Alita: Battle Angel (2019) Review

Alita: Battle Angel (2019) Review

Directed by Robert Rodriguez

Written by James Cameron, Laeta Kalogridis

Starring: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly

Rated: PG-13

Run-Time: 2h 2m

Genre: Science Fiction

Rotten Tomatoes: 62%

Available on Hulu and HBO Max

A cyborg uses her prodigious fighting skills to take on corrupt authorities in a future dystopia. (Hulu)

It’s not every day that a film introduces its titular character in what may very well be their lowest of lows. When we are introduced to the cyborg Alita she is, for all intents and purposes, long discarded trash. Regardless of this her brain, as well as her core power source, are still in prime condition. It takes the work of one Dr. Ido to restore her into working order. With a new body and new life, Alita, who remembers nothing, is forced to adjust to her new surroundings while trying to remember her obscure past. Dr. Ido, who becomes a father figure to Alita, and a young man named Hugo, her love interest, help her along the way. 

I didn’t know what to expect from a movie based off of a manga, let alone a film based on such an extensive and well-written manga. When the trailer first came out, I must admit I was concerned; especially since it follows the disappointing 2017 Ghost in Shell adaption. Like most viewers, I was taken aback by Miss Salazar’s exaggerated eyes. When first exposed to the imagery, I admit that the effects of the uncanny valley were strong. This detail can be somewhat ignored after you take into consideration that the manga makes a point to give Alita exaggerated features, though, if I recall it was originally her “large” lips. This detail would prove to be the only character design decision I found myself continuously questioning. 

My main qualm with the film is that there were often times the CGI was poorly executed. As a result, there were scenes in which I found myself being pulled out of the film, solely due to the poor integration of computer-generated backgrounds with the live-action actors. Additionally, the digital augmentation of Alita’s face often came off as awkward, most notably in the scene in which she tries chocolate for the first time. Otherwise, the film was beautiful and fully embraced the cyberpunk aesthetic.

For the most part, I have minimal complaints with the film. I was pleasantly surprised by the character development as well as the overall execution. I wouldn’t call the film your run-of-the-mill origin story. For what it’s trying to achieve in regards to its source material, I would call it successful. Many may say there isn’t really a plot, but as a introductory film to a potential franchise, the film gets the job done. I thoroughly enjoyed the film, which was not what I expected.

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The Half of It (2020) Review

The Half of It (2020) Review

Directed by: Alice Wu

Written by: Alice Wu

Starring: Leah Lewis, Daniel Diemer, Alexxis Lemire

Rated: PG-13

Run-Time: 1h 45m

Genre: LGBTQ, Comedy, Drama

Rotten Tomatoes: 97%

Availability: Netflix

She’s a gifted introvert. He’s a sweet jock. Both are smitten with the same girl. Friendships– and first loves– can be complicated. (Netflix)

In my opinion there hasn’t been a teen movie that falls among the ranks of the classics for quite a while, but The Half of It might just fit the bill. Not only does the film include relatable romance, but it has an emphasis on friendship and platonic love, something we honestly need more of in both film and books. 

The film is a heartwarming examination of friendship and young love, as well as the struggles of immigrants, their children, and LGBT youth (especially in the midwest). It vividly illustrates the growth of romantic and platonic love on a number of levels, something we don’t often see in teen films. The film avoids the cliche of the relationships in the film becoming diluted by an overdone love-triangle. Rather we watch the blooming romance between two people, and the growth of a close friendship. Romance takes the back seat to the emphasis on friendship, which is exceptionally refreshing. And with the addition of including the struggles of the film’s protagonist as an immigrant only adds a realistic depth to the film. For viewers who immigrated to the States at a young age, as well as viewers whose parents are immigrants, the main character is exceptionally relatable.

This is one of those films everyone needs to watch and it’s one of those films you can watch more than once. Be warned though, you’ll probably be crying by the time the credits roll.

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Summoners War Review

Developer: Com2uS Corp.

Age Rating: 12+

Size: 131 mb

Price: Free (with in-app purchases)

Available on iOS and Android

By now I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve seen the Summoner’s War trailer featuring Dave Franco at least five or so times. No, whether you downloaded the game? That was up to you.

I, of course, did download the game; and honestly wish I hadn’t. While the game has beautiful and considerably smooth graphics, it is definitely an overwhelming play. You are bombarded with quite a bit upon opening the game, as well having a lot of options as to what to do while you’re there and how. This also applies to the large catalogue of potential gatchpa characters you can collect. For some, this may not be a problem, but for casual players this all is a lot. 

The major downside of this game and the reason why I eventually off-loaded it was that there is definitely a point where it seems to hit a paywall; making an otherwise free game into a potentially expensive endeavor. Once you hit the paywall you have the option of giving in and spending large sums of real-world money or you can continue laying but won’t progress very quickly. With this type of game, the paywall is extremely frustrating, and makes it either a game you grind at to advance to keep up with paying players, or you off-load because there are better games utilizing similar mechanics.

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Dog Shelter Rescue Review

Developer: Sleutech Inc.

Age Rating: 4+

Size: 105.3 MB

Price: Free (with in-app purchases)

Available on iOS and Android

Dog Shelter Rescue is a fun twist on the idle game concept for dogs lovers. Rescue twenty different breeds of dog from the streets, decorate their living space and care for them until they’re ready to be adopted. A simple concept, simply executed.

The game isn’t anything fancy, but it’s easy to tell that there is love behind it. The user-interface is a little clunky, but not hard to intuit. The game is overall very simple and doesn’t demand attention the way some idle games tend to do. The game is free to play, and very true to that, but like most games there is the option to make in-app purchases (doing so is entirely unnecessary though). Additionally, the game provides resources to raise awareness for animal rescue organizations and related information. It’s evident that this game is made with a cause.

For dog lovers, this game may be a worthwhile way to pass the time while in a line for coffee or during a transit stop.

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The Beast Warrior Review

by Nahoko Uehashi, Cathy Hirano (Translation)

Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.

Print Length: 496 pages

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Special thanks to NetGalley and Henry Holt and Co. for providing me with an eARC.

This book is currently available for pre-order and will be released July 28, 2020.

Ten years after the fateful clash between two opposing sides of the Divine Kingdom of Lyoza, Elin lives a peaceful life with her family. She tries to stay as far away from her past as possible—the girl who communicated with creatures and befriended a Royal Beast wants no part in the power struggles of humans. But when Elin is called upon to investigate a mysterious illness that’s stricken the Toda, she uncovers a startling plot—one that could threaten everything she holds dear.

In this thrilling sequel to The Beast Player, Elin must confront her destiny and the dire warnings of history. Is a final battle between the Toda and the Royal Beasts inevitable? Or will it mean destruction for all? (Goodreads)

For me, this book was a highly anticipated sequel that I couldn’t wait to pick up after reading the first book. I felt so lucky and very grateful to be allowed access to the eARC and, let me tell you, this series has earned a special place in my heart for so many reasons. Let’s explore them:

The Beast Warrior follows its predecessor’s steps in by continuing to portray important life lessons that in some ways have an eerie relevance to current times. From the effects of raising wild animals in captivity to the importance of history and how easily it can be forgotten and altered by time. These are invaluable lessons and the way they are portrayed in this book is brutal and honest. The way it illustrates the importance of maintaining the natural balance of the world unparalleled.

For some this book may seem long-winded, but with a complex story so rare for young-adult this can be easily confused. The main conflict is not one easily resolved, with all the possible solutions having flaws and varying rewards. The book shows the complexity of national politics in an understandable manner, something very difficult to do. And with a beautifully in-depth description it’s easy to get lost in the world created by the author. 

I’m prepared to recommend this book to anyone and everyone as I think it’s not only a good read but an important one.

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MonsterCry Eternal Review

Developer: Nyuo Inc.

Age Rating: 12+

Size: 362.5 mb

Price: Free (in-app purchases)

Available for iOS and Android

Good CCG (collectable card games) are hard to come by, but MonsterCry is one of those great finds. There are an abundance of cards to collect, all with beautiful art. The strategy required to play the game is not hard to learn, plus the game has the added bonus of auto-play! The game is easier to navigate than many of the CCG’s of a similar caliber, with a well organized menu and minimal clutter. The gameplay and menu follow what has become the standard for games within the genre. 

The main downfall of the game is there is a paywall. It’s not a solid paywall, but there is definitely a point where advancing is a lot harder than it was before. The game is still playable without in-app purchases, but for many the paywall is enough to look the other way. But for those who like to work hard and enjoy farming mechanics, this might not bother you. For fans of CCG’s and RPG’s this game is definitely worth checking out.

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The Beast Player Review

by Nahoko Uehashi, Cathy Hirano (Translator)

Publisher: Pushkin Press

Print Length: 512 pages

Genre: YA Fantasy

Release Year: 2018 (US)

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 4.14

Available at Amazon, B&N, or check you local library/Libby

Elin’s family has an important responsibility: caring for the fearsome water serpents that form the core of their kingdom’s army. So when some of the beasts mysteriously die, Elin’s mother is sentenced to death as punishment. With her last breath she manages to send her daughter to safety.

Alone, far from home, Elin soon discovers that she can talk to both the terrifying water serpents and the majestic flying beasts that guard her queen. This skill gives her great powers, but it also involves her in deadly plots that could cost her life. Can she save herself and prevent her beloved beasts from being used as tools of war? Or is there no way of escaping the terrible battles to come? (Goodreads)

I would like to put in a formal request for Studio Ghibli to make this into a film; because the whole time I was reading it I continuously visualized it animated in that style. Ah— it would be a dream! 

The Beast Player is a beautifully crafted story full of whimsy and wisdom. The story tackles issues such as animals being raised in captivity, favouritism in an educational setting, and the effects of the loss of tradition (both negative and positive). In such a short time we are introduced to such a beautiful world and with realistic characters, and a story that spans a decade. Readers are given a view of the world often clouded by modernity, and are given a chance to view nature and it’s beasts for they are: magnificent. 

For some reading this book may not come easily for a number of reasons (none of which— I believe— should dissuade you). The most evident and unique being the world-building. The Beast Player utilizes soft world-building with expertise comparable to Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. This lends to the whimsy of the book, as much of the world is left to the reader’s imagination, guided by a skilled hand that only shows us the details we must know. Additionally, being a translation of a book originally published in Japanese, The Beast Player often reads a little odd to native English speakers. Of course, this is a result of inherent differences between the two languages, English being much more literal than Japanese. This is easily ignored, as the story is so beautiful and I can only give the highest praise to the translator who took on the challenge of translating such a masterwork. The end result is still a coherent and cohesive story with what I would consider above-average writing. 

I would honestly recommend this book to anyone, even those who have yet to read a translated book. If fact, I would recommend it with much fervor to those in that situation as the book is just that good. 

Please note: There is, in fact, an animated adaptation of this series titled Erin, as well as a manga adaptation.

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Hush (2016) Review

Hush (2016) Review

Directed by Mike Flanagan

Written by Mike Flanagan, Kate Siegel

Starring: John Gallagher Jr., Kate Siegel, Michael Trucco

Rated: R

Run-Time: 1h 21m

Genre: Horror

Rotten Tomatoes: 93%

Available of Netflix

A deaf writer who retreated into the woods to live a solitary life must fight for her life in silence when a masked killer appears in her window. (Netflix)

This film has been in my suggestions on Netflix pretty much since it became available on there, and for whatever reason I never got around to watching it. It follows a storyline quite common in thrillers and as a result my first impression of it wasn’t the best. It’s a storyline that I actually enjoy, but as of late have been enjoying less because these films tend to be predictable. The characters aren’t always the smartest and the villain is sometimes so smart they barely come off as actual humans. 

To first address the predictability of this film, I must say that while it was at times quite predictable it was predictable in a good way. Now how can a film be predictable in a good way? For me it has to heavily to with the fact that, in the case of this film, the fact that I was able to predict the next moves of the characters didn’t detract from the event actually happening. Rather it added to the suspense of when will it happen. 

A surprising positive for the film was the production. I found that the film was shot well, and very easy to understand visually. The use of sound added to the general ambience of the story, making it more immersive and, for lack of a better word, stressful. 

The acting was better than I expected, especially from the antagonist played by John Gallagher Jr.. The few scenes in the beginning in which he is wearing a mask are a particularly good example of his acting ability, considering that even though most of his face was obscured by the mask it was still evident to the audience what was going on inside his head. They say true acting is having the ability to not only act the story out on the grand scale, but to be able to act with one’s eyes. This film is a good example of this. 
Ultimately I enjoyed the film. It actually had me at the edge of my seat, cursing under my breath in shock and practically bouncing in my seat in anticipation. Nowadays it’s hard to find a thriller that can evoke such a response.

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Adorable Home Review

Developer: HyperBeard Inc.

Age Rating: 12+

Size: 631 MB

Price: Free (in-app purchase)

Available on iOS and Android

Adorable Home is an idle game that gives off Neko Atsume vibes in its cute art style and gameplay. It’s an easy game to play and doesn’t require lots of time out of your day. 

The first thing you are tasked with doing when opening the game is choosing a character to play. There is an array of characters to choose from, but they aren’t culturally diverse from the visual since (nor are they physically diverse). This is a detractor, as everyone should be able to be represented in a game they play. This is the only thing the game really needs to change for it to be truly great. The only representation in the game is the option to have queer couples, which is a step in the right direction, well, more of a foot in the door. 

The gameplay is simple. Check the game occasionally, make meals for your in-game partner, take pictures with them and your cats, care for your cats, and buy furniture to decorate your home. The come check-in method of gameplay has been popularized by games like Neko Atsume. Similarly progression through the game, with the goal of decorating your home to your liking, takes quite a long time. If you’re not patient you have the option to spend real-world money for in-game money that you can then use to purchase items, but that will quickly become quite expensive. 

The game is quite chill, and if you like games that you only have to check occasionally it may be worth it. But, be aware of the games lack of diversity.

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There Are Things I Can’t Tell You Review

by Edako Mofumofu

Publisher: TokyoPop

Print Length: 272

Genre: LGBT, Romance

Special thanks to NetGalley and TokyoPop for providing me with an eARC.

There Are Things I Can’t Tell You will be available July 21, 2020.

Kasumi and Kyousuke are polar opposites when it comes to personality. Kasumi is reserved, soft-spoken and shy; Kyousuke is energetic and has always been popular among their peers. As the saying goes though, opposites have a tendency to attract, and these two have been fast friends since elementary school. To Kasumi, Kyousuke has always been a hero to look up to, someone who supports him and saves him from the bullies. But now, school is over; their relationship suddenly becomes a lot less simple to describe. Facing the world — and one another — as adults, both men find there are things they struggle to say out loud, even to each other. (Goodreads)

There AreThings I Can’t Tell You is an adult LBGT manga that delves into the struggles of two millennial queers as they struggle to come to terms with their identity. We follow the protagonist, Kyousuke Shiina, as he reunites with his childhood friend, Kasumi Amemiya. The story follows their friendship, relationship, and turmoil as Kyousuke struggles with internalized homophobia. The author takes a light-handed approach with this theme, but still manages to portray the emotional constipation that comes with internalizing and ignoring one’s true feelings. The art adds to this portrayal as the story is overall well illustrated. 

This story falls short in how it shows the characters overcoming their internalized homophobia, which is to be expected from an idealistic happy-ending sort of story that ends up coming into being. We are given a lot of background on the relationship between the two love interests that set up our protagonist as having deepset anxiety that certain romantic feelings are “wrong”. For these feelings to be disregarded so quickly for the sake of a happy-ending is a little unrealistic. It’s hard to say with certainty though because there are illustrations that imply there is quite a bit of time that lapses from the beginning of the manga and it’s conclusion. 

Would I recommend this manga? For a short feel-good read with a hint of realism, yes. As a wholistically realistic depiction of the queer struggle, not really.

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