CONFESSION OF MURDER

CONFESSION OF MURDER

I haven’t seen many Korean films till now, and this film is only my third. And I must say, if Korean films are generally like this, then I’ve been missing out on a lot till now. I’m impressed, no doubt about it!

A Korean police detective, Lt. Choi was working on a serial killer case, which got all too personal as the killings went on. But after a chase on a rainy day which leaves him with a Joker-scar, the murderer altogether vanishes, and does not reappear again. But after the passing of the statute of limitations (15 years since the last crime), a self-confessed serial killer pens a memoir on his killings, ostensibly to repent for his crimes. But doubts begin to surface in the detective’s mind as the book-promotion campaign of the serial killer gets underway. Is the writer the serial killer? If so, why didn’t he have a clue of what happened to a missing woman connected to the case? But if not, then how did he know the intimate details of each of the murders? Questions abound within the detective, and the viewers. And on the other hand, some of the victims’ families decide to take matters into their own hands, and dispense their own band of justice. I won’t reveal any more of the story, but I promise this will be a real fun ride.

        These two got some cat-and-mouse thing going on…

The film’s ambience is maintained for the most part, although I must say I wasn’t very enthused about some of the action scenes in the movie. In the sense that the action choreography itself was excellent, but it had no place in the psychological thriller CoM was meant to be. The action parts kind of ruin the atmosphere of the film, and their appearance feels a tad jarring. Also, sometimes the people’s reaction towards the murderer verge on the unbelievable.

The acting though, was not lacking in any department. Jung Jae-young as Lt. Choi is intense in his role. And Park Si-hoo, who plays Lee-Doo seok, was at his devious best as the self-confessed serial killer. Especially the intensity of the chemistry between them two. The movie doesn’t slack off anywhere in intensity, that’s for sure.

Worth watching, especially if you like psychological thrillers and Korean films.

RATING : 7.3/10

PROS :
– story
– acting
– mind-games
– atmosphere

CONS :
– unnecessary action scenes
– some parts are a bit too unbelievable

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ONE OUTS

ONE OUTS

This anime, produced by the creators of Kaiji and Akagi, is one of the best in the business. It is a baseball anime on the outside, but what it really is, is an anime about gambling, manipulation and trickery.

Kojima Hiromichi is the star batter of the baseball team Saitama Lycaons, one of the weakest teams in the Japanese baseball championships. In his 21-year career, Kojima has reached many a milestone and won a number of awards, but the championship trophy has been eluding him forever. Determined to win the championship in his final year of baseball before retirement, he organizes a rigorous training camp for two weeks, not only to improve his power-hitting, but also to scour for new talent.

The real story begins when the pitcher gets injured during practice and two of Kojima’s teammates are forced to search for a substitute pitcher in the city. When the two get approached by an American woman who claims to help them out, little do they know they’re going to enter into a high-stakes gambling scene revolving around baseball [called one-outs] in one of the local playgrounds. And that is where they meet Tokuchi Toua, the protagonist of the series. The two get trolled into entering into a bet which Tokuchi goes on to win. When Kojima comes to know of this, he himself goes to the ground to have a one-on-one match with him. But when Tokuchi defeats Kojima despite possessing no apparent pitching skills whatsoever, Kojima is forced to re-evaluate his training and mental thinking. The events unfolding thereafter cause Tokuchi to enter the Saitama Lycaons team, as a favor(?) for Kojima, to help his team win the championships.

Here is where the notorious “One-Outs” contract comes in. The owner of the Lycaons, Saikawa, is a devious tycoon whose only interest in the baseball team is as a revenue source. Saikawa cites Tokuchi’s lack of professional experience as a reason for his reluctance to offer him any significant salary, but then Tokuchi comes up with an offer. The One-Outs contract : earn 5 million yen for each out he makes, lose 50 million yen for each run he concedes. Saikawa sees this as an opportunity for easy money, little does he know of Tokuchi’s guile. The series thereafter follows the mind-games between Tokuchi and Saikawa, the tactics and strategies between baseball teams for the championship trophy and what-not.

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                 Everything Tokuchi does, has a reason…

The story is great, and the narration job is done pretty neatly. Although once in a while, the viewer might feel the analogies are being repeated a bit too often. Even though the story is pretty linear, it gains more weight from the strength of the characters. Tokuchi’s role is the best, as is expected of course, but some of his teammates(especially the catcher Satoshi Ideguchi) are fully fleshed out and believable. Most of the story is seen from Ideguchi’s point of view, and he is the first one to notice Tokuchi’s genius, apart from Kojima. Full points to the creators for the characterizations. Animation for the show is above-average and holds up pretty well even after more than 7 years since its inception.

The anime may not be for everyone, though. If you want to watch something light-hearted or romantic, this is definitely not for you. But if you like anime like Code Geass, Death Note and other such thriller anime, this is a must-watch.

RATING : 9.5/10

PROS :

– characterization
– mind-games throughout
– pacing
– smart-ass protagonist
– opening and ending themes

CONS :
– somewhat repetitive analogies
– Kojima is relegated to a minor role in the latter half

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NARCOS – SEASON 1

NARCOS – SEASON 1

 

CREATORS : Chris Brancato, Carlo Bernard, Doug Miro
STARRING : Wagner Moura, Boyd Holbrook, Pedro Pascal
NO. OF EPISODES : 10

Pablo Escobar. Infamous drug-dealer and trafficker. Ever intrigued by his life story? Wanted to know more about his meteoric rise to notoriety? Why nobody dares to take on the DEA now? Fret not. Because here is the first season of Narcos, where you get to know all this and more in a thoroughly uncompromising biographical drama.

The plot starts off with the humble beginnings of Pablo Escobar in Columbian drug-trafficking. Well, not so humble really, as at the time of the introduction itself, the power he holds is evident enough, if his having bought out most of the Colombian police force is any  proof. I reckon it is. And the DEA had no clue about Escobar yet, as he hadn’t gone on to get himself a larger-than-life aura at the time. When the DEA begins to discover tons of cocaine shipments in Miami the likes of which they’ve never seen before, they gradually begin to realize the gravity of the situation. Arresting drug-peddlers was nowhere near good enough to get things under control, and soon they discover that there is another, bigger hand behind the drugs. The situation comes to a head when Escobar begins to  contest for a place in the Colombian legislature and then…well, just watch the show to find out.

NARCOS S01E06

 Awww, look how happy he is!

The drama is bilateral, a proper mix of Spanish and English through the entirety of the series. Which is a refreshing change from all those movies and TV shows where everyone speaks English like it’s their first language, regardless of the cultural and linguistic demography of the region. And the acting, top-notch. Wagner Moura, who plays Pablo Escobar, apparently went to a Colombian college to learn Spanish in their way, just to play the drug world’s kingpin. And his dedication clearly shows. He doesn’t just act, he lives the role of Escobar. And Boyd Holbrook, playing Steve Murphy (from whose point of view the whole story is told), is impeccable as well. His narrations are especially crisp in their tone and choice of language, with all that irony and self-deprecatory humor. Pedro Pascal, Maurice Compte and Juan Pablo Raba, who play the main supporting characters, fit their roles perfectly. The series doesn’t hold back from anything at all, and is all the better for it.

Anticipation for the second season of Narcos is high, and rightly so. This is one of the best series to have graced the television in some time.

PROS :
– amazing acting
– great plot
– ambience
– pacing
– THAT OPENING!

CONS :
– makes you want to be as badass a person as Pablo

 

RATING : 9.3/10

 

MARK LAWRENCE -THE BROKEN EMPIRE TRILOGY

MARK LAWRENCE -THE BROKEN EMPIRE TRILOGY

I haven’t put up any reviews in the last few days. Not without reason, though. For the Broken Empire trilogy has completely taken over my life till now. This will be my first of many more reviews on books that I’m gonna do.

The plot follows the prince of a kingdom Ancrath, one of the hundred pieces of the former empire, and now it is referred to as the broken empire. This empire is situated in Europe, with Vyene as its capital (and heart of the empire). The events chronicle the Prince Honorous Jorg of Ancrath’s journey from an age of, what, ten years, I think?

Anyways, the prince is not a good guy, a trope that seems to have afflicted the fantasy genre like the biblical plague (or is it bubonic? I fail to remember…). The prince, in fact, is a jerk, and not in that lovable kind of way we’re used to. He’s the “kill them, rape their women, set fire to their huts” kind of man. Not the traditional goody two-shoes guy, by any chance. In fact, he is a most ruthless person, willing to sacrifice anything and everything for his success, no holds barred. And his companions are just as ruthless as him, his “road-brothers” he calls them.

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Describes Jorg to a T.

When a chance encounter with a foreign prisoner results in Jorg leaving the comforts of the Tall Castle, his home, for a journeyman lifestyle with his road-brothers, little does he know how far his travels would take him, or what atrocities he would perpetrate. What he did know was that he would not rest until he avenged his mother and brother, who were brutally murdered by one of his close relatives. But relation wasn’t something that was going to stop Jorg from revenge. This is how it starts off, the trilogy, but soon it evolves into something much grander in scope. Suffice to say the series gets amazingly crazier as it rockets on forward.

What I’ve noticed from this novel is that Mark Lawrence can really write. The story flows on without any breaks, and his writing style, Jorg’s narrative, is probably famous among his readers for cutting straight through bullshit, like a hot knife through butter. He doesn’t waste any words in unnecessary descriptions, and his story really strikes true to the reader. There isn’t much world-building as such, for those of you who love epic fantasies like Malazan, but the plot is dark as hell, and it really sinks its thorns into you (hehe)and will drag you in. All that black humor will do it to anyone, after all.

Highly readable. Loved this series.

RATING : 9/10

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DARK SOULS

DARK SOULS

Having played the excellent DS2, I was curious to find out what made the Dark Souls series a popular one in the first place. After sinking yet another sixty hours into its brutal, unforgiving world, I had my answer. As its sequel reaffirms, this game is not for the faint-hearted, nor is it for those who just want to have some mindless fun. No, this game is all about its epicness in scope. It’s about making mistakes, learning from them, and executing tactics to the point of near-perfection. Because this game rarely forgives you for your mistakes, if at all.

The game begins with the player at the Undead Asylum, after watching a ten-odd minute cutscene which is supposed to add some semblance to the story, but will most probably leave you with a “what just happened” kind of feeling. Undead Asylum serves as a tutorial area to the player, and teaches you the basic mechanics of the game [Bonfires, Estus flasks, fighting]. The tutorial ends in a boss fight, and defeating him gets you the key out of the asylum, and on you travel to Firelink Shrine, the hub [so to speak] of the game world.

The player can choose from a variety of character classes during character creation. The classes range from bandits to warriors to battlemages to clerics. Each class has its own advantages and weaknesses. I chose the bandit class for my playthrough, which gave me greater damage output for sneaky backstabs and moderate proficiency in the use of daggers and bows, but lesser health than, say, the warrior class.

The player is an undead, cursed with the ability to come back to “life” even after being killed. The plot of the story : meet the king of Lordran [for that is the place we wind up in] and somehow convince him to reverse our condition. At least that’s what I said to myself as I trudged on forwards into scarier, deadlier places than the ones I just left. To be honest, the plot is ambiguous throughout, and often the plot elements and lore are hidden in character interactions, item descriptions and the environment itself. The ambiguity of the plot makes the story being told, open to interpretation. You could pretty much say that the plot depends on the person playing the game, for DS. The same storytelling style returns in DS2.

Combat in DS…now that’s the reason gamers either love or hate this series. It is unlike any other game in this regard. The player’s attacks aren’t fast by any means, but generally cause decent damage to the grunts. But even the grunts are not to be taken lightly. Get cocky against them, and you’ll be splashed with more of the notorious “YOU DIED” screens. Combat is more about tactics here. Draw out the grunts one or two at a time, finish them off, hopefully with minimal damage taken, rinse and repeat.

The logic of souls, Estus flasks, deaths and other such things are more or less the same as in its sequel. Please check DS2 review for more info.

The boss fights are just, wow. Every boss feels unique and each of them require a different kind of strategy. Most of them can finish you off in two combos, so one’s reflexes need to be at their best to keep away from their constant barrage of attacks. Lingering for too long near the boss trying to chunk his health down will quite possibly kill you, as you’d end up using up most of your precious stamina, leaving little for blocking or dodging attacks. This may not be always true, though. Also, if you are not hollowed, you can obtain some help in fighting bosses by summoning other helpers in the game world.

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                              Solaire, you the man…Praise the sun everyone!

And quite frequently, it’s not just the boss you’re battling, but also the treacherous terrain. Quite a few deaths are caused by misjudgment of the environments, leading to the player tripping over ledges, getting kicked off high-rise platforms and such. But these limitations can also be used to our advantage. Some battles end prematurely just through successful baiting of the bosses near such locations. May feel a little cheap, but after coming out of the game, you’ll say “Nothing is true, everything is permitted” like an AC fanboy.

dark-souls-17

                                      Yes, this is a boss, And yes, he wrecks.

DS isn’t without its flaws, though. The same faulty collision-detection issues we notice in the sequel are prevalent here, too, with some of the boss fights ending in cheap ways. And there is ONE noticeable difficulty spike late into the game, which may or may not discourage you from venturing further. Some of the environments in the game look pretty dull, especially the dungeon sections of the game.

Nobody ever played DS for its graphics, though. It’s all about the challenge it offers gamers, those who want a welcome change from games which hold your hand all the way to their conclusions. Want something challenging? Wait ’til you try this one…

RATING : 9.3/10

PROS :
– open-ended game
– combat mechanics
– intense boss fights
– story-delivery technique
– multiple story interpretations

CONS :
– some dull locations
– faulty collision detection

THE WITCHER 3 : THE WILD HUNT

THE WITCHER 3 : THE WILD HUNT

Not often does one come across games in which we can go in pretty much any direction in the game world and can expect to find new things to explore and mysteries to solve. The map, which I’m guessing to be around 200 sq.km large, is packed richly with tons of side-quests and lore. I spent about a hundred hours in the game, but I was still nowhere close to traversing the entirety of the game world.

Witcher 3 begins from the aftermath of Witcher 2, its prequel, with the protagonist Geralt the witcher searching for Princess Cirilla at the behest of Emhyr van Emreis, the emperor of Nilfgaard and Cirilla’s father. The need for speed is essential for Geralt here, as the dreaded Wild Hunt is after Ciri. He joins forces with his love Yennefer and Triss Merigold, and depending on the choices one has made in W2, we also get either Iorveth or Vernon Roche in the game, too. The game starts off in the area called White Orchard, which also doubles up as the tutorial area. The plot progression is non-linear, and Witcher veterans would have it no other way, of course. The story shows us many aspects of life like tragedy, love, loss, death…it doesn’t shy away from serious issues like racial segregation, too. But I must say, the main story was not as engaging as that of W2, which had solid watertight storytelling. The plot itself isn’t bad, but the issue is with all the fetch-quests you’re forced to undertake. Maybe at least a third of the main quests make Geralt run from A to B, deliver something to X and other such mundane things.In fact, in a fourth-wall-breaking moment, Geralt himself says he is a witcher, not a delivery man. Some missions make us play detective, using Witcher senses (a la Batman’s X-ray vision from Arkham games), but they get dull real fast, too.  But for those who haven’t played the previous Witcher games, this game is way more accessible than its prequel, which is definitely in its favour.

Wow, I forgot to even say what ” witcher ” means. For the uninitiated, witchers are genetically modified swordsmen who hunt monsters for coin. The genetic modification is an extremely painful one, and the chances of success are usually around two in ten at the outside. But they are neither witches/wizards, nor are they witch-hunters. A bit strange, I must agree. Lets move on.

To the story which moves at a somewhat plodding place, but it really shines when we complete important sub-objectives in our quest for Ciri. Whenever an important discovery pertaining to Ciri’s whereabouts is made, we get to delve into Ciri’s own memories, and they are clearly the highlight of the main quest. Here, we get to play as Ciri, who has a radically different skillset from Geralt. Her missions are short and linear, but they come across as a breath of fresh air. Fighting as Ciri is one of the most liberating experiences in the game, considering we play as Geralt all the time, with whom playing tactically is the way to go. Not so with Ciri. We can pretty much go all-out crazy on the enemy, switching targets on the fly with aplomb. Kind of like activating godmode.

W3,3

The X-factor of the game

The main story may be a little on the slow side, but that isn’t the case with side-quests. They are simply amazing. Many side-quests are moral dilemmas, with their outcomes depending on the choices you make, and actions you take. The consequences of morality have never been delved into as deeply as this before. Do you conceal a secret and lie to the village-head about your contract, or do you report the culprit for more coin? Do you kill a villager who you know has betrayed a woman, or do you let him off because you find his reasons for doing so to be convincing? Some of the side-quests are funny, too. For example, one early side-quest has you searching for an old lady’s pan [“Found my pan, have ye?”].

Combat is W3 is brutal and responsive. The mechanics have been further refined from that of W2, which itself was pretty solid. Chopping off heads and limbs of your enemies and monsters using your own combos is really enthralling. Mixing them up with the witcher spells called “signs” is a key part to winning your fights. Signs are basic spells involving basic levels of magic, and you have ignite, stun, root, mind-control and shield as your signs. But these are only tools you use to gain advantage in battles, as they themselves do not cause much damage. It is still your steel(for humans)and silver(for monsters) swords which serve as your most trusted companions throughout the game, apart from your faithful steed, Roach. The signs, though, can also be used in character interactions to influence opposing parties to do your bidding, through sheer intimidation to crafty mind-control. Also, the combat gear is upgradeable, and better gear schematics can be found in different locations through careful exploration of the surroundings. Leveling up is pretty neat, too. You never feel too overpowered when playing Geralt, and the skill points obtained from leveling up will pretty much determine your play style, as you never get too many of them.

W3,2

Exploring relationships between the main characters is an integral part of the game, and will surely get you invested emotionally in each of the characters. No one is a purely good, or a purely evil person. Geralt himself is a man working for coin, and doesn’t really care about ‘good’ and ‘evil’, so long as he gets paid. Credit to the game developers CDProjektRed for staying true to the novels and capturing the essence of the characters and their relationships among themselves. The one between Geralt, Triss and Yennefer is an especially complex one, and develops through our own interactions as Geralt with either of them. This game, thankfully, doesn’t shy away from tragedy, and some of the best moments of W3 will fill you with sadness. For example, the ballad by Priscilla, a bard, capturing the love story of Geralt and Yennefer will play on your heartstrings, and stay with you for some time.

The only thing the felt underwhelming to me was the potion-making part, and I felt this kind of went downwards from W2. Potions once made, will stay with you, and get replenished after every bout of meditation, unlike W2(played the game on Normal difficulty, hopefully this wasn’t the case on higher difficulties).

Overall, I must say the game has been an unparalleled experience for me, with its gorgeous open-world environments, brutal combat and whatnot.The game also has high replayability value as the whole direction of the game changes with the decisions we make.

RATING : 9.5/10

PROS :
– gorgeous open-world environments
– character development and interactions
– fluid, responsive combat
– amazing side-quests
– CIRI!

CONS :
– main story picks up somewhat slowly
– potion-making is a bit underwhelming

ERASED (BOKU DAKE GA INAI MACHI)

ERASED (BOKU DAKE GA INAI MACHI)

I haven’t seen many anime that revolve around time-travel and butterfly effect. In fact, I believe the only anime I’ve seen of that kind is the stellar Steins;Gate. Until ERASED came along.

The protagonist of ERASED, Satoru Fujinuma, is a failed manga artist and works as a pizza-delivery man. A 29-year old man, he is devoid of any interest in normal pleasures, and passes through from day to day, following his routine. Ever since an incident that happened in his fifth grade, Satoru has been scarred for life and is unable to come out of his deep-felt trauma. He believes that if he had only done things somewhat differently, a tragedy could have been avoided, and everyone, including himself, would have had a normal life.

Satoru experiences minor shifts in the time-line every now and then, and gets placed one to five minutes in the past whenever there is a danger to people in his surroundings. He refers to this phenomenon as “revival”. Using his observation skills, he is able to prevent accidents or wrongdoings in this way. But when a shocking incident forces Satoru to confront his past and “revival” takes him back to his fifth-grade days, he has to do everything in his power to stop the tragedy in his past, and his present.

The plot is conveyed in a gripping manner, and right from the start it begins to weave an intricate web around the viewers’ minds.The whole anime plays out like a suspense thriller, although its pacing is a bit of an issue. But some parts of ERASED feel meandering at times, and we’re left wondering why so much of the episode is being taken up by inconsequential elements. Well, not exactly, but these parts feel a bit overplayed, in my opinion.

Erased1

                                                 Well, shit.

Most of the characters have a surprising amount of depth to them, considering the anime is only 12 episodes long. Satoru, as a 29-year old adult, has been characterized brilliantly. And his best friend Kenya’s character, especially, is really awesome. Although there are some characters who are not really essential to the story, and don’t even do much. The story plays out from Satoru’s POV throughout, and kinda drops us right there into the middle when his “revival” takes him into a past more than 18 years ago. Which is actually how it should be, considering even Satoru himself doesn’t expect these developments.

The animation style is really good, although I’m no qualified judge of animation techniques.The atmosphere throughout the entirety of ERASED is quietly haunting and melancholic, and suits the mood of the show perfectly.

On a final note, I would say this is one of the better anime out there, and those who like mysteries and suspense anime should definitely give it a try.

RATING : 8.2/10

PROS :
– plot
– well-rendered main characters
– environment settings

CONS :
– pacing is off sometimes
– loses steam approaching the finale
– a bit predictable
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