Hey everyone, so I'm trying something new. Video Review, all you kids with your vlogging and youtubbing seem to be onto something so I figured I'd give it a go.
Let me know what you think of the format, moving forward I'll start having written reviews as well but please enjoy this video. I start out Spoiler Free and then spend the rest of the video talking about major plot points and characters. Don't worry, there is a warning before the spoilers start.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Review first published on The Australia Times - Games Magazine Vol 3. No 23
Lara Croft is one of gaming’s most enduring characters, it will upset many to learn that my first exposure to her was actually in the film. I adored the absurd Tomb Raider movie with Angelina Jolie, it came right at my height of interest in sexy girl power, spurred on by other film adaptations of questionable quality such as Charlies Angels. Despite loving the movie I never actually played a Tomb Raider game until the reboot in 2013. Even with some noticeable flaws, I really enjoyed the first one and has been waiting anxiously for a chance to play the Sequel, Rise of the Tomb Raider.
It’s always difficult to judge a book when it doesn’t live up to your own expectations, just because the book wasn’t what you thought it was does that make it a failure or is it your own failure to see the signs.
The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl, has a cover, and title that stands out amongst a lot of YA. This combined with the blurb, mentioning an upcoming apocalypse, let me think this was a fantasy story of regular people with the occasional super power. In actuality it is a coming of age romance, something that is not typically my cup of tea. As such, personally I didn’t enjoy this book to much, however I did stick it through and finished it and there is a lot to recommend it.
No seriously, what did I just watch?
Watching The Maze Runner last year as an enjoyably stupid experience, not on the level of Divergent which we saw with a cocktail in hand, but still fun. Although through out the entire movie there is this awareness at the back of you head that no answer will be satisfactory to setting, a nagging voice that is made worse by the fact it's a known trilogy.
Sure enough the visceral excitement of the group of teens trying to escape and survive this maze is met with an ending that... is so stupid. Unbelievably so.
*upon finding out my entire post had somehow vanished* AHHHHHGGHHGHH
So I had written the entire thing, however it looks as though I never clicked save or post. However I recently saw this film again so it's all still fresh in my mind.
Go see this movie.
This is an incredibly simple but very clever comedy. There are jokes about vomit and pink eye but they are incredibly rare and not the real source of comedy for this movie.
If you were to look at the trailer, you might be tricked into thinking this was just a James Bond style parody where the joke is that the person trying to be Bond is a short middle age woman whose on the larger side. However that isn't the joke.
Susan Cooper is completely capable of being the James Bon\d type spy, she was the top of the academy and was completely well trained in hand to hand and weapon combat. Why has she spent the last ten years in the vermin infested basement providing support? Because her mentor and her own self doubt convinced her to go for the safer and less rewarding job.
The joke of this movie isn't that Susan Cooper can't be a spy, its that society doesn't think she can be.
Which isn't to say they still don't get a lot of physical comedy from out of Melissa McCarthy, Susan after all has been an analyst for ten years so she is a little rusty. While the entire cast give fantastic performances, a stand out has to be Jason Statham playing... every character he's ever played. While others play their prejudices against Susan, his is overt to comedic methods. His catch phrase becomes, 'you're going to fail', although a strong contender is 'I once used a defibrillator on myself.'
Stunning acting, clever directing, a smart movie that isn't afraid not to take itself completely seriously Spy is probably most brilliant for keeping the target of it's humor at society itself.
Seriously, check this one out.
I'm a kid!
It's been a while since I had such an engaging experience as when I first played turf wars on Splatoon.
I'm a squid.
The controls, while initially feeling a little too clunky, become more natural during the frenetic energy of the three minute battles. There is very little that disrupts the fast pace, aside from occasionally first day connection drop outs, however of the countless games I played opening day only a few failed to join or were dropped. Twitter did indicate others had a higher rate, so they may vary from house hold to house hold.
I'm a kid.
The game consists of a single player campaign of ink based movement challenges, however it is the multiplayer that is really the focus. Turf wars takes the form of three minute long battles where you fight to cover as much of the map in your ink, while stopping your opponents from getting their ink on. You can refill your ink and fast travel by turning into a squid and swimming through the ink you've already laid out. The colour of your team can change each round and the two sides, each four people large, are always perfectly contrasting. Orange and blue, purple and green. So you never loose sight of your own team or the targets. Most of the levels are well designed with two open at once, and five in total. There was one level which has a single point in the middle that if one team gets too first they can much more easily dominate, otherwise they are all arranged well.
I'm a squid.
The most recent Wii U exclusive I got my hopes up for left the dashed upon the rocks. Mario Party 10 not only didn't live up to expectations, it woefully under preformed compared to previous incarnations. I was a little concerned that Splatoon would suffer a similar let down, as the tutorial and one on one left me feeling very frustrated. It would turn out that my learning curve simply came along a little later and once you have a grasp of the game it is incredibly fun. You're also able to take in the fantastic atmosphere and aesthetic.
I'm a kid.
The design appears aggressively Japaneses in the same way the Borderlands Pre-sequel was aggressively Australian. You're leveling system is integrated not just into what weapons you can buy but also the freshest clothes, making this feel very reminiscent of some of the new aspects of Pokemon X and Y. The hub world is a sleek looking city... Squid-okyo, at least that's what I'm calling it. While the cultural influence is strong the time period is even stronger; I haven't seem a game that so well encompasses a lot of the fashion and atmosphere of the current decade. All filtered through a more cartoon lens. This game is incredibly visually striking and memorable; there isn't anything else that even comes close in the AAA world to the look.
I'm a squid.
At this point there doesn't appear to be too much content, so the game relies incredibly heavily on it's multi-player matchmaking. Meaning that if the serves become ghost towns in a month the game will be a beautiful but fairly useless work. However being Wii U exclusive means that probably won't happen; there aren't a lot of other games out on the consul (still) and certainly none that have Splatoon's particular appeal meaning those who bought it will probably be playing it for a while.
I'm a kid.
If you already have a Wii U Splatoon is well worth it, if you wanted to get the Amiibo's for it... well... hope you're happy to pay a scalper as the engineered shortage of Amiibo's continues to farcical levels.
... I'm a squid. Bloop bloop bloop.
There are only two films I have ever walked out of, one I don't remember apart from it was a war film and there was a scene where someone waited in the rain.
The other was Spirited Away.
A move for which I have felt guilty of for a very long time, I since went back and watched it through many times over. I've also watched Howl's Moving Castle. Meaning my understanding of Studio Ghibli is high fantasy and extraordinary images; fast paced animation with extraordinarily beautiful line work.
When Marnie Was There is missing all those things with the exception of beautiful line work. It's a film of more restrained movement, any supernatural element is subtle and easily explained away. It is still beautiful but of a very different tone to the rest of Studio Ghibli.
The main character Anna is a young girl, outside the circle as she puts it, isolated with abandonment issues. Her guardian doesn't know why she has suddenly shut her off from others and even her own emotions. So she sends Anna off to the coast, to stay with some relatives, the clear air will also help with Anna's athma.
In this beautiful coastal town Anna avoids all other children till she finds an old marsh house, and a young girl who seems to be trapped there. Marnie.
Anna is an interesting character, she isn't just an isolated child who needs to learn to let people in, she's also a little bit of a bitch. She's quick tempered and incredibly rude, although usually only in her thoughts. It's a culmination of things in life that have made her shut everyone out.
Her friendship with Marnie develops quickly and deeply, always stretching the line between reality and dreams. Time seems to be lost when they are together, Marnie never appears when any of Anna's friends are around.
Is she a ghost, a memory, an imaginary friend? As it turns out, perhaps a little of each. The story is a very traditional one, the characters feel archetypal and yet fresh enough to still be interesting.
The animation felt odd however, it is still as beautiful as ever, but the more realistic speed of the characters and less bombastic action mean's it feels a little too constricted and as though it could be doing more.
A beautiful a touching tale, unique in how restrained it is for a Studio Ghibli, however crying out for something with a bit more of the unique creativity the studio is known for.
Today the first in The Old Kingdom series, Sabriel, turns 20 years old. There are a few books I can point back to as being so very influential on my life.
The first was Howl's Moving Castle; I wasn't an adventures reader during my younger years. I didn't have a great grasp of spelling or grammar, a trait I'm happy to say I still am unable to escape... wait... happy's not the right word. However it was How'ls Moving Castle that was the first ever chapter book I read, and I couldn't put it down. I don't know if it was the magical world, characters or just how endlessly creative it was but I couldn't put it down. It was the first book that was ever threatened to be confiscated from me, but certainly not the last.
From then on I was a very avid reader, a huge fan of Tamora Pierce, Diana Wynn Jones and Margret Clark''s Web Watchers... which is so incredibly dated in hind site that I have to laugh, although lovingly.
One of the book made a very lasting impression on me without ever having a chance to read it, this was Lireal. I borrowed the book but didn't have a chance to read it before I had to return it, although my father did. When the Librarian asked what I was planning to read next I said Lireal, and was then promptly told that I couldn't. Lireal was apparently too adult for me, and I should never have been able to borrow it in the first place. I'd never been told that I wasn't able to read something before and that set something off inside me.
It was in the high school library that I finally was able to get my hands on Lireal, to this day it is still my favorite book. It's the only book I've ever re-read and re-read and re-read.
There was only one other book that opened up another word for me as well, the first ever tome fantasy that I read. Sword of Shannara, was the first time I'd challenged myself when it came to length.
However this isn't really a great birthday for Sabriel, as I've spent so long talking about how I like it's younger sibling more. While it's considered a trilogy, I see it a bit more like The Hobbit and then LOTR. Sabriel is set around twenty or so year before Lireal and Abhorsen.
So Sabriel, a happy twentieth birthday to you, one of the few books I'll re-read, part of my favorite series of all time and a truly great book.
Once the film has been out for a while I may do a re-cap of the major reveals in more details as well as the obligatory Easter egg hunt. For now lets focus on broad terms; how does this film hold up and compare to the rest of the Marvel line up.
I called Avengers a safe movie, one that hit all the notes it was supposed to, but it was polished to an absolute gleam; and while it was very traditional for an action movie it's attempt to blend in several franchises and genres and have them all feel cohesive was incredibly ambitious. Avengers: The Age of Ultron suffers for not being as refined, the weight of having to keep so many balls in the air, supporting and introducing new characters begins to show.
Avengers 2 is not as good as Avengers 1, it's not as refined, it has too many plot notes it needs to hit and attempting to one up it's previous film. I saw it over a week ago and while I do still remember plot points and character motivations my feelings to the film are fairly, ehhhh.
Perhaps the tipping point of over saturation of comic movies has been reached sooner then most thought, or Avengers 2 simply suffers from middle movie-itis. It's not the treasured first born that was Avengers, nor will it be the chaotic misbehaving twins of Infinity Wars. It has to struggle to continue developing what was already set up, introduce new plot threads and still be a contained movie. It is eons more successful at that then Hobbit: The *missing* desolation of Smaug was, however it probably isn't up to the Two Towers level of skill either.
Let's brush on weak points and strengths; Tony vs Cap is already feeling like a fiddle played too often. We know this song boys, and I for one am not looking forward to another encore during Captain 3: Civil War. There are too many plot points and too many characters, a few clearly just making cameo's to remind the audience they exist so it isn't confusing when they show up at the end.
I'd count the humor as both a strength and weakness, it's still funny but the first movie it felt more natural, here it feels a little more forced. As if they have pauses to wait for the audience to laugh.
When it's on point however it is still genuinely funny. The new characters were also a mixed bag however I can't go into to much detail without spoilers.
The action is still clear however despite being in a smaller city for the climax it feels far more spread around. The opening action seen had some laughably bad CGI at points and was clearly influenced by Captain America's montage from the first movie. It was also deliberately watered down so it didn't compete with the climax. When they are all brought together to protect something in the climax it really feels intense and close. That scene was pretty beautiful, and there were a few great moments.
Avengers: Age of Ultron is worth the price of admission, compared to many blockbusters it is fun and clever. However Ultron may not have any stings on him, but there are plenty all over this movie, it's constrained in parts and stretched in others. This is where we see the cost of Marvel's ambitious plan, service to the continuity over service to making the best product possible. It's still not nearly as embarrassing as Sony's attempt at the exact same thing but it will make me more wary for any studio attempting such a task. (DC I'm looking at you)
So this year I've decided to try the AWWC (Australian Women's Writers Challenge) in which I will be reading and reviewing five books by Australian Women; conveniently I have had one sitting on my too read list since September.
When We Wake is a, say it with me everyone, young adult dystopia. Actually that isn't really fair, its the future, it's not perfect as it's dealing with the consequences their past but it's real and it's very human. There is no secret experiment where young able bodied teenagers are forced to run mazes... for reasons.
Let's start with a bit of a spoiler free talk over the plot; Tegan is our main character; living in Melbourne's near future. Her life is awesome until it is suddenly cut short and she wakes up in the future from an experimental cyro system. Propelled into the life of a celebrity by the fact she is the first person to be successfully revived Tegan has to deal with having suddenly lost everything in her in edition to the disillusionment that the future may not be as perfect as her and her friends had protested for.
What the authors wants to look at is laid out right into the first few pages as Tegan is off to a climate change protest rally. Karen Healy keeps the focus nice and tight by having the 'future' only be 100 years forward, allowing some major changes to have taken place but for a lot of society to be recognisable. The book does feature a number of some distopic ideas with warring countries, limited resources, human rights abuse but there is no evil villain. There are a few antagonists but they are all humanized to a degree and none of them sit in a total seat of power.
There is a lot that could be dissected in this book, the author clearly had a lot she wanted to explore. The effects of climate change, Australia's treatment of immigrants, autonomy and how our technology or the future could impact that autonomy. Although she doesn't really go into the last one as much; it's more a plot device to ensure Tegan is controlled by the state.
I really enjoyed how Healy clearly takes her audience seriously enough to understand a lot of the issues themselves, although sometimes the exposition hammer is wielded and the big secret of the government is fairly easy to guess. I'd say it's on the young end of YA with the writing style and the dialogue is probably one of my least favorite parts as it feels forced. The characters however are all a lot of fun and have their own motivations, yes the main characters are all a little too good. I was getting a bit of a Power Rangers vibe of 'these can't be real teenagers cause no teenage is that good'. Tegan is the only one who is perhaps a bit more selfish then that, Healy makes a point of us knowing that while she does care about the social issues she is protesting but is more happy to be spending the time with her friends. Which makes sense, Tegan is our audience stand in and is the one who needs to learn about caring for the issues over her own personal drama.
I suspect if young me had of picked up this book it could easily have been one of the ones that blew my mind; there is a lot in this book and it means sometimes they only get the opportunity to scratch the surface of the issues. I'm interested enough to read the next in the series and see where Tegan's adventure continues.
If YA is your bag then this is a really good quick read, and if your in the target audience this could really be something that speaks to you.
So far, a really strong start to the AWWC; although it has been pointed out to me that this may be a cheat since Karen Healy is in fact a citizen of New Zealand, however she spent a lot of time in Australia and the story is set there so I'm going to count it.
Oh it is also fantastic, and yet somehow hilarious, to be reading a book where the future relationship between Australia and New Zealand is in anyway important.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.