Tuesday, March 10, 2015

StarBoy91's February 2015 Mini-Reviews 1/2

Written: March 1st-10th, 2015
Well, so much for posting something every week this year.  -_-  Hello everyone, StarBoy91 here; passionate about video games, big retrophile, and fan of all things 16-bit.  Well it's that time of the year again where I share the media I watched and played and what I thought of them during the month in summarized format.  In case you missed my January '15 mini-reviews, this was something that was inspired by FlyingOmelette's monthly Capsule Reviews; however there may be some media which I covered the preceding month which I'll find myself covering again (either due to playing more of it or after having finished it).
This February I covered twenty-six different media so my February '15 Mini-Reviews will be split into two parts; which I think is fair since I don't place all my thoughts all on one post, because if I did then it would be a long post and normally I have a lot to say regarding these media.  Normally restricting my passionate opinion in a multitude of paragraphs in just few is hard, but it's something these mini-reviews give me practice on.
Several things have happened during the month of February before I cover the big stuff: Saturday Night Live has celebrated its 40th anniversary which I saw and liked a lot; Parks and Recreations ended on a sad yet sweet goodbye; Chief Wallace Boden has been temporarily replaced by a tyrannical douchebag creep in Chicago Fire (thank God he rightfully got banished on the 3rd's episode because now I can look forward to the show again); and recently Leonard Nimoy has passed away at the age of 83, which was as big a shock to me as I imagine it was to everyone else (watching Star Trek won't be the same without him).  May he rest in peace.  =(
Now, without delay, let us begin:
Big Hero 6 (Blu-Ray)
2014 Disney
(Image from Rotten Tomatoes)
[Placeholder for screenshots I'll obtain]
Yes, this is Disney's own take on a Marvel comic series, and yes, it is as brilliant as everyone makes it out to be.  In fact it's up there with Frozen and Wreck-It Ralph as some of my favorite Disney animated movies from recent years.  =)
Big Hero 6 has got a really creative setting in the form of San Fransokyo, and there's a lot of depth to it.  What I also loved was the human emotion throughout and the relationship between Hiro and Baymax, the latter of which is so cool and cuddly he's my favorite character in the movie.  Hiro's friends and relatives were great as well, including Honey Lemon and GoGo plus comic and monster fanboy Fred; now normally I feel pity for characters who inhabit the name "Fred" (for obvious reasons) but this was one occasion where I did not think of him as a person who shared a name with someone infamous (which is a good thing).  Aunt Cass was so quirky that it's too bad there wasn't more of her (and is it just me, or did she bear a striking resemblance to Annie Hughes from The Iron Giant?), but for what we got she's great.
I also liked Henry Jackman's energetic and in-depth soundtrack since they made many of Big Hero 6's scenes engrossing and powerful and at occasions poignant.  There's also a sense of being the air when Hiro and Baymax are flying it's quite magical.  I know it's not an MCU movie, but it may as well be; this movie was fun from beginning to end and if they end up making a sequel then I will gladly watch it.
My Personal Score: 5/5
Conan the Barbarian 1982 (DVD)
1981 Universal
(Image from Rotten Tomatoes)
[Placeholder for screenshots I'll obtain]
Arnold Schwarzenegger's breakthrough role that defined and jumpstarted his movie career as the Cimmeran barbarian Conan in John Milius' masterpiece is not only a really great movie, but it is also a timeless epic.  =D  Yeah, it was released in 1982, but its copyright is still 1981; don't feel too bad though--last year's Nightcrawler had a 2013 copyright.
But I digress; there is so much to like about the '80s incarnation of Conan the Barbarian.  The cinematography is gorgeous, its unflinching violence, its incredible symbolisms and themes, its likable cast and characters, the glorious set design and décor, the way the time period feels that it could've really happened, and the most poignant and powerful music Basil Poledouris has ever composed.  The score is so good that it's enough to explain what's going on in each scene, words are almost unnecessary.  =)
It's too bad that the quality of the series began going downhill once Richard Fleischer took over for John Milius when he helmed the sequel.  Hopefully when The Legend of Conan, which will act like Conan the Destroyer and the 2011 Barbarian remake never happened (which I'm all for), comes out this year or next year it will make up for the low points and bring dignity back to the name of Robert E. Howard's Conan.
My Personal Score: 4.5/5
Conan the Destroyer (DVD)
1984 Universal
(Image from Wikipedia)
[Placeholder for screenshots I'll obtain]
Normally I try not to jump on the hate bandwagon when it comes to virtually derided movies; examples such as Superman III, Congo, Alien: Resurrection, Tron Legacy, The Rite, Cars 2, Battleship, Into the Storm, et al, mainly because I'm not the most demanding viewer as I normally watch movies to have a good time and/or to be invested in (all I ask is that the movie work in some way for me).  And besides, I rarely wind up hating the most popularly hated movies anyway (there have been exceptions, of course); different strokes for different folks.  That said, I was really close to hating this Conan sequel!  >=(
Part of what attributes to Conan the Destroyer's failings are the same exact issues that befell Superman III: in that both movies had directors who evidently were not fit for the job, and they turned the subsequent movie in the series into a "comedy" (the unfunny kind).  But in the case of the second Conan movie it's just worse.  Riddle me this: do Conan apologizing to a camel for punching it in the previous movie (which makes me question if it's the same town Conan and Subotai visited in Conan the Barbarian) only for it to sneeze at him thereby making Conan punch said camel, Conan stoned off his ass bumping into someone thereby making the Cimmerian fall down, love advice, one of the characters being fearful of mice, and another character feigning to be victorious over a creature's death when it was actually Conan remotely sound funny in the slightest or sound like they belong in the same universe as the first Conan???
Since the movie came out mere months before the first PG-13 rated movie Red Dawn this sequel was given a PG instead... though considering the amount of gore that pops up from time to time I'm surprised the MPAA was so easygoing.  It may not be as violent as Conan the Barbarian, but this is the most violent pre PG-13 movie I've seen.  I hear the original cut of this movie was once R-rated, which I can definitely believe since there are moments in the same sequences where sometimes slices lead to blood while others are just clean for the cut we received.  And since John Milius was unavailable to direct the sequel (can you guess which movie he was busy directing at the time?) Dino de Laurentiis and company thought Destroyer would gross more than its predecessor if it was family-friendly.  Oh, yeah!  Because nothing says family-friendly fun like blood-letting, decapitating, stabbing, skewering, jabbing, lunging, neck-biting, bruising, cutting, and bone-removing?  I'm sorry, this is a Conan movie, right?  =/
The casting is hit-and-miss too, and all throughout the movie I was wondering how Wilt Chamberlain got rolled into this mess.  Grace Jones' first theatrical role as Zula is okay but rather over-the-top and at times genuinely creepy; Olivia d'Abo (who would eventually voice Jane Porter in The Legend of Tarzan TV series) is adorable in her first role as Princess Jehnna, but she's severely let down by an unflattering script as most of her sequences she's either petulant or ends up screaming.  Sarah Douglas' Queen Taramis has got a curious fashion choice; at one point I thought I saw her wearing a bird for a top.  Then there's Tracey Walter's Malak; I HATE HIM, he's so annoying!!!  How annoying is he?  Harland Williams in Rocket Man annoying... yeah, he's that bad!  Look, I'm sure he must be a nice person in real life, but I could not stand a single word he uttered.
When Schwarzenegger wasn't doing something stupid (drunk scene) he still maintained his Conan persona, and it was nice to see Mako's wizard again.  How saddening it is for Conan the Barbarian to have started great with characters that treated its world, characters, and audience with dignity only for it to be followed by a half-hearted follow-up.  Even Basil Poledouris' music wasn't enough to save it, and once the movie reaches its halfway point it becomes boring and doesn't pick up its energy again until the end, but by then it's too little too late.  I didn't think it was terrible, but as someone who loved the original Conan it was painful to sit through.
My Personal Score: 2.5/5
Disney's Aladdin (SNES)
1993 Capcom
Capcom's video game adaptation of one of my favorite animated movies by Disney is a fun adaptation and is the best-looking game out of the six SFC/SNES Disney Capcom licensed titles.  =)  The gameplay is very flexible and polished to a T, the settings are gorgeously detailed and colorful, and the music is so immersive; plus I loved the 16-bit interpretation of "Friend Like Me" and "A Whole New World".
Despite the fact that there's only one difficulty setting I appreciate the fact that there is a tinge of replay value sprinkled here and there; with the alternate title sequences, the sometimes different clouds and/or balloons Genie conjures up in one aspect, and the optional quest of trying to get as many red rubies as you can in the game because depending on how many you have the credits sequence will play differently.
If there's any issues I have with the game it's not so much the fact that it's easier than even Capcom's Bonkers (which I also liked) so much as the fact that I wish there was more.  I get that they wanted to stay as faithful to the movie as far as settings are concerned (with the exception of the pyramid, which is cool), but the game would've probably been better had Capcom taken more liberties with it like Virgin Interactive did with the MegaDrive/Genesis version; also, the cover art is a deception (Aladdin never carries a scimitar in his hand).  But for what it is it's fun while it lasts.  =)
My Personal Score: 7.5/10
The DUFF (Theatres)
2015 LionsGate
(Image from Rotten Tomatoes)
The DUFF was a very fun and charming high school teen comedy which one of the critics likened to be in the vein of a late John Hughes' film, and I can definitely see that.  If nothing else, Mae Whitman made this movie for me and she's very likably quirky and cute as the titular role.  =)  I also liked her chemistry with Robbie Amell's Wesley and how they played off of each other.  As much as it is comedic, there are moments of heart and truth to many of these situations that work to the movie's benefit.  The movie's narrative flowed quite nicely as well and it was just adorable feel-good fun.  =)
One thing that surprised me was the mean girl role that Bella Thorne had in the movie; several years ago I would not have seen this coming considering her start on Disney Channel; I was surprised at how unlikable her character was in this movie.  Everyone else is great, especially Mae Whitman.
My Personal Score: 3.5/5
James Pond: Underwater Agent (Genesis)
1991 Vectordean/Millenium Entertainment (Developers) / Electronic Arts (Publisher)
(Image from Wikipedia)
[Placeholder for screenshots I'll obtain]
I only played this once so far, and since I've been itching to quench my curiosity towards the James Pond video game series, I thought it was reasonable to start from the very beginning.  And the first game, as far as I played, is decent; but I'll have to play more of this open-ended mission series to form a proper opinion on it.
My Personal Score: N/A
Jelly Boy 2 (SFC - ROM)
1994 GameFreak (Developer) / Epic/Sony Records (Would've Been Publisher)
My thoughts on this game have not changed since having expressed how I felt about in in my January 2015 Mini-Reviews, though I decided to get over myself and call it by its actual name (Jelly Boy 2) as opposed to what I wanted it to be called (Jerry Boy 2).  It's still a superior sequel to Jerry Boy/Smart Ball that's a lot of fun.  =)
My Personal Score: 8.0/10
Jerry Boy (SFC)
1991 System Sacom (Developer) / Epic/Sony Records (Publisher)
So after having gotten Smart Ball I went back and played Jerry Boy again, and playing both versions really puts things into perspective.  By itself I thought it was okay fun, but as a Japanese original... it's still okay fun, for the story and towns in my opinion are the heart of the game.  The music is wonderful and the worlds are engaging in their lighthearted nature (like the Mode 7 moon stages and the watery areas), but gameplay-wise I wish it was more practical than one button used to utilize running, ball spewing, and wall sticking (something that the American version Smart Ball rectified at the expense of its story and towns).
On the downside, aside from some alternate pathways and well-hidden secrets, there isn't replay value to be had, it's easy, but it is very short.  Jerry Boy could've really also benefited from having a customizable options screen; and it's too bad it didn't because otherwise it would've been better.  But for what it is it's enjoyable to a point.
My Personal Score: 6.5/10
John Wick (DVD)
2014 LionsGate
(Image from Rotten Tomatoes)
John Wick was a movie I wanted to see back when it was in theatres, but because I was too busy to watch I missed out.  Since it's come out on DVD and Blu-Ray I recently decided to rent it from Redbox, and I'm glad I did because this movie was awesome!  =)
This is a revenge flick in the purest form, where a man named John Wick comes out of "retirement" and goes back to being a hitman after his former boss' arrogant son killed Wick's dog and stole his car.  What I liked the most about this movie is how relentless it was in terms of action and violence, and yet despite all that there's a lot of low-key humor in it as well to make it enjoyable (including a colorful nightclub sequence).  Another aspect I found myself enjoying was the universe that's been established and how pretty much everyone knows who John Wick is (except for Alfie Allen's Iosef, which begs the question of how the hell he's not aware of his impeccable capabilities and calculating strategies when everyone else is); including a hitman-oriented hotel where certain rules are established.
Even though Keanu Reeves is far from the greatest thespian ever, his screen presence is very strong, he is very imposing as the title character, and he is John Wick; and if anyone messes with him he will kill them without fail.  I liked the supporting cast, from Willem Dafoe to Ian McShane; but my favorite character outside of John Wick was Michael Nyqvist's Viggo Tarasov as Wick's former boss and current enemy.  They have a lot of respect for each other and yet the line was drawn the moment Iosef made his move; I love this character, not just because of the respect he's got for John Wick and his three-dimensional personalities, but Nyqvist's performance is enjoyable to watch (even as John Wick is going after Viggo's men, he knows what John is capable of).
The final conflict was also satisfying, and I think the movie ended on a strong note.  John Wick is worthy of all the praise its getting from audiences and critics, and to hear that they're making a sequel fills me with joy because I loved this movie.  I say bring it on!  =D
My Personal Score: 4.5/5
Jupiter Ascending (Theatres)
2015 Warner Bros.
(Image from Rotten Tomatoes)
I remember when I first saw trailers for the Wachowski's latest feature a year ago I was intrigued by it that I wanted to read the book series it was based on to prepare for it.  But when I looked up more info on Jupiter Ascending, I was shocked to find that it's just a movie and not one based on a pre-existing book.  Though after having actually seen it I think it would've worked a lot better as a thoroughly explored novel than as a movie.
This movie is so chockfull of ideas that trying to cram them all in two hours' time was a mistake.  And, as a result of that, it ended losing me in places and I had no idea in the end if I liked it or not.  Scenes are consistently rushed to get to the next one, there are twists that come from nowhere, and there are misdirections aplenty.  So there are these bounty who appear to be after Channing Tatum's Caine Wise and just as one of them is about to fire at Mila Kunis' Jupiter Jones the other two backstab him and they take her to one of the three siblings in their planet.  So just when think the person Jupiter's with is good it makes it seem like she's bad because Caine is sneaking past guards but then she actually is good.  Wha?  Then there's a scene following that which is revealed in the end to not have been what it seems?  And then we've got Eddie Redmayne's part subdued/part over the top villain.
And it's a shame because there was potential for a great movie, as some of the ideas sounded interesting; and they probably would've been more so had they been explored more (this was also my first time seeing a Wachowski movie on the big screen).  And the movie's really good to look at with great-looking effects and set designs and admittedly good action sequences; but topnotch effects and decent acting alone do not salvage this movie (though it was humorous to see it become Gravity for about a minute or two, and the ending was cute).  To say that Jupiter Ascending was ambitious would be a huge understatement; but because its narrative was jumbled and plot threads were unresolved (why Jupiter's father was killed a few minutes into the movie) I'm not surprised it bombed.
My Personal Score: 2.5/5
Kingsman: The Secret Service (Theatres)
2015 20th Century Fox
(Image from Rotten Tomatoes)
This was a movie I was curious to see since its first trailer was shown in 2014 (that, and X-Men: First Class' Matthew Vaughn was directing), and initially it was set to be released late that year.  But for various reasons it instead was slated to be unveiled in theatres during February.  Well, the delayed release has paid off since it's done really good and was enjoyable to watch (even though I never read the comic book series of the same name)... at least, the majority of it anyway.
That minority that I didn't enjoy was the subplot with Eggsy's loathsome a-hole abusive stepfather and his son's men; this is a movie I would've enjoyed so much had that bit have been removed altogether (characters like these I have a deep-seated contempt for, and if a scene focuses on them it ruins my enjoyment)... though it was satisfying to see said stepfather get his deserving comeuppance in the end.  One thing I found surprising was the fact that the main character is in his twenties and not a teenager like in most movies of this ilk; that does not happen often.
As an homage to classic spy movies and series it's pretty cool, and it's a well-cast feature; Mark Strong, Michael Caine, an unusually quirky Samuel L. Jackson with a lisp, and big action star Colin Firth who reportedly has done 80% of his action stunts by himself which is impressive.  And speaking of action scenes, the way these continuous scenes are shot are so fast-paced and brisk yet at the same time it doesn't flinch away from the violence that is ensuing.  There were some moments I did not see coming, especially one of the ways the climax in the end was resolved which has got to be the most morally confused albeit awkwardly funny scenes you could have in this feature (you know what I'm getting at).
The main character wasn't so bad, and excepting the flat one-dimensional a-hole stepfather and son's men the other characters were likable as well; one of which includes a woman with deadly blades for feet (man, I want to know the story behind that).  I also liked how it became Interstellar for a few seconds (sans unnecessary Matt Damon subplot).  It was engaging and 80% enjoyable, and there were laughs to be had.
My Personal Score: 4/5
Kirby and the Rainbow Curse (Wii U)
2015 HAL Laboratory (Developer) / Nintendo (Publisher)
(Image from Wikipedia)
[Placeholder for screenshots I'll obtain]
Since I'm a huge Kirby fan, I knew I just had to get his latest venture the weekend it came out.  Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is sort of like an extension of the controls from Kirby Canvas Curse, with the difference being that there's more room for the stylus and it revolves around all things clay (not just the worlds but even the characters and enemies).  And let me tell you, it's quickly become one of my favorites and it continues the streak the (near) excellent Kirby titles we've been getting since 2010.
Considering Kirby had to go through both paint and yarn in the past, why not be made of clay?  I think it works.  =)  And fortunately, the gameplay is very intuitive and I like how the stylus comes into play when Kirby morphs into each of his three power-ups (with clever brief second cameos by Rick, Coo, and Kine) as a tank, a rocket, and a submarine.  The worlds are so malleable and full of vibrant Claymation I'm amazed that it works out as well as it did.  The opening sequence alone plays out as a shot by shot Claymation sequence which I thought was charming.  I loved the soundtrack as well (which include remixes from Kirby's Dream Land to Kirby Triple Deluxe; and even a cue from Kirby's Dream Course, nice!), and it has got to have one of the most epicly inspiring cues I've ever heard in the series.  =D

Sadly it's a bit on the short side, but that's okay though since there's the collect-a-thon aspect and challenge areas which make up for it.  One of the best in the series in my book, and I wish Kirby Canvas Curse was this fun; I realize I'm in the minority but that's truly how I feel.  =)  Go Clay Kirby!
My Personal Score: 9.0/10
Kuru Kuru Kururin (Game Boy Advance)
2001 Eighting (Developer) / Nintendo Publisher)
So I managed to play some of the game and eventually beat it.  So now that I played enough of it to form an opinion for it, I think Kuru Kuru Kururin is a very good and fun puzzler, with a lot of adorable charm and innocence.  =)  What I found interesting was how involving the gameplay was despite its otherwise simple play control; so Kururin's helirin consistently rotates (counter)clockwise and unless one of the ends touch a spring you cannot change its direction.
This can make for intimidatingly exhilarating scenarios as there are moments where you must carefully careen and maneuver yourself around elaborately designed areas without damaging yourself; while the game starts off easy enough it doesn't take long until the areas get longer and complex in the long run.  And while these stages are not impossible to survive, some of the last areas gave me so much trouble that I lost count how many lives I lost trying to get them down pat.  While it's mostly fun it wind up feeling frustrating a couple times because of it.  But perseverance prevails as always.  =)
Another thing I found was cool was the fact that you could change the helirin's design and color palette, and even choose whether Kururin's siblings get to ride with him or not before starting each time.  I have not unlocked the secret areas, though I hear I have to make it through every segment without once hitting the helirin on an edge or dangerous obstacle.  It's too bad that America never got this game, since it's really not bad; I cannot wait to try the Japan-only sequel Kururin Paradise however.
My Personal Score: 8.0/10
<(^o^)^TO EACH THEIR OWN^(^o^)>
Stay Tuned for Part II

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