Movies

Kate

Yet another John Wick attempt at mimicry that fails in its execution and delivery. Kate stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead as the titular character, who is an assassin for an organization led by Woody Harrelson. When she botches her latest job, she quickly realizes she’d been poisoned and has roughly 24 hours left to live. What follows is her rampage across Tokyo looking for the party responsible, and along the way, she earns redemption for a previous job that left a young girl fatherless.

The action is great in one sequence, at a geisha residence, with frankly, gory scenes of knife play. Everything beyond that scene is boring at best. John Wick’s gunfu worked because it was established that this is an entire universe of assassins, so in Kate, to have the bad guys try and do it, is hilarious. Sure, it’s fine for her to do it. She’s been trained since a young age. Everyone else should employ some sort of tactical sense, hide behind cover, shoot from cover. Not let’s have everyone stand in a line, while smoke comes, and there’s lasers on our guns to give off a stylish vibe. Most scenes are like this. Should we have proper gunplay? Nah, let’s go with style over function every single time. Hey, I’m a visual effects artist, I know what I’m doing as director (Cedric Nicolas-Troyan).

Despite Mary Elizabeth Winstead giving it her best – and her acting was the best part of the movie – the horrendous screenplay and direction could not save it this from being trash. The writer is one Umair Aleem, responsible for the other hot garbage movie called Extraction (Bruce Willis one). So much needless swearing, in both English and Japanese. The fight sequences lacking any knowledge of tactics, and just silly posing with guns all around. I skipped ahead using Netflix’s 10 seconds feature many times because it was simply a bore.

I don’t recommend this. Show Netflix they have got to stop dropping money on trash. Just skip it.

Movies

The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf

Before this even arrived on Netflix, I was wary of it for several reasons. The first and foremost is the writer, Beau DeMayo. Looking his credits up, The Originals and a single episode of The Witcher TV show, didn’t inspire any hope. And within the first 5 minutes, it shows that the writer did not do any research into the lore and world of the Witcher. It’s like they read the books and then decided to recreate it based on what they could remember to suit their own fantasy of what the books actually are. What is on display, is your typical Netflix attempt at being woke and diverse. If I had to be frank, it’s a black guy’s fantasy of the Witcher. The black family at the start should have been from Zerrikania, not Kaedwen. And they would be a tribe of warriors if they were.

Before someone starts in with the whole, “but it’s a fantasy, anything goes”, it’s Witcher. It’s got its own rules, and law, and lore. It’s primarily Slavic and the time period that it borrowed from, had very few people of color that weren’t from their own lands. There is no racism at play. It would be like taking LOTR and making the hobbits black. It doesn’t add anything but try to appeal towards that so called diverse crowd. You can have diversity, when’s the last time we had Slavic good guys? Oh, my bad, I forgot, the Western world can’t have that. Is British-washing a term? Because that’s what they seem to be doing. Cast yet another British actor in the lead role. Definitely a type of whitewashing.

Grievances aside, animation is really good. Studio Mir does a topnotch job. Action is fluid, and easily seen. Fair bit of blood and gore to satisfy the mature audiences coming in from the games. Voice actors did fine with what they had to work with. Nothing outstanding. However, I spy with my little eye a little nepotism and I expected nothing less from Lauren Schmidt Hissrich. Casting her own son as the young voice of Geralt. After all, she’s the one whitewashing away any Slavic elements.

Overall, if I ignore the poisonous elements of the movie, and just focus on the action, yea, I would recommend it. But if you’re a Slavic fan of Witcher, and you can ignore the atrocity committed, you’ll still struggle like I did. I’m trying to not let my own venom and seething anger influence my review but it’s a struggle. Evil comes in many forms, destroying the cultural identity of an artist’s work is certainly one of them.

Movies

SAS: Rise of the Black Swan

Or SAS: Red Notice, as it is called elsewhere, is your run of the mill British action thriller with a few strong set pieces and a slightly different take on your typical hero. He’s an antihero in the sense that it’s clear from the opening lines, he’s a psychopath and what differentiates him long before we actually meet him, and it’s made clear, is that he’s capable of love. Our hero, Tom, played by Sam Heughan, is on a train headed from England to France when criminals hijack it. Before that sequence happens, there’s a fair bit of character development given to the antagonist, played by Ruby Rose, of John Wick and Batgirl fame, so she’s no stranger to action. Still, given her role, I did not once find her believable as a psychopathic soldier of fortune. The movie tried to be clever in its opening narration and misguide the viewer into thinking it’s talking about her, but clearly that would be a stretch given the opening sequence.

The action itself was fun, gritty, and several scenes during the train part were a clever utilization of our hero’s skill. There were a couple continuation/errors that were obvious but they were a minor derailment. For example, near the start of the movie, Ruby Rose’s character, Grace, gets grazed by a bullet and she reaches up with a cloth to cover it. Except, she already had the cloth in her hand and was moving her hand towards her face before the bullet hit. That’s the kind of error you’d expect a newcomer to the scene to make. Anyways, guns went pew pew and as far as I know, nice sounding. The sense of tactical movement between the actors told me they were well prepared or trained to mimic professionals.

The supporting cast, like Andy Serkis, was enjoyable. It was nice to see Owain Yeoman again, I remember him fondly from his time on The Mentalist. This wasn’t a movie to win home any awards, but to tell a message. And I think that point was driven home repeatedly, on several occasions. That governments around the world will hire private mercenary groups to do their less than savory jobs and if anything goes sideways, they can merely toss aside the blame.

Overall, I recommend this movie if you’re looking for a fun time and to eat some chips while mindlessly gazing. It was cool to see how both the antagonist and protagonist had changes in their eyes when they switched from being kind of normal to “engage killer mode”.

Games

The Ascent (PC – Xbox Game Pass)

A cyberpunk arcade like action RPG with both solo and co-op? Intriguing, go on. Oh, it’s a twin stick shooter? Ok, that means isometric view. Not bad. Let’s try it out. Oh, what do you know? That wasn’t a half bad experience. There’s a lot to unpack here, but the gist is that it’s pretty generic gameplay, with a pointless story, covered up by fantastic graphics! The level of detail in each area, each zone! Simply blown away. However, I’ve long since learned that no matter how sparkly you make your game, if the core gameplay loop isn’t fun enough, you’re gonna have problems. Thankfully, there was just enough here to keep me entertained for the length of the game.

Bladerunner vibes.
My cosplay DoomGuy

It took me 15 hours to complete the main story and every side mission that I could do provided it wasn’t bugged out (three didn’t work for me). The story is that the corporation which rules the planet, Veles, has collapsed and the sharks are coming to take the pieces. Rival corporations start swooping up members of this previous corporation, the Ascent group. You, an indentured servant, an indent, rise to the challenge to save what’s left. Basically by being treated as a subhuman waste of space by all your bosses and superiors, and any good actions you do are praised or likened as above average for your species. Yes, there’s alien races. Eventually you learn the point of this whole story and then, just when there’s FINALLY something of substance, it ends. The great bit of storytelling is an after credits type of scene. But this isn’t a game played for the story.

The core loop is to shoot enemies with your weapons, gain experience to level up and earn skill points, spend said points on a skill tree, acquire loot from said defeated enemies. Then use money to buy gear, or, like I did, save it all for fast travel use only because every single weapon or gear can be found/dropped by enemies. I ended with half a million creds. Another loot is parts which are used to upgrade a weapon’s stats up to mk.10. Weapons alternate between ballistic, energy, explosive or other. You can only equip two at once, plus a tactical which ranges from grenades to turrets. Then you have augmentations to find, unlock, or buy. They augment you passively, and actively. Two slots are for the passives such as to boost your health or give you more health on pick up. Two slots are for the actives which are powers that change gameplay to suit your style. I used the same two the entire time, one of which I acquired quite early. This was an ability which recorded my health levels and then after a certain period of time, returned my health back to that number. It was so hard to die.

The skills that you invest your skill points in have the most impact on the game. They cover 4 possible categories which reflect your character’s base attributes. I can’t recall the exact names, but they’re basically cybernetics, body, mind, agility. The best skill to max asap is weapon handling. It increased reload speed to be near instant on most machine guns. By level 8, about one hour in, I had it. The game was much easier since because I had a near constant stream of bullets. Other factors that decrease difficulty is that each combat is randomly procedurally generated. So some fights might be a walk in the park, and others just squash you like a bug. It’s why some players might finish the game quickly, and others will take awhile.

Just another day in Cluster 13

Honestly, for the size of the team behind this game, I am impressed by the graphics. They definitely look like they took time and care to fill in all the details. The random garbage bags, a littered can. The glow of the neon lights. Everything draws you into the world. The shooting can only hold your attention for so long because there’s a limited diversity in enemies. What kept me going forwards was to see more of the world. If anything, this is a twenty dollar game disguising itself as a 40 dollar one. I’m grateful to have experienced it for free with Xbox Game Pass. Overall, it’s a fun game. It has bugs, it has its issues, but it keeps you entertained long enough for a weekend and that’s okay in my books. I recommend it if it’s on sale or through game pass.

Movies

The Tomorrow War

With a title such as it is, you’d think it based off a book. It’s an original story, and for that I was thoroughly happy. A couple things were tossed out here and there that led nowhere. Simply pieces of lore or red herring, which I enjoyed because it misled me from my immediately assuming correct conclusions. I still foresaw aspects here and there but that was because the execution of the story still had to follow set tropes in certain instances. This is an American military science fiction action extravaganza. It is an epic in the sense of the scale of action and scope, while still containing enough emotional points of impact to not dull the brain. It maintains its heart by focusing on making the story integral to one man and his family, specifically the bond between father and daughter. And in a rare twist, also maintaining the bond between husband and wife. Too often these stories mention divorce, so it was nice to see a family stay strong even during the lowest points.

The special effects were excellently done, and mighty tasteful. Often I felt wanting to screenshot certain scenes or shots because of how they simply looked. Works of digital art. The monsters, aliens rather, are well done. Truly terrifying and horrific. I feel like someone watched that Alien vs Predator movie based in the arctic and wanted to make something similar but much better. The movie felt like a complete story, and thankfully, didn’t end on a cliffhanger that could be stretched into a trilogy. Chris Pratt did an excellent job, because he can make that change between comedy, action, and serious emotional feels in an instant. He’s very likeable and his character did feel like a father first, before being a hero. The supporting cast were just as powerful and emotion inducing, with Yvonne Strahovski as Colonel Forester, and J.K Simmons as James Forester. Sam Richardson was a nice piece of relatable comic relief. His character had a natural response to the insanity of it all.

The music was emotionally swelling, and pretty much toyed with every emotion possible to manipulate you into feeling a certain way. Like the sense of rising heroism, or sacrifice. The grief of a loss. The tension and fear of an otherworldly foe that is essentially a better predator. Top of the food chain. And how it had that sense of epic scale during scenes that were something out of a science fiction book.

Overall, I loved this movie. I want to watch it again with friends. It had everything I’ve wanted with a monster movie, and it was long enough, while being a complete story. There was no cliffhanger, or what if. There was a definitive end. I highly recommend it. Amazon Studios is slowly churning out winners.