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All reviews - Movies (44) - TV Shows (2) - Books (1) - Games (11)

Watchmen review

Posted : 6 years, 5 months ago on 9 February 2012 07:13 (A review of Watchmen)

What can unite humanity? This is a question pondered by philosophers and leaders throughout history and, appropriately, one that Alan Moore deals with in this gritty take on the neurotic life of a superhero. And what a cast of heroes they are—Dr. Manhattan, Rorschack, Ozymandias—all illustrated and colored in a 1940’s retro style captured brilliantly by Dave Gibbons and John Higgins. Their lives are complicated, messy, and with the Golden Age of the superhero behind them, purposeless. Rorschack never gave up his dual life, and never would. Which, despite his slight insanity, is oddly comforting. But sometimes it takes a madman to see the truth that’s coming—a force so unknowably evil that it will inevitably bring humanity to the brink, pivoting on one final question: will we run away and live in fear, clinging to the last bits of our short lives, or will we unite?

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Fishing with John (1991-1991) review

Posted : 6 years, 5 months ago on 2 February 2012 11:00 (A review of Fishing with John (1991-1991))

All the warmth and illumination of This American Life without the high-brow commentary. Lurie takes a lot of risks in this innovative documentary-styled show, in which he and one of his celebrity friends go on a fishing trip. John is not a professional fisherman by any means, and the narration, while sounding like an official NOVA or Discovery channel narrator, often goes off on strange non sequiturs that makes for an entertaining and unexpected journey. With each trip, a different locale, and with every new locale comes a new celebrity guest with their own very distinct personality. Not everyone enjoys these trips, but along the way they all seem to learn something or feel a connection, which translates to an eye-opening experience that left me in a sense of wonder and oneness. These points coupled with the strange, jazzy songs and sounds—by John Lurie, who also takes on starring, directing, and writing roles—make for an all-around great show.

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28 Days Later review

Posted : 6 years, 5 months ago on 2 February 2012 10:59 (A review of 28 Days Later)

A terrible virus that causes people to lose themselves in an uncontrollable rage—released unknowingly by do-gooders—runs rampant in London. The few survivors left cling to the hope of a cure and that the remnants of the military can bring them safety. So with nothing to lose, they make their way to the encampment. So much more than a “zombie” movie, this is a gritty tale about the survival of humanity on the brink of oblivion—both humanity as a species and humanity as in human decency. The final act, following one of my personal favorite scenes ever (post-Frank), shows the traits of humans when their laws and luxuries are ripped away. They tear at each other, their morals slowly decaying with their dwindling food supply. Standing next to the rage-infected hordes—I see no difference. Gritty, bloody, touching—all filmed digitally by Boyle which gives it a home-movie-like vibe. It seems more frenetic. Close. Real. A modern masterpiece of horror.

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Tucker and Dale vs. Evil review

Posted : 6 years, 6 months ago on 21 January 2012 06:33 (A review of Tucker and Dale vs. Evil)

What a riot! This movie has a premise that would make [Link removed - login to see]: two hillbillies named Tucker and Dale (Tudyk and Labine) set out on a fishing vacation in their wilderness cabin only to be mistaken as bloodthirsty killers by college kids, who take matters into their own hands when their friend is “kidnapped” by the pair. It’s one unfortunate misunderstanding after the next, with each hilarious mishap building on the next. Watching the dim-witted duo try to piece together their mystery is a gas, and I was roaring at how the college kids misinterpreted every innocent action by Tucker and Dale. While it sagged at times in the middle and the main “villain” is apt to overact, I found the chemistry of the three leads endearing and the dialogue surprisingly clever. This under appreciated gem will definitely have a cult following, and it deserves it!

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Beginners review

Posted : 6 years, 6 months ago on 2 January 2012 10:56 (A review of Beginners)

I went into this movie with no expectations and was completely blown away by its honesty and genuine goodwill. Oliver (MacGregor) has just lost his mother, and now, after decades of guilt and repression, his father Hal (Plummer) has come out of the closet. At over 70 years old, he yearns for the opportunity to explore and experiment, and his joy is infectious as he learns to love again. This isn’t to say he didn’t love his wife—their story is one of dedication, risk-taking, and true yearning for perfection. Still, it is a lot for Oliver to handle, and things only get harder for him and his own love life as Hal is diagnosed with terminal cancer. This is truly a gem, revealing much about modern families and love; how sure you are one second that this person is your perfect match only to wonder where that solid feeling went. Director Mike Mills shows that although others may seem to be going through much different struggles, you can still find inspiration and learn from them—there isn’t much that separates us, at all.

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No Country for Old Men review

Posted : 6 years, 6 months ago on 29 December 2011 07:40 (A review of No Country for Old Men)

A pitch-perfect film about violence, death, greed, and hopelessness. Llewellyn Moss stumbles onto a briefcase full of money that brings him anything but good fortune. There are endless scenes of breathtaking cinematography and a poetic ending, which is a welcome change from the clear-cut Hollywood endings that I’ve seen too much of. The characters are endlessly interesting, most notably that of Anton Chigurh. What an enigma; he seems more like a machine or a ghost than an actual human being, and sometimes we think he might believe he is a spectre. This is a favorite movie of mine because of the atmosphere, the editing, the cinematography, the acting, the directing, the sound work… basically everything about this movie is as close to perfect as I’ve seen. This movie is not about the money, nor is it about Llewellyn. Nor is it about Anton. It is about principles, rules, and purposes that people give themselves to live by. It is about the fear of the unknown or the enigma; the incomprehensibility and stoicism of the universe. It is about unspeakable violence, and the idea that the “good ol’ days” were just as dire. That this horrible evil is out there, maybe not physically, but it has existed and will continue to exist until there is no one left to know or care.

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Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) review

Posted : 6 years, 7 months ago on 21 December 2011 11:48 (A review of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004))

Jim Carrey goes low-key in this inspired and dreamlike film. Broken and pained by a lost relationship, he chooses to erase Clementine (Winslet) from his memories without thinking of the consequences. A great, wildly inventive screenplay by Kaufman and ethereal visuals by Gondry put this film on just about every favorite list I see, and mine is no exception. Watching Joel and Clementine dissolve each other into nothing and seeing them struggle to reconnect is simply heart-wrenching and, despite everything, hopeful. Because as they get closer and closer to oblivion, they realize how much they truly cherish the memories they shared. The love that was so strong before reveals how fragile it is under the pressure of pettiness and bickering, but it remains eternal.

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Deus Ex: Human Revolution review

Posted : 6 years, 7 months ago on 15 December 2011 05:34 (A review of Deus Ex: Human Revolution)

After being burned by the sexed-up sequel to Deus Ex, one of the greatest games in history, I was skeptical about the much-hyped prequel—but this game really hooked me; quite subversively, in that before anything else I found myself actually caring about my character, Adam Jensen, and found it easy to relate to him and his situation. The way his past seems to be mirrored in the situations he’s put into from the start really defines him and the other characters, which grounded the tech-infused world into something more human. Which, in turn helped me digest the plot: faceless, (unbelievably) evil corporate entities and the people running them have attacked and stolen highly valuable research of a rival corporation—Sarif industries, where Adam Jensen works. I guess they wanted the global nanotech augmentation market to be sans-Sarif…

This game borrows heavily from Metal Gear Solid, Splinter Cell: Conviction, L.A. Noire, and of course Deus Ex, but it manages to form its own distinct style. The sneaking is the best part of the game, and the expansive level designs are designed for those most eager to do so and explore—in fact you’re rewarded for it! And then there’s the hacking: I’ve never had this much fun with one of these minigames! It actually seems like you are doing something useful, and perhaps even learning a thing or two along the way about how internal security systems function. Which is how I felt about the persuasion conversations, too. Once you get the social augment, some helpful UI overlays display interesting information about the character’s behavior, types, and how certain types generally respond to your given reactions. All of this combined makes for a very rich story development and fun, fluid gameplay.

And then there are the boss fights. There are four of them, and unlike in the original game, you cannot avoid them. These fights contrast so heavily with every other part of this game that I couldn’t help but wonder when they were implemented and who on Earth thought they would be fun. Your augments are basically useless, since you are trapped in a small room for every one of them, and most of my augs were to help me be sneaky—which is the main function of the game. And alright, I can handle a boss being more difficult to kill than other, regular guards, but come on… I can’t knock them out, I can’t take them down with one, two or three headshots, I can’t stay hidden… and they all have infinite grenades. These situations basically force the player to do the run-and-gun playthrough, and it is not fun. Have I said that enough? After two of these boss fights, they started to take me out of the universe and made me more of a critic. I’m a fan of convoluted plots when they are done right (MGS2) but this one just didn’t make the vast conspiracy behind it all believable enough, when it came to the final boss.

All in all, I had an enjoyable time with the game, being satisfied with three of the four endings. I can’t undersell how fun the majority of the game was—the sneaking mechanics work so fluidly and the huge (and gorgeous—I haven’t even mentioned how beautiful this engine is) and wonderfully interactive gameworld is a joy to explore. And yet, the boss fights remain.

**** 1/2

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Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005) review

Posted : 6 years, 7 months ago on 15 December 2011 05:34 (A review of Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005))

This is a warm, quirky masterpiece. Miranda July writes, directs, and stars in this comedy about connecting with people in the strangest ways possible. It starts off with an unlucky shoe salesman who is going through a painful divorce (for him). He packs his things, moving into a one-bedroom apartment with his two kids, and to make sure his kids still know their dad loves them as well as their mother, he smiles as he pours lighter fluid on his hand and ignites it. The movie shows how the smallest of interactions can lead to great life-changing moments, often when you don’t expect it—often when you are the most vulnerable. The film shows that it’s OK to be afraid, lonely, sad. Everyone’s trying to do their best, though it doesn’t always seem that way. Wonderfully written, very witty, and contains one of the most hilarious scenes involving ASCII poop you’ll ever see. Yes. ASCII poop.

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Encounters at the End of the World review

Posted : 6 years, 7 months ago on 15 December 2011 05:33 (A review of Encounters at the End of the World)

Werner Herzog takes us on an expedition to the barrens of a frozen Antarctica. Here, the inhabitants seem to be sort of lost but found. They have spent their years traveling the globe and they all happened to end up in—or were strangely attracted to—the same place: McMurdo. The people Herzog interviewed all seem to have positive outlooks and very interesting perspectives on life and living, and I thought it was strange to see a city full of people like this. Herzog then takes us away from the city and shows even more strangeness, not only from other people, but the wildlife and environment itself. Absolutely beautiful images from under the ice, strange inorganic mating calls from seals, an alternate universe inhabited by neutrinos, seemingly mentally ill penguins, and a frozen sturgeon directly under the south pole encased in its own shrine. This is a documentary to see.

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