Archive for the Reviews Category

Star Wars Rebels: Season Two Finale

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Reviews with tags on April 1, 2016 by slateman

swrBarring the highly-enjoyable Episode VII, the season two finale of Star Wars Rebels was the best SW outside of the original trilogy. What I just witnessed was nothing short of a brilliantly-written and outrageously-exciting anthology of what we all love about SW. The ending…and here are indeed SPOILERS…so, is Ahsoka dead? Vader’s messed up. Maul is off doing something. Kanan is blinded and beat down and Ezra…wait. WAT? Ezra is gonna hit up the Dark Side? OMFG that episode was legendary! A friend said it best, “I feel bad for any fan that doesn’t watch this.” I think that sums it up. Missing this would be folly. That episode was the best SW anyone could ask for and it goes toe-to-toe with the greatest the movies have to offer. Wow…

Moonsorrow: Jumalten Aika Has Arrived!!!

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Music, Reviews on March 31, 2016 by slateman

Jumalten AikaIt’s finally here! The latest Moonsorrow opus has landed and EPIC is the first word that comes to mind. The enormous sound is only truly matched by the hefty duration of each of the album’s five offerings. It reminds me of the old days of the first Opeth records. Each song was truly a journey, and this album is no different. And while a few spins leave me placing this firmly below the band’s 2011 masterpiece, Jumalten Aika got me pumped up more and more on each subsequent listen. I’ll avoid the genre tags everyone so often loves to toss about, but it’s got everything I love about music and the lyrics…well, I don’t care about lyrics so there’s that. It may not end up being AOTY, but that’s OK. It’s fucking brilliant and it’s everything I wanted it to be. In fact, I can’t even finish writing this without bobbing my head in folky enthusiasm. I love this band.

Mini-Review: Amon Amarth – Jomsviking

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Music, Reviews on March 26, 2016 by slateman

Amon_AmarthI just finished The Saga Of The Jómsvíkings and found it a decent read. Most of the tale was the traditional Nordic heritage tales but the end was exciting. Now, Amon Amarth’s take on the legendary warriors is far more memorable! Barring the song featuring Doro, I love every single song. The production is utter perfection, it’s heavy as hell and it is memorable and catchy. This album is their strongest in quite a while IMO and it’s a temporary Album of the Year thus far. Let’s not forget Moonsorrow comes out next week, though. \m/

Mini-Review – Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Posted in Blog, Reviews with tags on December 20, 2015 by slateman

episode7

What can I say? Better than 1-2-3 was my only true request. That was done easily. However, the deeper lore of Star Wars was revealed. This was a movie I wanted to watch. I yearned for more info. I wasn’t bogged down in senate talk. And Poe’s intro scene said it all. Action, mystique, new ways to use the force and that humor from the originals all added up to a worthy successor to the films I grew up watching.

Seeing the old characters old was spectacular. How many sequels are truly set 30 years after the fact? The new characters shone. The action was great and the practical effects made this a tangible world I wanted to live in. The only downside I could see what that I knew it was part of a trilogy. Things must be explained and fleshed out later rather than NOW. A very minor downside indeed.

Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens is a title I can’t believe exists. It is fun but not goofy, light-hearted and funny but not cheesy, serious but not crippling so, new but old! Magically, Star Wars is somehow cool again.

The Pros & Cons Of The Hobbit Trilogy

Posted in Best / Worst, Lists, Movies, Reviews, Tolkien with tags , on December 30, 2014 by slateman

307252id1L_TheHobbit_TBOTFA_Teaser_27x40_1Sheet.inddNow that The Hobbit is done, we can look back at the trilogy that is a miracle to even exist. I recall the promise of it coming out being squelched by lawsuits. Now that the trilogy has ended, there is plenty to mull over. The verdict has come and it isn’t pretty. Rotten Tomatoes lists the finale as the worst of the three movies. I’ve heard of at least two comparisons to Episode I – just about the worst analogy a multi-part film could receive. It’s not quite so bad, but some commentary is needed.

The most important part of an article such as this is to preface the entire lot by saying this trilogy was no LOTR. The book, the lighthearted feel, even the way it was filmed differed. Comparing a children’s tale to the “if we don’t destroy the ring, the entire world will cease to be” feel of LOTR would be utterly foolish. Having said this, by the conclusion of the series, I found this tone, the colors, the presentation to be a charming alternate to the darkness found in the first film trilogy.

Nothing is more exemplary than the barrel scene from the second movie. If you read the book, you’ll remember it was a consistent, silly tale of “Aww shucks, we’re in trouble again – Oh look at that! Bilbo saved the day!” Contrast that to, “OMFG darkness, Nazgûl, Sauron’s gonna kill everyone.” The movies’ entire atmosphere is representative of this.

Letting go of this comparison allows for a better appreciation, so just do it.

The Good

The Dwarves
The variation of the Dwarves in the book was limited to color and some simple personality traits. The film does a good job in at least visually differentiating each. Time is limited, clearly, so by the third movie, there were some whom I couldn’t name whatsoever (Bifur and Nori, for instance.) I feel Jackson did a splendid job at making a colorful cast work well in the constraints presented by film. I did quite appreciate the fact that Glóin looks like his son, Gimli.

Out-Of-Control Action
It’s safe to say that some scenes were almost ‘comic-book’y. Yes. Just in case you were forgetting already, This Isn’t LOTR. Read the book again to get a feel of how silly it all was.

Three Films
In the recent weeks, reviews have slammed Jackson and his expansive Hollywood rendition of the timeless 200-page book. Most state that two films (the original vision) would have sufficed. But let me say this…in the original book, Thorin, Fíli and Kíli were all killed in three sentences. The nephews were relegated to saying they died defending their uncle. A film translation cannot introduce main characters and kill them without some weight and gravity. And Thorin’s death would come how? By the hands of a normal Orc? By a stray arrow?

hobbit-azog

Enter Azog & Bolg
In the books, Azog was slain by Dáin after killing Thrór. In the extended version of The Desolation Of Smaug we’re given information about Thrór’s death by the hands of the orc-chieftain. While Azog’s involvement in The Hobbit trilogy was greatly expanded, it presented us with a very important nemesis.

I didn’t like the idea of Azog originally. Another CG character – but think about it…Tolkien created Azog and while his backstory isn’t fleshed out (much like countless other characters), his purpose in the book is legitimate. And Thorin has a genuine interest in him. Who is the main antagonist in the story otherwise? Peter Jackson took an underused enemy, beefed him up and gave the trilogy a veritable (though not the most innovative) main enemy. It had to be done and while it’s far from canon, it ties in well.

Oh, Bolg was Azog’s son. He fought in the final battle and was slain by Beorn. In the movie, Legolas took care of him, but that’s OK. I guess Legolas needed to have some purpose (more on that below).

Extended Editions
We still wait for the last film’s extended version but I look forward to Alfrid dying! I liked the first movie’s extra footage but the second’s was far more powerful. It included much more about Thrain and Thrór. The potency and overarching importance of the magic rings is played out. Beorn has his time in the sun and seeing him next to Gandalf next to Bilbo was a cool height comparison!

Seeing the the Witch-King of Angmar’s burial grounds, the added scenes in Mirkwood and even the naming of Bilbo’s sword Sting were all nice touches that added to the fidelity of the motion picture as well as effective tie-ins to the LOTR trilogy.

The Bad
I positively hate how Galadriel handles things in Dol Guldur in the last movie. However, in The Silmarillion, details are given about the White Council, though few they are. Essentially, while Galadriel is part of the council in some form, she wasn’t there for the actual event. All that’s told is that Saruman, Gandalf and Elrond “assailed Dol Guldur and drove Sauron from his hold.” You can understand Peter Jackson’s desire to include this portion in the films. It ties this trilogy with LOTR and also gives Gandalf something to do. That is why he left the party at the edge of Mirkwood after all. So, having this is ok, but man, I hate the weird magic they give to Galadriel (but it’s not much different than what she was like in LOTR. And, having that meeting in the first Hobbit in Rivendell with Saruman, Gandalf, Galadriel and Elrond is pretty cool.

hobbit-tauriel

Tauriel
I don’t know of a single reader of the book who enjoys Tauriel’s presence in these films. Her acrobatics were entertaining. Many cite Tauriel as one of the worst decisions of the movies but I’ll just say one other name. Arwyn. I still haven’t a clue how it was the she was dying in the LOTR trilogy. As a purist, I hated her entire storyline and Tauriel is no better. She is Hollywood’s love story and as dreadful as it was, I understand the need to have this type of character.

Legolas
I realize time doesn’t pass the same way for Elves but it’s hard to hide the 10 years of age in Orlando Bloom’s face. To counter this, some film tricks have been used but he looks less natural. Visuals aside, my biggest issue with him was his lack of purpose. The entire second film just made him seem like a whiny boy slighted by his true love.

The WTF?

Thranduil’s Goodbye
Really? Go find Strider? That’s absurd, ridiculous and unnecessary.

Gandalf Knows?
I look forward to the extended edition to tell me more about this. I’m guessing he may think Bilbo has one of the Dwarf rings of power. This was another unnecessary attempt at a tie-in to LOTR.

Worm Things?!?!
I guess the Orcs need a way to travel. I don’t remember any worm things…

Alfrid
He kept getting screentime in the third movie but never died! Perhaps the extended edition? He was annoying but the comic relief was appreciated by one of my daughters. I expect this was the goal, but like Tauriel, readers groaned at his inclusion and recurring appearance!

It’s Over
Regardless of what you think, we’re done. The Silmarillion will and can never be made into a film so let’s not even pretend there’s hope. So, that’s it. Two trilogies that were dreams in the first place have been issued and while The Hobbit will never receive critical fame, I thought all three movies were fun. I enjoyed them all in some fashion and each has its own merits. I can’t wait for the extended finale. While most will disagree with all of what I wrote above, I’m a reader. I’ve read everything at least three times. I love my stuff and was highly entertained by the motion pictures. For me…that’s good enough!

Dragon’s Crown: Old School & Fun!

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games, Reviews with tags on March 2, 2014 by slateman

Dragon's_Crown_LogoI’ve waited for this game to come down in price and it finally has. While full retail was a bit too steep for me, $17 was perfect and I caved and got the PS3 game this past week. Now, I still fully expect this to be free on PS+ some time in the next year; so I’m hoping that’s the Vita version. However, after a few hours of play, $17 is nothing when compared to the fun that this game is!

In recent years, I’ve enjoyed some new/retro beat-em-ups. However, most don’t have a great balance of old (the action game) and new (well…anything else). The newest Double Dragon is pretty bad and Final Fight Double Impact is really only great because of Magic Sword. Dragon’s Crown on the other hand, is an impeccably-animated romp in a wonderful setting. Swords & magic & loot…what more do you need? Oh…a dragon, clearly. See the title.

In any event, I hope to get some good hours in on this in the coming weeks and while it won’t be a platinum trophy title, I’m going to enjoy the heck out of it while it lasts!

Castlevania: Mirror of Fate HD

Posted in Blog, Games, Reviews with tags on November 22, 2013 by slateman

Mirror of Fate HDThis $15 title was about perfect…for $15. Had I paid full price on the NDS, I may have been upset. However, the quick jaunt through the title was fun, and appropriately priced.

The Good
The music was pretty cool. It was moody, we didn’t get any Vampire Killer tunes and that’s OK. It was different. The story was a bit strange, and at first, I couldn’t figure out WTF happened at the end. However, SPOILERS! Trevor turning out to be Alucard was a pretty awesome take on this non-canon side-story.

The So-So
The game’s combat was pretty weak. I actually preferred exploring the castle over actually fighting. Some of the platforming was ok at best.

Overall, it wasn’t the best Castlevania, nowhere near it. In actuality, it may have been one of the worst but I’m still glad I played it. It’s made me interested in Lords of Shadow 2 and made me wish I never lost my first LoS save game. After getting 100% w/ Simon, Alucard & Trevor though; I’ll likely never touch this game again. :) That’s OK. It was fun while it lasted.

Army Of Two: The Devil’s Cartel – A Fun Game!

Posted in Blog, Games, Reviews on September 2, 2013 by slateman

army-of-two3Army Of Two: The 40th Day was the first game I played through entirely co-op and it was a blast. In the 3 1/2 years since, I’ve played a lot of games. But going back to this series was an exciting prospect. Then the reviews came out. 4/10 some deemed it. A 4/10??? I’m trying to think of games I’ve played that might be that bad. Aliens: Colonial Marines? Perhaps. In all seriousness, the 3rd Ao2 game was fun. Playing online with a friend, our connection was better than most recent games (a testimony to its poor sales?) but we busted through the whole game over the course of several sessions and loved it. Destroying everything in Overkill mode was a blast. The driving sequences were fun. The game sounded incredible. Sure it wasn’t the most inspired game ever. However it achieved the purpose set forth by its design: A great-playing co-op game. This was a ton of fun, screw the naysayers.

Kalmah: Seventh Swamphony

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Music, Reviews with tags on June 16, 2013 by slateman

Seventh SwamphonyAfter hearing the title track in advance, I was, for some reason, underwhelmed. Could Kalmah really put out a less-than-spectacular album? I was prepared for disappointment. Then, I listened to it.

Holy fucking hell, this album is incredible. Production? Flawless. Riffage? Old-school and fucking heavy. Solos? Better than ever. Drumming? Spot-on, solid, fast! Songwriting? Barring Moonsorrow’s masterpiece, this may be the best metal album in years. From the under-appreciated title song to the catchiest-song-in-their-catalogue, Deadfall, this album starts off with everything. Blistering fast, melodic grooves, memorable and heavy as hell. Hollo would have to be my least favorite, a very different type of track – but it is not bad, just different. Then the second half is impeccable. Windlake Tale, Wolves On The Throne, awesome. Black Marten’s Trace, whatever that means, is so fast and so heavy. The Trapper has its catchy intro riff and an epic outro that leads me straight back into track 1. I love this album. It’s got everything I love about metal and it proves that Kalmah is the best band of this century. They’ve yet to put out a bad album, and even the lackluster For The Revolution is better than most band’s better efforts. Play it again. And Again……

Mini-Review: My Dying Bride – The Manuscript

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Music, Reviews on May 14, 2013 by slateman

The ManuscriptAnother EP from the kings of EPs. I recall a time when they had 2 LPs and 3 EPs and it was all downhill after that – in a sense. I recall The Angel And The Dark River and it took them a few years (and one interesting experiment) to get back to excellence. And since 1999, it’s been pretty consistent. The Dreadful Hours may be my favorite, Songs Of Light… not so good. A Line Of Deathless Kings came out in 2006 and since then, while solid, I haven’t been blown away. I like the stuff, but am not wowed and don’t tend to play any of the records/EPs/singles. I definitely liked the orchestral record and The Barghest O’Whitby is an excellent if not tough listen due to its length.

That long intro leads us to this four-song, half-hour offering that is both perfect in its duration and its quality. This stuff is fantastic, culling the best riffs and mood MDB has to offer from their vast catalog of sounds. From Var Gud Over Er‘s classic death growls to the chilling mood of the outro (Only Tears To Replace Her With), this EP is just about perfect. It’s got everything that the band does well. If that is considered playing it safe, then I hope for another LP of familiar safety. And in only one day of listening (four songs, remember), it’s up there with Amorphis’ Circle as the best of the year. Everything I love about MDB is right here. A+!!!