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  1. __We're almost two months into the year, and I feel like sharing my thoughts on the few movies I've seen up to now. I'm going to follow the same format I've taken to: combining a short plot summary with my comments copied and pasted straight from Twitter. Except for the video game I'm reviewing at the end: I'll be talking about that at great length.

    __Section one: cinema releases.
    __Coco (2017). Aspiring musician Miguel, confronted with his family's ancestral ban on music, enters the Land of the Dead to find his great-great-grandfather, a legendary singer. Pixar succeeds once again with a clever, inspired, touching and thematically rich adventure that defies several cinematic clichés and kept me guessing all the way, even if the pacing is …

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    Coco (2017)
    Early Man (2018)
    Black Panther (2018)
    The Real T. Rex with Chris Packham (2018)
    Black Panther (2010)
    Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
    and The Last Guardian (PS4)
  2. __The idea of a parallel universe or alternate dimension is a very popular topic in science-fiction, and is even debated as a scientific possibility. Every once in a while, I let my mind wander into scientific realms like this, and I've formed my own theory on the possibility of parallel dimensions. Of course, this doesn't mean I believe they exist; I'm just hypothesising on how they could exist. If I were writing a sci-fi piece on the subject, this is what my interpretation would be.
    __First, I should point out that the genesis of this train of thought was Dinotopia. If you haven't heard of that title, it's a series of books by James Gurney about a hidden island where dinosaurs have survived to the …

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  3. __Quite recently, a friend of mine introduced me to a website called Wattpad, which is basically a book-writing social network that allows you to write and publish your own stories. Needless to say, I'd highly recommend it to anyone with a creative streak, a penchant for writing.
    __I've been on the site for almost a year now, and so far I've mainly used it to post some of my older works from my teenage years, when I was really into creative writing. Several of them are from the many compositions I had to write for English class – the ones that stood out from the crowd, the ones that I decided to hold onto and immortalise. I personally find it quite hard to read those works …

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  4. __It's that time of year again: the time when I look back on the year that's passed and pick out the high and low points of its movie output. This is the seventh time I've done a year-end pair of lists like this, and I have to say, this was a particularly interesting year for movies. It started off surprisingly strong. January is usually a cinematic dumping ground, but the first 2017 release I saw was Split, which I thoroughly enjoyed. That trend continued for the first few months: I went to the cinema considerably more often than I had early on in previous years, and hardly anything I saw let me down. But that all changed when, later in the year, I started to …

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  5. __Well, the end of the year is almost upon us. I traditionally post my recap of the best and worst movies of the year on New Year's Eve, and nothing's changed; I'll be posting that pair of lists tomorrow. Just time for one more "first impressions" instalment in the meantime.:) Here's my take on the last handful of movies I saw in 2017.

    __Section one: cinema releases.
    __The Disaster Artist (2017). When Greg Sestero, an aspiring film actor, meets the weird and mysterious Tommy Wiseau in an acting class, they form a unique friendship and travel to Hollywood to make their dreams come true. It's definitely a good movie that beautifully details the challenges of the filmmaking process, but it presents Tommy Wiseau as so …

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    The Disaster Artist (2017)
    Wonder (2017)
    Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)
    Despicable Me 3 (2017)
    Cars 3 (2017)
    Gerald's Game (2017)
    Inherit the Wind (1960)
    Other People's Money (1991)
    The Book of Henry (2017)
    The Big Sick (2017)
    Henry V (1989)
    Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)
    And Batman and Harley Quinn (2017)
  6. __Welcome back. As I said last time, I recently started a new college course, so the coursework is unfortunately keeping me from devoting mental attention to writing side projects like this, whereas this blog was all I had to focus on earlier in the year. So once again, the best I can do is copy and paste my comments from my Twitter feed. But, on the plus side, Twitter's new 280-character limit has made it easier for my tweets to resemble mini reviews in and of themselves. For the sake of completion, I'll also throw in a brief plot summary for each one.
    __We'll be covering the usual cinema releases and movies I watch on the side, but I also finally get to talk about …

    Read on for…
    Geostorm (2017)
    Paddington 2 (2017)
    Battle of the Sexes (2017)
    Justice League (2017)
    The Florida Project (2017)
    Smurfs: The Lost Village (2017)
    The Bleeder [AKA Chuck] (2017)
    The Belko Experiment (2017)
    Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
    Phoenix Forgotten (2017)
    Justice League Dark (2017)
    Baywatch (2017)
    Teen Titans: The Judas Contract (2017)
    King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)
    Megan Leavey (2017)
    Pirates of the Caribbean 5 (2017)
    The Wall (2017)
    The Mummy (2017)
    Gifted (2017)
    Transformers: The Last Knight (2017)
    And Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series (PC)
  7. __Welcome to another collection of my thoughts on every movie I've seen within a certain period of time. These posts are irregular, so there's no telling how long that time might be. In this case, my last "first impressions" post was over two months ago, on August 26th.
    __If you're familiar with these posts, I'm afraid this will be another lacklustre one, too. I recently started a course at the Galway Community College, so I'm more preoccupied with trying to write for the coursework than for these reviews. Plus, I've seen so many movies since I last checked in that I have neither the time nor the inclination to elaborate on all of them. So this will be another instance of me just copying and …

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    The Hitman's Bodyguard (2017)
    American Made (2017)
    The Drummer and the Keeper (2017)
    American Assassin (2017)
    Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)
    Mother! (2017)
    Wind River (2017)
    The Lego Ninjago Movie (2017)
    The Mountain Between Us (2017)
    Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
    The Snowman (2017)
    Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
    John Wick (2014)
    Flatliners (1990)
    The Bye Bye Man (2017)
    Going in Style (2017)
    Sleepless (2017)
    Colossal (2017)
    A Cure for Wellness (2017)
    John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)
    My Name Is Lenny (2017)
    The Void (2017)
    Beauty and the Beast (2017)
    T2 Trainspotting (2017)
    The Boss Baby (2017)
    Free Fire (2017)
  8. __A while ago, I posted a whole slew of top ten lists on this blog, the first of which was my favourite video games. Well, that list has recently gone through quite a few changes, not the least of which is that I've expanded it to a top fifteen, so I decided it was worth posting the updated version.
    __Just to reiterate, while I did grow up playing games, and still maintain an interest in it today, I'm not what you'd call a gamer. (Actually, my best friend John's a far more avid gamer than I am, and it's thanks to him that I came across many of the games on this list in the first place.:)) But, with that said, I have played several …

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  9. __Let's talk Mass Effect 3 again.:)
    __Ever since I played through the whole trilogy last May, Mass Effect has pretty much become my obsession as of late. Some of you may recall that I, like so many others, was so displeased and downright outraged by the ending of Mass Effect 3 that I posted a two-thousand-word rant about it on my blog before I reviewed the game itself.
    __But I realise now that my intense hatred for the ending was simply because I took it at face value. Yes, at first glance, the ending is a confusing mess littered with plot holes and offensive to everything the Mass Effect series stands for, but a certain fan theory that really caught on has found a deeper …

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  10. __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 …

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    It Comes at Night (2017)
    War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)
    Dunkirk (2017)
    47 Metres Down (2017)
    Atomic Blonde (2017)
    The Land Unknown (1957)
    Transformers: War for Cybertron (PS3)
    Uncharted: Drake's Fortune (PS3)
    Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (PS3)
    Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception (PS3)
    And Until Dawn (PS4)
  11. [​IMG]
    __John Marston, a former outlaw, is forced by the federal government to hunt down the members of his old gang.
    __Oh, the enemies I'm going to make for this one! I'm just going to say it upfront: I did not like this game. I know I'm in a small minority on this, but I can't just pretend I'm as enraptured as everyone else. On the contrary: this game made me angry! I simply couldn't condense my thoughts to 250 words, so I've decided to make this a longer review than usual, turn this into an epic rant. Also, fair warning: this review will contain spoilers.
    __Before I start ranting, though, I will admit that the game looks stunning. The graphics are stellar, and the map is meticulously planned and detailed. The most fun I had was riding around admiring the scenery, especially on clear starry nights. A lot of the character interactions made me laugh, too. But that's where my compliments end. Everything else was just plain torturous!
    __At every turn, this game found some new way to piss me off; there are too many examples to count! But the main source of my rage was the pacing of the narrative. At first, I was only mildly interested in the story. The goal was to stop Bill Williamson, and that single clear-cut goal is what held my interest as I assembled a team to storm his fort. But when it turned out he wasn't even there, I was furious! That was my equivalent of "our princess is in another castle". And none of what followed piqued my interest in the slightest, probably because the game had teased me into thinking the assault on the fort was the climax; I felt like it should have been over already, and I was resentful that it had put me right back to square one. The rest of the game kept extending that tease: every single mission promised the goal would be achieved right away, only for the game to keep saying, "Soon. You've got to do this one thing first," over and over and over again! I wasn't angry at the characters for endlessly using me: I was angry at the game for dragging itself out for no good reason whatsoever! The longer it kept going, the more enraged I got, until eventually I was literally screaming at the TV! Some missions turned out to be dead ends, which made me say out loud, "Oh, fuck off!" This game felt like my own personal purgatory: it was constantly dangling one simple goal in front of my eyes, only to continuously snatch it out of reach. Even towards the end, when you're finally reunited with your family, the game still just keeps going! I was wailing by that point: "Why are you still making me do missions I don't enjoy?!"
    __'Cos yeah, I hardly found any of the missions superficially fun either. Many of them were essentially identical to earlier ones, just repeating something I didn't even like the first time. And let me tell you, I really started abusing the "skip checkpoint" feature (that's one thing I'm thankful for: that the game was considerate enough to give you an easy way out if you fail too many times), especially whenever I had to ride and shoot at the same time! I generally suck at video games, and in this case I just could not hit moving targets! I grew to rely on the slow-motion Dead Eye mechanic just so I could hit them, but sometimes it just wouldn't activate! I read something about having to charge it, but why was that necessary?
    __The only reason I kept playing, kept enduring all that hell, was because there was still an end goal and I wanted to reach it. This wasn't like L.A. Noire, where I gave up about halfway through the third chapter (Homicide) because it seemed like there was no goal other than to solve each case and, again, the process was just tedious. (Actually, between those two examples, Bully and the fact that I have no interest whatsoever in playing GTA, I've decided I'm just not a fan of Rockstar Games in general.)
    __And that's all I have to say. Believe me, I wanted to like this game, especially given how immensely popular it is. But like I said, it just kept pissing me off! Ultimately, it's one of only two games to date that I've actively disliked (the other one being Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone on PS1). Sorry for beating it down like I did, but as it's one of the most beloved games in recent memory, I felt you deserved the unabridged version of why I can't chime in with that praise.
    __My rating: 40%.
  12. __Sometimes I neglect to write reviews on my blog for a long time, to the point where they pile up and I have no inclination to do anything more than copy and paste from my Twitter feed. But recently, I've started pushing myself to not put off writing for so long, so my "first impressions" posts are starting to become more frequent and hopefully more earnest and detailed. I'm not sure what's changed lately – maybe it's the fact that I recently joined a Discord server (basically a chat room) that's given my almost nonexistent social life a bit of a boost – but in any case, I seem to have found my drive for writing once again.:) I'm not sure how long it'll last, as I …

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    Baby Driver (2017)
    Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
    Don't Hang Up (2017)
    The Lego Batman Movie (2017)
    And Far Cry 4 (PS4)
  13. __I'd actually watched a few Let's Plays of Batman: The Telltale Series before playing it myself. Well, this week, I finally did. I had to play it on the PS4, though, because this is the first Telltale game that my laptop just couldn't handle; I couldn't even make it through the opening cutscene, because it had to load for like ten seconds every time it switched location! Now, granted, I also experienced some loading delays with The Walking Dead: A New Frontier (which ruined the effect of that jaw-dropping shock at the end of episode one), but to nowhere near the same extreme.

    __Bruce Wayne struggles to deal with newly surfaced damning family secrets while, as Batman, fighting a new threat: a militia group calling themselves "the Children of Arkham".
    __When I first heard that Telltale was going to do a Batman game, I suspected it might focus more on Bruce Wayne than Batman, which would better suit Telltale's style – and it'd be a welcome new approach. I predicted correctly, and the result didn't disappoint.:) The problems he has to deal with as Bruce Wayne in this story are, quite simply, stellar.
    __That's not to say it doesn't deliver on the Batman front, though. In particular, if you choose to visit Mayor Hill as Batman, the resulting scene is too cool for words!:)
    __Now, spoilers here, but what I love most about this game is how creative it gets with the Batman mythos, with some ingenious new twists. I love its idea that Bruce Wayne and Oswald Cobblepot were childhood friends. I love Bruce questioning the foundation of his entire crusade after learning the truth about his parents. I love who they picked for the Children of Arkham leader's identity, and the deeply disturbing reason why. And I love the Joker treating Bruce as a friend and partner in their first meeting, which adds a whole new dynamic to their future relationship.
    __Overall, I wouldn't say it's the best I've seen from Telltale story-wise, but it's still on par in terms of characterisation, respect for the franchise in question, and subverting your expectations.
    __My rating: 85%.
  14. __Before I start, let me explain something. The reason why my blog entries on this site are mere previews, with links to my Wordpress blog being the only way to read more, is because there appears to be a word limit here. I reduce the posts to 125 words or so because, by a certain length, it keeps giving me an "internal server error" message; it won't let me publish the post or even save a draft. So my apologies to anyone who hates the "follow the link to read more" practice, but I'm afraid it appears to be my only choice.
    __With that said, let's start talking about Dragon Age: Origins.:)

    __An Archdemon is amassing an army of Darkspawn, and the player, one of the last remaining Grey Wardens, must work to unite the fractured armies and save the land of Ferelden.
    __If you're one of this game's many fans, I'm afraid I must disappoint you: I can't quite concur. At times, the game almost won me over. I always enjoyed talking to my companions, especially developing the romance with Morrigan, and I loved some particular sections: the Sloth Demon level (in theory, at least), the Brecilian Ruins, the escape from Fort Drakon, and the riddles protecting the Urn of Sacred Ashes. I could probably write a further 250 words or more just about my character's personal journey.:)
    __But it's all ruined by the most frequent …

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  15. __I'm currently spending my free time playing Dragon Age: Origins. Yeah, after completing and (for the most part) loving the Mass Effect trilogy, I decided to check out BioWare's other big seller.:) I'll save my thoughts on the game as a whole for my next "first impressions" post, but for now, I have something to say about one type of enemy you encounter: the spiders.
    __Now, most other times I've encountered giant spiders in games, they've freaked me out bigtime! Resident Evil and Skyrim immediately spring to mind. But for some reason, the spiders in Dragon Age: Origins don't bother me at all, and I've been trying to put my finger on why that is.
    __First of all, let me point out, I am not afraid of spiders in real life. There's no denying they look unpleasant, and I do throw every spider I see out the nearest window because I don't want them around, but at the same time, I don't live in a country that has venomous ones, so I know any spider I'm likely to encounter is completely harmless. But running into giant spiders in video games is another matter entirely, because I can't think of anything more horrifying than finding yourself small enough to be prey for a spider! (That's probably why Shelob from Return of the King also gave me nightmares: because she was presented as catching and eating her prey just like a real spider would.)
    __So, back to my original question: why did they scare me in Resident Evil and Skyrim but not here? Well, in Skyrim's case, the first-person perspective may have been a major part of it. But Resident Evil and Dragon Age are both third-person games, so how did one make giant spiders scary but not the other? I think it's for a few reasons, actually.
    __One: Resident Evil put a ton of effort into making the spiders look realistic, right down to their movement. The sound effects of their footfalls in the silence is also enough to make you feel distinctly uncomfortable.
    __Two: in Resident Evil, you see the spiders crawling on the ceiling, so you dread having to pass underneath them for fear of them dropping on you. Yeah, for some reason, enemies on the ceiling always get to me!:) It's the same reason I find the barnacles to be the most nightmarish enemies in Half-Life 2 – except instead of dropping on you, they drag you up to your doom.
    __Three: you feel so much more vulnerable in Resident Evil, whereas in Dragon Age their attacks do very little damage because of how many hit points you have. That's hardly surprising, considering they're two completely different types of games: one's a survival horror and the other's an RPG.
    __And four: the way Resident Evil is presented makes them feel so much bigger. They're in tight, enclosed environments, while all the locations in Dragon Age, even the indoor ones, look like wide open spaces. That, though, may be the result of another related reason: the characters in Dragon Age look much smaller on the screen, with a lot of space around them, which makes the enemies look smaller too. In other words, the game's presentation makes the enemies seem much less imposing. They look and feel more like chess pieces than living, breathing opponents, but in Resident Evil they actually feel alive and actively hunting you.