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  1. Halo: Thursday War Karen Traviss Quick View: The continuation of the Kilo-5 Trilogy, Traviss looses any crutch she had from Eric Nylund’s books. Better written and developed than Glasslands, however still just barley readable as a fan of the series. On its own, though, a decent book. Full Review: Thursday War is the second installment of Karen Traviss’ Kilo-5 trilogy. This novel follows on the heels of Glasslands, and focuses more on the conflict on the Sangheili homeworld of Sanghelios. Traviss chooses to anchor her novel in this one location, and the book is better off for it. In previous reviews I’ve noted how in Halo novels, one typically needs to exploit the vastness of Halo’s large galaxy of systems, but Traviss’ focus on the Sangheili civil war makes the focus on one planet necessary for the book to stay centered on the conflict. We do get to see some appearances in other places, but overall Sanghelios is the place we call home for the duration. The story, much like the previous novel, is focusing on Kilo-5s mission to destabilize the peace between the Sangheili and humanity. In this novel, we get to see kilo-5 directly involve themselves by helping arm the rebelling factions of Elites on Sanghelios. We get to see the civilization unravel between the different factions and watch as the UNSC helplessly tries to help Thel Vadam, known to most as the Arbiter, fight off these rebels who seek the destruction of humanity as well as the arbiters new government. The novel ends with the conflict erupting into a war which has no immediate end in sight, ultimately leading to the success of Kilo-5’s mission to destabilize peace amongst “the enemy” Character development for the members of Kilo-5 is the same as in glasslands, so, nonexistent. However, we do get to see the different members of the Sangheili government, primarily Jul Mdama and Thel Vadam, evolve as the story continues. We get to see how their relationships to their allies and enemies evolve, and with the introduction of the UNSC’s latest superweapon, the megaship UNSC Infinity, we see how each handles both victory and defeat. It’s quite ironic that the characters which should be seen as the adversary become painted with a brighter light thanks for the initial disdain for Kilo-5’s mission and objective. World building is superior in this novel compared to the previous one, as the focus on Sanghelios allows Traviss time to be specific and build on the lore of the Sangheili. We learn what daily life was and is now like for them, and more about how they function as a culture. This new information on these formerly mysterious enemies of humanity adds a new depth to the novel and the story benefits from the new angle. Again, Traviss becomes one of the first to explore this new topic and the book gets credibility from it. This book really highlights the lengths in which ONI will go to ensure their selfish ideals come to fruition. Traviss, as much as I dislike her novels and writing style, actually manages to make even the a highly critical reviewer such as myself see what’s good in the novel and find some way to enjoy it. Overall, it’s a decent halo novel and offers good contributions to the Halo universe. Final Score: 7/10 View the full article
  2. Stargate: Continuum Martin Wood, Brad Wright Quick View: A proper, if slightly underwhelming, finale to the SG1 plotline. They do the series justice. Full Review: Stargate: Continuum was the final chapter of the Stargate SG-1 series, made in movie form to give a proper ending to the long running critically acclaimed SyFy original series based off of Roland Emmerichs film Sargate. The movie does a good job taking everything fans loved about the show and putting it all together in one film. We get to see our favorite bad guys, heroes, ships, effects, everything. This movie ties up all the loose ends so well, I don’t even want anymore SG-1 knowing it would mess up such a perfectly made bed! The story follows SG-1 as they tag along with General Jack O’Neill to observe the end of the Goa’uld system lords, the main antagonists of the show, in an extraction ceremony of the final surviving Goa’uld lord, Baal. The goa’uld are symbiotes inhabiting human bodies, and using alien technology, can be extracted from the host. During the ceremony, the tyrant proclaims that one of his clones had survived, and that his plan would soon be in motion. Suddenly, people begin to disappear, and Baal breaks free in time to fatally wound General O’Neill. The remaining members of SG-1 find their way to the gate in time to dial Earth and escape the collapsing reality of the Tok’ra homeworld. From here, Sam, Cameron and Jackson find themselves in an alternate reality, caused by the tampering of time by the last remaining clone of Baal. They must fight through the doubts and lies of this new reality to fix the wrongs Baal has caused and return things to the way they used to be. The characters in this movie are, you guessed it, the same lovable members of SG-1 that we’ve seen for the last 10 years of the show. With the exception of the alternate reality versions of some of the cast, we get to see our favorite heroes do their thing. They improvise, which is what they are known for, and make their way doing what they do best. Each actor, being very experienced and talented, keeps their character on the move with the plot and keeps them reacting and changing, even in the smaller, less significant parts of the movie. Overall, the set design is much larger scale and improved upon from the show, and this definitely benefits the movie. The cast is used to working with smaller room sizes and less contrasting locals, but with the movies larger budget, they did a great job expanding on the set design. Less of the set is greenscreen and this larger practical space gives the actors more room to play with the role. This improves upon the premise of the movie, as the immensity of the set reflects the immensity of their situation. At the end of the day, the movie does its job, giving such a revolutionary TV show the ending it deserves, and is a service to the fan who has been faithful with the series since its inception. Despite all this, it’s still a smaller scale, direct to dvd movie. As much as we wish Stargate had as big a budget of the Star Trek movies, stargate remains the cult classic that will always hold a special place in my heart. Final Score: 6.5/10 View the full article
  3. Halo: Glasslands Karen Traviss Quick View: From the same woman who butchered the Republic Commando series and responsible for the murder of Mara Jade, halo lore gets dumped on and torn apart by an egotistical writer and her inability to adapt to a new universe of lore. Glasslands is the first installment of Karen Traviss’ Kilo-5 trilogy, which follows the events of Eric Nylund’s BLUE TEAM trilogy. This novel attempts to replicate not only Nylund’s style, but the overall feeling of the Halo universe. This novel, although not the worst of the Kilo-5 trilogy, only really benefits from the inclusion of Blue Team and the other stranded Spartans from the preceding novel, Ghosts of Onyx. This book does a decent job of introducing new characters and events, but overall lacks the excitement and impression that its predecessor left for readers. Considering that the previous novels are pretty much a necessity to understand this sequel, the lack of originality in the plot leaves out any uniqueness needed to successfully start a new trilogy can be found here in Travis’ pilot novel. Glasslands splits its time from following the Kilo-5 team and the stranded spartans inside Onyx. Kilo-5 is a team made up of three ODSTs, one ONI scientist, one SPARTAN II, and a SPARTAN dropout and ONI agent leading the hashtag crew on a mission to sabotage the peace between the UNSC and the new Sangheili government following the end of the Human-Covenant War. Traviss tried her best to make these characters likeable and respectable, however, other than the lone spartan and ODSTs, as well as the alien engineers who later join the crew, any reader familiar with the Halo universe instinctively bears a small hatred for every ONI related character. This dislike for the character as well as their mission makes the book sometimes hard to read. Anybody who has played the Halo games feels a certain level of accomplishment for ending the Human-covenant war, and this book takes that accomplishment and tries to void all that effort for the sake of the Office of Naval Intelligence. Now, we’re all familiar with the designated “Hated” character and organisation inside of stories like this, but Traviss’ vain attempt to get the incredibly unlikable Serin to seem relatable to any degree ends up failings. Badly. The world building is sloppy. Traviss relies too heavily on the cliches of the renegade space-pirate genre, with predictable twists and unoriginal action sequences. That said, she does offer some new and interesting ideas in regards to humanity after the war. Before the human-Covenant war, humanity was stuck in a conflict very similar to the American Civil War, which renegade farming systems fighting against the Central Earth Government. Her use of characters in regards to this conflict is pretty new in the halo genre, as she is the first to publish a novel taking place during this period. Again, this is more attributed to her being the first to do it rather than being good at it. Overall, the story is only salvaged by Blue Team’s exploits in the forerunner world, discovering new things about the alien Engineers and their purpose, as well as the purpose of Onyx. The book ends in a fairly unsatisfying way, and to avoid spoilers, I’ll leave that open for any of you who wish to read this book for yourself. Overall, it’s the knowledge that so many of the other novels in the series are so well written, that this attempt to start a new series only goes to anger the fans rather that satisfy their need for more of Nylund’s work. Final Score: 5.5/10 View the full article
  4. Robocop (2014) José Padilha Quick View:When a good cop gets blown up for his good work, we don’t bury him. We rebuild him. Can the newly resurrected “Robo-Cop” Clean up the streets of Detroit while also solving his own murder? Who gave the criminals the information they needed to kill him? Full Review: We live in the age of reboots, and nobody can forget how groundbreaking the original Robocop movies were. Put those two together, and you get the new remake of Robocop. I personally prefer this version to the originals, mostly because I can’t stand corny looking prosthetics in anything other than Doctor Who. The new Robocop takes the original story, of a great cop getting terribly injured, only for technology to give him a second chance to clean up the streets. It’s a simple concept, and one of its time. Many people discredit the film for its dependency on CGI and the modern take on the film. The film follows Alex Murphy who is a police detective in the city of detroit. A crooked cop informs the leader of a crime syndicate of Murphy’s inesitigation, leading to the attempt on Murphy’s live via a car bomb. A large company known as OmniCorp which has revolutionised the world with robotic soldiers and weapons, take the opportunity to prove to American citizens that they can trust OmniCorp with their safety by saving Murphy’s life by essential turning him into the first ever full cyborg cop. Other than his head, his lungs, and one hand, all of Murphy’s body is gone, replaced with top of the line OmniCorp electronics. Even a piece of his brain is hardwired to the technology. The movie focuses on Murphy’s adjustment and subsequent slavery at the hands of the technology, and him overcoming his own fears and limitations to do whats right for his fellow police officers and citizens. Now although The original cast of the first Robocop was fairly good, and they definitely delivered a title that gained lots of recognition, the cast for this reboot blew the movie out of the water. I don’t believe for a second that any character in this movie played by anyone else could have done what they did. Some may argue that maybe Joel Kinnamen wasn’t the perfect choice for the role of the cyborg trooper, and I say you don’t know what you’re talking about. Kinnamen did an amazing job, filling the shoes of a slightly naive, eager young cop trying to cope the best he can with his situation. Overall, with big names like Samuel L Jackson, and Gary Oldman, the movie had every tool it needed to be a hit. The scenery and locations all fit with the futuristic detroit vibe, and the technology doesn’t feel like too much of a leap, although I doubt we’ll have robot armies by 2023. The disheveled city and environment with large glass towers hovering over the run down slums really helps highlight the main problem with detroit, and why Robo-cop is needed. The different locations all do a great job delivering the feeling of authenticity to their purpose, from Omni Tower, to the Chinese factory, all the way to Detroit itself, we feel right at home with the plot. Overall, the movie offers the entertainment value expected by modern Science Fiction films, and delivers in both visual beauty and deep plot. It expands and contrasts the original, somewhat corny movie by adding a more serious and polished look. As far as remakes go, this one takes the cake by far. Final Score: 7/10 View the full article
  5. Halo: Hunters in the Dark Peter David Quick View: Hunters in the Dark is one of the best installments in the Halo extended universe, so much so that I rate it as one of my all time favorite scifi novels. Full Review: Very rarely do I find myself completely lost in a book. Now, there’s your average everyday page turners, but then there’s stories which have such a magnificent air to them that you find yourself closing off everything else. Hunters in the Dark was my first audiobook-only halo novel I’ve owned. I went into the novel expecting a nice story to listen to whilst I worked on other projects, but found myself laying back, eyes closed, just listening to the story play out. Peter David does a splendid job writing a fun, entertaining, and a sometimes very serious novel. This book is the perfect summertime afternoon pleasure for any scifi fan. Most of the critiques I have for this novel are tangential and overall, David delivers. The Book is set following the events of Halo 3, Where a team of scientists working on the launch site of the ship that created the portal to “The Ark” discover the coordinates of a new halo ring. On this halo ring, they find a blinking beacon, which can be found on the launch site as well as the other known halo ring. They theorise that the blinking represents a countdown, to what they can only surmise correlates to the activation of all the halo rings. They quickly form an alliance with the new sangheili government and plan a mission to reactivate the portal to the ark and stop the rings from firing. This ragtag team of scientists, SPARTAN IVs, and Elites must work together to fight off the dangers of the ark and deactivate the halo array which threatens all life in the universe. The character development throughout the story is consistent and realistic, and the tensions between the different species die down as they go through the different challenges and experiences during their mission on the ark. David did a great job capturing the long seeded distrust that has formed between the Sangheili and humans thanks to the decades long conflict between the two races, but he also helps add a hint of respect every soldier has for a fellow warrior. The varying personalities mesh well, and every exchange of violence or suspense leads to a unique reaction from each character. By the end of the novel the reader feels satisfaction in how each plotline for every character ended and feels complete with the story. It’s not always easy to take a previously established world and make it your own. As I have said in my previous reviews, this is one of the many challenges that plague writers who chose to add to the Halo series. David does an amazing job expanding upon the unknown world that is the Ark. In Halo 3, we only get to see glimpses of the arks large habitat, but Hunters in the Dark gives us much more of the Halo-y mystery and beauty that we all love. From the expansive wilderness, to the vast, mechanical tunnels, to the grand, temple like control room, David leaves no detail untold, and no image left from our mind. This is easily my favorite halo novel in the terms of descriptive scenery. Overall, the novel delivered in entertainment value. The only “problem” with the book is, although very fun to read, it isn’t very revolutionary. It is fairly thought provoking, but overall just aims to be a good book to read on a day off. That said, it’s still one of my favorites and will continue to be a valued part of my collection for a long, long time. Final Score: 8.5/10 View the full article
  6. Tron: Legacy Joseph Kosinski Quick View: Full Review: Tron: Legacy is the long awaited sequel to the cult classic Tron, which revolutionised the way we see computer graphics and the digital world. This movie turned heads with its beautiful use of digital graphics, both in the digitally de-aged Jeff Bridges, to the absolutely stunning look of “The Grid”. The action packed chase scenes and fights make the movie a joy to watch and the emotionally driven plot keeps the movie goers from risking a trip to the bathroom. Combined with an A-list cast as well as record breaking soundtrack by the kings of House music themselves, Tron: Legacy certainly lives up to the hype. The story follows Sam Flynn, son of Tech mogul and former CEO of FLYNN software, Kevin Flynn, as he follows the clues left behind by his father to answer the question, “Where in the world is Kevin Flynn?” This questions lead young Sam to the old Arcade, where hidden behind and old TRON arcade machine a hidden office can be found. After digging into the futuristic desktop, a large laser like apparatus rises up behind him, and before he knows it, Sam is now on “The grid”, a digital world inside Kevin Flynn’s computer. Same must fight through the perils of the Grid to find his father and to answer all the of the questions that this new world provides. Who is Clu? Why does he look like Kevin? And why hasn’t Kevin returned to the world and the son he loves. The cast do an amazing job portraying the varying characters in this film. Jeff Bridges, reprising his role as Kevin Flynn, does a superb job at playing both the aging father, as well as the renegade dictator CLU. Garrett Hedlund continues to grow his resume as his career has continued to prove prosperous since appearing in the movie Troy with Brad pitt, and proves his abilities as an actor by portraying the rebellious and brilliant Sam Flynn. Olivia Wilde’s tempered yet daring Quorra offers more than a match for the young prodigy. This pair combined with Bridges’ experience lead of a unique and promising crew helps progress the film with great synchronicity. The visuals are hands down some of the best generated effects ever produced in a movie. The movie takes place 95% inside the world of the Grid, and modern technology transforms this digital world into a beautiful, clean and colorful place of polygons and carbon fiber-like everything. The dynamic lighting and interaction completely blows away any other contender in the effects genre. To this day, I have yet to see a movie that comes close to Tron: Legacy’s production value. Sadly, much like the original film, the story falls slightly short, due to a somewhat cliche ending. That said, they way they handled it was much better than the original, and the pacing issue was most certainly fixed. If it weren’t for the slightly corny nature of the ending, this movie would have blown the box office away even more than it had. I definitely recommend this movie to anybody with a love for computers, gaming, and beautiful computer generated imaging. Final score: 8/10 View the full article
  7. Halo: Contact Harvest Joseph Staten Quick View: Full Review: Halo: Contact Harvest is easily one of the most iconic halo novels in the expanded halo universe. This novel offers the origin story of the primary conflict of the series, and gives a more in depth look at some of the iconic characters seen throughout the books and games. With a massive load of responsibility on its back, Contact Harvest has to combine world building with telling a good story. My job here is to tell you why it failed. Halo: Contact Harvest was written by Joseph Staten, who is a recognised writer in the halo community. He has worked with game creator Frank O’Connor and has helped develop the story of halo over the years. Contact Harvest was one of his first steps into the halo novel community, and while it was generally accepted well by the fans, anyone who takes a critical look at the book may see some things we as fans may not have wanted to notice the first time through. The book follows the story of Avery Johnson, a young marine who went AWOL from the UNSC after a drunken night out. He is deployed to the planet Harvest to deal with the insurrection, whilst a coalition of Alien Races called The Covenant slowly make their way to the human controlled world at the farthest edge of occupied space. When these two civilizations meet, the possibility of peace lingers. Due to insubordination and the wrong move by both sides, war breaks out, and the genocide of the humans on harvest commences. Many different events occur over the course of the book, ultimately ending in the evacuation and Harvest becoming a battlefield for years to come. The story is overall fairly convincing and the decisions made by the majority of the characters are understandable, but looking back on the whole thing, you can tell Staten was somewhat limited to what he could do knowing the end result had to be war between the Covenant and humanity. Due to this limitation, the story suffers from a lack of suspense, as the only characters worth caring about are confirmed to appear in the later novels or games. Having your protagonist be a notable halo character makes any sense of danger quite moot. Although the plot is fairly well made and put together, the story overall is drawn out. Just thinking of the book makes me want to fall asleep. My first attempt to read through the novel ended in me shelving the book halfway through. Staten tries to cram too much into a small period of time, and the predictable nature the story takes makes it about as interesting as a football game with a score of 42-0 in the 4th quarter. Staten did his best, but overall the story suffers not from a lack of ideas or characters to move the plot forward, but due to the inevitability of the whole situation: Harvest must fall, and this is just the story that provides the specifics to the whole situation. I recommend this book only for those who absolutely need to know said specifics or perhaps are just incredibly bored with nothing better to read. Final Score: 5/10 View the full article
  8. Tron Steven Lisberger Quick View: Full Review: Tron can only be described as the total 80s Computing fanboy’s dream. This Cult classic was directed by Steven Lisberger and became an instant sensation to nerds everywhere. Although a moderate success at the box office, Tron won multiple awards for its stunning and revolutionary visual effects and style. Growing up, Tron always seemed to me like one of the coolest movies ever made. I would just sit there watching and think about how they managed to make all the cool effects and vehicles. This film made a statement about computing, technology, and the rise of gaming. Even today, Tron is an icon for how gaming goes beyond just some pixels on a screen, although not quite in the same way. The story follows a software engineer named Kevin Flynn, who after years developing new unique games, has all his work stolen from him by a colleague, who uses them to gain multiple promotions at their place of work. Flynn leaves the company, and splits his time from running his arcade to trying to hack into his former company, ENCOM’s computer system to find proof of his colleague’s theft. Due to the Artificial intelligence created by the thief to protect ENCOM’s servers, all hacking attempts fail, and security is stepped up. The power hungry AI begins taking over government servers and makes plans to expand to encompass both the pentagon and the Kremlin. Another ENCOM engineer, Alan Bradley, has developed a security program named TRON which can target and delete any program, once it’s gotten past the firewall. Bradley, along with Flynn’s ex-girlfriend who also works at ENCOM, convince Flynn to help them get TRON into the system, by sneaking Flynn inside to work his magic on TRON’s security clearance. While inside, the MCP uses an experimental laser technology to digitalise Flynn whilst he works, pulling him into the computer’s server known as “The Grid” where he finds different programs which appear as their creators in a world of bright lines of light. It’s here Flynn must escape “the games” With the help of Tron and defeat the MCP whilst finding the evidence he needs to gain his reputation back. This movie has a fun and exciting cast of characters, with the great Jeff Bridges playing the lead role of Kevin Flynn. His performance as the smart yet funny troublemaker make the movie that much better when paired with the brave yet statistical Tron played by Bruce Boxleitner. These characters make the best use of the colorful and unique set, and using their imaginations, allow the limitless possibilities of green screen to improve their performances. Bridges performance in this film no doubt highlighted his ability as an actor and helped skyrocket his career with future opportunities. Boxleitner also gained quite a boost, and the two would reprise their iconic roles in the sequel many years later. The world of Tron is absolutely breathtaking when compared to the other movies of the time. Many people have tried to imagine the world inside the computer, but Tron, to this day, has to be the most iconic look for the digital space. Every time I think of what that world must seem like, I instinctively see the long diverging white lines that make up the buildings and shapes inside Tron’s “Grid” The performances are great, the visuals are great, but the story over all is nothing to write home about. It’s good writing and is definitely worth watching, but for those who aren’t particularly good at following multiple plot points at once may have a hard time keeping a coherent grasp on the story. Its because of this, as well as the odd fast-to-slow-to-fast-to-slow pacing of the film, that it didn’t do as well as it could. Tron was a movie which was revolutionary for its production value, not so much for its credibility as a story to be told. I still recommend it to anybody who wishes to feel some nostalgia about the early days of gaming and the PC revolution. Final Score: 7/10 View the full article
  9. Halo: Nightfall Sergio Mimica-Gezzan Quick View: A decently written expose into the life of an ONI agent, tasked with a near suicidal mission. Like forward Unto dawn, this short film’s purpose is to create a backstory for Agent Locke for his appearance in Halo 5 Full Review: Nightfall is another short film produced by 343 Industries to once again deliver a backstory for an emerging character their latest game, Halo 5. This time around we follow the story of Agent Jameson Locke, an officer working for the ever secretive Office of Naval Intelligence. The story follows Locke and his team’s mission to destroy the last of a mineral which can selectively kill humans when weaponized, a mineral that can only be found on a section of the Halo ring Master Chief destroyed. Everything goes great until they realise the remains of the Halo installation on which they’re on is not as hospitable as once thought. Technology becomes their enemy as Hunter worms flock to anything powered by electricity. Locke and his crew must survive in the oxygen deprived world as they march across the land to get their nuke and destroy the heck they are stuck on, all before the sun rises and cooks the team alive. Just like with Forward unto Dawn, 343 does an amazing job delivering a short film fit to bear the name Halo, with another great cast and crew, an amazing set, and a unique and original story to deliver the best short film they can muster. The character dynamic between the ONI agents and the crew from the colony world which assists the agents, led by a former SPARTAN II, adds a very nice sense of mistrust and conflict as well as forced camaraderie amongst Locke and the colonists in order to accomplish the mission. The shady nature of Locke’s men leads to interesting developments as fresh oxygen becomes short, and the threat of being killed by the Mgalekgolo worms grows as they near the wreckage of their ship. The ending dispute between the survivors, and the sacrifice of a key character gives Nightfall a very nice cinematic and thought provoking end. The movie does a great job telling Locke’s story, and painting him in a different light than most ONI agents are shown. Unlike Karen Traviss’ Osman, Locke is respectable and honest, and someone who fans can grow to love over time, as long as 343 doesn’t abuse him like they did throughout the halo 5 ad campaign. The locations they chose for filming are nothing other than perfect. From the futuristic city on the lush green planet in the beginning, to the ashy, dark, rocky plains that represent the remains of the Halo ring, the set and locale they use for this film is absolutely beautiful and perfect for the film. The men in charge of location did their job perfectly and deserve every ounce of credit they can get. It’s only after watching the behind the scenes do we learn this hot volcanic wasteland was actually quite cold, and one sympathizes with the actors who had to walk around in muscle shirts and Tees as the filming progressed. At the end of it all, Nightfall offers an entertaining story and delivers in its promise to give us what we need to know about Locke in a succinct and enjoyable fashion. After all, what more can we ask for but an action packed adventure filled with well written and delivering story as well as very professional and talented actors and actresses. Final score: 8.5/10 View the full article
  10. Halo: Forward Unto dawn Stewart Hendler Quick View: A well made short film design to set up characters and events to precede the game Halo 4 Full Review: Forward unto Dawn is a short film produced by 343 industries created to provide backstory for the character for Thomas Laskey, who is the commander of the UNSC Infinity as seen in the following game, Halo 4. The Film follows Laskey as he trains to become an officer for the United Nations Space Command at Corbulo Military Academy. During his tenure, Thomas encounters many difficulties, from trouble interacting with his fellow cadets, to allergic reactions to the cryo-freezing process. Laskey must overcome these obstacles when his classmates lives are suddenly thrust into very real danger when a new, mysterious enemy enters the fray. The character’s personalities and development are substantial for such a small, short film, and 343 does a great job with casting the various cadets and faculty at corbulo. We get to see big names in Sci Fi like Mike Dopud, and the relatively young cast do an astounding job. Many short films fall victim to inexperienced actors and poor execution, however Forward unto Dawn’s cast do an astounding job with line delivery, emotion control, and overall great acting performance. For me, as a critic, a film qualifies as decent when my mind doesn’t wander to thoughts of the camera or the filming whilst watching. If I can stay hooked on what’s going on without acknowledging the fourth wall, then the film has succeeded in immersion, thus my attention remains solely on the story. The cast of the film make this easy with their earnest performance. Director Stewart Hendler does an great job, made easier by an amazing cast. The world in which the movie is set is a fictional planet among the many different worlds of the Halo universe. The writers and Hendler do a great job using everything in the big ol’ toolbox that is Halo lore to their advantage, making the film come to life with all the things we love about the UNSC. Thanks to 343’s large budget from Microsoft, the prop department does an excellent job creating realistic, true-to-universe weapons. My only problem with the movie is the style and design used for the weapons and vehicles in the movie are not accurate to the timeframe the movie takes place. In the Halo continuity, the model of weapons and vehicles they use are not produced for many years. It’s like using M16s and Humvees in a World War II film. This may bug big Halo fans such as myself, but for the average viewer, this is merely a side note to an good film. The special effects are astounding, and the visual work keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout the finale. Fans are treated to an great crescendo, and despite the continued continuity errors with Fred and Kelly’s MJOLNIR armor, the movie ends on a beautiful note, with the survivors riding away on a Pelican dropship. The film does its job in giving Laskey a proper backstory, and Halo 4 was better off for it. Final Score: 8/10 View the full article
  11. Jurassic Park 3 Joe Johnston Quick View: The third installment in the cinematic adaptation of Michael Crichtons exciting series falls a little short in the eyes of many viewers. Despite its shortcomings, it still manages to entertain you throughout the length, and in my mind, is worthy of the title Jurassic Park Full Review: Making movie based off of a successful novel series is nothing new. People have been doing that since the beginning of theater. What isn’t so common is a sequel to that movie series that is not based on a novel. In fact, many movies which follow novel based movies typically fail to deliver the same message and often fall flat. Just take a look at Jarhead 2. Yeah, there’s a Jarhead 2. And its horrendous. Jurassic Park 3 Is the third installment of the Jurassic park adaptation movies, and is the only one of the original 3 not based upon Michael Crichton’s best selling novels of the same name. Despite the typical shortcomings that similar movies have fallen victim to, Jurassic park 3 actually does an amazing job following the emotion and tempo of the previous films. The story meshes well and you keep the same feeling of urgency as well as moral ambiguity while they traverse the ruins of InGen’s abandoned labs. The Movie follows Alan Grant, Paleontologist and survivor of the Jurassic Park incident, as he continues his work digging up dinosaur bones. A rich family asks for him to act as a guide as they fly over Isla Sorna for their honeymoon. Grant only reluctantly agrees when they offer to fund his dig with a blank check. Bad goes to worse when the plane crashes on the island, and the “rich family” turns out to be a divorced couple searching for their lost son. Grant must help his friends and this family survive the treacherous island and the many threats that reside upon it. Now, considering this is a movie only installment in the series, you can’t really expect the same kind of character depth you get with the other films. That said, Joe Johnston did an excellent job directing this film. The writers did well to try and emulate Crichton’s writing style and most of the cast did their jobs and performed well. The cast pretty star studded, with performances from Sam Neill, Will Macy and Téa Leoni. The only downside to this is the fact that, as close as they could get, the movie just wasn’t a Crichton production. Considering Spielberg wasn’t at the helm and Crichton wasn’t the writer, the film was never going to reach the same level as the other two, in terms of character development. The visuals, animatronics, CGI and locations all come together perfectly, and the eery, tropical island with abandoned research labs makes a great setting for the movie. If The Lost World movie did as good a job with location as these guys did, Im sure it would have been a much bigger success. Overall, it was an entertaining movie which suffered more from what it wasn’t than appreciated for what it was. Jurassic World would later prove to audiences that some of the mistakes of Jurassic Park 3 can’t all be blamed on the lake of Crichton, sealing the movies fate. Final Score: 7.5/10 View the full article
  12. The Lost World Michael Crichton Quick View: A Strong follow up to Crichton’s previous work, this novel brings back all of the excitement and thrills from the last, while introducing new and fresh ideas and characters. not a journey you want to be left behind on/! Full Review: The Lost World is the sequel to the critically renowned novel Jurassic Park. Writer Michael Crichton delivers even more amazing stories and science in his follow up to the amazing thriller. Very few writers can seamlessly sew scientific and historical understanding with a well written and rhythmic piece of fiction. This novel continues to speak wonders, as it turns the focus from science to observation as a survivor of the Jurassic Park incident ventures back to the seas near Costa Rica to the Island of Isla Sorna, where his friend innocently observes the out-of-time genetically engineered dinosaurs. The novel is not just entertaining but thought provoking, as we see the consequences of corporate greed, cost ineffectiveness, and the pride of man vs the nature of the animal kingdom, both modern and ancient. The story follows Ian Malcolm, survivor of the Jurassic Park incident and Mathematician, renowned for his work on chaos theory. He suffers from injuries and PTSD from his experience on Isla Nublar, and when he hears of his partner becoming involved with Hammond and his wish to send a team back to the prehistoric heck, he rushes to help her, even if it means traveling back to the forsaken shores of another of InGen’s mistakes. Upon arrival, things go awry as InGen sends a team to document and capture the various creatures and ship them to California to become a part of a new Jurassic park themed resort. Things inevitably go wrong as the small team hired by Hammond sabotage inGen’s efforts, and the survivors must band together to survive against the cretaceous threat. From invisible, camouflaged raptors to the gigantic T-Rex, the scientists and hunters alike have their work cut out for them. The characters are varied and original as is Crichton’s style, and each goes through their own changes and experiences. Malcolm fights through his fear and memories as he tries to survive the island, and the varying cast of people each must deal with the new and terrifying experience in their own ways. The distinctive attitudes of each group of people offers different experiences throughout the book, and keeps a level of varying entertainment. We can take many different lessons about human nature from their experiences, and can learn a thing or two about ourselves in the process. The beautiful and vivid tropical island is brought to life through Crichton’s words, and we get to create the world in our own heads to a great extent thanks to the seeds he plants. The abandoned buildings and the wild forests add the perfect scenes for a dinosaur-fest and the novel makes great use of these different locals. Overall the entire novel is just another one of Michael Crichton’s amazing works of art, and anybody who values good writing and quality entertainment will love this novel. Final Score: 9/10 View the full article
  13. Jurassic Park Michael Crichton Quick View: A fantastic novel ripe with action, thrills, and excellent philisophical debate without coming off as preachy. one of the best you’ll read, I guarantee it! Full Review: Jurassic Park is by far one of my favorite Science Fiction novels ever written. The late Michael Crichton did a fantastic job combine real world science with the fantastical idea of bringing back long extinct animals and how these new species will work with the modern world. The latent capitalistic nature of Hammond’s idea and InGens selfishness versus the ethical treatment and eventuality of the project leads to a thrilling page turner. The leading characters and their journey has the read both learning the nuances of paleontology, Chaos theory, and genetics as this motley crew tries their best to survive on the barren tropical island full of dangerous and confused creatures, The story follows Doctor Alan Grant, a paleontologist and expert on velociraptors, as he and his partner are invited by Doctor Hammond to come and give their consensus on his new interactive theme park. It’s not long after their arrival, and subsequent debate about the ethics of such a themepark, when things go wrong. A tropical storm shuts down the security of the facility, and the inspection crew find themselves running for their lives as the attractions become the predators. The characters and their progression through the novel is well paced and representative of each one’s personality. We get to see the growth and experience of each character as they face the problems that plague survivors of hostile environments. The continuous ethical debate and scientific discussion throughout the book really plays well with the educated topics and represents the skills of Michael Crichton as a writer and theologist. The location and use of environment is paramount and leads to many of the problems and solutions in the novel. The theme park turned war zone adds a unique twist to the novel and allows for the different characters to utilise the modern facility to their advantage in outsmarting the growing intelligence of their hunters. It’s only at the end of the book as the Costa Rican government carpet bombs the island with Napalm do you finally let out an exasperated breathe as the characters you have journeyed with finally feel safe. The book is easily my favorite novel of all time. The combination of fiction and scientific understanding and their implementation is seamless and make the novel one of the best I’ve ever read. Crichton etches his name into history with this story, and does a great job setting up the sequel with the open ending he leaves. The only downside i can acknowledge in the book is that any reader without a basic understanding or appreciation for science will be left in the dust with the complication lexicon used throughout the novel. So, casuals beware, this ain’t your grandpa’s science fiction. Final Score: 9/10 View the full article
  14. Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens J.J. Abrams Quick View: Full Review: Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens is the first Star Wars movie produced after the purchase of the franchise by Disney. This new series follows a whole new cast of characters in a whole new era, following in the footsteps of the fan appreciated original trilogy. This new diverse cast offers a lot in terms of unique character development as well as storytelling as a whole. Although many consider the plot a rip off of A New Hope, there are actually a lot of new unique parts of the story which contrast greatly with the first film. The story follows Rey, a young scavenger on the Planet of Jakku, as she is thrust into the conflict between the First order and the New Republic. She finds a BB-8 unit carrying a map that leads to Luke Skywalker, who is in hiding since the loss of his new Jedi order. Joining forces with storm trooper runaway Finn, and tagging along with famed war hero and smuggler Han Solo, the crew make their way through the galaxy, thwarting the first order and its commander, the dark force user Kylo Ren. The story is both exciting, action packed, and heart wrenching, and we see both new faces and old friends of the series. The characters each come from a unique and well determined history, which influences their decision. Rey, abandoned on Jakku by her family, wishing to return in hopes that they might come back for her. Finn, a former soldier for the first order and guilt stricken by the loss of his comrades. Han Solo, a talented smuggler with a piece of him missing, and General Leia Organa, former politician turned renegade leader of the Resistance. Each of the actors playing these roles and their stories make TFA one of the best Star Wars films to date, and the story plays out well. The twists and turns JJ Abrams takes us along give great credit to both him and the series. The location and set design for this movie are by far my favorite of all the films. From the snowy tundra of Starkiller base, to the sands of jakku, and the rich forests of Moz’s planet, we get to see the rich colors and contrast of the Star Wars galaxy. The use of practical effects mesh well with the proper use of CGI, and the large starfighters and real prop droids give a great level of authenticity to the production as a whole. Seeing actors work alongside real props on real sets sets the stage for a much better entry into the saga. After watching the whole movie, and taking in the new aura and feeling to it, it definitely deserves the title of Star Wars, although most of the plot is somewhat predictable and follows a straight forward direction. It’s because of this that I feel The Force Awakens was both very well accepted as well as somewhat held back. I look forward to see how Disney handles episode 8 and the other Star Wars films to come. Final Score: 8/10 View the full article
  15. Star Wars Episode 6: Return of the Jedi George Lucas Quick View: Luke faces his greatest challenge: Rescue his friens and defeat the empire. He has learned everything he can about the force, but one thing stands between him and the title of Jedi: his Father, Lord Vader. Will his merry band of rebels and their small furry friends be enough to halt the construction of the second death star without his help? Full Review: Star Wars Episode 6: Return of the Jedi is the final installment of George Lucas’ groundbreaking Scifi-Fantasy saga. Set not long after the events of the last film, we get to see a stunning and visually inspiring final chapter in the story of Luke Skywalker, and his struggle against the dark lord of the sith, his father, Darth Vader. The movie offers a well developed crew of characters, broad open scenery, and a unique use of alien life, space battles, and the force. Although many fans disagree, I was very happy with the care free and family friendly nature of the film. Although much less obnoxious than the prequel’s use of comic relief, the ewoks offer a welcome break from the serious overtone of the film. The movie follows Luke Skywalker, as he ventures to Tatooine to rescue his friend Han Solo. After being captured by Jabba the hutt, and having Leia free Han from his carbonate cell, The crew face almost certain death. With jabba refusing to surrender, Luke uses his new lightsaber, and the new force powers he has mastered, to make short work of Jabba and his minions. Luke Goes on to seek out yoda and to finish his training, only to learn that his final test is to defeat his father. He confronts Obi Wan’s force ghost, asking questions about why he was lied to. Obi Wan tells Luke about how important point of view is to a Jedi, and that Vader must be defeated. He also informs luke of crucial information about his family. Luke joins back up with his comrades, and the put together a plan to destroy the brand new Death Star the empire have constructed. The team works their way through the blockade, and after a scuffle with the native inhabitants of endor, join forces with the ewoks to help defeat the ground forces of the Empire. Luke surrenders to Vader, and is brought before the emperor. Whilst his friends fight and die in a fruitless space battle, luke is forced to fight his father in order to save the lives of his friends. Angered by Vader’s taunts, Luke gives way to his anger, injuring his father. Realising he is making the same mistake his father made, luke rejects the dark side, proclaiming his achievement of the rank of Jedi, like his father before him. The emperor casts down luke using the force, and moments before death, Vader saves his son by casting the emperor down the long shaft of the spire. Vader thanks luke, succumbing to his injuries. Luke narrowly escapes as the death star is destroyed, and the rebellion is Free. Before continuing his celebration, Luke gets on last goodbye from his former mentors, as well as his now revitalized father in force ghost form. This movie does an amazing job with the characters of Star Wars, and Lucas really does deliver with concluding the stories of each one. This movie, although not as breathtaking and original as the previous film, is a fitting sequel and really delivers in the Jedi aspects of the trilogy. The more mature and experienced actors add a nice touch to the more serious and developing plot, and the cast perform their duties astonishingly. The set design is beautiful as always, and the lush green forest presented as endor really adds a nice contrast to the deserts and snowy wastelands of previous films. The emperor’s spire is presented well with the dark, low lighting and hard black colors, and the contrast between the rebellions bright white halls and rooms really helps set that feeling of good versus evil. The space battle is easily the best of the series, and we feel a much greater connection to the pilots. We also get to see destruction on a galactic scale as entire rebel battle ships and star destroyers find themselves exploding and crashing into the massive death star, Overall, the good execution, cast, and story adds a nice, entertaining end to a well made trilogy. George Lucas, although tainted in the eyes of fans by his prequel trilogy, will always maintain a level of respect for these masterpieces. The family friendly nature adds to the mature feeling of this movie, and makes it a much more innocent and enjoyable trip to the theater. Here’s hoping the new trilogy can do just as well. Final Score: 8.5/10 View the full article
  16. Star Wars Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back George Lucas Quick View: The Death Star is destroyed, but will young Luke and his band of rebels be able to survive against the empire now that they’ve kicked the hornet’s nest? Will young luke be able to master his force powers with his mentor Obi-wan gone? Full Review: Star Wars Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back is the second installment of George Lucas’ groundbreaking Scifi-fantasy space adventure. Following on the heels of his very successful first film, Lucas delivers a very strong, very well made sequel that puts many imitations to shame. Many people had doubts about whether or not the next installment could live up to the Star Wars name, and George Lucas blew the critics out of the water. Even today, more than 30 years later, finding faults in this film is very hard as most of the lacking parts of the film actually give the movie a sense of style and originality. This film is heralded by many as the best movie ever made, and definitely deserves the recognition. The story follows Luke Skywalker and his friends, Han solo and Leia Organa, as they continue their fight against the empire. After an accident on the Snowy planet of Hoth, luke finds himself fighting off a large bear-like beast, demonstrating his use of the force to grab his lightsaber and free himself from an ice trap. Injured and delirious, luke sees the force ghost of his former mentor and friend, who tells him to seek out Jedi Master Yoda in the Dagobah star system. Han Solo finds the injured Luke, and brings back to base, not long before the empire finds and assaults the Rebels snowy hideaway. After helping buy time for the rebels to flee, Luke and his friends go separate ways as Luke sets out to find the former jedi to help progress his training in the ways of the force. Meanwhile, Han, Leia and Chewie find themselves being chased by the empire, and seek refuge in cloud city, under the protection of Han’s old friend Lando Calrissian. Whilst luke trains with the the small, strange jedi master, Han finds, to his dismay, that his friend Lando had made a deal with Vader, leading to Hans torture and subsequent Freezing in carbonite. The pain caused to his friends is felt through the force, and Luke ends his training early to go to their aid, at the protest of his small green master. Luke encounters vader, and a lightsaber duel ensues. Vader shows his proficiency throughout the fight, and toys with the young apprentice as he vainly attempts to defeat the sith lord. After losing his hand and on the edge of a large endless wind tunnel, Vader reveals a shocking truth to the young force user. With nowhere to turn, Luke escapes down the tunnel, and is rescued by the his friends and Lando who helped free them and aid in their escape. The character development in this installment blows the previous film out of the water. We see relationships bloom, characters learn and change, and see Luke start to explore his latent ability with the force. We have new more interesting characters, and groundbreaking reveals about the history and relationships between all the different people in the film. The actors do a great job, and the performance is seamless. We get to see the former victors feel the pressure as the empire squeezes their efforts, and the tense atmosphere is made better by the spot on talent. The environments and locals are still just as good, and we are treated to more of the beautiful set design by Lucas’ crew. Most people probably don’t notice this, but the prop design and costuming in this film is absolutely superb. Minor improvements were made to the lead casts attire and it adds a new level of detail (For example, Vader’s collar is Silver and black instead of matt and reflective black, and han solo rocks a nice ironed blue jacket instead of his lanky black vest). The makeup department also did a great job with Luke and Han as they both go through traumatic experiences. In fact, Mark Hamill was in a car accident, and the beginning scenes of him being attacked were added in to allow for his wounds to make sense canonically. At the end of it all, the production quality, writing, performance, and entertainment value of the movie blows any critique or shortcomings I can think of out of the water. The mere fact that many of the events in this movie were worked around real life incidents with the crew make it that much more of an impressive feat. Lucas proved with with this movie that even with the limited technology of the 80s, a breathtaking space thriller could be done right. Final Score: !!! 10/10 !!! View the full article
  17. Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope George Lucas Quick View: A young farmer and his wizard like mentor find themselves caught up in a galaxy wide rebellion. Will this mysterious magic called the force be enough for the young Luke Skywalker to defeat the threat of the empire and the evil Darth Vader? Full Review: Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope is the first installment of George Lucas’ revolutionary SciFi-fantasy-action adventure saga. This movie contained many groundbreaking techniques in filmmaking as well as stunning performances, and the brilliant cast worked together to produce a movie that would continue to be held as one of the greatest, if not THE greatest sci film to this day. The movie holds up to time very well, and the somewhat cheesy practical effects only add to the timelessness of the production. The plot, although far from unique, is fun and easy to understand, and helps guide the movie on an entertaining journey. The movie follows the story of Luke Skywalker, a young moisture farmer on the planet of Tatooine. Luke has always dreamed of leaving the small backwater planet behind for something greater, and he gets his wish when two droids wanted by the authoritarian Empire come into his possession. With the help of old Ben Kenobi, a former Jedi Knight, and a pair of smugglers, Han and Chewie, Luke must find his way to Alderaan to help deliver the secret plans of the massive super weapon called the Death Star, which were hidden inside one of the droids, to the rebellion. To their surprise, all they found was rubble and waste as well as the enormous battle station looming over the remains. After being sucked in, The crew work together to free their ship and rescue the princess locked away in the station. After a daring escape, and the loss of one of their own, they make their way to the Rebel alliance, and Luke joins the rag tag rogue squadron on a mission to destroy the death star. The character’s drive and development are well written and progress nicely throughout the film. Each character has their own goals, ambitions, and view on the various events, playing off of their experiences to help develop the plot and move the story along. A good movie usually has a cast of characters who, by the end of the movie, have gone through some form of transformation. In A New Hope, Luke develops a trust in the force, Han learns to put the right thing in front of monetary gain, and Vader learns not to underestimate the rebellion. Overall, the movie benefits from great characters played by great actors, and we are all better off for it. The scenery fits each scene. From large, vast sets, to tiny cramped ships, and endless desserts, A New Hope is made better by the use of location to develop the plot and production quality of the film. The movie made you feel like you really were in a galaxy far far away. Overall, the movie, although not the most original with its plot, was a groundbreaking film by an amazing director, cast, and crew, and helped inspire many of the scifi hits since. Unlike most pilot movies, A New Hope made itself a great stand alone film, as well as offering a nice starting point for the following two. Combined with a very quotable script and the fun, addicting nature of the action and characters, A New Hope becomes one of the best SciFi films ever made. Final Score: 9/10 View the full article
  18. Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith George Lucas Quick View: The Galactic civil war has been raging for years, and Anakin and Obi-wan have been at the center of it all. Taking the life of the man who had taken his hand, Anakin begins to feed slowly off the negative emotions inside him. Will his hatred for the Jedi Council and respect for the insidious Palpatine be enough to turn the Jedi Prodigy to the dark side? Will Obi-wan have what it takes to save his apprentice from the temptations? WILL JAR JAR FINALY BE KILLED OFF? Full Review: Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith is the final installment of George Lucas’ Prequel trilogy of his Sci fi saga, Star Wars. This movie is by far the most mature and well made installment of the trilogy, with quality storytelling and bearable angsty-ness from the script. Although some line deliveries leave much to be desired, Revenge of the sith offers a fitting end to the series with the answer to the question “How did Anakin Skywalker become Darth Vader?” This movie takes place a few years after the end of the previous movie and the Clone War is entering its final stages. A mature Anakin and an aging Kenobi fly their way into the ship which holds the captive chancellor of the republic. Fighting their way through the ship, Anakin and Obi Wan find their way to the chancellor, only to be met by count Dooku. After fighting with the sith lord, and Obi Wan being rendered unconscious, Anakin defeats dooku. Being prompted by the chancellor, and with anger from losing his arm to the sith, Anakin beheads him, beginning upon the long road that is the young Jedi’s downfall. After escaping, Anakin meets up with Padme only to be told the news that she’s pregnant. Anakin begins having nightmares, and goes to Master Yoda for guidance. Obi wan is sent to kill the leader of the separatist droid army, which will end the war. Meanwhile, The chancellor tells Anakin that the dark side holds the power to save his wife. Anakin tells the Jedi of this and they try to assassinate the chancellor, who is infact the sith lord they have been looking for. After coming close to ending it, Anakin intervenes, telling Mace windu that to kill palpatine is against the jedi way. Anakin then disarms Windu and palpatine deals the final blow. Anakin submits himself to palpatine, and the dark lord names him Darth Vader. Vader assaults the Jedi temple with a clone army, killing most of the young Jedi there. Order 66 leads to the clone armies turning on their jedi and assassinating them all. Yoda and Obi Wan survive, and each goes to confront the sith lords. Yoda fails to defeat Darth sidious, but Obi Wan manages to cripple Anakin, leading to the young sith’s tragic injuries. The story ends with Obi Wan delivering Anakin’s son to his uncle and aunt, and Vader receiving his iconic suit. The character development, although rushed at some points, works well with the pacing of the story. Each character plays their part, and the story unfolds before the audience, slowly connecting the puzzle pieces and giving the fans the answers they have been waiting for. Overall, the characters mesh much better, and the performances are overall improved. Setting, as usual, is superb, from the metallic halls of the droid ship to the volcanic wasteland that is Mustafar, Revenge of the Sith delivers the expected Star Wars beauty in location. The space battles are absolutely breathtaking, and the visuals are far superior to the previous films. The clothing and props are well designed, and as a cosplayer, absolutely lovely to look at and wear. The only real drawback to the film is the script which Hayden Christensen is forced to work with. Although we see a glimpse of brilliance from him in a scene or two, some of the lines he is made to deliver just don’t work, and this supposedly mature Jedi knight still comes off as a whiny brat. Still, this is easily the best installment of the prequels, and is a fitting end. Final Score: 8.5/10 View the full article
  19. Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones George Lucas Quick View: Obi-wan and the now grown Anakin Skywalker are tasked with protecting the young senator Padme Amadala. Obi-wan sets of to track down the would-be assassin, meanwhile Anakin and Padme begin to develop feelings for each other. Will Anakin choose to stay loyal to his Jedi code and obey the last orders of his Master, or will he give in to his emotions, and risk everything for the woman he loves and the Master he respects. Full Review: We are promised clones. Attacking clones. We expect to see clones. Attacking. Not in the last 5 minutes, not in the last 10 minutes, within the first half of the movie. Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones is the second installment of George Lucas’ prequel trilogy to his Space-action-fantasy adventure saga, Star Wars. The film brings quality CGI fight scenes mixed with some of the most unbearable dialogue and cringyness found in cinematography. Seriously, hate-poems about sand? Teen love drama? Who wrote this dialogue? Come on George. Jar Jar is one thing, but this! Attack of the Clones follows Obi Wan and Anakin 10 years after the events of the first film. Anakin has matured into an almost fully grown man, and Obi Wan has fully embraced his role as a Jedi knight. They are tasked with safeguarding Senator Padme Amidala from assassins sent by the separatists, who wish to end her life to benefit their own agenda. The young Anakin falls prey to his feelings for her, and while Obi Wan trots across the galaxy hunting the would-be assassin, Anakin and Padme…develop their relationship. Obi Wan discovers a planet that was deleted from Jedi Archive record, and finds that the planet is producing a clone army for use by the republic for war. Later, he follows the bounty hunter to the planet Geonosis where he discovers Count Dooku talking with the separatists. He is captured, and Anakin and Padme rush to save him. Getting captured themselves, they declare their love and kiss as they enter the stadium. Before the 3 are killed, the Jedi come in and save them. Soon, the clone army is fighting in full force against the droid army, with Jedi leading the charge. Obi Wan and Anakin find themselves pursuing Dooku again, and in a brief fight, lose more than just the contest of blades. The now injured jedi lay at the mercy of dooku when Master Yoda intervenes. Unable to defeat him, dooku flees, and the Jedi retreat from Geonosis. The Clone War had begun. The character development for everyone other than dooku and Kenobi is absolutely dreadful. Ewan Mcgregor is easily the shining star of the prequel films, and does an amazing job in his role as Obi Wan. The late Sir Christopher Lee is always a pleasure to see on screen, and he makes the perfect sith lord for Obi wan and Anakin to face. However, The dialogue Hayden Christiansen and Natalie Portman have to work with to develop Anakin and Padme’s relationship is dreadful. Both of them are decent actors, but this goes to show that even good actors can’t do much with horrible scripts. The angsty teen drama, along with Anakin’s hissy fit after murdering the sand people who killed his mother, just takes away from the movie as a whole. It was like whiny luke from episode 4 but far worse. The scenery, like the other movies, was perfect. Star Wars always seems to nail set and location. The prop team did an amazing job with the clones and the jedi, and as always, the space battles were gorgeous. Overall, the film suffered from way too much time building Anakin and Padme’s relationship, and not enough, well, Star Wars. Final Score: 6.5/10 View the full article
  20. Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace George Lucas Quick View:A Long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, society is on the brink of war. Can two Jedi ambassadors and their lucky aquatic friend save the queen and stop the trade federation from enslaving her planet? Full Review: Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace is the first installment of George Lucas’ Prequel trilogy of his successful space-action-fantasy adventure saga, Star Wars. This epic, although delivering in action and family friendly entertainment, suffers from its use of CGI and, well, family friendly entertainment. It’s comic relief comes off as obnoxious to anyone above the age of 8 and the story seems more akin to the holiday special then the previous 3 Star Wars films. That said, the movie overall makes a good watch for any Sci Fi fan wishing to marathon one of their favorite movie sagas. The story follows Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi as they fight their way through the droid armies of the trade federation to rescue the Queen of the planet naboo. they escape, only to find themselves stranded on the planet Tatooine. With the help of a gifted youngster, the motley crew find their way to Coruscant, home of the galactic republic, where they petition the senate to send aid to Naboo. The Queen, with the help of the Jedi, return to Naboo to fight the trade federation and free the people of the planet. All goes well until they encounter an enemy thought long gone: A Sith Lord. Overall the characters and their development differ from case to case. In the terms of the jedi, we get to see more of their style of dress, their demeanor and what it was they did for the Republic. This is some valuable insight which we were missing in the original trilogy. Despite the best efforts of Liam Neeson and Ewan Mcgregor, we were still left victim to Jar Jar Binks and his insufferable insanity. We get it George, you want to make something the kids will love, but was this really the best way to do that? Although many fans might disagree, I was actually pleased with Young Anakin Skywalker and his curious nature. It makes sense if you are gonna take a character and tell his story you should start at the beginning. The cast did their best to work together, and although overall the story was good, a certain alien creature kept making what should have been a good start to a good trilogy a miserable show of bad, childish humor. The settings throughout the show are beautiful, and the guys in charge of location surely got it right. The unnecessary level of CGI in the film can sometimes take away from the scenery, but overall the film was very, well, pretty. The space fights were action packed and fun to watch, even with young Anakin’s less than amazing commentary. The final battle between the Jedi and the Sith lord Darth Maul is by far the highlight of the film, and after the shocking final scenes of the fight, we are treated to what fans have been waiting for for 30 years: Obi-wan taking Anakin by his padawan. If you are willing to look past the shoddy CGI and poor dialogue for some characters, the movie delivers in its mandate to begin the trilogy, and is far from as bad as many fans claim it to be. Maybe it’s my bias, having grown up with the film, but overall it really isn’t that bad. Final Score: 7/10 View the full article
  21. Halo: New Blood Matt Forbeck Quick View: Matt Forbeck’s latest installment in the halo series does not disappoint. This novel does a wonderful job utilizing the vast lore of the halo universe while following the journey of the Orbital Drop Shock Trooper Buck as he journey’s from young marine to SPARTAN IV Super Soldier. Full Review: Halo: New Blood is a very recent entry into the growing series of halo novels. It’s a refreshing new tale giving us the backstory of a far from new character. The novel is written in a 1st person, flashback-memoir style, with ODST Buck guiding us through his journey, first as a child living on a fishing boat to his adventures as an Orbital Drop Shock Trooper, and his eventual commission into the SPARTAN IV program. The book has many emotional highs and lows, and keeps the reader entranced with its variety of topics, locals, and live changing events that lead Buck along his path that has him end up on Fire Team Osiris in Halo 5. Matt Forbeck does an excellent job in this novel compared to many of the other one-offs we see in the Halo series. His use of previously established characters and his ability to make them his own without changing who they are to the eyes of the fans allows for him to weave together a heart wrenching story of a soldier who lost everything, built it all back up, just to stand the chance of losing it all again. Forbeck plays with the lives of the characters in a way very unique to this novel. He isn’t scared to pull a G.R.R.M. and kill off any character at any moment. Thankfully he doesn’t abuse this power, but instead lets us know that no matter how much we may love a specific name in the book, nobody is immortal. That said, we might find death as a better alternative for the fate of some of the members of Buck’s Alpha team. When dealing with such a saturated world of lore such as Halo, one needs to be witty and original when writing their own installment in the series. Forbeck does a masterful job crafting the story, utilizing the vast amounts of information about the colony planets, the insurrection, the ODSTs, and the various conflicts throughout occupied space. The story doesn’t feel forced or stuck in the tedious requirement that Nylund’s Fall of Reach fell victim to. One wouldn’t even know the story was meant to act as lore to link Halo 3: ODST to Halo 5. Forbeck proves his worthiness of writing for the haloverse and every halo fan is better off for it. He treats the established lore with respect as well as creating his own to go along with it in a harmony of storytelling Now, I could go on all day with what he did right, but now it’s time to address what Forbeck could improve with his novel. Overall, the novel was well made, however, I felt the segments which were occurring in the present felt out of place. The book starts off with Buck on a mission with Alpha in the present day, lore wise. Halfway through he then cuts to the long backstory that leads all the way up to that mission, and at the end of the book, picks up where he left off. I think it would have been much more seamless if he split up these current events amongst the backstory with a higher frequency. It would have been much more pleasing to read story wise, and would have a nicer flow. That said, Forbeck may have made this decision based on the relative briefness of the book and might have felt that splitting the current events amongst the flashbacks might have inadvertently damaged the flow of the story rather than help it. Overall this decision doesn’t take much away from the story and can be considered more preference than critique. Overall the book was just a pleasure to read, and even nicer to listen too in audiobook format. Its first person style makes the audiobook that much more enjoyable and is nice for when your hands are full and you need something to listen too whilst you work or drive. It honors the halo lore that came before and offers new content for future writers to play with. I don’t know a single halo fan who wouldn’t thoroughly enjoy this book for everything its worth, and it will definitely stay a member of my collection for years to come. Final Score: 9/10 View the full article
  22. Stargate: The Ark of Truth Robert C. Cooper Quick View: This straight to DVD movie acts more like the final episode of the TV series and less like a proper movie, being overshadowed by the larger, more definitive Stargate: Continuum. Full Review: Stargate: Ark of Truth is one of two movies produced by the SyFy network in order to offer a proper ending to their long running show, Stargate: SG1. The series was based off of the popular cult classic, Stargate, an my opinions on that film can be found it my review of the movie on this site. This movie, when compared to its predecessor, Serenity, as well as its companion title, Stargate: Continuum, falls short of what most would consider a good film. It’s not that it’s bad or that the writing was poor or the visuals were lacking, it’s that the movie was produced as if it were just another episode of the series. When people watch a movie following a tv show, they expect a much higher production quality and experience. Stargate: Ark of Truth lacks, well, both. To be fair, it is as direct-to-dvd movie meant to offer a quick end to the final arc of the show, but still, shows like Star Trek have proven that successful Sci Fi shows can have very successful film adaptations to help tie up loose ends. The story follows SG1 as they search the ruins of the planet Dakara looking for the Ark of Truth, which was a device which could basically force anyone to believe that the ascended beings known as the Ori were, in fact, not gods. Now, none of this is going to make sense unless you watch seasons 9 and 10 of Stargate SG1, so go and binge watch those on Hulu. This review aint going anywhere. All caught up? Good. Anyways, the team is confronted by a team of Ori followers accompanied by an Ori priest. Whilst the Ori Prior tells the men to shoot, SG1 reveals that the prior has lost all of his abilities granted to him by the Ori. After killing him, they reveal it was a machine, not magic, that defeated him. With the help of the now turned Ori followers, SG1 ventures to the Ori galaxy through the supergate to hunt for the real Ark of Truth. The characters in the film are, well, already developed. Other than a few new characters introduced in the last season who made some big changes in the movie, we were treated to the same guys and gals seen in SG1. As I said, this movie was more or less just a big fancy season finale rather than an actual feature length film. The characters work well, and after a job well done, walk through the gate for what would soon be one of the last times. The scenery was similar to what we saw throughout the series, lush green forests, stone temples, beautiful ship sets, etc. Overall this movie just doesn’t deserve to be called a movie to me. It really is just a glorified season finale. One could say the same of Serenity if it weren’t for the fact Serenity had a large challenging plot and the production quality to match. Overall, Ark of Truth was the appetizer for continuum, but definitely worth the watch if you went through the effort of making it through 10 seasons of Stargate SG1. Final Score: 4/10 View the full article
  23. Halo: The Cole Protocol Tobias S. Buckle Quick View: Full Review: Halo: The Cole Protocol brings a new, very unique take on the halo universe, its tropes, the factions, and in the end, humanity as a whole. We see a new and original view of the relationship between the United Nations Space Command, the SPARTANS, the Rebels in hiding, and some humans and aliens caught in the crossfire as the Human-Covenant War finds its way into even the smallest and well hidden human colonies. Tobias Buckel does a great job stepping up to the plate and entering the ring with writers like Eric Nylund and Frank O’Connor, two people who have essentially created the Halo Universe. His story is dramatic, gripping, and offers a darker more serious tone to the already mature series. Buckle keeps a professional writing style throughout the book, and does his best to keep the presentation of the novel as good as the content. The novel follows the story of a human rebel living on a large space station hidden in an asteroid belt. Before The Human-Covenant war, The outer colonies were terribly taxed by the inner colonies and sought revolution through war. This was led to the creation of the SPARTAN program, which was making quick work of the rebels before the Covenant began their genocide of the human race. Now, these former rebels have fled into the far reaches of occupied space, and are slowly being picked off as the Covenant hunt human life without bias. A team of Spartans and a ballsy young Lieutenant named Jacob Keyes help these suspicious rebels in saving the lives of all the humans living aboard this hidden station as the alien pirates they were trading with give up their location for profit. The story has an enchanting rhythm to it, as every word of every paragraph of every chapter follows one after the other in a charming and poetic way. The formal writing style adds a level of maturity to the gritty sci fi adventure and the developing story of these vastly different groups of people coming together works wonders as Buckel creates a work of art out of a somewhat old and simple idea. Unlike previous novels, it’s not all about the good guys as the rebels who have no sympathy for the lives of the UNSC put their past behind them for the greater good. In the other stories we see a lot of selfishness coming from the rebels who encounter the protagonists, and in stark contrast Buckle adds humility and humanity to the bigger picture. The overall descriptive style and world of the novel fits with the darker themes Buckle was going for and meshes well with the established lore and understanding of the Halo universe. The original plot elements and progression are well paced. That said the novel does suffer from a lack of diversity. The majority of the novel takes place in the same place, and with a universe as large as halo, if it isn’t on a halo, you gotta be everywhere. Now, some could argue that the story demands attention to the events that happen in this one place, but I beg the question, why must the group of people stay stagnant when they have all of Human occupied space as their playground. Beside that, the story really isn’t anything special. Sure, it’s new and unique to Halo, but ultimately it’s a pretty recycled concept overall. I still recommend reading it as it’s a fun addition to the Halo series, but it’s far from required reading. Final Score: 7.5 out of 10 View the full article
  24. Stargate Roland Emmerich Quick View: The story of a soldier, an archaeologist, and a wormhole that drops you right at the doorstep of an Egyptian god. What could go wrong? Full Review: Stargate was a breathtaking, and visually astounding, science fiction movie from the early 90s. This movie helped inspire a lot of my love for science fiction as well as history, and to this day remains one of my favorite movies. With a lead role portrayed by a young Kurt Russell, viewers are treated to a well written and well paced movie complete with a good balance between mystery, action, and drama. The idea for this movie was so inspiring that it lead to not one but three entire TV franchises, lasting a sum total of 17 seasons. It’s fun, witty, and has you leaving the room with a smile on your face. The movie delivers both strong messages about depression, duty, and the will to persevere, as well as having an honest and enjoyable ending. The story follows an archeologist by the name of Daniel Jackson, who discovers that the ancient egyptian pyramids actually seem to predate the egyptians credited with building them. Jackson is mocked by the historians and educators of the field, disregarding everything he tries to assert. After leaving his failure of a conference, an older women in a black car offers him a job to prove his theories true. After months of work, Jackson discovers that an ancient cartouche found in egypt had etched in it 6 star constellations, with a 7th symbol representing a pyramid and the sun. This combination turns out to be the code to activate a device called the “Stargate”, an intergalactic wormhole device found buried in Giza. Jackson, accompanied by an Air Force special forces unit lead by Jack O’Neill, a grieving father, step through the event horizon, and embark on a journey that would push each man to their breaking point. The characters easily define the film and its brilliance. Daniel Jackson’s liberal, pencil pushing demeanor offers great contrast to Russell’s hardened military vet portrayal of O’Neill. The snarky, sarcastic airmen, along with the quirky native inhabitants of the planet Abydos offer a resounding diversity in cast and culture. On top of this, the introduction of the movie does an amazing job giving both of the protagonists a compelling story and reason for being. The conflicts throughout the story between the main villain, as well as the rivalry between each character, helps show the effect that each character’s past has on the mission, themselves, and those around them. Its this attention to detail and skillful writing that makes this movie such a delight to watch. The scenery and locations used in filming are magnificent, from the decommissioned missile silo to the deserts of Abydos to the large stone temples inside the pyramid and spaceship offer a variety of locations for the actors’ work to play off of. The practical use of the desert throughout the film also adds much more authenticity to the film, and improves on the overall production. The only problem I can really find with this film is the lack of use of the rest of the Airmen besides Jack O’Neill. They are the proverbial red shirts and act as lambs to the slaughter for most of the film, with even some of the native villagers given more character and importance. Of course, like many of my critiques of good stories, this falls more under opinion then of objective observation. Another problem with the movie is the uncomfortable yet necessary disregard of logic throughout the film. When one of the men suggest dialing the gate from home, he’s met with “It doesn’t work like that.” Why not? Why must it be one way? I didn’t know airmen kowalski here was an expert in physics and the thermodynamics of a wormhole. Other than this, the movie is pretty on par. I highly recommend this film to anybody looking for a great Sci Fi action thriller to watch on a friday night. Final Score: 9/10 View the full article
  25. Atlas 3 Isaac Hooke Quick View: A worthy and satisfying conclusion to an enjoyable space marine series. Publisher’s summary: The ATLAS mechanized battle suits are the pinnacle of military technology, boasting awesome destructive power—but what is behind the armor is only human. Rade Galaal, elite soldier and ATLAS operator, has been tested—and broken—by savage battles and devastating losses. Now, an old enemy poses a new threat. The vile insectile aliens that once threatened Earth have regrouped to engineer a new apocalyptic assault on mankind, and the ATLAS mechs are called to defend the very survival of the human race. On the desolate, far-flung moons of Tau Ceti II, there will come a reckoning. Earth’s adversaries are legion, and the planet’s soldiers—for all of their rigorous training and amazing ordnance—are only flesh and blood. But they possess a defiant will to survive. Will Rade find the strength to reforge his shattered spirit and defeat the alien onslaught before all is lost? Full Review: As much as I enjoyed Atlas 2, it’s a story about struggle and survival, with an almost completely dire ending. Atlas 3 on the other hand is a story of action, and plans to defeat the invading aliens. It’s also a story with a very satisfying ending. From Shaw working with Azen and his rebel phants, to Rade and Tahoe’s separate missions targeting different alien strongholds, this time around we’re treated to three different points of view. As good as it should have been, I couldn’t help but find Rade and Tahoe’s missions draw out, and occasionally skimmed a page here and there as many of the encounters seemed like just more of thee same. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy Atlas 3, I very much did. But I would say to me it seemed like the most repetitive of the series, and that’s why I gave it a slightly lower score. However, if you’ve read Atlas 1 and 2, I highly recommend reading Atlas 3 as it wraps of the story in a worthly and satisfying way. [stsig] [ques] [aff] View the full article