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All reviews - Movies (6) - TV Shows (2) - Books (2) - Games (2)

Ghost in the Shell review

Posted : 6 months, 3 weeks ago on 27 March 2018 10:17 (A review of Ghost in the Shell)

Let me start this review by pointing out the obvious: Western adaptations of Japanese manga and anime have a very bad reputation among viewers, both casual and hardcore, because they don't properly adapt the source material and because they are overall bad. Since I'm not familiar with the original manga or its anime adaptations, I'll do my best to judge this movie by its own merits rather than any preconceptions about what should be or shouldn't be in it.

Spoiler alert!

The movie is set in a world where the line between flesh and technology becomes more blurred and thin, with people outfitting themselves with cybernetic implants and parts to enhance their physical and mental prowess. The protagonist, Major Mira Killian, is part of a special unit that works to prevent the misuse of such technology and comes across a terrorist threat that might hold a clue about her forgotten past.

Aside from my lack of familiarity with the source material, another thing that prevents me from getting fully invested in the premise is my reluctance towards the cyberpunk genre. The idea of a dark, cynical atmosphere with highly advanced technology, corporations enslaving the common people and a stoic, emotionally disinterested protagonist is a tough sell to a modern mainstream audience. It can be done but, then again, that argument goes both ways.

The sole positive aspect of this movie's presentation is the visual effects, which are absolutely beautiful. The advertisements, machines and environments are the only thing the movie does justice. Everything else is awful. The dialogue is 50% exposition about the world these characters inhabit and 50% pointless conversations about themes like humanity vs technology, quest for identity, companionship, etc. Also, the movie tries to remind you of its title by inserting some variation of "Ghost in the Shell'' into a conversation.

The acting is dull and borderline lifeless. The actors are just reading lines from a script, there's barely any humanity or nuance in their performances and if the intention was for them to come off as stiff and robotic as the machines that surrounded, then congratulations! I don't think Scarlett Johansson is a bad actress, but she's pretty bad in this movie. She makes no effort to inject some of her charisma into her performance and her character has no noticeable development throughout the movie. The only actor with a genuinely good performance here is Takeshi Kitano, who only has a supporting part in this movie.

There are two villains in this movie: first, there is the aforementioned terrorist connected to the Major's past and then there's an evil businessman who just wants to get rich. I'm utterly baffled by the movie's willingness to paint the terrorist as a victim of society when the Major points out that he has broken the law and endangered innocents. As for the second villain, he comes off as clichéd and unoriginal and only antagonizes the Major because the movie realizes the terrorist has become too sympathetic and still needs a villain to fill out its runtime. The final battle is likely to remind some of RoboCop's fight with the ED-209.

As for the movie's big twist, the Major is Motoko Kusanagi. No, seriously, that's her name. According to the manga, "Motoko Kusanagi" is an obvious pseudonym and the Major's real name is left unrevealed, but because the movie lazily tries to tie into the manga it's based on, we're left with this so-called reveal that just barely qualifies as fanservice for manga fans.

Since I haven't read the manga or watched the anime, comparing this movie to the source material would be unfair, so I tried to interpret it as a standalone movie and nothing more. Even so, is this a good movie? No, it isn't. It's lifeless, bland and doesn't have anything to keep viewers on the edge of their seats. Skip it.


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Tomb Raider review

Posted : 6 months, 3 weeks ago on 25 March 2018 06:08 (A review of Tomb Raider)

There were two reasons as to why I watched this movie: the 2013 reboot game, which I played back when I had a PS3, and Alicia Vikander, who has shaped up to be one of my favorite actresses of this last decade. Honestly, I wasn't expecting much from a movie adaptation of a video game, because that is a very ambitious undertaking and movies based on video games have a bad reputation among moviegoers and gamers alike. Since there is too much material to be adapted from the game, it's obvious the movie is gonna cut off some elements to fit a 2-hour runtime.

Spoiler alert!

The premise is that Lara's father has disappeared since she was a child, leaving Lara to grow up resentful of him and trying to live outside the legacy and fortune he left for her. Upon receiving a message left by her father, Lara embarks on a journey to find him and discover what exactly her father had gotten himself into. This leads her to the strange island of Yamatai, where a group of mercenaries try to use her father's research to uncover a mystery about an ancient Japanese queen that could destroy the world.

In the original game, Lara went in that journey because she was already a rookie adventurer and her father had died years ago, so the movie has to modify her origin story more palatable to the average viewer. I'm not really upset by this but it's bound to make some hardcore fans angry that a significant chunk of Lara's agency and independence was removed.

Alicia delivers a strong performance as Lara. It's clear that Alicia trained for months to get fit for the part and the action scenes are impressive and believable. I had trouble buying into her transformation into a rugged action heroine, but again, it's a bit understandable because of difficulties of making a movie based on a video game. Since this is an origin story, we only see bits and pieces of the action heroine she will become until the climax and by the end, it's clear her development hasn't yet concluded and she still has a long way to go.

Lara's interactions with the supporting characters are corny, hackneyed and bit humorous. Every once in a while, however, they do hit the mark in terms of emotional payoff, especially in regards to Lara's father. Alicia has good chemistry with the supporting characters even the writing is pretty standard, friendship/family stuff.

I admit I didn't really hate the villain as much as the movie wanted me to. As it turns out, he is being manipulated by some evil organization that wants to control the world from the shadows and he wants to leave Yamatai so he can see family again, which is kinda similar to Lara arriving at Yamatai to see her father again. Since he is getting desperate, he antagonizes Lara and her father, making the conflict between them feel bland and forced.

The movie removes any trace of magic or supernatural elements from the series. The curse of Himiko is actually a virus and Himiko willingly entombed herself in Yamatai to prevent a large-scale pandemic. I had trouble accepting this, because I played the original game, and Himiko's powers are crucial element in the climax. Since this a more grounded, realistic take on the series, it's change that you gotta see with a little bit of understanding but it comes off as cheap and a bit of a safe route. The supernatural element is important in the game, so it would have been nice for the movie to introduce it in a creative manner rather than cutting it off entirely.

Movies based on video games are always risky bets for the movie industry and if you watch them, you should at least be a bit soft on them and judge them by their own merits rather than any preconceived notions on what should be or shouldn't be on them. Tomb Raider is not groundbreaking by any means and it won't rewrite the book in regards to strong female protagonists or movies based on video games. However, if you want to watch a fun movie with good action scenes and a relatable action heroine, then this is the movie for you.



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Date a Live review

Posted : 1 year, 5 months ago on 8 May 2017 01:16 (A review of Date a Live)

Date A Live is one of the series that takes the Harem Genre and puts an interesting spin on it.

Since I haven't read the light novels, I'll be reviewing exclusively the anime version.
The protagonist is just an ordinary guy who lives in extraordinary times. Superpowered girls called Spirits cause trouble around the city and he has to pacify them and seal their powers with a kiss, so they can live normal lives.

There is plenty of interesting characters to go around: Shido is a likable, gentle and ultimately brave person who just wants people to be happy; Tohka is this dignified and cheerful girl who manages to be badass when the going gets tough, Origami is a quiet and tortured girl who feels her life is meaningless without revenge; Kotori is authoritarian, bold and secretly a sweet little sister. Yoshino is the kind of girl anyone would like to take home with her. More characters get introduced and their relationships are handled pretty well for a harem series.

The most enjoyable relationship has to be the love triangle between Shido, Tohka and Origami, at least on the show's early moments. Both girls can connect with Shido in a way the other can't. While Origami might seem like the more enticing choice, Shido needs Tohka to keep him grounded.

Westcott is actually one of the best villains in recent anime. He is dark, mysterious and never makes the mistake of underestimating the hero. On the other hand, his cohorts Ellen and Jessica are left a bit underdeveloped. Still, the fact that these people manage to be dark and serious villains in what is otherwise an optimistic and hopeful series is a good way to challenge viewers.

The visuals and the music are beautiful, even by today's standards. The voice acting peformances are nothing short of extraordinary. This is the show that made me take Nobunaga Shimazaki seriously.

Hopefully, there will be a third season to continue this beautiful and amazing story


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Gakusen toshi asterisk (2015- ) review

Posted : 1 year, 5 months ago on 8 May 2017 01:14 (A review of Gakusen toshi asterisk (2015- ))

I'm gonna start this review saying that I'm a casual anime viewer. Big series like Naruto or Dragon Ball no longer appeal to me. My tastes in anime, and fiction in general, have changed and The Asterisk War seemed like a good place to start to get acquainted to the new shonen series.

Since I haven't read the novels, this review is exclusively for the anime version.
This is series combines some of my favorite things in anime: meaningful character development, great action setpieces and amazing visuals. This show started with great promise and is able to hold it till the end.

The story is simple: after his sister mysteriously vanishes, the protagonist goes to the school she used to attend to and find her. There, he becomes the school's best fighter and earns a harem of beautiful, competent girls.

Something you don't see very often today's harem shows is that the protagonist is this affable, compassionate human being and the show offers a pretty good reason as to why that many girls would develop feelings for him: he loves them, sees them as equals, lays out a helping hand when no else did.

What also amazed me is that by that point in the series is that the protagonist chooses right from the beginning his favorite: the obligatory tsundere. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as this girl is a good-natured, bold and determined person; being a tsundere is just a secondary factor in her personality.

The other girls are not that bad either, but it's clear from the get-go they have no chance with the protagonist and whenever they have intimate moments with him, it only makes the heartbreak harder for them. I didn't like that the show kept introducing love interests for Ayato even when his mind was made up. That's the one aspect that kept dragging the show down.

Anyway, The Asterisk War is set in a world dominated by a huge multinational corporation that uses fighting tournaments between teenage superhumans in order to extend their influence and the protagonists constantly winning puts a major dent in their plans. You can expect a lot of under-the-table dealing and political intrigue from this setup.

In general, this manages to be an entertaining story. There is drama, fun, action and a huge potential for world building.

A very good series for those interested in anime, manga and light novels.


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Super Mario 3D World review

Posted : 3 years, 9 months ago on 5 January 2015 07:43 (A review of Super Mario 3D World)

This is without a doubt one of the best games Nintendo has ever made. Once again, Nintendo makes a solid hit with Mario. After the release of the more traditional New Super Mario Bros. U, it's good to see our favorite plumber experiment new things with the power of the Wii U.

The premise of the game is fairly the same as other: Mario and his friends must save someone from Bowser. The twist is that Princess Peach is one of the playable character, so the role of the damsel in distress is taken by the Sprixie Princesses. Our heroes must travel across the kingdom to save them, encountering new enemies along the way.

The gameplay is very innovative and pushes the player's abilities to the limits. Combined with the camera controls and the level structure, the player can have a good time figuring out which strategy is best suited to win the day.

A special highlight is the mini-games, special events that allow the player to accomplish things that cannot be normally done in the primary story. The levels are brutal and can get on your nerves, but if you take your time, the results are beneficial.

The graphics are amazing, the colors are vibrant and the atmosphere is beautiful. This should be a testment of how awesome the Mario universe is. If anything, it pushes the Wii U's abilities to the limits. The music should not be taken for granted. It's orchestrated, like the Super Mario Galaxy, with a bit of jazz and rock thrown in for good measure. The combination of visuals and sound is a testament of how something can be both silly and serious in the Mario and still make sense.

Long story short, this game is a serious contender for best Mario game of all time.


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Man of Steel review

Posted : 3 years, 9 months ago on 2 January 2015 05:55 (A review of Man of Steel)

I watched this movie back when it came out and only now I'm writing a review. I'm so embarassed. I'm a huge Superman fan and I think this is not only the best Superman movie ever, it is also one of the best superhero movies ever.

After the mediocre Superman Returns, I hoped a sequel would make up for it, so I wasn't particularly excited when I learned Warner Bros. would reboot the franchise. Fortunately, I was mistaken.

''Man of Steel'' reintroduces several classical elements from the Superman mythology to modern audiences, such as Krypton's decadent state or humanity's attitude towards aliens with superpowers. All of these were actually seen in comic books, but movies are meant for a wider audience, even those who haven't read a comic book in their lives. The story has a good pace and establishes the characters fairly quickly. It doesn't take its sweet time to explain things because the Superman franchise is one where everyone already knows what's what and who's who. Instead, the characters are free to do their own thing without being constrained by exposition.

I actually enjoyed the movie's tone. It's not as "dark" as other people claim, but it is definitely serious. The characters remain their normal selves and react the way you would expect them to in such environment. In the end, it makes for a more enjoyable experience.

Henry Cavill was a valiant and dignified Superman. He would have a hard time measuring up to Christopher Reeve, but he certainly prove he has what it takes to be the Man of Steel. I enjoyed the sense of humanity the film introduced for him, making his heroic actions more believable. At first, I had my doubts about a British actor playing an American superhero, but then again, it worked for Batman and Spider-Man. And boy did Cavill deliver.

Amy Adams as Lois Lane was a major hit for the movie. I also had my reservations about Adams, what with the age difference between her and Cavill and her red hair, but when I saw her on-screen, she was just natural. She and Cavill had great chemistry on-screen.

As for the villain, we have Michael Shannon as General Zod. After his appearances in Superman II and Smallville, I was getting tired of him but Shannon's performance made the character interested in him again. Zod also has very sympathetic reasons to do what he is doing, but he is also quick to remind everyone that he is a bad guy and Superman has a good reason to fight him.

Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane and Laurence Fishburne are undeniable bonuses for the movie. Their characters allow us to see different sides of the Superman universe. The movie benefits from their development.

As a Zack Snyder movie, the visual effects are nothing less than extraordinary and really bring the action sequences to life. The music, made by Hans Zimmer, is appropiate for Superman.

The action sequences were great. A lot of people complained about the excessive action, but after five movies, it felt good to see Superman use his powers to their full capacity.

This is a great movie and I definitely recommend it.


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LOL review

Posted : 5 years, 8 months ago on 12 February 2013 03:34 (A review of LOL)

At first I had made the choice not to watch this movie because of the bad publicity it gave to Miley Cyrus, but after seeing the movie everywhere in the store, I decided to watch it and judge for myself. And I gotta say, I'm impressed.

The film tells the story of Lola Williams, a girl who lives with her divorced mother Anne. Lola and Anne do not have easy lives, with both having to deal with typical mother-daughter issues, such as sex, drugs, Internet and romance. After undergoing a bad breakup with her boyfried Chad, Lola finds solace in the arms of Kyle. For her part, Anne has been trying to get over her divorce by dating James, a narcotics detective.

Outside Lola and Anne's perspectives, there is also Kyle (Lola's new boyfriend), Emily (Lola's best friend) and Ashley (Lola's friend/rival). They all have their issues to deal with, and they all must solve them.

I admit some of the storylines were badly-handled. To be honest, I laughed at some of the serious parts. But for the most part, I enjoyed the story. The characters were very endearing and the best part is that there are no villains and the movie operates in a gray and gray morality. Every party have their sympathetic and unsympathetic sides. The closest thing the movie has to a bad guy is Kyle's father, and even he has an understandable reason to be strict with Kyle. Do I even need to say that father and son make up at the end?

Through at it all, LOL is an enjoyable, albeit quirky, movie. I definitely recommend it.


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Snow White and the Huntsman review

Posted : 5 years, 9 months ago on 12 January 2013 05:08 (A review of Snow White and the Huntsman)

At some point, we're all familiar with the tale of Snow White. Fairest of them all, poisoned apple, true love's kiss, etc. But we find ourselves in times when people want to make a few changes in the story to entertain a modern audience. And this movie is the latest example of that rule.

Okay, I'm not exactly surprised by the idea of a dark fairy tale world, but this is one of the very few examples that make that idea work. In this story, the evil Queen Ravenna has discovered that Snow White is the only one who can destroy her. To prevent that from happening, Ravenna makes the Hunstman to find and kill Snow White. However, Snow White convinces the Hunstman to help her save the kingdom and defeat Ravenna.

Many elements in the story are present, such as Prince Charming, the Magic Mirror, the Enchanted Forest and the Seven Dwarves. They are modified to fit into the idea of a darker and edgier Snow White. Instead of a dashing and valiant prince, you get a very flawed and human young man. Instead of a happy and singing miners, the Dwarves are an oppressed minority. You should expect that kind of changes.

The atmosphere may be dark, but you can also sense a kind of elegance in it. The characters are well-developed and you can identify with their personalities, their struggles and their victories. Kristen Stewart succesfully breaks away from Bella Swan by playing the beautiful and valiant Snow White, Charlize Theron is a magnificent Queen, and Chris Hemsworth is the deeply awesome Huntsman. This trio of characters are basically the whole reason you stay watching the movie.

While I respect Disney's version of Snow White, I honestly prefer this version of the story. In fact, it was this movie that got me interested in Snow White again. It also made me a Kristen Stewart fan. I definitely recomemnd it for everyone!

That's it. Thanks for reading.


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Superman - Action Comics Vol. 1: Superman and the Men of Steel (The New 52) review

Posted : 5 years, 9 months ago on 9 January 2013 03:41 (A review of Superman - Action Comics Vol. 1: Superman and the Men of Steel (The New 52))

Okay, I know what you're all thinking: "Another Superman origin story? We already have thousands of those!" Okay, you're right on that one, but Superman is a very famous character with a very famous origin. People get interested in a comic book character because of how they become in what they are right now. DC Comics make thousands of origin stories for Superman and people will still be interested. Anyway, onto the review.

The book is written by Grant Morrison, of Batman fame. You can totally tell this book will be awesome. Meanwhile, the art is handled by Rags Morales. I haven't had any prior experience with his drawings, but I decided to give the guy a chance.

This story doesn't really focus on Superman's origin (well, it does, but later into the book). Instead, it focuses on Superman's early months of activity in Metropolis. Superman is portrayed much like his Golden Age incarnation; he cannot fly yet, so he moves around by incredibly huge leaps. In this book, Grant Morrison sees Superman as a champion of social justice, a guy who tries to make a difference with the common people. So, he goes around threatening corrupt businessmen and hanging them above tall buildings.

Naturally, everyone is divided in how to see Superman. Some people, like Lois Lane, believe him to be a good guy; but others, like General Sam Lane (Lois' father), believe the Man of Steel as an alien threat. General Lane hires a private scientific consultant, Lex Luthor, in order to take Superman down, at any cost.

Unfortunately, a very real alien threat sets his sights on Earth: Brainiac, the Collector of Worlds. This gives Superman the chance to prove that he is a real hero, but to do so, he must uncover new powers and obtain a shiny new costume. What, you didn't think he was going to keep a t-shirt and jeans as his superhero uniform, did you?

The main story focuses on Superman's fight with Brainiac, but a few issues take a backseat to showcase how did Superman came to be where his now, his early days on Krypton and his youth on Smallville. It is a very entertaining story, but at some point it might feel forced because it basically comes out of freakin' nowhere.

Through the course of the story, Morrison introduces elements and characters that he would later use for the latter stages of his run. While I admire his Batman work, I think the Superman saga is where he begins to show his true colors as a genius. The story will culminate in Action Comics #17, which will come out in February 2013. Be ready to check it out!

Well, that's it. Thanks for reading!


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Super Mario Galaxy review

Posted : 5 years, 9 months ago on 9 January 2013 03:07 (A review of Super Mario Galaxy)

Simply put, Super Mario Galaxy is one of the best games I've ever played.

This was the first Mario game I played ever since I had a Nintendo 64. And it was also the first Mario game I ever completed. I feel so lucky to have this game.

The levels are well-crafted and the gameplay is a complete innovation. One of the problems Nintendo had to fix is the very controversial camera control. There were a lot of complains in Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine about the camera being hard to control. In this game, the camera is fixed and you only see what you need to see.

Another feature I liked is the Star Spin, your new all-purpose move. With the help of his trusty Luma, Mario can remove obstacles, progress through the level or defeat enemies. It's pretty much the "hammer" of the game.

Now, I go for the characters. Mario is hero, obviously; I mean, his name is in the title. Princess Peach is everyone's favorite damsel in distress and Bowser is back being the villain and final boss. The newcomer for this game is the mysterious Rosalina, a space-traveling princess that helps you in the game. Because of her likable personality and sunny disposition, she is a very good addition to the cast.

To be honest, at first I didn't know if I should get this game because of his story-free nature. I wanted a game with developed characters and a big story, and we all know that Mario games don't have any of that. Of course, I ended giving this game a chance and I was glad I played it.

I hope everyone can enjoy this game as muh as I did. Thanks for reading.


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