Cotton Reviews The Rover (2014)


The Rover is a grim, beautifully shot, yet utterly hopeless post-apocalyptic tale that is not for the faint of heart. It will immediately remind of Mad Max,  maybe even The Road, but I also found many more similarities to old Westerns where lawlessness is a way of life.


I’m looking for my car. Three men in it. Have you seen it?

Guy Pierce stars as Eric. Eric is a normal guy by all accounts. He’s traveling alone in his car and stops for a glass of water. While sitting at the empty bar some thieves crash their truck and, in desperate need of a getaway vehicle, steal Eric’s. That’s just not going to fly. Eric watches as they drive away in his car, gets in the truck that belongs to the thieves, and runs them down. Outnumbered, Eric is knocked unconscious, and he awakens next to the truck. This begins his journey to find his car and punish those who stole it. By sheer chance, Eric crosses paths with a half-wit named Rey (a nearly unrecognizable Robert Pattinson), who is a brother to one of the thieves. He was also left wounded, presumed dead, by his brother and gang of thieves. Together, the two men search for the men, but have different motives.

That is the general plot to the film. The film seems to wander aimless at times. At certain points one may ask “what the hell is this movie about?” That’s the film’s intent. It is about nothing because that is what the world has come to. It is an examination of the human condition in the event of a societal collapse. When mankind is left to govern itself, without law and order, what will mankind become? There is a scene midway through where Eric confesses a heinous crime he committed. He explains that after he did it how no one came looking for him. That what he did should have mattered and should have meant something, but it didn’t matter anymore.


You shouldn’t ever forget the lives you’ve taken. That’s the price for taking them.

As mentioned before, this is a dark, grimy, gritty, and brutal vision of a society after its collapse. It is not for everyone. The final scene will leave some with an empty feeling inside. “He did all this…for that?” But, for me, it serves to prove the whole point of the film. This is a tale that is essentially about nothing in a world that has lost it’s meaning. In this meaninglessness there is one last bit of Eric’s humanity that remains.

The Rover gets an A.



Cotton Reviews Sin City (2005)


Sin City. I still remember the hype surrounding this film when it was first announced. The uniqueness of how it was shot was as striking as the large, diverse cast of Hollywood and Indie heavyweights. I was hooked on this film from the first trailer.

Sin City is kind of a hard film for me to review. It is really three short films put together as one “volume” so to speak. The three stories are The Hard Goodbye, The Big Fat Kill, and That Yellow Bastard. Each story has its own unique feel and characters. If case you were wondering, just like Pulp Fiction before it, this is how one gets that many A-class actors into one film.


Goldie…she says her name is Goldie.

Marv (Mickey Rourke) stars in The Hard Goodbye which is a story of vengeance. Marv has the night of his life with a hooker named Goldie (Jaime King) but then awakens the next morning to find her cold, dead corpse next to him. After being framed for the murder, he sets off on a journey to avenge her death. The Big Fat Kill stars Clive Owen as Dwight and Rosario Dawson as Gail. This second short was my favorite of the three. It was something unlike I had ever seen before. A story of a prostitute controlled town where the women are the law and are armed to teeth. This was also the story which has the better pacing and action as far as this reviewer is concerned. That Yellow Bastard should have been my favorite though as it stars one of my all-time favorites Bruce Willis. This was before Live Free or Die Hard so it was nice to see a return to a hard boiled type detective for him. He is wrongfully imprisoned after saving the life of a little girl named Nancy (Jessica Alba). Upon his release from prison, he unwittingly leads a yellow bastard killer (Nick Stahl) straight to her.

Each of these stories could stand on their own. Not one is dependent on the other. The only time they intersect is at the night club where Nancy dances. This was a nice way of showing that this is all happening at the same time and drives home the theme that Basin City is one f’ed up place. Basin City is a dark place filled with corruption, nihilism, and desperation.


A hardtop with a decent engine…and make sure it has a big trunk

However, they each drive home cohesive themes of corruption from those who have power to those who do not. It plays with the ideas of what drives good men to become monsters and how monsters can still have their humanity. Everyone with power is crooked and corrupt whether they are cops, mobsters, men of the cloth, or government officials. In the midst of all of this corruption are our characters whose actions are immoral because they live in an immoral world that has no hope of being redeemed. The story of Marv really drives this theme home. For all intents and purposes Marv is a psychopathic killer who shows no remorse for his violent actions. “I love hitmen. You can do whatever you want to them and not feel bad.” Yet, a hooker who shows him a good time can bring out the humanity within him and, in his own mind, gives him a noble cause for his violent destruction.

The cinematography in this film still to this day amazes and astounds. It is shot in black and white which serves the dark, film noir themes that they are pounding home. While the majority is black and white, colors are thrown in to display emphasis. For example, Goldie’s hair remains blonde while the rest of her is black and white. Dwight’s shoes are crimson red. Blood is always colored as well. The effect is really nice. Watching the film on Bluray on my 65″ TV in the pitch black and the film still retained its big screen feel. For the eye candy alone, this is worth it.


She doesn’t quite cut his head off. She makes a Pez dispenser out of him.

This isn’t a perfect film, however, not by any stretch. There are problematic pacing issues, especially with The Hard Goodbye which opens the film (after a couple of short prologues). The limited 45 minute run time for each story tends to get in the way at times. Marv’s story is one that is so convoluted that it just felt off and really felt rushed. Like the filmmakers just wanted to throw as much as they could into it and crammed it all together. Marv is by far the most interesting character in the whole piece, though, so that makes up for it. Still, it felt thrown together.

Some viewers will also no doubt be turned off by the over the top, gratuitous, cartoonish violence. Women are also objectified throughout. However, there are more than enough strong women characters to offset. I’ve also heard complaints that it was too hard to follow and get interested because of all the stories, characters, and whatnot going on. While that may be a justified criticism, I think they are missing the point a little bit.

While I would have a different grade for each story, taken as a whole, taking everything into account, this film gets an A- from me. This is a unique take on film noir and comic book movies as well. There is enough gunplay, infinitely quotable one liners, and eye candy to please just about anyone.

Cotton Reviews The Accountant


The Accountant, the new Ben Affleck actioner, is a film that requires the viewer to suspend any and all disbelief to even take it seriously. As a viewer, you will be asked to believe that a man with the same condition as Rain Man is a better sniper than Chris Kyle, a better shot than John Wick, and if all else fails, can still kick your ass hand to hand like Bruce Lee. However, if you can just accept this about the protagonist, then you will enjoy this film.

Ben Affleck plays Christian Wolff, who is a tax advisor by day, money launderer for criminal organizations by night. He accepts a job from a CEO of a major robotics corporation as they claim to be missing millions of dollars on their books. Wolff accepts the job and meets company accountant Dana, played by Anna Kendrick of Twilight fame. Despite his social awkwardness coming from his Asperger’s Syndrome, Dana somehow finds Wolff charming. Especially after he saves her ass from armed assassins later in the film.


That’s pretty much the plot line for this film. It’s simple, yet is made overly complicated by some head scratching revelations, subplots, and plot twists thrown at the viewer in the film’s third act. It was the simplicity of the first two acts that made this film a winner. Yet, I was caught off guard, and even found myself a little bored when the story should have rocketed forward to an exciting conclusion. Which the film does have a nice action set piece there at the end. The Accountant is one of those films that I will have to watch again upon its release to Bluray to see if there was something I missed.

The acting in this one is pretty solid if unspectacular. Ben Affleck brings charm to what is otherwise a charmless role. Anna Kendrick is serviceable as Dana. Though, I find her to be a bit overrated myself, but she’s not a terrible actress. The rest of the actors play their roles in paint by numbers fashion. They don’t ruin the film with bad acting, but they don’t add to it either. Their performances would be akin to a “manage the game” style QB in football: just don’t screw it up and we’ll be fine!

Overall, this film gets a B- from me. Just above average. There is some solid action to be found here and a little intrigue as well. Some of the plot twists at the end may leave more than a few people shaking their heads and rolling their eyes.

Madden NFL 17 Review (PS4)


Ratings actually matter this year. That’s about the biggest compliment that I can give to a Madden NFL title. To illustrate this point, I give you a tale of two very different seasons that I experienced in years 1 and 2 of my Carolina Panthers (Keep Pounding!) franchise.

To give you some insight into how I play as a player, I am not one who looks to “cheese” the computer. I don’t actively try to break the game. Or to try to trick the computer into a crappy trade. When playing, I want to be challenged, and I try to keep the same philosophy that my own Panthers have. Which is to build through the draft, develop my home-grown talent, and keep as many of them locked up long term as possible. I really only use free agency to sign one year deals for added depth at key positions and don’t get locked up for a long time on some mediocre talent. Though, ahem, Dave Gettleman seems to have lost his way in this regard. Josh Norman, anyone?

So, in year 1, using the day 1 Panthers roster (which is extremely overrated) I could see that my weaknesses were going to be in the secondary (Josh Norman, anyone?) and in pass protection. In year 1, I was able to run the ball to grind out the clock and had Cam Newton winning his 2nd consecutive MVP award. On the other side of the ball, I knew that I had to make up for my secondary’s weakness by getting to the quarterback with the front seven. Led by Kony Ealy’s 13.5 sacks (bahahaha!) and another 12 from Kawaan Short, I was able to mask my secondary and ended up with the number 2 defense in the League by the end of the year in route to a 13-3 finish and winners of the NFC South 4 years in a row. I destroyed the Giants in the NFC Divisional Round 42-14 and held off a valiant effort from Seattle in the NFC title game 29-23. Alas, in Super Bowl LI, which ended up being Tom Brady’s swan song in the game, I lost to a Gronk-less Patriots squad 27-24.

Fast forward to year 2 of my franchise. One of the key additions to this year’s franchise mode was regression. I saw several of my guys regress, including one of my top DE’s in Charles Johnson after I signed him to a 3 year extension mid-season last year. In 2017, he was a fraction of what he used to be. Ealy wasn’t busting through offensive lines anymore, either. Remember how I said ratings do matter? Well, with a regression at DE, my secondary ended up being hung out to dry. I found myself behind late in games and, guess what, the flaws in my offensive line’s pass protection showed. I was getting less and less time in the pocket. And, since I was down in a lot of games, I had to abandon my effective run game (I rushed for 1300 yards with Cameron Artis-Payne in year 2). Halfway through the season, I was at 3-4, 2.5 games back of New Orleans in the NFC South. I wasn’t used to this in Madden. I usually take my lumps in the first season of a dynasty and then I become a beast as I figure out the game. I found my receiving corps depleted with Greg Olsen, Philly Brown, and Devin Funchess all hurt. Kelvin Benjamin tore it up with 1400 yards receiving and 14 TDs, but he was my one and only read on passing plays. I was going backwards. Ratings matter.


So, I wound up benching Charles Johnson, who had like 1 sack, in favor of my first round draft pick. A fictional rookie DE named Casey Fowler from Louisville. While his overall was lower than Johnson, his block shedding, power moves, and speed were higher. What a difference he made. After the switch, I ripped off 6 out of 7, found myself at 9-5 and in the heat of the race for the 6th seed in the NFC. Fowler would wind up being runner up for DROY with 11.5 sacks the second half of the season and my secondary wasn’t getting blown up every damn game because I was getting to the QB.

I was at 9-5 and the only team that could end Carolina’s run of 5 consecutive playoff appearances were the 8-6 Lions, who had beaten me week 4. All I had to do was win both games and I was in the playoffs. I lost both. The Lions went 1-1. We both ended up 9-7 and the Lions got the 6th seed by head to head tie breaker. Heart breaking, I know. Ironically, it was another QB in a twilight type season in Drew Brees who led the Saints to a win over the Raiders in Super Bowl LII. Cam, you’ve got another 10 years until you get yours! 🙂

The slide has continued as I find myself at 1-2 to start year 3, barely avoiding an 0-3 start. I say all this to show you that the franchise mode, and the overall difficulty of the game, is much more challenging than in year’s past. When I picked up Madden 15, the last title in the long running series that I devoted any kind of time to, I was beasting by the end of year 2 and in the NFC Championship every season, making it to multiple Super Bowls, though never winning one :(. I played very little last year as the real life Panthers were in the midst of what should have ended up being an historic run. Playing on All-Pro, not touching the sliders, it just feels right. The game is challenging, but I never felt cheated, even in the midst of losing streaks, I always feel like there is something I could have done to get the win.

From what I can tell, the passing game saw just tweaking, not really the over haul it was last year. They fixed the aggressive catch to where you can’t just throw it up to your tall WR and he comes down with it every freaking time. This year, it has worked less than 50% of the time for me. The only time I really see a lot of success is in the red zone and I’m tossing it up to Greg Olsen or Kelvin Benjamin in the end zone.

The running game has seen a vast improvement, though. Playing as the Panthers, and being a fan of old school smash mouth football, I have really loved this part of the game. It is not overpowering, there have been games when my run game has gotten shut down, but the Panthers offensive line is built for the run game, and again, I rushed for 1300 yards with Cameron Artis-Payne after Jonathan Stewart got hurt in my 2nd season.


Defensively there have been massive improvements. My favorite by far has been the inclusion of gap play for your linebackers against the run (finally!) as well as defenders committed to the cut back lanes and force players when the offense tries to run outside. I was initially pissed at the game when I was getting gashed time and again on outside runs. You really have to pay attention this year. If you are getting burned outside it’s because you don’t have the proper defense being called. Flicking the right stick to the left and right will tell you who the force and cut back players are. I’ve found that running a Cover 4 on teams that run the outside works because your outside linebackers are the force players. I’ve found that in defenses where the force player is a CB or a DE I was getting gashed. If it was a safety, I was just out of luck. They say that the developers really focused on pass defense as well with better zones. I play as the Panthers. I have no idea if this is true or not…

Special teams also saw improvements in terms of blocking punts and FGs. For me, personally, I still haven’t mastered it and still haven’t blocked a kick since that one time in like 2002 or something. But, I’ll tell you, I’ve had numerous times where my own kicks get blocked and half the time the other team picks up the ball in stride and scores a TD off of it. It is not overwhelming, but if your punter fumbles around with the snap, you know you’re in trouble…

Graphically, not a lot has changed, but the visuals are noticeably better this year. Lighting is better and the team continues to make the helmets for every team look amazing whether during a bright Sunday afternoon game or on Monday night with the lights of the stadium reflecting off. While not as big of a deal in football, you can still recognize players on replays and cutscenes behind the helmet. It is one of those things that’s merely a nice touch, but not necessary.

Overall, I give this year’s effort a B. It’s a solid effort and is loads of fun to play and, for me at least, difficult to master. One still can’t shake the feeling that it’s not such a huge improvement over the past couple of Madden games, but I’ll tell you, the argument that it is “just a $60 roster update” is null and void here.


The Last of Us Review


The Last of Us is one of the very best games I’ve ever played.

My first play through was back in January 2014. My wife’s father was sick in Texas and she flew out to go see him. For the first three nights of her visit I would come home from work and fire up the PS3 and go to work. I sat in the pitch black, up way too late, and became completely immersed in the world that Naughty Dog (of Uncharted fame) created. I will never again have a gaming experience like it.

This is a fully realized post apocalyptic America and it is unlike any other game before or after it (so far). Not only is it a thrilling tale of a hardened survivor charged with protecting a teenage girl, but it is also an emotional tale as well. Having now played through the game again on the PS4, the “Remastered” edition, I didn’t get the same feel as that first play through (as expected) but I still found myself immersed even though I knew everything that was about to happen next.

Us begins with the lead playable character Joel and his partner Tess as they are tasked with smuggling a teenage girl Ellie out of Boston. There is something special about Ellie that the player will come to know as the tale moves forward. In the game’s opening chapter, we experience along with Joel the loss of his own thirteen year old daughter, so for him, the thought of protecting another teenage girl creates an uneasy partnership. As the story progresses, their relationship becomes more tight knit, and Joel will grow to do anything (anything) to ensure her protection and survival. As a side kick, Ellie absolutely steals the show here, pretty much right from the beginning. She is a fighter, she’s witty, and she’s also in the midst of losing her innocence throughout the adventure. She remains still one of my all-time favorite videogame characters. The fact that she’s only playable for 5% of the game is damn impressive.


Without delving into too many spoilers, the plot of this game is an emotional one. I’ve repeated myself now. That’s because it is true. There are so many moments both scripted and unscripted that hit me at a gut emotional level unlike any other title on any entertainment medium. There are unscripted gameplay moments that had me feeling a sense of euphoria unlike anything else.

For example, there is one part about midway through where I’m fighting against human hunters. I’m down to one bullet for my revolver, no more med kits, and one more hit and I’d have to go back to the checkpoint and do this all over again. Out of pure instinct, I raised up and fired my revolver towards my enemy without really aiming. Perfect headshot. Given the complete lack of ammo in most of the game, every shot must count, and I made damn sure that one did!

While the main plot line is the show stopper, if one takes the time to explore the world, there are hidden journal entries spread throughout which also tell the story of what happened at the genesis of the viral outbreak which destroyed the world. There is one such moment of discovery that, on my first play through, caused my jaw to hit the floor and cry out “no way!”. And, this was a scene which at least one of my friends who also played the game missed. It is this level of discovery that is absent in most other linear style games.

Speaking of linearity, that this game is linear is the game’s greatest strength. The developers did a great job of creating massive world which gives the illusion that its part open world, but you have a clear path A to Z everywhere you go. Once players reach the ending scene, there is another moment of sheer shock and awe, that I had to pause for a moment and just stare at the screen.

“Do they really expect me to do this?” I thought.

Yes, you must do what you think the developers are making you do to advance to the ending cinematic. It is gut wrenching, morally ambiguous, and has caused a lot of talk and controversy. It might even raise questions in your mind about your own morals that maybe you didn’t know where there. Bravo. If this had been a game that had a “good” or “bad” or “in between” ending the whole entire theme of the game would have been lost. And, while the game ends open ended, this game does not need a sequel. It’s just too perfect of an ending. Let it be up to us as the players to determine certain things. I’m sure this was the original intent. Though, I’m sure there will be one as this game made too much $, and I’m sure I’ll pay up and play it 🙂


As far as the game itself, the game’s controls are about as perfect as one could ask. They are complicated, but anybody who has ever played an Uncharted game, or really, any other 3rd person action game should feel right at home. The characters on screen respond to near perfection to their commands, so there’s really not any moments where the control scheme is going to get you killed. Resources are also at a premium. You can only carry a couple dozen rounds of ammo for most guns at a time and less than ten rounds for the bigger guns. The meat of this game is the intense brutality of the melee system. There is an outstanding variety in melee weapons and when all else fails it’s still kick ass to go with just Joel’s capable fists.

There are three types of “Infected” (they are never, ever referred to as zombies) that you will encounter on your journey. There are the runners, your standard undead enemy that will run at your with reckless abandon if they see you. You have the menacing “Clickers” which are in abundance in this game. Clickers are nasty little bastards that have been infected for such a long time that they can no longer see. However, if they get within arm’s reach of Joel, it is an insta-kill. Sneaking past or using a shiv to their necks is really the only way to go. Lastly, you have the “Bloaters” which are evil little punks which have bacteria so thick it acts as armor and they no longer resemble being human at one point. They also throw poisonous spores at the player which drains Joel’s health. There aren’t too many of these guys around, but they definitely make their presence felt. While this might not seem like great variety, it makes sense in the game, as we are only 20 years into the outbreak. It also carries a sense of realism, no matter how small, though certainly the Bloaters are fantastical in design and what they can do.


One group of enemies that I really didn’t expect to fight so much are the human factions that remain. You have the military, hunters, and cannibals to deal with. Of all the enemies in this game, it is the humans which are the most terrifying. Because the human antagonists are not mindless infected. They are conscious human beings who still commit atrocities against their fellow man. All in the name of survival. Joel is not immune to this.

Finally, the game is gorgeous. I mention the graphics last because this game doesn’t need to have beautiful visuals to be as great a game as it is. To have a game as nice to look at as this one is merely a bonus item. I haven’t gone back to the PS3 version to compare, but from what I remember, there is a noticeable difference in both visuals and frame rate on the PS4, but I still remember being impressed with the PS3 version in this regard. The cutscenes are all beautiful, well acting, and well “shot”. This game is a looker.

Having said all this it is by no means a perfect game. For it being a survival horror style game there aren’t that many scares. There are moments where you are stuck in a flooded tunnel filled to the brim with all three types of Infected, but it’s more thrilling to get past them than it is scary. The scary parts, I suppose, are more from the human side of things and seeing what we as people are capable of doing when the world falls. That’s great work even as a flaw, in my view, as it breaks convention. There is also one moment very late in the game that is just so damn difficult that I was about to just quit playing for the night. I got the sense that Naughty Dog put in the programming of the game if you die “X” times here we will just give it to you. Ha. Right when I said one more time that enemy that had given me fits walks right up to me essentially and lets me kill him. This type of thing just breaks the cinematic flow they were going for and achieved.

Overall, this game gets an A+. It’s not perfect, but it’s very few shortcomings are overwhelmed by the game’s numerous achievements that anything other than a perfect score would be doing an injustice. Play this game.



The Girl on the Train Review


The Girl on the Train is going to be one of those films that is hard to review without giving away spoilers. In that respect, please excuse if this review comes across as basic. I have your best interest at heart.

This is an interesting character driven film based on the runaway bestseller by Paula Hawkins of the same name. Our protagonist is Rachel Watson, who is played by one of my favorite actresses right now, Emily Blunt. Rachel is a sad, lonely, and weak character. She’s an alcoholic who rides the train to and from work. While on the train, she spies on a couple that seem to be the perfect couple, the Hipwells. Scott (Luke Evans) and Megan (Haley Bennett) are always seen in provocative (very provocative) exchanges on their balcony which faces the train tracks. It leads Rachel to come to her conclusion that their marriage is perfect. That they have so much love for each other. But, of course, looks are deceiving and we come to understand that this perfect marriage is anything but.

Meanwhile, Rachel’s ex-husband, Tom (Justin Theroux) has found himself a new wife in Anna (Rebecca Ferguson). Anna has grown fearful for her daughter’s safety when after a night of drinking, Rachel ended up with Anna’s daughter on their back yard. There are also hundreds of calls and text messages coming from her husband’s phone who she believes are from Rachel. Tom tries to downplay the calls and the texts as Rachel is just a lonely, sad person who is no threat to anyone else.

There is one key element that ties all three of these characters together: having a baby. Rachel and Tom’s marriage ended when Rachel turned to drinking when she found out she couldn’t get pregnant and IVF didn’t work. Scott desperately wants a child with Megan, so he is constantly in her pants everywhere she goes. Tom and Anna have what Rachel wanted and that was they do have a child. Then, one night, while walking home Megan goes missing and Rachel was at the scene, but is knocked out cold…

Okay, that is as far as I’m willing to go with this review in fear of giving out spoilers. The rest of the movie involves Rachel trying to solve the mystery of what happened to Megan. One of the subplots that works well in the film, and I’m sure much more so in the novel, is that Rachel is a drunk. She openly admits that her ex-husband would have to tell her what happened when she loses control with the alcohol. She’s not a reliable narrator or protagonist.

One of the things that I took issue with the film, though, is that it is obviously trying to be the next Gone Girl and even the film itself mirrored it in look and tone. Anybody who knows me knows how much I hated the former. I will have to post a rant of that film here in the near future! The thing I hated about that film that snuck it’s way into this one is that none of the characters are likeable. It is one thing that have flawed main characters, that’s awesome, but to go to the extreme of having just pitiful, selfish, pathetic characters and nothing but just…I don’t know. I like to believe in the human condition that there is good in this world and if this is the future of novel writing and filmmaking…I don’t know. This is a very dark and very cold film.

Negatives aside, this was an engrossing film nonetheless. As mentioned before, Rachel is not someone you can rely upon to tell you what has happened, as she has blank spots in her own memory. The storyline twists and turns its way to an unexpected conclusion that I didn’t see coming. What I appreciated about the twists and turns is that they are foreshadowed, but, just like The Sixth Sense, the twists are hiding in plain sight. That is what makes a good plot twist. Not some crap that a lot of lesser writers and filmmakers go for where they have a twist just to have one and it makes no sense and it’s cheap. I appreciated how shrewd the treatment of the twists were.

Overall, while this is a very cold film, it is still entertaining enough not to be a total bust and if you like a twisty plot, this will be right up your alley. Emily Blunt also gives an outstanding performance.

Grade: B-