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All reviews - Movies (147) - TV Shows (2) - Books (4) - Games (24)

"Southpaw" (2015)

Posted : 2 years, 1 month ago on 29 August 2015 09:40 (A review of Southpaw)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Boxer Billy Hope's life goes into a downward spiral when his wife Maureen is killed, forcing him to turn to a trainer to get his life back on track and be granted custody of his daughter once again.
This is a standard sports movie in many respects; the script itself doesn't bring anything staggeringly new to the table. But there's one thing that holds it all together. Billy's daughter, Leila, is one of the best child characters I've ever seen. She doesn't fall into any of the normal child stereotypes; they put real effort into giving her a personality that seems genuine and plausible. I fucking love this girl! :) I love how smart she is, and how resentful but still innocent and down-to-earth she is – like I said, she feels real. For me, she's what makes the movie, and the whole reason I wanted to see Billy pull through. The only disappointment is that I wish the movie was about her instead.
But the film does also have a couple of standout moments on the tradecraft front. Maureen's death scene is one of the best I can think of, in that the time it takes seems pretty realistic. And the camera work and editing when Billy is in the hospital captures his dazed state of mind flawlessly.
So, on the whole, it's a pretty simple premise that's realised with enough unique touches that I ended up fully invested, gladly along for the ride.

My rating: 75%


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"The Gift" (2015)

Posted : 2 years, 1 month ago on 29 August 2015 09:39 (A review of The Gift)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

The trailer really undersold this one, making it seem like a predictable obsessive old acquaintance story, while hinting at a dark history with the family. What I ended up getting was slightly more interesting than that, but I'm not sure how much I can say without spoiling it. Let's just say there's no clearly defined good guy or bad guy by the end; they're both psychotic in their own way.
I'd definitely recommend it if you want something that's a bit more morally ambiguous, not to mention a movie that keeps playing with your expectations. In that respect, it's not a bad directorial debut for Joel Edgerton. :)
I commend it for managing to stick in my head, but for now at least, I can say it pleasantly surprised me but didn't blow me away.

My rating: 75%


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"Fantastic Four" (2015)

Posted : 2 years, 1 month ago on 29 August 2015 09:39 (A review of Fantastic Four)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Maybe it's just because its overwhelmingly bad press softened the blow for me, but I didn't find this nearly as bad as I was expecting. It's bad, don't get me wrong, but not horrendous. I just found it more dull than anything else.
The characters are all flat as pancakes, and even the climactic battle seems distinctly lacking in grandeur. I have to admit the humorous banter in the first half is legitimately funny (so, unlike Man of Steel, it's at least making an effort to be light-hearted), but I don't think those jokes add anything to the characters in the long run.
I also wish they wouldn't have called it simply Fantastic Four because, from what I've heard, it seems to have more in common with the Ultimate Universe versions of these characters than the ones most people are familiar with.
And, when Doctor Doom finally shows up in full form, he looks ridiculous – I just couldn't take his face seriously! And his penchant for head explosions is a horrifying and drastic tonal shift.
So, far from being the one good screen iteration this iconic team deserved, in the end it just tarnishes their reputation even more.

My rating: 35%


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"Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation" (2015)

Posted : 2 years, 1 month ago on 29 August 2015 09:37 (A review of Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

This is the first Mission: Impossible movie I've seen on the big screen, and it's not a bad one to earn that distinction. :)
This time around, an elite rogue organisation called the Syndicate has infiltrated the IMF, forcing them to disband and integrate into the CIA, so Ethan and his team have to stop the Syndicate without drawing the attention of their superiors.
This instalment is pretty much more of the same. In fact, it borrows heavily from the first and fourth movies, in that Ethan is a fugitive suspected of treason, and has to operate with minimal access to resources. And to be honest, by now the formula of these movies is starting to get a bit tired. But that doesn't make the movie any less entertaining in its own right.
The highlight, once again, is the heist in the middle of the movie (which, without spoiling anything, comes closer to failure than ever before) and the big chase sequence that follows. But the climax is pretty cool too. In particular, it's probably the first time I've ever seen a knife fight, not just in this series but in any action movie.
So overall, this is a pretty good instalment in the series. Not as good as one and four, but close.

My rating: 70%


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"Ant-Man" (2015)

Posted : 2 years, 1 month ago on 29 August 2015 09:36 (A review of Ant-Man)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

I was distinctly underwhelmed by the two Marvel movies last year, but between this and Avengers: Age of Ultron, now they're winning me over again. :)
This is the first heist thriller among the Marvel movies, and it's a fantastically entertaining one. The characters are likable, the action scenes are thrilling, and it's genuinely funny when it needs to be.
I especially love the scene where Scott actually suggests calling the Avengers first, and Hank's reason for not wanting to involve them does make sense: he built his tech to keep it out of Tony Stark's hands.
Also, this is probably the first time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe when we've seen two generations of heroes bearing the same name, since the original Ant-Man is passing the torch to the new one and acting as his mentor.
The villain is pretty boring, but aside from that, I really enjoyed this movie and am glad a Marvel movie is one highlight of the year once again.

My rating: 85%


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"Song of the Sea" (2014)

Posted : 2 years, 1 month ago on 29 August 2015 09:35 (A review of Song of the Sea)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

This was originally released in 2014, but hasn't hit cinemas on my shores until now. And let me tell you, if I had seen it last year, it would have easily ended up in my top five favourites of the year. :)
It's about Ben and Saoirse, a young brother and sister, who go on an adventure to free the faeries and save the spirit world.
This is a fairytale and fully commits itself to that sensibility: everything about it feels timeless and reminds me very much of old-school Disney.
The art style is among the most unique I've ever seen: it's literally like a storybook come to life, which again perfectly fits the fairytale-like nature of the story.
The movie also makes the clever choice of having several of the human characters have doppelgangers among the fantastical ones. You can have fun reading into that and coming up with interpretations as to why.
On top of that, Saoirse is just frigging adorable! :) I don't know what it is; I just have a soft spot for mute characters.
The movie as a whole envelops you in its fantastical atmosphere flawlessly, and ultimately makes for a surreal and poignant experience.

My rating: 85%


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"Inside Out" (2015)

Posted : 2 years, 1 month ago on 29 August 2015 09:34 (A review of Inside Out)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Like so many other movies, this opened in the UK several weeks after its US release, so I tried to avoid all the reviews I could in the meantime. But now I can finally confirm that the basic consensus was right: Pixar is back! :D
Not only is it a fantastically clever look at psychology and the confusion and conflicting emotions that come with growing up (you could probably talk about that for hours), but it also works really well as a straightforward epic quest-type adventure, in that our two main characters have a clearly defined goal: to get home before the world for which they're responsible completely crumbles.
It's endlessly fun, exciting, funny when it needs to be, and even delivers some moments that very nearly made me cry – I can't remember the last time that happened!
It's a truly marvellous film. I still think Kingsman: The Secret Service might be my favourite movie of the year so far, but it's got some serious competition now. :)

My rating: 90%


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"Terminator Genisys" (2015)

Posted : 2 years, 1 month ago on 29 August 2015 09:33 (A review of Terminator Genisys)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

I'm just going to say it upfront: I loved it. Far from the pinnacle of the franchise (I mean, let's face it: you're never going to top the first two movies), but I think this one is at least a more worthy follow-up than the third and fourth movies, and definitely worth more than 26% on Rotten Tomatoes.
I'm not sure how much was spoiled in other trailers, but the ones I saw advertised an alternate timeline where Sarah Connor was a survivalist right from the start; that alone got me intrigued. :) In that respect, Kyle Reese sort of becomes the spokesman for the audience: John Connor has told him how history is supposed to go, so we end up being just as confused as he is. And I was thoroughly invested in the opening action sequences because of how relentlessly insurmountable a challenge it seemed.
Will this become this year's Amazing Spider-Man 2, where I love it at first but then find its naysayers bring up some really good points? I don't know. But, for the time being at least, my opinion is that this latest instalment comes closer to doing its franchise justice than any other movie since the second one. It makes up in story and ideas for anything it lacks in character development, and I had such fun while watching it that I can easily name it one of my top three favourite movies of the year so far.

My rating: 85%


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"Watership Down" (Richard Adams)

Posted : 2 years, 4 months ago on 21 June 2015 05:57 (A review of Watership Down (Puffin Books))

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Ever since I was a child, Watership Down has always been one of my all-time favourite movies. I'm so familiar with it that, when I finally got round to reading the original novel, it was a real treat because it was like experiencing the same story in a new way. For the most part, the film actually follows the book relatively closely, so as I was reading it, I was constantly recognising certain scenes and visualising them quite easily.
I don't know if I'd go so far as to say the book is better than the film, but it is much more detailed and does answer a few questions I had with it. For example, in the film, I always wondered how Holly was able to wander all the way to Efrafa, escape and still come across our heroes before they reached the down. In the book, the timing makes a lot more sense: he catches up with them at the down, and only afterwards do they send him to Efrafa as a diplomat.
It also explains Woundwort's motivation for running such a totalitarian society: his main concern is to stay hidden from humans.
But one thing the book doesn't have is quite possibly my favourite film soundtrack ever! :) And I also feel that, while of course the book is still very dark, the film got the nightmarish atmosphere down much better.
On the whole, it's still one of my favourite narratives ever, be it in book or movie form.

My rating: 85%


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"BioShock" (PS3)

Posted : 2 years, 4 months ago on 21 June 2015 05:53 (A review of BioShock)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

I was invested from the very start; they establish right off the bat just how savage Rapture is, so I imagined the character thinking, "What have I got myself into?"
But the long-term goal turns from simply getting yourself to safety to taking down the tyrannical overlord pretty quickly, before I really had a chance to take everything in, which made the whole middle section seem kind of unfocused. It doesn't help any that the game keeps throwing more obstacles in your way before you can complete your objective; those smaller goals kept making me lose track of what the ultimate objective was. Luckily, that aspect lessened as the game progressed, and that's when it perked up again for me.
My absolute favourite aspect was the game's back-story and the conflict that brought Rapture to the state it's in now, which I do feel is far more interesting than the game itself.
Still, the twist involving your character's origin is a really good one. And that line, "A man chooses, a slave obeys," is going to stick with me till the day I die.
So on the whole, I enjoyed this game. I don't think it's going to become one of my all-time favourites or anything, but it was a fun sit with an inspired back-story to cherish.

My rating: 75%


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