Not Awesome: World War Z Superbowl Spot

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Most of the Superbowl Ads will be going up, you know, during the Superbowl but for some reason the new 30 second spot for World War Z went up yesterday. So lets take a look.

You know when I first heard about this movie I was excited but the more I see the more I get the feeling it’s going to suck. I kind of dig that he running zombies act like a massive insect colony might, but at the same time they don’t look very good. Hopefully that’s just unfinished CG.

The trailer itself doesn’t really tell us anything more than we already know. In fact there’s only one new shot in here that I can see and it doesn’t add anything whatsoever. You’d think with a Superbowl ad, potentially seen by all of the people, they’d want to tease a little more and get us more interested. That they haven’t isn’t exactly reassuring.

The jury will be out on this one until I see it, but so far I’m not holding out much hope.

Review: Warm Bodies

Warm Bodies

It’s worth pointing out right now that I’ve liked all of Jonathan Levines movies (that I’ve seen). In particular he directed a movie in 2011 called _50/50_ starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen that went on to be one of my favourites of that year.

What I loved about that film was the relationship between the two main characters while Gordon-Levitts character dealt with cancer. How they interacted with and acted around each other felt very real and honest. Similarly in his previous film –_The Wackness_, a coming of age story set in 90s New York– the main character goes though everything you’d expect in a film like that but he manages to keep the whole thing feeling very grounded and real.

It’s fitting then how everything I loved about those two movies holds true in _Warm Bodies_, a film about a relationship between a girl and a zombie. Each of these films deals with relationships in awkward or extreme circumstances, after all.

Nicholas Hoult is “R”, a zombie literally shambling through life (or more specifically death) wishing that there was something more to do or be. Teresa Palmer is Julie, the daughter of the colonel who runs the city of survivors.

R and his best friend M, played by Rob Corddry, live at the airport. They shuffle around basically reenactign what little of human life they remember. Unlike most zombie stories they have basic motor skills and even the ability to somewhat communicate. R collects things when he’s out and about in the city and M signals to a barkeep that’s not there when he gets up from the stool he’s sitting on only to realize he doesn’t have to do that anymore. Both seem to realize that they’ve lost something in death and R wishes he still had the wherewithal to find it.

It’s one of their more wordy conversations that send them to the city where they cross paths with Julie and her group of volunteers out scrounging for supplies. In the melee the zombies kill everyone except Julie who R immediately falls in love with and saves and takes to the airplane he’s made his home in in order to keep her safe.

Throughout the second act we see Julie go from being scared to trying to figure out exactly what’s going on here and eventually developing a strong bond with R and slowly but surely restarting his heart and setting him on the path back to humanity before heading back to the city for the films third act where everything of course comes to a head.

Both Hoult and Corddry are great. It takes some skill to convey feeling in screen, it takes even more to convey _wanting_ to feel but not understanding how to do it or communicate it. Hoult shines in every scene he’s in with Julie in this regard, whether R the zombie struggling to make her feel comfortable or struggling just to tell her that he doesn’t want to hurt her.

Corddry supplies most of the laugh out loud moments in the film but not in the way you’d normally expect from him. Normally known for being bombastic and over the top he plays his part reservedly, by necessity, and he carries it off well. Comedians often turn out to be great dramatic actors and Corddry is certainly on his way to greater things that just being the funny sidekick. Palmer as well is in good form, in fact maybe the best I’ve seen her so far. Dave Franco has a supporting role as Julie’s boyfriend and while he’s not perfect you can see why he’s starting to gain traction like his brother James.

John Malkovich is Julie’s father the colonel. While he doesn’t get much screen time or development really he does well with what he’s given and he’s always nice to see on screen.

There’s a lot to like here. From the innocence of the relationship to the unconventional way the film deals with zombies. It’s not as funny as you’d expect but there are plenty of laughs to be had merely because of the circumstance.

Again, as strange as it is to say it, the film works because of the honest way the characters deal with the situations they are in. Sure, this story’s star crossed lovers are separated by life and death but it still manages to feel _real_ for lack of a better word. There’s plenty of opportunities where it could have gone slapstick and over the top but it never does.

It’s Romeo and Juliet but Romeo is a zombie and you should definitely check it out.

**Rating: 8/10
[rating=8]**

Awesome: New Trailers for Iron Man 3 and others coming Superbowl Sunday

Iron Man 3

Unless you’re from some alternate dimension you’re aware that advertising at the Superbowl is kind of a big deal. Well this year is no different.

Premiering this Sunday during the game will be new trailers for Iron Man 3, The Lone Ranger, Oz the Great and Powerful, and at least a few more.

They’re sure to hit the web the day of so when that happens we’ll get them posted along with a breakdown of what we see in each one.

In the mean time, here’s the teaser for the trailer for Iron Man 3 that will be debuting at the Superbowl.

[source: [Slashfilm](http://www.slashfilm.com/super-bowl-teases-iron-man-3-the-lone-ranger-oz-the-great-and-powerful-and-more/), [Marvel](http://marvel.com/news/story/20031/iron_man_3_gets_new_poster_game_spot_teaser)]

Awesome: Duncan Jones to direct Warcraft

World of Warcraft

From [The Hollywood Reporter](http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/warcraft-movie-lands-source-code-416956):

> Duncan Jones is making the jump to big-budget tentpole movies, signing on to direct Warcraft, Legendary Pictures’ live-action adaptation of Blizzard Entertainment’s video game universe.

> […]

> Taking an almost kitchen-sink approach to fantasy, Warcraft, which has grown to be one of the most popular multiplayer online role-playing games out there, is part fantasy, part science fiction and — depending on the game you’re playing — includes elements such as dragons and orcs, zombies and werewolves, and aliens and spaceships.
Legendary is keeping its script, written by Charles Leavitt, under wraps. The Warner Bros.-based production and finance outfit is eyeing a fall 2013 start and a 2015 release.

Duncan Jones has already made a good movie and an OK movie. The former, the brilliant _Moon_ starring Sam Rockwell and the latter _Source Code_ starring Jake Gyllenhall. Both had strong characters and performances though and those are the things that something like Warcraft needs. There’s plenty of story in Warcraft and there’s plenty of places to go with it. What’s going to make a movie in that world compelling isn’t the story or the spectacle of it all but rather the characters, and Duncan Jones is good at that kind of movie. Kind of like how Joss Whedon did with The Avengers.

Colour me excited.

Awesome: Entourage Movie Greenlit

Entourage

[Mike Fleming Jr. at Deadline](http://www.deadline.com/2013/01/warner-bros-gives-green-light-to-movie-version-of-hbo-series-entourage/):

> Aquaman star Vinnie Chase is back, baby. Warner Bros has tonight given the green light on a movie version of Entourage, the HBO series that ran from 2004-2011. That gives a reprise for the inside Hollywood exploits of the up and coming film star, his manager and agent, his under-appreciated TV actor brother and the childhood pal/driver who form his inner circle.

> The film will be directed by series creator Doug Ellin, who wrote the screenplay and who exec produced the series with Mark Wahlberg and Stephen Levinson.

As a long time fan of the show this is great news to me. I know the show got a little less consistent towards the end but I still loved it start to finish, and the end of the show –with Vince running off to get married and Ari being offered a position as studio head– was a pretty clear opening for the story to continue.

Deals haven’t been made with anyone yet but it’d be hard to imagine this going ahead without any of the primary stars. I just find myself wondering which of the awesome recurring cast they might wrangle into it as well.

Either way, I’ll be there opening day.

Screen Actors Guild Award Winners and Reactions

Screen Actors Guild Awards

The 19th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards were this past weekend. I know I’m a few days late but here’s a quick roundup of the winners for movies and some thoughts to go with them.

Note: I’m not going to talk about the TV awards, but the coles notes version is this: Hooray for Kevin Costner, Bryan Cranston and Alec Baldwin.

Winners shown in bold a the top of each list.
You can [read the full list of winners here](http://www.sagawards.org/awards/nominees-and-recipients/19th-annual-screen-actors-guild-awards “SAG Awards Winners List”).

### Screen Actors Guild 49th Annual Life Achievement Award

* ***Dick Van Dyke***

I grew up watching Dick Van Dyke movies my parents had recorded off the television so this makes me smile.

### Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

* ***Daniel Day-Lewis – _Lincoln_ as Abraham Lincoln***
* Bradley Cooper – _Silver Linings Playbook_ as Pat Solitano
* John Hawkes – _The Sessions_ as Mark O’Brien
* Hugh Jackman – _Les Misérables_ as Jean Valjean
* Denzel Washington – _Flight_ as Whip Whitaker

This isn’t a surprise to me in the slightest. Say what you will about _Lincoln_ but Daniel Day-Lewis was amazing playing the man. At this point I’d be surprised if he doesn’t win the Oscar.

It’s nice to see John Hawkes get the nod for _The Sessions_ as well.

### Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role

* ***Jennifer Lawrence – _Silver Linings Playbook_ as Tiffany Maxwell***
* Jessica Chastain – _Zero Dark Thirty_ as Maya
* Marion Cotillard – _Rust and Bone_ as Stéphanie
* Helen Mirren – _Hitchcock_ as Alma Reville
* Naomi Watts – _The Impossible_ as Maria Bennett

At this point Jennifer Lawrence has won the Golden Globe _and_ the SAG award for playing Tiffany Maxwell. The Oscar is now hers to lose if it wasn’t already and I think that’s how it’s going to go. I’d love to see Jessica Chastain win because I preferred _Zero Dark Thirty_ to _Silver Linings Playbook_ and I think that Maya was a far more complex character to play, but Tiffany is exactly the kind of quirky, loveable, bird with a broken wing but still independent and strong, feel good, cliche character that people love.

That’s not to say Lawrence isn’t an amazing actress or that she wasn’t amazing in the film, because she was and this is one of those parts designed to win Oscars.

### Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

* ***Tommy Lee Jones – _Lincoln_ as Thaddeus Stevens***
* Alan Arkin – _Argo_ as Lester Siegel
* Javier Bardem – _Skyfall_ as Raoul Silva
* Robert De Niro – _Silver Linings Playbook_ as Pat Solitano Sr.
* Philip Seymour Hoffman – _The Master_ as Lancaster Dodd

Nice to see Tommy Lee Jones take home the trophy. Also cool to see Javier Bardem get the nod for his roll in _Skyfall_. He was brilliant as Silva and thats not the type of roll that usually gets recognized.

This is going to make the Oscar race in this category a little more interesting. Alan Arkin already took home the Golden Globe and everyone who’s nominated (swap out Javier Bardem for Christoph Waltz and its the same list) had already won to this one is anyone’s game.

### Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role

* ***Anne Hathaway – _Les Misérables_ as Fantine***
* Sally Field – _Lincoln_ as Mary Todd Lincoln
* Helen Hunt – _The Sessions_ as Cheryl Cohen-Greene
* Nicole Kidman – _The Paperboy_ as Charlotte Bless
* Maggie Smith – _The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel_ as Muriel Donnelly

No surprises here. Anne Hathaway has already taken home all the awards for this role. If she doesn’t win all the awards that are left I will be incredibly surprised.

### Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

* ***Argo – Ben Affleck, Alan Arkin, Kerry Bishé, Kyle Chandler, Rory Cochrane, Bryan Cranston, Christopher Denham, Tate Donovan, Clea DuVall, Victor Garber, John Goodman, Scoot McNairy, and Chris Messina***
* _The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel_ – Judi Dench, Celia Imrie, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel, Ronald Pickup, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, and Penelope Wilton
* _Les Misérables_ – Isabelle Allen, Samantha Barks, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Daniel Huttlestone, Hugh Jackman, Eddie Redmayne, Amanda Seyfried, Aaron Tveit, Colm Wilkinson
* _Lincoln_ – Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Hal Holbrook, Tommy Lee Jones, James Spader, David Strathairn
* _Silver Linings Playbook_ – Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Anupam Kher, Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Tucker, Jacki Weaver

In a year where Lincoln, a timely political story about America’s most beloved president came out I didn’t see this happening but Argo has now won the Golden Globe and the SAG Award for best picture.

It’s well deserved. It’s a brilliantly crafted film from start to finish and I’m glad to see it getting all the recognition it deserves.

It’ll be interesting next month to see if it takes home the Oscar as well, since Ben Affleck isn’t nominated for best director. That might end up being this years big “wtf” moment.

### Conclusions

Awards Season this year has been interesting so far. The films I thought would be a lock haven’t been winning and the ones I thought were entirely deserving but would get passed over have. The ladies categories are pretty much locked in for the Oscars at this point I assume, but the gentlemen’s categories as well as the best picture and director categories are up in the air as far as I can tell.

I like the SAG awards as well because you get films like Skyfall, which is a great film and completely overlooked by the Oscars and the Golden Globes, getting recognition from their peers. Make no mistake Skyfall was one of last years must-see movies but it’s no surprise that it’s only up for technical Oscars.

Make all the jokes you want about millionaires giving each other statues, but I enjoy watching great films win accolades (and Simon and I will be live blogging The Oscars on 24th Feb. while they air).

What are your guys thoughts on the matter? Do you agree with the wins here? How do you think the Oscars are going to play out?

Awesome: LucasFilm delays 3D rerelease of prequels to focus on Episode VII

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From StarWars.com:

> Lucasfilm has decided to postpone this fall’s scheduled release of Star Wars Episodes II and III in 3D. Given the recent development that we are moving forward with a new Star Wars trilogy, we will now focus 100 percent of our efforts on Star Wars: Episode VII in order to ensure the best possible experience for our fans. We will post further information about our 3D release plans at a later date.

Yet another win. I’m sure they’ll keep milking existing Star Wars to death but for now they’ve decided to make something new before they do it. Hopefully Episode VII turns out good enough that when they inevitably milk it to death I’ll be ok with it.

[source: [starwars.com](http://starwars.com/news/focusing-on-star-wars-episode-vii-lucasfilm-postpones-episodes-ii-and-iii-3d.html)]

Awesome: JJ Abrams still involved with Star Trek, Mission: Impossible

JJ Abrams

When it was [announced that JJ Abrams had been signed to direct the new Star Wars](https://awesomefriday.ca/2013/01/awesome-daily-26th-jan-2013/) there’s been on big question: does this mean he’s not doing any more Star Trek?

Gina McIntyre at the LA Times:

> According to Paramount Vice Chairman Rob Moore, Abrams — who directed both 2009′s “Star Trek” and the upcoming sequel “Star Trek Into Darkness” — will still be involved in some capacity with a possible third “Trek” movie, at the minimum as a producer, if not also directing the film.

> Moore also pointed out that Abrams will continue to play a role in another of the studio’s most valuable franchises, “Mission: Impossible.”

> “J.J. will continue to develop projects for us including a new ‘Mission: Impossible,’ and he is committed to produce another ‘Star Trek,’” Moore said Friday afternoon.

I’m taking this as good news. I still have mixed feelings on the whole affair, no small part of which is that I’m not really sure that its right to have one guy at the helm of three major franchises (two of which are completely beloved).

That said, power to him. That much high profile work must be a good problem to have.

[source: [LA Times Hero Complex](http://herocomplex.latimes.com/2013/01/25/j-j-abrams-directing-star-wars-what-happens-to-star-trek/#/1)]

Awesome: Searching for the Heart of Bungie

Russ Pitts writing for Polygon:

> Two things become clear as we sink deeper into [Pete] Parsons’ canned presentation.
> The first is that it really isn’t canned; Parsons knows every intimate detail —
> the memories are ingrained, not memorized. The second thing we discover is
> that Parsons’ affection for the Bungie Pentathlon trophy wasn’t a punt after all; of
> all of his company’s many accomplishments, crafting the perfect, nearly-insoluble
> team is the one of which he is absolutely most proud.

> He describes how he meets with employees on their first day, then again, a
> month or so later. He describes the indoctrination, the counseling, the nurturing.
> He uses the world “family” — a lot, and sincerely. He tells the story of how
> he finally conceded the studio needed an IT department after he became too busy
> to troubleshoot computers and lay cables himself. He lovingly describes every
> feature of the studio building — custom built from the ruins of a defunct bowling
> alley (downstairs) and movie theater (upstairs) — not in the way of someone
> describing their new mansion in the Hollywood Hills, but rather the way a
> librarian might describe a new reading room. As if it’s not a monument to his
> own largesse, but rather a construction for the benefit of others.

> He describes the intensive security measures: key-card coded front door;
> the beefy, menacing guards at the front desk; the cameras; the second set of
> doors guarding the stairway to the production floor and the third set of
> doors at the top of those stairs. And then he ushers us behind those
> layers of security to see what few have seen before.

Be sure to check out the embedded video as well. It’s always awesome to get a good behind the scenes look at a group doing work that you love.

[source: [Polygon](http://www.polygon.com/features/2013/1/24/3908184/heart-of-bungie-destiny-jason-jones-marty-odonnell-halo)]

Awesome Daily – X-Men, JJ Abrams and Jurassic Park – 27th Jan 2012

### Kitty Pryde, Iceman and Rogue all back for X-Men: Days of Future Past

Bryan Singer announced Saturday via the twitters that Ellen Page, Shawn Ashmore and Anna Paquin will all be returning to the franchise in the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past film:

This is going to be interesting. Days of Future Past is a crazy time travel story which is how we have the _First Class_ cast and the _X1_, _X2_ and _Last Stand_ casts all together. I’m looking forward to seeing how they tie the 60s versions of the characters together with the present versions of the characters if only because of the few very subtle things that made me consider them to be different time lines. – _Matt_

### Star Trek fan talks about JJ Abrams taking the job directing Star Wars

Jordan Hoffman at Badass Digest:

> Know this: I love Star Wars. Star Trek is a key
> part of my life, but the other, lesser franchise
> is still a great deal of fun. You wanna grab beers
> and yap about IG-88 or Midi-chlorian counts or the
> lesser known works of the Mon Calamari Ballet
> Company? I’m down. But the thing is that Star Wars,
> at least for people in my age group, was something
> that was accepted – it was never not cool. Star Trek
> only became cool very, very recently. And J.J. Abrams,
> for better or worse, had something to do with that.
>
> The basic gist, as Mashable quoted me, is this: I feel
> like J.J. Abrams took me out to the prom but left
> with the hotter girl.

The whole thing is definitely worth a read. He’s more upset than I am, but it does mirror my feelings on the situation pretty well.

[[link](http://badassdigest.com/2013/01/26/why-im-butt-hurt-about-j.j.-abrams)]- _Matt_

### Jurassic Park 3D Blu-Ray gets a release date

Jurassic Park is coming to theatres in 3D in April, and then it’s coming to 3D Blu-Ray. Mark April 23rd on your calendars if you want to pick it up.

If you don’t care about 3D you can get all three movies on regular blu-ray on the 26th of March.

[source: [The Verge](http://www.theverge.com/2013/1/27/3921848/jurassic-park-3d-blu-ray-release-april)] – _Matt_

Review: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

I must admit that when I first started hearing about _Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters_ I had some moderately high hopes. You see there’s a type of movie that I rather enjoy: the popcorn flick. You know the type; it’s a bit ridiculous, lots of one liners, actors having fun. We’re not talking about high art here we’re talking about fun. Fun at the movies. If you have been following us for any length of time you know that Simon last had this experience with _[Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance](https://awesomefriday.ca/tag/ghost-rider-spirit-of-vengeance/ “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance”)_.

We’re talking about the type of movie where you sit down, turn your brain off and enjoy the ride. I was disappointed by a couple of films that promised to be this last year. So how are we doing with the first big effort this year? Actually, pretty freaking good!

Director Tommy Wirkola’s resume isn’t that long but he’s best known for the horror comedy _Dead Snow_ released a few years back about a group of kids being terrorized by nazi zombies. Thinking about that movie now it feels like a dry run leading up to this. Where that movie faltered mixing up the horror and comedy, this movie has a pretty good mix of action and comedy plus a healthy dose of blood and guts and gore to round things out.

The story is fairly basic. Hansel and Gretel survive the childhood ordeal slightly differently than you remember it from the fairy tale and end up orphan witch hunters who come to a town with a bunch of kids gone missing. Much anachronistic badassery ensues.

There’s not anything here you haven’t seen before though and at just over 90 minutes long there isn’t really time for anything you haven’t seen before either. This movie is short and to the point; what little back story we need is given in a brief prologue and then the beautifully animated credits and then we jump right into the story.

I think this is actually one of the films major strengths. Previous fairy tale re-imaginings I’ve seen that try to make sure you know they’re serious films end up boring. This movie doesn’t want you to be anything other than entertained so plot is kept to a minimum and action to a maximum.

And yet despite it’s predictability, it works. When things are revealed you’re not going to be surprised but I didn’t care I was busy enjoying a well staged fight, some well executed gore, or a zingy one liner.

Speaking of action and gore, there’s a nice blend of practical and digital effects at play too. Some things are obviously CG but there’s one big practical effect that I loved. I don’t want to spoil it (even though it isn’t really a secret it’s not in any of the marketing) but if you’ve listened to the podcast when this has come up you can probably guess what it is when you see it.

The film is rife with anachronism as well. The film seems set in the early 1800s but the weapons in Hansel and Gretel’s arsenal appear to be from anywhere from the 1860s to the 1920s and everyone speaks in a thoroughly modern mode of speech.

I’m sure a lot of these elements are going to wear thin pretty quick for a lot of you but they didn’t for me. Chalk it up to the films short running time or the fact that I actually like [watching bad movies](https://awesomefriday.ca/category/film-review/matt-watches-bad-movies/ “Matt Watches Bad Movies”). Or both.

The films stars do pretty well with what their given. Jeremy Renner might be phoning it in but Jeremy Renner phoning it in is still pretty good. Gemma Arterton plays the whole thing as an over the top ass kicker and that’s actually pretty awesome. Famke Janssen isn’t amazing but her character is such a one dimensional bad guy that it doesn’t really matter. Bottom line here though is that it seems like everyone involved is in on the joke and as such it feels like everyone involved is having a blast making the movie.

I don’t want to leave you with the impression that this is a good movie. Quite the opposite, it’s a bad movie.

Lets be honest it’s a movie based on a joke of a title and it does get repetitive. That said, I still had fun watching it. It’s a bad movie, but it’s so bad I enjoyed it.

**Rating: 6/10
[rating=6]**

Awesome Classics: Wing Commander (1990)

Wing Commander Title

I’m sitting in front of a blank screen. The computer is on, it just doesn’t display much beyond the letter C, a colon, and a blinking cursor. I type my way into a directory, load up a `.exe` file and wait while it performs memory checks before I get to fly off into space to shoot up the aggressors from the Empire of Kilrah.

It’s 1991, I’m 10, and I’m playing **Wing Commander** for what must be the one hundredth time. I don’t just mean I’ve loaded the game up that many times, I mean I’ve played through it that many times. Believe you me this is no easy feat; **Wing Commander** is not a short game.

It is a cool game though. Set in the 2650s **Wing Commander** puts you in the cockpit of a space fighter fighting an ongoing war between humanity and the Empire of Kilrah, a race of large bipedal cat people. You get to fly several different fighters over the course of the game, in several types of missions.

It plays out in full 3D space and was one of the first I remember doing so. Every fighter has it’s own cockpit details and strategies for flying combat. Each of the enemy ships (both fighters and capital classes) had their own distinct set of strengths and weaknesses as well. There’s no difficulty scale either so everyone who plays it gets as close to the same experience as can be given the fluid nature of the story (more on that in the moment). The graphics are sprites, not rasterized, however the game still looks amazing to my eye. The amount of detail they were able to cram in in an age where system resources were so limited is kind of amazing. The sound is all midi tracks, but they do sound great.

Wing Commander Rapier Cockpit

The cockpit (pictured above is the cockpit from the Rapier, the last fighter you fly in the game) is where the action happens. You go out on sorties to carry out various goals but you always get the chance to fight the fur balls. How well you fight them and accomplish mission goals dictates how the war goes in the system you are currently in and after a few missions your carrier, the Tiger’s Claw, jumps to the next system.

Here’s the brilliant bit though: if you win the current system you go one way, if you lose you go another. I have played this game _dog knows how many times_ and I doubt I took the same route through the systems twice until I got really good at it (and even then not so much).

The game has two distinct endings (one where you win the war, one where you lose) and you can take any number of paths to get to either.

This is kind of awesome as it encourages you to accept your failures. Because you can fight your way back to the winning path at almost any point (or start to lose at almost any point) there’s no need to save your game and obsessively play each mission until you win it, just go with the flow and see how you do. You can almost count on not winning every system in fact, because there is one mission which is nearly impossible. I can only remember beating it once, but my ship was so beat up by the end that I couldn’t dock with the Tiger’s Claw, I had to eject and get picked up.

Even if you lose it’s nice to just enjoy the story; and there is a story. Between missions you go to the officers lounge and speak to two pilots sitting in the bar and the bartender. They give you some battle strategy, news on how the war is going, but all in pre scripted conversations between them and your character.

Unless of course they were killed in a previous mission. Now, other pilots don’t die unless they are on your wing, but the knowledge they have is sometimes incredibly useful. You get a new wingman in every system (and you’re usually reassigned to a new squadron/fighter) but if you’re out fragging hairballs and your wingman is killed you have to complete any remaining missions without them and you never get the benefit of their insight at the bar.

Wing Commander Medals

In addition to being transferred from squadron to squadron at the end of the mission set in each system, if you perform well enough you can also get promoted or awarded medals for valour.

The above screenshot was taken near the end of my most recent play through the game, major is the highest rank and I’ve been awarded multiple bronze, silver and gold stars.

I know there is a metric for how they are awarded but I don’t really care. They are kind of nice to receive, but they don’t affect the story. That screenshot could be in the last system to win the game or to lose. You can go the whole game without ever being promoted or awarded a medal and the story still plays out to the win or the loss.

There’s obviously a lot of nostalgia in this title for me, I’ve played it in some form since I was 10 years old. Don’t let my dad hear this, but 1990 was a long time ago and things have come a long way but I _still_ fire up Wing Commander every now and again because I still love playing it. If that doesn’t mean it’s a great game I don’t know what does.

Wing Commander is [still available, packaged with it’s 1992 sequel Wing Commander II: Wrath of the Kilrathi for Mac and Windows](http://www.gog.com/gamecard/wing_commander_1_2 “Wing Commander 1 + 2”) for about 6$ USD as of this writing so don’t take my word for it, fire it up and see for yourself what I’m talking about. You won’t regret it.

Quick Thoughts on Les Misérables, Argo and Silver Linings Playbook

I was meant to have seen a new movie this week but I’m on vacation and things got out of hand so I did not (yet).

Because I’m on vacation though I have seen a boat load of movies and thought I’d briefly talk about some of the ones I have seen, specifically the three I watched which are nominated for best picture at this years Oscars.

### Les Misérables

Les Misérables

I can see why Les Misérables is nominated for all the awards. It’s a big budget production of one of the most beloved musicals of all time. Hugh Jackman is great and Anne Hathaway is amazing as Fantine and they are both deserving of their actings nominations. The entire cast is pretty great in point of fact, with the debatable exception of Russell Crowe who while he isn’t bad does appear a bit uncomfortable throughout. Maybe that makes sense for Javert but it didn’t sit right with me.

Where the film fails for me is the directing. Sure, the film looks pretty amazing and to be honest I really like the live singing aspect –if you hadn’t heard already, everyone sang their parts live on set rather than lip syncing pre-recorded performances– as it means they had more leeway to actually act out their performances rather than match what they did before. However, a great deal of the film is shot in closeup on the performers face.

I dreamed a dream, in particular, a song that would do well by some staging/movement, is filmed with Anne Hathaway just sitting there belting it out with the camera pointed at her face. Valjean’s Soliloquy is a little better in that he gets the move around but the camera is locked on his face and he’s looking _right at the camera_ the entire time so you don’t really get to see any of what’s going on other than his lips moving.

I think I get what director Tom Hooper was going for, trying to make it intimate, however in the end it’s weird to think that a musical with such grandiose songs is filmed in such a small way and to be honest I don’t think it really works.

**Conclusion:** See it. It’s worth seeing just for the singing. Oscar is Anne Hathaway’s to lose at this point, and while I respect it’s nomination for best picture I don’t think it should win. Tom Hooper isn’t nominated for best director and I am fine with that.

### Argo

Argo

I like stories about heroism, but what I love about Argo is that it’s such a quiet story about heroism. No epic gun fights, no explosions, no car chases, just the constant threat of being caught.

Ben Affleck directs and stars as Tony Mendez, the man who orchestrated the rescue of 6 diplomatic officers in hiding in 1979 revolutionary Iran. The idea is to get them out by claiming they are a film crew scouting exotic locations for a Star Wars rip off called Argo.

The story is brilliant from start to finish. It mixes just the right amount of humour into the dramatic script, mostly supplied by Alan Arkin as the hollywood producer recruited to help sell the idea of the fake movie to the public.

Arkin is gold here, it’s the type of role he excels at playing. He’s nominated for an Oscar and it’s well deserved.

Affleck himself is good too, playing Mendez very reservedly, reflecting a man under stress from being responsible for these peoples lives but also going through a separation and trying to maintain a relationship with his kid.

I happen to think that Affleck is a great director as well. Yes, he’s made a lot of better acting choices lately but this is his their feature film and the third time he’s hit it out of the park.

I love spy films, but in particular a spy film that’s executed in such a way to be entirely believable with real stress and peril for the characters (even when you know how it ends) is a difficult thing to pull off.

**Conclusion:** Must see. Irksome that Affleck, who already won a Golden Globe for directing this, isn’t nominated for the Oscar. Make no mistake, this is a much better film that the one I’m about to talk about.

### Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Linings Playbook is a good movie. Maybe even a great one, and i can see why so many people are connecting with it. It’s a fantasy story, that’s why.

This is a movie that for 2 whole acts shows us characters with real problems and then in the third act everyone lives happily ever after and everything s fine and all the problems seem to be gone.

Jennifer Lawrence is an amazing actress and I’m going to say right now that she deserves the Golden Golden Globe she won and the Oscar I think she will win, but this is a role tailor made to win Oscars, the slightly crazy receiving sex addict “bird with a broken wing who is just quirky enough to counteract the male leads crazy” character. Hell, it might be more tailor made than the “prostitute with a heart of gold struggling to support her child in a situation that grows ever more dire with each frame that passes” that Anne Hathaway gets to play as Fantine.

Well, maybe not, but she’s still amazing and Bradley Cooper and Robert de Niro both stand out as well. Make no mistake, they all acted the shit out of this.

It’s just that the third act is both entirely predictable and doesn’t really jive with the rest of the movie for me. It devolves from something interesting into a series of movie cliches. There is literally a point in this movie where I could have turned it off because I knew everything else that was going to happen.

I can see why people connect with this movie, but I don’t see why it’s nominated for best picture of the year.

**Conclusion:** Definitely see it. Worth it for Jennifer Lawrence alone even if her character is unbelievable. Just maybe don’t expect it to be as good as everyone told you it is.

### Wrapping up

I’ve seen almost all the best picture nominees now and am starting to have a better idea what I think should win. More on that closer to the date in question. In the mean time, what did you guys think of these three films? Are they worthy of the nomination? Did any performances stand out? Comment below!

Review: Zero Dark Thirty

Zero Dark Thirty

Zero Dark Thirty might seem like it’s come and gone already, but since it finally came out in wide release this past weekend, I finally had a chance to see it. It seems like the best place to start is the beginning, so let us start there.

A few years ago, Kathryn Bigelow was developing a movie about the search for Osama bin Laden. To that point, he had eluded all efforts to find him, and the film was meant to end at the [Battle of Tora Bora](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Tora_Bora “Battle of Tora Bora on Wikipedia”) where they had thought he was hiding, but ultimately they failed to find him.

The film was meant to end on an ambiguous note, sort of a “what do we do now?” type feel, but one day, the world found out that US Special Forces killed Osama bin Laden. Interestingly, the film wasn’t reworked that much, wasn’t turned into propaganda “America, FUCK YEAH!” movie.

And the result is pretty spectacular.

Zero Dark Thirty is a spy film but not what you’d normally expect from a spy film because the main character, Maya, isn’t jumping from rooftop to rooftop or saving the world from a mad man or ferreting out a mole; she’s diligently and tirelessly searching for a single man, using all the resources available to her.

As if we needed reminding of the situation, the film starts with a black screen with radio communications playing from 11th September 2001, something I found particularly effective. I’m not American, but I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when it all went down, as I expect all of you do as well.

The film then plays out the entire ten-year search in its gritty, gruelling and bureaucratic detail, spearheaded by Maya.

To say it’s an effective movie would be the understatement of the year. Simultaneously showing what they had to do, including torture, groundwork, and long sleepless nights, shows the toll on us all through Maya and Jessica Chastain weathers it like a champ. She’s already won a Golden Globe for the role, and she deserves her Oscar nod more than anyone else I’ve seen so far for the upcoming ceremony. But, make no mistake; the Oscar is hers to lose.

Everything in this film is utterly compelling. When we finally get to the final act of the raid on bin Laden’s compound by Navy Seals, the idea that realistic military tactics and execution thereof isn’t filmable in a meaningful way is shown to be false. In fact, any time anyone says this to you from now on, tell them to watch Zero Dark Thirty.

This film deserves to win all the awards it’s nominated for. It probably won’t win them all, but it should, and in addition to everything above, because it tells us what happened but doesn’t tell us how we should feel about it. The torture and humiliation is on screen, but there’s no heavy-handed speech about how it’s terrible but necessary or how it is destroying the country’s soul or any of that. Just, here it is, feel how you feel.

That, in and of itself with such talked about yet delicate subject matter, is a pretty major achievement.

Review: Gangster Squad

Gangster Squad

Ryan Gosling. Sean Penn. Josh Brolin. Emma Stone. Robert Patrick. Anthony Mackie, Giovanni Ribisi and Michael Pena. Directed by Reuben Fleischer in a post World War II cops vs. Gangsters story. This is a movie I wanted to see from the moment I heard about it.

Set in Los Angeles and facing off against famed mob boss Mickey Cohen, the players form an elite and off the books squad of cops who at the behest of the Chief of Police (played by Nick Nolte) take the battle against organized crime right to the head honcho. They hit him hard and where it hurts.

Does this sound familiar? Yeah, it sounds a lot like The Untouchables. Too bad it’s nowhere near as good as The Untouchables.

Now hold up a moment, that’s not to say that this is a truly terrible movie, just that’s it’s also not a very good one. The problems are twofold, first there’s the issue of balance.

See, half the time it seems to be a serious cop drama complete with “are we doing the right thing?” moments and the rest of the time it seems like it’s trying to be Dick Tracy 2, complete with characters who are either stereotypes or caricatures (more on that in a moment).

Seriously. Sean Penn plays Cohen so over the top that he’s kind of hard to take seriously and Troy Garity is his main henchman who has a scar over his face that damaged his eye, and is credited as “One Eyed Assassin”. Meanwhile, Josh Brolin is the tough as nails, uncompromising lead detective and Ryan Gosling is the morally grey detective who needs to decide if he’s really in the game or not. The problem here is that the movie never commits to one tone. Is it light and fun or is it dark and serious? The answer is neither because it seems to try so hard to meet in the middle.

If any of this is starting to sound familiar again it’s because of the second problem: there’s pretty much literally nothing here you haven’t seen before. There’s two deaths on the squad and normally I’d consider that spoilery, but if you can’t tell which ones it’s going to be after each of their first scenes (and what the immediate follow-up is going to be) then you’re probably watching a different movie than I was.

The film has other problems as well. A one liner here and there is good, several one liners during every sequence is silly. The rest of the dialogue is pretty bad too, even the lines that sounded cool in the trailer fall flat in the movie itself and they’re trying so hard to be cool that no one gets any real development. Everyone ends up just being a pastiche of others you’ve seen before. The Hard Ass, the cowboy, the tech guy, the minorities struggling for acceptance, and the old man police chief.

Worse yet, none of the actors really have any chemistry together. Sure, Josh Brolin and Mireille Enos has some, but the home story is a sub plot and Josh Brolin talking to almost anyone else feels forced. Even Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone don’t really seem to connect despite having done so in other films.

There’s a lot to like here in the small details. The movie looks amazing, from the sets to the costumes to the hair and makeup, everything looks pretty spectacular actually. The story itself isn’t bad, and we all know Reuben Fleischer loves his slow motion shots. In the end though, the looks are just window dressing, the story is told with little nuance and terrible dialogue and the slow motion (and sped up) stuff just makes the pacing of the big final action sequence fall to pieces.

The scenes that do play well are the action scenes (not sped up or slowed down) but they almost feel like a different movie.

_Gangster Squad_ was one of [my most anticipated films of the year][ma]. Maybe because of that context I am being hard on it, but I don’t think I am. It seems to be a movie that was made to make a great trailer. Lots of one liners to choose from, beautiful people in beautiful clothes on beautiful sets, and lots of action (and it really does have a great couple of trailers). The problem is that they didn’t seem to be able to figure out what kind of movie they wanted to make or how they wanted to play it and the result is that the finished product is just a hot mess.

[ma]: https://awesomefriday.ca/2013/01/matts-most-anticipated-of-2013/
“Matt’s Most Anticipated of 2013”