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All reviews - Movies (141) - TV Shows (2) - Books (4) - Games (19)

"Beyond: Two Souls" (PS3)

Posted : 2 years, 4 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, 10 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, 10 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, 10 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, 10 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, 10 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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"Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie" (2014)

Posted : 2 years, 10 months ago on 8 October 2014 01:39 (A review of Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

This happens to be my 100th review on this site, and what an appropriate choice for such a milestone! :D

I've been a huge AVGN fan since 2007, and James Rolfe himself, through his other videos, has become one of my biggest filmmaking idols. I've been following this movie's progress since day one, trying not to let myself get too hyped. But anyway, it's finally out, and I'm proud to say, it's worth the wait. :)
Man, this movie has a tonne going on! There's a car chase, a horrific dream sequence, zombies, robots, a giant monster movie homage, and much, much more! But it actually all flows together very well indeed; just about every step of the story feels natural. I love just how outrageous the situation keeps becoming as it progresses, like the Nerd is indeed in way over his head.
Needless to say, for an independent film, this is about as ambitious as it gets. I'd be lying if I said some of the obvious low-budget effects weren't distracting, but some of them just add to the humour in a big way. For example, seeing some of the actors turned into part of the miniature models is frigging hilarious! :D Besides, some other effects are legitimately slick – but unfortunately, those specific examples are in the climax, so I can't spoil too much.
And, speaking of which, the climax itself is definitely the highlight of the movie. There are too many laugh-out-loud funny moments to count, and even the payoff from a dramatic standpoint is priceless.
So yeah, colour me satisfied! :)

My rating: 85%


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"Labor Day" (2014)

Posted : 2 years, 10 months ago on 8 October 2014 01:33 (A review of Labor Day)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

I have to admit, I'm having trouble explaining my thoughts on this one, because… I really don't know what to make of it. It's a pretty strange movie.
From the trailer, I got the impression that it was about an escaped convict keeping this woman and her son prisoner in their own home, but she ends up actually falling in love with him. But instead, he turns out to be a legitimately good guy, taking the place of a husband and father figure. The only problem is that he has to keep hiding his presence whenever someone comes to the door. It's just a really bizarre situation, and I'm not sure I mean that in a good way. I guess we're supposed to like the guy, to believe right from the start that the murder he was convicted for was an accident, but I think, in my case, there'd constantly be an ever-present fear that he could snap and kill us at any moment.
For that reason, I was never invested in the situation or cared about the romance. So, during the climax, when he's in real danger of being revealed, they drag the tension out for so long that, rather than being suspenseful, it just annoyed me.
I can't help but think how much better this movie would have been if it was actually about Stockholm syndrome. As it stands, it's just kind of confused and underwhelming.

My rating: 50%


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"Divergent" (2014)

Posted : 2 years, 10 months ago on 8 October 2014 01:31 (A review of Divergent)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

I'm not just saying this because it's cool to pick on young adult fiction, but… yeah, you guessed it. I didn't like this movie.
And that's mainly due to the premise. I guess it plays to teenagers who are discovering their social standing, but this whole idea of a society that dictates people by their personality type is just laughable. There are five factions in this world, and Four says that he always wanted to be a little bit of all of them… but he can't be the first one to have ever brought up that point! People aren't that one-dimensional; personalities are far more complex than that. This movie basically turns everyone in the world into a one-note drone. I'm a very introverted individual – I know very little about how society really works – and I was picking up on this stuff! It's beyond unrealistic! I haven't seen a society so obviously broken since The Purge!
Plus, I never got everyone's rampant hatred for the Abnegation people. Why does everyone look down on them, spread lies and dub them criminals when, by definition, they're selfless, good Samaritans?
Aside from that, the movie just did very little for me. The characters are boring, so I didn't find their struggle interesting or suspenseful in any way. But the ending made me legitimately angry: it's as bullshit and predictable as it gets!
In conclusion, it's not offensively bad, but still pretty meagre.

My rating: 40%


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"Reasonable Doubt" (2014)

Posted : 2 years, 10 months ago on 8 October 2014 01:30 (A review of Reasonable Doubt)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

When an attorney (played by Dominic Cooper) commits a fatal hit-and-run, he becomes determined to manipulate the case to acquit the accused (Samuel L Jackson) who was found with the body and convicted of the crime. But he eventually realises his actions have freed a guilty man, and a serial killer at that.
This is a movie that boasts a great premise but doesn't do the best job of realising it.
I had very little sympathy for the main character, who's so bad at hiding his guilty conscience that anyone with half a brain cell would immediately see right through him. But Samuel L Jackson's character is a really well written villain, thanks mostly to his motivation – which I won't spoil. :) He's what made this movie for me.
Aside from that, this is a pretty standard thriller. It keeps your interest well enough, but packs very little in the way of surprise. And it seemed really short; it flew by extremely quickly. In fact, they must have realised the script couldn't fill an entire movie and that the final product was too short, because it has the slowest credits I've ever seen: they're ironed out to a full ten minutes!
On the whole, it's just kind of mediocre.

My rating: 55%


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