Monday, December 31, 2018

What's Next On My List? (Games) Assassin's Creed: Black Flag

All year long I have wanted to play this game, and I loved it soooooo damn much that I decided to finish it with 100%, I mean... both Brotherhood and Revelations had this effect on me, and I terribly hated ACIII because there was no way to lower my wanted level and I couldn't do any of the side missions and it was just plain frustrating... and I love these games, honestly, even if I have to replay a mission a hundred times, I don't mind, the madness of not being successful at first try fuels my wish to play more and more and more. Is that just me? I don't know. Anyway, I played this game for days, getting every assassin contract, every single chest box and post-its and animus fragments BUT then I decided to hurry up and finish it before the year ends so I could review it as the last thing for this year, so here we go:

The story: Our main character is Edward Kenway, a nobody who becomes one of the most notorious pirates of the Caribbean, by realizing that his actions caused the direct danger on the life of the assassins. As just six years of his life pass, he realizes that all he has worked for isn't good for anything if there is nobody left alive to be there with him when he finally gets it. In the end, he helps the assassins according to their creed in order to walk away with a sense of dignity and self-respect.
Game play: This was a very weird experience, because I was not into steering my ship in the beginning... I needed to be a couple of hours in to let myself enjoy it, while with the other games I was on board right away. I actually preferred being on land at first, but as I equipped my ship with more and more things, and I was fishing and actually defeating other ships it just got so entertaining. I believe that is the main reason I enjoyed doing side missions, because steering my ship around was simply fun. Now, I was told that they worked on this because of the success of ships in ACIII, well... I hated them there! That one mission was simply terribly done and I succeeded without knowing how I did it. So that is why I was not a fun right away, but I have to admit, that it was very well done here. I also loved, that in the end, my second in command was a woman. This game took the rules that society had at the time and let go of them in a heartbeat. Women take a major role in this game, and I loved the little things between the missions and I have to say that the dialogues in this game were just simply amazing. I find myself tearing up towards the end and I don't think any other AC game has ever had that effect on me.
Mini-bosses: Helping the other assassins was actually very entertaining. In previous games I was part of the Creed, here I liked that I had to earn my place, I liked how there were others and I wasn't recruiting them but my actions caused mistakes that I had to fix. In this story, the mini-bosses were a result of the main character being irrational and impulsive. Seeing other skilled and well trained assassins from all around the Caribbean was a wonderful treat. Helping them resulted in fighting smaller bosses, they were not a big deal. That is all I can say, as the major bosses evaded me until the end of the story, and there were four of them. The smaller bosses came from all around, since as a pirate everyone was my enemy: Spanish ships, English ships, other pirates, pirate hunters, often Templars and assassins too.
The Boss fight: Obviously in each game I look forward to the end, and this was a bit different from the others. Having at least four people to kill I got more and more excited about getting them out of the way, but in the end, the last person who remained was simply too easy to kill. One good jump and its over... I just remember how I used the last string of my life to kill Cesare Borgia and I missed the excitement of that. That said, I am not really complaining in the end, because it was still satisfying, but I would not call it boss fight, unless we take the last four battles as four iterations of the ultimate boss. It was just different, but not necessarily bad, is all I wanted to say.

What didn't work? First, I missed that there was no 'Sequence completed' signs during the game... I have to say, that even if I know the set up of the game I recognize when one chapter is over, I still missed being told that I am going forward OK. I do not know which board meeting decided on the elimination of that, but I did miss it. Second, my copy had a couple of bugs, and I don't know if that is just the PS3 version, or mine in particular (we did buy it used), but I did not really think that was a major issue that requires more than this one sentence.
There was, altogether, just one segment that was badly made: after I get my ship I kept getting my ass kicked and couldn't advance in any way. I then bought just one upgrade and it made all the difference in the world: now the game keeps giving you suggestions, but there was not a single 'equip your ship now!' suggestion and I did find that very weird. You learn everything pretty fast, and still, at the very end of the game I am still being told about the leap of faith, but the ship shops were only available after I get the Jackdaw and there were no hints for it. I found that very weird... but that is literally the only criticism I can think of right now.
What worked? Oh my god, everything. I love these games, really, that is why it hurts so much when they don't do them right. I find something I love in all of them, but if the criticism says that it isn't as good, I believe them, because that has been my experience too. My friend complained about the lack of Desmond, but I was completely fine with how they changed the main character, after all, others have interesting ancestors as well.

And that is it for my blog entries for 2018. Thank you everyone, well, anyone, who stuck by me and make sure you join me for year eight of my blog. Have a great year everyone!

Monday, December 24, 2018


I have finally seen the movie I have been waiting for all year long, and as fortune would have it, I could time it to be this year's Christmas review!

It is Christmas time in Whoville, but one mean creature is not in the spirit of the holiday, the Grinch even plans to ruin it for everyone else. In an attempt to cure a pain in his heart he thinks that the way to get over it is to try and defeat it, but when he learns that he is the only one who doesn't get the true meaning of Christmas, he apologizes for what he has done.

First off, I have not read any criticism and I refuse to do so still. There is a very simple reason for that: there is no rendition of How The Grinch Stole Christmas that the Americans are going to be OK with. This is a beloved children's classic and you all out there have your own memories of how it is and you prefer the 30 minutes cartoon with the original Dr. Seuss writing recited over it. Second, I did not grow up with that, so to me the childhood favorite was the Jim Carrey version from 2000, and most people who did not enjoy it as much at first, have claimed that it is one of their guilty pleasures over the years, mostly because of the dialogue and the visuals. I adore that movie, and I knew that any story that dealt with this character would be good - and so I went into the movie not knowing anything and keeping an open mind.
I have to say: I loved it. This is a great children's movie that teaches one very important lesson, and it is that of the necessity for apologies. In the end the Grinch obviously learns his lesson, and I find that the most important scene was when he tells everyone that he thought hurting others would fix something in him, but it didn't. We are likely to lash out at others more often then they would deserve, but I do not think many of us take the time to apologize after we realize that we might have been wrong. The lesson of this story was said out loud, but I applaud it for that, because learning to apologize for our mistakes is very important. I loved the design of the town, the voice acting, the Grinch's relationship with his dog Max, Cindy Lou's kindness and overall the small but significant characters of this little town that is so fond of Christmas.
If I had to be critical, there are things that I could bring up that were not to my liking. The new versions of the classic songs I think were terrible... the songs about the Grinch are also Christmas songs, but making them into something you would find as the last track on a 90s RnB album is not festive. Second, the makers put an extra emphasis on one song in particular, where carolers surround the Grinch as he goes into town. I did not agree with the fantastical town of Whoville singing "Remember Christ our Savior/Was born on Christmas Day" because I do not fuse the religious background to this fantastic holiday, especially because the story is about learning that material belongings don't matter! If they already knew the religious meaning, there would be no point in learning the lesson... My brother said that perhaps the reason it was annoying to him, was supposed to symbolize that it is annoying to us too, but I don't know if I buy that. And I think that is all the criticism that I can recall.

Watch it? This is not an adult Disney movie, that is for every ages, it is more for children, but we found with my family that it is perfect mash-up of the original cartoon and the live action version. This movie is for everyone, but you might encounter criticism that says otherwise. I personally adored it for what it is and encourage everyone to see it with their loved ones!

Until the next item on my list!

_ _ _ _ _

The Grinch - Benedict Cumberbatch
Cindy-Lou Who - Cameron Seely
Donna Who - Rashida Jones
Groopert - Tristan O'Hare
Mr. Bricklebaum - Kenan Thompson

Thursday, December 20, 2018

What's The Next Item On My List? While You Were Sleeping

In the vain of old movies that made a great deal to me, I decided to write about one that is also a Christmas movie in my book. Perfect for the holiday season!

Lucy has spent all of her life hoping for more: family, love, traveling, everything really that would make her feel like there is more out there. One day, she rescues a man who falls onto the train tracks and by a mistake, she ends up being surrounded by everything she ever hoped for, and even more. But she cannot go on without telling everybody about the mistake that made everything possible.

I think I was about six when I saw this movie for the first time, and I have seen it at least 20 times, in English... and in Italian... and well in Hungarian too. Gotta say, dubbing was quite great back then, a lot has changed since then. Going back to the movie, it was also the film that got me to fall in love with Sandra Bullock, and my love for her has never ceased to exist. She is one of the best actresses I know out there, and it is always an absolute pleasure when I get to see her in literally anything. She makes every movie wonderful, even the ones for which she receives Razzies, seriously, I loved the bad movies too.
This, however, is not bad, it is beyond awesome. When I think about all the stories that try so hard to push the Christmas spirit down our throats... here you have someone who just wishes for her never ending loneliness to be over. I love the scene where the family celebrates Christmas a few days later, because family and holidays are about the feeling, not a date in the calendar. I cannot even imagine what I would feel like, if my son ended up in the hospital on Christmas. To follow, even if he wasn't about to marry the girl who saved her, I would still be thankful to her and cherish her for taking care of him. And on that note, to find out that she is such a sweet girl? You know, I also love the small but important lesson, that sometimes good people are alone. Most of us suffer from loneliness, at one point or another in our lives, and we end up asking the question of "What is wrong with me?". Particularly in the Christmas season. This is another reason why I hate those romantic movies, that have people already in a relationship and then they find their true love like... you were about to settle for something you don't really want... that isn't in the least romantic. Good commentary on society's pressure though.
So here you have a heroine who seeks her prince charming, and she finds him in the most unlikely way possible, as he turns out to be the brother of the  man she wanted in the first place. All of her life Lucy did one thing: she did not settle for less than perfect. That is the main reason she is alone, and the movie very smartly showcases how the pressure of the holidays can weigh in on someone's loneliness. This pressure made her forget that she wants the kind of real love her parents had, not just something to get her through this time of year. It is when she realizes her real feelings, does she conclude that even if she has to be alone again, it isn't worth ending up with someone she wasn't meant to be with. I find that to be a wonderful moral lesson. Moving on from that, another thing I loved about this movie is the side characters: I am fed up with romantic comedies where the main character's best friend is an asshole. Parents, grandparents, siblings... everyone in this movie is charming, but down to Earth at the same time. Okay, I just realized that I could go on for hours about how great this movie is! You should just watch it.

Conclusion? How have you now seen it yet? I honestly fear for everyone who missed out on wonderful movies from the 90s that did now fall into the same terribly boring tropes that were brought on by the second half of the 2010s. I'm sorry, but if you look around, most movies are about the same things lately and here you have a festive holiday film with lovely characters and a lot of little stories that make me want to re-watch over and over again.

Until the next item on my list!
_ _ _ _ _ _ 

Jack - Bill Pullman
Elsie - Glynis Johns
Jerry - Jason Bernard
Joe Jr. - Michael Rispoli

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Why Should You Enjoy Home Alone 3 In Spite of Public Opinion

I had a heated debate with one of my students, where they claimed that this was a terrible movie, and I felt the need to defend it. I even decided to take my nostalgia goggles off and re-watch it, just so I could either admit to caring for this movie for emotional or reasonable arguments. I can now tell you all haters, cause I will prove to you that you have been wrong for years!

A group of terrorists plans to sell a chip to an organization, but due to a mistake it ends up in the hands of a young boy by the name of Alex. As the terrorists try to retrieve the chip in his neighborhood; not knowing yet where it might have ended up, the terrorists are at a disadvantage and Alex decides to protect himself and not let them hurt anyone.

My first question is: have you actually seen this movie, or are you just part of the group of people who goes and assumes that sequels are worse than the originals? Because I am fine with you not liking it, if you have truly seen it... I saw this when I was either eight or nine, a friend lent me their VHS tape, and up to today, I have to say, it is not nearly as bad as they make it out to be. I will now list the things that I think make this a good movie with a great premise. One, there are no spiders in this movie. Two, as far as villains are concerned, I was always disgusted by the two bums/burglars in the first Home Alone movies, because that is real, that is something that can happen to me, that is something that I am literally scared of. And the thought of being a small child, who can come up with things (and I can't), to protect myself was never reassuring.
Three, I hate the idea to be forgotten by my family. It is literally the worst thing I could think of that can happen in my little life. My favorite thing about this movie is the fact that everyone cares for this little boy: his parents are not leaving him alone because they forgot him! Actually, they spend all of their time making sure that he does not have to be alone. The mom cancels meetings, the father puts off flying, they make sure the older siblings come home sooner... really the circumstances are just so much more real that it reassured my little heart. His brother and sister too might tease him, but once it is outsiders who want to hurt him, they step up and protect him. I like the way this family is set up and I like the kindness they teach to their son. Four, his sister is played by young Scarlett Johansson, and if that is not reason enough for you, then maybe I should give up convincing you at this point... Five, looking at the enemies, it might be a stretch that he can defeat terrorists, but I thought of it this way: they are not used to pranks, they are used to professionals. The latter I think are far more predictable, if you work in the same environment as they do. And this argumentation also goes for the first two movies, because we all know that people cannot comprehend a little child beating adults... and I might agree with you, but then this is the part where you need to admit that you have a problem with the whole franchise and not just the third installation! In this movie, you have the smart, the dumb, the overachiever and the so called professional... ultimately they are all just there to be comic reliefs, and they do a fine job at that. All of these movies are enhancing physical comedy, do not act as if the final showdown between Alex and them was not what we were all waiting for. And even that did not take more than 15 minutes, which means that this movies spent a good amount of time setting up the story.
Six, and my favorite, Alex is treated unkindly by the bitter old lady next door, but when she needs help, he goes out of his way to save her. He was kind to someone who was mean to him, because that is what he was taught! This is a great kid! Even if I understand Kevin's struggles, I wouldn't going around saying what a great role model he is... Again, I understand it, I was kid too, I too dreamed of having the house all to myself, but I simply cannot, no matter how many people love it, watch the first two without feeling in my stomach that this is wrong... which should have been the moral lesson of it... but was it? I mean really. Alex even calls the police, I mean come on, this little boy is a model citizen! The one thing Kevin has got going for him is the fact that he protected his home, but he could and should have called the police sooner... I'm just putting it out there, but did he? I dunno, I hate those movies, I haven't seen them in a long time. Anyway, this sequel movie is not a 4,4 imdb... (fine, the final scene with the women and her broken bones was a bit too much for me too, now, as an adult!).

In the past years I have started to grow a resentment towards movie that try to be more then they are... no, I will not get invested, no, I will not think about it, no, there is no further moral value to the story! Even if you include character development, to me an action movie should be about action, romantic ones about romance and superhero movies about superheroes! Some movies can be so pretentious and you sit there questioning why you wasted 90 minutes of your life for? This movie was meant to be a third movie, to a classic, with a whole new cast... let's be honest, it could simply not be good enough for anyone, the playing field was not leveled at all! I am sure you can name other sequels like it. And yet, based on what I listed up here, I think it deserve a re-watch on the part of everyone who hates it for no other reason than it missing Kevin or anyone from the cast of the original two.

Until the next item on my list!
_ _ _ _ _ _

Alex Pruitt Alex D. Linz
Petr Beaupre Olek Krupa
Alice RibbonsRya Kihlstedt
Burton Jernigan - Lenny von Dohlen
Earl Unger David Thornton
Karen PruittHaviland Morris
Mrs. HessMarian Seldes

Saturday, December 8, 2018

What's Next On My List? The Pacifier

The past weeks as you know I have been reviewing old movies that have a special meaning to me. This one is a bit out of the box, considering the kind of movies that I have covered on the blog in the past years, but as far as family movies are concerned, it is my absolute favorite and you will see why in a second.

An agent by the name of Shane Wolfe is surprised and attacked while overseeing the protection of an inventor by the name of Howard Plummer. After losing Plummer, he is delegated to protect his family, as the man after him still seek information that might be hidden in his home. In order to blend in, he becomes the nanny of the family, a job which he grows to like as he bonds with this family. In the end, he alone cannot take down the bad guys, but the children are not about to lose another important member of their family.

I am not a fan of toilet humor and the fact is that I am pissed at all of the movies that try to convey that that is the only means of inter-cultural humor available. We know this kind of gimmick of course: a grown man in trouble of taking care of children? A super-nanny? Unlikely adventures of an otherwise boring family? We have seen it all, so I am not so much concerned with how original the story is, but more about the ways they decided to make this different. And after all, it was these tiny but very important details that made the movie so much better. First of all, the girls in this movie are kick-ass! They do not need no man to save them, so much so that the expert private agent needs their help in order to win in the end. 
Second, there is no unnecessary toilet humor. A children's movie is the perfect opportunity to have some disgusting misplaced diaper jokes, but the movie didn't go there. The maximum was a baloney with some mustard. And finally, every single character is likable. The children have personalities, and they are age appropriate, and the way they all warm up to Shane was simply logical. There are a couple of twists and I never saw it coming, they mislead me (okay, I was 14, but nonetheless, the twists worked), and I just genuinely like to re-watch this movie. I think it fell under the radar because it was not meant for a wide audience, I would more like to deem it a 'made for TV movie', but out of those this is still a gem in the rough for me.

Watch it? I think it is perfect for a family night of fun, with a bunch of actors you all know and love today. As I said, it is not the most original story in the history of cinema, but that was not their intent. They wanted a big actor like Vin Diesel doing silly things, and the things he does are indeed cute and silly. But the reason this movie is good, is that him being big and comical is not the only thing that is has going for itself.

Until the next item on my list!
_ _ _ _ _ 

Shane Wolfe - Vin Diesel
Principal Claire Fletcher - Lauren Graham
Julie Plummer - Faith Ford
Zoe Plummer - Brittany Snow
Seth Plummer - Max Thieriot
Capt. Bill Fawcett - Chris Potter
Helga - Carol Kane
Lulu Plummer - Morgan York

Saturday, December 1, 2018

What's Next On My List? The Peanuts Movie

When I was a baby, my brother and sister already loved Peanuts, and as a child I wished to grow up to be Snoopy. When you think about it, don't you want to be Snoopy too, when you grow up?

Our story begins on a snow day, after which a mysterious beautiful girl joins the class of Charlie Brown, who tries to get up the courage to talk to her, despite not being very brave. In the background, Snoopy, writes a book about how he defeats the Red Baron in order to save the love of his life, Fifi.

Fortunately, Snoopy has all sorts of holiday specials, which I basically watch yearly. He was a favorite of my brother's, who I think up to today finds that Charlie Brown is his spirit animal. I do have to admit that he is a bit of a clumsy kid, but I find that this movie got together all the instances when this poor kid wasn't a 100%. However, with the inclination that a pink cloud is obscuring his judgment, maybe then lessened the impact of his misfortunes. Nonetheless, he might just be the unluckiest person on this planet... That said, his efforts are in the end rewarded, and that precious beautiful girl he wanted to impress cannot help but notice how hard he has tried over the course of the semester to be a good person, even if it seemed that he was unsuccessful at it.
I have to say that I loved every second of this movie. First of all, I loved how it was not a live action shit, like every childhood beloved that is remade recently. Second, I adored that it perfectly fit into the, let us say, canon Peanuts stories; almost as if it just continued where it left off all those years ago. Third, the animation chosen for this movie was simply delightful to look at. I am glad I waited a bit to watch it, because I needed to be in the right spirits, and since it started with snow, it was the perfect movie to watch with winter and the holiday season just around the corner! Not to mention, that you can continue with all the Peanuts holiday specials in order of release, or the other way around. These stories always get to me, I have to say, this tiny and yet huge universe gets me in tears every single time. I sure wish I had a dog like Snoopy!

Watch it? Definitely, great movie to start the Christmas season with, in my humble opinion. It is a guaranteed hit with the children and if cared for it when you were young yourself, you will be happy to see that the makers cared for this world just as much as you did growing up. Have a great holiday season!

Until the next item on my list!
_ _ _ _ _ 

Charlie Brown - Noah Schnapp
Snoopy / Woodstock - Bill Melendez
Schroeder - Noah Johnston
Marcie - Rebecca Bloom