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Playing Dark Souls III (PS4): My thoughts so far!

genre: RPG
year: 2016

Yes, I am very aware that I am late to the party but I am here now. Dark Souls III was on sale and I am not one to let such an oppertunity pass me by. Even if I am not a true believer. Don't  get me wrong. I have spent hours and hours into this franchise. And must have gone through the same joy and agony others have. However I still haven't fallen in love with it since I don't think it's as good or perfect as the fans would have you believe. It appeals to me yes. But I honestly don't get the passion some have where they are gushing about the game and basically are trying to convince you they met the love of their life. I mean some really spent more time with those games than actually with their partner. If that is the case something is wrong with you. Because despite what they might have you believe, it's just a game.

Compared to previous games Dark Souls III transitions you into the dark and scary quite smoothly. At least to me. It could very well be that for new players this game still can be a little intimidating. However it's far more forgiving than ever. There are a bunch more bonfires (checkpoints) and it does look like it's more rewarding to risk takers. Still, if you get too bold the game will remind you that you still can't barge into areas and then expect to come out on top without some skill or strategy. It will immediately punish you for it. You still can be pummeled to death by every enemy in the game if you are careless. And in case you at one point think it's not challenging enough it will present you with a situation dire enough to make you scream at the screen.

So how did I fare with my first boss? The very menacing looking Iudex Gundyr. He looks more impressive than he actually is. I managed to beat him at my second attempt. And I probably would have done so on my first try if not for a stupid mistake I made by backing up instead of running towards him. Fortunately I knew that dodging would be more effective than using the shield.

Vordt of the Boreal Valley is no pushover that is certain. But before I got to him I made sure that my character had enough strength and flexibility so that I could strike and dodge right after. I got him on my first attempt.

Curse-Rotted Greatwood I managed to beat the second time although I didn't really had too much trouble the first time mind you. The only issue was that I couldn't reach the remaining ball sacks and got frustrated. 

After I had beaten him I felt confident I could take on every enemy. Then I encountered those pole enemies and giant crabs who would retreat after having been hit enough with projectiles. Which was fine as long as they would return so that I could finish them off. But no, when they return they are at full health again and you have to start all over again. The game demands you take them on up close and personal. They aren't that tough however you are a little handicapped because of the mud. Anyway after venturing into this pretty big area there are quite a few difficult enemies awaiting you. At one point I just ran past them into this big opening not realizing I was in the middle of a boss fight. Crystal Sage was waiting for me. I told myself to stay calm and give him hell. And I was doing pretty well until I tried to be cautious. By hiding behind the pillars to avoid the devastating magic attacks. I should have kept rushing him and attacking when I could and not be bothered about those attacks since if you are close his casts won't hit you. It took me a few tries to figure out a solid strategy and in hindsight it was quite easy.

Instead of going to the Cathedral of the Deep I went to Farron Keep first. I can't tell you how much I dislike this area. But it had a lot of goodies and a mini boss. An old familiar. The first boss from Dark Souls. A stray demon. Or maybe he is not the same but offspring. Who cares? I got him on my third attempt. At this point I had equipped too much and I couldn't dodge his attacks properly. After I removed some items and gear it was relatively easy to stay behind him. 

I realized my character wasn't strong enough and went to explore the Cathedral and invested some time into leveling up my character. The Deacons of the Deep were a joke especially compared to almost every enemy up until this point. Encountered Patches. Fortunately for me I had already disposed of the giants. I wished the game would give me an option to torture this character. 

Then it was time to take on the Abyss Watchers. I had read a lot on this boss and I had made sure I was prepared. To be on the safe side I used a summon (Black Hand Gottard). One of the wisest decision ever since he made the battle so much easier. Must admit I was a little disappointed that I got him on my first attempt. 

After I went into the catacombs for a but and rushed to the Smouldering Lake. I let the ballista kill the giant worm. I know I still have a boss to beat in the catacombs. Also still have to pick up some items there as well. But for now I am done with this game. Going to take a break since I am not liking these areas one bit. It feels like these areas and enemies are just put in the game to annoy you.   

To be continued

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Filmography Dante Lam

Here are all the titles Danta Lam has directed. I have yet to write reviews of most of his titles so do consider this a work in progress and check in from time to time.

 Option Zero (1997)  
 When I Look Upon the Stars (1999)  
 Jiang Hu: The Triad Zone (2000)  
 Runaway (2001)  
 Hit Team (2001)  
 Tiramisu (2002)  
 The Twins Effect (2003)  
 Naked Ambition (2003)  
 Love On the Rocks (2004)  
 Heat Team (2004)  
 Undercover Hidden Dragon (2006)  
 Sparkling Red Star (2007)  
 Storm Rider - Clash of Evils (2008)  
 Beast Stalker (2008)  
 The Sniper (2009)  
 Tung Chap Faan (2010)  
 Fire of Conscience (2010)  
 Stool Pigeon (2010)  
 Unbeatable (2013)  
 That Demon Within (2014)  
 To the Fore (2015)  

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Review Operation Red Sea a.k.a. (Hong hai xing dong 2018): Insanely brutal and intense.

genre: action, adventure, bullet ballet

Operation Red Sea is a direct follow up to Operation Mekong but with mostly a different cast and a far more political flavour. And apparently the film is based on a true event as well. Naturally that has to be taken with a grain of salt since most of what you will see is pure fantasy. 

However it's a beautiful and entertaining fantasy which might sound strange considering the amount of blood and gore being displayed on the screen. Here it's not only used to shock or entertain you but actually is in service of intensifying the action. It's too emphasize that the threats and dangers the main characters are facing are brutal and deadly. One could say that underneath the bravado and action, director Dante Lam wants to express an anti war message and offer careful criticism towards Nationalism. But that is perhaps me giving credit to something that wasn't intentional. 

Although he did go out of his way to portray the women as equals to men even if they weren't military trained. I am referring to Xia Nann (Hai-Qing) and Tong Li (Luxia Jiang). But Xia Nann in particular since she is not fueled by patriotism but by an unrelenting thirst for justice. It was inspiring and intoxicating. 

Other characters don't get fleshed out as much as hers but enough attention is paid to show what they are about through their actions. One character goes out of his way to rescue innocents putting himself in danger many times. Believe it or not you actually have people like him who would do this. It is what makes them heroes. I have liked this when they show this in Hollywood, Bollywood and every other film you can think of. So why then suddenly just because it's a Chinese film I should denounce it? Almost every Hollywood film Americans are shown as heroes and saviours. I am fine with that as long as it is entertaining. Besides I am very capable of being critical and enjoying something at the same time.

In the end it's the action that matters. As it progresses it becomes more and more intense. There were times it looked like the worst had passed only to then start it up again with even more at stake. The action is beautifully and stylishly choreographed. There are times it's hard to follow what is going on but mostly it's clear what is occurring on the screen. I personally couldn't get enough of it. Although I was glad they took small breaks in between the big action sequences since otherwise it would have been overkill. 

Dante Lam has delivered again and if he continues on this route he has my blessing to make a third part in this franchise.

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Populism never leads to anything good!

Recently in the Dutch provinicial elections de Forum voor Democratie (Forum for Democracy) came on top. It's leader Thierry Baudet might seem like a normal and wholesome lad but he is anything but. Also the name of his party also appears to be a positive entity. I wish this were true. 

His party is not about democracy. It's more about taking back at what is lost. Going back to a time when everything was good. Sounds familiar? It's not for nothing that Baudet is a hugh supporter of Trump. Since they are quite similar. They both are masters in instigating fear. Like fear of immigrants and empowered women. And this is what appeals to the common man. At least they are been given the illusion Baudet cares about what they want and need while he has no interest in them other than their vote. Sure he will do enough to appease them but will he structuraly do anything to make their lives better? Of course not. People like Baudet only care for themselves. All he wants is power, money and adoration. So yes from time to time he will shout stuff to keep his base happy but in the end most of his measures will destroy the good foundations laid by parties who actually cared about the people. 

Baudet is an advocate for the superior white race and claims women have very little to contribute. They are less ambitious as men or mean yes when they say no. And to top it off he attacked universities, journalists, scientists and artists for the cause of everything bad. I can't stress enough how dangerous this is. Because this is exactly what is happening in the U.S. where people blindly are following Trumps's rhetoric and not realizing what they are destroying. Or they are aware and just don't care. Ignorance and stupidity is increasing to such an extent where facts don't matter any more. Trump can say what he wants and they will believe him. Every word that comes out of Trump is vile, disgusting and idiotic. How will that ever lead to something good and positive? 

How is it possible in a day and age where information is freely available people know less than before? And how come the same people have all this rage and anger to something they don't know or understand? Because it's easy. It's easy to hate, be negative and destroy. It's hard to build something. And then to maintain something when built. It is almost impossible to remain positive and optimistic in a world full of hate and fear. But we must try. Since this is what will lead to progress. Real progress and advancement.

Baudet only will cause chaos and destruction and won't do anything to actually make things better. What has Geert Wilders done? Or actually achieved? Other than hate. His lack of accomplishment is one of the reasons why some turned to Baudet. Wilders is another populist who had a chance to actually do something but then failed to do so. You would think that after already have witnessed such failure that people would wise up and vote with their minds instead of their misguided feelings. But like I said, that would require effort and hard work. For some reason people want it all without doing something to achieve that. 

If you truly want to achieve things in life. You will have to work for it. And yes the government and other important institutions can aid you directly or indirectly by for example providing and fulfilling basic needs and rights. So that you can dedicate your time on other needs and wishes. In return you need to abide by their rules and laws like for example paying taxes. When done right this is a good and constructive synergy. People like Baudet want to break down these institutions since they want to lead without any obstruction. Keeping political leaders in check protects you and me from being used. If you can't see how that is a bad thing I don't know what will.

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Review Triple Frontier (2019): Ideal film to watch on a Sunday!

genre: action, crime, heist

Triple Frontier has the promise of it being an edgy and political film. However ends as a very generic title.

How can this be? I mean you have Ben Affleck, Charlie Hunnam, Oscar Isaac, Garett Hedlund and Pedro Pascal as your main characters. Each of them have that something that could have made this film infinitely more interesting. To be fair you can hardly blame them. They did what they could with the script and poor direction. I kind of understand what J.C. Chandor was going for. He is trying to make people see how pointless the war on drugs or war in general can be. But more importantly he wants to critique what happens after these wars with the soldiers once they have retired. For the most part life after seems dark and bleak. They have developed skills they can't use in other professions or just get plain bored. Some others don't feel appreciated as much as they should for their heroism. I guess if you weren't aware of this fact then yes the message could be compelling. Perhaps there is merit to this message. Then again, this whole war on drugs could be stopped with one action. The legalization of drugs. I am sure that the other wars started also are done out of economic and political reasons that have very little to do with maintaining peace and freedom. In this day and age we should know better.

But where the film really fails is to heighten the tension and the paranoia. The script had a real potential to make this a film about people at their worst. And it looked like it was going there until someone pulled the plug on that idea. Perhaps they thought people wouldn't be able to handle that kind of pessimism. Instead we get a few skirmishes and insults. Very little else.The main characters have never seen this amount of money. Surely this would be plenty of motivation to become selfish and greedy. Unfortunately this angle falls flat just as almost every action scene after the heist. Actually during the heist the film presents all kinds of problems. Mainly where it is asked of you to ignore logic. And how convenient everything is. Then there is the fact that we hardly get to know what the main characters are about. I mean because of the stellar performances we get an idea of what they are supposed to represent. However I really would have appreciated it had we gotten more on them.

So with barely any tension or other thrills going on you would expect a film like this to offer at least some good action. The action is serviceable and enjoyable but that is about it. This is yet another Netflix film where it becomes painfully obvious that you need a director who can do a lot with very little. In the Eighties and Nineties you had very capable and brilliant directors who could get the most of the low budgets they received. Especially when it's this type of film concerned. The film was moving like a train and then comes to a halt and barely recovers from that. 

That being said it is exactly the type of film that is ideal to watch on a Sunday like today. It's entertaining while it lasts and it's not one where you actually have to put a lot of investment and effort in. 

Also check:

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Filmography Tony Jaa

All the titles Tony Jaa was featured in as an actor. I have watched most of his films but have not written reviews for all of them yet so do consider this a work in progress (Click on the titles for the full reviews).

1994 Spirited Killer
1996 Hard Gun
1996 Mission Hunter 2
2001 Nuk leng klong yao
2003 Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior
2004 The Bodyguard
2007 The Bodyguard 2
2008 Ong Bak 2: The Beginning
2010 Ong Bak 3
2015 Furious 7
2016 Never Back Down: No Surrender
2017 Paradox
2017 Gong Shou Dao
2018 Triple Threat
2018 Master Z: The Ip Man Legacy
2018 The Gate
2020 Monster Hunter
TBA A Man Will Rise

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Review The Wild Bunch (1969): Certainly remarkable on a couple of fronts but can it still be called a classic?

genre: western, action, adventure

Many times I have tried to watch the film completely and many times it failed to grab my attention. This time I made sure I kept watching but even then I managed to get distracted by other worldly things. Usually when a film is good I don't have this problem at all. Not that I am saying it's not good. Because it certainly contains some elements that were ahead of it's time. Unfortunately I can't praise the film as much as fans do.

Let me start that it is clear that director John Woo was inspired or influenced by Sam Peckinpah in the way he would direct, choreograph and edit action scenes. Although it has to be stated that John Woo took it to a whole other level. There have been quite a few directors who have been able to succesfully mimic Sam Peckinpah like Walter Hill and Michael Mann. But there still hasn't been one director who has equalled John Woo when it comes to the highly stylized and hyperkinetic action. However I can't deny that the final shootout in The Wild Bunch is a real joy to watch. Even for me who already was familiar with Woo's work I was impressed. Imagine what it must have been like for people back then who had never seen such a thing on screen before. Most westerns were clean and bloodless. This was bloody, violent, dirty but beautiful at the same time. 

Most people seem to praise the dirtiness of the characters and the world these characters move in. And perhaps it is a good depiction of what it was like in the Old West. And I do think it is very refreshing to see heroes who basically are everything but heroic. I mean for example you see the main characters use innocents as human shields so that they themselves don't get hurt or caught after being ambushed by the law. Granted the "law" aren't squeeky clean themselves. Still, no need for the goons to get innocent people involved. However if you think about it it is a realistic approach since this kind of violence usually leads to people getting wounded or killed. The main characters lack motivation and purpose. They basically wander from heist to heist, drink, eat and have sex with prostitutes. Maybe some people lived like that and it's historically accurate. But for me personally this is boring to watch. I think this could have been compensated if the characters actually had engaged into some decent dialogue. The good acting do provide that something extra only it's not enough to remain compelled. Sergio Leone's The Good, The Bad and The Ugly also displayed nasty characters. But it came with a magnificent soundtrack and the main characters had very interesting dynamics. Plus it had so much else going on in the background. It's a western I can watch over and over again. Perhaps this is a mistake since that is almost an absolute and perfect masterpiece and it's not fair for these to be compared. I just saw a list on the interwebs where someone put The Wild Bunch above The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and The Searchers on the very top. I haven't seen that last one yet. So I can't say too much about it. However if The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is not on top, the list is wrong. But I will get back to this notion when I actually have watched The Searchers so that I can be fair.

Anyways not much is going on in The Wild Bunch. And perhaps that was the point. But did it really need 145 minutes to tell me this? There is no doubt that The Wild Bunch has good elements but as a total package it failed to grab me since it simply is lacking in many ways. Yet I can't deny that there is some charm to it. But it's something that can be hit and miss depending on your mood. 

So can this still be called a classic? I am sure to many it is. Unfortunately for me it doesn't meet the requirements. It's not one I can watch over and over again, at least not without getting bored or losing interest. And that to me is the most pivotal factor.


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List NON MCU Marvel Films

This is the full list of all the Marvel films not belonging to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, MCU). For some titles I still have to write reviews. And for some I still have to watch and review them. So consider this a work in progress. Except X-Men: The Last Stand. I will never ever write a review for that atrocity. Just thinking about it makes me want to punch people.

1944 Captain America
(15-chapter serial film; Marvel was then known as Timely Comics)
1986 Howard the Duck (Co-produced by Lucasfilm)
1990 Captain America
1994 The Fantastic Four (Constantin Film Unreleased)
1998 Blade
2000 X-Men
2002 Blade II
2002 Spider-Man
2003 Daredevil
2003 X2
2003 Hulk
2004 Spider-Man 2
2005 Elektra
2005 Fantastic Four
2006 X-Men: The Last Stand
2007 Spider-Man 3
2007 Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
2009 X-Men: First Class
2015 Fantastic Four
2016 Deadpool
2017 Logan
2018 Deadpool 2
2018 Venom
2019 Dark Phoenix
2019 The New Mutants
2020 Untitled Morbius film

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Review Green Book (2018): Whether this is true or not the message is truth.

genre: drama, comedy, biography

Already after having seen the trailer I knew I was going to like this feelgood film. The story might not be new. But how it was told combined with the excellent performances made it a real joy. In my opinion the Oscars were well deserved. 

Green Book for some reason seems shrouded in some controversy concerning something Viggo Mortensen had said and that according to Shirley's family a lot of the film is full of lies. This is a little disconcerting but this wouldn't be the first time Hollywood has taken dramatic liberties. However in this case it worked out just fine since it does have a beautiful message. Of course the film oversimplifies things. That is to be expected. But in all earnesty we people tend to overthink stuff too much. The film advocates that spending time with someone could spark change into someone's attitude or perspective on life. And I agree. Getting to know someone, getting to see what someone of colour has to go through can affect and change your own ideas. Life can be very simple like that. Then the so called racial slur in a discussion about racism and the use of the N word. I mean if you can't even use the word in a discussion about it then there is something really wrong. Words only get so powerful if you give them that power. By acting like the word itself should never be uttered again even when discussing it is completely ludicrous. The whole context it was stated in wasn't meant to offend. People know very well when a word is offensive and when not. To act like the word is offensive at all times is just ignorance. 

Apart from whether the story is true or not it does have it's heart in the right place. I can't tell you how relieved I am for a film not to be overly dark and cynical. That has been done to death. It's time for a change of tune and some optimism. The fact that the family of Don Shirley aren't happy with the film and say it's full of lies doesn't change the fact that Don Shirley himself had appointed his friends as his heirs. That says a lot about how he felt about them. So for them to speak out against the film carries little weight. Until they come with proof that states otherwise. It would be a little outrageous had the story been invented. But my first question would be? Why? What reason does the son of Tony Vallelonga have to make this up? Fame and fortune? If I were super cynical and skeptic then perhaps I would come to that conclusion. But seeing how Green Book was pretty adamant in showing Tony Vallelonga as a quite flawed person and Don Shirley as a scholar and intellectual that had brought enlightenment to him in very significant ways. He is not a white savior. Because you will find out that both characters save each other. Or actually it's Don Shirley saving Nick's soul more than anything. 

Honestly forget the so called controversies and just go in with an open mind. From start to finish the film is a real blast. I laughed more than I cried. Now that I think of it I didn't cry up until the very end because of the simple but very beautiful way it ended. Both Mortensen and Ali give this film that something extra only good actors can. 

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Review Aquaman (2018): One of the better DCEU films!

genre: comic book adaptation, super hero, action, adventure, science fiction

Against low expectations Aquaman managed to entertain me fully. While I was watching it. Haven't thought about anything that occurred in the film itself. Since it is one of those films that is fun while it lasts but has very little else to offer. 

This doesn't mean that Aquaman is meaningless or pointless. They do establish Aquaman as a competent and adequate super hero. That and there is a whole lot of world building going on that in hindsight might distract from the core story. Like many of the DCEU outings they are trying to do too much. Too many characters and worlds are thrown at you and you never have time to let things sink in since you basically roll from one action scene to another. And the action is everything it needs to be. Exciting and fun. Naturally this has a lot to do with Jason Momoa. He is an extremely likable guy and you can't help but root for him even if he makes mistakes. He also manages to make his relationship with Mera (Amber Heard) compelling while they don't have chemistry at all. Their banter is only witty because Momoa steals the limelight every time. Don't get me wrong. I do like Amber. But she didn't really make that much of an impression. 

Nicole Kidman however was awesome. I wasn't aware she was in it and I was pleasantly surprised. A real shame is that Temuera Morrison's role (father of Arthur / Aquaman) was very minimal. He deserves much better. I would have rather have them show more about the relationship he had with Nicole Kidman's character and forsake for example the Manta subplot. This subplot only serves as a reminder to Arthur and his responsibilities as Aquaman. But there was plenty of room for him to have learned this lesson in the main plot. And actually if you think about it, it's a bit odd that Arthur has to learn this lesson again since he kinda already did in Justice League.

I am not sure what more I could add. Perhaps the visuals. The colours do pop and it is amazing to see how they managed to recreate Aquaman's world. Much more vibrant and beautiful than the worlds displayed in previous entries of DCEU which makes sense since Aquaman is a whole lot lighter than previous films. Like they finally caught on that not all super hero films have to be as dark like the Batman films. I mean it worked for Batman because Batman is dark. But Superman? Wonder Woman? Aquaman? So it is nice and refreshing to see that Warner Brothers is capable of letting go of certain elements. Comic book films need to be fun in the first place. On top of that you could focus on other elements. Although DCEU should have had a plan like Marvel did. That and better directors. Or at leasts directors who are more in tune with the source material. 

In any case compared to the other DCEU films this clearly falls into the top tier. Entertainment wise I mean. Unfortunately it's a very forgettable film. So overall it's at least worth it to watch once.

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