Film Review: Doctor Sleep (Dir. by Mike Flanagan)


 

If I asked you about Stephen King’s The Shining, would the book or the film come to mind?

DoctorSleepPosterWhen it comes to adapting Stephen King’s stories to film, it’s not an easy feat. King himself had a problem turning his own short story “Trucks” into something good when he directed Maximum Overdrive. For every great film like Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, or It-Chapter One, we occasionally get a misstep like The Dark Tower or It-Chapter Two.  As King can sometimes get wordy in his books, I’ve felt the best adaptations were the ones where the director’s own vision came into play. Kubrick made a number or changes to King’s story, including the Grady twins and the hedge maze, which were never in the novel. The film is so widely recognized that most people recall events in the movie, rather than the book. That’s the effect Kubrick had. 

With Doctor Sleep, Mike Flanagan once again proves he’s a fantastic fit for King. The film moves at a great pace, with great performances by Rebecca Ferguson and newcomer Kyliegh Curran. In an age where audiences are typically quiet, the applause that occurred in scenes during last night’s preview screening were great to hear. The film manages to pay homage to Kubrick’s The Shining and King’s Novel of Doctor Sleep while still completely showcasing Flanagan’s vision. Of course, we already knew this from Flanagan taking on King’s own Gerald’s Game and Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House.  One might even argue that for this film, we may in time recall Flanagan’s tale more clearly than King’s.

Doctor Sleep takes place after the events of The Shining, with Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) suffering from the same demons that plagued his father, Jack. Although the keeps to himself, he drinks too much, gets into brawls, and is unable to hold down decent work. Dan is also haunted by the Overlook Hotel, and the power that drew the souls to him known as The Shining. The Shining (or just the Shine) is a coveted power in King’s lore. When a group of nomads that feed on the Shine (in a way that’s reminiscent of Mick Garris’ Sleepwalkers) discover a girl with the same ability, Dan is brought out of hiding. 

Fans of the original Kubrick film will see there’s a lot of love here. You’ll be able to count some of the references to The Shining, from objects in a room to different locales. For casting, Flanagan uses a mixture of old favorites and new faces. You’ll recognize some of them right from the start, such as Bruce Greenwood and Violet McGraw. Others, like Jacob Tremblay (The Predator) are welcome additions. Rather than relying on footage from the original Shining, Flanagan recreates certain elements with new cast members, which I felt worked extremely well here. I’m not sure how others will take it.

Ewan McGregor is good in the role of Dan Torrance, which feels more like his Mark Renton character from Trainspotting than anything else to me.  This isn’t a bad thing, but it works. The film truly belongs to both Rebecca Ferguson (Mission Impossible: Fallout) and Kyliegh Curran. Ferguson’s Rose the Hat is a wicked villain, and she carries the role with a sinister, yet stylish flair. Ferguson has some of the best scenes in the film, particularly when paired with Zahn McClarnon (Midnight, Texas and Westworld), who plays Crow Daddy. Kyliegh Curran chews up the scenes she’s in, easily handling screen time with McGregor and Ferguson like a pro. Rounding out the cast are Cliff Curtis (Sunshine), Carl Lumbly (Mantis) and Emily Alyn Lind (The Babysitter). 

Doctor-Sleep-1

Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) can’t run from his past in Mike Flanagan’s Doctor Sleep.

As for the fear factor, there is some terror in the hunt for Abra and the way that the group interact. Doctor Sleep doesn’t have much in the way of jump scares, but makes up for it with some tense moments. I didn’t feel as scared as I did with It-Chapter One, but I cared enough about the characters to worry about how the story was going to turn out. That might be a turn off for those expecting to watch the movie from between their fingers or run out of the theatre screaming. If you enjoyed Flanagan’s other works, such as Hush or Oculus, you’ll be fine.

Speaking of Hush, Doctor Sleep lacks a Kate Siegel cameo. Flanagan is Siegel’s partner in crime (and husband). Together, they’ve been in almost every film they’d done. I’ve gotten used to going “Oh, there’s Kate!”, while watching his films. It’s not an issue at all, but it would’ve been cool to see her.

The camera work for Doctor Sleep is very even, though there are a few special effects scenes that really stand out and picked up some applause (or gasps) once they were over. The one main drawback I had with the film was that it was a little difficult to keep up with all of the locations and time periods early on. Even though everything’s clearly labeled, it took me a moment to recognize just where and when things were occurring. Not a terrible thing, though.

Overall, Doctor Sleep is an easy film to recommend. It has some great performances, and manages to be a great follow up to The Shining, while showing a lot of love for the source material.

Doctor Sleep hits cinemas on Friday, November 8th, and I’ll make a return visit.

 

 

 

Quick Review: King Arthur – Legend of the Sword (dir. by Guy Ritchie)


KingArthur-LegendoftheSwordUsually, when I go to the movies, I either eat before I get there, or after the movie is done. This way, I don’t have to get up at all and miss anything. If it’s a film I’ve seen before, I’ll take the weakest part to use as a bathroom / food break, if I have to go. It’s one way I can tell if I like what I’m watching.

I got up twice for King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. Once to go downstairs and get a popcorn and drink, and a second time for a free refill. I even left my stuff behind in my chair for anyone to take on the second trip out. That’s how low my interest in this film fell after about 30 minutes in. I trusted the fates not to have someone steal my motorcycle jacket (keys, gear and all) to take a break from this film.

This may not be the best review to read about King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.

The Arthurian Legend has been captured in film a number of times. The Last Legion, First Knight, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Excalibur (my personal favorite), and most recently, Antoine Fuqua’s King Arthur starring Clive Owen. There’s nothing wrong with a retelling of the story, but Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is all over the place and feels like it has nothing to do with the legends. This isn’t anything against Ritchie. I own Rock-N-Rolla and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and I loved Snatch. King Arthur was just off to me. Even the Sherlock Holmes films seemed more grounded than this one does. None of the actors are truly able to save this film, and a few people actually left in the middle of my showing. It’s not the worst thing I’ve ever watched, but Ritchie’s made better films than this.

Granted, I didn’t really walk in with a lot of expectations. The film had it’s release date changed, being sandwiched right between Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 the week before and Alien: Covenant the week after. It really didn’t have a chance, though I thought maybe it could at least hold the weekend. On the other hand, the movie did feel like a lot of the sword and sorcery films I grew up with in the ‘80s, such as Hawk The Slayer, Beastmaster, Ridley Scott’s Legend, The Sword & the Sorcerer, hell, even Barbarian Queen. In that sense, I might say that the film holds up. If you’re not trying to compare it with anything Arthur/Camelot related, you may actually enjoy it.

Legend of the Sword is the story of Arthur (Charlie Hunnam), who needs to save his land from the evil King Vortigern (Jude Law) after reclaiming the great sword Excalibur. I could say more, but I’d give too much away. He’s aided by his friends, Sir Bedivere (Djimon Hounsou) and Goosefat Bill (Aidan Gillen), along with a Mage (Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey) that takes the place of Merlin, who’s absent here. Everyone’s performances are okay, particularly Law and Gillen, who chew up any scene they’re in. Hunnam does just as good with what he’s given, but his Arthur is a bit of an ass at the start. Everyone seems to enjoy what they’re doing here. Even David Beckham gets a moment as a henchman. Of them, the only character I really cared about was Goosefat Bill. Aiden Gillen can play the hero, and play one well.

To his credit, Guy Ritchie’s direction is as quick and sharp as it ever was. When there’s action, it’s fast and fluid. You’ve got great running sequences, and giant CGI animals. Even the swordplay is fun, particularly when Excalibur is involved (those are really the best parts). It’s stylish, and looks awesome in some scenes. The dialogue is rapid, with quick cuts along whole segments. It’s what we’ve come to know and expect from Guy Ritchie. Though it worked well for his modern crime films, it come across as being a little disjointed here. I was hoping for King Arthur, not Underworld Boss Arthur who could be Robin Hood, along with his would be Merry Men of Sherwood Forest.

While I’m not saying that every element of the Arthur tale needed to be expanded upon, Legend of the Sword suffers from a few jump cuts that say “Don’t worry about all of this info, just know we reached point B from point A.” It’s efficient, but also turns the entire tale into a Cliffs Notes / Wikipedia summary. The film moves that quick. The film is peppered with these abbreviations that’s supposed to move the narrative along, but does this so fast that you almost have a tough time believing this movie was actually 2 hours long. I’m not asking for Hamlet, but at least allow your characters to flourish or grow or gain something about them that’s endearing. I’ll also admit to having a short attention span, it’s not that short that it requires quick-cut bursts to keep me enthralled.

Overall, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword was a miss for me. If you have to catch it, you may want to wait for the VOD edition.

Guilty Pleasure No. 30: Wolfen (dir. by Michael Wadleigh)


Wolfen_1981A guilty pleasure is a film that we might enjoy, but isn’t as loved by others overall. It’s the kind of film that you can watch on any given day, but to speak of it may cause raised eyebrows among your peers. Everyone has at least one film or two that they treasure in this way.

My Guilty Pleasure pick is 1981’s Wolfen, directed by Michael Wadleigh. Loosely based off the novel by Whitley Strieber, the film focuses on two homicide investigators who learn that the case they’re working may actually be caused by animal attacks. Often mistaken as a werewolf film, I really wouldn’t group Wolfen into that category. It’s supernatural in some ways, yes, but you won’t find any serious werewolf activity in it. Surprisingly enough, Wolfen was released in the theatre just a few months after Joe Dante’s The Howling. This makes me wonder how audiences took to Wolfen after seeing all of the make-up effects in Dante’s work. From an effects standpoint, Wolfen’s big claim to fame is the negative photography used to showcase the animals’ point of view. I can’t imagine it was incredibly amazing when comparing the two, but on it’s own, it’s not bad. It’s one of the few movies I’d like to see get a remake, if only to have the story match Strieber’s book better.

When a millionaire land developer and his wife are found brutally murdered in Battery Park, Detective Dewey Wilson is brought on to investigate. Albert Finney (Miller’s Crossing, The Bourne Ultimatum, Skyfall) easily carries the film as Wilson, feeling a lot like the owner of your favorite corner deli. Wilson’s detective work is subtle in the film, and Finney plays to that with a relaxed alertness. He comes across as calm, questioning, but you get the sense that if it came to blows, he’d be ready to react. I suppose most detectives are that way. When the murder is believed to be a possible terrorist attack, a Security Agency brings in a psychological expert named Rebecca Neff, played by Diane Venora (Heat, William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet). Wolfen was Venora’s first film and she’s good in this, though the screenplay is written in a way where it’s more Dewey’s tale to tell. The book did Neff’s character more justice than the movie, overall. Rounding out the casting is Gregory Hines (Running Scared, The Cotton Club – also with Venora) as a forensics expert, Edward James Olmos (Miami Vice, Battlestar Galactica) as a Native American worker who may know more than he says and Tom Noonan (Manhunter, The Last Action Hero, F/X – once again, with Diane Venora) as a Zoo Worker who’s just a little to into wolves in general. That’s just my opinion, though Noonan’s been known to play creepy very well. The performances here are all pretty good. No one is really out of place here, as far as I could tell.

If Wolfen suffers from any major problem, it’s in the writing. In adapting the novel, they had the chance to really bring the terror from the novel on screen. In the book, we’re given an understanding of what the Wolfen are – creatures older, faster and more terrifying than your typical canine. They came complete with their own way of communicating with one another, and Strieber’s novel even referenced his other story about Vampires, The Hunger. The final standoff of the book was a fight similar to From Dusk Till Dawn, with the hope that our heroes could maybe hold off what was coming. The movie decided to go a different route. Not terrible in any way, but it could have been really good if they stayed on track.

I could be off here, but I believe the film elected to try to make the story more relevant for its time by circling the murder around terrorism and using the Security Agency. The Security Agency has so little to do with the film outside of bringing Neff on the case, it’s incredible. About every 20 minutes, the film cuts back to this crew of personnel at their computers, watching footage of attacks (that have little to do with the original victim) in an attempt to piece together why this death happened. Meanwhile, Wilson walks into bar and gets the whole solution handed to him in a short story over a beer. I wonder if Wadleigh (who co-wrote the script) was trying to say that with all the technology at their disposal, all it really took to solve a crime was just regular legwork. To quote Olmos’ character “It’s the 20th Century. We got it all figured out.” That’s just my speculation on that.

From a Cinematography viewpoint, Wolfen has some impressive scenes, particularly those of the Manhattan landscape. For a city that doesn’t sleep, the streets as they’re filmed here are barren, with lots of shadows. One scene in particular has Finney and Olmos’ characters talking on top of a bridge, and I have to wonder not only how they were able to get that shot, but how the actors maintained their composure. One wrong slip and either of them could have fell. I also love seeing New York City in the early 80’s, where most of the Bronx and Brooklyn looked like warzones. Both Wolfen and Nighthawks (also released in the same year) are great examples of how bad the city really was during that time.

Wolfen was also one of James Horner’s first scores. Listening to it, you can hear elements of what you’d find in Aliens, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and his other pieces.

Overall, Wolfen is a good film if you find yourself running into it late at night and there’s nothing else to catch. I watch it on purpose, but that’s just me. We all have our tastes. If at all possible, consider reading the novel as well.

Previous Guilty Pleasures

  1. Half-Baked
  2. Save The Last Dance
  3. Every Rose Has Its Thorns
  4. The Jeremy Kyle Show
  5. Invasion USA
  6. The Golden Child
  7. Final Destination 2
  8. Paparazzi
  9. The Principal
  10. The Substitute
  11. Terror In The Family
  12. Pandorum
  13. Lambada
  14. Fear
  15. Cocktail
  16. Keep Off The Grass
  17. Girls, Girls, Girls
  18. Class
  19. Tart
  20. King Kong vs. Godzilla
  21. Hawk the Slayer
  22. Battle Beyond the Stars
  23. Meridian
  24. Walk of Shame
  25. From Justin To Kelly
  26. Project Greenlight
  27. Sex Decoy: Love Stings
  28. Swimfan
  29. On the Line

CLEANING OUT THE DVR Pt1: Five Films from Five Decades


cracked rear viewer

I record a LOT of movies. Probably around ten per week, more or less. And since I also have to do little things like work, exercise, cook, clean, breathe,  etc etc, I don’t always have time to watch  them all (never mind write full reviews), so I’ve decided to begin a series of short, capsule reviews for the decades covered here at Cracked Rear Viewer. This will be whenever I find my DVR getting cluttered, which is frequent! I’ll try to make CLEANING OUT THE DVR a bi-weekly series, but there are no guarantees. Monthly is more realistic. Anyway, here are five films from the 1930s to the 1970s for your reading pleasure.

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Quick Review: Mad Max – Fury Road (dir. by George Miller)


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When Mad Max: Fury Road was first announced, I was skeptical. We saw what happened when a director returns to a franchise they excelled at. Neither Ridley Scott’s Prometheus nor Lucas’ work on the Star Wars prequels were as amazing as the originals. Fury Road may be the exception to that rule, at least when compared to The Road Warrior and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. The visuals are bright and colorful, with chase sequences that left me smiling through it all. The 3D adds a nice touch, particularly in the chases (without giving too much away), the movie feels as if it was built for a 3D showing. I’m not sure how it comes across in a regular format.

Without looking at those films, Fury Road hits the ground running (almost literally) and continues to do so for most of the film. While the title of the film belongs to Tom Hardy’s character, Max takes something of a back seat to Charlize Theron’s Furiosa, who is the true heroine here. Max is the character that introduces the audience to the Wasteland, a world left barren after war and where Gas, Water & Blood are the richest commodities around. While I liked Hardy in this, I had the feeling that they could have put anyone in the role of Max and it wouldn’t have made much of a difference.
Furiosa is the one that carries the bulk of the story.

Fury Road’s plot is simple & thin, but given that it all takes place in a Wasteland made mostly of desert, it worked out okay for me. I wasnt expecting a whole lot on the story front, but was happily surprised with it. Imperator Furiosa is sent out with a crew for a Gas run, but decides to follow her own agenda, putting into motion the pursuit from the Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) and one of gis up and comimg lackeys, Nux (Nicholas Hoult).

From a pacing standpoint, Fury Road shifts it’s gears often while managing to still keep the engine purring. Some of the chases are chaotic, with cars flipping through the air and wanton destruction all over the place. You even have cycles riding over dunes and speeding through salt flats. However, it never reaches a point where you can’t see what’s occurring. The film has just one moment that I thought was slower than it should be halfway in, but it also serves to set up the 2nd act. The movie is mostly one big truck chase, but it’s done incredibly well. If you’re looking for something incredibly deep, this might not be the film you’re looking for, though the movie does try it’s best to accommodate with the script.

Another standout is the music. I’m used to hearing Tom Holkenborg (a.k.a. Junkie XL) as the remix track maker for most of Hans Zimmer’s scores. With Fury Road, Holkenborg has a number of pulsing drum rhythms and guitar pieces that fuel the chases. While it may sound a little like his work on 300:Rise of an Empire, the music fits. Note that I if you’re looking to buy the score, there’s a deluxe version with extended tracks, perfect background music for motorcycle rides on your favorite highway.

Fury Road is rated R, though I’ll admit that it wasn’t as violent as I expected it to be. It can get bloody at times, but the film never becomes a gore fest or anything along those lines. As far as nudity is concerned, there are only two instances of this and both are related to the story. In my showing, we had full families, but there didn’t seem to be any kind of reaction (as far as I can tell).

So far, we’re on track for an interesting summer.

First Impressions: Dying Light (Techland / Warner Bros.)


Dying_Light_coverThe short of it:

Dying Light is an impressive Co-Op game that allows you and 3 other friends to take down Zombies in a spectacular fashion, while clambering up and over obstacles. Working together, it’s a lot of fun. You may find the game’s mechanics are a little too familiar, played a million times before in different renditions. If you can get by that, it’s a great experience. Even better, if you love those mechanics, it’s like Oreo’s and Ice Cream. The lighting effects – particularly the day and night cycles – may have you pausing your game to take in the sights, while of course keeping one eye on your watch or the horizon. Those expecting something entirely new may be a little disappointed, because the final product isn’t quite the same as what was first advertised. It’s very close, though.

The long of it:

“Okay, where to next?”, my Xbox Live friend, “Souless” asks me. We’re standing on the top of a large radio tower. With every passing second, the world around is growing darker. This is the city of Harran, devastated by a zombie infection. It’s also Techland and Warner Bros. new game, Dying Light.

“Well, we have that last area to check out to the North…”, I say, glancing over at the horizon. The sun is gone, the only lights around us coming from the city. A message appears, alerting us that Night is Coming, and strange screeching sounds can be heard in the distance.

“Or we can just go home.” I say. “Drop this stuff off.”

Suddenly, there’s a rumble sound, causing our controllers to shake.

“Airdrop!” Souless calls out. “Where?”

I catch sight of the plane as it banks and a box falls from it’s rear. The plane goes along its merry way and the box lands not too far from a zipline connected to our tower. A light blue flare shoots up into the sky from it’s location, and I mark a waypoint on our map that we both can see.

“Not too far from us, on my side. Waypoint set, let’s go!” I say, and ride the zipline down. Souless arrives near me a few seconds later, and we start running towards the package. On our radar, two blips appear near the drop site, complete with vision cones, pointed in the opposite direction of where we’re coming from.

“I’ve got two Night Hunters. One to our left, and another at our 2’o clock.” I say, our characters climbing up and over sheds, houses and finally arriving at the site. Before us are two large orange crates, illuminated in a blue light.

“Sweet! We got here first.” I say, opening one chest. Souless opens the other. If you take too much time getting to these drops, chances are you’ll have to fight others for their contents or come up empty-handed when you reach the packages. We’ve got medical supplies to fight the infection. The folks at our home base will pay us well to bring this back.

“Got a survival kit and some meds. I’m heading out.” Souless says, coming over to me and checking my crate. In Co-Op, Dying Light lets up to 4 players jump into the game. Whenever any chest is opened, it’s contents are available to everyone – meaning that I snatch some Coffee, I’m not taking it from any one player. They’ll all have their Coffee or item available in the box as well. I move to Souless’ crate and pick up some more goodies. I do notice his blip on the map move away from mine, and one of the vision cones turn toward me. A sharp scream cuts through the night.

“They’re on me, go, go, go!!” I say and I’m off. While running at full speed, I tap the “Y” button to look behind me, and there’s this weird muscle-bound creature sprinting on my tail, its appearance similar to Guillermo Del Toro’s vampires in Blade II and The Strain. A quick flash from my UV light disturbs the creature, giving me a few seconds to duck down an alley and break the line the sight. Thankfully, we’ve set up this online session so that we don’t have Zombie Invasions. With that feature enabled, other players can actually jump into Co-Op games as Night Hunters, chasing the rest of the crew with better mobility. We’re hustling up and over walls and eventually make it back home to the safety of our home base and it’s UV spotlights.

We decide to call it a night.

If you merged together the movement style of EA’s Mirror’s Edge, the Zombie Onslaught of Techland’s Dead Island, added the Outpost game mechanic of Ubisoft’s Farcry 3 & 4 and the randomization of weapons from Gearbox’s Borderlands series, you’d probably end up with Dying Light. All of it feels very familiar once you start playing it (though this isn’t entirely a bad thing).  I’ll admit that at the first gameplay session, I was worried by the control system, especially having come from years of Mirror Edge. Additionally, the game picked up some controversy by not lifting the embargo for reviews until the last-minute, even though both companies stated that they’d avoid doing so. I’ve adjusted to it, and I’m really enjoying the game so far.

In the game, you play Kyle Crane, voiced by Roger Craig Smith (Resident Evil’s Chris Redfield and Assassin’s Creed’s Ezio Auditore), an agent dropped into the city of Harran to locate a missing official, requiring him to go undercover. The moment he parachutes into the city, he’s attacked both by an enemy raiders and is bit by a Zombie. Though infected, he and others have been able to keep the change at bay by the use of a medicine called Antizen. The Antizen is delivered to the town daily via airdrops. During the day, it’s a safe as an episode of the Walking Dead. You travel from place to place, scavenging parts from places and money from Zombies. When the sun sets, the Night Hunters rise. You’re given fair warning of the sunset by way of a Purge-like announcement. The game’s menu also comes with a clock to let you keep track (though this is only revealed after the tutorial missions).  suppose they’ve studied Parkour as well, because when they chase you, it takes every skill you know to evade them and break the line of sight. It’s not as terrifying as I thought it would be, but you’ll die a lot if you’re not careful. The fear in Dying Light’s Nighttime sequences isn’t whether a Night Hunter will find you, but getting swarmed by them. Once one pursues you, they all pursue you. If you’re not ready for the night, you can sleep it off at any safe zone and handle your tasks in the daytime. The game does reward you for nighttime runs by automatically doubling the amount of experience you gain for your Agility and Power, letting you easily level up if you’ve the courage to do so.

The default controls in Dying Light are surprisingly simple. The right bumper is your best friend, allowing you to jump and vault. Where Mirror’s Edge had you flipping between your left and right fingers like a pinball machine, the single jump button of Dying Light lets you move with ease. As long as you hold the jump button and are looking at where you want to go, you’re guaranteed to grab a ledge. This is particularly important when descending ledges. What should be a drop and grab becomes a free fall if you don’t hold that button. More advanced moves, like sliding, tackling, drop kicking need to be unlocked as you gain experience. This was the element that bothered me in my first levels of the game. Part of me was under the impression that I’d be fully mobile, wall running doing all those crazy parkour moves right from the start.

The attack button is right below that, allowing you to swing  such as pipes, sticks and knives with ease. The weapons you pick up do get damaged over time, so you’ll need to repair them (usually while running). Swinging on Zombies takes its toll on your player, and you only have so much stamina to work with before rushing back into the fray. Weapons can also be upgraded with electrical or fire damage, which the game seems to borrow from Borderlands. Eventually, you move up to guns, but I can’t say how well that factors into a game like where some of your enemies are rushing at you as the same speed you move.

Once the sun sets, the Night Hunters come out, and they're hungry.

Once the sun sets, the Night Hunters come out, and they’re hungry.

The skill tree system is wonderful. You’re given 3 types of skill trees – Survival (points awarded for crafting items and helping others), Agility (points awarded for climbing, vaulting and using other abilities), and Power ( points awarded through creatively kicking some zombie butt). These are really fun, and I can’t wait to unlock some of these features. For example, the Survival tree has the camouflage ability that allows one to rub dead guts all over themselves and walk among the infected without drawing attention, though attacking will kill the cloak. Other abilities include being able to slide and break an un-expecting zombie’s leg, or rig a car to explode a bunch of Zeds in one shot while you stand on a rooftop and laugh.

From a graphics standpoint, Dying Light is sweet. Harran (or what I’ve seen of it anyway), is more or less a  favela (think of that first chase in The Incredible Hulk or Fast Five). I get the notion that the map may expand. I hope it does, because it’s rather small right now. Still, the city’s transition from Night to Day, along with the weather effects just add to the atmosphere of a place gone sour. Blood sprays are the norm, rendered at near 1080p on the Xbox One and at 1080p on the PS4. I’ve yet to run into any slowdown issues with all of the running that’s being done. Another standout is the loading time. Coming off Mirror’s Edge, which gave you these incredible load times while you stood in an elevator, Dying Light’s transitions between stages are a jaw dropping delight. Then again, I’ve only moved up to Next Gen recently, and that sense of power’s new to me. Others may disagree.

Dying Light will have you facing against hordes of zombies, but so far, I haven't seen any that are this big.

Dying Light will have you facing against hordes of zombies, but so far, I haven’t seen any that are this big.

Another feature I like is the “New Game” system. If you’ve played through part the game with a friend, but don’t wan’t to break that connection where you both left off, you can choose to make a brand new game that starts you at the end of the tutorial and lets you keep your skills progression. So, if your player is a level 9 in everything (the top is 25 in everything) in your original game, you can keep that. Your weapons, however, don’t come with you.

In terms of problems, the only thing I can tell with Dying Light is the connection for playing a Co-op game, and how it doesn’t exactly feel extremely innovative. In trying to join games, I’ve had a number of connection issues, even when both Xbox Live and Techland’s servers are running. Invites sent to me, or mine sent to others fail when the invited party try to join. The only way we’ve been able to successfully connect is by using the join feature within Live itself, and once it holds, it ties together very fast. Each player is given their own color mark so that they can be tracked on the map. Players can also separate and check whatever part of the map they choose. If they stumble upon a story marker, they won’t be able to play it until everyone joins them – easily done with the Quick Travel feature. Additionally, the tutorial for the game is long. You’re shown how to move, and are given some missions to how you the move from day to night. It’s like having to deal with that first mission in GTA Online when the game’s servers were first glitched.

If you’ve watched the early Alpha Footage, you kind of get the feeling that a bit of it was left out of the main game. This is normal though. Games change drastically between the Alpha and final versions. I’ve fought tons of zombies, but the game has yet to reach Dead Rising levels. Maybe this is because of the processing power, or because I’m still early on. I can’t say it’s bad, but I would like a moment where I look down off a roof and go…”Nope. Not landing in the middle of that.” There always seems to be good exit around.

So there you have it. Dying Light. If you like Freerunning, it’s worth a try. If you love zombies, take a look. If you love both, it might be just what you’re looking for. Just be sure to keep your eye on the clock.

Review: The Wolf Among Us


The-Wolf-Among-UsThe Wolf Among Us was the first game released by Telltale after the extraordinary success of The Walking Dead. They had finally found their element, and decided (prudently) to stick with it. But how do you follow up a title based on a comic book series recognized by some as the best game of its year?

It’s simple. Make another title based on a comic.

Fables, the series Telltale’s following project was based upon, is about fairy tale characters we grew up reading about secretly living in our real world, in a real city, hiding their existence by creating their own society. None of that Once Upon A Time cutsey niceness. They are opressed and opressors, have severe flaws in their characters, vices and, in some cases, signs of antisocial personality disorder. That is to say, they’re often psychopaths.

I'll reconcile the shit out of you!

I’ll reconcile the shit out of you!

The game gives you control of Bigby Wolf, sheriff of the fables. As you might have guessed, previously known as the Big Bad Wolf of Little Red Riding Hood and Three Little Pigs fame. Reformed and willing to put his past behind him, Bigby tries to reconcile the poor and rebelious with the powerful and bureaucratic, in a very socially imbalanced society of mythical people.

Bigby is the most human of all characters, ironically. Given the task of upholding the law in this broken, small society where everyone knows everyone else, he lives a lonely life, being recognized and feared for doing his job, which frustrates him. His tendency to bend the rules makes the fables’ mayor office see him as a loose cannon. Bigby is a noir hero, chain smoking and full clad in trenchcoat. Bitter with having to raise his hand against unsatisfied citizens and with the impunity of guileful villains; forced against rebellion, but resentful towards the bureaucrats, he often passes his own kind of law. His humanity is revealed through conversations with the only people close to him. Colin, one of the three pigs he used to terrorize, and Snow White, secretary of the mayor office and object of his affections.

the-wolf-among-us-004The amount of deviance from the path of justice in the game vary depending on your playing style. As you solve a series of murders during the span of the game, you decide how violent Bigby will be towards everyone, from the mostly innocent to the very guilty. However, this is not a story about choices like The Walking Dead, but about people leading double lifes. By taking fables, one of our most powerful cultural symbols of purity and innocence, and twisting and corrupting them, The Wolf Among Us is a modern and allegorical story with heavy noir influences, with fantasy and magic playing a part in the narrative.

It is not without flaws, however. It should be noted that, as the game needs a central story, the mystery of the series of murders obfuscate this amazing world, and one purely interested in the big picture; the unjust society of the fantastical, would be better served by reading the Fables comics. The Wolf Among Us has lots of ups far too early in the game and a few too many downs too late into it. It serves as a decent mystery thriller, and more importantly as an origin story for the comic book series, and it does have absolutely thrilling moments. However, it doesn’t bring much new to the table of longtime Fables fans other than focusing on one of the most interesting characters of its mythos.

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As a standalone story, The Wolf Among Us has amazing action sequences and is a very exciting story up until the last quarter where it disappoints. As part of the Fables series, and possibly first chapter of others to come, it’s a perfect entry point and highly recommended. The complexity of its premise and excellence of some of its moments more than compensates for the lackluster closure of this first chapter. If that’s not enough to convince you, play it for Bigby Wolf, who might just be the coolest detective in videogame history.