Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Anime Review: The Devil is a Part-Timer (Season 1) (TV)

The Devil is a Part-Timer (Season 1) (Review)
Japan/2013
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...brimming with humor and exuberance."

During a battle, Satan, the Demon Lord of Este Isla, retreats to Earth with his generalissimo, Alciel. As they begin to rebuild their empire, they find they've been followed by Hero Emilia...

The Devil is a Part-Timer is a rather simple series – at least during the first season. (I'm assuming there will be another.) There is some interesting background, but it rarely delves deeply into the lore. The season follows Satan, Alciel, and Emilia as they enter Earth. Satan changes his name to Sadao Maou, Alciel becomes Shiro Ashiya, and Emilia sticks with Emi. In order to dominate Earth, Sadao begins working at MgRonald as a part-timer with an adorable coworker, Chiho, and Ashiya takes on the housecleaning, while Emi works as a call center agent. Initially, Emi planned on defeating Sadao once and for all. But, she finds herself with mixed emotions when she sees Sadao's strange work ethic and caring demeanor while stalking him. Her plans are further complicated as several foes arrive on Earth from Este Isla – blurring the lines between good and evil. It ends on a simple note, really – nothing extravagant or epic. Yet, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't looking forward to a second season if it ever came to fruition.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Film Review: Dying of the Light (2014)

Dying of the Light (Review)
United States/2014
Format Viewed For Review: Amazon Prime
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: Yes

"The narrative is actually very interesting, especially some of its themes, but the execution is flawed."

Evan Lake (Nicolas Cage), a highly-decorated CIA agent suffering from early stage frontal temporal dementia, spirals into a tailspin when he finds evidence of an old foe's survival...

Dying of the Light is an interesting film with bizarre flaws. The plot follows Evan Lake, who was tortured in Africa by Banir, a terrorist, over 20 years ago. In the present, Evan is diagnosed with a form of dementia. As he stumbles upon news of Banir's potential survival and residence, Evan is considered a liability by the agency. Fortunately, he finds aid from his colleague, Milt (Anton Yelchin). Milt and Evan connect the pieces, then begin tracking Banir. It may sound like a globe-trotting adventure with psychological elements, but it really isn't. The film never actually delves enough into anything it offers, which is incredibly unfortunate. It leads to a simple ending, too – nothing special, really.

Friday, December 25, 2015

TV Review: It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia — A Very Sunny Christmas (2010)

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia – A Very Sunny Christmas (Review)
United States/2010
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: Yes

"...successfully gets you into the mood for the holidays."

Dennis (Glenn Howerton) and Dee (Kaitlin Olson) set out to teach Frank (Danny DeVito) a lesson for his "fakeout" gifts. Meanwhile, Mac (Rob McElhenney) and Charlie (Charlie Day) attempt to capture the spirit of Christmas by revisiting their childhoods...

A Very Sunny Christmas is a television Christmas special following the cynical crew during the holidays. This special 44 or so minute episode follows the traditional Always Sunny formula – the characters split up for separate causes, then met up towards the end. Fortunately, it's a formula that always works. In this case, Dennis and Dee are bent on teaching Frank a lesson for his usual holiday torment; by that, I mean, Frank loves to purchase the gifts Dennis and Dee want for himself, then shove them in their faces. On the other front, Mac and Charlie revisit their childhood and find they've been lied to by their parents. (It turns out, visiting someone's home and opening their presents isn't a tradition, but it's actually stealing.) It all leads to a surprisingly tender ending.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Anime Review: Aldnoah.Zero (Season 1) (TV)

Aldnoah.Zero (Season 1) (Review)
Japan/2014
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"I really did enjoy this rich world..."

A devious plot to assassinate a foreign princess revitalizes a war between Earth and the Vers Empire, an empire powered by powerful Martian technology called Aldnoah...

Aldnoah.Zero is a bit complicated, which can be good and bad. On one hand, there's a rich background and a large set of characters. On the other hand, there's not enough time in a 12-episode season to efficiently tell the story. So, let me try to give you a condensed version of the plot while avoiding spoilers from the latter half of the season. Aldnoah.Zero follows the Terrans, the inhabitants of Earth, and the Martians of the Vers Empire, particularly Princess Asseylum. Princess Asseylum visits Earth on peace mission. Upon arrival, her vehicle and her convoy are destroyed by Martians posing as Terrans. With their convenient excuse, the conspirators, a few of the Orbital Knights of the Vers Empire, consequently attack Earth with all of their might. As war erupts, Inaho Kaizuka, an oddly tranquil and calculated teenager, joins the fight with other surviving Terrans and helps unravel the conspiracy. I think that’s about everything I can explain without spoiling certain plot points. There are many more characters, though. It all leads to a very powerful ending, leaving you wanting more.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Film Review: As Above, So Below (2014)

As Above, So Below (Review)
United States/2014
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"Although the film suffers from an annoying main character, the film fares better in the story and horror departments."

Hoping to complete her father's search for the philosopher's stone, Scarlett Marlowe (Perdita Weeks) is led to the Catacombs beneath Paris...

Within the first five or so minutes, you'll have a teaser of everything you'll be getting into. You'll have a teaser of the obnoxious main character, the sensation of adventure, and an idea of the terror – as well as a peak at the shaky cam. (You can't have a found-footage horror film without the shaky cam...) The story follows the unbearable Scarlet Marlowe, a scholar with several degrees and a black belt, as she forces leads her peers, including her close friend, George (Ben Feldman), into the Catacombs beneath Paris. While searching the claustrophobic tunnels, the group find themselves hearing and seeing bizarre anomalies – many reflecting their tormented pasts. The farther they delve, the more tangible their visions become. The climax becomes sort of a run-and-boo ride, but it's decent. The ending was unfulfilling – it felt lackluster compared to most of this horror-adventure.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Video Game Review: Gears of War Ultimate Edition (Xbox One)

Gears of War: Ultimate Edition (Xbox One – PC coming soon)
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: The Coalition
Genre: SciFi Third-Person Shooter
Platform Played For Review: Xbox One

"...it's hard to find a more exciting and engrossing shooter than Gears of War."

Fourteen years after Emergence Day, the Locust have overwhelmed the COG forces in a war against mankind. Marcus Fenix is freed from prison by his best friend and comrade Dom, then led to meet Delta Squad for a daring mission...

For the sake of this review, I'll try to keep the plot details short and efficient. So, it should be noted: although I'll skimp on some details, there is a rich world to be found here. So, you play as Marcus and eventually lead Delta Squad, which, at its core, consists of Marcus, Dom, Cole, and Baird. Your objective is to find the resonator, a device that will map the Locust's caves and tunnels, to deploy a ruinous bomb at the source. The trip feels grand as you travel through the grungy, hopeless world on foot and vehicle. Of course, everything doesn't goes as planned, which causes a few detours. Fortunately, the plot never felt thin or poorly-paced. All of the pieces fit well to create a very smooth and enjoyable ride. For those who only played on Xbox 360, the extra PC act is seamlessly added into this plot – and it was great! It all leads to a great final sequence and a decent boss. (I swear, there must have been a little spike in the difficulty for that final boss.)

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Anime Review: The Seven Deadly Sins (Season 1) (TV)

The Seven Deadly Sins (Season 1) (Review)
Japan/2014
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...an excellent blend of action and comedy, forming a concoction of pure entertainment."

Sensing a giant conspiracy afoot, Princess Elizabeth sets out to gather the Seven Deadly Sins to aid her in rescuing the kingdom from the holy knights...

The Seven Deadly Sins is a bit complicated considering its large world and diverse set of characters, so I'll try to keep the story details short and snappy. The Seven Deadly Sins were a group of talented knights in the Liones Kingdom who were suspected of plotting to overthrow the king – some legends say they died in battle, others say they still wander the world. After witnessing the Holy Knight's coup of the kingdom, taking her father hostage, Princess Elizabeth escapes and begins her quest to gather the Seven Deadly Sins in order to save her family and the people.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Film Review: The Chosen (2015)

The Chosen (Review)
United States/2015
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"It's not great and it's not terrible — it's merely decent."

A child-stealing demon known as "Lilith" attaches itself to a little girl, forcing the family to sacrifice six other family members for her safe return...

The Chosen follows Cameron (Kian Lawley) and his dysfunctional family. Immediately, you're thrust into this fairly large family consisting of uncles, aunts, grandmas, grandpas, nieces and so on – most of which live in the same house. It's a large family tree you're expected to understand within minutes. It takes a little longer than that, but you'll eventually get the gist. So, Cameron is Angie's uncle. Cameron takes Angie to visit her mother – a former drug addict. During the trip, the pair stumble upon a neighboring dispute. At this point, the demon latches on to Angie. Angie becomes sick and begins showing bizarre symptoms of aggression. Cameron finds he must sacrifice 6 family members in six days in order to save Angie from the demon – so he does that. It all leads to a predictable ending. The ending was a little cheesy, too.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Video Game Review: Rise of the Tomb Raider (Xbox One)

Rise of the Tomb Raider (Xbox One, Xbox 360)
Publisher: Square Enix, Microsoft Studios
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Genre: Action/Adventure
Platform Played for Review: Xbox One

"Rise of the Tomb Raider is one of the best games of 2015."

One year after the events of Tomb Raider, Lara Croft continues her search for answers to life's enigmatic questions using her father's research. Specifically, Lara seeks to finish her father's research by discovering the lost city of Kitezh and the secret to immortality...

Rise of the Tomb Raider essentially follows Lara Croft as she attempts to complete her father's research. At the end of his life, Lara's father, once revered, was disgraced and humiliated due to his search for immortality - a search that consumed him. Lara is convinced she's found the source and begins her trek, which leads her to Syria. Of course, her adventure isn’t simple. Lara is being tracked by Trinity, a relentless group seeking the same goal as Lara; except, this group, led by Konstantin, has their own intentions for the Divine Source. Lara joins forces with the locals, including Jacob, the leader. The story is obviously a bit more complicated, especially with characters like Jacob and Konstantin, but that's generally the gist. Expect a fast-paced conclusion and a satisfying ending — even the credits were great!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Film Review: The Frozen (2012)

The Frozen (Review)
United States/2012
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...it feels like you're watching nothing for an hour, then you watch a 20-minute short film with a plot you've seen before at the end."

A couple, Emma (Brit Morgan) and Mike (Seth David Mitchell), set up camp in the woods to soak in the beautifully snowy scenery. After a snowmobile accident, the pair find themselves stranded...

The Frozen is a very simple and generic film — more emphasis on generic. The film follows Emma and Mike, a couple with some blatant problems — more than just the lack of camping experience. During their trip, the pair crash their snowmobile. With their only method of transportation destroyed, the pair find themselves trapped miles from their truck. To worsen their problems, they can't find a way back. So, eventually, Mike goes missing and Emma is left to fend for herself. She tries to survive, she's tracked by a mysterious hunter, and she suffers from bizarre nightmares. That's practically everything that happens in this film. It all leads to a very cliché ending.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Film Review: Penny Dreadful (2006)

Penny Dreadful (Review)
United States/2006
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: Yes

"Despite all of its flaws, I think the sheer boredom was its grandest offense."

On a trek to overcome her fear of cars, Penny (Rachel Miner) joins her therapist on a cross-country trip. Their trip goes haywire when they cross paths with an ominous hitchhiker...

Penny Dreadful is a very simple film. Penny and her therapist, Orianna (Mimi Rogers), travel to a mountainous region so Penny can trump her fears. The pair hit a peculiar hitchhiker, so they offer him a lift. To their utter dismay, the hitchhiker turns out to be a creep. They soon find themselves stranded with a flat tire, then stalked and attacked by the hitchhiker. Eventually, Penny finds herself purposely trapped in the car by her pursuer. That's all. A few other characters show up, but nothing really happens. With very little going on, this plot is stretched thin. The ending of the film was predictable and underwhelming, too.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Film Review: Pressure (2015)

Pressure (Review)
United Kingdom/2015
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"It has some glaring story issues, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't entertained."

While trying to repair an oil pipeline, a group of drivers find themselves trapped in a small pod with limited resources...

Pressure is a very simple film. The film follows Engel (Danny Huston), Mitch (Matthew Goode), Jones (Joe Cole), and Hurst (Alan McKenna) — the characters have very generic backgrounds. Before actually diving, the group are already at annoyed with each other, so you can imagine what their experience will be like. Anyway, they dive, then fix the pipe. While ascending, the main vessel is hit by a storm, which kills the entire crew and leaves the divers stranded with a few resources — including limited oxygen. The rest of the film follows this group as they basically attempt to survive. That's it, really. Fortunately, the film is only 90-minutes long — it still feels a bit bloated, but it could have been much worse. The ending was a little underwhelming, but decent enough.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Film Review: Beasts of No Nation (2015)

Beasts of No Nation (Review)
Africa/2015
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...paints a haunting portrait of war and child soldiers..."

When his family is separated and killed, Agu (Abraham Attah) must learn to survive during a vicious war...

Beasts of No Nation follows Agu, a young child in West Africa. When war approaches his peaceful village, Agu's mother and sister leave for the capital while Agu, his father, brother, and grandfather stay in their home. Agu escapes as his family is slaughtered by the army, barely evading death. Soon thereafter, Agu is caught by the Native Defense Force, the rebels, which allow him to join as a child soldier. Commandant (Idris Elba), the battalion's leader, allows Agu to join under his guidance. Agu transforms from innocent child to trained-murderer as he adapts to survive. The film continues to show this heart-rending transformation until its bittersweet finale.