The James Bond 007 Films Ranked (Part 4)

IMG_2158007: Goldfinger (1964)
Considered the best Bond film by critics like Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers. I agree that everything that defines a Bond film is here, but it’s not my favorite of the franchise. It’s still great and hard to top Goldfinger as a villain though. Who can forget Jill Masterson painted in gold either. I guess because it’s so predictable and by the numbers that I don’t enjoy it as much as other film critics. Still, this film is fantastic. And I agree with Travers that if you want to expose someone to a classic Bond film, this is the one to pick.

006: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
A great tragic Bond film. George Lazenby does a great job, and it’s a shame he didn’t play 007 more. If he did Diamonds are Forever might have turned out as stellar as this film. While I have some issues with the film, like the silly plot. It involves Blofield brainwashing women through mind control. Which sounds like what Dr. Evil would do in an Austin Powers film. Also, Bond dressing up in a kilt is just silly. Equally disappointing is that this film acts like You Only Live Twice didn’t happen. Blofield can’t seem to remember that the last time he saw Bond he was destroying his volcanic lair.

On with the good, though. After a slow first half, the action ramps up. The ski chase, car sequence and toboggan run are all exciting. Diana Rigg is a fantastic Bond girl and gives Eva Green’s Vesper a run for her money as best in show. Telly Savalas is the best Blofield and Lazenby does an admirable job as his first time as Bond. The downer ending hurts the film a bit, but we all know Bond isn’t meant to live happily ever after either.

005: From Russia With Love (1963)
A great Bond film that resembles the character Ian Fleming created in the book the most accurately. With each film viewing it grows on me. At first, I thought it was kind of dull. However, like On her Majesty’s Secret Service once the film gets going it’s hard to stop watching. The train sequence still holds up, and Grant is a great villain. Tatyana while a bit ditzy is a likable Bond girl and compliment’s 007 well. Goldfinger might get all the buzz, but I personally like From Russia with Love better.

004: Skyfall (2012)
My first Bond movie in Imax and it was worth the wait. You really notice a difference in production quality by having an Oscar director like Sam Mendes take over and guide the film. The cinematography is fantastic too. The scenes shot in Shanghai stand out most in my mind. Javier Bardem is great and what I like about Skyfall best is that it injects humor back in the Bond films. I can see why people complain about the Home Alone ending of the film, but I didn’t mind it.

003: Casino Royale (2006)
A strong reboot and it’s refreshing to see a vulnerable 007. The parkour scene is great and a very memorable pre-title opening sequence. Even though the film delivers with its impressive action set pieces the best part of the moves are watching Daniel Craig act. He makes mistakes and is not some superhero here. With Spectre likely closing the Craig story arc I’m excited to see if Bond 25 will be as revolutionary as this film.

002: Dr.No (1962)
Love this movie and my favorite of the Sean Connery era. While it doesn’t have as dramatic of a plot as From Russia With Love or Goldfinger, I think it’s more enjoyable. Sean Connery is most likable here, and I like the pacing and tone of the film too. Crab Key is a great location and who can forget Honey Ryder, the tarantula scene and the revealing of Dr. No. Maybe not the most exciting Bond film, but it’s one of the best Bond films.

001: Goldeneye (1995)
The game was fantastic, but I wasn’t expecting the movie to be either. Glad I was wrong. In my opinion, this is the best Bond film and a strong reboot for the 90s. Alec Trevelyan is a great Bond villain and its fun to see a bad guy that resembles 007 so closely. Natalya is one of the smartest Bond girls and who could forget the supporting cast. Xenia Onatopp, General Ourumov, KGB Valentin Zukovsky and computer programmer Boris Grishenko are all memorable. The exploding pen may be silly, but I think it’s a cool Bond gadget. Fun fact, director Martin Campbell also directed Casino Royale.

There you have it my favorite Bond movies. Thanks for reading and here’s hoping to 54 more years of Bond films.

 

 

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The James Bond 007 Films Ranked (Part 3)

IMG_2149014: Die Another Day (2002)
Like Quantum of Solace, this movie gets a bad rep. I agree some of the action gets too ridiculous, and the villain’s outfit on the plane is appalling. For me, the invisible car isn’t too far fetched, and I had more issues with the parasailing sequence. It feels too unbelievable and you can tell the film takes the CGI direction too far. Yet, despite the sheer insanity of the film, it’s good fun. I also like the fencing sequence and the hovercraft opening which felt innovative for a Bond film. Miranda Frost and Jinx are both great Bond girls too. If you don’t take Die another Day too seriously and just go with I think you’ll enjoy this film.

013: The World Is Not Enough (1999)
Yes, it’s ridiculous that Denise Richards play a nuclear physicist. And the sexual joke at the end is pretty embarrassing. However, this film has a lot going for it. The opening boat chase is spectacular, and it’s followed by a great Bond song by Garbage. It’s refreshing to see a strong female villain, and Renard’s a formidable foe for Bond. M gets more screen time, and the film sends out Q in a classy way. Weaknesses? Both villains are great, but if the film had focused on one villain, it would have been better. Still, flaws and all this is a great Bond film.

012: Live and Let Die (1973)
A great Roger Moore film. And more than a placeholder for a kick-ass Paul McCartney title song. I can see why some people don’t like this film because of the racial tone. To me, it’s not a problem having a all black villain cast. Besides the great title song Live and Let Die has Solitaire, who can predict the future and voodoo shaman Baron Samedi. Both characters make the film very memorable. I also can’t forget the guy with the hook, and the high-speed boat chase sequence rocks. A strong first showing for Roger Moore.

011: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
Cheesy is putting it bluntly, but one of the best Roger Moore movies no doubt. The opening ski pre title sequence lives up to the hype and remains dazzling 39 years later. Who can forget Nobody Does it Better either. Barbara Bach as a female 007 who works together with Bond and can hold her own in a fight is equally memorable. The underwater car scene never gets old and Jaws, a formidable foe for Bond steals the show. What’s disappointing is the villain. Stromberg’s plan to rebuild a new world underwater is ridiculous. Moonraker pretty much used the same idea in this film, but in space and it was disappointing as well.

010: For Your Eyes Only (1981)
For my money, this is Roger Moore’s finest hour. The Spy Who Loves Me may have a more memorable cast and song, but this Bond film is more like the early Sean Connery films. I love the ski chase sequence, and it’s one of my favorite Bond action sequences. The plot has a clever twist midway through, and the end has a breathtaking climbing sequence. Also, while it’s serious, there is still the trademark Roger Moore humor. However, the Bond girls are for the most part forgettable, so it’s not a perfect Bond film. The opening sequence is disappointing too and feels like a lame way to get rid of Blofield the iconic Bond super villain. Flaws and all though it’s a fine film.

009: Spectre(2015)
I can’t understand all the hate this film gets. It’s been a polarizing Bond film for many. I thought it was great, and if it is Daniel Craig’s last Bond film, it’s a fitting way to go. What I enjoy most about Spectre is like Skyfall it pays a lot of homages to past Bond films and the fact that it has good humor. It is a little like Roger Moore at times so I can see some people being pissy about the tone of the film. However, if you just go with it, you’ll enjoy it. I think a lot of the criticism leveled on Spectre is that it’s more of a traditional Bond film. It doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel like Casino Royale or Skyfall. Also, while Christopher Walz is fantastic, he feels underutilized here. His character isn’t fleshed out, and it’s hard to believe he is the author of all Bond’s pain so I can see the hate there. For me, those are minor issues and don’t take away from my enjoyment of the film.

008: You Only Live Twice (1967)

One of the most stunning and creative Bond films in the franchise. You Only Live Twice has incredible set pieces, great action and is a unique entry in the Bond franchise. The little Nellie helicopter scene is just sublime too. Where it goes wrong is that Bond needs to become Japanese to face Blofield. It seems strange to make 007 go through all this. Second, it’s hard to take Blofield seriously in this film after seeing Austin Powers. You can tell Dr. Evil got his inspiration from the Blofeld character just by watching this film. Still, even with its flaws age can’t dampen the quality of one of the coolest and creative Bond films ever.

Stay tuned for part 4.

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The James Bond 007 Films Ranked (Part 2)

IMG_2145021: From a View to a Kill (1985)
Considered one of the worst Bond movies ever according to many film critics. Yes, Roger Moore playing Bond at 58 is pushing it, but From a View to a Kill doesn’t deserve all the hate it gets. I actually found it refreshing for a Bond movie to take place in the US. I also appreciate the film even more since I spent close to three years living in San Francisco.

Christopher Walken and Grace Jones play fantastic Bond villains and flooding Silicon Valley wasn’t a bad idea. The Golden Gate Bridge scene and the Duran Duran Song stand out as the most memorable parts of the film to me, though.

What’s disappointing? Well, the Bond girl Stacey is gorgeous, but she spends most of the movie screaming. Listening to her yell JAMES, JAMES, JAMES gets rather annoying. The firetruck sequence also isn’t exciting, and the film can drag a lot. Still, I still enjoy this movie and find it’s worth watching.

020: Quantum of Solace (2008)
The first true sequel to a Bond movie, but a victim of a writers strike. So, it’s not surprising that compared to Casino Royale Quantum of Solace feels half-baked. The plot isn’t strong and Bond going rogue doesn’t work as well as it did in License to Kill. Also, it’s difficult to watch because of the hack job editing. Many of action sequences resemble quick cuts that don’t flow well.

Despite its problems, I still like Quantum of Solace. It’s action packed and doesn’t overstay its welcome. And scenes like the opera house and Bond confronting Vespers’ boyfriend remain memorable. If you look past the thin plot, then you’ll find much to enjoy in Quantum of Solace. A disappointing Bond film for sure, but far from the worst in the film franchise.

019: The Living Daylights (1987)
A nice change of pace for Bond films. Especially after watching the seven prior cheesy Roger Moore films. Timothy Dalton does a better job as 007 than most critics would lead you to believe.He also was an early precursor to the dark tone of the Daniel Craig films. Still, it’s hard to argue that he’s as charming as other Bonds and his lack of humor is noticeable.

Cool fact: The action sequence on a plane was an inspiration for the video game Uncharted 3: Drakes Deception.

Other great things include the a-ha title song, the car chase and seeing John Rhy-Davis take a stab at a Bond film. I enjoy this film, but I wish the main villain was stronger and more menacing. Bond saves his life early in the film, and he acts like too much of a wuss afterward so it’s hard to take him seriously.

018: License to Kill (1989)
The darkest Bond movie by far and a polarizing film for many. Some people hate it others love it. I’m in the latter category. At the time, it was refreshing to see Bond out for revenge. Instead of doing another mission for M. I like the villain Sanchez, and it was interesting watching Bond try to get close to him by acting as a friend. The tanker sequence during the film’s climax gets better each time I watch it too.

Pam Bouvier is one of the strongest Bond Girls and it’s great that Q gets more screen time with Bond. What’s not so great is it’s too serious. Just like The Living Daylights, some more lighthearted moments would have been nice. Despite the lack of humor, if you like the Daniel Craig movies give this underrated Bond film a shot. It’s a shame Timothy Dalton didn’t get more opportunities to play Bond. His third film might have been his SkyFall.

017: Never Say Never Again(1983)
Never Say Never Again isn’t an official Bond film. What it does have though is Sean Connery who hasn’t lost any of his talents despite being away from 007 for 12 years. What I like best about Never Say Never Again is its lightheartedness. Its fun and I get a kick out of watching Largo, played by Klaus Maria Brandauer act.

Yeah, the video game duel and the movie as a whole is kind of cheesy. As are certain scenes like Fatima Blush asking Bond to write a note for her before she kills him. However, it’s a good remake of Thunderball and very entertaining.

016: ThunderBall (1965)
Adjusted for inflation Thunderball is the highest grossing Bond film of all time. Like the earlier Sean Connery films, it’s a strong film. The Bond girls are strong too. Domino proves a formidable threat for the villain Largo and the evil mistress Fiona challenges 007 quite admirably. Standout scenes in the film? The shark chase sequence and the opening jetpack scene. Problems with the film? It’s a little too long and drags in a few spots, but Connery’s strong performance as Bond more than makes up for it.

015: Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
This Bond film will always hold a special place in my heart. It was the first Bond film I ever saw and while the video game Goldeneye ignited my passion for James Bond. This film introduced me to the film franchise. It’s disappointing to see so many critics didn’t like it, but I find it enjoyable. I understand the criticism about the villain who has a ridiculous scheme. He wants to start World War III so he can get exclusive broadcasting rights in China.

Tomorrow Never Dies has some memorable action sequences that stay with you. The remote control car chase and motorcycle race through Beijing never get old for me. Also, who can forget Bond and Wai Lin jumping off a building and tearing down a billboard. Michelle Yeoh is one of the best Bond girls and holds her own with Pierce Brosnan. A good second effort by Pierce Brosnan.

Stay tuned for part 3

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The James Bond 007 Films Ranked (Part 1)

IMG_2143With the recent release of Spectre, I felt it was an excellent opportunity to assess how I feel about all the James Bond 007 films. So, after seeing all 24 official films, three unofficial ones and one documentary I asked myself how would I rank them? It wasn’t easy, but here’s part one of a four-part series on my favorite Bond films ranked from worst to best based on personal enjoyment. Enjoy.

028: Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007 (2012)
A fantastic documentary covering the Bond era from its beginning with author Ian Fleming to the Daniel Craig films. What I love most about Everything or Nothing is it doesn’t sugarcoat the James Bond 007 franchise. The documentary examines the struggles the filmmakers and actors faced through five decades of movies. I learned a lot of new info I was unaware of previously like Sean Connery leaving after You Only Live Twice because he was unhappy with how Albert R. Broccoli treated him. Or the epic lawsuit between MGM and Kevin McClory over the story rights for Thunderball. An excellent overview of the Bond franchise and you have to see it if you’re a fan of the franchise. Lastly, it’s on the bottom of my list not because of its poor quality but that it’s a documentary and not a real Bond film.

027: Casino Royale (1967)
A spoof on the James Bond franchise with a catchy title theme. Not a great movie, but it has a creative plot that focuses on Bond’s retirement and other characters impersonating 007. Also, for a spoof the cast, is pretty good with David Niven, Petter Sellers, Woody Allen and Ursula Andress( Honey Ryder from Dr. No) which makes the film more watchable. Unfortunately, with each scene Casino Royale keeps getting weirder and weirder and by the end it becomes just one big clusterfuck. While not a terrible film it’s the one Bond film I don’t watch when I watch all the others to wet my appetite for the newest one. Still, if you haven’t seen this film, it’s worth watching at least once for the sheer insanity.

026: Casino Royale (1954)
Another Bond movie most people haven’t seen, and it’s in black and white to boot! A made for TV movie starring Barry Nelson, Peter Lorre and Linda Christian based on the original Ian Fleming novel. I found it rather entertaining and it doesn’t overstay its welcome at under an hour in length. It’s pretty faithful to the book too, but for some reason, the producers decided to call Bond Jimmy which just feels silly. Another odd point, the character Vesper is called Mathis instead for whatever reason. Lorre plays a good Le Chiffre too, and I found him a dangerous adversary for Bond. Finally, due to its small budget and family friendly nature, it’s fun to see how the torture scene and the ending, the two most memorable scene in the 2006 Casino Royale differ here. While a better film then some later Bond movies, it’s not really a traditional Bond film, so that’s why it’s near the bottom of my list.

025: Moonraker (1979)
James Bond in space! That sounds so amazing, but why am I so bored watching this film. While the film starts out promising with an incredible skydiving stunt, the film just drags. Also, Drax isn’t a memorable villain, and it takes until the climax for Bond to reach outer space. Second, I find the idea of creating a new society in space similar to Noah’s Ark absurd. Not all of Moonraker is bad, though. Some cool set pieces like a mid-air cable car fight with one of Bond’s most formidable foes Jaws, a boat chase through Venice and the Moonraker laser space fight make for memorable action sequences.

024: Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
An incredibly disappointing Bond film for many reasons. Mostly because it came after the incredible On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Bond got married in the previous film, and Blofeld’s servant Irma Blunt killed his wife, so Bond fans expected an epic conclusion. However, with George Lazenby deciding to call it quits audiences instead got a campy Sean Connery Bond film emulating many of the Roger Moore films that would come later.

However, I can’t hate this film because even though it’s stupid, it makes me crack up every time I watch it. The henchman Mr. Kit and Mr. Wig( two gay lovers) are hilarious. Jimmy Dean also does an excellent job and adds some comic relief to the film. The action is decent too with the elevator fight and the sideway car stunt in Las Vegas both ending on a high note. While it’s a shame, Bond fans weren’t given a true follow up to On Her Majesty Secret Service if you forget what came before this and turn your brain off Diamonds Are Forever isn’t bad.

023: The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
Despite a great villain in Scaramanga played by Christopher Lee, this movie doesn’t live up to its title. The film just feels underwhelming, and the action scenes aren’t very exciting. The 180-degree barrel roll cat stunt is a keeper, though. I do like the opening and ending duel too, but those scenes only last a few minutes. My problem stems from the film annoying cast. I never was a fan of the character Knick Knack, and Goodnight while attractive isn’t a great Bond girl. Not the best Bond film, but the film title did turn into a great multiplayer mode in the N64 classic Goldeneye.

022: Octopussy (1983)

It’s unfortunate when film critics talk about Octopussy they ridicule it because Bond dresses up as a clown and forget its strengths. It’s not Roger Moore’s strongest outing as 007, but it’s not bad either. It has some exciting action sequences like a fight on a train and a plane that help elevate the bad parts of the movie. The twin brother assassins who throw daggers are creative adversaries that haven’t shown up in a Bond film before, and it’s a shame they don’t get more screen time. I also like the exotic scenery and the plot revolving around the prized jeweled egg.

What’s disappointing about Octopussy is that it sets the stage for a strong female villain, but by the climax she turns out to be just another damsel in distress for Bond to save. It would have been much more interesting if she was the true villain rather than Kahn and his henchman. Octopussy had lots of potential, to be one of the best Bond movies but it stumbles in its execution, so it doesn’t rank higher for me.

Stay tuned for Part 2.

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My Favorite Games From 2015

video game blog 2015 pic2015 was another incredible year for video games. A big trend this year were massive open world games. So, I ended up not even starting several games or finishing them like Bloodborne, Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. As always my yearly list requirements are I had to finish each game I selected by December 31st. I also didn’t include remasters like The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D and compilations like Rare Replay because their older games. Without further ado here are my top 10 games of 2015 along with some honorable mentions.

Honorable Mentions

Her Story

Her Story is an excellent game, and it deserves all the praise it’s gotten for the writing, Viva Seifer’s fantastic performance and the way it keeps you engaged. I only played a few minutes each day, but with each play session, I couldn’t wait to discover what new search term would lead me closer to solving the story. Like Gone Home, Her Story doesn’t feel like a game and is more of an experience. So in that respect, I consider Her Story more akin to watching a great mystery drama rather than a deep video game and that’s why it doesn’t make my top 10.

Onechanbara Z2: Chaos

This game is so ridiculous, and I’m embarrassed by how much I enjoy it. Onechanbara Z2: Chaos is a huge jump in quality from the previous XBOX 360 entry, Onenchanabara: Bikini Samurai Squad, which I liked, but many critics thought was god awful. Yes, it’s repetitive, and the plot is garbage, but the gameplay is fun and being able to switch between four characters keeps combat interesting. Each character plays differently like Saaya, who is slow but powerful and uses a massive blade to annihilate her enemies. While Saki favors speed over power and the other two characters Aya and Kagura use dual blades.

I also liked the strategy of healing your characters by rotating between them and it’s a neat touch that you wipe the blood off your weapons to keep your attack damage high. The Super Saiyan style transformations are also visually impressive and help make some of the tougher bosses more manageable. Finally, a special shoutout to the soundtrack which like Metal Gear Rising Revengence is equally great and terrible. Give this game a shot if you’re a fan of Devil May Cry. I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised how much you enjoy it.

Mad Max

Mad Max got lost in all the open world games released this year. Which is a shame because Mad Max is an excellent movie tie-in and does justice to the film franchise. The busy work of collecting scrap and clearing enemy bases can get tedious, but it’s incredibly satisfying once you’re powerful enough to make your mark in the open world. I also loved the desert setting and had fun just driving around aimlessly while blowing up enemy cars with the thunderpoon or ripping convoys apart by using the harpoon. If you just do just the story, you’ll be frustrated, but if you take the time to do the side missions, you’ll find Mad Max much more enjoyable.

Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash

I’m surprised with all the hate out there for this game. I agree it’s disappointing that there is no career mode or more bonus modes like past Mario sports games, but the gameplay is still rock solid. The controls feel great, and this game is gorgeous. This game made my Thanksgiving Break, and I got nearly a dozen hours of enjoyment from it. If you want a fun tennis game to play by yourself, online or with friends I have no trouble recommending Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash. If you want more than that, then you’ll be disappointed and be better off just renting it.

Yoshi Wooly World

This game feels so joyful that you can’t help but smile when you play it. While I’ve started to get fatigued from all the Nintendo platforms on Wii U and 3DS, Yoshi Wooly World is still an enjoyable romp while it lasts. Also, even though it feels incredibly easy at first, later levels can get downright challenging. Expect to play almost all the levels twice to get all the sunflowers if you want to play the post game content. While Yoshi Wooly World has a lot to like it didn’t really wow me and I just got what I was expecting from a Yoshi Island sequel. There are a few new ideas like new transformations for Yoshi, but not much else you haven’t seen before, so it doesn’t make my top 10.

My Top 10 Games Of 2015

10. Mortal Kombat X

A bit of a downgrade from MK 9, but still an incredibly solid fighter that takes some creative risks. I like the emphasis on new fighters instead of catering to the original roster. New characters like Cowboy Erron Black, half-insect girl D’Vorah girl and the blind ninja Kenshi, in particular, are some of my favorite fighters. The story isn’t what I expected either and I liked how Johnny Cage, Sonya Blade, and Jax interact with their children. The way Netherrealm found a way to bring back everyone who died from the last game was quite clever too.

However, the story mode isn’t as satisfying as MK9 and the tower mode challenges aren’t very interesting this time, so I prefer MK9 over this one. There is still tons to unlock in the crypt, but not much compelling content for the solo player unless you want to play online a lot. Still, I can’t wait to see how MK11 turns out and what other new surprises Netherealm has.

9. Dying Light

A surprise hit for me and many others. I never played Dead Island, but after experiencing Dying Light, I can see the appeal of killing zombies in an open world environment. Although I had more fun doing parkour all over the world and running away from zombies then killing them. As for the story, I found it interesting enough that I saw the game through to the end. What I didn’t care for was much of the side quests that just felt like busywork to me. However, Dying Light grabbed me with its parkour gameplay mechanics and has made me even more excited for Mirror’s Edge Catalyst.

8. The Order: 1866

I feel bad for the developers of the Order: 1866, who many critics slammed for its short length and uninspired game design. I disagree. I enjoyed the fact that it focused on telling a linear story, and it was refreshing that it wasn’t another open world game. It helps too that the game looks fantastic with some of the best graphics, sound and voice acting ever. I did find the Steampunk setting depressing, but it was still fun to navigate. Still, I liked the gameplay and thought the gunplay did a great job emulating Uncharted. Hopefully, Ready at Dawn can use this as a template for a stronger sequel.

7. Splatoon

I liked Splatoon, but I didn’t love it and found more enjoyment in the Super Mario Sunshine style, single player, than the multiplayer. Don’t get me wrong the multiplayer is fun and creative with the focus on spraying ink instead of shooting your enemies. I also love how colorful this game is and was surprised how challenging it is. Really, the final boss is one for the best bosses time capsule and just left me in awe after beating it. Keep creating new IPs Nintendo like Splatoon and more people may just buy an NX.

6. Call of Duty: Black Ops 3

Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 is one of my favorite Call of Duty games, so I was excited for this one. While the campaign and story aren’t as memorable as Black Ops 2, I still had fun. I like the new abilities like cloaking, disabling machines and power charges. Also, I enjoyed the time traveling aspect of missions which take place in the past, present and future. What I didn’t like was the game is a little too futuristic with terminator robots and bullet sponge enemies that take too long to kill. Which makes playing solo frustrating sometimes. Luckily you can lower the difficulty anytime to make things more manageable. However, I am excited to replay the campaign with zombies and thought that it was a cool bonus for Treyarch to add. Not the best Call of Duty game, but entertaining nonetheless.

5. Persona 4 Dancing All Night

I love rhythm games and Persona 4 so Persona 4: Dancing All Night sounded like a winner to me. While the game isn’t perfect, Altus came up with a clever way to expand the Persona 4 storyline. Basically, the Midnight Channel Gang helps Rise jumpstart her music career again by acting as her dance crew. The gameplay is fun, and it’s surprisingly long for a rhythm game with a story mode running close to ten hours. P4DAN has a few problems, though. One, lots of the songs are remixes and second the story mode to gameplay ratio isn’t well balanced.

Seriously, you might read text conversations for nearly an hour before you get into a dance routine that only lasts three minutes. Luckily the pacing gets a little better in the second half, and free play mode lets you play all the songs at your leisure. However, it makes you wonder if Altus would have nixed the story there might have been double the content and fewer remixes. Still, if you’re a Persona 4 fan you should definitely check out P4DAN

4. Kirby and the Rainbow Curse

Like the Order: 1866, I don’t understand the hate for this game. I loved Kirby: Canvas Curse on DS, so I couldn’t wait to play this game. Kirby Canvas Curse is another great Nintendo game and something I really enjoyed playing when I needed a break from all the giant gritty open world games released last year. The soundtrack is fantastic too with some of the best music ever to grace a Kirby game. I can understand the frustration of having to look at the Wii U gamepad all the time, but it didn’t bother me. KATRC is my favorite Wii U game from 2015, and I hope Nintendo doesn’t make us wait another ten years for a sequel.

3. Resident Evil: Revelations 2

After Resident Evil 6 made fans and critics questions the iconic series identity it’s nice to see Capcom return to its survival horror roots. I enjoyed the dual character setup and how Capcom balanced the gameplay between Barry and Claire. Speaking of Claire, it’s good to see her back in action after being MIA in the series since Resident Evil: Code Veronica. The episodic style was a little weird since Capcom released each one so quick and they easily could have charged full price for the amount of content here. I didn’t dwell too much into the raid mode, but I see why people love it. The best thing I can say about Resident Evil: Revelations 2 is it makes me more excited for Resident Evil 7 and that Capcom is learning from their past mistakes.

2. BoxBoy

The biggest underdog of 2015 that slipped past most people’s radar and the best $5 I’ve spent in a long time. Boxboy looks rather simplistic like an old Game Boy title, but it has surprising depth. The main campaign is long with over 20 worlds, and each one offers a new way to use the box gameplay dynamics cleverly. Not to mentions, there are all the crowns to collect, unlockable stages, challenges and more. Boxboy is an innovative effort by Hal Laboratory makers of the Kirby games and a tantalizing tease of what Nintendo has in store for mobile gaming.

1.Batman: Arkham Knight

A divisive choice that garners a love and hate relationship with critics and fans. I didn’t get a chance to dive into Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt or even start Metal Gear V: The Phantom Pain so besides Mad Max, and Dying Light Arkham Knight was the open world game I spent the most time with last year. Even after finishing it I still have lots to do like the most wanted missions, challenge modes, and other extra content to keep me busy for another 20 hours. The Batmobile portions didn’t bother me much, although I agree there’s way too much in the beginning. The menu bar for tracking side quests is the best I’ve seen in an open world game and makes alternating between the story and diversions a breeze. Rocksteady’s created a great send off for Batman Fans, and I hope they put as much care into their next IP as they did the Arkham trilogy.
There you have it my favorite games of 2015. Here’s hoping for an even better 2016.

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Life Lessons Learned From San Francisco

San Francisco photoLast July I returned to Wisconsin after spending three years in the San Francisco Bay Area. I learned a lot during my time there and will never forget it. Not all of it was great, but even some negative aspects of SF taught me valuable life lessons. If you’ve never lived in SF before here’s some wisdom I gained while living there.

I know what poverty is and what it means to live in the most expensive city in the US
I knew SF was expensive, but I didn’t realize how insane the rental market was until I moved there. Luckily, I stayed in Oakland with a friend first, so I got gradually exposed to the Bay Area before moving to the city. However, I quickly realized even Oakland is outrageously expensive. I was desperate to live in SF though, so I took the first semi-affordable apartment I could find. Living in SF means you have to give up a lot to live there.

For instance, forgot about living on your own and living comfortably. I lived with two roommates, had a basement apartment with no stove, washer and dryer. Not only that, but I lived at the top of a giant hill that made commuting into the city a pain. I also kept my costs as low as possible by only eating two meals a day and sticking to peanut butter sandwiches, Hungry Man dinners and frozen pizza for my meals.

For any city, I wouldn’t have put up with this living situation, but the housing market in SF is so dire I endured. Hopeful a better life once I established myself. On the bright side, the public transportation was much better than Oakland, and it was actually cheaper for me to live in SF because of the monthly Muni Pass that’s exclusive to SF residents. I also got to know the city very well, and I was able to volunteer, network and socialize more frequently. All the positives made up for the negatives, but I knew it would be practically impossible to live alone and save money, so I knew I had to leave eventually.

I learned to be frugal and how to find cheap things to do
Having almost my entire income go to rent, student loans and other living expenses didn’t give me much left over to have fun. Fortunately, SF has a lot of free or very cheap things to do. I learn to frequent Sf.funcheap and Eventbrite to find things to do during my off time. I checked out Golden Gate Park, went to the Farmers Market in the Ferry Building, visited the Japanese Tea Gardens and Botanical Gardens, most of the museums, Angel Island, Alcatraz and more.

Living in SF made me look at finances differently
Once I realized being a writer wasn’t going to be easy in SF I realized how poor I was handling my money and needed to make a change. So, I read up on finance books and online blogs like I Will Teach You To Be Rich and Lifehacker. I hadn’t given much thought to 401k, savings account, emergency fund and the importance of starting a retirement account either. Plus my student loans debt wasn’t making it any easier to live in SF, so I knew I wouldn’t be able to thrive here if I stayed. Even though the poverty was bad, it was a blessing in disguise. If I hadn’t gone through my two years of being poor, I wouldn’t have been motivated to take financial responsibility in my life and learn to manage my money better.

I learned more about tech and startup culture
SF defines tech. Not having much of a tech background this area didn’t come naturally to me, but the more I researched and learned about it from work I saw its value and capability to change the world. I liked how tech could make out live easier, by seeing companies innovate with on-demand services like Uber, grocery deliveries and more. It’s incredible when you boot up your computer and realize that pretty much every tech company like Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, Oracle, Yelp, Uber and others have roots in SF. The startup culture also fascinated me. I was amazed that just one great idea can change the world and how a small group of people can transform into a large company in a matter of years.

I got meet some of my heroes growing up and developed a purpose
One of the most significant things about moving to SF for me was I learned that my dream job wasn’t really what I wanted to do with my life. So much of the video game industry is housed here like Sony, Electronic Arts and a ton of mobile companies. As well as a plethora of media publications like GamesBeat, IGN, GameSpot, Polygon, GamesRadar and more that I thought I’d easily find a job. However, it wasn’t as easy as I expected, and I quickly realized that video game journalism didn’t match with my reality. It didn’t help that my dream companies Electronic Gaming Monthly and 1UP, both closed when I moved here either.

I thought being a video game journalist and reviewing video games for a living sounded so cool, but instead, I found that I hate rushing through video games on a deadline, and I didn’t like writing news stories that resemble press releases. Most critical was playing games for work meant little time for playing games for fun and I didn’t like that reviewing games meant giving up weekends, evening and sleep to get reviews done in time. I realized that writing about games is more of a hobby than a job for me, and I prefer to keep my passion and work life separate instead. Still, it was fun attending conferences and events and getting to meet some of the journalists I admired over the years.

Also, living in SF was worthwhile because I got to go in the IGN building several times, attend the Game Developer Conference three time and go to all the IGDA video game developer meetups. As well as getting to meet video game journalists I admired like John Davison, Dan Shoe, Shane Bettenhausen, and Dean Takahashi.

I learned to be a minimalist
Having such a small space to live in SF meant not having a lot of room for my personal belongings. To make room I sold a lot of things on eBay or donated them to Goodwill and found I didn’t need to keep everything I buy. It was refreshing to know I could get by with very little and not be too attached to things. Selling most of my video game collection was hard at first, but I actually prefer having a digital collection instead.

I got exposed to new foods and cultures
Thanks to the wealth of diversity of people in SF, I got the opportunity to try many different kinds of foods. I learned to love bubble tea, burritos, food trucks, In-Out burgers, clam chowder, Phil’s Coffee and more. Also, being around so many diverse people I realized as a white Caucasian I was the minority unlike in WI where it felt like the opposite. The other part I loved about being in SF was that each neighborhood has a unique feel. From Chinatown, the Mission, Sunset, Japantown, Embarcadero, Market Street and Fisherman’s Wharf.

I learned I like being independent and don’t want to live with roommates
Being in SF meant I was over 2000 miles away from my family and friends. I’d been alone before in Milwaukee, but my family still regularly visited me, and I knew people from school. In the Bay Area, I only knew one of my step dad’s friends and to meet more people I had to do it on my own.

My roommates were good and didn’t have any problems living with them, but I’m independent and prefer to live on my own. Unfortunately, SF makes that very difficult so even though I could have stayed and found work I just didn’t want to live that kind of lifestyle. Which ended up being one of my motivations for leaving the Bay Area behind.

I understand experience of traveling when young
Working at Costco for Sony and Marketstar I got to know the staff pretty well. One of the pieces of wisdom they passed on to me was to travel when you’re young. Most people wait until they’re retired, but you don’t want to be traveling when you’re old and lack the energy to do things. The advice resonated with me and mads me want to be more proactive with my own traveling plans.

I learned the importance of paying attention to the news
Even though I majored in journalism, I didn’t care much for the news. I found everything I needed online or through friends. However, once I started working in tech PR, I was expected to be a news hound and stay on top of everything. I even created a weekly news roundup while I was blogging for work. Soon, websites like Tech Crunch, Business Insider, Skimfeed, VentureBeat and more became part of my daily routine, and I got to see how integral PR is to companies and journalists for getting public exposure.

I got sales experience
While sales work isn’t what I wanted to do after graduation, I found the experience valuable and meet some good friends while learning about Sony products. I got to be a part of Sony 4K TV line and enjoyed being a Vaio computer brand ambassador. I learned things about myself and areas of improvement I needed. The experience also spoiled me on other retail jobs because my primary responsibility was to educate customers and not sell products. So I didn’t have to use the register or open and close which was a blessing. Best of all I got a great discount and still to this day I can use it for cheap games, and I was able to buy my first 4K TV cheaply.

I found I enjoy living without a car
I like driving, but I hate traffic and just having a car wasn’t worth it in SF. Not only is it expensive and cumbersome to get around, but there is barely any parking, and I just prefer taking Bart and Muni everywhere. You save a lot of money not having a car in SF, and I loved that the area was so walkable. If it weren’t for all the hills, SF would be better than New York for getting around without a car.

I learned to network and what conference work is like
Volunteering for VentureBeat and other conferences helped me learned the dos and don’t of networking. I got to learn a lot about different industries like health care, startup culture, game developers, journalists and it helped me find new jobs too. I got to see many prevalent speakers at talks and learned a lot. Networking at conferences helped motivated me to go out to regular social events weekly and how to act around people too.

I learned new job searching skills
When I realized video game journalism wasn’t what I wanted to do, I took the time to learn new skills. How to write better resumes, cover letters, the importance of social media. All helped me get a job, and better prepare myself for interviews.

Why I left 
I love San Francisco, and it was tough to go, but I realized I was living in Netherland and needed to get back to reality. There are so many wonderful things about SF, but having a nice place to live while having the lifestyle I want isn’t one of them. I came to the realization that I wouldn’t be able to live without roommates, save money, and pay off my student loan debt in a timely matter. I also craved a new scenery and didn’t want to be in the same area for the rest of my life. The truth is if I had a decent apartment I probably would have never left.

Lastly, since I found I don’t want to be a video game journalist anymore, it meant I need to start my career over and do something else besides just writing. So, I’ve returned home to the Midwest to save money and to rethink my career path. I may return to SF, but for right now it’s not in my immediate future.

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4 Ways Yelp Reviews Impact Businesses

Yelp photoYelp is synonymous with online reviews and ignoring it is a costly mistake for businesses. Why? Yelp reviews carry a big weight in people’s minds and is something they depend on when making everyday decisions. Such as, where they want to have dinner tonight, which hotel to stay in and where to rent a car. Yelp is here to stay whether you like it or not. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t make it work for you rather than against you. Here are four ways Yelp reviews impact businesses and why keeping a positive online reputation is critical.

Negative reviews have deep consequences

Any new business starting out not only faces a challenge attracting and keeping new customers, but online reviews can have a huge impact on their growing momentum. If people are unfamiliar with a business, and they see negative reviews than they’re less likely to give that place a shot. Which results in a loss of profit and if things don’t improve quickly they may be forced to shut down.
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Positive reviews mean better business, stronger profits and better visibility

Studies have shown that businesses with higher Yelp ratings do better than others. Also, even just a half-star rating increase can dramatically improve profits and contribute to stronger customer turnout during peak business hours. Lastly, all those positive reviews lead to better visibility on Google searches and can give businesses an advantage over their competitors. Who do you think people are likely to contact first when they compare similar businesses? The ones with the highest Yelp review of course.

Yelp reviews create stronger word of mouth

In the old days before the Internet, people relied on their friends and family for new restaurant recommendations and more. With Yelp’s online database, people can discover new businesses they would never found on their own or considered trying. A good positive review can convince people to give a new place a shot while negative reviews will have the opposite effect. The fact is many businesses can benefit from people’s natural curiosity to explore and try new things.

Yelp reviews improve businesses and customer communication

A great company website, Facebook, Twitter and the LinkedIn page isn’t enough. Outside of the regular communication channels, people want to see that business take their online Yelp rating seriously. Even if a company has several negative reviews if people see that the company is responding to those reviews and trying to fix their problems then they’re more likely to give them a second chance. Great communication can do wonders for a business by building trust with their customers and using their feedback to improve their product.

Yelp is here to stay and no matter what businesses need to pay attention to it. Online reviews play a big part in people’s purchasing decisions and businesses that monitor their online reputation and communicate clearly with their customers stand to benefit from Yelp the greatest. Negative reviews may be unavoidable, but if businesses can learn from them and address their shortcomings, then it won’t be long before they notice a difference from their customers.

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5 Suspenseful Films to Tide You Over Until Spectre

movie popcorn photo for blogWhat another summer film roundup? Well, after leaving San Francisco and spending time with my family I’ve seen way more movies than I thought I would. Not that I’m complaining, but I felt it was time for another film roundup. Without further ado here are the movies I’ve seen and my thoughts on each one. Let’s begin.

Spy

What’s to like
I love Archer, so a spy movie starring Melissa McCarthy sounded like a winner to me. For the most part, it works. McCarthy is hilarious as always and whether she’s chasing down a killer, getting into heated arguments with Bridesmaid co-star Rose Byrne or telling Jason Statham how stupid he is she nails all her lines. Statham is great here too, and I enjoyed how he exaggerates his accomplishments, and that he loathes working together with McCarthy. Here’s hoping for a sequel that improves on the groundwork laid here.

What’ s not to like
The move can take it a little too far with the crude humor and the amount of F- bombs. If you’ve seen Archer and Bridesmaid before you won’t be surprised, but I can see this movie alienating some people. Still, even though McCarthy’s character can be extreme, she has a good heart and genuinely wants to help her friends.

Mission Impossible Rouge Nation:

What’s to like
First of all, I love that each Mission Impossible film has a different director who puts their own unique spin on the franchise, so no film is the same. Compared to other Mission Impossible films I thought this one had the best pacing, and it’s my favorite of the series. Also, even though this movie has a lot of action sequences, I found the opera house, the opening plane mission, swimming scene, and the motorcycle chase action all equally memorable. Another bright note is the movie is genuinely funny. Jeremy Renner and Alec Baldwin have excellent chemistry and often act as comical relief for example. Character development is very strong too, and it’s nice to see recurring characters like Simon Pegg really come into their own here. Lastly, Rebecca Ferguson is the best female action star I’ve seen in a long time. She’s a well-rounded character who steals all the scenes she’s in and holds her own against Tom Cruise.

What’s not to like
You may have noticed I didn’t mention the villain. Well, he’s not bad, but I just didn’t find him as menacing, as other Mission Impossible villains. He mostly uses his intelligence to make Cruise’s life hell rather than acting as a physical threat. Not that that’s a bad thing, and it ultimately forgiving since there isn’t a big action sequence with him and Cruise because the movie has plenty of action already.

The Gift

What’s to like
The Gift isn’t a spy movie, but I saw it around the same time as all the other spy films, so I figured why not include it here. It does share similar spy movie traits though because it’s a suspense film and does a good job of keeping you on your toes. I hadn’t even heard of this film until I randomly checked online, so I went in without expectations. I’m glad I did because this movie is great and has some fantastic performances by Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, and Joel Egerton. Without giving too much away, a couple moves to California from Chicago, and the husband encounters an old high school friend while out shopping. This person from his past seems unusually friendly, and things quickly go sour. What’s so riveting about the film is the characters all have secrets, and you don’t know who to believe. I also enjoyed that it’s not overly graphic with violence like I was expecting, and I enjoyed how it builds up to its scares slowly.

What’s not to like
The ending wasn’t complete satisfying to me. I didn’t think it was a bad ending, but I’d be curious to see what other conclusions the director might have chosen. Other then that I don’t have many complaints, and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this film. It really came out of nowhere, so if you’re thinking of seeing it go for it.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E

What’s to like
Unlike The Gift, I saw tons of advertisements and previews for this film, so I was excited to see it. Nice job marketing department you’ve done your job. What I found most enjoyable about The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was the 1960’s setting and the way film evoking the Sean Connery James Bond films. Also, like Mission Impossible this film has some excellent action scenes, and I appreciate the film’s dry humor. It’s always nice to see an action movie not take itself too seriously. I thought Henry Cavill did a good job, and I could see him as potential next Bond candidate. Alicia Vkander was also quite good, and her banter with Armee Hammer were some of the best parts of the film.

What’s not to like
The film isn’t very memorable and something I wouldn’t strongly recommend to people. While enjoyable it’s not great and compared to Mission Impossible the character development and action sequences aren’t as impressive. Also, I didn’t see The Man from U.N.C.L.E. TV show, so if I had, I might have enjoyed this film more. Still, a tease for a sequel has me hopeful that the next film will turn out much better.

Kingsman: The Secret Service

What’s to like
While I didn’t see this in theaters, this is a spy movie, so it works for this blog post. My first impressions of Kingsman: The Secret Service didn’t excite me because it looked like James Bond Jr. Thankfully the younger cast isn’t a problem and Colin Firth and Michael Caine compliment them nicely while Samuel Jackson is terrific as a villain with a lisp. I also love the London setting and how the film reference Bond films with villain anecdotes, gadgets, themes, and over the top silliness. All in all this a fun film and I’ll never think of Freebird the same way after seeing this that’s for sure.

What’s not to like
Kingman: The Secret Service can take it a bit too far like Spy with the vulgarity, and it’s not a film I recommend to everyone. Also, while I thought the young cast did a great job I just prefer a more experienced older agent in spy films.

There you have it another film roundup. In term of enjoyment here’s how I’d rank them.

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
The Gift
Kingsman: The Secret Service
Spy
The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

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How Pomodoro Changed My Life

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I’ve always struggled with procrastination and minimizing distractions so I when I first heard about the Pomodoro Timer I was very excited. With the Pomodoro Timer, you focus on one thing for 25 minutes and then take a five-minute break. Then you repeat the cycle until you complete your task or switch to something new on your to-do-list. The 25 minutes timer works great because it doesn’t feel too long or too short to accomplish something. If you have trouble with procrastination like I do here are some reasons why you might want to consider adding the Pomodoro Timer to your daily routine.

It helped me establish a morning and evening routine
Getting up early never came naturally to me. However, if I can squeeze in one or two Pomodoro sessions before I begin working my day is way more productive. Equally important is an evening ritual that I always disliked doing because I don’t like working late at night. Once again though I can easily commit to just one Pomodoro Timer and spend 25 minutes preparing my goals for tomorrow so during the workweek, I don’t waste valuable time in the morning planning my day.

It makes me procrastinate less
Before Pomodoro, I tended to multitask too much and easily get distracted. With Pomodoro, I can separate my leisure time from my work time. I use the full 25 minutes for work and then use the five-minute reward to browse the web or whatever I feel like doing. This way my reward time is limited to small chunks of the day instead of losing hours that I can’t get back.

Improved my focus
When my mind focuses on just one thing, I can block out all my mental thoughts and the conversations around me. The same thing goes for multitasking that was also a bad habit for me. Now instead of doing multiple things at once I separate all my tasks individually, and I can get more done in less time.

Helped me push harder for deadline driven assignments
When I had something urgent, I rely on Pomodoro. Just having the timer in front of me reminds me that I need to hustle and pushes me to get work done faster.

Forces me not to work on the same task for too long
Being limited to just one task made me realize how long certain tasks take. For example applying for a job or completing a writing assignment I initially thought would take all day, but once I started a task, I found I could finish it much faster. Other tasks like calling a customer service rep I thought would take much longer than 25 minutes, but it ended up being much shorter. With a more accurate measure of time, I found that using the Pomodoro Timer helped me judge how much I could realistically get done in one day.

Help me form new habits
New habits are difficult to form. So, what I love about Pomodoro, is I can test out new habits regularly by just devoting 25 minutes each day. If I see the change is beneficial in my life, then I’ll commit to it long term. For instance, updating my blog sometimes feels like another full-time job, but by spending just 25 minutes a day, I can make steady progress over the long haul. Even though it can seem painfully slow at first.

I learned how to cluster small tasks together
It may be detrimental to the idea behind the Pomodoro, but another way to use the 25-minute timer is to group together a bunch of five-minute tasks together. Then focus on completing them in the time frame. I found this helpful to use when I have a lot of minor tasks to do like email several people or do chores around the house.

Realize the importance of breaks
Being forced to take breaks every 25 minutes really helps. Often people work for too long and don’t recharge mentally. I did this too. However, by forcing myself to take breaks, I realized having those five minutes to look forward to while doing my work improved my motivation level. I found it help me focus more on accomplishing goals faster so I could have my reward.

In conclusion, the Pomodoro Timer has changed my life and without it, I wouldn’t be as productive. If you haven’t considered Pomodoro, then I urge you to give it a shot.

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2015 Summer Movie Roundup

movie photo for blogLast year I did a summer film roundup, so I thought it would be fun to do another one this year. Here are a few of the films I saw and my impressions.

Furious 7

Pros:                                                                                                                                                                                 While not technically a summer movie since it came out last April I feel it’s worth including. What I like best about the Fast and Furious movies is that they get better with each iteration, unlike many movie franchises. I thought Furious 7 did an admirable job of moving the franchise forward with the inclusion of Jason Statham and Kurt Russel, who compliment the main cast nicely. The action sequences as always were top notch and seeing it in IMAX really made a difference. Lastly, I felt the filmmakers did a phenomenal job paying homage to Paul Walker, who tragically passed away before the original film finished filming.

Cons:
Not much, but some scenes tend to be too over the top to feel believable. Like the cars falling out of planes and cars driving through buildings. However, the positives far outweigh the negatives, and I’m excited for what crazy new ideas Furious 8 will bring to the franchise.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Pros:
Avengers: Age of Ultron was better paced than the first Avengers and for my money more enjoyable. While the number of superheroes on screen is starting to get ridiculous, I thought Joss Whedon managed to do a great job juggling all the characters. I also enjoyed the banter between Iron Man, Hulk and Captain America. Some of the new faces like Vision and Ultron rank among my favorite characters from the Marvel Universe and the visual imagery is astounding. I’m glad I went to the theater because this film benefits greatly from being seen on a giant screen.

Cons:
I missed Loki like a lot of people did too. Also, the number of characters on screen makes it difficult to ensure all characters share the spotlight so I’m a little bit concerned that the remaining two Avenger films will be too chaotic.

Mad Max: Fury Road

Pros:
Mad Max: Fury Road is a great visual tour de force with incredible action sequences, some witty humor, and fascinating characters. I also commend the director, George Miller for making the film not feel stale despite being limited to one desert wasteland location. Charlize Thereon has the standout performance and feels like she is more of the main charter than Tom Hardy’s Mad Max. Hardy is still great though even though he has very few lines. Now it’s time for me to catch up on the original trilogy.

Cons:
All the online hype and glowing reviews from film critics declared Mad Max as one of the greatest action movies ever so my expectations were sky high. I think Mad Max is a great film, but I’m just not blown away by it like everyone else, so I felt a tinge of disappointment after seeing it. Maybe I’ll watch it again and change my mind, but I don’t think it’s the best movie of the year.

When Marnie Was There

Pros:
I love Studio Ghibli movies, so I knew I had to see this one immediately. If you’ve seen one of their films I don’t have to tell you the animation, voice acting and music is top notch. When Marnie Was There has a touching story and learning the mysteries surrounding Marnie is exciting until the very end. However, be sure to bring some tissues because like The Wind Rises this movie is a tear jerker.

Cons:
The movie tends to drag in a few spots, and while the movie is good, it’s not Ghibli’s best. I liked the characters too, but they weren’t as memorable as other Ghibli characters. Also, there are not quite as many quirky special moments like what you see in Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, and Howl’s Moving Castle. Still, this is worth seeing if you enjoyed past Ghibli movies.

Inside Out

Pros:
So much to enjoy about this movie I don’t know where to start. Personally, I liked how much the film used San Francisco as the location for the family and all the jokes about the city like organic pizza, small rooms and more. I also thought how the film ingeniously uses all the different emotions that make up all of us. Such as how joy, sadness, fear, and anger help us all connect with these characters more so than any other Pixar film.

Cons:
Similar to Mad Max I think the film is great, but I don’t think it’s the best Pixar film of all time. I agree it’s certainly better than Brave, Monsters University and Cars 2 though.

Jurassic World

Pros:
A real fun film and absolutely stunning to see on IMAX. Chris Pratt does a great job and is just as likable as he was in Guardians of the Galaxy. I also really enjoyed how smart the new dinosaur was and how it was able to fool so many humans and trick them into thinking it escaped. Jurassic World was my favorite film of the summer and just like Mad Max: Fury Road motivated me to watch the original trilogy.

Cons:
Not much to complain about other than it not living up to the original film, but really what sequel could? This movie is raking in the box office gold, so I won’t be surprised to see some more sequels. However, if the film team keeps the same vibe as this one, then I don’t think the eventual repetition will be a problem.

There you have it my summer film roundup. If you missed out on any of these, consider renting them on Redbox. I for one would still like to see Terminator Genesis and Mission: Impossible— Rouge Nation.

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