Taxi Driver (1976)

Taxi_Driver_poster

Taxi Driver tells the story of Travis Bickle(Robert De Niro), a Vietnam War veteran who is trying to live his life in the city. When he gets a job as a cab driver in New York he begins to form the idea that there needs to be someone who will rid the streets of malicious people. As he continues to isolate himself from others, he begins to make a plan to do something about the criminals on the streets. His main concern is freeing 12-year old Iris (Jodie Foster) from prostitution.

The story has a slow pacing but it is not without its purpose. Throughout the entire film, Martin Scorsese does an excellent job at portraying what Bickle’s life is like. In the beginning of the movie, Travis is shown to be very introverted and a seemingly nice guy. As the story continues to show his life, it becomes more and more obvious that this is a man who is alone in the world with only his dark thoughts to keep him company. Taxi Driver explores the gray areas of morals and the fine lines that exists between hero and criminal. This is not a story of a hero rising up to the challenge of fighting crime, it’s a snapshot of a man’s struggle with loneliness and descent into insanity.

A taxi cab, wandering eyes, and people walking around in the street. This is how the director decides to open his film. Everything about this small opening, music included, tells the audience right away that the main character is a lone wanderer. One of the things that makes this movie so great is how the movie is able to tell the story of the protagonist without the help of dialogue. The slow music, the shots of Travis Bickle walking on the street alone in New York City, or even just the way his one room apartment is shown as he sits down to write in his journal. All of these things convey the sense that the person we are seeing on screen is a lonely individual.

Scorsese’s directing plays a big part in telling the story of Travis but it simply would not be the same without De Niro’s performance as the ex-marine. De Niro’s portrayal of the lone Travis Bickle is flawless. It is a challenge for anyone to try and show what a character is feeling with limited dialogue and De Niro makes it look easy. The way he tells his jokes and carries himself makes the audience grow a genuine like for his character. The likeable persona that De Niro portrays makes his on screen transformation into a vigilante even more shocking. Two other actors that also play an important part of this movie are Jodie Foster and Harvey Keitel. At only 12 years old, Jodie Foster plays the role of a underage prostitute and manages to reinforce the tone of the film. Harvey Keitel on the other hand puts on the role of the smooth talking pimp. Along with the rest of the cast, these 3 actors put on the memorable performance that make Taxi Driver such a unique film.

Taxi Driver is a phenomenal film that showcases Martin Scorsese’s phenomenal directing as well as Robert De Niro’s acting talent. The film itself may just be the best cross section of a character that has ever been done on screen. Little things such as the camera movements or small pieces of dialogue serve to show the viewer how everything looks through Travis’ eyes. The character development is not the only thing that makes Taxi Driver unique. It’s not often that a movie shows the rough side of a city like New York. The film does an excellent job of showing how dangerous the city can be during the night. This view of the city along with the violence of the film is one of the reasons crime movies became so popular in the United States. Scorsese’s Taxi Driver is not only one of the best movies of the 70’s it is an important part of American Cinema.

Rockit Raccoon Rating: 9.5/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 98%

IMDB: 8.4/10

MetaCritic: 93%

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Movie

Burial At Sea: Part 2 (2014)

burial_at_sea

March of 2014 saw the second part of Bioshock Infinite’s downloadable content finally released. Burial At Sea part 2 marks Irrational’s final project and quite possibly, Ken Levine’s farewell to the Bioshock series. Prior to its release, Levine had announced that this installment would feature a more stealth oriented game style instead of the more run and gun gameplay of the main game. Fans eagerly awaited the continuation of the story and hoped that the new style of play would be able to live up to the hype after the disappointingly short campaign of BaS part 1.

The reason the gameplay in this episode of BaS was designed to be different is because the main character you’re playing is Elizabeth. In accordance with this, the team at Irrational made sure that it would be harder for this female lead to blast her way through the level as opposed to Booker. Instead of focusing on running into a room and shooting everyone, the focus of the game shifted to sneaking past enemies. To emphasize this, the sound of footsteps suddenly became an important part of the game. Stepping on things like puddles of water or pieces of glass would alert enemies to your presence while carpets and rugs would muffle the sound. Furthermore, Elizabeth is not able to damage enemies with melee attacks so if she gets spotted by an enemy she is forced to hide instead of trying to go head to head. A mini game for picking locks was also added which made opening doors or deactivating turrets a lot more entertaining.

A great part of what has made the Bioshock so successful is the story. True to its legacy, Burial at Sea part 2 delivers an amazing narrative that gives a satisfying ending to the series as a whole. Despite the massive cliffhanger that the previous chapter left off on, part 2 has the audacity to begin in Paris. The unrealistically happy environment gives the player a sense of dread knowing that things are only going to get worse from here on out. The voice acting talents of Courtnee Draper (Elizabeth) and Troy Baker (Booker) were joined by a lot of the voice actors from the original Bioshock game.

The game was not without its flaws however. There were a few more weapons as well as vigors/plasmids that made the game a lot easier to play. The main offender for this was the Peeping Tom plasmid that allowed the player to go invisible and also gave vision of where enemies were located. If this plasmid is upgraded, it can be used infinitely as long as the character doesn’t move. It seems fair enough but can easily be exploited by alerting enemies to your presence (while cloaked) and knocking them out as soon as they get close. Another little thing that bothered me was that there did not seem to be many sound hazards like broken glass and when these things appeared, they could easily be avoided by going a separate route or jumping onto a ledge.

Burial at Sea part 2 offers a new way to play a Bioshock game but its gameplay is far from amazing. The new mechanics are not too spectacular and the plasmids offer easy ways to be exploited. Despite all of this, the shining brilliance of this DLC comes not only from the narrative but also in exploring some new areas of Rapture as well as getting a glimpse of its history. The Burial at Sea series isn’t a piece of downloadable content that fans of the series would want to have, it’s something they have to have. Not only is this the last piece of content that Irrational will create, it is the conclusive chapter of the Bioshock saga.

TL;DR: Gameplay isn’t too radical but it is a must have for fans of the series.

Rockit Raccoon Rating: 8/10

Game Rankings: 84%

Megacritic: 84/100

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Video Games

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

TGBH-launch-quad-1024x768

With a mega cast that includes Oscar nominated actors like Adrien Brody and Tilda Swinton, The Grand Budapest Hotel certainly promised an entertaining time. The movie is small chronicle of Gustave M. (Ralph Fiennes), a concierge at one of the most renown hotels in the world. Although it follows Gustave, the story is told by Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham) who worked as a lobby boy (Tony Revolori) in his youth and became the concierge’s apprentice. When Madame D. (Tilda Swinton), a hotel regular, is murdered, a series of events unfolds that has Gustave and his lobby boy on the run.

The Grand Budapest Hotel has a little sprinkle of everything placed throughout its story. Moments of humor, suspense, and romance are all carefully laid out and spread out enough to keep the movie fresh. Unlike other directors, Wes Anderson stayed focused on the story of the Grand Budapest and did not spend too much time giving screen time to the large amount of A-List actors that are in the film. Not only did this make the story run smoother, it kept the movie from feeling like it was dragging on too long. One of the more interesting choices that I noticed was giving Willem Dafoe’s character, Jopling, very little lines in the movie. As a villain, this limited dialogue helped emphasize the danger that the character represented to everyone else and worked wonderfully. The cast for this movie did not disappoint and no matter how small the role, it seemed as if every actor fit in perfectly into their roles.

Wes Anderson is a director known for his unique style of portraying characters and locations and Grand Budapest is not an exception. Just about every scene in the film looks as unique and interesting as the last. Everything from the hotel to the train that the characters are in have their own unique feel. This feel is not only because of the way the movie is shot but also because of the great score that Alexandre Desplat composed for the film. Every character, location, and event in the film has a certain charm that is not present in a lot of other movies.

It’s hard to watch a film by a director like Wes Anderson and not compare the Grand Budapest to the rest of his films but this might be his best movie. Of course, choosing his best movie comes down to preference but it is hard to deny that the Grand Budapest Hotel is some of his best work. With a moving story and his trademark look, Wes Anderson has created a story that is memorable and enjoyable to watch. Nothing feels out of place and for its running time of 100 minutes, it packs quite an array of thrills, laughs, and even a little heartbreak.

TL;DR: Some of Wes Anderson’s best work. Worth the price of admission.

Rockit Raccoon Rating: 9.5/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%

IMDB: 8.4/10

MetaScore: 87/100

 

3 Comments

Filed under 2015 Oscar Nominees, Movie

Papers, Please (2013)

Papers_Please_-_Title_Logo

Papers, Please is an indie game created by Lucas Pope. The game is about an immigration officer as he operates a border checkpoint. At first glance it sounds like a very dull game and its hard to imagine it was actually nominated for various awards. After playing it for a few minutes I started to understand what all the hype was about. There’s a lot more depth to Papers, Please than what initially meets the eye.

The game play is simple enough. You’re put in charge of a border checkpoint to enter the fictional country of Arstotzka. Once the day begins, people will begin to come forward and as the immigration officer, you are in charge of making sure that all the people trying to get into the country have legitimate documents. Interestingly enough, the player not only has to deal with missing documents but also with detaining terrorists and wanted criminals. If you fail to do so, the government issues you a citation and docks your pay. At first this may seem like nothing but that sort of has to do with why this game did as well as it did. At the end of the day, you get payed and have to distribute your pay between rent, food, and medicine for your family. This little detail adds a great deal of stress and complexity of the game. The extra objective to take care of your family forces the player to think twice before denying a bribe or helping out terrorist who plan on rewarding you. There are pros and cons to every choice you take as you accept or deny people entrance to the country. As the game progresses, the criteria to let people into the country gets tougher and tougher making it harder to get through people.

Papers-Please-gameplay

There are not many things that are wrong with the game. Being an indie video game makes certain things more acceptable such as its 16-bit style. A problem that struck me right away is the fact that there are not many prompts as to how you’re supposed to play until you realize that there is a rule book that you are supposed to follow. Thankfully, the game gives you enough margin for error that allows the player to make mistakes and learn from them. The absence of a full soundtrack was also strange but fits in with the tone that the game is trying to make. Another thing that bothered me was that the color pallet seemed a little dull but once again, this only reinforced the bleak setting of the game.

Papers, Please is a surprisingly entertaining game. For fans of the indie game scene, this is a game that is worth looking into. Its resource management combined with its timed puzzle elements are pretty refreshing to see and provide a good challenge for anyone. Not only do the simple visuals deliver a good tone for the game, the story that’s woven throughout will keep you hooked and have you questioning your morality as you decide what benefits the country and what benefits your family.

TL;DR:  Surprisingly engaging game with a pretty good replay value. The $9.99 price tag seems a little steep but it’s not a bad investment.

Rockit Raccoon Rating: 7.8/10

MetaCritic: 85/100

GameRankings: 81.95%

IGN: 8.7/10

Leave a comment

Filed under Video Games

The Lego Movie (2014)

Lego-The-Movie1

The Lego Movie starts off in a regular looking (Lego) city. Emmet (Chris Pratt) wakes up and goes through his routine of greeting his neighbors to working at a construction site. Before he’s able to head home, he falls into a pit where he discovers a mystical block that marks him as the one who will save the world and disrupt President Business’ (Will Ferrell) plans. After a short interrogation from Bad/Good cop (Liam Neeson), Emmet is drafted into a resistance group by WyldStyle (Elizabeth Banks) and Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman). Along with his new friends, an unprepared Emmet joins the battle to put a stop to President Business’ evil plans.

Almost everything in the Lego Movie is generated by computers. What makes things even more entertaining is that everything within the movie is made up of Lego bricks including non solid objects like smoke and water. This overload of Legos takes some getting used to but won’t really distract from the actions on screen. To make things even better is the fact that the Lego world  cleverly includes human objects and uses them as relics.

S7WziQu

Will Arnett makes an excellent Batman

The cast of the Lego Movie includes several recognizable voices like that of Morgan Freeman and even Charlie Day. Do to the amount of licenses that Lego and Warner Bros. had it was even more entertaining to see certain DC superheroes such as Batman who is played by Will Arnett. Other A-list actors (Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill to name a couple) make very short but sweet appearances. All of these actors have good performances and compliment the story arc which is a relief. With all of this talent carefully placed in the story, one could probably enjoy trying to figure out which actors are playing what character.

The plot of the Lego Movie was something that was worrying me when I first walked into the theater. How would someone be able to make a straightforward story about blocks? The last time a studio tried to produce a film based on a game without a story, they sank at the box office. All my fears were set aside when the world of Lego was introduced. Writers Dan and Kevin Hagemon along with directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were able to not only create a good story but also an interesting array of characters to go along with it.  Benny the Spaceman, Uni-Kitty, and Bad/Good cop aren’t characters that the audience is likely to forget. To this moment I am still amazed at how well crafted the story was and even the fact that the writers were able to add a few nice surprises.

The Lego Movie was a film that was written and intended to be for children but as I sat in the theater I noticed that everyone from kids to adults was engrossed in the story. Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (who were also responsible for 21 Jumpstreet) were able to craft a movie that anyone would be able to enjoy. Sure there’s bits of child humor but it also contains to several other films that only adults and teens would be able to get. One good example is of the various Terminator 2 references as well as some nods to Monty Python. There’s other references and acknowledgements to movies but I’d rather keep it a surprise for those of you who haven’t seen it. The Lego Movie may be a marketing scheme but I found myself enjoying every single minute of it.

TL;DR: There’s hardly anything negative to point out. A must see for all ages (would be surprised if it wasn’t nominated for best animated movie of ’15).

Rockit Raccoon: 9.5/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 96%

IMDB: 8.6/10

Metascore: 8.2/10

2 Comments

Filed under Movie

American Hustle (2013)

American-Hustle-Poster

American Hustle follows the story of Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams). The two work as con artists until they are caught by FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). DiMaso makes a deal with Irving and Sydney that involves them helping him arrest corrupt politicians and possibly members of the mafia.

David O. Russell’s film features an impressive amount of talent which is not limited to Bale, Cooper, and Adams. Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Peña, and even Louis C.K. make an appearance. Being a very character driven movie, input to each actor’s role was necessary. Having gained about 40 pounds,  Christian Bale once again surprised the audience with one of his famous body transformations. The performances that Russell managed to get from each actor were good for the most part and some of them are going to be memorable for a while. Who is seriously going to forget seeing Jennifer Lawrence as a Jersey housewife or Michael Peña as Mexican playing an Arab? One of the things about the film that did end up bothering me was that there was more than one scene in the movie that seemed to drag on too long. I understand that some scenes were completely improvised which in turn showcased each actor but there were times when characters were on screen long after they had played their part in the story.

american-hustle-600x450

Christian Bale gained weight for the role as Irving

The movie is definitely a character driven movie. That being said, there’s nothing wrong with the story which is solid and even gives the audience a few surprises and pieces of comedy here and there. Russell also gives us a clear look at styles and cultures in the 70’s and constantly reminds the audience of this.

Despite the showcase of talent from the cast of American Hustle, there are lots of things that I found wrong with it. The main culprit is the pacing of the film. Russell had a decent plot to start off with and talented actors but overindulging them with improv seemed to slow down and kill some of the story. Despite the problems that the characters got themselves into, there seemed to be very little suspense within the film itself. The other thing about Hustle was the fact that there were more than a few characters that seemed one dimensional and the fact that they got a lot of screen time made it seem as if the director was forcing the audience to like them.

American Hustle is by no means a bad movie but it did lose my attention multiple times throughout. By the time I finished watching it, it felt like the movie had no real pay off. David O. Russell certainly made the movie seem interesting but at the end of the day, it seemed to lack substance.  The best way to describe this movie would be to compare it to a bag of chips. Everything about the packaging seems as if it’ll be a good buy but once you open it you realize that there’s more air inside than actual food. Slow pacing and scenes that dragged on robbed the story of the potential suspense that every crime movie should have. American Hustle has its moments of brilliance but without the actors attached, it might have been just another bust.

TL;DR: Unless you’re a fan of an “actor’s” movie, just wait for the DVD release to watch it.

Rockit Raccoon Rating: 7/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 93%

IMDB: 7.7/10

Metascore: 90/100

Leave a comment

Filed under 2014 Oscar Nominees, Movie

Anna -Extended Edition (2012)

Anna-Extended-Edition

Anna is a psychological horror video game. The plot is really vague and a bit hard to follow but you start off in what appears to be a dream. Now being a horror game, you would expect a creepy atmosphere to begin with but this game actually starts off the opposite way. After a small intro by the main character, who is in search of Anna, you start off outside an old looking house but the environment around the house is beautiful. Grass is lush green, the small creek is next to the house is crystal clear, and the sky is blue. This type of environment does nothing to scare the player and actually seems odd compared to the tone of most horror games.

It’s only after walking into the house that you see the first real signs of the horror aspect of this game. What really stands out is that despite the creepy interior of the house, the music does not fit at all. Instead of your typical Silent Hill-esque track, there is really mellow music. Somehow this makes the game more unsettling than if there was generic horror music. Another thing to add is that the developers of this game really found a way to make the player feel uncomfortable without using jump scares (I only recall coming across  one) but by instead setting an uncomfortable ambience. The appropriate way to describe this game would be creepy, not scary and that’s not a bad thing at all. Another thing to point out is that there’s no real enemies or monsters chasing after you. It’s not like Amnesia or Outlast where you occasionally run into an enemy and hide. In Anna, you might be exploring a room and all of a sudden the room will change and often times get creepier. Between weird symbols, wooden mannequins, and a few ambient noises, Anna creates a very unique horror game atmosphere (with some pretty good graphics) that’s terrifying to navigate through.

SUK2J

The introduction level

I wish I could say this game had the potential to give games like Silent Hill or even Amnesia a run for their money but it falls short in a couple of areas. The gameplay is puzzle based and actually reminded of games like 999. The main problem that this game had was the fact that instructions to progress where extremely vague. Throughout the entirety of the game, your character picks up several books that the player would then have to read. Often times reading things like this is optional but in this case they are sometimes essential to try and figure out how to move forward. The worst part about this is that the texts found in the books are not exactly brief. The next part of the gameplay that bothered me had to do with your inventory. Like most puzzle games, you are required to pick up certain tools to solve the puzzles in each room. Early on you are completely swamped with items that have no clear use. Often times throughout, I found myself trying out every single item blindly on random objects hoping to see if they somehow fit together.  To top things off, there were several items that were never used (at least in my play through) and there was even an instance where if I hadn’t done something in the very beginning of the game I would’ve been set back a bit having to go back and forth from one room to another.

The second part of where this game falls short is the story. Keeping up with the plot in the game is extremely confusing, it often seems like there’s 2 or 3 story lines going on at the same time. Even after beating the game, it’s not clear who the main character is or even the history behind the house that you are in. Furthermore, it is never really specified during what time period this is taking place. First guess for anyone would probably be modern day (seeing as how one of the items in your initial inventory is a phone) but what happens in the story would probably point to an earlier time period.

Anna is an interesting game and vastly different from other horror games that I’ve played. The story, after doing some research, is actually quite interesting but extremely convoluted. The solving puzzles is frustratingly (and unnecessarily) hard and the instructions to go forward are almost non existent unless you turn on the help key and even then the clues are a bit cryptic. Anna shines giving an extremely unsettling atmosphere and it genuinely made me want to stop moving forward or going back into certain rooms, something that doesn’t happen too often (or often enough) when I play this type of game. The game itself is actually quite short IF you know what you’re doing. I look forward to seeing what Dreampainters, the developer, has in store for their next game. Hopefully they’ll be able to learn from their mistakes and make an even better game.

TL;DR: Decent horror game with a unique atmosphere. Major drawbacks with gameplay and story might not make it too enjoyable.

Rockit Raccoon Rating: 5/10

Metacritic: 55/100

GameRankings: 49.13%

IGN: 5.5/10

2 Comments

Filed under Video Games