Movie Awards 2016: Best Visuals

Visual effects are more prominent than ever in movies. Whether it’s the ever-expanding usage of CG, or the practical effects of old, visual effects play a major role in today’s movie scene. Of all the movies released in 2015, one had to stand out above the rest in terms of visual effects. It should be a no-brainer which movie that is.

 

Winner: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars

After the prequel trilogy soured the Star Wars franchise with horrible storytelling and an over reliance on CG effects to the point that they looked lifeless and garish, The Force Awakens was a real return to form. Both in that it was a great movie, and that it made the Star Wars universe feel believable again by utilizing practical effects along with CG (which was used as needed, instead of being excessive).

With great costumes, makeup, puppetry, animatronics, and computer generated imagery, The Force Awakens is the best looking Star Wars film so far. And one that uses its visual effects to help bring to life its imaginative universe in the best possible way. It’s as much fun just to look at as it is to watch.

Runner-up: Jurassic World

Movie Awards 2016: Best Action Movie

What would a movie year be without a few action movies? Well, it would probably be pretty unsuccessful, financially speaking…

Anyway, 2015 gave us some great action flicks, but one stands out above the rest.

 

Winner: Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max

This is one insane movie. Though it manages to add some interest and depth to the characters, and even has a good story, it’s still the ludicrous, high-octane set pieces that steal the show.

After a short setup of the plot, the characters all head out to the titular Fury Road while driving an array of deadly vehicles. Then it keeps escalating into bigger and crazier things. Rarely does Mad Max: Fury Road let up. It is wise enough to hit the breaks a couple of times, but it quickly gets back to high speed chases and some gruesome action.

On paper, it may just sound like Mad Max got a Fast & Furious overhaul, but this is really a movie that needs to be seen to fully believe it. Some of the imagery and characters are so odd and/or insane and combined with such extravagant action that the experience can feel close to surreal at times.

Movie Awards 2016: Most Underrated Movie

It’s award season! Now’s the time in 2016 where we reflect on the best stuff from 2015, and give awards to them. Everyone does it, whether it’s official committees, critics, or just people with blogs. Truth be told, I was just going to skip ahead and name my top five films of 2015, but I decided to dish out a small handful of other awards first. Don’t expect too many of these, but I figured there were some movies I just had to acknowledge for their individual attributes. Let’s start things off with a movie that didn’t get nearly as much credit as it deserved.

 

Winner: Tomorrowland

Tomorrowland

I will readily admit that Tomorrowland has its flaws. Primarily, it’s tone a bit inconsistent, as the film works best when it’s just being a whimsical sci-fi adventure. When it tries to be an action flick, it’s less successful (which is kind of surprising, considering this is from the same director as The Incredibles). There’s one particular action scene that takes place inside a hobby shop that I’m still not sure if intensity or comedy were the intended response audiences were supposed to feel.

With that said, did Tomorrowland really deserve all the flak it received? In terms of critical response, it was a mixed bag, receiving almost equal parts praise and punishment. In terms of box office, it was a total bomb, which of course made it the butt of many a joke, as though box office returns dictate the quality of a movie.

When all is said and done though, Tomorowland told a good and, dare I say, unique story with a good dose of imagination, made all the more standout by the film’s themes of optimism and exceptionalism, not to mention its utter disdain for the cynicism of today’s popular culture. In this day and age, when the millennial generation seems to be on a witch hunt against all things fun, a movie like this feels all the more special. Plus, it was a girl power movie without ever forcing it. It’s great to see a movie that can pull something like that off naturally.

But, y’know, it didn’t make any money. So I guess it must’ve sucked. Right?

Yes, Tomorrowland had its flaws, and of the five feature films directed by Brad Bird, it’s the most inconsistent of the lot. But it deserved so much better than what it got.

Top 5 Games of 2014 (Game of the Year)

2014 was quite an interesting year for video games. Most of the hyped, high-profile titles that were “destined for greatness” ended up disappointing most. Destiny, Titanfall and Watchdogs, which were all supposed to be the year’s biggest games, quickly fizzled out upon release. But that doesn’t mean 2014 was full of duds.

Quite the opposite, actually. 2014 saw a few truly great games. Namely, fantastic sequels to greats like Dark Souls and Bayonetta shined, and 2014 turned out to be the year the Wii U truly proved its mettle, with the Big N releasing one quality title after another.

So maybe the memorable games of 2014 didn’t come in the forms everyone expected, but when they did show up, they came in full force. Here are the five games that had the biggest impact on me.

Continue reading “Top 5 Games of 2014 (Game of the Year)”

Video Game Awards 2015: Best Visuals

A game’s graphics are often the first aspect to get noticed. Before we play games, we often have screenshots and videos to get us hyped. Naturally, it’s the visuals that almost always catch our eye immediately. Oftentimes it’s the games with the most photorealistic graphics that get all the praise. But I tend to prefer games with unique visual styles over something that merely looks “realistic.” The Ni no Kunis, Wind Wakers and Okamis. The Neverhoods and the Kirby’s Epic Yarns. Here’s a game that deserves credit for its visual beauty.

 

Winner: Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-

Guilty Gear Xrd

There are probably two things you’ll instantly notice about Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-: One of those things is the incomprehensible title (seriously, what is an Xrd?), the other is the beautiful cel-shading.

Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- boasts some of the most stunning cel shading I’ve ever seen. The characters look like fully three-dimensional anime characters as opposed to polygonal recreations. No ridiculously thick outlines or other such tricks to make the characters look more like anime drawings brought to the world of gaming. They actually look like hand-drawn characters that have become three-dimensional. It’s gorgeous.

Funny thing is, this was kind of a last minute game I just found out about towards the very end of 2014. But as soon as I saw it, I fell in love with these visuals. I hope other developers can find ways to replicate what Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- has done with its animations. They’re just too good.

Runner-up: Super Smash Bros. for Wii U

Video Game Awards 2015: Best Gameplay

From the fluidity of controls to the structure of a game’s world and/or stages, the design of a game is at the core of the entire experience. This core can be summed up in one word: Gameplay.  No matter how many technical and artistic achievements games make, it’s the gameplay that’s the heart and soul of game design.

 

Winner: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

Tropical Freeze

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is the most fun sidescroller in years. Retro Studios did a great job bringing the fun of DKC back with Donkey Kong Country Returns, but with Tropical Freeze, Retro Studios seems to have mastered the formula.

Every last one of Tropical Freeze’s stages is a delight (even at their most infuriatingly difficult). There’s just so much creativity going on. From mine cart rides through sawmills to a level themed around frozen treats, Tropical Freeze uses each idea to the fullest, and they constantly add something new to the formula. It’s so creative that even Mario would have to tip his hat in respect.

The additions of Dixie and Cranky add to the mix as well. Like Diddy, they add their own little twists to the gameplay. There’s so much variety in the gameplay and level design that there is simply never a dull moment in Tropical Freeze (except maybe those load times). Part of me is begging for Retro Studios to give DK another go, but another part of me wonders if Retro Studios can top what they’ve done here with Tropical Freeze.

Runner-up: Bayonetta 2