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Reviews

Musings about media. Mostly movies.
I'm @joaobfreire on Letterboxd.

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  1. A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

    Read 23 May – 17 October 2019

    I’ve watched the first season of the show more than once, so there were no surprises to be found in this book, only details. That made it a slog to get through, even as it matched my expectations exactly.

    The book is fine, but most of its strength lies in finding out what happens — not so much in the flair of its style, or the inventiveness of its ideas, and certainly not in the very systematic, episodic structure that often threw me off pace.

    On the one hand, it did give me what I craved: more detail and cohesiveness than the show could bear to sustain. On the other hand, there is a certain ’80s fantasy corniness in some of those details that the show did well to correct in its art direction. Why does everyone wear impractically ornate animal-shaped helms? Sure, make armor fashion a thing, but those appendaged helms just seem like they’d be a hindrance in battle, existing more as flavor text than as a realistic part of the world. They remind me of the “no capes” gag in The Incredibles.

    Nonetheless, I am into it, and I plan to keep reading the books. As the story drifts from the show’s, I can only hope that the experience of reading it will feel less like a chore.

  2. Super Earth Defense Force

    Played 16 October 2019 on Switch

    This is the worst-sounding video game I’ve ever played; the sound effects are frankly ridiculous. The visual design is also quite poor and hard to parse, with enemies, bullets, and background all blending together. And the later levels are extremely punishing. No checkpoints? Okay… But is that testicle/bird final boss even supposed to be beatable by a human? I’ve never used rewind so much in any other classic title. Nintendo, bring us good SNES shoot ‘em ups, please.

  3. Midsommar

    Watched 14 October 2019

    William Jackson Harper’s character is my closest audience surrogate in this film: instead of wanting to escape from this horrific, beautiful place, he wants to learn more about it. That’s what worked so well for me in Hereditary, and it worked brilliantly once again in Midsommar. I really love this vibe of deep detail and interestingness that Ari Aster is bringing to horror.

    This was the theatrical version but I’ll definitely be watching the director’s cut as soon as I can.

    PS: I have that same mortar and pestle! (From the dance scene.) It’s from Ikea, which is hilarious

  4. Mini Motorways

    Played 11–12 October 2019 on Apple Arcade

    Cool premise, but lacks depth. I hate playing armchair designer, but I think this game needed a few obvious extra features:

    • More achievements for each city. Why make lists called “Achievements” if they’re all limited to one item? I was expecting more stuff to unlock as I played.
    • A gallery of what your cities looked like at their peak, and a way to share that. When you lose, the camera zooms in, so you can’t even take a screenshot of your glorious metropolis.
    • A free build mode. Let me just play around without risk of failure, and let me place buildings myself. The more I played, the more I wanted to just put in a cheat code and build without restrictions, SimCity style.
  5. El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

    Watched 11 October 2019

    I didn’t know how much I wanted this, just as much as I wasn’t expecting to cry in the end. Yet here we are.

    It doesn’t escape the TV-to-film curse of feeling incomplete and slightly outside its comfort zone and somehow wrong. But taken as the missing Breaking Bad episode that time forgot, it’s absolutely flawless.

    Yet I don’t think it would have worked had the show just included this back then as its final final episode. We needed the wait, and it was worth it.

  6. Card of Darkness

    Played 28 September – 9 October 2019 on Apple Arcade

    This game is awesome and what phone games should have evolved into all along. Loved it.

    Now I’m only missing the hidden achievement and I’m sure it’s got something to do with that fart card probably

  7. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

    Watched 26 August 2019

    It might be a case of too much of a good thing, but I was not as entranced by this one as I was with the others. It might have benefited from a bit more breathing room around the mayhem, more of an emotional connection to its origins, maybe even (dare I say it?) a little less violence. It is spectacular, but numbingly so.

  8. Return of the Obra Dinn

    Played 16–18 August 2019 on Mac

    A man's skeleton lies on the deck of a large 19th century ship; it's seen from the first person view of someone holding a pocket watch bearing a skull design.

    A masterpiece of game design. An impossible combination of brilliant ideas and flawless execution that is so unlike any other game I’ve ever played, it’s hard to understand how it could even be conceived.

  9. Speed Racer

    Rewatched 2 August 2019

    Speed Racer's car spins around the racetrack as all of its colors vividly blend together like liquid.

    Our world doesn’t deserve the unbridled vibrancy and earnestness of Speed Racer. The climactic Grand Prix is so dazzling I had to watch it twice. This film gets better every time I watch it, and I suspect I’ll be doing it quite a few more times.

  10. Alita: Battle Angel

    Watched 24 July 2019

    • There are many cool robots and body parts flying around.
    • Cristoph Waltz was terribly miscast and is the least believable character in the movie.
    • I wish the city itself had gotten more attention from the art department, but I guess the robots are what matters the most.
    • The robots are indeed very cool and they fight a lot, but not too much, which is perfect.

    A solid follow-up to the other two good anime-with-real-people movies, Speed Racer and Pacific Rim. More, please.

  11. The Haunted Island, a Frog Detective Game

    Played 15 July 2019 on Mac

    A charming little game that got me to smile a lot for the duration of a well-spent hour.

  12. Hollow Knight

    Played 21 June – 1 July 2019 on Switch

    The Knight visits the Grubfather, who is surrounded by his happy family of Grubs.

    I just knew that as soon as I booted this game for the first time, I would fall down the rabbit hole and be completely transfixed. And so it happened. One of the most rewarding exploration games I have ever played.

  13. Barry, Season 1

    Watched 29 June 2019

    I started off a bit disappointed, because this seemed like little more than a duller version of Patriot; the writing felt meandering, the humor more surface-level, never as witty or pithy. Turned out I was looking at it wrong: it’s more of a drama than I’d figured from the premise, with the comedy falling a bit further into the background than it does in Patriot. It’s its own thing, delicately balanced, and a few episodes in it really clicked.

  14. Game of Thrones, Season 8

    Watched 21 May 2019

    It is still mindblowing that this show could get made, but it’s a shame that it couldn’t quite fill its own shoes towards the end. Guess I’ll read the books, then.