Tag Archives: Action

Silent Hill Downpour (2012) Review

The Silent Hill series was once the pinnacle of survival horror in the gaming world. It had a ridiculously creepy setting, dark and complex characters and some of the best stories known to the genre. However, it has since been on the decline; releasing game after game that just kept the series spinning in circles and scrambling to figure out how to stay relevant in an increasingly irrelevant genre. Then comes along the newest addition to the series; a game that goes right back to the series’ roots while also expanding on the setting and offering perhaps the most dark story of the series yet. Silent Hill Downpour is the game that finally puts the series back on the map.

The game starts with perhaps the most shocking intro of any game in the series. You are Murphy Pendleton, a prisoner at Ryall State Prison, though you don’t know exactly what he is in for. You then witness Murphy murder a man in the showers in one of the most brutal killings I have ever seen in a video game, ESPECIALLY considering it is all done by the player. You have no idea what is going on and you are instantly unsure if Murphy is good or bad. It’s clear right from the very beginning that this game is aiming to shock just as much as the series did originally over a decade ago.

When Murphy is being transported to another prison, the bus crashes and we end up in – you guessed it – Silent Hill. It still has that trademark look and feel to it but with some key differences. When it starts to downpour (it’s in the name for a reason) the enemies become even more frequent and hostile. This adds a whole different element of fear to the game, because you know that if you are out in the open you need to run for your life. The fog obscures your vision as you try to escape what lurks behind you, but regardless of where you go, nowhere is safe. Atmosphere has always been a strength of these series and it continues to be here.

An important component of the game is when you suddenly shift from the real world to the “other” world, which for all intents and purposes is a living and breathing hell. As soon as you arrive there you are almost immediately being stalked by this glowing spirit ball of death (so I call it) that will destroy you if it catches up. This leads to some surprisingly fast-paced chase scenes in which you are running through corridors, up stairways and knocking over things just to try and impede the progress of your ghastly stalker. These sequences are some of the highlights of the game, as these sudden rushes of speed into the unknown are very nerve-wracking.

   Murphy running from the glowing spirit ball of death

The one thing about Downpourthat is still perhaps a bit too similar to others in the series is the combat system. It still feels very stiff sometimes and can hamper your style of playing because the controls are too simplistic and slow. You can make the argument that it adds to the intensity of each fight, but more times than not you can be become aggravated because a normal human in that situation wouldn’t move like a friggin’ robot. It isn’t QUITE as bad as it was in past games, but it still feels like the black sheep in terms of features present in this game.

This leads to the storage system, which is limited but is one thing that still works really well for the series. While you can carry a handgun or a shotgun, you will find that throughout most of the game you will be switching between fire-axes, lamps, frying pans, rakes, crowbars, etc., as you desperately try to fend off swarms of Silent Hill’s very own residents. All of these items break, which adds a lot of tension to the combat system. You might be holding an axe and feel as though you have the upper hand, but when halfway through the fight it snaps in half, you are suddenly s***ting your pants.

Speaking of s***ting your pants; let’s talk about the evil waiting to kill you in Silent Hill. The most common enemies are these crazed and maniacal women that scream, (I call them Screaming Mimi’s) causing you to be temporarily stunned while they mosey on in and smack you. What is most horrifying about them is that they are, in a way, Silent Hill’s law enforcement. You read that right. While you roam the sick and twisted streets of Silent Hill, you will often hear a police siren in the distance. If the cop car the siren belongs to catches up to you, you are suddenly facing several Screaming Mimi’s at once, along with anyone else they brought along for the ride. Rounding out the cast of demented freaks is a wolf-man, giant mutants, living mannequins and a few other lovely folks that I won’t shed any light on. Wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise.

A common occurrence

The exploration factor in Downpouris fantastic, and definitely made the town come alive. As you wander around to your next objective, you’ll often come across optional areas that you can access. These areas are also extremely well done, not seeming like thrown together side-missions but rather a fleshing out of the mood and atmosphere the game so expertly crafts. There is one particular instance where you climb through a basement window where the crying of a woman can be heard that was extremely creepy. There are numerous areas like this and also ones that are completely different that are either part of the games many side quests or are just there to freak you out and make you want to run back with your tail between your legs.

In terms of plot, this game definitely has one of the best in the series. Throughout the game you are learning about why Murphy Pendleton killed that man in the showers, and even wondering yourself if he is a good guy or a bad guy. It’s a really nice twist because not only are you surrounded by evil, but the very character you are using may be evil as well. This is all brought to life magnificently by great writing and terrific voice acting that brings these characters to life and gives them immense personality. It was very compelling putting all of the pieces of the puzzle together in this story and figuring out what all of the scattered plot elements lead up to. I won’t spoil it, but I will say that the payoff does not disappoint.

If there is one issue with the game that is more serious than all others, it is the frame rate. Sometimes there will be hiccups in combat that will throw off your timing, resulting in an unfair hit. Other times, you will be exploring a new area and you will experience a few seconds of stuttering. These aren’t huge problems that break the game, but they are definitely noticeable and perhaps could have been buffed out with a bit more development time. There was this one hallway in a building towards the end of the game that caused severe lag whenever I walked through it. Luckily circumstances that severe were few and far between. The load times can occasionally be a bit long, but I only remember sitting there looking at the clock once or twice.

Silent Hill Downpour is a breath of familiar but surprisingly fresh air that rejuvenates the series and reminds all of us what survival horror is truly capable of. Throughout the entire play-through you will find yourself extremely tense and cautious of what waits in the dark or on the other side of the door you’re about to open. It’s these simple but timeless elements that make this series so effectively ominous. Resident Evil, take note; this is how you continue a long-running series, not by stripping it of its personality but by expanding upon it. Downpour proves that this old town still has plenty of thrills and shrills left to offer all those foolishly willing to pay another fun (and horrifying) visit to Silent Hill.

Welcome to Silent Hill

Release Date: March 13, 2012

Genres: Survival Horror, Action, Suspense


Zero Dark Thirty (2012) Review

When everyone heard that Osama bin Laden had been killed in 2011, the U.S. breathed a huge sigh of relief. We were finally able to find the man responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent American citizens after a decade-long manhunt. At the same time, Kathryn Bigelow, who was just coming off the huge Academy Award success of The Hurt Locker, was shooting a film documenting the entire journey. This was met with mixed reception, as some believed it might be too political and wouldn’t do justice to such an important story. They are wrong on both accounts. This film isn’t political, nor does it gloss over or sugarcoat any of the vital details of this operation. Kathryn Bigelow has crafted a masterpiece of a film that slowly builds tension over the 157 minute run-time, erupting in a heart-pounding finale that everyone was eagerly anticipating to unfold onscreen.

The film begins with the torture of man linked to al-Qaeda. Dan, a CIA agent played by Jason Clarke, is letting the Arab man know that “if you lie, I hurt you.” The man is not so easily broken, so this leads to a few torture sequences which were definitely a bit shocking and hard to watch. I know that many people are making a big deal out of whether or not torture was really used during this ordeal and questioning the morality issues of portraying it that way, but I myself don’t look too deeply into it. No matter how “true” a story claims it is, you are never going to get a movie that is 100% truthful to the source material, because it more than likely wouldn’t make for an engaging film. This is nothing more than a dramatization of the facts that we do know about the investigation and uses only the most important and/or interesting details in order to keep the viewer’s eyes glued to the screen.

During the opening sequence we are also introduced to Maya, a CIA agent played by Jessica Chastain. She is the woman this entire film revolves around, because it is her complete commitment to finding Osama bin Laden that results in all of the progress that was made to finally find him. Jessica Chastain is simply phenomenal in this role. She is very reserved and meticulous, and you always get the sense that the only thing on her mind is to get bin Laden. Of course, this mindset has had some negative side-effects on her social life and maybe a bit of her sanity, but you sympathize with her because you know that she cannot rest until her mission is complete. Chastain definitely put in an Oscar-worthy performance here, and if she does win it is deservedly so.

The story bounces around from intel that the team gathers on bin Laden’s whereabouts and to other people who may be able to shed a little light on the situation. These scenes are often slow and methodical, as it took a long time for any evidence of note to really be uncovered. However, it is the passion of those involved and the desperation of Maya that keeps these scenes from becoming stale. They literally have almost nothing to go on for a while, so even the littlest detail is a huge deal. Some intel leads to important breakthroughs, while others are misleads that come with dire consequences. The teams really has no choice but to trust people who they normally wouldn’t, which adds a lot of suspense to the entire narrative.

Maya faces a lot of adversity throughout the film, because she is truly the only person that believes in the hunt. Throughout the films runtime she constantly has to prove people wrong and try to convince them that the effort is worth it. People are getting tired of the manhunt, they have other things to worry about and Chastain has become that boil on everyone’s butt. However, she never once falters, and even if she doesn’t always get the results she wants or expects, she is always making sure that there is no stone left unturned. Everyone else in the film basically continues just based on her own confidence and determination by the second half of the film, which is truly inspiring.

Even though Chastain is far and away the central character and the driving force for the entire film, she is still surrounded by a very strong supporting cast. Mark Strong is fantastic as George, a man involved with the intelligence of the mission. There is a repeated situation between Strong and Chastain that happens throughout the second half of the film that provides some quick but refreshing humor into the mix. As the days go on and no progress is being made on the mission, Chastain repeatedly goes to the window of Strong’s office and writes the number of days it has been in big red marker. It is very funny, especially as you witness the number getting bigger and bigger and bigger.

Jason Clarke is perhaps the most important supporting character in the film, because he is the most closely involved with Maya and her operation. He’s responsible for the torturing of the those linked to Osama bin Laden, though you can tell that such a job has left a mark on him. He wants to help Maya, but at the same time he also wants to have a normal life and wants to get away from all the madness he’s involved in. The intensity he brings to the early scenes is what really makes the movie hit the ground running. Rounding out the cast is Kyle Chandler, Jennifer Ehle, and James Gandolfini as well as Joel Edgerton and Chris Pratt who are part of the SEAL team. They don’t show up until the last act of the movie, but there is no denying the importance of their roles and the talent conveyed from them.

What Kathryn Bigelow has been able to achieve with Zero Dark Thirty is remarkable. She’s taken a decade-long manhunt and condensed it to just over 2 hours and 30 minutes of muted intensity. To be able to do that with a story that everybody already knows the ending to is incredible. As I said before, we probably will never know the exact events of what happened during the entire operation, and this film only scratches the surface of a dilemma that definitely has immense depths of information left untapped. Even so, the film completely immerses you in the experience and makes you believe in absolutely everything it is telling you. Bigelow makes you feel like you had a first-hand account of one of the biggest events in American history, and that alone is an incredible achievement.

Release Date: December 18, 2012 (Limited)

Genres: War, Action, Thriller



The Bourne Legacy (2012) Review

The Bourne trilogy contains some of the best action / espionage films ever created. They are extremely well scripted, acted and executed, and really raised the bar for what is possible for these types of movies. When that trilogy came to an end, many people were still thirsty for more (especially considering how fantastic the final film was). However, director Paul Greengrass and the series star Matt Damon would not be returning. How can you continue a franchise without the main character? Do you make a reboot, prequel, or a sequel that focuses on somebody new? Well, the answer to that, more or less, is all of the above. The events of this film run parallel with The Bourne Ultimatum, while fleshing out background info from previous installments while simultaneously building things up for future installments.

The Bourne Legacy stars Jeremy Renner as Aaron Cross. He’s a member of Operation Outcome, which is a Department of Defense black ops program. They enlist people who – like Jason Bourne at Treadstone – take on a new identity, though the difference is that they are physically and mentally enhanced by blue and green “chems”. These pills that Outcome are giving their field operatives are a genetic breakthrough, though they are top-secret and are known only to those involved in the program. The movie begins with Cross being in the middle of training assignment for Outcome in Alaska, which is basically supposed to test everything that he is capable of doing.

However, things quickly start to fall apart, and it turns out Operation Outcome has found itself in hot water. Operation Blackbriar and Treadstone have been publicly exposed (as witnessed in the 3rd film) which leads to an investigation by the FBI and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. They will be digging up as much information as they can on known faces from previous films in the franchise, such as Pamela Landy and Dr. Albert Hirsch.

The conflict truly begins when Eric Byer, a CIA clandestine operations leader, discovers a video on the internet in which the lead researchers of both Outcome and Treadstone are seen together. Byer does not want this link to lead to an exposure of Operation Outcome, so he decides to completely destroy the program. He plans to kill all of those involved so nothing about the program ever sees the light of day, and he has no problem with doing that because there is a backup plan. Aaron Cross eventually realizes this, and must now avoid assassination from the very same people he is working for.

The main thing that everybody is wondering is whether or not Jeremy Renner is a fitting replacement for Matt Damon, and I can answer that with a resounding yes. Renner is every bit as capable as Matt Damon, acting-wise, though the difference in the two characters allows Renner to do more. Aaron Cross is still very much a person who is aware of his situation, unlike Bourne who is very confused about everything, which gives us a character who is tough but extremely likeable. Aaron Cross was a character that I found more compelling, which is probably because Renner is a better actor than Damon.

Renner and Norton

The cast is definitely one of the highlights of the film, as it is rounded out by some truly talented people. Rachel Weisz is the leading lady this time around, and she gives a very powerful performance. Her character is constantly in turmoil, and Weisz brings the proper amount of hysteria for her particular situation. Ed Norton is another new face, being the man who is tirelessly hunting down Aaron Cross. He appears to be an average person, but he has many things up his sleeves that he must subdue in order for his master plan to work. He’s evil but you can understand the circumstances that lead him to what he’s doing, and that makes him quite the compelling antagonist.

Tony Gilroy takes over the directing duties as previous director Paul Greengrass stepped aside, and he does a fantastic job. Gilroy has been the screenwriter for all films in the franchise up to this point, so he definitely is no slouch in knowing what the heart and soul of the movies are all about. His action scenes are not nearly as choppy or shaky as what we saw in previous installments, and that was a definite improvement. Gilroy also wrote the screenplay and delivers another compelling story that is both familiar and unique compared to the ones that came before it.

The Bourne Legacy is a very worthy addition to this fantastic franchise. It introduces new characters, conflicts and ideas, and it’s all wrapped up in a narrative that is very compelling. We get to see an entirely different perspective to the story we have been following for years now, and it sheds a new light on everything we have learned up to this point. Jeremy Renner is absolutely fantastic as Aaron Cross, giving us a protagonist that we can relate to far more than we could with Jason Bourne. I hope that the filmmakers decide to continue on with him at the helm, though it’s looking iffy with the mixed reception. Whatever happens, it doesn’t change the fact that this is an awesome addition to the franchise and continues to cement this series as one of the best ever made.

Release Date: August 10, 2012

Genres: Action, Thriller, Espionage