Quick Reviews: Detour [1945], Ghost Dog [1999], Series 7 [2001], The Secret World of Arrietty [2010], Mass Effect [2007]

This has been an unexpectedly busy month, but I still found time to do a new batch of mini-reviews:

MOVIES

Detour [1945]
Detour [1945]
This short Film Noir (runtime: 68 minutes) has gained a lot of respect over the years, and rightfully so. Tom Neal stars as Al, a piano musician who decides to hitchhike from New York City to Hollywood in order to meet up with his starry-eyed dame. Along the way, he gets a ride from a well-off bookie in a convertible. This is where shit hits the fan. While taking a turn driving, Al pulls over to put up the top during a rainstorm. It is at this time that he notices the bookie has passed out, and upon opening the car door, his new friend falls out and hits his head on a rock. Al freaks out, takes his wallet and car, and continues on to Hollywood. He meets the femme fatale of the film, Vera (Ann Savage), and boy is she a cold-hearted woman! She is easily one of the nastiest women I have seen in a noir, and poor Al just can’t catch a break. It’s amazing just how much plot was able to get crammed into this brief film, and it is worthy of its praise as one of the more underrated Film Noirs. I could have done without the tacked-on final scene, but this is an enjoyably dark and gritty way to spend an hour. 8/10

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai [1999]
Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai [1999]
Talk about an unorthodox badass. Ghost Dog (Forest Whitaker) is an inner-city self-trained samurai, a guy who acts as a hitman and lives in a pigeon coop. His best friend is an immigrant who doesn’t speak a lick of English. Ghost Dog is a weird dude, but he is lethal with a weapon, and he isn’t afraid of anyone despite getting tangled up in some nasty mafia business. This Jim Jarmusch film is a little slow in spots, but its odd humor (i.e. an old mob gangster belting out some Flava Flav jams) and killer RZA-curated soundtrack work greatly in its favor. 7.5/10

Series 7: The Contenders
Series 7: The Contenders [2001]
This dark satire of reality TV is equal parts Battle Royale and The Hunger Games. The concept is that six contestants are chosen via a ‘random’ lottery, with the ultimate goal being to kill off the other participants and remain the last person standing. Director Daniel Minahan, a former reality TV producer himself, does a terrific job making the movie feel like an extended marathon of an actual reality show, complete with Will Arnett as the narrator. The movie has a cool premise, and the production fits the theme perfectly, but it never really digs into anything meaningful. Yeah, reality TV sucks, and it’s fun to bash it, but the spoof could have had more of a bite to it. Still, an enjoyable enough movie, and a mindless way to spend 87 minutes. 6/10

The Secret World of Arrietty [2010]
The Secret World of Arrietty [2010]
Studio Ghibli’s latest feature is a somber and melancholy affair, yet remains charming at the same time. Arrietty (voiced by Bridgit Mendler) is a “borrower”, a little person who lives under the floorboards of a house with her parents (voiced by real-life couple Amy Poehler and Will Arnett). They make a living by borrowing unneeded supplies from the human beings (i.e. sugar cubes, tissue paper, etc.). Arrietty forms an unlikely friendship with a young terminally ill human boy, Shawn (David Henrie), but these types of interactions are risky for the borrowers, who could lose everything if discovered. The plot plays with our curiosity, but its slow-moving pace may not fare well with young children, and it takes too long to get to the meat of the story. The animation is gorgeous, as expected, but the soundtrack is just cheesy and feels out of place. Arrietty is a decent movie, but does not compare to the high marks previously set by Studio Ghibli. 7/10

VIDEO GAMES

Mass Effect [Xbox 360, 2007]
Mass Effect [Xbox 360, 2007]
After starting and stopping my campaign a couple times, I finally sat down and played through the entirety of Mass Effect. Yeah, I am quite a few years late to the party, but better late than never. This sci-fi action/RPG epic was a lot of fun, though it started off slow as hell. It wasn’t until I left the Citadel, the huge political space station, that the game picked up. I became hooked once I was able to explore the galaxy and began visiting untouched planets. Driving the Mako vehicle was a bit of a chore, to put it mildly, but the rewards of new side quests and items made it worth it. It was a lot of fun to explore character relationships (I romanced Liara) and make an effort to either be “good” or “bad” (I opted for Paragon until the very end — let’s just say I wasn’t a fan of the Citadel). Mass Effect isn’t a perfect game by any means — the freezing and drops in frame rate were especially annoying — but the great story made this a fun experience anyway. Can’t wait to play through the rest of the trilogy. 8/10

Have you guys seen any of these movies or played this video game? What do you think of them?

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25 thoughts on “Quick Reviews: Detour [1945], Ghost Dog [1999], Series 7 [2001], The Secret World of Arrietty [2010], Mass Effect [2007]

  1. mahervolous says:

    You nailed the first Mass Effect. Took a long time to get going, but once it did, great. ‘…Arrietty’ sounds interesting. Have you seen ‘Spirited Away’? Great film, a Japanimation ‘Alice in Wonderland’.

    • Eric says:

      I think Spirited Away was the very first anime film I ever watched, actually. I ought to give it another viewing, but I liked it quite a bit. Arrietty is good, but it doesn’t compare to that or Howl’s Moving Castle, Grave of the Fireflies, etc.

  2. Castor says:

    Ahaha you totally made me want to check out Ghost Dog. Nice mini-review Eric 😀 I will be sure to rent Arriety as well since it’s made by Studio Ghibli.

  3. John says:

    My girlfriend and I saw The Secret World of Arrietty a few days ago and you nailed it. It was beautiful to look at and I enjoyed the rural Japanese setting, but it was pretty boring. Also, what was the caretaker’s motivation? I never understood what her motivation was.

    Good synopsis of Mass Effect. I definitely favored the plot over the gameplay.

    • Eric says:

      Great point about the caretaker. Why the hell did she have such a vendetta against the borrowers? Her whole subplot just felt a little off.

  4. maroon5gurl88 says:

    As a film noir fan it pains me that I haven’t gotten to Detour yet. Although having read books about the life of star Tom Neal, definitely colors my view of the film already

    • Eric says:

      Yeah, I didn’t know anything about Tom Neal until I read up on the movie afterward. Pretty crazy stuff. I’m surprised his son played the same role in the 1992 remake.

  5. rtm says:

    Nice mix you’ve got here Eric. I still haven’t seen another Ghibli production since ‘Spirited Away’ but will be sure to rent ‘The Secret World of Arrietty’ Seems like it’d still be worth a watch despite the slow-ness.

    • Eric says:

      Arrietty is worth a watch, but I would recommend digging into Studio Ghibli’s classics first. Grave of the Fireflies, in particular, is one of the best films I have ever seen. I cannot recommend that one enough.

  6. Samuel Picken says:

    Mass Effect was one of my favorite games when it came out. 2 is by far the weakest in the trilogy, but the epic-ness that is 3 more than makes up for it. The trilogy is wonderfully thrilling, and i suggest that you make all attempts to carry over your character throughout it 🙂

    • Eric says:

      Oh yeah, I definitely plan on keeping the same character. I can’t wait to see how my actions from the first game affect the sequels. I was feeling particularly vengeful at the end. 😀

      Thanks for stopping by!

  7. sanclementejedi says:

    Eric, I love me some Mass Effect. I have been getting a lot of grief from my COD squadmates as I have been playing a lot of Mass Effect 2. I am about 2/3 of the way done. You will be happy to hear that the combat is improved and their is no Mako.

  8. The Blog of Big Ideas says:

    It sounds like I should give “Detour” a watch. “Ghost Dog” sounds a bit odd but interesting enough to give it a go.
    Is the first Mass Effect available for the PS3? If so, I could start the trilogy from there. Have you played the other two?

    • Eric says:

      Mass Effect is a 360/PC exclusive, unfortunately. I haven’t had a chance to play the sequels yet, but I plan to start ME2 very soon. I’m not sure if playing the first game is essential to tackling the sequels, but it may be beneficial for the sake of the overarching story.

    • Eric says:

      I’m not familiar with that one. If they have similar concepts, there’s a good chance you will like Arrietty. It’s not one of Studio Ghibli’s best, but still worth a watch.

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