Sunday, March 1, 2015

TV Review: Black Mirror (2011-)

Image result for black mirror

Black Mirror (2011-Present)
Created By: Charlie Brooker

Summary: In this anthology series where none of the episodes are related to each other, everyone lives in a sort of scientific-new-age world that basically makes fun of our world today.

And so in order to fully be able to talk about this show, I'm going to have to break it down by episode.

Episode 1: The National Anthem
We start off with the Prime Minister (Rory Kinnear) who has a bit of a dilemma to face. The Princess (Lydia Wilson) has been kidnapped and in order to have her returned safely he must have sex with a live pig over national television. To make it worse, the kidnapper has a list of demands that makes his proposition nearly impossible to fake. 

This was one of my least favorite episodes. I'm not a really political person, but I get the jist of what they were trying to say with it. The main reason I didn't like it was because I didn't feel a real connection with any of the characters. They were in a shitty situation and I was just watching. I felt bad, yes, but not for him Just the fact that someone could come up with this. The ending, however, left me feeling a little bad for him and that's all I can give it feeling-wise. It wasn't a great episode for me, but left me interested enough to keep watching.

Episode 2: Fifteen Million Merits
This episode starts off with a man named Bing (Daniel Kalluya) lives in a world where everyone works out to get their money, or 'merits' as they call them. Those who aren't physically able to are basically janitors and are made fun of on the TV shows that those who work out watch as they workout. Well, Bing inherits 15 million merits from his deceased brother and kind of hates his life because nothing is real, which it isn't. I'd hate life, too, if I was him. But, soon he meets this girl and it basically changes his life.

This episode blew my mind. I kind of wish that this was the first episode, but I can see why they did it like they did. They made the first episode not-so-epic to make soon for the better episodes. But the premise, the characters and the message behind it was so strong. It was like a hit in the gut and once it was over, I didn't know what was what. 

Episode 3: The Entire History of You
In the season finale, we meet Liam (Toby Kebbell) and his wife Ffion (Jodie Whittaker) who live in a world where there is this thing called a grain that's implanted in people's heads that allow you to rewind back and forth through your memories. They're having a meet up sort of thing and we meet Jonah (Tom Cullen) who kind of has a thing for Ffion and Liam doesn't exactly like this.

Another powerful episode. It's creepy because when people are re-watching their memories, their eyes kind of turn white and I've seen the whole is-she-cheating-or-isn't-she been done before, but adding the fact that people can see their memories give it a great twist. There's really not much to say without spoiling it, but another good episode.

Season 2: Episode 1: Be Right Back
And here we are with the Season 2 Premiere.We meet a couple Martha (Hayley Atwell)
 and Ash (Domhnall Gleeson) who are just your average couple and everything is well, until Ash gets into a car accident and dies. Martha then is introduced to a service where a computer scans your messages, emails and texts and mimics it into your deceased loved one. Therefore, another "Ash" is created.

Because it dealt with loss, this was one of my favorite episodes. It hit me hard in a way that I didn't feel with Fifteen Million Merits because instead of me just connecting with the main character, I felt like I was her. The emotions and atmosphere throughout the episode were so casual, like this happens everyday, but there was something different. I can't pinpoint it, but it made the episode strong and hard making it one of the best season premieres  ever. Plus, seeing Domhnall Gleeson was a great thing as I have the biggest crush on him.

 Episode 2:White Bear
Here we have a young woman named Victoria (Lenora Crichlow) who wake up with no memory. She starts walking around town and notices everyone around her is filming her and suddenly there are people in animal masks trying to kill her as well. No one is responding to her and she's just trying to find out what the hell is going on.

I must add this to the list of one of my favorite episodes because it started out like a lame, been-there-done-that horror movie. The only different thing is that all these people are watching her, filming her and not responding. Throughout the whole episode, I was just like: "What?" And once I got to the ending, my jaw was literally on the floor. It was the biggest 'WTF' moment I've ever seen in my entire life and I just..couldn't. Great writing, great pacing, great everything. I tried to guess what was going on and every time, I was dead wrong.

Episode 3: The Waldo Moment
Again, another political episode. We meet Jamie (Daniel Rigby) who is a failed comedian who controls a blue, talking bear named Waldo. Waldo is a talk show host who interviews politicians and other big-wig characters that are tricked into thinking that Waldo is just a kid's show program host. Waldo is very popular in the entertainment world, but Jamie is just very depressed with life. That is until someone presents Jamie and Waldo with the opportunity of a lifetime. 

This is my least favorite episode, not because it was political, but I literally felt nothing. It was a kind of bad way to end a great show for the season in my opinion, but because I am so interested with the show as a whole, I will keep watching. 

Overall Thoughts: 
Black Mirror was fantastic. With great writing and pacing, a wonderful little show was created. Although I watched this on Netflix, I would most definitely watch this on Channel Four, which I believe is the channel it comes on. It has its ups and downs, with mainly ups more than downs, but it really makes you think because even though this is a new-age, scientific world, some of this could actually happen. Therefore, go watch Black Mirror, now.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Game Review: Life is Strange (Episode One)

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Life is Strange (2015)

Developed by: Dontnod Entertainment
Released On: Jan 30, 2015
Format: PC w/ Controller
Source: Steam
Rating: 4/5

Summary: Life is Strange is an 5-part episodic adventure game. You play as a high schooler named Max who wakes up in class after a terrible nightmare to find out that she can reverse time. Will you be a complete douche to get what you want or be an "everyday hero"? The choice is yours.

My Thoughts: Although very reminiscent of the ever popular Walking Dead series, Life is Strange has its differences and stands alone. Its like a very serious version of Scott Pilgrim as the characters are a bunch of wayward hipsters, but the physical choices/consequences feature of the game are what remind me of The Walking Dead, but the time rewinding aspect is what The Walking Dead lacks. Another aspect that lets it stand apart from a typical Telltale game is that you can capture notes/object as well. There is so much around that it feels real. That you're in this world where everything is just lying around and you can interact with it. Of course most of it is irrelevant, but it's nice to see and it adds to the world. There are notes around you can take and the photo collection feature is different as well. As a player, I always wonder what would happen if I picked another choice and instead of having to play the game ALL over again, I can just rewind the time to see and that is very helpful.

 The characters are realistic to actual high school teenagers as we do say stupid stuff 100% of the time, but the stereotypes they present in the game do not exist. However, for the pretense of the game, they fit. We're in high school. It's a video game, we have to have the nerds, the jocks, the skaters, and the ever-ruling bitchy mean girls. However, many of the characters have this depth and realism that makes the writing so strong. The only different stereotype is the photo nerds. You don't see any of those now-a-days, but again, it fits to the story because Max's story revolves around her taking photos. Even the loading screen has a camera and when you click through the main menu there's a camera shutter noise. So it's safe to say that photography is a main factor of the game.

Speaking of photos and photography, this game is beautiful. The atmosphere reminds me of an indie movie with the different camera angles that you're presented with throughout the game.(Especially if you get to fly the drone. It's great!) It's real enough for a video game. There aren't amazing graphics, but the feeling you get from it makes you feel at home. However beautiful the backgrounds may be, the character animation is very 2000's with the very bad lip syncing and the overused character motions, but the dialogue between the characters makes it bearable. 

It's useful that the save mechanics are intertwined with time reversal, so when you're given a choice, the game saves and you can load it from that checkpoint. That's different because it's built into the game itself. 

So, I highly recommend this game to everyone and anyone that just likes an adventure game in general because Life is Strange is different, its not just a game. It's an experience. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Movie Review: The Wedding Ringer (2015)

The Wedding Ringer (2015)
Starring: Kevin Hart, Josh Gad, Kaley Cuoco, Corey Holcomb, Ignacio Serriccho
Summary: Doug Harris (Gad) realizes that he has no groomsmen and that time is running out and his wedding to the girl of his dreams (Cuoco) is soon. So he hires Jimmy Callahan (Hart) to be the best man at his wedding.

My Thoughts: Although hilarious most of the time, The Wedding Ringer falls short. It's different from things I've seen in the past plot wise, but everything within the movie becomes all too predictable. I literally called every supposed "plot-twist" of the film about 30 minutes into it. This movie relied more on the jokes and it's apparent because of the events that happened (the girl's grandmother being set on fire, the dog eating the poor man's junk) and how poorly they unraveled. The jokes were funny, don't get me wrong, it's just that a stronger plot would have strengthened the movie. The jokes, I must say, are well written and stand tall amongst the unhumorous and unwitty sex jokes. These jokes are just funny from the pop culture references to just good gags that run throughout the film, but the "groomsmen" could have had more parts in the film. They didn't get much screen time and I felt they could have been used more for the film's benefit. 

Of all the stupidity, what struck me the most was Josh Gad. He plays the nerdy, awkward part very well and here he doesn't fail to commit to the role. I am always happy to see Gad in these roles. Even though it's a bit repetitious, he never fails to amuse me. I have a bit of a crush on Josh Gad, to be honest. Then there's Kevin Hart who is the complete opposite of Gad and, boy, when I saw opposites attract, they do. The chemistry and relationship these two have made this movie what it was. It was watchable all because of them!

Therefore, The Wedding Ringer isn't the best film out there, but it isn't a complete waste of time. You'll just wish there was a bit more there.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Game Review: Downfall (2009)/ The Cat Lady (2012)

Downfall (2009)
Developed By: Screen 7

Summary: After a terrible storm leaves Joe and his wife, Ivy, stranded in a strange town, they check into a hotel where soon Ivy goes missing. Soon, Joe is left to find out the secrets behind the town they're saying at, the hotel's strange residents and his own all hopes to also find his wife. 

My Thoughts: Downfall was fantastic and as an avid horror fan, I am in love with everything about Downfall because it is a horror fan's epic wish. Although Downfall has it's issues, in the end I was horrified, shocked, satisfied and even a bit disgusted. Downfall has the perfect mixture of story telling and game play as in it knows when to let the player just play and interact with everything in the game and then it knows when to let the player sit and dissect everything that's going on, unlike The Cat Lady. And believe me, there's a LOT going on. 

When starting the game, you first notice the artsy, sketchy, pixel art style and it was absolutely beautiful in my opinion because that's how life is.Although, not as good looking as The Cat Lady, it's not a big deal considering this game was older. Going on in the game, the story picks up immediately and you're just drawn in the game. It's mentally challenging and I don't mean it's hard. I mean it's a toll on your mental health! The story and message that goes along in Downfall is just...Wow! It's madness, in a good way and everything seems simple at first, but everything soon just turns into a giant shit show. From killing cats to full blown murdering people, the whole point of this game, you think that all this is supposed to amount to some sort of fulfilling ending and it did, but not in the way you expected. It was like a punch in the face. 

The main part of the game that makes it work is just the story and the aspect that it's rough and raw with an art style fits along with it. Without any voice acting, unlike The Cat Lady, the game needs something to keep you interested audibly and it does so with the music. It was great and playing at just the right moments, so that was a nice change. 

One thing I did not like, however, was the way the inventory was set up. During timed events, it was very, very hard to maneuver through them because of the way the inventory was, like during the final boss battle where Sophie hits you and the gun flies out of your hand. It was a struggle to get the gun, reload it and then fire again, which was a bit annoying. 

However annoying and frustrating at times, Downfall was a pleasant, horrifying experience. It's not the most visually pleasing game, but it will leave you with a feeling that will last a lifetime. I highly recommend Downfall to anyone out there who's up for something new.
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The Cat Lady (2012)
Developed By: Screen 7

Summary: After notorious cat lady, Susan Ashworth, commits suicide, she's transported to a strange land where a woman sends her on a mission back to Earth to kill five "parasites" and get her life back. 

My Thoughts: This game was also a journey and like Downfall, The Cat Lady left me feeling stunned because of how great it was. It was raw and takes a toll on your mental health and wasn't that much different from Downfall feeling wise. However, I was a bit more impressed with Downfall. The story was great and I was into the game, but for me, there was something not there. It may be because there was not a lot of explanation about everything going on. There was so much going on and really nothing at all was explained was frustrating for me as in with the man with the flowers or The Maggot Queen or even with the candles, but the developers probably wanted you to tell your own story. It had a point, it just didn't prove it's point to me, but it works.

The Cat Lady, like Downfall, was dark and if you're a horror fan, you'll enjoy this, but it was more psychological than horror based. It takes on themes about depression and loneliness, unlike Downfall which deals with insanity and the depletion of mental health. In The Cat Lady, you're building up your mental health after a suicide attempt. It's strange, but like I said, it works. 

Also, unlike Downfall, the art style is very different and more mature in a way. There are more lines and things are finished, unlike in Downfall, where the scenes and characters are just sketched and scribbled down. Plus, there's voice acting which is a plus, but the talking got to a point where I was skipping it because it was just unnecessary. OVER DONE. 

Therefore, The Cat Lady is more of an adventure than a game. It's fun, but problematic and it got a bit much for me. Dark and depressing, like Downfall, the Cat Lady is a horror lover's dream. And I highly recommend it to anyone out there.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Movie Review: The Glass House (2001)

The Glass House (2001)
Starring: Leelee Sobieski, Diane Lane, Stellan Skarsgard and Bruce Dern

Summary: Ruby Baker's life has gone downhill. After stumbling home drunk, she discovers that her parent have been killed in a car accident. So, Ruby and her brother, Rhett move to live with their parent's former neighbors, Terrence and Erin Glass. Things then start looking up as Ruby and Rhett move to a new school, make new friends and learn that they have $4 million left to them from their parents. After learning that, strange things begin to happen at home with Terrence and Erin.

My Thoughts: I've heard time after time that this movie was great. "This movie is fantastic." "10/10" and I may have to disagree with those statements. In my opinion, this movie was quite mediocre. I've seen the parents die and kids get stuck with suspicious caretakers story far too many times and this one just happened to fall short. Here's a thriller that plays it safe, not bringing anything new to the genre and although I've seen this done so much, something about this film made it entertaining nonetheless.

Maybe it was the characters development or maybe it was the way the plot unfolded in a great, atmospheric kind of way, but that's what kept me watching. What I mean is that the way the events kept unfolding wasn't overly dramatic (except the ending), neither was it overly slow and overdrawn. There was the perfect amount of drama and pauses and that makes a good thriller. But was this one? I don't even know. It was watchable, but not anything stood out, unless you count the numerous amounts of car chases and the ridiculous ending. 

Mediocre yet entertaining, The Glass House is something you can afford to miss. However, if you're bored on a Saturday night looking for something to watch, this would be an acceptable choice.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

TV Review: Gossip Girl (2007-2012)

Gossip Girl 

Originally Shown On: The CW
Format: Netflix
Number of Seasons: 6

Summary: Privileged teens living on the Upper East Side are just living their lives, but not without their secrets being blasted on a blog known as Gossip Girl.

My Thoughts: And I thought New York wasn't much more than the Statue of Liberty. How could I forget the lies, sex, scandal and underage drinking?
Because of the fact that I watched all these episodes in about 3 weeks, I'm going to break this review down by season because unfortunately: some were better than others. Overall, I really did like the show. I was involved in all the character's lives even though some of them I wanted hit by a bus for their reckless choices and behavior. I know it's not realistic at all and you can tell this by the way the characters act, but they're so frustrating because THEY JUST WON'T DO THE RIGHT THING...EVER! And so, here we go.

Season One: Here is where we're introduced to all the characters: the infamous Serena van der Woodsen, the poor yet privileged Dan and Jenny Humphrey, the Queen herself, Blair Waldorf, the womanizing Chuck Bass and everyone's good boy Nate Archibald. We even meet the couple of adults that really aren't involved in their children's lives, but yet so important to have their own story lines: Lily van der Woodsen, Rufus Humprey and good ole Dorota. This season the main issue is: Who is Gossip Girl?  and because this reminded me a little of Pretty Little Liars, I was automatically sucked into the lives of the privileged Upper East Siders. I fell in love with everyone (yes even Blair) and time after time, the people did shitty things to each other, but they forgave each other and so did I. I unconsciously shipped all the couples I wished to happen over and over again after they got together and broke up. Season One is one that fill suck you in until the very in. I must say this is one of my favorites, but it doesn't come without problems. Ie: The situations they were put in were outrageous and over the top. It was a bit annoying. Sorry.

Season Two: Season Two was just about the same to me as Season One. Although, we saw more and more of the different sides of the characters. It was still, oh so, over the top. The plots and schemes were dialed down, but these things just don't happen. So, not my favorite.

Season Three: Season Three, however, was my favorite(Well, tied with Season Four)! Not for a giant reason. The show did not drastically change, but now you could see the change in the characters all because of the Upper East Side. The main person who made the show this season for me was none other than the heavy eye makeuped Jenny. She was crazy and intense, but in a realistic way. I mean, I can actually see why she did some of the things she did, unlike just about everyone else in the show. There were new characters all around and some things were explained that I really needed to know because the last two seasons kind of just left me with a lot of questions. This answered some though. Oh and can we talk about William's return. I didn't see what he'd done coming, but again: It's Gossip Girl. 

Season Four: I stated before that Season 3 and 4 were tied for being my favorite. I liked Season 3 because of Little J being my daily source of relatable drama, but Season 4 was my favorite because of the fantastic character development. Less more about Gossip Girl and more about the characters doing more and more messed up things to each other, you could see the real evil in some of those you'd loved before and the good in those who were supposed to come off a despicable. Ie: Season 4 made me hate Serena Van Der Woodsen. Episode after episode I watched her do terrible things and I desperately wanted her to do better things, but no, she didn't! The fact that I was so enveloped in the character's lives was the icing on the cake that this was hands down the best season.

Season Five: Drama, drama and more drama. This season was nothing but typing up loose ends and such and I must say that this was one of the most frustrating seasons of all of them. Season 4 had great character development and this one basically closed the casket on everyone's personalities. Episode after episode I wanted to rip my eyes out, but I kept watching. Why? I honestly don't know. Was it Ivy? Was it Dan and Blair finally getting together? Or maybe was it me hoping that Serena would finally get what she deserved? Not only that, but her mother, too. But no, Gossip Girl will never let anything bad happen to Serena without everyone flocking to her. Nope!

Season Six: Such a grand ending that is the mother of all series finales. This season is the shortest of them all and here we finally figure out who Gossip Girl is. And that was the biggest cop-out I've ever seen in the world. Why? WHY? I mean, it could've been more unexpected, but I saw it coming from a mile away. The worst part is the reason I didn't love the show was because no ones actions got any consequences at all! NO ONE GOT WHAT THEY DESERVED and in the end when they found out who Gossip Girl was....THEY FORGAVE THEM! Like, seriously?  The ending to what sucked my entire
 winter break was unsatisfying, but in a way, after thinking about it, I'm okay with it because there's not much I can do about it. It's the end, plus who doesn't enjoy seeing a season of Georgina Sparks. The cameos from Kristen Bell and Rachel Bilson were great as well. It was a sufficient finale, but it could've been better.

So all I can do is suck it up and hope that real people aren't like this because if there are....SEND THEM TO PRISON NOW. 

XOXO Kandee K

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Book Review: I Take You By Eliza Kennedy

I Take You: A Novel

I Take You
By Eliza Kennedy

Publishing Date: May 5, 2015 By Crown
Pages: 320
Source: E-ARC from Publisher
Cover Love: Cute and correlates with the story, but you won't know until you read it.

 "I'm getting married."
"He's perfect!"
"It's a disaster." 
Meet Lily Wilder--New Yorker, lawyer and the luckiest woman in the world. She has a dream job, friends who adore her, a family full of charismatic and loving women, and a total catch of a fiance. 
Also? She has "no" business getting married.
Lily's fiance Will is a brilliant, handsome archaeologist. Lily is sassy, impulsive, fond of a good drink (or five) and completely incapable of being faithful to just one man. Lily likes Will, but does she love him? Will loves Lily, but does he really know her? As the wedding approaches, Lily's nights--and mornings, and afternoons--of booze, laughter and questionable decisions become a growing reminder that the happiest day of her life might turn out to be her worst mistake yet.
"Bridget Jones's Diary" meets "Where'd You Go, Bernadette" in this joyous and ribald debut, introducing a fabulously self-assured protagonist whose choices raise fresh questions about gender politics, monogamy and the true meaning of fidelity.

My Thoughts: This was an interesting take on chick-lit. I don't read it often, but if they're books like this in the genre, I definitely will read more. It's different, it's larger-than-life hilarious and even more relatable. In a world where most women are considered either prudish or slut, this book reigns true to just about every woman who's ever been in a relationship. Yes, we love the person we're with, but we will buy tickets to see Magic Mike and wish it was us that Channing Tatum was grinding on. That is exactly the kinds of things our main character thinks about and although she doesn't exactly do what's right (sleep with other men), she explains that it's okay to have wandering eyes when you see an attractive man walk past you.

When you begin the book, there's a lot of OMG, WTF moments where you're in disbelief that these things are happening and it makes the story very much outrageous. However, once you're settled in with the novel, the story begins ringing true to you, just in a probably unbelievable way. Our main character, Lily, is very much flawed. She cheats on her finacee with somewhat no remorse, she's loud, she tells inappropriate jokes and maybe has a bit of a drinking problem, but she's real. When she talks on the phone and other are around, she talks to both of them (as I do) and  she even has a witty banter with her best friend that shows she just may hate her as well as love her (as I do). Another reason, I love this book.

But a book so great, doesn't come without problems. Towards the beginning, there's memories and character description that just doesn't hit the mark for me. We don't really get to know our character until a few chapters in. It wasn't a huge problem, but still...
Another issue was the awkward writing. Although this is an ARC and the writing issues may be fixed in the full novel, it was full of awkward phrasings and wording that just made me cringe to read, but I was so intrigued with the story, I read on.

Personally this is the first book I've sat down and finished reading in one sitting in a while. Although outrageous, I Take You, is just like reading my own diary (without all the infidelity and drinking) and I highly recommend it.