Ranking the Assassin’s Creed Franchise, Part 6

2 Apr

3. Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood

Other than Black Flag, Brotherhood, technically the third game in the series, still has the best overall gameplay, and its combat is superior to every other title released thus far. It was the first game to introduce chain-kills, which allowed the player to turn Ezio into a dizzying flurry of blades as he swept one insta-kill to the next. ACIII and the games that shared its engine—Liberation, Black Flag and Rogue—continued the chaining mechanic, but like with the rest of their gameplay, combat was considerably dumbed down. Never in Assassin’s Creed’s history was chopping and stabbing more viscerally satisfying than in Brotherhood, and some of the kill animations are completely ridiculous, namely one in which Ezio stabs an enemy in the temple, then pushes his body around to fire his hidden gun through the guy’s head and into another enemy. (more...)

Ranking the Assassin’s Creed Franchise, Part 5

27 Mar

4. Assassin's Creed

The game that started it all, the first entry in the now globally popular videogame franchise is considered more of a proof of concept than a fully-realized game. Back in 2007, Ubisoft seemed to be testing the waters for a more mature Prince of Persia with Assassin’s Creed, and the game also showcased their impressive new graphical engine and A.I. crowd physics.

The gameplay was repetitive and the combat uninspired, making the game a mixed success with critics, but I was hooked from the start. I recognized the game’s flaws but was simply smitten by its unique setting and concept, as 2007 was the beginning of gaming’s Call of Duty-ification. I’ve always been fascinated by the Middle Ages and the Crusades, particularly the Third Crusade (the backdrop for Robin Hood), which is depicted here.

I was also drawn in by the idea of the Assassins and Templars, who in this first game more closely resemble the real life organizations they are based on (the Templars were an order of Crusader knights while the Hashashin were a sect of Shia Muslims whose Arabic mantra more or less translates to the Assassins’ “Nothing is true, everything is permitted”). (more...)

TheHil’s Top 10 Movies of 2014, Part 2

24 Mar

I actually forgot about two movies I saw in 2014, the new X-Men film and the Michael Fassbender-starring Frank. I've retroactively added them to the list. To see my opinions on them, click here.

And now, for the Final Five (Battlestar Galactica reference):

5. Blue Ruin

The most low-key film on my list, this indie revenge thriller gets points for its interesting structure, unique protagonist, and low-key, easy-to-follow plot. It’s a revenge story where the hero is a bumbling dweeb who’s terrible at vengeance, who messes up half the time, and who by the third act has such misty morals, you begin to wonder if you’re even rooting for him anymore. It’s short and sweet and to the point, with just the right amount of violence and humor to keep you entertained while making you contemplate the nature of morality.

Short and sweet… just like the above paragraph! (pats self on back for brevity) (more...)

TheHil’s Top 10 Movies of 2014, Part 1

23 Mar

We’re down to the Top 10 and 2015 is already 25% over, so I’m gonna cut to the chase and (try to) keep it short and sweet.

10. The LEGO Movie

I thought this would be a cute, semi-original kid’s movie. I didn’t expect it to make me tear up. The animation— which while done on a computer, looked remarkably similar to the Brickfilms that are so popular on YouTube— was the real draw for me, but within minutes I fell in love with The LEGO Movie’s world, characters, wit and charm.

For any kid who’s ever played with LEGOs and/or had difficulties with their fathers, this movie will touch your heart. The final act— in which Chris Pratt’s protagonist minifig travels to the real world, and we learn the whole movie has been generated by the imagination of a depressed kid sneaking into his dad’s (Will Ferrell) personal LEGO diorama— shouldn’t have worked, but it did, and turned what was a fun animated movie into a real treasure. Robbed of any awards or recognition as a movie full of whismy and originality is clearly inferior to by-the-books biopics about stuffy English scientists, The LEGO Movie will nonetheless remain a classic among kids and adults alike, for years to come. (more...)

Let’s Talk About All the 2014 Movies, Part 5- Back From the Dead

12 Mar

I didn't give up on this, I've just been super busy lately. Working on a novel and planning on moving back to the East Coast, so not as much time for blogging. After I finish up this and the Assassin's Creed list I will probably give it a rest for a while. I do kinda want to write an article about how awful it is living with Hare Krishnas and how I wish Californians would be less passive-aggressive and indignant all the time, but I feel I always get flak for being too negative, so probably best to leave that one by the wayside.

13. Nymphomaniac

By far the weirdest movie I saw all year, stranger even than Noah, stone giants and all. But Lars Von Trier is always weird, so this was nothing to be surprised by; really, it’s why I wanted to see the movie in the first place. Well… that and sex. Mostly the sex. I like sex. A lot. It’s a topic that fascinates me, and I’m drawn to movies that explore sex and sexuality in interesting ways.

Von Trier is known for putting sex under the microscope, but like all male filmmakers, this can get tricky when dealing with female sexuality. While not outright hated by critics, the film was divisive among the Jezebel/rich white lady feminist types as its plot focuses on a woman with a long and torrid sexual history, the titular nymphomaniac, played by Charlotte Gainsbourg. For most of the movie she is pursuing pleasure not love, and the film includes actual sexual penetration and all sorts of other taboo shit, including a scene in which two African men argue in their native tongue over who gets which of Gainsbourg’s orifices.

So the sexual politics are a bit shaky, but the film operates in a heightened reality and covers a lot of thematic ground, so I wouldn’t really call it misogynistic. Gainsbourg’s Joe is a strong, nuanced character that is always fascinating to watch, though Part I is considerably more engaging than Part II, which finds Joe working as a dominatrix torturer for criminal underlords… it gets a little too out there by the end, even by Von Trier’s standards. (more...)

Let’s Talk About All the 2014 Movies, Part 4

23 Feb

The Oscars are over and I still don't care. Now we're getting into the movies I liked more, though the first one up is pretty borderline:

19. Noah

I’m almost certainly in the minority on this one. Thanks to the faith-based crowd, this bizarre biblical adaptation from arthouse director Darren Aronofsky did well at the box office, but not so much with critics… and most of the cinephiles and ex-film students I talk to.

Which I completely understand; this movie is weird as hell. But I like weird things, and I think that’s why it worked for me. It’s most similar to The Fountain, Aronofksy’s previous failed attempt at philosophical fantasy, another movie of which I am in the small pool of admirers. Aronofsky’s films are full of emotion, and I’m a very emotional person, which is maybe why I can forgive their faults, as not everything in The Fountain and Noah really works.

But c’mon, this movie had giant stone angels smashing dudes’ heads in! It has Unobtanium! Yes, God Unobtanium! In one of Aronofsky’s weirder inventions, the Earth-killing industry of Cain’s descendents is powered by these strange, glowing rocks that we see Noah breaking up to make a fire early on in the film. Noah and his brood, descendents of Abel, wear the shedded skin of the Serpent on their biceps, I guess to designate that they’re followers of God? It also glows gold and was another weird addition. (more...)

Let’s Talk About All the 2014 Movies, Part 3

19 Feb

22. Inherent Vice

Another awards season snoozefest. No seriously, I almost fell asleep during this movie. About 40 minutes in, I really struggled to keep my eyes open; my dad, who is turning 70 in April, did pass out. I think it’s partly because this movie requires so much brainpower. There are a million characters  with weird names and none of them will shut up. Your brain is constantly working overtime to remember who’s who and what they said and how it all interconnects.

The answer is it doesn’t. Nothing of any import happens in this movie and character arcs and motivations are thrown aside in favor of zany antics and a general air of surrealism. Boogie Nights and There Will Be Blood are two of my favorite movies ever, and even when P.T. Anderson falters, like with last year’s The Master, he’s still doing something weird and different, so I’m always rooting for him.

But Inherent Vice feels like a low point for the director. Even his trademark cinematography seems tempered, all grain and bleach bypass but no heart. Everything is shot in medium close-up, and when it isn’t it’s for long, static wides, none of the energy of his previous films—there are no single take steadicam sequences in this movie. (more...)

Let’s Talk About All the 2014 Movies, Part 2

19 Feb

So, it occurred to me that by not putting a “Part 1” after the first blog’s title or saying “To Be Continued” at the end, that some readers were confused. I will rectify this with future installments.

Now, let’s get into the movies I kinda sorta liked last year.

26. Godzilla

Movie marketing is a veritable Pan, a trickster whose mission is to polish turds. Drive, a moody neo-noir thriller, was advertised as a Fast and the Furious action car chase extravaganza. Rent-a-director Brett Ratner’s Hercules was advertised as a Greco-Roman fantasy full of magical creatures, when in fact it was just two hours of The Rock flexing his pecs.

Often studios realize the movie they’ve been handed is difficult to sell, or rather, they simply aren’t smart or talented enough to know how to sell it. Is Chappie really “Humanity’s Last Hope?” Probably not, but it sounds exciting, don’t it?

Godzilla was pitched to us as the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight take on the titular lizard monster. In actuality, it was just a solid Godzilla movie with some really silly crap thrown in for good measure. So I get that some people were disappointed by how dumb it was, and I was disappointed Bryan Cranston wasn’t the main character, but for whatever reason I still managed to forgive it and enjoy myself. (more...)

Let’s Talk About All the 2014 Movies

18 Feb

With the Academy Awards going down this weekend, I felt it was my last chance to discuss 2014 in film. I won’t be watching the Oscars ceremony because I don’t care. They have never been particularly relevant to begin with, but in recent years they seem to have hit a new low. Besides, when you see the movies I liked, you’ll get why Hollywood’s biggest awards night means little to me.

Instead of doing a standard Top 10, I decided to just go through the entire list of the 29 films I caught this year and discuss each, some with a sentence, some with several paragraphs. Let’s begin with the WORST FILM I SAW IN 2014:

29. V/H/S: Viral

When done correctly, found footage can be the scariest horror genre there is, and I love many of its greatest hits: Paranormal Activity and Cloverfield being the first to come to mind. I love the V/H/S/ series even more, as an anthology seems like the perfect format for found footage. Both of the first two films had terrible wraparounds involving a haunted house filled with snuff films, but most of the first’s shorts excelled, and the sequel was even better. (more...)

Ranking the Assassin’s Creed Franchise, Part 4

12 Feb

5. Assassin's Creed: Rogue

Rogue is the game that straddles the line between the four good and the four bad AC titles. It’s essentially a direct sequel to Black Flag, or rather, more of an expansion pack, and Black Flag had incredible gameplay, so in that regard Rogue mostly excels. It doesn’t add much, just improves upon its predecessor, while adding cosmetic changes like new animals and a new, snowy environment.

Rogue bridges the gap between Black Flag and ACIII and feels like a combination of those two games. It reuses a lot of assets from ACIII, including a mildly reworked version of its New York map. Unlike Black Flag, which featured one giant map of the Caribbean, Rogue is made up of three smaller maps—in addition to New York there’s two naval maps, the Hudson River Valley and Nova Scotia. The former is also mostly comprised of reused tree and animal assets from ACIII, but the Northern Passage map is all new, and the jewel of the game.

In one of the game’s better moments, I watched a flock of penguins dive into the sea as I approached a shipwreck I wanted to explore. Shay, another boring white man in an ever-increasing string of boring, grim white men, can use his ship’s battering ram to cleave the ice and travel safely through the North Atlantic, and can also break apart icebergs, sinking smaller ships in the ensuing tidal wave. I loved the North Atlantic bits and the tiny additions to ACIII and Black Flag’s naval gameplay but sadly, it only makes up a third of the game. (more...)