__Welcome to another batch of mini reviews, consisting of all the movies I’ve seen and all the games I’ve played over the last month or so. 🙂
__Let’s start at the cinema.
It Comes at Night (2017)
__As an unnatural threat terrorises the world, a family’s social order is tested when another family arrives seeking refuge.
__First of all, the title is a bit of a misnomer: whatever “it” is, it doesn’t come just at night!
__From a writing standpoint, I won’t hesitate to give this movie a firm thumbs-up. I love how these characters approach the situation in an intelligent, resourceful manner; it might actually be the most realistic depiction of a survival situation I’ve seen since Night of the Living Dead.
__Unfortunately, the performance lets it down considerably for me. I’m not a fan of thrillers that adopt an unnaturally hushed, reserved tone; I prefer when they’re a bit more energised and, you know, thrilling.
__So it’s definitely a good movie, but too slow-paced and understated for my taste.
__My rating: 70%.
War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)
__After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own quest to avenge his kind.
__First and foremost, the CGI is just perfect! This is right up in my top three most convincing CG spectacles I’ve ever seen, along with Jurassic Park and The Jungle Book 2016.
__The music is also really good. I don’t often comment on the music in movies, but this score was good enough that I actually paid attention to it. 🙂
__The film overall maintains all the heart, intelligence and social commentary that the Apes franchise is known for. I think the overall theme is what it means to be, for lack of a better word, human. As is pointed out in the film, Caesar is being consumed by vengeance, which is an ostensibly human emotion.
__The only thing I didn’t like was Bad Ape, a comic relief character who simply clashed too much with the overall tone.
__I don’t know if I can quite say it’s my favourite of the Apes reboot trilogy, as I’ll never forget how Rise surprised us all, but it’s definitely a smart, thrilling conclusion to the series.
__My rating: 80%.
__Allied soldiers from Belgium, Britain and France are surrounded by the German army and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II.
__First, let me make it clear: I did enjoy this movie. I just can’t sing its praises quite as enthusiastically as everyone else is. I’m a sucker for anything Christopher Nolan directs, but this is the first of his movies not to really blow my mind. I get that this is an important movie, given its subject matter, but war movies just aren’t my thing.
__Hardly any of the characters have clearly defined personalities, which sadly kept me from forming any emotional attachment to them.
__That said, the film itself is masterfully shot and edited, which, in conjunction with the overall sound design, makes you feel like you’re truly in the situation yourself, so it still manages to be hard-hitting in that regard.
__Plus, being a Christopher Nolan movie, it’s still a cool brain-teaser. I was warned in advance about the three different timespans, so I had fun trying to keep up with the overall timeline and piece it together.
__To recap, it’s definitely a good movie, but for me, its lack of characterisation made it less potent than it should have been.
__My rating: 75%.
47 Metres Down (2017)
__Two sisters vacationing in Mexico are trapped in a shark cage at the bottom of the ocean, and must fight to survive with less than an hour of oxygen left and great white sharks circling nearby.
__We seem to be getting a bit of an influx of mainstream shark movies lately! 🙂 Unfortunately, this one pales in comparison to last year’s The Shallows. It follows the same principle of trying to work as much tension as possible out of a simple situation, and some of the ideas and concepts are pretty well worked out.
__But it’s all ruined by one simple problem: the characters are boring, which kills our investment in their predicament. The impression I got from the performances was that the cast and crew were just on holiday and passively making a movie on the side.
__That and I found the constant overuse of close-ups to be incredibly distracting; it’s kind of hard to establish atmosphere when the camera is almost always shoved right in the actors’ faces.
__In the end, this is just another mediocre thriller.
__My rating: 50%.
Atomic Blonde (2017)
__Lorraine Broughton, an undercover MI6 agent, is sent to Berlin during the Cold War to investigate the murder of a fellow agent and recover a missing list of double agents.
__I suspected, based on the premise, that this movie would be political in nature and I’d have trouble understanding it. Well, I was right, but not quite for the reasons I thought. My main issue was the plotting. Lorraine’s first couple of destinations around Berlin make sense: she’s following leads concerning the list. But the scene where she crosses the border lost me: I was confused about what purpose that served. And from there, my confusion just kept on snowballing, until eventually I gave up altogether trying to make sense of it. I wasn’t even surprised by the twist ending, because at that point I just didn’t care anymore.
__Plus, I was often distracted by Charlize Theron’s accent.
__However, the highlight is an outstanding action sequence at the end of the second act. It’s done all in one long take, and you can actually see the characters growing steadily more bloodied and exhausted; you feel the adrenaline and the frenzy in full. It’s stunning.
__Aside from that, I found this movie to be a boring and incoherent mess.
__My rating: 50%.
__Now for one movie I watched at home, just because I felt like it.
The Land Unknown (1957)
__A science team crash-lands in a deep crater in Antarctica, where they find a prehistoric world.
__I’ll be honest: the main reason I watched this was because I’d found out it was where the dinosaur roar sound effect from Duel came from. As a movie, it was pretty much what I expected: a fairly typical 50s monster movie with low-budget visual effects. I went in expecting to laugh at the effects and at least find the adventure interesting.
__Also, after having just watched Creature from the Black Lagoon (and don’t get me wrong: that’s a good movie), it was refreshing to see a movie that at least got some science right!
__What stuck out for me, though, was one monumentally stupid decision on the characters’ part. It involves spoilers, though, so if you’re concerned about that, stop reading now. They find another survivor, who offers to help them escape only if they leave Maggie (the only woman on the team) with him, but the men obstinately refuse to let her go. For me, that made the second half a real chore to sit through; the entire mess that follows could have been avoided if they’d simply offered him the chance to leave with them! Seriously, use your brains, people!
__My rating: 45%.
__And finally, the games I’ve played through lately.
Transformers: War for Cybertron (PS3)
__The heroic Autobots and tyrannical Decepticons wage war for control of the planet Cybertron.
__I was interested to see this game’s take on the events leading up to the Transformers’ escape from Cybertron – a part of the story I hadn’t seen explored before. The game is divided into two campaigns, with the Decepticons’ story taking place in the first five chapters and the Autobots’ story in the second five. You have the option to play either one; I chose to play the story chronologically. Both sides offer some highly enjoyable story-based moments. We find out what Starscream started out as and why Megatron keeps him around, and we get to see Optimus become the new Prime and see the makings of the hero we all know and love.
__You choose from one of three characters to play each mission. At first, I’d usually choose the one I was unfamiliar with… and then end up forgetting that character’s name! 🙂
__The gameplay itself severely dampened things for me, though. I’m just not a fan of shooters, and this game was no exception. At least ninety percent of the time, you’re just running around and shooting enemies – there’s very little variety – which made for an exceedingly monotonous experience. The most fun I had was during the boss fights at the end of each campaign, because at least they involved some strategy.
__Thus, I’d be more inclined to watch this game in future rather than play it.
__My rating: 60%.
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune (PS3)
__Treasure hunter Nathan Drake embarks on the adventure of his life searching for the legendary treasure of El Dorado while fighting a group of mercenaries.
__This is basically a classic treasure hunt adventure story, but one with great characters. Every single character is instantly appealing and joyous to have an adventure with.
__Also, knowing that this game came fairly early in the PS3’s life cycle makes the graphics that much more impressive; they gave a supreme demonstration of what the console was capable of.
__In terms of gameplay, I loved exploring the environments and solving puzzles. There was one part where, no joke, I actually started singing “I am so smart” like Homer Simpson! 🙂 My least favourite aspect was always the gunfights, because I’m just not that kind of gamer; I simply don’t have fun shooting and being shot at incessantly – plus I’m a terrible shot.
__Elena is made into a damsel in distress towards the end, and I’d be lying if I said that didn’t bother me, but then, I really did want to rescue her because I genuinely liked her as a character.
__I thoroughly enjoyed this game – or at least, all the parts that didn’t involve using guns. I love the graphics, I love the story, I love the sense of adventure, but above all, of course, I love the characters.
__My rating: 80%.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (PS3)
__Nathan Drake goes on a quest for Marco Polo’s lost fleet, and must rely on those closest to him in order to find the Cintamani Stone.
__This sequel is essentially more of the same, so it doesn’t feel quite as fresh this time, but some elements are done better. The already impressive graphics, for example, have taken a further step up, the final boss fight is much more enjoyable, and the gameplay has some astounding new innovations.
__It begins with one of the greatest opening sequences I’ve ever seen in a game: an injured Nate has to escape from a train dangling over a cliff by climbing up the outside of the carriages. And that’s where this game really shines: there are some amazingly dynamic gameplay sections that make you feel as if you’re playing a massive blockbuster action scene.
__Just like with the first game, its only letdown, I felt, was the shooting sections. I always dreaded the next one because they each made for a highly stressful time, and the sheer amount of them was just plain draining. The only exception, I found, was using a turret or mounted gun, because having one fixed viewpoint made things much simpler somehow. The rest of the time, because of the third-person view, I found it nigh impossible to move and shoot at the same time.
__Overall, I’d say it’s about equally as good as the first game: it offers some improvements, but the first one felt unique and unprecedented.
__My rating: 80%.
Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception (PS3)
__Nathan Drake embarks on a quest in search of the Atlantis of the Sands while battling an ancient sinister organisation.
__Each of the Uncharted games stands out for different reasons. The first one had the best characters, the second one had the best cinematics, and this one has the best overall story. The plot always kept me interested. The entire Rameses section turned out to be one big cul de sac, but for the most part, every scene flowed together quite naturally. Not to mention, we get some insight into Nate’s past.
__I love how the desert section was handled! You feel like you’re right there in Nate’s shoes.
__One of my favourite aspects was reading into Nate and Elena’s relationship. I’ve absolutely shipped those two since Uncharted 1, and was overjoyed to know that they were married between games – even if they are separated and estranged by this point. I never stopped hoping they’d work it out, though; they’re just too perfect together.
__Finally, this game incorporates stealth more than either of its two predecessors. Now, that’s more my playing style: avoiding combat rather than engaging in it! 🙂 Unfortunately, way too often, I couldn’t see any feasible way to get through an entire area stealthily, and the series’ usual stress of gun combat would start all over again.
__In conclusion, I’m not sure how many will agree with me on this, but this might actually be my favourite of the series so far.
__My rating: 85%.
Until Dawn (PS4)
__A group of teenagers spend the weekend in a ski lodge on the anniversary of their friends’ disappearance, unaware that they are not alone.
__I went in expecting an interactive slasher flick, as that’s what the game had been marketed as, and, since I’d heard the player’s choices played a major part in it, I was looking forward to being able to craft a horror story where the characters were actually smart. 🙂 But it turned out to be something much more intriguing than that. I loved finding clues and piecing together the mystery of what the characters were up against, and it proved to be quite a fascinating back-story. And do I even need to say I didn’t see the major plot twist coming?
__As with any good horror title, the atmosphere is just perfect, from the outdoor snowscapes to the dark corridors and caves.
__It’s hard to choose my favourite character, but I really liked the developing romance between Chris and Ashley; I was rooting for that to work out. But I can tell you this: the only character I flat-out disliked was Emily. God, I hated her!
__The only thing that keeps me from loving this game is that a lot of the dialogue doesn’t flow naturally; I doubt even conversations in real life would be this scatterbrained, no matter how panicked people were.
__But aside from that, this is a grade-A horror story, and a masterful showcase of choice- and consequence-based gameplay.
__My rating: 80%.