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.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Griffeth Galaxy Productions

            Well, everyone, we’re at our 150th post and it’s time for an announcement.  Now as you all know, I’ve been complaining about and praising videogames, TV series, web series, comics books and films for over two years now but what you may not know is that I have always had more of an interest producing, directing, writing, and developing these things and I’m glad to announce that I’ve finally had a chance to start doing these things.  So with that said, I am officially announcing the formation of Griffeth Galaxy Productions.  This is a small production group based out of Henrico County, Virginia that is, as of right now, primarily focused on the production of short films and sketches although we are hoping to get into web series production, independent videogame development, publication of short stories and comics, and music production.  I’m also happy to announce that we have already produced our first short, entitled The Gangnam Rage.  Take a look.

            So that is what has been and probably will be occupying my time lately.  If you have anything to say please comment below, and if you enjoyed the video please subscribe to the YouTube Channel, Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.  If you interested in joining the group you can contact us at griffethgalaxyproductions@gmail.com, or on Facebook.  I hope this is the beginning of something big.  So until next time, this is The Illusive One signing off and for the first time I am excited to see what the future may bring. 


            Of all the filmmakers in Hollywood today, few names carry as much respect and credibility as Steven Spielberg.  In a fifty three year-long carrier, the man has made many beloved classics and masterpieces such as Jaws, The Indiana Jones films, E.T., Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, has been a producer or a direct influence in over a hundred other projects, founded DreamWorks Pictures and is one of the few directors from the New Hollywood Era who has managed stay relevant, fresh and able to adapt and change with time.  While some people argue that his best days are behind him, films like Munich, The Adventures of Tintin and War Horse still prove that the man hasn’t run out of steam even if they are a far cry from what he did in the 70s and 80s.  But today we’re here to talk about his most recent film, Lincoln.
            Taking place during the final months of the Civil War, the film revolves around Abe Lincoln as he tries to get the 13th Amendment passed that will end slavery in the United States, showing all of the backdoor deals that had to be made in order to get the amendment passed as well as showing the personal grief he and his family went through during this time.  And because I am making a point to see as many films as I can this year, (and sense nothing came out that weekend other than Twilight), I decided to take a look at Spielberg’s latest film.  This is my review of Lincoln.   
            Now, as you might expect, the acting in this movie is fantastic.  The most notable and the guy who steals the show is Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln and talk about a perfect casting choice.  Everything about this guy just said that he is Abraham Lincoln from his body structure, to the way he walked, to his hair style, the wrinkles on his face, to his voice and his monologs and frequent storytelling.  And this probably won’t be a surprise to anyone, but I think we have our Best Actor Winner of the year.   One thing that I have noticed lately is that many historical themed films and videogames are showing revered people in a more human light and this film is no exception to this.  It shows him as a fallible human being and how much a negative effect his presidency has had on his personal life, particularly with his eldest son and wife.
            While this movie obviously belongs to Daniel Day-Lewis, all of the other actors do great work in their roles as well.  Tommy Lee Jones was perfect as the Radical Republican leader Thaddeus Stevens and steals any scene he is in and Sally Field was great as Lincoln’s wife who has been the most effected by the personal burdens of being a family member of a president.  Many of the other cast members are great in their roles such as David Strathairn, James Spader, Hal Holbrook, Jackie Earle Haley, and Bruce McGill but are ultimately limited by their screen time to do as much as they could. 
            One thing that might surprise you is that the story is very good.  The problem with most Oscar Bait-type films like The King’s Speech, The Master, or Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy is that their narratives are not very compelling and often come off as being bland and dry.  This film however is the exception to that rule.  Within the film we get a really good look at all of the politics and backdoor deals that went into getting the amendment passed and it’s probably the only film that I can think of that shows how difficult the games of politicians can be, especially when dealing with big issues such as this. 
But what really shocked me was just how funny this movie was.  Unlike most Oscar Bait, the film had a very good sense of humor integrated throughout its runtime.  Often Lincoln will start telling stories to various people almost at random and the stories themselves are either hilarious or his audiences reaction to them is.  One that really stood out to me was the story of the bird who was predicting the end of the world and the tone of that joke is more or less the tone of the humor throughout the film.  The rest of the comedy came from situations that really felt natural and unscripted.  Unlike the humor in a lot of modern films a lot of the jokes in this film actually felt like they could happen, such as the situations James Spader and his band of backdoor dealers get into while trying to get the votes for the 13th Amendment or some of the reactions to Lincoln’s stories.  It’s very well done, funny, and puts it a step above most Oscar Bait and could not have been happier about this. 
Now I usually don’t gawk over set designs or where or how films are shot, but dear god is this film well done in those regards.  Everything in this film from the set designs, to the costumes, to the fact that Lincoln often carries a blanket around with him to stave off the cold makes it seem like it legitimately takes place in 1865, (although I have to admit the fact that I’ve been to several of the places the film was shot in Richmond did take me out of the mood a bit).  Adding to this effect was the lighting as everything seemed like it was shot with only sunlight, candle light, and fireplaces light.
There are, however, a few things that annoyed me about the film.  For starters, Day-Lewis had a few to many monologs and they can and will ware on you after a while and it almost makes it seems like the writers felt that it was their job to make sure he won an Oscar as opposed to letting his performance carry it.  The second thing, and it breaks my heart to say this, was John Williams’ score.  The man has been responsible for some of the greatest and most memorable scores in film history such as the music for Indiana Jones, Jaws, Star Wars, Superman and a ton of others and holds the record for the most number of Oscar nominations in history and has won five.  This score, however, sounds like the exact same thing that he has been composing for the last fifteen years and it’s not particularly well used.  Whenever the music comes up it usually sounds manipulative, like the filmmakers are trying to tell you what to feel as opposed to letting the feeling come naturally.  Often I found myself thinking that certain scenes would have been better if they had been completely silent or actually had a score that complimented what was on screen.  And again, it breaks my heart to say this but I’m starting to think that John Williams may need to retire.
All around, despite the monologues and manipulative score, I really enjoyed this film and to be perfectly honest, I think it may be my favorite of the year.  I loved the acting, the dialog, the story, the humor and the way it was shot and put together.  If you’re a history buff like me then I recommend that you go and see it because it is worth your time and money and considering all the other stuff that has been coming out over the past few weeks this one is much more deserving of them.

All Around

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Assassin's Creed III

You know, there has been a lot of part threes released this year.  We’ve had Mass Effect 3, Max Payne 3, The Dark Knight Rises, Diablo III, Skyfall and I’m pretty sure that there are a few others that I’ve missed.  But today we’re here to talk about the latest third installment of a franchise, Assassin’s Creed III.  As I’ve mentioned before, the Assassin’s Creed franchise is one that has walked a bit of a rough path.  The first game was an unexpected hit, selling millions of copies worldwide but received mixed to average reviews mainly citing the repetitiveness of the game.  Part two, on the other hand, was incredible, giving us a fantastic story, great gameplay and compelling characters.  The next installment, Brotherhood, actually managed to improve on the gameplay and still told a great story with compelling characters even if it was less compelling then IIRevelations on the other hand, was not a great game.  In a nutshell, it was just a rehashing of Brotherhood with buggier gameplay, and a story and supporting characters that completely failed to get the gamer invested and just felt like a final attempt to milk another game out of Ezio’s storyline before moving on. 
            Assassin’s Creed III, however, promised something different.  In the months leading up to its release, the game showcased a setting in colonial America during the Revolutionary War, the ability to run through tree tops like a Predator, wild animal threats, and the ability to command your own ship!  Now if that isn’t enough to get a fan excited I don’t know what is.  So has the game lived up to its hype or is a franchise that’s on its last leg, desperately clinging to life?  Time to find out.  This is the Illusive One’s Review of Assassin’s Creed III.

The Plot

            The plot is a little…difficult to describe because it’s a little needlessly complicated.  During the present, the game once again follows Desmond Miles as he battles modern day Templars and tries to prevent an apocalypse from befalling the Earth with the help of technology left behind by the first civilization, (and if you don’t know what I’m talking about I suggest playing the other games again to get some grasp on it).  However, in order to access this machine Desmond must find a key and they only way to find its location is to go back in the animus and relive the life of his native American ancestor, Connor Kenway, (who also has a native American name that I won’t even try to spell), during the Revolutionary War.  In Connor’s storyline, he must become an Assassin and rebuild the Brotherhood in the New World while taking down the various Templar leaders, led by his father, who would see the world oppressed under their tyranny.
            Now, I have to admit that the whole overarching plot dealing with Desmond and his attempt to save the world never really appealed to me.  I’ve always been of the belief that the storylines involving the battles between the Assassins and the Templars should have been enough to tell a good story and the games have often proved this to be true.  However, in this game, the overarching story was probably the more compelling of the two.  Unlike the last few games, we really feel the tension and sense of impending doom which was sorely lacking in previous games.  Unlike previous Assassin’s Creed games we also got to see a bit more of the Templars, and see what goes into their thinking and how they do things.  In the process we find that their goals really aren’t all that different from those of the Assassins, and the game goes out of its way to show that the Templars are human and not necessarily pure evil.  In fact some of the best parts of the story are the sequences where Connor and his Templar father are working together towards common goals and it’s really interesting to see the similarities and differences between the two.
Unlike previous games, this one is very adult in the way in portrays certain things.  Washington for example is not without faults and often does things that directly conflict with Connor’s goals and need to help his people.  As with the Templar portrayal, the game goes out of its way to show that the lead members of the Revolution weren’t in the right all of the time and in some ways were just as bad, if not worse, then the British.  It also doesn’t take the fairy tale ending approach to things as many of the underlying issues with races and ideologies in the colonies are never fully resolved in the game’s storyline and show the dark sides of what independence untimely does for the colonies and Connor’s tribe.  And quite frankly these ideas and themes are brilliant and we honestly don’t see enough of this ground covered in videogames.
            However, despite all of these good ideas, the game’s story has some big problems.  For starters, it’s not a very well told story as the narrative is all over the place.  You play the first three sessions, (chapters), as Connor’s Templar father, (how his bloodline is connected to Ezio’s and Desmond’s is never explained), and then spend the next two as Connor training to be an assassin in a game with a story that lasts twelve sessions.  In other words the gameplay time of the main story is already halfway through before you even put on the assassins hood.  Even ignoring this, the rest of the story is not well told.  Whereas previous games put you in the middle of a war between the Templars and assassins, in this game it’s just Connor against the organization in America making it feel similar to the original Star Wars trilogy was with the Jedi if the narrative had been a lot less compelling.
It also doesn’t help that the time frame of the game is all over the place and you often find yourself questioning why Connor is at certain places at certain times.  Unlike the previous main characters, Connor really doesn’t have any reason to be a part of certain historical events such as George Washington being named Commander in Chief of the Continental Army or the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  Often entire years will pass off screen and you never get any explanation as to why he waited so long to do something or what happened in the years in-between and makes the narrative feel choppy. 
The final negative thing to note is ending.  I won’t say too much but trust me when I say that the ending was just stupid and lazy.  Whereas the failure of the ending of Mass Effect 3 was more than likely due to bad writing, this ending gives the impression that the writers just didn’t give a shit and just wanted to get the series over with.  Easily one of the worst endings I have ever seen, but to tell you the truth by this point I wasn’t even surprised.
All around, the plot is a bit of a mixed bag.  Desmond’s story is surprisingly good and Connor’s story is full of great themes and puts fourth ideas that we honestly don’t see enough of in videogames these days.  However, it’s bogged down by an un-compelling narrative and a crappy ending so unless you really want to see a game that takes place during this era, I have a hard time recommending it for the plot and it’s certainly a far cry from the plots of II and Brotherhood.

The Gameplay

Now, the Assassin’s Creed games have always been decent in this department for the most part and this game is no acceptation.  For the most part.  Like previous games you really feel like you have been transported back to the time period the game takes place in.  Everything about the environments just says the colonial period and anyone with a fascination with this time period is going to be in heaven.  The game also really makes you feel just how long it takes to reload a gun in this era and how useless they are in close quarters combat and how deadly they can be if someone gets a shot off.  The wilderness environments surprisingly make for a great change of pace from the other games that took place almost exclusively in cities.  The stuff you can do with your homestead is also worth noting.  Whereas in other games it just amounted to buying buildings and collecting revenue, in this game you have to actively maintain the homestead in order to get money, bringing people in to make a village and buying their wares and selling them at a profit in places all over the map. 
The main story missions are a bit of a mixed bag but when they are good they are really good, particularly the battles you fight in the war, such as Lexington and Concord, being part of the Boston Tea Party, and getting past the British lines to kill the British commander at the Battle of Bunker Hill.  The last good thing worth noting is Naval Combat, and good god is it awesome.  It feels like you’re in Pirates of the Caribbean or Master and Commander as you fight other ships with cannons or ramming and boarding them and battling the weather to stay afloat.  I don’t know how exactly to explain the appeal of it but if you’ve played the game you should know what I’m talking about.
However, the gameplay does have some pretty big flaws.  For starters, the controls sucked and were incredibly buggy.  Gone is the fluency of ACII and Brotherhood and you‘ll often find yourself pressing a button five times in the middle of combat and your character will not react.  This was a bit of a problem in Revelations as well but here it could give Fallout: New Vegas a run for its money on unresponsive combat controls and assassinating and combat is often unfairly difficult because of this.  Adding to this is a horrible camera control that will go all over the place and you’ll find yourself asking what the hell is going on as it spins all over the place and you’re unable to tell where your character is.  The original weapons and equipment layout is gone and replaced with something else that works well enough but doesn’t work nearly as well.  For some god unknown reason they decided to remove block from your characters abilities making damage very easy to obtain and the damage you will take just feels cheap.  On a completely parallel note, the original health bar is gone in favor of regenerating health which cuts back on the difficulty factor in a negative way. 
As I mentioned above, the missions a bit of a mixed bag but are ultimately not as challenging as they once were and usually don’t involve assassination so much as it does fighting in battles.  The assassination missions that do exist however are underwhelming in difficulty and execution and I found myself longing for the walls of Venice and Rome of the previous games before too long.  There was also a very ill-conceived choice to have the Native Americans talk in their own language, and considering the subtitles are white and much of the game has white backgrounds it makes it almost impossible to read.
Finally, the multiplayer sucks. It consists completely of stealthily stabbing people and occasionally teaming up to stab other people stealthily but it just lacks any real speed or tension and to be honest I found it completely boring.
Overall, the gameplay is the very definition of hit or miss.  The game is the most fun when you are participating in the Revolutionary War, other historical events, or sailing on your ship but is dragged down by less than impressive assassination missions and controls that are sometimes unresponsive and a layout that is inferior to the original.  However, if you can get past these things, and like the time period it takes place in then you’ll probably love the gameplay.  Odds are that the control problems will be taken care of in later patches, (if they haven’t been all-ready), so take all of this for what it’s worth.

The Characters

Like most of the other things in this game, the characters are a bit of a mixed bag and range from the dullest characters in the series to some of the more interesting.  For example, Connor’s father Haytham is actually a really interesting character and playing the first three missions as him shows that the character probably has one hell of a backstory to him.  As I mentioned before, this is the first game where we actually see that the Templars in a more human light and with this character you really see that they are people to and not the monsters they were portrayed as in previous games.  And again, some of the best moments in the game were when Haytham and Connor worked together to achieve the same goals. 
In Desmond’s story we actually get to meet Desmond’s father and for the first time get a sense as to why he left the Assassins and see a flawed character but one who obviously cares for his son and people.  In fact the father/son moments of the game in both Desmond’s and Connor’s storylines are actually some of the best in the whole game.  Connor’s mentor, Achilles is a decent mentor figure, if not very remarkable and Shawn and Rebecca are about the same as they were in the previous games. 
However, the other characters don’t fare as well.  For starters, Connor is a boring protagonist.  I really hate to say this but the guy just isn’t that interesting and this is one of the biggest problems with the game.  Outside of his interactions with his father, and a few instances where he questions the role of the Assassins, there really isn’t anything worth noting about him.  Historical figures aren’t really worth noting either as their appearances usually don’t amount to much more then extended cameos and most of them aren’t very well voiced.  Despite the more humanistic approach to the Templars in this game, most of them show no signs of depth of complexity after you get past the first three sessions.  The rest of the minor characters are entertaining in their own ways but they’re the kind of supporting characters that you’ll probably forget about in the long term.  And that’s really all I have to say about them.

The Verdict

All around, this is probably one of the more disappointing games that I have played this year.  Now granted, a lot of this is in comparison to AC II and Brotherhood but I honestly can’t believe how underwhelmed I felt by the story.  It wasn’t nearly as bad as Revelations in this regard but still can’t hold a candle to II and Brotherhood.  The gameplay aspects and characters were identical in this regard and I can honestly only recommend this game if you are interested in seeing a game in this time period or want to see how the story ends.  But either way, I’m done with this franchise.  While it’s not nearly at the level of betrayal that Resident Evil 6 was, it’s obvious to me that the game developers don’t give a crap about the franchise anymore and I honestly don’t see any reason why I should either if they don’t.

All Around

Saturday, November 10, 2012


            Well, everyone, I seem to have gotten into another rut where I can’t seem to finish any of the games I’ve been playing lately so it’s time for another movie review.  And today it is time to review the latest Bond film, Skyfall.  Now, I have to admit that I am not the biggest Bond fan in the world.  I liked some of the earlier Sean Connery films that dealt with his battles against S.P.E.C.T.E.R. and the Dalton films but for the most part I was never really able to get into them.  The villains were just too cheesy, the plots to ridiculous and some of the gadgets they came up with in these movies were just…bizarre.  That’s not to say that I hate these films but I was just never able to get into them the way a lot of other people were.
            However, back in 2006, the reboot Casino Royal was released and holy hot damn was it good.  The acting was fantastic, the action was great and the storyline was able to successfully modernize the franchise, making it plausible in our world and many consider it to be one of the better Bond films out there.  And then we had Quantum of Solace.  Now, I don’t mean to jump on the band wagon and hate on this movie but it was really underwhelming and an unworthy follow up to its predecessor and felt more like a written out additional act of Casino then it did a sequel.  And after four years of waiting we have the next entry in Craig/Bond series, Skyfall.
            Apparently taking place several years after the events of Quantum, the story of Skyfall revolves around Bond, who after nearly dying and leaving MI6 returns to duty after a cyber-terrorist attacks MI6 and begins leaking the names of various undercover agents around the world who apparently has a grudge against “M” and it’s up to 007 to track this terrorist down, save “M” from this madman, and ultimately decided if he still wants to be a part of MI6 and it’s horrors.
            So what’s good about this movie?  Well, like its predecessors, the acting is fantastic and the writing for the characters is up to par with the performances.  Daniel Craig once again proves that he is the best Bond by all at once being badass, charming, sociopathic, but is still able to show that he is still a fallible human and has his own personal demons.  For the first time he really seems to question his life choices and we get a bit more of his background which had been lacking in previous films.  Judi Dench is once again fantastic as “M” in her seventh film appearance as the character and like Bond, we get a bit more of her backstory and find that she is a fallible leader and that it’s very possible that her time as MI6’s leader is coming to a close.  Javier Bardem is probably the weakest of the main cast but is still very effective as the flamboyant cyber-terrorist, Silva and made for an interesting dark contrast to Bond.  Naomie Harris was great as Eva and the flirtatious relationship she has with Bond is delightful to watch.  Ben Whishaw was a welcome addition as the new “Q” giving us a new modern version of the character as well as paying homage to the old versions.  Perhaps the biggest surprise in the casting, however, was Ralf Fiennes as the bureaucrat, Gareth Mallory, who was cast against type as “M”’s only real ally in the elected government and as a result he gives his best performance in years.  Albert Finney is also great in his role but sadly I can’t reveal to much more due to spoilers.
            While the main storyline of the film does leave something to be wanted, (more on that in a minute), a lot of the themes they explore are worth noting.  The main one seemed to have been the role of organizations like MI6 and agents like Bond who seem to becoming increasingly obsolete in the 21st century and I find it really interesting that anyone would dare tackle that idea.  The ending is fantastic and really gives the sense that it’s time for Bond to become the big franchise that it once was.  It’s also full of a lot of great tributes to the older films such as the mentioning of an exploding pen and the appearance of the car from Goldfinger and you really get a sense that the people who made this film have a love for the franchise, and are not deprived of humor. 
            I was also very pleased by the special effects as the director seems to be one of the few directors out there that understands that practical effects done well will almost always look better then CGI.  The final positive to note is opening theme, Skyfall as it was a radical improvement over the last song and I could listen to it for hours without any context.
            However, the film suffers from four big problems and quite frankly I find them impossible to ignore.  The first is that it really has next to nothing to do with the previous films in terms of its story.  There is no mention of Mr. White or the Quantum organization and I really wanted to see a continuation of that storyline.  The second is the themes they explore in the film, such as “M”’s past, the role of MI6, and Bond questioning his role in MI6 and whether or not he wants to be a part of it.  While these themes are great, I don’t think that they pushed them far enough and believe that they could have made a masterpiece out of this film if they had.  The third problem is the action scenes.  One of my big problems with Quantum was that many of the action scenes felt like they were recycled from older Bond films and ultimately felt stale.  Here, however, it’s very obvious that this is the director’s first action movie and as a result the action scenes are not very well shot or edited together.  In one scene, for example, you get a hand to hand combat fight with Bond and an assassin and almost all of it is done in one shot with little to no editing.  It ultimately comes off as similar to the action of The Dark Knight, where many of the hand to hand fights were under edited and just came off as underwhelming. 
            And speaking of similarities to The Dark Knight, I hate to be this kind of person, but this movie ripped a little too much off of the 2008 Batman film and once you see these similarities they are impossible to ignore and will take away from the experience.  The most notable were several plot elements that were ripped straight out of the film, including a brief sequence that took place in China that led to the main story and the villain allowing himself to get captured in order to achieve his goal with a plan that some people might say was unnecessarily complicated, (and I might add that with this film that argument would have a lot more merit).  This wouldn’t have bothered me so much if The Avengers hadn’t done the exact same thing back in May, (and much more effectively I might add), and as a result it just comes off as a bit of a stale plot point.  The final similarity is, believe it or not, the score.  While the Skyfall opening theme is original and the classical James Bond theme is unmolested, the rest of the score that doesn’t involve these things sounds WAY to similar to Hans Zimmer’s score in the Dark Knight Trilogy and Inception.  I’ve heard some people take this a step further by saying that the relationship between Bond and villain Silva was a little too similar to that of Batman and the Joker but I don’t really see it and even I think that that is taking the similarities to far.

            All around I would say that this film was better than Quantum but not as good as Casino.  The acting, characterization, humor, themes and tributes to the older films are all great but it was taken down a few notches by failing to really push these themes, action scenes that left something to be wanted and a little too much lifted from The Dark Knight.  It seemed like they were trying to do for the Bond franchise what The Dark Knight did for comic book movies, but ultimately failed to understand what made that film so good and just ended up lifting plot points from it.  However, if you liked the first two, are a Bond fan and want to see a more serious take on the franchise then this is a film for you.  It successfully adds on to a great Bond story arc and I honestly cannot wait to see what they do next.

All Around