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Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (Video Game)

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Uncharted 4

Uncharted 4: A Thief's EndDeveloped by Naughty Dog

Available Exclusively on PS4

Rated M for Mature


In the modern world of gaming, there are few companies that match Naughty Dog’s dedication to consistently making incredible games. It’s not praise I give lightly. There is an undeniable integrity to their approach, and time and again their consistent dedication makes games that rise far above the grade. Since Crash Bandicoot, they have not come out with a single game that has disappointed me. Since Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, every game has astounded.

Now, on my knees and lips properly wetted, you’ll be surprised to find that this isn’t a sloppy wet beej for Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. I really liked it. I borderline loved it. But it wasn’t a game made for me. For all of the epic set pieces, lovable characters, witty dialogue, tense action, and creative story, this is not a game for me. This is because, for the first time in the series, Uncharted 4 is inexplicably devoid of any supernatural element.

Fair warning now, don’t read this review if you don’t want spoilers. If you are jumping into the series right here, with Uncharted 4 as your first game, then consider this to be a 5 star, incredibly high recommendation. As a stand alone title, the game is as close to perfect as I’ve ever seen, aside from The Last of Us. The explosions are bright, the quips rapid, visuals stunning. It’s fun, and keeps you glued to your seat until the end. I beat it all in one sweaty and off-puttingly smelly 12 hour binge. 5/5, 10/10, 5/7, perfect game.

*SPOILERS JUST IN CASE YOU WEREN’T PAYING ATTENTION!!!!*

There’s a good reason that people compare Indiana Jones and Uncharted. Unforgettable hero, charming banter, deplorable villains, heart-stopping action, apocalyptic stakes, and heavy helpings of comedic spice. Oh, and let’s not forget, a dose of the crazy supernatural shit. Take a moment and think, what would Raiders of the Lost Ark be without the Ark of the Covenant? What would Temple of Doom be without Kali Ma? What would The Last Crusade be without the Holy Grail? What would Kingdom of the Crystal Skull be without… okay, bad example.

For the past three games, Uncharted has had, in order, plague zombies that you fought with Nazi weaponry, Marco Polo’s crew turned into black-toothed yeti monsters after bathing in the Tree of Life, and psychedelic sand demon/flesh eating spiders. Now, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End introduces… pirate traps. Not like, immortal pirates setting traps or any of that stuff. Just 300 year old pirate traps. That only sometimes work. Spooooooky!

Uncharted 4

The closest you get to a monster are these exploding mummies.

Not only did Naughty Dog fuck with the formula, they also stuck their dick straight into the canon. I’m not going to go on a tirade about the sanctity of the Uncharted series storyline, but I at least expect by the third game I know if there are any spare siblings to crawl out of the woodwork. Unfortunately, Uncharted 3 wrapped things up too neatly, so now to get Nathan back into the game we are introduced to his long lost brother Sam. We learn that they used to be a globetrotting law-skirting dynamic duo, but Sam was shot 15 years ago when the brothers were attempting to escape a Panamanian jail with their old friend/current enemy, Rafe. Neither Nathan nor his lifelong friend Sully have mentioned this because it makes him, like, really super sad.

Granted, it doesn’t go so far as to not feel like Uncharted. It’s a blatant attempt to inject some drama into a series that clearly concluded in game three, but it’s by itself a quality title. I really enjoyed playing it. There’s a whole new dimension to the level design, allowing you to fight, move, ambush, and sneak along walls as easily as you do behind cover. Every arena is designed with this in mind, and swinging from a grappling point to the side of a cliff to toss a grenade behind some snipers is a kind of cinematic fun that used to be reserved for cutscenes. The criticism for the Uncharted games has always been that they are too “scripted,” relying on quick time events and pre-set sequences to deliver on the action. With Uncharted 4, the barrier between pre-scripted events and the ability to create your own action hero vision has never been thinner. You can create some truly Spielberg worthy moments in every fight.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still the signature cinematic sequences, full of running through collapsing buildings and escaping just before something drags you to your death. It’s still Uncharted, after all. It’s still the same game you know and love, but with about 200% more polish. It is, without a doubt, the most mechanically sound and technically robust title of the series. It’s absolutely gorgeous to behold, and a joy to play.

Uncharted 4

I could have played an entire game that was just this.

And as I said before, as a stand alone game, it’s perfect. If this were Uncharted: A Thief’s End without the “4,” it would be one of my alltime favorite games. Unfortunately, as a fan of the series, I can remember the epic moments from the titles of yesteryear. That awesome on-foot car chase is straight out of Uncharted 2. The intro boat sequence is a callback to Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. Running across a building as it crumbles is… well, it’s from every Uncharted game.

I know it must sound inconsistent for me to criticize the game for staying the same in the same breath as decrying it for removing the supernatural element, but there’s a difference between tweaking a formula to make it fresh and completely abandoning it. I loved these games for the crazy twist it would take towards the end. It was the perfect icing on the witty action-adventure cake, simultaneously adding camp and increasing the tension and wonder. I really did enjoy the pursuit of Captain Avery’s gold, seeing the various traps, and unraveling the mystery, but the whole time I was on the edge of my seat wondering what was really going on. I was imagining that Libertalia was some kind of prison for dragons or portal to hell. But no, it just turns out that they made their pirate paradise, and pirates will be pirates, so they all killed each other. Riveting.

I’d have to be absolutely insane to let any of these criticisms justify me calling Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End a bad game. As an end cap to the series, it does a good job, and filled my heart with little butterflies when I saw how it all worked out. I was excited playing the whole thing. But I can’t deny that after it was all said and done, looking back at the package, I was let down. If you are looking for a great action adventure game, it will definitely deliver. If you are a series fan like me, it’s not Drake’s greatest adventure.

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User Rating 3.4 (10 votes)
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Desolation Review – The Joy of Being Rescued and All the Surprises That Come With It

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Starring Raymond J. Barry, Brock Kelly, Dominik Garcia-Lorido

Directed by David Moscow


It’s those random, once-in-a-lifetime encounters that only a select few get the chance to experience: when we as regular participants in this wonderful thing known as The Rat Race, stumble across a soul that we’ve only witnessed on the big screen. I’m talking about a celebrity encounter, and while some of the masses will chalk the experience up as nothing more than a passing moment, others hold it to a much larger interior scale…then you REALLY get to know the person, and that’s when things get interesting.

Director David Moscow’s thriller, Desolation follows shy hotel employee Katie (Lorido) and her “fortuitous” brush with Hollywood pretty-boy Jay (Kelly) during one of his stops – the two hit it off, and together they begin a sort of whirlwind-romance that takes her away from her job and drops her in the heart of Los Angeles at the apartment building he resides in. You can clearly see that she has been a woman who’s suffered some emotional trauma in her past, and this golden boy just happens to gallop in on his steed and sweep her off of her feet, essentially rescuing her from a life of mundane activity. She gets the full-blown treatment: a revamped wardrobe, plenty of lovin’, and generally the life she’s wanted for some time.

Things return to a bit of normalcy when Jay has to return to work, leaving Katie to spread out at his place, but something clearly isn’t kosher with this joint. With its odd inhabitants (a very creepy priest played by Raymond J. Barry), even more bizarre occurrences, and when one scared young woman cannot even rely on the protection from the local police, it all adds up to a series of red flags that would have even the strongest of psyches crying for their mothers. What Moscow does with this movie is give it just enough swerves so that it keeps your skull churning, but doesn’t overdo its potential to conclusively surprise you, and that’s what makes the film an entertaining watch.

While Lorido more than holds her ground with her portrayal of a woman who has been hurt in the past, and is attempting to place her faith in a new relationship, it’s Barry that comes out on top here. His performance as Father Bill is the kind of stuff that wouldn’t exactly chill you to the bone, but he’s definitely not a man of the cloth that you’d want to be stuck behind closed doors with – generally unsettling. As I mentioned earlier, the plot twists are well-placed, and keep things fresh just when you think you’ve got your junior private investigator badge all shined up. Desolation is well-worth a look, and really has kicked off 2018 in a promising fashion – let’s see what the other 11 months will feed us beasts.

  • Film
3.0

Summary

Got your eye on that shining movie star or starlet? Better make sure it’s what you really want in life – you know what they say about curiosity.

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Wolf Guy Blu-ray Review – Sonny Chiba As A Werewolf Cop In ’70s Japan

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Wolf Guy UK SleeveStarring Sonny Chiba, Etsuko Nami, Kyosuke Machida

Directed by Kazuhiko Yamaguchi

Distributed by Arrow Video


As virtually every American adaptation has proven, translating manga to the big screen is a job best left to Japanese filmmakers. There is an inherent weirdness – for lack of a better term – to their cultural media that should be kept “in house” if there is to be any hope for success. Ironically, the stories are often so fantastical and wildly creative that a big American studio budget would be necessary to fully realize such a live-action vision. But I digress. Back in 1975, Toei Studios (home of Gamera) adapted the 1970 manga series Wolf Guy into a feature of the same name. Starring the legendary Shin’ichi Chiba (a.k.a. Sonny Chiba), who at that time was in his prime, the film combines elements of crime and psychedelic cinema, delivering less of a werewolf film (despite the title suggesting otherwise) and more of a boilerplate crime caper with a cop who has a few tricks up his hairy sleeve. I should stress it is the story that plays fairly straightforward, while the film itself is a wild kaleidoscope of strange characters and confounding situations… mostly.

An unseen killer, known only as “The Tiger”, prowls the streets at night slashing victims to death and leaving behind no trace. Beat cop Akira Inugami (Sonny Chiba) is on the case, and he has an advantage over his fellow brothers in blue: being a werewolf. As the opening credits flashback shows, Akira is the sole survivor of the Inugami clan of werewolves after a slaughter wiped out the rest of his kind. Now, as the last of his brethren, he uses his acute lycanthropic skills, under the auspices of the moon, to track down underworld thugs and solve cases uniquely tailored to his abilities. As the lunar cycle of the moon sees it growing fuller Akira’s powers, too, increase to superhuman levels.

Searching for this mysterious “Tiger”, Akira is led into a subterranean world of clandestine government organizations, nightclub antics, and corrupt politicians. One night, Akira is attacked and taken prisoner by a government research lab that wants to use his blood to create werewolves they can control. Only problem is – which they don’t realize – Akira’s blood cannot be mixed with that of a human; the only end result is death. Miki (Etsuko Nami), a drug user with syphilis, comes to Akira’s aid and proves to be quite useful. She holds a secret that has the potential to vastly change Akira’s world but, first, a showdown with the criminal underbelly looms on the horizon… as does the fifteenth day of the Lunar Cycle, when Akira will be made nearly invincible.

First, some bad news: Sonny Chiba never attains full werewolf status. This is not that movie. Sure, he growls and snarls and sneers and possesses many of the traits of a werewolf but in terms of physical characteristics he more or less remains “human” the entire time. Yes, even during “Lunar Cycle Day 15”, a.k.a. the moment every viewer is waiting for, to see him turn into a wolf. Instead, he just winds up kicking a lot of ass and taking very little damage. To be fair, a grizzled Sonny Chiba is still enough of a formidable presence, but, man, to see him decked out as a full-on kung-fu fighting werewolf would’ve been badass. The film could have done better at tempering expectations because it builds up “Day 15” like viewers are going to see an explosion of fur and flesh, instead it’s just plenty of the latter. Aw, well.

Lack of werewolf-ing aside, the film plays out a bit uneven. The opening offers up a strong start, with The Tiger attack, wily underworld characters being introduced, and a tripped-out acid garage rock soundtrack (which I’d kill for a copy of). But Second Act Lag is a real thing here and many of the elements that may have piqued viewer curiosity in the first act are scuttled, and although the third act and climax bring forth fresh action and a solution to the mystery it also feels a bit restrained. Then again, this is Toei, often seen as a cheaper Toho. Wolf Guy serves as a good introduction to Akira Inugami and his way of life, which makes it a greater shame no sequels were produced.

Presented with a 2.35:1 1080p image, Wolf Guy hits Blu-ray with a master supplied by Toei, meaning Arrow did no restorative work of their own on the picture – and it shows. Japanese film elements, especially those of older films, are often notorious for being poorly housed and feebly restored. This transfer is emblematic of those issues, with hazy black levels, average-to-poor definition, minimal shadow detail, and film grain that gets awfully noisy at times. The best compliment I can give is daylight close-up scenes exhibit a pleasing level of fine detail, though nothing too eye-popping. This is a decidedly mediocre transfer across the board.

The score fares a bit better, not because the Japanese LPCM 1.0 mono mix is a beast but because the soundtrack is so wildly kinetic, exploding with wild garage rock and fuzzy riffs right from the get-go. Dialogue has a slight hiss on the letter “s” but is otherwise nicely balanced within the mix. Subtitles are available in English.

“Kazuhiko Yamaguchi: Movies with Guts” is a September 2016 sit-down with the film’s director, who reflects on his career and working with an icon like Sonny Chiba.

“Toru Yoshida: B-Movie Master” is an interview with Yoshida, a former producer at Toei who oversaw this film and many others.

“Sonny Chiba: A Life in Action, Vol. 1” covers the man’s career up to a point, with the remainder finished on Arrow’s other 2017 Chiba release, Doberman Cop.

A theatrical trailer is also included, as is a DVD copy of the feature.

Special Features:

  • Kazuhiko Yamaguchi: Movies with Guts
  • Toru Yoshida: B-Movie Master
  • Sonny Chiba: A Life in Action, Vol. 1
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Wolf Guy
  • Special Features
2.8

Summary

While the film might be a bit of a letdown given what is suggested, fans of bizarre Japanese ’70s cinema – and certainly fans of Chiba’s work – should, at the least, have fun with this title.

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Inside (Remake) Review – Is It as Brutal as the Original?

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Starring Rachel Nichols Laura Harring

Directed by Miguel Ángel Vivas


While the directing duo of the cringe-inducing and original 2007 French grand guignol thriller Inside have gone on to refurbishments of their own—Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo recently helmed a retread of Leatherface’s origin story—their flick now has an American stamp on it with the release of the remake, also titled Inside.

A cheerless Christmas eve sets the stage for heavily-pregnant widow Sarah’s (Rachel Nichols) oncoming ordeal. It’s a frigid and snowy night. She’s got a huge house to herself, following the accidental and violent death of her husband. She wants to sell the home that was meant to hold a family, to forget the nascent memories it once held. But she’s got to ride it out until the baby is born. While Sarah is lonesome, she won’t be alone. She’s got her genial gay neighbor nearby, and her mum is going to come and stay with her for a few days. Oh, and there will be an unexpected visitor too.

When a shadowy, seemingly stranded stranger (Laura Harring) knocks on the door pleading to be let inside, Sarah instinctively balks. She even calls the cops. But the woman leaves and all seems well. Crisis averted. Sarah puts the housekeys in the mailbox outside for Mom, and goes to bed. Big mistake.

Mystery Lady shows up at Sarah’s bedside armed with chloroform, an IV bag, and a case full of sharp-and-pointies (sorry, ’07 fans… those implements do not include a pair of scissors). The horror unfolds and the expected yet lively game of gory cat-and-mouse ensues. Then the tete-a-tete becomes a body-count chiller featuring one shocking moment after another.

Nichols is fantastic in the role, giving it her all. When the original Inside came out eleven years ago, she was starring in another French-helmed horror, P2—also set on Christmas eve—and she stole the show. She does the same here but with a less-intense adversary. Harring’s killer character, unlike her European counterpart, has a lot to say—which takes away from her initially mysterious manner as the minutes tick off. Still, the girl-on-girl action is a welcome change from the usual gender dynamic one sees in these things. Both deserve kudos for their performances.

While Inside isn’t a died-in-the-wool “Hollywood” remake (Miguel Ángel Vivas directs, while [REC] co-creator Jaume Balagueró wrote it) it feels like one. For those who’ve seen the original, there will be mild disappointment (which turns to major letdown at the very end). However, Inside is still a serviceable thriller that’s well-acted, beautifully shot, and effectively scored. Folks coming in fresh, and casual horror fans, will more than likely enjoy it.

  • Inside (Remake)
3.0

Summary

Inside is a serviceable thriller that’s well-acted, beautifully shot, and effectively scored. Folks coming in fresh, and casual horror fans, will more than likely enjoy it. For those who’ve seen the original, there will be mild disappointment (which turns to major letdown at the very end).

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User Rating 1.67 (3 votes)
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