Benz Eye View: Persona 5

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Persona 5

Pros: 

1.) When it comes to video games (especially in JRPGs like Persona 5), making a narrative around this medium can be tricky.  The writers have to create a story out of the gameplay that is made for a certain type of game (i.e. shooters, RPGs, etc.).  In this case, the game’s narrative passes in flying colors.  Not only is the main plot engaging, but the many side stories (particularly in the confidants: the people that the main character hangs out with who have their own set of problems) have their own appeal.  All the characters (from the members of the Phantom Thieves to the confidants) have depth and appeal (with great English voice acting, though the Japanese voice actors playing high school teenagers sound a little old to me), and it helps that this 100-hour game makes you hang out with them for gameplay and story purposes, making you care for them more.  I can go more into how the symbolism and parallels in the game are well-thought out (like how the Palaces, the dungeons of the game, represent the Seven Deadly Sins), but that requires a more in-depth review, and someone who knows more than I do.  Instead, I will leave this video by Zamkusen to explain more about the symbolism in Persona 5 (another part of Persona 5 Symbolism is in his channel).  However, there are MAJOR SPOILERS in the video, so watch at your own risk, or just play the game first.

2.) This is by far one of the flashiest and stylistic presentations in video games I have ever seen.  When I played this game for the first time, I was awed and amazed on how the game delivers so many things that any typical game developer could have done with a simple presentation.  One good example is the pause screen:

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Look how amazing that looks!  A normal pause screen is just a darkened screen with a few texts to tell what you want to do.  In this game, the developers took a few steps further by making it stylish and alive, and each menu have different looks.  There is more where that came from.  If you manage to beat the Shadows (the common enemies in the game) with an All-Out Attack, you get a very stylish victory screen over the regular one when you the beat enemies normally.

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There are plenty more, but I will leave it to you to find out.  Also, the music is just awesome and entertaining.

There are much more like many of the imaginative character and environmental designs, but I am dragging out a bit too long, so let’s move on to the one thing that is important to a video game…

3.) …And that is the gameplay itself.  The gameplay consists of living a normal high school life while trying to increase your social stats (which that is important when you need to hang out with certain confidants) for the entire game year.  When it is time for the Phantom Thieves to invade the Palaces, the player has to reach to the end of the dungeon before the end of their deadline.  This is absolutely fun, because the game gives you a reason to complete these dungeons like leveling up (or if you do not finish them, it is an automatic game over).  The fighting mechanic is a basic turn-based battle in which the characters take turns in attacking each other or increase their battle stats temporarily.  As the game progresses, you will earn certain new moves (from new playable characters and confidants) that can help you get better in the game (although, I argue that a few of them are unnecessary like I never used Chihaya’s fortune-telling skills).  Despite not doing anything new, it is still fun to play, and it is enjoyable leveling up your characters and Personas while progressing through the story.

 

Cons: 

1.) The graphics are decent to make the game look tolerable, but I would not call it next-gen graphics.  In fact, they look like they belong to the PS3 (which there is a PS3 port alongside the PS4 version).  There are a couple big distractions in that department.  First, there are plenty of character pop-ins when the locations load in.  Couldn’t Atlus do a better job to prevent that from happening?  It is 2017 after all, and many AAA games do not have that problem.  Second, many of the background characters look bad compared to the major characters and Shadows.  Why do they look bad?  Not only do they look they are slightly melted, but they also do not have any eyes.

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Look at the main characters (right) and the NPCs (left).  They look like zombies compared to the Phantom Thieves.

That is very creepy.  I seen someone slightly defend this as it is considered symbolic.  I slightly understand, but it still does not excuse how ugly they look.

2.) It does get pretty annoying how the narrative takes control of the gameplay sometimes.  There many moments where I want to hang out with certain confidants or try some other activity, but the narrative gets in the way, and prevents me to do anything by forcing the main character to rest for the day.  I understand why they had to do that in a narrative standpoint, but it is restricting in a gameplay point-of-view.  It is slightly frustrating, and they slightly need to work on that.

3.) There are some odd localization moments in the game.  Meaning, there are some questionable English lines and pronunciations I find odd.  Other than a few times that some lines have pretty bad grammar, there are lines that seem a little weird in the context of the event.  One big example is when one of the characters is complaining that he is not good in English despite speaking English himself (if the game is played in the English dub).  The localization itself is not terrible, it is actually pretty good (there are few people who claim that the localization is terrible, but it was later pointed out by actual localization experts that it is fine).  It just needs a little more proofreading to make this top-notch.

 

Overall: 

It has been a while since I made a video game review.  The last one I made was in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (Oh, what do you know?  The Phantom Pain vs. The Phantom Thieves.  How funny.), and that was less than two years ago.  I decided to do another game review, because why not?  The Persona series is a JRPG game series that began in Sept. 20, 1996 as part of a spin-off of the Shin Megami Tensei series made by Atlus.  Since then, it became very popular (especially in Japan) that eventually spawned sequels and spin-offs.  I started getting into the Persona games when I played Persona 4 Arena: a fighting game with certain RPG elements.  From that game alone, I fell in love with the characters.  I managed to play Persona 3: FES and watched Persona 4: The Animation, and I appreciated the characters and story from each of them (although I have not played Persona 4: Golden since playing that game actually makes people spend more time with the story and characters in that game over a 25-episode anime).  Now we got the latest game of the series: Persona 5… and I enjoy almost every minute of this game.  I have played this game three times already (the second time just to get all the trophies, and the third time for the heck of it since I love these characters so much).  It is great for any newcomers to the series (you do not need to play the other Persona games to enjoy this one) and JRPGs in general.  The narrative is fantastic with clever symbolism and correlations, the characters are deep and compelling, the gameplay is fun and addicting, and the overall game is a blast to play.  There are a few errors here and there, but it is an enjoyable game nonetheless.  The Phantom Thieves have surely stolen my heart for this game, because it is the one game that will steal the hearts of many.

9/10

Oh, and for those who are wondering who did I pick as a romantic interest for my main character…

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Fear Makoto Niijima, the Post-Apocalyptic Raider, suckers!

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Benz Eye View: Transformers: The Last Knight

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Transformers: The Last Knight

Pros: 

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Cons:

1.) It seems to me that Michael Bay REALLY loves to screw with people when it comes to story, or rather the lack thereof, because the writing is ATROCIOUS!  It is so bad, I could not follow what is happening in the movie for a long time.  All I can remember is that there is an artifact in Earth that the Autobots and humans have to get before destruction reigns on Earth.  Does that sound familiar to you?  It should, because that has happened throughout EVERY TRANSFORMERS MOVIE EVER MADE!  For crying out loud, have these people even tried to be clever in their writing?  Plus, there are plot holes galore throughout the entire movie (especially if you have seen the previous movies).  The biggest writing sin I seen in the movie is that the ads show Optimus Prime betraying the Autobots.  No spoilers, but other than we barely get to see him until the third act, do not get excited.  Not only that, the characters (even the returning ones) are unlikable, forgettable, or both.  I will not blame the actors (they are trying their best in their roles), but it does not excuse the poor characters and their lack of development.  A few of the characters seem to have been developed to have a big role only to never be seen again after their small role is up.  I cannot believe how pathetic the writing team is in this movie.

2.) Wait, I am not done.  If you have been following Michael Bay, you know there is going to be plenty of action.  Like his previous Transformers movies, there are plenty of action that are so overblown and go on for so long, it makes them dull and boring.  For crying out loud, if the action ends up boring, repetitive, and dull, you know you failed as an action director.  The only somewhat exception is the last battle, but not by much.  There is another reason why these action scenes are dreadful as they are…

3.) …The cinematography and post-production areas are terrible.  While there are some cool shots here and there, it seems like the movie wants to have as many shots as possible despite some of them being absolutely unnecessary (or in certain cases, not enough establishing shots to show where the characters are).  It does not help that the editing keeps cutting so many shots so many times that it becomes slightly disorienting.  It must have been a nightmare for the editors in this movie (which there are six editors), because it seems like Michael Bay keeps asking them put in certain shots literally every second.  Also, the aspect ratio keeps changing throughout the entire movie, making it extremely distracting for me to concentrate what is happening.  I do not know what happened behind the scenes, but I can blame Michael Bay for not improving from his previous work despite every constructive (and destructive) criticisms that everyone has given him.

 

Overall:

Transformers: a movie series (directed by Michael Bay) based on a toy line of the same name.  A name that has lived in infamy in the movie world.  Transformers (2007) was a guilty pleasure movie that clearly has faults, but it was enjoyable nonetheless.  Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was a complete and utter mess that probably should have shown signs of future movies to come with Michael Bay in the director’s chair.  Transformers: Dark of the Moon was slightly better, but still has enough problems that could not be ignored.  Transformers: Age of Extinction threw the few lessons that they learned from the last movie, and completely screwed up with so many errors.  Unfortunately, I have to say the same thing with Transformers: The Last Knight, because it is absolutely terrible!  How in the world is Michael Bay managing to get away with making these movies that are poorly made, and still receive billions of dollars in the box office?  I do not know how this is possible, but I will give him that he is very…pretentious with his work.  There are so many things wrong with this movie that is carried from the previous ones that I cannot believe that the crew did not even attempt to at least improve from his mistakes (or maybe they wanted to, but Michael Bay prevented them).  There are probably a FEW good things if I looked hard enough, but they are muddled with so many writing, production, and post-production problems that it is not even worth the hassle.  Worst of all, they announced that there is going to be another sequel and a spin-off movie featuring Bumblebee.  If they are going to continue, remove Michael Bay from the director’s chair, because he has forgotten how to make a great film.  In the end, all he seems to care for is…

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1/10

Benz Eye View: The Book of Henry

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The Book of Henry

Pros: 

1.) When it comes to child actors, they can easily make or break a film.  In the case of this film, the child actors did a fantastic job in their roles.  They do act like legitimate children even if one of the child characters is abnormal due to his intelligence.  They work well alongside with the adult actors, making their on-screen relationships appear genuine.

2.) All these characters are genuine with their obvious strengths and weaknesses.  A few of them I question whether or not they are needed to be there, but they are good enough for certain emotional moments.

3.) Even though it takes a while to reveal itself, the conflict can be rather nerve-wracking.  What happens in the film is a little more extreme than I thought it would be, but it makes some moments in the film exhilarating.

 

Cons: 

1.) The first act of this film is longer than I expected due to how slow it is.  I get it is trying to establish what is happening, but in terms of screenwriting, that is not exactly how you should write them (I understand that the rules of screenwriting are not really set in stone and can be changed depending on the writer’s style, but they must do a good job at it).  One character I thought was going to be the main character ends up not being one (which can happen in writing, but it just feels odd).  The film needs to balance on its three-act structure.

2.) Halfway into the film, the tone changes from family-friendly into something slightly sinister and dark.  The change of tone is jarring, and may annoy plenty of people in the process, and change how they see the movie.

3.) There is one plot hole I noticed after watching that could make or break some people for liking this film.  I will not say what it is, and I hope you will figure it out after watching the film, but let’s just say that the entire film would not have happened if these characters notice this flaw.

 

Overall:

I really do not have much to comment about this film’s origins since I came into it without any knowledge of it other than one word of mouth saying that it is good.  I decided to check it out, and it is surprisingly good.   What is a bigger surprise to me is that critics do not like this film at all.  I understand that there are things in the writing in this film that is different from the usual screenwriting method, but I think it actually works to an extent.  It has been a while since I have seen an original film (and since I have noticed that many of the films that I have watched are sequels, prequels, based on other media, etc., that is a good welcome).  Sorry if I am vague in certain areas, but I would like you to watch it without any knowledge about the film since I believe it will have a bigger impact for you.

8/10

Benz Eye View: The Mummy (2017)

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The Mummy (2017)

Pros: 

1.) Tom Cruise is certainly trying out of all the other major cast members (other than Sofia Boutella, but I will get to her in a second).  When he has to be emotional, he does it well.  When he has to be confused (although I am betting he is as confused as I am in this movie), you can buy it.  He still has the talent to act as he did in his old movies.

2.) Sofia Boutella as Princess Ahmanet is quite intimidating and scary at times.  While I do not think of her as great as Imhotep from the previous Mummy movies, she can certainly hold on her own as a threatening antagonistic force that is not meant to be messed with by anyone.  She may not have the same abilities as her previous Mummy antagonists, but she has powers that can frighten any normal human being.

3.) There are some interesting references to the old Universal Movie Monsters.  Not to going to say what they are, but they are nice tribute to old those classical films.  In fact, there is an Easter Egg that refers to The Mummy (1999).  There is even one (and I may be looking this a bit too closely) that reminds me so much of Friday the 13th.  I know that is not much of a pro…

 

Cons: 

1.) …That is because there are so many things wrong with this movie.  Let us start with the characters.  I do not like any of them.  Some are annoying and others are unlikable.  They try to give chemistry with many of these characters (like the friendship between Nick Morton and Chris Vail, and the romance between Nick and Jenny), but their chemistry is as thin as toilet paper (also the actress who plays the love interest, Jenny, sucks).  The movie tries to make us care for them, but they failed so badly, I wanted Princess Ahmanet to hurry up and kill them.

2.) The action scenes are lackluster.  Very few moments did the action scenes become engaging (i.e. Ahmanet throwing around Tom Cruise, and the sandstorm scene).  I might as well describe these scenes as rag-doll zombies being thrown towards the actors as they try to run away.  The filmmakers should really look at The Mummy (1999) as a decent example on how to make an action scene engaging.

3.) There are so many things wrong with the writing.  Besides the poor characters, there are scenes that serve no purpose to the movie whatsoever.  Since this movie involves Ancient Egypt, they mention the Second Crusader Knights are involved.  They give a reason, but it still feels a little contrived to suddenly have Ancient Egypt and Second Crusader Knights being connected somehow.  Not only that, the characters make poor decisions that should have gotten them killed.  Also, since this is a new cinematic universe, the movie is building up certain things for other movies.  It does a better job on foreshadowing than the DCEU, but they are noticeable.

 

Overall: 

The Mummy.  One of the classical movie monsters; a Universal Movie Monster.  While I have not seen the original Mummy movies (unfortunately), I have seen the Sommers movies starring Brendan Fraser.  The Mummy (1999) was enjoyable if not flawed.  The Mummy Returns was still enjoyable despite bigger amounts of flaws.  The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor has flaws that could not be ignored, making the movie dreadful instead of fun.  Now we have The Mummy (2017): a movie that kick-starts the Dark Universe: a cinematic universe that has the Universal Movie Monsters cross over in the same movie universe.  I do recall that there was an attempt in making this universe in the movie Van Helsing (2004), and it did not do well.  Does this movie a good start for this universe to grow into a multitude of movies?  To put it simply, no.  It is a bad start in a similar fashion of how Man of Steel started the DC Extended Universe.  Poor characters, bad writing, and lackluster action are what makes this movie and Man of Steel similar to each other.  I hope they learn their lessons with the failures of this movie, because if they do not, this world of gods and monsters will cease to exist very easily.

3/10

Benz Eye View: Wonder Woman (2017)

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Wonder Woman (2017)

Pros: 

1.) The film does a great job making visual atmospheric differences between Themyscira and London.  Themyscira is bright and heavenly while London is bleak, dark, and hellish.  The visuals (not the CG, which they do stand out pretty badly) makes each location seem unique from each other…

2.) …Which relates to Wonder Woman since she has a great character arc.  She starts out wanting to fight evil, because she believes that good and evil are simple.  However, she eventually realizes that good and evil are much more complicated than she thought.  While the delivery of the arc could have been better, I appreciate how Diana Prince grows throughout the entire film, and how she ends up in the events of Batman v. Superman (despite a few questions that I have for the character).

3.) If there is one thing that the DC Extended Universe is doing well over the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it is the music.  Wonder Woman’s theme has been playing throughout the film bit by bit, and it fully plays in certain battle scenes.  This is how you make a great theme as opposed to Marvel where there are very few good musical moments (i.e. The Avengers).

 

Cons: 

1.) If you want a superhero film with plenty of battle scenes, you are going to have to wait, because the pacing is so slow when the second act begins, particularly when Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor leave Themyscira.  The film develops many scenes, plot points, and characters throughout its run time, but it takes too much time for anything interesting to happen.  You probably will not even remember some of the characters that are introduced other than the major ones.

2.) Sadly, there are some below-average acting in this film.  Fortunately, it is not outright terrible, and can be considered passable in certain moments, but they are noticeable.  There are moments where I wondered why the director chose shots where the actors were stuttering with their lines.  I would be fine with them stuttering, except it happens so often, I cannot really ignore it.  Unfortunately, the one actor who suffers the worst with below-average acting is Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman.  When she is acting and fighting normally, she is fine, but when she has to be emotional, she cannot do it.  I can see some potential in her, so she may need some acting lessons, otherwise she will be replaced pretty quickly if her acting does not get better.

3.) Apparently, the director loves slow motion so much that she uses it in most if not all of her action scenes.  While it is cool to see, it gets tiring over time.  Tone it down, and let the cinematographers do their job (although they need to work on it as well in certain action moments).

 

Overall: 

The DC Extended Universe’s competition against the Marvel Cinematic Universe started off poorly.  Man of Steel was awful, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice was even worse, and Suicide Squad was slightly better, but was still bad.  The DCEU’s next installment: Wonder Woman is out now.  Will Wonder Woman do a better job in the DCEU where Superman, Batman, and even the Suicide Squad could not?  In a word, yes.  They FINALLY learned their lessons, and made an actual good film.  They made a superhero compelling, her character arc interesting, and a film that is a breath of fresh air over the dark and dull movies before it.  I hope they continue this over the other films in the DCEU (I am looking at you, Justice League).  Until then, if you wanted a good DCEU film, it has finally come in the form of Wonder Woman.

8/10