Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 - The Highlights (EHeroFlareNeos)

With 2013 nearing its final fleeting moments, now is a good opportunity to reflect on what we’ve reviewed here at Trophy Unlocked, both the good and the bad. Below, in no particular order, is my list of the top games, movies and disappointments from the year. This time, I’ve also not only resurrected a category I had hoped never to use again, I’ve introduced yet another that I hope not to use (the result may surprise you (or not)).

Top Movies of 2013

While Pixar has been known for making nothing but hits in its heyday, Cars 2 began a downward spiral that the studio seemed to only begin recovering from with the release of Brave. However, Monsters University is a noticeable return to form despite being a prequel to Monsters, Inc. It manages to capture the spirit of the original very well, though not perfectly, and has a good balance of serious and comedic elements. Though not perfect, I am, for the first time in a couple of years, actually wondering if Pixar will be able to replicate the success of this film with their next one, Inside Out; I now have a newfound hope for their future.

Metalocalypse is one of my favorite animated shows and, as a result, Dethklok is one of my favorite Death Metal bands. Metalocalypse: The Doomstar Requiem – A Klok Opera has a very ambitious goal: Tie up many of the loose ends from Season 4, but present it in the form of a rock opera. Not only does it live up to its promise, it has great music, plenty of laughs and the best animation I have seen from the show yet. I can’t wait to see what Brendon Small has in store for the future of Metalocalypse.

Admittedly, this movie only just barely qualifies to be on this list since it achieved immediate cult status through its source material and choice of Director, but it makes it here because I am a huge fan of the original book (it is my second favorite one) and I greatly enjoyed seeing it in movie form (also it was theatrically released in 2013). While there may be a couple of missed opportunities here and there, and the finished product will definitely not appeal to everyone, watching it was a lot of fun and it was clear that Don Coscarelli had fun making it as well. It’s thought-provoking, funny and a little gross all at once and is a ride worth taking at least once (and perhaps only once if you are not familiar with David Wong’s literature but know a friend who is and has this movie on DVD/Blu-ray/VOD).

Top Video Games of 2013

I’ve been a fan of the gameplay of the Devil May Cry series since Devil May Cry 4, but I have since played every other game and liked them (save the second one). When I first saw DmC Devil May Cry, specifically the new interpretation of Dante, I was a little thrown off by some of the choices they made, but almost immediately afterwards I gained a sense of optimism that only grew stronger as I saw the better elements refined and the worse ones forgotten; I even cosplayed as DmC Dante a few times. In the end, I saw that my optimism was not misplaced and thoroughly enjoyed the final result. Yes, the combat could have used a little more work, but it makes a necessary step by combining the abilities of both Dante and Nero (DMC4’s protagonist) to give a better sense of speed to the character. Story-wise, I actually liked the newer Dante as he showed compassion, empathy and a good deal of character development in a single game. While he isn’t completely perfect in his actions, nor is he able to provide the same testosterone/confidence boost from playing as him, this new Dante is still a character I can really get behind and I hope that a sequel can be made despite what you hear from the vocal minority.

Not only do I read Penny Arcade every time it updates, I own all of the book collections and have found the Rain-Slick tetralogy of games to provide an experience unique and very worthwhile to play. I really don’t mind that the combat is similar in nature to Pokémon because it managed to take the good elements of that franchise and refine them greatly, including the ability to have all of your monsters, whether they actually fought or not, gain EXP and level up at nearly the same rate. The final entry in the series manages to expertly combine serious and humorous moments together in a way that I will remember for years to come.

Within the past year, I’ve played nearly every Metal Gear game (at least among the main entries), so I was looking forward to Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance based on its premise alone: a Metal Gear game set after Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots and focused on Raiden as the main character. Not only is Raiden a total badass in this game, the game also delivers on its tagline, “Cut What You Will”, by allowing you to cut just about anything with physics that react exactly to where you cut an object. On top of that, the story isn’t that bad either and the soundtrack is one of the best I’ve ever heard (I even own a physical copy of Vocal Tracks). Even if you don’t care for the story, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance was a total blast to play through and a worthy entry into the Metal Gear franchise.

Developed by Naughty Dog, known for the Jak and Dxater franchise, The Last of Us is their attempt to create a more mature game, and thus a new IP, for the PS3 that wasn’t an Uncharted game. They not only succeeded, but managed to create one of the most emotional games I’ve ever played, accomplished by managing to push the “father” button in me even though I don’t have kids. While I can see some points brought up regarding character interactions, and some plot points were a little more obvious to me, I still found myself drawn in and unwilling to let go until I was done. I found it hard to express my full opinion in this small blurb, so I encourage those interested to give it a go and see what you think of it.

The Stanley Parable is a game whose true purpose is so thought-provoking that my review of it was deliberately void of information about what the player can hope to discover. Still, The Stanley Parable is worth playing for the funny, but subtle commentary. You might find the time to money ratio a little off, but I hope you can trust me enough when I say that the time it takes to play really has no bearing on the price of admission and that exploring every possible thing is an act that you should not only know to do, but feel inclined to do as its temptation of choice is so overwhelming that you’ll find yourself lost for hours on end. Its enlightening qualities are what help it qualify for this list as one of the best games I’ve played this year.

Top Disappointments of 2013

Though Die Hard has had entries both good and bad, I still enjoy watching most of the movies. I liked Live Free or Die Hard, so when I heard about A Good Day to Die Hard, I was hoping for something that would continue the spirit of the franchise in a way similar to the other films. Instead, I got treated to a boring slog of a movie that ignored even the most basic conventions that one would expect from Die Hard, down to complete mishandling of John McClane’s catchphrase. If this is the end of the franchise, as the sixth entry is in limbo, then it’ll be sad to know that it went out with a whimper.

I’m not really a fan of Superman, since I haven’t really read any of the stories and he just didn’t appeal to me, but I was willing to watch Man of Steel to at least stay current with superhero movies and know what everyone would be talking about. When I finally saw it, it met my low expectations as it is not only a retread of Superman’s origin story, but it tries a bit too hard to emulate the Dark Knight trilogy in both tone and style, leaving behind the optimism that I admit I think Superman is supposed to embody. If this is truly supposed to be the new way the audience is supposed to see Superman, I think they got off on the wrong foot.

Reboots provide a rare opportunity to create an entirely new universe with completely original characters and stories (though it’s fair to want some familiarity as well for veteran fans). The 2009 Star Trek film was able to capitalize pretty well on said opportunity, but Into Darkness continues this baffling trend where those in charge feel a need to retread earlier stories, but slap a new skin on it. In this case, it basically has the cast reenacting The Wrath of Khan, except Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Khan is nowhere near as memorable as Ricardo Montalbán’s and the film has more of a pessimistic attitude about the future, partly due to the 9/11 conspiracy theories thrown in. It would be more understandable to revisit earlier stories if the movies came out at a quicker pace, but since the next one won’t be around for quite a while, it comes off as a decision they’ll probably regret later.

Let me say right off the bat that BioShock Infinite is only on here because of the story, as well as how I feel that I am in a small minority for liking its gameplay more. Gameplay-wise, I consider the latest entry in the BioShock series to be somewhat of an improvement over the previous games during combat, though I will also admit that even that has its shortcomings. The story, on the other hand, feels like something cobbled together as it constantly abandons interesting plot threads to the point where I cared less for the protagonists as time went on, constantly changes the direction of the story and manages to retroactively erase any potential conflict from the choices made throughout the game (in a series explicitly about choice). I was excited at the prospect of being able to to finally dry off and get away from Rapture, but after seeing the ending, it’s very disappointing to know that both the fans and the developers (looking at you, Ken Levine) can’t seem to get over the fact that this franchise needs a game with a new setting, not one where Columbia, temporally speaking, is Rapture in disguise.

As a huge Deadpool fan, to where I have an effective monopoly on Deadpool books at my local comic book store and I can see a framed image of the character from where I’m typing this, I really looked forward to him finally have his own video game. Unfortunately, despite the laughs, the gameplay felt unpolished. Daniel Way isn’t the best writer, but his script for the game was filled with plenty of laughs and a few good cracks at game development in general, but I wish I could play a Deadpool game where combat isn’t a tedious grind. I hope this game gets a sequel so that I can play a game that does the character better justice.

Worst Movie of 2013

I’ve been a fan of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic for quite a while now, since a good chunk of the way through Season 1, though my status has gone from curious (Season 1) to Brony (Season 2) to wavering fan (Season 3); My Little Pony: Equestria Girls certainly didn’t help. From the get-go I had very low expectations and no amount of trailers was able to raise them any higher. If I had to explain my reaction to seeing the movie to someone, as well as why I consider it the worst film of the year, then I’d say that with A Good Day to Die Hard I expected something and got nothing, I expected nothing from Man of Steel and got nothing and with Equestria Girls I expected nothing and got a negative result. What didn’t help was the audience I saw the movie with in the theater (but who goes to theaters anymore, right?), a group of Bronies so visibly obnoxious about their love for the franchise that not only did they treat the theater like their den at home, they also gave every other fan (including myself) a bad name. The edited TV version didn’t really improve on anything either, but I will never forget how awful that movie was or how awful my audience was (also, I will never forgive whoever yelled “wingboner” (for the uninitiated, it’s a fandom meme (one of many) that I don’t find funny) in a crowded theater with a little girl present in the audience).

Worst Video Game of 2013

Adventure Time is a very fun show with interesting characters in a unique setting with gradually deeper themes and stories. You’d think then that there would be a lot of potential for a great video game to come out of it, one that would take advantage of the unique world and take full advantage of the various RPG tropes and D&D-like environment to create a game that would be fun and interesting for even the uninitiated, right? Wrong. Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I Don’t Know! doesn’t do any of those things, instead choosing to be a boring, repetitive and broken mess that only got through because Adventure Time was slapped on top of it. The only reason to play is for a shocking, canon, reveal at the end, but you could easily save yourself $40 and just look it up on the internet or even wait for the show to give the same info. I really hope the reins are handed over to another developer so that we can get a good Adventure Time RPG in the future, but until then, this is unfortunately all we have to work with.

2013 - The Highlights (Tetris_King)

At the end of every year, it is sometimes good to reflect on what we may have liked or disliked about it. Below is a list, in no particular order, of what I liked or disliked about what came out this year that got reviewed on this blog, with links provided to the appropriate review.

Top Movies of 2013

Yes, I am putting another Transformers product, a TV movie, into the positive end of one of these lists, but I really, and legitimately, enjoyed this conclusion to the Transformers: Prime cartoon. I think everything really came together in the end, with the animation and voice acting being some of the most impressive here since Darkness Rising. It may not have answered every lingering question, though at least one of them was through an interview in an issue of the Collectors’ Club Magazine, but the end result was nonetheless satisfying.

In a first for these lists, we have a newer Pixar movie not considered a disappointment. While not quite as good as the film it was made be an extension of, Monsters University is more of a return to form for the studio, with a good story and great characterization proving that they have not yet lost their touch. Hopefully their next project, The Good Dinosaur Inside Out, continues this trend.

The third and final part of the Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy, and one of the few comedies of the year that actually grabbed my attention, The World’s End is an extremely funny movie, which is to be expected of an Edgar Wright/Simon Pegg/Nick Frost collaboration. Though the film is most definitely not for younger audiences, it stands out amongst other high profile movies released this year for having a more light-hearted atmosphere and sticking with it, even as the major sub-plot continues to develop, though I can’t say the same for its final minutes. Regardless of how it ended, this is a comedy that did not disappoint.

Another good comedy movie, this one based on a book by David Wong from Cracked.com, John Dies at the End is a great blend of hilarity and horror from start to finish (it also counts for this list because even though it was initially released in 2012, its theatrical run took place in 2013). Having gotten accustomed to David Wong’s style of writing, I thought the movie, directed by Don Coscarelli of Phantasm fame, served as an enjoyable adaptation of an enjoyable book, adapting whatever worked for the medium to great effect while taking creative liberties that worked in its favor. However, it should be stressed that this is not a movie for everyone, more so than The World’s End, due to the concept, graphic imagery, and rampant cursing. In spite of this, I would recommend people in the right age group to give this movie a shot, especially if someone who is already a fan offers you the chance.

Top Games of 2013

As someone who had never actually played a Devil May Cry game until this one, I actually had a fun time with it. While the controls may be a little complex and some arguably important game mechanics were missing, I enjoyed seeing how well the new version of Dante was handled, as well as the conflict that unfolded between him and his brother Vergil. While this new interpretation of the Devil May Cry mythos might upset some of the older fanbase, I found this game to be a good starting point for any newcomers and hope that any potential sequel continues to improve on what was on display.

After a few years of inactivity, we finally have a new Sly Cooper game for a new generation of PlayStation (before the PS4 came out). Even with a change in developer it feels just like a Sly Cooper game, down to the characterization and gameplay, along with a couple of extra features to keep things fresh, such as the connectivity between both the PS3 and Vita versions. Though some minor things in the plot might be a little questionable, it still feels like a natural extension of the previous game and I hope developer Sanzaru Games continues to show their passion for the Sly Cooper brand in any games in the series they might make down the line.

As a fan of the Penny Arcade webcomic, I enjoyed my time playing the Rain-Slick tetralogy of games, with Episode 4 being a fitting conclusion to the story. The Pokémon-esque battle system was executed well and the characters were developed and explored rather nicely, each displaying what exactly was on the line by the end. With shocking twists combined perfectly with Penny Arcade’s brand of humor, this game deserves a spot on this list.

The ideas behind Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons are not only interesting, but the game executes them really well. Even if you can’t understand what the characters are saying, there is enough in the animations that you can still understand them, not to mention there are some absolutely gorgeous background visuals that really flesh out the world. The game also has some interesting puzzle elements and the controls, while seemingly unorthodox at first, are an integral part of the experience. This is definitely a game that should not be passed up.

Top Disappointments of 2013

Having seen every Die Hard movie, including both the theatrical and uncut versions of Live Free or Die Hard, I expected this movie to continue working with what made the fourth one so good. However, A Good Day to Die Hard did not really live up to these expectations, instead having an uninteresting story with moments that feel out of place in a Die Hard flick, and on top of that the timing of the series’ well-known catchphrase was way off. If a sixth Die Hard movie ever gets made, I’m hoping it can once again raise the bar for the franchise like the fourth one did.

Since I enjoyed watching the first in the recent reboot of Star Trek movies, I expected the second of these, Star Trek Into Darkness, to take full advantage of the fact that there is now an entirely new universe to play around with. Instead, it turned out to be a remake of Wrath of Khan from the previous continuity, with some iconic scenes altered in some way. Benedict Cumberbatch did do his own take on the Khan character, but it didn’t do Ricardo Montalbán’s performance from the original series enough justice. Since there evidently won’t be a new movie in the new universe for quite some time, I’m left to wonder why there isn’t more of an effort, outside of tie-in comics, to keep fans interested in the meantime.

I don’t have much personal experience with the Superman mythos, having only seen one movie all the way through and read only a handful of his stories, so I wasn’t sure what to expect out of this latest interpretation of the character, Man of Steel. This movie didn’t really do much for me, since it not only seemed to break from the whole point of the Superman character, what with people punishing him in his youth for saving lives, and felt more like an installment from the Dark Knight trilogy with Superman stuff on top of it. If this is how DC wants to begin their own version of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they certainly got off to a bad start with this movie.

My reasoning for considering this game as a disappointment is similar to why I considered Alice: Madness Returns to be one for last year, in that it mainly comes down to the gameplay, more specifically the combat, which is more akin to what’s present in the (unnecessary) multiplayer function, rather than trying to improve upon what already worked in previous entries. Aside from that are the visuals of the game, which can often seem too good (this is a rare time in all of the games I have played where a game’s imagery made me physically squirm). Ascension is otherwise an acceptable entry in the God of War franchise, even if I wasn’t expecting it to top God of War III.

Even Bigger Disappointments of 2013

I wasn’t expecting much from this movie, especially given the teaser trailers, but somehow I walked away from it with even less. Though it has some real talent attached to it, it seemed like the script could have used at least one or two more re-writes before being handed over to the voice actors, since much of the plot and characterization felt rushed and the fandom nods forced, not to mention it felt more in some places like a re-telling of the first episodes of the base show, but with humans in place of ponies. The TV edit makes the overall experience better, but sadly not by much.

The world of Adventure Time presents many great ideas for a potential video game, with the many creative landscapes and monsters, not to mention the various RPG elements, presented in many of Finn and Jake’s adventures. A boring, repetitive dungeon crawler that punishes you for wanting to save something for later is not one of them. It may feature the original voice cast from the show and have creator Pendleton Ward as head writer, but these good elements are not enough to outweigh the bad, with the only real reason to play being to see the big reveal at the end.

2013 - The Highlights (lionsroar)

Films watched for the first time and reviewed in 2013

Best Films of the year

In no particular order:

Okay, this was technically a 2012 release, but I didn’t see it until January. The same is true with Silver Linings Playbook. But we’re talking about the year we see a movie and reviewed it on the blog.

The winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, Argo tells a historical event and while it takes some license with the facts, it does make a true story seem suspenseful. Going in, if you’ve ever heard of the Iran Hostage Crisis, you’d at least heard of the U.S. Embassy workers who escaped with the help of the Canadian Embassy in Tehran. While not 100 percent historically accurate (neither was Lincoln, another historical drama from 2012), it worked as a movie and that’s what’s important. I was on the edge of my seat even knowing the group makes it out successfully.

The obvious star of this movie is David O. Russell, who both wrote the screenplay and directed the movie. This is a quirky Romantic Comedy about two of the most broken people you’d never want to meet: Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper), a bipolar man obsessed with his ex-wife, and Tiffany Maxwell (Jennifer Lawrence), a policeman’s widow who drowned her sorrows with promiscuity.

Together the two help rebuild each other while preparing for a dance contest Tiffany has her heart set on participating in. While the goal they set is sort of the point equivalent to a participation ribbon, it is the fact that they make it there at all that is important. Jennifer Lawrence would deservedly win the Academy Award for Best Actress, but the cast, which also included Robert DeNiro, Jacki Weaver and Chris Tucker, makes for a very strong ensemble.

A man crazy about guns meets a lady sharpshooter who is a little crazy. Okay, this film from 1950 isn’t new, but I saw it for the first time this year and I fell in love. Now some of that has to do with Peggy Cummins, the Welsh-born actress who plays Laurie. She is great in the part and I’ve never seen a woman look sexier with a gun belt on. I don’t blame Bart (John Dall) for falling for her and doing whatever he can to keep her.

The story is a little slow to get going, but when it does the film is really worth watching. The film is famous for one sequence, a ten minute bank robbery shot in its entirety from the backseat of a car, but there is so much to love in this film. Given his love for Laurie, what Bart has to do at the end of the film makes it very powerful. Of all the movies I saw in 2013, this is one of the few I’d want to see again and again and would most highly recommend.

Biggest Film Disappointments of 2013

In no particular order:

The Die Hard franchise is one without a mastermind. There is no George Lucas or book series behind these films to guide it. The films sort of lurch along, some good, Die Hard, some not, Die Hard 2, some sort of in between, Die Hard with a Vengeance. The fourth film, Live Free or Die Hard finally seemed to get the franchise on the right track and picked up a couple of characters, a more mature Lucy Gennero (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Matt Farrell (Justin Long), a slacker/computer programmer and possible romantic interest for Lucy. If they made a sequel to Live Free, I’d been happy.

But, no, all that gets swept away in the fifth installment. This is a film designed to appeal to as many international markets as possible with Australian, Russian and German actors/actresses cast in prominent roles, including John’s son, Jack (Jai Courtney). Lucy is reduced to a cameo and the movie suffers. There is a yet another heist and a lot of action, but there is none of the humor that made the Die Hard films fun to watch. Even the catchphrase is mishandled. It makes you wonder if the franchise has run out of steam.

I will admit that I’m not a huge Superman fan. I saw the original movie with Christopher Reeve when it came out in 1978 and I went into that with high hopes and came away disappointed as well. But my biggest disappointment is the stupidity of the back story they give the Man of Steel. While they sort of improved on the Jor-El side of the story, they did a disservice to the Kent side. Why was Clark made to feel ashamed of saving other children’s lives? Why did his father Jonathan (Kevin Costner) sacrifice himself rather than let his son save him? They both seemed like stupid choices to me.

And this was not a reboot of the Superman story, rather a remake of the Superman film from 1978. General Zod is not an original character. He did not come along until 1961 in a franchise that has been around since 1938. In Hollywood’s attempt to retell and reboot, but bigger and flashier than the original, Superman’s battle with Zod not only levels Metropolis (like a gabillion dollars’ worth of damage and most likely hundreds or thousands of deaths), but that doesn’t make the movie any better.

Okay, I’m going to sound like a broken record here, but I have pretty much the same complaint with the second of the Star Trek movies that I had with Man of Steel. While I liked the film, it is basically a remake of Wrath of Khan (1982) rather than an all-new Star Trek adventure. Oh, there are a few twists and turns, but basically it’s an unneeded redo of one of the better original Star Trek movies. We don’t need to see movie stories again and again; especially since it’s going to be several years until we see a new Stark Trek movie. Remakes seldom tell the story better than the original and J.J. Abrams has a chance to take the crew of the Enterprise boldly go where the original series had never gone before, not retrace its footsteps. I’m hoping we don’t see some new remake of The Search for Spock (1984) whenever this series picks up again.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus

In recent years, Insomniac Games had been experimenting with the Ratchet & Clank formula. These experiments gave us Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One, which allowed up to 4 players in a campaign simultaneously, and Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault, a (sort of) tower defense game that allowed up to 2 players in co-op (which also had a heavily delayed Vita port despite being a Cross Buy title). While I found these to be enjoyable in spite of them being different from typical Ratchet & Clank games, I had been wondering if multiplayer was the new direction for the brand or if the original formula would ever be revisited, which only sort of happened with HD remasters of the first four games being released (the last of which became bundled with Full Frontal Assault’s long-awaited Vita port when Cross Buy was taken advantage of). Earlier this year, Insomniac and Sony teased an image of a gateway, which after some speculation was revealed to be for the subject of this review, Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus, announced as not only a return to form for the Ratchet & Clank series, but also as the final game in the franchise to be released for PS3, at a budget price of $30. This piqued my interest, since while it was also stated to be a shorter game than most previous entries and advertised as being an epilogue to the Future trilogy, I liked the idea of returning to the series’ roots for this entry and seeing what Insomniac had in store for fans of the series. Though this may be a little late since I got the game as a Christmas gift, I thought the game was very well handled and served as a proper send-off for the Future trilogy and for the franchise on PS3.

While making repairs to a ship they were piloting, Ratchet and Clank receive a call from Talwyn Apogee, who informs them that they are in danger: the ship is going to be under attack by a criminal named Neftin Prog, whose aim is to get his twin sister and fellow criminal, Vendra Prog, the main cargo of Ratchet and Clank’s ship. Wanting Ratchet and Clank to be safe when facing Neftin, Talwyn wants the two of them to be assisted by Cronk and Zephyr, who turn out to be sleeping when the duo finds them. After Ratchet and Clank wake Cronk and Zephyr up, the four of them face problems caused by Vendra before making sure her holding is secure. However, Neftin shows up and, with help from hired Thugs-4-Less thugs, successfully retrieves his sister before taking off, forcing Ratchet and Clank to go after them. As the two try to track down and stop Vendra and Neftin, a much larger plot begins to reveal itself.

Vendra Prog, one of the new antagonists.

While the game may be short (around 5 hours or so), it does manage to tell a coherent story with a beginning, middle, and end, as well as a good deal of character development, not only for Ratchet and Clank, but also for the villains, Vendra and Neftin Prog. However, you won’t be able to get the most out of the plot without having played the Future games, let alone the games that came before them (a specific section of the game reveals the fates of certain characters, including previous villains, though based on what was acknowledged, you can safely skip the handheld entries if you haven’t played any of the games already). Of course, the franchise’s sense of humor has also been preserved, as some cutscenes and bits of dialogue know how to provide a good laugh every now and then.

As with the recent iterations of Ratchet & Clank, the graphics are really amazing. The game’s cartoonish art style blends well with the more realistically rendered fur/hair on the characters among other things, not to mention the lighting in certain areas of the game that gives the worlds Ratchet visits more life to them. I also find it interesting when I see certain small details on a character, be it what makes up a character’s clothing or the physics applied to things such as hair, Ratchet’s ears, or other visible parts of a character’s body such as antennae or particular facial features. Not only does the game impress in the visual department, it also continues to impress with the music, which is good about not only setting up a mood, but also being mildly catchy and not distracting during gameplay.

Speaking of which, as I have said before, the gameplay is more akin to earlier Ratchet & Clank games, but with a few tweaks to change things up a bit. In addition to having a small, but manageable, arsenal of weapons to accommodate the shorter length, some gadgets are tied to certain button combinations, which made sense to me as they were separate from the regular arsenal and helped to streamline the weapon and item selection. One of the new gadgets, the Grav-Tether, provides an interesting twist on the gameplay, in that it can be used to create beams between two appropriate points, which you can then ride to get to another point in the level further away (though which direction you go in depends on the order in which you connected the two points); you can even have multiple beams going on at the same time, which encourages strategic usage of these beams. There’s also a new gameplay mechanic involving a gadget called the Rift Cracker, which alerts you to a dimensional rift at certain points of the game, which are usually found in certain barriers. Once you find one of these rifts, you can send Clank into the Netherverse, where he must make a Nether follow him back to the rift and break down the barrier to allow you to advance in the level. These levels are interesting, in that they are side-scrollers, the main twist being you can shift the gravity of the stage to solve puzzles and guide Clank to reaching or escaping from a Nether.

Neftin Prog, another of the new antagonists and Vendra's twin brother.

Other gadgets within the game include a Jetpack, which allows you unlimited flight (unless you have no fuel or are in a no-fly zone), and the Hoverboots from previous games, which, when acquired, provide the opportunity to move even faster within a stage. Of course, the game still has the usual insane weaponry to be found in a Ratchet & Clank game, which can range from the Omniblaster to the Nightmare Box, which can scare enemies, to even the Winterizer, which can turn enemies into snowmen. These can be upgraded with repeated usage, at which point they become more powerful; weapons can be further enhanced at GrummelNet vendors by using Raritanium dropped from enemies or found within the area, including such benefits as additional ammo and increased rate of Raritanium drops, though some are unique to specific weapons (ex. how long the Nightmare Box can stay active and the range at which it can scare enemies). When upgrades are applied, they can even make the returning Mr. Zurkon weapon, which was already funny, even funnier, since he is eventually joined by his family, providing even more laughs on the battlefield.

There are also hidden collectibles within each level, in the form of Gold Bolts and pieces of a Holoplan for the RYNO VII. Once you complete the Gold Cup in the Thugs-4-Less Destructapalooza, you gain an item that will allow you to better locate most of them on your map, and it is well worth doing so. Though the Gold Bolts don’t seem to have much of a purpose aside from a Trophy, the RYNO VII is a weapon worth scavenging for the complete Holoplan, since it can take down some enemies rather quickly (while playing Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain” no less).

The RYNO VII: Now with more Mussorgksy.

Another positive aspect of the game is the voice acting, which has only gotten better with each main game. Characters such as Ratchet (James Arnold Taylor), Clank (David Kaye), and Qwark (Jim Ward) each retain their respective voice actors and display a lot of experience in their voices (though Jim Ward doesn’t seem to get to do much). However, while Talwyn Apogee is a returning character from the Future series, she is no longer voiced by Tara Strong, rather being voiced by Ali Hillis, although I honestly didn’t really notice much difference in the performance, which means she did a really good job emulating the character. Though some other minor and returning characters put on good performances, I also liked the ones from Nika Futterman and Fred Tatasciore, who voice Vendra and Neftin Prog respectively; the two of them seem to put on a rather convincing brother/sister dynamic for their respective characters, which really helped to sell their character development.

There is, however, one thing I didn’t like about the game, namely an experience I had regarding expository dialogue. When I landed on the first planet after the introductory level, as I was exploring the level, Talwyn was explaining something important about where I was, only for me to die before I could hear it. I thought I wouldn’t have to worry and that the dialogue would start over again, as I have seen in plenty of other games, however I never got to find out whatever it was I needed to learn, forcing me to have it looked up online so I could better understand the plot. I’m not sure how much of that was player error, since I was not familiar with the level’s layout at the time, but in any case this really bugged me for a bit after it had happened.

Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus is another welcome addition to the Ratchet & Clank franchise. It may be short, but it manages to do a lot within that short time frame. The level design is good, as is most everything else. Despite its length, the game also manages to provide something of a challenge (though I admittedly played on the Cadet/lowest difficulty since it had been a while since playing the last game). If you are a Ratchet & Clank fan, this is definitely a game to pick up, provided you have played the Future games (+ All 4 One and Full Frontal Assault) and read the comic. If you have not yet played a Ratchet & Clank game and are considering doing so, I would tell you to play the first game and go from there, since the Future series is when it becomes a bit more continuity heavy, although, as I previously stated, you can safely skip the handheld entries.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Wolf of Wall Street

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey. Directed by Martin Scorsese. Produced by Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Riza Aziz, Joey McFarland, Emma Koskoff. Screenplay by Terence Winter. Based on the book, The Wolf of Wall Street by Jordan Belfort. Run Time: 179 minutes. U.S.  Color. Biography, Comedy, Drama, Crime

Christmas Day is the last release date to qualify a film for contention for the Academy Awards and every studio with what they feel is an award-worthy movie usually has it in theaters by then. With the Awards in mind, The Wolf of Wall Street, a biography with a run time worthy of Gandhi (1982), was released. Like Gandhi, the story is told big, but that’s about where the comparisons between the Mahatma and Jordan Belfort, the subject of this film, ends.

Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a natural-born salesman and a self-made man, but did so breaking most of the Security and Exchange Commission’s rule book. A stock broker by trade, Belfort learns the rules of the road from his first boss, Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey). The most important thing is to keep the client investing, because with every trade, win or lose for the client, the stock broker makes a commission. But Belfort gets his license and starts trading on October 19, 1987, aka Black Monday, and the firm he works for goes under.

Still an innocent, Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio) soaks up the
knowledge Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey) shares with him.

Belfort discovers penny stocks with their huge commissions and away we go. Jordan’s life from that point forward is filled with deceit, drugs and double D’s. The film takes great pleasure to depict the debauchery that was apparently part of Jordan’s everyday life. Drugs, mostly coke and Quaaludes, are used routinely. Nudity and sex abound as the line between workplace and misogynist frat party is completely erased. Belfort might only appear to work hard, but he definitely plays harder, routinely entertaining his work staff with midget tosses, strippers, hookers and, of course, drugs.

Who doesn't love a good midget toss?

Along the way, he collects a group of old friends, who are mostly former drug dealers, including Nicky “Rugrat” Koskoff (P.J. Byrne) and Chester Ming (Kenneth Choi), to be his lead salesmen. One drug dealer, Brad Bodnick (Jon Bernthal), finds drugs too lucrative to leave, but does help Belfort launder money. And there is Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill), a former furniture salesman, who is Belfort’s first employee. Azoff, like every person Belfort employs, is envious of his money, power and drive. While all the main characters are jerks in this film, Azoff should have been named Asshole, because he acts like that to everyone, including Belfort.

Jonah Hill really works it as Donnie Azoff, Belfort's first employee.
Here he introduces his new boss to the joys of crack cocaine.

To look legitimate, Belfort gives his new company a fancy and substantial sounding name, Stratton Oakmont, and they switch their target from ripping off blue collar workers yearning to be rich to going after the rich themselves.

A write up in Forbes magazine exposes many of Belfort’s practices and values and dubs him the Wolf of Wall Street. However, the publicity brings him more salesmen wanting to get rich and the company continues to grow. They even handle a legitimate IPO, that for Azoff’s high school friend and women’s show designer Steve Madden (Jake Hoffman). But Stratton Oakmont doesn’t even handle the IPO legitimately either; why fix what ain’t broken.

When things are going good, wife Teresa Petrillo (Cristin Milioti) is jettisoned for Naomi Lapaglia (Margot Robbie), whom looks to Belfort to be an upgrade. But that doesn’t keep him from cheating on her as well.

Eventually, the Feds, led by FBI agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler), close in on him and Belfort is forced to account for his misdeeds, but that takes most of the movie to get to and there is still plenty more time for sex, drugs and fraud until then. I left the film wondering what took the Feds so long to catch on to what he was doing.

The film reminded me of another Scorsese film, Goodfellas (1990), in that the story is narrated by the protagonist, another anti-hero, Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), who recounts his time in the Lucchese crime family. And Hill meets much of the same fate Belfort does, the Feds eventually catch up with him, too, and all too quickly he’s back on the streets.

There is a lot to take in and the film, for the most part, does clip along at a good pace. But there are times when you will be looking at your watch, as the film drags in places. Belfort’s incendiary sales speeches sort of slow down the action, but I assume they were considered essential to showing his relationship to his sales staff, which despite the testosterone bent of his speeches, does include some women.

Balfort rallying the troops to commit more stock fraud.

My main problem with the film is that there is no one you can connect with, unless you’re Bernie Maddoff. Belfort is so corrupt that while you might admire his gusto, you still want him to get his comeuppance. The measly sentence he actually gets is as much an indictment of our judicial system rather than true punishment for what he’s done. There is no good side to this guy. And there is no one else, save FBI agent Denham, that isn’t somehow corrupted by Belfort’s money, though Belfort does attempt and fails to bribe the agent.

One way to launder money is to smuggle it into Switzerland.
It doesn't hurt if the courier used to be a stripper.

There are some interesting supporting actors in the movie. Jean Dujardin, who was so acclaimed in The Artist (2011), shows up in a fairly substantial role of Jean-Jacques Saurel, a Swiss banker turned money launderer. Rob Reiner appears as Belfort’s father Max, an accountant who is dragged into the company to bring some order to the skyrocketing expenses. Jon Favreau plays Manny Riskin, a lawyer Belfort brings in to help cover his tracks. Joanna Lumley, from Ab Fab fame, plays Naomi’s Aunt Emma, who willing gets roped into Belfort’s money laundering scheme. But for the most part, they’re relegated to colorful, but one-dimensional characters. Perhaps the most underused is Christine Ebersol, who plays Belfort’s mother Leah; I can’t recall her having a line of meaningful dialogue.

It is easy to see how the film skirted getting an NC-17 rating. While I prefer sex to violence, the film does not shy away from full frontal nudity and open, though not graphic, depictions of sex. Add rampant drug use and cursing and the film is what they call a hard R.

The film is being touted for awards season, but I don’t see this as Best Picture or Best Actor fodder. It might get nominated, but I would be surprised if it won either of those awards. Matthew McConaughey, an actor I’ve never really been a fan of, might be deserving of at least a supporting actor nod for his performance as the nice-guy, advice giving, cokehead Mark Hanna.

The Wolf of Wall Street is pretty much what I expected, though I’m a little disappointed that it did not rise above those expectations. While I would not tell you to stay away from the film, I would not tell you have to go see it, either.

Stubs – The Squaw Man (1914)

The Squaw Man (1914) Starring: Dustin Farnum, Monroe Salisbury, Red Wing, Winifred Kingston. Directed by Oscar Apfel and Cecil B. DeMille. Story and Screenplay by Beulah Marie Dix. Based on the play The Squaw Man by Edwin Milton Royle. Produced by Cecil B. DeMille and Jesse L. Lasky Run Time: 74 minutes. Black and White. U.S. Silent, Western, Drama

It’s not always you get to see a first. And while films pre-date The Squaw Man, there are still a lot of firsts tied up in it. The first feature film shot in Hollywood, the first film directed (sort of) by Cecil B. DeMille, and the first film made by the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Co., the precursor to Paramount Pictures. I had been interested in this movie since helping one of my sons, then in middle school, do a project on Los Angeles. We found a sepia still on the internet we used in his Powerpoint presentation.

Further fueling my interest was reading the Early Paramount Studios book from the Images of America series. While it is mostly photos and thus a fairly quick read, since The Squaw Man plays so prominently in the history of Paramount, the film gets more than a fair amount of attention.

Recently, TCM showed it as part of a series of films having to do with the development of films and tied to Story of Film documentaries. When the opportunity to see a film you’ve been interested in seeing is only a DVR recording away, it’s hard to resist.

We might be singing “Hooray for Flagstaff”, since that was the original location selected for the filming. Flagstaff was chosen for its exotic sounding name and the hopes it would provide picturesque vistas that could be used as background for the filming. But DeMille found the location unsuitable and pushed westward, settling on a barn at the corner of Selma and Vine as headquarters and the rest, as they say, is history.

Cecil B Demille (far left) and The Squaw Man cast. Dustin Farnum is in the white shirt.

Originally a Broadway play, The Squaw Man opened in 1905 and was revived four times, including a 1911 run that lasted for only 8 performances, but starred Dustin Farnum. Farnum was a singer, dancer and actor who had been appearing on Broadway since the then turn of the century. While he’s not a legendary actor per se, one modern day actor, Dustin Hoffman, was reportedly named after him. He would, like so many actors that followed, including his namesake, leave the great white way for Hollywood. He appeared in movies from 1914, starting with Soldiers of Fortune (1914) and staying in films until 1926’s The Flaming Frontier.

While oft credited as the first film Cecil B. DeMille directed, the lead director was really a man named Oscar Apfel. Originally an actor, appearing like everyone, on Broadway, he left the stage and went to work for the Edison Company in 1911. He started his directing career there, before moving to Reliance-Majestic Studios and then to the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Player Company in 1913, becoming one of the two main directors for that company. The other was DeMille. On The Squaw Man, DeMille learned the craft from Apfel. Up until then, DeMille’s entire film experience was one day observing at the Edison Company.

Cecil was not the DeMille that Jessie Lasky was originally interested in. He was trying to get a hold of William C. DeMille, Cecil’s older brother, to collaborate on an operetta, but he was already tied to another project. William’s agent, his mother, who ran a theatrical agency, suggested Cecil, who was not without experience, but did not have as much as William. Lasky was skeptical, but agreed to meet with Cecil and the two quickly became close friends, deciding to work together, but on a film rather than a play. Together, they formed the Lasky Feature Play Company.

Apfel was hired to show DeMille the ropes and The Squaw Man was that learning session. After Lasky, Apfel moved to Fox, where he directed William Farnum, Dustin’s brother, in a series of films. Apfel would eventually retire from directing to become a sought after character actor in other people’s films.

The cameras began to roll on the Squaw Man on December 29, 1913* and the film would be released the following year. Sadly a hundred years later, while the film has been preserved, TCM even went so far as to have H. Scott Salinas write a new score, it has not been restored. The print TCM showed was rife with omissions, even including a jump cut that makes an Aunt appear to disappear into thin air in one scene.

The movie is not easy to follow, partly due to the sheer age of the film, though I think it may also have to do with the style of storytelling used. There are few title cards and the story sometimes leaps forward by months and years. For example: Hal goes from baby bump to about five years-old in the blink of an eye. I don’t know if that’s due to missing footage or if the movie was released like that. Another problem is that in the beginning all the members of the same regiment look pretty much identical, same haircut and mustache, that it’s really hard to tell them apart.

Hard to tell them apart, but I believe the man on the far left is Captain James Wynnegate (Dustin Farnum).

Melodramatic, The Squaw Man tells the story of Captain James Wynnegate (Dustin Farnum), who is the executor of a fund set up by members of his regiment for the families of men killed in battle. When his cousin, Sir Henry Wynnegate, the Earl of Kerhill (Monroe Salisbury), embezzles money from an orphans' fund to pay his gambling debts, James is talked into taking the blame and to leave England in order to save the family’s honor. 

The discovery that the funds have been embezzled.

The person who convinces him is Henry’s wife, Lady Diana (Winifred Kingston), with whom James is in love. James accepts banishment from high society and sets out on a ship.

On board, James makes friends with the Captain and his family, but he is also followed on board by an inspector from Scotland Yard. It is not clear if he plans to arrest James or not. But James overpowers him and keeps him tied up until the boat is out of the harbor. (Frankly it is not clear what happens to the inspector. He tries to get a boat to shore but is turned down by the Captain and disappears from the film.) One day while in James’ cabin, the daughter of the Captain accidentally sets curtains in the room on fire. The fire gets out of control, the ship burns and sinks. James, with the other passengers, is rescued from the ocean by a ship headed to America.

Soon after arriving in New York, James watches a man, Big Bill (Dick La Reno), get pick-pocketed and intervenes. Grateful, Big Bill invites James to travel with him back to the plains. The sophisticated Britisher immediately changes into riding boots and jodhpurs and he is the laughingstock of the train station. 

Big Bill takes James out to meet a tribe of Ute Indians, including Chief Tabywana (Joseph E. Singleton) and his daughter Nat-u-rich (Red Wing). The men spend the night and it is obvious Nat-u-rich is attracted to James.

Big Bill (Dick La Reno) introduces James to Nat-u-rich (Red Wing). Her father,
Chief Tabywana (Joseph E. Singleton) is to her immediate left.

The next day, James, now calling himself James Carston, buys the Lone Butte Ranch for $6750 from current owner Bull Cowan. James quickly earns the respect of his ranch hands and proves himself to be a tough but fair boss.

Meanwhile, back in England, Diana’s health has worsened and it is decided that a trip to Yellowstone is in order and off she and Henry set.

Back in Wyoming, James is getting cozier with the Ute Indians. But his feud with Cash Hawkins (William Elmer) is only beginning. Jim catches Cash and his gang in the act of trying to rebrand his cattle. Cash also tries to cheat Tabywana in some sort of cattle deal while Nat-u-rich tries to stop it. James happens to arrive at the tavern when Cash is starting to get physical with Nat-u-rich. Cash isn’t able to conclude his deal and words between James and Cash are exchanged.

At about that time, Diana’s train, which is delayed because of something odd to do with the track, arrives. (There is smoke in the ties, but nothing more is explained) and is sent to the station in his town. James sees Diana and tries to avoid her seeing him. But when Cash returns, guns a blazing, demanding everyone in the Long Horn drink with him, their reunion is unavoidable. Cash, who is a real ass, threatens Henry and Diana and James is forced again to intercede and disarm Cash.

James makes an odd declaration “I won’t drink with a man who robbed the orphans of the King’s soldiers,” but then goes on to drink with Henry and Cash. When the all clear is given and everyone goes back on the train, Diana and James share a sweet and brief good-bye. The tavern clears out, but Cash who is still mad, goes back to kill James. Nat-u-rich, who arrives before Cash, hears him coming and hides in a storage room behind the bar. James, who is depressed after seeing Diana, doesn’t even notice that Cash has returned. But before he can react, Cash is shot from behind and killed.

James is too depressed to hear Cash Hawkins (William Elmer) return.
In the back, Nat-u-rich observes before she takes action.

Everyone, including the Sheriff, returns when they hear the shooting. James is not considered a suspect since his gun is still fully loaded. The Sheriff sniff checks the other guns in the bar and none have been fired. Only after everyone has left does Nat-u-rich come out of hiding. But the bartender returns and goes into the storage room, where he finds an Indian-beaded pouch. While they are alone, Nat-u-rich confesses to James that she indeed killed Cash.

Nat-u-rich confess that she killed Cash Hawkins to save James' life.

The title card skips ahead six months. James is obviously still thinking about Diana when his thoughts are interrupted by news that his horses have strayed into the hills in the dead of winter. With his ranch hands he heads out to retrieve them. They seek help from the Utes and Big Bill finds the horses. James meanwhile is snow blinded and falls off his horse. Big Bill rides back to the Utes looking for help and Nat-u-rich rides out on her own to look for James. She finds him overtaken by the poisonous fumes of the death hole. Braving evil spirits, she rescues him and takes him back to her village to recover. A witch doctor is brought in and eventually James is taken home to the ranch to recover. Nat-u-rich stays with him.

Nat-u-rich stays with James and nurses him back to health.

Lonely, James recovers and succumbs to Nat-u-rich’s charms. Several months later, the title card tells us, and Nat-u-rich is pregnant. James rides into town and fetches the Justice of the Peace and brings him back to the ranch to marry the couple. The JOP is reluctant and only officiates the wedding when Big Bill pulls a gun on him.

There has to be a piece of film missing because in a blink of an eye, the baby bump is now Hal (‘Baby’ Carmen De Rue) and is old enough to ride and shoot. Hal is also very close to his father. Nat-u-rich is kept at arm's length it seems.

While on a climbing expedition with Diana in the Swiss Alps (which appear to be Chatsworth), Henry falls. Mortally wounded and surrounded by the hiking party, Henry writes out a confession, clearing James of blame for the embezzling of the funds.

Diana and Henry in the Swiss Alps, which look a lot like Chatsworth, California.
Henry falls to his death, nearly pulling Diana down with him.

Now that he is cleared and the Earl of Kerhill, Diana goes to America to retrieve James.

Meanwhile, the local sheriff, in a bid for re-election, is forced to solve Cash’s murder, which is years old by now. The only clue is the beaded pouch that the bartender found, which Tabywana recognizes as Nat-u-rich’s and he rides off to tell her.

At this time, the train carrying Diana and her party arrive in town. She sends a dispatch to the ranch while she waits back in town.

Diana's envoy meets Hal (Carmen De Rue) at the ranch.

James is going through some hard times and has to pay his men with possessions he has, including his rifle and the medals he earned in the British army. Big Bill doesn’t need money and continues to stand by his friend. Just then Tabywana arrives and warns James that the Sheriff is coming after Nat-u-rich. But first they must smoke a peace pipe, a scene which frankly seems a bit forced.

The sheriff indeed arrives with his posse, but Bill tells them she’s gone and they ride off. Just then, Diana’s envoy arrives and tells him that he’s been cleared and he’s the new Earl of Kerhill. James fondly remembers home, but Hal interrupts his thoughts. When James realizes his son will someday be the Earl, he is willing to send him back to England to get a proper gentleman’s education. Nat-u-rich doesn’t like the idea, but Jim overrules her.

The next morning, the Sheriff returns and searches the ranch house, finding Nat-u-rich’s gun, but Tabywana, who has been keeping a close eye on him, jumps the sheriff and fights him for it. Bill arrives and takes the gun back, telling the Sheriff that it belongs to Nat-u-rich. That, along with the other evidence, points to her guilt. James arrives as Bill puts the gun back and then has him chase the Sheriff off his land. Tabywana follows after him and warns the sheriff that if he arrests Nat-u-rich, there will be a trouble with the Indians. He is laughed at, but goes back to his village to gather warriors.

An impatient Lady Diana and her party arrive at the ranch. She is happy to see James again and surprised to hear he has a son, but does embrace Hal. Nat-u-rich returns to the ranch just ahead of the sheriff, whom she knows now is coming to arrest her.

Tabywana leaves his village armed and with braves in tow. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Diana and party leave with Hal, who everyone is sorry to see leave. Even Nat-u-rich, but she is not given a chance to say good-bye to her own son. But the wagon is stopped by the sheriff and forced to return to the ranch so they can be witnesses to the arrest. Tabywana and his Ute braves arrive. James finds that Nat-u-rich’s gun is gone.

Taking the gun, Nat-u-rich goes off into a field to commits suicide. The pending arrest, the loss of her son and the loss of James’ affection were apparently too much for her to take. Her father, Chief Tabywana, arrives too late to stop her and he brings her body back to the ranch. While Diana tries to shield young Hal’s eyes, James eulogizes over Nat-u-rich, “Poor little mother.”

Nat-u-rich dies in James' arms, while Diana tries to shield Hal's eyes.

There is a lot of story for such a relatively short film. And some of the action seems superfluous at best. Why have James get on a boat to leave England, just to have that boat burn and sink, so he can get on another boat to America? You can’t blame that on a loss of film footage. It just doesn’t make sense, nor does having so many of the characters, in the beginning, look like clones of each other. Without sound cues to help differentiate the men, having them look so much alike makes it hard to distinguish one from another, let alone identify with them.

But the age of the film and its state of disrepair make judging it somewhat difficult. I’m not sure what should be in the film and what the directors chose to include. Maybe there are scenes that help put the story together better, but I don’t know if that’s the case or not. The film was a big success in its time, so there must be more in 1914 than I can see today.

As historic of a film as The Squaw Man may be, the version we’re left with is sadly not very good. Perhaps that is why Cecil B. DeMille remade the film in 1918 and again, with sound, in 1931. Interesting to note that early versions of this film showed DeMille’s inexperience. During screenings, the film would shift up and down on the screen. DeMille and Lasky prepared a lawsuit against Eastman Kodak blaming the film for the problem.

However, Sigmund Lubin, a German-born early American film pioneer, was consulted and he pointed out that the problem was with the filmmakers themselves. They had used two separate cameras to make the movie, but had not calibrated them properly. Lubin was paid a lot of money to fix the negative and process new prints of the film.

But DeMille would grow into the role of director and his riding boots and jodhpurs attire becoming synonymous with film director in any depiction of Hollywood in film or on TV. DeMille would go on to direct dozens of silent and sound films. He is probably best remembered for his epic films, including Cleopatra (1934), The Plainsman (1936), Samson and Delilah (1949), The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) and The Ten Commandments (1956). He also famously played himself in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard (1950).

DeMille learned how to be a director on The Squaw Man (1914).

While I can’t say that DeMille’s first effort is all that great, the film does deserve a look, seeing how it helped to launch not only feature films in the U.S., but the film industry in Hollywood. If you’re looking for a solidly entertaining film, I would tell you to keep looking. But if you’re in the mood to see something historic, then you might give The Squaw Man a look during its centennial anniversary. Perhaps my opinion would be higher if I ever had a chance to see a fully restored version of the film.

*Source: Images of America Early Paramount Studios (2013)