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Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole

Mediocre and predictable CG adventure
People have and are generally writing favorable reviews for this movie, and I can kind of see why. When it first came out, I was eager to like it. The premise was solid from the get-go; it's a movie set around owls, and everyone knows that owls are awesome. I've always loved owls, so this immediately peaked my attention when I first watched the trailer. I have never read any of the books that this movie is supposed to be based on, so I'm going to solely judge it as a standalone flick. I've watched it two times, because after the first viewing I just considered it "okay" with nothing much to add. However, after my second viewing I think I can form a reasonable opinion in regards to it.

The first problem is something that I noticed almost right away, and that's our main character Soren. The problem I have with him is very similar to the one I have with Frodo in the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings movies, in that he's too much of a coward. Whenever he's in shot, he has this angsty look on his face as if he's getting ready to pass out. I know they're trying to set up their main character as being humble and fragile, but this is honestly the only characteristic he shows throughout the entire film. Towards the end I pretty much stopped liking him altogether and wished for someone to put him out of his misery so that we can hopefully focus on a more interesting character. I should mention that the rest of the cast is filled with interesting characters who are all very expressive with voices to match, so why couldn't Soren be more interesting like them? The animation is considered to be great, and while I generally agree that the characters are rendered very well I do have a couple of gripes with it that kind of prevent it from being a CG marvel. The best way to describe any on-screen action is with the word "motion", because that's what almost every frame looks like. It looks like a blur of motion where you can hardly tell what's going on. Maybe that's why Zack Snyder likes to put in as much slow-motion like he does, because those are the only moments when things seem to come into focus. It's a pity, because this movie has a fairly high emphasis on action scenes, and I feel like I would have enjoyed it much more if I was actually able to tell what was going on during a lot of these moments. It's like trying to follow a wrestling match with the camera's shutter-speed set to a full second or something. It's simply unreasonable in a product where action plays such a big part.

The characters besides Soren are colourful and likable, and in my opinion they're one of the highlights of the film. The only thing I don't like about them is the writing. Some of the dialog is just very sub-par, even if you were to consider this a "kid's movie". The script also contains quite a few plot holes, but for the sake of spoilers I won't delve too deep into them. One thing I remember (and this will be the only minor spoiler in this review) is how Soren returns to the village after defeating his brother. His friends, his sister, and his parents all come to congratulate him, but his parents don't even have the courtesy to ask what became of his brother (Kludd, their own son) and they just seem to carelessly accept that he got killed during battle. I can kind of see why Soren's brother would turn against them with attitudes like that.

Things like this keep me from really enjoying it, and turn what could have been a great movie into a mediocre CG flick. A typical rental movie. You watch it once, and then forget you ever saw it. Speaking of forgettable: the soundtrack is absolutely vapid with nothing to make it stand out, save for one annoying pop-song sung by that one guy who's name I can't remember for the life of me. It's sad too, because I really wanted to like this! When I first watched it, I would have probably rated this a seven out of ten, just because of the premise and interesting characters. Right now, I can't rate it higher than a five out of ten. It pains me to say that the pretty CG is mostly just a cover for a mediocre and clearly rushed script. I don't normally say this, but perhaps a future remake will give the books the epic movie it deserves.

Suicide Squad

What is wrong with the critics??
This is probably one of the few times where I'm just baffled at the reaction of the critics. Apparently Suicide Squad is getting mostly negative reviews, and having seen the movie in theater today, I still have no idea why many people seemingly dislike it.

Right off the bat, this movie thankfully ditches that horrible overused "dark and grim" atmosphere that has plagued action and superhero movies ever since the first Dark Knight movie was released. Don't get me wrong; the Nolan Batman movies are great, and I love them in their own way, but they helped popularize this "dark and grim" tone that honestly I'm completely sick of seeing. This tone was also one of the factors that ruined Man of Steel for me, especially because it felt so out of place there. With Batman, you could argue that his character suits the dark atmosphere. With Superman however, the character is about hope and belonging and the tone of the movie needs to suit this.

When the movie started, I was immediately surprised by the colourful opening cinematic. Colours... Actual colours! This doesn't mean that the movie is an all-out goof-fest like the Joel Schumacher Batman films though, but it's self-aware and it knows what it is. It's a comic-book adaption, and there is an obvious limit to how serious the audience can take this. That being said; the jokes are subtle enough to be noticed, but don't get in the way of the story. Whereas in something like Marvel's Thor movies for example, I thought the jokes were very cringe-worthy and were more distracting than funny.

The acting overall is outstanding, and I don't think I can name a single actor in this flick who got on my nerves, or looked like they were not performing well. Harley Quinn stands-out, and it seems like the director knew this as well, since they do focus quite a bit on her character and her antics. The Joker is a different story... It seems like you either love or hate Jared Leto's performance, but I'm personally quite indifferent to it. It seems like he's trying to find the right balance for the character, and perhaps in a future Batman-movie he will achieve this. In Suicide Squad however, I didn't think his performance was particularly noteworthy. I will freely admit though, that this is most likely due to the previous great actors having played the Joker, so there are a lot of high expectations he has to live up to. I'm not writing him off just yet.

Will Smith as Deadshot is hard to criticize for me, because it's very obvious that he's mainly just starring as himself here. He even has those typical Will Smith moments where he makes wise-cracking commentary, almost as if he's just improvising his lines on the spot. It's hard for me to criticize him, because I actually enjoy seeing him do what he does best. When I stepped out of the theater, my boyfriend and I actually caught ourselves calling Deadshot by Will Smith instead. This is by no means a bad thing though. His performance reminded me a lot of his role as Hancock, which I thought was the best part of that movie.

There's a big focus on action (rightfully so), and most of it looks great. A lot of other action movies can often get kind of nauseating because of the motion-blur and the swirly CGI effects, but this was never the case in Suicide Squad. I do have to admit that the editing is a bit choppy at times. Just by the way this movie is edited, I have a feeling that there's a lot of unused footage on the editing-room's floor (or should I say hard-drive?). The choppy editing never distracts from the movie too much though.

Another gripe that a lot of reviewers have is the music. Yeah, there are a handful of songs used in here (especially classic rock tunes), but they fit the tongue in cheek atmosphere and it never got to a point where I thought it was ridiculous. Of course this comes down to personal preference as well.

One thing that I do agree on with the critics, is the fact that the plot gets very predictable and kind of loses the audience's interest near the end. I won't spoil any of it, but it's very cliché, which is a shame. It's an obvious and rightful criticism, but I don't feel this takes away from the great chemistry that the characters share, or the great acting performances in general. Suicide Squad trumps both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman in nearly every regard, and it's an example of how to do a comic-book adaption well. It's saddening to see a lot of critics willing to burn this movie at the stake for things that are pretty minor compared to the many things it does really well (especially for a super-hero movie).

I for one hope that Suicide Squad performs well enough at the box office to warrant a sequel, which I will eagerly await. If you are a DC fan and still debating if you should see this: go watch it in theaters. I can't imagine you will be disappointed.

The Mist

Not that great. Your average horror pulp
It seems people are trying to give The Mist some sort of cult-status as a great horror movie these days (I've seen this movie pop up on several people's lists of 'best horror movies of all time'). To tell you the truth, this is nowhere near one of the greatest horror movies of all time. I wouldn't even call this the best Steven King movie of all time.

The plot is not that special, but it works. It's actually the lack of story that this movie has going for it in its favor. A town gets enveloped in a thick mist, people start disappearing and monsters show up. It's good that the filmmakers kept it relatively open, as to where or what caused the mist (and in return, the monsters) to appear. This way the script isn't forcefully spoon feeding the audience a story, but rather putting them in the situation, which is something I like in a movie.

So that's basically the good points out of the way. Let me list some of the things that irked me the most about The Mist; first off is the acting. The leading roles are not portrayed that well. The performances mostly come off as stiff, and it hurts the movie's atmosphere. I do have to say though that some of the side characters were done well.

Second are the special effects. Listen, I have no trouble with CGI monster designs as long as they are done well. A lot of the time in movies (although as of 2014, CGI has thankfully progressed a lot) the computer generated creature designs look like they are made of plastic, or are animated in such a way that makes them appear unrealistic. The Mist is no different in this regard: The monster designs don't look good for the type of atmosphere the movie is trying to convey. If the filmmakers used something more subtle, and something that didn't look as conventional, it would have complimented the eerie setting way better.

The last thing, because I'd like to keep this short without dragging off: the ending. I know, it's a twist ending, and yes its kinda original. But that doesn't necessarily make it good. I can make music by farting on a trumpet. You could consider that original music, but it wouldn't necessarily be considered good. I say this because I've heard some people praise The Mist's ending as one of the most 'original' endings ever to a horror movie.

My reaction? I laughed. Yeah, I know it was supposed to be a sad / downbeat ending (I won't spoil it, don't worry), but honestly the first thing I thought when I watched the last scenes was this: "Wouldn't it kinda suck if suddenly now... Oh! Well, what do you know!". So yeah; this pretty much sums up what I think of the ending. It's original, definitely, but not exactly good because it really doesn't add that much more to the movie if you really think about it. They could have just ended the movie at the supermarket, or just after that. I know it wouldn't be as much of a "OMFG TWIST ENDING!!!" like it is now, but it would give the movie a lot more closure.

Swept Away

Not THAT bad. Really!
This is NOT a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination. It's weird, and it's definitely pretty mediocre, but its not bad and it doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as the tripe that Uwe Boll keeps putting out, just to name an example. Beware: minor spoilers ahead!

When the movie started, you can immediately notice how mediocre the acting is. The Italian accents on the boat's crew are all hammy, and none of the actors really stand out because they are all pretty much below average and stereotype characters. I have to admit; seeing this movie on television for the first time I didn't even recognize Madonna as one of the leading stars, but seeing as there are so many blond damsels like her in the acting world, you will have to excuse me.

So what is this movie trying to be, exactly? A comedy, a romance, a drama? Well... To tell you the truth I still have trouble classifying Swept Away. The first thirty minutes or so, its almost as if the movie is turning into a lighthearted comedy with quirky characters and their contrasting personalities and social stature's. Basically: the first half hour makes you want to hate this flick. After the predictable plot turn where our two main characters get stranded on a deserted island, you expect the movie to turn into a Cast Away knockoff. But instead, the movie takes a complete 180 turn and what you get is this strange, but awkwardly enjoyable psychological game between the two characters.

In the end, both of them are horrible people and it makes the audience question who to root for, which I think is actually pretty cool and daring. There's an obvious romance going on between them, but it's not going the way you anticipate it is going to be (not going to spoil anything).

The ending leaves you thinking, not on a story level, but on an emotional level which I have mixed feelings about. The ending avoids any real cliché's, which is good, but at the same time it excludes any sense of closure and I think a lot of viewers will have trouble with that.

To sum up Swept Away: is it a good movie? Not really. Although in my opinion it does come close to being good at some points, but the hammy acting is keeping it down. It's definitely worth a rent if you want a surprising fresh mix of genre's. But at the same time, this mix is also the movie's biggest downfall; it tries to combine all kinds of elements of comedy, romance and drama into this weird mishmash of one story which you can't help but admire, but as a stand alone movie it doesn't exactly work in its favor.

The Golden Compass

A fantasy story without the fantasy
I'm a bit torn reviewing this. What we have here is a competent production design with top notch special effects, and a recognizable cast including the likes of Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig and Christopher Lee. The downside is however that the story commits the crime of not being fantastical.

The bottom line why I could never recommend this movie is because there's no fantasy here. Sure, there are talking animals, and there's a plot in there somewhere about a girl but after thirty minutes of exposition I honestly couldn't give a crap anymore. There's no amount of buildup that can justify such a thin story, and no amount of exposition that will enchant the minds of the audience.

Perhaps the problem with Golden Compass is that it tries to tell too much without capturing the elements of fantasy that we as an audience come to expect from an almost two hour long fantasy movie. Halfway through the movie, it really does become a chore to watch. The acting is half decent, but its the lackluster script that is the evildoer here; I feel like I never got a proper explanation for some of the things that were happening throughout the movie.

The story is about shapeshifting animals, which are demons, and they are sidekicks to humans in some sort of alternate dimension. How did they get that way? Do they inherit a personal demon at birth? Maybe this is better explained in the book, but I feel like this lack of depth is harmful to the story. So our main characters eventually set out to look for polarbears, which are called icebears for some reason... I don't know. I honestly was already kinda lost at this point in the movie, and it wasn't even halfway yet.

As I've said, perhaps the book is better written. I suppose the plot does lend itself for a good story, but this movie is just a bore to me and I usually love fantasy films. It's been a while since I've seen any fantasy film with such a general lack of fantasy.


Yet another Alien film
I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that the first half of this film really makes you want to like Prometheus overall. Unfortunately, this movie is hold back by a few story clichés and mishaps. The first half introduces the audience to the crew of the space exploration ship Prometheus, and it is immediately evident how well done the set designs are, and the CGI is as convincing as you can expect from a movie this recent.

Then, after the first hour (the movie runs for almost two hours), director Ridley Scott follows familiar territory, by treading on many clichés that any scifi and horror fan can spot from miles away. Part of the disappointment of this, stems from the overall hype surrounding the movie, and from interviews with Ridley Scott in which he claimed that Prometheus would not be yet another Alien movie. Well guess what; its yet another Alien movie.

A pretty well done Alien movie, mind you, but nothing fresh. If you've seen any of the movies in the Alien franchise, you know all the similarities I'm talking about; a couple of people start exploring an alien habitat with no weapons (seriously, what?), they discover why the original crew is largely missing, and poo starts hitting the fan. Most of the characters don't even attempt to avoid any of these cliché's: in one scene, two guys discover these strange alien worm-snakes, and the first thing that he does is try touching it. So all of the great buildup and atmosphere from the first half gets lifted up like a blanket, to reveal the samey scifi horror script that anybody who was born before 1990 can count on his or her fingers by now.

That is not to say that this movie doesn't have its moments, apart from the buildup. There are a couple of gruesome killings that I'm sure gore hounds would appreciate. But the fact remains that Prometheus wasn't supposed to be another gory scifi movie, but something different, and that promise wasn't met here. I'm almost under the impression that the scriptwriters ran out of inspiration after the first half, so they decided to round it up with something familiar.

The actors give an overall good performance. Especially the guy playing David, a humanoid robot (a space crew with a robot, where did I hear that one before?) did a fantastic job. I'd say Prometheus is worth renting just once, since there isn't anything objectively wrong with it production-wise. Don't expect any original story, and you probably won't be that disappointed.

Metro 2033

Technical train-wreck
When I read a review of somebody who just played a game like Metro 2033 and can STILL give the game 8/10 because of atmosphere and graphics alone, he or she has to be really messed up in the head. Its like the first Just Cause; people seem to like to defend it because it gives them pretty graphics and an excuse to show off that new video-card they just bought.

When I play a game, I want a game that presents a good sense of immersion, and / or gameplay that will keep me interested in playing. To start off, Metro 2033 is just like any other nuts and bolts shooter and it's extremely linear. Even classic Doom wasn't as linear as this. The level of linearity of this game can be described as walking down a narrow corridor in one straight path, while sometimes the path gets pillaged by monsters that take way too many bullets to kill. This experience is also said to be scary at some point, but the only scary thing I noticed was the horrible voice-acting. Seriously, Americans doing Russian accents should be banned from videogames already.

So the game is already nothing special, as I established, but the developers still managed to screw things over in the technical department. Glitches are a natural occurrence in Metro 2033, and the first time the game tells you to replace your oxygen filter for your gasmask, you just know that this feature will come around and bite you in the ass later in the game. One of the ways it will do this, is by autosaving the game after you used up your last filter. So when you load your checkpoint, you will have exactly three seconds to run around and poke at the dirt before collapsing to the ground and try again.

"Morkulv, you noob!" I hear you say while you pound your head angrily on your keyboard. "There's nothing wrong with a good challenge!", to which I would reply: indeed there isn't. But there's a key difference between difficulty, and taking a player out of the experience. The gasmask feature wouldn't aggravate me so much if it wasn't such a hassle. Now, instead of immersing me, the player, it just draws me away from the game, which can never be a good thing for a video game. Which brings me to another key aspect of Metro 2033 that was royally screwed over.

Leveldesign. Let us keep in mind here, we are dealing with a linear shooter, so the game should be clear as to where the player should go. Especially in the outside areas of the game, the level is just a mess of snow, garbage, and nukage and it's never clear where the developer wants you to go. This shouldn't be this hard to figure out. Either make a straight path, or give me the option to roam around, but don't make it a guessing game. To make matters worse, some of the levels (like the mentioned outside areas) contain tripwires that insta kill you and are conveniently placed under water where you can't see them.

And now for the final nail in the Metro 2033 coffin: Quick Time Events! Yes, this game has QTE's. I don't think I need to go into detail why a game shouldn't have QTE's.

While I love singleplayer games, this doesn't mean that garbage like Metro 2033 gets away with it. On top of the very mediocre gameplay, the game contains many technical flaws that only make it harder for you to persevere playing. If you're really a hardcore fan of this 'post-apocalyptic FPS' type of games, go play STALKER again and leave this in the budget bin where it belongs.

Wind Chill

Underrated movie, not for impatient viewers!
Wind Chill, Gregory Jacobs' second movie in his directing career is definitely a special case. One of the reasons why this movie might have gone over a lot of people's heads is because this is not the kind of movie you see with a bunch of buddies while drinking beer. No, Wind Chill is a movie that you put in your DVD player on a lonely and rainy Sunday afternoon and totally immerse yourself into the story. If you are the type of person that gets bored quickly during movies, this is not for you. If you are, then there's probably a nice Saw movie you can rent.

One thing that is immediately evident as this movie begins is the thick atmosphere. There are few horror/thriller films that can pull off this kind of immersive atmosphere and still be engaging and 'realistic', and that is one hell of a feature. When I read the press reviews of this film after I saw it the first time, I was amazed at how much low scores it got. I've seen plenty shitty horror movies in my day, and this is definitely not one of them, and it deserves more recognition.

When the plot starts unraveling, and a boy and a girl drive off the road only to be trapped in their car and the cold outside, you immediately want to judge this movie when the girl attempts to call 911 and her cellphone doesn't work. But trust me, this is not that kind of movie. As the story progresses, the story covers elements of Nietzsche's theory of eternal recurrence, and thats when the film gets real good.

Because this movie has a great story that shouldn't be spoiled, I'm going to end the review here and say that if you like psychological horror films or thrillers with a twist, you should definitely give Wind Chill a chance. The movie's story is more rewarding if you pay attention though, keep that in mind!

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

Atmospheric, but misses any opportunity to be scary
To start, there are a lot of good things this movie sets out to do. First of all is the atmosphere; the mansion and all of the environments are captured with amazing detail and the camera-work is also excellent in this regard. Visually this film is very strong, but the key element that should boost the movie from being atmospheric to scary, is sadly missing.

A big part of that has to do with the fact that the CG monsters are introduced way too early in the story, and they are shown nearly all the time which kills the mystery. These are simply poor design decisions, that I feel don't do the story justice. Another thing is that the monsters look like something out of a comic book, and overall they seem designed after rats.

Troy Nixey's background as a comic book designer shines through in his directing, and he has an eye for detail, but directing a scary story needs more then just that. There are plenty of horror/thrillers that create a scary story without a bodycount (The Others being a perfect example of this, in my opinion). Acting wise the film scores pretty good as well. The performances delivered are competent and overall convincing enough.

Perhaps Troy Nixey or someone else on the team wanted to do a little too much with this reimagening. Its difficult to pinpoint what exactly went wrong during the making of this movie. It definitely scores pretty well on almost every level of production. It only needed a good scare factor to make it work, which it doesn't unfortunately. While it is not recommendable, for what its worth Don't Be Afraid of the Dark does showcase the directing potential of Troy Nixey.

Mr. Nobody

Engaging, but lacking in substance
From the very beginning, this movie sets out to engage the audience and confront people with philosophical questions about time, and life. While I do like this approach, I cannot praise it too much because it sacrifices the story's coherence for a lot of drama that slows the film down. It is necessary to the story though, but I think the problem lies in the way the script is build up.

Of course, this is still a matter of opinion, but to me whenever the movie got into the whole "multiple decisions in life" I thought it was very refreshing and interesting. But when the movie gets into the multiple lovers and marriages it slows down and the movie gets downright boring in some parts. Let me just clarify that I don't have anything against 'slow-paced' movies, or movies that don't focus as much on action, as long as it stays interesting or (in this case) thought-provoking. I told my friend who was watching it with me that it feels like it was directed by multiple people.

As I said, I do like the concept this movie was going for. I just hope that in the future, a movie gets to marry interesting theoretical possibility's with a coherent script a little better. Because of the somewhat fragmented result, the movie seems a bit too pretentious and overall too pleased with itself.

I'm somewhat hesitant to recommend Mr Nobody. Even though its definitely engaging, I don't think this movie will obviously appeal to everybody. Especially not to people who aren't into pseudo-scientific speculation. But if you're open to these sort of things and similar artistic efforts, you will praise this as much as anybody else.

Paranormal Activity 2

Better then the first, now stop it with the sequels already!
Wow. Would you actually believe that this movie is better then the first Paranormal Activity? Even though I had lots of doubt about a sequel to a movie that had very poor acting and little to no plot at all, it actually pulls off the 'Blair Witchian' haunted house movie a lot better then the first. That doesn't mean this movie is great by any means. The 8 out of 10 rating should therefore be classified to this type of movie only. You know the type of movies I mean; some people videotape everything they see with a crappy camcorder, something strange happens, people start to disappear, etcetera.

When it comes to these kinds of movies, Paranormal Activity 2 at least gives us a less boring experience then the first one. The awful acting from the first one is gone too thankfully, as the performances are a lot more convincing this time around which to me is the most notable difference. The creators tried to slightly tie in the events from the first movie, and the main actors from the first movie make a appearance here, although this is only a small reference for the people who have seen part one. Apart from that, this movie is completely stand alone and you don't need to have watched the first one to enjoy this flick.

There's not a whole lot to comment on the scaryness-factor here. I never thought the first movie was particularly scary, so perhaps less experienced horror movie watchers will get some scares out of this. But for a horror-fan like me this didn't have that much scary scenes to offer, and you can take that for what its worth. The movie does have a couple of moody scenes though, and a few jumpscares, but thats about it.

But apart from those things, I do think that the movie is a lot stronger because of the less annoying characters, and the more realistic acting. I feel like that in a lot of ways, this movie is what the first one should have been. That being said though, this series should get a close. I know there's a third one out already, but please stop it with these sequels. The things that went right here only slightly outweigh the sometimes boring scenes and stupid jumpscares, so crapping out more sequels would just ruin everything good that this movie presented.

Paranormal Activity 2 is a good movie to watch once with some friends, but after that you probably won't see it again any time soon. If you're a big fan of the whole camcorder-movie thing, then you can buy this movie blindly, but don't expect any big surprises here.

Portal 2

Exceeded my expectations
I never expected a sequel to the first-person puzzle-game Portal to be any good, but they actually managed to create a very well-produced game that relies on great voice-acting and creative level-design. Its clear that Valve is pushing their aging Source-engine to the limits with Portal 2, but they still manage to create some of the best looking levels I've seen in a good while. The game involves a more active story-line then in the first game, but it never distracts too much from the brain-twisting puzzles. And yes, the puzzles are harder then in the first game in my opinion, although they are never near impossible if you know where to look and pay attention to the level. It also features more levels then the original I think. The first Portal took me only a few hours to beat, while Portal 2 took me two days.

A couple of new elements are introduced this time around, to keep the game refreshing and preventing the levels of getting too predictable. This is done in the form of different gels (liquid substances that either make you jump high, or run fast on contact). There's also a white gel that allows you to shoot portals on whatever surface it is spilled on. Regular water allows you to wash either one of the gels off. Besides that, there are also light-bridges that allows you to portal a walkable bridge to otherwise unreachable places, and some kind of anti-gravity beam that propels either you or objects like turrets and boxes into the direction it faces (which can sometimes be altered by pressing a button in the room).

Last thing I have to mention is the music. The music ingame, as well as the ending-music (which was particularly popular in the first game) called 'Want You Gone' by Jonathan Coulton are great. It all fits the game's robotic atmosphere perfectly as well as the ingame glitch-beats that you can hear mostly when the action intensifies.

As you can already make out, Portal 2 allows for some very diverse puzzle-elements, and this together with the already established portal-gun makes it a lot of fun and challenge to play. The story isn't too exciting, but the witty humour and overall superb voice-acting makes it worth while (kudos to Stephen Merchant for providing his voice-talent for such a funny villain). Its a bit early to say with such a long time ahead of us, but I wouldn't be surprised if Portal 2 would end up on many people's lists of best games of 2011. Go play it, you won't be disappointed!

Now, if Valve Software would only get some information out the door regarding Half-Life 3, I would be their number one fan!

How to Train Your Dragon

Good family-entertainment
I've seen this movie a couple of times now, all of them in normal 2D since I think every movie should be judged by its basic format free from any gimmick. I really liked this movie a lot, although there are a couple of aspects that were a setback to me which I'm gonna list below.

First of are the cliché's, How To Train Your Dragon has a lot of cliché's particularly in its characters; you have the tough girl that everyone likes, the aggressive bully, the nerdy fat kid, the annoying 'funny' twins. These are all things that regular movie-goers probably won't mind, but for me they felt kind of tiresome and I felt that it didn't add a lot to the overall picture, nor do I feel that any of them were particularly funny or entertaining as characters.

The other thing that I didn't really like was the voice of our main protagonist Hiccup (Jay Baruchel). This is somewhat a hit or miss, because he does seem to do a pretty good job with the voice, and at times he does come across like he's having a good time but to me his nasally voice gets a bit irritating. But this is just a minor personal preference. The voice-cast overall is pretty damn good though, if you can at least appreciate the humour of vikings with over the top Scottish accents.

These are the few downsides of the movie, but How To Train Your Dragon luckily has a lot of entertainment to offer. To begin with, the visuals are great. Particularly the flying-scenes are easily the highlight of the movie, which I think most people would agree with me. Besides that, the movie has just the right pacing, giving us good insight into the relationship between Hiccup and Toothless. The creators also avoided turning this into a typical love-story which I liked, and the ending is spectacular to say the least.

How To Train Your Dragon is a excellent movie for the entire family like you would expect from a company like Dreamworks. Well worth the money and time.


Skyline: coming soon to Xbox and PS3
I'm really not sure how to review this movie. Skyline is one of those love it or hate it type of movies, and its hard to pinpoint exactly why its good or bad. I can address some of the movie's biggest flaws though.

Right off the bat, the biggest flaw is the story. The story is as minimal as possible, and this doesn't allow the viewer to feel for any of the characters because it just doesn't tell us anything. As the movie begins we see strange lights coming down to LA and it looks promising enough. The acting is very hammy as is immediately evident by the introduction of our main-characters who's names I can't even remember. They visit a friend, and from there on the movie almost feels like a soap for 15 minutes. We find out that the girl is pregnant, but as a viewer you just can't care for her situation because you barely even know these people.

After another few minutes of filler, the strange lights come down to the city and we see the opening again... Why? I suppose it was meant to be some sort of clever re-cap of what happened before the opening, but since the movie explains so little this just feels silly and tacked on. Then the alien spaceships begin invading earth which looks like something out of a video game-cutscene. Maybe people will say that it looks amazing in 3D, but I don't care. My policy is that a movie should do well in any format.

The best thing I can compare this movie to is Cloverfield, but still Cloverfield had more of a resemblance to a story then Skyline and the actors in Cloverfield were a lot more convincing as well. There is no explanation to why the aliens came to earth out of all planets, and apart from a clue at the end (which I'm not gonna spoil) its not very clear why they are harvesting human beings as well. At some points the action gets intense, but again this feels like you are watching something out of a video game.

Its not all hopeless though. The cinematography is alright, and the overall directing is okay. If the creators would've given me at least one shred of a storyline I could easily give this movie a much better rating. As it is, this is the kind of movie you rent at the videostore, you watch it with some buddies, and when you return the movie the next day you've already forgotten what it was about. Skyline is a movie for only the most die-hard of alien/monstermovie fanatics.


Good old popcorn-fun from the Netherlands
I watched Dick Maas' latest movie Sint ("Saint" in English) this evening, and it was a pleasant surprise. It wasn't anything deep or thought-provoking, but it doesn't set out to do anything like that. It doesn't take itself seriously, and it certainly doesn't shy away from humour. Which is a good thing, because however you want to put it, its still a horror-movie about Sinterklaas (a Dutch 'Santa Claus'-like tradition) so anybody who expects anything different is clearly in the wrong place with this movie.

The acting in Sint is bad, there's no other way around it. Some actors are better then others, but most of them just don't give a credible performance. The protagonist police-officer shines the most with his inability to act and deliver his lines properly. In no way does this really harm the movie though; it only confirms that this movie is all about the action, and it delivers very well in that aspect. Dick Maas is still very good at directing chase-scenes, and the chase-scene with the Sint riding his horse over the rooftops of Amsterdam is very impressive and easily one of the best moments of this movie.

Sint seems mostly straightforward with the plot, and it makes the movie seem a little rushed at times. This way the movie isn't as scary as it could have been, but seeing as they hinted at a sequel at the end perhaps they will make up for that. The Sint himself for example doesn't have that much backstory except for the fact that he is childkiller who got burned to death by villagers out of revenge. The Sint (played by Huub Stapel) also never speaks, save for some mumbling here and there. His make-up and overall appearance is awesome though, and my respect goes out to the make-up department for making him look as depraved as possible even if he doesn't have that much character.

If you've seen Dick Maas' earlier movies you kind of know what to expect. It has a few elements of Maas' earlier action/horror movies like Amsterdamned. Take some friends with you to the cinema, grab some popcorn and have fun! Just make sure there's no horse falling on your car.


A rather shallow modern sci-fi movie
The plot to this movie is pretty original, and its not often that a movie focuses around the idea of biological experimentation like this. This movie does a good job at that, but it loses sight of the things that are important to keep it interesting. It doesn't have any memorable humour, drama, or horror, so it didn't come as a surprise to me that Splice slipped by so unnoticed since its release.

All the actors are fairly enthusiastic in their roles, even though the cast is small. The creature-effects are great and every scene with one of the creatures is a joy to watch. I think one of the problems of Splice is that it doesn't know what tone to take. There are moments that it leans more towards drama-sentiment, and moments like at the end almost feel more like a horror movie. I would have liked it better if the creators focused more on certain parts of the story, so that the overall movie would perhaps feel a bit less schizophrenic.

At the end of the day, there's nothing really wrong with Splice, and I would love to see what the director and the rest of the staff can come up with in the future. Its just that this movie could have worked out so much better with the concept that is has, if the creators had put more guts into it. Still, if you run into Splice at the videostore and you are in for some decent sci-fi, give this movie a rent and you won't regret it.

The Last Airbender

A 80 minutes summary of the cartoon
Just when you thought M. Night couldn't sink any deeper, he grabs the license of a popular animé-influenced Nickelodeon-cartoon and turns it into a 80 minute long turd. I liked the cartoon for bringing character development, martial arts, and good story-telling back on TV. M. Night however, discards every one of those elements and creates a product that resembles the cartoon very shallow and tells the story in such a messy and incoherent way that it will leave people that never watched the cartoon mind-boggled.

The story follows that of the cartoon somewhat, in the sense that M. Night took the biggest plotpoints and threw it together. He forgets however that the story is not about the final destination, but about the road to get there (how is that for an epic fortune-cookie lesson?). This results in the characters being completely flat, and you never feel for any of the characters portrayed in this movie because it is simply too busy with running through all the cartoon's chapters.

Also a big complaint is the fact that M. Night changed a few things, the most obvious thing being the pronunciation of the character's names (i.e. 'Sokka' is pronounced 'Soaka' in this movie). M. Night said in reply that he wanted the pronunciation of the names to be true to Asian pronunciation. Avatar however, is a American cartoon, nót Asian, so just stick to the damn source-material and stop making excuses. Another change from the cartoon is the fact that only the higher-class fire- benders can conjure up fire. Not only is this ridiculous, but why did he change that? Was there not enough cash available for the special-effects otherwise? I also have to say, its kinda hard imagining the fire-nation being this powerful and fearful army lead by an evil dictator this way. Is it a requirement to always keep a lit candle nearby when you sign up for the fire-nation army?

The acting in this movie is completely dreadful. Especially the kid who plays Aang is so uninspired and dull, it looks like he's doing a try-out for a school-musical. The rest of the cast are equally forgettable and they don't resemble the characters from the cartoon very well. The last thing that makes this movie horrible are the fight-scenes. The fight-scenes were very memorable in the cartoon combining all sorts of elements from different kinds of martial arts. In this movie, the fight-scenes are almost reduced to slapstick.

Believe it or not, but I set out watching The Last Airbender with an open mind. I have read the negative reviews, but because I liked the cartoon, I wanted to give this movie a chance nevertheless. If there ever was such a thing as being able to un-watch a movie, this would be at the top of my list together with Uwe Boll's Alone in the Dark. If you intend to watch this movie as a fan of the cartoon with a similar mindset like I had, then take it from me, trust the reviews and stay clear of this tripe. We just have to hope that M. Night doesn't get his hands on the sequel to the cartoon which is being developed these days.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Excellent entertainment all the way through
I'm really starting to love Guillermo del Toro's films. His best movie for me is still Pan's Labyrinth, which together with MirrorMask is the best fantasy-film I've seen from the 2000's, but Hellboy II: The Golden Army definitely deserves a good spot there as well.

This film feels a lot more like a adventure-film to me, then a 'regular' action/fantasy flick. The special effects are a feast to the eyes, and the creatures look gorgeous, and there is a good balance between puppetry, costumes and CGI throughout the film which truly makes this sequel shine.

Ron Perlman is great as Hellboy, and I can't think of any other actor that would fit this role. The rest of the cast also gives a strong performance, and most notably is Doug Jones who played the role of three characters. The only reason why Hellboy II doesn't get a perfect score from me, is because the dialog can be bit silly here and there, but apart from that its a fantastic ride that you will definitely enjoy.

Call of Duty: World at War

Worst multiplayer Call of Duty ever
I'm going to start of by saying that I liked the singleplayer-campaign for Call of Duty: World at War. Not that its anything special, but its nice to shoot your way through the campaign. Its your average World War 2 shootinggame. The multiplayer however, is by far the worst Call of Duty experience I have had.

The weapons in multiplayer are unbalanced to say the least. With some weapons you need to fire so many bullets into your opponent its ridiculous. Even in hardcore-mode (where the weapons have more 'realistic' firepower) this is unbalanced. Using your knife as a melee- attack in multiplayer is also completely useless. Usually when you try to knife your opponent your character does this weird 'jump attack' towards your enemy, and I guarantee that this move will nearly always get you killed instead. Sometimes you can even hear your knife striking the enemy, but you still end up dying. What the hell is that all about?? Its also very easy to get stuck in the scenery or behind objects, which happened to me more then just a couple of times. Bugs like these ruin what could have potentially been a good multiplayer-experience.

The biggest saving grace for me personally, is the Nazi-zombies mode. If it wasn't for this I would have quit playing this game a long time ago. This mode is unlocked once you complete the singleplayer-campaign, and I have to say its a lot of fun. The premise is that you and up to four buddies mow down waves after waves of zombies, while preventing them to get inside by bolting windows shut which gives you points. Shooting a zombie will also get you points of course (extra for headshots) which you can use to purchase weapons. You and your companions are destined to die from the beginning since the waves of zombies are never-ending, but the question is: how long can you survive? Even though many 'elite' Call of Duty players will probably don't like the Nazi-zombies mode, I think its a refreshing experience in what otherwise would have been a boring, buggy and overall flawed shootinggame. If you play Nazi-zombies with three friends online it will make for a chaotic and intense game of shooting zombies.

Would I recommend buying this game for the Nazi-zombies mode alone? Not really. If you don't count the average singleplayer-campaign it doesn't have much else to offer. The regular multiplayer with team deathmatch and similar modes will drive you insane with all the little bugs and glitches that it has. In that aspect Modern Warfare 2 does a much better job. Still, if you can get this game at a store for just a few Euro's then it might be worth checking out. I really hope that developer Treyarch will get their act together and deliver a well-programmed game with the upcoming Call of Duty game Black Ops. Until then, have fun shooting zombies!

All Dogs Go to Heaven

My childhood memory
It's been so many years since I've seen this movie as a kid, I decided it would be fun to look it up and watch it again.

From the very beginning, the animation and the style is a breath of fresh air compared to recent animated movies. Even if you don't care one bit about the story, you can still have lots of fun just enjoying the wonderful animation.

All Dogs go to Heaven is a movie about a dog called Charlie who gets set up and murdered by another dog called Carface. To his surprise, he goes to heaven, but finds a way to get back to earth where he and his sidekick meet a little girl who can talk with animals.

The storyline is thin, but the likable characters make up for this. The songs are a bit dull at times, but will be liked by kids. The movie also has a lot of cute scenes, and I think the best part was the part where Charlie has to tuck in Anne-Marie.

If you have any kids, watching this movie together with them will be a blast!

The Passion of the Christ

Unexcusable waste of time
I think the people that will get the most kicks out of this film are (obviously) Christian people who spent most of their time actively propagating their religion to other people. This might sound harsh, but its really how this film comes across to me. I can tell you now that 75% of the entire goddamn movie is just Jesus getting tortured and beaten, to further emphasize the suffering he supposedly went through.

I don't mind violence in movies, and if you read my other reviews you would know that I love horror-movies that feature large amounts of gore and blood. This however, is not serving any purpose. Its violence for the sake of being violent, and that makes The Passion of the Christ one of the most utterly pointless films I have ever sat through.

The story is about the final hours of Jesus, and unless your a Christian I honestly think that you won't care one bit about it. This movie has so little to say, that it quickly resorts to the beatings and whippings to shove this message of "Jesus suffered for you!" down your throat. By the end you are ask yourself: "is this it? Is this the epic masterpiece of Mel Gibson?".

In conclusion: I would rather sit through a 24-hour marathon of Jesus Christ Superstar then watch this movie one more time.

One-Eyed Monster

There are no words that can describe the boringness that is this film. When I saw the trailer, I expected a slapstick horror-movie that makes fun of both the cliché's in porn and horror-genres. Instead, this movie gets boring very quickly and for the most part is just people talking nonsense to each other with weird 'jokes' that never seem to go anywhere. I expected a little bit more entertainment from a movie about a penis that goes around killing people.

The gore is also pretty nonexistent which was a letdown for me. I thought that a movie like this would at least go all the way with the killings, but this movie is actually pretty tame except for perhaps the shots of people wrestling with a rubber dildo. Some of the conversations are okay and can be pretty funny if it wasn't delivered so utterly uninspired and boring. I know this is the third time I mentioned the word boring, but its really all you need to know about this movie. Its actually pretty amazing that the creators could make this movie boring with the plot that it has, but they did it.

If you are looking for a good nonsense horror-movie to watch with your buddies like I was, then don't stop here. This movie is mostly sleep- inducing and forgettable crap that doesn't deliver what you expect from it. Three stars go out to the cast and crew that did a decent job of working with the little they were given.

Alice in Wonderland

Great film for Tim Burton / Johnny Depp fans
The first time I saw the trailer for this movie it was very foreboding to me... It was filled to the brim with CGI, and on the foreground was Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter who looks like a dragqueen (I'm sorry, but he really does). My expectations for this movie got very low from that moment on.

Now that I finally got to see it, I have to admit that its not all that bad. The story is consistent, Wonderland looks well-designed and they even added the Jabberwocky-poem in there which is awesome. However, I do feel that they overdid the CGI at some points. I know its a fantasy- film, but I think some nice imaginative puppetry would do the film so much more good.

Some characters seemed a little undeveloped to me, and the focus lies way too much on Johnny Depp's role in my opinion. I like Johnny Depp and I think he's a great actor, but I don't think he added anything really crucial to the film or anything and his acting almost seemed like a quick rehash of his Jack Sparrow role from The Pirates of the Caribean. The Cheshire cat was not mysterious at all, since it is very clear that he's a good guy from the beginning. The Cheshire cat's character would work so much better if he only gave Alice subtle clues and riddles. My final beef has got to be the design of the Jabberwock. The illustration by John Tenniel makes the Jabberwock look like a very creepy creature, so why did they turn him into a generic dragon?

Kids will not mind the complaints though, and I think they will have a blast with this movie as well as Tim Burton and Johnny Depp fans. In the end, thats what I think this movie is more marketed towards, and not Wonderland-fans.

Where the Wild Things Are

A emotional journey into the mind of a child
When I first read about this movie, I had no idea what the childrensstory was that this movie was going to be based on. Then I found out what it was (it is translated into "Max en de Maximonsters" in Dutch) and I thought it would definitely be interesting.

A lot of people still ask how somebody can make such a short story into a movie, but I think the answer is it doesn't . Where the Wild Things Are is more like a reimagening, and author Maurice Sendak also said after watching it that Spike Jonze created his own vision of his story. So in that sense, if you expect the movie to be 100% true to the story, you might be disappointed.

The biggest complaint I heard from people by far is that this movie is supposedly "too dark for kids", and while I agree that it does have a few dark edges its not thát disturbing. I would say that kids of the age of 8 and up will have no trouble watching it, but thats my opinion.

I think where Where The Wild Things Are is aiming for is representing the emotions that a kid like of Max' age can struggle with, and at that it does a great job and it can often even be confronting. The voices of the monsters are also done with great enthusiasm, and my favorite monster has to be Alexander the goat-boy.

The camera-work is amazing and shows the frantic behavior of a young child perfectly. Max Records also does a great job in this movie and he really makes his role his own. He can be very frantic but he never gets too much on your nerves.

Sometimes there are scenes that are a bit random, and I also heard people complain about that, but personally I feel that this is also a part of a little kid.

At first I was worried that the film would incorporate a lot of use of CGI, but I was surprised to see that the creators used a nice blend of puppetry and CGI (to animate the faces of the monsters) which gives it a very natural look and feel.

While Where The Wild Things Are does not emulate the story it does a great job of portraying the mixed emotions that a child goes through. A great movie for young and old.

Gake no ue no Ponyo

Upbeat movie for the kids
If you are going to watch this movie expecting the next Spirited Away, then prepare to be disappointed. Ponyo is a movie that is purely aimed at kids. The story is easy to follow, and kids can easily relate to the characters. That being said, this is the ideal movie to watch with your kid(s) on a boring Sunday-afternoon.

For the rest this movie has the typical fairytale-like storytelling that you can expect from a movie by Hayao Miyazaki. There are no dark twists or anything though, instead Ponyo is a very upbeat movie from beginning to end. There are also no real villains in this movie.

I would not recommend watching Ponyo by yourself because the story isn't really particularly interesting for adults. However, if you have kids then they will probably have a great time watching Ponyo.

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