I Swan, Chinese movie (2012)

I Swan tells the heartwarming story of Holly. Holly is a young girl who has lost her mother in a tragic car accident. After the death of her mother, she stops speaking altogether. Holly at first lives with her grandparents, because her father works at a nature reserve, far from civilisation. In the end though her father decides it is best to bring Holly with him, and to try to make her come alive again. At first everything stays the same, Holly continues to stay silent, and her father becomes desperate.

Then one day, things change. Holly stumbles across a swan who is wounded and trapped in netting laid out by poachers. She frees the swan, and eventually takes him home to recover. Naming him Snowflake, Holly begins to find the will to live again, because of taking care of the swan. She regains her voice, and is beginning to bond again with her father. However, the poachers aren’t far behind, and will stop at nothing to recover the swan…

I Swan is obviously intended for a young audience, but can be enjoyed by anyone who likes feelgood movies. One thing that definitely stands out in this movie is the beautifull cinematography. The nature reserve is captured in all it’s glory and accompanied by the wonderfull score by composer Xu Xiangrong, that alone is a reason to watch this movie. Another thing that impressed me was the animaltraining in this movie. I can’t imagine it being an easy feat to tame a swan, and to have it act besides a young girl.

Now as for the story, it is well written, but not full of surprises. Most of the things that happen in this movie, you can see coming from miles away. But one takes that for granted, as the performances in the movie are spot on, and it is truly hard not to like this movie. This is one of those movies that i think is best watched during Christmas time, where it will definitely warm your heart.

I give this movie a 7 out of 10 score.

The Pirates, Korean movie (2014)

To say that The Pirates is Korea’s answer to Pirates of the Caribbean, is to truly sell this film short. Yes there are Pirates in this movie, and yes there is also a lot of humor in this one, but that is where the similarities end. Above all, this is just one heck of a fun adventure movie, that has a great story and some fantastic over the top characters that you will fall in love with.

The Pirates takes place during the 14th century. The imperial seal of the Emperor has been stolen, or at least that is what is being told at first. In reality the seal has been swallowed up by a giant whale. The Emperor orders the seal to be recovered, whatever the cost. An enormous reward is being offered and because of that it also attracts the attention of a lot of gangs of thieves and pirates. The hunt for the whale is opened…but not without it’s consequences.

If there is one word with which to describe this movie, it is fun. I think almost the entire cast of this movie had an absolute blast while shooting this picture. Keyong-yeong Lee (who now seems to appear in nearly every Korean movie i see these days, since having seen the drama series D-day), plays a fantastic role as the evil pirate So-ma. But his two opponents, the beautifull but deadly Yeo-wol (played by Ye-Jin Son)and the rogue Jang Sa-Jung (played by Nam-Gil Kim) also are two absolutely terrific characters.

Another thing worth mentioning are the outstanding special effects. The ships used in the movie look truly realistic, but the star in this movie has to be the gigantic whale, which is brought to life by computer, but that is truly hard to tell. And then there is the humor, which absolutely works in this movie. There have been some Korean movies in which that was an element that was just truly cringeworthy, but here i really had some scenes that had me bursting out with laughter.

This movie was a very pleasant surprise and i absolutely enjoyed this movie from start to finish. If you love pirate or adventure movies in general, you can’t go wrong with this one.

I give this movie a 9 out of 10 score.

Odd Thomas, American Movie (2013)

Yesterday the movieworld was shocked by the death of yet another young and promising actor: Anton Yelchin. He was only 27 years of age. In his young life he had already starred in a number of big budget Hollywood Blockbusters, such as Terminator Salvation and the new J.J.Abrams Star Trek reboot movies. The newest Star Trek movie, Star trek:Beyond will be released next month, in which he will reprise his role as Chekov, sadly for the last time. But Anton did not only play roles in blockbusters,he also starred in several arthouse movies. He was widely praised and one just can’t help but wonder what kind of greatness he could have achieved, if he did not lose his life in such a bizarre accident. One thing is for sure, he will be sorely missed.

The movie i am about to review,Odd Thomas, in which Yelchin is playing the lead i strangely saw on saturday, one day before i received the news of his death. Odd Thomas is based on the novel by Dean Koontz. Having not read the novel i don’t know how faithfull this adaptation is, but what i do know is that i loved this movie from start to finish. Anton plays the role of Odd Thomas (yes his character truly has that name), a young man who at first glance just looks like any ordinary guy. Thomas has a secret however: he has the ability to talk to people who have been murdered and in this way he solves the most horrifying crimes. When one day a bunch of evil spirits enter his small town, it is the prelude and omen of something truly sinister that is about to go down. Can Odd solve the mystery before hundreds of people may lose their lives?

Odd Thomas is just one of those movies that puts a smile on your face right from the first scene. The movie has great humor, some truly terrific special effects, and enough action that there is not one dull moment throughout it’s 90 minute runtime. Anton is joined in this movie by veteran actor Willem Dafoe, who always puts down decent roles. It is Yelchins natural charisma, and great acting that truly is what makes this movie stand out from the usual crowd though. If you enjoy supernatural movies with action, and a small dose of comedy, than this one is well worth checking out. It has a solid story with enough twists in it to keep it interesting right up until the end credits.

I give this movie a 9 out of 10 score.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2, American tv series (2014/2015)

Marvel is on a roll. Whether you like superhero movies or not, you can’t deny the massive succes these movies are in the cinema. Every movie Marvel brings out these days is a blockbuster, and brings in massive amounts of money. Because of this Marvel has room to experiment and brings out movies about lesser known heroes, like for instance Ant-man or Guardians of the Galaxy.

Now because of their succes, Marvel is trying the same on the small screen. And those shows,  though ofcourse on a lower budget than their bigscreen counterparts, are slowly finding their fans as well. The 2nd Season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. , was for me an even bigger enjoyment than the already fenomenal first season. The shows driving force is ofcourse Agent Coulson, or Son of Coul if you prefer. He has to be one of the most sympathetic characters ever created, and that has everything to do with the way he is played by briljant actor Clark Gregg. His team is this time joined by a whole bunch of new characters. All of them are great in their own way, but my favorites have to be Bobbi and Hunter. They just have an instant chemistry that immediately draws a smile to your face.

Now the story of season 2 pretty much picks up, right where season 1 left off. Skye is still looking for clues about where she came from, and ofcourse the fight against the evil organisation Hydra continues. Nearly every episode of this season is outstanding, and there are so many great moments that it is hard to pick a favorite one. If i have to pick a few, i would say the midseason cliffhanger is definitely one, but also the last two episodes of this season are absolutely fantastic. Just like in season 1 there are tie-ins to the rest of the Marvel cinematic universe, though this time they aren’t as big as in last season.

That really doesn’t matter though because this show doesn’t need those tie-ins. It is already a force to be reckoned with, and really doesn’t need any of that help. For those of you that have not yet discovered the magic of this fantastic piece of television: shame on you, and go watch season 1 as quick as you can 🙂 But if you have, than season 2 will leave you with a hunger for more. Luckily the show has been renewed for a fourth season, which will start later this year. And ofcourse there is season 3, on which i myself still have to start. Even if you’re not a Marvel superhero fan, you might want to give this show a try. Because at it’s heart this a show about characters and friendship, and that is what appeals to me so much in this show ( well that and of ofcourse the spectacular action 🙂 ) .

I give the 2nd season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. a 9 out of 10 score.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, American Movie (2014)

Ah, the cartoons of the 80’s. Who didn’t grow up with them? Some of my fondest memories of my childhood were the saturday mornings, where you put the tv on skychannel to watch your favorite cartoons. Shows like Transformers, He-man, M.A.S.K., all of those were just legendary and these days they just don’t make cartoons like that anymore.

Over the past few years Hollywood has released a lot of live-action movies based on those classics of the 80’s. One of the more succesfull franchises were ofcourse the Transformers movies by Michael Bay. In 2014 Bay produced the new live action version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon. Honestly when i first saw the trailer of this one i thought very little of it. Never having been a big fan of the cartoon anyway (i was a Transformers man all the way), i skipped the movie in the cinema. Now with the release of the 2nd movie this year, i decided to give the first one a try.

The movie ofcourse begins with the origin story of the four legendary heroes, along with their master Splinter. Taking place in New York, the movie tells the tale of how the city is terrorised by the mysterious Foot Clan. One night reporter April O’Neill, out on her own to find more details about the terrorists, stumbles right in the middle of a fight on the docks. A shadowy figure fights off the Foot Clan by himself, and soon after April gets her first glimpse of the Turtles. O’Neill then gets caught up right in the middle of a war between the leader of the clan, Shredder, and the quirky heroes in a half shell. She will need all her wits to survive the conflict, but with the Turtles at her side, she has nothing to fear, right ?

I did not expect to enjoy this movie as much as i did. The special effects are just simply spectacular, and the way the four Turtles are animated is nothing short of fantastic. Even more impressive is the Foot Clan leader Shredder, who has a seriously wicked looking samurai like costume with a very cool weapons array. Megan fox place a nice role as April, and one of my favorite actors William Fichtner also does a more than decent job as Eric Sacks, a character from Aprils past with a big secret. The story of the movie is ofcourse almost non existent, but that is not the reason you watch movies like this in the first place. It is ofcourse for the action and the special effects, and on that department the movie definitely delivers. There is also a lot of humor in the movie, and the scene that springs to mind the most, was the rapsong in the elevator. Seriously funny.

All in all this movie was a pleasant surprise. I heard some complaints about the fact that this version was not staying faithfull to the original Turtles stories, but as i said, never having been a fan in the first place, maybe that is why i like this movie so much. I am definitely gonna try and see if i can watch part 2, Out of the Shadows, in the theatres.

I give this movie an 8 out of 10 score.

Pleasant Dreams, a cardgame for 1-2 players,by Aerjen Games (2014)

Everyone has those times on a day where you just have a couple of minutes to spare,but don’t exactly know how to spent them. An episode of your favorite tv show is just too long, and you just don’t have the time to set up a very eleborate boardgame, no matter how much you love those. Luckily there are games out there that are a lot of fun, require almost no set up time, and take under 10 minutes to complete. Pleasant Dreams is a cardgame that falls into that last category.

Components

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The first thing that you will notice on this game is the beautifully designed box. It looks almost like a small book, with a gold lock design on the side. It is very small and will fit right into any travel back. Inside the box you will find two small blue glass beads, and a stack of over 40 tarotsize cards. The rules of the game are also printed on 5 of these cards, so everything just fits perfectly together. Another thing that is definitely worth mentioning is the way these cards look. The artwork is just phenomenal. Some of the cards have truly scary designs and are just gorgeous to look at. You can see that just a lot of time was put into the design, and that for me is a plus.

Game overview

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The object of the game is to stay asleep during the night, and to avoid waking up screaming aloud because of nightmares. At the beginning of the game every player receives a card to represent your character and for keeping score on your state of wakefulness. In addition two other cards are dealt to each player with special powers that will help you deal with the dreamdeck. Now the dreamdeck contains cards that either raise or lower your wakefulness score. When this score reaches 5 or more points, you wake up screaming your lungs out, and have lost the game. Don’t worry, it doesn’t happen for real 🙂 .

Difficulty

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This game can be learned in under 3 minutes. Yes it really is that simple. The rules are pretty clearly written, and not difficult at all. As for winning this game that truly depends on luck. In each turn players decide on how much cards they want to draw from the dreamdeck, ranging from 1-5 cards. Each card either raises or lowers your wakefulness score. Then there are some cards that players can decide to either discard or flip over. This last action lowers your wakefulness score by 1 point, but also has the potential to add a card to the dreamdeck which severely hampers your chance to stay asleep and win the game.

The Verdict

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I really enjoyed this small game. It is one of those games that you just play when you have a little time to kill, and with games lasting no more than 10 minutes, this is perfect for moments like that. Now some people may argue that this game just all depends on luck and that there is little strategy to the game. I guess that is mostly true, but for me a game can be enjoyable to play even if it greatly depends on luck. As i said the game is truly beautifull to look at, and for that it scores points as well. I love games that can be complex, but there are also times i just want to play something that is relatively simple, and this game does certainly fulfill that purpose.

I give this game a 9 out of 10 score.

400 Days, American movie (2015)

Sometimes there are movies that are quite enjoyable to watch, but then get ruined by an ending that just doesn’t live up to what you were expecting. Unfortunately, 400 days is a movie that belongs into that category. Which is really a shame, since there are a lot of things to like in this one.

The movie tells the story of four people that are preparing to go into outer space. To properly prepare them, they are getting locked up under ground and will undergo a simulation of the mission ahead. In exactly 400 days they will have to survive on their own, in a very claustrophobic setting. As the days go by, things are beginning to happen that makes them begin to question their sanity. The real question is…is this part of the simulation, or are there more horrifying things going on….

Now one thing this move has, is atmosphere. There are some truly tense and seriously creepy scenes that definitely will sent a chill or two down your spine. Even though the movie is definitely low budget, the camerawork is very decent and truly creates a sense of dread. Another thing that i liked about this movie were the two lead actors, Brandon Routh and Caity Lotz. Brandon, who most people will remember from his role as the former Superman, truly lifts the film up a notch or two. His chemistry with Caity, also works well on screen. Lotz also does a very decent job of almost carrying this movie on her own, and her role reminds me a bit of one of her other movies: the Machine. (If you have not yet had a chance to see that one, i highly recommend it.)

All in all i really liked this movie, right up until the ending. I am obviously not going to spoil it for you who still would like to see this movie, but trust me when i say you will feel letdown by it. I hope that one day someone will perhaps make a sequel to this one, but obviously that is probably wishfull thinking.

Still if you like tense, paranoia inducing thrillers, there are worse ways to spent your evening. As long as you are prepared for the ending which will most assuredly give you a big sense of disappointment, there is still almost enough to enjoy this one..emphasis on almost.

I give this movie a 6 out of 10 score.

Fantastic Four, American movie (2015)

Reboot, remake, and all other associated words… It is something Hollywood quite enjoys doing these days. Almost everything seems to be getting a remake, from old obscure television series to movie franchises. Not all of these reboots, are necessarily bad. One only has to look at the Dark Knight trilogy to see how things can definitely work out for the better. (And honestly i liked the Robocop reboot as well, but i seem to be in the minority with that 😉 ).

The superhero group Fantastic Four got it’s reboot last year. The two movies that came before it, were modest hits, and in my opinion were okayish. Not great, but as far as movies go not too bad. The reboot that was released last year got incredibly bad reviews. Now i for one am one of those people that reads reviews, but always forms his own opinion. A movie is a personal experience and what is a bad movie for one person, might be a good movie for the other.

Unfortunately though, with this movie, the reviews were right. This was not a very good movie, in fact it was pretty bad. The movie starts off all right, and at that point i was thinking the reviews might have been wrong after all. We see a young Reed Richards tinkering in his garage on a science project. He is soon joined by a young Ben Grimm, and together they begin work on their first school project: transporting matter to another dimension.

The movie then jumps ahead a few years, and we see the both of them working on a full scale project of their idea. Together with Sue and Johny Storm, and Victor von Doom they manage to get the project working and are then transported to an entirely different world. Things go wrong, and the five of them get transformed into beings with incredible powers. They manage to escape back to Earth, except for Victor. And this is where the movie starts doing things that deviate completely from the comic books. The origin story of the Fantastic Four is totally different. Now i respect that they try to do things their own way, but it just doesn’t seem to work for this movie. The pacing is just totally off. Almost nothing happens in this movie. When the four of them get their powers and are changed into the heroes we all know and love from the comic books, we see a bunch of training sessions. Eventually Victor get’s back and you expect a big showdown between the group and doctor Doom. Well this “showdown” lasts a little over 5 minutes, and then almost right after that, the end credits roll.

Well…i love superhero movies, and this one was truly a letdown. The incredibly slow pacing, the bad script, and the rushed ending, it all contributed to a mediocre movie at best. The only thing that was all right was the acting, as Miles Teller and Michael B.Jordan did a pretty good job. Unfortunately with the reception this movie received, i am afraid that this is the end for the Fantastic Four. Well…at least until the next reboot.

I give this movie a 4 out of 10 score.

Shadowrun: Crossfire, a Boardgame for 1-4 players,by Catalyst Gamelabs (2014)

Shadowrun Crossfire is a cooperative deckbuilding game. That is quite a mouthfull 🙂 For those of you unfamiliair with the concept of deckbuilding games, i will give a small  explanation. In a deckbuilding game you usually start out with a hand of basic cards. With these cards you will try and defeat bad guys and more importantly buy new and better cards. These cards will then be added to your deck, which will make your deck more powerfull. As the game progresses, you will continue to buy new and better cards to enhance your deck with, hence the name “deckbuilder “.

Components

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Inside the Shadowrun box you will find a lot of cool stuff. First of all there is the rulebook, which i found to be pretty well written and does a good job of teaching you the game. The second book you will discover is a background book about the Shadowrun world. The Shadowrun setting has been around for a very long time and is best known for it’s roleplaying game. The last book is a 37 preview of a Shadowrun novel called Fire and Frost.

Then of course there are over 200 cards included in the box of a very sturdy quality. The artwork on those cards does a great job of transporting you into the Shadowrun world. Also included are a bunch of health and damage tokens, a number of character sheets, stickers, and 3 mission sheets. All in all there is enough quality in the box to make every deckbuilding fan happy.

Game overview

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In Shadowrun Crossfire you first will select a mission to play, which can vary from extracting a certain person or escaping from a building. Three missions are included, in the box,but more can be found on the publishers website and in expansions. Then you select a character with which to play, which are called Runners, who will than attempt to complete the mission.

Every runner selects a role, for instance the Mage, which will become the characters specialty. There are four roles to choose from and when playing with fewer than four players, a character gets more than one role. After each player has selected their character and roles, the game can begin.

Shadowrun is played in a series of turns in which players can try and fight obstacles, and buy new cards from the Black Market. When defeating obstacles (enemies), players earn nuyen, which is the games currency. With these nuyen, you can buy new cards, but these aren’t cheap, and you have to make well thought out decisions about which cards to buy for your deck.

Difficulty

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Now i am not going to lie to you, the difficulty of this game can be brutal. Each game a number of cards will be drawn from the Crossfire Event the deck, and these cards can seriously put a rain on your parade. I have had sologames, playing with two Runners, in which i was defeated in just a few turns, simply because of a bad card draw. This is the one gripe i have with this game. You can plan things well in your mind, but then everything you planned can go down the drain, just because of bad luck.

The verdict

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I really love deckbuilding games, which is the reason i bought this game in the first place. I have so far only been playing this game solo, and to my shame i must admit i have not been able to win the game once. However even though i keep losing, i keep going back to it. The game just is that good. I love the way the cards look, the Shadowrun world is fantastic in itself, and the game just plays like a charm. The high Caliber Ops expansion adds even more goodness to an already great game.

The game loses a point because of it’s high difficulty level, but other than that i highly recommend this to any player who loves deckbuilding games.

I give it 8 out of 10 points.

 

Memories of the Sword, Korean movie (2015)

Memories of the Sword is best described as the Korean answer to Chrouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The story of the movie focuses on the 18 year old Hong-ee. She is raised by the swordswoman Seol-rang, who trains her in the art of swordplay. And with good reason it seems. Years before, Hong-ee’s parents were killed, and she wants revenge on the person responsible for their deaths. When coming face to face with one of the most powerful men of the country, king Deok-gi, certain secrets are revealed that set her on the road to a tragic fate…

Memories of the Sword is one of those movies that does nothing wrong, but fails to make a very lasting impression. There are a couple of things the movie has going for it though. The young actress, Kim Go Eun does a very impressive job in her role as Hong-ee. The way she turns the character from an innocent girl into a ruthless killer, is one of the things that i really liked in this movie. The other actor that just turns everything he does into gold is ofcourse Lee Byung Hun. His role as king Deok-gi is just nothing short of amazing, and truly that alone is making this movie worth watching.

From a cinematic view-point the camerawork is also something that deserves to be mentioned. There are some truly memorable fight scenes shot against very beautifull scenery in the background.  Especially the last fight towards the end of the movie is shot in a truly breathtaking fashion. Unfortunately it is the story itself that fall short. It is nothing we haven’t seen before, and the “twist” towards the end, is something that you can see coming from a mile away. Also the swordfights, with the excessive use of wirework, though impressive to watch, reminded me too much of all those other movies that came before.

All in all though, Memories of the Sword is not a bad movie. As i said Lee Byung Hun’s performance alone is a reason to watch this one, and if you like swordfight epics you won’t be bored by this one. Just don’t expect to see something you haven’t seen before.

I give this movie a 7 out of 10 score.

Michels Book/Boardgame/Movie review Blog

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