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

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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.

  • Game
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User Rating 3.4 (10 votes)
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AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters

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Starring Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Billie Lourd, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham, and Allison Pill

Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk


** NO SPOILERS **

It’s here. We’ve reached the end. The newest season of “American Horror Story” has ended and now we are here to provide you guys with our season review of AHS: Cult.

Spoiler free.

To start things off let me say I’m not the world’s biggest fan of “American Horror Story”. It breaks down like this: I enjoyed the absolute hell out of the first season of the series (“Murder House”), couldn’t get through “Asylum” (I know, I know, I’ve tried), dug “Coven” for what it was, really enjoyed “Freak Show”, and again I couldn’t get into “Hotel” or “Roanoke”.

That’s the story of me and “American Horror Story”. Plain And simple. But what did I think of the new seventh season of the notorious horror anthology series? Let’s find out.

Back when the seventh season of AHS was first announced (then going by the title “AHS: Election”) I was immediately intrigued by the new season because I heard it would not include any supernatural elements. Like the fourth season, “Freak Show”.

Now I’m a fan of ghosts and weird creature-men with drills for d*cks, don’t get me wrong. But the series has thus far relied almost exclusively on horrors of the supernatural variety (other than “Freak Show”) so this major change of pace was again welcomed by this guy.

Instead of vampires, aliens, and witches this season relied on terrors of the mind. Psychological fears and anxieties. The horrors man does to man. Deep issues.

Oh, and clowns. Like a lot of clowns.

But just because this new season didn’t include anything supernatural, that doesn’t mean the 11-episode season wasn’t filled with twisted visuals and horrifically disturbing acts. No, sir. This season boasted some showstoppers including S&M, gimps, and a house of horrors that wouldn’t be out of place in a Rob Zombie flick. It was all good.

But let’s backtrack a bit here.

Allow me to rundown the season’s plot for those who may be unaware. “AHS: Cult” tells the tale of a world post-election night. The literal dawn of Trump’s America. In one corner we have Sarah Paulson’s soccer mom, trying to fight through life with a series of crippling phobias (including clowns, holes, blood, and being a good person).

And in the other corner, we have Evan Peter’s angry, white (blue-haired) male, looking to seize Trump’s new position of power to bring about the end of… Actually, I want this to be a spoiler-free season review, so I’m just going to say the dude’s got big plans.

Like Manson-size plans. Let’s leave it at that.

With these two characters established, the new season then proceeds to send them spiraling into a collision course of political sabotage, intrigue, and clown-based nope, nope, nope-ing that can only end with one – or both – of them dead as Dillinger.

Overall “AHS: Cult” belonged end-to-end to Mr. Evan Peters. The young actor has continued to show his striking range from season to season of Ryan Murphy’s horror show and this season was no different. Peters’ turn as not only Kai, the blue-haired leader of the titular cult, but as infamous leaders such as David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson – to name a few – owed this season.

I can only hope he doesn’t pull a Jessica Lange and opt-out of more AHS next year.

Speaking of top performances, “AHS: Cult ” showcases some other chilling and memorable turns with Alison Pill’s strangely vulnerable, put-upon wife character being the best next to Peters in my eyes. This actress needs to be in more films/TV!

Along with Pill, actress Billie Lourd killed it time and time again. The “Scream Queens” breakout star and Carrie Fisher spawn was yet again a highlight in her second Ryan Murphy series. Bet she has the starring role in next season. Mark my words.

Add to that, the season also boasts a handful of fun cameos, including John Carroll Lynch’s return as Twisty the Clown, Emma Roberts as a bitchy reporter that will do anything to end up on top, and Lena Dunham as SCUM Manifesto writer Valerie Solanas. The cameo cast killed it and I wish they would have been present for more episodes. What are you gonna do?

On the sour side of the season, I didn’t dig Sarah Paulson’s character. At all. But I’m sure that was the point. Right? I’m still not sure. But, boy, I wouldn’t even want to be stuck in line behind her at a Starbucks for three minutes, let alone spend the better part of this season’s 11-hours with her and her whiny bullshite. Urgh.

That said, she pulled it out by the finale. That’s all I’ll say.

In the end, I enjoyed this season as much as – if not more – than any other of the series. “Murder House” will still no doubt go on as my favorite season of the series, but “AHS: Cult” will rank third after season one and “Freak Show”.

While I was on the fence about the season after three episodes, the show ended up ditching Paulson’s character (and/or shifting her arch) after a lull so the episodes picked up quickly. Whenever the season turned its focus back towards Peters (in whichever incarnation he was playing at the time) the show got better and better. Every time.

Not a bad way to spend my Tuesday night for the past 11 weeks.

Bring on season 12.

  • American Horror Story: Cult (2018)
3.5

Summary

The seventh season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story was Evan Peters’ show all the way through. The young actor pulled out all the stops time and time again to make what may have been a lackluster supernatural-free season a winner.

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User Rating 4.33 (6 votes)
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The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror

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Starring Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, Nicole Dambro

Directed by Nicholas Woods


The Axiom is an ambitious, well directed, impressively acted and stunningly shot independent horror film that has just a few, teensy little flaws holding it back from greatness (and therefore will have to settle for just being really, really good, instead).

The first thing you realize when watching The Axiom is that this is a beautiful film. Everything is framed and shot in a lush and stylish manner, but one which is always tonally appropriate for the scene.

The second thing you’ll notice, and keep noticing as the film plays out, is that the movie really struck gold with this cast. Not only is there a total lack of the sort of stilted and unnatural acting seen in countless other microbudget horror affairs, but the performances are genuinely fantastic across the board. The main characters are believably chill and relatably normal in the early scenes, and the acting remains just as impressive once things start getting a bit more… intense. It’s not often that an independent horror film has so many good performances that it makes it hard to pick the movie’s acting VIP, but that is undeniably the case here. Taylor Flowers delivers what is probably the showiest performance (and does it very well, indeed), but the entire cast really is quite good.

The central premise of the film is both interesting and original, and touches upon the real life fact (given some recent attention in the ‘Missing 411’ books and documentary) that a lot more people sure seem to go missing out in the woods than seems reasonable, while simultaneously weaving all sorts of folklore, fairy tales and urban legends into the mix. It’s also clever in the way that it very naturally reveals aspects to the relationships between characters that serve to later – or sometimes retroactively – explain some of the more questionable decisions they make or attitudes they display. While that may sound like screenwriting 101, it’s surprising how many films fail to do this. The Axiom rewards the viewer’s attention in other ways as well, with many aspects of the movie that initially feel odd or unnatural receiving reasonable explanations (within the context of the movie) by the end. It’s not quite as challenging (or as rewarding) in this regard as, say, something like Session 9, but it does add a nice layer of complexity to the storytelling.

The film’s score, by Leo Kaliski, is also quite good. There may be a moment here or there where the music hits an overly familiar beat, but overall it not only fits the movie’s tone, but does quite a bit to help set that tone as well.

The only thing that I don’t feel the movie quite pulls off – and I’m trying to be vague here, because I feel like the less you know going into this film, the better – is some of the makeup effects work. The gore stuff is very well executed, but some of the other stuff feels like it was crafted with the intention of shooting it in a more… stylized manner. Instead, filmed as it is here, the result is sometimes less than impressive and can fail to make the impact that the movie seems to be implying that it should. And while some of what the makeup effects lack in execution is made up for with the ingenuity and creativity of their design, it’s still a bit of a shame when they don’t quite pull them off because, aside from a few niggles that I have with the writing, the effects are the only aspect of the film that occasionally fails to live up to the high level of technical proficiency that The Axiom otherwise demonstrates.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS:

  • Man, the acting in this movie is really good. The dialogue may stumble once or twice, but these actors always sell it anyway.
  • Give back Mia Sara’s DNA, Hattie Smith!
  • If you’re going to put your female lead in shorts this small, I hope you’re not sensitive to viewers unleashing a nonstop parade of “Has anyone seen my pants / OH GOD WHERE ARE MY PANTS!” jokes.
  • “You just pop this here ‘Blair Witch Stick Person / Anarchy sign’ sticker up on that there windshield of yours, and them park rangers? Well – heh heh – they won’t bother you none, no sir.” Hmmmmm…
  • The film really is shot amazingly well – better than a lot of mainstream releases. Cinematographer Sten Olson has a real future ahead of him.
  • As does writer / director Nicholas Woods, for that matter. Any director who can get this level of quality out of their cast and crew on their first ever film is someone to keep an eye on.
  • “I’ll make a run for it and get help,” says the female lead, and I’m like “Yeah, let her go – she has no pants to weigh her down.”
  • The gore effects in the movie are both realized and utilized very well.
  • Welcome back to horror movies, “I’ll be right back” dialogue spoken unironically by and/or to ill-fated characters.
  • The Axiom
4.0

Summary

In the end, The Axiom is a solid and entertaining flick that manages to wring a level of quality and originality out of the somewhat tired “Don’t Go in the Woods” horror subgenre not seen since 2012’s Cabin in the Woods. The cinematography and acting are hugely impressive, it features a nice, unnerving score, the premise is original and captivating, and the whole thing moves at a nice pace that helps keep the film’s flaws from dragging it down.

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User Rating 3.9 (10 votes)
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The Dollmaker Short Film Review – Welcome to Heebie Jeebie City!

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Starring Perri Lauren, Sean Meehan, Dan Berkey

Directed by Alan Lougher


The loss of a young child drives a mother to take a set of unusual measures to preserve his memory, and all it takes is one call to The Dollmaker.

When the short film by Alan Lougher opens up, we see a rather disturbing image of a little boy inside a casket, and the sound of a grieving mom speaking with an unidentified man in the background – he’s requesting something personal of the child to help “finish” his product, and it’s not before long that mom has her little boy back…well, kind of. What remains of the child is the representation of his former self, although it’s contained within the frame of a not-so-attractive doll, and the boy’s father isn’t a believer in this type of hocus-pocus (or the price to have this constructed, either). The doll comes with a specific set of instructions, but most importantly, you cannot spend more than one hour a day with the doll, or else you’ll go mad thinking that the soul inside of it is actually the person that you lost – sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

Well this is just too good to be true for Mommy, and as the short film progresses, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens to her mind – it’s ultimately a depressing scenario, but Lougher gives it that creepy feel, almost like visiting a relative’s home and seeing their dearly departed pet stuffed and staring at you over the fireplace – HEEBIE-JEEBIE CITY, if you ask me. All in all, the quickie is gloomy, but ultimately chilling in nature, and is most definitely worth a watch, and if I might use a quote from one of my favorite films to apply to this subject matter: “Sometimes…dead is better.”

  • Film
3.5

Summary

Ultimately chilling in nature!

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User Rating 3.31 (16 votes)
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