Wonder Woman Review

[This review contains spoilers]

This film is a cartoon and video game combined into one. It has slow motion ‘finishing moves’. A villain referred to as ‘Doctor Poison’. And a final boss. It’s silly, despite always trying to be taken seriously.

I also find it difficult to when Diana wears high heels and make-up into battle. I also thought it was uneven in it’s presentation in a good vs bad side. It tries to be a little even handed with the addition of The Chief and his people’s history with the British, but overall it felt very one sided, like a popcorn flick. A big, loud, Hollywood movie.

There’s nothing wrong with that, but don’t expect much substance to this film.

Here’s the thing though, I feel like this film is similar to Captain America. I feel like that movie did this plot better and didn’t take itself as seriously.

Where this film shines is when it leans on it’s Greek Mythology, when we see Diana and her innocence. Her questioning of this strange world. That angle is unique. When she’s an outsider looking within, it strikes you as something special.

When you’re on the island, with the Amazons, that feels different. But the war, it has simplistic portrayal. It just not a real war film.

Captain America, I think, succeeded more in this respect, because it was focused on being a superhero film. It was Steve Rodgers ‘zero to hero’ moment.

Wonder Woman tries to focus on the tragedies of war, more than Captain America did. It wants to show how Diana lost her innocence, yet it hides the audience from this same brutality. That rings hollow to me. I don’t feel like I truly saw what she did. I didn’t see heartbreak and sorrow. It was hinted at, but that’s it.

I felt more when Diana left the island. When her mother despaired at her loss. That scene meant more because of the time the film invested into their relationship. Her mother always feared losing her, and Diana wasn’t prepared for the hurt she caused her.

In contrast Aries, the films main ‘bad’, is a joke. His motivations make no sense. I don’t buy the whole ‘lets make a perfect planet’ spiel. He’s a God! He has millions of planets to make perfect. I mean seriously, that’s his motivation?

Also Steve Trevor didn’t have to die. He had all the ‘secret war weapons’ with him in a plane. Alone. He could’ve landed anywhere and lived happily ever after with Diana. Instead he killed himself for no reason.

It’s things like that which makes the whole film feel flimsy. Did they think this whole plot through? It really doesn’t feel like they did.

Now, it’s really not a bad film, Diana is a good character, Gal Gadot was fine in the role. The action is good. It’s a turn off your brain type film. I’m not going to recommend it to everyone, but it certainly has an audience. Check it out if you’re into superhero films, especially if you want to watch a female one.

If you’re not in love with the action blockbuster. Give it a miss, you’ve seen this one before.

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You’re not a ‘Hardcore’ Gamer!

Now to be fair, I’m not sure that I’d call myself one, but I have been playing them for a very long time now. Probably too long.

What I don’t understand is the obsession in gaming fandom to be super ‘HARDCORE!’ It feels almost hyperbolic. You need to be the best, you need the best gear, and beat the game on the hardest difficulty. Otherwise, you can’t possibly be on ‘their level’.

Now I’m not talking about skill, which is different altogether. Competitive play is a natural thing in games, I’m talking about the people that are elitist. When they troll you because of how you play and what you play on. The PC vs Console debate is a good example of how some gamers can be on this subject.

That’s what I see when scrolling through Reddit and other such forums. Hell. Youtube comments seem to be the most guilty of this.

I saw a great video once on this subject about ‘easy’ difficulties being fun, because they’re about empowerment. I agree with this sentiment. I like feeling I’m ‘the boss’. That I’m the hero. I’m saving the day.

It’s both gratifying and silly. I like playing that way, because to me; that’s what video games are about, having fun.

Yet some people think you must be a ‘casual’ for doing that. It’s either Dark Souls, or nothing.

I tried Bloodborne, I also tried Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. I found them both to be too hard, frustrating and pointless. I don’t like to feel like I’m working when I’m meant to be playing. It also doesn’t help, in the case of Metal Gear, that I’m not the biggest stealth fan.

Normally the difficulty I play is either Easy or Normal. I personally found the easiest difficulty of The Last Of Us hard. I still like that game, and I finished it. It still wasn’t easy for me.

And that’s okay. That’s really all I’m getting at. You don’t have to be the best to still be a gamer.

Batman: Return of the Caped Crusader Review

[This review contains spoilers]

This film is based on the 1960s Batman TV show, you know the one, it’s incredibly entertaining and very easy to make fun of. Adam West, who recently passed on, returned as Batman. He does a great job of playing it straight, despite the goofiness of the story.

Batman becomes a villain, fires Alfred, and all that was just a distraction for the real ‘plot’. This film is a wacky Loony Tunes cartoon. If you want something serious, don’t watch this film,

The villains can be at times benign, committing a prank spree on Gotham, to robbery. Always leaving a path of destruction behind them. The police are so incompetent, they can’t even handle shoplifting. They’re a joke, which is the point.

And of course Batman has a spaceship.

You didn’t have to know that, but it’s something that I think I should emphasis. This is a cartoon, not just an animated film. It’s incredibly silly.

Catwoman flip flops loyalty at the drop of a hat, though her flirtations with Batman are rather humorous. It’s like they don’t even try to ‘beat’ each other.

Batman is a boyscout. There is no brooding here, only puns, lots of them…and alliteration. Wordplay is what really makes this film work, the script writers did a great job.

The animation is fine, though not always fluid. It could’ve been better, Batman Beyond is far more smooth, and I think that should’ve been achieved in this film. The art is nice, similar to the pages of a comic book, which I think is a compliment. Though again, it doesn’t look as good as Batman Beyond.

The CGI is fine, mainly used for vehicles. I’ve seen worse examples of it, but it could’ve been implemented better, I’m thinking of Gundam Unicorn or Pycho-Pass.

It isn’t the prettiest film, but the script and voice acting makes up for everything else. It’s that good and fun. I’d recommend this to any fan of superhero comics or films that want a different take on the genre. If you like the 1960s TV show, this is a no-brainer for you.

BAM! WACK! THRACK!

Give it ago, it might surprise you!

Yentl Review:

[This review contains spoilers]

Barbra Streisand is the first woman to direct, produce, write and star in a major studio film, this one, to be more precise. That makes her a unique and notable person, it’s unfortunate I can’t extend that same praise to this film.

Yentl, for lack of a better word, is boring. It’s one of the most dull films with cross-dressing as a main theme I’ve seen. Blackadder did the almost exact same concept but was far more funny and interesting. Hell, I even find Stanley Laurel and Oliver Hardy’s version to be more entertaining.

Then again, this is supposed to be a serious film, but even then there are still better examples. The Rose of Versailles being an obvious one, and Victor/Victoria even more so.

This film has a love triangle aspect to it that feels underdeveloped. A man loves a girl, a girl loves a girl pretending to be a man, and the woman pretending, she loves the first guy. The romance adds padding, and meanders too much.

The things that I enjoyed most about the film are few and far in between. I loved Yentl’s thirst for knowledge, and that she was breaking the norms of her time. That she feels trapped in traditions holding her back. That was interesting, that had conflict.

Hell, even her father dying had an impact, and the song just before it was good.

It just sucks that the other songs, again, feel like their just drawing the film out.

The Jewish debate about religion was interesting, and I think it’s a good introduction to a different mode of thinking. Though to be honest, I don’t know how accurate this films depiction was.

Would I recommend this film? If you’re a Barbra Streisand fan, you’ve probably already seen it and love it. Is it for anyone else? Probably not, unless you just really want to an okay cross-dressing film.

Horizon Zero Dawn Review

[This review contains spoilers]

This game is beautiful. I feel the need to emphasise that after the old console vs. pc war rages on. It’s an exclusive for the PS4, and that makes it an easy suggestion for any owner of that console. It’s a good game.

However I, in some ways, felt disappointed by it. Not because it isn’t great, but because I was expecting a fantasy, or fantasy-like game, to be more specific. When this game came out, many outlets sang it’s praises. It was compared very favourably to Witcher 3. To me, that’s misleading. It’s a Sci-Fi game, and a great one at that. The story has twists and turns. It has some sequel bait, which is fine by me, I’d like to play one.

The villain feels generic, taking a sort-of ‘skynet’ approach. However the main character, Aloy, despite a funny name, is a great character. It’s refreshing to me to have a great female character in a leading role in a AAA game.

I’m not sure if that’s controversial or not to say. But after playing The Last of Us and Witcher 3; both games where a playable female character get only a brief appearance, it’s nice to have it consistent throughout a game. A game that doesn’t have a ‘pick your adventure’ vibe like Mass Effect or Skyrim.

I should make it clear that I am aware of Tomb Raider, I’ve yet to play it, but that is another good example of a female-lead franchise.

I liked the overall story. I like the mystery that surrounded everything, it drew you in. I even found myself reading notes left behind by the dead civilisation, listening to audio logs. I was also surprised by the inclusion of a lesbian couple earlier in the game; when listening to the last words of a dead woman. It was sad, and poignant. I felt for that couple, just based on one audio log. That’s difficult to do, but I found the inclusions of that, by interacting with the world and coming with your own conclusions, to be one of the strongest aspects of this games storytelling.

I also find it interesting that Aloy had no interest in romance, something that’s normally a staple of games like this. When you can make choices in a game, normally it also leads to ‘love’.

The choices that are in this game are limited, but when they’re there, they feel important. It should also be noted that all your actions, for the most part, feel significant. Especially for the main plot. I felt like I was making a difference, that I was saving the world as we knew it. That I had something to prove and everything to lose.

The story does however have some faults, some key characters introduced at the beginning were wasted potential, they died too early. They could’ve made a larger impact later on, like Rost for example.

I also found the side missions to have a repetitive structure ‘track something down, kill a robot dinosaur, return thing back to person’. This felt weaker overall and like ‘busy work’. However the main plot lines, as stated before, are strong and avoided these issues.

Another problem I had, was that there were impressive cities, yet unlike games like Skyrim, I couldn’t just randomly walk into people’s houses. That felt immersion breaking to me.

The game play is fun, but I found the ‘stealth’ parts to be the weakest part. Especially with the over emphasis on the red bushes, this is something Shadow of Mordor did far better. The attacks via bow and arrow are, however, fun and satisfying. The spear feels closer to a last ditch effort weapon, but is competent enough to be a main weapon for those that prefer it.

The health system, I thought, was unique and easy to use, far better than Shadow of Mordor in that regard. It actually allows you to keep your herbs on hand.

Horizon Zero Dawn is a fine game, that I think, is mainstream enough for mass appeal. It’s good, with a strong story, I’d recommend it to almost anyone.

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Review

 

[This review contains spoilers]

This is a silly movie, and a children’s movie. You shouldn’t expect too much from it. It’s immature, loud, rude and in my opinion, very funny.

It isn’t a film for everyone, I could imagine someone being too adult, too mature for this film. I think the obvious demographic is young boys, especially based on the two protagonists: George and Harold. School is treated in this film like a prison, and if it weren’t for these boys pranks, it’d remain that way.

The film is self aware with the young boys often breaking the fourth-wall, talking to the audience, similar in some respects to The Emperors New Groove. It knows what it is, and that only plays to the films strengths.

Now this isn’t the best animated film to come out this year, so far, that goes to The Lego Batman Movie. It isn’t a film that everyone has to see, but it is harmless fun, and it’s similar to Trolls in that regard.

This film is most notable for being the lowest budget Dreamworks Animation has given to a CGI film.

Its strangeness really bounces off the walls. There is a mad scientist, a hypnotised principal that gains ‘superhero powers’ and two boys that just mess around with pranks that go awry. The villains plan? To rid the world of laughter, due to being made fun of with the name, wait for it, Professor Poopypants. That’s the level of humour on display, and I could understand if that wasn’t for you, but for me, it was awesome.

It’s a silly film, that knows it is, and knows you know it is. It runs with that at ramming speed, and I applaud it for that. It’s in many ways a 90s cartoon, doing things that most modern ones just don’t do any more, which is a shame.

This film isn’t for everyone, but hell, it was for me.

Mass Effect: Andromeda Review

 

[This review contains spoilers]

Mass Effect: Andromeda is a good game and I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that. It certainly isn’t perfect, it can have pacing issues (depending on your style of play…however it’s also a bit of a design flaw); and the character animation can be clunky.

But the story has heart.

I love Jaal. In some ways he should’ve been the main character, because really, it’s more his story than the ‘Pathfinders’. He grows from distrusting you, your people (the ‘aliens’), to seeing the great things you accomplish. The things you do for peace. You change his mind with your actions, and by being his friend. He begins standoffish, but if you play far enough, he considers you family.

This is huge, considering the Angaran trusted the Kett and were betrayed. You’re the alien. You have to be better, otherwise you’re no better than the villains of the game.

This is where the game could’ve capitalised on it’s choice mechanic. Do you gain their trust, make Andromeda better for everyone, or do you fuck up? Do you become worse than the Kett?

The game never goes there and it’s a waste of potential. That’s my biggest criticism of the game. It’s good, but it could’ve been better. It should have been better. Your choices should shape the future for Andromeda. Yet it barely did, your choices, for the most part, were superficial.

Except for a few, like breaking up a romantic relationship or gaining an alliance with the Krogan. I’ll admit when I chose the Salarian Pathfinder over Drack’s scouts, he called me out on it. And it hurt, because in someway, I had betrayed him. It was a small thing, but it made me feel like he’d never truly trust me again. By putting the mission before him, I had made a sacrifice, and no apology was going to fix it.

It’s a shame that this doesn’t happen more often. That’s it’s the only choice I regret, but would make again. It’s the sort of thing that separates a good and great game.

The characters, for the most part are good. Drack is an old man that could kick anyone’s arse. Peebee is insecure, but with a confident bravado. Kallo is great, and will always weigh in on Salarian issues.

Then there is Reyes Vidal. He’s cocky, a crook, and the perfect lover. I mean he’s just the perfect flirt, irresistible. Though I love that you can punch him if you take the friend route.

The loyalty missions are fun. The main mission has a good story, the Salarian ark being a highlight. Again though, the game suffers inconsistent pacing. There are times where the main quest can be forgotten in favour for side missions, or when other quests are put on ‘Hold’. You’re not sure when you can ‘get back’ to them. This makes the missions lose momentum, and when doing other tasks, important details can be forgotten by the player. This makes the story just that much more disengaging.

The game design can also lead to this, with it’s long drives to locations, to only have a cutscene before needing to fly to another planet. This can become tedious, another disengaging aspect.

The ‘alien’ Sudoku should be noted as a take it or leave it feature.

The gameplay was good, but to me, was played best as a cover shooter. Though watching other players, and listened to other people’s comments, it seems to be a highlight for most players. Especially with the addition of the jetpack. I enjoyed it, but I thought games like Titanfall 2 had better combat.

The art design is where this game really shines. Each Remnant vault was a treat to explore, and a feast for the eyes. They felt epic, both in scale and meaning. The gravity well only adding to that experience, as if you had truly entered the unknown.

As I stated above, this is a good game. Yes the character’s glitch, yes it can be annoying. But, for the most part, the voice acting is good. The characters grow as people, and you grow with them. There is a true sense of discovery in this game. Of being on the frontier of space. The writing, though inconsistent, shines where it really counts.

I may play this game again, and that to me, is compliment enough.