Video Game Review: Back to the Future: The Game

Details: Released in 2010. Played it on the PC. Purchased for about five dollars. Five episodes in total that took about two hours each to beat.

When you hear the name Telltale Games (and know a little about video games) you think about games like the Walking Dead. You think about games with branching plot lines, meaningful choices that change major plot points in the game and cause alternate endings. Back to the Future: The Game is not one of those games. You need to remember that this game predates The Walking Dead game. Back to the Future: The Game is a very traditional adventure game that follows a single, linear plot line. Fortunately, that plot line is decent.

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Movie Review: Your Name

Details: The Japanese title is Kimi No Na Wa. Released in 2016. About an hour and forty-five minutes long. Written and directed by Makoto Shinkai.

The first time I tried to watch this movie was on an airplane. About fifteen minutes in I found it too boring and opted to take a nap instead. Prior to that, I had read a lot of positive reviews about this movie and of its director, Makoto Shinkai. Shinkai has won a lot of awards in the past for his work in animation and I’d seen his prior movie, 5 Centimeters Per Second. Well, some time has passed since that plane ride and I decided to sit down and give the film another try. I found the film much more enjoyable this time.

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Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Details: Released in 2017. A little under two hours and twenty minutes long. Stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista.

I think what needs to be understood about this movie is that this is a fun movie. This is a comedy. If you’re looking for a serious story or a space opera, this isn’t it. There are some emotional points throughout the movie, but if you take the few moments of drama with the overwhelming amount of jokes and fourth wall breaking moments, it’s clear this is not a super serious film.

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TV Show Review: Rick and Morty, All Episodes Including Season 1, 2, and Season 3, Episode 1, “The Rickshaw Redemption”

Details: Airs on Cartoon Network. Each episode is about twenty-two minutes long. Each season has about eleven episodes.

On April 1, I was looking forward to watching the newest episode of Samurai Jack. I’m a long time Samurai Jack fan. To my surprise and to the surprise of viewers everywhere, the newest episode of Rick and Morty aired instead of Samurai Jack. I’ve never watched Rick and Morty before, but I’ve heard good things. I didn’t watch the episode that night and, instead, binge watched the first two seasons of Rick and Morty before eventually watching the newest episode, “The Rickshaw Redemption.”

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Mass Effect 2 Is Free On EA Origin

Public service announcement: Mass Effect 2 is free on Origin, Electronic Arts’ video game platform for the PC. If you haven’t played it before, I would strongly suggest you do. It’s one of my favorite games of all time. I wrote something about it prior, but I don’t recommend you read it if you haven’t played because of spoilers.

Here’s the link: https://www.origin.com/usa/en-us/store/mass-effect/mass-effect-2/standard-edition

Here’s the trailer:

Comic Book Review: We3

Details: Purchased the trade paperback which collected all three issues. Listed price is $12.99. Released in 2005. Official site is http://www.vertigocomics.com/graphic-novels/we3

I originally read this book a few years ago and forgot about it. More recently, as I was looking for a gift for an artist friend of mine who loves animals, I decided to pick this book up for her and to also give it a quick read through again. Thus, this review.

This is a really great book. It won a bunch of accolades that first year it came out. It won the Eisner Awards for best art and letterer. It is a New York Times best seller, which isn’t very common for comic books. Most importantly, it was written by Grant Morrison and drawn by Frank Quitely, two of the most well-known and respected creators in comic books who have a whole collection of top-selling books under their belts.

The premise is this: A dog, a cat, and a rabbit are cybernetically enhanced by the U.S. military into killing machines. When they are ordered to be terminated, the three escape and try to make their way “home.”

It’s like the movie Homeward Bound, but a little more science fiction-y and R rated. I think a large reason why it sold so well and was so well received was that at its core, it’s a story about animals. I think I wouldn’t be alone to say that while it isn’t primarily an animal rights story, the story does a great job getting the reader to feel for these animals.

The art is amazing. Frank Quitely almost always amazes and some of the panels and fold out art in this book are stunning. Off the top of my head, I cannot think of another book that has art this good. Some of the violence is pretty graphic though, so keep that in mind if you intend on letting younger reader read this book.

In conclusion, this is a great book that anyone who likes comic books should give a read. I purchased the trade paperback which collects all three issues into one book. I think this is only way that this book should be purchased. The trade paperback came with some sketches and comments from the author, which I generally enjoy.

Score: 8/10

Movie Review: The Matrix

Details: About two hours and sixteen minutes long. Stars Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Hugo Weaving.

I watched this movie again the other day and I decided to write a review. I thought a lot about whether or not to include spoilers in this review and decided that this movie had such a profound impact upon me, that the reveals in this film were so integral to the film that this needed to be spoiler free.

I first watched this film back around the year 2000. I did not watch it in theaters, but on video. Somehow, despite the ridiculous popularity of this film at the time, no one spoiled it for me. When I eventually did watch this film, it was in it’s whole, unspoiled glory. I then understood why everyone I knew was buying Matrix sunglasses, wearing black trench coats, and admiring overpriced cell phones. This movie was transformative for me. I must have watched this video over one hundred times. I watched this film to the point where I memorized every single word of dialogue spoken by any character. It was insane. I had never seen such a movie as this. Fast forward to a few nights ago when I decided to give it another watch and this movie still holds up wonderfully. Despite its age, this movie is still one of the greatest films I’ve ever seen.

The premise is this: a hacker (played by Keanu Reeves) is contacted by a mysterious figure named Morpheus (played by Laurence Fishburne) who offers to reveal the truth about this world. That’s really all you need. There are so many reveals in this movie that anything more might take away from the film.

It’s been so long that many people likely forget the impact this film had on the movie industry. This film was one of the first films to truly show what computer generated effects are capable of. This film coined the term “bullet time,” where we not only go into slow motion, but the camera moves around while the characters are moving in slow motion. This was something that before this point had never been done nor been done this well.

However, where this film shines and truly elevates itself to a timeless classic is in its practical effects. I’ve watched the behind the scenes featurettes on this film and what they went through to create some of these scenes is amazing. Reeves, Moss, Fishburne and Weaving spent months with legendary fight choreographer Yuen Wo Ping and his team training in martial arts and wire work in preparation for this film. Their efforts are apparent in this film and add an authenticity and realism that is often done wrongly in other films. There are not a lot of Western films that can portray Chinese style martial arts action well, but this is one of them. It is a joy to watch these action scenes.

I’d love to talk more about the action but I don’t want to spoil this film if I can help it. All I can say is prepare yourself for guns and kung fu.

And we haven’t even gotten to the performances. While Keanu is certainly a wet blanket, the rest of the cast do an incredible job. Most notably, Hugo Weaving does one of the most iconic performances of a villain in cinema history. His performance reminds me of Carl Sagan with a little more evil added in.

It’s just such a great movie with such a unique, memorable tone. This movie oozes style and throughout the film, I was reminded of ideas and images from comic books and anime that I’d seen before. It just attempts so many things and had so many imitators subsequently try to copy what this film achieves.

If you have any doubt whether or not you should watch this film, don’t. Go watch this film. Do no ask anyone about their opinions nor should you go and search the internet for anything regarding the film. Rest assured this is a great movie and one of the greatest action movies ever made. It is so good, so forward thinking that it easily holds up, even now.

Score: 9.6/10

Movie Review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Details: Over two hours long. Stars Felicity Jones and Diego Luna.

The first thought I had after watching this movie was… why did they make this movie? I know it’s obviously for money. Disney paid a billion dollars for the Star Wars franchise so they have to milk that cow, but I don’t think this movie needed to be made. It didn’t tell a story I needed to hear.

The premise is this: Jyn Urso is found by the rebel alliance and sent on a mission to find her father who has information on the empire’s new super weapon. In the overall Star Wars timeline, this takes place after Revenge of the Sith and before A New Hope.

I felt like this movie should have been a book or a comic book, not a full fledged movie. It’s just a side story that doesn’t push the overall Star Wars narrative in any direction. I feel like nothing was accomplished here.

I can see that they were trying to achieve a grittier, more realistic, more personal story. Unfortunately, there are so many characters we barely get to know anyone. I think in genres like science fiction of fantasy, character development is the crux of these types of stories. Character development was severely lacking here and I didn’t feel anything when bad things happened to the characters.

The actors give fine performances. The weakness of this film was just the story. The whole film felt like one big wink wink, nudge nudge towards existing Star Wars fans with constant references to the other movies. This movie is fan service. Unless you are a hardcore Star Wars fan, I probably wouldn’t recommend this movie.

Score: 5/10

Movie Review: Arrival

Details: Released in 2016. Runs for around two hours. Stars Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner.

Arrival is a movie that relies entirely on its big reveal. It’s like The Matrix or Fight Club in that if the big reveal/ending is somehow revealed to you, watching this movie becomes infinitely less meaningful. This movie only works because of the big reveal. Accordingly, I will do my best to avoid any narrative elements and plot points in this review.

So what can I talk about? Well, this film is undoubtedly classic science fiction film. Starwars, despite arguments to the contrary, is not classic science fiction. Starwars is fantasy that takes place in space. Star Trek is science fiction as is Arrival. Classic science fiction takes thing like space travel, time travel, alternate dimensions, aliens, etc., and not only takes us on a journey to the fantastic, it is introspective. Science fiction is supposed to take a fantastic idea and use it to examine the themes of our own lives. Classic science fiction says something about the state of our existence. In the Arrival, there is not only aliens, but there is a clearly message being conveyed about the nature of our own existence. I greatly enjoyed this message or how the film tried to express it.

The premise is this: a renowned linguist is recruited to try and communicate with aliens that have landed on Earth.

The film goes into some elements of how language works, but not to deeply. I think this was the right approach and avoided the mistake Interstellar perpetrated. Most people are not experts in language or physics, so what a film should do is to lightly go into a subject, just enough to give the audience a taste but not enough to bore the audience. Arrival achieved this balance.

The cinematography is great. Some great shots of the space ships and landscapes. The film felt very epic at times.

In regards to the editing, I’ll just say that while most of it is good, some of it felt gimmicky. This film attempts and achieves something that I both appreciate and felt gimmicky to me. After seeing what was done in this film, I’m probably not going to appreciate any other films that attempt something similar for the near future.

The actors are fine. In order to convey the tone and message this film attempts, their performances needed to be a little muted. I get that. I don’t think anyone should win any Oscars for their performances though.

Score: 7.3/10 It’s hard to say whether or not I’d recommend this film. I enjoyed it, but it is a one trick pony. Once you get the reveal, you may want to watch it again to see it from a different perspective. Otherwise, it’s a one and done, kind of like Cloverfield. The entertainment value of this film lies in watching it in that first, unspoiled viewing.

Movie Review: Star Trek Beyond

Of the three Star Trek reboot movies (including Star Trek Beyond), I think the first one is easily the best. When going to see it, there was this anticipation of what J.J. Abrams was going to do with this franchise. What we got was a welcome, modernized re-imagining of Star Trek with a healthy dose of heart. Star Trek: Into Darkness stepped away from that to retread some old ground and retell an old, but fan favorite story. Star Trek Beyond steps even further away from the heart in the 2009 Star Trek film and delivers a films that feels like an episode of the TV series, except with a bigger budget.

The premise is this: the Enterprise crew answer a distress call in an uncharted nebula, then plot twists occur. It’s a basic story.

I feel like there were an inordinate amount of jokes in this movie. Which is fine as long as you throw in the requisite amount of drama to  buttress that. They did not. I walked away from this movie entertained, but ultimately feeling like this was a pointless movie. There was no real overall progression or meaningful character development with the crew.

Some additional notes:

Interesting that Sulu is now officially gay married and has a kid. I’m sure George Takei is happy about that.

Lot of dead red shirts in this movie. Kind of odd how little the primary cast feels so little for these dead extras. Also promotes that TV show feel rather than the feature film feel.

Villain had an interesting plot twist, but not enough to make him matter.

Inclusion of modern music and calling it classical was a nice attempt at a joke that fell flat with my audience.

Special effects were on point. Nice job.

Score: 5.8/10 Ultimately, this was an entertaining movie. In my opinion, there were no narrative reasons for this movie to be made. Clearly a film made just for the money, not because there was a story that needed be told.