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All reviews - Movies (147) - TV Shows (2) - Books (4) - Games (26)

"Dunkirk" (2017)

Posted : 6 months, 3 weeks ago on 24 August 2017 06:01 (A review of Dunkirk)


Allied soldiers from Belgium, Britain and France are surrounded by the German army and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II.

First, let me make it clear: I did enjoy this movie. I just can't sing its praises quite as enthusiastically as everyone else is. I'm a sucker for anything Christopher Nolan directs, but this is the first of his movies not to really blow my mind. I get that this is an important movie, given its subject matter, but war movies just aren't my thing.

Hardly any of the characters have clearly defined personalities, which sadly kept me from forming any emotional attachment to them.

That said, the film itself is masterfully shot and edited, which, in conjunction with the overall sound design, makes you feel like you're truly in the situation yourself, so it still manages to be hard-hitting in that regard.

Plus, being a Christopher Nolan movie, it's still a cool brain-teaser. I was warned in advance about the three different timespans, so I had fun trying to keep up with the overall timeline and piece it together.

To recap, it's definitely a good movie, but for me, its lack of characterisation made it less potent than it should have been.

My rating: 75%

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"War for the Planet of the Apes" (2017)

Posted : 6 months, 3 weeks ago on 24 August 2017 05:59 (A review of War for the Planet of the Apes)


After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own quest to avenge his kind.

First and foremost, the CGI is just perfect! This is right up in my top three most convincing CG spectacles I've ever seen, along with Jurassic Park and The Jungle Book 2016.

The music is also really good. I don't often comment on the music in movies, but this score was good enough that I actually paid attention to it. :)

The film overall maintains all the heart, intelligence and social commentary that the Apes franchise is known for. I think the overall theme is what it means to be, for lack of a better word, human. As is pointed out in the film, Caesar is being consumed by vengeance, which is an ostensibly human emotion.

The only thing I didn't like was Bad Ape, a comic relief character who simply clashed too much with the overall tone.

I don't know if I can quite say it's my favourite of the Apes reboot trilogy, as I'll never forget how Rise surprised us all, but it's definitely a smart, thrilling conclusion to the series.

My rating: 80%

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"It Comes at Night" (2017)

Posted : 6 months, 3 weeks ago on 24 August 2017 05:56 (A review of It Comes at Night)


As an unnatural threat terrorises the world, a family's social order is tested when another family arrives seeking refuge.

First of all, the title is a bit of a misnomer: whatever "it" is, it doesn't come just at night!

From a writing standpoint, I won't hesitate to give this movie a firm thumbs-up. I love how these characters approach the situation in an intelligent, resourceful manner; it might actually be the most realistic depiction of a survival situation I've seen since Night of the Living Dead.

Unfortunately, the performance lets it down considerably for me. I'm not a fan of thrillers that adopt an unnaturally hushed, reserved tone; I prefer when they're a bit more energised and, you know, thrilling.

So it's definitely a good movie, but too slow-paced and understated for my taste.

My rating: 70%

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"Red Dead Redemption" (PS3)

Posted : 8 months, 1 week ago on 12 July 2017 06:46 (A review of Red Dead Redemption)


John Marston, a former outlaw, is forced by the federal government to hunt down the members of his old gang.

Oh, the enemies I'm going to make for this one! I'm just going to say it upfront: I did not like this game. I know I'm in a small minority on this, but I can't just pretend I'm as enraptured as everyone else. On the contrary: this game made me angry! I simply couldn't condense my thoughts to 250 words, so I've decided to make this a longer review than usual, turn this into an epic rant. Also, fair warning: this review will contain spoilers.

Before I start ranting, though, I will admit that the game looks stunning. The graphics are stellar, and the map is meticulously planned and detailed. The most fun I had was riding around admiring the scenery, especially on clear starry nights. A lot of the character interactions made me laugh, too. But that's where my compliments end. Everything else was just plain torturous!

At every turn, this game found some new way to piss me off; there are too many examples to count! But the main source of my rage was the pacing of the narrative. At first, I was only mildly interested in the story. The goal was to stop Bill Williamson, and that single clear-cut goal is what held my interest as I assembled a team to storm his fort. But when it turned out he wasn't even there, I was furious! That was my equivalent of "our princess is in another castle". And none of what followed piqued my interest in the slightest, probably because the game had teased me into thinking the assault on the fort was the climax; I felt like it should have been over already, and I was resentful that it had put me right back to square one. The rest of the game kept extending that tease: every single mission promised the goal would be achieved right away, only for the game to keep saying, "Soon. You've got to do this one thing first," over and over and over again! I wasn't angry at the characters for endlessly using me: I was angry at the game for dragging itself out for no good reason whatsoever! The longer it kept going, the more enraged I got, until eventually I was literally screaming at the TV! Some missions turned out to be dead ends, which made me say out loud, "Oh, fuck off!" This game felt like my own personal purgatory: it was constantly dangling one simple goal in front of my eyes, only to continuously snatch it out of reach. Even towards the end, when you're finally reunited with your family, the game still just keeps going! I was wailing by that point: "Why are you still making me do missions I don't enjoy?!"

'Cos yeah, I hardly found any of the missions superficially fun either. Many of them were essentially identical to earlier ones, just repeating something I didn't even like the first time. And let me tell you, I really started abusing the "skip checkpoint" feature (that's one thing I'm thankful for: that the game was considerate enough to give you an easy way out if you fail too many times), especially whenever I had to ride and shoot at the same time! I generally suck at video games, and in this case I just could not hit moving targets! I grew to rely on the slow-motion Dead Eye mechanic just so I could hit them, but sometimes it just wouldn't activate! I read something about having to charge it, but why was that necessary?

The only reason I kept playing, kept enduring all that hell, was because there was still an end goal and I wanted to reach it. This wasn't like L.A. Noire, where I gave up about halfway through the third chapter (Homicide) because it seemed like there was no goal other than to solve each case and, again, the process was just tedious. (Actually, between those two examples, Bully and the fact that I have no interest whatsoever in playing GTA, I've decided I'm just not a fan of Rockstar Games in general.)

And that's all I have to say. Believe me, I wanted to like this game, especially given how immensely popular it is. But like I said, it just kept pissing me off! Ultimately, it's one of only two games to date that I've actively disliked (the other one being Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone on PS1). Sorry for beating it down like I did, but as it's one of the most beloved games in recent memory, I felt you deserved the unabridged version of why I can't chime in with that praise.

My rating: 40%

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"Far Cry 4" (PS4)

Posted : 8 months, 1 week ago on 8 July 2017 07:20 (A review of Far Cry 4)


To fulfil his mother's dying wish, Ajay Ghale travels to Kyrat to scatter her ashes. Before he can accomplish this, though, he must end a civil war between the Golden Path and Pagan Min's forces.

Far Cry 3 is one of my favourite games of all time (I never played any of the others), so I confess myself somewhat disappointed in this follow-up, mainly because the story is just not that interesting. In Far Cry 3, the story was all about an ordinary guy finding his true calling as a hunter and a warrior, and as the tale progressed, you could tell just how much he was enjoying it. But here, Ajay is basically forced into fighting for these people despite no indication that he wants anything to do with it, just because they expect him to follow in his father's footsteps. So, while it was still superficially fun to do all the same activities from the last game – liberating outposts and so on – it rang hollow because I never cared about why I was doing that.

Still, it does have several cool new elements of its own. I always loved riding elephants, for example, and flying in the buzzer was my favourite way to travel.

Now, the ending… Let's just say the one I got gave me mixed feelings, inspiring both great respect and great anger.

I still enjoyed this game, but it just seemed like a pale imitation of the one-of-a-kind experience I had with Far Cry 3.

My rating: 70%

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"The Lego Batman Movie" (2017)

Posted : 8 months, 1 week ago on 8 July 2017 07:18 (A review of The LEGO Batman Movie)


A cooler-than-ever Batman must deal with the usual suspects as they plan to rule Gotham City, while discovering that he has accidentally adopted a teenage orphan who wishes to become his sidekick.

I was actually dreading watching this movie, because I found the trailers distinctly offputting. I wanted to see Batman, not a spoof of him. And at first, the movie was exactly what I feared: the character was a complete show-off.

But when the movie calmed down and the family-themed story emerged, I ended up really getting into it, finding it engaging and even kind of touching. It allowed me to easily stop thinking of this character as Batman, but just a grief-ridden guy trying to find something he could call family again.

Another big surprise that I really took to was the gallery of villains the Joker recruits in the Phantom Zone.

I have to say, I love this movie's take on Barbara Gordon: a highly skilled cop who's her father's replacement as commissioner.

Another highlight for me was seeing Alfred don a Batsuit – and one reminiscent of the Adam West one, so it's like the old Batman fighting alongside the new.

One reservation I had still holds true, though. Why did this even have to be Lego? It barely has anything to do with building or imagination.

In conclusion, I have mixed feelings on this movie: I hate it when it's spoofing Batman, but I love it when it's doing its own thing.

My rating: 65%

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"Don't Hang Up" (2017)

Posted : 8 months, 1 week ago on 8 July 2017 07:16 (A review of Don't Hang Up)


An evening of drunken prank calls becomes a nightmare for a pair of teenagers when a mysterious stranger turns their own game against them – with deadly consequences.

I think this movie might have set a record: literally the moment I saw the main characters, I immediately despised them! I hated their habitual prank calls just for online popularity, and I hated them all the more for being so loud and rambunctious. So at first, I was fully supporting the stranger when he started punishing Brady: he deserved it. I drew the line at the kidnapped parents, though – which also made me think, "Well, Brady, now your antics have put innocent lives in danger! I hope you're proud of yourself!"

I had slightly more sympathy for Sam because he seemed to have much more of a conscience, plus he was smart enough to spot the clue that gave the game away.

I'll give the movie some credit for trying to buck the trend of horror characters acting stupidly. Our heroes try to do the sensible things almost immediately, but they're prevented from either calling the police or leaving the house. But the things the villain pulls get to the point of absurdity; you start to wonder, how exactly did he hijack the cell phone signal, and how does he have that much control over the house's power?

Overall, it's just another disposable horror flick. It tries to be smarter than the genre's average, but that also ends up being its undoing.

My rating: 45%

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"Spider-Man: Homecoming" (2017)

Posted : 8 months, 1 week ago on 8 July 2017 07:13 (A review of Spider-Man: Homecoming)


After the events of Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker tries to balance his life as an ordinary high school student in New York City while fighting crime as his superhero alter-ego Spider-Man, as a new threat, the Vulture, emerges.

Like many others, I was glad when I heard Marvel Studios would be doing a Spider-Man movie; I hoped they'd show Sony how it was done. And for the most part, they did. :) This is, hands down, the best depiction of Spider-Man we've ever seen in a movie: Tom Holland perfectly captures both the humble high school geek and the wisecracking hero.

The narrative is streamlined and focused, too. The overall theme is of a lowly hero trying to prove he's good enough for the big leagues. I also noticed that Spider-Man was at his most competent when he was trying to help people; while fighting criminals, he consistently got his ass kicked. And, while I appreciate that focus on valuing life, it did get kind of frustrating seeing the hero constantly fail. I'm all for imperfect heroes, but this movie went way too far.

However, my biggest complaint with this movie is, during the action scenes, there were some moments that were filmed so hectically that I couldn't see what was happening. I'm really getting sick of that!

Overall, it's not perfect, but still a solid, terrifically fun adventure that kept my interest thanks to a hugely likable cast of characters, led by hero who unquestionably felt like Spider-Man.

My rating: 85%

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"Baby Driver" (2017)

Posted : 8 months, 1 week ago on 8 July 2017 07:11 (A review of Baby Driver)


After being coerced into working for a crime boss, a young getaway driver finds himself taking part in a heist doomed to fail.

As this is a heist drama, the only way I could do justice to the story would be to describe the whole plot, and obviously I'd rather not do that. :) But it's not so much the details of the heist that hold your attention: it's the characters. Every single character is so brilliantly written and realised that you remember and grow attached to every single one. And on that note, the performances are all top-notch. Ansel Elgort is great as the eponymous Baby: he's equal parts funny, aloof and vulnerable, and his chemistry with Lily James is superb. One of my favourite cast members is Jon Hamm as Buddy, who's probably the character who changes the most over the course of the narrative.

But what makes this truly special is Edgar Wright's direction. He's simply one of the best directors working today, and his flawless eye for camerawork and editing is once again on full display here. Just don't go in expecting the full-on comedies he's done before. Yes, there are comedy elements, but they're there to enhance the connection to the characters so that we fear for them later on.

And yes, they do play the Simon & Garfunkel song the movie's named after. :)

I loved this movie. I'd say it's definitely a top contender for my favourite movie of the year so far.

My rating: 85%

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"Batman: The Telltale Series" (PS4)

Posted : 8 months, 3 weeks ago on 24 June 2017 01:33 (A review of Batman: The Telltale Series)


Bruce Wayne struggles to deal with newly surfaced damning family secrets while, as Batman, fighting a new threat: a militia group calling themselves "the Children of Arkham".

When I first heard that Telltale was going to do a Batman game, I suspected it might focus more on Bruce Wayne than Batman, which would better suit Telltale's style – and it'd be a welcome new approach. I predicted correctly, and the result didn't disappoint. :) The problems he has to deal with as Bruce Wayne in this story are, quite simply, stellar.

That's not to say it doesn't deliver on the Batman front, though. In particular, if you choose to visit Mayor Hill as Batman, the resulting scene is too cool for words! :)

Now, spoilers here, but what I love most about this game is how creative it gets with the Batman mythos, with some ingenious new twists. I love its idea that Bruce Wayne and Oswald Cobblepot were childhood friends. I love Bruce questioning the foundation of his entire crusade after learning the truth about his parents. I love who they picked for the Children of Arkham leader's identity, and the deeply disturbing reason why. And I love the Joker treating Bruce as a friend and partner in their first meeting, which adds a whole new dynamic to their future relationship.

Overall, I wouldn't say it's the best I've seen from Telltale story-wise, but it's still on par in terms of characterisation, respect for the franchise in question, and subverting your expectations.

My rating: 85%

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