Ghost in the Shell film review [SPOILERS]

 

ghost-in-the-shell-8

It was always going to split opinions. Making a live-action Ghost in the Shell out of a classic anime and casting Scarlett Johansson as the Major made a lot of people, including myself, quite sceptical. I went into the theatre bracing myself for the worst, but by the end of it I found myself breathing a sigh of relief. It certainly wasn’t without flaws, but it wasn’t ruined either. And in the age of terrible remakes and sequels, that’s saying something.

What makes a human, well, a human? This question is at the core of “Ghost in the Shell” and its universe as a whole. Major Mira Killian (played by Johansson)  is a first of her kind: a cyborg with a fully prosthetic body and a human brain. A killing machine created by Hanka Industries and employed by Public Security Section 9, the Major acts as a powerful weapon for the government. As she goes on a hunt for terrorist Kuze, the Major tries to remember the past and understand her own self.

Visually, the film is stunning. It does a great job of capturing an already established environment of Ghost in the Shell and adding its own unique details to it. The CGI is stellar (except for one small moment towards the end), the action sequences are exciting and the specific colour scheme of the cyberpunk genre has been preserved.

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They’ve also done a good job of staying true to the source material. Some scenes and shots that would not only resonate with fans of the original but also impress first-time viewers were recreated as close as they could without directly copying the visuals. Great references, even surprising but completely justified cameos show up in the film, which should evoke a big nod of approval from fans. The soundtrack keeps the pacing even though it doesn’t provide any memorable compositions. However, I was very happy to hear Kenji Kawai’s new take on his masterpiece theme at the end of the film.

Scarlet Johansson does a decent job as the Major. She was never an expressive character to begin with so Johansson’s monotone performance is justified. Another well represented member of Section 9 is Batou, played by Pilou Asbaek.  Batou’s stoic yet caring nature manages to come through in the limited screen time he gets.

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While the Major and Batou carry the film throughout, other members of Section 9 don’t get nearly any screentime at all. I was really interested in seeing Ishikawa, Section 9’s tech and computer expert, yet in the film he barely gets a frame. Togusa, the only fully human character among the unit practically gets two lines. It is Aramaki, though, the chief of Section 9, that I believe is completely misrepresented. His role as a tough leader, unafraid to wield a gun, works within the Hollywood tropes, yet is completely off from what he is in the manga, original films or the tv series. Having him speak Japanese while his team talk English to him and amongst each other also felt quite awkward.

Continuing in the vein of characters who don’t really fit within the narrative is Kuze, the hacker terrorist and the villain of the film. Played by Michael Pitt, Kuze is on the warpath to eliminate all those who have made him neither man nor machine; a broken being. And here is where my problems with the film arise. There are major spoilers coming your way so be careful if you choose to “ghost dive” past this point…

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SPOILERS AHEAD!

Let’s start with Kuze. Kuze is a combination of the Puppet Master from the 1995 film and Hideo Kuze from the second season of the tv series “Stand Alone Complex” (“2nd Gig”). He has Puppet Master’s purpose, which is to seek out the Major and merge with her as the next step in evolution, and Hideo Kuze’s childhood connection to the Major before she became a cyborg. And it’s precisely because he is a combination of those two characters with distinctly different purposes is why he fails at being either. He is a poor character whose motivations are never justified.

Kuze constructs a network, just like the Puppet Master who came from it. And just like the Puppet Master, Kuze asks the Major to join him at the end of the film in the scene that closely resembles the finale of the original. Yet it is never explained why, with Kuze basically saying “so we can be better than them”. The Major rejects by saying “I belong here”, a statement that is also completely unfounded. While wanting to belong to something in the real world (told, once again, through exposition) we never see why the Major would suddenly decide that her place is here and not with someone of her kind.

Cutter, the CEO of Hanka Industries that was responsible for both the Major and Kuze turns bad towards the end of the film for the sake of being bad. And once again, it might work in a conventional Hollywood story, yet sticks out like a sore thumb in a re-imagining of a philosophical masterpiece.

And since we’re on the topic of philosophy, here is the biggest issue of the film: the themes that Ghost in the Shell explores have been lost. Concepts and ideas are never taken far enough. The film beats you over the head with what the “ghost” and the “shell” mean .The meaning of “ghost” is even repeated 3 times within one line of dialogue early on  yet the film does nothing with it. The importance of memories as identification of self fall down the same drain as the idea of the soul. And even though the Puppet Master from the original was sort of present in the film, within Kuze’s character, the Puppet Master’s whole point of being a “living, thinking entity created in a sea of information” did not even get a mention. And the film’s Hollywood ending was a jarring error within a cyberpunk universe.

CONCLUSION

I think it was foolish of anyone to believe the Holywood reimagining of Ghost in the Shell could come close to the original in terms of meaning and significance. However, it more than holds up as an entertaining film and should be viewed as a good introduction its world and cyberpunk genre as a whole. Unfortunately, the big budget spectacle comes with a watered down plot. They tried to combine the original film and  tv series in one and, as a result, the film ends up not being strong in any particular direction. Nonetheless, I believe it succeeds at bringing the world of Ghost in the Shell to the new, wider audience and hopefully would encourage those who have not seen Mamoru Oshi’s 1995 film to… dive in.

Score: 7/10

Star Wars Battlefront Review

“I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.”

Journey to a galaxy far, far away…

This is Star Wars Battlefront, a game that revels in its own accuracy of being the most picturesque Star Wars game to date, along with very good sound design, and enchanting worlds to immerse yourself in. Yet, beyond the rusty exterior of its brilliant frontier; deficient substance takes this Star Wars game far, far away from what it should mean to be Battlefront.

“Just look at this…the ground, the vegetation, the California forest…oh wait there’s an AT-ST right there!”

Beauty On The Surface

Visuals
Let’s get the obvious out-of-the-way. This is the best looking Star Wars – no! This is the best looking video game I have played in years! From the shimmering and sheen of the ferns on the forest moon, to the finishing touches on the tutorial level (look off into the distance to see them!), this is by far got to be one of the most beautiful games I have ever played. The love DICE has for Star Wars is on open display. They’ve crafted the level of detail down to the finest of scratches from the original props themselves. Read my The Vanishing of Ethan Carter Review for more information on the technique behind the graphical prowess of both games. It’s hard to find any faults in Battlefront’s visuals. Aside from some repetition in the hallways of some maps, I’ll say it again, this is a god damn beautiful game. However, I can’t escape the feeling that too much effort went into making this game look like Star Wars, and they forgot about how a great Star Wars game should feel and play. All face value and not enough substance makes for realistic accomplishments of development milestones.

Sound Design
Sound design in Battlefront is Star Wars at its finest. Aside from the unbearable and hilarious voice acting of the heroes and villains, everything else is top-notch. Like the attention to detail in visuals, audio stays on target and immerses you in the ambiance. Blaster fire, vehicles, and sounds of the Ewoks running away from anyone nearby. The best sounds in the entire game come from thermal grenade explosions and the famous vehicle screams in the sky. This too helps to make Battlefront look and sound like Star Wars, but as I’m alluding to, it doesn’t cover up for the overcompensating in multiplayer the game provides.

“Don’t worry Lord Vader, I’ve got your back! Oh shit where did that impact grenade come from?”

Multiplayer

Keep It Battlefront Stupid
Star Wars Battlefront is simplified for a casual gamer, and tailored to your very excited Star Wars fan. However, I feel this approach to accessibility sacrifices proper game play design, class/ squad teamwork, adequate controls, and overall team balance. There’s no class system like in the former Battlefront games. Customization is limited to a few cards, weapons, and few appearance alterations. It is clear this game is attempting to reach as wide an audience as possible. And the game suffers in replay-ability and hopes to call fans back for new maps and game modes covering up for its lack of deep features and complexity. Games can be intricate and unique; that’s what makes them enjoyable and frantic. In scrapping god knows what from Battlefront 3, Star Wars Battlefront becomes quite stale and repetitive, and is simple to a fault.

Game Modes
Nine game modes span across only FOUR worlds. You can tell right away there is an obvious intent of the developers to recycle assets. The game modes offered are fun for a few rounds, I quickly lost interest in other game modes after about 20 hours of play. Walker Assault, Drop Zone, Cargo, and Supremacy being the most entertaining, while other modes like Droid Run or Blast seem to be unpopular and difficult to find people for matches. Many of these game modes are one-sided as unlocks are required to improve balance the more you play, and teamwork extends to dropping shields and blasting away at a Walker. While nine game modes sounds like a lot, and it is, only FOUR worlds speaks loudly to the consumer. But I’ll go on about this later towards the end of the review.

Game play Balance
For all of its wrongs, Battlefront does make a few rights. Game play is fun. Unlocks, and star cards make customizing your own soldier a battle of combinations in its own right, although these fun aspects of the game are hidden behind superficial customization such as pointless appearance unlocks, worthless emote unlocks, and a difficult to navigate user interface. With star cards you get a maximum of three cards per hand that allow you to pick and choose your load out that may include: a jetpack for a vertical advantage, or a star card that has limited amount of charges or uses. The ability to use a partner’s hand of cards allows you to use weapons and abilities to give your team an edge. Pretty soon I found myself just purchasing charges instead of purchasing what I really could use, better weaponry to counteract the unbalanced game play.

The release version of the game was quite unbalanced. Combat seemed to be most of the time who could land an impact grenade first, and exploit bad spawns with your barrage launcher. Spawns were also uneven, sometimes you’d spawn and get the jump on an enemy, and other times you’d spawn right into a metaphorical sarlak pit of enemies. One time I spawned as Princess Leia right in front of enemy storm troopers and only lasted about 10 seconds. DICE has since patched and made updates to balance, however my score reflects the release version of the game as that should be the final version!

“Spawn. Die. Repeat. Roll the DICE for a kill.”

Vehicular Man’s Laughter
Unbalanced combat falls to the ground and takes to the skies. There is a lack of rebel vehicles and support especially in-game modes that are dependent on vehicles and anti-vehicle weapons. Against all odd doesn’t really work well for rebels in the multiplayer arena. Anti vehicle weaponry is withheld to new players until later levels, which is counterproductive to the casual approach of the game.
Land vehicles like the AT-ST are fun to play while you can stay alive. Get in the right position and you can take out enemies from a far. However, I found myself dying quite quickly after spawning on Hoth. Even trying to hide behind a downed AT-AT couldn’t offer me any protection. It took awhile to find the vehicle pickup, and to be destroyed right after spawn was ridiculous.

Flying vehicles are equivalent to flying a Battlefield jet around in a death match map space. In the release version of the game, vehicles are too fast for the space you are given and controls are way to sensitive. If a game is made for PC, especially with the accessibility approach ever apparent, it’s surprising that flying vehicles are unnecessarily difficult to control. And that’s only the beginning. Speeder bikes for the forest moon of Endor are laughable. The controls are way too sensitive be default and using the mouse is a battle. Try steering a speeder bike and evading trees at the same time, hell I would crash into that tree myself! Controls and extra abilities from previous Battlefront games that made vehicles fun to use are gone.

Heroes & Villains!

You may be wondering about each character and how it affects game play. Well, as of release, picking the right Hero for the right game mode can result in long kill streaks. My longest streak lasted 20 kills with Luke Skywalker. Equally so with Darth Vader in the Beta. These characters are ridiculously good. But again, the game suffers unbalanced hero combat as players can dominate the field similar to a Call of Duty game. Time limits from the Beta should make a return.

Heroes
Luke Skywalker wields his Return of the Jedi light saber and wardrobe. He is the opposite to Lord Vader with similar powers to influence the battlefield. Han Solo shoots first with his DL-44. His attacks are: shoulder charge, lucky shot, and charged shot. Princess Leia is more of a team player hero, and can bring along with her Alderaan Body Guards, which is an interesting dynamic choice in battle. She can drop pickups and shields to support other players. This is really the most coordinated you’ll have to be during Battlefront if you are lucky to even be a hero, let alone see a hero pick up.

Villains
In contrast, Darth Vader is the most fun character to play. Carrying his red light saber and dawning his cape, he’ll show you the wicked powers of the dark side. He is the most daunting with his saber throw and force choke. Oh I cringe when I hear the sound of a thousand throat muscles constricting. Emperor Palpatine is the funniest of the character, no really. He is like a super villain out there. Shoot lightning from your fingers or spin through the air like that one time he did that in Episode III. Emperor also can spawn bodyguards to aid him in battle. He seems really out-of-place, but compliments Leia the only way DICE could. Boba Fett is quite powerful, and another good reason to bring back time limits for Heroes. His jet pack is stronger than any other unlock. He is able to fly around and can become an easy target, but can gather range kills staying back from the fight.

Singleplayer Has Lost Its Campaign

No campaign, just training, ai battles, and “survival” mode. What happened to EA’s directive of only putting games up for sale that have both singleplayer and multiplayer? For a game that costs $79.99 at retail value is unacceptable. Any sort of excuse for a singleplayer in Star Wars Battlefront feels rushed, and could’ve been way better. For brief moments we see cut scenes of small exposition for what could’ve been. As a fan of Star Wars, I know that story matters, and for a game that could’ve made a significant impact, it left out a critical piece of art. All that remains is the finest piece of junk in the galaxy.

Money Talks

I’ll have my next thousand words for you, but first, we’ll let these images do the talking to let your anger flow for the next paragraphs…

“God, is that what I think it is? OK going 3rd party for this. Got it for a decent $50.”

“Imagine what it costs for Australians. NO! It gets better!”

“………… …… ……. …….”

“No really…. ….. …… ….. … …”

Other Issues

Disconnect
Disconnection problems have been occurring since the beta. Keep in mind I’ve only had this problem with this game. An EA game of course. I couldn’t reconnect so much so that I’d just close up the game after at least 20 tries. You know normally you’d be able to connect effortlessly like with Battlefield, or hell, even in Titanfall, but this would boot you out after waiting 20 seconds in the pre match lobby. No, longer, even after the map loads! This was by far the most frustrating aspect of the game. And even DICE was like…ya you lost connection to “EA Servers” hey not us!

Beta and Release Sound Clipping
Another issue that occurred with an EA game was sound clipping. Once I got the sound clipping issue figured out, I could enjoy the music and the true breadth of sounds available. I had to raise the bit rate of audio output to the highest to remove the clipping issue. Why this would be like this in Beta and at release is beyond me. How could they have not heard this? View the sound clipping issue if you’d like in my Drop Zone Beta Game play video. Anyways I fixed it. I could peacefully try to tolerate everything, and try to enjoy the game.

“I find your lack of [content] disturbing”
On to the real light and dark of the matter. I find the game’s lack of… content… disturbing. I could talk for hours about this, but I like to start with this comparison as it shows two distributors for who they really are. Let’s compare Battlefront to a popular Valve title in Counter Strike Global Offensive (CS GO.) Which game has more maps? CS GO. Which game has more weapons? GS GO. Which game is multiplayer only? Both! Ah ha! And that’s when you really think to yourself well which game will have more longevity and community…obviously CS GO. Price tag for CSGO? $16.99 I think you know where I’m going with this one…

Seduced By The Dork Side
Oh and before I forget another obvious thing lets go into the price tags… for standard edition alone it will cost you $79.99 (CAN) for the base game, but wait there’s more! For $10 more at $89.99 you will get extra worthless content including a ridiculously overpowered and unbalanced weapon that will kill you in pretty much one hit. I’ve seen servers littered with this awp..i mean OP weapon. Next lets jump to the ULTIMATE EDITION which according to EA is “yeeeeee the most populahh” Jesus fucking Christ. You know, I’m supposed to be reviewing the game content in itself, but this is god damn ridiculous. You know what I’m reviewing? The price tag for the game content that should be there! Cough up $159.98 (CAN) for the base game, worthless unlocks you can get while playing the game, and a season pass ($69.99 CAN) we know absolutely nothing about! This game should be worth $49.99 max. This has to be malpractice in the gaming industry. This is unethical. This is, oh what the hell, you’ll buy it anyway eh? IT’S A TRAP!

Less Is More?
If the ol’ saying “less is more” is fundamental to the way Star Wars is, then EA has seduced fans into purchasing less for more. EA. It’s in the game……if you pay $159.98 that is. For a publisher that once had the slogan…”Challenge Everything,” they have fallen off the side of their flat earth on this flat world view they now have of the average consumer. It seems like ever since they released Battlefield Premium, they could slowly raise the price of add on content, and gouge us as if we’d never notice. No wonder this company has gathered so much distaste.


Return of The Review

Load up a map and you’ll fall in love with the world you’re in because the fan boy in you will love that it looks and sounds like Star Wars. It’s a love hate. Feel me, I enjoy this game. Battlefront offers enjoyment in small bursts, and is fun to play for awhile. But any enjoyment fizzles out, because really this game was rushed/ realistically put together to cash in with the release of The Force Awakens. There were several years before, in which this game could’ve used to become legendary, but instead the developers chose to focus on what would sell the game to the fan boys and suckers who would buy this game in a heartbeat. In no way can you say this game lives up to the hype and the quality of its predecessors, because any positive would be followed up with an over glaring negative. We like to think less is more in the original trilogy, well at least Star Wars Battlefront lives up to that.

Light
Beautiful environments
Quality sound design
Heroes and Villians are fun to play for awhile
9 gamemodes for different ways to play the game

Dark
Lack of content: only 4 worlds, no campaign,
Difficult PC controls for flying vehicles
Superficial customization
Balance issues, lack of teamwork required
Doesn’t live up to its predecessor, especially with modern standards for quality


 

Final Score 2.5 / 5

Buy it if you are a hardcore Star Wars fan!
Buy it from 3rd party for more respectable price, or later on sale if you can wait.
Don’t buy it if you have a distaste for EA, this will only fuel your hatred!

Ori and the Blind Forest: First Impressions

ori-and-the-blind-forest-wallpapersLadies, gents, and other such creatures, news be good! We have an awesome-ass game to review today! Ori and the Blind Forest is the subject of today’s ass kissery. This awesome little ball of luminescent fun is a 2D platformer. You’re Ori, a forest cat-like spirit, running through multiple levels, solving puzzles, and fighting enemies along the way with your little balls of energy.

Naru adopts Ori
Naru adopts Ori

The plot starts off on a stormy night when Ori is released into the world from the spirit tree, Nibel. An ape-like creature called Naru finds Ori and adopts him. They live together for a short while happily, until a cataclysmic event takes place. The tree of life releases a powerful light signal which was meant to summon Ori. However, living and growing up with Naru, Ori ignores the signal. On that night, a vengeful Owl called Kuro steals the light source from the life tree. The forest starts to slowly die, and Ori has to go on a quest to retrieve the light.

First things first. This game is absolutely GORGEOUS. It is a visual orgasm through and through. The colours, textures, effects are absolutely magnificent. Coupled with those, you have a really haunting and beautiful soundtrack by Gareth Coker. The combination of the visual and musical quality really immerses you into a fairy tale world of beauty and wonder. You can genuinely forget that you’re sitting in your chair playing a game, and you can just sink into the innocent and wonderful beauty the narrative delivers. I’m not one to usually rave about graphics, as I do generally feel that they don’t contribute all that much to games. But in this case, they are actually a part of the game. They enhance the immersive and poetic experience of the game. Unbelievably great job, 10/10!

Now, as for the actual gameplay experience, it is also very solid. It’s pretty standard as far as platformers go. You run around, jump over obstacles, fight the odd enemy, try and solve puzzles and tricky obstacles. The controls are pretty straight forward. You have your directional buttons, jump, and shoot. Nothing too fancy or difficult. You also use the mouse to target your enemies, which is also quite easy. Ori Main shot

 

What makes it stand out as a platformer is all the upgrades and nifty little mechanics. When you complete certain levels, you run into spirit trees, which more often than not will give you some kind of power up. The ability to break obstacles, do a double jump, climb and slide down walls, etc. While most of these mechanics are nothing new to the genre, when integrated effectively, they make the gameplay very enjoyable. Your path forward isn’t always clear, so a lot of times you have to experiment with what you can and can not do, and the ambiguity gives you the feeling that you’re exploring the world rather than just being guided through it, which is a big plus.

Unlocking abilities from the  spirit trees
Unlocking abilities from the spirit trees

There’s also nifty abilities which let you interact with the environment. One such is Bash Attack. Bash Attack allows you to use an enemy or an enemy projectile to give yourself a boost in any direction (which you control with the mouse). It also serves the dual purpose of redirecting the projectile attack, or pushing away the enemy. While in a lot of games like Devil May Cry and God of War this mechanic is nothing new, Ori does it in a way which feels FREE of a determined path. You can use the ability to do some really cool evasive tricks, you can do it to fling your enemies to their death, you can do it to get to some really high-to-reach places. You can do it to just evade attacks, or solve puzzles.

Ori uses Bash Attack to propel himself upwards
Ori uses Bash Attack to propel himself upwards
Ori uses an enemy projectile to make an impossible jump
Ori uses an enemy projectile to make an impossible jump

 

Again, this is a big plus for the game. I feel like I can explore this world at my own leisure. I can accumulate all these nifty abilities, and just go wondering around at my own pace. I don’t have to worry about following the guided path, accumulating points, or other trivial things like that. I can just immerse myself, and that’s a really big win for any gaming experience.

The leveling system is very simple and straight forward. You don’t have to be a big game buff to understand how it works. You have three different sets of skills: Offensive, Finding resources, Agile abilities. You pick which one you feel like you need at the time, and you just click. This contrasts greatly from games like Final Fantasy where you need 10 years of experience, a PhD, and an optimal combinations simulator to make the right decisions in your ability leveling.

Leveling up Ori's abilities
Leveling up Ori’s abilities

 

So there we have it. I’ve only beaten the first third of the game, so I can’t lay down the final word until I reach the end. But as is, the game is fantastic. I’ve loved everything about it through and through. It’s beautiful, it’s alluring, it’s fun to play. It’s simple to understand and play, yet there are parts which will challenge you both in problem solving, and in just accomplishing difficult agile tasks. You get a perfect balance of both. It’s not too hard, and it’s not too easy, and it sure as hell is fun. Also, more likely than not, it will hit the feels. The story seems well written so far, and it definitely gets quite emotional and poetic on a few counts. I strongly recommend it, it’s probably one of the best games I’ve played in the last three years.

Enjoy 🙂

(HD, please ^^ )

 

Ex Machina: A Review

Reviewed by Vladi

Ladies, gentlemen, and other such creatures, summer is here and with it the promise of decent cinema. In the glorious month of May there are a few exciting releases. It’s easy to get overshadowed by the hype of blockbuster giants such as Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Mad Max. However, one pretty kick ass movie also came out recently which is well wort our notice.

I’m talking about Ex Machina. The movie is directed by Alex Garland, best known for 28 Days Later, and Dredd. If none of those movies add credibility to his name for you, take away this: the man’s a master of mood and suspense. He orchestrates his films very precisely and knows exactly how he wants you to feel and think through each separate scene. In that sense, his films feel very complete and very unified. Kind of like an album that’s an album and not just a casual selection of songs. In that respect, Ex Machina is no exception.

The plot should be no mystery to most people. It is the not too distant future and we are developing AI. Nathan (Oscar Isaac), a search engine mogul invites Calep (Domhnall Gleeson), one of his top employees, over to his house/lab to help him test the most advanced AI made to date, Ava (Alicia Vikander). Unlike simpler AI, she doesn’t have just a narrow question-response programming, but instead she is developed to form a consciousness of her own. So it’s up to Calep to interact with her and to see if she can pass the Touring test, a test developed by Alan Turing to see if an AI can fool a human into thinking that it’s a human. And that’s it. Do robots dream of electric sheep?

I think AI has been addressed a lot of times in cinema, with movies like A.I. (duh), Kubrick’s Space Odyssey, Bladerunner, I Robot, Transcendence, Ghost in The Shell, and more recently, Chappie. And while many of those movies pose good questions about the nature of A.I. and its impact on the human condition, Ex Machina takes it a step further to try and visualize what it would mean to have true A.I. What would it mean to birth a consciousness into our world? What would it mean to give that consciousness access to the internet, the most condensed source of information that we have? And more importantly, what would this A.I. think of us? How would it react towards us. Would it like us or hate us? Would it want to befriend us or destroy us? These are questions that I find can be absolutely chilling if you begin to comprehend just what the answers might be, and this movie does a great job of flirting with some of them.

Am I human? How do I know I’m not a robot?

The pacing is absolutely perfect. No scenes are fillers, none of them drag, and none of them are cheap. The mounting tension is handled very professionally, gradually building without your notice. An effect reinforced by a very solid soundtrack which has a narrative of its own. You could take this movie, play it on mute, and just play the soundtrack with it and it would still make sense. The music fits the story like a glove, and adds goosebumps up and down your spine on more than one occasion.

The cinematography also deserves a nod as the shots are set up beautifully. There’s a strangely calm and quiet grace with which the scenes follow one another. For a movie that’s a thriller, the shots are very calm and composed. Almost meditative. Yet that seems to only draw you into the movie more, making you want to jump in the protagonist’s shoes and make his decisions for him rather than just watch as a spectator.

This movie was a lot of fun. It is beautiful to look at, it will get you thinking, it will explore a very interesting concept, and it will probably disturb you on a few occasions, something that I think is the hallmark of any good sci-fi-the ability to shake your confidence in the world you live in. 4/5, very well made. Go give the theaters your money!

By the end of this movie, this scene should probably haunt you. Despite the movie being a thriller, there’s a lot of moments that just stand out on their own. Just so well constructed that they put you in a temporary state of awe and wonder.

Daredevil: The Series

Review by: Vladi Ardenski

So, living through the drought of springtime cinema, I decided to turn my gaze towards TV series so that I can make it through my movie withdraw. So I decided to spend a week in between Game of Thrones episodes to see Netflix’s Daredevil. A friend of mine recommended it and said it was a good watch. And shamelessly having nothing better to do with my time, I pursued this endeavor openheartedly.

Marvel’s Daredevil needs little introduction, but for those of you unaware, it is the origins story of Matt Murdock. Having suffered an accident as a child, he was blinded, but the toxic material that touched his eyes gave him extensively heightened senses. He can hear people’s heartbeats, any noises around him create a sonar-like experience where he can technically see without seeing. He is very strong and agile, and well versed in hand to hand combat.

Having his father murdered as a child, he decides to become a lawyer so that he can fight for justice. Along with his best friend Franklin “Foggy” Nelson and their mutual friend and colleague, Karen Page, they try to bring down the crime lord, Wilson Fisk, more commonly known in the Marvel universe as the Kingpin.

The episodes are done quite well and keep you asking for more. The characters are interesting and intriguing. Both Karen and Foggy have their own significant place in the story, and aren’t just mere sidekick backdrops as is common in other TV series. The main lead is done very well also. Charlie Cox does a great job being both charming and intriguing. He has an interesting duality going on for him. One moment he’s a quiet dignified lawyer, placating you with his calm and soothing voice, the next he’s beating some guy senseless, telling them to get their shit together with a Batman voice. Also, red Ozzy glasses. +5pts.

What’s a good superhero without a good supervillain? Vincent D’Onforio knocks it out of the park as Wislon Fisk, Daredevil’s main adversary. I gotta say, I think his performance is the best by far in this whole show. He is a big, mean looking guy, yet he seems so vulnerable and morally conflicted at times. I really didn’t know to make of him for the first few episodes. Then slowly, bit by bit, you see his violent psychopath come out. And even then, he bounces between the two personalities, always keeping you guessing which one you are going to get. Very fun character to watch. Great performance.

I gotta say I enjoyed this series quite a lot. It isn’t no Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad, but compared to some of the other superhero series we’ve gotten, (Gotham anyone? *shudder*) this show is pretty decent. The action is fun and well choreographed, the dialogue and character interactions are well done, and there’s more than a few moments where the episodes end on such a high note that you just gotta say “f*ck work/school in the morning” and play the next one. In my humble opinion, the show starts to loose a bit of steam near the end. The phrases “I have to protect this city,” “I will rebuild this city,” “This city needs me,” “Fisk can’t get away with it,” become one too many to bare. And to be fair, it’s an origins story, so it does a lot of setting up for Season 2, and there is more than one interesting plot point that really has me looking forward for more.

Also, Rosario Dawson is in this, and if like me, you think she is some ancient sex Goddess born again, being the epitome of all that is sexy and awesome, you’ll probably enjoy her appearances. 

Rosario Tax.

Chappie: A Review

Do androids dream of electric sheep? Do celebrities make bad actors? Does a dog lick its own balls? Yes, and so does Chappie. 

Chappie is a film written and directed by Neill Blomkamp. It stars Sharlto Copley as Chappie, Dev Patel as Deon Wilson, Chappie’s creator, and Hugh Jackman as an angry, steroid ridden, ridiculously terrible antagonist who doesn’t deserve a name. Also, Die Antwoord, but more of that later.

The movie takes place in Johannesburg, where crime has been rampant. With the help of new police Scout Droids, however, the government has been able to establish order again. Deon Wilson, brilliant young programmer is the designer of these scouts. And while happy with his success, he is more interested in creating AI that can feel and think for itself. An AI that can develop its own emotions and own personality. Enter Chappie.

On the other side of town, we have Die Antwoord, a small group of heist criminals. They get in a bit of trouble with the local gangs, and need something short of a miracle to get out of a massive loan that’s hanging over their heads. How can they hope to steal enough money in time to pay their way out of death? Enter Chappie.

For those of you unfamiliar with Die Antwoord, they are a South African hip hop duo known for their explicit lyrics and music videos. They have a pretty crazy sound and image. Apparently the director was a big fan, so he decided they had to be in his movie. But to act a certain role, or to do a small cameo? No. They are more or less the main characters and spotlight of this film when Chappie isn’t yammering away in his awesome South African accent. They don’t even act, they just play themselves. And while they can be highly entertaining at times, there’s no hiding the fact that they are plain ridiculous.  They can’t act, and their personas don’t really have a place in this movie.

To the movie’s credit, it asks a lot of interesting questions about AI. It brings up the notion that personality, human or otherwise, may one day be boiled down to a highly complex mathematical algorithm. It asks some good questions about what makes us truly human, truly ourselves and not someone else. It makes a very good case for sentient machines being more than just that. In that regard, the movie truly does deserve a thumbs up.

Also, I would be doing a great disservice to Sharlto Copley if I didn’t mention how good his performance was in this. Any scene we have Chappie in, it’s hard to imagine that somebody actually acted out his performance. That he wasn’t just merely created like that, the perfect, endearing, little robot. His mannerisms, gestures and voice are absolutely spot on. Any scene he’s in, he absolutely steals the screen for the better. He could actually make me forget about the Die Antwoord parts of the movie and make me feel like I’m watching a good film again. However, inevitably, the Die Antwoord parts kept coming in, louder, and dumber in sequence.

Much like District 9, Blomkamp’s last successful film, you have a very good idea and concept which is executed very poorly. The narrative simply doesn’t carry its own weight. The writing is outright laughable in many parts. Any scene with Hugh Jackman is absolutely cringe worthy. Don’t get me wrong, Hugh Jackman is a GREAT actor. But in this film, everything he has to work with is a train wreck. Even the tone is all over the place. You go from Disney/Spielberg “aww” moments, to slapstick comedy, to people being graphically disembodied, to heart-wrenching drama… It really feels all over the place. The movie’s tone and direction are definitely not unified and defined.

If you got a Friday night to kill and there’s nothing better, this movie might be worth your dollar. It should give you a few good laughs, make you ponder a question or two. As long as you don’t take it too seriously, you might actually enjoy yourself. But don’t look for a proper film here.

Sorry, ol’ Chap.

 

 

Eulogy for Tinder

Late night drunken swipers,
Harbingers of cheesy pick-up liners,
Sugar daddy seekers,
And enthusiastic dick picsters,

This song is for you.

The infamous “Fuck You” screen of “Give Me Money.”

We are gathered here today to celebrate the death of noble Tinder. To speak of the countless crappy dates and one night stands this service has provided would not do its three year life justice. For those of you noble enough not to have used this app, I salute you. For others of less noble and slightly more desperate temperament such as myself, in the last two days we have had to face the harsh truth: the death of our hated friend.

For you noble few who have not tread the Tinder roads of desperation, Tinder is a “dating” app created in 2012. It works on a very simple principle. You are shown pictures of people, and you swipe left if you aren’t interested, and swipe right if you are interested. Once you like someone who also likes you back, you are able to start a chat conversation with them. It’s a relatively shallow app, but it did what dating apps are supposed to do, and that’s getting people to meet and talk. Profile accounts are usually made up of silly emoji, height requirements, where’s Waldo picture hunts, and the overall immaterial. So why the grief for this silly little app? Because despite it’s numerous shortcomings, it provided a very simple and somewhat fun way of meeting people.

A few days ago, Tinder decided to release a new patch that would provide users with the option of upgrading to Tinder Plus. Tinder Plus provides several new features such as Passport, a feature which lets you change your location whenever you want, with the purpose of hooking up with people in different countries and cities. You are on a business trip to Moscow, and you want to make love to man like bear? Say no more. You’ll have a hairy, tall Cossack waiting for you at the airport. Also, you can now go back on your swipe if you swiped yes/no by accident, making sure you don’t miss out on that one special (really hot) person that you feel you might have had a genuine connection (seen them naked) with.  And lastly, you can swipe “yes” to as many people as you want.

BUT WAIT, Mr. Author dude, isn’t that already part of the App? Well, my thoughtful reader, t’is not the case any longer. While Tinder originally didn’t have a swipe ceiling, the new Tinder Plus has ~100 likes before you are blocked from further liking for 12 hours. But it doesn’t HAVE to be this way, you can pay the low monthly fee of $16.99 (Canada), or $30.00 if you’re above 30, just to remind you that you are old, less in demand, and have money that you can give us.

For anyone who uses this app, you’ll know that ceiling is way to low, and to viably use this app to find a decent hook up or date, you need at least two to three times that number. This is a pay-to-play in disguise. It’s when a developer releases a “free” app, which you can technically use for free, however, to really enjoy or benefit from said app, you have to pay. You’re given just a little taste of what you want, and then you’re shown the barrier you can cross for only the small, monthly fee of $X.

I have a job, I make enough money to enjoy a decent life. But to pay $16.99 to just swipe through pictures is absurd to put it at its lightest. There are many alternative apps (maybe not as popular) that provide the same service and more for free. I’m sure that within the next year we’ll see the stocks of Tinder plummet, and some new copy-cat rival will take over what was until now a very popular and lucrative business.

Like most new upstarts, they tried to rise too fast, too greedy. Rest in cyberspace peace, Tinder, thou greedy devil.