Friday 30 December 2016

2016 in Review: Looking Back

This is the fifth and final post in my 2016 in Review series. I started the series on Monday, by highlighting my favorite TV shows for the year. Next was a rundown of my favorite songs on Tuesday. On Wednesday, I moved on to my favorite albums for the year. And yesterday, I shortlisted my favorite movies. Today, I'll be reflecting on the events that shaped the year into what it is.

The year started on a high note, with my short story, Ground Zero, being selected as one of the winning entries for the IWSG Anthology, Parallels. The book was published on the 3rd of May, and is currently available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo and Goodreads, so if you fancy some good speculative fiction, you know what to do. I wasn't particularly active in the IWSG this past year though, with work, school and life in general getting in the way, so I would like to use this opportunity to throw a quick apology to Alex and the remaining members of the group.

The nations of the world came together in August for the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics. I am not a fan of sports, but I do love watching opening ceremonies and such, and the Rio 2016 opening was no exception. There was a very timely presentation on the effects of global warming during the ceremony, where they'd shown aerial shots of how coastal cities around the world would look in the future, should the current trend be left unchecked. It was quite eerie seeing Lagos largely submerged underwater like that; perhaps I should consider moving further inland.

The 2016 U.S. presidential elections were held on November 8, during which democratic candidate, Hilary Clinton, went toe to toe with republican candidate, Donald Trump. Although I didn't have a horse in this race as they say, I followed the proceedings with what I could only describe as mild amusement. And in what has been termed an unexpected outcome by some and a downright travesty by others, Donald Trump won by receiving the majority of the votes, securing his place as the 45th president of the United States.

2016 is a year that would be remembered for its string of celebrity deaths, as several icons of music, film and sports passed away. It started with David Bowie and Alan Rickman in January, then there was Anton Yelchin, Muhammad Ali and Prince, and more recently, George Michael, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. These were all stars of their respective fields and crafts, and the world continues to mourn their deaths till this day, even as we celebrate the legacies they've left behind.

I also lost a star of my very own this past year, the one at the very center of my universe, my mum, Mrs. Clara Dupe Omozokpia, who died about a month ago. She was 66 years old. Sometimes I wonder if she is up there looking down on me, and what I would say if I had one last chance to speak with her: "Mum, I miss you more than words could possibly convey. But I must console myself with the belief that you are in a better place now. Say hi to Seye and dad for me, and tell them that I miss them just as much."

Overall, 2016 has turned out to be a year filled with sadness and grief, casting a veil of uncertainty on the future. But as much as we might feel like curling into a ball and crying sometimes, this is not the time to despair or lose hope. As my sister once told me, so long as you still have a beating heart in your chest, then you still have a life to live. So live life to the fullest, and never lose sight of the legacy you'd like to leave behind when you are gone.

Thursday 29 December 2016

2016 in Review: Favorite Movies

10 Cloverfield Lane

A woman on the run from her past wakes up following a car accident to find herself imprisoned in an underground bunker. That is the basic premise behind the pyschological thriller, 10 Cloverfield Lane, a movie that also serves as a spiritual successor to the 2008 found-footage monster film, Cloverfield. The movie stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead as the woman, and John Goodman as her abductor.


Ryan Reynold stars as the fourth-wall-breaking, potty-mouthed antihero with regenerative powers, Deadpool, a role he'd previously played in the X-Men misfire, X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Thankfully, his second stab at the character proved to be both critically and commercially successful, becoming the first superhero movie to earn a Best Picture Golden Globe nomination, as well as the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time.


Zootopia is an animated film that tells the story of a small-town rabbit trying to make it as a police officer in the big city. She forms an unlikely alliance with a cunning red fox as they try to unravel the mystery behind the animals going "savage" in their city. The movie started Walt Disney's current winning streak, and it would eventually go on to earn over $1 billion dollars in the global box office..

The Jungle Book

The Walt Disney classic was remade for a new generation of kids this year, resulting in what is currently one of the most technically impressive movies to date. The movie features a breakout performance by Neel Sethi, who is supported by an ensemble cast of animals that include the voices of Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong'o, Scarlett Johansson and Christopher Walken.

Captain America: Civil War

The latest Captain America movie is frequently referred to as a mini Avengers movie, as our costumed heroes assembled on the big screen to face off against one another. The movie is best remembered for giving fans their first taste of Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther and Tom Holland as Spider-man, but should be equally lauded for telling a story that featured so many Marvel heroes without feeling too bloated or overstuffed.

Finding Dory

Finding Dory is a sequel to the 2003 Pixar animated film, Finding Nemo. It tells the story of Dory, a blue tang with short-term memory loss, and her journey to find her long-lost parents. The movie currently holds the title of highest-grossing movie in North America for 2016, but might soon be forced to relinquish that honor to another Disney juggernaut further down my list of favorites.

The Shallows

Blake Lively gives a solid performance as a woman trapped by a shark in the survival horror film, The Shallows. The film was one of the sleeper hits this past summer, grossing several times its production budget during its theatrical run. Beautifully shot and about as tense as they come, the movie proved that even well-worn story lines can be quite effective when done right.

Don't Breathe

A home invasion story with a twist, Don't Breathe is a movie about three burglars who get more than what they bargained for when their latest mark, a blind man living in a deserted neighborhood, turns out to be more predator than prey. The film boasts some truly unique scares and enough unexpected twists to satisfy even the most jaded horror film fan.

Doctor Strange

Marvel expanded its cinematic universe into magical realms this past year with Doctor Strange, a movie about a skilled neurosurgeon who drops his scientific knowledge and embraces the mystic arts after a life-altering car accident. The movie works as a standalone story, but ultimately ties into the larger cinematic universe, hinting at greater things to come.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

I think it is safe to say that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story has turned out to be quite successful. Not only is it the current box office champion, but it is already well on its way to becoming the year's highest-grossing film in North America. The fact that the movie boasts a great cast, great action, and high production values overall definitely helps. But hey, this is Star Wars we're talking about here. Did anyone honestly think it would be anything but awesome!?

And the winner is...

10 Cloverfield Lane

That's right, folks, my favorite movie for 2016 is 10 Cloverfield Lane. There is just something about this movie that sets it apart from others on this list. Perhaps it is its smaller scale, with the greater part of the movie taking place in an underground bunker. Or maybe it is that sense of mystery that permeates the whole film, with the audience left guessing even as more and more pieces of the puzzle are revealed. Overall, I think it is because it is superbly well-made, with events building up to what is easily the most wildly unexpected climax I'd seen all year.

Wednesday 28 December 2016

2016 in Review: Favorite Albums

Panic! at the Disco - Death of a Bachelor

Death of a Bachelor was one of the first albums to drop this year, and it was received favorably by both critics and fans of the band, Panic! at the Disco. It more recently earned a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Album, their second overall nomination till date. Highlights include Victorious, Death of a Bachelor, Crazy=Genius, and LA Devotee.

A Day to Remember - Bad Vibrations

I discovered A Day to Remember this past year through their most recent album, Bad Vibrations, with its unusual blend of metalcore and punk rock. The album starts by exploring themes such as anxiety, depression and mental illness, but ends on a positive note. Highlights include Paranoia, Naivety, and In Florida.

Beyoncé - Lemonade

Beyoncé followed up the success of her self-titled 2013 album with Lemonade, an album that finds her exploring genres as diverse and far apart as rock and country, but one that still manages to sound like a cohesive whole. Easily one of the best reviewed albums this past year, Lemonade has helped Beyoncé earn 9 nominations in the forthcoming 59th Grammy Awards, including a much-coveted Album of the Year nomination. Highlights include Don't Hurt Yourself, 6 Inch, Daddy Lessons, and Formation.

Issues - Headspace

Issues was yet another band I discovered in 2016. Their unique blend of metalcore, pop, electronic and R&B results in a form of nu-metal that was previously unheard of. They released their sophomore album, Headspace, this year, and it saw them further expanding their sonic soundscape with the incorporation of country, jazz, funk and rap into their music. Highlights include The Realest, Yung & Dum, and Someone Who Does.

blink-182 - California

blink-182's California marked a welcome return to the band's punk rock sound from the late 90s and early 2000s. It is their first album not to feature Tom DeLonge, whose singing and guitarwork no doubt helped define that earlier sound. In spite of this, California was well received by fans and critics alike, earning the band a Grammy nod for Best Rock Album, its first-ever nomination. Highlights include Bored to Death, Sober, Home is Such a Lonely Place, and Teenage Satellites.

Red Hot Chili Peppers - The Getaway

The Red Hot Chili Peppers were back with their eleventh studio album, The Getaway. Production was handled by Danger Mouse of Gnarls Barkley fame, which lent the songs a blues rock feel that blended quite well with Anthony Kiedis' signature vocals. It featured the same lineup that recorded their 2011 album, I'm with You, a first in the band's 33-year history. Highlights include Dark Necessities, Go Robot, and Detroit.

Jon Bellion - The Human Condition

Jon Bellion released his debut album, The Human Condition, this year, after several mixtapes, as well as production and writing credits on Eminem's Grammy-winning song with Rihanna, The Monster. The album straddles quite a number of musical genres, with Jon Bellion showcasing some serious singing chops on quite a few numbers, but somehow it still manages to retain its hip-hop core. Highlights include All Time Low, Woke the F**k Up, The Good in Me, and Guillotine.

Craig David - Following My Intuition

Craig David finally released a worthy follow up to his 2000 album, Born to Do It, after several attempts at adopting a more mainstream R&B sound, and falling out of the limelight altogether. It's a good thing he'd decided to embrace his UK garage roots in this year's Following My Intuition, with the genre currently enjoying a bit of a renaissance, fueled by recent hits from the likes of Naughty Boy and the British duo, Disclosure. Highlights include When the Bassline Drops, No Holding Back, and Here with Me.

Benny Benassi - Danceholic

The DJ that brought us Satisfaction all those years ago, and more recently, one of the songs shortlisted on my 2011 list of favorite song, Beautiful People, released his fourth studio album, Danceaholic, this year. With singles spanning as far back as 2013, the album has been years in the making, but the end result is a pleasing blend of memorable choruses and danceable beats. Highlights include Paradise, Universe, and Dance the Pain Away.

The Weeknd - Starboy

Having finally found some much-deserved mainstream success with last year's Beauty Behind the Madness, it was only a matter of time before The Weeknd capitalized on his moment in the spotlight with a follow up album. Thankfully, Starboy doesn't sound like a rushed job or a cash grab, as it further cements his position as one of the best pop crossover acts in the world today. Highlights include Starboy, Rockin', Secret, Lonely Night and I feel It Coming.

And the winner is...

The Weeknd - Starboy

For two years running, The Weeknd has dominated my playlists with hit songs spanning his two back-to-back albums. His latest effort, Starboy, continues his ongoing shift from progressive R&B to mainstream pop, even though there are hints of his former self lurking in the shadows of a few tracks. The album isn't without its problems; at 68 minutes long, it feels a bit overlong, with some tracks sounding like they were included merely to pad out its length. But what the album lacks in sense of progression and overall cohesion, it more than makes up for with sheer number of standout tracks.

Tuesday 27 December 2016

2016 in Review: Favorite Songs

Mike Posner - I Took a Pill in Ibiza (SeeB Remix)

The man that brought us Cooler than Me way back when finally managed to score a follow up hit this year. The fact that both songs are dance remixes probably says something about where his true audience lies. Hopefully he finds a way to capitalize on this instead of fading out of the limelight for another 5 to 6 years.

Desiigner - Panda

Say what you will about the barely-decipherable rap lyrics that have been plaguing the charts recently, mumble rap is here to stay. And there was no bigger song championing the movement this past year than Desiigner's hit single, Panda, a song that was as infectious as it was hard-hitting.

Drake - One Dance (feat. Wizkid & Kyla)

Drake finally scored his first #1 as a lead artist on the Billboard Hot 100 this past year with One Dance, a song that featured the guest vocals of Nigeria's very own, Wizkid. The song would help propel his album, Views, to sales of over 1.5 million units, making it the highest-selling album released within the calendar year.

blink-182 - Bored to Death

The aging punk rockers were back in 2016 with a throwback sound and a slightly different lineup, and the vehicle for that return was their single, Bored to Death. The song captured everything fans loved about the band back in the day, while also showcasing their growth and just the right amount of depth to their lyrics.

Hardwell - No Holding Back (feat. Craig David)

It seemed like 2016 was a great year for comebacks, with Craig David being yet another artist who'd reemerged into the limelight this year. His collaboration with Hardwell is one of the highlights of that comeback, the resulting club banger representing a sort of best of both worlds, with its UK Garage verses paving the way for a more mainstream EDM chorus.

Panic! at the Disco - LA Devotee

Perhaps the catchiest song on my list of favorite songs, LA Devotee is Panic! at the Disco at its most lighthearted. Don't let the upbeat tempo and Brendon Urie's sweet vocals fool you though, this is a song with hidden depths. It also happens to have one of the creepiest videos I have seen all year, starring Noah Schnapp from Stranger Things.

The Weeknd - Starboy (feat. Daft Punk)

A collaboration that is almost too good to be true, The Weeknd and the french electronic duo Daft Punk join forces on this dark, mid-tempo song about the former's transformation into the eponymous Starboy. It is clear that both artists were made for each other, as Daft Punk's production and signature vocoder stutters compliment The Weeknd's falsetto and lyrics about the excesses of life.

Issues - The Realest

Issues is a rock band that blends metalcore with pop rock and funk (with hints of R&B), creating a mishmash of genres that might seem jarring at first, but is actually quite ingenious. The Realest is the perfect example of their blend of genres, with its nu-metal turntable scratches, funk groove and guitar riffs coming together to defy any kind of musical boundaries.

Bring Me the Horizon - Oh No

We've had quite a number of recent attempts by metalcore bands trying to incorporate some of the more melodic rock genres and styles into their music. But none other have managed to handle that transition as seamlessly and as beautifully as the members of Bring Me the Horizon. Oh No is the current pinnacle of their mainstream crossover, a song that sounds nothing like the songs from their deathcore and metalcore roots.

The Weeknd - I Feel It Coming (feat. Daft Punk)

The second collaboration between Daft Punk and The Weeknd doesn't only sound brighter and more upbeat than Starboy, it also plays like more of a follow up to Daft Punk's Get Lucky. While there is no official music video as at the time of this writing, the song is featured at the very end of The Weeknd's musical short film, M A N I A, which is worth checking out in its entirety if you fancy a trip into his twisted, artistic mind.

And the winner is...

Bring Me the Horizon - Oh No

Bring Me the Horizon is a band that I discovered and completely fell in love with this past year. They are one of the bands that have been credited for helping bring the nu-metal genre back into the public eye. Their 2015 album, That's the Spirit, is quite possibly the best album I've heard in years, and it is bookended by my favorite song for 2016, Oh No. The song marks the farthest they've gone from their metalcore sound of old, with its electronic-driven bassline and saxophone solo, but it still has enough raw emotion to please long-time fans and newcomers like myself.

Monday 26 December 2016

2016 in Review: Favorite TV Shows

It's the last full week of the year, the time I normally set aside to have some form of reflection on the things and events that helped shape the last twelve months. 2016 has been filled with the highest highs and lowest lows, but if you're curious to find out how it compares to previous years, then be sure to check out my year in review series from 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011.

My 2016 series would run through the whole week, so be sure to check back every day as I reveal my lists of favorite things. Emphasis on the word favorite, as my lists are comprised of things I personally found praiseworthy, not necessarily what was universally loved or considered to be the best.

To kick things off, today I'll be revealing my favorite TV shows that ran during the year. There are some returning champions from last year, as well as revivals of some of my all-time favorites, so let the rundown begin!


The first season of Daredevil basically raised the bar for all superhero TV shows (and to an extent, movies as well). And the folks at Marvel and Netflix have followed up that seminal effort's success with a second season that is packed with even more tightly-choreographed fight scenes, awesome camerawork and an amazing cast that help bring the beloved comic-book characters to life like never before.

Better Call Saul

The Breaking Bad spinoff was back for a second season this year, in which it further established its identity as a standalone series, even as we watched title character Saul Goodman still struggling to find an identity of his own. And while it is quite clear that the show may never reach the same heights as the critically-acclaimed hit series that spawned it, it is also clear that Better Call Saul is its own kind of special.

Game of Thrones

The biggest show on television got even bigger this year, as it went beyond its source material by showing what happened after the fifth book in the series, A Dance with Dragons. The sixth season was ripe with twists and turns, all of which culminated in two of the strongest episodes we've gotten till date; I am still reeling from the sheer brilliance of Battle of the Bastards, and the revelations at the end of The Winds of Winter has fans the world over waiting in anticipation of what comes next.

The Night Of

Based on the first season of the British crime drama, Criminal Minds, The Night Of was an eight-part miniseries that aired on HBO this year. It explored the effects of the criminal justice system on a college student (Riz Ahmed), when he becomes the main suspect in the murder of a young woman after they have a drug-induced one night stand. It also stars John Turturo as the student's self-appointed lawyer, and Bill Camp as the detective trying to make sense of the whole thing.

Voltron: Legendary Defender

Voltron was one of those cartoon shows that effectively shaped my childhood. So you can imagine the joy (and to an extent, dread) I felt when I learnt that it was being rebooted for a new generation of kids. Thankfully, the reboot has been handled with enough care that it doesn't offend those like me who still have fond memories of the original series, while still feeling fresh and relevant for the kids that enjoy these kinds of shows today.

Stranger Things

What would you get if you took E.T., The Thing, and It, and you tossed them in a blender? Stranger Things. The show nails the look and feel of said works, while telling a multilayered story centered around a group of likeable kids.This is hardly the first time a work of art is drawing inspiration from the decade that brought big hair and spandex pants into the mainstream. But what stands out here is how much attention to detail the Duffer Brothers have put into the eight episodes of this must-see miniseries.


Easily one of the most ambitious TV shows in recent years, Westworld is a science-fiction drama/western based on the 1973 Michael Crichton movie of the same name. It centers upon the day-to-day operations of a theme park modeled after the American wild west, where guests can interact with lifelike robots called hosts. The production values are through the roof, and it features an ensemble cast that includes Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, Ed Harris and Anthony Hopkins.

Ash vs Evil Dead

Ash William was back for another season of demon slaying this year in the horror-comedy series, Ash vs Evil Dead. The second season took basically everything we loved about the first, and cranked it up to full blast, so that we had more laughs, more blood and guts, and more evil creatures than you can shake a stick at. It's hard to imagine how the showrunners plan on topping any of this in the forthcoming third season, but I'm pretty sure they already have more than enough tricks up their sleeve.

Luke Cage

Luke Cage marks Marvel's latest entry in its build up to its upcoming superhero ensemble series, The Defenders. First featured in last year's Netflix original series, Jessica Jones, the show continues Luke's journey as he struggles between a desire to keep his abilities hidden from those who'd wish to exploit it, and a need to protect the people of his Harlem neighborhood from the criminals who run the city.

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

As much as I hate to admit it, Gilmore Girls was one of my all-time favorite TV shows. There's just something about the fast-talking mother and daughter and their small-town shenanigans that kept me coming back week after week during the show's 7-year run. And the recent Netflix revival does an admirable job of capturing most of that magic.

And the winner is...

Stranger Things

What more can I say about Stranger Things that I haven't already said in my glowing review of the show from back when it was released? Not much, only to add that if you were born in the 80s like I was, or grew up watching movies and TV shows from that era, then you'd be doing yourself a great disservice by skipping out on this one. And with a second season already in the works and set to debut next year, there is no better time to take a dose of some sweet 80s nostalgia.

Friday 16 December 2016

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Movie Review)

Coming off the incredible success of last year's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the Walt Disney company had Star Wars fans waiting in anticipation for Rogue One, the first of the planned standalone movies intended to tide us over between the numbered releases. But ever since the company had acquired the rights to the franchise in 2012, many had feared that it would be turned into a watered-down, family-friendly shadow of its former self. As though to assuage those very concerns, Rogue One is not only a worthy addition to the franchise, it is also the most mature Star Wars movie till date.

Set shortly before the events of Episode IV: A New Hope, Rogue One tells the story of the Rebel Alliance fighters who risked their lives to steal the plans of the Death Star, a weapon capable of destroying an entire planet. As spoilerific as that statement sounds, it was liberally used in the film's marketing, and was in fact alluded to in the opening crawl of the 1977 original movie. And speaking of opening crawls, Rogue One is the first movie in the franchise not to feature the signature opening crawl that provided some backstory to the numbered releases. In its place is a cold open that effectively sets the tone for what is to come.

The film opens with the violent abduction of an Imperial Military research scientist, Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), who'd been working on the design of the Death Star before he'd gone into hiding with his wife and daughter. His wife is killed in the process, but his daughter, Jyn, manages to escape before being rescued by the veteran-fighter-turned-radical, Saw Gerrara (Forest Whitaker). Years later, she (Felicity Jones) is shown in captivity, but is once again rescued, this time by the Rebel fighter, Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and his reprogrammed Imperial droid, K-2SO (Alan Tudyk).

They take her to the Rebel Alliance, where she is coerced into helping them find her father through the help of Saw Gerrara, who'd abandoned her years before. Parallel to this, an Imperial pilot named Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) also seeks Gerrara, defecting to the planet Jedha with a message from Galen Erso. Jyn, Cassian and K-2SO arrive at Jedha, where she eventually meets Bodhi and Gerrara, as well as a blind warrior named Chirrut (Donnie Yen) and his bodyguard of sorts, Baze (Jiang Wen). There she learns of the fatal flaw her father had built into the Death Star with the hope that its knowledge would somehow aid the rebellion, which sets into motion events that would have the fate of the entire rebellion resting on the shoulders of a rather unlikely band of heroes.

Even though the story might read like the perfect setup for a heist movie, Rogue One is actually a movie about war first and foremost. It shows a grittier side of a universe most of us mainly associate with Jedis and lightsaber duels. Except there are no Jedis to root for here. Instead we get plenty of in-the-trenches action, as well as some of the best space battles in the series till date. Needless to say, main characters die in all manner of gruesome ways, some before we actually get a chance to know them. But each actor imbues their character with so much life that you'll be hard pressed to notice, which is incidentally one of the first things that attracted me when the movie was originally announced, the stellar cast.

Rogue One proves that there is much to be explored outside the storylines of the Skywalker family. Unlike The Force Awakens that relied a bit too heavily on nostalgia, the movie succeeds on its own terms by not being afraid to deviate from series conventions, all the while not straying too far from the history that has already been set by previous releases. Its greatest accomplishment is how smoothly it segues into Episode IV, with the movie ending just where A New Hope kicked off. It also happens to have what is now my favorite scene in the entire series. Who knew that this much potential could be expanded from what was once just a few lines of text.

Friday 4 November 2016

Doctor Strange (Movie Review)

The Marvel Cinematic Universe gets its first real taste of magic in Doctor Strange, the 14th movie in their growing collection of superhero movies. And just like the origin stories that came before it, the film manages to both introduce its world and characters, while expanding the overall universe at the same time.

The movie wastes no time in establishing its magic-based premise, as it opens with a group of renegade sorcerers, led by the movie's villian, Kaecillius (Mads Mikkelsen), as they steal a few pages from a book of spells owned by a powerful sorceress called The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). Thereafter, we are introduced to Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), a skilled neurosurgeon with a serious chip on his shoulder, whose world is brought to a grinding halt following a car accident that severely injures his hands and his ability to continue practicing his profession.

Having tried all conceivable surgical procedures in an attempt to restore his hands, Doctor Strange turns to Eastern medicine, journeying to Nepal in search of a place called Kamar-Taj, where he'd learnt a paralyzed patient had gotten his ability to walk restored. There he meets Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), one of the Ancient One's students, who takes him to their monastery to be trained in the mystic arts. Soon, Doctor Strange learns that he is not only skilled in the mystic arts, but also destined to play a vital role in the fight against the evil forces that threaten to bring the world to an end.

There are many things to love about Doctor Strange, from its fine cast to its effects-laden fight sequences. But what I love the most is how grounded the whole thing felt in the already established MCU, despite introducing the previously unexplored concepts of magic and a multiverse with branching possibilities and timelines. The movie has been compared to others like Inception and The Matrix, and while those comparisons are true, they do no justice to just how mind bending and visually stunning the movie is.

Wednesday 28 September 2016

The Magnificent Seven (Movie Review)

As a seasoned moviegoer, I am no stranger to Hollywood's much-reviled fixation with remakes. And the only thing worse than one of these remakes it seems is the remake of a remake. Thankfully, The Magnificent Seven manages to circumvent that black hole of dreariness by leaning heavily on the performances (not to mention overall appeal) of its star-studded cast.

The ensemble is led by Denzel Washington, who plays Sam Chisolm, a bounty hunter sought out to protect a small town that has been recently overrun by a group of outlaws. To do so, he must first enlist the help of fellow gunslingers Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), Jack Horne (Vincent D'Onofrio), Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) and Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier). Thus, the titular seven is born, and in their wake they leave behind the kind of body count you’d expect from an action film directed by Antoine Fuqua (King Arthur, Olympus Has Fallen).

The Magnificent Seven is a by-the-numbers western that felt closer to the video game, Red Dead Redemption, than any one of Quentin Tarantino’s modern classics (Django Unchained, The Hateful Eight). But what it lacks in detail and well-written dialogues, it makes up for with fun and spectacle. The result is a movie that plays like a summer blockbuster. Just don’t expect to be blown away.

Sunday 7 August 2016

Suicide Squad (Movie Review)

After the relatively lukewarm receptions gotten by both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, expectations were indeed quite high for the DC Extended Universe's third entry, Suicide Squad. And just like the aforementioned films, the movie is already proving to be just as divisive among critics and audiences alike.

In the wake of the growing threat of metahumans, a high-ranking government official named Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) is given the go-ahead to assemble a task force of criminals with special abilities. Known as the Suicide Squad/Task Force X, the team is made up of Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Enchantress (Cara Delevinge) and Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje).

It doesn't take long into the movie before one of the squad members goes rogue, and in their first field mission, the other members are tasked with securing a high-profile target from the site of the rogue member's base of operations. They are joined by their field leader, Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), as well as his bodyguard, Katana (Karen Fukuhara). Added into the mix is the Joker (Jared Leto), the crown prince of crime who is willing to go to any lengths to rescue a target of his own, his love interest, Harley Quinn.

Primed as being DC's offbeat take on the superhero genre, Suicide Squad was expected to infuse some much-needed humor and color into a universe many considered too dark and brooding. And on those very grounds, it succeeds. But all the color and humor in the world couldn't possibly mask a plot that was generic and derivative, or a pair of villains that simply fail to leave an impression.

On the plus side, the movie boasts strong performances by the likes of Viola Davis and Margot Robbie, as well as some killer tunes on its soundtrack. But overall, what we have here is all style and very little substance.

Monday 18 July 2016

Stranger Things (Season 1 Review)

This past weekend marked the debut of the Netflix original series, Stranger Things, an eight-episode miniseries with science fiction and horror trappings. Drawing inspiration from the decade it takes place in, the show is clearly a homage to the works of Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter and Stephen King. And even though the tribute to said works can feel a bit heavy-handed sometimes, it is never to the point of downright cheesiness.

Set in a small town in 1983, the story follows a group of close-knit boys as they investigate the mysterious disappearance of their friend, Will, who'd gone missing on his way home after a marathon session of Dungeons & Dragons. Their search eventually leads them to find Eleven, a young girl with supernatural abilities who'd escaped from a nearby government research facility. They form an unlikely alliance, even as their small town is plagued with "strange" happenings.

Stranger Things works on so many levels. There is that sense of mystery as we are left guessing even as we try to connect the dots. Then there is the opening music, with its electronic swells and sweet 1980s nostalgia. In terms of actors and their performances, the biggest name on the roster is Winona Ryder, who kills it as the missing boy's distraught mother. But the true standouts of the show are the child actors themselves, all of whom are interesting and more importantly believable.

My primary fear going into Stranger Things was whether or not the showrunners would be able to tie up the multiple threads of its story line, given the show's relatively low episode count. But the Duffer Brothers not only managed to do that, they've also managed to leave things just open-ended enough, should the show happen to be picked up for a second season.

I sincerely hope that it does, because I'm afraid I have grown quite attached to these kids and their small town adventures.

Wednesday 13 July 2016

The Legend of Tarzan (Movie Review)

The purpose of a good trailer is to sell the movie it depicts, and I was partly sold months ago by The Legend of Tarzan's, with its over-the-top action and overall ballsiness. But the main draw for me was the movie's director, David Yates, who is best known for helming the final four Harry Potter films, as well as its upcoming prequel/spinoff, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them.

Here, his directorial skills are used on yet another work of literary fiction, namely Tarzan of the Apes, a book that has been adapted and expanded upon more times than I care to count. And it is clear from the very beginning that he has set out to make his adaptation as far from the 1999 Disney animated film version as possible.

In fact, the movie plays like more of a sequel than an origin story, choosing to fill in the blanks with flashbacks that more often than not break the flow of the story being told. That story is of a Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård) who has already adjusted to living in the civilized world. He is married to love interest, Jane (Margot Robbie), and has inherited the family estate, as well as taken on the name, John Clayton III.

It isn't long before he is drawn to his home in the African jungle though, after he is convinced by the American emissary, George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson), of a growing slave market in the region. There, he is lured into the trap of villainous Captain Léon Rom (Christoph Waltz), who seeks to deliver Tarzan to the vengeful chief of a local tribe (Djimon Hounsou) in exchange for a truckload of diamonds.

The Legend of Tarzan was plagued by pacing issues, and a script that left more to be desired in terms of character development and backstory. Also, the film's special effects pale in comparison to the impossibly high standard set by the likes of The Jungle Book and the recent Planet of the Apes movies. The result is a film that is far from essential viewing, but is still worth the price of admission.

Monday 4 July 2016

Finding Dory (Movie Review)

A few years back, I had reviewed the 2003 Pixar animated film, Finding Nemo, as part of the 2012 Blogging from A to Z Challenge. In that review, I had remarked on how Dory had "more than stolen the show," so you can imagine my elation after I'd found out that a sequel was not only in the works, but was going to center upon everyone's favorite amnesiac blue fish. Finding Dory is that long-overdue sequel.

The movie also serves as an origin story of sorts, and as such it opens with a young (and totally adorable) Dory being schooled by her parents. It isn't long before tragedy strikes, and she is soon separated from her family and left to wonder the ocean on her own. We see her transform into the Dory we know in the course of this opening sequence, and this segues beautifully into the opening from Finding Nemo, when Marlin was about to begin his search for Nemo.

Flash forward one year, and Dory is living with the reunited clownfish family. Although still struggling with her short-term memory loss, she starts having flashbacks from her childhood. This sparks an unquenchable desire to find her long-lost parents, and soon the trio are on an adventure across the Pacific to the Jewel of Morro Bay in California.

Getting there, Dory is inadvertently captured by volunteers from a rehabilitation center for marine animals, and in an all-too-familiar twist ripped straight out of the first movie, it is left to Marlin and Nemo to try rescuing her. But it is also here that things take a turn for the unexpected, as we are introduced to a colorful cast of new characters that include a pair of territorial sea lions, a nearsighted whale shark named Destiny, and the cynical seven-legged (tentacled?) Octopus, Hank.

Finding Dory is everything an animated sequel should be; it is bigger, bolder, and beautiful to behold, plus that climax is guaranteed to have you gasping for breath.

Friday 6 May 2016

Captain America: Civil War (Movie Review)

Phase Three of the  Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is off to a start folks, and what an amazing start too. The Russo brothers have proven that the highly-acclaimed Captain America: The Winter Soldier was no mere fluke, and this they've done by not only delivering a worthy sequel, but arguably what is the best MCU experience I've had till date.

Notice I said experience, because as far as storytelling goes, The Winter Soldier is still the better of the two movies. Besides, nothing quite trumps the sheer exhilaration of watching the Avenger's assemble for the first time, not even last year's somewhat-bloated sequel. But as a fan of comic book movies in general, I have to say that Civil War ticks all the right boxes, in a way that the recent Batman v Superman never could.

Much like BvS, Civil Wars deals with the debate of whether or not superheroes should be held accountable for the collateral damage that invariably follows in their wake. Here, that debate gives rise to the Sokovia Accords, a UN legislation that would effectively govern when and how the Avengers can use their powers for the greater good.

Naturally, there are those that see the Accords for what it truly is (Team Captain America), and the dangers that lie ahead should they give up their full autonomy, as well as those that are overburdened by the many deaths they'd caused or were unable to prevent (Team Iron Man), and that see the Accords as some form of atonement.

Despite the presence of so many heroes, this is still a Captain America movie true and true, and at the core of the movie is his trust of his former best friend, Bucky Barnes (aka The Winter Soldier), who has been accused of being behind a deadly bombing that serves as a catalyst for the movie's central conflict. But where the movie truly excels is in the deft manner it juggles its many characters and the various subplots that they bring to the table, with newcomers Spider-Man and Black Panther being the obvious standouts.

There are so many other things I loved about Civil War, but my biggest takeaway was the opening sequence which was set in Lagos, Nigeria (or a close Hollywood approximation of it). While it would have been nice if the actual sequence had been filmed over here, it was still surprising to see that much attention to detail in a movie of this kind.

Friday 25 March 2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Movie Review)

As far as epic showdowns go, there hasn't been one more anticipated these last couple of years than the one between the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel. So you can imagine my disappointment when the reviews started coming in and the movie was getting torn apart by critics. I’ve never been one to hop on such bandwagons, so I would try to keep this review as balanced (and of course spoiler-free) as I can.

Right off the bat (no pun intended), the movie opens with a young Bruce Wayne grieving the recent deaths of his billionaire parents. Thereafter it shifts to a scene we are already familiar with, and we get to watch the destruction of Metropolis during the fight between Superman and General Zod, but as seen from the perspective of Bruce Wayne, lending a human angle to the battle between gods.

This sets the stage for the confrontation that has been promised in all those trailers you’ve undoubtedly seen, while also addressing one of the biggest criticisms leveled against Man of Steel, namely the collateral damage and death toll resulting from its climatic battle. Personally, I couldn’t care less about such details in a movie of this kind, but it was nice to see Zack Synder and the screenwriters taking something many considered a shortcoming, and using it to advance the story they were trying to tell.

Speaking of shortcomings, the latest entry in the DC Extended Universe isn’t without its fair share. At two and a half hours, the movie felt overlong. But what puzzled me the most was how little character development we got to see during that time. Superman felt just as wooden and one dimensional as he did in Man of Steel, and while Ben Affleck’s portrayal of Batman was more than adequate, the character showed nowhere near as much growth as what we saw in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy.

But let’s face it, you wouldn’t be watching this movie purely for the monologues and moments of character introspection. To the contrary, you want to see two of DC’s finest duke it out till there is only one left standing. And on those grounds, Batman v Superman delivers… to a degree. My main problem here is the fairly predictable outcome of their fight, which is doubly so for anyone who has read the 1986 graphic novel, The Dark Knight Returns, or seen its more recent animated movie adaption.

The movie isn’t just about the two superheroes, though, as you’ve no doubt noticed from its subtitle, Dawn of Justice. So how does it fare as an introduction to the Justice League? Well, not so good, at least for those not already familiar with its members. Wonder Woman was underutilized for the most part, while Aquaman, Cyborg, and Flash felt like they were literally being checked off a check list.

All in all, the movie felt like buildup for a better movie to come somewhere down the line. But the question is would people be patient enough to allow the filmmakers connect the dots? Only time (and the box office numbers) would tell.

Thursday 18 February 2016

My Thoughts on the 58th Grammy Awards

The 58th Grammy Awards were held on Monday. This broke the tradition from previous years where the ceremony was always held on a Sunday. Once again, I was not able to watch the live telecast, due to timezone differences, but I have scanned through a recording of it to get a feel for what went down.

Kendrick Lamar had the most nominations going into the show, with 11 nominations including Album of the Year for his critically-acclaimed album, To Pimp A Butterfly. He was followed by Taylor Swift and The Weekend with 7 nominations apiece. All three artists were vying for Album of the Year, but it was Taylor Swift that eventually took home the award for her hit album, 1989.

Other notable wins include Skrillex and Diplo for their collaborative effort, Jack Ü. The duo won Best Electronic Album as well as Best Dance/Electronic Recording for my favorite song from 2015, Where Are Ü Now. The Weeknd won Best R&B Performance for his song, Earned It (50 Shades of Grey), as well as Best Urban Contemporary Album for his album, Beauty Behind the Madness.

Kendrick Lamar cleaned out in the Rap categories, eventually winning 5 Grammys, the most by any artist for the evening. He also gave a powerful performance of his songs, The Blacker the Berry and Alright. This was in sharp contrast to Pitbull, who closed the ceremony with one of the weakest closing performances in recent memory.

Wednesday 3 February 2016

IWSG: Goals and Resolutions for 2016

It's the first Wednesday of the month, and time for members of the Insecure Writer's Support Group to share their writerly insecurities. The group was started by Alex J. Cavanaugh, and those interested in joining in can visit for more information.

Today, I would like to share with the group my goals and resolutions (read: plans) for the year. The fact that this post is coming in a full month into the year serves as an indication of how strapped for time I have been. The combination of a full-time job and studying for a masters degree at the same time is a lot more demanding than I had imagined.

As such, it is high time I find a way to get things under control. So going with that train of thought, my goals for the year are as follows:

Goal #1: Get Organized

I need to start organizing my activities in such a way that I'll be able to allocate enough time for work, school and writing. I've never been one to come up with a strict day-to-day schedule of tasks, not to talk of actually following one, but it seems that is the only way to keep your head above water in this life. So this year, or what's left of it anyways, I am going to start prioritizing my activities. The starting point is ensuring that my work stays in the office. Once that is achieved, I can allocate what I have left of my time to school and writing-related activities.

Goal #2: Leverage Exposure

As most of you already know, my short story would be appearing in the upcoming IWSG Anthology. This would mark the first time that I am working with a small press. We recently completed first round edits, and my fellow authors and I are currently talking promotional tactics. Promotion has never been one of my strong suits, but I am hoping to learn from those in the group with more experience. I also plan on using the opportunity to gain more eyeballs on my existing work, and to possibly have new work by the time the Anthology is released.

Goal # 3: Be Happy (No Matter What)

Last but not least is the all-important need to find unconditional happiness. My year is already off to a great start, with my short story winning a place in the IWSG Anthology, so it is just a matter of keeping the ball rolling. But even if things went south all of a sudden, I need to stay grounded by reminding myself why I enjoy doing the things I do.

And speaking of the things I enjoy doing, I won't be doing the A-Z Challenge this year it seems, mainly because I'll be having exams that month, and I wouldn't be able to allocate enough time for writing posts and visiting other blogs. But I should still be participating in a lesser capacity if I can help it. I'll fill you in with more details as soon as I have them.

Wednesday 6 January 2016

IWSG: Anthology Contest Winners

It's the first Wednesday of the month, and time for members of the Insecure Writer's Support Group to share their writerly insecurities. The group was started by Alex J. Cavanaugh, and those interested in joining in can visit for more information.

Right. It's a brand new year, and with that comes new possibilities. This is usually when I share my goals and resolutions for the year, but I would have to relegate that to a future post, because right now, I would like to share some good news that I've been waiting to share. As some of you may know, I'd participated in the IWSG Anthology Contest a few months back. Well, the winners have been officially announced, and guess who's short story has been shortlisted to appear in the anthology? Hint, his name starts with an M.

I was pretty stoked when I'd first learnt that my little story had been chosen to appear in the anthology, which would be published sometime this year. I mean, I'd submitted an entry for the contest almost on a whim and didn't give it much thought after that. I would like to take this moment to thank Alex and all the other IWSG admins, for providing this wonderful opportunity to we insecure writers. I would also like to congratulate my fellow winners. I can't wait to see what stories you'd come up with.