Movie Reviews

Virtual Environments

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The film “Second Skin” (2008) takes an interesting (and slightly disturbing) look at the world of Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) games. It follows different gamers in different situations, each with their own important connection to a virtual world.

The film can often portray the more negative and stereotypical side of MMO gaming but it does show some of its benefits such as how people have met through the game and to some: how it is their escape from the everyday, which to some with disabilities is their way of becoming who they want to be.

As a gamer who has tried a few MMOs, I’ve never really been sucked into the virtual worlds enough to play them in-depth or for very long. I definitely see how players can become absorbed in their worlds. My closest comparable experience would perhaps be in the form of Skyrim. I played the game during the summer between high school and university. It was the first game I had played in the Elder Scrolls franchise and I became hooked on many of the same game mechanics that can be found in MMORPGs such as levelling, combat and story.

Second Skin looks at the more hidden and psychological aspect of playing these type of games, in particular those who spend the majority of their day online playing them. MMOs are designed in mind to take a very long time to complete as that is part of their nature, often featuring massive worlds. The longer the developers can keep you in the game, the more profitable the game can become. Surrounding players with often like-minded people all working towards a goal can be a great experience, but with anything, Second Skin shows how people can express addictive tendencies towards the game.

I found a similar documentary film called Life 2.0 which explores many of the same but also different social issues that revolve around virtual environments. The film centres of the game Second Life, which is a different type of online virtual word, based more off real life environments with players taking control of virtual avatars. The player can create an avatar to their own liking or make it up, they are then free to explore the world, socialise with other players, participate in activities or even trade virtual goods.

Second Life is more targeted towards the social aspect than your average MMORPG. However this social aspect in a virtual environment has often led to social issues of its own. As seen in both Second Skin and Life 2.0, the players become so absorbed into the game that their real life deteriorates. One player in Second Life had a second personality, a young girl avatar which became an extension of his own personality. Due to conflicts within his real life he decides to close his account. He had tried to get banned before because he was unable to leave on his own actions. On the final day that he plays this character, he pulls an all-nighter talking and sharing emotional with his online friends, hosting a virtual party and eventually hosting a funeral. While roleplaying is common in these games, the guy had become so absorbed it was ruining his real life. So while virtual environments can be an escape from the everyday, it can also be dangerous in some ways.

The Lego Movie Review

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“Everything is awesome”, the saying that pretty much sums up the movie and also the name of the song that will be drilled in your memory for a couple of days following a viewing of The Lego Movie.

In a metropolis city run by the corporate ruler Lord Business (Will Ferrell), the inhabitants of Bricksburg seem to be getting along just fine and dandy. But Lord Business has plans to use the malicious “Kragle” to freeze the world to his liking. The movie’s story centres around Emmet (Chris Pratt), a completely ordinary Lego minifigure who suddenly and unexpectedly gains the title of the “most extraordinary person” after finding the mysterious “piece of resistance”. Along with a team of master builders including Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), the wizard Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) and even Batman (Will Arnett), Emmet must go on a quest to save the world.

From a dazzling visual style and imaginative worlds to a star-studded cast and a simple but charming story, The Lego Movie sets a huge standard for movies in 2014, and not just animated ones. The Lego Movie taps into your inner child and gives you a visual feast that’ll make you say “I want to go play with Lego now”….and that’s just fine, regardless of your age.

For a movie where the characters only have 7 joints for movement, its amazing how much life they have. While animated in 3D, its clear to see the influence of stop-motion animation that many fans use with their Lego collections to make and share their stories. Even the special effects are made of Lego bricks which really adds a unique and comical style to the film.

The story is relatively simple but includes imaginative and often ludicrous scenes which will really brighten up your day. What really puts The Lego Movie on its pedestal is the genuine passion the film-makers have for Lego and this really comes across in all the gags but also the messages and heartfelt moments the movie also has.

When it comes to gags, there are far too many to count in The Lego Movie, from a wide variety of cameos from all different characters in the Lego range to jokes that can only be told through Lego, you will definitely leave the cinema with a smile on your face. Some say that The Lego Movie is just a 1-hour 20-minute advertisement and they’re not wrong, but that’s not a bad thing because you can never have enough Lego!

As a brickfilmer who uses Lego to make animations, I was chuffed to see The Lego Movie announced but I never thought it would have been as great as it was. I’m thoroughly pleased with The Lego Movie as it truly represents that a toy can be so much more than just a toy, and instead become something that represents creativity, imagination and most importantly: fun.

Birdemic 2: The Resurrection Review

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If you’re the type of person who enjoys bad movies (and I mean really bad) movies then you might have heard of the gem known as Birdemic: Shock and Terror. If you haven’t, Birdemic is a “movie” with some of the worst acting, writing and digital effects possible directed by the “talented” James Nguyen. It’s so bad that it becomes amazingly hilarious. It fits in the category of cult movies along with others such as Troll 2, The Room and Plan 9 from Outer Space.

This trailer for Birdemic 2 pretty much shows all it’s awfulness apart from the plot. Not that it matters anyway because there is no plot.

This is essentially a review of Birdemic and Birdemic 2 because I’ll start off in saying that they are basically the same movie. The same events and scenarios occur in the same order in both films. It’s literally like they took the script for Birdemic and just changed the locations and threw in a few new characters.

Birdemic 2 somehow gets worse though. It’s funny in the same way Birdemic was but the novelty has worn off a little. The small improvements to Birdemic 2 are cancelled out due to the fact we’ve already seen this film. So if you’ve not seen either movie I’d recommend you to watch Birdemic for a laugh and skip the sequel unless you’re dedicated.

So what makes it so bad?

The “Acting”

The cast seem to be aliens, unable to talk normally or act how humans should act. I’m not exaggerating when I say the average person could do a better job. To be fair, some of the actors are worse than others. There is the odd person who’ll give a decent attempt at delivering their lines, others seem unaware they’re in a movie and a certain few seem to have no clue how to form a sentence. In particular, Alan Bagh who I am certain is a robot.

The “Plot”

The plot is the same as Birdemic: Shock and Terror. We meet some characters doing random things then boom, kamikaze birds. The group of characters then go from place to place not really looking for anything or working towards a goal, they just go places. Characters and events are also replicated for no apparent reason, its like the director literally has no clue how to think of new things. For example, in Birdemic some guy on a bridge talks about global warming, then in Birdemic 2, that same man who is still on a bridge talks about dinosaurs or something (I wasn’t really listening both times).


So in conclusion, Birdemic is a must watch if you like bad movies, really bad ones. Its a lot of fun to watch with friends and just laugh at how bad it is. Birdemic 2 is the same thing, I’d only really watch that after seeing the first one. Birdemic 2 is kind of a parody of the first one, I’m certain that the film crew know how bad it is and just carry on for the laughs. Knowing that did retract a little from the movie, it didn’t have the same feel as Birdemic. Either way, both movies are awful.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone Review

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The Incredible Burt Wonderstone stars Steve Carell as a traditional magician Burt Wonderstone whose performance is being rivalled by a popular street magician. The movie also stars Steve Buscemi as Burt Wonderstone’s assistant and Jim Carrey as street musician Steve Gray.

Steve Carell’s performance as Burt Wonderstone is not his best but he does make the character funny and likeable, the same can be said about Steve Buscemi. When I first saw Jim Carrey as the extreme Steve Gray I thought “oh this will be good” and while he was funny in the role, I wasn’t laughing out loud like I would usually get from Jim Carrey.

Although the film was entertaining on the whole with the odd funny scene, it sadly didn’t amount to anything great. I kept expecting these really funny moments to turn up but the comedy isn’t as clever as we should normally see from this cast. Alan Arkin plays an old retired magician who teaches Burt Wonderstone the ultimate magic trick as well as change his ways as a person, pretty cliché.

 A lot of the plot was predictable which retracted a lot from the entertainment but it did have heart. The ultimate magic trick was cool though, I was unsure what they would do but magic has that great way of surprising you. I was impressed by a lot of the tricks in the movie and was glad to hear that most of them were actually shot with practical special effects rather than digital effects.

In conclusion, I enjoyed the film but it wasn’t anything special. I was a little disappointed as I know the cast can do better if the story wasn’t so predictable. I still had the odd laugh but that was all it amounted to.

Identity Thief Review

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Identity Thief is directed by Seth Gordon, the same guy who made Horrible Bosses. The plot: Jason Bateman plays Sandy Patterson, whose identity is easily stolen by a woman over the phone on the other side of the country. The police know he is the victim of identity fraud but refuse to help him, instead Sandy goes to find the woman himself and bring her in for justice.

As the title suggests the movie deals with the crime of identity theft. The culprit: Melissa McCarthy, manages to steal Sandy’s identity simply by asking for his personal details, no questions asked. While this is probably how most cases of identity theft do occur, I couldn’t help think that Sandy was, well, a little bit stupid.

So with that, the real Sandy embarks across America to find who’s been spending all of his money. He finds the fraud easily but has to drive back home with her, that’s where all the crazy shenanigans occur, mostly cringe moments. The characters become friendly during the trip and Sandy proves he’ll do almost anything to get his identity back including…(spoiler)… stealing someone else’s identity.

The movie is filled with cheap laughs and gags, the movie is mildly entertaining but is overall disappointing. It tries too hard to be funny but often it’s not. While Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy are good actors if their put in the right roles, this type of comedy doesn’t really do them any good. The redeeming moments come from the actors themselves with their own humorous acting.

I wouldn’t really recommend Identity Thief unless you like this type of comedy or just want something on in the background. While I did have the odd laugh, there were just too many cringe-worthy moments which weren’t really funny in the end.