Sunday, April 12, 2015

StarBoy91's March 2015 Mini-Reviews 1/2

Written: April 11th-12th, 2015
Hello everyone, StarBoy91 here; passionate about video games, big retrophile, and fan of all things 16-bit... and as of this year sharer of media I've played and watched during each month.  =)  For my March '15 Mini-Reviews I covered twenty-four subjects, which I will split into two parts; and the reason I didn't start making this log at the beginning of the month was because I wanted to make way for my birthday review on April 5th.
Before I start, here's some things that occurred last month: we lost Windell "Kirby Morris" Middlebrooks of The Suite Life on Deck fame and other media at a young age of 36 (which will make watching anything he was in never the same again; may he rest in peace) and the state of Indiana has gotten itself a hugely controversial bill that even its residents object to; I would say more in that regard, but there's been so much coverage on it that I don't even have to say what it is.

As always, this is based on my personal opinion, and if you do not agree with it, that's fine; to each their own.  But please be civil about it.
Anywho, let's get crackin'!  =)
Bonkers (SNES)
1994 Capcom
Thoughts haven't changed since I first played it back in January, but I still think it's a good platformer while it lasts, even if it is easy and has elements that feel highly derivative from other games in the genre.
My Personal Score: 7.5/10
Breakfast Club, The (Theatres)
1985 Universal
[Image from Movie Newz website]
Considering that The Breakfast Club is a quintessential classic and one of the best movies from the late John Hughes, as well as one of my favorites, I could not pass the opportunity to see it on the big screen during its limited 30th anniversary two-day engagement.  =)
What I like the most about the movie is how it starts off with the five members of their own clique not wanting to have anything to do with each other during one day in detention and the more time passes the more they not only start getting respect for each other but they also gradually open up about their problems (its symbolism via their shedding their own clothing is clever) and why they are serving detention, ultimately revealing that their circumstances are more similar than they initially want to admit.  It's an intelligently written and deep film, and the young quintet are so relatable that they feel like people you could meet in real life (some more than others).
As serious as it could get with its story, it's watchable and engaging especially due the fact that there are genuinely funny moments sprinkled here and there (like Bender's suave reaction after having fallen through a ventilation system, and Allison's quirky mannerisms).  I love this movie, and its honesty regarding the subject matter makes it really great.  I would say more, but you probably know all about it.
My Personal Score: 5/5
Cinderella 2015 (Theatres)
2015 Disney
[Image from Rotten Tomatoes]
The fact that I loved every minute of Kenneth Branagh's traditional live-action take on both Charles Perrault's Cendrillon fairy tale and the 1950 animated Cinderella really speaks levels as to what a milestone it is in an age where most directors would opt for revisionism that incorporate major twists.  None of that is here, which is refreshing for a change in said age, and all for the best in my book.
I loved this movie, as I stated in my review of it=)  It was charming, it was magical, it was sweet, it looked and sounded beautiful, it was well-cast, many of the characters were given depth and were well-realized, it was enjoyably fun, and it was feel-good entertainment for me.  =)  I can't remember the last time I came out of a Disney live action movie where I was satisfied from beginning to end.  Well done, Kenneth, well done!
I hope Bill Condon's live action Beauty and the Beast will be this good when it comes out two years from now.
My Personal Score: 5/5
Divergent (iTunes)
2014 Summit Entertainment
[Image from Rotten Tomatoes]
When this movie came out a lot of people ended up not liking it, though personally I didn't mind Neil Burger's adaptation of the first in Veronica Roth's Divergent trilogy (all three which I had read before it came out in theatres).  =)  I can certainly understand its backlash though, even when compared to the (superior) Hunger Games series.
As the titular Divergent Tris Prior, Shailene Woodley was perfect for the role, for she managed to capture her traits and character well, and part of the movie's success for me is because of her performance.  Her chemistry with co-star Theo James' Four was also likable, and the whole middle act portion was the best part involving the training and striving to survive as Dauntless lest you'll be kicked out and become Factionless.  The zipline scene was breathtakingly beautiful, the capture the flag scene was fun, and one of the scenes near the end is a tearjerker.
That said there are things which I didn't like; I'm sure Ansel Elgort must be a nice guy in real life, but his Caleb Prior is insufferable and I don't like any scene with him (reason being: he's a douchebag that doesn't know he's a douchebag, which was a thing in the novels, which is apt-presented here and in the sequel, which is a negative for me), and Miles Teller's Peter was despicable (but thankfully no more despicable than Jai Courtney's Eric).  For the most part the movie follows the structure of the written work, but when it comes to the third act with the climax it's reworked to make it more interesting for the visual medium.
It's also a bit gritty at times, but aside from those negatives I liked Divergent and I think it's commendable how Burger managed to condense four-hundred fifty pages' worth of material to (almost) two and a half hours.  Too bad the only way to go from here is down.  =(
My Personal Score: 3.5/5
Divergent Series, The: Insurgent (Theatres)
2015 Summit Entertainment
[Image from Rotten Tomatoes]
I shared my thoughts on this movie last month, so I don't feel I need to say too much here.  As someone who personally enjoyed Divergent, even I felt that Robert Schwentke's movie adaptation of Insurgent left a lot to desire.  Drastically different structure, many changes that stem away from the written source material, overt lack of character development, twenty minutes shorter than it needed to be, and even more grittier and desaturated than before.
On the plus side, Shailene Woodley is still fantastic as Tris Prior, even if some of her actions do not make her seem flattering, though she does look great with shorter hair.  At least it's not down to the same level as R.I.P.D. was.
My Personal Score: 3/5
Drakkhen (SNES)
1989 Infogrames (Developer), 1991 Kemco-Seika (Publishers)
I published my review of this SNES port of Drakkhen for the date of my birthday, which is why I started March's Mini-Reviews so late (that, and I wanted to leave enough time for readers to get a chance to read it before moving on to the next subject).  Now I do concede that there are a lot of problems, and that as a game it fails due to lacking enough depth to justify it as thus; what I will say is that it is a well-crafted tech demo.  =)
While the visuals have aged in certain respects, I think it's impressive how much Mode 7 Kemco-Seika managed to incorporate to give the Isle of the Drakkhen a 3D look and feel, and the way that day gradually transitions to night and vice versa is incredible.  I also give props to the slap bass and electric piano music, for which without it the respective areas would lack effectiveness.
What also helps is how moody and mysterious each setting is, not to mention the vast array of weirdness that is sprinkled throughout, making Drakkhen a unique entry in the A-RPG genre.  If you want to read the rest of my thoughts on it you can click the review link to read about it; what I didn't mention in it was that I personally prefer this title to its Nintendo 16-bit exclusive "sequel" Dragon View if only for those qualities alone.
My Personal Score: 6.0/10
Gargoyle's Quest: Ghosts'n Goblins (Game Boy)
1990 Capcom
[Image from MobyGames]
[Placeholder for screenshots I'll obtain]
Since I was curious to try my hand at Firebrand's trilogy of adventures, I thought it appropriate to start from the beginning.  And, for Capcom's first game that they made on the Game Boy, it's pretty good.  =)
Gargoyle's Quest: Ghosts'n Goblins controls decently, has got neat atmospheric visuals, and it's a clever hybrid of both the action/platforming and RPG genres, where it alternates between the two if you're out of danger or not.  I liked the idea of a ghoul realm, and it's got ingenious-looking bosses.
If there's anything wrong with the game it's partly the structure of the controls, the fact that an enemy or boss must be onscreen in order for Firebrand's attacks to make contact with them, its partly bad translation, and how after you defeat the penultimate boss there is no going back and if you decide to start again at a later time you must start going to and beat the penultimate castle again if you want to reach the final destination.  That bit is frustrating, I haven't beaten it yet, but I am close to doing so.  =)
My Personal Score: N/A
Great Circus Mystery starring Mickey & Minnie, The (Genesis)
1994 Capcom
As someone who personally loves and enjoys the middle of chapter of Capcom's Mickey's Magical Adventure trilogy on the Nintendo 16-bit console, I knew before buying the Sega 16-bit edition that there would be minor differences going in.  That said, though, I was pleased to find that none of the likable charm and the polished quality of the controls have been lost in transition (in fact, it's pretty on par), as either version is still fun to play.  =)  It's a minor stepdown from the previous version, but it's not bad in my book.
Many of its differences are minor to say the least, though there are two that stand out: they are the decrepit and crumbling room in the Haunted Mansion (existing only in this version) before facing the Emperor Pete painting midboss, and the snow cloud boss in Frozen Plains still attacks the same only its cloud particles feel a bit detached this time around.

While the controls are pretty much the same, I keep doing a double take when it comes to switching and changing costumes (as the setup made sense in the SFC/SNES original); and ironically much of the music actually works better here (in tinny sound samples) than it did in the (better sounding) aforementioned Nintendo 16-bit version (even though the soundtrack was largely unspectacular compared to the first and third Mickey's Magical Adventure of the series).  And while the colors may have lost their freshness, it still looks great here.  =)
My Personal Score: 8.0/10
Hunger Games, The: Mockingjay Part 1 (Blu-Ray)
2014 LionsGate
[Image from Rotten Tomatoes]
No, Francis Lawrence's (no relation to Jennifer Lawrence) first half of Suzanne Collins' Mockingjay is not as great as Gary Ross' The Hunger Games or even Lawrence's The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and it does end on an incomplete cliffhanger.  That said, I do actually like this movie and back when it was in theatres I saw the very first showing of it (which plays hours prior to midnight).  But I can see why anyone else wouldn't.
It's not as action-driven as its predecessors, but it is a well-done movie nonetheless.  I liked the rebel base setting and how it largely focused on these events from Katniss' point of view, and the atmosphere is a bit unsettling (particularly when Katniss discovers firsthand what happened to her fallen District, and one of the final scenes is intens).  Jennifer Lawrence is once again excellent as the Girl on Fire, for her performance is really great and in-depth.  The late Phillip Seymour Hoffman played a really good Plutarch Heavensbee, and Julianne Moore's Alma Coin surpassed my expectations considering I'm usually not a fan of Moore's, but I liked her here.
I will concede how it can feel slow-paced at times, and how it admittedly feels like not much happens.  I honestly didn't mind Mockingjay when I read it years ago, and personally I look forward to The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 this November (even though I know exactly how the series is gonna wrap up).  I also give props to the "Hanging Tree" song, as I felt it was the best thing about the movie.  =)
My Personal Score: 4/5
Incredible Hulk, The (Blu-Ray)
2008 Universal
[Image from Wikipedia]
The second MCU movie in the series is the only one that was distributed by Universal, because Ang Lee's 2003 take on the green giant was also distributed by the same company.  The first time I saw it many years ago I couldn't get into it wholly, but having seen it recently not only did I get the most of it, but I actually enjoyed it for what it is.  =)
Don't get me wrong, it's not without its problems: notably its attempts at sequel-baiting despite being a stand-alone film (the scene of Tim Blake Nelson's Dr. Sterns becoming the Leader?  Gone nowhere because producers and Hollywood execs wanted Abomination as played by Tim Roth), and at times it could be heavy handed and dramatic.
I liked some of its music (this touching theme is what sticks out the most for me), and the relationship between Edward Norton's Bruce Banner and Liv Tyler's Elisabeth Ross was likable and you hope they overcome the impossible and stay together always despite Bruce turning into the Incredible Hulk whenever he's angry.  The effects for when he's the Hulk are great, and the final confrontation was alright (despite being shot at dark).
The best part of the movie, of course, is the Robert Downey Jr. cameo in the end, and considering that Jon Favreau's Iron Man and Louis Leterrier's The Incredible Hulk came out during the same Summer that's a pretty neat feat and they established the post-credits Avengers lead-in segments well.  Sadly, before we got to the good stuff, we had to sit through Favreau's follow-up to the former two years later.
My Personal Score: 3.5/5
Iron Man (Blu-Ray)
2008 Paramount
[Image from Rotten Tomatoes]
To prepare for the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron, I decided to prep myself by watching the MCU universe movies from the start, beginning with Jon Favreau's Iron Man.  My God, this movie is near perfection=D  Not just that, but the movie has a different feel than other Marvel entries that followed, and comparatively speaking it's the most serious of them all (with a touch of low-key humor here and there).
I knew of the origin of Tony Stark becoming Iron Man prior to watching it, but the way it was presented in live action format felt so well-realized, dark, and gritty.  Robert Downey Jr. was the perfect choice for the role, for he plays it so well he literally becomes his own.  His love interest and secretary Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) is great as well, and I love the way they play off of each other.  Jeff Bridges did a succinct job at giving Obadiah Stane depth.
Even though Iron Man served as the start of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, what amazes me is how it almost works as an excellent standalone film--one that most MCU entries would try to attain matching quality, but very few would succeed.  It's insightful, it's fresh, it's inspiring, it's heart-stopping, it's poignant, it's funny, it's incredible, it's engaging, and it's unpredictable.  One of the best (if not the best) Marvel movies out there.  =)
My Personal Score: 5/5
Iron Man 2 (DVD)
2010 Paramount
Screengrabs from my Region 1 DVD of Iron Man 2
Out of all the MCU movies that I watched in order to prepare myself for the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron this May, the first Iron Man sequel was one I was looking forward to revisiting the least.  That's not to say it's a bad movie, but it was clear that meeting the high quality standards set by its predecessor was far beyond its reach.
Robert Downey Jr. is still great as the duo Tony Stark and Iron Man, and his interactions with Gwyneth Paltrow's Pepper Potts were fun as always.  While initially I couldn't wrap my head around Don Cheadle taking over the role of James Rhodes replacing Terence Howard, I warmed up to it by the time Iron Man 3 came out (especially since he's great).  What took me by surprise was how they turned senile competitor Justin Hammer into an over-the-top goof portrayed by young Sam Rockwell; he's okay in short bursts.
Making her first appearance as the Black Widow, Scarlett Johansson is cool, and she does show off her action chops; unfortunately it's required to be seen roughly an hour and a half into the movie.  Part of Iron Man 2's problem is that it just is a slog to sit through, and anytime the movie doesn't focus on Tony or Iron Man building things and kicking ass it lingers on longwinded court scenes or insufferable scenes of Hammer failing to understand Mickey Rourke's Ivan Vanko or Tony being a drunk douche at his own birthday party (in his Iron Man suit) or Agent Coulson's appearance here that went (for the most part) nowhere.  And the final confrontation (this time alongside War Machine)?  It's a repeat of the final confrontation of the first movie!
Oh yeah, and it was great to see more of Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury here, even if he was here for a total of, what, ten-fifteen minutes.  I remember liking Iron Man 2 a lot back when it first came out in theatres five years ago, but time has not done it well and the more I see it the less I grow fond of it.  The most positive thing I can say about it is that it would lead to Kenneth Branagh's Thor.
My Personal Score: 2.5/5
<(^o^)^TO EACH THEIR OWN^(^o^)>

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