Gatecrash Spoilers: Batch Number 1

It’s that time of year again! That’s right, it’s spoiler season! While the first batch of spoilers admittedly came out about a month ago with a curious Craigslist sale I wanted to wait a bit longer so that I had a little more to sink my teeth into and then along came Cipher and all of the sudden I had more than I could chew. Let me start with those first five mythics which were spoiled first and from there move onto the guild mechanics.

So it now is official. It cost 8UUUU to win the game. So for 12 mana you don’t only get to draw your whole library but you get an extra turn to untap and go nuts. If you cast this card and don’t win, you are doing something wrong. This card just wants to be played with Omniscience. Cast Omniscience, play Enter the Infinite for free and play the rest of your library for free. There is potential for this combo to become a threat in Standard and Modern but Enter the Infinite is clearly going to be abused the most in Legacy where cheating Omniscience into play is much easier with cards like Show and Tell and Academy Rector. Either way, Enter the Infinite is a ridiculous card that will definitely see play in constructed somewhere.

This card is interesting. A flying 6/5 trampler is pretty amazing in Limited but I doubt that it will be powerful enough to do anything in Constructed. With that being said, this is going to be an EDH and casual all-star. Like I have mentioned, his stats are nothing to scoff at and that ability could break games when put in the right deck.

We have seen ‘take an extra combat phase” effects in the past but we have never seen it on hasty, flying and vigilant body before. I think everyone knew that Boros was going to be an archetype to watch out for and Aurelia just gave the deck a win condition. Aurelia is going to let you go turn five Thundermaw Hellkite, bash you for 5 followed up by turn 6 Aurelia bash you for 16. By herself she is alright but the kind of decks that do play her are going to be fast and aggressive and when she hits the field games are going to end. Keep an eye out for this one.

So Seismic Assault grew some legs and is now throwing bigger rocks. This card makes me feel like RG Wolf Run ramp is still a very viable option in the format. Even though Borborygmos doesn’t do anything upon hitting the field, even if he gets hit immediately by some instant speed removal you can still respond by dropping your extra lands and blasting a couple of threats or even just your opponents face. This card is just perfect for ramp decks. Decks like that can now justify running 27-30 lands no problem because in the late game they aren’t going to be flooded with mana but with extra cards to bolt your opponent with. The Seismic Assault ability is sweet but the fact that this Cyclops gets you more land every time he attacks is awesome. I realize the ability only triggers when he deals damage but he is a 7/6 trampler and as of right now towers over most other threats in the game. This card will unlikely see play in eternal formats but is definitely a viable win condition in Standard and is going to an absolute blast in EDH and casual.

Domri Rade is so awesome. Three drop planeswalkers traditionally have a plus one which yields no card advantage. For example Liliana had each player discard a card, Jace Beleren each player draws a card.  Domri breaks this format. In the right kind of deck his plus one might as well read ‘draw a card most of the time’. Not only does his plus one rock, but he also passes the planeswalker test because he is able to defend himself. Admittedly, he does need a creature in play to be able to do so but again in the right deck he will be amazing. Now for a planeswalker to be awesome enough to catch my attention it needs to have an ultimate that ends games. For example, Sorin, Lord of Innistrad has always felt a bit underwhelming simply because his ultimate could potentially do nothing. That is not the case for Mr. Rade here. As we have made clear at this point, Domri Rade wants to be played in a creature based deck and because of that his ultimate is definitely going to win games. Hell, even if the emblem only gave your creature’s double strike and hexproof it would be ridiculous, but the fact that it gives your guys trample and haste as well is just almost too good to be true. If you ultimate this guy and don’t win, then you are doing something wrong. This card is amazing and definitely will see play across the board. Definitely in Standard and Modern and I wouldn’t be surprised if it showed up in Legacy somewhere too. Three drop planeswalkers are good and Domri Rade continues to prove this paradigm.

So now for some new mechanics.

So Boros has a very powerful history in Constructed so it is interesting to see Battalion, which at least in a constructed environment sucks balls. The fact that you have to have two other attacking creatures is pretty steep for an ability trigger so for this mechanic to see play it better do more than just a Lightning Helix. Maybe it will end up doing something big, but as of right now I am fairly underwhelmed.

Now Extort is a fun one. While one life and one damage doesn’t seem like a lot let’s not forget that we still have Flashback in Standard making cards like Lingering Souls and Think Twice that much more powerful when they can chip away at your opponent’s health while simultaneously increasing your own. Admittedly this Thrull feels like a completely inferior Sun Titan in almost every regard but still the Extort mechanic isn’t something to brush off just yet.

Bloodrush is cute. It kind of feels a bit unnecessary with Wolf Run still around but that doesn’t mean it won’t see play. Rubblehulk especially seems viable, by being either a really Giant Growth or being just a big body in the late game. In the end it really does just make your cards a bit more versatile which is always awesome despite the abilities slightly redundant effect. It really wants to grant Trample too though again demonstrating Wolf Run’s superiority here

Fathom Mage debuts the Simic ability, Evolve. I love how they have kept the same +1/+1 counter theme from the first Raniva block except Evolve is significantly better than Graft. Especially in creature based decks, your creatures getting bigger is going to incredibly powerful especially when they have ridiculous additional abilities like the Fathom Mage here. Oh my god this card is going to be fun. This card with Scavenge and Corpsejack Menace are going to be gross. Creatures that trigger the Mage’s ability as well as have an ability which can put even more counters on the Mage subsequently meaning you will draw even more cards. I have mentioned before that I am very much a Johnny, and this card appeals to my inner Johnny very much so. Not only do Scavenge creatures work well with the Mage but the Innistrad block gave us quite a few spells that placed a handful of counters on your dudes as well such as Blessings of Nature, Hunger of the Howlpack, and Increasing Savagery which all work incredibly well.

Now for the single most exciting part: Cipher.

This mechanic is scary. There is the single most potential here with the presence of Invisible Stalker also available in Standard for Type 2 to become broken. I mean this mechanic could just break the game. There were so many rumors about Dimir getting a mill based mechanic that I am incredibly excited for something a bit more diverse. With that being said, Invisible Stalker and Whispering Madness together make for a quite efficient milling strategy. So turn four you cast your Whispering Madness and each player discards their hand and draws five and at this point you encode the spell onto your Invisible Stalker. Your Stalker then attacks and triggers another Whispering Madness and each library gets another five cards smaller. Now that you have another copy of Whispering Madness going on, you then encode that copy onto the same Stalker. That’s right; you get to encode the encoded copy. That means that each turn you will be getting exponentially more triggers. Now admittedly while quickly milling your opponents face off you will be doing the same to yourself, but as long as you draw one or two of your Thought Scours while drawing your entire deck you should be good to go.

That is just the shenanigans you can get into with one card. Imagine what other Cipher spells we are going to get though! Cipher is a blue and black mechanic meaning perhaps we will be getting some sort of Cipher draw or discard spell subsequently turning our Stalkers and other fine gentlemen into super specters and super Ophidians. If Cipher only got a draw and discard spell it would be the single best mechanic in Standard but we are sure to get even more crazy spells in the other 210 unspoiled cards yet. Cipher being released when we have Invisible Stalker is absolutely terrifying and we are sure to only get more crazy unblockable and evasive creatures from Dimir. Just look at their Keyrune!

Cipher is one of the best and the scariest mechanics to hit the game for a while and I cannot wait to see what else comes out of this set. For all of your Gatecrash news stay tuned into… Uhh, the site?

Also Watery Grave looks amazing. I love you and your glorious sharp art Mr. Swanland.

Am I the only one who is reading all of these quotes from Zarek as a confirmation that he is showing up in Dragon’s Maze?
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Marshal’s Top 7 Films of 2012

2012 has been a phenomenal year for movies. Despite not being able to watch every worthy film I still had an excessively long list from the movies I was fortunate to watch. With that being said, I would like to reiterate that the movies on this list are the movies that I personally enjoyed the most out of the ones that I saw this year.

Before jumping into the list I would recommend checking out the video below. Kees van Dijkhuizen Jr. makes these amazing compilations each year of all of the films that have come out and it makes for a perfect reminder of all of the gems that we got in 2012.

 

 

And with that let’s move onto the list!

7. The Cabin in the Woods

At the bottom of my list sits Cabin in the Woods. Cabin in the Woods while at a quick glance looks like any other teen horror flick is actually more of a self aware mockery of the genre. You come into this movie easily foreseeing what is going to happen next and then it breaks the format and your mind starts to get blown. The movie has a really fun cast and is written by Joss Whedon and while arguably not a horror film it is easily one of new favorites of the genre.

 

6. Skyfall

Prior to this year I had not been sold on Daniel Craig as Bond. Casino Royale was fun but not spectacular and I honestly can’t even remember anything from Quantum of Solace. Let’s just say that after Skyfall I am now all on board. Skyfall was hands down one of my favorite Bond films ever. It found that perfect mix of old Bond style and that new dark and grittier tone. On top of that we get Javier Bardem playing an absolutely amazing Bond villain and the entire film just looks stunning. I can now safely say that I cannot wait for Craig’s next venture with the character.

 

5. Life of Pi

While I loved the book, movie adaptations more often than not miss the mark. That definitely was not the case here. Life of Pi was one of those books no one thought could be made into a movie due to major lack of dialogue and the fact that the majority of the film takes place with Pi by himself in the middle of the ocean with a tiger. Despite these challenges Ang Lee was able to perfectly retell this fantastic story while still maintaining all of the magic that the book had.

 

4. Moonrise Kingdom

 

This year Wes Andersen presented us with another one of his loveable and quirky films and like the rest of them it was glorious. Moonrise Kingdom has one my favorite casts in a movie ever and each actor plays his or her respective character stunningly. While the film did have a lot of big names in regards to older actors the story was in fact one of two kids in love creating a nostalgic tale of that awkward and passionate young love. The more I find myself thinking back on this film the more I feel wrong putting it only at number four but there really are just a ton of amazing movies this year. You can read my full review of Moonrise Kingdom here!

 

3. The Dark Knight Rises

I know I am not alone in the belief that Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies are the best superhero films to date and this year we got to see the final installment of the trilogy. Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne is forced to once again take up the cowl as Gotham is threatened by Bane. While the Dark Knight and Ledger’s Joker were tough act to follow, we are given a movie which does so swimmingly and a villain who is absolutely terrifying. The term epic is thrown around way too loosely these days but this trilogy and especially its conclusion I feel are more than worthy of the term. You can read my full review of the film here!

 

2. The Grey

Anyone who is curious why the movie about Liam Neeson punching wolves made it this high on the list clearly has not seen this movie. This isn’t just an action movie about men fighting wolves but it was the single most though provoking film I saw this year. The film takes a look at the nature of life and death while simultaneously providing an adrenaline rush of a thriller. Liam Neeson stars and delivers an absolutely stunning performance due to similarities between his character and himself. Hands down my new favorite Liam Neeson film and for the vast majority of the year the Grey sat in my number one spot.

 

1. Django Unchained

The reason this list took so long to come out was because I just had to wait for Django Unchained to be released. I am so glad I waited. Django Unchained follows in the same revisionist footsteps that Inglorious Basterds took and provides a bit of an alternative take on history. Christoph Waltz and Jamie Foxx play one of the best duos I have seen in years and their performances are only rivaled by the villains of the films who are played by Samuel Jackson and Leonardo Dicaprio. The movie is just so emotive, exciting, fun, funny and an absolute thrill to watch. I just got to watch Django within these past few days and have yet to write a review for it and I am not sure if I will because despite all of my best efforts I have yet to find or think of a bad thing to say about it. If I were to write a review it would be less of a review and more of a rant about why it is so awesome. Django Unchained is hands down my number one movie of the year and one of my new favorites of all time.

 

Honorable Mentiones

The Avengers

Looper

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Safety not Guaranteed

 

So these have been my seven favorites of the year. What were some of your guy’s favorites? What were some of the movies that you feel deserve a spot on here? Leave your thoughts and your own personal lists in the comments below!

 

 

The Hobbit Review

The Hobbit is finally here! We are finally returning to Middle-Earth after we fell in love with the world over a decade ago with the Fellowship of the Ring. Things are a bit different this time around though. Also, SPOILER ALERT. Much of this is written with the assumption that you are at least familiar with both the plot of the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit.

 

 

What it is: The Hobbit is a prequel to the Lord of the Rings written once again by Tolkien and directed once again by Peter Jackson. The Hobbit book was actually written before the Lord of the Rings and was a children’s book that publishers loved and pushed for more, so this time around we are going to be having a much lighter tone compared to the first trilogy. Many familiar faces returned for the project including Elijah Wood as Frodo, Ian McKellan as Gandalf, and Ian Holm shows up as Bilbo Baggins once again before we flash back to his younger self played by Martin Freeman.

My thoughts on it: Right off of the bat I need to stress that this movie is going to be different than the first trilogy. Because we are back in Middle-Earth with familiar faces means that this is obviously going to be compared to Lord of the Rings but that is a little unfair. The tone of the Hobbit and the tone of LotR is so drastically different that these movies are going to be drastically different. On top of that, LotR was a trilogy where each movie was based off the corresponding book. This means that each movie while building off the others also works well individually because each is given proper pacing and has solid concluding moments and natural climaxes. The Hobbit is very different once again in this aspect because it is only one book that is being expanded into three movies. Because it is being expanded as it is that means that some of the movies are going to end unexpectedly and that the pacing might be a bit off so it is hard to view those aspects as negative. Certain events need to be rearranged or exaggerated to give the movie the structure and flow it needs.

It is really hard because the Hobbit is not perfect and Lord of the Rings was and if it wasn’t it was pretty damn close to perfection. The Hobbit might not have been perfect but it was good, it was really good. But because it is so closely tied to LotR which was perfect, the Hobbit’s lack of perfection which would otherwise be completely acceptable now is construed as a negative simply because it is compared and held up to LotR.

 

I have a lot of mixed feelings about this movie. Parts of the movie were amazing and nostalgic and perfect and awesome and then there were other moments that totally flopped and literally made me cringe.

Martin Freeman was meant to play Bilbo. I loved Ian Holm’s take on Bilbo but Freeman just blew it out of the water. He does a great job capturing all of those little Bilboisms and alone provides enough comic relief for the movie with the clever and witty chatter that arises when he is outside of his elements and amongst the dwarves.

Ahh, the dwarves. The dwarves for the most part are pretty awesome. We get to know a few better than the others and the ones we do get to know are awesome. Dwalin, Balin, and Bofur were perfect and were exactly what I had been hoping for from the dwarves. While some of them were amazing some were not so much. I couldn’t stand Ori, Nori, or Dori. Perhaps it is the over the top hair or the high pitch squeaky voices but they just bugged me. Nori’s hair in particular was so oddly shaped that in any of the shots where short doubles were used the odd shape exaggerated the fact that doubles were being used and it takes you out of the experience for a moments. Despite my complaints about cosmetic details of three dwarves they were all pretty damn awesome. They were rambunctious and loud and rude and gross and perfect.

 

 

This was a complete relief because our first glimpse of the dwarves was once again, a little off-putting. The film starts similarly to LotR with a recollection of history. Instead of the battles against Mordor and Sauron narrated by Galadriel we had Bilbo going over the history of the Dwarves and explains their struggles. During this scene we get to see a lot of dwarves and again they look awesome but their home of Erabor bugged me so much. The fortress that is Erabor is a magnificent palace with deep sprawling halls full of gold and gems and smooth stone bridges web through the depths of the mountain and it is a glorious place. Unfortunately though, the magnificence of Erabor is too great to recreate practically so instead they turn to CGI to create it. The way they ended up animating it does it justice but the entire place looks animated. It looks fake! I mean I understand why they had to animate it instead of recreating it but it is just really distracting. But then again this doesn’t last for too long before we see Smaug show up and destroy the place. Erabor was the worst but there are couple instances where the environment seems completely blue screened.

Before I completely move away from the dwarves I want to talk about Thorin Oakenshield for a minute. First off, the dude is a badass. I remember from the book that he was pretty rough and tumble but in the movie this really gets emphasized. This is great and he provides us with a real emotional tie to their quest. With this being said he did feel a bit off. I have been trying to put my finger on exactly what it was but I haven’t found that exact thing yet. Maybe it is his eerie resemblance to Aragorn because you realize pretty quickly that Thorin really was designed here as a Dwarf version of Strider. Maybe it is because he is a bit one dimensional in his angry warrior attitude and he is a little over the top. Don’t get me wrong, Thorin like the rest of the dwarves was awesome and builds on the dwarves right to the mountain and the justness of their task. I just wished he had had a bigger beard to distinguish himself from Aragorn a bit more on top of looking a bit more dwarvish and there was just something else there that felt off.

 

 

One of the biggest complaints I heard about prior to this movie was that the CGI was excessive and that it made a lot of the goblins and orcs look a bit cartoony. I was incredibly thankful to find that this didn’t feel the case to me at all. In fact the CGI was really the most distracting and I guess for the lack of a better term, bad when it was used for some of the locations shots such as with Erabor. The goblins were very CGI but they still looked terribly hideous and nasty even though they lacked the scary, menacing element that the practical costumes provided. The orcs for the most part looked pretty good with the exception of a few, the Pale Orc in particular. The Pale Orc was a character which was only briefly mentioned in the book that was embellished here due to his relationship with Thorin. I know a lot of people hated this addition but by emphasizing this admittedly cool and menacing foe gave us a solid antagonist for this first film due to the lack of Smaug. He might have been added in but he was solid addition that ultimately added to the story. Except of course for the terrible animation. As cool as this orc was he just looked terribly fake and totally animated. A lot of the orcs use practical costumes which were touched up with CGI to move eyes further apart and break apart the traces of humanity in their faces a bit more and these orcs were done very well, but the Pale Orc at least looked entirely CGI. Nothing about him looked real. It was well done animation but not well done enough for us to realize that it wasn’t animated. Again not detrimental to the film but again incredibly distracting and kind of takes you out of the experience.

It’s a funny thing being in a situation where a lot of complaints about a movie adaptation are not about the material which was excluded but rather about what was added. For example, my single biggest complaint about the film was Radagast the Brown, or should I say the Jar-Jar of the film. Radagast was absolutely terrible. The wizards or istari are a powerful people and Radagast in no way reflects that and is just a complete joke. When I referred earlier to moments that made me cringe I was referring to every time Radagast was on screen. It was clear they wanted him to be the comic relief of the movie and perhaps the preteens out there who watch it will enjoy him but I have nothing good to say about the movies portrayal of him. I understand his role in the movie, he is completely necessary to facilitate the necromancer plot and he is admittedly the perfect character to do this AND incorporate more about the istari into the movie! In the Lord of the Rings book I found myself so interested in this character who has less than two pages of action; there seemed to be so much potential there and in the book he didn’t seem bat-shit crazy. Yes Radagast is cooky but not to that extent. He wouldn’t have bird shit on the side of his face and wouldn’t cross his eyes all the time and make weed jokes. Give him an ounce of dignity and self respect; Bilbo and the other characters already provide enough comic relief that they didn’t need to make him so silly. Perhaps this character was spot on according to the appendices and I am just disagreeing with how Radagast really is but I feel like it is more likely I am just unhappy with Jackson’s interpretation.

 

 

The last real complaint is maybe a bit nitpicky but it seemed like towards the beginning, more so than the end, the film was just a bit more sloppy. It seemed like some of the cuts were choppy, some the acting forced and unnatural. It seemed like the film was made in a rush and that because it was done in a hastened manner it suffered in attention to detail. Maybe Jackson was just a bit more thorough the first time around. It wasn’t bad, it just seemed like it could have been better if reworked a little more. Admittedly after leaving the Shire a lot of this decreased and the film just got progressively better.

 

 

The Shire. Just the sight of it back again was sweet enough to bring a smile to my face. The biggest complaint about the pacing of the movie has been that the beginning scene where the dwarves gather in the Shire takes too long but I loved it. Jackson has done an amazing job of making the Shire feel like home. Every time Bilbo walked through that circular door a wave of nostalgia hit me. It wasn’t just the Shire that looked as beautiful as ever but entirety of Middle-Earth. The world felt new and magical but familiar and comforting at the same time which made the movie feel the same way. Seeing Gandalf smile and having those sweeping helicopter shots with the amazing landscapes in the background just made me smile. It did an amazing job of creating throwbacks to the Lord of the Rings trilogy without bashing you over the head.The connections to the other movies weren’t the only nostalgic aspect of it. The Hobbit is presented as Bilbo’s telling and narrating of his adventure to Frodo and as he says the first words of his story I got absolutely giddy.

My absolute favorite part of the movie was the riddles in the dark scene. Other parts of the movie felt far from perfect but the entire scene with Gollum was absolutely perfect. While the CGI was lacking in other areas the animation teams clearly spent a lot of time on him. He looked better than ever and Andy Serkis once again blows the role out of the water. He really does an amazing job of showing the same depraved and sinister little devil but still with the innocence one was prior to being tortured by Sauron. And the emotion you get from him as Bilbo escapes is amazing. The despair in Gollum’s eyes at the loss followed by the absolute hatred he shows when Bilbo escapes make his motives in LotR blatantly obvious.

 

 

Compared to non-Lord of the Ring movies, the Hobbit is very good. Compared to Lord of the Rings it is not as good but still very good. I feel like the Hobbit could have been as good but it just wasn’t nearly as polished as it could have been. Most of my complaints could be very easily remedied by a bigger beard or a removal of a mannerism and the rest are just nitpicky quality details. While those little mistakes are indeed little they do remove from the magic of the world and experience and ultimately take away from how immersed you become.

Despite its faults it really is still a good movie that is just held up to a very high bar and the way it ended got me completely excited for the next two. I give the Hobbit 4/5.

Pacific Rim Trailer

My god this movie looks awesome. I understand that this is a term that is perhaps too broadly used but from this trailer alone it looks like it deserves the claim.

Anyway, Pacific Rim is the new monster movie being directed by Guillermo Del Toro and as we have seen from his past work, if anyone can do a monster movie, its Guillermo. Edris Elba stars in the this monster flick as mankind fights against an invasion of monsters from the sea with giant mechs. I realize this sounds a bit silly, but just watch the trailer and I will let you be the judge.

Admittedly, the first thing that came to mind was that it looked and felt a lot like Cloverfield meets Real Steel but quickly realized there was a lot more going on. First off, GLaDOS plays the AI in the movie which is amazing. I mean listen to that computer’s voice and tell me that wasn’t the same voice that lied to you about the cake. Secondly, these monsters appear from a crack or portal to a different dimension at the bottom of the sea which feels incredibly Cthulu, so my fingers are definitely crossed for more connections there. And lastly, I couldn’t help but pick up Shadow of the Colossus tones with the shots of some of those beasts.

All in all the movie looks absolutely fantastic. The premise seems a bit out there but if there is anyone out there who could pull it off it would be Guillermo Del Toro. I mean just look at the monsters. You have to yield that if anything those monsters look pretty epic. Totally stoked for this one.

Cloud Atlas Review

What it is: Cloud Atlas is a film co-directed by The Wachowski Brothers and Tom Tykwer and it is an adaptation of the novel of the same name written by David Mitchell. The film has a large cast full of big names including Halle Berry, Tom Hanks, Ben Whishaw, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess and Hugh Grant. The film is kind of revolutionary in the sense that we have actors taking on multiple roles in different storylines as well as time periods.

My thoughts on it: Cloud Atlas was ok. Despite all of the negative reviews I wanted this movie to be good and I wanted the reviews to be wrong. Unfortunately, for the most part they weren’t.

The thing that really felt like Cloud Atlas’s downfall was the same thing that made it unique in the first place: the multiple storylines. The entire theme of the movie was that everything is connected and that was the purpose of all the different storylines. Now for a movie to take on so many independent story lines they need to be relevant to one another and the problem here was that they weren’t. There were a couple of tiny details that reappeared over the course of the movie but most of them seemed incredibly insignificant in comparison to everything else that was happening.

The single cool connection between all of the story lines was the same actors playing different roles. This really accomplished the sense of a soul or one entity that grows and changes with each life. While we see every character reappearing in at least a minor role in each story it is Tom Hanks’ character(s) that really has the most apparent growth. Tom Hanks was really kind of the high light of the cast and out of everyone he really felt like he had the widest array of vastly different characters in the film. I mean the entire cast did a good job but it was Hanks who really stole the show. But with that being said, I found myself really impressed by Ben Whishaw as well as Hugo Weaving who made for a really good villain in almost every arc.

So we are presented with a handful of independent stories bundle into one movie. Now I still don’t think it would have been significantly different if each story belonged to the same genre but each story in Cloud Atlas felt like it belonged to a different genre. We have our two sci-fi stories, our romantic drama, the family comedy, and our colonial expedition. There was a little bit of a bridge between the two futuristic storylines but other than that each story felt like it should have been its own movie.

Now with all of that being said the way each story was pieced together was pretty sweet. They would jump simultaneously from one high point to another, one downfall to the next. They found similar moments from other stories and jumped seamlessly back and forth. It uses the thematic parallels across all the stories to weave them together. So the movie as a whole had great flow despite the plethora of different stories.

All in all, Cloud Atlas was ok. It had some great visuals and some terrible prosthetics. It had some really cool ideas and concepts conveyed over the multiple stories but in the end it felt a little jumbled. Cloud Atlas is revolutionary in the sense that it pushes conventional movie making in a new direction but by looking at so many individual stories it kind of felt like it was focusing more on quantity rather than quality. I don’t mean each individual story was lacking quality but simply I left the movie wishing I had seen each one fleshed out more. I have heard from those who have read the book that they loved the film and as I watched it I got the impression that I would have gotten more out of it if I had read it as well.

Cloud Atlas was a movie I really wanted to like but it fell short in several areas. It is incredibly memorable and pretty interesting despite being a little convoluted. Definitely not a movie you need to see in theater but I would say it is worth picking up from a RedBox. I give Cloud Atlas a 3.5/5.

 

The Low-Down: RAW

Sorry for the lack of a brand new Low-Down this week folks I unfortunately was unable to get one done in time this week. With that being said though I did have the chance to go back through and put together an unedited version of last weeks episode. Be sure to check it out below and like always and if you like you are seeing be sure to subscribe to Powercords on YouTube!

Halo 4 Review

Sorry guys about the delay on the Halo 4 review. Honestly it’s just way too hard to stop playing it.

What it is: Halo 4 marks the return of the Master Chief and his faithful AI companion Cortana in the first Halo game not made by Bungie. 343 industries is now in charge of the series and for the first in a new trilogy they decided to take a more human look at the Chief as he faces Cortana’s inevitable deterioration. In the midst of this the two stumble onto a Forerunner planet, Requiem, and discover the dark secrets it holds.

Why I dig it: Where do I even start?

Before I jump in, I need to make it clear that while I may be considered a diehard Halo fan I didn’t come into this game expecting to love it automatically. A big part of my love for the franchise was the community that Bungie established on top of the in depth statistical analysis provided by bungie.net. It wasn’t just a game that 343 had to live up to but almost an empire.

With all that being said, 343 has more than lived up to what I had hoped for. From the story, to the multiplayer, to the support and the direction as a whole the game exceeds at ‘em all. As I have mentioned, the campaign kind of focuses on Cortana’s deterioration and this brings out a really human aspect in the game. The Master Chief has historically just been a very mechanical and cold bad ass soldier but this time around we get to see some emotional weakness in him as he struggles with losing Cortana.

Paired with this more involving story we get some of the most exciting and fun enemies in perhaps all of Halo history. The Prometheans are an enemy which spices up the story with a new challenge and the fact of the matter is that they bring something new to the combat table. The Crawlers are just a blast to unload into with head shot weapons and the Knights provide a new level of challenge and require the player to think about battle with them in a new way.

Thankfully the Prometheans are not restricted simply to the campaign but they also make their way into the new episodic Spartan Ops mode. Spartan Ops is made up of episodes that are released on a weekly basis. Each episode is accompanied with a short cinematic video and five chapters or missions for each player to play through. Spartan Ops is awesome. The single best thing about it is that it provides a narrative aspect of the game that will continue to draw people in long after they have completed that campaign. It is going to keep people coming back time and time again to see what is happening with the story. One of the cool aspects about Reach was that you were able to really create your Spartan and from there play with them through out every single game mode creating a more immersive experience. While we might be stepping into the boots of the Chief again this time instead of your own Spartans, Spartan Ops acts kind of like this mode where we get to be the Spartan.

Now the actual game play of Spartan Ops is decent but nothing amazing. Each chapter in episode one at least plays very similarly to a mission straight out of the campaign with one real exception: respawning. Normally in campaign at least upon death you restart at the latest checkpoint you hit but Spartan Ops does this a little differently. Upon death you simply respawn as you would in the multiplayer. You can rush two knights and kill one and get killed by the other and simply respawn and then dispatch of the other one. Things don’t reset upon death. The thing about this is that it makes these missions incredibly easy and provides us with little to no challenge. You are able to set the difficulty when starting a chapter but difficulty more or less just decides how many times you are going to die over the course of the mission instead of how much challenge is going to be presented to you. With all that being said there are quite a few Red vs. Blue easter eggs scattered throughout the mode that more than makes up for any of its down sides.

Now for the multiplayer. Oh my god the multiplayer.

Right off the bat I want to address some of the bigger alterations they made to the multiplayer. When it was first announced that custom load-outs were going to be added to the game, in addition to perks and ordinance drops everyone thought that Halo was becoming Call of Duty. While it might have gained inspiration from CoD among other FPSs out there the game still feels so much like Halo. At no point during multiplayer have I felt like this was anyway less Halo-y and more CoD-y. The load-outs really just allow players to start out with specific weapons that they would normally pick up along the way as well as fine tuning their Spartan to fit their play style. Other load-out based shooters provide players with a plethora of options allowing for a lot larger ranger of character designs i.e. shotgun classes, snipers, run ‘n gun, etc. but in Halo 4 it is much more focused. You aren’t able to design a completely broken class which you can destroy players with. This narrow range is absolutely perfect for Halo. It allows for variety among players while simultaneously allowing people to use the gear they want to use. It is a significantly superior upgrade from previous Halo games.

The ordnance was another point of concern of CoD mimicry in the game but ordnance doesn’t really fill the same role kill streaks did. Kill streaks were game changing events that were potentially devastating and again Halo has taken a much lessened approach. Ordinance is only dropping power weapons and brief custom power ups. The power weapons definitely give you an edge but they really just help perpetuate the game. Even if they give you a temporary advantage the fact of the matter is that for the most part they are all weapons that can be taken by enemy players as easily as allied players. Ultimately they just intensify the game in a completely fair manner as well as allowing players to choose the power weapons they stumbled onto into the late game.

The multiplayer also introduces a couple new game modes to the mix which both are amazing. The first is regicide, which is more or less free for all slayer and the leader has a mark over his or her head. The game plays like normal free for all but because of the cursor over the leader the game has a much more structured feel, almost a king of the hill kind of vibe. The king or leader draws everyone towards him or her providing everyone with a focused battle zone preventing things from getting slow and keeping the action coming.

The next is a new objective game type called Dominion which is one of my personal favorite playlist in the game so far. Dominion plays kind of like domination. Players try to capture key locations and then hold those areas as they become more fortified. A friend of mine kept comparing it to TF2 in the sense that each player really needs to take up different and specific roles if you want to be successful in the game. I am normally not much of an objective game kind of guy but I can’t seem to stop playing Dominion.

The entire time I was playing through Halo 4 I tried to remain as critical as possible so I would be able to identify any and all flaws but the thing is there really aren’t that many. The biggest complaint I have about the game is actually one that is entirely fixable and will probably be tweaked in the future but I found that Flood mode, the mode that I was most excited about, was a bit underwhelming. The problem I had with it was that 343 tried to make being infected less underpowered than being human and they did this perhaps too well. First off they nerfed the pistol. The pistol is normally a single shot to the head kill but they have replaced this with simply a three shot kill. In addition to the humans being weaker they gave the zombies some ridiculous armor abilities. The zombies are able to spawn in with a super ramped up thruster pack that can effectively take a zombie from one side of a map to the other in a matter of seconds. While they are using this ridiculous boost they are also still able to swipe with their flood claw removing the momentary safe zone that occurred when zombies rolled in Reach. On top of all of this they also cranked up the lunge distance for zombies ultimately making them the most powerful they have ever been.

It’s cool that they made being infected more bearable but the thing is that people don’t play zombies to infect as many people as possible. People play zombies because they enjoy lasting as long as they can, killing and wrecking zombies as they go. In previous infection modes you see players ending games with as high of score as 30 but here the highest score I have seen someone get is in the teens. This is my single biggest complaint about the game but like I said, a playlist update or two is all that is needed to really fix this and maybe it is a little counterintuitive complaining about how 343 made a game mode more fair.

The only other complaints I have about Halo 4 are all little nitpicky things which really don’t hinder the actual game playing experience. For example, the in game score chart is a little confusing at times in the sense that it is a little tricky figuring out how many kills you have in comparison to points. The only other notable complaint was the pre-game multiplayer lobby which is a tad confusing to navigate compared to previous games.

Other than that the game is incredible. While the game has seen many renovations, many non-traditional Halo changes, the game still feels like Halo. Its finds that perfect middle ground of new and familiar. I have thoroughly enjoyed ever single game mode I have tried so far with the exclusion of zombies which still isn’t terrible. So many things have been streamlined and while I have a couple complaints about how things are they have fixed an innumerable amount of complaints I have had about previous Halo games. I would argue that the campaign is the strongest story and narrative experience in a Halo game to date and the multiplayer is unmatched in its glory. All of this comes packaged in the best looking and sounding Halo game out there. While I have yet to fully explore all the juicy tib bits in forge I am familiar with quite a few of its features and I am sure that the potential maps that it offers will keep the game fresh and interesting for years to come.

Bungie left some big shoes for 343 to fill and they more than exceeded in doing so. Halo 4 is the definitive Halo experience and the single best installment in series to date. The franchise has been passed to more than worthy hands. I give Halo 4 a 5/5.

World War Z Trailer

The first trailer for the adaptation of Max Brooks’ World War Z trailer came out yesterday starring Brad Pitt. The film was originally set for a 2012 release date but several delays pushed it back to next year and from the looks of the trailer it looks like it was worth the wait. It also looks like we are going to be seeing a new take on the fast zombie; the zombies that attack as one giant wave. Check out the trailer below and be sure to tune into Powercords for all of your World War z News!

Hal-LOW-ween-DOWN

You must forgive our puns.

Brendan and I are bringing you a spooky(-ish) LOW-DOWN this week in honor of the upcoming All Hallows Eve. We decide to mix things up this week and talk about movies and video games this time.