Category Archives: Review

Monster Hunter World: There is no enough

I’m struggling hard to be the jungle-swinging-dino-killer and attentive boyfriend with a game that demands chunks of my life with no brakes. You cannot pause the game and go see what it she needs. I’m stressing as I rush to try and finish what I’m doing or find a bush to hide in for a while before she walks back in the living room wanting to throw what she needed at me. First world problems.

As worthless as it is to say, I’ve felt guilty I’ve been absolutely drawn into Monster Hunter: World. Most especially for my girlfriend who has futilely attempted to grasp my attention over the sounds of pissed off dinosaurs being slashed at with an axe that morphs into a giant sword. Without saying more, there were conversations and alterations made.

The core of World, like nearly every other entry in the franchise, is a slow and steady grind towards apathy. It’s a grind Destiny 2 or MMO players are well acquainted with, for example. The siren call for better, prettier gear channeled through the challenge of addictive battle keeps the wheel moving.

 

Unlike Destiny 2, World offers continued challenge through free downloadable content in the form of new monsters and new, flashy things to wear. Yes there is stupid DLC like $3 gesture packs (to make your avatar do a specific emote like Ryu from Street Fighter’s hadoken), but there isn’t any paid DLC that directly involves itself into the ever spinning wheel.

If you’re new to Monster Hunter as a franchise, this is the definitive starting place. While its past handheld entries will always be held close to my heart (bye 3Ultimate, 4Ultimate, Generations), so many concessions have finally been made in world that to go back would be a very noticeably different experience.

It’s also a game obsessed with numbers. Lots of numbers and bits of miscellaneous information that may or not be important to you at any given time but it’s still important to know regardless. World does its absolute best to ease you into the game’s very intimidating amount of information (most of which won’t really be relevant until you reach the High Rank stage anyway).

There is a routine, a flow to things you’ll be expected to do automatically before the start of every quest: Visit your box, dump the crap you don’t need and organize your field inventory; Visit the canteen and eat food (always!); visit the forge and see what you need built to tackle your next challenge; go craft new consumable items and make sure you’re well equipped in potions, food and buffs; check on your farmers who cultivate combine-able items for you each time you leave the village. Suffice to say, there is a lot of shit to keep track of. It just goes on and on.

 

Your first 10 hours hunting will probably be intimidating then a sudden jump to bad-ass. This is all before you realize that really hard T-Rex you’ve been fighting 10 times was a weaker version of one you’ll be seeing more often with flying dragons. But by that point, any hunter worth their salt loves those kinds of parties.

I definitely could waste a lot of your time rambling about the similarities and minute differences World improves upon its predecessors, but the simple thing to say is the game wants to constantly keep you busy and out in the field as much as possible. Like nearly 24/7 – 365 busy. Yeah, like I said there are a lot of things to keep track of when at home but things like the wishlist system automatically tell you mid-game when you’ve collected all the components needed for something; which beats in the past having to endlessly visit the blacksmith to double check info.

There is a gradual rise and sense of progression to things also. While the physical gear is the literal representation of leveling up here learning how monsters operate and their place within the food chain is also invaluable knowledge. Fights easily break down to demonstrations of skill over gear. You can wear the best equipment the game can provide and still get your head smashed in if you’re careless.

 

When playing online the group is afforded a limited number of re-spawns per mission. Each KO is a significant blow to not just the team but even your purse at the end. There is a definitely thrill when running with the top dogs hunting the baddest of the bad, because you’ll need to rely on your partners and watch their backs more than you may want to. However it also drags having to keep the weakest link alive when their doing their damnedest to die.

On that note, I would highly recommend new hunters hold off on multiplayer for a while. Not out of some plea to keep scrubs off our sessions but because you genuinely learn a great deal more facing monsters on your own than relying on high power strangers to save your ass. Studying monster movement, behavior, and their place within the food chain is crucial wisdom.

 

With all that said: I’m not convinced World will change the minds of people adverse to the grind. Because let me reiterate: there is a grind. The game is the grindGRINDING. Because just beating a monster isn’t enough, you must also cover yourself head to toe in it. However, World easily comes off as one of those quality-of-life games where it just becomes a routine. You hop on for an hour, either do a few hunts or wander around picking shit up. You learn a little something new one day, and eventually the game just opens itself up to you.

This all comes at a heavy time investment. There is no dipping your toe in the game. You must go balls deep. When firing this up, it’s demanding every bit of your attention until you’re sleepy little eyes safely save the game back in town. It’s creed may as well be come correct or not at all. For those up for the challenge, welcome to your new addiction.

 

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Fallout the Board Game

Info: Creator – Fantasy Flight Games; 1-4 players; Estimated 2-3 hour playthrough;

As a birthday gift to myself I purchased a copy of Fallout: A Post-Nuclear Board Game on the strength of how nice the box was and a bit off the strength of the beer(s) I had a hour prior. Its rules try to make the board game experience as familiar to the video game experience as possible, which is pretty admirable. Tough decisions will be put upon you and in good ‘ole Fallout fashion consequences will follow. Gamers still angry that Fallout 3 turned the franchise into a FPS will feel at home here following a somewhat familiar experience akin to the first two games.

The wasteland is a collection of hexagons you shuffle to make each game a bit different, which is awesome since this allows the game to be fresh each time. Up to four players communally explore the wasteland like you’re patrolling the video game world together, including tackling objectives together in a bid to become the most influential survivor in the wasteland. A collection of cards play out the choose-your-own-adventure gameplay, along with pieces which represent enemies, status effects, cap coins (my favorite stuff packed in the box), and a few other things.

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A gist of what you’ll be using

Wandering the board in search of encounters that will reward you quests, useful loot and influence points while you try not to die from super mutants, deathclaws and all the fun post-nuclear freaks in play are the real meat and potatoes here.

Battles are resolved through unique black and green dice meant to mimic targeting in V.A.T.S. Each side of the die displays an outline of a body and parts of it shaded in green to indicate which body part was hit. Enemies require specific parts to be hit, otherwise no damage is done. If an enemy has the the number two on its token and its head area is shaded green, this means only head shots will affect it (specifically two headshots in this case). Some sides of the die have either one, two, or no dots at the feet of the body icon. These dots represent the enemy’s counter-attack against you, meaning each attack against an enemy could be life or death if you haven’t been paying attention to your health or radiation poisoning (which is measured by green and red pegs on your player tray, respectively).

The game has a lot of strengths to it. The quest card library offers a lot of possible quests, but unfortunately it comes at the cost of replaying the same stuff over. After a few playthroughs, you’ll immediately spot prior entry quests and have already in mind how to milk those situations. At moments like this, the game begins to lose some thematic value. My players did love how their choices really did play out, as the game is pretty slick on how it makes player choice a legitimate thing. It wouldn’t be Fallout if there wasn’t tough choices to make, so one person’s choice can and probably will have a future effect on someone.

Though kind of weird from an immersion standpoint all quests no matter who initiated them become available for others to complete. I was pleased to see my players both cooperating on completing quests and racing to finish some to gain immediate influence for themselves. One person’s generosity in helping another player turned out that weak player snuck a victory on the back of said generosity. I enjoyed the salt that followed afterward.

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A solo game, for best immersion played on a dirty rug

Then there’s the quality of the stuff in the box, which suffice to say I felt like my $60 USD worth. Everything feels of good quality: from all the nicely printed cards you’ll panic about losing to the neat tokens you’ll be using to represent changes to your pseudo-Pip Boy. The cards are printed on high quality material, so I feel comfortable they will age well after usage (10 games later, my stuff still looks new). There are a lot of cards here but understandably so. One deck controls loot and gear, another the store and companions, another deck an assembly of V.A.T.S. skills, there’s just a lot of stuff and feels appropriately expensive.

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Faction/Influence Meter slash Scenario Cards

At some point during gameplay you’re expected to claim allegiance to either one of these factions. It’s conceivable you can all chicken out and support the same faction so you all work together to either succeed or fail as a team. You can’t directly engage players in anything but trade and conversation, so you can’t opt to directly murder fellow players. Cooperation is instead encouraged. Leading monsters to your rivals is an allowed strategy if you’re feeling particularly petty.

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Brotherhood Outcast, Wastelander, Vault Dweller, Ghoul and Super Mutant

 

 

 

For the impatient or those who just want to toy around, the rules do accommodate for solo play and it’s not nearly as silly as it sounds. Even solo play feels like I’m experiencing a lot of the core elements of the video game, but with a lot of setup you might find yourself just wanting to fire up one of the video games instead (not bad on a day where you’ve got cabin fever, though).

As much as I’ve loved what I paid for there are some hard to ignore flaws. For one, the verbose rulebook doesn’t do a great job of clearly explaining fairly complicated rules. It took a few visits to Fantasy Flight’s message board to figure out what the hell the rulebook was trying to explain, but after two rocky games I sort of figured things out for myself and adapted a few house rules in the process.

Second, and perhaps harder to ignore, were my problems with the faction system and some of its scenarios. At its best, the faction system makes the game quick, perhaps too quick for players wanting to explore the depth of the quest library. At it’s worst, it can be confusing and you can get stuck with a scenario that’s very, very stingy on influence points and drags on way too long.

For example, the tutorial mission, Fallout 4‘s The Commonwealth, is so far my least liked scenario, as you can easily play for two hours and get at most two influence points (where winning conditions usually ask for around 7-10 influence points). I found a sweet spot in the scenario based on Fallout 3‘s Capital Wasteland, which plays with the influence system more so than the others I experienced (to be honest, I’ve yet to try The Pitt; my players seem to favor the Capital Wasteland), meaning there is a genuinely push-pull going on when players declare for teams.

My average play time per session has so far averaged at about three hours, and that was with me making house rules to shorten the game. So if you’re planning on seeing this game all the way through, clear your day.

All told, the creators did an good job of taking the core elements of Fallout (interacting with the wasteland and creating cause/effect storylines) and adapting them over light role-playing elements. It’s going to take a little brain-elbow grease to get at the heart of how the game works for some (including me), but once you pass that initial learning curve the game is a lot of fun. It’s just ending the game that might cause some headaches. However as I’ve experienced a few house rules can alleviate this, and I’ve garnered nothing but praise and curiosity from my group regarding the game since.

All said, Fallout is a fun but flawed board game. The core experience is solid enough I would recommend this to Fallout faithful. I wouldn’t, however, expect any expansions any time soon, but then again never say never.

At the Movies: Annihilation

There are a lot of spoilers in this, so if you are real serious about Annihilation maybe stop.

I remember ranting in the car at my poor girlfriend shortly after we left the theater. I also remember feeling kinda bad since she initially wanted to re-watch Black Panther before I convinced her maybe we should try this. Going into the film trailers painted a movie where an alien contact on Earth summons Natalie Portman and crew to investigate a potential alien infestation. What I thought would ensue was a mindfuck adventure from Ex Machina director Alex Garland. It’s true it comes with a lot of confusingly gross creatures and at times hauntingly pretty locales, finding ways to distort the familiar into things impossible. However the plot goes nowhere and one by one characters die off for no other reason than to mercifully come to an end.

Spoilers ahead but honestly, tl;dr meh.

Natalie Portman plays Lena, a former Army veteran and current day academia professor. She is haunted by the loss of her husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) a fellow soldier and (I think?) black ops operative(?). Most of their exposition is watching Portman and Isaac fool around in bed, then we jump to the threat named The Shimmer threatening to infect our world. It’s not as steamy as it sounded, you can safely go back to watching Fifty Shades of Free.

After disappearing for a year and seemingly dead, Lena finds Kane just walk right into their bedroom and act like an obvious clone. A short conversation follows then says he needs to go to the doctor because he’s spitting blood into a cup of water. On route to the hospital big-ass-obviously-government SUVs detour them and kidnap both Kane and Lena. We are introduced to psychologist, and extremely Xanex’ed, Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who musters enough energy like a 14-year-old girl looking at you stupidly like of course you don’t know what the fuck she’s talking about, explain a very serious alien infestation threatening to very slowly but assuredly eat up maybe a town in around 40(?) years.

Lena, distraught her newly returned husband dying seemingly for real this time, decides to venture into The Shimmer strapped up with Chicago paramedic Anya Thorensen (Gina Rodriguez), Cass Sheppard (Tuva Novotny), Josie Radek (Tessa Thompson) and Dr. Ventress – probably secretly looking for a lost cache of Xanex within The Shimmer because she’s abused her right to have prescription pads like Dr. House.

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Thing is I can’t fault the actresses (even the extremely high Dr. Ventress) for trying to bring as much horror and enthusiasm to a movie with all the charisma of a instructional  technical book. Oh look: a human being split in two with a giant butthole flower grown from where his torso once was. Let’s get some swabs of it and get some sleep (this literally happens). There are quick sputters of violence, which happen for no other reason than to wake us up. In perhaps the strangest scene in the film, they are confronted by a mutated bear with human bones grafted to its face and it’s roar is a literal human plea for help. This was perhaps the only interesting and possibly cool thing to happen in the movie. After this one of our protagonists has leaves growing out of her skin then just disappears period.

We don’t see much other wildlife aside from some pokemon-looking deer, and we learn that maybe the person who Lena thought was her husband may actually not even be a human after all. If this sounds boring it’s because the movie provides  no weight to anything that happens. The film would’ve been serviced with a sub-title: Shit Happens. The movie relies on random gore and creepiness to lull us back into a story really bored with itself.

Kane is obviously gone quite often since he’s a military operative, and we immediately at the start of the movie are introduced to Lena’s co-worker Daniel (David Gyasi) trying to holler at her, but the movie makes a point to establish Kane and Lena’s closeness, then introduces an affair with flimsy context. The love triangle goes no where and takes up time that probably should’ve just been cut entirely. I might’ve been able to forgive the movie had it been 30 minutes shorter.

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The only real conclusion I can come to was the writers were written into a corner, then left to get coffee. I’m convinced there must be another hour of footage out there that was meant to be the second half of the movie. The film comes to climax with Lena being forced to confront an alien-copy Lena shortly after seeing a video recording of her husband killing himself with a phosphorous grenade while recorded by a clone copy of him. Yes, I meant to explain it like this did it fuck your mind?

Real Lena slowly learns Alien Lena is learning from Real Lena how to act human, including fighting back when Real Lena tries to kill it. I think this was meant to be a moving moment, but eventually Real Lena kills Alien Lena with a flare grenade thereby seemingly ending the alien plot line. If none of this sounded exciting, it’s because it wasn’t. Nor was there any real suspension in the moment building up to it.

Annihilation builds up suspension to do nothing with it or even bother making elements sensibly tie together. What was the whole point of detailing Lena’s affair (twice focusing on when she was having sex with Daniel, only to just hate him immediately and throw him out when it was recognized she seemed equally at fault for this, THEN to just drop it all together and daydream about having sex with Kane? Why didn’t we get to see the bear again or anything interesting like that again?

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Lena and Kane reunite at the end after being the only to escape, but now with us knowing the (real?) Kane died within the Shimmer we are left with an intentionally opaque ending trying to seem like it was designed to invoke mystery and some sort of thoughtfulness. Lena knows this guy isn’t really him, and we know she’s irreparably mutated after spending too much time in the Shimmer. Neither are probably ever going to escape the facility, but are we to assume the infestation continues? I don’t know. And I don’t think Alex Garland does either. If you do, please inform both of us.

I’m sure an argument about unsaid subtext and themes going over my head could be brought, and you might even be right. The whole film is built on distorting our perceptions of the world as we know it including what makes us fundamentally us, but at some point I began asking myself if I was making the story up in my head or I’m actually using what’s provided. Was that maybe the point?

At the Movies: Black Panther

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As usual I try to keep this spoiler free but I sometimes reference stuff so if you’re trying to keep your mind virginal until you see the movie, maybe stop now.

Up to this point in the MCU, global catastrophes have largely been concentrated to (or originate from) New York City. Sure, Doctor Strange took us locations like Nepal  and bizarre alternate dimensions, but ultimately the final showdown happened where? New York City. The Avengers even began their career defending what? New York City. Avengers 2 took us to Sokovia, but where did everything start?! That’s right. New York City. Black Panther represents our first genuine worldview into the MCU away from North America and the Avengers.

Black Panther’s fortunately continues the trend of better storytelling in MCU films, and represents a pleasant departure from the seemingly cookie-cutter nature of past MCU films. The movie doesn’t feel like another origin story instead focusing on a post-Civil War T’Challa coming to grips with his new position as king of Wakanda. What unfurls is plot that keeps things grounded to themes such as family and legacy in a very trippy, high-tech adventure.

Wakanda is an absolutely stunning location: an unfamiliar yet not totally alien mix of modern fashion with impossible future technology. It’s fun to see a world even Tony Stark (presumably) doesn’t know of, with technology that makes his inventions look like cheap crap.

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I came to really enjoy Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa, a somewhat reluctant hero only in that he is comfortable pummeling people but is well aware fighting and leading a nation are two wholly different things. This makes T’Challa, in my eyes, the most compelling character the MCU has at the moment. Yes, Captain America, Iron Man, and Hulk are all symbolic heroes, but none have the literal ability to enact widespread change quite like T’Challa can, who is an actual leader.

Like the last few Marvel films, women have taken an increased role in the fun, especially this time around with the stunningly badass head general Okoye (Danai Gurira) and T’Challa’s at-times unavailable love interest Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o). They aren’t the only ones kicking ass throughout the film, but they share a good portion of Black Panther’s 2hr 14min runtime in meaningful ways other than being given screen time to jack people up.

Ok, so some minor potential spoilers going forward.

I’m thankful Black Panther gave us a villain with actual reason other than insane global/galactic domination dreams. Erik Killmonger, despite what his name would imply, is a very sympathetic character. Orphaned at a young age and abandoned by the royal family he would come to learn of, Killmonger is driven by the knowledge he was literally thrown away to cover up a devastating secret for T’Challa’s father. Forced to be raised as an orphaned black boy on the streets of America, Killmonger became embittered and rage filled at the idea there is a place that could help disenfranchised blacks around the world but instead opts to live in secrecy with their technology. Admittedly at the same time, while I understood why Killmonger a total fuck boy, it felt a little too much especially when it came time to be taken serious as a regicidal usuper.

At the film’s core are two sons fighting for their fathers’s legacies: T’Challa seeking to be a great ruled like his father, while Killmonger wishes to proliferate vibranium weaponry worldwide to literally cause an armed uprising among blacks worldwide. T’Challa goes through the heroes journey of learning it was a mistake to want to follow in the past’s footsteps and must pay for its sins in the form of an overwhelmingly devastating Killmonger.

And because it’s the Internet, I’m sure there are some crocodile tears over the seemingly “racist” nature of Black Panther being a predominantly black-casted film. In no other uncertain terms, much of Black Panther is lifted by the cultural elements infused in nearly every pore of the film. This isn’t meant to be familiar, this is meant to show an extraordinary world within an already large, extraordinary world. By the end of the film (as much as I want to spoil it), it really feels like now that we know of Wakanda it’ll be hard to ignore how much it will definitely influence the MCU in years to come.

Without spoiling too much (more), my largest regret was how quickly Andy Serkis’ villain, Uysses Klaue (or better known in the MU as Klaw), came and went. Serkis easy captured the scenes he was in, even if sometimes it felt difficult to understand his maniacal gibbering. Regardless, he was gleefully evil presence in a movie filled with lots of gray space.

Black Panther is a legit fun movie and a breath of fresh air for a genre I feared was getting stale. While much of our good will shall eventually give way to the orgy that is Infinity War I and II, for now its exciting to see where Wakanda can take the MCU before the aliens start dropping from the skies again. We’ve been to outer space, to the edge of metaphysical reality, but we’ve yet to visit a place so culturally distinctive (and frankly as critical) as Wakanda.

Replay – Cities: Skylines

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There’s no serious way I can make Cities: Skylines sound sexy and I’ve tried at least six different drafts of this. It lacks the explosive action of popular games like PlayerUnknown’sBattlegroundsOverwatch, or anything that involves murdering people. Cities: Skylines is the complete antithesis of games like that: it’s slow, very mellow and about procedural growth. I’d forgive you if this is where you started tuning out but if you can, bear with me.

It probably explains a lot I smoke a decent amount of weed before zoning out for the next four hours in what is surely a bizarre stupor to any bystanders. There is no decipherable action to let you know you’re doing right aside from numbers being green, happy sounding noises, no angry looking icons floating above buildings, and the bright green smiley face at the bottom of the HUD telling me I’m doing a-ok. That’s not to say there aren’t frustrating moments. After all, nothing like spending an hour trying to revive a city imploded by my own lack of foresight.

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Skylines is without argument the best SimCity-esque game on the market today, beating out even the originator itself, SimCity. Of which was deeply shamed back in 2013 so badly EA had to do a LOT of damage control and probably won’t be heard from ever again. The goal is very simple: develop your provided property into a growing town and supervisor its development and growth into a full-blown city. However actually doing this is another, as unlike in SimCity 4 (the last decent SimCity), it’s pretty possible to fail making a town from the very start.

This is a supremely menu driven game, and many of your questions you’ll come across during your time building cities will often be answered looking for data within the myriad of menus, though perhaps not so obviously. Skylines asks the player to think ahead in terms of how to proceed, because while not impossible, it’s hard and damaging to your city to try and re-build segments after they’ve already started growing independently.

Your endgame is to create as large as city as possible, anyway you want so long as it is financially sustainable. This means watching your budget, finding ways to squeeze just a little more money from your properties without pissing off your constituents, and giving your city time to develop organically by letting its simulations run a bit. You’ll want to throw stadiums around and grow as fast as possible, however too fast growth can also mean your artificial population bubble will burst hard when the weight of the city collapses upon itself because you didn’t let its population catch-up to your rapid growth.

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Unlike the aforementioned SimCity, the world of Skylines feels organic and alive. Your citizens, each and every one, can be selected, followed and studied. They are born, they grow, they work, they die. They also unfortunately move into cities at the exact same age, causing what’s known in the Cities: Skylines community as a “death wave” if you grow a huge chunk of your city at the same time. Good luck keeping your cemeteries open.

Perhaps the biggest complaint against Cities: Skylines is the developer’s tendency to create weak DLC and charge premium prices. I don’t have any of the paid-DLC installed (there are bits of free DLC that are quite a bit of fun), but I can say I don’t feel like I’m missing anything. It’s also hard for me to justify spending $12.99 USD to include natural disasters, a feature I find myself asking why the fuck would I pay so much for. Seems like something basic that should’ve been included from the onset.

You could spend $5.99 USD to supplement the free Match Day DLC (which gives you the ability to place a large-scale football stadium in your city) with four actual recreations of real football stadiums such as FC Barcelona, Chelsea, PSG, and Juventus. Again, you might’ve missed where I said this $5.99 DLC just has four stadiums. This is the type of crap I was talking about.

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Look, again, none of this sounds sexy, like, at all. Cities: Skylines is meant for a particular audience: one tired of random violence and into methodical, zen-like construction. I enjoy the steady grind of slowly letting a city build its economy up itself. There is a sense of peace and focus I’ve never quite experienced with other games. Sure, it’s easy to zone out but the game also calls for a measure of attention to make sure your growing city doesn’t decay from within so easily. There is no end, just the infinite potential of growth and seeing what kind of civil creator you are. Or at least until you misappropriate the city’s funds.

 

At the Movies: The Dark Tower

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Among author Stephen King’s more whimsical stories (in as whimsical Stephen King tends to get), The Dark Tower follows young Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), a troubled young boy with ominous visions of a tower keeping evil from spreading unchecked in the world, children being tormented by the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) using their essence to destroy the tower, and a mysterious Gunslinger (Idris Elba) who can stop this Man in Black from destroying the tower. The Dark Tower follows this plot-line pretty religiously, but this movie is a case of the journey being much better than its destination.

We establish everyone believes Jake to be troubled, and rightfully so. His father died in a fire, his mother is now smitten to a man seemingly trying to get rid of him as quickly as possible, and his constant visions of the Dark Tower is driving his mother into depression. However Jake knows deep down inside he isn’t crazy, and he begins seeing his visions in real life.

People with lose fitting skin seemingly wearing it as a costume are hunting psychically gifted children to harvest their energy to destroy the Dark Tower protecting infinite Earths. During a daring escape, he follows his visions to a strange house that transports him to a different world: one broken by evil forces. It isn’t until he finally finds the Gunslinger does he know his visions are true.

Truth be told, most of the power this film holds is in the fast developing relationship between Jake and the Gunslinger once you slog past the rather slow intro. Their journey to battle the Man in Black hits a pretty by-the-numbers route through the film’s middle segments. Granted, the action scenes and locales were cool haunted locations, a strange amalgamation between magic, technology and the Old American West.

The Man in Black, who really should just be known as McConaughey with dyed black hair, played it with very little enthusiasm. It felt he put more work into those Lincoln commercials they he did with the albeit very simplistic Man in Black. He has no ulterior motive other than being an evil prick bent on world domination. He has totally dominion over all men, conveniently except for our Gunslinger and to some degree even Jake.

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The movie comes to something of a halt once we reach the climax, the finale duel between the Man in Black and the Gunslinger. While certainly CGI filled, its conclusion filled me with this flat sense of “meh”. On the one hand, I had enjoyed the film up this point. On the other, I had wondered if this was really the end. I found myself enjoying the fantasy world they were inhabiting more so than the people in it. Frankly, I didn’t give much a shit about them to be honest. I was more sad we couldn’t spend more time amalgamating modern New York into the twisted vision of mid-Earth, but I’m good with what I got.

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The Dark Tower isn’t quite as epic as it hopes to be, even if what’s at stake is the fate of multiple Earths. It feels flatter than it does appropriately epic, which it’s set-piece moments certainly called for. Elba played the quite straight man well enough, Taylor played the precocious child-hero well, and McConaughey could’ve been anyone else really. In fact, I spent a decent amount of time going through a roster of alternate villains who could’ve really provided the character the presence it sought. Maybe this one was a job for Mel Gibson? Certainly was fire and brimstone enough.

I had gotten this vibe that they wanted to leave enough room open for a sequel, but I feel pretty confident this one’s wrapped up. The Dark Tower was a fun romp but didn’t really leave me wowed. I wanted to be, the idea seemed cool, the stakes were plenty high, and Elba did a good job being a gun-slinging badass. Just a shame none of it really added up.

I think a lot of people are going to shit on this film, which is not totally fair. The Dark Tower was a lot of fun in spite of a few things, and I’m grateful it aimed high trying to cram quite a bit into an hour and a half. Something shit like, oh I don’t know Transformers still hasn’t learned. For that, I give The Dark Tower a thumbs up at least.

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Pic Sources: http://www.thedarktower-movie.com/site/galleryhttp://stephenking.com/darktower/

TV Theatre – The Belko Experiment

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To put it in its most simplest terms, The Belko Experiment is a film about violence for the sake of violence. It will probably share a similar audience to the likes of Saw or any slasher that gives the filmmaker an excuse to show over an hour’s worth of gore non-stop. The set up is an international group of people put together in a bizarrely nice building in the middle of nowhere Columbia.

They all work happy corporate lives until one day a voice on the intercom tells them they have to start killing people or they will die at random. Who these people are, the cast, the antagonists, whomever it’s all irrelevant. People have to die when the voice says, so sayith the voice.

In fact, there is little plot here anyway to make these characters relevant. Not that the film is concerned with it. No, the prime focus is to get you sitting on the edge of your seat ruminating how the next sucker is going to die a shitty death. Because that’s why you came to see this movie: stupid people dying shitty deaths.

This movie probably will share a lot of similarities to the 2000 classic Battle Royale, but unlike Royale, The Belko Experiment invests no serious time on its cast and spends more keeping the body count going as fluidly as possible. Which is cool if that’s what you were expecting coming into this movie like I was.

To that end, the violence is pretty amusing and even at times somewhat thrilling, even if everyone is moving at a very by-the-numbers pace. At no point are you going to be genuinely surprised by anything. The movie sometimes tries to pull at emotional strings that just aren’t there. Instead, it’s at its best when it stops trying to talk and just lets the rage fly.

At the end of the day, if your thirst is for a horror movie more concerned with being grossly violent than genuinely scary, then yeah, The Belko Experiment can help with that. In fact, for just that purpose it’s pretty good. Just maintain that level of expectation and everything’ll be alright. Maybe just maybe don’t eat spaghetti or something with tomato pasta. Or do, if you’re sense of humor is that morbid. Again, this movie would probably be for you.

Just like this little review, the movie ends somewhat abruptly leaving you with the feeling they want to build a fuck load of sequels to this because Saw did it. If nothing else, it looked like this movie was a lot of fun to make for the actors.