Wednesday, September 12, 2007


I'm back!
As you can see I've returned from my vacation and I'll start working on my next review as soon as possible, but don't expect it until the weekend. I would like to write it sooner but with classes starting and all, I'm going to be really busy and I don't want to make a bad review. Especially because the next review will be about a film from one of my favorite directors Akira Kurosawa, more specifically, Nora Inu a.k.a Stray Dog. So, I really hope I do well on the next review and hopefully it will dignify Akira Kurosawa's movie.

Nora Inu

In the meanwhile, and since I won't be writing a review for the next few days, I'd like to recommend a great review I read on one of my favorite blogs, Production Blog, and that's about a really cool movie, Clerks II. The review can be found here and I thought it really shows what kind of movie Clerks II really other words, it's a well written review.

See ya.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth II - Game(PC)

Once again, I must apologize for taking this long to post this review.
It should have been posted on Sunday, but I've been really busy. So, let's just begin, shall we?

- First Look -

The 2006 game Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth 2 (BME2) brings us, the long awaited sequel to the 2004 hit game and it looks like it won't disappoint all the fans of the first game.
First of all, the look and feel of the game is very, very similar to the previous title, except some minor changes to the interface, which, to me, isn't a bad thing. Why mess with "perfection", right?
So, what changes in BME2?
Well, even though the two are very similar, there are some major changes. In this game we can control a lot more characters from he Tolkien universe. Characters that didn't even appear in the Lord of the Rings films, appear in this game, for example, Tom Bombadil, Glóin and many, many others from both sides.
Another change is the addition of a new game mode, War of the Ring, where you can battle it out on a game board...something very Risk style. The ultimate objective is to conquer all of Middle Earth, one province at a time. Like I said, something very Risk style. The only difference from Risk is that when two armies collide you can choose between fighting yourself in real time or just let the computer automatically generate the outcome of the battle. Anybody who's played Shogun: Total War or some of the sequels should know what to expect.

The Multiplayer mode, to me, is the best thing in BME2, not because it's original, but just because it's really fun and it's much more challenging to play against a real person.

So, basically, these were the majors changes from BME toBME2.

- Plot/Storyline -

The story in BME2 swirls around events that weren't portrayed in the films. The main action is spent in the northern lands of Middle Earth, with Dwarves and Elves battling Goblins. This goes on during all the Lord of the Rings events you've seen in the films and books. It completely steers away from the Fellowship of the Ring and their adventures, and focus only on those events that nobody ever saw, which is good and a logical step from the EA team behind the game, but, I rather preferred playing the original storyline of the first BME.

So, basically, this is it. Not much to talk about story wise in BME2, not because it's bad, it's just that this is a RTS game, and like any RTS, the story although important, it's not the main aspect of the game.

- Graphics -

In the graphics department BME2 doesn't disappoint either. Of course there's the expected and "traditional" cool looking initial FMV that greet you to the game. After that there's the awesome main menu where a scene from the Fellowship of the Ring is depicted, more precisely, the part where the fellowship reaches and sees the Argonath in all its splendor. What a great way to start a game!

So, regarding the in-game graphics, all I can say is that they're great, something that shouldn't surprise anyone if you think that the this big budget production is only 1 year old.
The scenarios and characters are really detailed and polished, and, regarding the characters that appear in the films, it's really easy to recognize them. In the above picture you can clearly see that it's Elrond (by the way, you can control him too) in the front.

Concluding, there's no real big surprise regarding the graphics in BME2. The graphics were already good in the first game, and in this second installment, the crew at EA really just upgraded and accompanied the video cards technology improvements from 2004 to 2006.

- Music/Sound Effects -

This, to me, is one of the strongest aspects of the game. Why? Well, just because, if you're like me, you're a fan of the OST of the films.
And that's what you mostly get, with some "minor"alterations, in BME2. That's all that is to it.
It's really cool playing the game listening to the movie soundtrack and, in my opinion, really helps the overall gaming experience.

Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth 2 is, fortunately, one of those games where the soundtrack really fits, even though I don't think the EA crew should be given all the credit. And I say this just because the music and most sound effects really come from the movie. But with this, don't think that I don't give credit to the team behind, far from it. Since this game shows us everything that the movies didn't show, there's a lot of things that the EA crew had to "create" from scratch and, to me, they did a good. One good example of this is Tom Bombadil.
Tom Bombadil is a character that you summon to help you, just like the Balrog, and, not only does it look like him but it's also really cool and fun listening to him singing in the middle of a fierce battle.
Again, no big surprise in the music department too.

- Overview -

What else to say about BME2? Not much really...
It's cool to play and has made some improvements from the first game, not to mention the fact that it gives the player the possibility to control every creature and race from the Tolkien universe.
If you've played the first game, sometimes, you may get the feeling that there's no real originality in it, that apart from the new races and stuff there's no real innovation, and, unfortunately I have to agree. At some point you may find yourself getting quite bored, just because there's not anything REALLY new in the game itself, after the "! New Races!" effect wears off.
It's not uncommon to end up just playing the multiplayer mode of the game or the War of the Ring mode.

So, in conclusion, BME2 is a great doubt about it. The EA crew did a good job trying not to make this game an exact copy of the first BME. The graphics are, as expected, much better than BME, the music and sounds effects, fortunately, don't stray too far from the movie soundtrack and they weren't supposed and the storyline, being the biggest change from the BME to BME2, is actually pretty cool.

- Rating -

So, having all I've said in mind, and even counting with the fact that, after you've played the game there's only the multiplayer mode to pull you back in and not forgetting that EA really just took the original BME one step ahead, something expected if you ask me, I give Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth 2 a good and very solid 8.

So, once again, let me apologize for the extreme delay posting this review, but like I've said I've been really busy specially because I'm going on vacation in the next few days and as usual there's a lot of packing to do.
Another reason I should be apologizing for is the poor, poor review I wrote today (lack of talent to write them showing up I think). I had to decide if I would be posting this review ten days from now (when I get back) and thus almost "abandoning" the blog for that amount of time or trying to do my best and write a review. As you can see, the latter was chosen...

So, for the next ten days or so I won't be posting anything here and if any of you are interested in knowing when I post my next review, you can leave a comment with your e-mail and I can contact you as soon as I post anything. And yes...before I even post anything, the first I'll do when I arrive is installing a mailing list.

See ya (in ten days).

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Paprika - Movie (2006)

Welcome once more! As you can see, today we a Japanese movie review, Paprika. But before I start, I have to make an important announcement regarding one of the movie categories, more specifically, the CGI category. As of today, the CGI category will be named Visual Effects/Photography. I decided to do this, because I felt that, with just a CGI category I couldn't grasp all of the visual aspects of the film. So, with this "new" category I hope to talk about all of the visual aspects of a film, CGI related or not.

- First Look -

If you've never seen an anime (Japanese animation, for those that are wondering what anime is), TV series or movie, when you first look at Paprika you can only say..."What the...???". On the other hand, if you're not a new to the anime universe, you may find yourself saying..."HOLY SH#T!!!". It's that mind blowing to look at!
This movie is unlike anything you've ever seen in a animation movie. I guarantee it.

The hero of this story is Paprika, a female therapist that cures people's traumas by entering their dreams. This is possible thanks to a small machine called DC Mini, that enables the user to enter a person's dream and change it, but when someone steals one of the DC Mini prototypes then everything starts going downhill.
So, Paprika brings us the story of Paprika and her co-workers trying to find the stolen DC Mini and who stole it, all the while, trying to prevent any more "insanity attacks", caused by the machine, on innocent people.

- Plot/Storyline -

At first sight, the kind of story that we find in Paprika isn't something extremely original but, like I said in a previous review, that doesn't mean it's not good. In this case it's even better than's great.
Paprika and her co-workers try to find the person behind the disappearance of one of the prototypes of the DC Mini. The disappearance itself is bad, but things go from bad to worse when employees of the company behind the DC Mini's development, start to get targeted by the culprit and start to have "insanity attacks"caused by the missing DC Mini.
If you don't think about the fact that the DC Mini is a machine that enables a person to enter another person's dream and change it, you might think that the story isn't all that great, but, trust me, that's a BIG misconception.
Imagine it this way, try to think of one those old, 1940's detective stories(the good ones, of course) and add it a great, and sometimes difficult to accompany it you're not paying attention, metaphysical question accompanying the main action and a nice plot twist, and there you have it...Paprika's storyline.

Now, about the metaphysical question that I just mentioned , that's something you see in many, if not all, animes. And, in Paprika's case, the main question revolves around dreams and our perceptions of them, a ever growing lack of privacy in a near future society (where the dream world is our last true "sanctuary") and science meddling in places it shouldn't be.

In conclusion, it all comes down to something I said a little while ago...Paprika's storyline is great and don't be fooled by an apparent simple main action. There's a lot going on behind it, a lot indeed.

- Visual Effects/Photography -

Where to begin? The animation in Paprika is out of this world.
The fact that Paprika is, apart from some CGI animated sequences, still hand drawn is, after you see the movie, almost unbelievable.
Visually, everything is perfect in Paprika, the surreal animation sequences, the rich and vibrant colors, the elaborate and carefully drawn background, everything...

Even the most "quiet" sequences are great providing the viewer with fluid and natural character animations. But it's when you enter in the "dream world", when Satoshi Kon (Paprika's director) shifts into 5th gear, that your eyes and your mind enter in an "overdrive mode".

Believe me that I'm not exaggerating when I say that you're literally bombarded at high-speed with amazing, surreal and breathtaking animation sequences, most of them, worthy of a Salvador Dali painting.

- Soundtrack -

In Paprika, the soundtrack is like everything else in the movie...beautifully strange. Most of the times there's no music at all in the film which gives it a tense and quiet vibe that matches perfectly with the overall ambiance of the film during it's "quiet scenes". But when the "action" starts the soundtrack follows it flawlessly.

Even though it's great and it shows up in all the right places, I fear that, sometimes, the soundtrack can be caught in the shadow of the colossus that is the animation in this film and not have the amount of attention it deserves.
However, I also believe that it's unlikely to happen.

- Overview -

After all this, what's left to say about Paprika? Not much. It's just a really awesome movie.
You've got a great story , with a surreal god-like art and animation and, last but not least, a matching and opportunistic soundtrack. What more would you want from an animation movie? Or any movie at all?

It's incredible how Paprika can be, at the same time, a lot of things depending on the "angle" you're looking at it.It's almost like the Mona Lisa, she looks and smiles at you from wherever you look at her. It can be a detective story, it can be a Sci-fi "thriller"/suspense story, it can even be a love story and it can be much more. It has all these elements and they blend together so perfectly. This is how good the movie, and more precisely, the story really is.

Well, actually, there's one thing I'm certain that this movie isn't, and that is, a children's movie. Don't make the mistake of confusing an animation film with a children's film, specially, regarding Japanese animation. Not only is the story quite "heavy" for a children's mind but the movie also has some situations that maybe aren't very suitable for younger audiences.

Paprika messes, in a very good way, with the viewers head so much that at a certain point, you'll have difficulty in distinguishing dreams from reality yourself. And, actually, watching Paprika it's like watching a dream, it's so surreal that will really feel like a dream.

- Rating -

So, after all I've said I think the rating that I'll give Paprika is quite obvious...or maybe not.
The only "negative thing" that I can think of that this film has is the "complexity" of the story that might confuse or even bore some people who watch it and are not used to watch these kind of movies or even, the fact that some people might not like animation films, especially, Japanese animation which is completely different from the mainstream Hollywood animation that most people is used to.

So, without any further delays...for all I've said the only rating I can think of for a movie like Paprika is a more than deserved 9.

Before I go I'll leave the photos of the four Gods of Japanese animation.

Hayo Miyazaki
(My Neighbor Totoro, Mononoke Hime, etc...)

Katsuhiro Otomo
(Akira, Memories, etc...)

Mamoru Oshii
(Ghost in the Shel, etc...)

Satoshi Kon
(Perfect Blue, Tokyo Godfathers, Millennium Actress, etc...)

See ya.