• Alan Wake is a action horror game that does everything solid. The graphics are pretty good for a game that came out in 2010. The vegetation and environments are what really shine in this game. The cut-scenes graphics were actually worse than the in-game graphics for some reason. Which was odd but perhaps it is because I’m playing it on the PC and it was ported. Though the game could become repetitive at times, it kept you on suspense because of the scarcity of ammo and the way light was incorporated into the game with so much importance. The core of the game was staying out of the dark. The subtle things of this game is what i really enjoyed.

    I recall one time when I was exploring a cabin looking for ammo and collectibles when I saw a dark figure scurry past the window. My thought were that this would be a common occurrence but nothing like that ever happened again. The game remained fresh in it’s scares. The enemies actually try to sneak up on you. I came to this realization when i turned around once in the game and saw a dark figure weaving through cars that disappeared once i looked at him. That kept me doing 360 turns for a while in paranoia. The way Alan Wake monologues his thoughts into the game make for a more interesting narrative and draws similarities to Remedy Studios earlier works with Max Payne. Overall the game was really enjoyable but my one griping is the ending. I’m not usually the guy who gripes on endings because I like it when writers make endings a little ambiguous so people can have their own interpretations. Alan Wake ending left me a little bit too perplexed to a point that actually takes off a few points to my review .

    8/10

  • Beyond: Two souls was a very engaging game. What the the blockbuster story brings to the table makes up for the lack of game-play. This may be a turn off for many players that were expecting to have more control in some game-play aspects. The game gave you many options in decision making but overall the game was pretty linear. The story is not told  in chronological order so that may be confusing for some people. I personally liked the way it was told because it covered times in Jodie Holme’s(Protagonist)  life in a flashback style that brought meaning to her character and her decisions. At times the romance seemed force but you were given the decision for the most part. The game keeps you on your feet with countless twist and turns.

    In addition to a fun single player experience This game make a great co-op experience. I played it with my brother and thoroughly enjoyed it. I actually believed this game is made for the duo experience.

    The motion capture that was used to create the animations of the game play and character emotions was top notch. This game has some of the best graphics that I have seen to date on Consoles.  The character models done by Quantum Dream were excellent. The likeness of characters and photo realism of this game makes me wonder what’s in store for us for the upcoming generation. Hans Zimmer and Lorne Balfe Score for this game was very moving and compelling. The voice acting done by Willem Dafoe, Ellen Page, and the cast of Beyond was top-notch.

    Many game developers are now moving to make video games a richer story telling medium. I believe this is evident when you look at how much more interactive stories in video games have become over the years.

    Just to name a few that are fresh in my mind which are good Examples: Tell Tales- The Walking Dead, Star War: The Old Republic,With Controversy- Mass Effect, Deux Ex Human Revolution, and David Cage’s works.

    I often think of a recent game By The FullBright Company called Gone Home; that is a interactive exploration game where the story is told by reading journals and listening to tapes. It gives me hope when games like Gone Home can receive critical acclaim but at the same time it doesn’t bother me when games like this receive mixed reviews. Just in the fact that games like these are being played and talked about is a sign that our ideas of what a video game is are really being questioned.

    Beyond: Two Souls. Beyond: Two Souls is a interactive experience that delves into the Supernatural and also questions ideas about life and death. If you are looking for a game that is quite not like anything you are used to than I would suggest you to check out Beyond.

  • With only three episodes remaining, the end game is in sight for our favorite blood splatter analyst. It’s hard to say what exactly are the ingredients for a good episode of Dexter. The recipe has been changing gradually with the series finale approaching. With the introduction of Vogul this season we’ve seen a pretty subdued Dexter. The process of learning his origins and why he is the man he today, hasn’t exactly allowed the show to be filled with the usual bloodshed and butchery that Dexter is surely capable of.

    It appears Dexter is preparing to sette down again . In a sense It was bound to happen. Last episode we saw glimpses of a Dexter finding a new purpose. A purpose in passing the legacy of his father’s code down to another person like him. He wasn’t the perfect mentor but things seemed to fall in line. Yet that story arc was disappointingly axed as we see Zach the young and impressionable disciple of Dexter’s life cut short. This week’s episode focused mainly on Dexter’s pursuit of Casey’s killer and the troubles of Hannah’s fugitive status.

    The premise of Hannah hiding out from the law under Dexter’s protection is interesting.   Hannah brings up the idea of Argentina again; A fantasy she use to have where she flees from her problems and lives happily. Dexter and Hannah are forced to take a hard look at their future. They are cooped up in a hotel, evading the feds and authorities. She can’t even go to the store without the thought burning in the back of her mind that just the right person will recognize her and turn her in.  It Makes me wonder if Dexter is really thinking long term at all. That’s pretty much how his life would be if they decide to stay together.

    Then you add Harrison into the equation and it complicates things exponentially. Even though their life probably wouldn’t be the same I think Harrison may be the wildcard in all of this. He actually has an attachment to Hannah and if Dexter sees this is really what he wants, they might just go all the way to Argentina. I’m a bit worried about Dexter. I think ultimately their plans to escape together will fail but what could actually happen if they do leave Miami. I always imagined Dexter ending on a somber and somewhat depressing note. Suicide, jail, gurgling in a pool of his own blood. Yes maybe that was a bit too dark but how else could all this realistically end?

    Pros 

    + Harrison gets some screen time

    + Hannah and Dexter continuing to bond

    + Vogul and her familial connection possibly end up double teaming Dex

    + Debra considering rejoining the force

    Cons 

    Vogul is a being portrayed a bit too frail

    The ending scene was a bit forced with Vogul

    Overall a solid episode but was a bit predictable. Here is to hoping the Brain Surgeon can deliver the thrills in the final episodes.

     Score: 8/10

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    Second Opinion- By Shawn Perez

    What I found really Interesting about this episode is the thin line of what is ethically right. Dexter is put in a dilemma where he has to apply his code to Vogul’s son. Previously, he gave Zach a second chance but he dislikes the idea when Vogul pleas for Dexter to allow her to get her son and put him in a facility to be rehabilitated. This is where Dexter’s justification of Harry’s Code becomes a little muddled. Do murderers deserve a second chance or at least rehabilitation?

    Just when Dexter begins to show the more human side of himself; you start to question it because he doesn’t seem to be motivated to kill because they deserve it anymore but rather he’s just going back to his darker urges.This theme of darkness is hinted at when Vogul says to Dexter; if it was his son, Harrison he would do the same thing. Dexter agrees to silence her but he doesn’t really care. Where Dexter goes from here on out nobody knows. All we can do is wait in eager anticipation for the final episodes of the series.

  • Freaks and Geeks is a show that had so much potential but it’s full potential was stunted when NBC cancelled the fan favorite. The show was too realistic and dark for primetime television in an era where shows like Dawson Creek and 7th Heaven reigned. The shows had an ensemble cast which consisted of many young actors who moved on to do big things. Some of the shows noticeable cast members included Linda Cardellini, James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jason Segal, and more.

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    The show follows the story arc of two siblings in high school; Lindsay Weir and her little brother Sam Weir . Lindsay who up to this point in school has been the model honor roll student has begun to question her purpose in life and deviate from her expected role. She finds herself hanging out and relating with the “Freaks” of the school. While her brother Sam deals with the label of being known as a geek and trying to overcome the label.

    tumblr_kp7u3haOh41qzjiplo1_400The show captures the angst of  being a teenager. It captures the “glory days” of self-discovery. It did a good job of redefining ideas of love and romance that young people dealt with. It also covered the theme of homosexuality.

    It’s a shame the show went off the air. I didn’t know what to do with myself after I marathoned the whole season in the time span of about 4 days. I found myself trying to test out other TV shows that Judd Apotow was a part of but nothing came near to the feeling of Freaks and Geeks. It remains a timeless classic and I highly recommend it to you if you haven’t watched it yet.

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  • I hold the belief that the late 90s was the golden age of cinema. I often find myself going back to find hidden gems of the past. It’s hard to argue with notable movies such as Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption, American Beauty, LA Confidential, American History X, The Matrix, and the list goes on.

    This weekend I opened up Netflix and saw a recommendation for The Rainmaker and saw that it had pretty good user reviews. I asked myself how bad could it be? It came from the 90s. I was not not disappointed with the movie.

    The story of the Rainmaker followed the life an aspiring lawyer, Rudy Baylor (Matt Damon)who has yet to to pass the bar exam and finds himself unemployed and finds work under a crooked law firm boss : who is played by Mickey Rourke. The story’s main theme is that of moral ethics and the problem with trying to disconnect yourself from your clients by not becoming emotionally attached.

    That becomes impossible for Rudy Baylor because his first clients include a dying leukemia patient who is denied insurance and a  beautiful young Claire Danes who plays Kelly Rike a victim of reoccurring and gradually worsening domestic abuse.

    My final thoughts are The Rainmaker is an excellent Netflix movie you should  watch on the weekend. I enjoyed it very much. It’s all about the 90s baby.

  • The last summer blockbuster has arrived in Elysium. District 9 director and writer, Neill Blomkamp ‘s continued run in the sci-fi genre provides an enjoyable experience. The setting of the story, is 2154 on a severely over-populated and diseased world. The rich and powerful abandon earth for an man-made utopia named Elysium. Elysium entertains with visceral action sequences and a futuristic and unique story that keeps you on your toes.

    Matt Damon who portrays the main character of the film, delivers another good performance in his role as Max Da Costa; a man with nothing to lose. Matt Damon is no rookie to action films. He is widely known for his tough bad boy persona in his roles in the Bourne films. He trained four hours a day to get physically and aesthetically equipped for the film. He certainly shows that he isn’t out of practice in the art of asskickery. The weakest performance in the film came from Wagner Moura who played Spyder; a human smuggler who takes people to Elysium. It wasn’t that he had bad acting necessarily but there was an apparent and jarring language barrier. Just seemed sort of forced and a better option probably would have been to to have him speak his native portuguese/spanish tongue especially considering that Max actually had an Hispanic ethnicity.

    The highlight of the film came from Sharlto Copley who plays the vicious and psychotic character C.M Kruger. Copley gives a powerful performance and steals the spotlight from the rest of the veteran cast. Even the cold and calculating Jodie Foster, who plays the secretary of defense of Elysium, doesn’t stand a chance to his ruthless and unhinged personality. He takes command of his role and puts a choke-hold on every scene he is in. Even though he is a mercenary who gets paid for his job he he takes pleasure in it all. Neill Blomkamp might be one of the only people in the film industry to acknowledge his talent so far, but that’s sure to change.

    The dense over populated and dirty sprawls of Earth are visually stunning. Wide angle shots of the swarming city of Los Angeles on Earth offer a stark contrast to the perfect and clean-cut nature of Elysium. The use of handycam is present in the film but it doesn’t distract me as much as it did in District 9 . The security/surveillance drones are masterfully crafted and have a sense of realism to them. Their design balances just the right amount of finesse, stiffness, and weight to be believable. The highlight from the cinematography and VFX team had to come from the combat and weaponry of the film. It was a truly a blast to watch the way some of the guns and gadgets worked.

    The plot and setting of story takes a look at the hardships of a possible future without proper medical care. This system only affords the wealthy and those with influence. Neill Blomkamp was quoted saying that this story was not an alternate future but it was actually a look at the present. Though the story was probably a bit more action oriented then District 9 its still offers some room for thought even if isn’t as deep as his previous work. All in all it was thoroughly entertaining. It’s the one of the best sci-fi films of the year and I recommend it.

  • The Place Beyond the Pines is a movie about the decisions you make and how they may have far reaching implications. The story encompasses the lives of several characters . Derek Cianfrance’s most ambitious film has arrived and he is proving himself to be quite the filmmaker. Derek applies the same intimate approach to this film as he did with Blue Valentine and expands it into a Babel of crime dramas in a sense.

    As if the screaming masses needed another reason to watch a film starring the actor/musician/ entertainment connoisseur Ryan Gosling. It’s becoming abundantly clear that he is not just a fad. He is a legitimately good actor and he shows it film after film; this time being no different. Gosling plays a somewhat famous motorcycle stuntman turned bank robber, Luke Glanton. His outlook on life changes in an instant when he learns of a son that was kept away from him byhis ex. Ryan’s character is easy to sympathize with. We get a performance we have come to expect from Gosling. Gosling is easy to sympathize with even though his actions may be flawed, we still feel as though they are justified.

    Bradley Cooper plays Avery Cross; a police officer who finds himself doubting his decisions and full of remorse. Cooper who has received his first nod at the Academy Awards for his work in Silver Linings Playbook is showing that he can portray characters with more depth then he is usually associated with. Eva Mendez has a notable performance as the conflicted mother of the infamous bank robber/stuntman. If you just watch her films in anticipation of the inevitable semi nude scenes, most of the time you won’t be disappointed. You won’t be getting We Own the Night levels of eroticism but we do get one particular scene with some intense shirt nipple. Fortunately, for the most part her character is too broken to be viewed as eye candy. She shows that she is more than just a pretty face

    The segment of the plot with the most impact in my opinion came from the examination of Dane DeHaan who played Luke Glanton’s son and Emory Cohen who portrayed Avery’s son. Everything that transpired weighed on their characters if they knew it or not. Emory Cohen in particular had a very good performance. The young actor portrays a misunderstood kid who has fallen into a culture of drugs and partying with great effect. Even with all the slang and cool kid vernacular being thrown around it still felt genuine and natural.

    >The film has an ensemble cast with strong performances, the choices that were made become theirlegacy. The film has some great cinematography. The film also sports a compelling score that surprised me. The only downside that I can think of is the somewhat erratic pacing of the last 2/3 or half of the movie. The film was essentially a three part story/epic. It would have been interesting to see some of aspects of the story being more explored. Through and through I was satisfied and I recommend it! I’m looking forward to more of Cianfrance’s work.

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  • The story of Stoker starts off relatively simple. Following the death of her father, India’s( Mia Wasikowska) uncle moves into their home and India senses something is quite not right about him. I’m a big fan of Park Chan-Wook and his vengeance trilogy- especially a big fan of Oldboy. I expected some debatable ethics and controversy that usually follow viewing some of his films.

    Unfortunately, I’m afraid Park Chan’s vision of this movie didn’t quite translate well into a U.S screenplay. The acting performance by Mia Wasikowska was brilliant and Matthew Goode was very note-worthy. That was still not enough to cover the character flaws. It’s basically impossible to sympathize for characters who make seemingly erratic decisions with no explanation in the movie.

    This leads to a very convoluted plot. A film that has a lot of potential to be a emotionally stimulating movie, falls through in the end. You ultimately just finish the movie thinking “WTH did I just watch”.Overall it was a disturbing and dark film that kept me watching but it’s biggest downfall is that it is a forcibly artsy film that tries to push the bounds just a bit too far.

    Kudos to Mia Wasikowska for a great performance. Looking to see more from her. The movie isn’t all that bad. If you are going to watch it, I would not recommend watching this movie with your friends. They will probably think you are a weirdo.

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  • Guillermo del Toro’s robot vs. monster blockbuster crashed into theaters this weekend. Toro is known for a variety of of films, ranging from animated family movies, to horror, and fantasy. It’s really interesting that he can have his hands on such varied material. One year he is directing Hellboy, the next Pans Labyrinth. His offering to theater goers this summer from his latest film delivers for mech and science fiction fans.

    A portal in the bottom of the pacific ocean opens and giant monsters (Kaiju) emerge and wreak havoc on mankind. The world truly comes together for the first time to combat the invaders. The world’s most talented engineers and minds collaborate to invent colossal human shaped mechs. These mechs are controlled by humans in real time. To alleviate the mental strain of this connection to the Jaeger, two pilots sync their minds together and share the load.

    The story is cheerful and generally upbeat. The film goer is presented with some amazing action sequences and fights. I didn’t watch the film in 3-D but I was thoroughly entertained by the action. It was fast but not too fast that I couldn’t keep up with it. Plot and character developments come at a generally acceptable pace. The story never becomes too gloomy or have too many highs or lows.

    The visual aspect of this film was one of its highlights. The movie felt grounded despite it’s large use of computer generated imagery. The backdrops never felt too green-screeny and there were actually some very cool sets. The ambient lighting in Hong Kong in particular was superb.

    Idris Elba brought some good acting to the film in a role he is becoming known for; The Zen-Master like authority figure/leader. And we get his british voice –a nice change from the norm. Some of the comedic relief from Charlie Day(Always Sunny in Philadelphia) seems a bit too much at times but it works in most cases. The best performance in my opinon came from Rinko Kikuchi. Her character Mako is quirky, shy, demanding, and full of vengeance;all at once. How she pulls it off?, I’m not so sure but its really entertaining to see her interact with the other cast members. And of course we get a cameo from Ron Pearlman as a black market vendor for Kaiju parts— a sort of signature addition to the cast from Guillermo del Toro, that got plenty of laughs from his fans.The dialogue of the characters wasn’t revolutionary or exceptional in anyway but it was just so fun to let go and watch the story unfold.

    In many ways this experience felt like I was watching a live action anime movie. The inner geek in me took hold. Mechs? Check. Monsters? Check. Akward romances? Check. Bizarre and at times stereotypical personalities? Check. The film was exciting and managed to keep me entertained for 2+ hours. Go to see it. It’s surprisingly satisfying and has the potential to be del Toro’s new big franchise.

  • The year is 2022 and unemployment and crime is virtually gone. This is achieved by an event called The Purge. For one night a year all crime is legal. A fantastic premise for a horror movie in a stagnating genre. The film stars Ethan Hawke  an actor who is having a bit of resurgence especially in this genre.  He is the highlight of the film when it comes to the acting with Lena Headey(Cersei Game of Thrones) coming in a close second. Their family in the film are trapped in the house on the day of The Purge.  After their son feels sympathy and lets a man looking for refuge into their home, a group of hunters vow to break in if they do not release him.

    The setting of the film is unique. A possible sci-fi like future where the poor are seemingly eradicated because they do not have the means to protect themselves. It’s a good thing this film skates over the socioeconomical implications of the Purge. It probably would have somehow led to a race fueled controversy. It’s an interesting topic and it certainly caused me to debate what would happen to my neighborhood if that did happen.

    Some of the dialogue from the leader of the hunters was jarringly flat. Maybe he should have just kept his mask on for a creepier effect. It felt very forced at times. The actual events that transpired after  him  and his lackeys breached the house were very satisfying. The film did have to suffer from the typical horror tropes. We have the usual heads peeping out at the edge of screens in the background, clumsily falling in chase scenes, hiding under beds, sneaking around in the dark, and the suspense even hits a rock bottom low when an extremely predictable kid hiding in the dark behind an object in the basement forgets his flashlight is shining out of his hiding spot.

    There’s a reason I usually don’t watch horror/thriller movies by myself. Horror movies generally just don’t work.  They are usually way to similar and all follow the same formulaic plots and devices. Yet we still go to watch them with friends. There’s something about that horror movie audience atmosphere that is just special. There’s nothing particularly good about the movie The Purge but its still fun to watch. That’s pretty much all that matters for horror movies. I generally don’t go into horror films with high expectations.  If you file this under a category I like to refer to as popcorn flick then you’ll be fine. It’s mindless fun. A film you go to watch and laugh at, especially at the moments that are suppose to be serious.