11.30.2011

SAINT (2010) Review


Directed by: Dick Maas
Starring: Huub Stapel, Egbert Jan Weeber, Caro Lenssen

Christmas is almost upon us. So it's time to start making a list (and checking it twice) of appropriately themed horror films to watch. SAINT (or SINT in its native Dutch) is a nasty twist on Holland's own traditional Saint Nicholas legend. This is not the fat, jolly Santa Claus who slides down your chimney at night distributing presents to all the good little boys and girls. This man is a cold hearted and cruel fellow indeed.

The film starts off in the 15th century, and portrays 'ol Saint Nick as a nasty bishop atop a white steed. He stalks through a small village with his helpers, taking what the terrified residents have left out for him. If he isn't satisfied he sets his helpers upon them. After he leaves however, it becomes obvious that the villagers are fed up and they decide to do something about it. They follow Nicholas to his ship and proceed to burn it to the ground (er.. water), with him on board.

This introduction to the film was only about 10 minutes long but it had me hooked. I couldn't wait to see what happened next.

The bulk of the movie takes place in present day Amsterdam, where everybody is gearing up for the SinterKlaas celebrations. But there is a dark legend hanging over these celebrations. A legend which says that whenever a full moon appears on December 5th (the day Saint Nick was killed) he comes back from beyond the grave to embark upon a murderous rampage. But of course nobody really believes this. Except for one man. An obsessive policeman tries to call of the celebrations but of course everybody just think he's crazy. His reasons for believing are revealed later in the film.
The homicidal bishop does of course appear along with his army of undead minions, and soon the bodies begin to pile up. The main character (a teenage boy named Frank) must band together with the cop to stop this supernatural threat.

All of the basic slasher elements are here. Attractive teenage girls ripe for slaughter, the cynical cop who nobody believes, the young hero, of course a lot of hacking and slashing, and even a big bang.
Overall I think that this is one of the most solid films I've seen this year. There was no particular element which annoyed or disappointed me. The effects were great, and even the use of CGI was well applied. As for the acting, I have to admit that whenever I watch a foreign language film I find it a little harder to judge than an English speaking movie but it seemed perfectly fine to me. There was a love interest, but it didn't interfere with the main story, it was kind of just.. there. And the soundtrack was pretty cool too, particularly during the dramatic opening sequence. There is also just the right amount of humour. Not enough to make this a horror comedy, but you may find yourself grinning once or twice.

SINT doesn't cover any new ground, but it is a really well done, enjoyable twist on the Christmas horror subgenre. Definitely something worth watching, especially when Christmas is just around the corner. And it may just make you think twice about getting too close to any open fireplaces.





FURY ROAD Could Launch New Mad Max Trilogy

With MAD MAX: FURY ROAD in the works, director George Miller has announced the possibility of a further two sequels. In a recent interview with AFR Magazine he says:

“We started with [Fury Road], but we then started to do a second story and a third. We’ve written the script for the second and almost finished the third. We never intended to, they were part of the exploration of the characters.”

But obviously before any of this is possible, FURY ROAD still needs to be made. It has been delayed multiple times due to unexpected weather conditions in Australia, but Warner Bros have pumped extra money into the budget for the film to be shot in the Namibian desert. The movie is set to star Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron in lead roles and filming will begin in April next year.
There has also been talk of a FURY ROAD game adaptation coming from the game studio Kennedy Miller Mitchell Interactive, which is staffed by the remnants of Krome and Team Bondi.
Check below to see some of the badass vehicles set to appear in the upcoming film.





11.28.2011

THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2 Banned In Australia

I am pissed.

THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2 (FULL SEQUENCE) was released in Australia with an R18+ rating, meaning that it could only be seen by adults over the age of 18. Perfect, I completely agreed with that decision. Yesterday however the film went back up for review and was consequently banned from public viewing anywhere in this country. It's the exact same story as A SERBIAN FILM. It was also released as R18+ in Australia but when reviewed it too was banned. Why? Because apparently the classification board has the right to speak for every rational adult in the country.


I understand that the classification board is there for a reason, but I don't think that should include the ability to tell consenting adults which content is and isn't appropriate for them. They should remove illegal content from films, rate them accordingly, and even slap warnings about graphic violence or sex all over them if need be. But banning a perfectly legal piece of film shouldn't not be within their abilities.
Are they worried that somebody is going to accidentally wander into a movie like A SERBIAN FILM with absolutely no idea of what to expect? That's ridiculous. Anybody and everybody who goes to watch a movie like ASF or THC2 is going to have at least some idea of what they're getting themselves into.
Are they worried that young children will have access to these films? Completely stupid, of course they will. But young children also have access to anything and everything thanks to the Internet. It's not the classification board's job or right to prevent kids from viewing this depraved filth. Parents should be responsible, just as they should be responsible from preventing their young children from viewing anything inappropriate on the Internet.


So why exactly was THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2 banned?

“In the Review Board’s opinion, The Human Centipede II (full sequence) could not be accommodated within the R 18+ classification as the level of depictions of violence in the film has an impact which is very high."
“In addition, the film must be refused classification because it contains gratuitous, exploitative or offensive depictions of violence with a very high degree of impact and cruelty which has a high impact.”

So that's high impact scenes of violence which are gratuitous, exploitative, offensive or cruel. And just why were these violent scenes included in the movie? Because the fans of the first film asked for them. The fans. The people who enjoyed the first film and would make up the majority of viewers of the sequel. So apparently the very people who wanted the extra violence and gore, now aren't allowed to see it. They asked for it, but it's not appropriate for them. And don't the censors realise that by banning a film, all they're doing is making people want to see it more? And if the only way to then see it is by illegally obtaining it, then that's what people will do. So even though the classification review board may not realise it, they are effectively encouraging movie piracy.


Now I don't want you to think that this rant is all thanks to these two recent films being banned. I enjoyed both of these movies, but even if I thought they were terrible you would still be reading this. The point I'm trying to make is that NO film should be banned from viewing by rational, consenting adults unless it contains illegal material. Even then it should only be the illegal scenes which are removed rather than banning the whole film entirely.

Another thing that really gets to me is that whenever a film goes up for review it is always at the request of a small minority. You could have 90% of the country backing the release of the movie, but as soon as some tiny religious or parent group raises their voice it's all over. This was the case with THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2. The appeal was lodged by the NSW Attorney General and supported by a few Christian lobby groups such as Family Voice. And to make things even more fucking ridiculous, these groups were protesting the film BEFORE it was even released in Australia. Now correct me if I'm wrong, but how can you find a film offensive or immoral if you haven't even seen it?
Making everything a little crazier is the fact that the Classification Review Board (who made the ultimate decision) is made up of only four people. Three lawyers and a family therapist who represent Australian public values and make decisions which the entire country has to live with. And they are all women. I'm not trying to sound sexist, I just don't understand how a board made up of entirely one gender can make decisions for an entire nation made up of men and women.
Although I will admit that distributor Monster Pictures Australia probably didn't make the smartest move by advertising THC2 as "Banned in Britain, cut in the US and unleashed in Australia"
I'm sure that would catch the interest of those Christian fun-police instantly.


Yes films can be depraved, disgusting, offensive, immoral, shocking, violent and a whole lot of other verbs and adjectives which I can't think of at this moment. But I think deep down we all need a little depravity in our lives. And I think we all would like the right to make our own choices when it comes to cinema, instead of being coddled by a small group who think they know what's in our best interest.

See my review of THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2 here.

BATTLE LOS ANGELES (2011) Review


Directed by: Jonathan Liebesman
Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez, Bridget Moynahan

I know this film was released early this year, but I never got a chance to see it until now. I went into it hoping for something along the lines of Independence Day but unfortunately what I got was far from it.

A Marine Staff Sergeant (Eckhart) who has just had his retirement approved goes back into the line of duty in order to assist a 2nd Lieutenant and his platoon as they fight to reclaim the city of Los Angeles from alien invaders.
The unit are sent to a police station to rescue a group of civilians. They arrive and find two adults and three children. Their next objective is to get them to safety. Unfortunately the aliens aren't letting them get away that easily. The aliens call in air support and that's when the shit really hits the fan. So now the Marines need to destroy the alien command centre in order to disable the flying drones.

I really don't even know why this movie was made honestly. There is absolutely nothing original here, it's just a bunch of tired war movie clich├ęs stitched together to make up a weak storyline. I have the feeling that the filmmakers concentrated too much on the FX and then realised at the last minute that "hey, we should probably have some kind of storyline to go with this".
And the fact that the Marines are fighting against aliens doesn't even really factor in. They might as well be fighting against an invading human army, it would have made no difference. Actually,that may have even made the movie better.
BATTLE LOS ANGELES did give me one big surprise though. You may know that I'm not exactly a fan of CGI, especially when there is a lot of it. Well there is a lot of it in this movie, but for some strange reason it didn't bother me at all. And that's a good thing. If somebody can cram that much CGI into a movie without it looking horrible and distracting then I have to say they've done a good job.

As for the acting it was all pretty decent, but I can't say the same for the casting. Aaron Eckhart as a Marine Sergeant fighting aliens and kicking ass? That just wasn't very convincing to me. He has nothing on Will Smith. And the character development is weak, I honestly didn't care for any of them. No matter who died, I just found myself not giving a single fuck.
I found the beginning of the movie to be a bit slow paced and boring, but when the action kicks in it all moves along smoothly. It even becomes a little tense towards the end when they face off against the huge alien command centre. But it all ends predictably and just didn't feel that satisfying.

I came away from BATTLE LOS ANGELES feeling like I'd just seen a 2 hour long recruitment ad for the Marines rather than an action/sci-fi film. If you're a fan of action/war movies then you may just enjoy this, but otherwise seeing this movie isn't going to be high on your to-do list. You could do worse but you could also do a lot better.





11.27.2011

SMILEY Trailer Revealed


Horror fans got their first look at demented serial killer Smiley not too long ago, and I have to say that he definitely has one of the more interesting and disturbing masks I've seen in a while. Now the trailer has arrived. Will Smiley join the ranks of such slasher villains as Freddy, Jason and Michael? Check out the trailer after the jump. And check the official Facebook page and Youtube channel for more info.

Smiley is directed by Michael Gallagher and stars Caitlin Gerard, Melanie Papalia, Shane Dawson, Andrew James Allen, Roger Bart, Liza Weil, Michael Traynor and Keith David.

Synopsis: After learning of an urban legend in which a demented serial killer named Smiley can be summoned through the Internet, mentally fragile Ashley must decide whether she is losing her mind or becoming Smiley’s next victim



ATTACK THE BLOCK (2011) Review


Directed by: Joe Cornish
Starring: John Boyega, Jodie Whittaker, Alex Esmail

I don't know about you, but I personally don't really like the idea of horror/comedy films. In fact the only movies in this hybrid genre I've ever really enjoyed would probably be the Evil Dead trilogy. And when I heard that ATTACK THE BLOCK came from the producers of Shaun of the Dead, I was contemplating not even watching it at all. But I don't like to judge movies without even seeing them so I sat down and watched it. And I'm actually glad I did.

Luckily for me, ATTACK THE BLOCK isn't a horror film. It's kind of a teen/sci-fi/drama/comedy mashup about a group of young thugs defending their 'block' from an alien invasion. It reminded me of that British TV show Skins, but with aliens.
Led by Moses (Boyega), the group of youths confront a lone girl at knifepoint in the dark streets of London. After stealing her valuables, a meteor falls from the sky and lands nearby. When Moses investigates, he discovers a strange creature which then proceeds to run away. The gang chase down this alien and kill it. But unfortunately for them, there are more aliens on the way. Meteors start raining down all over London, so the boys equip themselves with an array of weapons and step out to hunt down the aliens. But these aren't quite as small and easy to kill as the first creature was, and soon they find that the aliens are hunting them. They escape back to the 'safety' of their block but soon realise that they are trapped inside and desperately need to find a way out.

When you get right down to it, this is one of those 'villain turns hero' movies. It's a story which has been told thousands of times over but somehow it's still interesting. And even though this is about an alien invasion, the focus is more on character development than the actual aliens themselves. The whole movie itself is pretty predictable but there is plenty of humour and action to keep it going at a steady pace. The acting was great and whoever was in charge of casting has done an excellent job finding these young teenagers. The creature effects aren't exactly the best, with the aliens looking like a bunch of black muppets with glow in the dark chompers. But that's not going to worry you much because most of your focus will be on the main group of characters anyway.

The biggest problem I had with the movie were the kids' accents, for some reason I just found them really fucking annoying. But apart from that the movie was great. Not original, not shocking, not a lot of tension or surprises but it was still a pretty solid and entertaining romp. And hell, who doesn't like to see a kid riding a pizza delivery scooter while wielding a katana?

 For a relatively low budget debut feature, director Joe Cornish has done a brilliant job, expect to see great things from him in the future.




THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE II (FULL SEQUENCE) (2011) Review


Directed by: Tom Six
Starring: Laurence R. Harvey, Ashlynn Yennie, Bill Hutchens

I really enjoyed the original Human Centipede. It was different, it was disgusting, it was funny, but I also thought that it was a bit too tame. So when I heard that the sequel was going to make the first film 'look like My Little Pony' I was a little more than excited. Then when it was banned in the UK and cut in the US I really couldn't wait to see it. But after this much hype, can any film still live up to expectations? Apparently not.

Martin (Harvey) is an overweight, middle-aged, mentally challenged man who lives with his mother. He works as a parking garage attendant and spends his long hours alone, escaping into a fantasy world via the original Human Centipede movie. He obsesses over it, watches it over and over, and even keeps a scrapbook. He listens to Dr Heiter's instructions and begins to write his own surgical notes, in preparation for his own sick creation.
Soon enough he begins to gather his victims, mostly singles or couples wandering the parking garage at night. With a crowbar across the skull he knocks them out, piles them into his van and takes them to his special warehouse where he plans to create a 12-person human centipede. His crowning achievement however is the kidnapping of Ashlynn Yennie, the actress from the original film. He lures her to town with a fake audition and before she realises it, it's too late.

If you've seen the first film then you will know Dr Heiter was a retired surgeon who specialized in separating conjoined twins. Obviously he had plenty of surgical knowledge and experience, and also the correct tools and equipment. Martin on the other hand is a fat, stupid freak and the best he can do is a shitload of duct tape, a staple gun, a hammer and a bunch of knives. Whereas Dr Heiter had proper anaesthetic, Harvey only has a crowbar with which to whack his patients upon the head when they start to get a bit too lively.

The first hour or so of the film follows Martin as he gathers his victims, finds a place to store them, gathers more victims, fights with his mother and gathers more victims. It is a little tedious and repetitive but I did however enjoy the scenes involving Martin and his mother. Especially when his mother finds his special scrapbook.
The rest of the film is basically the process and end result of making the human centipede.
The violence and gross factor have definitely been turned up since the first film, and there is a lot more blood and shit involved. Watching it in the stark black & white in which the entire movie is filmed, actually increases the impact of the violence I think. The gushing blood is pure black, running down white skin. I did notice a touch of color when the fecal matter made it's big entrance though.

For a person who's seen the first movie this sequel will bring no surprises, no tension, nothing that you wouldn't have already seen. It's just taken the more disgusting factors and increased them. The effects are fantastic though, and the movie looks great in black & white. The acting was perfect and the casting (especially of Lawrence Harvey as Martin) was spectacular. Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to see it uncut, but after knowing which scenes were cut I don't think including them would have made much of a difference to the viewing experience.
It's worth a watch if only for the shock factor, and no matter how good or bad you think the movie is, it will definitely be one which is long remembered.





11.26.2011

Official PROMETHEUS Trailer Leaked

I know a lot of people have been looking forward to this, and my advice would be to watch it as  soon as possible before it gets pulled from the web. The quality is bad but watchable. Below you will find the leaked trailer for PROMETHEUS courtesy of AVPGalaxy.
PROMETHEUS is scheduled for a June 8th 2012 release so hopefully it won't be too long before we see a proper official HD trailer.
And if you haven't yet seen the latest images from Entertainment Weekly then you can find them here.
For the new hi-res gallery check here.

UPDATE 11/27/2011: Original clip was pulled from Youtube. This new clip has been uploaded though and is currently working, be quick though it won't last long!

UPDATE 11/28/2011: Second clip was pulled. New one is now up, but once it gets taken down I probably won't replace it. Sorry but I can't be bothered replacing it each day.

UPDATE 11/29/2011: Ok one last time. New trailer is now up.




11.25.2011

James Wan's HOUSE OF HORROR Update



The James Wan (Saw, Insidious) produced HOUSE OF HORROR has found a new director to take charge of the project. It was previously announced that Javier Gutierrez would direct but now it seems that French filmmaker Xavier Gens (Hitman, The Divide) is set to helm the upcoming film. Wan earlier revealed that he had signed an 8-film deal with Icon Entertainment and HOUSE OF HORROR will be the first of these movies to be released. Written by Max La Bella, the movie is said to focus around a gruesome crime scene. Shock Till You Drop has reported that the film will implement the use of found footage, interrogation video, news cameras, and “classical cinematography, the film chronicles the aftermath of the massacre of five college student were were murdered inside of a decrepit, abandoned home. So it could very well be a refreshing take on the found footage genre. HOUSE OF HORROR is expected to be released late next year or early 2013.


Synopsis:


The Devil made me do it.

The House of Horror is a horror-thriller that centres around a gruesome crime scene. The film is shot with a blend of found footage, interrogation video, news cameras and classical cinematography. The film focuses on the aftermath of a horrific massacre; five college students, brutally murdered inside a decrepit, abandoned home.

We are thrown right into the mix as the lead Detective, Mark Lewis, and the police department’s psychologist, Dr. Elizabeth Klein, question a suspect. The young man at the centre is John Ascot, bound by handcuffs in a mobile command station. During the interrogation, John explains everything leading up to the deaths of his friends.

We discover that they were amateur ghost-hunters, seeking out paranormal phenomenon at the abandoned house believed to be haunted. What started out as a harmless activity turned into something truly terrifying and more than they ever could bargain for. John explains to the police that he isn’t responsible for his friends’ deaths, but rather, it was the house. He tells them he believes the house is a gateway to hell; a place of concentrated evil.

We slowly witness an eerie change in John’s demeanour through the course of the movie. Things take a disturbing turn when John hints at the notion that he is possessed by the Devil. Detective Lewis and Dr. Klein are forced to unravel the mystery of how John’s friends were murdered. All this leads to a stunning revelation about the man they’ve been interrogating and a gut-wrenching conclusion.

11.23.2011

SAND SHARKS Trailer


This trailer has been floating around for a little while now, but I thought I'd post it in case you've missed it. SAND SHARKS comes from Mark Atkins and stars Brooke Hogan (as in the daughter of Hulk Hogan), let's just hope she can act better than her father . The plot makes it sound like some kind of Jaws/Tremors/Blood Beach/Piranha hybrid and it actually seems like it could turn out to be a decent movie, until you watch the trailer and see the CGI. I'm not just saying this because I really dislike CGI in general, but after you watch the trailer you'll know what I mean. It's bad, really bad. And before the synopsis I'll give you a little 'possible spoiler alert' because it's quite long and may give away a few things you'd rather find out for yourself.
(And what's up with the shameless Jaws rip-off poster??)

Synopsis: “An underwater earthquake cracks open a crater deep beneath the ocean’s surface unleashing a prehistoric predator.  On the sleepy island of White Sands, local teens drink and party beside a beach bonfire.  One of them wanders off after a pretty girl and disappears, leaving only a severed hand behind.  It appears it’s been bitten and ripped off by a vicious animal.  This looks like a shark bite, but it’s found well above the high tide line, it can’t be a shark… Or can it?  Jimmy Green (Corin Nemec), prodigal party boy and son of the mayor, returns home to White Sands with a scheme to breathe some life into the dying economy (and clear his debt to a mobster) by throwing a huge spring break party: The Sandman Festival.  Jimmy runs into his ex, and now Deputy Sherriff, Brenda Young (Vanessa Lee Evigan).  She and her brother, the Sheriff, want to close the island beaches in fear of further shark attacks, which would ruin Jimmy’s plans.  Brenda calls in an expert, shark scientist Dr. Sandy Powers (Brooke Hogan), as the attacks continue. Dr. Powers says it appears to be a sand shark, a beast which moves through the sand as if it was water.  A shark is electrocuted by accident, but it’s soon discovered that this shark, though gigantic, was only a baby!  The festival continues and thousands of college kids arrive just as dozens of sand sharks make their presence known, attracted by the vibrations of the crowd and the PA system.  The most menacing beasts to ever rule the waters, now rule the sand; mercilessly feeding on anything that crosses their path.   It’s a giant feeding frenzy and it’s up to Brenda, Sandy, the Sherriff, and Jimmy to stop the carnage.”


THE DEAD Blu-ray & DVD Release



I can honestly say that this was one of the best movies I saw all year, and probably my favorite zombie film since the original Night of the Living Dead. The Ford brothers have created a beautiful, terrifying and original journey through hordes of undead set against an amazing African backdrop. THE DEAD may not be the fast-paced gorefest a lot of people may be expecting, but there is plenty here to satisfy any horror fan. Out on DVD & Blu-ray February 14th.
You can read my review of the film right here.

Press Release: Unlike anything audiences have been exposed to before, The Dead grabs you by the throat and takes you on a visceral journey across the harsh but stunning landscapes of Africa, where the sole survivor of the doomed final evacuation flight out of the continent has more than just the unforgiving terrain to deal with. Written and directed by Howard J. Ford and Jon Ford, The Dead has stunned audiences at such prestigious film festivals as Fantastic Fest, FrightFest and the Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival. Garnering hundreds of rave reviews during its theatrical release, The Dead truly has become an instant cult classic.
The first horror film entirely filmed in Africa, The Dead takes the zombie legend back to its original roots and has justly been hailed as “superbly crafted...it’s a knockout” by the Village Voice, “one of the finest zombie films I’ve ever seen” by the Horror Channel, with Bloody-Disgusting declaring it “one of the most buzzed-about films of the year.” Anchor Bay Entertainment proudly announces the February 14th, 2012, Blu-ray™ and DVD release of The Dead, the critically acclaimed horror film that wowed both audiences and critics worldwide. SRP is $26.98 for the DVD, and $29.99 for the Blu-ray™.

When the last flight out of war-torn Africa crashes off the coast, Lt. Brian Murphy (Rob Freeman) is the sole survivor in a land where the dead are returning to life and attacking the living. On the run in a hostile and inhospitable parched landscape, Murphy has to use his wits and ingenuity if he is to get home alive to his family. When he crosses paths with local solider Daniel Dembele (Prince David Osei), a man frantically searching for his son, they join forces. Two desperate men from two very different cultures fight side-by-side to survive across the incredible vistas of Africa as the world around them succumbs to the deadliest of viruses.

Bonus features on The Dead Blu-ray™ and DVD will include audio commentary by writer/producer/director Howard J. Ford and writer/director of photography/co-director Jon Ford, “Unearthing The Dead: Behind the Scenes” featurette, and a deleted scene.

Paint Farts By Tom Six

Yes you read that correctly, Paint Farts By Tom Six. I found this little gem while browsing Horror-movies.ca recently and just had to share it. Paint Farts is a website where you can view and even purchase genuine paintings from Human Centipede director Tom Six. To call these art might be a bit of a stretch, but no doubt there are people out there more than willing to lay down some cash for these twisted works. If you've seen either of The Human Centipede films then you'll probably have a good idea of what to expect from Tom's work. With titles like 'Anal Birth', 'Used Tampon' and 'Shit Mouth' I think it's safe to say that this site is probably NSFW, but I will include a few of the 'safer' examples below.
Check out the official site for more.





Wrap Your Eyeballs Around These Brand New PROMETHEUS Images

I know there hasn't really been a lot of activity on my blog for the last month or so. I had a bit of a vacation, and since then I've been busy with a lot of stuff. But when I noticed that Bloody Disgusting had posted a link on Facebook which contained the words 'New PROMETHEUS Images' I just had to check them out. This is probably the only 2012 movie so far which I'm actually really excited to see. The images come from Entertainment Weekly, and since I don't read it I probably would have never found these on my own. So thanks BD!

Synopsis: Ridley Scott, director of 'Alien' and 'Blade Runner,' returns to the genre he helped define. With PROMETHEUS, he creates a groundbreaking mythology, in which a team of explorers discover a clue to the origins of mankind on Earth, leading them on a thrilling journey to the darkest corners of the universe. There, they must fight a terrifying battle to save the future of the human race.

PROMETHEUS hits theatres June 8th 2012.





11.18.2011

FINAL FANTASY XIII (PS3) Review


Yeah I know that this has been out for well over 12 months now but I've decided to review it anyway because I'm such a huge FF fan and I only purchased a PS3 and this game a couple of months ago. I still haven't finished it (I'm trying for the platinum trophy) but I feel I've reached far enough into the game to give a pretty thorough review. So here goes.

I probably don't have to tell you that the Final Fantasy franchise is massive, and for the most part has improved with every entry into the main series. FFXIII was released in 2009/2010 and became the fastest selling game in the franchise with over 1 million units sold on the day of release in Japan and another million copies in the first month of its release in North America. But does this mean that it's a great game? Well no not really, because any game with the words Final Fantasy attached to it is sure to be a big seller. After such a successful history, Square Enix could release a terrible game in the series and there would still be millions of people pre-ordering it. So is it any good?

The first thing I have to say is that FFXIII is completely different from any of the others in the franchise. For this reason I've decided to review it not as a Final Fantasy game but just a game in general. It received a lot of criticism, no doubt because fans weren't expecting such a big change and I don't think it's really fair to compare it to any of the other FF games. I will admit though that I was pretty critical of it at first, but as I've progressed my attitude has completely changed and now I fucking love it.

The biggest problem most people seemed to have with the game is it's linearity. Sure the games have all been at least a little linear in the past, but FFXIII brings it to a whole new level. In fact the first 10 chapters (of which there are a total of 13) are basically one huge 20 - 30 hour hallway. There's a marker on the map you'll need to reach while on the way fighting a huge variety of enemies and picking up items. Once you leave an area you can't just turn around and go back, the only way is forward. This might seem constricting and boring but it actually encourages you to push on and dive into the fast paced battle system which is great.


The battle system is one of the best of any game in the franchise so far. It uses the ATB (Active Time Battle)  system with a battle queue which is filled with certain physical and magical attacks before being unleashed on the enemy. At first you may be tempted to experiment choosing attacks manually, but most of the game you will be using the auto function. This isn't as bad as it sounds though because although it takes most of the control from out of your hands, it does allow you to focus on swapping paradigms which is an integral part of the battle system especially in the tougher fights. And what exactly are these paradigms? Well this is where it might get a bit confusing if you haven't played the game. The paradigms are basically preset groups that you set to your three active characters. There are 6 different roles (much like the job system in FFX-2 but infinitely better) available to your characters. These are Commando, Ravager, Sentinel, Saboteur, Synergist and Medic. You'll need to train your characters in these different roles and you will instantly notice that certain characters are better suited to specific roles than others. You can then set these character roles into what is called a paradigm. Paradigms can be changed (in fact will often need to be changed) during battle and can be the only thing separating victory from defeat. You might start a battle using the Premeditation paradigm which consists of a synergist, a saboteur and a sentinel. The synergist will bestow positive status effects on your characters, the saboteur will load up the enemies with negative effects and the sentinel will draw physical damage while protecting the two other characters. You might then choose to switch to the Relentless Assault paradigm which consists of a commando and two ravagers which will both assault the enemy with physical and magic attacks. You will need to master these paradigms if you want to make it through the more difficult battles.

Confused yet? Well sorry but there's more. The aim of the battle is to 'stagger' the enemy. Each enemy will have a stagger gauge and once it is filled you will be able to do higher damage and even some special abilities. To fill the stagger gauge you will need to use certain attacks. For example a ravager will fill the gauge quickly but needs to be supported by a commando in order to keep the gauge from dropping. Once an enemy is staggered you can keep pounding it with attacks and keep it from attacking you until the stagger gauge empties again in which case you can start all over. This all takes a while to get used to but you will find it fun and challenging and it keeps the action fast paced. Make a mistake and accidentally choose the wrong paradigm though and it could cost you a long and hard fought battle.


And if that's not already enough information to get your head around, now we need to talk about the Crystarium. This the levelling up system in FFXIII and is quite similar to what you may have seen in FFX's Sphere Grid. After each battle, instead of EXP you will receive CP (Crystogen Points) which can then be used to enhance your characters' roles using the Crystarium. Each role has a separate section and you will find it more convenient to concentrate on only one or two roles for each character to start with. The Crystarium however is very limited, and will only expand at certain parts of the storyline. So once you've completed a role level and maxed out your Crystarium, you won't be able to increase it any further until it expands. You will still receive CP, you just won't be able to use it. This is probably in place to prevent you from overpowering your characters and rushing through the game. I don't usually like overpowering my characters because it takes away the challenge, so I thought this was actually a good idea.


And now we come to the weapons & accessories. Each character has a certain type of weapon and each weapon can be upgraded. There are three tiers and a few different base weapons to upgrade. All of these base weapons will end up turning into the character's ultimate weapon, but depending on which weapon you started with the stats will differ. There are save points all over the map and these double as a shop and weapon / accessory upgrade station. You need to upgrade your items with components which can be dropped by enemies and also purchased in the shop. Gil is scarce in FFXIII so most of the time you will find yourself selling certain items to purchase components for upgrading. Eventually your weapon / accessory will reach a 'star level' and then to upgrade it further you will need to use a transformational catalyst. The catalysts are expensive and range from a few thousand Gil up to 2 million Gil. They can also be dropped by enemies. Unfortunately the game gives you absolutely no hint as to which catalyst is needed for which weapon, so you will definitely need a guide. The bad news is that it will take a very long time to upgrade to the ultimate weapons but the good news is that you won't actually need the ultimate weapons to finish the game. Although there is a trophy in it if you get all of the ultimate weapons.


The best part of FFXIII for me so far has been reaching chapter 11. All of a sudden the game opens up entirely into a huge world called Gran Pulse. Even though it will take around 20 or 30 hours to reach this point, you can easily stay here for double that time, grinding for CP and components. It's actually a little overwhelming going straight from this linear hallway to this big, beautiful world with an even bigger variety of monsters. And this is where the Cieth Stone Missions come in. I won't go into what a Cieth is but I will say a little about the missions. You will find these Cieth Stones scattered around Gran Pulse and when you activate them they will give you a quest. The quests are basically finding a certain creature and killing it (like the hunts in FFXII) but they are not ordinary creatures. They will be more powerful than the regular monsters and range in difficulty. After you've finished a mission you will unlock further stones and more missions. I think there are around 60 or so missions which increase the gaming hours significantly. You will also find Chocobos which can be used to dig for buried items.


I was going to go into the storyline of the game but I don't think I will. If you haven't played it then you can find out for yourself. If you're familiar with the Final Fantasy franchise though you will probably have a general idea of what's in store.
I also could go into the Eidolons (the equivalent of GFs, Aeons, Espers etc) but again if you're familiar with the games you'll know what they're like. But I suppose I should talk briefly about the technical aspects of the game.
The graphics are amazing, the best I've seen on the PS3 so far. Playing this game on a huge HD TV is a fantastic experience. The cut scenes could give Avatar a run for it's money. The soundtrack is one of the best I've heard in a game too. The voice acting is great but falls just short of being amazing for a few minor reasons (the character Vanille being one). Traveling around the world is easy, the controls are easy to use and I found that the camera was good too, it would pivot and turn at the right moments and for the most part  it doesn't get in the way.
This is by no means a perfect game but is a great addition to any game collection and in my opinion almost essential. Even if you aren't a FF fan but still like RPGs then you will definitely enjoy it. And the sequel is only a few months away.




11.14.2011

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 (2011) Review


Directed by: Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman
Starring: Christopher Nicholas Smith, Lauren Bittner, Chloe Csengery, Jessica Tyler Brown

Where do I even begin? I guess first I should say that I hated the first two movies in this franchise. So why did I watch the third? Well I really don't know, maybe I'm just a glutton for punishment. But I can honestly say that I really wish I hadn't seen this film.
If you've seen PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 1 and/or 2 then you will know exactly what to expect from this third offering.

The movie is shown via VHS footage which was taken in 1988. It centers on Katie and Kristi when they were obviously much younger. As you might expect, strange things start happening around the house and the girls' stepfather Dennis decides that he is going to film EVERYTHING. So it's lucky that his job just so happens to be filming weddings and he conveniently has an assload of video equipment. Cameras are set up in the girls' bedroom and various other rooms in the house and finally they catch some weird shit on film. But of course their mother thinks that this is all ridiculous and doesn't even want to watch any footage, even though Katie and Kristi are obviously scared shitless. Things get worse, they take a trip to the grandmother's house and things continue to get worse.

It's the same setup as the first two films and it is comprised of the same cheap scares and boring, repetitive camera shots. I don't know about you, but after seeing a strange shadow or a light fitting fall out of the ceiling for the millionth time I kind of get over it. The movie is around 90 minutes long and nothing really happens for the first hour or so. Then all of a sudden all of the exciting shit is crammed into the last half hour. And it's not even that exciting. In fact all of the footage that you may have seen in the trailers, isn't even in the actual movie!

I really can't be bothered writing anything else about PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 because it is complete and utter crap. In fact I went and watched it with my fiance and we both almost fell asleep. Not even kidding. Do yourself a favour and stay away.