Friday, May 29, 2020

What's Next On My List? (Games) Assassin's Creed Rogue

Obviously the quarantine is making as all reach into the hobby box, and well, for me that resulted in finally playing games that I am been putting off for months and years. This was the last game I got for my PS3. I am super happy I played this game, this is my favorite franchise and even the ones that are not received well at first, hold a special place in my heart, and I just loved them. By the time I get there, I usually play the remastered versions, with all the bugs fixed, so even if the game comes out with issues, once I'm there and I play it, those are all set right. So let's get into the story of this rebel. 

The story: Shay Patrick Cormac is a young assassin who has been dispatched to get artifacts that cause destruction and death. When he refuses and wishes to teach the Assassins that their plans are messing with the fabric of reality, he is excluded from the brotherhood. He is rescued by Templars, who welcome him with open arms, and once he proves that their allegiances are aligned, he gets their help to stop Achilles, the leader of this fraction of the Assassin Brotherhood, from unleashing chaos and destruction onto the world.

Game play: This game was very similar to Black Flag, and that is fine, in my opinion. I would have liked to see more of that anyway, and having this in the winter season was just a great addition, as it made swimming almost impossible, and shooting down little icebergs and blocks of ice was truly entertaining. The whole game felt like a big extension to the pirate world, this time that of the Templars. Really, the game set up pretty well, why Shay would be willing to part with his pledge to be an assassin. None of his brothers appreciated him, and when he raised criticism, they neglected him and followed their leader blinded. I do believe that the best thing about the assassins is that they all wish to manifest their free will, but here we have a fraction of them, who are stuck believing already that they are invincible. The reason later assassins were as strong as they are, is because the failure of Achilles was passed on. My favorite and also most hated thing in the whole game was being attacked by random assassins all over the game. Of course, assassins are out to get me after betraying them, and you find a way to anticipate their attack, but they come at you from out of nowhere, and I was yelling so hard every time they killed me with one hit, but at the same time, it was something new and I appreciated the idea and the execution.
Mini-bosses: It took me a minute to realize that the people I would be fighting would be the members of the order who I had betrayed at the start of the game. But honestly, it was a wonderful setup. The way the assassin's treated me, I did want to get revenge, and each interaction made Shay enforce that he took the right action when he decided to stop them. Of course, Shay's pain in having to take the life of his former brothers echoed throughout the game and you never forgot. He did not want revenge, he wanted to stop the chaos and he did so with the best of his abilities.
The Boss Fight: I liked that Shay was accompanied by Kenway, because he portrays exactly why Shay is not a Templar at heart, but he does have a mission and he will stop at nothing until he succeeds. Also that it was a fight to save many who could fall because of the carelessness of the Assassins, and not to just kill anyone in their path. Yes, the Templars might want to have ultimate control, but Shay has his own moral compass, and in my opinion, he might not even stay a Templar, I do believe that is the reason this story made sense ultimately. It is about him and stopping the death of innocent people. Once he stops his mentor Liam, he ends saving the life of Achilles, in the hope to ensure that no Assassin will ever seek the artifacts responsible for the destruction. Of course, Kenway's nature is to kill Achilles, but he just incapacitates him, ending his career effectively.

What didn't work? I would have liked some more missions, like eavesdropping, or following as there were in the previous games. I had the traits of an assassin of course, not a Templar, and I would have liked to use those skills. I did feel like I was an asset to the order and they should have used me much better. In this sense this game was like a large DLC, as when it comes to collectibles and areas to discover, it probably had more than any game I played (Black Flag being the closest), and we now know that ever AC game that followed added more and more in terms of side missions and collectibles. However, even if I personally liked the story, it was pretty straightforward, it was really about the collectibles and the renovations. Those who do not enjoy getting chests are likely to complain about this game.
What worked? It just all made sense... I have played these games for years now, but even if I hadn't, the narrative of those who seek the free will of men as opposed to those who wish to control chaos is one of the most used narratives when it comes to stories about cults and secret associations. I really liked that somebody's faith in their brotherhood can be shaken, and I especially liked, as I said before, that Shay was a well rounded character who was given enough reason to doubt his brothers. 
Looking at the world outside of the animus, we already know that we are working for the Templars at Abstergo, so it made sense that I would end up playing a story that plays into their hands, as opposed to the brotherhood.  And finally... I did love Desmond, but he cannot possibly have every single important person in his bloodline. There is need for new stories, and the way Abstergo has been using sages and stealing whatever DNA they need for their goals is gut wrenching. Yet, it all feels right and it makes sense. 

I definitely recommend this game, and if you finish playing it, start AC Unity right away, if you want a nice punch in the stomach. The way they shifted... I really do love these writers, no matter how they mess with my head. 

Until the next item on my list!

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Blogger: I Guess Rebecca Hall Is My Favorite Actress

The title might confuse you: I am very happy about this realization, but it was a slow one. And I want to talk about one of the best and most underrated actresses of the 21st century, who just happens to be my favorite actress as well: Rebecca Hall.

I have seen over fifteen of her movies (and here I am not counting all the other ones I saw where she had small roles, including terrible A Rainy Day In New York, where she had one scene... ) and I had to realize, that even if I hated the movie with all of me, she was still the best part in it. The first time I came across her was in Frost/Nixon, which was followed by my discovery of the short series Parade's End, where she played a flawed but powerful wife, opposite Benedict Cumberbatch (which is obviously how I found the series...). After that came Starter for 10, and wow that movie... I do not know if it encapsulates all the feelings that I had at university or the ones that I wished I had, but it is one of those movies that uses cliches but in the best way possible. You do want the guy to learn from his mistake, you want him to get the girl, you understand why she likes him and why she still cares for him. It was just a smart little movie, and you can read my review on it, but I just knew that the character she portrayed was someone that I wanted to be friends with. And every character she has portrayed since has been someone that I just wanted to get to know. She either does auditions for the best and most interesting characters or she is offered, but she chooses well, needless to say.

"I can't remember a time when I didn't want to be an actor. It has just always been an inevitability on some level."

Before I actually went to seek out her movies, I was happy to have seen her again and again, showing up in different movies that I had gotten interested in despite the cast, as I have found her to be a very talented actress. So for years I did not actually look for her movies in particular. This all changed when one certain movie came out, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women. I waited for months for this movie only to then discover that they were not gonna show it in theaters here and you just cannot imagine my rage... this was one of those movies where all of my expectations were met and the trailer gave me just enough to be on the edge of my seat but then be rewarded for all the time I spent with it. You can read my review, I wont't get lost into it, but ... I am left to wonder if there is anything this woman cannot do! And I am also scared to finish her filmography (even though I only have 3-4 missing as I cannot physically find them, or they are horror movies and I just can't deal with those), because she is also not one of those actresses who has seventeen projects in one year, which also accounts for the quality in her work. I do not want to run out, but keep some for rainy days. (This is a pun on the terrible Woodie Allen movie she was in, that I mentioned before. I am just checking if you are paying attention!).

She played along - and honestly often surpassing - such great actors as Richard GereLuke Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Jason Batemen, Jason Sudeikis, Ben Affleck, Paul Bettany, David Tennant, Morgan Freeman, Jason Ritter, Will Ferrell, Eric Bana, Johnny Depp, Joshua Jackson, Dominc West, Frank Grillo, Micheal C. Hall, Richard Madden, Alan Rickman, and Dan Stevens. Not to mention such wonderful actresses as Laura Prepon, Catherine Zeta Jones, Scarlett Johansson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Imelda Staunton, Amanda Peet, Catherine Tate, Catherine Keener, Laura Linney, and even Bella Heathcote. Can you name anyone else with such an extensive list of A-listers and famous directors in their arsenal? (Besides Meryl Streep, but she doesn't count, really, that woman breaks every law known to man. And in my opinion, Rebecca is the second after her! Where are the nominations Mr. Academy???).

"There's always going to be a separate version of you that people will create, and you have no control over it."

The reason for the title of my blog post is also that she is probably one of the only actresses whose interviews I have not sought out. When I care for an actor I want to get to know them, I want to know them personally, but not with her. The reason I do believe that I have come to the realization of her being my favorite actress, is that that is all she is to me, an actress: I care for her art, for her performance, for her presence on stage and on film. When I get a new favorite actor, I will admit, that the fan culture got a hold of me too and I have collected photos, articles, cut outs in my youth, and sometimes I will still buy movie magazines, when I know that they are part of history (one good example would be the last time Paul Walker was featured on one of the Fast & Furious posters. See, that will never happen again, and I miss him dearly, I want that memory). But strangely, Rebecca Hall remains the person on the other end of the screen and that is enough for me. I won't avert my eyes, of course, if she is in any of the talk shows that I generally watch, but as I was not seeking out her movies in the beginning, I am also not looking for "Rebecca the person". This might either make perfect sense to you or none at all, but I know that it is the reason why I was so slow to pick up on the fact that I love to see no one on screen as much as her.

"To read a character I'm not sympathizing with is generally quite a good, attractive proposition because I've got somewhere to go, I've got work to do, to try to understand why they behave like they behave, to relate entirely and understand them and to be completely emotionally connected. That is much more fun 99 percent of the time."

I do believe that when we like an actor, there are different degrees, and I have noticed over the passing years that I prefer to not know the person behind the art anymore because I just... I disagree with soooo many people and their political views and I don't want it to ruin the art, whatever it is, from music to paintings, through books and movies. She might have come into my life at a time when I want to distance myself from the toxic part of fandoms (they are not the way they were when I was growing up), but I am also certain that she is in a special place to me despite the times.

So what should we take away from this post? You should be watching Rebecca Hall movies, the more the better. Not one is like the other, and to see so many faces of this incredibly talented person is just a treat that you need while you are at home and looking for something to watch. Most of her movies are actually on Netflix! And even if you do come across a bad movie, you will see this one actor giving it 10/10 and blowing you away and making you happy that you did stick around until the end of it. That person for me will always be Rebecca Hall.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

What's Next On My List? Julie & Julia

Now, I am going through a list of all the films I have seen and just writing down movies that I would like to talk about a little bit. After having seen these some were surprises, even hated movies, and some that just worked their way into my hear unexpectedly. So let us get in deeper:

Julie decides to embark on a trip of self-discovery, through learning to cook all the dishes of Julia Child from one of her books, in the period of one year. At the same time, we see chapters from the life of the famous Julia Child and her relationship with her husband. The two lives drew closer to each other as the year passed, but never met within the story of the film. Both, however, learn a lot about themselves and the world that has been impacting them.

I thought this was going to be a lighthearted comedy, and then it went deep really fast... I mean, I will not complain, it is a very beautiful, but the story really discussed hard topics from the life of these women and there are certain expectations after you watch a trailer and well, those were not met. I only mean to make that complaint because I do believe that this movie deserved a much better ad campaign. Of course, it did well with critics, how could Meryl Streep and Amy Adams possibly make a bad movie? But it is a very serious story of the background of both women, struggling to keep their career going as well as their marriage. And both of them decided to face hardships, I also love the idea of challenging yourself and only doing that challenge until it finally reaches its goal: you are NOT a failure if you cannot finish something. We put a whole lot of emphasis on finishing something you started, but starting is the hardest side of it, in my opinion. If you got the desired effect without finishing a challenge, then you already have reached that imaginary finish line.

So watch it? Definitely. I do believe that the underlying message is the love of food and that is something I can totally get behind. This movie I think is great at a quarantine time, when we are all looking for things to do. It will inspire you, I am sure. 

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

Meryl Streep - Julia Child
Amy Adams - Julie Powell
Stanley Tucci - Paul Child
Chris Messina - Eric Powell
Jane Lynch - Dorothy McWilliams

Monday, May 4, 2020

What's Next On My List? (Games) Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

I finally managed to get around to playing (and finishing) this marvelous game, and it only seemed appropriate to talk about it for this years awesome Star Wars day! The series Clone Wars is coming to an end today, and I am already crying, as the last four episodes have been quite an emotional roller coaster. This game too, like most of the canon products made in the past ten years, takes from what we all love and know, and elevates it to new levels. Almost ten years ago now, but I remember when Disney bought Lucasarts and I was looking forward to smart and creative people taking a spin on this wonderful universe, other than its creator (whose focus seems to slip away and... let's not get into it). This game fell into my lap, I was not seeking it out, but my brother is a big gamer and he knows my style, and I have to say, he was on point again with exactly what I needed to survive this pandemic. So let us strap in, jump to hyperspace, and discuss one of the best Star Wars games out there:

This game was a gift for Christmas, but with the world going insane, I had no time to play with it up until April. So, I turned it into a nice Easter gift instead and dived into the story. My best friend gave me some pointers before I started, and well, I saw lots of YouTube videos entitled "things I wish I knew before I started" and I have not seen any of them, but I have an idea of what they might complain about. I personally play a lot of plat-former games like this one, and I am also deeply embedded in the canon lore of the Star Wars universe, so I was just exited to get to see this story and did not worry too much about the Easter eggs of the little extra nuggets of information that others might want to warn other players about. 

The story: Our main character, Cal Kestis, is a former Jedi padawan whose master was killed by the clones when Order 66 was issued by Emperor Palpatine. He is in hiding, but inquisitors are searching the galaxy for survivors of the Jedi purge, and Cal has to escape their clutches. He is rescued by a woman named Cere, who reveals herself to have been a former Jedi, and a Latero man named Greez, whose ship the Mantis takes them on their adventure. Cal has to find a way to reconnect with the Force and also to find a holocron containing the location of children who have a connection to the Force. Whether or not he succeeds is up to us gamers.
Mini-Bosses: This is the part of the game that made me both excited and pissed off as hell. The mini-bosses came out of nowhere sometimes, you are just going ahead and getting all the chests and secrets and then arrive special versions of common enemies. I liked that they were a bit harder and that they had something extra the others did not, and behind them there was always a reward waiting for me. Not to mention, that when I went back to those locations (to unlock more items) I encountered bounty hunters on the look out for me, and honestly, it was the greatest idea in the whole game. You feel like you already conquered that area, and then BAMM another mini-boss there. I forgot each time that it could happen and I loved beating them and their droid companions.
The Boss Fight: OH MY GOD. F*CK THIS GAME. The Second and the Ninth Sister were the single hardest things on this universe. Meeting the Second Sister for the second time in the Imperial Dig Site was the moment I set the game to the easiest mode because I was close to crying. Even on the easiest it took me some time (I might be a shitty gamer, I am owning it, but still). That was followed by Taron Malicos on Dathomir, where I know that Nightsister Merrin was helping me, but I still felt like throwing my controller to the screen. I won't lie, defeating all of these bosses was of course the most exhilarating feeling on the planet, and if they were easy maybe I would not have enjoyed them so much, so do not take this as a criticism from me, but more of an observation. 
What didn't work? Okay, the ponchos are disgusting. I mean just why? Open any fashion magazine and you'll see that NOBODY likes to wear ponchos. I liked on average two and I could collect like a 100 different versions of them in the ugliest colors on the planet (or a galaxy far far away...). And as we all know and you have probably read it in all the reviews, the levels of difficulty in this game are fucking insane. You just... NO. There is a sense of reward if you beat things on "Jedi Knight" which is actually "easy" in this game, but it is virtually impossible at certain stages of the game. I won't lie, I have a coordination problem, so for me to include any kind of technique comes really hard, so I was happy to have a "story mode", as in a "super easy" version, because that alone made the game enjoyable. And it is extra frustrating when you really want the game to be the best time of your life! And that was my issue with the chests and the secrets and the completion... some things really were impossible to find. Your map gives you some idea, of the fact that in that give area there are only 4 chests, for example, and 1 secret to find, but there are certain parts of a level where you cannot go back if you advance too much. I know that after The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild a whole new concept for open world games came about, and people love to explore but... I personally like to have a map that points me in the right direction. This again easily can go over into the category of hatred, as I have found myself looking at YouTube play-throughs, because I did want that 100%. I agree, you do not have to point it out to me on the map necessarily, but give me clues. There is only one planet where I got 97% and I refuse to go back, because my map used to signal "undiscovered" areas, which helps you to know what you haven't unlocked or which path you haven't tried out for, but it doesn't always. I might be alone with this, but with the game being so hard, having to find out after I finished it that you can actually get 10 different health canisters, let me tell you, I was really upset. Finally, the slides... in the mud or on the ice, I just ... on planet Zeffo I died 59 times on one of the ice slides and it had nothing to do with the storm-troopers and or the other enemies. 
What worked? The story. I was crying along with Cal when his master Jaro Tapal died and gave him his damaged light-saber. And then we get to go to Ilum, to find Cal his own crystal for his own light-saber, something he never got to do as a young padawan. Honestly, I find that Jedi getting their crystals is the single greatest part of any narrative. I actually hate it when characters just show up with a new saber, I mean... The way I got to be in control, even if it was about Cal, I still felt in my stomach that self of accomplishment, as if all these years of struggles I too was just a step away from being knighted. This game knew exactly what I wanted, to see more of Order 66, as it was not just Obi-Wan or Anakin who had to venture through it. Not to mention the ending... if you haven't played it yet, do not read the rest of this paragraph. But when you think that you have stopped the Second Sister and have regained the holocron from the Empire, Darth Vader himself shows up and faces you, to get his hands onto the holocron and the way the game resolves the conflict of the story was simple breathtaking. I loved the ending, and I do not want to talk about it more because I want for every gamer and non gamer that liked my recounting of the story to seek out this game for themselves.

This game was a gift to the fans like me: I loved Star Wars Rebels, I love every little story that has... uhm... nothing to do with the Skywalkers... I am sorry to say, that despite loving the crap out of the original stories that opened this universe to us, I do adore every other character: Kanan Jarrus, Ahsoka Tano, Rex, Cody, Wolff, Ezra Bridger, not to mention opening the background to enemies, from the likes of Count Dooku, Asajj Ventress, and the genius of Darth Maul. And this game now presented us the heart of Cal Kestis and the hardships of Cere during and following the purge, showing us the difficulties that come with the light and the dark side of the Force.  I feel like you could take the cut scenes from this game and just watch it like an awesome Star Wars movie (it is definitely better than Episode IX...). I hope to see more of the adventures of this unlikely crew, and I can whole-heartedly recommend it to any fan of this universe. It is a must!

Until the next item on my list!