About Me

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Greetings. I am the Illusive One. For many years now I have been a huge video game player, movie viewer, and book reader. For almost as long, I have been a critic of these things and many people respect my opinions of these things and have often said I belong on G4 doing reviews on X-Play or a similar show. Sadly that is not likely to happen. So instead I shall do reviews for you, uninfluenced by other reviewers, of video games books, movies, and, occasionally, music and political actions. I hope you find this informative and helpful. Thank you for your time.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Assassins Creed: Brotherhood Review

            During the fall of 2010, I reviewed a number of games in preparation for the releases of the last quarter of the year.  I've already reviewed Fallout: New Vegas and Fable 3 so now it's time for the one that I had the least faith in.  It took me a while to get this review put together as over the past few weeks I've been occupied with other things and I dedicated much of my blogging time to the First Law Trilogy.  So without further delay, it's the Illusive One's Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood Review.

The Plot
            Once again, the game is a frame story, with Desmond Miles in the modern world and Ezio Auditore in Renaissance Italy.  In this game, Desmond once again has to enter the Animis in order to find where Ezio hid one of the pieces of Eden in order to get an edge over Abstergo and the modern day Templars.  In order to find this memory, however, Desmond has to relive a certain time period in Ezio's life, for reasons similar to the ones in the first Assassins Creed.  Ezio's story picks up immediately where 2 left off but not all is well with the Assassins.  Cesare Borgia, son of Rodrigo Borgia attacks the Villa Ezio calls home with his army, killing his uncle in the process, and kills and scattering many of the Assassins.  Cesare is also poised to make himself king of Italy and it’s up to Ezio to stop him by cutting off his funding and support in Rome and rebuilding the Assassin Brotherhood.

The Gameplay
            The Gameplay was identical to that of Assassin’s Creed 2 in basic controls and fighting.  With the exception of the beginning and flashbacks, your travailing in this game is limited to Rome and the main difference in gameplay was the way you moved and operated in the city.  Much of the game involves side missions where you attempt to drive the Templars out of Rome district by district.  This will usually involve killing a Templar Captain and then burning down a tower, allowing for Assassins influence to enter the area.  With this accomplished, the game allows you to renovate buildings in the area of influence such as doctor offices, black smiths, and banks that all put money towards your income.
            While the campaign mode in this game was relatively short compared to 2, it made up for it with a huge number of side missions.  These side missions often involved a variety of things such as Assassinations, the tracking of traitors, helping in wars between thieves’ guilds, and simple races.  A noteworthy series of side quests involve Ezio flashing back to memories of his old lover, Christina Vespucci.  Another noteworthy side quest series are quests that involve Ezio destroying weapons Da Vinci made for the Borgia that include primitive tanks, machine guns, and flying bombers.  
            Another major difference has to do with the weapons Leonardo Da Vinci made for you in 2.  During the attack on the Villa, Ezio looses most of these weapons and has to pay Da Vinci to rebuild them and their interaction is limited.
            The final difference is, as the cover implies, the ability to recruit Assassins from the common population.  These recruits can both be called in to help you during a fight or sent off on missions across the world to earn you money.  In addition, these assassins gain experience and as they level up their weapons and armor are upgraded, allowing them to take on more dangerous missions across the world or to become more useful to you in combat.

The Characters
            While most of the characters are the same, they have gone through radical changes.  Ezio has, by this point, become a full blown Master Assassin but the cost to him has been high.  Most of his former friends and family have either died directly or indirectly due to his actions and those who remain have become estranged to him.  Even Da Vinci, his best friend in 2, has been forced to distance himself from Ezio due to his involvement with the Assassins.  While Ezio isn't quite world weary and broken, it doesn’t seem like it will take much more to break him.  He seems to have reached the point in his life, as they brilliantly put in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of Crystal Skull, where life has stopped giving things and has started taking them away.  Most of the other supporting characters' time in the game with Ezio is limited and there’s not much to say.   
           The characters in the modern world have more dialog and you interact with them more.  While it is refreshing, your time in the modern world is limited and the characters haven't changed at all.

The Verdict
            All around this game was a huge surprise to me.  The first surprise was that it had even been made so soon after 2, and the second being that it was so damn good.  My initial fear was that it would be a crappy game, more like an expansion then a sequel, made to cash in on the franchise.  But as it turned out, it was, indeed, a great game and a worthy successor to Assassin’s Creed 2, if a bit shorter and less epic feeling.  In conclusion, it was one of the greatest games of 2010.
All Around

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Illusive One's Top Ten Biggest and Least Favorite Fantasy Clichés

      For those of you who haven’t noticed, I'm a big fan of the fantasy genera of fiction and have read tons of books in this area.  I don't know what exactly it is that drew me to this genera but it has been my favorite for years.  Unfortunately, it's a genera that tends to repeat itself and often it seems like I'm reading the same book over and over again.  Over the years, I have noticed many common elements and have decided to put them in a list of the biggest and worst.

            Before I start this list, however, there are a few other clichés that I feel need to mention, even though they themselves do not make my list.  The first is the love interest of the protagonist being or turning out to be a prince or a princess.  While this happens quiet often, it doesn’t happen nearly as much as the ones on my list and isn't as infuriating as some. 

            Another that deserves mention is the evil politician or wizard who serves as an inconvenient obstacle for the protagonist.  Here's how it works; for some God-unknown reason a politician or wizard will block the way of the protagonist, either out some insane belief that the antagonist will bring salvation or believes that the antagonist isn't as serious of a threat as the protagonist claims it is.  Thankfully, this one, (although it is a cliché of its own), isn't as overused as the ones that make my list and can make for a great quandary.  So, without further adieu, it's the Illusive One's Top Ten Biggest and Least Favorite Fantasy Clichés.

                  At number ten, The Revenge Story.  This is something that happens in most fantasy stories, (and most other genres of fiction as well).  The scenario usually goes something like this; a family member or someone close to the protagonist will be die and sends him or her out to begin their place in the story.  Often the story will end with the protagonist getting his or her revenge but finds that by the story's end, he or she no longer cares about revenge and only about how he or she has shaped the world.  While this is a terribly overused fantasy cliché, it can make for a great story if used right and that's why it's only at number ten.

      At number nine, The Old Empire.  In most fantasy, the current kingdoms that exist are always built on the ruins of some other great, preexisting empire.  What exactly caused the destruction of said empire is usually a plot point for the series, if only a minor one.  It's one that is used a lot, but is a forgivable one, in my opinion.

          At number eight, The Ultimate Evil Antagonist.  This is where the clichés start to get annoying.  Following in the footsteps of The Lord of the Rings, nearly every fantasy series has this cliché.  The villain involved will often be some kind of all powerful, all encompassing evil entity, such as Sauron in Lord of the Rings, the Warlock Lord in Sword of Shannara, or the Dark One in The Wheel of Time.  As a result, the lines of good and evil are often clear and this leads to repetitive stories.  Unfortunately, those who enjoy fantasy have to accept this cliché, but that doesn’t mean we have to like it.

         At number seven, The Magic Sword.  Yet another irritating and common cliché.  This is yet another one that has roots in The Lord of the Rings, but was popularized by Shannara.  The sword involved will be magic or special, often the only thing that can kill the antagonist.  While this one isn't as common as a lot of others, I find it one of the most infuriating and intolerable of the fantasy clichés.

          At number six, Red Shirt Characters.  A red shirt character is one that is introduced simply to be killed off and is another infuriating fantasy cliché.  These characters are often introduced, given a name, have no spoken words, and are killed off almost as quickly as they are introduced.  It's one that authors often use, just so the book will have a higher body count and shows laziness on their part and is an unforgivable cliché.

          At number five, The Capital Coming Under Attack.  From Lord of the Rings, up to Dragon Age Origins, this is a cliché that keeps on getting used, even though we have seen it a thousand times before.  Either due to a surprise attack or the crushing of all other defenses or both, an antagonist with a huge army will always attack the capital city of some kingdom the protagonist supports.  While it does make for an awesome final battle it's still one that gets overused and I just wish it would die.  

          At number four, The Average Joe Becoming A Hero.  This is a very common cliché, with roots in Tolkien books but is a forgivable one.  Here is how it works; a young man or woman will get involved in some wizard’s quest to slay an evil overlord because of their ancestry or through a twist of fate.  As I said, this is forgivable one because who honestly doesn’t like to see a commoner rise past social boundaries.

          At number three, The Protagonist With Secret Ancestry.  This one is easily explained by four but is so common in the fantasy world that it deserves a spot of its own.  Often the protagonist will be revealed to have royal parents or have magic abilities that are explained by their true parentage.  

          At number two, Farm Children or Children of Innkeepers Becoming Heroes.  This one is also easily explained by four and usually encompasses three.  It just so happens that the child of a farmer or an innkeeper is more common examples and deserves a place of its own.

And what is the biggest and my least favorite fantasy cliché?

          The Protagonist Getting Captured.  Other then the First Law Trilogy, I don't think I have ever read a fantasy book where this doesn’t happen and it never fails to piss me off to the point of where I'm willing to burn down a whole building full of books by the author just to vent my rage.  Just thinking about it makes me want to smash my keyboard as I type.  Usually the main character will get separated from the main group of his or her companions due to some unforeseen circumstances and results in said character's capture.  These captures often have no purpose other than to have an elaborate escape or introduce a new character that could have just as easily been introduced at some other time in some other way. 
            And that's my Top Ten Biggest and Least Favorite Fantasy Clichés.  I admit this one is a bit short and may seem a bit lazy but I honestly didn't know what else to say.  Until next time, this is the Illusive One saying, LATER!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

My Final Thoughts on First Law

      Well, what else can I say about First Law and Best Served Cold that I already haven't?  First Law started off a bit slow but quickly picked up its pace, Best Served Cold was an all around masterpiece and his new book, The Heroes looks like it’s going to be a fast paced story will all of Abercrombie’s usual stuff.   The only warning I have about these books is that they are books written for adults.  They contain cursing, graphically described sexual parts, and the characters are disturbingly realistic and down to earth.  In these books, good and evil are points of view and there is no apparent line in between the two.  After reading these book, to me, everything else seemed clichéd, mediocre and tame in comparison and actually ruined a lot of other series for me because they couldn't measure up to these books.  So if you prefer fantasy like Shannara or Wheel of Time I would suggest staying away from this one.  But if you want something darker and more down to earth then check these out.  I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.  Until next time this is the Illusive One sighing off. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Best Served Cold Review

            About a year after Joe Abercrombie completed The First Law Trilogy, he followed it up with what has proved to be his best work yet.  This is the Illusive One's Review of the standalone novel, Best Served Cold.
            This book, unlike First Law, takes place in a land known as Styria, a large island northeast of the Union, full of Dukedoms ever at war with each other.  After nineteen years of war, the Duke Orso of Talins has finally gained the upper hand against his rivals in the League of Eight and is now poised to make himself king of Styria.  And it's all thanks to his greatest mercenary commander, Monza Murcatto whose victories have made her a bit too popular for the Duke's taste.  Murcatto is betrayed, her brother killed and she thrown off a mountain but by some miracle survives leaving her with a burning desire for revenge against the seven men who killed her brother and tried to kill her. 
            Although it doesn’t fill in to many of the blanks left by Last Argument of the Kings, this is absolutely the greatest edition to the First Law World, (as far as I know the series has no official name).  It seems to take place two to five years after the end of Kings, and reveals that Styria has become a land for proxy wars between the Union and the Gurkish Empire. 
            It had a great plot full of twists with a terrific cast of characters.  While it does seem a little clichéd, it was executed so well that you don't see it that way at all.  As a friend of mine once said, a clichéd device can still be made great if in the hands of a good author.  Each of the men Monza attempts to kill requires a different approach to get to, a different set of skills to kill them and often frequently found herself within the ranks of her former enemies, trying to prevent Orso from solidifying his victory over the League of Eight.   All of these things kept what would normally be a boring story fresh with each section
            The characters in the book were also top notch and even surpass the ones from First Law.  Monza is at first a cynical, abrasive, bitch with no thoughts other then revenge.  As the story progresses however, we find that many of her sins of the past were in fact not her work but the work of her brother, either through negligence or treachery.  As she slowly makes her way up the list, she finds the act of killing the men harder and harder and frequently questions if they truly deserve to die.
            Then there's Caul Shivers the Barbarian.  He was originally introduced in Before They are Hanged as a leader of one of the disgruntled clans with a vendetta against Logan Ninefingers.  But in this book, like Logan, he is just trying to end his carrier in fighting and do some honest work for once in his life but finds that once your hands have been blooded, it's hard to get them clean again.  His character happens to be the most dynamic of the book as he slowly changes from a halfway decent man, to a psychopath far worse then what he was before.
            Other noteworthy characters include Friendly the mass murder, who has an obsession with numbers and is more than a little entertaining.  There is also Nicomo Cosca, a former mercenary leader with a history with Monza and another character introduced in Before They are Hanged.  At this point of his life he is a complete alcoholic who is one day away from dying in the gutter when Monza finds him and recruiters him in her vendetta.  Another member of Monza's group is Shylo Vitari, another character introduced in First Law and helps Monza for the money she is promised.  Another noteworthy character is Castor Morveer the treacherous poisoner with fickle loyalties and deadly intentions. 
            But my personal favorite out of all of these characters and probably my favorite fantasy character of all time is Shenkt the assassin. A man of few words, Shenkt is an assassin with unnatural powers who is the professional Orso sends to track down and kill Monza and her band of killers.  While his page time is short, he made a bigger impression on me than any other character in any other fantasy book.  He refuses to kneel to anyone and kills those who try to make him.  He states that he used to kneel but does not anymore, often referring to an unnamed master who taught him his skills as the reason for this.  At the same time, he gives his enemies one chance to walk away from a fight with him before tearing them to pieces and has a soft spot for orphaned children who remind him of his own tortured and mysterious past.
            In conclusion, this was, so far, the best of Joe Abercrombie's books.  Like his previous books it had a great plot, great characters, great fights, dark humor, great dialog and had great twists that kept your head spinning and I can't praise this book enough.  Unfortunately you need to read the First Law Trilogy before you can read this one, but it's worth the wait, so read them and check this one out.  You'll be glad you did.

All Around


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Last Argument of the Kings Review

            Well, it's time for me to give you my take on the last book in the First Law Trilogy.  It's the Illusive One's review of Last Argument of the Kings.
            Like the previous two books, this one has three different storylines.  The war continues to rage in the north and has slowed to a stalemate.  After returning from his journey west, Logan Ninefingers has returned to the north to settle some unfinished business with the King of the North, Bethod, his oldest friend and his oldest enemy.
            The second deals with Jezal dan Luthar, who, after returning from his journey west, has decided that soldiering, adventuring, and winning glory is too painful an undertaking.  Unfortunately for him, the Magi Bayaz has not yet finished with Luthar and glory has a nasty habit of sneaking up on a man when he least expects it.
            In the third, Superior Glokta has returned to the Union and once again finds himself trying to prove Bayaz is a fake.  Unfortunately for him, he has too little time and too many masters who all are at each other’s throats and sooner or later, Glokta will have to pick a side.
            While all of this is going on, the King of the Union lies on his deathbed, the peasant’s revolt and the nobles scramble to steal his crown.  None of them seem willing to believe that the shadow of Gurkish invasion is about to fall on the Union and only Bayaz knows how to stop it.  But there are risks and there is no risks greater then breaking the First Law.
            Like the previous installments in First Law, I have next to nothing bad to say about this book.  The characters come into full circle, the battles are just as epic as ever, it had a lot of dark humor, and there were so many twist that my head just kept on spinning during the last quarter of the book.  If I had any criticism with this book, it's that their seemed to be too many battles in it and this dominates most of the book.  It also left a few things hanging and there were a few characters whose fates you weren’t sure of and it made the ending a little frustrating.  On a final note, this was the book where Bayaz was revealed to be the villain he is, and if you read this book you will find out why he is my number one villain.
            Unfortunately this review and my first two don't give the books justice.  So check them out and enjoy them.

All Around


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Before They Are Hanged Review

           Within a year of the release of The Blade Itself, its sequel, Before They are Hanged was released and this was where the series really got good.
            Like the previous book, it follows along three different storylines that deal with the characters that were introduced in The Blade Itself.  The first of these deals with Logan Ninefingers, Jezal dan Luthar, Ferro Maljinn, and Bayaz as they journey west to retrieve a weapon that will allow Bayaz to defeat his rival who threatens the Union Government.  In order to find this they must cross the anarchic territory of the Old Empire, through warring factions, ancient cites full of monstrous creatures, and across freezing and barren mountains.  The biggest problem, however, is that they all hate each other and it's up to Logan to try to form some kind of fellowship between the three before they all kill each other out of ignorant, bigoted hatreds.
            The second deals with Collem West, now a Colonel in the Union Army, as he tries to keep the Union army from falling apart in the war with the barbarian North Kingdom.  With him is a band of barbarian champions once led by Logan Ninefingers, a few clans of disgruntled barbarians who have no love for their king and army of raw solders who have no experience fighting in the north.  Against him, is an entire army of battle harden barbarians with unnatural creatures supporting them and a seemingly invincible giant fighting as their champion. 
            The third deals with Glokta who has been promoted to Superior Inquisitor of Dagoska; a fortress city on the edge of the Gurkish Empire.  He is assigned to discover what happened to the previous Superior while trying to repair and defend the city from an inevitable invasion by the Gurkish Empire and root out spies within.
            All around, it was a great improvement over The Blade Itself.  Abercrombie quickly rooted out the problems that existed in it, gave more depth to the characters and made the battles more epic in scale and I have nothing negative to say about it.  So check it out after you read The Blade Itself.

All Around

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Blade Itself Review

            Throughout my reviews, particularly with my fantasy book reviews, I have referenced an obscure fantasy series, known as the First Law Trilogy and its stand alone sequel, Best Served Cold by freelance film editor Joe Abercrombie.  His new book, The Heroes, is due for release later this month, and I thought that this would be an appropriate time to do a review on these books.  The first of these will be The Illusive One's review of The Blade Itself.
            I was first introduced to this series in September of 2009, when an acquaintance referred them to me, describing the protagonists as villains but ones you quickly grow attached to.  Over a year later, I now consider Abercrombie to be the greatest fantasy writer since Tolkien.
            The first of these books revolves around three central characters whose lives are about to be made extremely difficult by the Magi Bayaz.  The first of these characters is the barbarian, Logan Ninefingers.  With all of his friends and family apparently dead and banished from the recently formed North Kingdom, Logan is just trying to survive with enemies all around him and can only hope his luck holds out until he can join Bayaz for whatever task he wants him for.  He comes off as being the world weary veteran of the characters, who is no longer interested in glory but just wants to survive, even though fighting is all he knows. 
            The second of these characters, (and my personal favorite of the three), is Sand dan Glokta, an Inquisitor of the island based nation, known the Union.  During the first half of the book, Glokta attempts to convict a tax evading trading company of treason and will do all he can to achieve this goal.  During the second half, Glokta is assigned to prove that Bayaz is not the Magi he claims to be and finds his life greatly changed as a result. 
            He is a difficult character to describe.  Originally a war hero, Glokta was severely crippled after a battle with a middle-eastern type empire, known as the Gurkish Empire and was captured and tortured for two years.  He emerged from that war severely crippled, unable to walk straight and states that uncomfortable is as good as it gets for him.  He uses what he learned from his time being tortured for the Inquisition for no reason other than he has nothing else better to do with his life.  He is a character you try to be sympathetic with, but find it difficult because of the line of work he is in and he shows no empathy for it.
            The last of the major characters is nobleman Jezal dan Luthar.  Up until this point, his life had consisted of a cushy desk job in the army, seducing women of the common class, ripping his friends off in games of poker, and training for a dueling completion.  This guy is the most unlikable of the three and is a complete ass.  Like many other nobles of fiction, he believes he is superior to everyone in a lower class then he, is a dick to all those around him, including those who consider him a friend, and throughout the entire book you want to see Logan beat the shit out of him or Gloka torture him.
            Their were also a number of noteworthy supporting characters including Major Collem West who is the closest thing to a good man in this series.  Born a commoner, West rose through the ranks of the Union army after winning a dueling completion and becoming a war hero in the same war that crippled Glokta and was a formally his best friend.
            Their was also Ferro Maljinn, a psychotic woman and former slave who seeks vengeance on the Gurkish Empire  who is introduced during the second half of the book.  Other than that, nothing much is revealed about the character other then she is a skilled fighter.
            The only real criticism I have with this book is that it doesn’t reveal much in plot and it ends with the country going to war and gives no clue as to where the series is heading.  Other than that, it was all great.  I found the characters realistic, extremely complicated and were in no way the usual cookie cutter, two dimensional characters you see in most fantasy books.  The dialogue was realistic, believable, and continued cursing, which you never see in fantasy.  Last to address are the fight scenes in the book.  Like the characters and dialogue, they are realistic, believable, and above all, bloody with the characters getting exhausted and wounded.  You'd be surprised how rare that is in a fantasy book as well.
            All around, however, this book was easily the worst of Joe Abercrombie’s books and obviously the work of an amateur author but that's not saying much.  It's absolutely worth reading and from this point, the books just kept on getting better.
All Around

Monday, January 10, 2011

Dead Space Review

          As I mentioned in my Nightmare on Elm Street Remake Review, the horror genera in film is one that has grown stale in recent decades, although there are a few good ones if you look in the right place.  But I've found that the future of horror is not in films, but in video games, particularly in the survival horror genera.  Unfortunately, this is also a genera that has become stale and is now a dying breed of video games.  The one game series, however, that may be able to revive it is the Dead Space series.  With the release date of Dead Space 2 rapidly approaching, I decided this would be a good time to do a short look at the first game.  Unfortunately, I haven’t played this game in a while so this review won't be as detailed as most.  It's my Review of Dead Space.

The Plot
            The game takes place in the distant future where Earth's resources have been depleted.  In order to keep humanity alive, huge ships, known as planet crackers go out into space to strip mine other planets on a huge scale, destroying them in the process.  When the planet cracker U.S.H. Ishimura goes dark, a small team of military personal, technologists, and an engineer is sent to investigate.  You play as the engineer, Isaac Clarke who's looking for his girlfriend aboard the ship but instead finds grotesque, monstrous creatures known as necromorphs and you are forced to fight your way through hordes of these creatures in order to survive. 

The Game Play
      The game play is like that of most survival horror games; over the shoulder, third person with limited health and ammo that are both easy to lose.  Rather than shooting the crap out of things to kill them, however, killing enemies relies on how well you can dismember their limbs.  Never before or after have I played a game where you could blow the head off an enemy and still have it keep coming after you.  The main weapons you use, however, are mostly space age tools, and are often more useful then guns.  Much of the game is dimly lit which gives it a creepy and disturbing environment where you have no idea when something is going to pop out and try to kill you.  Unfortunately the necromophs tend to pop out in the exactly same kind of places which causes the game to get a little repetitive.   

The Characters
            The characters are what you would expect in this kind of game.  Isaac is a silent, mostly faceless protagonist so he doesn’t have much to offer.  One interesting thing to note about the character, however, is that he frequently sees images of his girlfriend on monitors of computers and sees here running around the ship and one can't help but wonder if he actually is seeing her, or if he is just going insane.  Zach Hammond is your typical leader of the survival horror situation who tries to get a grip on things but constantly finds things out of his control.  Doctor Terrence Kyne is your typical scientist who wants to fix everything and Dr. Challus Mercer is the kind who wants the necromorphs to spread out of some insane religious belief.  The last character to mention is Kendra Daniels who doesn’t seem to have any other purpose then to guide Isaac.  All around, the characters are just what you would expect in a survival horror, B-Movie type piece of media.

The Verdict
            When the game came out, I loved it.  It was creepy, it was frightening, it was gore filled, and more than once made me jump out of my skin.  But at the same time, it suffered from clichéd characters, repetitive, slow paced game play, and a forgettable final boss fight.  But all around, I still consider it one of the, if not the best survival horror games of this era of gaming.
All Around

Monday, January 3, 2011

Apocalypse Now

            Let me start off by saying Happy New Year to all and to start off this year, I shall be reviewing one of my favorite films of all time.  This is the Illusive One's review of Apocalypse Now.
            Released in 1979, Apocalypse Now is a Vietnam War Epic, directed by Godfather director Frances Ford Coppola and starring Martian Sheen, Marlin Brando, Robert Duvall, and Dennis Hopper.  The film is more or less a Vietnam War era retelling of the classic 1902 novella, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad and centers around an army assassin named Captain Willard (Sheen), as he tracks down renegade Colonel Kurtz, (Brando), up the fictional Nung River at the height of the Vietnam War.  The film also contains a brief appearance by Harrison Ford as an officer who gives Willard his assignment and early roles for now famous actors like Laurence Fishburne and R. Lee Ermey.
            On the positive side on this film...well what isn't good about this film?  For starters the casting was perfect.  Martin Sheen was phenomenal as Willard and this was easily his best role ever.  He also serves as the film's narrator which gives you a view into the psychology of the character and gives a surreal quality to the film.  Equally as great, (but for some reason more famous), was Marlin Brando as Colonel Kurtz who delivers some of the most haunting monologs on war ever to be seen on film.  Robert Duvall was morbidly hilarious as Lt. Colonel Kilgore and Dennis Hopper was great as the crazy, hippie, unnamed photojournalist. 
            As a whole, the film has a great surreal and psychological quality to it, that gets under your skin and into your head in a way no other film does.  That aside the film can also be enjoyed for its individual scenes.  Whether it’s Kilgore's raid on the Vietcong controlled village, the Playboy show at the river dock, the boat inspection gone terribly wrong, the Vietcong attack on the Do Long Bridge, the Vietcong attack on the boat, Kurtz's raid of the boat, Kurtz's monologue to Willard, or the climax of the film there's something in it for anyone to enjoy.  After each of these events Willard narrates his own take on them with a passive onlooker's stance before the film moves on, giving these scenes, which would be normal in any other film, a surreal quality to it that gets into your head.
            The directorial style and post-production editing of the film was also great.  The film editing and the way it combined different camera angles into a single view was perfect.  The sound editing and visual effects were top notch and still holds up to anything they have out today and were actually better then a lot movies that came out in the decade to follow.  The soundtrack of the film by The Doors worked perfectly and helps to add to the surreal quality of film.
            On the negative side...well I have absolutely nothing bad to say about it and that's all I have to say on that.
            Almost as interesting as the film was the story of its making, documented in the documentary, The Heart of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse.  Production for the film was started in the early 70s with Coppola originally as the producer.  Friend and fellow film maker, George Lucas was originally suppose to direct but dropped out of the project after he got the go ahead for Star Wars and eventually Coppola opted to direct the film himself.
            Another issue with the film was the casting.  Originally Harvey Keitel was cast as Willard after Al Pacino and Steve McQueen turned down the role but was fired by Coppola soon after because he felt Keitel wasn't right for the part.  Eventually the part went to Sheen, who was a problem on his own.  During much of the filming, Sheen was in an alcoholic stage of his life and made filming difficult for those around him.  Sheen also suffered a heart attack during filming, which delayed the filming for several weeks. 
            Marlin Brando was also an issue for the cast.  He was cast early on by Coppola, as they had worked together in The Godfather but was nearly as much trouble as Sheen.  For the role he was paid for, at the time, an unheard of amount of 3.5 million dollars for a month’s work.  He was also suppose to be fit and in shape for the film but showed up on the set overweight.  As a result, Brando was always dressed in black and only seen in shadowed environments.
            Finally there were problems with the filming and post-production stages.  It took a total of two years to film and an additional two years of post-production before it was finally released in 1979.  It was shot in the Philippines and this caused even more problems for the already troubled film.  Bad weather constantly delayed filming and destroyed many expensive sets.  Often members of the Philippine Army would serve as extras, only to be called away to fight rebels less than a mile away from the sets.  The release date was also delayed several times, as Coppola literally had to edit through millions of feet of footage he had shot.
            It would later be said by Coppola that they had access to too much money, too much equipment and everyone went insane a little by little during its making and it nearly cost him his physical and mental health.  Despite the great many of problems the production had, much of it worked to the film's advantage and helped give it its surreal quality and when it all came together the people of the world received one of the greatest films for its time and for all time.
            The film would later be re-released in theaters in 1987 to capitalize on the success of other Vietnam War era films such as Platoon and Full Metal Jacket.  The Redux version would be released in 2001, which contained about 49 minutes more of previously unedited scenes.  While all of these scenes are entertaining, I would only recommend seeing the Redux version after you have seen the original, as they make an already long movie ridiculously long.  None of these scenes have Willard narrating and dilutes the surreal quality of the film.  And that's my take on the Redux version.           
            As you can probably tell by this review, I absolutely loved this film and I believe it surpassed anything Coppola made before or after.  If I could give it anything higher than a ten I would and if I ever made a list of my favorite films, this one would undoubtedly be very high, (if not on top), on that list..  It had phenomenal acting, a great story, and a surreal, psychological quality to it that I had never seen before or after and is the closest thing I have ever seen to a perfect film.       

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