Sunday, 6 January 2019

Lionheart (Movie Review)


Remember that one time I took a trip down the rabbit hole by reviewing a certain much-talked-about Nollywood movie? Well, I figured it was about time I paid Nollywood another visit by tearing apart critiquing another one of its productions. And what better candidate than Lionheart, a movie that made the news when it became the first Nigerian film to be acquired by the online streaming service, Netflix. So of course, I wanted to know what might have prompted the acquisition, plus I was curious to see just how far our productions have come in the past two years.

Lionheart marks the directorial debut of veteran Nollywood actress, Genevieve Nnaji. She also co-writes and stars as the lead, Adaeze, daughter of the CEO of the titular company. Headed by Ernest Obiagu (Pete Edochie), Lionheart Transport is one of the largest transportation companies in Nigeria. But its prospects for the future are put in danger when its CEO suffers a near-fatal heart attack, forcing him to step down. Rather than appoint his more-than-capable daughter as acting CEO, he instead appoints his somewhat-eccentric brother, Chief Godswill (Nkem Owoh).

As if things were not bad enough, Adaeze also learns that her father had left the company with some very substantial debts in his bid to try and secure a very lucrative government contract. She has just 30 days to repay the loans or risk losing everything her father had worked for. Now, she and her uncle must set aside their differences and work together to raise the money, even while the entire company is under threat of acquisition by the CEO of a rival company, Igwe Pascal (Kanayo O. Kanayo).

If Lionheart is representative of the current state of our Nollywood productions, then I have to admit they've been some marked improvements since 2016. At least it was nice to see a Nigerian film that seemed to get the basics right. The production values were definitely there. The editors made sure the story flowed in a fairly logical way. The cinematographers made sure we saw what we needed to see at all times. The sound mixers ensured we could hear what was being said, not what some guy in the sound department felt were the trendiest Nigerian songs, playing several decibels too loud.

For a first time director, Genevieve Nnaji did a somewhat decent job behind the camera, which only goes to show how shoddy a job our other directors have been doing. She was also more than adequate in front of the camera, with her years of acting experience on full display. The acting was generally okay across the board, with Pete Edochie being the obvious standout, although there were more than a few supporting actors that sounded like their lines were being read by a digital assistant.

All that said, my main criticism stems from the way the film had been marketed to audiences. I'd taken one look at the movie's poster and I'd expected it to be a soaring drama. A soaring drama it was not, and what I'd gotten instead was closer to what you'd call a comedy, except it didn't have that many jokes and the few it had were not that funny. Maybe it is just the way that all Nigerian movies are made, forever hanging somewhere between being over dramatic and trying not to take itself too seriously.

Having watched the movie, I confess that I am none the wiser as to why Netflix had decided to add it to their streaming service. Perhaps it was nothing more than a business decision, an attempt to tap into our head-scratchingly lucrative home video market. The film did have a distinctly home video-like quality to it, albeit one with high production values. It was definitely better than some of their more recent acquisitions, including the internet meme generator, Bird Box. But then again, what isn't?

Friday, 28 December 2018

2018 in Review: Looking Back

We've reached the end of my week-long 2018 in Review series of posts. In case you missed it, the series was started on Monday with a rundown of my favorite video games released during the year. This was followed by a rundown of my favorite songs on Tuesday. On Wednesday, I highlighted my favorite albums. And yesterday, I revealed my favorite movies. Today, we'll be looking back at some of the events and people that shaped the year as a whole.


The people of England and the world at large were treated to another royal wedding this year. This time around, it was Prince Harry who was tying the knot, as he'd married Meghan Markle, the star of the popular TV series, Suits. The ceremony was held on the 19th of May and sure enough, millions of people around the world tuned in live to follow the proceedings. I don't watch Suits, but I've been following news about the British royal family ever since Princess Diana passed away in 1997. I admit it was a bit trippy seeing young Harry from back then getting married. I guess it's high time I accept just how old I have become.


Another thing I don't watch or particularly care for is football; at least not since I got my heart broken by the Nigerian national team, the Super Eagles, all the way back in 1994, when they lost to Italy during the Round of 16 at the World Cup. So these days, I'm more or less a casual observer with a pretty vague awareness of current happenings in the sport. But this is the frigging World Cup we are talking about here, one of the most highly televised events in the world, 32 teams competing for the title of world champion and all that jazz. France would eventually go on to win the title, in a 4-2 victory over runners up, Croatia, while Nigeria crashed and burned at the group stages.


The entertainment industry lost one of its biggest icons this year when Stan Lee passed away at the age of 95. He would have been 96 today. I cannot even begin to describe how influential his works have been over the years, spawning some of the most well-known pop culture superheroes in the world today. These include the X-Men, Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor, Black Panther and Daredevil, just to name a few. He came to be known in recent times for his cameo appearances in movies based on his characters, so much so that these became highlights of the movies in question. He would be remembered for the vast legacy he has left behind.


My 2018 has been rife with ups and downs and various challenges and even disappointments, none of which I'll be getting into here. But if 2017 was about me getting back up and moving on from the sorry state I was in at the end of 2016, then 2018 is surely where I'd found the strength and determination needed to do so. And it has come from the strangest of places, through my love for heavy metal and the various subcultures that surround it. There is nothing quite like that jolt of pure energy you feel when you hear a perfect guitar riff, or when you step into a moshpit and you feel an instant connection with a group of complete strangers, a bond forged out of a shared love of an art form that is oftentimes misunderstood by outsiders.

I've always loved rock music, but my love for metal in particular, and all its various subgenres, can be traced back to my discovery of Linkin Park back in the heydays of nu metal. Another discovery I'd made this past year was of the presence of a thriving rock and metal community right here in Lagos, Nigeria. You have no idea how much my mind was blown when I'd found out we didn't only have people that showed a strong appreciation for rock music, but also skilled and competent artists devoted to that style of music. It was like being jacked out of the Matrix, and realizing for the first time that there is this other world that exists outside of the one you've come to know. I guess it just feels good to finally know that you are no longer in isolation.

All in all, 2018 has been a good year and we look forward to 2019 being even greater. Until then, thanks for reading, and Happy New Year in advance.

Thursday, 27 December 2018

2018 in Review: Favorite Movies

Black Panther



I think we can all agree that Black Panther was one of the most eagerly anticipated films this past year, after the character's show-stealing debut in Captain America: Civil War two years before. The fact that it was to feature a predominantly black cast, and that it was being directed by Oscar-nominated director, Ryan Coogler, only served to heighten our expectations. And those expectations were more than met, propelling the movie to become one of the landmark cinema events of the year.

Game Night



Nowadays, it is very rare to find a comedy that is not only funny, but also competently made from a technical and artistic standpoint. Game Night is just one such comedy. It stars Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams as a competitive gaming couple who are invited to what is billed as the ultimate game night. But things take a dark turn when one of the participants is seemingly kidnapped as part of the game, and the only way to win the game is to follow the set of clues he'd left behind beforehand.

A Quiet Place



Real-life couple Emily Blunt and John Krasinki star in A Quiet Place, a post-apocalyptic horror film about a husband and wife trying to keep their family safe in a world ravaged by hellish creatures that hunt by sound. The film makes good on its titular promise with long stretches of silence with hardly any dialogue spoken. Yet it still manages to retain as much tension as you'd expect from a film of this nature.

Avengers: Infinity War



Earth's mightiest heroes finally went toe to toe with Thanos this year, after 18 movies and as many post-credits scenes between them. And what a battle it was too, culminating in what would undoubtedly be remembered for years to come as one of the boldest and most heart wrenching endings to a superhero movie of this caliber. The story is not over yet though, so fans are looking forward to the release of Avengers: End Game next year for some much-needed closure.

Deadpool 2



The Avengers were not the only superheroes teaming up this past year, as the merc with a mouth was also putting together a team of his own. Known as the X-Force, his ragtag group of heroes would go on to provide more laughs than actual superheroics. Deadpool 2 builds upon the success of the first movie while also defining its place in the wider X-men cinematic universe, thereby setting itself up for more potential crossovers.

Isle of Dogs



Wes Anderson returned to stop-motion animation this year for his latest film, Isle of Dogs. In a dystopian future where all dogs in the greater Japan area have been banished to an island that doubles as a dump, one boy would embark on a journey to find and bring his dog back home. It is a heartwarming tale that has Wes Anderson's signature visual flair, while also boasting the voice talent of an all-star cast that includes Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum and Scarlet Johansson.

Incredibles 2



14 years. That's how long it has taken for fans of the beloved Incredibles to get this much-anticipated sequel. But the Incredibles themselves haven't aged a day since 2004, as the movie takes place immediately after the events of the previous one. Superheroes are still illegal, but Elastigirl joins forces with a brother and sister duo that want to put an end to that, leaving Mr. Incredible to take care of parenting duties. Incredibles 2 was a great, worthy sequel. Here's hoping it doesn't take another 14 years to get a follow-up.

Mission: Impossible - Fallout



Tom Cruise proves once again that he's still got the moves in Mission: Impossible - Fallout, the sixth installment in the long-running spy series. Christopher McQuarrie returns to direct, and the story picks off right where Rogue Nation left off, with the IMF agents left to deal with the aftermath of their takedown of the Syndicate terrorist network. The film is easily the best in the series, with some even considering it among the greatest action movies of all time.

Ralph Breaks the Internet



Another long awaited sequel that was released into the wild this year was Wreck-It-Ralph 2. The movie has John C. Reilly reprising his role as the voice of the titular video game baddie turned goodie. He is joined by Sarah Silverman as the voice of his best friend, Vanellope von Schweetz, and the film finds the duo leaving the confines of the arcade to embark on an adventure on the internet, where they hope to find a replacement part for the Sugar Rush arcade game before it is "put to pasture."

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse



Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is the new benchmark for animated comic book movies, with its stunning visual style that looks like its been ripped straight out of the pages of a comic book. I can't overstate how stunning this movie looks. The fact that it also tells a great, heartfelt story, while still delivering the requisite amount of action just goes further to place it among the upper echelons of animated superhero movies, a space that is typically reserved for DC Comics adaptations.

And the winner is...

A Quiet Place



Yep. Called it. I'd known from the moment I finally saw A Quiet Place that it would be difficult for any other film to topple it off the top of my list of favorite movies this year. Not to say that they haven't been some serious contenders, with Mission: Impossible - Fallout and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse being as awesome as they were. But there is just something about this movie that sets it above all others. No other movie had been able to tick all the boxes this year the way this one so effortlessly did. The 10 Cloverfield Lane comparisons are unavoidable for sure, but the fact that that was my 2016 favorite movie further cements this ones position as numero uno.

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

2018 in Review: Favorite Albums

Fall Out Boy - M A N I A


2018 was off to a great start with the January release of Fall Out Boy's seventh studio album, Mania. Despite a relatively lukewarm reception by critics, the album has proven to be a commercial success, debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 charts while also earning the band their first ever Best Rock Album nomination at the forthcoming 61st Grammy Awards. Highlights include The Last of the Real Ones, Hold Me Tight or Don't, Champion, and Young and Menace.

Various Artists - Black Panther: The Album


One of the biggest event movies of the year also brought with it one of the year's finest albums. Spearheaded by none other than Kendrick Lamar, Black Panther: The Album finds the American rapper recruiting a number of talents from home and abroad as they take on several themes from the movie. The result is a cultural showcase that is every bit as remarkable as the movie that inspired it. Highlights include All the Lights, Opps, King's Dead, Redemption, and Pray for Me.

The Weeknd - My Dear Melancholy,


The Weeknd returned this year with a back-to-basics album; at 6 tracks in length, it is more of an EP than anything else. Shedding the more pop-oriented trappings of his previous two albums, My Dear Melancholy marks a return to the downbeats of his earlier mixtapes. He'd enlisted the likes of Skrillex, Gesaffelstein and Daft Punk's very own, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo to create its dark but luscious sonic soundscape. Highlights include Call Out My Name, Hurt You, and Privilege.

Panic! at the Disco - Pray for the Wicked


Panic! at the Disco released their sixth studio album, Pray for the Wicked, back in June. It's the first album to feature frontman, Brendon Urie, as the sole contributing member of the band. The fact that he's been able to hold it all together while also delivering what is possibly their best album till date is nothing short of incredible. Highlights include (Fuck A) Silver Lining, Hey Look Ma, I Made It, Dancing's Not a Crime, and Dying in LA.

Janelle Monáe - Dirty Computer


Janelle Monáe is one of those few artists out there today that still manages to consistently put out good music. Ever since her breakout EP, Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase), she has gone on to release the followup albums, The ArchAndroid and The Electric Lady. For her third album, Dirty Computer, she'd decided to drop her Metropolis narrative. Easily her most overtly sexual album till date, the record is renowned for its catchy hooks and buttery smooth production. Highlights include Crazy, Classic, Life, Take a Byte, Screwed, and I Got the Juice.

Five Finger Death Punch - And Justice For None


And Justice for None is the seventh studio album released by American heavy metal band, Five Finger Death Punch. It features their signature hard rock-leaning style of heavy metal, while also incorporating elements of blues rock on several of its tracks. But perhaps what sets their seventh album apart from its predecessors is the inclusion of two of their finest covers till date. Highlights include Fake, Sham Pain, Gone Away, and Blue on Black.

Florence + The Machine - High as Hope


Florence Welsh is without a doubt one of the finest vocalists in the world today, and her vocal prowess was on full display this year on the fourth Florence + the Machine album, High as Hope. The album is noted for its stripped-down production, which allows her vocals to shine even more than it did on previous records. Highlights include June, Hunger, Big God, and Sky Full Of Song.

Kids See Ghosts - Kids See Ghosts


Two of my favorite rappers came together this year to form the super-duo, Kids See Ghosts. Comprised of Kanye West and Kid Cudi, the duo released their self-titled debut, which came after several collaborations between the two over the years. There is no denying the high level of musical chemistry shared by both artists, but only time would tell just how far they are willing to take this with future projects. Highlights include Feel the Love, Freeee, Reborn, and Kids See Ghosts.

Disturbed - Evolution


Like I mentioned during yesterday's post, the heavy metal band, Disturbed, have made an attempt this year to followup on the crossover success of their Simon & Garfunkel cover, The Sound of Silence. And this came in the form of their latest record, Evolution, the title for which was meant to reflect the change in their sound to incorporate different styles. While they haven't quite captured lightning in a bottle for a second time, the effort has produced the equally beautiful ballad, A Reason to Fight. Other highlights include Are You Ready, No More, and The Best Ones Lie.

Architects - Holy Hell


Holy Hell marks the first Architects album released after the death of founding member, Tom Searle, and as a result, much of its subject matter is a reflection on death and our inherent mortality. Tom, who died of skin cancer in 2016, had written most of the band's songs with twin brother, Dan. The fact that the remaining members of the band have been able to craft something this heartfelt and admirable out of a situation so dire is an achievement in and of itself. Highlights include Death is not Defeat, Hereafter, Royal Beggars, and Doomsday.

And the winner is...

Architects - Holy Hell


It's been a solid year for metalcore, and fans of the genre specifically, but its defining moment this past year came with the release of the eighth Architects album, Holy Hell. This is without a doubt the best album I'd listened to all year, and one that I've found myself going back to time and again. There is something wholly mesmerizing about the music crafted by this English metalcore band, from lead singer, Sam Carter's, scream singing, to Dan Searle's drumming, and some of the best guitar work I've heard on a metalcore album. The album oozes perfection on every track, and is a clear indication that good things can come out of even the worst situations. It all depends on how you choose to move forward from it.

Tuesday, 25 December 2018

2018 in Review: Favorite Songs

5 Seconds of Summer - Youngblood



The Australian punk rockers that gave us "She Looks So Perfect" in 2014 were back this year with another hit that had instant classic written all over it. This time around, the band had decided to step out of their comfort zone by delivering an electropop powerhouse, showing just how much they have evolved since their punk rock debut.

Calvin Harris - One Kiss (feat. Dua Lipa)



Calvin Harris and Dua Lipa join forces on One Kiss, a song that is as much an ode to 90s house music as it is a showcase for both artists. Debuting at number 3 on the UK charts, the song would go on to top the charts for 8 consecutive weeks, becoming the first song featuring a female singer to do so in the past decade.

Tiësto & Dzeko - Jackie Chan (feat. Preme & Post Malone)



Arguably one of the best remixes released this past year, Jackie Chan finds DJs Tiësto and Dzeko putting their spin on the Preme and Post Malone collaboration. The result is a crossover hit that manages to celebrate the fast life while paying homage to the famous martial artist of the same name.

As I Lay Dying - My Own Grave



As I Lay Dying was back this year to straddle the line between mainstream metalcore and Christian Metal with their new single, My Own Grave. And they've never sounded better, with the song's lyrics being especially poignant when put in the context of their lead singer's recent incarceration and the events surrounding it.

Childish Gambino - This is America



Very few music videos managed to set the internet on fire this year the way This is America by Childish Gambino did, juxtaposing its graphic depiction of gun violence with its tightly choreographed dance moves. This has propelled the song to receive a total of 4 nominations at next year's Grammy Awards, including Song of the Year, Record of the Year, Best Rap/Sung Performance and Best Music Video.

XXXTentacion - Sad!



Speaking of gun violence, one of the tragic tales that made the rounds on the internet this past year was that of America rapper, XXXTentacion, who was gunned down during what appeared to be a robbery. His death would go on to lend even more credence to his specific brand of emo-inspired hip hop, propelling his sophomore album's lead single, Sad!, to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 charts.

Disturbed - Are you ready



Disturbed was back this year to follow up on the recent mainstream crossover success they'd found following the release of their Simon & Garfunkel cover with a new album. For their first single though, they'd listened to long-time fans and decided to release Are You Ready, a song that is more in tune with their older, heavier sound. It would eventually top the Billboard Mainstream Rock Songs chart.

Bring Me the Horizon - Mantra



Another band that was back this past year was Bring Me the Horizon, following up on the success of their 2015 album, That's the Spirit, with the promise of a new one. And our first taste of that album came in the form of its first single, Mantra, a song that marked even more of a departure from their deathcore and metalcore sounds of old. But you won't catch fans complaining, not when their new music sounds as good as it does.

While She Sleeps - Anti-Social



While She Sleeps was one of several bands I discovered this past year through YouTube recommendations. In this case, the recommendation in question was for their recent collaboration with Oli Sykes of Bring Me the Horizon, Silence Speaks. I'd immediately gone to check out their back catalogue of music, and their brand of metalcore dubbed metallic hardcore. But it was not until they released their video for Anti-Social did I consider myself a fan of said music.

Major Lazer - All My Life (feat. Burna Boy)



Burna Boy is an artist that's been going places, even scoring a guest appearance on the Fall Out Boy album, M A N I A, earlier this year. It was his collaboration with Major Lazer though, All My Life, that would eventually crowbar its way onto my year-end favorites playlist, with its feel good vibes and Burna Boy's signature vocal style.

And the winner is...

While She Sleeps - Anti-Social



Once again, it was a tough call, but I'd have to give the title of my favorite song of 2018 to Anti-Social. It is one of those songs that comes out of left field and blows everything else you'd been listening to out of the water. Everything from its guitar opening, to its headbang-worthy intro, and the timeliness of its overall message sets it apart from other songs on this list. Add to that the fact that it boasts one of the most well-made music videos and what you've got is the total package, which is made all the more impressive when you consider that it was put together by an independent band. They'll be releasing their next album, So What?, next year, so here's hoping that this is just one of several gems to be found on that record.

PS: Merry Christmas everyone.

Monday, 24 December 2018

2018 in Review: Favorite Games

As we close out yet another year filled with awesome entertainment and moments high and low, it is time for me to take a step back from it all and review which of these left a lasting impression. So for the rest of the week, I'll be shortlisting my favorite things and moments from 2018. This is a feature I've been running on this blog since inception, so if you fancy catching up on my favorites from previous years, here are links to my favorites from 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011.

2018 was a solid year for video games, so just like I did last year, I'll be starting the week-long series with a list of my favorite video games released during the year. I didn't get around to playing as many of the heavy hitters as I would have loved, so games like Monster Hunter World and Assassin's Creed Odyssey would be noticeably missing from my list. But the few games I did manage to play have been some of the very best to grace PCs and consoles in recent memory. And my favorites from those are:

Shadow of the Colossus



The fact that I never owned a PS2 meant I'd missed out on a lot of classics from that generation. And one of the most revered of these was Shadow of the Colossus, a game that was faithfully remade for the PS4 this past year. Best described as an action-adventure game made up of a number of sequential boss battles, the remake not only boasts one of the most breathtaking visuals on PS4, but also retains the same haunting atmosphere that made the original such a classic in the first place.

God of War



Another game that emerged during the PS2 generation was God of War. Based on the tale of a demigod named Kratos who was betrayed by the gods of Greek mythology, the game would go on to launch a series filled with blood, guts and revenge, the quest for which culminated in God of War 3 on the PS3. For the fourth installment, the developers decided to go with a soft reboot of the entire series. The game was heralded as a technical marvel, pushing the PS4 hardware to its limits while also reinvigorating the series with new gameplay mechanics and storytelling techniques.

Celeste



Celeste is a side-scrolling platformer developed by indie game developer, Matt Makes Games. Much like Super Meat Boy, the game sports a pixel art style reminiscent of 2D platformers of old and is renowned for its gameplay's requirement of pixel-perfect jumps and dashes. What sets Celeste apart though is its surprisingly deep and rewarding storyline and a beautiful soundtrack that perfectly compliments its on-screen action.

Fortnite: Battle Royale



Fortnite is undeniably the most popular video game in the world right now. Much of that popularity can be attributed to its simple pick-up-and-play battle royale gameplay, as well as its availability across multiple platforms and devices. Actually released for PCs in 2017, I am including it in my list of 2018 favorites primarily because this was the year it made its way onto consoles, or more specifically my current console of choice, the Nintendo Switch. I am yet to win a single match, or master its building mechanic for that matter, but the game finds other ways of dishing out rewards regardless.

Dead Cells



There have been no shortage of roguelikes and metroidvanias in recent years, but rarely has both genres been blended as beautifully as they have in Dead Cells. Developed by Motion Twin, the game places players in control of the titular "dead cells" after they reanimate the corpse of a recently-executed prisoner, and their primary objective is escaping the dungeon they find themselves in, with its procedurally-generated levels and an upgrade system that rewards exploration and encourages subsequent retries.

The Messenger



The Messenger is a 2D action-platformer inspired by the Ninja Gaiden games of old. You play as the titular messenger, a ninja tasked with delivering an ancient scroll to the top of a mountain after your village is attacked by a demon horde. Players are able to double jump using a technique called cloudstepping, whenever they strike an object while in mid-air. But perhaps the game is best known for its time travel mechanic, with the past being presented in 8-bit graphics and the future in 16-bit, and appropriate chiptune music and sound effects for both eras.

Marvel's Spider-Man



Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to swing through the city of New York? Well, that's precisely what Insomniac Games have sought out to achieve with Marvel's Spider-Man, putting you in the shoes of everyone's favorite webslinger. The swinging mechanic is nothing short of exhilarating, and still manages to feel that way, even after hours of traversing its open world. And with a combat system that is reminiscent of the Batman: Arkham games, that feeling of exhilaration continues even when your feet finally hit the ground and you're faced with scores of bad guys to pummel.

Red Dead Redemption II



The original Red Dead Redemption was considered one of the greatest games from last generation, with its incredible open world, gunplay, music and story. So of course expectations were high for its long-awaited sequel. The game is set several years before the events of the first game, and players control Arthur Morgan, an outlaw and member of the Van de Linde gang, as they fight to survive against lawmen, bounty hunters, rival gangs and the decline of their way of life in the face of civilization.

Pokémon Let's Go, Pikachu!



As popular as the Pokémon franchise has gotten over the years, I've never been more than a casual observer. The only entry in the series that I sunk any significant amount of time into was Pokémon Yellow on the Game Boy Color, nearly 20 odd years ago, and I never realized just how fondly I held that particular entry, until now. Pokémon Let's Go is a Nintendo Switch remake of Pokémon Yellow, with beautiful 3D visuals, a catching mechanic ripped straight out of the super popular Pokémon Go, and a surprisingly deep RPG progression system that is sure to satisfy even seasoned veterans.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate



Another series that I hadn't been particularly keen on over the years is Super Smash Bros. I suspect this was due to the fact that I hadn't owned a Nintendo console since the SNES, and the few times I'd played any of the games at my friend's place, I'd gotten my ass handed to me. But there is something about Super Smash Bros. Ultimate on Nintendo Switch that makes it so accessible to newbie's like myself. Couple that with its RPG-like single player adventure mode, World of Light, and I've found myself coming back to the game time and time again. The game is not only the "ultimate" edition of the series as it's been marketed, it is also a celebration of video gaming as a medium.

And the winner is...

Red Dead Redemption II



It was a tough call, but inasmuch as I loved playing both God of War and Marvel's Spider-Man this past year, my favorite game for 2018 is undoubtedly Red Dead Redemption II. It took everything Rockstar had done in the previous game, and GTA V after it, and shot it into the stratosphere. Its open world is so beautiful and dense with detail that I found myself spending huge chunks of time just admiring its various vistas. Its sound design and music is also one of the most immersive I've ever encountered in a video game. That said, the game isn't without its issues, with its comparatively slower pacing and outdated controls being the first that come to mind. But no other game this year had made me feel such emotional highs like the ones I'd felt while experiencing Arthur Morgan's tale of betrayal, revenge, and ultimately, redemption.

Friday, 21 December 2018

Aquaman (Movie Review)


It is no secret that the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) had all but come to a sputtering halt following the release of last year's Justice League. This was despite that movie's attempt to course correct all the missteps and shortcomings of the movies that came before it (except Wonder Woman of course, which was universally beloved by fans and critics alike). But if Justice League was a step in the right direction, then Aquaman is the logical next step, or dare I say leap, in that new direction.

The movie takes place after the events of Justice League, but rather than try to tie its plot in with the events of that big but messy superhero team up, the filmmakers have opted to tell a self-contained story that works as a standalone tale, or soft reboot, depending on how you choose to look at it. It is both a superhero origin story and a coming-of-age tale, one that finds its titular hero (Jason Momoa) on a quest to reclaim his lost inheritance and prevent an all out war.

Born from a forbidden love between his human father (Temuera Morrison) and the queen of Atlantis herself (Nicole Kidman), Arthur Curry (aka. Aquaman) has grown up with very little connection to his people. The only exception to this is his mentor, Vulko (Willem Dafoe), who'd taught young Arthur about his heritage and how to use his powers. But this changes after he learns from the Atlantean princess, Mera (Amber Heard), that his half-brother, Orm (Patrick Wilsons), was seeking to unite the underwater kingdoms in a war against the surface dwellers.

A reluctant Arthur is soon swept up by the waves of an adventure spanning the deserts of the Sahara and the seven seas, as he comes to accept that the only way to stop Orm is by overthrowing him as the rightful ruler of Atlantis. But before he can make a proper claim to the throne, he must first win its people's approval, and the only way to do this is by retrieving the Trident of Atlan, the very first king's weapon of choice.

Aquaman is the exact kind of movie that the DCEU needs right now. It is a fun-filled adventure that fully embraces the wackiness and otherworldliness of its source material, and this is brought to life by some truly spectacular visuals and action sequences. It also helps that none of its humor or lightheartedness felt shoehorned into the film, the way it did in Justice League and Suicide Squad. Overall, it marks another win for the DCEU, and a clear indicator that there is still some hope yet.