Sunday, June 24, 2012


Pixar Studios have been flawless as far as making hits and classic films that both kids and adults love and cherish. Whether it be for the Toy Story franchise or Incredibles or yes, even the mixed crowd of Cars fans, you gotta love Pixar. Their newest is Brave, what is being labeled as their first fairy tale and that is definitely what this is... to an extent. Not much else is being said about the film, but there are many moviegoers curious to see what this tale is all about. 

So does it hit the mark? Yeah yeah, I said it...

The story is all about Merida, a young, but very headstrong princess who is armed with a bow and arrow and spirit that knows no bounds. Her parents, King Fergus and Queen Elinor, want her to follow in the royal Scottish tradition as they have selected three possible suitors to unite the kingdom. Merida just wants to be her own person and because of this, she constantly clashes with Elinor and creates chaos for all of the kingdom. Merida runs away and it wouldn't be a fairy tale without Merida finding... a witch. I won't spoil anything after that!

First off, Merida. What a great character. So strong and determined, she is really a great character for the young girls. Voiced by Kelly MacDonald (HBO's Boardwalk Empire), this powerful lass with the bright red hair shows she is still young in her manner of speaking, but her actions show she's her own individual and not one to be messed with. Definitely not your typical Disney princess and that's a good thing!

Fergus and Elinor, played by Billy Connelly and Emma Thompson, do an exceptional job as King and Queen parents, especially Thompson. Fergus is a gentle giant king, willing to protect his family and kingdom but he'll definitely have a good time while doing it too, while Elinor is the serious, by-the-book queen but is also the heart of both the family and all of their traditions. 

The suitor families, with one of the fathers being voiced by the always funny Craig Ferguson, are just a part of the comic relief to the film. Any time the fathers and their kids appear, you can't help but chuckle at their silliness. Merida's little brothers, the Triplets, are the stars here, however. What the Minions were to Despicable Me, is what these boys were to this movie. Adorable little mischief makers that you can't help but love... but you definitely don't want to be trapped in a room with them!

The animation is worth noting as well. Beautiful work by the people at Pixar, with the most noticeable upgrades being the environmental visuals (the forest, waterfalls, castle) and every bit of strand of hair on Merida. You can tell the improvements here as everyone had strand upon strand of hair and not just a block formed to look like hair, but hers... wow. 

Now, the bad. The twist that happens in the film, I've been told, put off some people. It may not be what you are expecting, unless you've seen every single ad or clip for this movie, which I DO NOT ADVISE! The twist had me doubting halfway in and kind of took me out of it for a bit, but if you go in head-first and give it a chance like I did, you will have a great time in the end.

Fun characters, not-your-average-princess story, stunning animation, and a really great message about family, "Brave" is another solid film from Pixar. Not their best yet, however, but one you really shouldn't miss.


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

E3 2012 In A Nutshell!

As I type this up, E3 2012 is still going on, but the Big Three in video games have already had their press conferences so let's get into how they all fared. 

First, Microsoft... 

We start off with "Halo 4" and it was an pretty impressive showing for the return of Master Chief. Now, I'm not a fan of the series, but I can only imagine how the fans must feel for this one. Still, I won't lie and gotta say it looks really damn good. But... not as good as "Tomb Raider."

Wow. I need this game in my life. Essentially the prequel to the original games, 21 year-old Lara goes on her first adventure in what seems like a mix of the old and some of the new (very Uncharted kind of feel). Lara is beaten up and dragged around but is still tough as nails and ready to kick some ass! Looking dirty and gritty and yet so beautiful, "Tomb Raider" is the one to watch out for.

"South Park: The Stick of Truth" surprised many with its appearance at the conference, as it kept VERY true to the look of the series and seems like its fun factor as well. Basically an RPG, you play the new kid in town, teaming up with the boys to take on all that is evil (yes, Cartman, even the hippies). Definitely gonna give this one a try.

Now, what didn't work? Too many shooters, I think. Also, best not to end the show with one either, especially when you hype it like it's no tomorrow. Sorry, Black Op 2. Also, people expect games and Microsoft brought out... TV. And Nike Fit. So where were the games?? Well, we're still looking...

Now for Sony...

"Beyond: Two Souls"... Wow. What a way to kick it off for Sony. From the creators of "Heavy Rain," we follow our main protagonist, played by Academy Award nominee Ellen Page, on a cinematic experience similar to the previously mentioned game. With one added bonus: The girl has powers. This is one to watch.

"Playstation All-Star Battle Royale" is a mouthful, not to mention "a Smash Bros. clone." I can't help but agree with many of the critics, but at the same time, this COULD be fun. It is Smash with Sony characters. Beat down Parappa with Nathan Drake? Sweet Tooth's Mecha taking on Kratos? I'll definitely give it the time of day, let's see how this one goes...

"The Last of Us" was, no doubt, THE game of the show. If you haven't checked this one out yet, YOU NEED TO. Naughty Dog, the people who brought us "Uncharted," brings us this post-apocalyptic survival adventure game where you play as the two of last survivors Joel and 14 year-old Ellie. No, you don't fight zombies, you do have to fight for life as you must collect health and there are limited ammo. No pressure!

Sony's worst? Undoubtedly, the Wonderbook. Went on too long, and really? Do kids with a Playstation want to read? Sorry, but not sure this will work. Also, not alot of love for the Move. Does that mean Sony doesn't have much faith in it? Same for the Vita. At the end of the day, it was still a good show and way better than Microsoft's.

Now, for the big one... Nintendo.

We start off with Shigeru Miyamoto playing with the audience and shows off "Pikmin 3" for the Wii U. Things look promising for the new console as the game and its atmosphere is very crisp, clear and very beautiful. It was like stepping into a garden, no matter how cheesy that may sound. I actually want to play a Pikmin game and that says something since I never had interest in the series. 

They also showed "Lego City", a silly but funny Grand Theft Auto kid-friendly type game. Entertaining, so I wouldn't mind checking it out. "New Super Mario Bros. 2" also announced, along with a new "Super Scribblenauts" and "ZombiU," a unique, zombie survival game. The developers bring up that each game utilizes the new Wii-U Game Pad and its screen to enhance the game experience, like "Arkham City" using it as Batman's utility belt and "Sing" for a karaoke lyrics screen. 

Finally, the Big N capped off their show with "NintendoLand," a combination of the usual Wii Sports-like minigame extravaganza and many of the company's franchises. 

From Luigi's Mansion to Donkey Kong Country, players use their costumed Miis to play through 12 different themed worlds and its many minigames. Seems like it could be a good time, though there's still alot to learn about this game. Working title from Plantinum and Nintendo, "Project P-100," was shown after the conference and was interesting as it looked to have a bit of Earthbound and just a drop of Bayonetta's combo attacks and Pikmin's teamwork.

What went wrong with Nintendo? There was much hype and expectation and to many, including myself, it was not THAT strong of a showing. They have a new console coming out by the end of the year, but where are the main franchises? Are these the only launch titles? How much is the Wii-U? When releasing your new console, you HAVE to bring out your best. It didn't feel like Nintendo did and they definitely need to bring everyone back on the train. Only time will tell if this will work out or what.

In the end, who had the best conference of  the three? Possibly Playstation, but really... the strongest, no doubt, was Ubisoft. "Rayman," "Assassin's Creed 3." "Watch Dogs," "ZombiU," etc. Nothing but great looking games along the board, showing how strong this company is. And for sure, Nintendo must be happy to have them as they were heavily focused on how they're incorporating their games with the Game Pad.

Not the best E3, but hey. Like Christmas, it's the best time of the year, especially if you're a gamer. So now as the 2012 edition winds down, let's just be happy and enjoy some real quality games in the year to come! GAME ON!

P.S, just because, here are the conferences... all in a couple of nutshells. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

MOVIE REVIEW: "Snow White And The Huntsman"

Whether you read the books, or saw the Disney film, or known about it through pop culture and its countless parodies, you know the story of "Snow White." For sure, this is not the cartoon you have grown up with. Like many times before, Hollywood tries to bring out the Grimm in these classic tales and it always doesn't work. In this version of "Snow White," I have to say it is fairly successful.

"Twilight" star Kristen Stewart plays the fairest of them all, who must stop the wicked queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) and her quest for immortality. Snow White is aided by the Huntsman, played by Thor himself Chris Hemsworth, and a group of the last living dwarfs (Ian McShane, Nick Frost, just to name a few). You know the rest of the story, but even then, it works very well and you still get shocked when certain moments happen. Stewart does a fairly good job as Snow White, especially considering I didn't expect much from her (I'm not a fan of hers or the vampire series) and even then, I was still willing to give her a shot. Hemsworth as Huntsman also does well enough, being the tough yet caring brute who will make sure the job is done.

Now Charlize... not everyone will love her performance, but I believe she did incredible work. She may not be the most believable villain, sometimes abit over the top, but you knew enough about her to really hate her and still sympathize with her at the same time. Plus it didn't hurt that the visuals that came with the Queen were beautiful, dark, and very elegant. Love the bird skull dress!

So the flaws... there were some, yes. Again, Kristen Stewart did well, but not enough for me in some parts. I like that she can be this headstrong, all-powerful woman, but it was hard to buy it sometimes. She's not that strong of an actress to pull it off completely, honestly. And definitely not for everyone in the audience, for that matter. Sam Claflin, who played Prince William, could have been used more, considering how important his character is to Snow White at one time. And there are moments that can be groan-worthy, very cheesy, and played-out, but that's minor besides the fact that this story has been done to death. So how can it not be cheesy, right?

Still, there is much good. The special effects and visuals were well-done as it felt more like Wonderland than that stupid "Alice" movie could ever bring. The Dark and the light forest were stunning to look at and felt very magical. The one scene with Snow White and all the forest creatures is worth noting and the Queen turning into birds and her rising from the milk bath... wow. Alot of action too keeps this from being that repetitive (gotta love the castle raid) and the dwarfs also keep this a fun affair with their jokes and occasional silly actions. But of course, don't have them fooled as the Disney versions since these guys kick butt and are seriously while doing it.

All and all, I must say I was genuinely surprised by "Snow White." There was action, romance, drama, horror, and really great visuals to boot. No movie can ever be perfect, this is one of those cases. However, for a story told many times over, it's not boring, you actually care for the characters, and the scope of this film is so epic that it can feel like Lord of the Rings or Kingdom of Heaven at times and that's not a bad thing. And come on, you just have to see Charlize go crazy while wearing outlandish outfits! It's worth a shot, seeing as I had very low expectations and I had a pretty good time with it. So check it out, if not in theaters, then definitely on home video.

7.5/ 10