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Review Mad Max (PS4 / 2015): Worth playing!

genre: action, adventure

Sometimes you have certain games you can't get into. That doesn't necessarily say anything about the quality of the game. Perhaps just the mood or mindset of the one who wants to play it. I think I tried to play the game three times, and every time something came in between. Because of Furiosa I made an extra effort to play and finish it.

This time I stuck with it and found my overall gaming experience to be quite pleasant. Although, I do think there are some caveats one has to take in account. Since they chose an Ubisoft type of open world the game is filled with several side activities and all kinds of collectibles. You don't have to do these but since you do collect scrap (the currency in this world) and tokens (to upgrade Max) it is recommended since especially the later missions you will find that the enemies are tougher. The game rarely tells you this, but the upgrade system regarding your car(s) isn't as straightforward as it seems. Basically, you have to look at the build and decide what part is going to be most crucial for your mission. To increase defence you can choose to install armour and spikes for example. However, this will make your car heavier and thus affect your speed. While often than not, defence will help you survive attacks by enemies. Still, there were some missions where the odds were stacked against you until you choose to ditch the armour and go for speed. They do give you the choice to pick other cars that are specifically suited for certain missions, but to be honest, I stuck with my Magnum Opus since that one rocked. The car combat is definitely one of the highlights in the game, although I do think that some enemies, even the supposed weaker ones, can be quite dangerous if you don't pay attention.

The biggest problem of the game is that in essence it's very repetitive. There are a couple of regions you have to clear in order to advance, but you have to do the same type of missions over and over again. The best way for me was to play the game for 2 hours a day and call it quits if I got fed up. Like I said, it's not necessary for you to clear entire regions so you can focus on the main missions. But I do think some side missions will give you certain upgrades, so I do recommend doing them. Also, because they will offer some variation to the core gameplay.

Visually speaking, the game is gorgeous. But for whatever reason, playing this PS4 game on PS5 doesn't improve the performance. There is no FPS boost nor HDR. So if you have the chance I would play it on the XBOX SERIES X since on there you will get FPS boost and auto HDR. Story wise it's as minimal as in the films, except it does tie into the world that is set up in Mad Max: Fury Road. Even when it is claimed that this game is not canonical, some ideas from George Miller have been implemented. Scrotus is an important character. The game refers to Dr. Dementus. And then there is Chumbucket. He is a tragic figure. Living for repairing cars and driving in them. Every time you do something cool with your car, he will express joy so contagious you can't help but feel for him. While Max is usually decent to him, he can be a dick to him while if it weren't for Chumbucket, Max would have died. I guess, Max figures that we repay Chum Bucket by upgrading the Magnus Opus and doing God's work by using it as God has intended. The game expands on the world building that started in Fury Road only a videogame can. Through the missions you start to understand that the path Max is on is one that goes into a loop and very likely why wants to stay clear from people as much as possible. So basically, a very tragic figure too.

Overall, I think the Mad Max game is a good addition in the franchise and is worth playing!

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chrichtonsworld reviews Mad Max franchise

Listed here are all the titles in the Mad Max franchise (including the video game).

2. Mad Max 2 a.k.a. The Road Warrior (1981)
3. Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)

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Review Mad Max (1979): A solid introduction to the world and Mad Max!

genre: action, adventure, scifi, apocalypse

There seems to be a lot of debate about Mad Max and when it takes place. I always assumed it was in the early stages of the apocalypse. But apparently it's set before the apocalypse. Makes sense, since life does seem far more normal than in later parts. Therefore, the story in the original Mad Max might not seem that compelling compared to the rest of the franchise.

What is clear that gangs seem to rule to major annoyance of the normal people and the law who still try to uphold it as limited as they are. One of the member is police officer Max Rockatansky who has a certain and definitive way to deal with the thugs. When we are introduced to Max, he seems to be capable but normal. He actually is content with family life and thinking of quitting the job. Like in most films, this is when tragedy strikes. From that moment, Max is hell-bent on revenge. Mind you, it takes a bit for this to happen, since we do get to see some of the family life. But you will get to taste the determination Mad Max is famous for. 

Mad Max might be low on high octane action, I do think it offers a nice contrast of what the world was and what it's becoming. And what impact this has on people. One minute you can buy your food in the supermarket and the next you have to eat rat, dogs and maggots. Most important is that this film serves as an introduction to Max of who he was and what he will become. 

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Review The Devil's Lair a.k.a. Pemukiman Setan (2024): Don't Breathe meets Evil Dead!

genre: action, fantasy, horror

The Devil's Lair is from the makers of Qodrat. Promotion wise, they seem to be emphasizing the action elements over the horror and fantasy ones. Perhaps in an attempt to have these productions distinguish themselves from the pure horror ones. While it is a welcome addition. I don't think this is prevalent enough to make the films more compelling. Actually, I would like to argue that in particular in this case it works against the film.

I got heavy, Don't Breathe meets Evil Dead vibes. I was like, great. Instead of having a blind but not so innocent man, get robbed, thieves are targeting a home that is believed to be empty. Of course, this is not the case. They are met with forces that they are hardly prepared for. One could argue whether their reason to steal is a good one. It's clearly shown that all the thieves are immensely desperate. And to show some good faith, they have planned to not be greedy and only steal what they need. While their logic is flawed, I can to a certain degree understand where they are coming from. Thing is law and justice doesn't care about such logic and will condemn you as if you were intending to steal everything, then why not steal everything? Fortunately, for them, they don't have to deal with the law. Well, they do have to fight a demon instead, which obviously is worse.

Now, this would make it seem I had some sympathy for the main characters. I had in the beginning yes. Then you see these characters make mistake after mistake. I was shouting at the screen for acting so dumb. But strangely enough, they never listened. There is one cool cat, Urip,  in the film who stole the show. I was very happy that he was in it, otherwise I might not have been able to endure the antics of the other characters. He is played by T. Rifnu Wikana. He slaps some sense into them. If you ask me, they should have ditched the other ones and have him as a lead. 

What I found a little problematic is the fact that they didn't lean into the horror elements the way I wanted them too. Instead of upping the tension and dread, they went with the blood and gore. In some scenes this was definitely effective. But the film was begging for some intensity. Adinda Thomas as Sukma certainly gave it her all to come across as a scary deadite. Kudos to her in that regard. If only they had backed her down by making her more dangerous and scarier. In some scenes they were so close. The push for Maudy Effrosina as Alin to be the super-duper demon fighter is questionable. If it weren't for Urip she already would have been dead. Apart from one action that came out of nowhere, there is nothing about her that makes her a girl boss. Had she stepped up her game because of what she had to go through and very organically had developed her demon fighting skills, then yes, of course I would have welcomed it.

Very likely, a sequel is planned. And one I am willing to check out as long as they improve upon this part. For now, it's decent enough. You won't will like it's a waste of time.*

*The end credits show ©2024. So I assume that 2024 is the year of the official release.

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Review Lights Out (2024): Frank Grillo's Wrong Bet!

genre: action, crime, martial arts

Don't get this confused with the horror title with the same name, Lights Out (2016). The title very likely refers to the moment someone gets knocked out. This should indicate to you how deep the film is.

For all intends and purposes, it should be clear to you that Lights Out is a B film. They do get out of their way to make you think otherwise. I mean, look at the names. Frank Grillo, Mekhi Phifer, Jaime King, Dermot Mulroney and Scott Adkins. Their presence do elevate events. But that doesn't dismiss the fact that almost everything is generic. The action is decent to good and probably the main reason to watch this little flick. Still, the story is hardly compelling, nor does it do a good job of enhancing the action. The core of the story is very reminiscent of the one in Wrong Bet, a.k.a. Lionheart. Except, that film is a good example of why that one works and the one in Lights Out doesn't. You care about the main character because there is a lot at stake for him. He needs the money very badly to help out his family, while at the same time he is being haunted by military police. In essence also a very simple story, but one that gave events a sense of urgency. That urgency is not present here. Or at least not conveyed well.

Frank Grillo's character, Duffy, also seems to be suffering from PTSD. I get it, war is horrific and will damage soldiers. But apart from taking you out of the action, the flashback's didn't lead to anything significant. They were just there. All this time it looked like that these sequences would build up to some climax which never happened. Then there is the whole corrupt cop thing. There was no rhyme or reason to these cops. No depth, no substance whatsoever. Yet, they wanted you to be impressed. Trust me, you won't. Also, the film has a duration of 90 minutes. But it feels much longer. That's never a good thing.

Grillo does his best with the material that is given, but at this point you have to wonder why he allows himself to get roped into these productions. He deserves better. Fortunately, there is one strong highlight in the film. Scott Adkins. He is a scene stealer for sure. That being said, he is not in it for that long. Yet he makes it worth your while. One for a rainy and quiet Sunday

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Review Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F (2024): One big disappointment!

genre: action, comedy, crime

Just recently I have rewatched the first and second Beverly Hills Cop and stated that the comedy elements were pretty dominant in those parts and certainly helped these films give a unique flavour since Eddy Murphy is a genuine funny guy.

I wished I could have said the same about the latest part in the franchise. Basically, the best bits are shown in the trailers. Meaning, if you have seen all those trailers, you have seen it all. Axel and his old comrades have the best chemistry, therefore it is truly dumbfounding that their roles have been reduced to glorified extra's. One could say the same about Kevin Bacon. You don't even need to think about why is there, he clearly is the villain of the story. Bacon doesn't even try to fool the audience. For a few minutes I was wondering whether Bacon was some kind of red herring and that the real villain had yet to reveal himself. Wouldn't it have been shocking and funny if Serge turned out to be this master criminal mind and had every villain from the previous films under his pocket? Over the top, sure, but certainly a funnier and wilder concept than this generic villain who doesn't do that much. 

The action is also generic. As part of the promotion, Eddie Murphy was stating that he isn't a young guy any more and that he couldn't do much himself. I would argue that with the little action there is present, he basically could do most of the stunt work himself. That is how unimpressive it is. After all this time, one can't get away with such laziness. Either bring in top comedy, or give us good action. Now both are bad, giving you an incredible underwhelming experience.

Don't get me started on Axel and his daughter. In their fights, they rarely mentioned the mother and why exactly Axel and his daughter were estranged from each other. Here was a good opportunity to show us a younger Axel handling diapers and more, to then realize he is out of his league and then decides to buy a pack of smokes. This by the way could have been a dream sequence or something. The actress portraying the daughter was awful. She failed to bring credibility, nor was she funny. And her constant childish whining became tiresome after two minutes we get introduced to her. Joseph Gordon-Levitt's role is another mystery. He is brought into the franchise as a younger cop, but with nothing of value to add. I like him, but fail to see why he was in this. 

Overall, Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F is one big disappointment. Some say it's better than the third. Granted, I am not the biggest fan of Beverly Hills Cop III but to do it real justice I will revisit it and then compare it to this one. For now, I want to say that this is just as bad or even worse. Certainly, not better.

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Review Saw X (2023): Entertaining but not fresh enough!

genre: horror, mystery, thriller

Saw X is an odd beast in the franchise. It basically brings back the franchise to its roots, while at the same time it also serves as a prequel to a certain extent. John Kramer (Jigsaw) seemed like he was coming to terms with his illness and looked like he had a restored faith in humanity. But things don't work out as expected, and he is forced to once again bring back Jigsaw in full force.

I think this is one of the few times the deaths are truly justified. There were instances where you could question those. But this time I was rooting for Jigsaw all the way. One thing, though, Jigsaw was usually pretty sharp when it came to people and their intentions. Now of a sudden he is blinded. One could argue that he was really desperate for any positive outcome that he ignored the signs that were clearly there. Still, one could also argue that certain people are so sophisticated and relentless they can accomplish what they are set out to do.

Like it is stated by many reviewers, this is probably the best sequel in the franchise. Still, apart from a somewhat fresh angle story wise, it's not that different from all the other Saw films. The blood and gore is in abundance and if you love that kind of thing you will have a field day. At this point, almost every trap is an alternative version of former traps, so there won't be many surprises there. It does become clear though that the Saw franchise is running on fumes. For me personally, it would make sense if they follow the path of Spiral where you have a copycat with own set of rules and methods but where the focus lies on suspense and mystery with all kinds of twists and turns. I wouldn't mind a supernatural twist, where for example John Kramer returns as a ghost or demon who can possess whomever he wants but also is bound to certain rules, so that on both fronts there will be a sense of urgency.

Overall, Saw X will be entertaining for new audiences and old fans, but it's clear they should either come with real fresh and creative ideas or they should just stop!

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Review Sting (2024): A must watch!

genre: horror, thriller, science fiction

Sometimes it's hard to choose a film to watch, especially if you have tasked yourself to review it. Granted, I watch films faster than I write reviews about them, but still, I am not the type to go in blindly. Time is precious. To waste time on bad films that aren't fun is criminal. So whenever I can, I try to avoid this. On rare occasions I do follow my impulses and am happy to report that Sting will be a fun viewing experience.

In essence, Sting is a creature flick you shouldn't take that seriously. But despite the humour, there is room for some serious and dark moments. I found that Sting struck a nice balance between the two. Next to that, it's also visually appealing. Perhaps there are some pacing issues, especially towards the ending, but for the most part I was very invested with the characters and what was happening to them. The setting helps sell the tension, as it is supposedly set in an apartment building in Brooklyn during the winter. Although, it's pretty obvious this isn't a Hollywood production. In this case, that adds to the atmosphere and weirdness of some of the characters. It's also important to note that this is a work of writer / director Kiah Roache-Turner responsible for Wyrmwood and Nekrotonic. Wyrmwood and it's sequel especially were bloody good!

Obviously, Sting doesn't really do anything new or creative. But I don't think films like these are supposed to. They need to be fun and entertaining, and that is exactly what you get. So if you ask me, this is definitely a must-watch!

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Review Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (2024): Bommy Knocker in full effect!

genre: action, adventure, science fiction

At a specific moment in the film, you have a little War Boy itching to come into action and wanting to unleash the Bommy Knocker. This had piqued my interest. Surely, this was going to be an epic way of discarding the enemies. And before I knew it, this moment had passed, and I didn't even realize. Fortunately, I rewatched most of the film and then was able to finally watch this awesome sequence. Sadly, if me missing this moment wasn't an indication, to actually witness the scene was incredibly underwhelming. All this build-up and pay off. At least a proper one!

Above is how you could describe the entire film. The film has a lot of build-up but with minimal pay off. And trust me, despite reading and hearing the news this film flopped couldn't sway me from watching this. George Miller up until this time has always delivered in some form or another. This must be the first time he didn't. To be fair, it's not super bad or anything. Compared to every other film in the franchise, though, it's lacking something. Apart from the obvious. I mean, How can you have a Mad Max film without Mad Max? But seeing how this film wants to expand on the universe, I could overlook this transgression. We are supposed to be rooting for Furiosa and we do. Problem is that I didn't find her arc that compelling. It easily could have been, but apart from the obligated dramatic plot points, there barely is any tension or emotion between villain Dementus and Furiosa. Dementus wasn't nearly as demented as one would expect. He is brilliantly played by Chris Hemsworth. Easily his best acted role in his career. But he is not helped story wise. He is supposed to be a disgusting and ruthless man who has murdered Furiosa's mother in a brutal way. Does this come across? Not really. I think it really would have helped had they shown the horrific acts instead of sugar-coating it. In this case, it would have been warranted. It's the main reason why Furiosa wants to take revenge. The Octoboss also had a good reason to double-cross Dementus on many occasions. But he never does. Octoboss seemed to be more capable and his men were far more loyal. Why wasn't he running things? I think a conflict between them could have pointed out that despite his mistakes, Dementus is not to be understimated. To me, it would have made things more compelling.

The acting is good. Visually, the film is stunning. People complaining about CGI and such keep forgetting that most of the effects are still practical, only a bit enhanced. If I had to complain is that the film looks too polished. The Mad Max films always had been raw. Vehicles looked menacing and rusty. But the giant rig looks like it came fresh out of a factory. It kind of takes you out of it. That being said, all the rigs, vehicles and people looked awesome. It's therefore a real shame that the spectacle is so disappointing. Don't get me wrong, some of the action is magnificent, only I didn't feel it. I wasn't excited. Because I wasn't made to care. 

Overall, Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is underwhelming and disappointing. I understand why it flopped. People, including me, were expecting more and what we got in return doesn't even come close.

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Review Possession (1981): Gigantic waste of time!

genre: horror, fantasy, drama

There were two reasons I was eager to watch this film. The fact that this is supposed to be Lovecraftian horror and that it had tentacle sex. Look deep down, I am a simple man. If tentacle sex is featured, I am definitely going to check it out. In this case, though, it took me about ten seconds to realize that the descending into madness would be inflicted on me and not the main characters.

First, the dialogue is bizarre. Second, the way people interact with each other is bizarre. The way people behave is bizarre. Especially between Anna (Isabelle Adjani) and Mark (Sam Neill). I read that writer / director Andrzej Zulawski had written this story while he was in the middle of a painful divorce. If you have seen the film, then painful is an understatement. The husband and wife are constantly screaming at each other. And if what they said made sense, then I could have gone along with it. But trust me when I say that every word uttered is going to question your own sanity. The supporting cast also can't be bothered to make sense. When attacked, they just stand there and take it without even attempting to fight back. When people do fight like in the case between Mark and a low budget and extremely gay version of Anthony Hopkins it's almost as if they are dancing. I get that almost everything in the film is symbolic and expressionistic. And to a certain degree I can understand where the director is coming from. Still, I lost interest pretty quickly and all I wanted was this film to end. 

One could argue that Possession has Lovecraftian elements in it. The body horror and the madness is not instilled by some otherworldly creature, but it's all about emotions, in particular that of the director who clearly wants you to be exposed to his pain. Perhaps this helps people who went through a divorce similar to him, to me, it didn't do much. Actually, after a while, I concluded that the director was pathetic. Yes, it's a bad thing that you have to part with the partner who you once loved and now seemingly has turned into a monster. And yes, I am willing to believe that some people are cruel and evil and could in large part be blamed for a marriage failing. Still, there are two people in a marriage, and both people can have done or acted in ways that could have destroyed the love between them. There is also the matter of the child. Both husband and wife are absolved with themselves, they barely pay attention to their son. He is the real victim in this as he endures the shenanigans of the unhinged parents, who in my opinion both should have been locked up in jail for major negligence.

Just because a film is ultra weird and bizarre doesn't automatically make the film creepy or scary. I would argue that none of the supposedly shocking imagery is far from scary purely because of how the people act. In order for me to be scared for them, I have to have some sympathy for them. The little, I had gone out the door after I experienced the first conversation in the film. I will add this to my list of Lovecraftian horror, but only to warn people not to make the same mistake I made and buy into this art house crap. I think the Elder gods were trying to prevent me from being exposed to this film, since it took me forever to watch this film. For some unknown reason I kept delaying and delaying and forced myself to have a go at this film, naturally in good company, who now also forever curses me.

In the end, there are a few things you need to do in a film. One of the most important is to tell a good story. And Possession certainly had the potential to do so, instead it wallops in self-pity and lunacy. The story is awful. I am sure a lot of people will disagree with me, and very likely will say I don't understand the film. Even in a world that is weird and bizarre, there has to be some kind of logic. The minute you defy this and anything can go, you will lose your audience. Possession doesn't even attempt to tell a coherent narrative. You never know how much time has passed and why for example Isabelle Adjani has a double role. I thought it was to emphasize the contrast between her and Anna. Strangely enough, the way Adjani portrayed Anna did make me dislike her and not find her attractive. Helen, on the other hand, seems to be the woman Mark had fallen in love in the first place. She is very attractive. Kudos for Adjani to be able to play both of these roles. That is where my praise ends. I can't honestly for the life of me begin to understand why this film was banned and how it is being regarded as a masterpiece. The film is tame and boring. Let me repeat this, the film consisting of a creature with tentacles who you can see having sex with Anna is tame and boring. I rest my case.

Of course, this title received a cult status. But I think for all the wrong reasons. This certainly won't be a film that will give you a good viewing experience. Actually, the exact opposite. It made me feel like punching the director. Fortunately, for him, he died. So yes, do avoid this, it's a gigantic waste of your time!

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