26 March 2015

Agents of SHIELD S2E11 "Aftershocks" review

Agents of SHIELD found itself exploring areas of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that the films have yet to tread in the mid-season finale, seemingly beginning to introduce audiences to the idea of Inhumans, a race of human like people that, once exposed to the Terrigen Mists, undergo Terrigenesis and transform into something else, often gaining super powers.

"Aftershocks" picks up that thread and runs with it, dealing with the aftermath of Skye and Raina's exposure to the Terrigen Mists. No one really knows what happened in the chamber, and a particularly nervous (almost manic) Simmons is insisting on putting Skye in quarantine to avoid any chance of an infectious alien disease spreading. She makes her feelings on those with unnatural biology perfectly clear here - after having seen the negative effects of exposure to alien biology time and time again, she is now firmly in the mindset of eradication rather than study, claiming that the risk is too high. It's a nice development for the character, partially playing on her actions in last seasons "FZZT", in which she attempted suicide rather than running the risk of passing an alien infection from herself to other members of the team.

24 March 2015

The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water review

Let's just get something out the way here - I'm a huge fan of the Stephen Hillenburg (creator of the series) era of Spongebob Squarepants. He stopped writing Spongebob Squarepants after The Spongebob Squarepants Movie was completed, which marked the start of a decline in quality that would leave the show as a shadow of it's past self, but the early seasons and The Spongebob Squarepants Movie itself remain some of the best kid friendly animated entertainment created in the last 20 years or so. It's quotable, rewatchable and memorable, having something for audiences of all ages, and I don't know anyone in my age group that doesn't have a favourite episode of Spongebob Squarepants.

So imagine my excitement when I learn that Hillenburg was returning to writing duties for The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water. The story has the Krabby Patty secret formula mysteriously disappearing during one of Plankton's routine attempts at stealing it for himself. Mr. Krabs blames Plankton for the disappearance, but Spongebob knows he is innocent and sets out to find and reclaim the formula so that he can bring order back to Bikini Bottom, which has turned into a Mad Max style post-apocalyptic wasteland in the few days that the citizens have had to go without Krabby Patties.

21 March 2015

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number review

Hotline Miami 2 is the sequel and apparent conclusion to one of the biggest indie hits of the past few years. Its distinct visuals and thumping soundtrack, mixed with brutal top down based gameplay, made it stand out and earned much commercial and critical praise. Myself included; the first Hotline Miami was something fresh, short and very entertaining. It's fast pace and difficult gameplay balanced out with its quick respawns and the satisfaction of a perfectly executed plan, even if it did take 50+ deaths.

So some time later and we have Hotline Miami 2, which has been in development for a surprisingly long amount of time (the original came out in 2012). I've had the chance to play this game two times before at a couple of local game shows and it definitely gave me the impression that they were heading down the 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' approach. 

It retains the much of original's style: The over the top pixelated violence, the top down view, the exact same tight controls, an awesome soundtrack and satisfying gameplay. Even the (sometimes annoying) auto lock makes a return as well. This should be unsurprising as this sequel started out as DLC for the original.

18 March 2015

Revisiting District 9

When District 9 hit in 2009, a lot of people assumed that we had a new science fiction visionary entering the world of cinema. It was, at the time, a fair enough assumption - audiences hadn't really seen that kind of aesthetic applied to a sci-fi story in years, and the story being told was original, interesting, and had the kind of social commentary needed to create a classic film, a deeper (although admittedly, rather heavy handed) meaning underneath the story.

Now that Chappie has made everyone revisit their pre-conceived notions of Neil Blomkamp (and you can read my full review of Chappie here), I decided to go back and take another look at District 9, the film that catapulted Blomkamp into the spotlight as the supposed saviour of science fiction back in 2009.

Set in Johannesburg, South Africa, District 9 follows Wikus Van De Merwe, employee of the MNU, a weapons company that are also in control of the District 9 slums. Wikus is charged with leading a task force as they serve eviction notices to the inhabitants of District 9, an alien race known locally as "prawns" that are stranded on Earth after their mothership broke down directly above Johannesburg. Unfortunately for Wikus, he ends up getting a strange alien substance on himself that begins to slowly turn him into one of the "prawns".

9 March 2015

Chappie review

It's hard to tell what Neill Blomkamp's intention was with Chappie. Both District 9 and Elysium are heavy handed allegories for social issues, more specifically the role that inequality places in our society, but Chappie is devoid of any deeper meaning that I could find, it's lack of strong themes making it stand apart from Blomkamp's previous two films. The problem with this is that it would seem that without a social message from which to hang his film around, Blomkamp has no idea how to tell a story. This is not a good trait for a director to have.

Set in a slightly futuristic version of Johannesburg, South Africa, Chappie tells the story of Chappie, an artificial intelligence in the chassis of a half destroyed police robot. We follow Chappie as he grows and learns under the guidance of Ninja and Yolandi, two gangsters who kidnapped him and are trying to use him as muscle in an armed robbery they have planned. Chappie, however, is torn between fulfilling a promise to never commit crimes he made to his creator, Deon, and the lifestyle that Ninja and Yolandi are pushing him into.