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All reviews - Movies (157) - TV Shows (2) - Books (4) - Games (30)

"Transformers: War for Cybertron" (PS3)

Posted : 10 months, 4 weeks ago on 24 August 2017 06:17 (A review of Transformers: War for Cybertron)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS


The heroic Autobots and tyrannical Decepticons wage war for control of the planet Cybertron.

I was interested to see this game's take on the events leading up to the Transformers' escape from Cybertron – a part of the story I hadn't seen explored before. The game is divided into two campaigns, with the Decepticons' story taking place in the first five chapters and the Autobots' story in the second five. You have the option to play either one; I chose to play the story chronologically. Both sides offer some highly enjoyable story-based moments. We find out what Starscream started out as and why Megatron keeps him around, and we get to see Optimus become the new Prime and see the makings of the hero we all know and love.

You choose from one of three characters to play each mission. At first, I'd usually choose the one I was unfamiliar with… and then end up forgetting that character's name! :)

The gameplay itself severely dampened things for me, though. I'm just not a fan of shooters, and this game was no exception. At least ninety percent of the time, you're just running around and shooting enemies – there's very little variety – which made for an exceedingly monotonous experience. The most fun I had was during the boss fights at the end of each campaign, because at least they involved some strategy.

Thus, I'd be more inclined to watch this game in future rather than play it.


My rating: 60%



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"The Land Unknown" (1957)

Posted : 10 months, 4 weeks ago on 24 August 2017 06:11 (A review of The Land Unknown)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS


A science team crash-lands in a deep crater in Antarctica, where they find a prehistoric world.

I'll be honest: the main reason I watched this was because I'd found out it was where the dinosaur roar sound effect from Duel came from. As a movie, it was pretty much what I expected: a fairly typical 50s monster movie with low-budget visual effects. I went in expecting to laugh at the effects and at least find the adventure interesting.

Also, after having just watched Creature from the Black Lagoon (and don't get me wrong: that's a good movie), it was refreshing to see a movie that at least got some science right!

What stuck out for me, though, was one monumentally stupid decision on the characters' part. It involves spoilers, though, so if you're concerned about that, stop reading now. They find another survivor, who offers to help them escape only if they leave Maggie (the only woman on the team) with him, but the men obstinately refuse to let her go. For me, that made the second half a real chore to sit through; the entire mess that follows could have been avoided if they'd simply offered him the chance to leave with them! Seriously, use your brains, people!


My rating: 45%



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"Atomic Blonde" (2017)

Posted : 10 months, 4 weeks ago on 24 August 2017 06:06 (A review of Atomic Blonde (2017))

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Lorraine Broughton, an undercover MI6 agent, is sent to Berlin during the Cold War to investigate the murder of a fellow agent and recover a missing list of double agents.

I suspected, based on the premise, that this movie would be political in nature and I'd have trouble understanding it. Well, I was right, but not quite for the reasons I thought. My main issue was the plotting. Lorraine's first couple of destinations around Berlin make sense: she's following leads concerning the list. But the scene where she crosses the border lost me: I was confused about what purpose that served. And from there, my confusion just kept on snowballing, until eventually I gave up altogether trying to make sense of it. I wasn't even surprised by the twist ending, because at that point I just didn't care anymore.

Plus, I was often distracted by Charlize Theron's accent.

However, the highlight is an outstanding action sequence at the end of the second act. It's done all in one long take, and you can actually see the characters growing steadily more bloodied and exhausted; you feel the adrenaline and the frenzy in full. It's stunning.

Aside from that, I found this movie to be a boring and incoherent mess.


My rating: 50%



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"47 Metres Down" (2017)

Posted : 10 months, 4 weeks ago on 24 August 2017 06:03 (A review of 47 Meters Down)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS


Two sisters vacationing in Mexico are trapped in a shark cage at the bottom of the ocean, and must fight to survive with less than an hour of oxygen left and great white sharks circling nearby.

We seem to be getting a bit of an influx of mainstream shark movies lately! :) Unfortunately, this one pales in comparison to last year's The Shallows. It follows the same principle of trying to work as much tension as possible out of a simple situation, and some of the ideas and concepts are pretty well worked out.

But it's all ruined by one simple problem: the characters are boring, which kills our investment in their predicament. The impression I got from the performances was that the cast and crew were just on holiday and passively making a movie on the side.

That and I found the constant overuse of close-ups to be incredibly distracting; it's kind of hard to establish atmosphere when the camera is almost always shoved right in the actors' faces.

In the end, this is just another mediocre thriller.


My rating: 50%



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"Dunkirk" (2017)

Posted : 10 months, 4 weeks ago on 24 August 2017 06:01 (A review of Dunkirk (2017))

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

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 : 10 months, 4 weeks ago on 24 August 2017 05:59 (A review of War for the Planet of the Apes)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

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 : 10 months, 4 weeks ago on 24 August 2017 05:56 (A review of It Comes at Night (2017))

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

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 : 1 year ago on 12 July 2017 06:46 (A review of Red Dead Redemption)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS


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 : 1 year ago on 8 July 2017 07:20 (A review of Far Cry 4)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS


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 : 1 year ago on 8 July 2017 07:18 (A review of The LEGO Batman Movie (2017))

FIRST IMPRESSIONS


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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