The Voices (2015) review

Rated: 3 / 5

“Being alone in the world is the root of all suffering.”

Warning, this is one of those movies you should see before reading this spoiler-filled review.  So if you haven’t seen it yet, I would strongly advise watching it before reading this review.

I watched this film 3 times.  The first time I was a bit out of it due to being high, the second time I was still high but starting to come out of it.  The third time I rewatched it was because I wanted to make sure I caught as much as I could.  Because this is one of those films that is deceptive in what it shows.  One of those films where the point of view is from the perspective of the protagonist, who is a bit crazy, and doesn’t always see things as they are in reality, thus what we see from his view isn’t necessarily how things actually are.  Basically like David Cronenberg’s Spider, except, well, more deceptively cheerful and definitely more colorful.  Plus this whole film has the dark humor thing going for it.

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The Post (2018) review

Rated: 3/5

Intro

Warning, this review gets political, makes no apologies about it, and gives no free flying fucks if you disagree with it (unless any of you dare to try having an honest discussion with me). You’ve been warned.

The Post, a movie.  Like how there was a TV series called The Office.  Now all there needs to be is a miniseries titled The Post Office.  All joking aside, The Post is short for The Washington Post, which I guess wouldn’t have attracted as many viewers to the movie for some reason, or perhaps because they wanted to eliminate “Washington” from the title, considering it’s supposed to be corrupt and led by a corrupt president during this time period (everyone’s favorite corrupt president that films always like to remind everyone exists and is corrupt about as often as they like to remind us Hitler was a scumbag, Richard Nixon).  How they stood with The New York Times in publishing a story on the Pentagon Papers regarding how Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon both kept the reality of the Vietnam War hidden from public, that it was a war we were either destined to lose, or a war that we would have to be fighting for a long time with a lot of manpower in order to win.  Basically a similar situation to what the British faced during the Revolutionary War, except America had assistance from France.

I’m not going to lie, I had preconceived notions when going into this film.  I expected this to be a preachy movie that praised the Washington Post, to the extent that it’s the end-all-be-all of news and newspapers, that it should always be allowed to post stories because all their stories are flawless and true.  That, and to bash the Trump administration ever so subtly (something I’m sure we’ll see more of for the next few years, as evident from a few films that came out near the end of last year).  So yes, I expected some serious subliminal messaging, or even messaging that is too blunt to be considered subliminal.  And while that stuff is here, it’s not as bad as I thought it was going to be.  Besides, as I had to remind myself, any decent movie is a work of art that can be viewed with different perspectives. More on that later.

 

Review

There are some negatives I had with the film.  There’s a brief moment near the end of the film after the Supreme Court sides with the papers over the government (oh, spoilers by the way, for any of you who didn’t already know or take an educated guess as to how things would turn out).  We see Meryl Streep walking down the steps surrounded by a bunch of smiling women.  Pro-feminism message much?  She can be an inspiration to both men and women, not just women goddamnit!  Can’t we live in an age where any gender and race can inspire all genders and races?  I mean, for Christ’s sake, the whole film is supposed to be about how an underdog newspaper company did a brave/bold thing which caused all other major papers to follow suit and side with freedom of speech over the power of the government telling them no.  That’s a cause everyone can rally behind!  But it’s just a minor moment that only lasts a few seconds, and I’m just making a big deal over a nit-picky moment.  The rest of the film is quite solid.

For the first half of the film, I started to wonder why it wasn’t about the New York Times.  I mean, it seemed as if they were doing all the interesting stuff.  But then during the 2nd half, it becomes clear why The Washington Post is the main focus of the film.  While the New York Times was the first paper to print on the Pentagon Papers, and the first to be challenged by the government over their publication, it’s the Washington Post that gets a hold of the larger amount of paperwork, and ultimately follows what the New York Times did.  The thing is, I think the film would’ve been more interesting if it focused on both sides, on the New York Times and on the Washington Post.  Certainly would’ve been more energetic and intense.  But then there would be less time for the more dramatic character moments, especially this one moment between Streep’s character and her daughter, which is definitely one of those moments where Spielberg is indulging himself with the drama.  It’s the one aspect about him that’s been a bit bothersome ever since E.T., where the character drama and character interaction comes off as a bit too emotionally manipulative and overdramatic.  It plagues a respectable number of his films.  That said, I found it bothersome in only that one scene.

The obvious themes come up from a film like this, about freedom of the press, freedom of speech, needing high quality reporting for high quality newspapers that readers will love and therebye become loyal fans of, how the papers have a duty more to the people than towards the government, etc.  An element in the film that took me by surprise is how it showcased that some of the higher-ups in the press tend to have political connections, and are friends with some high-standing government officials.  And this causes an inner conflict when they must consider if they value their work more than their friendship, or vice-versa.  A welcoming subplot in a film like this.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/c/embed/b1d79872-e1cd-11e7-b2e9-8c636f076c76

 

 

No More Pussyfooting

Now, with all that said, let’s stop pussyfooting around the pink/white/orange/black/whatever elephant in the room shall we?  I’m not going to ignore how many reviewers state that this is a timely and relevant film that has strong parallels to today’s environment.  And we all know what they’re talking about. Consider the headlines from some of the reviews:

‘The Post’ Review: Steven Spielberg’s Spectacularly Entertaining Journalism Thriller Is a Rallying Cry for the Resistance — David Ehrlich of IndiWire

“The Post” doesn’t feel so urgent because it was rushed into production — it was rushed into production because it feels so urgent. In a year full of accidental Trump movies, this is the first one that’s completely on purpose.

[…]

“The Post” works as a history lesson, but its priorities are clearly sorted by their relevance to the crises we’re enduring right now, the need for a free press being first among them.

[…]

Nixon is a pivotal character, but he’s sheared down to the parallels he shares with Trump

[…]

“The Post” is essential because it stares down cynicism with a smile, because it enshrines the fact that governments only see journalists as a threat when they have something to hide.

The Post film review: Steven Spielberg’s riveting newspaper drama could be subtitled: ‘FAO Trump’ — Christopher Hooton of Independent

Holding political feet to the fire, it will be applauded by a newly politicised Hollywood, looking to give the Trump White House some serious side-eye.

[…]

Is this a political film about holding truth to power? An industry meditation about journalists uniting for a common cause? A feminist reading of Graham’s role in history? Or a parable for the situation the press currently finds itself in with President Donald J. Trump (“I don’t think I could go through this again,” a character laments in one of the final scenes)?

‘The Post’ isn’t just a masterpiece, it is a call to arms against Donald Trump — Gregory Wakeman of Metro

What feels most prescient, though, is the fire that it looks to set underneath all of us, especially journalists, when it comes to their duty to take on Donald Trump and his attacks on the freedom of the press. “The Post’s” final speech will hopefully immediately stir and inspire.

So yeah, all that stuff. Even Spielberg noted that he made this film in 2017 because he felt either he makes it then, or not at all, because he felt it was so timely, because he spotted parallels between Nixon and Trump. Over the past couple years, Trump has been bashing several major news outlets, though never to the extreme that Nixon did in the early 1970s. Because that’s the reason the film exists, as a call against Trump bashing the news outlets.

However, and this is what I suspected would be the case, this is not the only way to view the film. Like any decent film, like any decent work of art, there is more than one way to view it, even if it doesn’t conform to the artist’s original intent. Some mainstream reviewers can attest to that.

Steven Spielberg’s The Post Is Good, and It’s Not About Trump — Kyle Smith of National Review

[…] the hacks will note that the film’s co-star, Meryl Streep — on the strength of her January Golden Globes speech, which she devoted entirely to attacking the president — is as strongly identified with anti-Trump sentiment as any major Hollywood player. For these reasons, The Post stands to be one of the leading contenders to win the Best Picture Oscar on March 4. Academy voters who are dying to turn the ceremony into an expression of revulsion for Trump will have no better weapon this year with which to attack him.

Yet The Post is simply a potent newspaper thriller that could have been released in the Obama years (when it was written) or for that matter at any other point in recent decades. It offers very little in the way of actual parallels to Trump, and to Spielberg’s credit he doesn’t include any overt Trump bashing. Hysteria-prone Hollywood liberals who see the president’s likeness in every passing cloud will be thinking of him throughout the movie, but only because hysteria-prone Hollywood liberals are prone to hysteria.

[…]

Today, of course, the public trusts neither the government nor the media, but it would take a more ironically minded filmmaker than Steven Spielberg to capture that in a film.

[…]

The lasting importance of the Pentagon Papers was not that they altered the course of the Vietnam War (I’m not sure they did) but that they heralded a media Reformation, a new era of doubt and iconoclasm in which journalists like Bradlee (and Graham, who was personal friends with McNamara) chose an antagonistic new stance toward institutions. This isn’t activism or partisanship: Journalists should relentlessly investigate whatever Washington is doing, regardless of party. While it’s true that the media are much more hostile to one party than the other, the principle is a valid one: Journalists should be diggers, not Victorian gents.

Good follow-up to the above article here: http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/454367/steven-spielbergs-anti-trump-movie-post-meryl-streep-and-tom-hanks

Despite how much the film aims its sights at Nixon (a metaphor for Trump) as the villain for attacking freedom of the press, historically speaking, it was more due to Henry Kissinger for attacking the press than Nixon (though I’m sure Nixon was all for Kissinger’s actions). That aside, as I said earlier, this film doesn’t make any stretches or anything all that blunt about bashing Trump, it’s made well-enough to be considered a sort of time capsule that can be watched in any time period to reflect upon this historic moment in the early 70s, followed up with the Watergate scandal (covered in All the President’s Men), and eventually Nixon’s resignation.

Anyway, I bring this all up because I disagree, strongly, with the message being taken from this film by many people, even if it’s the message Spielberg wished to inject into the film (but again, viewers can have opinions differing from the artist). First off, the idea that the Trump administration is attacking the press anywhere near as violently as the Nixon administration did (or even McCarthy, as can be seen in the highly recommended and still quite relevant film Good Night, and Good Luck). He bashes them, sure, but never to the extent that he’s also attacking the first amendment. I mean, for crying out loud, there’s a scene in the film where Nixon bars the Washington Post from a wedding reception and from any other White House event. While that may have happened in 1971, the case is reversed in the present, where CNN (among others) voluntarily choose to not attend similar White House events of their own accord.

And then there’s the other message contained within the film. It is said briefly in some speeches early on in the film that reporter integrity is vital, the quality of the paper/article helps to gain readers/fans and thus keep the Post alive. They have a responsibility to report important events as much as they do for reporting the truth. So thus I found it possible to also view this film as a call for news integrity, for honest and unbiased news that doesn’t leave out facts much like how Nixon and LBJ left out some inconvenient truths/reports on the Vietnam war. Most, if not all, of the instances I’ve seen Trump bash the media has been because of their false/biased reporting. Because they are not being as honest as those from the early 1970s. And it’s a long list of events where the media has falsified stories or taken them out of context.

http://thefederalist.com/2017/01/10/washington-post-reporter-doubles-down-on-fake-news-about-guns/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/kalevleetaru/2017/01/01/fake-news-and-how-the-washington-post-rewrote-its-story-on-russian-hacking-of-the-power-grid/#6fd9e4e27ad5

https://www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/266714/anonymous-sources-washington-post-and-cnn-fake-daniel-greenfield

https://theintercept.com/2016/11/26/washington-post-disgracefully-promotes-a-mccarthyite-blacklist-from-a-new-hidden-and-very-shady-group/

https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/washington-post-blacklist-story-is-shameful-disgusting-w452543

https://theconservativetreehouse.com/2017/05/15/washington-post-creates-fake-news-timed-release-story-intended-to-capture-evening-news-lede/

https://thinkprogress.org/washington-post-fake-news-lomborg-climate-e13681c350f8/

https://www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/265832/why-medias-trump-lie-machine-failing-daniel-greenfield

https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/mar/8/dems-media-have-no-problem-lying-about-trump/

Should news agencies not be bashed if what they report is bullshit (assuming they’re not literally reporting about shit falling out of a bull’s ass)? Do those they report against falsely not have a right to attack them back for doing so? Should fake news not be treated as false? It’s stuff like this that makes me think of the other elements in the film, about how the higher ups in the media/papers are sometimes associated with government officials, and how that can lead to bias and not producing coverage of their “friends” when it’s honest and negative coverage; much less the fact-checking and source-backing (done to a greater extent in All the President’s Men). The sort of thing that should be done more often to government entities that are corrupt like the Clinton administration and portions of what Barack Obama did.

So there’s the other perspective one can take from this film. Not just a call for government honesty, but also for press/media honesty. As they said in the film, the press is more for the people than it is for the government. More for the ruled than for the rulers.

Otherwise, there is the social media alternative, and more are emerging beyond Twitter and Facebook.

But anyway, recommended film.

Jumanji (1995) and Welcome to the Jungle (2017) dual review

Jumanji is one of my favorite films from the 90s.  It’s not just a good kid-flick, but a good film in general.  So when I heard they were making a sequel to it, all I could think was, “Why?”  Then I saw the trailer, and I thought, “WHY!?!?!?”

My second thought was, “So this is what it feels like to have your childhood raped.”  So I expected this to be terrible going in to see it.  That probably should’ve worried me, because setting expectations so low provided a decent chance for the film to rise above them.  Which is ultimately what happened, and that pisses me off even more.

I wanted a film that gives me plenty to rant and rave about damnit!  It’s supposed to be worse than Star Wars: The Last Jedi!  In all fairness, The Last Jedi is a better film than this one, but that’s only because this film is simple mediocrity, with no aspirations whatsoever (make the movie, have fun, cash out) where as at least The Last Jedi at least strives to be more than that.  And for that matter, so did the original Jumanji movie.  From here on out, when referring to the 1995 film, I’m just going to call it Jumanji, while this new one I’ll call WttJ (Welcome to the Jungle).

 

Rated: 4 / 5

Welcome to the jungle, we’ve got fun and games!

When watching Jumanji, I admire several things about it.  This film is a drama, with some adventure and comedy thrown in.  At its core, it’s a film about taking responsibility and facing your fears, and the consequences of not doing so.  It takes a long while before this becomes evident, as the film does a somewhat unique style on how it introduces our main characters.  I haven’t seen very many films that pull this off successfully.  First we’re introduced to Allen, a young boy who doesn’t want to live a life his father wants for him, and wishes to run away rather than face his father on the issue (at least not too much).  His girlfriend is introduced more slowly, first by dialogue discussions between Allen and the bullies, and then she is revealed later on.  Then they (unintentionally) play the game, a mystical board game that looks too well-made from a wooden design standpoint for something that isn’t well known (thus helping with that mystic aura it gives off, sound effects and musical complimentary notes aside).  An accidental play, much like how life throws unexpected surprises (some good some bad) at us.  Allen is sucked in, and disappears, much as how he intended to run away and disappear.  And his girlfriend, Sarah, runs away rather than tries to help him get out of the game (but, in all fairness, she was just a girl at the time, and was scarred emotionally by the whole ordeal, so it’s easy to sympathize with her, just as it’s easy to sympathize with Allen).

Then we are introduced to 2 other characters, Peter and Judy, who we become acquainted with and spend more time with than we did with Allen and Sarah.  These two kids also desire an escape from their current lives, which have gone downhill ever since their parents’ unfortunate death via an airplane crash, while on their way to a ski vacation.  It’s not until far later in the film that Allen appears again, due to the 2 new kids playing the game.  And even later on, Sarah finally re-enters the film.  The main characters aren’t firmly established until the film is practically halfway over.  Have to admit, when taking it in that context, this film seems rather daring.  Having the main protagonists appear early on, then disappear for a good portion of the first hour, and then re-appear to continue the story.  The film eases its way into allowing the viewers to be familiar with the main protagonists.  And it works.

Oh yeah, and Lilith from Cheers is in this.

As the film goes on, Allen, now an adult played by Robin Williams in one of his best roles, eventually comes to realize not just how much his father loved him despite the fight they had, but also what can happen when he runs from his fears.  When he visits the old shoe factory, after going through his old town and seeing how terrible it has become compared to what it once was (think Detroit before and after the 60s), he meets a homeless man who is familiar with the town’s history, who must’ve been associated with it to some extent in the past before becoming how he is now.  His speech to Allen about how the town became how it is now, how the Shoe Factory went out of business, how it was all because Allen’s father searched for Allen endlessly after Allen disappeared, no longer caring about anything else but finding himself.  Likely blaming himself for Allen’s disappearance, thinking he ran away because of him (which is true, but under a different context).  It’s such a tear-jerking moment, especially seeing this realization wash across Allen’s face, realizing not just how much his father loved him, but how much damage his running away has caused (metaphorically speaking, as his disappearance was caused against his will, though he did intend to run away prior to that).

But the film doesn’t just settle for the character trying to right the wrongs of the past.  It also shows how Allen’s character has evolved.  Not just turning into a survivalist with his time in the jungle within the game, but also with how he has become like his father.  He is still afraid, hates himself for not being more mature earlier on, but also becomes angry at Peter for wishing to continue playing the game.  Because Allen knows what will happen if they do so, that more creatures, and individuals, and weather conditions will emerge from the game to make things worse.  He warns Peter of this, but also knows that Peter is right.  This doesn’t make him any less angry, and eventually tells Peter in his anger that he needs to man up and face all of this like a man, because it’s Peter’s doing for causing this to happen.  Immediately after doing that, Allen realizes how he’s acting like his father in the past, and also realizes how he’s being hypocritical, and tries to comfort Peter after this.

Regarding the facing of fears and taking responsibility, the film handles it as it’s going to get worse before it gets better.  And longer one runs from their own fears, the worse things will get.  This is shown early on with Allen confronting these bullies after running from them earlier, the bullies chasing him because he went out with their leader’s girlfriend (Sarah).  It results in him getting beat up, but then things more or less work out after that.  With him running away from his father, and staying away for years (again, the film plays with this with him wanting to run away, and him escaping to Jumanji unintentionally and against his will), this causes consequences resulting in the town going bottom-up economically when the Shoe Factory shuts down due to his father searching for him.  It’s also shown from a more metaphorical standpoint with them playing the game, something they must do to resolve everything, and it continually makes things worse not just for the main characters, but for the town around them.  It’s not until near the end of the game when Allen finally conquers his fear, his primary fear being that of his own father.  It’s some heavy-hitting metaphors, reminding me of Silent Hill 2 with how everything in that game is basically a projection of the protagonists own fears and desires.  And yes, I just compared Jumanji to Silent Hill 2.

Jumanji being a 1995 film, two years after Jurassic Park hit theaters, CG is used, but it’s used along with practical effects.  Granted, the film hasn’t aged THAT well, but it doesn’t look all that terrible either, all things considered.  The CG is dated, but acceptable.  Most of the practical effects work, but a couple are laughable (those spiders, I lose it every time they show up).  Then there’s instances of blending CG with actual objects, which do a good job of making them seem more real.

 

 

 

Practical spiders.

 

 

 

Blending CG with real objects.
Honestly, I still think this effect works.

So, yeah, a film that I still think is great today.  It still works as a character drama mixed with a fun adventure film, with some decent comedy moments thrown in for good measure.  Emotional, fun, all around solid even with the somewhat dated effects.  As for the sequel…

 

 

 

Rated: 2 / 5

Welcome to the jungle, it gets worse here every day!

So like I said, I expected to despise this film.  And it started off meeting those expectations.  So some metal drummer punk finds the board game in the sands on the beach, more or less picking up where the last film left off.  Except that the last film left off with the board game on some beach in Mexico, Puerto Rico, or some place where they speak Spanish.  You know, it’s times like these that I think it might be a good idea for American film studios developing a temporary partnership with some foreign studio and allow them to take a jab at the property, whether it’s a remake or a sequel.  Seriously, it might not be a bad idea, and a perfect way to inject a different and fresh style into the film.  Granted, everyone will be of a different ethnicity and speaking a foreign language and viewers would have to read subtitles (unless they’re lazy assholes who refuse to watch any movie subtitled), but for those of us who care, it would be worth it.

But I digress.  Ignoring where the board game wound up in the previous film, this metal dude gets the board game out of the beach sand, takes it to his home, and opens it up to see what it is.  He sees it’s a board game, and says something along the lines of, “Who plays board games anymore?” before tossing it aside onto his stack of Playstation games.

Fuck you you fucking fucker!  Board games are fucking awesome, even back in the 90s!  What, cocksuckers like you never heard of Crossfire!?

How about Forbidden Bridge!?

Kiss my dick and suck my ass!  You deserve whatever fate befalls you for pissing off the Jumanji game!

But rather than letting curiosity get the better of him to try out the game, you know, by hearing that drum beat or something (which doesn’t fucking happen!), the board game transforms into some Atari cartridge game or something so that he can play it.  What the fuck!?

Scarily enough, this is likely foreshadowing.

So that’s basically how they decided to make this into a sequel to Jumanji, by having the board game transform into a video game just for the fuck of it.  And you know, from here on out, aside from this dumb fucking reference to the first film that happens in the middle of WttJ, this movie is completely different from Jumanji!  They could’ve called this film ANYTHING else, anything not associated with Jumanji, and I wouldn’t be forced to do this comparison bullshit.  It has more in common with Tron than it does Jumanji.  Stop making half-assed sequels and remakes Hollywood!  Do what Disney has been doing since the 90s, ripping off stories and making them their own (The Lion King = Hamlet + Kimba the White Lion, Pocahontas rewriting history, The Little Mermaid being more lighthearted than the original source, etc.).  Rip off movies, stop trying to claim that they’re remakes or sequels!

Tron

*deep breathe*  Ok, with that out of the way, and after metalhead gets sucked into the videogame, the film basically becomes its own thing that bares little resemblance to Jumanji.  4 kids get put into detention, one for be a snot-nosed bitch who refuses to turn her cell phone off, 2 of them because they cheated on their school assignment, and the other because she mouthed off to the PE teacher.  And in detention they stumble across this game (somehow), and plug it in, play, and get sucked into it, each becoming a different character based on which character they chose at the start of the game.  So each of them is given a new body with certain personality traits that peak through occasionally.

Like being so black and unfunny it pisses the Republicans off.

Now, before I continue, it’s worth noting that the dumb fucks who made this movie think that cartridge games actually have a loading screen.  Did any of you motherfuckers ever play a Sega Genesis or a Super Nintendo?  None of those fucking consoles had loading screens.  Why?  Because cartridges are faster than CDs!  Just take a USB drive compared to a fucking Disc for comparison in today’s world!  On that note, I wouldn’t be surprised if games eventually went back to a cartridge style play, assuming everything doesn’t wind up online (not likely since Net Neutrality has been killed and now cocksuckers like Verizon and Comcast can start throttling other companies if they don’t pay a little extra, like in 2005 when Comcast delayed BitTorrent traffic, or in 2007 when AT&T censored Pearl Jam, or 2007-9 when AT&T forced Apple to block Skype, or in 2011 when MetroPCS announced it would block streaming services over its 4G network except for YouTube, or 2012 when Verizon blocked tethering app use on their phones, or when Verizon and Comcast throttled Netflix until 2014 when Netflix agreed to pay them extra, or 2014 when T-Mobile used data caps to manipulate competition, until 2015 when net neutrality was in place until 2017 when that went away [those dipshits will likely throttle my site now just for bringing that up]).

Too much stress for the hair to endure.

With that tangent out of the way, the plot of the film is that our 4 heroes need to return a green crystal McGuffen to a big McGuffen statue in order to win and get back to the real world.  So no, there’s no trying to roll a 5 or an 8 on the dice.  That’s all I’ll say about the plot.

Honestly, the only time she was funny was during her make-out scene with The Rock, which was definitely one of the funnier moments of the film.

So, are there any deep character moments in this film?  What the hell do you think?  Of course there isn’t!  As if you would think otherwise after seeing any of the trailers.  There’s this theme of friendship, and acceptance, not being selfish, and of tranny stuff like being a woman trapped in a man’s body, or a wimp trapped in a muscular body (or vice-versa), or an average-looking chick trapped in a hot chick’s body.  There’s a line in the movie that goes, “What you are on the outside is not what you are on the inside,” which is stating that it’s your character and personality that counts, not your looks, but it’s more fun to think of this is as a transgender message.  Personally, I think the tranny theme existed just so Jack Black could do that role of acting like a woman.  And in his case, it works, because he completely steals the show from everyone else.  He gets the most laughs and produces the best comedic charisma out of everyone, even doing better than Dwayne Johnson (who also got a couple laughs from me here and there, by doing his usual The Rock routine).  He must’ve loved doing this, and I’m not going to lie, despite my gripes, it was fun watching him do this role.

Or maybe I’ve misjudged this film.  This bit could be a complex female fat joke.

This movie exists primarily to be a comedy, not giving much of a shit about the dramatic moments, which would be fine if it was funnier than it is, but it isn’t.  The film is just another typical forgettable comedy affair that offers some chuckles here and there, but nothing that’s going to be all that memorable.  It’s not the trainwreck I expected it to be, but it’s still a desecration to the Jumanji film, and it does not deserve to have that word in its fucking title.  I would’ve liked it more if it had nothing to do with that title.  Just being called Welcome to the Jungle would’ve been fine.  Hell, I’d be interested if they just called it Atari Jungle or something.

Oh, guess that title was already taken by this suckass film.

So in case you didn’t guess from the rating, this movie is a pass.  You’re better off tracking down and watching the Jumanji animated series.  And you can buy the entire series right now on DVD, all 3 seasons for less than ten dollars (hey, if this fucking movie is going to have advertisements in it, then so will this review!).

 

PS: Oh, right, and there were some blatant obvious advertisements in this film, mainly with Sony, their PS4, their smartphone, and Dave & Busters.  Well, at least they kept it game-themed with the ads.

 

 

Star Wars: The Last Jedi review

Rated: 2.5 / 5

So I know what you’re thinking.  Will this review contain spoilers?  You bet your ass it will.  I’m gonna spoil the shit out of this movie.  But before I do that, there’s a few things I need to get off my chest.  I’ll put up a spoiler warning sign when I get to that point.  So for those who are worried about spoilers and just want to know my opinion on the entertainment level of this film, how good or bad it is, I’ll say this.  It is better than The Force Awakens, and addressed some of the issues I had with that film.  That being said, this is a film that basically did 3 steps forward, 2 steps back, which frustrates the shit out of me because it could easily have done 4 steps forward and 1 step back instead (there was know way they were going to go all 5 steps forward, not with a Disney movie).  So if you loved The Force Awakens, you’ll love this.  If you hated The Force Awakens, this might change your mind and give you some hope for the final installment in the trilogy (except that that hack Jar Jar Abrams will be back in the director’s chair for that film, which has me worried, even if it’s an improvement upon the last director attached to that film; Christ I wish Christopher Nolan would grow a pair of balls and try one of these out).  And just to throw this in, if you loved The Force Awakens more than Rogue One, go fuck yourself.

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Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967) review

Rated: 4 / 5

“A love story of today.”  Well, maybe not so much anymore.  Or maybe it is.  This film has surprising relevancy to today, and I personally find that to be a bit sad.

So, in case you haven’t ever seen this movie, which I suggest you do considering I’ve given it a 4/5 score and my opinion is always right and better than everyone else’s, it’s a racially charged film.  Yet it is subdued in how it tackles the racism issue.  It’s not about violence between blacks and whites, niggers and crackers, oh no.  It’s about them coming together.  The legendary Sidney Poitier would be reason enough for me to want to see this, but the rest of the cast is as great as he is in this film.  He plays a black doctor (specifying that just in case any of you mistakenly think he plays a white doctor) who has fallen for a white woman nearly 10 years his junior played by Katharine Houghton, who has likewise fallen for him.  Nearly love at first sight, they decide to get engaged within the first 10 days of starting their relationship.  But then it comes time to meet the parents.

In all seriousness, this film seems to have borrowed elements from this movie, including the dad using his connections to find out more about the potential husband.

Awkwardness ensues, and it provides some funny moments and dialogue.  This film balances humor and drama perfectly, never going over-the-top for the sake of cheap laughs.  But things get even more awkward when the daughter of the family, who clearly likes to rush into things obliviously and innocently, convinces the mother and father of her fiance to also come to the house to meet her family, unaware that there might be an issue with this.

Stress eating.

The film shines with the dialogue and character interactions, which is all that is really needed for dramas like this.  Seeing the mother’s reaction to seeing the boyfriend for the first time, the father’s delayed reaction, and the immediate reaction of the boyfriend’s parents to seeing that he has a white girlfriend.  Such great hilarious (but never overdone) moments.  Hell, even the black maid doesn’t hide her negative attitude towards the boyfriend, thinking that he’s only interested in the girlfriend because he wants to take advantage of her and her family’s wealth.  Awkwardness is in abundance throughout this flick, yet it’s done in such a great way.

This isn’t one of those films where the parents (at least the white ones when they become aware of the issue) try to act polite for the sake of leaving things unsaid that cry out to be said.  The dialogue that I would normally expect a film like this (especially by today’s standards) to only show up near the end of the film actually shows up near the beginning.  Both sides admit the awkwardness of the issue, and are aware that this is different and daring for the time period (save for the girlfriend who was raised in such a way as to not think there would be any issue or awkwardness to be had with blacks and whites intermingling, which is ironic considering her parents raised her this way and admit to doing so, but mention to each other that, “We taught her to view negros as no different than whites, but we never told her not to marry one.”).  The boyfriend doctor even has a private discussion about this with the parents laying it all on the table, letting them know he’s as aware of this awkwardness as they are.  And the parents attempt to give this whole thing a chance.  After all, the mother acknowledges that she’s never seen her daughter this happy before, and she can’t help but feel happy for her even though a part of her is against this.  It made me wonder where the hell the film was going from there at that point, because this semi-acceptance tends to be where films like this usually end (or lack thereof, as was the case for the horror equivalent Get Out).  But nope, it’s only just gotten started.

I mean, the father tries to be accepting, and we see him and his wife drive around town briefly discussing this and see the father’s temper start to boil as he becomes more and more irritable as time goes on and he lets other things get to him to make his anger rise even further; but it didn’t seem like enough to keep the film afloat during the rest of the runtime.  Then we find out the boyfriend’s parents are coming over.  At that point, I was on-board for the rest of the ride.

Another element I loved is that all the characters are portrayed with flaws, that no one is perfect, not even Sidney Poitier’s character (to my surprise).  The mother, obviously easily prone to emotion and shock, though she does tend to take the more optimistic joyful route for channeling her emotions.  The father, and old man he tends to be set in his old traditional ways, yet makes an effort to be accepting to that of the new ways.  Which father and mother from which side of the family?  Both actually.  The parents on both sides are quite similar, despite the pigmentation differences and economic status (the white family being upper-class, the black family barely middle-class).  This in part is what leads the white father to come to this realization near the end after having a private talk with the father and mother of the boyfriend, separately, which he acknowledges with the line, “I’ll be a son of a bitch.”  The girlfriend, she’s naive and prefers to rush things without seeing the dangers as to why she should be more aware of how society would view an interracial relationship, let alone the dangers of rushing into something so life-changing so quickly, and is arguably too positive and optimistic.  And the boyfriend, well, he has the issue of not wanting to do too much without the approval of opposing parties, even though he’s quite level-headed.  I love this because if there’s anything I hate in movies, it’s seeing characters who are perfect when it comes to wisdom/knowledge/personality/attitude.  It’s flaws that make them human, and humans are what we have in this film.

Earlier I mentioned the film has a relevancy to today that I find to be a bit sad.  Now I’ll expand on that.  Back during this tumultuous time period the film was made, the 1960s, that’s when black rights were all the rage, and when riots and clashes began that initiated the first major change and progression for the rights of black people since the end of the civil war in 1865.  Films like this were bound to show up, and this isn’t the only one, nor even the only one that Sidney Poitier would star in (see In the Heat of the Night, also made in 1967, also highly recommended).  Then there’s Night of the Living Dead in the following year of 1968.  That’s at least 3 major hit classics people still watch today that tackle the issue of racism.  Though in all fairness, Night of the Living Dead was primarily about how we’re our own worst enemy and we’ll tear each other apart even when there’s external forces out to destroy us; the racism aspect is subtle in that it’s not even mentioned, but it’s there, as that’s one of the aspects Americans were fighting over during that time period, and sadly, even so today.  And all 3 films shared the same message, either we learn to live together in peace and harmony in spite of our difference, or suffer and be annihilated either from each other or something else that could’ve been beaten if only we weren’t killing ourselves.  Well, 2 out of the 3 mentioned films went for the more optimistic route, so as they say, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad.

The relevancy can be seen in films like the aforementioned Get Out, and also in the more recent Detroit.  The difference between films today and films back then (or at least regarding most films prior to 2012) is that films today tend to promote the message of, “We can’t get along, so may black power rule to offset the white power rule of the past,” rather than the past message of, “We can get along if we just get to know each other better and see that we’re all human.”  And people wonder why some say the film industry is shitty these days.  The interesting thing is though, this film Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner has much of the advice and answers to the issues and questions of today, yet not enough people seem to be aware of this, and focus on the present where the answers and advice tend to be the wrong ones.

Consider this discussion between the boyfriend and his father during the latter half of the runtime:

“Have you thought what people would say about you?  Why, in 16 or 17 States, you’d be breakin’ the law!  You’d be criminals!  And say they changed the law; that don’t change the way people feel about this thing!”

At least the 16 States remark is outdated by today’s standards, so we’ve got that going for us.  But that last sentence is definitely something to consider.  After all, the Southerners (primarily) didn’t hold much regard for the laws regarding black rights during the aftermath of the civil war (see Free State of Jones for a decent film highlighting this aspect, even if it ultimately promotes the white-guilt “racism is alive today” message).  Hell, even making booze illegal didn’t stop people from making it and drinking it.  And don’t even get me started on the drug war (even though it should be pointed out that giving drugs to gangs and cartels and making them rich enough to have private armies with top of the line equipment and weaponry should make people hesitant at the very least to try that stuff out).  Changing the law is one thing, but you also have to get people to understand why it is that it’s being changed, and listen to their retorts which may or may not provide reasoning as to why the law shouldn’t be changed.

Next quote, with the son’s response to his dad:

“You and your whole lousy generation believes the way it was for you is the way it’s got to be!  And not until your whole generation has laid down and died will the dead weight of you be off our backs!  You understand, you’ve got to get off my back!”

Scarily how relevant that line has become in the more recent years, except that most aren’t alive from the generation that dialogue refers to.  Rather, the dead generation is being dug up from the grave and reanimated like some fucking zombie from a Romero film rather than remaining in the state of resting in peace.  Something I’ve discussed in the past regarding how irrelevant and outdated this should all be, yet some in positions of power refuse to let the dead stay dead and bring it all back out in fashion like everyday should be Halloween so they can profit from this destructive merchandise they sell.  And somehow this is being done while making it borderline taboo to sit down and have an honest discussion about racism, especially in regards to facts and statistics (but emotion is all the rage).

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“You think of yourself as a colored man.  I think of myself as a man.”

This is the ultimate message that should be pushed today, even though it angers/saddens/frustrates me that it’s even necessary to push such a message rather than it just being common sense.  That no one, black or white, should be automatically associated with a race for the sake of stating they’re different, they’ve been treated different, and should thus be given different specialized treatment.  No more than someone who voted for Trump should be automatically associated with neo-nazis, white supremacists, racists, Milo fan, Fox News fan, or anti-net-neutrality, no more than someone who didn’t vote for Trump (ie voted for Hillary or Jill Stein or Gary Johnson or some made up Barney the Dinosaur figure) is automatically associated with, well, the opposite of all that.  Like how in this movie the black maid of the house associates the boyfriend with some shady black individuals she seems to have experience with from her own past.  Individualism!  Willing to hear the reasons as to why someone would do something someone would find outrageous and repulsive, or why someone would do something that goes against one’s own personal political beliefs.  You know, like how everyone in the film (eventually) sat down and listened to the reasons why the black boyfriend and white girlfriend would want to marry each other, something that was also considered outrageous and repulsive during (and prior to) the 60s.  Makes me wonder how people today would treat a film that’s just like this made today, only with the races reversed, having a white man wanting to marry a black woman and having both go to her parent’s home, and have the white man’s parents come over too, and see how things play out from there (that 2005 film Guess Who with Ashton Kutcher and Bernie Mac doesn’t count!).

“You listen to me. You say you don’t want to tell me how to live my life. So what do you think you’ve been doing? You tell me what rights I’ve got or haven’t got, and what I owe to you for what you’ve done for me. Let me tell you something. I owe you nothing!”

That’s another thing about today, people telling others how to live.  Fine and good, but give good reasons, and not just some “living in the past” bullshit.  Because while it is true that the past matters, the errors of the past shouldn’t be promoted as a reason to live a certain way today if those errors are easily rectified, or have already been rectified.  But I’ve already spoken enough on why the past shouldn’t rule the present (and also why the past shouldn’t be forgotten as it has lessons to be remembered for today, a tricky line apparently that gets crossed too much in these recent years).  But I will say this is a film that everyone today should watch and pay careful attention to.  Not just because it’s a great classic film (though that would be reason enough), but also for the message it has.  The lines of dialogue that provide answers to many of the racial issues that have unnecessarily spun up in our time.  The positive message of coming together in spite of our differences.

With that in mind, I’ll leave this off on a final quote from the movie:

“Now Mr. Prentice, clearly a most reasonable man, says he has no wish to offend me but wants to know if I’m some kind of a *nut*. And Mrs. Prentice says that like her husband I’m a burned-out old shell of a man who cannot even remember what it’s like to love a woman the way her son loves my daughter. And strange as it seems, that’s the first statement made to me all day with which I am prepared to take issue… cause I think you’re wrong, you’re as wrong as you can be. I admit that I hadn’t considered it, hadn’t even thought about it, but I know exactly how he feels about her and there is nothing, absolutely nothing that you son feels for my daughter that I didn’t feel for Christina. Old- yes. Burned-out- certainly, but I can tell you the memories are still there- clear, intact, indestructible, and they’ll be there if I live to be 110. Where John made his mistake I think was in attaching so much importance to what her mother and I might think… because in the final analysis it doesn’t matter a damn what we think. The only thing that matters is what they feel, and how much they feel, for each other. And if it’s half of what we felt- that’s everything. As for you two and the problems you’re going to have, they seem almost unimaginable, but you’ll have no problem with me, and I think when Christina and I and your mother have some time to work on him you’ll have no problem with your father, John. But you do know, I’m sure you know, what you’re up against. There’ll be 100 million people right here in this country who will be shocked and offended and appalled and the two of you will just have to ride that out, maybe every day for the rest of your lives. You could try to ignore those people, or you could feel sorry for them and for their prejudice and their bigotry and their blind hatred and stupid fears, but where necessary you’ll just have to cling tight to each other and say “screw all those people”!”

 

Dredd (2012) review

Rated: 4/5

Intro

Hey everyone (anyone) who follows this blog.  Been a small while since I’ve posted.  Well, some house remodeling has been going on, on top of my part time job temporarily becoming a full-time job.  Haven’t had much free time to get a hold of a movie that is worth reviewing in length.  On top of that, been playing through The Witcher 3, thought about posting the review in portions, by making a post and updating it off and on.  Have to admit, playing and reviewing games is a bigger pain in the ass than watching and reviewing films.  So I’ve dug into the archives of stuff I’ve done in the past on previous websites, and found this one that you might like, to hold you over ’till I get my stride back.  First there’s the review, then a debate I had with another individual who made his own review, and brought up points I disagreed with.

Review

The film opens amidst a dry and desolate wasteland, the a blurred yet large city in the background. Dredd narrates, saying that the city is cursed, just like the wasteland that surrounds it. America, in an era after the apocalypse (I assume), except that there is still a government and a society, has become one large gigantic unified city under one rule, the city walls separating citizens from the outside where there is nothing left to live on due to radioactivity and the mutations it can cause.

 

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The Witcher (2007) review

Rated: 3.5 / 5

Note: I have only played this game with the Full Combat Rebalance (FCR) mod. Any input I provide based on the combat gameplay will be a reflection of this, as this mod does give the game a significant overhaul.

Yep, regressed from the 2nd game into the first one. Why? Because I recall from playing it years ago that it was decent so long as you were patient about it. Also because I wanted a refresher on some of the characters before getting back into The Witcher 3. And like in my previous review, I did a (modded) playthrough which I recorded, edited, and uploaded as videos in a movie-like format (currently ongoing). This proved to be more difficult than editing footage for the 2nd game because:

1.) I was nowhere near as familiar with this game as I was with the 2nd.

2.) It’s longer. Five chapters plus a prologue and epilogue vs. the 3 chapters and prologue/epilogue of the 2nd game. This game can easily run you 50 hours of playtime, and unfortunately not all of those 50 hours is fun (more on that later).

3.) Much of the stuff that I wished was a meaningless sidequest, uh, isn’t, exactly. Some of the minor stuff in some of the chapters ends up playing into the main quest of each chapter.  That may sound nice, but it isn’t, because most of these side quests just aren’t very interesting (something rectified to the extreme in the 3rd game).

 

Gameplay and Comparison to Witcher 2

So here’s the thing about this game vs. it’s sequel. Aside from this being graphically inferior (that’s expected), the gameplay is also considerably different. This isn’t an over-the-shoulder (sort of) run-around hack-and-slash like the 2nd game. It plays more like a top-down point-and-click hack-and-slash ala Diablo and Titan’s Quest and Torchwood. You click where you want to move to, your character moves to that spot. You click on an enemy to attack, Geralt will proceed to do a sword combo on it (a combo that increases in sword swings and damage the more you upgrade Geralt, assuming you spend time upgrading his swordsmanship). And there’s 3 different attack styles: fast, strong, and group. Strong attacks are effective against enemies who are unarmored, fast attacks are good against those that are armored, and group attacks are great for when you’re surrounded by foes (though it’s usually best not to get surrounded or flanked). Of course, there’s also magic spells to cast, but I used those rarely in my playthroughs. Granted, if I played on a higher difficulty, that would likely force me to adapt to using spells more often, but the game isn’t worth putting that much effort into in my personal opinion. Others may find it more to their liking.

In any case, I found that I had to think more tactically in combat in this game compared to the sequel.   In Witcher 2, I could mostly just hack-and-slash without much worry, especially on the later levels. In this game, I couldn’t do that, even when I was leveling up pretty high. The game succeeds at this partly by not increasing your vitality when you level-up, thus keeping things tense with each combat situation in each chapter. Plus it adds an extra level of interactivity by giving you a small window of opportunity to chain moves together by clicking on the enemy at the right time when the sword symbol changes to a certain shape/color.  Click at the right time, you land more seamless blows.  Miss it or click too soon, the enemy will likely get more decent hits in before you can start chaining sword blows again.

Leveling up is also different compared to the 2nd game. When you gain enough experience points to level-up, you don’t just gain “talents” to be spent on whatever, oh no. There are 3 types of talents, bronze, silver, and gold. Bronze talents you get on every level-up, silver talents occur less frequently, and gold talents less frequently than that. And these talents aren’t just spread across magic, swordsmanship, and alchemy like in the 2nd game, it’s more branched out than that. There’s a section for strength (increase damage), dexterity (increase dodging/parrying), stamina (increase resistance to poising/bleeding/etc.), and intelligence (making magic and alchemy stronger). That’s just one section. Then there’s a section for upgrading each spell type (Aard, Quen, Yrden, etc.). A section for upgrading silver sword attacks (good against monsters) in either fast, strong, or group style, and another section for doing the same with steel swords (good against humans). Don’t like it as much as the simplified leveling system in the 2nd game, but it’s decent enough. Did make for some somewhat difficult decision-making, which isn’t much of a bad thing, especially when you can see the results of your leveling choices and see where you may need improvement depending on your play-style. I don’t prefer use of magic, but others likely will.

And then there’s the potions and oils, which you make using an alchemy process.  Potions strengthen you in some way, while oils are put on sword blades to make them stronger against specific enemy types (humans, specters, insectoids, etc.).  Only 1 oil type can be applied to a sword at a time, while you can drink as many potions as you want (theoretically), but each potion you drink poisons you more, and if you go too far into the drinking, your health will start getting sapped, so you need to choose your consumption wisely.  The main potion I consumed throughout most of the game is the Swallow potion, which regenerates your health faster than normal.  So, yeah, you’ll be swallowing a lot.

Another thing about the gameplay is, like in Witcher 2 and 3, there’s a day/night cycle. Time moves, and NPCs will be in different locations depending on whether it’s day or night, or even dawn/afternoon/dusk/midnight. But unlike those games, this mechanic, while immersive, proves to be frustrating. It gets goddamn annoying when you realize time dictates when and where characters are that you need to interact with in order to complete quests, and you can’t fucking find them until you either wait or meditate to the right fucking time. This wouldn’t be so bad if this game had a tracking system as good as Witcher 2, where you see the destination/objective on the map which is tracked in real-time. Not so in this game. Each quest objective is always listed in the same static map position, regardless of the time of day, so you have to wait for that time of day to interact with so-and-so. This is why I liked Grand Theft Auto V, and least in that game, when you reach an objective and it’s no the right time of day, the game fast-forwards until it is the right time and lets you carry on from there. The day/night mechanic is more trouble than it’s worth, and it drags on the game length needlessly. The immersion is not worth this.

Another little annoyance is the running from one destination to another.  Really wish Geralt could run faster from place to place.

Lastly, a lot of the NPCs are recycled.  As in it won’t take long to notice that many of them look the same.  Get’s particularly frustrating when some of the npcs that play a role in the main plot are hard to distinguish from some anonymous merchant on the street.

 

The Story

So that’s the gameplay. Then there’s the story. Long story short, it’s not as good as The Witcher 2’s story. Mainly because it’s not as intriguing with the plot and characters and political intrigue (though this game does still provide that albeit in watered down doses), but also because it takes a while for things to click into high gear. The prologue is typical introductory fluff. Chapter 1 is more of the same, with most of the events proving to be insignificant to what would come later, and is more of a stand-alone chapter to get the player more acquainted with the gameplay and the “decisions have consequences” feel. Oh, right, you do get to make choices in this game that produce different outcomes, but unlike the sequel, there are no alternate endings. Only 1 endings, and how you get there can alter slightly, and almost no decision you make will alter how the sequel(s) play out; save for saving or killing Princess Adda (whom you get to bang, of course), but even then it’s just a minor afterthought brought up in Witcher 2, and hardly even noticeable in Witcher 3 without a mod if I remember correctly.

So like I was saying, the Prologue does get the story going, giving you a goal and motivation. Chapter 1 more-or-less just gets you acquainted with the gameplay and only 2 other significant characters (for about 5-8 hours). Then comes Chapter 2, which is easily the slowest fucking chapter in this entire fucking game. So many sidequests that, to this game’s credit, do link up to the main quest. But in hindsight nothing really significant happens in Chapter 2. Chapter 2 exists to get you familiar with the main city you’ll be spending most of the game in, and those who live within it, and some backstory.  The gangs, thugs, drug addicts, poor people, old people, the hospital, those infected by the plague, the knights of the Order, the town watch, the grave-digger, the humans and non-humans, some people from Geralt’s past, etc. It sounds nice and all, but not for 10 fucking hours with the plot progressing at a pace so slow even snails would be feeling sorry for you. Chapter 2 is a glorified detective/mystery, where solving it doesn’t really accomplish much or move the plot forward hardly at all. It’s just for atmosphere and getting you familiar with the world.

Thankfully, once you get past Chapter 2, it only gets better from there. The political intrigue picks up in Chapter 3, where you wonder about Triss’ intentions and ulterior motives, you get more involved with the conflict between the Order of the Flaming Rose and the Scoia’tael, learn some interesting things about the criminal organization the Salamandra, and how they link into different sects high and low, and how they are used by those sects. And it only gets better from there. And I have to admit, by the time it got to the epilogue, a plot twist came up that, to this game’s credit, I honestly did not see coming, even if in hindsight I should have.

Chapter 4 slows things down a bit, but not to the extent of Chapter 2.  And, again, it slows things down so you can get familiar with a particular character who pops up off and on throughout the previous chapters (excluding the prologue).  Then when it gets to Chapter 5, full steam ahead all the way through to the prologue.  It becomes pretty damn difficult to stop playing the game once Chapter 5 hits.  And it all leads to a potential “end of the world” scenario.  You know, like just about every single fucking RPG game ever made because creators/writers/corporations think having the stakes set that high is the only way to have a rousing and intense finale.  I always roll my eyes at plots like this about as often as I roll my eyes at forced love interests in both games and film, because both usually come off as cheap and easy ways to get the player/viewer invested in the character(s) and/or plot.  If you want my appreciation, make the characters interesting via their interactions with one another, their motivations, their personal journey and character arc.  Which is why I have an appreciation for Witcher 2’s plot because it accomplished exactly that.  The plot isn’t about the end of the world so much as the fate of a nation (or several), and how the leaders have their own personal goals, how they each treat their own people, and how your character feels about that and if he will side with any of them, or none.  On top of that, there are also character well aware of his amnesia who may or may not be trying to take advantage of him because of that.  Is he being used?  Is he choosing to be used?  Does he (or anyone else for that matter) have free will?  What’s the price to pay for existence?  Did you do the right thing?

Now in this game, it does focus primarily on the purpose of Geralt, what’s his motivation, what’s his character.  They make this simple by starting the game off with him as an unknown prisoner who breaks free to make a name for himself and save the world.  Wait, I got that wrong, that’s like every Bethesda game ever made.  They make it simple by starting the game off with him running through the wilderness being chased by some ominous unseen figure calling his name (like the opening to the Witcher 2, but with worse graphics and camerawork), and he awakens at Kaer Morhen (home to a school of Witchers), with no memory.  Then the place gets attacked, and he is off on his own to find out about the attackers, get their Witcher shit back that was stolen from them, and learn about himself in the process.

Now, it’s the “learning about himself” that is key here, in an attempt to make the players become attached to Geralt.  The player is faced at several points in the game to make decisions that not only have consequences, but determine just what kind of a character Geralt is going to be now.  Will he be like his old self?  Will he follow the Witcher’s code?  Or will he choose a side in the ongoing conflict between the Order and the Scoiatel?  This may seem a bit more common in today’s RPGs, and I can’t say this is the first game to do this (the earliest in current memory is Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic), but 2007 seemed to be a big year for games like this where this sort of “choose your own adventure” RPGs became more prominent.  After all, this game was released in the same year as Mass Effect (though it doesn’t look as good from a graphic’s standpoint).

Now, while this “choose your own adventure” element seems nice and all, the game becomes a bit of a dick about the whole thing during the later chapters.  If you choose not to remain neutral during the events of Chapter 4, characters in Chapter 4 and 5 won’t let you hear the end of it.  Basically, the game is just straight up telling you, “How dare you play it your way!  How dare you not stay lore friendly and true to the Witcher’s code!  For shame!”  Basically made me flip them the bird before reloading to an earlier save prior to one of those “choices” and go for the more neutral path.  Yes, I’ll admit it, the game shamed me into doing it, and I was pissed about it.

So anyway, the story does get good, it just takes a while to get there. And by a while, I mean 15+ hours. This is not a short game. Hell, I positive it takes longer to get through than Assassins of Kings does.  According to howlongtobeat.com, this game is anywhere from 10-15 hours longer than Witcher 2, and it feels that way during the early sections.  But, again, if you have the patience, and can withstand some mediocre voice-overs and some slow slogs, the game does manage to feel worth it in the end.

 

Comparison to Mass Effect

It’s worth comparing the two (briefly) because, despite the fact that both games play completely differently and occur in entirely different settings, both games share similar flaws, and were released in the same year (2007).  I’ll be the first to admit that Mass Effect is the better game compared to The Witcher.  That being said, I’d be hesitant to play either game again in the near future, especially Mass Effect.  Why?  Because the decisions you are forced to make in The Witcher are more thought-provoking and intriguing than in Mass Effect, in my opinion.  Plus, while the side quests aren’t THAT interesting in The Witcher, I’d take those over the monotonous side quests of Mass Effect.  In The Witcher, at least the side quests involve some preparation and learning, where you have to prep yourself for the monsters to go after, and fight differently for each one.  Some of the environments are similar (particularly the caves), but most of the time the encounters are in distinct areas to give them a different feel.  In Mass Effect, holy Christ!  The side quests sucked ass!  Similar levels/rooms/buildings (to the point where I’m positive they were clones of each other), the same fucking enemies making the same fucking comments (which they took comedic jabs at in Mass Effect 2), and it became a chore real fast.  But when it came to the main quest(s), I’d have to give the edge to Mass Effect.  The story was told better and paced better, if you discount the side quests.

And also like Mass Effect 2, Witcher 2 could be played by carrying over your save file from Witcher 1 and have some influence over the plot in that game.  However, it was much more significant in Mass Effect 2, just about everything you did in the first game had an impact in the 2nd game, a significant and noticeable impact too, even with those shitty side quests from the first game.  In Witcher 2, to be honest, it really doesn’t matter that much if you carry over the save or not (again, something heavily rectified in Witcher 3).  And that’s all the comparisons I’ll make for those 2 sequels.

In regards to the gameplay, Mass Effect is more involving, where you have to constantly aim and shoot (or aim and cast, depending on your preference), and had a greater variety of play-styles compared to that of The Witcher.  Granted, Witcher has variety too, where you can focus on spells or swords, or a combination of both, but the variety is greater and more noticeable in Mass Effect.  Plus Mass Effect had more tactics where you could direct squad members to attack other enemies in a certain way, or hang back, or use an item/ability, etc.  In The Witcher, it’s only your character Geralt, and his fighting styles, and that’s it.  But Mass Effect’s tactical play comes at the cost of pausing the gameplay so you can click on an ability, aim it at an enemy or ally, and then un-pause it.  Some people like this style of play, and to be honest it didn’t bother me all that much in Mass Effect.  But games like Dragon Age: Origins (released 2 years after Mass Effect and The Witcher) where you’re doing the same thing except from a top-down perspective just didn’t gel with me.  So I probably would’ve hated The Witcher if it incorporated this aspect so heavily.  Granted, you can pause mid-battle to get a better angle on things, but this didn’t happen very often with my playthrough.

I know that CD Project Red was a small-time indie company at this point, so they had less finances to work with when making this game, and it is admirable that it turned out as good as it did under the circumstances.  But it is what it is, and I can only judge it by how I feel now, and I’m not going to take it easy on it just because of the circumstances surrounding the making of them game, I’m just going to judge the game as-is.  Both games are good, both have faults, and Mass Effect is probably the better made one overall.  But neither one is something I would likely want to revisit while it’s still fresh in my memory, especially when the sequels to both games are so much better.

Mass Effect’s strongest point is its story and universe-building, getting into the races, their interactions, and how the main character can impact all of them. The central character(s) tend to be secondary to that. This does not mean the characters are weak, they each have their motivations and such. However, they seem too influenced by what you (acting as the protagonist) do and want to happen, being less independent in their own right. The game cuts a fine line between them acting on their own and acting based on how you want, and it works fine as is. It tends to be on the fan-service side in regards to characters.

While the Witcher has a world-building aspect to it in terms of Temeria and its occupants, it’s focus is less on that and more on the character of Geralt himself. How much is he influenced by others? Should he be influenced by them? The characters in The Witcher come off as more independent and self-motivated than those in Mass Effect. While Mass Effect has the aspect of, “Your leadership and influences those around you.”  In other words, the lives of most other major characters seems to revolve around the main character, and thus revolve around you.  The Witcher seems to be the reverse of this. It’s more like, “How much are you influenced by those around you?” Because the game continuously jabs at you for the decisions you make, making you wonder if you made the right decision, or if there ever was a right decision to make. In this case having the game end the same way no matter what, while changing the way it gets there, fits perfectly because of the whole fate/destiny theme being brought up. The free will theme being an extension of the player pulling the protagonist’s strings. Or is it the player having their strings pulled by others in the game?  Either way, the message is the same.  You may or may not choose to get caught up in a cause, or to stay neutral to them all; but no matter what you do, do not forget about yourself and what really matters to you, what your principles are, and if choosing or not choosing a cause runs the risk of you being forced to violate your principles.  The fact that Geralt is imperfect and is guaranteed to make mistakes (regardless of players trying to choose the lesser of evils, or not) is what makes him a fascinating character, and is what makes the game every bit as memorable as Mass Effect.  That, and he’s capable of banging more broads, and of different races too (speaking of similarities to Mass Effect).

Plus the last act of the game will have you questioning whether or not you’re doing the right thing, and I love games that provoke that thought.  Indicates it’s smart enough to make a lot of grey rather than keeping things black and white.  Mass Effect tends to be more on the black and white side of things.  If you make a decision that doesn’t involve saving/sparing lives, sometime down the road you will be punished for it.  In the case of the Witcher, sparing a life or killing someone doesn’t always result in a good or bad thing.  And even if it does result in a good thing, down the line it could lead to a bad thing, and vice versa.  It’s what makes the better moments of The Witcher stick with me.  That being said, the sequels took this element and did it better, especially in Witcher 3.

The Witcher is a more deep thought provoking philosophical and character study at its core, while Mass Effect is more of a fun sci-fi ride with plenty of story and lore and, dare I say, universe to keep it interesting. That being said, both games have a bit of both, I’m just mentioning the main narrative strengths of each.  Looking back on both, the main thing that stuck with me regarding the Witcher was Triss’ mysterious backdoor political dealings in Chapter 3 (which ultimately made her a fully realized 3-dimensional character), and the whole finale from Chapter 5 and onwards which provoked a sense of guilt and wonder.  With Mass Effect, I enjoyed getting introduced to the universe and all that lived within, how the races worked, what their personalities and traits are, the first appearance of Saren, the confrontation with Liara’s mother and the spider monster, and everything from when the original creators of the Citadel are revealed and all the way to the action-packed finale.  Both games know how to put on a finale.

 

Why I revisited the game

I brought up earlier that one of the reasons I wanted to play through this again was to get familiar with the characters again. Because some characters who are in this game are not in the 2nd one, yet they make reprising roles in Witcher 3. Sure I could’ve just watched one of those 3-6 hour “movie version” videos online, and I was tempted, and that sure as shit would’ve been less time-consuming than this game, but I wanted to experience this game again, even if it’s for one last time. Plus I wanted to see if it’s still fun to play today. And I must admit, if you have the patience and are willing to invest into it and become immersed in the world, it is worth it. If you can get to Chapter 3, the rest of the game is a breeze in terms of pacing and progression. It becomes quite captivating at that point.  Plus it does have some unintentional hilarity with the dialogue.

So, the game is flawed, tests your patience, but is a decent enough experience. If you’re to play any version, makes sure it’s the Enhanced Edition (like how Witcher 2 got an enhanced edition, and how Witcher 3 got a Game of the Year edition). Despite the annoyances and frustrations, there’s enough here to make it worthwhile.  But it’s only worthwhile if you play all the way to the end.  That will run you around roughly 50 hours.

Pros:
* A good storyline with some intrigue and questions on morality and destiny, and will leave you pondering on some points.
* Some colorful characters.
* Combat on any difficulty above Easy can prove challenging in a fun way, encouraging tactics and positioning and timing, plus some prep-work that fits with the whole theme/lore of how witchers work.
* Great finale.
* Immersive and interesting world.

Cons:
* The plot pacing is spotty, and requires much patience before getting to the good stuff.
* Graphics are dated, even with the mods.
* Too many NPCs that look exactly the same.
* Voice-acting ranging from acceptable to laughable.
* Running from one objective to the next gets tiresome.
* Uninteresting side-quests.
* The dice-poker still sucked as much as it did in the 2nd game.
* The brawl mini-game is really not that good (gets better with the sequels, especially #3).
* The camera angles during some of the dialogue bits are terrible some of the time.

And should you choose to undertake the endeavor of playing this game, I know of some mods that will make it less painful. Which brings me to the other reason I’ve decided to go through this again. None of the videos are of the modded version, at least not in terms of graphics mods. Well, time to bring them up:

 

Mods

Rise of the White Wolf

Original on top, mod on bottom.

This is THE main graphics mod to get. Makes the game and characters look so much better. I mean, look at the comparisons between the vanilla game and modded game version of Geralt:
[Geralt image comparison]
And it not only makes the major characters look better, but also enhances the look of the UI. There’s one other mod next to this one that I consider mandatory. The only thing I don’t like is what they did with the druid chick and the water nymph.
[druid image comparison]

Full Combat Rebalance


Would not play this game without this mod. Makes combat more tactical and deep using a very simple method. It makes Geralt more susceptible to high damage when taking hits from the sides or the back (especially the latter). Something the developers liked so much they incorporated it into the second Witcher game. On top of that, enemies no longer just appear wherever just for the hell of it, they are more focused in areas they live in. Drowners stay near the water, swamp monsters stay near the swamp and/or islands in the swamp. In other words, enhances the immersion and lore, and gives a heavier dose of tactics to the combat.

Witcher High Res Character Models
Improves the looks of most other characters in the game that Rise of the White Wolf missed (though you will need to remove some files if you don’t want them overwriting that particular mod).

Witcher Overhaul Project
A mod that improves not only the textures, but also the sound.

-Dontforceminreqs Low Res Texture Fix
Unlocks the high textured graphic capability, so that you can see some detailed textures to take advantage of the mod(s) above.

Witcher Perfect Blood
Blood looks better, and so do the slashes on the characters. Worth noting that using this mod requires the Perfect Blood Fix

Permanent Bodies
Sick of not being able to teabag your enemies when they’re dead? Well now this makes it possible, at least when they get around to making a tea-bagging mod.

Perfect Rain Mod
Rain looks more natural.

Stop the Rain
If you think it rains too much, you’ll be given access to a scroll that, when read, gradually stops the rain. Immersion-breaking in the sense that Geralt has the ability to control the weather, plus I’ve never personally used it. But hey, for those who are interested.

The Witcher Alchemy Mod


Makes alchemy ingredients easier to see/identify in the inventory panel.

Plentiful Herbs
Increases the number of herbs you get for each time you pull from a plant. Good time-saver so that you’re not out picking every single bush and going out of your way to do so.

Leuvaarden Buys Salamandra Badges
Hey, now he actually does what he said he would do.

Missing Kalkstein and Leuvaarden Clues Fix
Makes Chapter 2 less of a hassle. And believe me, the less of a hassle Chapter 2 is and the faster you can get through it, the better.

Scabbard Mod
This mod is a bit buggy, so I’ve heard, and for that reason I haven’t tried it. But it is a bit popular, so I’m including it. Gives you actual sheaths for your swords.

Installation guide, if you’re interested:

1.) Create “Override” folder inside “Data” folder. Install everything into this with the (Override) indicator.

2.) Install (exe) Rise of the White Wolf https://www.nexusmods.com/witcher/mods/669/?
Don’t select the skyboxes option if you wish to use the skyboxes from Witcher Overhaul Project.

3.) Install (exe) FCR http://www.moddb.com/mods/full-combat-rebalance1/downloads/full-combat-rebalance-v16

(optional, buggy) 4.) Install (exe) Scabbard Mod http://www.moddb.com/mods/scabbard-mod/downloads/scabbard-mod-v104

5.) Install (Override) Witcher High Res Character Models http://www.moddb.com/mods/witchercharactermodels/downloads/the-witcher-hi-res-character-models
Delete the following files from the previous mod:
an_sheep_c1
an_sheep_c2
cr_adda1_g1
cr_assas1_c2
cr_beren1_c1
cr_beren1_g1
cr_bruxa1_c1
cr_bruxa1_g1
cr_deidre1_c1
cr_deidre1_g1
cr_drown1_c1
cr_drown1_c2
cr_elf5_c1
cr_elf5_g1
cr_eskel1_c1
cr_folt1_c1
cr_folt1_g1
cr_golem1_c1
cr_golem1_g1
cr_grav1_c1
cr_guard1_c1
cr_guard1_c3
cr_guard1_c4
cr_guard1_c5
cr_guard1_g3
cr_guard1_g4
cr_guard1_g5
cr_guard2_c1
cr_jaskr1_c1
cr_jaskr1_g1
cr_kalks2_c1
cr_knigh1_g1
cr_knigh3_c1
cr_knigh3_c2
cr_knigh3_g2
cr_lamb1_g1
cr_maggot_c1
cr_naked3_c1
cr_order2_c1
cr_order2_g1
cr_order5_c1
cr_order5_g1
cr_order5_g2
cr_order5_g3
cr_order5_g4
cr_order5_g5
cr_order6_c1
cr_order6_g1
cr_pries2_c2
cr_pries2_g2
cr_prof2_c1
cr_prof2_g1
cr_rayla1_g1
cr_scoia5_c1
cr_scoia10_g1
cr_toruv1_g1
cr_triss1_g1
cr_triss2_c1
cr_triss2_g1
cr_vanes2_c1
cr_vanes2_g1
cr_vesem1_c1
cr_were2_c1
cr_wicht1_c1
cr_wicht2_c1
cr_wicht2_g1

6.) Install (Override) Witcher Overhaul Project https://www.nexusmods.com/witcher/mods/703/?

7.) Install (Override) -Dontforceminreqs Low Res Texture Fix https://www.nexusmods.com/witcher/mods/649/?

8a.) Install (Override) Witcher Perfect Blood http://www.moddb.com/mods/the-witcher-perfect-blood-mod/downloads/the-witcher-perfect-blood-full-dl

8b.) Install (Override) Perfect Blood Fix https://www.nexusmods.com/witcher/mods/258/?

9.) Install (Override) Permanent Bodies https://www.nexusmods.com/witcher/mods/703/?

9a.) Install (Override) Perfect Rain Mod http://www.moddb.com/mods/the-witcher-perfect-rain-mod/downloads/the-witcher-perfect-rain-full-dl

(optional) 9b.) Install (Override) Stop the Rain https://www.nexusmods.com/witcher/mods/30/?

10.) Install The Witcher Alchemy Mod https://www.nexusmods.com/witcher/mods/197/?
Replace the RotWW files in “\ata\z_zrotww\items_optional”.

11.) Install (Override) Plentiful Herbs https://www.nexusmods.com/witcher/mods/31/?

12.) Install (Override) Leuvaarden Buys Salamandra Badges https://www.nexusmods.com/witcher/mods/659/?

13.) Install (Override) Missing Kalkstein and Leuvaarden Clues Fix https://www.nexusmods.com/witcher/mods/657/?