Domain Change Announcement and other general info

So, sorry for being so much under the radar lately. I have been busy with keeping up with updates on Ankford Plays as you very well may be aware I update the channel daily and that has not left a lot of time for updates on any of my other stuff, particularly here. That also means that I just simply cannot justify keeping the http://kaisercritics.com domain alive for the asking price and that means by the 27th of September we will be reverting back to the original http://kaisercritics.blogspot.com domain. All in all, I just have not had the opportunity nor the motivation to work on this blog at all - I'm very sorry but it's just me here now, Mike having left the project way back in April of last year. If you guys are at all curious about what's going with me you can subscribe to the previously mentioned Youtube channel or follow my Tumblr. Hopefully I'll go back to having time to update this page sooner rather than later though and I'll be sure to notify you guys there once I do.

- Hans


Editorial: Hating Things Because They're Popular

You ever sat down and muttered to yourself "Oh I hate this thing" when what you actually hate is the people enjoying it? If you answered no to that question then you are probably lying or the only person to be truly level headed about media around the web these days. It's become increasingly apparent that the era of globalization has brought a couple of personality faults with it, or maybe just brought them out into the open.

To illustrate my point, let's look at a popular example: The Halo series, created originally by Bungie and made exclusively for Microsoft systems like the Xbox or Windows. Though the PC version of Halo 1 would later be available to play on Mac systems. In Halo you play as the heroic, somewhat overpowered Master Chief (real identity unknown), together with the super advanced AI Cortana he battles numerous aliens in order to stop them from unleashing an ancient alien weapon known as The Flood and destroying the universe with it as part of their religious dogma. Though I've only played Halo 1-3 without any of the spin-offs I can safely say that it's solid action-science-fiction-first-person-shooter goodness and one of the few shooters that I actually enjoying playing with a controller. I'm not alone in thinking that, Halo is one of the best-selling video game franchises of the last decade or so and really there's nothing wrong with that.

However, then you take a look at youtube comments for any given video that mentions Halo and suddenly the flame war is on. "Damn I hate Halo" "Man, Halo is such an overrated series" - The list goes on. Really, it's not like the Halo series is the only one that encounters this much hate but in this case, as with a lot of other super popular series it seems like the hate is kinda unwarranted. It seems like people hate things because they're popular - or because they're liked by people they don't like. I'm guilty of this myself, I have not and will probably never watch James Cameron's Titanic from 1997 because I simply felt like I was overexposed to it as a kid. Titanic came out when my female cousins were just discovering a liking for "cute boys" and of course Leonardo Di Caprio was a public darling at the time. That meant I heard sighed comments about the film constantly, as well as I saw walls adjournedly filled with pictures of Mr. Di Caprio and of course a poster of the film itself. Honestly, way into my teenage years I barely had any respect for Di Caprio because of this experience. That's probably what happened to Halo, or My Little Pony, or Harry Potter, or Doctor Who, or any such popular series from the last three decades you can name which has just as large a base hating it as it has loving it.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, if you've decided you hate something before even checking out the actual material - you need, nay we all need, to take a step back and examine the reasons for why. If the reason you hate something doesn't seem that levelheaded, give the stuff and actual look - you might actually find something you love.


Godzilla (2014)

Film: Godzilla
Release: 2014, Theatrical
Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen
Directed by: Gareth Edwards
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: 15 years after a nuclear meltdown that tore his family apart, a homebound soldier is forced to go pay bail for his seemingly superstitious father. However when the fathers theories prove to be true, humanity is faced with a problem that has been resting beneath the earth for millenia.

Hans' thoughts:

In 1954, a Japanese film studio called Toho aped the success of the giant monster genre with their own take: Gojira! (or as it's known in the west, Godzilla! King of the Monsters!) The movie was a tremendous success and ushered in the kaiju genre as well as a long spanning movie series, a reboot in the 80's, and an American remake in 1998. The American remake starring Matthew Broderick and directed by disaster-movie master Roland Emmerich is widely regarded as one of the worst movies not only of the genre, but of that decade. When Hollywood announced they were coming out with a new take on the Godzilla characters, fans were (perhaps understandably) wary of what the west would make of their favorite big screen monster this time. 

Did I tune into a Simpsons live-action movie by accident?
So let's get the obvious stuff out of the way first, one of the biggest problems with most disaster movies is that the human parts are absolutely boring, not just by comparison with what is going on in the rest of the movie but by drama standards as well. The human actors who do the best job are Bryan Cranston as the Captain Ahab like Dr. Brody and whoever played that pleading guy trapped in a crane being dragged into the abyss. I'm sorry, I really am, but I felt little to no chemistry between any of the human characters - including up and comer superstar Aaron-Taylor Johnson whom I've previously enjoyed in his role as Kick-Ass. Most of the characters who spoke in the movie had little to nothing to say besides explaining to the audience what is going on on the screen when they weren't mugging at the camera to try and make us believe that what they were looking at was very tragic and very real. I did not believe the love between the main character and his wife, played by Elizabeth Olsen. As many flaws as the '98 Godzilla movie had, at least I cared a little more about the characters on screen - even if that care was whether they were stepped on or eaten. Frequently the movie would give us a two second shot of the action going on and then immediately cut back to a full scene with nothing but human characters - even long after the focus should've cut completely to just the rampage and the reactions by the human onlookers. A fun addition to the human roster however was Ken Watanabe as this movies version of Dr. Serizawa. However Watanabe got little to nothing to do in the entirety of the film and in the first 25 minutes I was honestly wondering whether his character was supposed to be mute.

All this is really a damn shame because once the movie actually kicks into gear there is a lot of good stuff there. The special effects are really cool, the spectacle-o-meter is going into the red with all the stuff happening - you get what you came for. Senseless meaningless and all encompassing destruction. Once all the key players of the movie are on set (and let's be honest nothing in that sentence includes something human) the destruction is great. A lot of critics has treated the fact that there's more than one monster in this movie as a spoiler, however there being a second monster in the film is clearly shown in the officially released trailer. The interaction between monsters and the animation of the monsters felt more real, than the actual human characters running around trying to survive the disaster. I got more attached to evil monsters in this film than I should've and that's for shame. Godzilla is also fortunately in this movie, as opposed to the '98 disaster that simply but a computer generated T-Rex on screen. He looks like his Japanese counter part, he has the power set of his Japanese counterpart and he actually acted like Godzilla would. It was awesome to see him and his enemies smash themselves through the screen time they got - even if the designs of the new monsters were kinda cliché. The human parts may not be all that good but the people tied to the creative process obviously treated this as a petproject that they really wanted to see succeed. They get what the genre is all about, they get why Godzilla is so awesome, all they really need to do for their next outing is work on their drama skills - or maybe motivate their actors a little better. 

After the success of Del Toro's 2013 kaiju love-letter Pacific Rim we may see more and more American kaiju attempts like this one. I'll be happy if the rest of them will at least hit this level of quality and dedication when it comes to the spectacle and special effects. If the sequel to this movie simply ups its game when it comes to the human parts, we may actually get the great western action blast that the king of monsters truly deserves. 


X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

Film: X-Men: Days of Future Past
Release: 2014, Theatrical
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Peter Dinkleage, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Previous in the series: The Wolverine
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: Years into the future, a race-based war between humans and mutants has thrown the would into chaos and the mutants on the border of extinction. As a last desperate measure, Wolverine is thrown into the mind of himself from 1973, to bring together the corner stones of the mutant civil war: Erik Lehnsherr and Charles Xavier.

Hans' thoughts: 

After bringing the series back from the brink of extinction with X-Men: First Class and The Wolverine, Bryan Singer is bringing us the brink of mutant extinction on the silver screen. With imagery mimicking the footage of the second world war, Singer shows us a dark and twisted future where apparently not only did most of the major cities get nearly destroyed - The sun decided to tone down its shining and draw all the color from the world till everything was a mix of black, grey and blue. Kidding aside, the movie does have a bit of a problem during the first 10 minutes of the movie. No re-introductions are served to an audience that's not seen most of these characters since X-Men: The Last Stand in 2006 and that gives us little time to get comfortable before a heavy amount of science fiction talk is thrown in our faces. This movie is mostly for those who has been along for the entire ride. Indeed, the only movie you don't expressively need to have seen before viewing is The Wolverine from last year.

 To audiences who remembers that far back, there's a nice reunion with Storm (Halle Berry), Shadowcat (Ellen Page), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), Magneto (Ian McKellen), Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and of course Wolverine (Hugh Jackman). Unfortunately, while it's nice to see them all together again, they don't get to do much in the movie at all aside from a quick line of dialogue here and there and we just barely see them in action at all. Focus is instead on the younger versions of Professor X and Magneto - namely Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender). Thankfully, while the dark and grim future of the old actors doesn't have much going on - the movie picks up greatly once we actually have Wolverine in the 70's meeting the younger versions of both the aforementioned two gentlemen and also a certain supporting castmember we've not heard from since X-Men 2. Staying around from First Class we also have Beast (Nicholas Hoult) and as the big turning point of the movie we have the return of Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique. 

In the past era which spins most of the movie, the pace is quickly picked up. References to the major lore of the X-Men franchise is thrown at the audience and Peter Dinkleage does a great job as the scientist Dr. Trask. Indeed the very color defined imagery of the future stands as a direct opposite to very alive world of the past. One of the things that's been discussed a lot about the movie is the inclusion of Quicksilver, here played by Evan Peters. The movie seems to have a lot of fun with the concept of an incredibly speedy character and at least one moment had most of the theater bursting with laughter - The ball is in your court Marvel Studios. However like most of the X-Men movies before, this movie doesn't do team focus very well and the main part of the movie is therefore bounced between McAvoy's Xavier and Lawrence's Mystique, with Jackmans' Wolverine serving as the audience point of view. 

On the other hand, something the X-Men movies have always done very well is special effects and once again the effects are in tip top shape to show us the spectacle of just what these characters are capable of. A character I've sadly been missing from the other movies has been Beast and Hoult gets to completely beast out in this movie and actually do some action scenes of his own. X-Men: Days of Future Past is not the greatest of the bunch by any means. Lawrence does not feel like she's particularly interested to be in the movie with most of the returning cast members from the original trilogy. Dinklage's Trask rarely speaks at all which is a major problem considering his status in the film. McAvoy and Fassbender and Hoult all do perfectly great in the movie with Fassbender once again bringing in the bacon with his menacing Magneto. McKellen and Stewart are criminally underused, with McKellen only uttering one or two lines in the entire film. Why they were brought in at all is a mystery. Jackman does as good as always with his portrayal of Wolverine; it's strange they decided to once again throw main focus on him because in the original comic Shadowcat was the one to go back in time. The one piece of expository dialogue we never got was how the time travel stuff actually came into the posession of our heroes but that's just kinda thrown to the wind. There's also focus on a cameo character who nobody who hasn't read the comics or watched X2 lately will actually recognizw due to him only being recognizable by his last name. However it does what it came to do - give us the big rewind so we're ready for the next full-cast action blast. As an action movie it has some spectacular effects to latch onto. It makes for some great entertainment value as well, as a reunion movie however it kinda fails in not letting the old folks have that much to say or do. Whether this was due to budgetary restraints is anyone's guess but it's still a shame.


Editorial: Shifting The Blame

Most people who care about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has by now seen the human-like character designs of the titular characters and as you may have guessed the reaction to the designs and the trailer overall has pretty much amounted to a collective groan of disbelief among fans of both the original source material and movies in general. I for one completely agree, the designs look absolutely hideous and the casting choices are just so big misfires you'd think it was a parody of what a modern trailer for the turtles might have looked like. But no, unfortunately this is very real and it is coming out no later than this upcoming August. People are completely outraged, calling for the head of producer Michael Bay, with their hatred for his Transformers movies still fresh in their minds. The Bay Turtles they're calling it, why must Bay ruin our childhoods they're saying. You'd think I'm overstating here but some of these statements are actually downright seething with hatred. 

No wonder Hollywood don't take them seriously. if you go back a couple of lines you might see the problem right away. They're calling for the head of the movie's producer. Meaning because Mr. Bay's name is attached to the film, the reputations of the people actually working on the damn film are spared. Which is why in this little article we're answering some of the most common fan reactions to the trailer.

  • "The plot for Bay's Ninja Turtles is just downright stupid compared to the source material", okay so the actual screenwriters Josh Appelbaum, André Nemec and Evan Daughtery had absolutely no creative impact on the production whatsoever? By the way how would you know the fine details of the plot if the film isn't slated for release until August?
  • "Bay is killing our childhoods with these ugly Ninja Turtles" Setting aside the fact that the words "You killed my childhood" should only belong to the child soldiers of the world.. I'm sure if you asked Mr. Bay himself, he'd tell you that he does in fact not have training in art direction nor actual CGI animation, that credit goes to concept illustrator I. Javier Ameijeiras and the rest of his (I'm sure) talented crew. Nevermind the animators and visual effects artists attached to the production.
  •  "Megan Fox ruining yet another childhood favorite with her presence" Nevermind the 9 different people that makes up the casting crew of the picture or her need for a paycheck to pay for bills and sustenance.
I get the need for a face to attach to something you hate, abstract concepts based on modern tendencies are pretty hard to lash out at however if you're going to lash out - don't just attack a guy with the title "producer" attached to the film. Turtles is, as I said, not due till August and while I'm not looking particularly forward to it given Hollywood's track record regarding remakes of 80's properties - don't act like spoiled children. The 2014 Turtles will probably suck, it will probably make you feel you wasted money on your ticket. However making such a big public outcry over a mere trailer is why the "geek community" isn't taken seriously by most bigwigs. Because most of them as understandably adopted the attitude that the public doesn't know what it wants. Even if you disagree that there is such a thing as a "geek community", that's how the casual viewer sees us, just like the casual viewer wouldn't be able to tell you the differences between Goths, Emo's, Punks, Vamps, Romantic Goths and so on. They just see a bunch of kids dressed in black.


Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Film: Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Release: 2014, theatrical
Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Redford, Scarlett Johansson
Directed by: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: After a black-ops operation on a hijacked U.S. ship, Captain America starts having doubts about the integrity of S.H.I.E.L.D. as an organization and he soon discovers that maybe modern day America isn't as black and white as the world he came from.

Hans' thoughts:

When you summarize the names of superheroes that will do well internationally in your head "Captain America" is scarcely the first one that comes to mind. Grounded deeply in the American reaction to the Second World War, the character was created basically as a propaganda piece to sell warbonds. One of the most well-known images of the character is simply him giving Adolf Hitler a punch to the jaw. However Captain America: The First Avenger actually turned out to be one of the more well received entries in what is now named "Phase one" of the shared Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), consisting of (in order of continuity): Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger and ending with The Avengers in 2012. So far "Phase two" of the MCU is also looking decent enough, while Iron Man 3 received some critical panning and the tie-in TV-show "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." has been deemed a failure by many fans Thor: The Dark World was considered one of the best entries to date. So how does The Winter Soldier hold up? Surprisingly well actually. 

Unlike Iron Man 3, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is very scarce in referencing the events of The Avengers, instead The Winter Soldier gives us a more in-depth look at the intelligence bureau known as S.H.I.E.L.D. Where our titular hero portrayed by Chris Evans, a man of simple values and straightforward methods, is having trouble fitting in with the methods of his secretive boss Nick Fury, portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson. Evans portrayal of Cap is as good as ever, his arc in this movie is very much about having old world viewpoints in a new world and while the actor himself turns in a good performance, and the writing is actually really good. I can't let the fact go however, that his costume has never really been all that good in any of the movies thus far and unfortunately it's the same case this time around. Costume designers seem to just be unable to get it to look good, and that makes total sense since the original Captain America suit was designed in the 1940's and has seen little to no updates in the years since then. This time they decided to make his ears be free from the hood part of the suit and unfortunately that makes them seem huge. I quickly got used to it, but in the first few moments of the movie I had to remind myself that this was not a comedy. The movie has a lot of returning actors and it works to the advantage of the piece, as instead of throwing a lot of new things at us we have the growth of already established characters with the exception of newcomer Sam Wilson, portrayed by Anthony Mackie. Mackie fits right in with the old cast however, and quickly sets up himself as another well-known Marvel character. His special effects are actually done really well and though his action scenes in full get-up are few they are very enjoyable and doesn't take away focus from the main cast - though unfortunately his costume design for this movie follows the Hollywood trend of removing as many colors as possible from superhero get-ups as was the case for the MCU's version of Hawkeye. The other newcomer is seasoned veteran Robert Redford as the chairman of S.H.I.E.L.D. and he has a lot of great moments in the movie. His portrayal made one of the twists of the movie all the more surprising. Scarlett Johanson returns as Black Widow, once again showing new sides of the character and seems to just have a lot of fun portraying the character. Nevermind the fact that she's not held back by a tacked on romantic sub-plot that probably would've been present in a lesser movie. Black Widow is thus far the only female superhero set up in the MCU, but she can definitely stand toe to toe with the likes of both much more seasoned actors Samuel L. Jackson and Robert Redford. 

The elephant in the room in this review thus far is of course The Winter Soldier himself, this is not because of his portrayal (the character is actually done a lot of justice and I enjoyed every single scene he was in) but because his identity is supposed to be a complete secret. Rest assured Marvel fans, there's no big fake out moments here as was the case with The Mandarin in Iron Man 3. More than that I'm not really willing to say, even though promotional material for the movie has not been all that secretive I feel that non-comic book nerds should discover this awesome plot twist for themselves. So there's that. Moving on to the action of the movie, it has a fair amount of "shaky cam". Meaning of course that the camera is moved frequently in the film to up the intensity of some of the scenes. Unfortunately it makes some scenes fairly hard to follow and I heard complaints from one of my companions that he could barely see what was going on in some of the bigger action scenes at all. It's a big shame because on the other hand the hand-to-hand combat scenes are really good and the choreography makes the action in these scenes seem very intense without needing the added effects of shaking the camera. 

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a much more eventful movie than its already strong predecessor and stands as a testament to the really great thing Marvel Studios has going at the moment proving that the high quality of "phase one" wasn't a complete freak of nature. The special effects of the movie are great, even if we're not able to see as many of them as we would like due to the rapid camera movement and the writing of the story is spot on - taking one of the major plotlines of Captain America's comic line and updating it for modern movie going audiences and the setting of the MCU.


News: Something different!

So normally our approach to video games have been a review of the story lines and not much else, that's a bit of an incomplete experience when you consider the medium which is why I've started a Let's Play channel! Come see and judge for yourself this time around. Our first subject? Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock, however the next game is already planned and on its way! Two episodes are posted daily at around 7 and 8 PM (GMT+1) and I hope you'll take a look!

Go to this link to visit and subscribe to my channel

or just start the playlist of the first series right here (currently at episode 8)


The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005)

scanned DVD case
Film: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Release: 2005, theatrical
Starring: Martin Freeman, Zooey Deschanel, Mos Def
Directed by: Garth Jennings
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: 12 minutes before the Earth is destroyed to make way for an hyperspace bypass, Arthur Dent's home is about to be demolished to make way for a bypass of the amazingly incredibly hugely fantastically ginourmously more mundane variety.

Hans' thoughts:

Before Martin Freeman played the role of hapless hero on a fantastical journey in The Hobbit, he played the role of hapless hero on a fantastical journey. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy is the story of the somewhat dimwitted but overall very mundane Mr. Arthur Dent, Mr. Dent is unaware of quite a lot of things one of the more important things he's unaware of is that in 12 minutes his home planet and all that he knows will be completely obliterated by a race of unpleasant aliens with a love for bureaucracy and simple facts. Thankfully for the sake of Mr. Dent another fact he's blissfully unaware of is that his best friend isn't from Earth but actually from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse and it just so happens that he has knowledge of the impending doom. The way I wrote all that may seem like a bit of a mushy mess but that's the tone of voice that's used by the ever present narrator (voiced by Stephen Fry) throughout the film. The film is of course, based on the book of the same name written by Douglas Adams. 

The best way to experience the film properly is to take it at face value: A lot of information will be thrown at you rapidly at different points of time and you will be forced to simply accept whatever is happening and go along with it. Very much akin to the attitude of the very English Arthur Dent himself. My planet blew up? Well that's a spot of a bother innit? What do I do now? Oh well no need to rush to much about, about it. That may seem very odd and a bit inhumane but to perfectly honest it feels incredibly liberating. We can't do anything about it so let's not worry about it and worry about the next thing instead. Despite both our main character and the main villains being complete caricatures of modern era European society and the people living in it. This is of course helped by both actors and voice cast doing a really good job at delivering their lines none better though than Alan Rickman voicing Marvin the manic-depressive robot with an abnormally large noggin.

Visually, there's some very pretty stuff in there. The special effects team is in tip top shape (as they well should be) as they treat you to incredible panning shots of planets and the universe surrounding them. Entire civilizations believing the universe will be destroyed by a handkerchief, whales popping into existence. All that weird good stuff tied together nicely by our main characters quest to not die and probably get a cup of tea on the way is brought to life by effects that I feel hold up pretty darn well.  The theme seems to be that life moves on, with all the twists and turns that comes with it and it is a nice message, though a little buried beneath all the stuff going on almost constantly. There's no really quiet moments in the film, as there's just too much at stake at all times. What is going on? Why is it going on? Where is it going? You will probably be a little confused a lot of the time but stick with it because there's some truly great moments in it just waiting to be experienced.


Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

Film: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Release: 1982, theatrical
Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Ricardo Montalban
Directed by: Nicholas Meyer
Previous in the series: Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Next in the series: Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: While undergoing an inspection of the Star Ship Enterprise, the aging Admiral James T. Kirk is called to an emergency situation concerning a scientific project simply known as "Genesis". However an old and very capable foe is lurking in the shadows.

Hans' thoughts:

Critics log, Star date -308846.50745180104. Subject is the second installment in the Star Trek cinematic franchise. After a lukewarm reception of the original movie, the creators seemingly decided to appeal more to the already sizable fanbase of the original series as opposed to make a more main stream picture like the predecessor. Ironically, this movie would prove to the most critically acclaimed of them all and a great jumping on point for newcomers to the franchise. Set roughly in the distant future of the 2200's, Star Trek features the continued exploits of the crew of the S. S. Enterprise, in the main series on a mission to explore uncharted territories in outer space. In this movie however, James T. Kirk now promoted to the status of Admiral has long since left the captains chair and is celebrating his birthday in somber mood. To lighten up his spirits he decides to make an inspection round of his former ship when he is thrown into a dangerous venture concerning powerful revolutionary science and the revenge scheme of Khan, a genetically modified super soldier created in the 1990's. 

If that all sounded a bit complicated to you, have no fear. The film does a remarkable job of bringing everyone up to speed and while some of the terminology might be mostly understood by fans of the original series, the film features classical concepts of aging, revenge and obsession. In the role of Khan we have Ricardo Montalban. He plays a very quiet well-spoken man who only few times feels the need to raise his voice at all. You can just feel the seething hatred he harbors for the main character every time he encounters him. But somehow there's also a great deal of mutual respect between him and William Shatner as Kirk. There's a lot of parallels to classic literature in the film, particularly that of Moby Dick by Herman Melville. Khan shares the obsessive vengeful nature of Captain Ahab throughout the film, to the point of almost letting his emotions get the best of him at times. He's a man that has lost everything and is blind to compromise. The delivery of his lines are just so intense and the nature of them lies closely to almost Shakespearian.

On the other hand we have the cocky William Shatner as James Kirk. While he is more gloomy in this picture than normally he certainly hasn't lost his flair for wit and fast thinking in pressed situations. Kirk has seemingly taught himself to grow up and acknowledge that he won't stay young and spry forever, but his journey in this movie is more about coming to terms with it. While Khan seems to lose everything around him, Kirk is through the looking glass and reliving old thrills from his time as the captain. By his side as always he has Mr. Spock played by Leonard Nimoy and Doctor McCoy played by DeForest Kelley. Actually most of the classic cast of the series has reprised their roles and it's like they never left in the first place. They're all spouting off science fiction terminology like a second nature while keeping their characters well-known features intact. This is despite that the last season of Star Trek the original series was aired in 1969 and this movie came out in 1982. That's over 20 years of absence from a role.

Visually the film is gorgeous, it features new redesigned Star fleet uniforms which more closely resembles that of an army, with the rank of characters shown by stripes and stars rather than the color of their shirt. These costumes feel like they could be worn by an actual fleet rather than the more casual look of the uniforms from the original series. On top of that, we also have some really nice looking sets, simplistic at times but since most of the movie takes place on the bridge of a spaceship it makes sense in context. When the characters do depart to ground level operations, we have some fairly imaginative settings. The most visually appealing part of the movie however, is the exterior shots. For its time the effects are pretty goof, these are some of the best VistaVision model shots of space ships I have seen this side of the original Star Wars movies. Damage to the ships were all hand animated and even though it's outer space there's some great looking colorful shots in there. This, combined with the new original score by James Horner absolutely goosebump-inducing. While Star Wars is certainly the more approachable franchise movie-wise, a lot can be said for the sheer amount of skill in the execution of this film and it's highly recommended for anyone who loves the genre.


La Reine Soleil (2007)

Film: La Reine Soleil (The Sun Queen)
Release: 2007, theatrical
Starring: Philippe Allard, Catherine Conet, Coralie Vanderlinden
Directed by: Philippe Leclerc
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: During the reign of Akhenaten, a young princess named Akhesa is a lively troublemaker that escapes the palace ever so often. However, a group of soldiers from the neighbouring nation of the Hittite empire is burning down small settlements in search of gold. Soon, a much larger conspiracy is revealed that will decide the fate of the Egyptian royal family.

Hans' thoughts:

In the period around 1350 BC - 1335 BC (there exists some dispute over the actual dating) Egypt experienced for a brief moment of time nationwide monotheism during the reign of Pharoah Akhenaten in the 18th dynasty. Akhenaten was a devoted follower of "Aten", the disc of the sun. It's not a period much talked about in popular media so the fact that there exists not only a novel about it, much less an animated movie intrigued me. It of course follows more closely the events concerning the crowning of Akhesa, who would take the now famous Tutankhamun as her consort. Normally when studios make these kinds of movies they take a lot of liberties with historical events, and yes this movie does too. However the film still manages to capture a lot of the tense politics during this time period and for what that's worth at least I will give it that. Well done.

It's when it comes to looking at the film from a cinematic perspective things start to get a little shaky. The main problem with the film is its pacing. Events will quickly fly by at one time and then another time the film awkwardly takes it time with keeping in shots that could've been told in hindsight or through imagery alone. Exchanges like "Will you see this person" "No I won't" "He will not see you" are just a strange addition to the film and it takes up time that the film should've used on its other big problem: characterization. There are not a lot of characters in this movie, but even so only the two main characters seem to have distinguishable personalities and goals. What is the motivation behind the villains actions? Why did the king decide to outlaw almost all the gods? Things are mostly explained in throw-away lines without any deeper explanation in the context of the actual movie.

It's a shame too really, because the film is absolutely drop dead gorgeous to look at. It features streamlined yet expressive character designs, it has a great use of its color palette and the animation is smooth as can be. The music is also very much in the background but it captures the spirit of the moments and you can tell that the creators of this picture was really into making this movie as pleasing to look at as possible. La Reine Soleil could've been a truly great animated movie if more attention was put into the pacing and storytelling of the piece. Unfortunately as it stands, it is a visual masterpiece with very little else to back it up.


V For Vendetta (2005)

Film: V For Vendetta
Release: 2005, theatrical
Starring: Hugo Weaving, Natalie Portman
Directed by: James McTeigue
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: In the mid-21st century, Britain has become a fascist regime. One night on the 5th of November a reminder to remember a heinous plot is set to never be forgot.

Hans' thoughts:

Very vigorously would valuers of vindictive revolutionary vendettas value V for Vendetta for its volume as a vector for vocal web-users. Re-written and re-visited by the Whachowskis, it ventures wondrously within the very vague vicinity of the victorious and the virulent views of it's reviewers. The video relies the comic book verses regarding the vaudevillian vindicator which wears the visage called V visualized by the recitalist Weaving. I was be-wondered by the ventures victory in verifying the vexing wonder of V. . Vies a vie, it explores the reason for wearing a disguise whilst fighting crime - not as much as in Watchmen where it's the very vestige of the writers work though still very represented in some form. 

The visuals verily wear the visage of revolutionaries, while relying wisdom regarding the role of the victim compared to role of the victimisers. One again the Wachowskis flaunt their vigor for visual violence. while verily the recitalists realize the roles remarkably. Phew, Okay. I'm sorry. Enough of that. To anyone unaware the original introduction of our main character V features a very well written piece of dialogue with wordplay using the V-sound. Out of all the actors I felt Portman in the role of Evey lacked a little bit of energy and it seems as though she just kind of goes along with whatever happens to her, no matter how cruel it is. For the purpose of the story, Portman certainly does a well enough job that it doesn't distract too much however it's hard to not see it whenever she plays off of charismatic actors like Stephen Fry or Hugo Weaving - Weaving is of course given a momentous task as his face is never actually seen and it falls to the cameraman to accurately convey what the character is going through in any instance. That's of course helped a little bit by the fact that the character of V is supposed to be more of a symbol than an actual character. Most interesting to me was the journey of Stephen Rea in the role of the  police detective Finch as he uncovers more and more about the state of affairs in future Britain and the truth behind the government.

In the villain department, John Hurt makes a very threatening Big Brother-esque villain. Being shown on a giant TV-screen throughout most of the movie his knack for monologue and tone of voice shines through. Likewise does Tim Pigott-Smith pose a threat as the head of the state police known as finger men. However it seems like he channeled Dick Cheney of the then current Bush government in America. There's a lot of snarl and down to business temperament portrayed even when we're just looking at his face. V for Vendetta is above all a very beautifully shot movie and at times it distracts from the at times only half-hearted crime mystery tucked in between the plot-lines. Whether the mystery portion was more fleshed out in the original comic I unfortunately don't know as I've not read it, however it's safe to say that like with the movie adaptation of Moore's other famous work Watchmen, details were left out in favor of focusing on the underlying morale and point of the story. As it stands I can at least recommend V for Vendetta for a very captivating story, some masterfully done shot and the Wachowski staple of excellent action.


Astro Boy (2009)

Film: Astro Boy
Release: 2009, theatrical
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Freddie Highmore, Donald Sutherland
Directed by: David Bowers
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: When his son is killed in an accident, the minister of science Doctor Tenma puts his memories into a revolutionary new robot lookalike - the powerful Astro Boy.

Hans' thoughts:

In the 1950's, a man named Osamu Tezuka created the comic series "Tetsuwan Atom", or "Strong-Armed Atom" (known as Astro Boy internationally). The series was a tremendous succes, kickstarting japanese animation and setting up a lot of the aestethic choices that we now consider "anime" and "manga". Years later, in 2009 an American adaptation was created using CG animation, that's the one we're looking at. Astro Boy is essentially a science fiction version of the classic tale of Pinnochio, the titular character Astro is built in the image of a scientists deceased son and giving all of his memories. However Astro is not a perfect clone of the child named Toby, he has his own personality and dreams so his creator decides to get rid of him. Now in the original story, Astro loses all memory of ever being called Toby and establishes his own life while becoming a powerful crime fighter in the ongoing ethical battle about the laws of robotics and the rights of robots as citizens. In the movie they decided to downplay the superhero aspect of the character, and instead focuses on his search for an identity.

If I had to be downright blunt about it I was not so fond of this movie. It feels kinda stilted, as if some of the energy of the original work has been removed in favor of misguided subtlety. The otherwise really energetic Nicolas Cage plays a very quiet, at times even awkward Doctor Tenma and the same can be said for most of the other actors. The movie also suffers from way too many secondary characters. Astro is quickly pulled from one situation to the next and in some cases we barely get to know a character before we're sent along to the next scene. In one particular example of this, a group of kids were introducing themselves and then Astro is pulled into a completely different scene for 2 minutes to be introduced to even more secondary characters. As if the writers suddenly got bored with one scene and decided to simply start writing the next one. It does the movie a giant disservice of us not really caring about when a character we've only seen for a minute or two suddenly hijacks the movie to be put into focus again. Nevermind the very blunt scene transitions that's already apparent in the product.

This lack of discipline when it comes to what exactly they wanted to do with this movie is very disheartening, and it isn't helped by the fact that the movie has a tacked on environmental message which has no grounds in the original series, nor is it used as part of the ongoing narrative at all. At one point it seems as if they also wanted to talk about class warfare but once again they bring up the subject and then drop it again as soon the next scene starts. At the very least, I liked the art-style. They took the original style and made it more culture-neutral and streamlined. Characters are still recognizable but a lot of the exaggerated features from the comics and cartoon is downplayed severely. Likewise the color scheme and environments of the movie is beautiful and I really wish that the attention to detail in that department had been carried over intro the rest of the production. It's really unfortunate that such a gorgeous looking movie ended up with such a lackluster script and direction. It seems rushed, which is weird considering that there was no large demand for a western adaptation of Astro Boy - a 50 year old series. As it stands I can really only recommend the movie to curious fans of the original series.


Justice League: War (2014)

Film: Justice League: War
Release: 2014, Video
Starring: Sean Astin, Christopher Gorham, Jason O'Mara
Directed by: Jay Oliva
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: All over the world, strange kidnappings by monstrous beings are taking place. During an investigating into the matter in Gotham City, Hal Jordan the Green Lantern of Earth meets the rumored "Bat Man".

Hans' thoughts:

Kickstarting a new DC animated universe, Justice League: War is an adaptation of the first story arc of the rebooted Justice League comic books from 2011. On planet Earth, superheroes are appearing for the very first time and brought together to fight a full scale invasion from the death lord of planet Apokolips, Darkseid. A few changes has been made to the original story for the sake of adaptation, the most notable being that Aquaman is switched out with Shazam (Captain Marvel) in the roster of the team. Why they decided to do so is anyone's guess, but it might be because Shazams origin story was retold as a subplot in the original format independent of the main story-line. 

Acting wise I have to admit I felt it in places was a bit weak. Especially the actress playing Wonder Woman had a few lines that felt way too read from the script, probably rehearsed well enough, but it's like she didn't make the dialogue her own. It's the same case in varying degrees with the other actors, however for whatever reason she was the one that stood out the most to me. Steve Blum, who's an industry veteran by this point did a good job as Darkseid however the voice-filtering on him sometimes made him nearly incomprehensible. Despite this, dialogue is actually very much on point and works well with the very uncomplicated plot - exposition is handed out quickly, "this is what's going on and why - now watch Superman punch this alien". This paves the way instead for more silly remarks and reactions between the individual heroes to the strangeness that surrounds them.

I was actually pretty thrilled by the action scenes in this, the movie does not serve as an origin story for the individual heroes (with the exception of Cyborg) so it's taken more of a "less talkie, more punchy" kind of nature. The action scenes are well edited and animated, with sound effects that really underscores the effects of the punches. The artstyle of the movie is similar to that of Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox from last year, and serves as a decent adaptation of the new costumes designed by artist Jim Lee.  Both Flashpoint and this story was written by Geoff Johns, and you can recognize his background as a writer for The Flash and Green Lantern as they've both been given extra attention. Flash was the main character in Flashpoint, and Green Lantern is the main character in this piece. Green Lantern especially ends up being a character with humorous moments and exchanges right from the get-go.

Justice League: War is by no stretch a great animated movie and it pales in comparison to some of the other DC direct-to-video releases. Despite the creators intention of making it a jumping on point for newcomers, It unfortunately also withholds one of the problems of the animated films by just leaving way too much up to the viewer. Hopefully some of the more unknown characters like Shazam will come into their own with a movie detailing their origin. That being said, for anyone who loves well-animated action scenes and the Justice League this is an entertaining piece through and through. It keeps a fast-pace, has some funny lines and a great retelling of both the origin story of Cyborg and the coming together of The World's Finest, setting up what will hopefully be a great series of movies.


Hot Fuzz (2007)

Film: Hot Fuzz
Release: 2007, theatrical
Starring: Nick Frost, Simon Pegg
Directed by: Edgar Wright
Previous in the series: Shaun of the Dead
Next in the series: The World's End
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: Ace police officer Nicholas Angel is sent to the sleepy English village of Sandford because he's so talented that he makes the other officers in London look bad by comparison. There, what should have been an uneventful stationing turns out to uncover that the village of Sandford may not be as innocent as it appears.

Hans' thoughts:

Two things that British entertainment is known for is really good comedy and really good crime stories. So obviously they will be brought together from time to time and so they have in "Hot Fuzz" - The tale of an overqualified police officer who has to deal with one of the weirdest mysteries a small town in England can offer.  Following the success of "Shaun of the Dead", writer/director Edgar Wright brings back comedy duo of Nick Frost and Simon Pegg in the second installment of what would later be called "The Cornetto trilogy". A series of film not connected by narrative but by the reference to Cornetto Ice Cream throughout all three, well that's one way to ensure a marketing deal. 

Hot Fuzz is not only a funny movie when it comes to the dialogue, tons of little snippets of information and running gags are thrown into the movie that you might not all catch up on in the first viewing, this makes the movie rewatchable i close succession without it being redundant which is something you don't see happening to a lot of movies - it's definitely not something I would call a common goal of film directors. Another thing you'll notice right away is also the editing, the film deals in very rapid editing which results in making every scene seem heart pumping - even if the main character is just doing paperwork in the police station. The movie also has that distinct Anchorman quality to it, being extremely quotable and littered with hilarious and memorable moments. I also have to commend the writing for this one, a lot of comedies relies on the excuse that something just kinda happens but in this film everything has a setup and everything is kept tabs on throughout the tale. You will definitely be missing out if you don't pay attention while watching this.

All main characters are also given their own character arcs, as well as even some of the fairly minor ones. Characters will learn to doubt everything they thought they knew and it's all delivered incredibly well by a cast that may not be starstudded but is very talented and manages to deliver even the smallest jokes with timing only backed up further by the editing. The way jokes are set up is almost reminiscent of a sketch comedy show or a really well-written sitcom. Some jokes are thrown at you in rapid succession while others are set up and very carefully executed. Hot Fuzz is in conclusion a very funny and over-the-top take on the action movie genre and the knack for mysteries. With a genuinely surprising twist as well as a great cast of actors the film is for anyone who likes a good laugh, and who doesn't?

Project Wonderful 3