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Reviews

TV Review: Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events

Are you prepared to listen to a tale of serious misfortune and misery? The serial misconduct of those caring for three children; the Baudelaire orphans? Lemony Snicket advises that you are better off just looking away. But if, like me, you have a morbid fascination with watching things people tell you not to, this might be the series for you! So don’t adjust your screens, it is time to review Lemony Snickets A Series of Unfortunate Events.

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Anime Review: Bananya

Do you love cats? Great, because that’s all that you get in this anime. Do you love bananas? Great, because that’s all that you get to accompany the cats in this anime. This is literally, exactly as the description of the anime suggests, an anime about cats that reside in bananas. Ho boy, I think I’ve lost the plot now. Still, at 3 minutes per episode, you can’t really complain much for the rather cute depictions of cats in bananas, even if it’s one of the stranger concepts I’ve uncovered on Crunchyroll as of late.

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Review – Lego Batman

It looks like the Warner Bros/Lego tag-team might have a far grander future ahead of them than expected. It might also be the salvation of DC on the big screen, if a somewhat comical take.

Lego Batman was something of a breakout star in the original Lego Movie (2014), perhaps based on Will Arnett‘s performance, more likely the epic song he wrote. LB is a perfect and childish parody of the comic-book Dark Knight, blending in the campy Caped Crusader, we saw him initially to be an overblown stereotype of dark and brooding, playing off every move he makes as super-cool and totally intentional, and to my mind the writers used the members of the Justice League perfectly. Green Lantern’s powers are pointless in a world where anyone can create anything, and the innate magic of imagination basically renders Superman useless, Wonder Woman is probably fine, but the ingenuity and creativity of Batman makes him the perfect Master Builder, although one with a limited colour palette. (more…)


Anime Review: Interviews With Monster Girls

With a name like ‘Interviews With Monster Girls‘, you would be excused to think this is an ecchi. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term ‘ecchi’, this is effectively the same way as saying ‘sexy’. As such, I clicked on this one thinking it was going to be yet another harem anime and that I’d turn it over and look for something different. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case for this particular anime, although I’m sure there are enough people who would watch it purely for the fantasisation of lady monster nibbling at necks and losing their heads. No really, this is something that happens a fair bit in this anime. Let’s have a look and see what I really thought of it.

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Anime Review: Koro Sensei Quest!

Fans of Assassination Classroom may rejoice, because the story has now been retold in a rather unique way. Taking on from other RPG anime such as Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon, but turned much more chibi, this is a very different adaptation of the story of Assassination Classroom, without being all too different story wise. But what do I make of this micro-series? Read on!

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Review – Volo’s Guide to Monsters

It has been a couple of years since the release of the core set – Players Handbook, Monster Manual and Dungeon Master’s Guide – and in between we’ve mostly seen the release of campaign books that have added their own flavour that a half-awake DM can implement to great effect in his/her own games.

Across the last two editions we’ve seen something of a template in terms of extra material, and the same with independent adaption Pathfinder; more monster manuals, more player options, flavour books that add new worlds or mixed materials that play to a theme, accompanied by campaign modules which are primarily focused on a playable adventure, rather than adding usable material for anyone to use. (more…)


Film Review: Rise of the Guardians

A film where Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and the Sandman are all fighting to make sure kids believe? Well, I’ve seen crazier film ideas. Since it’s now the season to be jolly, I thought I’d indulge myself in a bit of a Christmas-y film. I didn’t realise this was supposed to be more of an Easter-y film, however with the amount of snow and the presence of Santa Claus, I think this can equally be considered a movie based around the jolly man himself. Still, with so many legendary figures in one film, how on Earth does the protagonist Jack Frost fit in it? Well if you’ve not seen this title, read on!

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Film Review: Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them

If magic is your thing, then Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them definitely is the film for you. Whether or not you want to believe magic is real, or if you just love the wonderfully creative world that J.K. Rowling has created, then this adventrous film feels like the complete package. It’s got memorable characters, plenty of interaction between the wizarding and non-wizarding communities and deals with some relatively interesting topics within their world. Just what would happen if a Muggle, or a No-Maj, were to find out about the wizarding world? Read on to find out more!

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Review – Doctor Strange

The long anticipated and lesser known title to emerge onto the MCU’s steamroller of success is Doctor Strange, and despite a little controversy over the appointment of Benedict Cumberbatch to the role it’s everything we’ve come to expect from this media leviathan. Oh sure, it’s formulaic, but it’s Marvel’s formula, which has been working rather well for the last eight years and thirteen films. That’s halfway to the number of James Bond films there are in one seventh the time and barely any changes in lead actors.

Phase Three; Episode 2 delivers new levels of mysticism layered on top of the flimsy scientific justifications that Marvel has been getting good at, so long as you bear in mind a quote from the first Thor film you’ll be doing fine:

“Your ancestors called it magic, but you call it science. I come from a land where they are one and the same.”

Sounds about right.

The Good

Our hero is pretty much the centre of our formula, practically a carbon copy of Tony Stark all the way down to the facial hair: an egotistical genius who excels in his field who suffers a life changing event, and his pursuit to put things right eventually land him the role of a superhero, in this case a brain surgeon seeking to restore the use of his hands turns to mystic arts. There’s a lot of Sherlock Holmes in Stephen Strange, and not just because Cumberbatch played both, but the degrees of obsession, arrogance, intelligence, and cunning make a comparison inevitable.

Tilda Swinton appears as herself, an ageless mystic capable of incredible feats of contorting the material world. Her character actually raised bigger concerns about Hollywood whitewashing, but she actually cuts a very original take on the eastern sensei that breaks a few cliches that would have seemed hackneyed in modern cinema. It’s a performance that demanded great verbal, emotional and physical delivery, and Swinton delivers on all counts.

All told we have a fairly slim cast of characters. We have a love story that is blown through fairly quickly and leaves us with a rather interesting little slice of narrative that helps us develop Strange and something we might revisit at another time, although I feel it could have been abandoned altogether with minimal effort. I’m sure most of us will find love for Wong, the deadpan comedy foil and all-round awesome librarian. Mordo presents an interesting figure so far as sidekicks go, eluding to a rather unpleasant history that led him to uncover the mystic arts, something I’m sure we’ll learn more about in the future.

The Bad

Dormammu I knew to be a major villain in the Marvel Universe, one of those elder-evil types, bigger and badder even than Thanos, so when my Marvel expert on-call said they shouldn’t jump straight to the big guns, they should leave some room to escalate the situation. However using a minor villain – Mads Mikkelson as Kaecilius – as a mortal vessel of the Dark Dimensions puts a limitation on Dormammu that makes him a fearsome enough adversary without overwhelming the new sorcerer. Kaecilius actually reminds me a lot of Tai Lung from Kung Fu Panda, the student who excelled so far before turning on their master for withholding some incredible power, only to be struck down by the new prodigy who seems more willing to learn the truth.

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Keep your eyes peeled for the thinly veiled future villain. Trust me, he’s not hard to spot, and he gets more and more obvious as the film goes on. If you need it spelling out for you just wait until the end-of-credits scene, the second one. And if you’re one of those people who leaves before the credits are over in a Marvel film then I automatically assume you’re the kind of person who doesn’t recycle and habitually throw away large amounts of food; it’s wasteful and frankly rude.

Villainy and threat are often second fiddle to origin story in films such as these, it’s something to which Yellowjacket, Ronan the Accuser, and Francis all fell prey in their respective appearances, and Doctor Strange presents us with a similar case where focus on the hero leaves us with an underdeveloped and readily forgotten villain. Oh, not that any of them were bad villains, but they’re not what people will take away from their respective titles.

The Strange

On seeing the trailers I was a little concerned at the shifting worldscapes might be too much detail to bombard the senses. Well maybe, but cinematography made life easier, flat colour palettes typical of New York architecture make the outlandish costumes of the main cast stand out a mile, camera work keeps the focus on the action, leaving the whirling details to emphasise the speed and dynamics of every moment. I also had my concerns about the Cloak of Levitation becoming a little too adorable and “mascot-ish” but it balanced personality with entertainment value without swallowing the whole show for itself.

Though the bulk of the film is visually stunning I found one particular fight a little hard to watch, a brawl between two astral projections that seemed a little too unreal for me to buy into the tension of the scene. The ghosts of the two combatants seemed to have almost a Casper-like glow and translucency about them, and while the setting may have been intended to feel claustrophobic it just made everything harder to follow where other, more elaborate scenes had done the job so much better.

Kudos to Cumberbatch for the character research

Kudos to Cumberbatch for the character research

Biggest question: we learn that there are three sanctuaries placed around the world that emanate suitable protection from extra-dimensional forces to cover the globe, London, New York and Hong-Kong. Nothing in the southern hemisphere? Why does Johannesburg not get a chapter?

It took me longer than I’m proud of to spot the Infinity Stone. I’m not entirely sure how so many of these are ending up on Earth but seriously can someone try keeping them separate? We have two, and that feels like too many. We now have five out of six with only the with only the stone of the Soul remaining, meaning Ragnarok should see the beginnings of Thanos’ collection, and if you stick around long enough you’ll see how it’ll all tie together.

In short, watch Doctor Strange, it is a good film, and while that may sound like an over simplification I can’t honestly say that there’s much more to Doctor Strange than that. Visually it is a spectacle of a standard we’ve come to anticipate, action takes standards laid down by the Matrix to their next logical step, drama gives us comedy and tragedy in fairly even handed measures, and we are left with a new character who no doubt will make the Avengers that little bit richer for his presence. It’s still looking like a boy’s club but given the source material they’re working on we can’t expect much else just yet.

It’s Strange, but who am I to judge.


Film Review – Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children

 

Ever thought about having powers? These kids had no choice in the matter, for they’re Peculiar’s, a group of people who have powers which make them different from normal humans. Directed by Tim Burton and written by Ransom Riggs, is this film as spectacularly different as we’d expect, or is it just not Peculiar enough for my tastes? Let’s take a look through Victorian England and take a step through a Loop.

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