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  1. Halo: Mortal Dictata Karen Traviss Quick View: Just when Traviss started to redeem herself with Thursday War, she utterly and completely disappoints us with this sad excuse of a novel. My 8 yr old Nephew can write a more compelling Halo Story than this. Full Review: Oh, where to start. Where to start with this one. I don’t know what’s worse, the utter disrespect for almost every character in the novel or how pitiful the novel is in comparison to the previous two. If you have read my previous reviews of Karen Traviss’ Kilo-5 trilogy, then you know I’m no huge fan. Traviss is known for playing with the lives of characters, and is infamous amongst Star Wars fans for killing off of Mara Jade Skywalker in her novel Sacrifice. Mortal Dictata is the final nail in the coffin for the Kilo-5 trilogy, and drives home the point that no matter how skilled or established an author is, not everybody is fit to write a Halo novel. Where do we begin in this “story”? Well, Traviss proves that nobody is beyond cliches when she takes a character with an established backstory thanks to Nylund’s SPARTAN II trilogy and disregards everything about them. Naomi, the only active SPARTAN II member of Kilo-5, suddenly has all of the exposed emotions a regular person might have. Traviss gives her a sense of humor, attraction, as well as renegade feelings for her relatives. Whether her father is the member of the insurrection or not, a SPARTAN II would feel no remorse no difficulty in carrying out a mission to defeat that person. The spartans were raised together from an early age to fight or die. They were programmed to be the perfect warriors. Because of this, they are incredibly introverted, and only really socialise with their fellow spartans. Now, I can understand if she begins to socialise with her fellow soldiers of Kilo-5. I can even accept if she begins to have feelings for one of them. But, I will not accept that she will let her feelings about a father she barely knew intervene with her mission to end the insurgency. The world building is non existent, as Traviss uses the same barren, run down planets from her previous novels, and only expands on the already established worlds. All I can say about it is it seems to be a mix between Mad Max and Firefly in terms of scenery, except for when we follow the terribly dull Kig Yar segments of the book. I actually had to skip entire sections of the novel because I couldn’t stand the plotline of the Jackal pirates. I felt no attachment to them, their purpose, or their plight. This book felt more like a SyFy one off tv show than a Halo novel, and it shows throughout the book. At the end of the day, the parts of the story that are redeemable fail to shine through the dirt and debris that is this books attempt at entertainment. Too many contradicting signals and a failure to mesh with the other Kilo-5 books, let alone other Halo novels, signal the death of this series. I sincerely hope 343 learned their lesson with risking their franchise with Traviss, and judging by Hunters in the Dark and New Blood, they certainly made better decisions in who to write for Halo. Overall, it’s still Halo, and has done more with the insurrection than other novels. Final Score: 4/10 View the full article
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. 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
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    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
  10. 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
  11. 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
  12. 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
  13. 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
  14. 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
  15. 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
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