Review of Alien: Covenant

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Set a decade after the events of Prometheus, Alien: Covenant continues the prequel storyline of Fox’s sci-fi horror series. Ridley Scott retains the directorial reigns for the franchise he brought to prominence back in the late seventies. Public opinion on Prometheus seems to be divided. I thought the movie had its flaws, but overall was okay. At the very least I liked how it tried to do something different, with a plot that explored humanity’s origins. The designs of Prometheus’ extra terrestrials were pretty cool too. People don’t want originality though. Most moviegoers lamented how HR Giger’s Xenomorphs were absent from the film. That’s something Fox has addressed in Covenant… even if you have to wait until the final act for the titular aliens to make an appearance.

OVERVIEW

Covenant is the designation of a colony ship that is on a multi-year voyage across the cosmos. When the movie begins the space faring craft is slammed by a solar burst. The impact causes extensive damage and claims the life of the ship’s captain, who was incinerated inside his cryogenic chamber. Ouch. The burns he suffered rival my own skin, that time I ventured to Ibiza with scant regard for sun cream. Anyways, unpopular first mate Christopher Oram assumes command before choosing to divert the Covenant to a nearby habitable planet. Perhaps the crew can abandon their original mission and settle on this world instead? Sounds like a reasonable plan, but first they will need to investigate a mysterious transmission that is broadcasting from the planetoid’s surface.

I am sorry to report that the Covenant’s colonists are no brainier than Prometheus’ scientists. Upon shuttling down to their destination they opt against using respirators, as the air appears to be breathable. Does no one in the future fear bacteria? Well, needless to say a couple of the expeditionary team get infected and end up giving birth to pale skinned Neomorphs. Forget the natal discomfort caused by human babies or Chestbursters erupting from a ribcage. These buggers own the market on painful births, thanks to a spawning process that sees them rip through their host’s spine! Stranded, the remaining crew are forced to survive against the unfriendly parasites. They must return to the safety of orbit or else it will be “game over man.”

VERDICT

My rating for Alien: Covenant is three stars. Thanks to Ridley Scott’s gorgeous cinematography I would rank the film above Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection. It doesn’t however match the quality of the earlier Alien movies. Aliens had a more memorable cast and better action. In terms of terror Alien is way scarier. Scott’s original movie was creepy thanks to the suspense, which is something that Covenant lacks. Despite the advances in technology I must say that a guy, in a rubber suit, sneaking through dimly lit corridors is more frightening than a CGI alien snarling in broad daylight. Ironically, the Xenomorphs everyone was clambering for are less scary than the new Neomorphs. Their juvenile form is similar to a Velociraptor and the way they stand when fully grown is unnerving.

As is the case in these types of movie, most of the characters are stupid, underwritten and only there so the beasts have something to dismember. Katherine Waterston plays Janet Daniels – the poor man’s Ellen Ripley. She kicks arse in the final thirty minutes, but does little else before that. Michael Fassbender steals the show by portraying not one but two synthetics. The first of these is a friendly bot named Walter, who reminds me of Star Trek’s Data. Fassbender also reprises the role of David, who has gone off the rails since we last saw him in Prometheus. By utilizing Engineer tech, David plots to replace humans with what he considers to be superior life forms. Traitor! You cannot trust an Android. That’s why, when it comes to mobiles, I prefer an iPhone.

Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash Review

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Game of Thrones was correct. Winter is coming. Yesterday’s commute to work necessitated the use of a brolly, as precipitation poured down upon my noggin. Sigh, how I miss the warmer climes of July and August. Thankfully, regardless of the current weather, I can still enjoy the spectacle of bikini-clad babes thanks to the release of Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash. Marvelous and Tamsoft have once again treated us to a game starring their well-endowed female ninjas. This time however the teenage shinobi have traded their shurikens and swords for super soakers, as they compete in the titular water gun tournament.

OVERVIEW

It’s funny to see that the Peach Beach Splash competition is being streamed on a fictional site named New Tube. Somehow I doubt that the real life YouTube would support videos featuring half naked girls who cuss a lot. YouTube are currently waging a virtuous crusade against controversial content, which has seen many talented creators get whacked with the demonetization bat. Apparently this all started because a certain annoying Swede decided to go full Nazi, resulting in an advertiser boycott. Oh well, who cares. Let’s return to the more pressing matter of swimsuits and bouncy gals.

Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash’s single player content includes a five-part story mode, some bonus missions and various tournaments. There’s multiplayer fun to be had too, courtesy of ranked competitive matches and a co-op survival mode. Unfortunately I have yet to dabble with the online features because I can never seem to find any other players to group with. Perhaps splitting the niche community across regional servers is to blame… or maybe everyone sticks to single player, as revealing to the world that you like this game is embarrassing. A fondness for midget porn is easier to justify than a passion for Senran Kagura.

To be honest it’s a shame that the salacious content will put off some people, because the game is a fun third person shooter brimming with tongue in cheek humour. Many of the levels pit you against hordes of weak enemies, robots and fellow ninjas. Sometimes, to spice things up, you’ll also be expected to use your liquid spewing arsenal to extinguish flames within a lenient time limit. Missing from this edition of Senran Kagura is the series’ trademark destructible clothing. There aren’t any garments to damage as the cast is barely wearing anything to begin with! On the plus side it’s possible to make downed opponents part with their raunchy two-piece, by squirting them with a rubber ducky. Quack.

VERDICT

My rating for Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash is a four out of five. Fans of the franchise will be pleased to learn that the series’ temporary transition from brawler to shooter has turned out well. My only complaint with the game is that the main campaign can be cleared in a few quick hours, as the levels are shorter than the star of a midget porno (wow two hobbit adult-movie references in one review.) On the plus side Peach Beach Splash gives you plenty of reasons to continue playing once the story is finished. There are tons of unlockables to earn in the form of artwork, music and cosmetic items. Replaying levels also awards card packs, which contain new abilities/guns for your characters, pets that can be summoned in battle and stat upgrades.

Peach Beach Splash’s mix of action, comedy and eye candy will serve me well for the upcoming nippy period. Why bother venture outdoors and get drenched when you can stay inside and watch the virtual beauties get soaked instead?

Review of Death Parade

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Yesterday was meant to be a vacation day. Unfortunately for me the Friday was spent in bed wrestling with a bout of man-flu. These occasions, were illness strikes, serve as a stark reminder that I am not impervious to ailments. I am very much mortal and like everyone else will someday meet my demise. As I lay there, in a feverish stupor, I began to ponder what happens to us when the Grim Reaper comes a knocking. Some denominations believe that we get whisked away to heaven, whilst atheists (such as myself) believe that we simply cease to be. Death Parade’s take on the after life is that spirits of the departed are transported to a pub, where a quick game determines if said souls are to be reincarnated or exiled away to an empty void.

OVERVIEW

Death Parade’s setting is the Quindecim Bar. Most of the anime’s dozen episodes start with a pair of recently deceased entering the saloon. Unaware of their plight, as all knowledge of their passing has been expunged from memory, the two visitors are coerced into competing in a random game. A digital roulette wheel selects the contest from a range of pastimes that include cards, air hockey, Street Fighter II and Twister (the latter which I hear is great fun to play with members of the opposite sex.) Each game comes complete with a supernatural surprise. The inaugural episode for example features a darts duel between newlyweds, were throwing a projectile at the board causes their significant other to feel immense pain.

Unbeknownst to the competitors, the outcome of their match doesn’t matter one iota. How they behave during the session determines whether they will be reborn as someone else or hurled into purgatory. The arbiter who decides each person’s fate is the pub’s courteous bartender Decim. He’s a pasty skinned chap who collects mannequins as a hobby. Decim is exceptional at pouring drinks, but his lack of emotion can be a hindrance when it comes to judging the nature of his guests. It’s for this reason that in Death Parade’s first instalment he is afforded a perceptive assistant named Chiyuki. Throughout the series other characters make an appearance, including Decim’s pintsized superior Nona and Ginti – a crimson haired mixologist who has nothing but contempt for humans.

VERDICT

My rating for Death Parade is five stars. Thanks to the wide spectrum of personalities that go through Quindecim’s doors the series is able to evoke a gamut of emotions. Some episodes made me laugh, others brought me to tears and on a few occasions I raged over Decim’s verdicts. Perhaps that illustrates what a fine line exists between saints and sinners? Whether you brand someone good or evil often comes down to your own personal values/beliefs rather than the person’s actions. As someone who detests filler I admired how Death Parade made every episode count during it’s modest twelve part run. The first half of the series follows an episodic format, but as the narrative approaches its climax things shift to the mystery that ties Decim and Chiyuki together.

In terms of audio and visuals Death Parade deserves a thumbs up. The confined bar setting didn’t prevent Madhouse’s animators from going all out during certain scenes. Until now, I never knew that a game of air hockey could look so epic! The voice acting, which is a vital component of any good psychological drama, was top notch too. I also dug the show’s OP and ED. Flyers (the tune that kicks off each episode) will make you want to boogie, whilst Last Theatre closes things out with a ditty that will appeal to rock ballad lovers. Now that I think about it, catching a cold on my day off wasn’t so bad. Staying indoors resulted in me watching an excellent anime. I doubt going out to my local tavern would have been more enjoyable than spending time at the animated Quindecim Bar.

Review of Mad Max: Fury Road

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After a thirty-year hiatus Mad Max is back. This time however the titular Road Warrior (Aarrrggghhhhhhhh… What a Rush) is played by English actor Tom Hardy. Mel Gibson is still in the doghouse, so he doesn’t even get to make a cameo appearance in Fury Road. Perhaps I am being too nice but don’t you think sufficient time has passed, since Mel’s much-publicised misdemeanours, that we should give him a second chance? Most of us have done foolish things under the influence of alcohol after all. Even I have been known to perform gymnastics, on the concrete pavement, after one too many ciders!

OVERVIEW

War never changes. That’s what I thought when Fury Road started, because the movie is set in a post apocalyptic Earth reminiscent to the world depicted in the Fallout games. During the opening scene Max is captured by a band of War Boys and turned into an involuntary blood bank. A tyrannical cultist named Immortan Joe leads the group responsible for Max’s abduction. He’s a nasty chap that appears to have borrowed Hardy’s respirator from the last Batman movie. After an unspecified amount of time Max is able to escape from the War Boys’ clutches and joins forces with a badass chick named Furiosa, who has absconded from Joe’s citadel – taking his harem of wives in the process.

Joe is naturally miffed that the ladies, who are carrying his unborn children, have been taken so he gives chase. Gorgeous women are a precious commodity he can ill afford to lose – especially when you consider that most of the populace in Mad Max are either deformed, toothless, missing limbs or all of the above. What follows is a 120-minute vehicular pursuit between Max/Furiosa and Joe’s convoy of follicly challenged henchmen. There isn’t much plot in Fury Road, but to compensate for the lack of narrative you get copious amounts of blood splatter instead. No one should be surprised by the visceral content given that George Miller directed the movie. His previous writing credits include video nasties such as Babe and Happy Feet.

VERDICT

My rating for Mad Max: Fury Road is a three out of five. In retrospect I think I went into the movie with overly high expectations, which had been inflated by the film’s bevy of Oscar nominations and positive reviews. The movie is a solid action flick, but not the exceptional tour de force some people had led me to believe. Due to the script’s minimal use of dialogue I found getting attached to any of the characters a difficult task. The story is also disappointing. A simple premise followed by a chain of action set pieces. On the plus side the gunfights, car chases and fisticuffs were all exciting to watch. Said sequences are all the more impressive when you consider that they were supposedly recorded using practical effects and little CG.

Feminists may wonder why Max Rockatansky gets top billing in this movie. Make no mistake; this is Furiosa’s adventure with Max tagging along for the ride. Charlize Theron handled the physical demands of the role very well and was very much Hardy’s equal in terms of ass kicking. When it comes to strong females, who can pull off a buzz cut and dish out pain, Furiosa is right up there with the likes of Ellen Ripley and Britney Spears. Mad Max: Fury Road may not have wowed me, like it did for some people, but the action alone made it a worthwhile two hours spent. I wouldn’t be averse to checking out another Max sequel. Hopefully we won’t have to wait three decades for the next instalment.

Review of Lostorage Incited Wixoss

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Lostorage Incited Wixoss is the third season of an anime franchise that seemingly chooses its titles by plucking random words out of the dictionary (a naming convention popularized by Kingdom Hearts’ sequels.) Lo-storage? Better buy a bigger hard drive mate. Anyways… for those of you not acquainted with the prior Wixoss cartoons, I would best describe the show as Magic the Gathering meets Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Brace yourself for a lot of “you activated my trap card” and a lot of tragedy, when players realize why one should always be careful of what you wish for.

OVERVIEW

Homura Suzuko and Morikawa Chinatsu were inseparable childhood pals until the day that Suzu’s family moved away to another town. Years later the pair reunite, under less than ideal circumstances. Suzuko, Chinatsu and countless others have been chosen by a cosmic force to compete in a Wixoss battle royale. Participants are tasked with amassing five coins within a ninety-day deadline, or else they will be stripped off their memories. Coinage is earned/lost by winning/losing duels respectively. Anyone who exhausts their supply of mystical currency is spirited away as punishment. Scary stuff! This series is doing a lousy job of promoting the real life card game. Based on this plot, I am now too terrified to ever play a game of Wixoss.

All that said – the series is more concerned with telling a good tale rather than being a glorified commercial for the titular TCG. Just like the first season of Yu-Gi-Oh (were it’s clear that the script writers never read the game’s rulebook) watching Lostorage’s dozen episodes won’t teach you how to play Wixoss.

The narrative’s focus is on how the heroines react to the stresses they are put under. Chinatsu turns to the dark side, after buckling under the strain of family problems and the pressures of living up to Suzuko’s expectations. Suzu on the other hand grows in courage after a lifetime of depending on others. Under the tutelage of pro player Hanna Mikage, Suzuko becomes an accomplished Wixoss duellist. She receives lessons from Hanna in exchange for desserts. Judging from the current state of the Pound, it won’t be long before I too will have to barter by using tasty treats instead of worthless Sterling. Let’s hope I can resist the temptation of gobbling up my delicious sugary bank balance!

VERDICT

My rating for Lostorage Incited Wixoss is four stars. From what I recall, the show received a lukewarm reception back when it aired. I suppose that many viewers preferred the waifus characters from the last series more, although I personally enjoyed the anime quite a bit. Lostorage is rich in drama and unlike some other shows it ends on a satisfying, albeit bittersweet, note. Due to being a sequel series, Lostorage has the handicap of no longer being able to coast by on shock factor alone. The writers at J.C. Staff have however managed to keep things interesting with some unexpected revelations and twists, even if the overall story structure adheres to the blueprint laid down by past Wixoss seasons.

One thing that may annoy Yuri fans is that Wixoss is no longer a female exclusive domain. Lostorage’s cast includes a few guys, although I use the term guys loosely as they are all a bunch of pussies. Chinatsu’s love interest Shohei Shirai isn’t man enough to fight in battles whilst sis-con Shou Narumi doesn’t have the testicular fortitude to defeat female opponents. Lostorage’s antagonist Kou “bookmaker” Satomi is a bloke too, although he is wickedly flamboyant. Weak male characters aside, I had a grand time watching Lostorage Incited Wixoss and am looking forward to the 2018 fourth season. Said series is titled Lostorage Conflated WIXOSS – Missing Link… looks like the writers are continuing to use that random word generator for naming purposes.

Last Day of June Review

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I’ll start this review by getting the obvious observation (that everyone has already made) out of the way. Why is this game called Last Day of June if it was released on August 31st? I hate it when titles lie. Seriously though, the titular June is a young artist who tragically died in a traffic accident, one fateful day, on the way back from a romantic picnic. In this game players assume the role of June’s lover Carl. The bespectacled baldy was in the car when June passed away. Although he survived the crash, Carl sustained injuries that have confined him to a wheelchair. How depressing. Thankfully when Last Day of June begins Carl acquires the power of time travel. Can he use his new ability to undo the tragedy or will he discover that altering history is impossible?

OVERVIEW

Last Day of June’s intro sees Carl uncover four mystical portraits that depict his neighbours. Touching the watercolours transports Carl to the date when June perished and gives him control over the painting’s model. By possessing said villagers players need to find a way of averting the fatal collision. Sounds simple enough, but sadly the past is not so easily manipulated. Every time an event is tweaked some new disaster occurs that kills June. Early on I was able to keep the kid, whose dash across the highway caused the crash, away from the scene. This was accomplished by having him play with a kite elsewhere. Job done? Nope. In the new timeline June dies swerving off road to evade a cardboard box spillage further up the street. Those things are deadly, as Solid Snake will attest to.

At its core, Last Day of June is a third person puzzle game. You pick a character, use their unique skills to solve brainteasers and then see how your handiwork impacts June’s future. The little rascal I mentioned above for example is too scrawny to open heavy gates, but his short stature allows him to squeeze through fence holes. Another character of note is the local hunter, who has to use his faithful hound and a musket to chase after a medal-pilfering bluebird. Meanwhile the blonde with the nice rack can clear away slippery leaves. Um, did I say rack? I mean she uses her nice rake to clear away said foliage. Aside from the puzzles there are also collectables to locate, which reveal snippets of each character’s backstory.

VERDICT

My rating for Last Day of June is four stars. The gameplay is clunky, load times are long and the inability to skip cut scenes can be annoying, but it matters not because the emotional storyline is beautiful. It’s remarkable how expressive the characters are, in spite of the fact that their dialogue is limited to Sims style gibberish. Each time Carl is unsuccessful in rescuing June his rage and despair are palpable. I think the game’s soundtrack helps to accentuate the onscreen drama. The music’s quality should come as no surprise given that Carl’s tale is based off a Steven Wilson tune. Visually the game is impressive too. I dug the stop motion marionette like character designs and how the environments have an oil painting aesthetic to them.

Unless you have no heart I can highly recommend Last Day of June. Buyers will however have to deliberate if they wish to pay now for a title that can be finished within a few hours, or wait for a future price discount. Given the title’s linear structure there isn’t much replay value once you reach the ending. Watching the game via a Let’s Play would suffice for most people, although I think that walking a mile in Carl’s shoes and solving the game’s conundrums yourself adds to the experience. Technical niggles aside, developer Ovosonico deserve praise for a job well done. I’m so awed that I’ll forgive them for the deceptive title. Last Day of June? The game came out in August! Ovosonico why did July to us? May god forgive your fib. Okay the review is done, time to march off.

Review of Death Note (Netflix)

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Netflix, you have let me down! People have praised your superhero shows and I myself was impressed by your take on Castlevania. All that goodwill has however evaporated due to your treatment of Death Note. I no longer feel guilty about not subscribing to your service, after my free trial ran out. To be fair, Death Note is one of my favourite anime of all time. Regardless of how good this live action film would have turned out, it would have struggled to live up to the source material’s legacy. Perhaps the limited running time is partially to blame? I feel that a lengthy live action series, which follows the manga more closely, could be a hit with western audiences. That’s something we are unlikely to ever see though, after the negative reception this movie has rightfully received.

OVERVIEW

What would you do if a demon gifted you a notepad that can magically kill anyone whose name you scribble onto its pages? You could take over the world, refuse to write on it because murder is wrong or use the book to assassinate any traffic warden foolish enough to give you a ticket. After acquiring the titular tome, from a fruit eating death god named Ryuk, Light Turner opts to harness the Death Note’s power to rid Earth of evil. A bully, the mobster who killed Light’s mom and various criminals all receive punishment at the hands of Turner’s penmanship. Vigilante justice is frowned by society though, so the authorities soon get involved. A taskforce led by Light’s own father and a detective named L begins to investigate who is responsible for the recent underworld purge.

That premise alone is enough to carry an entire film, but the cat and mouse game between Light and the law gets even more convoluted when romance is thrown into the mix. Light elects to divulge knowledge of the Death Note to his girlfriend Mia Sutton, which aggravates matters further. Given the choice, Light would rather not get innocents involved in his mess. Mia on the other hand is more ruthless. If meddlesome cops try to interfere with their righteous crusade, against criminality, Mia is all for aiming the Death Note’s fatal sorcery at the police. Mia feels more like the anime version of Light than Turner does. Just like Light Yagami, she is corrupted by power and isn’t averse to manipulating friends as a means of achieving what she believes is the greater good.

VERDICT

My rating for Death Note 2017 is one star. I was going to give the movie a two, but the silly finale persuaded me to award it the lowest score possible. Some viewers may find Death Note entertaining, the idea of a killer book is cool after all, but having seen the story executed better in animated form I cannot be as generous. It was disappointing to see the Death Note turned into nothing more than a MacGuffin that turns people into brainwashed slaves that occasionally perish in gruesome ways. The film felt like a teenage horror flick from the nineties with its Final Destination style death sequences. Blood splatter cannot however disguise how boring the story was. I must confess that I nodded off a couple of times during the feature’s 100 minute running time.

I didn’t like how Light was portrayed. The studio didn’t seem to have confidence that western viewers would accept an evil protagonist, so they transferred most of Yagami’s traits to Mia. L wasn’t handled much better either. Rather than coming across as a savant he just seems to be a weirdo, who isn’t all that smart. Most of his deductions are just leaps of logic required to keep the plot going along. A cynic may remark that a black actor was cast as L to deflect the whitewash critics, who were already moaning about the setting’s transference from Japan to Seattle. The only thing that I enjoyed about the film was Ryuk. Willem Dafoe was the perfect choice for delivering Ryuk’s sinister quips and the visual effects team should be commended for their creepy creature design.

Ghost in the Shell detractors may want to revise their opinions, because Death Note is a far better example of an anime adaptation gone wrong. One concern I have is that Death Note’s conclusion leaves things wide open for a potential sequel. Hopefully the folks at Netflix will “kill” that idea in the bud, after the critical backlash the movie has received. Just to be safe I’ll jot down “Death Note 2” into my little black book.