Overwatch (2016)

overwatch group

Score = 3/5

Game Type – Action, online first person shooter

Platform – PS4, Xbox One, PC

Developer – Blizzard Entertainment

Publisher– Blizzard Entertainment

ESRB – Teen

 

Review by: Kisho Wolfe

Logline: – BLAM! BLAM! SLICE!, Ultimate, Give me my loot box!

Welcome to Overwatch.  The much anticipated online only multiplayer shooter from Blizzard Entertainment.  You may recognize the name from the long running World of Warcraft and  Starcraft series.  If you’ve played either of these games, then you know Blizzard does good work.  I’ve personally lost about a month of my life being engulfed in WoW when a school mate of mine put me onto it.  Had to force myself to go cold turkey and kill the game, or else, I might not have graduated.  It was addictive.  So if you’re like me, you have high expectations for this new app.  Overwatch has been in development for years, so the anticipation levels of everyone that has been following the makings of this game probably can’t be fathomed by those not in the know.  But as I spent hours with what I knew was going to be something epic, my excitement started to dwindle.

The good… scratch that, the GREAT part about Overwatch is the obvious part;  The characters.  Holy Winston, Widowmaker, and D.Va, my friend!!  There is a wonderfully diverse group of personalities here for the choosing.  Twenty one different characters and all of them possess a unique look and play style.  If you are going to be good at this game, you’ll want to master at least about four or five of them.  If not, you’ll be rage quitting in no time, as this game is about countering that one character that keeps handing you your ass because you’re too stubborn to switch out your favorite character for one that counters them back.  About  thirty minutes into the game will put a stamp on the fact that Blizzard spent a huge chunk of their time on this aspect alone.  Unfortunately, this is a double-bladed sword.

It seems that so much time was invested in these wonderful characters, that the rest of the game feels a tad like an afterthought.  The subtle hints at background information on each hero leaves me wanting so much more from these characters in game, but in the voice of Robin Leach… I can’t have it.  I’m forced to scour the web for lore if I really want it, which means, turning off the game to do so.  I’m sure Blizzard will bank on these heroes in the branding world, but it seriously does nothing for the game by not including any story info inside of the game.   No campaign, no power ups, no game-affecting  upgrades to the actual game-play what-so-ever.  It feels like Blizzard decided to put so much emphasis on the characters that our progression and rewards should be sated by voice lines, intro switch-ups, skins and sprays…SPRAYS! As in, to tag a wall.  I understand they wanted to keep everything cosmetic, but give me something that alters the actual play time.  Sure, the game-play is solid for the most part, so I suppose it can be forgiven… to an extent.  This just brings me to the most frustrating part about this game.

The randomly generated loot boxes!!  This is how you get all of the shiny new cosmetic items in the game.  And to get the loot boxes, you’ll need to either pay for them with real money via the convenient payment option of the respective system format you are playing on, or spend hours leveling up your player level to earn a good ol’ box of randomness upon leveling up.  You can see all of the wonderful wares and their in game coin costs as well.  Most games give you actions or paths you can take to earn items in addition to purchasing them with in game coin, so this game will probably be the same, right??  Wrong.  The only way to get anything is from, you guessed it, a loot box. Get a duplicate loot item?  Great!  Here’s a measly five coins to use toward whatever you want.  Will your loot boxes give you enough flat out coins to buy that 1000 credit Winston Rage smalllegendary skin you’ve got your eye on?…eventually.  But not every box contains coins and not every box contains duplicates.  Each character has fifty five items to unlock, so in essence, you could be spending hundreds of hours trying to get the stuff you actually want, versus the crap you do get.  Many will contain items for characters you may not even use much, in which case, you’re still plugging away at the game, eagerly awaiting that next loot box hoping for a large coin drop so you can just buy one of the items you DO want. You want that super fabulous Smurfette  blue deluxe skin(not in the game)for Mei?  Nope, but you can have this nice dookie brown pirate skin(also not in the game) for Junk Rat!  So what if you’ve never used that character a day in your life.  Deal with it!  The number generator does not care.  You get what you get.  Reminds me of the early days of Destiny when they were dropping random items for all three guardian classes and we went into a loud rage about getting crap we couldn’t use with the class of our avatar, until they wised up and corrected that little mishap.  Maybe if enough people blow up the chat boards it’ll be rectified here as well…maybe.

The maps look good.  Nice sight lines and choke points.  The way the game plays, I think the maps would benefit from more architect hazards rather than just falling off the side.  Something like cog wheels, or background pieces lining up with the theme of each map that’ll get you if you camp too long in a spot (I’m looking at you, Bastion lovers).  Hopefully more maps are on the way, that can capitalize on this.

There’s two main game modes.  Payload and Control.  There’s combination variations of these, but they are pretty much it.  Being a multiplayer only game, you’d think more game modes would accompany it.  Maybe as a console gamer, I’m asking too much from a mostly PC game developer.  I don’t know.  How about give the payload itself some defenses, or even a health bar?  Where’s the Deathmatch?  Where’s the Capture the Flag, or a dozen other game modes that would set this game off.  Overwatch in a straight up Deathmatch would be chaotically amazing, and given the choice, I’d probably spend most of my time in that game mode.  And no, you have no choice in game modes.  That’s also in an RNG format unless you’re connecting with a closed set of friends in a custom match set up.  *sigh*

Overwatch, albeit supremely gorgeous as a sunrise, turned out to be equal parts great, as it is frustrating.  The characters along with the fast and frantic game-play is amazing.  The first time you suit up with D.Va in her cotton candy colored mech, you’ll quickly forget the fact that it looks like you’re riding around in a pink bubble.

DVa small

D.Va

Once the ultimate charges in whichever character you are controlling at the moment, you will bask in in the satisfaction of wiping out half of the opposing team in one shot.  Unfortunately continuous disappointments  in loot drops,  in addition to the absence of having a way to tailor your loot progression is highly frustrating.  The minimal amount of multiplayer modes, and lack of choice of which you want to spend your time in, is also something that carries the game into a sludge of staleness after one to two hours of consecutive game playing.  This simply succeeds in compounding the frustrating RNG system as a whole. Kind of makes you question your life choices when you’ve just wasted an hour for a useless loot box that contains none of the items you’d hoped it had.  The $60 price point for console gamers is more salt in the wound.  PC gamers get it for $40, which seems a fair price considering the game has about as much depth as the kiddie pool.  Better player control over mode selections could soften the blow of the loot situation, since we’d be selecting the game modes preferred rather than the ones we are forced to play like good little children.

Overwatch has an absurd amount of potential that it’s just not tapping into, and I only hope Blizzard doesn’t see this as a finished game, but builds upon it to make it as epic as it should be.

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TOM CLANCY’S THE DIVISION (2016)

the division top

Score = 3/5

Game Type – Action, online third person shooter, RPG

Platform – PS4, Xbox One, PC

Developer – Ubisoft Massive

Publisher– Ubisoft

ESRB – Mature

 

Review by: Kisho Wolfe

Logline:Grind…and when you’re done with that…grind some more

Tom Clancy’s The Division is a massive multiplayer online role playing third person shooter. Whew…  A mouthful indeed.  If you want to really get technical, you can also throw in real life simulator, but thanks to the perk and skill system, we’re saved from the simulator part.

When I first cracked this game open, my first impulse was: “Damn, this looks polished!” The presentation of this game is nothing short of exceptional.  Everything from the opening screen with the large beacon ticking on the load screen to the character select is done with precision and fluidity.  When you get into it, this screen will show your character decked out in the latest gear you’ve equipped him/her with on your last visit to Hell’s Kitchen, or Manhattan.  The menu grids and navigation are smooth like butter, and at no point do you feel lost in the magnitude of things to select within them.  Not once in my week of playing this game did I get bogged down with menu fatigue.

The presentation and visuals of the overall game follow this polished feel as the level of detail to the little things is outstanding.  Before even getting into the game, the orange beacon somehow gives you the feeling of embarking on a mission of importance and the game reminds you of this when it zooms out from the beacon on the strap of your backpack and you see your avatar planted in the center of the city, ready to put in work.The Division bridge 900

The buildings, weather changes, everything all the way down to those famous rats skittering around the place, it’s here in high definition.  Almost everything in the world is collision susceptible as well.  See that car?  Shoot out the windows or tires.  That tower in the distance you can’t reach?  Hit it with a sticky bomb and it blackens in the aftermath of the blast. That flat screen?  Give it a good whack!  It doesn’t get as deep as putting bullet holes in everything you shoot, (shooting the screens simply moves them) but still pretty impressive for an always online shooter.

Speaking of collision, there are some parts of the game that need a bit of work.  For starters, when shooting an enemy, there’s about a 1 to 2 second delay until the point of impact.  I found myself wasting a good number of bullets due to this little flaw since, just like any other shooter, you keep shooting until the target is down. (no, it’s not my connection, as this problem doesn’t happen with Destiny or any other online shooting games) With this game, it’s pretty easy to run out of bullets if a group of significantly higher level enemies is coming at you and you’re hiding in cover for extended time periods.  You don’t really want to waste those last few rounds in the mag if you don’t have to.

More collision issues were discovered when searching for ntel throughout the map.  There were times when I managed to get my character stuck behind a dump truck or wall while looking for that phone that’s been ringing, only to get myself stuck behind a group of trash cans and not being able to simply push them over or climb over them.  I can scale a ten foot fence, but can’t climb over a four foot tall trash can?? Had to martyr myself or reboot the software to get out.

The controls and gameplay are fluid as well.  The slightest press of a button causes the action to be executed on screen.  Switching weapons, diving out of the way, it all works as it should.  Moving while behind cover, however, still leaves a bit to be tweaked, as this is where the controls feel clunky and forced.  I found myself having to do more jiggling or reentering control stick movements to finally get my character either out of cover or simply in a more advantageous position while in cover.

The Division does a great job in creating an atmosphere.  A really cold one.  The bio outbreak that’s hit New York has caused riots, famine, desertion, etc.  While running through the campaign, there will be small moments when you feel like you are there.  Unfortunately, (or maybe fortunately, depending on how you look at it) those moments are far and few between.  Your mode of transportation is limited to the shoes on your feet.  Yes, you will be running…and running…and running, all over Manhattan.  Sure, you can unlock safe houses and fast travel to the locations you’ve unlocked, but of course, this will also limit your already limited enemy encounters and make leveling up a more slow and tedious process then it already is.  Speaking of tedious…

videoimageThis game felt like a MASSIVE (see what I did there) chore when I got to about the third day into it.  Activate satellites, rescue hostage, kill big baddy.  The side missions are wash, rinse, repeat, and have little payoff other than grinding up your experience points and giving you less than pocket change for the efforts.  If you’ve spent ANY time creating or flat out buying your own weapons in the houses and hubs, most of the loot drops will be best used for more crafting.  The main story missions give you better loot and nice cut scenes back at the base when you complete them, but don’t do much in the way of making you feel accomplished after you’ve taken down that big boss baddy.

About five days into Tom Clancy’s The Division, the game felt stale.  Was it the slow progression in campaign mode? Maybe.  Repetitive tasks that felt like a scaled down version of GTA, without the fun parts?  Probably.  How about the multiplayer Dark Zone gameplay?  Meh.  Spent about eight hours in there and didn’t really get the pulse induced thrill I get from other multiplayer shooters.

Maybe I’m more of the “dodge and dexterity” kind of game player rather than the hide behind cover for hours type.  I need more action and liveliness in my shooter gameplay to get the heart pumping and hands sweaty.  The adrenaline.  Unfortunately, this game doesn’t deliver that for me.  If you like grinding, this game will be perfect for you, because that’s its most time consuming quality.  For others, this game will start out shiny and new with potential, but most certainly feel like more of a waste of time once you get past the gorgeous graphics, and quite frankly, there are at least two other major franchises that come to mind in which you should spend your hard earned coin on… or maybe three if Overwatch turns out to be half as fun as it looks when it finally drops.

Beyond the Lights (2014)

Beyond-the-Lights-2014-movie-poster

Score = 5/5

(Drama/Romance/ PG-13)

Review by: Kisho Wolfe

Logline:  Sometimes a pause button is just what the doctor ordered.

I’m going to start out by praising the director/writer, Gina Prince-Bythewood. I’ve been a long-time fan of hers ever since she dropped Love & Basketball. Her major motion picture directing list isn’t a mile long, but what she lacks in quantity, she more than quadruples in quality; and you can’t really be upset at that.

Her directing style is something many drama/romance professionals should take note of.  She always does a phenomenal job of capturing the essence of each main character’s background and the overall atmosphere of a movie. Her movies always give you that sense of “being there,” and for me, that’s a heavy point.  I want to lose myself in the story and feel like I’m going through whatever is happening on the screen.

Noni (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is a young up and coming “it” girl in the music business and is right on the bubble of super stardom.  All she needs is that award winning album release to catapult her to the next level. Of course, the pressure of success and an overbearing mother/manager (Minnie Driver) tends to create a few speed bumps on the road. She also has the burning desire to be her own artist rather than the artist others want her to be, which weighs heavily on her shoulders

Kaz (Nate Parker) is a young police officer moving up the ranks and following in his father’s footsteps.  He’s on the path of

Kaz and Noni

Kaz and Noni

politics and his father (Danny Glover) isn’t too thrilled about his son’s current romantic interest having the potential of derailing his future.  Kaz sees Noni’s dilemma, or better yet, understands her in depth while others can only grasp the surface.  He has no choice, but to follow his instincts and lend her his strength in her hour of unsteadiness.  Of course he’s also smitten by her.  He’s a man of morals and isn’t one to turn a blind eye to things he disapproves of.  He has to make it right.

This movie runs at such a great pace that you don’t even notice it’s over 2 hour run time.  Each seen is crafted in a way that you remain interested.  Once the initial big event happens early on, you’re hooked in as the love story unfolds and we see our heroine blossom from a caged black bird to one that is flying free.  Even though it seems this girl has it all, we root for her throughout the entire movie and cheer for her to finally stop trying to appease others and find herself in the process.

The acting was on point for everyone in the movie, which boosted the experience up a few notches.  Gugu and Nate have great on-screen chemistry which sells the love story.  Minnie delivers a nice performance as the mother who pushes her daughter to the brink.  Even the guy playing Kid Culprit (Machine Gun Kelly, don’t worry, I haven’t heard of him either, but he must have some kind of rapping chops if Diddy signed him a few years ago) does pretty well.  Although, I’m not so sure I can call a rapper acting as a rapper, true acting so…

Love, escapism, self-discovery and heroism are great themes, and all of them are represented in Beyond the Lights.  Reality happening behind the scenes is inevitable in all aspects of life.  It always seems to be the accent point of anyone in the public’s eye thanks to the media’s hungry search for dirt.  This movie does an excellent job of taking us through one woman’s journey on a path to spread her wings with the help of her very own personal hero by her side.  Any movie that has me itching to hit the replay button as soon as it’s over is definitely a good sign.

Furious 7 (2015)

Furious7Score = B+

(Action, Thriller, Crime)  PG-13

Review by: Kisho Wolfe

Logline: “Cars dont fly, Dom!”

Movie euphoria.  That’s the first thing that came to mind after watching Furious 7. By no means does it indicate a perfect movie, but it does mean you will not be bored watching it.

The movie kicks off its one hundred and thirty seven minutes with an adrenaline pumping fight between Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) and Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson).

Shaw and Hobbs dukin' it out.

Shaw and Hobbs dukin’ it out.

Talk about setting the stage.  If you watched the extra scenes at the end of the 6th movie, you know that Deckard was responsible for the death of Han (Sung Kang).  Of course, if you didn’t watch the 3rd Furious movie then you’re probably lost as to how Han ended up flipped upside down and trapped in the car in the first place, since Deckard had nothing to do with that part. Yup, the order of the movies is not exactly chronological, but the writers did a half way decent job of mashing them together.

Like many insane action flicks, the plot in this one is razor thin, but it is just enough to give us some foundation for checking out the movie in the “second” place. 🙂   Deckard is seeking revenge for the Furious team’s involvement in permanently crippling his brother Owen (a government agent gone bad) during their London antics in the 6th movie, which apparently takes place before the 3rd movie that is Tokyo Drift.  Again, you’ll have to watch them all to figure out the time lines.  I think 4,5 and 6 all happened prior to the 3rd one.  Most likely has something to do with having the original crew back together after the 2nd and 3rd movies had some…issues.  Deckard — who is also a European ghost assassin badass — is ultimately hunting down our Furious team and ends up in the states to take everyone out of commission.

There are a couple subplots so as not to make the movie too simple in delivery. The team ultimately looks to turn the tide and hunt down Deckard with a hacker device dubbed God’s Eye.  It has the ability to pretty much hack any digital device with a camera or microphone and locate anyone anywhere on the planet.  Of course retrieving this device is easier said than done, since it was stowed away in a hard drive and unwittingly sold to a trust fund chap out in Abu Dhabi. The pieces connected to this subplot seem more like time filler aspects than actual necessary elements, but the great action happening –flying cars– and other elements make up for it.

The remaining subplot dealing with Brian’s (Paul Walker) turmoil and life changes is more directly tied to the series and makes perfect sense.

Brian and Mia

Brian, Mia, baby Jack and Dom

His relationship with Dom’s sister, Mia (Jordana Brewster) and taking it to the next level with the family situation was a great set up to the end of the movie.  The writers were absolutely on point with Paul’s mental struggle to let go of his dodging bullet days and settle down with a wife and kids.  I also spent a nice portion of the movie wondering how they were going to end his character due to Mr. Walker’s untimely death, and I was pleasantly surprised at how they did it. There may have been a tear or two… Maybe.

flying car

Look ma! No wings!

The best part of a Fast and Furious movie is non other than the insane car chases and stunts.  This is ultimately the reason some of us adrenaline junkies watched the series, right?  Well that and to see some sweet rides grace the screen at 200mph. Some of the stunts like flinging a super car through penthouse windows (yes multiple) a few dozen stories up were pretty sick and reminded me of the old Knight Rider days.  Had to stow the excitement in the theater on that one.  Felt like a roller coaster!

There were a few cameos in the movie.  Some greatly welcome, others… not so much.  Iggy Azalea’s performance can be summed up in one word…”Why?”   Ronda Rousey’s two minutes of screen time wasn’t all bad.  She did well in the fighting scene.  Although her actual speaking parts were a tad rough (to put it nicely).  I also wasn’t too thrilled with the dress they put this otherwise lovely (when she smiles anyway) woman in.  The dress and the way they styled her hair made her look bloated and didn’t show that chiseled figure she has.  Didn’t do her justice at all.  And then there’s Kurt Russell. Freakin’ KURT RUSSELL!!  Damn I’ve missed this guy in movies.  Sure he’s gettin’ up there in years just like the rest of us, but once he puts on those sun glasses, he’s still got the swagger. Acting chops are still in tact as well!

Furious 7 delivers the high octane goodness that one expects from the series. Even though the acting and cheesy points — like everyone apparently having Teflon skin and walking away from these insane car crashes with nothing more than a scratch — are down right laughable at times, it’s good to know that the seventh installment still manages to not take itself too serious and keeps us entertained.

I give this one a B+.

And this hottie’s in the movie.

Nathalie Emmanuel

Nathalie Emmanuel

Just wanted to put her picture in, ‘cause she’s hot.  Chow!

SHEN YUN (*2015)

 

Shen-Yun

 

Score = B

(Live/ Performing Arts/ G – **if there was a rating)

*The year is not a typo.  Their new year starts in December and ends in May in the US.

 

Review by: Kisho Wolfe

Logline:  Chinese culture told through interpretive dance and music.

Well, well, well… Look who gets to add a shiny new section to their review blog.  Yep, this guy!  And I couldn’t be more thrilled about it!  I typically haven’t sought out too many live shows for entertainment, because, well, they very rarely entertain me. (Except for maybe a couple of shows in ‘Vegas, but not entirely for the reasons you’re probably thinking.  The strength some of those seemingly normal human beings is quite impressive!)

But this about Shen Yun.  A nonprofit company based in New York that has made it their mission to revive authentic Chinese culture through classical Chinese dance and music.  Two very powerful methods used for over 5000 years to ensure Chinese culture is continually passed down to new generations.  They note the reality of the current communist situation over in China, which pretty much locks down freedom of expression and worship in a multitude avenues to the point where even a show such as this one would not be allowed to perform there.  Well, as unfortunate as that is, I’d have to say, their loss is our gain.

This year’s show runs about two and a half hours (including intermission) and includes almost two dozen separate performance pieces.  Most of them are stories told through beautifully choreographed dance sets broken up by introductions.  We also get treated to solo soprano performances during our time here and although the singers’ voices were extremely powerful, it was Guang Ling’s vocal tones that absolutely blew me away.  The songs are sung in Chinese so the words are displayed in English on a screen behind the singers.  However, if you’re anything like me and listen to music from different regions even though you can’t understand the language, you tend to appreciate the sound just as much or maybe more than the actual words.  Speaking of sound, Lu Sun has a solo musical number (with accompanying piano) playing the erhu – a bowed, two-stringed Chinese vertical fiddle – that’s absolutely breathtaking!

A few of my favorites during the show included: “Sleeves of Grace” – a colorful number with the maidens dancing near a lotus pond with silk sleeves accenting their movements, “Monkey King and The Skeleton Demon” – a demon disguises herself in a number of human forms to capture the monk and his people and it’s up to the Monkey King to save them, and finally “Chopsticks Dance of the Mongolian Ladies.”  This last one here with the chopsticks… yeah, I need to find more of these!  The elegant movement of the ladies combined with the sequined outfits flowed well with the drums and sound of them clicking the chopsticks to the beat.  It was pretty sweet!  Everything was so fluid and those drums made you want to shake those shoulders just a bit.  Loved it!

Shen-Yun2 Shen Yun may have started their journey together in 2006, but don’t let the young age of the company deter you from checking out their show at least once in your life.  Most of the magical folks that make up the company are veterans in their craft from different parts of the globe.  The artists here represent everything from singing, dancing, musical and physical training.  Some of these performers have even been at their craft since the young age of six and their mastery of their respective avenue of study is evident on stage.  The video backgrounds add a comfortably seamless integration to each story, but make no mistake, there’s nothing artificial about the skills witnessed here.

The orchestra Shen Yun has put together is on a level of its own.  They compose original music pieces combining traditional instruments from Chinese culture with instruments and sound from our neck of the woods here on the Western side of things.  The Shen Yun Orchestra has over 90 musicians and also goes on tour throughout the year as its own entity separate from dance.  It was my first experience enjoying a live symphony orchestra and I promise you this; it will NOT be my last!  Having a great sound system is great and all, but you haven’t had a “crispy” sound experience until you’ve literally shared the same breathing space with all of the instruments collaborating together in perfect harmony with room acoustics to die for.  If only I could find the album…

Not much could be said in the ways of less than satisfactory in regards to Shen Yun’s show.  The one gripe I have is strictly an opinion more so than a production issue.  My minor issue is with the amount of stories being told.  I feel that trying to put so many different stories into the show takes away from how powerful the program really could be.  Each story is roughly about five minutes a piece and by the time it starts ramping up and you really get into it is right about the time the curtain closes on that particular story.  If they maybe cut the number of stories in half and made them more elaborate, the audience could have a more in-depth experience of each piece by the time the curtain drops.  The majority of the production centers on good vs. evil and paying respect to the gods, so the themes are pretty obvious and easy to grasp.  I would just like to bring home more from each story for a deeper telling rather than the “CliffsNotes” version to really engulf me in what’s happening on the stage.

Seeing this show was definitely a step outside of my comfort zone.  I stumbled across a pamphlet at a Chinese food restaurant about a year ago and all the colors and acrobatics implied caught my attention.  After finding out more about the show, the more intrigued I became at jumping in (see what I did there) to see what all the fuss was about.  While I missed the opportunity last year, I’m definitely glad I didn’t miss it this year.  It has inspired me in a number of ways and was a straight up enjoyable time.  Aside from maybe trying to tell too many stories in one sitting, this production absolutely has my vote for an encore.  If it’s happening in your area, do yourself a favor and give it a go.  At the very least, you’ll definitely enjoy all the vibrant colors and of course the music.

TOP FIVE (2014)

Top Five 600x938

Score = C

TOP FIVE (2014)

(Comedy/ R)

Review by: Kisho Wolfe

Logline:  Redman, Pharoahe Monch, Busta Rhymes, Royce Da 5’9”, Jay-Z, and Drake for my 6th

That logline has more to do with the movie title than the movie title has to do with the actual movie.  Get all of that?  Usually a title gives you some sort of insight or has a smidge of relevancy to what you’re about to embark on, but unfortunately the creative minds here thought otherwise.  Although I imagine the movie title was probably the brain child of one or two co-producers (Jay-Z, Kanye West) on the movie rather than the lead actor and writer, Chris Rock.  Just a guess…

Chris rock is our leading man in this comedy to close out 2014.  He plays the part of a stand-up comedian turned highly successful movie star who desires to switch gears from being a funny man to a serious actor.  In the midst of releasing his new serious movie with a serious message, he’s also on the cusp of a high profile marriage to be aired on a live television reality show.  Our lead actress in Top Five is the beautiful Rosario Dawson, who plays a reporter who is tasked with shadowing our funny… err ex-funny man around for an exclusive interview.

The movie watches like a biography into our protagonist’s past and we are taken on a journey of seemingly random moments in his life which brought him to his current mindset.  It also centers on the fact that he used to be an alcoholic and its effect on his decision not to do comedy anymore.  He regrets his role in making the uber popular “Hammy the Bear” movies and things come to a boil since all everyone wants to know is when the fourth movie is coming out rather than the new path he’s chosen to move his career into.

There are a number of cameos in the film from previous generation comedians.  Cedric the Entertainer, Jerry Seinfeld and even Whoopi Goldberg make an appearance, just to name a few.  Most of them were only on screen for a few minutes, but it was definitely enough to warrant nostalgia of a stronger comedic era than the current one.

Top Five is a comedy for those familiar with the 90’s and maybe even the 80’s.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it also doesn’t seem to be a good thing either for this particular film.  It has a couple of cringe worthy shocker parts that seem to be obligatory in today’s comedy movies, and of course there are also laugh out loud moments. (After all, Chris Rock is a good comedian in general.) I just can’t say this movie, released at this time, in this day and age was truly an enjoyable experience throughout the majority of the 102 minutes.  Maybe if it was released in the early 2000’s?

I give Top Five a grade of C.  It was an “OK” movie.  Plus, how many movies do you see the legendary Ben Vereen in these days?

Ben Vereen

Ben Vereen

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

guardians small

Score = B

(Adventure-Action–Sci-Fi / PG-13)

Review by: Kisho Wolfe

Logline:  “Dance off, bro!”

You ever just feel like being entertained for a few hours?  Or maybe just feel like kickin’ back with a good movie and havin’ a little “me” time?  Well Guardians of the Galaxy allows you to do just that.

Let me start by noting what this movie does NOT do.  It does not provide you with a love story, nor bog the experience down with some long drawn out moral cause that ends up making you hate your life because you — just like the rest of us — color outside of the lines at times.  Although it does hint at both to make things interesting; and that’s quite alright.

What Guardians does encompass is a heavy dose of action and comedy. Rocket (the raccoon voiced by Bradley Cooper) heads up the comedy by successfully throwing out zingers at the crew and occasionally himself at just the right moments to keep things light.  Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is our main protagonist, and his occupation is an intergalactic black market dealer.  He gets paid to acquire things that others want, but for one reason or another are unable to obtain these items themselves.  His latest job has him gathering a particularly powerful orb that seems to be a hot commodity on the black market.  So hot that he almost dies gathering it, as well as almost dying a second time trying to collect the money for it.

Our antagonist, Ronan (Lee Pace) is also tasked with finding this strange orb by an all powerful being, Thanos.  Of course once he discovers the contents of the orb, Ronan switches the plan and wants to keep the prize for himself just like any respectable villain should.  He stays true to the evil mastermind guidebook in wanting to destroy everything and everyone for some unspecified reason, which I think is this movies weak point.  I haven’t read the source material from the comics and all, but I’m thinking the screen writers could have added maybe five to ten minutes of background story to give us a solid sense of meaning behind this guy’s motives for wanting to destroy the universe.

The rest of the guardians round out with the over-literal Drax (Dave Bautista), a sentient tree who calls itself Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), and Gamora the assassin ( the always lovely wear-any-color-of-paint-in-a-movie-and-still-look-good Zoe Saldana).  Everyone brought their A-game so It was a blast watching each character on the screen.

Overall, Guardians of the Galaxy flies off of the screen with a solid B in my book.  It has good sci-fi action and a comedic story with just a smidge of drama to anchor things down before getting back to the good stuff.  Other than giving us a peak into the antagonist’s motives behind his actions, this movie gives us just what we want out of an easy Sunday afternoon; entertainment.

Sean Gunn

Sean Gunn

Oh yeah, and I thought it’d be worth mentioning that this guy is in the movie for a little bit.  Haven’t seen him in anything solid since Gilmore Girls, (yes Gilmore Girls, it’s a damn good show…watch it!) well, at least not anything in my viewing circle. Then again, maybe I need to expand my horizons.  🙂