Thursday, February 06, 2014

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

her (R):
This science fiction movie tells of a time in the reasonably-near future where computers have gained enough artificial intelligence to forge human relationships. What I most enjoyed was how well-done the world-building was -- the movie didn't focus on initial shock or disbelief, but simply accepted itself as how things might naturally progress if everyone today were to stay buried in their smartphones. Everything is pleasantly understated, and Joaquin turns in a nice, believable performance. Initially, I wasn't completely satisfied with the final conflict, but after several days to mull it over, I appreciate it as the only way the story could have gone.

Final Grade: B+

The Raven Locks Act I by Dirt Poor Robins:
I liked this album a little more than Last Days of the Leviathan, although I was disappointed that the male lead singer had little solo space here. My favourite track on the album is "We Forgot We Were Human", which passes my litmus tests for being both a well-constructed song and a catchy one. The main problem with the album is that it's barely 27 minutes long. I've heard Chip McNeill solo for longer than that.

Final Grade: B

Treme, Season Three:
I really enjoyed the first season of Treme, which tells of life and music in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Story-wise, I thought that season two was pretty dull, albeit with better music (with more of a focus on funk over Dixieland). Season Three just meanders around several uninteresting storylines with occasional five minute breaks for complete performances. Few characters see any growth (and they remain the interesting ones), and we sometimes wished that they would end some of the weaker storylines to make space for the better ones. Unfortunately, the creators just compounded the issue by adding MORE uninteresting characters without sending off the old. I do enjoy the small detail of having the actors know enough about brass instruments to seem like they're actually playing though.

Final Grade: C

Mario and Luigi: Dream Team:
This is the latest game in the Mario RPG series, which contains two of my all-time favourites (Thousand-Year Door and Mario and Luigi: Partners In Time) and one of my least favourite (Super Paper Mario). Sadly, this sequel feels as obligatory as New Super Mario Brothers 2 did. Everything is competently and consistently constructed, but at the end of the day, the game is pretty boring. The experience is chopped up by tutorials, transition scenes, and unnecessary narration, to the point where it's hard to maintain a "zone" that would keep you excited to continue playing. I'm about 20 hours into it now and am finding it harder to justify playing, in spite of the appeal I find in completing everything. The character quirkiness introduced in Thousand-Year Door has devolved into weirdness for the sake of weirdness, and the main plot relies too much on cascading, inconsequential adventure game side tasks. For example, you have to get to the top of a mountain, but a locked door is in the way, so you need to find 3 bananas to trade to a monkey for a key but the bananas are hidden throughout the land. Every tangent that steers you from the main plotline reduces the urgency of the story and reveals the invisible strings that needlessly delay the ending (like the last half of Back to the Future II).

Final Grade: C-

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