2 that holds up really well. The plot is certainly original.

So, humanity has gone pretty far. We now have telepaths to an extent who can reshape things. One day, a group of humans stumble upon a planet where they had sent a few others many years ago. It seems like their time in space has turned Paavo’s expedition evil so they now want to wipe out humanity. Our 3 proud heroes decide to stop them, but they are split up when landing. Nevin decides to find them and get off the planet while he can. He meets with an artificial intelligence that is the actual planet and it begs Nevin to help him stop Paavo. Nevin declines whole heartedly and gives this entity a hard time throughout the game, but it finally gets personal when the body count starts to rise and he realizes that there will be nowhere to escape to if Earth is destroyed. He reluctantly agrees to help and fortunately, the entity gives him a power suit and an assortment of weapons to bolster his abilities.

The plot is definitely going all in with the science fiction. That’s a smart move since it makes everything cooler. The opponents that you’re fighting are technically entities made of telepathic energies and all, but you can think of them as aliens. The designs are really cool and Nevin’s suit is also like something out of Iron-Man. The gameplay is pretty straight forward. It’s a 3D action title where you’ll be doing a lot of fighting. In standard mode, it plays out like a Link title. You swing at anything that moves. You have a beast mode which lets you climb onto objects and enemies alike. Finally, there’s Gun mode, where you turn into a large mecha and start blasting away. You’ll find that human mode is the most reliable, but you’ll have to use them all since some enemies are impervious to your different forms.

There’s an aspect of platforming to this game as well. You’ll need to activate nodes across the levels at times or get from one place to another with your acrobatics. There are also some puzzles for when you are deciphering a node. Don’t worry, they’re the good kind of puzzles. It’s all about reaction times as you must make the right turn. This also happens when you use your time manipulation to strike at enemies. It’s a really handy ability that I recommend using whenever possible since it gives you extra currency to spend on upgrades. I maxed out all of my powers and bought some combos as well, but you won’t really find yourself needing the combos. Button mashing works well enough on all of the opponents.

The game is fairly easy although the final boss will give you a run for your money. He has two phases and if you lose at any point, you must start again. Luckily, while I did die against the first phase 2-3 times, I never lost to the final one. That would have been demoralizing. It was very tense though since I won at the very end of my health bar. I always give my clutch factor some credit there along with the developers since nothing is more satisfying than winning at the very end like that. The same thing happened to me in Breath of the Wild and Kingdom Hearts II. It’s a good feeling. For the final boss phase 2, I recommend just baiting out his attacks and then punishing them. It’s a fool proof plan.

Alter Echo also ends with a big cliffhanger although a sequel is unlikely. Spoilers are present for this paragraph to skip it if you must. You ready? Well, it would appear that the entity is also evil and the heroine lives after all. She had seemingly died a while back so it’s good to see that she survived. That being said, she’ll probably be turned evil or not given a choice so that’s too bad for her. The other villains are also alive as well. The sequel probably would have been a blast so it’s a shame that it didn’t happen. The plot wasn’t particularly strong, but it still would have been enjoyable.

The graphics are good. They aren’t anything special, but the levels are fun to look at since the space theme is good. I will admit that all of the levels look the same though. There is no real variety to speak of since all of the levels are on the planet and in the caverns. This was a little lazy on the side of the developers so that’s something that could be fixed in a sequel. The time stop attacks look really good with purple energy all around. As for the soundtrack, it’s also really good. The themes are all really fast paced and increase the intensity of the levels. I’d definitely like to see the tunes return in a sequel.

Unfortunately, there is no replay value here. Once you beat the game, you cannot replay the levels to get the extra power ups. Your only option is to replay the game and that would purely be just to have fun. It’s a game that you complete and then put back on the shelf. The playthrough is good though so this isn’t a bad thing, but I always like to have some replay value. It gives the game an extra boost if you ask me.

While the game is good, there are clearly some negatives since I’m only giving it a 7. As I mentioned, the story isn’t great. It’s not bad and showed signs of promise like whenever the two friends would appear. It just suffered from some slow parts where nothing would really happen during some levels. The gameplay could also be a little repetitious since you would have to keep shifting forms to deal with various enemies. It wasn’t a big deal though and I still enjoyed the gameplay. These are just elements that hold it from being an 8. I did enjoy the puzzle system for the time stop attacks though and I’d definitely keep that for the sequel.

Overall, Alter Echo is a solid game and one that I would definitely recommend. It’s fairly short and won’t last you too long, but the gameplay is on point. The soundtrack is solid and the plot isn’t bad either. It’s the kind of game that nobody has heard of so it’ll also earn you some brownie points with other gamers when you mention that you’ve played such an obscure game. It had some issues like the levels being repetitious along with the gameplay to an extent, but that’s where the short length actually came in handy. Hopefully we get more space games soon, but I doubt that’ll be a problem. Space games are always going to be seen as cool.

Overall 7/10