MoviePulse Review: Rambo

Posted by Sam on Friday, 25 Jan 2008

Genre: Action/Adventure, Thriller and Sequel
Running Time: 93 min.
Release Date: January 25th, 2008
MPAA Rating: R for strong graphic bloody violence, sexual assaults, grisly images and language.
Directed By: Sylvester Stallone
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Julie Benz, James Brolin, Paul Schulze, Matthew Marsden

“If ultra-bloody violence is your cup of tea, then there’s certainly plenty to drink up with Stallone’s nonstop thrill-ride Rambo.”rambo.jpgTwenty years after Rambo III and only 2 years after Rocky 6, Sylvester Stallone returns to reprise a seminal 80’s action film role as John Rambo, a Vietnam veteran who has trouble reestablishing himself back into regular life. In an attempt to distance himself from normalcy, he holes up in various remote locations and gets by with his expert knowledge in survival. In Rambo, he is driven to the anarchical land of Burma, where a 60 year old civil war keeps the villagers in constant fear. But as one-man armies usually demonstrate, Rambo is most assuredly not a man to be messed with.

The fourth installment in the famous soldier-of-fortune series finds John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) in northern Thailand as a boat captain disenchanted with the world, and seemingly far removed from humanity. When a group of human rights activists convinces the weary commando to transport them upriver into war-torn Burma, and are captured shortly after their arrival in a local village, Rambo must lead a team of maniacal mercenaries on a dangerous rescue mission into a hellish war camp where death may be the easy way out.

The portrayal of violence in films is often used to demonstrate a specific point, such as comedic excessiveness, realism, political seriousness, a demand for bloodthirstiness, or even to show a highly stylized sense of art. In Rambo, gratuitous violence for the sake of encouraging cheers from a blood-frenzied crowd is perhaps the only reason for such brutally graphic and realistic bloodshed, but it is undeniably thrilling. Where Rambo III featured a stick-fight introduction in which Rambo squares off against a skilled martial artist and the two exchange dozens of blows with wooden bludgeons, Rambo IV doesn’t showcase any bloodless, cartoon violence – instead it attempts to show every dismemberment and evisceration with as much attention to gory detail as possible. Here, carnage is not Popeye-fun – it is stomach-churning. Art it is not, but for unabashed gut-wrenching excitement, it positively takes the cake.

The introduction of a helping hand for John Rambo is something fresh, even though in the previous films he is never completely alone. Here, in the bloodied battlefields of Burma, a group of hired mercenaries introduces camaraderie and military aid for the military juggernaut. Each carries a unique personality, much like the colonial marines in Aliens, one with an over-the-top penchant for cursing, one with schoolboy charm and decency, one with unflinching heroism and another plagued with constant doubt. Each character is likeable in a singular despicable ruffian way, and their interactions with Rambo help to develop his typical one-dimensional character beyond that of the previous films. The young woman, Sarah (Julie Benz) who convinces John to help in the first place, is an initial driving force, and later the brutality against the villagers fuels Rambo to “live for nothing, or die for something.”

If ultra-bloody violence is your cup of tea, then there’s certainly plenty to drink up with Stallone’s nonstop thrill-ride Rambo. A simple premise reminiscent of parts 2 and 3 sets up a rescue and final confrontation as brutal as any committed to celluloid. The explosive final firefight unleashes nearly twenty minutes of pure, unrelenting carnage that simultaneously pushes the boundaries of action and bloodletting.

As John states early on, “when you’re pushed, killing’s as easy as breathing,” and Rambo certainly doesn’t shy away from the fatalities or the questionable need to evince the atrocities of war. With machinegun battles that leave little more than bloody human pulp, claymore explosions that wipe out the jungle in nuclear mushroom cloud fashion, grenades that dismember villagers with gushing red barrages, machete disembowelment, and decapitations galore, Rambo is not for the squeamish, and most definitely for those who want to see heads roll and the body count reach unspeakable proportions.

– The Massie Twins
SCORE = 8/10


Cloverfield, Movie Pulse Review

Posted by Sam on Monday, 21 Jan 2008

Genre: Action/Adventure, Comedy, Drama and Thriller
Running Time: 1 hr. 30 min.
Release Date: January 18th, 2008 (wide)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, terror and disturbing images.
Directed By: Matt Reeves
Starring: Lizzy Caplan, Jessica Lucas, T.J. Miller, Michael Stahl-David, Mike Vogel

“Cloverfield is likely the best movie that you’ll never want to watch again.” cloverfield.jpgCloverfield is more than a movie; it is an experience that will leave you completely and utterly exhausted. A poignant blend of post 9/11 terror and our cultural obsessions with mass media and technology, Cloverfield is a giant monster movie with something to say, featuring a vantage point the likes of which audiences have never seen before. In fact Cloverfield is likely the best movie that you’ll never want to watch again.

Kept under wraps for more than half a year, the J.J Abrams produced Cloverfield has teased audiences with an impressive marketing campaign, which used striking imagery of a tattered and ruined Manhattan to elicit curiosity and excitement. Cloverfield reviews a ninety minute, mini-DV tape that was discovered after the horrific event. The footage follows four friends as they desperately search to find a missing companion, putting them dangerously close to an unstoppable creature of monstrous proportions.

Part of the impact that Cloverfield achieves is due to the clever marketing which kept the experience hidden, fresh and alive. The trailers and clips only showed enough to whet audience’s palates, leaving the majority of the film to be experienced in a darkened theater, and without a doubt this is a movie that must be seen in a cinema.

However audiences need to be forewarned. While many will likely compare the camerawork in Cloverfield to the 1999 horror smash, The Blair Witch Project, this statement will only minutely prepare you for what you will see in this long awaited, giant monster flick. While the camera work is indeed handheld, there are two striking differences Cloverfield and the aforementioned horror film.

In the Blair Witch Project filmmakers used the “shaky-cam” style to make the most out of their extremely limited budget. In Cloverfield director Matt Reeves had an epic scale to work with, and because of that, audiences will want to focus on the details on screen. The imagery is indeed striking; the creature leaves Manhattan utterly obliterated. The camera moves without edits through 360 degree sets, making the experience visceral and immediate. As a culture we have been trained by Hollywood to let our eyes focus on the details, here they are given to us and then instantly pulled away. This drastic and uncomfortable change to the phenomena of the persistence of vision will leave some audiences frustrated and others entirely motion sick.

The pace of the movie also moves far more frantically than The Blair Witch Project. Reeves gives audiences little time to regroup and focus, again twisting Hollywood staples and making a gutsy film that dares to leave questions unanswered. This is not a film that wants to tell you why or how a giant monster attacked New York, just that’s its happening and we’re right there, caught in the action.

With all the hype surrounding the film, the name most easily attributed with the title has been J.J. Abrams. The Lost television producer and director of Mission: Impossible III had an undeniably important role in bringing this film to life, but at the end of the day Cloverfield is Matt Reeves’ triumph. For a feature length directorial debut, Reeves’ has made a film that will indelibly leave its mark on American culture.

The one stumbling block the picture hits is its failure to translate the character’s fear to the audiences. Perhaps it is because viewers are scrambling to catch up with the camera or Reeves’ lack of cinematic experience in sustaining tension over a feature film, but fear is not the overriding motivation for watching Cloverfield. However the film does manage to take away the security blanket that typical giant monster movies usually offer as safe havens, helping to reinvent the scares within the genre. Of course telling you how and why would only ruin the fun.

Cloverfield is a film that will turn audiences on their heads. It is the first film that will be universally commended as being worth all the hype. The camera work literally makes the picture look and feel like nothing you have ever seen before, but for some audiences, including myself, repeat viewings might be too difficult to watch. Cloverfield is just as likely to terrify audiences as it is to cause them to lose their lunch. How’s that for a cinematic roller coaster ride?

-Joe Russo
SCORE = 8/10

Harry Potter Final Book to get Two Films

half-blood-prince.jpgfrom Slice of SciFi by Sam

Written by: Michael Hickerson (SoSF Staff Journalist)

“Harry Potter” fans may get a treat when the final novel in the series comes to the big screen.

Weighing in at over 700 pages, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” left many fans wondering how the story could be condensed for the big-screen and still make sense. Even series author J.K. Rowling felt that in order to do justice to the novel, the movie version would have to “be at least four hours.”

According to British newspaper The Mail, Rowling and her fans may get their wish. Warner Brothers is considering splitting the film adaptation of the final Harry Potter novel into two films. The two halves would follow the precedent set by such two-part films as “Kill Bill” or the final two “Matrix” films and be released within a few months of each other.

Warners insists that the proposed idea is more an artistic one than a financial one.

“There’s so much to fit that the view is the last movie should be in two halves. There is a huge battle when Harry, played by Daniel Radcliffe, takes on Voldemort that needs to be done really well,” said a source at the studio in The Mail.

There’s also rumors that the proposed split is also intended to help the movie land an A-list, high-profile director for the final installment of the series.

Beyond the fact that Warners will produce the final installment of the “Harry Potter” series on the big-screen, none of this should be taken as anything more than (interesting) speculation and none of it has been offiically confirmed.


Gotta Love the Seven Samurai Mice


From Samurai Cats and Mice 

Movie Pulse Review: In the Name of the King

Genre: Action/Adventure, Art/Foreign, Science Fiction/Fantasy and Adaptation
Running Time: 120 min.
Release Date: January 11th, 2008 (wide)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense battle sequence.
Directed By: Uwe Boll
Starring: Jason Statham, John Rhys Davies, Ray Liotta, Matthew Lillard, Leelee Sobieski“In the Name of the King is a big step forward for Uwe Boll.”inthenameoftheking.jpgAudiences are likely to leave In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege very confused. Not because notorious German filmmaker Uwe Boll put his distinctive stamp on the film, but because nearly every actor in this misfired epic is dreadfully miscast. That being said, aside from the picture’s abysmal performances, In the Name of the King is a big step forward for Uwe Boll.

When the evil Gallian casts a spell over the kingdom of Ebb, recruiting all the ghoulish, warmongering monsters to act out his will, a man named Farmer must stand up to defend his countryside and fulfill his destiny In the Name of the King.

Complete with treason, magic and monsters the latest Boll videogame adaptation is luscious visually, but lacking in punch. The weak script, gratingly translated to the screen through painful acting, makes the film’s otherwise spectacular action pieces rather bland. The biggest problem facing In the Name of the King is that nearly all the characters range from being forgettable to laughably awful.

While Jason Statham and John Rhys Davies fit right into the period piece, many of the notable American names seem like odd casting choices. Keeping an open mind doesn’t help the situation either. Every time Ray Liotta, Burt Reynolds or Matthew Lillard appear on screen, one can’t help but be completely sucked out of the world that Boll has created. Their presence exists only for the sake of star power, and each devotes as much energy to the project as it took to cash their paycheck.

As the comic relief Ron Pearlman and Will Sanderson certainly succeed, although much of their character development seems to have been lobbed off in this shorter domestic cut. Notably, a scene in which Statham, Pearlman and Sanderson must cross a ravine should garner quite a few laughs, proving once again that Boll might be better off focusing on a small, comedy driven piece.

While the weak CGI detracts slightly, all of the practical stunts are executed with extreme attention to detail. Responding to complaints about the quality of his films, Boll has spent far more time in preproduction on his recent shows, making sure to map out the action and effects. With In the Name of the King this extra work has surely paid off. The choreography and camera angles help make this modestly budgeted fantasy seem far more epic in scale than it actually was.

Most of the fights flow logistically well, however in the last and most important battle there are strategic and stylistic blunders that hurt the overall project. Why the King’s army would give up the high ground in a stormy battle is beyond all rationale. To top it off Boll reverts back to his House of the Dead, slow motion fight scenes for the final confrontation between Statham and Liotta. Had action like this been established early in the film it wouldn’t have seemed so awkwardly out of place, however it comes across as a completely unmotivated stylistic choice after watching nearly two hours of violence that is somewhat grounded in reality.

With each passing production Uwe Boll continues to show marked improvement as a filmmaker. All In the Name of the King lacks is an engaging story and appropriate cast. Boll did a more than adequate job making sure that each action piece works well, efficiently using every penny his budget allowed. With those skills in tow, now all we need is to give the director a good, solid screenplay and instead of confused, audiences might find themselves pleasantly surprised.

-Joe Russo

SCORE = 4/10

Video Game Review: World In Conflict

Title: World In Conflict


Format: Multiplatform: XBOX 360, PC

Developer: Massive Entertainment

Publisher: Sierra Entertainment

Metacritic Score: 84

Rating: 3 out of 5 3-bullets.jpg


It has almost become a cliché when reviewing World in Conflict to reference the mid 80’s Regan Era neo propaganda film Red Dawn. The film posited the Soviet invasion of the United States that had long haunted the dreams of paranoid militia members across the country. Despite the rather dramatic lack of plausibility, the film was a fun exercise in ‘what if’. World in Conflict indulges itself with a similar scenario. Set in the late 80’s the designers ask us to wonder what would have happened if Glasnost had failed and the hard line communists had regained control of the dying Soviet State. In their scenario the Russians first attack Europe, then follow with an even more unlikely attack on Washington State. Plausibility aside, this does lead to a marginally entertaining plot for the single player campaign, and justification for the cold war era clash of the superpowers.

The game itself shows it’s lineage in several ways. Massive, creators of the Ground Control series of RTS games, had previously shown a preference for tactical games that ignored the conventions of resource gathering so much a staple in the genre. The lack of resource camping, escorting your gatherers and managing one or more resources allows the player to focus purely on the battle itself. This style leads to some very frenetic and fast paced battles. Unlike Ground Control, however, the player does have access to reinforcements during the game. In a model similar to more modern games like Company of Heroes, and Dawn of War, the player receives reinforcement points for purchasing units, and tactical aid points based on capturing battlefield objectives and destroying enemy units. These points are capped at a pre-determined level for each scenario, limiting the forces available.

Each scenario begins with the purchase of your initial force, which parachutes into the battlefield via transport planes apparently capable of warp speed ( it takes only 20 seconds from request to touchdown ). The points refill automatically up to the scenario limit as your units are destroyed, the delay in this refill provides the penalty for dying and rewards players able to keep units alive long enough to max out their force at once.

The available units are divided into four categories; infantry, armor, support and air. The player controls only helicopters in the game but may call in air strikes using the tactical aid points which I will discuss in detail in a moment. In the multilayer game the player must choose a primary role, these units can be purchased without restriction and at the standard cost. A limited selection of each other role’s units can also be used but only at a much higher cost. The units interact with each other in the same kind of rock, paper, scissors dynamic used in almost all RTS games.

Infantry units are cheap and fragile, but can hide in buildings and woods. The ground troops can be selected in anti-armor or anti-infantry flavors as well as snipers and trucks. Armor comes in heavy, medium and light tanks as well as apc’s and amphibious assault vehicles. The air arm allows the choice of tank killing assault helicopters, anti air medium helicopters, transport birds and observation aircraft. Support units included two flavors of mobile anti-aircraft vehicles, heavy and light artillery as well as the ubiquitous repair tank ( somehow capable of repairing helicopters while in flight ).

The various unit types are all terribly vulnerable to their opposite. This requires players in the single player campaign to quickly master using all unit types together in order to mask the weaknesses of each unit. In the multi player game this feature almost demands teamwork for any level of success. The problem with this is that the matching system frequently throws players of varying skill levels on each team and has not been able to prevent team stacking as of yet. In this game team stacking leads to quick and devastatingly one sided battles that can be very frustrating for the losing side.

When the teams are even, however, this game really shines and provides some absolutely fantastic and dramatic games. The visuals are good on any system and simply amazing on a system with the horsepower to really run the game at maximum settings. The thing that makes the game so visually amazing is the previously mentioned tactical aid system.

Each player gains tactical aid points for capturing objectives, fortifying them and for killing enemy units. These points allow the player to access anything from light airborne reinforcement troops that can come outside of the usual reinforcement queue, to artillery and air strikes all the way up to spectacularly destructive tactical nukes. The tactical aid effects are devastatingly effective and once one side begins to gain an advantage the map clearing effects of daisy cutters and tactical nukes can quickly turn the game into a route. The visuals of the smoke and explosions can be truly impressive, with the entire battlefield sometimes erupting in flames as buildings collapse to ruble and forests burn to ash.

The single player game is very heavily scripted and linear with very little options to change the mission path or the path strategies within the missions. The story is also predictable and shallow to the point that only a child of the cold war like myself could really get into it. The acting is passable for a video game but the story is just to thin. It really seems as though the single player campaign was included more as a tutorial for multi player than as a major feature in and of itself. The multiplayer however, is well worth the purchase price, even with its flaws. The lack of variety in play style may mean the game does not stay on your hard drive as long as a masterpiece of the genre like Company of Heroes, but the ride you will have will be a thriller while it lasts.

Battlestar Galactica Season 4 Preview

Here is a great preview of BSG season four from the UK equivalent to the Sci Fi Channel.