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All reviews - Movies (137) - TV Shows (2) - Books (4) - Games (17)

"Chappie" (2015)

Posted : 2 years ago on 15 June 2015 12:22 (A review of Chappie)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

I might have gone into this movie with higher expectations had I not disliked director Neill Blomkamp's previous effort, Elysium. And, between that film and this one, it's starting to look more and more like District 9 was a fluke! This was horrible!
And that's mainly down to the opening. Talk about starting off on the wrong foot! Everything that was being set up struck me as so derivative – especially the MOOSE, which is a blatant ED-209 rip-off – that it immediately tarnished the rest of the movie that followed. As a result, I was in such a bad mood that I just found the storyline clichéd and the scenes with Chappie learning things embarrassing. And the trite scene where Yolandi tells him about the soul actually had me yelling, "Oh, fuck off!" at the screen.
The maddening thing is that this isn't an inherently bad concept. The idea of an AI learning and maturing has been done well before, and it had potential to be done well here, but it's all ruined by the immediately obvious clichés and the ludicrous one-dimensional villains.
I have to commend the special effects, though: Blomkamp and his effects team have always been brilliant at replacing actors with animated characters so that they really look like they belong in the shot. But aside from that, this movie just flat-out made me angry.

My rating: 25%


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"Kingsman: The Secret Service" (2015)

Posted : 2 years ago on 15 June 2015 12:19 (A review of Kingsman: The Secret Service)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Matthew Vaughn's second adaptation of a Mark Millar comic. :) And just like Kick-Ass, it proves to be a match made in heaven! :D In a word, wow! It's a send-up to over-the-top spy action movies that's equal parts gleeful homage and biting satire. It tells two stories in parallel: a young new recruit going through Kingsman training, and the actual Kingsman agents investigating Richmond Valentine – who, by the way, is a great villain. There are too many amazingly clever moments to even count; if I could gush about every single scene, I would. :) But I will say this much: the whole film strikes a perfect balance between funny, sardonic and exciting, and is just all-around exhilarating. Obviously the year's not over yet, but I'm pretty confident this will still be in my top five by year's end. I loved it.

My rating: 90%


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"Ex Machina" (2015)

Posted : 2 years ago on 15 June 2015 12:17 (A review of Ex Machina)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

After writing such masterpieces as 28 Days Later, Sunshine and Dredd, this is Alex Garland's debut in the director's chair; that alone got me intrigued. :) And the result certainly didn't disappoint.
It's not a stunningly original take on artificial intelligence, but still a fascinating one that probably blurs the line between man and machine better than any other movie I've seen – best summed up in the scene where Caleb asks Nathan if Ava was programmed to flirt with him.
I have to say, I love the way Ava is designed. :)
It's also one of those movies that really excels at creating tension with a very small cast. Not to mention, Film Brain analysed the film's themes and relevance to our modern technological society way better than I ever could.
You can definitely see echoes of Alex Garland's previous work when the last act turns into something completely different from the two before it, but it's still a compelling and suspenseful climax – complete with one of the best stabbing scenes I've ever seen.
Overall, it's a very smart, solid movie and definitely worth checking out, especially if you're a fan of the AI subgenre.

My rating: 85%


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"Taken 3" (2015)

Posted : 2 years ago on 15 June 2015 12:15 (A review of Taken 3)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

In the last review I posted on this site, I mentioned that I'd started a new blog on Blog.com. Well, I turned my back on that because the site was becoming far too unstable; most of the time, it just didn't load. (It seems fine at the moment, but I didn't want to take that chance.) So now I've started afresh on Wordpress.com. The first review I posted on that blog was a compilation of all the 2015 releases I'd seen so far, starting with this one.

To tell you the truth, the only reason I saw this is because The Theory of Everything started earlier than I thought, and I didn't find out until I'd already bought the ticket, so I figured I might as well see something. What I got was, hands down, the worst of the Taken series so far. The plot doesn't even involve a kidnapping anymore; it's just another dime-a-dozen revenge story. And the action scenes are some of the worst ever, taking the unfortunately clichéd shaky cam and frenetic editing another step to absurdity; most of the time, I simply could not tell what was happening. That's really all I have to say: this movie's just worthless. But like I said, I paid for The Theory of Everything, so I can at least take comfort in the fact that my money went towards what I'm sure is a much better movie.

My rating: 40%


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"Beyond: Two Souls" (PS3)

Posted : 2 years, 2 months ago on 31 March 2015 01:52 (A review of Beyond: Two Souls)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

I've just started a new blog over on Blog.com, and this is the first review I published on it. And it actually ran longer than I was expecting. :) I usually try to contain my reviews to less than 250 words to prevent myself from over-writing stuff. But with this one, I decided to let loose a little more. So, enjoy a slightly more unfiltered review than I usually do. :)

All her life, Jodie Holmes has possessed supernatural powers through her psychic link to a mysterious invisible entity named Aiden, which gets the attention of scientists in a department owned by the CIA.
As Fahrenheit (AKA Indigo Prophecy) is one of my favourite games of all time, I'm always hopeful for anything Quantic Dream puts out. But this outing, along with Heavy Rain, is another one that I'd probably just place in the "okay" category; it didn't do all that much for me.
But let's focus on the positives first. :) The graphics are amazing – some of the best the PS3 has to offer. The music is also good; every Quantic Dream game has a different composer with a unique identity, appropriately striking a completely different tone each time.
Also, in comparison to Heavy Rain, the quick time events are much more user-friendly: you always know where to look for the prompt, and the action is usually just a joystick movement (or maybe that's only on easy mode). Not to mention, in dialogue scenes, the options on screen actually stay still! :D And, while the directional controls can still be a little awkward at times, at least you don't have to worry about stupid shit like holding R2 to walk.
The storytelling, however, is where it falls flat. It's a fantastic idea, a brilliantly imaginative notion of a spirit world colliding with our own, but it's not executed too well.
For one thing, our main character Jodie has no clearly defined personality, which makes her seem flat and hard to latch onto. I know the point is that your choices shape her, she's entirely what you make of her, but couldn't they have written her as cynical or something and plotted all the dialogue options around that basic framework? Still, at least it's only one dull character this time as opposed to four!
But the main thing that dragged the story down for me is that I don't think it needed to be told in a nonlinear fashion. The chapters are on complete shuffle, usually with no apparent link from one to the next. I guess the idea is that she's remembering scattered bits and pieces as she tells the story, but I fail to see how she remembers the events in this specific order; hardly any of them naturally flow into each other. This robs the story of a great deal of integrity and dramatic tension, because we can't really connect to the character's journey. The fact that the narrative covers so many vastly different locales certainly doesn't help; it never manages to find a consistent tone.
But for what it's worth, the story did hold my interest as the mystery was slowly pieced together, and I was constantly anticipating the resolution. One of my favourite scenes is the Condenser chapter, which perfectly nails the feeling of terrified dread as Jodie descends into the facility: you don't know what you're going to see, but it's clearly very dangerous indeed.
But the main thing the game did for me was the twist ending, which I can honestly say I did not see coming.
So, much like Heavy Rain, I think I appreciate it more for what it was trying to be than for what it actually is. It's technically impressive – there's no denying that – but the story structure and lack of characterisation make it more conceptually interesting than dramatically or emotionally potent.

My rating: 60%


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"The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest"

Posted : 2 years, 8 months ago on 8 October 2014 01:50 (A review of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (Millennium Trilogy, Book 3))

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

This one picks up right where the second book, The Girl Who Played with Fire, left off, with Lisbeth Salander rushed to hospital and then charged with attempted murder. The rest is basically just building up to her trial, with Mikael Blomkvist and a whole network of journalists and police trying to collect evidence to prove her innocence. And man, what an irresistible ride it is! :)
Lisbeth Salander is still my favourite character, but this really is an ensemble piece, with everyone contributing something in a big way. Honestly, the most boring parts involved the guys within Säpo working to keep things covered up. I'm glad they weren't portrayed as pure sinister villains, but they just seemed a little too passive to me.
My favourite thing about this book is that, even though it deals with investigative journalism and government espionage, it's written in a way that makes the characters and proceedings seem so down-to-earth and relatable that, whenever things do heat up and action ensues, it's all the more effective because it seems genuinely out of the ordinary.
Not to mention, it ends with a trial. I'm a huge fan of courtroom dramas, so that was right up my street. :)
All in all, a great ending to a great trilogy. Not quite as good as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but I liked it a little more than The Girl Who Played with Fire.

My rating: 85%


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"Assassin's Creed III" (PS3)

Posted : 2 years, 8 months ago on 8 October 2014 01:47 (A review of Assassin's Creed III)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Each of the Assassin's Creed games follows one of Desmond's ancestors in a different time period: first it was the Third Crusade, then it was the Italian Renaissance, this time it's the American Revolution.
You actually play as two characters in the past this time, and there's a brilliant twist after you finish with the first one. But after that, the game irreparably goes downhill. You start playing as a Native American whose village is under threat from the British colonists. I was left thinking, "Are we still in the same series? When did this become Pocahontas?"
One of the things I really hated about the second game was the control, how hard it was to send your character in the right direction. That problem is back in this game, and it's especially maddening when you're on horseback, which is almost impossible to steer.
Honestly, the most fun I had was during the sea battles. But again, that feels like an entirely different game, unrecognisable from the AC games of old.
Also, I found out later that this game actually references events in the Brotherhood and Revelations games, which are also part of the main series. So if, like me, you're going from Assassin's Creed II straight into this one, you're probably going to be totally lost!
I've decided I'm not a fan of this series. I still can't get into the story, and this one is easily my least favourite instalment to date.

My rating: 55%


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"Training Day" (2001)

Posted : 2 years, 8 months ago on 8 October 2014 01:42 (A review of Training Day)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

This review will contain basic spoilers. Sorry, but it's required to fully explain my impressions.
As the title implies, this movie takes place over the course of a single day, as a rookie narcotics detective (Ethan Hawke's Jake) is introduced to the gang neighbourhoods by an experienced veteran (Denzel Washington's Alonzo). And, as crime thrillers go, this is a pretty damn good one.
What really sticks out about it is how the two leads' relationship progresses from good-humoured banter to downright horrific disillusionment in the first two acts. Jake is the by-the-book, ethical cop, the character whose morals we can identify with. But as things progress and he sees Alonzo acting more and more like the common criminals, which Alonzo insists is required to understand them, we become just as anxious as he does.
Also, on a side note, I'd heard that Gary Sinise was considered for Denzel Washington's part, so while I was watching it, I kept imagining him in the role. And, honestly, as much as I love Gary Sinise, I just don't think he would have worked as well.
Sadly, the third act is where the movie lost me. It culminates in an action climax that feels completely tacked on. We can certainly understand Jake's motivation, and maybe you can kind of deduce Alonzo's, but it still doesn't make much sense for them to be at each other's throats like that.
It's a shame that that last act tarnishes a previously great movie.

My rating: 75%


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"Dumb and Dumber" (1994)

Posted : 2 years, 8 months ago on 8 October 2014 01:41 (A review of Dumb and Dumber)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

I surprisingly really liked this movie. I went in expecting nothing dignified – I knew full well it was going to be stupid – but this movie seemed like it was having so much fun being stupid that it transcended my usual bias against that sort of humour.
This also applies to the two main characters – who I think are the main reason why the movie works so well. Obviously they're complete idiots, but with a childlike naïveté; nothing they do is malicious. Even when Lloyd does seemingly terrible things like give a dead parakeet to a blind orphan, he's just unaware of the trauma that he's potentially causing. Also, some people might point more towards Ace Ventura, but I view this as Jim Carrey at his funniest.
There's not even as much low-brow humour as I was expecting – only a small handful of bodily waste-related gags, in fact.
The only part I really didn't like was whenever they tried talking to ladies: that was just cringe-worthy. The kidnapping plot itself never quite added up for me, either.
But on the whole, all I can say is this is one of the funniest movies I've seen in a long time.

My rating: 80%


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"Big Trouble in Little China" (1986)

Posted : 2 years, 8 months ago on 8 October 2014 01:40 (A review of Big Trouble in Little China)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

I decided to watch the movie itself before Spoony's review of the Commodore 64 game, and he's praised it so often he got me interested anyway. And… I don't get it. I'm sorry.
What I read afterwards confirmed what I'd suspected while watching it: it's an homage film, a tribute to kung fu B-movies. Maybe it'll make more sense to people who've actually watched those movies, and I'll admit the plot does make a lot more sense on reflection, but while I was actually watching it, there were a number of detractors keeping me from going along with it. And that mainly stems from how the female characters are handled. I hate the damsel-in-distress cliché, and boy is it exploited to the nth degree here!
Also, there's a lot of expository dialogue that really piles on the Chinese lore, to the point where I had trouble keeping up.
But it was Kurt Russell's character that made the movie for me. He's basically the spokesman for the audience, the observer in all this crazy shit he suddenly finds himself in.
Also, that floating eyeball monster is a truly fantastic effect.
Overall, there's enough good plotting and entertainment value that I might see it again at some point, but for now, its anti-feminist streak and overwhelming exposition are really bugging me.

My rating: 55%


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