Review

North by Outlands – Review

North is an Indie video game by Outlands that was originally released in April of 2016 on Steam. On March 6th, 2018, it releases on Nintendo Switch. The Switch is quickly becoming the go-to platform for Indie console titles, so North is in good company. Now, North is a relatively short game. In fact, if you know what to do, you could probably finish it in 30-40 minutes but the game anticipates that it should take you about an hour. With that in mind, I am going to do my best to avoid spoilers in both written and visual mediums. It’s a linear story with very few variations and I would prefer not to ruin it for anyone who is looking to pick it up.

Outlands describes the game as:

In NORTH you play a man who applies for asylum in a city filled with strange creatures and strange customs.

Dealing with the issue of the contemporary refugee crisis while at the same time being deeply rooted in a classical cyberpunk atmosphere à la Blade Runner, NORTH features a dark synthpop soundtrack, a sprawling mega-city and weird monster-like inhabitants.

The gameplay is very straightforward and mostly consists of exploration and simple puzzles. The main difficulty is to understand what you have to do in order to get asylum. You’ve come from an foreign land in the south and find yourself lost and confused – a confusion you convey through letters to your sister back home. An important part of the gameplay, these letters help you understand your tasks while at the same time moving the narrative of the game forward.

NORTH is short (20-40 min) and comes with a full soundtrack (8 songs).

North hits some heavy notes and focuses on an intense topic that impacts millions of people around the world. As you complete the game, the overtones and concepts it relays become much more clear. The story really does all tie together in a fairly creepy and unfortunately real way. But let’s start with the basics.

North by Outlands - Mines

It is a first-person game. You do not have hands. You cannot see any part of yourself or anything you may be holding. While this cleans up the screen, I would have appreciated some kind of aiming cross-hair as interacting with certain objects was tedious when using the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller. It is not immediately clear what you are supposed to do but that is the nature of the game. North doesn’t have a menu. You can’t pause or save. There’s no HUD nor indication of health, location, etc. aside from one specific life monitor when you are in the mines, as show in the image above. Instead, all you get when the game begins is what you see below:

North by Outlands - Opening

The graphics are relatively simple and look like they would have been great for a VR game. However, the loading between screens is a problem. It is very buggy. The beautiful soundtrack gets broken up on a regular basis when loading between screens which really takes you out of the moment and feel. With that said, the sound is truly beautiful and reminiscent of movies like Blade Runner and The Neverending Story, two of my personal favorites.

North by Outlands - First Floor City

Speaking of bugs though, I broke the game. You see, there’s a part when you have to go to work in the mines. The atmosphere is dangerous and you have to limit your time in there. My first couple of attempts led to my death and in dying, broke the flow of the game to where I was not able to complete the steps. The arrow markers that were supposed to lead my way to the mine locations I needed to work were no where to be found and I could not interact with the drink machines that were active prior to my death. I found myself stuck and decided to just close the game and relaunch it, starting over. Being that I was about half an hour in, this wasn’t the end of the world and now that I knew what to do, it was much easier to progress.

North by Outlands - Church

I did use some walk through from Steam because the whole Church conversion tied in with the street cameras was not immediately intuitive for me. I think that’s my chief complaint. The game relies a lot on you just figuring things out but since I essentially broke the game during my experimenting, I was also hesitant to do anything I wasn’t fairly confident in. Of course, there are the letters to fall back on. As mentioned earlier, you are sending letters to your sister and as you progress, they tell you vital information about upcoming tasks. Yes, it’s a little weird. Essentially, you perform an action and a letter becomes available to send your sister. In posting the letter, you get to read it and learn what… you… learned. It’s a little convoluted but it’s a solid mechanic that does help you along. So it works.

North by Outlands - Letters

In the end, it’s a short game that does have a solid message about the way many refugees are treated, the hoops we force them to jump through, and how we make them feel about their background and who they are.  There are some technical issues, specifically around loading between events and what happens if you die or do not convert correctly. Hopefully these things will be fixed with patches. I am playing pre-release, so I will cut them a little slack. Also, it’s a dirt cheap game, only $2.99 USD on Switch, making it easily one of the cheapest games on the platform and not a terrible way to spend an hour.

North by Outlands - Police Station

If you’ve played North by Outlands, please hit me up on Twitter @TheStarTrekDude and use the hashtag #northgame. I’d love to talk to you about it.

If you haven’t played and are going to snag it on Switch, also hit me up and let me know! It releases Tuesday, March 5th on the Nintendo Switch eShop.

North by Outlands – Review

Alien: Covenant Spoiler-free Review

The next installment in the Alien franchise is here. This time Ridley Scott is admitting upfront that it is, in fact, an Alien movie. With that said, if you have not seen Prometheus, I highly recommend watching it before seeing Alien: Covenant. Without spoiling too much from Prometheus, Michael Fassbender’s character David, is a very important part of Alien: Covenant and his motivations are directly tied into the events of Prometheus.

Now, moving on to Alien: Covenant, it’s an Alien movie…. kind of. I say “kind of” because it still sits firmly in the world that Prometheus created, focusing on the tone and overarching plot of that film. Sure, we have a new crew, a new mission, but at the end of the day, it’s the same shtick.

There is a lot to like about Alien: Covenant and if you love monster movies, it’ll be an enjoyable experience for you. With that said, if you are looking for a classic Alien movie that brings you back to Sigourney Weaver’s era, this is not going to fulfill your wishes.

Alien Coventant poster 2

The cast is fine. It features Katherine Waterston (Fantastic Beats and Where to Find Them), Bill Crudup (Watchmen), and Danny McBride (Pineapple Express), with Michael Fassbender playing two different characters, David from Prometheus and Walter, the Covenant’s android. They all do a good job with what they are given but as usual, Fassbender steals the show, much as he did in Prometheus and much as he has done in the more recent X-Men films. Everyone else is just along for the ride, in some cases literally.

The story is pretty interesting and has a lot of solid horror movie moments that Prometheus definitely lacked. We spend a lot of time off the ship which, while similar to Prometheus, is still very different from the original Alien Quadrilogy movies. Ridley Scott clearly is trying to pave a path between Prometheus, a movie he was adamant was not an Alien movie, and the original Alien. So, I expect at least one if not two more films before we catch back up to Ripley.

Alien Coventant poster 3

The special effects are inconsistent at best. The ships and technology look amazing and are great updates to the original films while not directly copying Prometheus. The bridge set, the corridors, etc. are all finely detailed and just really well done. The aliens and major action sequences leave much to be desired. The aliens are inconsistent in size, amorphous in shape, and deal damage convenient to whatever needs to happen in a particular scene. When a green\blue screens are used it’s painfully obvious that the backgrounds are fake. With that said, scenes where Fassbender is interacting with himself are very well done and incredibly convincing.

Alien Coventant poster

Overall, it’s a decent Alien movie. You can see my specific rating below. It expands on the universe. The movie provides some very cool and dark explanations for events but at the same time does not stand up to the quality of the original two films when it comes to special effects, suspense, or action. Ridley Scott has tried twice to replace Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley and has clearly failed to do so both times.  That’s about as much detail as I can go into without spoiling the movie, so if you’d like to know more, I’ll provide an in-depth take in an upcoming ranking of the Alien franchise films.

Did you like the movie? Comment below!

Alien: Covenant Spoiler-free Review

SH S2E20: Doctor Strange Review

We focus on Marvel and the MCU this week as we review Doctor Strange which hit North American theaters this previous weekend. We will be discussing plot, characters, and surprises which means lots of SPOILERS! You have been warned. If you don’t want spoilers, please put this on pause and come back after you see the movie.

Toward the end of the cast we discuss a little DC and Blizzard news, as well.

Before we kick off the main discussion we want to announce some big brand changes here at The Grid Daily. Due to our love for podcasting and such, we are now the Heroes Podcast Network, producers of Screen Heroes. The Grid Daily name is being phased out so we can focus more on podcast and video content, with less reliance on written, blog-style content. We’re still the same people and Screen Heroes will continue to record live every Tuesday night at 8PM CST on Twitch!

In the meantime, please make sure you like, following, and subscribe to our various social media and Internet outlets, some of which have already changed to the Heroes Podcast Network branding. Check out all the links below!

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Also, want to give a big thanks to everyone who joined us live for our Mortal Kombat fan-cast! We love your comments and questions, so continue to join us every week!

Want to join the conversation? Join us live every Tuesday night at 8PM CST on Twitch to chat with us! We’ll answer questions and note comments live on the broadcast! Follow at: twitch.tv\heroespodcasts

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Also, stop by our Patreon to see what kinds of cool perks you can get for being one of our contributors: patreon.com\HeroesPodcasts

Doctor Strange Review Podcast Credits

Hosts
Derreck Mayer
Rachel Stewart
Ryan Couture

Executive Producer
Derreck Mayer

Editor
Derreck Mayer

Music
Michael Wallace (Flying Killer Robots)

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SH S2E20: Doctor Strange Review

Stranger Things: Spoiler-Free Review

Are you a fan of classic 80’s child adventure stories? I’m talking about Goonies, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Flight of the Navigator, Stand by Me, The Wizard, Explorers, and The Last Starfighter, just to name a few.

Well, you’re in good company. A set of twin writer/directors Matt and Ross Duffer, known as The Duffer Brothers also enjoyed those movies and have decided to grace us with a mixture of those ideas with large doses of practical and computer special effects. Welcome to the world of Stranger Things.

Synopsis

“When a young boy vanishes, a small town uncovers a mystery involving secret experiments, terrifying supernatural forces and one strange little girl.” To say the least, that description only scratches the barest surface, as this series defies genre. It’s a Sci-Fi/Mystery/Thriller/Action/Drama love note to that era of Flock of Seagulls haircuts.

As a Netflix Original Series, Stranger Things was bound to be at least decent. It’s sitting side by side other great shows, including Orange is the New Black and House of Cards. Upon first glance, the one thing I noticed was how well this show is put together. From the smallest detail, to the largest story arc, everything is dripping with 80’s. There are throwbacks via posters on the walls, t-shirts, and even the telephones and cars in use are very true to the year. The only thing that may have seemed out of place is the vernacular, the words they used. But, since I only spent a few years in the 80’s, I may be mixing fiction and reality. Which is bogus to the max, like totally.

stranger-things-poster

Review

Seriously, though, the writing, directing, audio, music choices, casting, acting, special effects, and everything else all coalesce into something that major Hollywood movies are currently having great difficulty in achieving, unity. Stranger Things acts as one story set in its own universe. There is no one piece where you can look and say, “that doesn’t belong” or “they should have done that better.”

The episodes are displayed as chapters in a book. If this were a book that I was currently reading, I would read it cover to cover continuously.

Stranger Things is rated PG-14, and I would not suggest it for anyone who is susceptible to nightmares or fear of the dark, as this will exacerbate those conditions. There is a fair amount of blood and violence, a lot of swearing, and just a smidgen of teenage sexual situations. This is one of those rare times where I will side with the ratings and say, maybe the younger kids should sit this one out.

StrangerThings

What do you think about Stranger Things? Have you already binge-watched it? Let us know in the comments!

Stranger Things: Spoiler-Free Review

SH S2E4: Ghostbusters (2016) Review

For our 30th episode, we review the new Ghostbusters (2016) movie with tons of spoilers! We talk casting, plot, writing, special effects, cameos, and more! Finding out what we liked about the Ghostbusters reboot plus what we didn’t. The film is in theaters now and stars Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, and Chris Hemsworth, directed by Paul Feig, from Columbia Pictures.

In its opening weekend, Ghostbusters (2016) pulled in a little over $46 million domestically with a $50 million 5-day haul, coming in second to The Secret Life of Pets. We talk about how the box office timing could hurt the film and whether or not its box office haul is due to the movie itself, competition, or the press leading up to the film’s release.

Wished you could be part of the conversation? Join us live every Tuesday night at 8PM CST on Twitch to chat with us! We’ll answer questions and note comments live on the broadcast! Follow at: twitch.tv\griddaily

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Also, stop by our Patreon to see what kinds of cool perks you can get for being one of our contributors:patreon.com\griddaily

Ghostbusters (2016) Review Podcast Credits

Hosts
Derreck Mayer
Rachel Stewart
Ryan Couture

Executive Producer
Derreck Mayer

Editor
Derreck Mayer

Music
Michael Wallace (Flying Killer Robots)

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SH S2E4: Ghostbusters (2016) Review

Finding Dory: Spoiler-Free Review

Finding Dory (2016)

Cast: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O’Neill, Kaitlin Olson, Ty Burrell

Directors: Andrew Stanton, Angus MacLane

Synopsis: Ellen DeGeneres reprises her role as the forgetful blue Tang fish with a friendly personality, as she remembers a key moment from her past and goes on a journey to find the things she’s lost along the way.

Review:

As with any Pixar movie, there was a short movie before the feature presentation, this time, it was Piper, a heartwarming story of a young sandpiper, learning to feed itself, but, also that some things which may seem scary at first could simply be hurdles to be overcome. It’s a sweet little clip, and, if you don’t care about the story, you should marvel at the details. Feathers, water, shells, and even sand are just barely on this side of the uncanny valley.

Ellen DeGeneres slips seamlessly into the role of Dory, just as the movie slips seamlessly back into our lives. It’s difficult to remember that Finding Nemo came out in 2003. We get a split-second recap of the first movie, just to remind anyone who didn’t want to admit to watching the first movie before entering the theater. During the recap, we get to see young Dory, which is probably the cutest thing ever, especially if you didn’t just watch Piper.

Finding Dory - Dory

When Dory is suddenly reminded of something she forgot, it starts a hide-and-seek/I Spy journey to her home, and her forgotten family. Her adopted family, Marlin and Nemo accompany her on this journey, with the help of an adventurous Turtle. Dory blunders her way into dangerous situations and blunders right out of them again. Some of the creatures they meet along the way consider fish to be food and not friends. Along with including nearly every character from the last movie, we get to meet a lot of new friends, including Hank, a suspicious camouflaging “Septopus” and Bailey a self-conscious beluga whale, who is next door neighbors with a near sighted whale shark.

This film served as great entertainment with its colorful cast and easy going feel. The plot is not as straight forward as you would expect from a kid’s movie, but, the twists and turns aren’t exactly sharp either. This is definitely a movie that will be enjoyed by children as well as the adults sitting next to them.

The one actor that gave this reviewer pause was Sigourney Weaver, who plays herself, or rather, her voice as the overhead announcer for the Monterey Bay Marine Life Aquarium, which has a “Rescue, Rehabilitate, and Release” motto.

As with any Pixar sequel, this one simply isn’t as good as the original, in this reviewer’s opinion. However, as stated earlier, with how seamlessly it segues into the first movie, you can hardly tell they are 13 years apart. Also, it’s worth it to sit through the credits for a humorous end-scene that tie the two movies together even tighter than before.

Finding Dory: Spoiler-Free Review

Pokémon Go: First Impressions from a Beta Tester

If you have been living under a rock, Pokémon Go is a new mobile game launching this year from Niantic, the studio behind the Android game “Ingress”.  It allows Pokémon fans to do something they have always wanted to do, be the “Ash Ketchum” of their own personal Pokémon journey.  This game is now in the beta testing phase and a slew of invites were sent out this week to bring in more testers.  I was one of those lucky enough to be chosen for the test , and now that I have had the game for a few days, I decided to do a short article to give my thoughts on the game as it currently exists.

Just to preface this, I will not be giving out any information as to actual game-play mechanics.  As a beta tester, I am subject to an NDA, and I will not be breaking that.  This article is just to give my impressions having played the game for a few days.  If leaks are what you want, there are plenty of places out there to get that information.

Pokemon Go

Capture Pokemon in their first augmented reality adventure.

To start with, the game is quite fun to look at.  The graphics are quite good for a mobile game.  I am playing the game on a Nexus 6P, and it looks great  on the 5.7 inch screen.  The AR (augmented reality) portion of the game works quite well, making it look like the Pokémon are actually in front of you.

Pokemon Go

Explore your real life surroundings to capture imaginary Pokemon.

The most surprising part of Pokémon Go, for me anyway, is that it makes you actually want to leave the house.  I am not generally an active person, but this game has succeeded in making me want to leave the house and explore.  Just yesterday, I went out to go try and add a few more species to my Pokédex, and I found myself walking further and further from my home, trying to hit that next Pokéstop or gym.  There aren’t many other beta testers in my area that I have seen, but I imagine once the game releases, it won’t be uncommon to run into other people playing, hanging around those landmarks in the game.

And it is there that I think this game will succeed.  Whether you are a fan of the original Red and Blue, or a newer fan who enjoys the 3DS games, you will find something to love in Pokémon Go.  I will release a full review, as well as a tips and tricks article, once the game is closer to release and the NDA is over.

 

Pokémon Go: First Impressions from a Beta Tester

Criminal Movie: A Review

Criminal Review

I’d like to start this review by saying the movie Criminal is complicated, to say the least. It almost feels like a few movies put together.
I really wanted to like it from the beginning.
That being the case, I’ve split this review into different parts;
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

The Good:
This movie has one of the most original premises I’ve seen in a while. Essentially, imagine an evil version of Billy Bob Thornton from Sling Blade wakes up with the memories of Jason Bourne. Would he still be evil? This premise kept me in my seat.
This movie has the largest assortment of actors who have been in comic book movies this side of an X-men sequel. Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones, Gal Gadot, and Gary Oldman. And, those are just the ones on the poster. Needless to say, their acting is superb, they totally embodied the characters that they portrayed.

 

The Bad:
Where should I start? Criminal starts with a LOT of jump cuts from city to city, person to person. It’s kind of a spy thriller so it makes sense, but, you really need to pay attention to what is going on.  One of the most interesting characters is killed off in the first half of the movie, which I thought was a poor choice, as far as story is concerned. The main character, played by Kevin Costner, is not a likable guy. He does some stuff at the beginning of the movie that almost had me walking out, almost. Throughout the movie, his character changes immensely, but, it’s still unnerving.
There is a little girl who accepts this character almost immediately, which is also unnerving, as she has no idea who he is, and her mother has absolutely no reason to trust him at all. These scenes could have been better explained, in my opinion.
Gal Gadot is not given nearly the screen time that she deserves and her character was handled poorly.

FIN02_Criminal_1Sht_Payoff_VF_s

The Ugly:
Shaky Cam, Shaky Cam everywhere. If you have trouble with this, be aware. Also, I was expecting Kevin Costner’s character to bust out some Kung Fu, or Krav Maga, but, the best we get is prison moves and brute force. Some of the more violent scenes are very graphic and can be disturbing to sensitive viewers.
In addition, there was a whole subplot about guys who could be Bond villains, computer programming, and nuclear missiles. These were wholly unnecessary in my opinion. Overall, this felt like most other recent Kevin Costner movies, such as The Postman and Waterworld, both of which I enjoy to this day, but, mainly when they are on cable. So, this movie may end up as a stocking stuffer from the bargain bin at your local Wally World.

TLDR;
If you enjoy movies with interesting plots, that are well-acted and feature some big names, Criminal is a good romp.
If you like action scenes and explosions, you will enjoy Criminal.
If you have trouble with shaky cam and you don’t enjoy hasty jump cuts, Criminal might be a movie to skip.

criminal-2016-ryan-reynolds1

Oh yeah, and Ryan Reynolds is in this movie. Who knew?

Criminal Movie: A Review

Miitomo: The Best of Social Media

Last Thursday Nintendo finally launched its new account and reward system, My Nintendo, that replaces Club Nintendo after a year hiatus. Along with this good news comes a fun little app called Miitomo. Inevitably, if you are friends with any Nintendo fans or the young at heart, you’ve likely seen an influx of Miis scattered across your social media that would rival your own Mii Plaza. I, unfortunately, will probably lose a few friends and followers by the time this particular hype train leaves the station, but I have no regrets. If you have not boarded that train, give the video above a watch to see what you’re in for and join me on this journey.

Miitomo is best described as a social media app that allows you to be the best version of yourself. You also get to post (Mii)fotos, satiate your desire to answer ALL THE QUIZZES, have a slightly repetitive time sink of a game, and be surrounded by friends who actually want to see it. For the icing on the cake, there are no ads and you get actual rewards for playing that include free games for the 3DS and useful perks for Miitomo itself. The launch video does a fantastic job of showing how to get started and some of the features. I have to admit that I am a terrible human being and take entirely too much enjoyment in making the Miis say awful things. It is truly an affliction and I just cannot help myself. Thankfully my friends have a tolerable sense of humor, or have somehow managed to exceed my own twisted thoughts. Personally, I blame Nintendo for doing such a fantastic job on text-to-speech and allowing some significant free speech (type ALL THE FOUR LETTER WORDS).

MIITOMO

Well, we do live in America.

Within about 30 minutes of answering questions and dressing my Mii up in silly things, I came to a solid theory. Miitomo seems to have drawn some of the best features of a game released two years ago called Tomodachi Life. The game itself is difficult to describe, but can be most related to a very weird voyeuristic version of The Sims. While it was repetitive and got stale quickly, the game had a unique quirky charm of being bat@#&! crazy with the most random dialogue and cut scenes. This app immediately reminded me of the good times I had in that bizarre game. I have come to the conclusion that Nintendo released Miitomo simply to record all of the weird things we say to keep their inevitable Tomodachi Life 2 fresh and exciting. I am likely very wrong, but on the slight chance that I am not, you heard the conspiracy here first, folks.

MIITOMO

This escalated quickly.

MIITOMO

#MiitomoStyle with Friends!

What about you, my fellow Nintenerds? Have you given Miitomo a shot yet? Need some random time waster in your life? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it and relish in any fun moments you’ve had in the game so far. Feel free to add Mii as a friend using the QR code!

MIITOMO

Go ahead, add Mii!

You can always contact me on Facebook and Instagram @crystalbatdesigns!

Miitomo: The Best of Social Media

It’s not a doll, it’s a ACTION FIGURE! Part 2 – Mattel Multiverse 12″ Armored Batman Review

This article is going to look very familiar, because if you are a frequent reader,Ii reviewed the 6″ version of this figure not long ago.  You can find that article here.  This review is for the 12″ Mattel Armored Batman action figure in the Multiverse line.

I haven’t spotted this figure in a store and instead, purchased this one on Amazon.com here.  To begin, the packaging is very similar to the 6″, except in a larger scale, that will be a common theme for this review.

IMG_20160105_164430

IMG_20160105_164452

Multiverse Armored Batman Likeness

Judging by the likenesses shown on the back of the package, this figure has the best likeness of all of the 12″ figures.  Both Superman and Wonder Woman look nothing like their movie counterparts based on these photos.  Even this Batman has very large lips, to the point of almost looking cartoony.

IMG_20160105_164749

Batman likeness

The interior packaging is nearly identical to the 6″.

IMG_20160105_164606

Out of packaging

When you get the figure out of the packaging, it is a bit disappointing for the scale and price.  The figure appears to have been sculpted at a 6″ scale and blown up to a 12″.  This results in the details that look good on the 6″ looking blown out of proportion or overly large on the 12″.  The one bonus on this figure has over the 6″ is an actual fabric cape, though it lays flat and lacks the cool creases the 6″  version has sculpted in.  The paint is very similar to the 6″, and because of the increased scale, the lack of detailing around all the battle damage is even more obvious here.

IMG_20160105_164733

Out of packaging

IMG_20160105_164814

Bat butt

He comes with no accessories, and that is disappointing.  What is Batman without his cool toys?  A simple batarang would have given him something cool to pose with.

This figure has 10 points of articulation, versus 20 on the 6″.  The most noticeable change is the lack of articulated ankles, which makes this figure very difficult to pose in any position other than a boring straight up and down standing position.  The hips and shoulders have a decent range of movement.

IMG_20160105_164917

Here’s Johnny!

IMG_20160105_165034

Batman is more flexible than I ever imagined.

IMG_20160105_165147

Scale comparison

IMG_20160105_165217

Scale comparison version 2

Overall, i think that you get a better figure if you buy the 6″ version.  I’d give this figure 4/10 cans of shark repellent, or 2/5 spaceships.

The Grid Rating Saucer 2.5

 

 

Did you pick up either of these Multiverse figures? Did you find a different armored Batman figure you liked more? Comment below!

It’s not a doll, it’s a ACTION FIGURE! Part 2 – Mattel Multiverse 12″ Armored Batman Review

The Hateful Eight 70mm – Review

For his eighth feature film Quentin Tarantino sends us a special film in The Hateful Eight. For those near a participating theater, the film is being shown in a unique 70mm format that is also a few minutes longer than the standard cut of the movie. The Hateful Eight 70mm edition runs 3 hours and 7 minutes. The latest Tarantino flick stars Quentin regular Samuel L. Jackson along with Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, and Tim Roth, among others. This review will cover my thoughts on the 70mm format as well as the film as a whole, so SPOILERS are ahead.




The Hateful Eight 70mm Edition

The basic premise of The Hateful Eight is provided in the trailer for the movie: John Ruth (Kurt Russell) is bringing a bounty, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) into a town for to hang. They get stuck in a small inn of sorts during a blizzard with several other mysterious and untrustworthy folk.

First, I’d like to talk a bit about the 70mm experience. I’ve never seen a movie in this format, so it was a new experience. The film begins with an Overture. The music was nice but the experience seemed out of place and a little confusing given that no movie has been shown in such a format in about 50 years (at least at a major theater for a new release). I think the oddest part was that no one came to explain any of the differences, so when the lights went out and no previews came on, it took a second for us to adjust.Kurt Russell Samuel L Jackson Hateful Eight

The film begins and is broken into chapters. Each chapter is named appropriately, in fact, one is even explained in an out of place narration. You see, the first half of the film does not have any narration but halfway through, the movie breaks in an intermission (more on that in a minute) and when we return, Quentin Tarantino brings us back up to speed and also takes us along back in time for a companion story of sorts that helps explain and set up the predicament everyone is in by the end of the first act. This narration was odd and definitely out of place. Since the film does not start with one nor does another follow later, it doesn’t fit with the rest of the tone and style of the movie. Now, the intermission I mentioned earlier is another addition in the 70mm cut. Like the classic Roadshow films, it has an intermission but since that is no longer common place I couldn’t tell you how long it was and at the time, I certainly had no idea. The screen says Intermission for a few seconds and then it just fades to black as the lights in the theater go up slightly. Again, we have no instruction, so if you want to grab food and/or use the restroom, make it quick.

The overall style of The Hateful Eight does fit the extra widescreen format of the 70mm release. As noted in the special engagement program:

“Ultra Panavision 70 refers to the very rare and exceptional format that Quentin Tarantino and his team used to shoot The Hateful Eight. Panavision’s unique anamorphic camera lenses capture images on 70mm film in an incredible aspect ratio of 2.76:1. Almost all films you see today are shot in ratios of either 1.85:1 or 2.39:1. So, to put it simply, Ultra Panavision 70 provides an amazingly wider and more detailed image.”

It goes on to note that only a few films were ever filmed in such a manner including Ben-Hur and Battle of the Bulge with the last such film, Khartoum, being filmed in 1966.

The overall feel of the supposed Roadshow Engagement was well attempted. The program is printed on very high quality paper with detailed images and the overall cinematography was outstanding. With that said, I don’t think I felt like this movie was a different kind of experience from anything else but that might have been my lack of anticipating such an experience.

I did enjoy the wider image though. I felt like I was getting a bigger picture, showing more of what was going on. I’d be interested in seeing a comparison between that format and some others like 5K, 4K, 1080p, etc.hateful-eight-quentin-tarantino

Now, let’s talk about the movie itself. I’d classify myself as a Tarantino fan overall. I consider Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained and Inglorious Basterds as some of my favorite movies of all time. With that said, The Hateful Eight was a bit disappointing. First off, the casting was NOT the problem. Everyone was great. Kurt Russell and Samuel L. Jackson seemed to have solid chemistry and I enjoyed their time on screen together. I especially loved Tim Roth’s character Oswaldo Mobray. This unique English character brought a sense of lightheartedness and brightness that the movie desperately needed. Jennifer Jason Leigh pulled off the crazed captive perfectly and even freaked me out a bit at times.

The story was pretty basic: a bounty hunter gets stuck in a storm with his bounty while others try to kill him for it. The real focus of the film is on the why. Why do people want to stop John Ruth (Russell)? This is something I will not spoil here but it was interesting and I enjoyed the twist that finally brought everything together. While of course I expected a bloody ending for pretty much everyone involved, especially at the hands of the various guns, the method and the reasoning was something I had not anticipated.

The dialogue was very Tarantino. I enjoyed most of it because I’m a dialogue kind of guy. It’s the amazing monologues that I love which is why movies like The Big Lebowski are so high on my list. With that said, Tarantino finds another film excuse to use the n-word over and over again. While I have come to expect that in his films, it’s not something I ever get used to and his attempts to nullify the power of the word definitely fall flat in The Hateful Eight, a film that takes place shortly after the Civil War and includes characters who fought for both sides. The people using the word as not doing so in the context of say, those in Pulp Fiction but more because they are flat out racist and were recently fighting to keep slavery a thing. Either way, it detracted from an otherwise decent film.

Hateful Eight John and DaisyConclusion

I liked The Hateful Eight but I did not love it. It’s a solid movie with a solid story. The characters are interesting and compelling and you get the expected Tarantino money shot of death, blood, and violence. The second act was significantly better than the first not just because it picked up the pace but because it had more story to it. The first act feels like people more or less sitting\standing around while the second has the exposition, action, information, and movement. I would rank the film as 4th on my list of Tarantino movies but I want to preface that by saying I have not seen Jackie Brown, Deathproof, or True Romance. 

I’d give it 3.5 UFOs out of 5. Good but not great.

The Grid Rating Saucer 3.5

The Hateful Eight 70mm – Review

Into the Badlands – Review

It pains me to say it but Into the Badlands is flawed. It’s not that great to put things mildly. The plot is irrational and borderline moronic, to be a little more harsh. As a long time martial arts fan, I hate to say it, but with only 6 episodes in its first season, I can’t recommend it to anyone just yet. But don’t take my word for it, you can watch it for free on AMC’s site.
It’s not to say it is without hope. I mean a lot of shows suck early as they struggle to find their footing. And the show does have some excellent elements that I admire but it’s not enough to tip the scales in its favor. At best I could only recommend waiting for it to come to Netflix or at least letting it finish out another season (well, if it lasts that long). I’ll cut to the quick for you.

Stance Bad Lands

Plot Synopsis
Taking place in Louisiana, a head body guard by the name of Sunny goes about doing his despotic leader’s bidding. In what  may be a NRA members worst nightmare, guns are outlawed and martial arts reigns supreme. Sunny as head clipper and regent of his Baron is the best fighter in the region. All except for a young boy Sunny finds named M.K. who has supernatural abilities that are released when he is cut. Sunny, slowly learning the depravity of his leader’s ways and the desperation of his situation, plots escape, forgoing the prestige and trust this despot bestows on him for his great skills in combat. Planning to take his romantic interest with him along with his new fighter in training, M.K, Sunny plans escape Into The Badlands. Sadly as my disappointment with the show grew, I kept thinking of South Park’s Mr. Mackey every time they mentioned M.K.

Mkay-song-300x174



 

Badlands: The Good

Fight Scene Episode One Badlands

Fight Scenes
The action is crisp and excellent. Seeing Daniel Wu, who is an experienced martial arts actor, is what sets Into the Badlands apart from any other action show out there. This Hong Kong style action isn’t seen much on the Western television, if at all. Unlike a lot of other Western copies of kung fu, Into the Badlands films it so much better making the moves the star of the action and not the actor’s faces. Usually when Western movies try these they zoom way too close because of the star power of the actor and because the aforementioned star’s lack of martial arts skill.  Casting Daniel Wu for the fight scenes was an excellent choice. Each punch and kick he throws looks authentic because actor and stunt man are one and the same. All the fight scenes choreographed well and the pacing is just right.

Rain Scene One Badlands

Rain Scene Three Badlands

Acting

Surprisingly the acting is much better than any kung fu show has any right to be. Wu does a great job as a clean cut, straight forward hero who is unmistakably on the good side of morality. Contrasted by the Baron (Marton Coskas), who is played so oily and paranoid that he will make you squirm with loathing for him. Csokas, a New Zealander, pulls off an incredible Southern gentlemen’s accent (just think Val Kilmer Doc Holliday from Tombstone and you have the idea.) A hero is defined by a villain and, as a foil for Sunny, Csokas is remarkable.
The rest of the supporting cast is incredibly talented as well. The deadly sexy Emily Beecham as up and coming baroness. The gorgeous Orla Brady as the outgoing baroness, and the smart and sexy Sarah Bolger as the new baroness all do an excellent job of bringing this new world into focus. The young Aramis Knight and Ally Ioannides as star crossed lovers round out the cast excellently. An important part of story telling is character’s and Into the Badlands gets this right.

dan wu badlandsinto-the-badlands-quinn-csokas-700x1000

 

Visuals
The show is pretty. It really is easy on the eyes. It makes excellent use of Southern Culture and settings, one moment showing the regal flair of a Baron’s home and castle, while at another showing the gritty urban look of the French Quarter of New Orleans. All the while interspersing stunning vistas flowers in bloom and weeping willows. At no time could this be mistaken for Southern California like every other show out there; this is the natural beauty of the South. All of this is shot expertly using some great cinematography. Seeing a long shot of Sunny ridding down a road laden with southern flowers is incredible. And you can’t escape the nod to the Samurai flicks of old.

Badlands Field
Costuming is another more subtle force. True to form of classic Kung Fu shows, each domain has its own look and feel to it. Where Sunny’s side has sleeveless soldiers in red leather Chinese style clothes other lords are visually distinguished. One group wields Scottish basket-hilted swords and Celtic plaid clothing, while another group further north sports loose baggy pants and Indian kukri short swords. Lords and lieutenants dress apart from the soldiers but are still bound to the fashion style of their domain. It’s an easy way to see stark clan lines that is a hallmark of kung fu films of feudal China. It’s a subtle but superb touch.AMC_ITB_S1_Inside_Characters_TheBarons

 

Showdown Badlands

Tension With Out Words



 

Badlands: The Bad

Plot
Well there is only one real bad thing of the show but it’s by far the most important: the plot. It could be said that pure kung fu shows don’t really need plot, it’s all about the action after all. The bad thing is that Into The Badlands is actually trying really hard at the plot and failing at it miserably, often times laughably so. Each episode averages out to maybe one fight scene and a half with drama making up the rest. I’m reminded of complaints about The Walking Dead not having enough zombies and too much drama. Consider this and realize that Into The Badland’s drama not nearly being as good.
The characters and interactions are awesome, which is an integral part of any plot driven show, but when you zoom out just a little and ask yourself why am I watching this? It’s as if they know where they want the show to go but the steps they make the characters take to get there are lame.

A good example of this, and perhaps low hanging fruit for plot making, is building up for a confrontation. Something even Hong Kong action shows can easily get right, Into The Badlands stumbles into. Take for example 2008’s Ip Man film. It slowly builds up animosity and tension between the Wing Chun master and the evil Japanese general. The whole time you know there will be a show down between the two. It’s inevitable. It takes time to show the hero and his friends suffering and when the fight scene happens the audience is rooting for the hero to win. The confrontation is savored and has purpose.
It’s not like this is the only option for a simple kung fu story.

IpMan ffight

Netflix’s Daredevil show handles the relationship between fight scenes and plot much better. Though Into the Badlands is a much more sophisticated kind of fight, Daredevil’s fights always have purpose. The epic long shot fight  in the green hallway from the second episode isn’t fancy, it’s a knockdown, dragged out, brawl. It shows Daredevil’s drive bordering on obsession and it ends with the characters perseverance wining the day, not his fighting skill.

DD FightInto the Badlands on the other hand bungles even this simple element in action shows. Though technically very good it is “with out emotional content” as Bruce Lee would say. It’s as though they sprinkled fight scenes at random into a mediocre show with minimal cause and little purpose. An example of this let down would be the major confrontation with Sunny’s greatest enemy, It ends in a couple seconds with a stabbing and is quickly glossed over.

Emotional Content

Emotional Content

And later on when the other rival baron’s come to fight and Sunny’s apprentice and he release his long anticipated supernatural abilities its not really shown, nor are the consequences. Many of the other fight scenes happen without much purpose and have little consequence either. You could just as easily substitute the fights with verbal arguments and it would be same before and after. A bad sign for any show, let alone one emphasizing martial arts. Even the simplest of Kung Fu shows know how to make fights matter! In even the most typical fight scenes you have to root for the protagonist on some level, the fight scene although technically good lack in any relevance, any umph. There really is no excuse for not having this minimal level of fights with some purpose in the plot.

Lady Badlands

Conclusion

I’m not sure AMC is willing to venture out of its comfort zone of drama driven shows to give an honest Kung fu one a shot. And Into The Badlands plot just isn’t good enough to stand on its own. Though the fight scenes are technically some of the best, there are still better fights with much better purpose. The fight scenes on Into The Badlands are hallow and meaningless despite stunning visuals and excellent acting. As it is I can’t really recommend it to anyone either as a drama or an action show.
The best case scenario would be for someone like Daniel Wu and his stunt team coming over to another show like Netflix’s up and coming Iron Fist. At the very least though it demonstrates how good fight scenes can be done on television and that it is possible after all. And that the producers shouldn’t shy away from some really technical kung fu. Yea that’s it, maybe cut and paste the fight scenes from Into the Badlands onto another show and we’ll be all set. I’ll give a generous 2.5 out of 5, but just because I have a soft spot in my heart for some kung fu.

The Grid Rating Saucer 2.5

Into the Badlands – Review