Top favorite 2016 releases

2016 is almost over thank the gods, while the year was filled by awful celebrity deaths and wars and destruction and Donald Trump and Brexit it also had some pretty interesting releases, the following are my favorite releases regardless of their medium and in no particular order :

  • Monster Hunter Generations
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    Monster Hunter Generations was my entry to the Monster Hunter universe and I loved every moment of my my 211 hours in it, I am planning to go back to it at one point or maybe play MH4U until Monster Hunter XX comes out in west, please Capcom.
  • The Weeknd : Starboy
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    The RnB star Weeknd comes back with another album that hit all the right notes for me, with tracks like Starboy, I Feel it coming, False Alarm and Sidewalks, Starboy proved itself to be the gift that keeps on giving.
  • Arrival
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    if you are a sucker for a good Sci-fi that is not about humans kicking some alien ass you will love Arrival, from one of my new favorite directors Denis Villeneuve he brought a beautiful and deep and emotional sci-fi flick which I will be rewatching for years.
  • The Nice Guys
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    Ryan Gosling had a really good year and even though I really loved La La Land I had to give The Nice Guys another shoutout, directed by Shane Black and co-staring Russell Crowe, The Nice Guys takes place during the 70s and it is a funny buddy movie that I haven’t seen anything like it in years, I will kill for a sequel.
  • Shadow Tactics : Blades of the Shogun
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    I talked about this game a lot this year and I yet to finish it, I really enjoyed this title it is fantastic and made with so much care, I hope that this game is successful and the production team behind it can make similar games in the future.
  • Black Panther 
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    Written by multiple award winning writer Ta-Nehisi Coates the 2016 Black Panther is a very different and grounded version of the character back to the Marvel line up, it has been a very well received and compelling series so far and I really hope they keep up the good work.
  • Westworld
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    HBO’s new show proved its self to be an amazing Sci-Fi mystery show, from start to finish the show never had a dull moment and at the end of the 10 episode run it gave me answers and questions for the next seasons to come, truly an achievement.
  • Overwatch
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    Blizzard’s first new IP in more than a decade turned out to be a triumph, the addictively fun gameplay and the insanely good cast of characters and a very good community (so far) made my experience with Overwatch really enjoyable, here is to more of that.
  • Deadpool
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    The first R-Rated comic book movie was this year’s best and probably one of the best superhero movies ever made, the funny and crazy brutal movie made me watch it over and over with every chance I get.
  • Pokemon Sun/Moon
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    I am a big Pokemon fan and a new entry means take my money Nintendo, I am around 15 hours into the game and I really like it, the beautiful graphics and new mechanics and quality of life improvement really makes the game fun and fresh again.

I am still going to make a Favorite movies list in the coming days and also favorite episodes list soon.

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Macbeth (Review)

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Macbeth is directed by Justin Kurzel staring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard and it is an adaptation of the 1606 William Shakespeare tragedy, the film came out in 2015 to positive reviews.

The story takes place in Scotland during a Civil War, Macbeth played by Fassbender is leading King Duncan’s army to the war and emerges victorious and from here a series of events play out which lands Macbeth on the throne. while the story of Macbeth is largely known since it is a Shakespeare play the film gives some more depth and difference to the characters which I thought was fitting and let the film standout on its own. also the production value in the film is very beautiful with stellar cinematography from Adam Arkapaw and amazing make up and costumes that stood out.

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It is said that Macbeth is a very difficult character to play because of the way the character evolves from a war hero to ruthless tyrant and back to a broken man but I think this adaptation allowed Fassbender to create a man haunted by war and blood broken and trying to figure out where is his ambition leads in that regard the film is successful however it does sidelines Lady Macbeth to a point that she is only in the film in few scenes. her character was supposed to be a menace femme fatale, but in this adaptation she is more or less a partner in crime who shares her husband’s love for power.

I had some major issue with Macbeth, it is a problem that I think what made the film fail at the box office because it wouldn’t relate to or enjoy and that is the script, it is written in an old and extremely difficult language that is hard to figure most of it out, I had to read about the events of the movie after I finished it just to understand what exactly happened because the dialog lost me so many times while watching it, I don’t understand loyalty to source materials but I also believe in judging a film as a standalone and Macbeth failed to make me enjoy it as much as I could have if it was written is an easier to understand language, and I had to rely on the visuals to follow the story which also proved to be difficult for its rather bizarre and abstract direction.

Verdict : Overall Macbeth is a very well made adaptation of a classic tragedy, Fassbender stands out as the title character and he gives a raw performance to bring Macbeth to life however the difficult writing and the abstract direction kept me from enjoying the film as much as I would have otherwise. (7.0/10.0)

Her (Review)

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Her is directed by Spike Jonze staring Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara and a very special performance from Scarlett Johansson. the movie came out in 2013 and I did watch it back then but I didn’t enjoyed it as much as I did last night when I watched it for the 2nd time.

Theodore played by Pheonix is a man who just went through a break up and going through a divorce he is working a handwritten letters writer in a futuristic society where people rely on artificial intelligence operating systems for most of their day to day work, with the introduction of OS1 a new type of intelligent operating system that evolves and grows with time Theodore finds himself bonding with her and ultimately forming a relationship with her despite her being a program.the OS named Samantha is played by Scarlett Johansson and from what I read she wasn’t originally cast as the role and only came on board later when the filming was done but she and Phoenix really give an amazing performance their relationship was very very believable, the romance didn’t feel forced or fake which kinda made the movie feel so weird, in a good way. one of my favorite characters in the film is Amy which is played by Amy Adams who is playing Theodore’s collage friend, what I loved about that character is that you could see into her life and her issues without her story taking such a big turn and changing into something forced and pushed, also Catherine played by Rooney Mara who played Theodore’s ex which also gives another window to Theodore’s life by showing his past and him growing into the character he grew into.

The film’s setting is very interesting, it is not so far into the future and the technology they are using is not Star Trek level of Sci-Fi which makes the characters and the story relateable, so the film has a complex social commentary side to it which takes on our obsession with technology, love and romance in a cleaver way and that is what makes the film so good. it is also a very well made film it is a very cheerful and interesting color palate and a very beautiful cinematography from Hoyte van Hoytema to make the two hour film very very enjoyable. Arcade Fire composed an interesting and beautiful score for the film which only adds to the quality and the polish of the final product.

Verdict : Her is a very impactful film giving us a glimpse on what the future of technology and love might look like. (9.0/10.0)

Kubo and the Two Strings (Review)

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Kubo and the Two Strings is directed by  Travis Knight and staring Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey and Art Parkinson and it is a stop motion animation from Laika the same production company behind titles like : Coraline, ParaNorman and The Boxtrolls. in my opinion they are one of the best companies working in animation films right now in the same caliber as Pixar and Studio Ghibli.

Kubo is the story of a young boy who lost his eye and lives with his mom who seems to have some kind of brain condition, Kubo goes to the nearby town every day to put on a show and provide for his sick mother, but for some reason he always leaves before nightfall because his mother told him no to be out at night because they are hiding from someone, I wont say who or why and I wont spoil anything just know everything in the story will make sense by the end of it and it will unravel in a fantastic way.

Laika’s work is really one of the most impressive things I have ever seen, and the fact that it is all stop motion it really blows my mind, the details in the faces are so amazing it just brings the world to life. paired that with couple of love able characters one a Monkey and the other a beetle also a very scary looking villainous sisters and you are in for a very entertaining film.

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one of the things that I really enjoyed about this film was the way the film was structured, it felt like an old school RPG game, even the way they introduced the characters to the protagonists and the way he figures out his quest it is really like an RPG game and I loved that about the movie, this is why I feel like games like The Last Of Us that was cinematic and introduced its story in the cinematic way did better than any game based on a movie, same situation was with Kubo the movie told its story in the same structure a video game would and it did it better than any movie that is based on a video game because the movie did understand its medium and that is very important I wish those who are adopting video games into movie will understand this point.

Verdict : Kubo and the Two Strings is a very well made stop motion animation movie that delivers a nice story in a fun and interesting way. (8.5/10.0)

La La Land (Review)

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La La Land is directed by Damien Chazelle staring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. It’s a movie about two young aspiring artists, one being a Jazz Musician (Gosling) and the other an actress (Stone) and their journey to fame and realizing their childhood dreams. I saw this movie today and it was my very first press screening and I was pretty pumped about it, and to prepare for it I did watch Chazelle’s 2015 film Whiplash the night before which I reviewed and loved and I gotta say La La Land takes some of the concepts that Chazelle established in Whiplash and takes them to a fantastic new level.

One of the very first points that I noticed while watching La La Land is the love affair with LA and Hollywood. Despite how competitive and unforgiving it is there is so much magic in show biz and so much energy in LA and for someone who hasn’t been there it was nice to see the director’s love for the city. La La Land doesn’t have a very complex and deep story, on the contrary it is very simple and straightforward which was the same situation with Whiplash and I think this is where Chazelle’s direction really shines; he doesn’t focus on the story or other characters, it is just about two characters going through life and affecting each other in different ways. While Whiplash was about a mean tough instructor basically bullying and abusing a young musician, La La Land was about two talented people supporting and pushing each other through their struggling carriers, you are not getting side stories and Plot Bs in this movie and I think that was amazing.

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The movie of course is a musical and just saying the word “Musical” is enough to turn some people off, but I think La La Land was a different case. The music doesn’t drag, it is actually quite magical and not all of the music in the movie are songs. Some of them are really good Jazz music that gave me shivers, it was a beautiful piece of work that played right in front of me and I loved every moment of it.

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The performances in the movie are great and both actors do their parts justice, especially the dancing scenes which is nothing short of masterpieces, they are so well choreographed and probably rehearsed for months to look that amazing. One more thing that I particularly enjoyed was the lighting in the film especially at night and indoors, they were so well made it just made the already beautiful film much better looking.

Verdict : I can’t find a single bad thing about La La Land, if you love Movies or Music go watch this film, I shouldn’t be surprised if the film takes a large number of Oscars home this year. (10/10)

Whiplash (Review)

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Whiplash is directed by Damien Chazelle staring Miles Miller and J.K. Simmons and it is the story of a young drummer’s struggle to make it into one of Shaffer Conservatory’s top band which is run by a ruthless instructor played by Simmons. The film came out in 2014 and it was a very well received movie but for some reason I didn’t watch it when it came out but I am invited to a press screening for Damien Chazelle’s new movie La La Land tomorrow so I thought I should give Whiplash a go before I watch that to acquainted myself with the director’s style and boy I felt bad for neglecting this movie for two years this is an inspiring jaw dropping film that blew my mind.

it doesn’t matter if you are familiar with the musical instrument that is the main focus of the film it doesn’t get really technical while it also gives you an idea about how much a pro player have to practice every day in order to get somewhere in a highly competitive music school and it get violent, really fast. for a movie about music you will be surprised how much blood and violence is in it and they are not coming from knife wounds or gun shots it is from the music and their hands bleeding while they play it, quite frankly it is hard to watch sometimes and that is the strength of the film it is really powerful and well shot the camera is placed so well you basically feel like a part of the set, to top all that it is a very well edited and really well paced.

I never considered Miler Miller a great actor and I contribute that to his past roles which he mostly played the teenager who is going after girls and what not, but in this movie he really raised his caliber he was really great and embodied that struggling ambitious guy very well, Paul Reiser also appears in this movie which is nice even though he is only in it for few scenes but he was great. now lets talk about J.K. Simmons, if the others is like a good baked potato and creamed spinach his performance is a 40 day age New York steak he was so good and terrifying and commanded such presence on screen it felt like the rest of the actor were sitting next to a volcano he was really scary, if I was a drummer and he did to me what he did to Miler Miller I will just quite and be homeless it is not worth it at all, he was very well rewarded for his role he won the Oscar for it. what is interesting is he was the supporting actor but his performance really made him the center figure.

Verdict : Whiplash blew me away with its great direction and editing and it dropped my jaw on the ground with its amazing performances, it quickly claimed a spot in my all time favorite movies list. (10/10)

The Man in the High Castle Season 2 (Review)

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The Man in the High Castle is an Amazon show based on the Philip K. Dick book and it is about an alternative history where the Nazis won the 2nd world war by dropping an Atomic bomb on Washington D.C. and that lead them to conquer the rest of the world and divide it with their allies The Japanese Empire, I wasn’t a big fan of the first season despite my love for PKD and his novels but the show left me with nothing but a sense of misdirection between the show’s main mystery and a love triangle that didn’t seem like it was going anywhere interesting fortunately I think Amazon found their footing with the 2nd season.

At the end of last season we found our main characters at three different locations and I think from here the writers made the best decision for this show which was putting each character on a different path and not having any of them meet for the whole season, each had their own story despite each story kinda leading up to the other in a way which was beautifully constructed and orchestrated. we also get more in depth with the Nazis this season which I thought was the most fascinating part of the previous season by having one of the characters live in New York and the other in Berlin. the central story of the season resolves around a political conspiracy that could leave the world in ruin and we also get to know how the resistance work and what they are doing to hurt the enemy, the best part about this season is how every story that was taking place during the show somehow even if it was in a small percentage chained to the other stories and to me that is an achievement.

We also get to know our title character, the illusive Man in the High Castle and we get some answers regarding the films and their true nature how do they work and where do they come from, which is the show’s central mystery personally I was satisfied with the answers the show provided I liked they way they provided the answer as well, it wasn’t through a character that didn’t know what was going on and have another character explain it to him they actually showed us the process which is the mark of a great writer, show don’t tell.

by far my favorite performance is from Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as trade minister Tagomi, his calm presence really shines throughout the series and it is a really nice departure from his 90s roles which was mostly a martial arts villain, also the main three characters had an improvement in their performance as well it is like they took an acting class or something, Rufus Sewell is also great as the SS Obergruppenführer John Smith and his family struggles which gave some humanity and depth to his character despite how brutal he actually is.

Verdict : Over all I really liked the 2nd season of The Man in the High Castle and I am very excited for season 3 sometime next year, I just hope to god they keep up the good work and not start another love triangle. (9.5/10.0)