Less Than Zero

I was reminded while watching this how strange it is that I enjoy so many movies that are based on novels by Bret Easton Ellis, yet I’ve never read any of his novels (I really should rectify this). But it doesn’t change that this was a movie that I loved back then, and still really enjoyed now. It was even darker than I remembered, but at the same time, I’d forgotten how relatively simple a story it is (and just takes place over a couple of days/nights). And the soundtrack puts you in the right mood — with songs that I wouldn’t necessarily say were my favorite from the time, but they’re effective and put you in the right “1987” frame of mind.

Metroid: Samus Returns

I’ve been wanting to play this ever since it came out, and I finally got the chance this week. I’ve played a few hours so far (I’m now in Area 2) and as much as I like the gameplay, I have a feeling I’m not going to get to finish it (also due to the fact that it’s a 2-week rental). It’s a bit more challenging than I’d like, as I feel like I constantly have to be on my toes, even when backtracking, and the complexity of the map means that I’m constantly zooming in and out to see what I missed and how I can manage to get to a particular point. Using the shoulder buttons to aim and use rockets isn’t as smooth or comfortable as I’d like, and so facing off against Metroids tends to be harder than it should be. I’m torn, because part of me loves it — the exploration is in fact quite cool, and they’ve done a great job with the look and music — but I just feel like I won’t have the patience to get to the end (in part because there is just so much stuff in my backlog that I also want to get to).

Bound

I remember being interested in this game when it originally came out, but I never got around to playing it. It’s one of the games on offer as part of this month’s PlayStation Plus free games, which was the push I needed, and what a joy it was to play. I played it in two sessions on the same day (probably 2-3 hours of play time overall), and it felt just right. The visuals are just astoundingly beautiful, and I really dug the movement of the character you control — dancing along the platforms, and to push away enemy energies. There was one section that I felt was broken — a sort of elevator platform that you activate by jumping on walls, that took me like 30 tries, even though I never encountered anything challenging like that elsewhere in the game. It’s definitely worth taking the time to play though and experience.

Assassin’s Creed Origins

Here’s the background on where I find myself with the series: I fell in love with the series with the Ezio trilogy, which were the high points for me, then enjoyed III mostly because of the setting, but was already starting to feel AC fatigue, and by the time Black Flag came out, as much I was enjoying playing it (especially the ship stuff), the fatigue took over, to a point where I didn’t finish it, and I pretty much skipped Unity and Syndicate (I played a bit of Unity this past year). So the first thing that got me interested in the series again was the setting of Egypt — the Roman/Egyptian era that is used in the game is pretty much my favorite historical setting (and I say this as a History major), and so I was very excited to explore that world. Then, when I started playing, I was a bit shocked at how much the game sucked me in — I finished the “story” part of the game (because you can keep playing after, with still tons of things to do post-“ending”) in about 30 hours, in less than a week, with two consecutive Saturdays of 8/9-hour play sessions. On top of the setting, what really got me addicted is the new levelling system and skill tree, which gives more purpose to doing side missions because you want to level up — to be able to deal with more advanced (level-wise) parts fo the map, and also to unlock new abilities. The side missions were also for the most part more interesting than in the past, and I had a lot more fun with the combat than in previous games — although I still sometimes had trouble dealing with swarms of enemies that surrounded me. But man, what a great game — they made the right changes to get me interested in the series again, and I really hope that these new RPG elements are here to stay. I’d say Origins is my new favorite AC game.

Super Mario Odyssey

I love this game so fucking much. I was so excited to play it that, like I did for Breath of the Wild, I took the day off from work on its day of release to play it. That day, I started playing at around 8am, and played until 2am (with a few breaks here and there) — I got to the end credits at around 8pm, and then discovered the joy of the extensive post-game content. Is it my new favorite Super Mario game? It very well could be — I’m pretty sure my favorite Super Mario game before that is Super Mario World, which I also happen to be playing again on my Super NES Classic Edition. After playing Odyssey for a few days I did take a break for a week to play through Assassin’s Creed Origins, but the other night I went back in, and was again immediately having a blast. It’s big, beautiful, a joy to play, and a ridiculously fun time. It’s pretty crazy to think that we got this and Breath of the Wild in the same year, within the first 6 months (just about) of the release of a new Nintendo console, and that they’re both arguably the best (or at least “stellar”) entries in each franchise.

Destiny 2

I guess I have a long and weird relationship with Destiny — and interestingly, I’m writing this after just finishing to read the chapter on the making of Destiny in the excellent Blood, Sweat, and Pixels book. I remember being excited for it before it came out, and enjoying that first Alpha. Then the game came out and after playing through the “story,” I pretty much stopped — I wasn’t into the grind that was on offer. Then, a year later, I decided to get back into it, hearing that a lot of improvement had been made (following the release of the two DLC expansions) and got sucked in. In the end, it’s the game I’ve put in the most hours ever (not a crazy amount like a lot of dedicated Destiny players, but I’m pretty sure it’s the only game I’ve ever put in 100+ hours of playtime). But following the release of The Taken King, for which I was really excited, a couple of months after I think, I did grow tired of playing the same missions and strikes over-and-over again, and stopped playing. I came back when the Rise of Iron expansion came out, but it didn’t really grab me, and I barely played after finishing the new story missions. So here we are with Destiny 2, which I finally started playing a few days ago. The first thing I realized when I was playing it is just how much I still enjoy this gameplay — the action is fast and furious and the guns feel right. It’s also a sci-fi world I quite like — sure, the story in the first game wasn’t very well told, but it was still a world I found interesting, especially its aesthetics. I think I’m currently midway in the new campaign, and I am enjoying it. I do have a feeling that I won’t last very long once I get to the post-story part of the game. I’d love to be proven wrong, but I’ve heard from a few of my friends who are very dedicated Destiny players who have told me that they stopped playing because of issues with the handing out of loot. But for now, I’m having a blast playing, and the story this time is actually pretty easy to follow, and has some fun moments. I think if I was to bring up one thing I find a bit disappointing is that I would have liked to encounter new enemy races, instead of the same ol’ enemies we’ve  already faced a million times.

Full Metal Jacket

This is still and amazing film. This is the point in the 80s where we get a lot of movies about Vietnam (Platoon in ’86, and for ’87 you also have Good Morning, Vietnam and Hamburger Hill), and this is probably my favorite. It still feels like you have two films here, the first half at the boot camp, with the unforgettable climax, and then a second half in Vietnam, with some inspired shots. The one thing that I find weak is the narration by Matthew Modine — which is strange, because I find his performance itself to be fine (if a bit weird). Great music picks too, and I forgot that Kubrick uses “Paint it Black,” which ended up being the opening theme for the Tour of Duty TV series, which I really liked back in the day.

The Running Man

The funniest thing about watching this is that it starts out in the futuristic year of… 2017 (at the start of the film, and then it jumps to 2019). This film is filled with an ungodly amount of cheese, and it’s still and absolute joy to watch. From the genius casting of Richard Dawson — who I’m really surprised never really made more films, despite the terrific villain he can play — to the incredibly entertaining guys sent out to kill Arnie, and the black humour throughout (when Buzzsaw gets buzzed through the crotch, turning his scream into a high pitched screech, or even the Running Man home game that audience members receive as a prize), this is still of the best action-comedies of the era. Total Recall is still the best Schwarzenegger movie, and Predator is also pretty damn great, but I think Running Man is his funniest and still a blast to watch (despite the laughable “futuristic” production design).

Some Kind of Wonderful

It’s not my favorite of the Hughes films (and he produced/wrote this, didn’t direct it), but it’s still a film I enjoyed re-watching. Sure, everything in this movie is telegraphed a mile ahead, but hey, the music is good, and I like seeing these actors together, and at that age. Mary Stuart Masterson was especially great — and strangely, it feels like she never really had much of a career outside of this, at least that I can remember.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Visually, I think this movie is outstanding — just like with Besson’s The 5th Element, I love seeing a sci-fi world that is just so inventive and fun, and inspired by European comics. I wasn’t a big fan of the original comic when I was a kid — I think it was a bit too dark and wordy for me at the time — but I recently decided to revisit the series, reading the first 8-9 books, and enjoyed it quite a bit. Watching the film, on top of the great visuals, I thought the story itself was a decent one for this kind of film (of the species trying to survive) but what was a huge disappointment for me was the casting of Valerian and Laureline. I don’t mind these actors generally, but here I thought they were horribly miscast, especially Valerian. And on top of that, I found that the two had zero chemistry together, which made their whole “relationship” feel extra weird (why would these people be interested in each other at all). I can say that I enjoyed watching the movie because of the eye candy, but it’s a shame that they went with these leads.