Spoilers for Season One and minor spoilers for Season Two of Jessica Jones beyond this point:
Season One of Jessica Jones is easily one of my favourite comic book adaptations. Unlike many comic book related media it presents a flawed hero, surrounded by mostly interesting side characters and an engaging villain who had interesting motivations.
Despite my enjoyment of the first season, I had my fears for the second. With a great villain dead, I had my doubts that there could be one to equal him. Additionally, I found every Netflix Defenders series following Jessica Jones to be of mixed to poor quality. Last year was especially atrocious. If Iron Fist, The Defenders or The Punisher had been my first series of this universe, they would have also been my last.
Admittedly things do not start well. The first few episodes came across as unfocused and haphazard. Like many of the Defenders series before, Jessica Jones Season 2 suffers from an overbearing amount of subplots. In addition to the main story, we also have side plots involving a rival private investigator, Jeri and her sickness, Jessica’s new love interest Oscar and his custody issues with his son Vido, Trish’s attempts to break into doing ‘serious news’ among others. Honestly, some of these side-plots could easily have been cut from the show without consequence.
Performance wise, the leads are good as always. Krysten Ritter owns the cynical, alcoholic mess that is Jessica Jones, and Rachel Taylor and Eka Darville are both great as Trish and Malcolm respectively. Carrie-Anne Moss is also great as Jeri, even though her storyline felt completely pointless. That being said, some of the side characters are rather badly written, including the c̶o̶m̶e̶d̶y̶ ̶r̶e̶l̶i̶e̶f̶ cringe-inducer known The Whizzer, a fat man who somehow has superspeed (which admittedly is only a bit more ridicous than a petite woman like Jessica having super strength). What makes The Whizzer particually bad is the fact that he puts the plot into motion, despite being impossible to take him seriously. The character of Trish also becomes rather unlikable in this session. I don’t mind characters who walk the line of unlikable, but I feel she constantly steps over that line and it just doesn’t quite work.
Sometimes the effects were distractingly bad with rather obvious green screen. Many of the gore effects are poorly done. This includes a cheap looking mask which was supposed to show a horrifying injury but instead had me laughing my head off.
With all that negativity out of the way, Season 2 isn’t a complete failure. Story-wise, things feel a lot more grounded, compared to the mystical Hand from Daredevil Season 2, Iron Fist, and The Defenders or the generic CIA conspiracy nonsense of The Punisher. Part of what drew me to the Defenders Universe is the ‘street level’ crime-fighting that contrasts against the saving the world stories that fill comic book movies.
This is also the first season in a LONG time to have an interesting antagonist. Although the main villain wasn’t as compelling as Kilgrave, they were still much better compared to other bad guys in the Defenders Universe. They had motivations that go beyond basic ‘I want to live forever’ or ‘I want money’ and end up coming across as human beings instead of someone for the hero to defeat and the audience to hate. On the subject of Kilgrave, I was nervous knowing he’d be in Season 2, but I felt he was rather well utilized and his presence actually added rather than detract.
Like Jessica Jones herself, this season is a bit of a mess. I’d say it’s worth a watch if you like the character of Jessica Jones, but it never comes close to the quality of the previous season. I’m honestly pretty over the Netflix Defenders franchise and I’m not sure if I’ll even bother to watch the next one, which is a shame, as the potential is truly there.
As for the current series, here’s how I’d rank them, from best to worst:
–Jessica Jones Season One
–Daredevil Season One
–Jessica Jones Season Two
–Daredevil Season Two
–Luke Cage Season One
-Going to jail for posting a comical Nazi pug video
Continuing my two-part review series on movies about coloured animals, Red Sparrow is p̶o̶r̶n̶ ̶f̶o̶r̶ ̶s̶o̶m̶e̶ ̶s̶i̶c̶k̶o̶ ̶o̶u̶t̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶r̶e̶ a spy thriller directed by Francis Lawrence (Three movies of The Hunger Games series, I Am Legend). It stars Jennifer Lawrence as a ballerina turned secret agent trained to seduce others and then get information from them. She then becomes involved in a plot to track down a mole in the Russian intelligence service to prove her worth.
With the right direction, this could have been an amazing psychological thriller that delved into a dark, twisted world. Unfortunately, no such direction can be found in Red Sparrow.
The only interesting idea this movie this movie has is the ‘Red Sparrows’, agents who are trained to seduce their targets, basically turning these agents into sexual objects. This element only serves to add nudity, sex, and even rape into what is a basic spy thriller with unengaging characters.
I will admit some scenes did shock me, including a torture scene towards the end that made me extremely uncomfortable. Sadly, extremely uncomfortable was the only other emotion I felt whilst watching this film apart from extremely bored.
The performances weren’t all that great either. Jennifer Lawrence is a complete flatline, but to be fair her character is intentionally made to be vague to hide her true motivations for the sake of plot twists. The problem with that is that I had no interest in the plot or the characters and that the main twist at the end was predictable. If it were up to me, I would have made this movie explore the main character’s mind as the movie goes on, and how psychologically painful her situation is, rather than hiding her emotions from the audience.
Most of the other actors are okay, but I found Jeremy Iron’s Russian accent to be inconsistent and Mary Lousie-Parker was frankly painful to watch during the few scenes she’s in.
I really don’t have much else to say about this one. The sound design and cinematography are both decent at best so the only thing Red Sparrow has to offer is shock value. I’ve always found people who focus on being shocking have very little of value to say, and that certainly rings true for Red Sparrow.
It’s official, I now have to use two hands to count the amount of Marvel movies I’ve watched. That probably tells you how much I care about those movies and honestly the only reason I saw Black Panther is because I had nothing better to do.
Black Panther is the 18th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) becomes king of Wakanda after his father dies. Wakanda happens to be a technologically advanced nation that hides from the world. T’Challa is forced to deal with events that involve a situation in the past involving his father and Erik ‘Killmonger’ Stevens (Michael B. Jordan).
The story was surprising engaging in a Marvel film. This isn’t another origin story, nor is it filled with multiple cringe-worthy attempts of humor. Additionally, the villain Killmonger has a motive that goes beyond ‘I’m a bad guy and I want to destroy/rule the world’ and that really elevated the movie. It also sends a good message without being overly preachy. My only complaint storywise is that towards the end there could have been bit more of a body count for some of the minor characters. In my opinion that would have added more gravity to the conflict that occurred.
One thing I think really helps this movie is the unique fusion of African culture with science fiction. This gives Wakanda a unique feel that separates it from other comic book movies. For the most part, the CGI is good, but sometimes the effects were lacking and the green screen was obvious.
Unfortunately, a lot of the technology that Wakanda uses comes across as extremely overpowered. For example, Black Panther’s suit is not only bulletproof, but it can be hidden in a necklace and is able to absorb energy that can be then discharged. There’s even one point in the movie where Black Panther is hit by two high explosive grenades in rapid succession yet is completely unharmed. I’m fine with superheroes having powers and such, but they also need some sort of weakness or limitation. In fairness, there are a fair amount of scenes that find ways to either get Black Panther out of his suit or to disable it, and the action was still fun, even if it lacked tension.
Performance wise, I found everyone to be passable without being amazing. I quite enjoyed Andy Serkis as eccentric arms dealer Ulysses Klaue and Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger was surprising compelling for a Marvel villain. Chadwick Boseman was fine as Black Panther, but the character never reached the levels of Hugh Jackman as Logan or Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man.
Overall Black Panther is a solid comic book movie that has a unique visual style and plenty of enjoyable action. It’s not quite on the same level as Logan or Sin City, but as a fun movie made for the lowest common denominator, you could do a lot worse.
Games inspired by movies are nothing new. Straight adaptions used to be rather common, despite their poor reputation. That said many games do borrow from the big screen whilst providing an entertaining experience. Down below you’ll find a few of my favorites.
Duke Nukem 3D
Probably the closest we’ll ever come to Arnold Schwarzenegger: The Video Game, Duke Nukem 3D puts you in the boots of the crass but lovable Duke Nukem as he fights the aliens that have taken all of Earth’s babes.
When he’s done murdering aliens, Duke often takes the chance to spout out a one-liner that is likely borrowed from a movie such as Evil Dead, Aliens or They Live, where ‘his’ iconic line “I came here to kick ass and chew bubblegum, and I’m all out of gum” comes from. Levels also often make direct reference to movies such as Star Wars, Mission Impossible, Die Hard and Dirty Harry among others.
The game itself has rather solid gameplay. This is your typical 90’s shooter with fast movement, fun weapons, sprawling level design, and creative enemy design. It’s aged rather well and with a modern control scheme, it plays like any modern shooter, only with effort and care put into the level design.
Unfortunately, the only version available is the Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour, published by Gearbox Software. This version costs $20 US and only comes with two expansion packs whereas the previous Atomic Edition came with all four expansion packs (granted the 20th Anniversary edition comes with an exclusive pack unavailable anywhere else). It also means you’ll give money to Gearbox Software and between Duke Nukem: Forever, Alien: Colonial Marines and the highly overrated Borderlands series I do not believe they deserve the money.
After Duke Nukem 3D, two similar games came out, Shadow Warrior and Blood. Both these first-person shooters run on the Build engine and seek to parody Asian cinema and Horror movies respectively. These two games are much harder than Duke Nukem 3D and can be a pain to get running on modern hardware. That said, if you’re up for the challenge you will likely find a lot of enjoyment from Shadow Warrior and Blood.
Jagged Alliance 2
A crack team of elite mercenaries liberating a small third-world country run by an over the top dictator sounds like the perfect premise for a cheesy action movie. Jagged Alliance 2 puts you in charge of this mission, guiding mercenaries through their mission.
Many of the mercenaries you hire fit the mold of action movie stereotypes. You have the overly-serious Europeans, tough as nails military guys, and mysterious assassins fill out the cast of colorful guns for hire. These characters spout constant one-liners whenever they make a kill or do something good.
The game itself is a lot of fun. Combat is challenging and only ever feels somewhat unfair when you have to fight indoors. Every character oozes personality and you genuinely care about the wellbeing of your mercenaries. In addition to managing your mercs, you also have to train militias to defend towns and protect your precious mines from recapture.
I can’t preach about Jagged Alliance 2 enough. Still to this day I have yet to find a turn-based game that gets me excited as much as this one. It will take some patching to get working on modern systems, but the juice is worth the squeeze.
Max Payne Series
I’ve already typed my love for this series on my blog before. A cop on the edge, on the run and out for revenge. Whether it’s the hard-boiled Hong Kong action offered by the first, the over the top, Matrix-like combat of the second or the brutal nature of the third game, this series has always provided an action-filled experience that is not to be missed.
Continuing with slow-motion badassery, F.E.A.R. combined Hong Kong action with Japanese horror and American sci-fi to create an amazing experience. The first F.E.A.R. has you playing as a pointman for First Encounter Assault Recon, a special forces unit that investigates paranormal happenings.
Forced acronyms aside, this game has some of the best firefights ever put to pixels. Enemies are intelligent and communicate with each other as they try to kill you. To even the odds, the player is able to use bullet time, and a variety of weapons that include dual-wield pistols, a shotgun, and a laser gun that strips the flesh off of enemies.
The combat in F.E.A.R. absolutely wild, with blood and debris spraying all over the place. The carnage provides a visual feast that is rather brutal, especially when Alma gets involved.
My only complaint is the game does get repetitive. Most firefights are against similar enemies, but the way the AI engages the player makes up for it. I’d recommend skipping the sequels. I refer to the second game as Diet F.E.A.R. as it’s a watered-down version of the first game, and the third game is just a bad Call of Duty clone.
Splinter Cell: Conviction
This is an odd sequel for the Splinter Cell franchise, but that doesn’t make this any less fun. Just about every cliche is in play here, from the grizzled veteran operative, his obligatory family member, a friendeus-ex machina, henchmen who spout constant taunts, and the bad guys with a plan so ridiculous it probably has more plot holes than I care to acknowledge. Combine this with a conspiracy to take over the US, an orchestral soundtrack and even a handheld camera effect during some cutscenes, playing Splinter Cell: Conviction feels like your blasting your way through a modern-day thriller.
The thrilling cat and mouse game this game makes you play is much more engaging than the typical wack-a-mole shooting that plagues modern cover-based third-person shooters. If detected, enemies will hone in on your last known position. You can use this to set up further ambushes with silenced weapons, explosives or surprise melee attacks.
In a lot of ways, this is John Wick the video game. Playable characters often use the Center Axis Relock shooting technique like Wick does. In addition, there is a focus on headshots as they are the only reliable way to eliminate enemies, and many enemies refer to the player as if he’s some sort of unkillable legend.
With all that said, I feel this game can be too forgiving at times. The player does get unlimited pistol ammo, and the enemies can be rather easy to evade at times. Granted, this does help in making the player feel like a near-unstoppable bad ass, and you will still be punished if you try and go full Rambo. Also, as much as I love the cheesy story, it is well, cheesy. It’s a pretty short campaign too at about 5-6 hours, but the Deniable Ops mode does add an element of replayability.
Tomb Raider (2013) and Rise of the Tomb Raider
Finally, the Tomb Raider reboots focus on telling the origin story of Lara Croft. During these adventures, the player is put on the edge of their seat with death-defying platforming among breath-taking environments.
The camera often shifts as you move around ledges or through tunnels, often used to show how long the possible fall will be or another sort of danger. The visual carnage on show feels like it belongs in a Michael Bay or Roland Emmerich film, with buildings often crumbling down as the action and dramatic music ramps up.
Both of these games have rather fun combat and well-structured levels to explore. I know linear games cop a lot of flak, but I feel these two games have a sense of progression and structure that is really satisfying. Compared to some open world games where you can become rather overpowered quickly if you grind early on, the Tomb Raider games give players tools progressively, always adding something new and exciting as the game goes on. Despite this, exploration is still encouraged, with many bonus items and secrets to find.
Although Lara is a great character, I can’t say the same for the supporting cast in either game. The best thing I can say about them is none of them ever become annoying in any way. Both games also have rather predictable stories that are at best serviceable.
These games are also rather easy. As I mentioned before, platforming is generous and will generally guide the player to where they need to land. Of course, I’d take easy platforming over a game with outright broken platforming.
I know this is just a small sample of games that are heavily influenced by cinema. I know this list is missing many console exclusives (*cough* Uncharted *cough*) that I have not played.
Straight video game adaptations of movies are often clumsy in execution, but that doesn’t mean the art of cinema has nothing to offer gaming, and the games I’ve listed are proof of that.
Den of Thieves is the second remake of Michael Mann’s L.A. Takedown (the first being Mann’s Heat), featuring Geralt Bulter as a giant asshole who also happens to be the head of the LA Sheriff’s Department’s major crimes unit. His gang butt heads with a group of former MARSOC Marines who are also bank robbers. In between the movie’s two shootouts, viewers are forced to watch a bloated mess of a film.
This movie had the potential to be fun, despite the fact it borrows a lot from Heat. Olympus Has Fallen, another action movie starring Bulter, borrowed a lot from Die Hard, but that movie also had its own ideas.
Den of Thieves, however, feels like a straight copy of Heat. Both are based in Los Angeles. Both revolve around a detective and a crew of bank robbers led by a former Marine. Both open to the robbery of an armored truck. Both movies have a scene where the protagonist and antagonist meet at a dining establishment. Both feature a shootout where the bad guys use bounding movement (someone fires/covers whilst the other moves).
The major difference is that Den of Thieves has no real substance when the bullets aren’t flying. The dialog isn’t particularly great and there are many scenes that are unnecessary, such as Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson intimidating his daughter’s date or Geralt Bulter harassing his ex-wife at her sister’s house.
Another problem is the protagonist. Although Geralt Bulter plays Big Nick rather well, he is unfortunately the protagonist of the movie. Big Nick is a straight up pig and he never becomes a better person during the events of the movie, nor is he amazing at his job. During the movie, this character kidnaps a person, cheats on his wife (assumably with multiple women), harasses his ex-wife and her date, and even refers to his police unit as a gang. I have a feeling the movie was trying to bring back the manly action heroes Schwarzenegger and Stallone use to embody in the 80’s, but instead of coming across manly, Big Nick is a thug who is unworthy of being called a hero.
I rather like questionable protagonists. One of my favorite movies, The Way of the Gun, has two protagonists who kidnap a pregnant woman to extort money out of a businessman. What makes The Way of the Gun work where Den of Thieves doesn’t, is that it never tries to make either character out to be a moral person. One of the main characters also questions the morality of his criminal life. This complements a really intriguing cat and mouse game between multiple people where motivations and alliances change, whereas Den of Thieves is rather straightforward.
None of the other characters aren’t great either. I honestly couldn’t name any other character than the thieves’ leader Merrimen (Pablo Schreiber) and Donnie (O’Shea Jackson Jr), who is the only likable character in the whole movie.
If this movie had been half an hour shorter, it would have been easier to recommend as a dumb action movie. On the most superficial level, I enjoyed this movie, but I can’t say I’d watch it again or that I would recommend it, especially when you could just watch Heat instead.
Good Time is a thriller starring Robert Paterson as Connie, who after a botched robbery, must find a way to get his mentally handicapped brother Nick (Ben Safdie) out of police custody.
This movie may have a very simple premise, but its execution helps it stand out. Directors Josh and Ben Safdie do a great job of putting the viewer in the moment, effectively using close-up, hand-held camera work. Combined with the pulse-pounding synth soundtrack from Daniel Lopatin and bright neon lighting, Good Time makes for one hell of a rush.
This is also a gritty movie that does not hold any punches. Connie is the furthest thing from a good guy. Even his intention of helping his brother is arguably misguided. I can see some viewers being turned off by this, but I didn’t mind too much. The movie never tries to make him out as some sort of hero or thug with a heart of gold. That being said, I wish this movie did expand a little more on Connie’s motivations. The movie Victoria which has a similar style and pacing to me had a more likable protagonist who still makes some hard choices that fall into a moral grey area.
Robert Pattinson is fantastic in the role of Connie. He manages to juggle the character’s panic and conman-like charm easily. The performances around him are also great, with Ben Safdie being the other stand out.
Overall Good Time isn’t exactly an easy recommend. It grabs the viewer by the throat at takes them on a wild ride with a character that is far from being a noble protagonist. It’s also a bit hard to sympathize with him during the events, but despite that, I found Good Time to be a good time.
If you enjoyed Good Time, I’d also recommend you check out the movie Collateral. This is another thriller that has a similar story and makes use of hand-held camera work. In my opinion, it is the superior film, with better characters and a more interesting story.
Directed by Martin McDonagh (In Burges and Seven Psychopaths), Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a dark comedy/drama that focuses on the small town of Ebbing, Missouri after the murder of Angela Hayes. Her mother, Mildred (Francis McDormand), takes it upon herself to place three billboards up to put pressure on the local police to make an arrest.
Although I personally didn’t love this movie, I can see why critics have given it rave reviews. This is a well-executed film that is politically incorrect in the best way possible. The story is engaging and most of the performances are brilliant.
Francis McDormand is truly amazing as Mildred Hayes, a seemingly unstoppable woman who’s not afraid to speak her mind. Woody Harrelson is also great as Sheriff Willoughby, and Sam Rockwell does a good job as the racist nitwit Deputy Dixon. That said Lucas Hedge as Mildred’s son, Robbie, was rather bad but he doesn’t have much screentime so he doesn’t distract too much.
One thing I did enjoy about Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is that its characters are often crass, offensive, and downright horrible. Even the protagonist, Mildred, does things that will make the viewer angry. Despite its political incorrectness, the movie never goes to such a low that it feels like pure shock value.
What I didn’t like about the film was its humor. I personally have never been a fan of the awkward humor that was popularized by shows like The Office. That said I did laugh from time to time, but not as much as I think the movie wanted me to.
My other issue was a character that appears about 2/3rds into the movie. I don’t want to go into details in fear of spoilers, but I felt their presence was a little convenient. With all that said, these flaws are either relatively minor or just my own personal biases. I’d highly recommend checking Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri out if you get the chance.