IanTheCool's Reviews
Short Reviews of Movies, Board Games, and Other Stuff

Jul
22

About the list

And so I’ve decided to tackle the great white whale and try to come up with the list of my 100 favourite movies.  This was not easy, but I decided to try anyway.

Please note that these are my favourite films, and as such some choices will be based on a personal sense of nostalgia (especially the top 5, once we eventually get there).  There are movies that I have connections to that may rank them higher than you might expect.  That being said, if there are films here you disagree with, don’t hesitate to argue them in the comments, and if there are choices you do agree with, feel free to show your support.  If you think something it too high or too low, let me know.  I’m not going to resort to the “well its my opinion” argument.

Keep in mind that this list is not made in stone, and some films in the future may go up or down in my estimation, as is wont to happen.  Also, there may be films that I haven’t seen yet which may take a spot on the list later.  I guess what I’m saying is that this is my 100 at the present time, though its a pretty good indicator of my taste in films.

80. Sunshine

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When I first watched Sunshine, I thought it was absolutely brilliant science fiction, until I got to the end and it broke my heart by becoming a slasher film.  However, I gave it another chance, and realized that it really is a brilliant science fiction film, it just has an unexpected twist which is necessary, though it may not seem like it at the time.

Sunshine does a great job of taking an Earth saving mission and dealing with all the stresses and decisions that come with it.  And oh yeah, it looks and sounds amazing.

 

79. Aliens

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An expertly made action film which also works as an innovative sequel, completely changing the tone and even the genre from the original film.  James Cameron took Alien from a thriller to an action-packed romp.

 

78. Shrek

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I struggle with this one, mostly because of how bloated the Shrek franchise has become.  But I still love the original film, which completely surprised me with its humour and heart.  Yes, there were some missteps, like some silly pop references and the use of modern day music, but the characters are very likable, the animation is rich, and the story is a solid modern fairy tale.

 

77. Black Hawk Down

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Ridley Scott makes a war film which puts us right there involved in the conflict.  We see it from the operational and ground level.   We feel the claustrophobic feeling of being in hostile territory, we sense the clash of control and confusion, and we grip our seats until its all over.

 

76. On the Waterfront

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With a simple story synopsis, there doesn’t seem to be anything special about a former boxer being caught up in a gang that controls the waterfront.  But this film is a master craft.  The drama is amazingly compelling, and the acting is revolutionary.  We really feel for Brando’s Terry Malloy and go through his moral dilemmas with him.  Outstanding movie.

 

75. Avatar

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One of those great cinematic adventures.  The sense of discovering a new world is all encompassing, and the new world itself looks stunning.  Amazing visual effects and one of the best 3D experiences I’ve ever had.  Yes the story is straight-forward, but it works well in this type of film and allows us to enjoy everything around it that much more.

 

74. King Kong

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One of the first great effects films and first great adventure films.  King Kong to this day is one of the most influential movies in film history.   The reason is because its awesome.  We get to explore a mysterious island, watch a giant ape fight a tyrannosaurus rex, then see the same ape try to survive in New York city.  Its just a lot of fun and a true, true classic.

 

73. Titanic

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If you were too young to remember the film landscape of 1997, it would be hard for you to realize just how massive of an event Titanic was.  Yes, Avatar may have surpassed it in box office figures, but Avatar didn’t even come close to the fervour and hype that surrounded this film.  And there was good reason.  James Cameron crafted a film with an amazing sense of atmosphere.  He made me feel like I was on that ship with the passengers as it was sinking.  Don’t be dissauded by the naysayers, Titanic is a powerhouse film.

 

72. The Terminator

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I’m just realizing how much Cameron is in this set of 10.  Interesting.  So why is Terminator here?  Because it just feels like a pure sci-fi thriller.  Its a simple plot with a very interesting concept, and the idea of a non-stop machine trying to kill you with nothing in its way is terrifying.

 

71. Seven Samurai

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Has Kurusawa ever made a bad film?  If so, I haven’t found it yet.  Seven Samurai is his most famous and my personal favourite of his.  Its long, yes, but that just lets us spend a lot of time with these great characters, and provides a lot of anticipation for the awesome battle sequences which come up in the later half.  Not to mention Kikuchio kicks ass.

Jul
21

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This Planet of the Apes “reboot” series is an interesting animal. Its taken an old series which, lets face it, gets pretty corny by the last few movies, and has turned it into a deeper and more serious contemplation of the themes going on. And yet they don’t feel like they are going overboard and they still manage to give good homage to the films that came before.

Dawn sees the apes creating their own world now that humans have been wiped out by a deadly plague. Well, almost wiped out, and that’s where the conflict comes in. Now that they have found a band of humans, Caesar must decide how his ape tribe will respond, though war seems inevitable no matter what he does.

Just like Rise of the Apes was a loose remake of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, Dawn bases its story on Battle for the Planet of the Apes, the fifth and final film in the original series. And lets face it, the story is pretty straight forward and easy to see where it goes. But what elevates this particular story is the communion in the ape society and how attached we get to these Simeon characters. Caesar of course is the strongest, but we also get attached to the apes around him like Maurice and Koba too.

There are some strong scenes in the film. It opens with a Dances with Wolves style hunting scene which was interesting. There’s also a major turning point in the plot in the ape village which works well. And my favourite scene is early on when Caesar leads the apes back into San Francisco as a show of strength. Powerful stuff there.

I know that this is probably just supposed to be considered a completely separate story, but its interesting to think of it as perhaps the true beginning of the Apes series. If you think about it, in the 3rd movie Cornelius and Zira go back in time and their son becomes the same Caesar who leads the uprising. But Caesar managed to find a peace between humans and apes, which indicates that that may have triggered a secondary timeline. So were these two newer movies perhaps the start of the first timeline?

Personally I prefer the origin hinted at in the very first film (and still one of my all-time favourites) in which mankind essentially destroyed themselves. Apes were not involved in this downfall at all, but instead took the opportunity to take one last step of evolution and claim their place as the dominant species over the last 2000 years.

Sorry, I completely got off track there. Anyways, good movie. Special effects weren’t noticeable while watching it, so they clearly passed the test. Some predictable story elements and others that go no place (mostly with the humans) but it looks great and the ape characters will likely keep you invested.
9/10

I am skeptical about where the third movie is going however…

Jul
19

About the list

And so I’ve decided to tackle the great white whale and try to come up with the list of my 100 favourite movies.  This was not easy, but I decided to try anyway.

Please note that these are my favourite films, and as such some choices will be based on a personal sense of nostalgia (especially the top 5, once we eventually get there).  There are movies that I have connections to that may rank them higher than you might expect.  That being said, if there are films here you disagree with, don’t hesitate to argue them in the comments, and if there are choices you do agree with, feel free to show your support.  If you think something it too high or too low, let me know.  I’m not going to resort to the “well its my opinion” argument.

Keep in mind that this list is not made in stone, and some films in the future may go up or down in my estimation, as is wont to happen.  Also, there may be films that I haven’t seen yet which may take a spot on the list later.  I guess what I’m saying is that this is my 100 at the present time, though its a pretty good indicator of my taste in films.

90. Gattaca

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I discovered Gattaca while researching a high school biology paper on genetic engineering.  Its one of those great sci-fi films which takes an interesting future premise, such as the fact that humans can actually engineer their children’s genes, and really explores the implications of it.  And its also just a great human drama about the endurance of the human spirit, as two of my favourite scenes can attest to; the treadmill and the swimming scenes.

 

89. Blazing Saddles

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I thought I loved Mel Brooks, and when I was a kid I did.  But looking back on his films, the only one which I consider to be great is that western spoof classic Blazing Saddles.  Such great humour that while it does feel old-fashioned in a sense it never gets old.  That toll booth gag kills me every time.

88. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

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There are a few sequels on my list, and I think that Last Crusade is worthy to be one of them.  Including Indy’s dad played by Sean Connery was a stroke of genius.  I also love the three trials at the end to get the grail.

 

87. The Thing

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What a great thriller.  The premise of an alien who an imitate humans has infiltrated this small band of scientist, as it plays around a lot with paranoia and mistrust.  The special effects are impressive, but they can be pretty gross.  Still the tension is well earned and I love that its set in Antarctica.  Top notch horror.

 

86. American Graffiti

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American Graffiti fits a certain niche of film wherein there is no real plot, you are just hanging around with a group of characters for 90 to 120 minutes.  And as long as the setting and the characters are interesting, those types of films can be great.  This is a perfect example.  It truly does feel nostalgic, even if you didn’t grow up anywhere near that time period.  The characters are great and the atmosphere is and tone of teenagers hanging out on a busy Saturday night is very prevalent.

 

85. All the President’s Men

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In the background of this fantastic political thriller is the constant “clack clack clack’ of typewriters.  This is a very detail oriented film, which works heavily in its favour.  Its not flashy, but it is smart and savvy.  Both Redford and Hoffman are great as Woodward and Bernstein, possibly the two most famous reporters in the American public consciousness.

 

84. Good Will Hunting

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I know its easy to make fun of this movie, but I still think its a really strong drama.  Gus Van Sant gives it a certain subdued tone which clashes with the tough characters and setting.  Robin Williams is awesome as the therapist.  There’s a lot of great moments in this movie, but pretty much any scene with Will and Shaun is just awesome.

 

83. Zodiac

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As I am writing up this list, I realize just how much in common Zodiac has with my #85 choice All the President’s Men.  Both are based on real stories in the 70s, both are detail-heavy procedurals, and both are awesome.  Zodiac is a film about obsession, in particular the obsession with finding the identity of one of the most notorious serial killers.  The mystery of the Zodiac is incredibly intriguing, and this movie captures that intrigue in spades.  This is the film where Fincher really showed his weight as a filmmaker.

 

82. Gladiator

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I think in the last post I mentioned my love for historical epics, so Ridley Scott’s Gladiator in 2000 was pretty exciting for me.  It brought back the feel of those classics like Ben-Hur and Lawrence of Arabia, while still being very modern.  It still looks great and its easy to immerse yourself in this ancient world.  And there’s lots of great kills.

 

81. United 93

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When United 93 came out in 2006, only 5 years after the attack, I didn’t see it.  I wrote it off as being a part of that wave of sentimentality which followed in the wake of that tragedy and assumed it would be melodramatic garbage.  But a few years later I caught it on TV, and before I got up to change the channel, it ended up grabbing me.  This isn’t a sentimental film, but instead it plays out the events of that day straight, and by doing so really managed to take me back to that fateful day that everyone remembers.  This is a brilliant film that really captures the confusion and sadness of 9/11.

Jul
11

Introduction to the list

And so I’ve decided to tackle the great white whale and try to come up with the list of my 100 favourite movies.  This was not easy, but I decided to try anyway.

Please note that these are my favourite films, and as such some choices will be based on a personal sense of nostalgia (especially the top 5, once we eventually get there).  There are movies that I have connections to that may rank them higher than you might expect.  That being said, if there are films here you disagree with, don’t hesitate to argue them in the comments, and if there are choices you do agree with, feel free to show your support.  If you think something it too high or too low, let me know.  I’m not going to resort to the “well its my opinion” argument.

Anyways, here is the first of what will eventually be ten posts with my top 100.  now keep in mind that this list is not made in stone, and some films in the future may go up or down in my estimation, as is wont to happen.  Also, there may be films that I haven’t seen yet which may take a spot on the list later.  I guess what I’m saying is that this is my 100 at the present time, though its a pretty good indicator of my taste in films.

100. Who Framed Roger Rabbit

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A brilliant combination of animation and live action.  I love that the story actually revolves around this combination, with so many inventive details to the cartoon world.  And its just damn funny.

 

99. The Lion King

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I still remember seeing The Lion King in theaters on the way home from a camping trip with the family.  This was the Disney film that spoke the most to me.  The Wildebeest scene is still awesome, and the Hamletesque story works.  If it just weren’t for Disney’s need for songs, this would be a lot higher.

98. Charade

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I remember seeing Charade on TV years ago.  I thought it was a great mystery film, but didn’t know the title, and it took me years to figure out what it was.  And when I watched it again, I realized there was more to it than just a cool mystery.  Audrey Hepburn and Cary grant added much more to this film thorugh their charisma and dialogue.

 

97. Toy Story

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I’m not as in love with Toy Story as many others, perhaps because I don’t really associate it with my childhood, which in retrospect is weird.  I do associate Lion King with my childhood, and it only came out a year before.  Anyway, I do think its a great idea and I love all the little details put into this toy-centric world.

 

96. Revenge of the Sith

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Okay, here we go, get your claws ready.  Trust me, I am finding it harder and harder to keep accepting the prequels as part of Star Wars canon.  There are a LOT of problems with them.  Yet I still like Episode 3 for what it is.  There’s a lot of spectacle there and even though a lot of the problems are still persistent, I loved the epic space battle opening, I liked seeing all the new world,s and I liked the ending.

 

95. Prometheus

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Now while I’m iffy on including a Star Wars prequel, here is another prequel that people didn’t really like that I wholeheartedly support.  Prometheus is awesome.  Its a great modern sci-fi with an extraordinary sense of wonder and exploration, and it becomes a great thriller in the second half.

 

94. The Birds

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Hitchcock’s most primeval film in a way.  Man vs. beast.  I love how there’s no explanation why the birds are attacking, they just are.  Very haunting.

 

93. Ben-Hur

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There are better historical epics later in this list, but Ben-Hur is still awesome.  Its filmed with true grandeur, as the chariot race and sea battle can attest to.

 

92. Batman Begins

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I was never really a fan of the older Batman movies, mostly because I felt Batman himself was a stiff, boring character.  So I was very happy to finally have Batman Begins which made him interesting.  The real strength of this movie is that Nolan gives time to really develop the training of origin of our caped crusader by spending half of the movie away from Gotham and in the mountains.  A master stroke, and a beam of light for Batman’s cinematic future.

 

91. Independence Day

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You have no idea how excited I was to see this movie as a teenager back in 1996.  I was big into The X-Files, Star Wars, and all those other nerdy things, so a big budget movie about a full scale alien invasion looked like it could just about be the greatest thing.  I don’t want to tell you how many times my friends and I saw it in theaters that summer.  I recognize the cheesiness now, but I suppose this is my guilty pleasure film.

 

Jul
09

22-Jump-Street

21 Jump Street surprised a lot of people with how fun it was. 22 Jump Street doesn’t have that element of surprise, as everyone now expected it to be funny. And while 21 is probably the better film, I have to say that 22 was probably the funnier of the two.

Some of the funniest parts were:
-The running joke with Ice Cube
- Channing Tatum’s performance. They really played him up as a dumb musclehead this time and it worked

- The walk of shame
- Jonah Hill posing as a mexican criminal

I laughed a lot during this film. The story was more straight-forward and less involving than the last one, and the “this is a sequel and we know it and will make jokes about it” almost goes too far, but not to the point of distraction. The action also gets a little more ludicrous. But it was damn funny.
8/10

Jul
07

About the list

These are my favourite 50 board games at the present moment.  However, I will readily admit that some games here are fairly new (especially in the 40s and 30s) and may lose polish over time, or rise up to be higher up over time.  There are also many more games I have not had the opportunity to play which could gain spots in the list in the future.  But at this point, these are the 50 I have come up with.

Please comment below on any of the games in this list if you have played them as well.

Note:  Some of these are card games.  As long as they are widely accepted as being within the board game milieu, they count for this list.  However, games with a standard 52  card deck were not considered.

10. Chess

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Yes, chess. call me antiquated if you want, its still a great game. And it deserves to be in the top ten.

 

9. Diplomacy

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It was tough for me to think of where to place Diplomacy. After all, its a game I have rarely played in person. It requires 7 people and takes hours to play, with rather intricate written orders needed to make moves. But with all that baggage, it is still one incredibly well-designed game, a pure masterpiece of game design. The interactions and dynamics created by the country rulers in Diplomacy are hard to imitate. Some people will hate them, but not me.

 

8. Dominion

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What a game. I love “stuff” so a game where I can purchase stuff upon stuff, all of which do neat things, is right up my alley. Dominion is a lightening fast game once everyone knows how to play, and when King’s Court is in play everything is better.

The only problem I may have with it is the wide discrepancy between experienced and non-experienced players. When someone who takes the game very seriously and has played tons and tons of rounds plays someone who is just in it for fun, they can completely sap the game of that fun. So just avoid playing with those people and you’re good to go!

 

7. Ticket to Ride

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One of the most popular games in our hobby for good reason. its going to be hard for any game to repeat Ticket to Ride’s success. It is probably the ultimate gateway; a game which almost anyone can be taught to play and will very likely enjoy. It had a light-hearted air to it, but can also be a vicious competition.

 

6. Cosmic Encounter

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Chaos is the name of the game with this classic. Its a simple game of “play the best card” combat, spiced up to the nth degree with a swath of variable playing powers. The bits look great, the interaction is constant, and the crazy and inventive gameplay is unbeatable.

 

5. Small World

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Small World is right up my alley. It has lots of variety and lots of character. I am usually one of the first rallying against the massively supersaturated theme of fantasy (enough games with Dungeon in the title already!!!) but Small World is where I make my exception. The varying combos of races and powers is pure fuel for imagination, and seeing how all the interactions work is always amusing to me. Flying Skeletons, Seafaring Orcs, Dragon-Master Halfings…. awesome.

 

4. 7 Wonders

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I think 7 Wonders may have taken the top spot as my most played game ever. And I’m including all those childhood games of Sorry and Clue. Looking back at all of our used score pads, I realized just how often we play this one. And there’s good reason. It supports anywhere from 3-7, its quick to play and decently easy to pick up, has lots of different routes to victory, and just feels good building an empire. Love it.

 

3. The Settlers of Catan

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Not sure what I need to say about this one, except that I think it is unfairly receiving a lot of backlash these days. Do I play it as often as I once did? No, but when we do I still have a hell of a time with it. And those hours upon hours of Saturday afternoon games cannot be forgotten. Forget what the snobs say: Settlers is still awesome.

 

2. Puerto Rico

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Puerto Rico is smart and savvy, and is the first thing I think about when I hear “eurogame”. Its complex, but not too complex. Its interactive but not too interactive. There are a number of different strategies and I love trying them all. There is a reason that this game is the one most commonly associated with the number one spot on BGG.

 

1. Eurorails

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Eurorails was my gateway game, and therefore I have a strong personal connection with it. I love how you gradually build your network, and it gives a great sense of accomplishment at the end. I can really feel the geography of Europe as I extend my rails. And I love the satisfaction of delivering those Spanish oranges into the far reaches of Scandinavia.

I love this game.

 

Jul
06

About the list

These are my favourite 50 board games at the present moment.  However, I will readily admit that some games here are fairly new (especially in the 40s and 30s) and may lose polish over time, or rise up to be higher up over time.  There are also many more games I have not had the opportunity to play which could gain spots in the list in the future.  But at this point, these are the 50 I have come up with.

Please comment below on any of the games in this list if you have played them as well.

Note:  Some of these are card games.  As long as they are widely accepted as being within the board game milieu, they count for this list.  However, games with a standard 52  card deck were not considered.

20. Dominant Species

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This is a longer game, coming in at 3 or even 4 hours, and so its hard to get to the table. But its a blast every time we do. This is a really unique game with mechanics you have seen before but all done in a way that feels different. Each player plays a type of animal trying to adapt to different landscapes and spread their population across the globe. And mirroring the theme, players are also constantly adapting their strategies due to the actions of the other players, creating a constantly moving and evolving game experience.

 

19. Pandemic

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“I don’t always play cooperative games, but when I do, I play Pandemic.”
Well, not only, but it certainly is the go-to co-op in my books. The game structure of Pandemic is brilliant in how balanced it is between the viruses spreading and your team accomplishing something. It never feels too hopeless, but you never feel out of danger either. Its very infective. I remember the first time we tried we refused to stop playing until we won. I think we finally did after the 5th or 6th game.

 

18. Acquire

pic342163_mdA 50-year old game which can still keep up with all the hip new youngsters. Acquire is a great market game, blending an intense stock buying competition with a spacial tile game.When you are feeling greedy or feeling like you want to take money from your friends, break out this Sid Sackson favourite.

 

17. Telestrations

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The highest party game on the list because, well, its the best there is. This combination of Pictionary and the schoolyard telephone game is downright hilarious. We have had so many memorable game nights playing this, and have created some wild picture/word combinations. Unless you have no sense of hmour or fun whatsoever, you’ve gotta love Telestrations.

 

16. Survive

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“All the games we’ve played tonight have been a little too friendly. What else ya got?”
“Well, there’s Survive!”
Want to sink your friend’s boats and then sic sharks on the survivors? What to collapse the piece of island they’re standing on, only to reveal that they’ve been sucked into a whirlpool? Then Survive is the game for you!

 

15. Hive

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One of the most popular abstract games in the market right now is Hive, and for good reason. Its easy to learn, fast to play, and loaded with strategic depth. And its just plain cool. The concept of moving pieces around a board comprised only of other pieces so that it is constantly shifting and morphing into different shapes is just plain awesome.

 

14. Stone Age

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Stone Age was my first worker placement game, and I fell in love with it. I admire the way that dice are used in combination with workers to gain resources. I love they way you try to build the best huts that you can. The artwork on the board is simply outstanding. And finally, that leathery odor from the dice cup is pretty much gone.

 

13. Carcassonne

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Another great European classic. Carcassonne is just awesome. I love how the landscape develops over time. I love the investments you make into cities and fields, and then try to make them work. I love meeples. Carcassonne is fantastic, don’t let anyone try to tell you otherwise.

 

12. Vinhos

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This is probably the heaviest game on my list. I was so anxoius for this game that I got tired waiting for it to come over to North America and shipped it over from France.
The wine making theme in this game is outstanding and works very well with the mechanics. And there are a lot of mechanics, but it all flows so smoothly. When I’m in the mood for a rules-heavy, complex Euro, this is the one I look to. And perhaps with a glass of red in hand.

 

11. A Game of Thrones

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Game of Thrones is like Diplomacy-lite and makes the mechanics of Diplomacy a little easier to handle. It also adds some great features like bidding for power on the three tracks and defending against the Wildlings. As a big fan of the ASOIAF series, I am so happy that this game lives up to expectations.

 

Jul
05

About the list

These are my favourite 50 board games at the present moment.  However, I will readily admit that some games here are fairly new (especially in the 40s and 30s) and may lose polish over time, or rise up to be higher up over time.  There are also many more games I have not had the opportunity to play which could gain spots in the list in the future.  But at this point, these are the 50 I have come up with.

Please comment below on any of the games in this list if you have played them as well.

Note:  Some of these are card games.  As long as they are widely accepted as being within the board game milieu, they count for this list.  However, games with a standard 52  card deck were not considered.

30. Power Grid

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Some poeple say its too mathy, but so what. Its neat. I love the way the resource market works, and I don’t have many auction games so I’m also glad to be able to do that as well. I love how you basically have to meet 3 conditions to get your reward and balancing those conditions against everyone else is fun.
And frustrating. I’m terrible at this game.

 

29. Escape

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This is the hottest game in our group right now. A game where you have to collect gems, explore a temple and find your way on in 10 minutes With a spooky jungle track in the background? And frantic dice rolling? Excellent.
If you haven’t tried Escape yet… what are you waiting for??

 

28. Vivajava

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This was perhaps my biggest surprise out of all the games in my collection. I saw pictures of it online and thought it looked cool, and I really liked the idea of a coffee-themed game. So I ordered it in, thinking it would be a niche game that would sit on my shelf.

However, my friends loved it. Vivajava has a great dynamic where players must team up to make coffee blends which will earn them points, then team up with others later. This is a fun, interactive, noisy game which is always a great time at the table. It may be small and lesser known, but it works for 5-8 players and is a great option for large groups.

 

27. Race for the Galaxy

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This is a game which is growing in my estimation. It is a card game which revolves around the role selection mechanism developed by Puerto Rico, and works very well here. The neat thing is that the cards in your hand act as cards you play, as resources for future investment, and as currency to buy cards. And all the while you are playing cards which give you the feeling of settling new planets and building technologies. Its awesome.

 

26. Alhambra

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There’s just something about those early era games (and by early era, I am talking in relation to the post-settlers board game boom, so settle down old timers). They just seemed to have their stuff together. Alhambra is a really neat tile game where you are developing your palace and having to use 4 different currencies to bid on buildings. It may be slightly on the dry side in the sense that not a lot of table conversation goes on, but you will get wrapped up in your own plans.

25. The Resistance

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Ooo, the Resistance. You have 8,9 or even 10 people over? No problem, play Resistance. You feel like lying and deceiving your friends? Great, play Resistance! You love deduction and want to figure which members of your group are secretly spies? Resistance my friend, Resistance.

 

24. Balderdash

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My second favourite party game on this list. Balderdash is great because it really allows for creativity and imagination to shine through in a structured but not too structured way. You are coming up with definitions of funny words, or in the newer versions describing silly laws or plots to B-movies, etc. I realize that this game may not be fun for those people who just can never “think of something”, but I personally love it. It is so much fun that my friends and I will talk about them for months after. Some of our common inside jokes still stem from things that were brought up during Balderdash.

 

23. K2

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In K2, players are mountain climbers making their way up the second-largest peak in the world. Why this game is so great is not just the race aspect, but the mechanic which makes players have to watch their oxygen levels, lest they lose too much O2 and die at the top. Its a very thematic game which gets more intense the further up you climb.

 

22. Scotland Yard

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You see them coming. They have you surrounded on all sides. You may be able to escape the net, but a little misdirection is needed. A bead of sweat drips from your brow.
That’s what its like to play Mr. X, the resident criminal from the game Scotland Yard. This game has the awesome concept of pitting one player against the rest, who are the detectives hunting him down through London. I love the idea of secret movements and everyone working as a team to figure out where they are. Great game.

 

21. Memoir ’44

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I’m not a war gamer, nor do I care to be. But Memoir ’44 is enough to scratch that itch, me thinks. Its just really cool. It plays out actual WWII battles and provides a simple dice-based battle mechanic which allows the game to keep moving quickly, like an Allied push on the front.

The game feels very thematic and tactical. Its fairly easy to learn and very easy to lose (well, if your me it is).

Jul
04

About the list

These are my favourite 50 board games at the present moment.  However, I will readily admit that some games here are fairly new (especially in the 40s and 30s) and may lose polish over time, or rise up to be higher up over time.  There are also many more games I have not had the opportunity to play which could gain spots in the list in the future.  But at this point, these are the 50 I have come up with.

Please comment below on any of the games in this list if you have played them as well.

Note:  Some of these are card games.  As long as they are widely accepted as being within the board game milieu, they count for this list.  However, games with a standard 52  card deck were not considered.

40. Zooloretto

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Looking at the box it seems like a kids game. But its actually a clever little strategy game involving efficiency in building the best zoo you can. And it has tiles with cute little animals on it.

 

39. Tobago

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A great deduction game with amazing components. It has slipped under the radar lately, but check it out!

 

38. Mascarade

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This is a newer game, but its pretty cool. It plays with up to 13 players, so its one thats great when you’ve got a big group. Its a hidden role game with a lot of bluffing and calling bluffs. It fills an interesting niche.

 

37. Apples to Apples

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A party game that works with pretty much anyone (except some board game snobs, but thats their problem). It allows for some clever combos and insinuations, which is always a plus in my books.

 

36. X-Wing

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Pretty new to me, but being a big Star Wars fan, I am liking this a lot. I was hesitant to try out this quasi-minatures game and miniature gaming is usually not something that interests me, but because of the universe I love so much, I couldn’t resist.

I am really going to have to watch my spending habits on this one, but one thing I know for sure is I will stop buying ships once they are ones that were not in the movies.

 

35. Steam

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A more complex game that can be frustrating for some, since it really feels like you’re not accomplishing much throughout the game. But I think its rather neat.

 

34. Kemet

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I love Cyclades, but I was worried that Kemet, a game made by the same people but about Egyptian myth instead of Greek, would be too similar. However, Kemet, while having similar aspects, is a very different game. And very fun. There’s a lot to be said for ownership making a great gaming experience, and being able to be the only one to own certain tiles and various creatures is really cool.

 

33. Cyclades

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I am a big Greek myth fan, so to have a game equal to that is great. Cyclades involves gods and goddesses, mythological creatures, Spartan-like armies, and Greek islands, all in a conglomeration of various kick-ass mechanics. It does seem like a big of a gameplay mash-up, but it works. What I really like about Cyclades are how many different clever ways you can find to win the game, leading to many surprise victories. Really cool stuff.

 

32. Flash Point

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Flash Point is a very thematic game (except for the fact that victims will suddenly just show up in rooms you already visited). And I like that. This game makes my friends and I feel like we are actually fighting a fire, and that’s a good thing. Capturing a theme is all about capturing that sort of feeling, and Flash Point succeeds.

 

31. Agricola

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Agricola took the gaming world by storm, but I was late to the party. However, now that I own it, I definitely see the appeal. Its fun to build your own farm from nothing. Its stressful though, since you are always running out of turns and your family is starving. But its still relaly fun. I usually prefer the family game mind you, as I find the occupations and improvements muddle things.

Jul
03

Introduction to the list

These are my favourite 50 board games at the present moment.  However, I will readily admit that some games here are fairly new (especially in the 40s and 30s) and may lose polish over time, or rise up to be higher up over time.  There are also many more games I have not had the opportunity to play which could gain spots in the list in the future.  But at this point, these are the 50 I have come up with.

Please comment below on any of the games in this list if you have played them as well.

Note:  Some of these are card games.  As long as they are widely accepted as being within the board game milieu, they count for this list.  However, games with a standard 52  card deck were not considered.

50. Lost Cities

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A great, easy game for two players. I do wish the theme came through more, but the dynamics of the card playing is fun.

 

49. Kingdom Builder

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I haven’t played a whole lot of this, but I really like the mechanics behind it of how to grow your kingdom and the restrictions you have to do so. I also like how you have to accomplish various goals.

48. Blokus

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This is a great abstract which has a lot of strategic depth to it. Knowing which pieces to play when, which area to spread out to, which areas to close off. Easy to teach, fun to play.

 

47. Terra Mystica

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I am not so well acquainted with this one, but its future prospects are why its on the list. I can see this being a favourite after a few more plays. Its got some really neat interlocking mechanics and different ways to do things. It just seems to work so well together.

 

46. Eclipse

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Like Terra Mystica this is a game I have only played briefly, but in which I see a lot of potential. The cube-based economic system is really neat, and the ship building provides a lot of flare. Add this to the exploration aspect (which is always something I love in games) and this is a pretty awesome space game.

 

45. Dixit

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Dixit is a fun little party game which works for most people. Some may be turned off by the “create a story” aspect, even if its only a phrase or word you need to come up with. I will usually prefer other party games, but this one is pretty good, and the artwork is neat.

 

44. Scrabble

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I don’t forget the classics. Scrabble is awesome, I don’t care what any “cultists of the new” say. Theres just something about sitting down to a comfortable game of scrabble, testing your own personal vocabulary, and trying to grab those triple words scores.

 

43. Confusion

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A really cool idea where its a chess-like game, but only your opponent can see how your pieces move. You must try to deduce your piece’s movements in order to figure out what then can do. Nifty.

42. Risk Legacy

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I love Risk, and have since I was a teenager. But I will admit that these last few years becoming more acquainted with designer games has led me to face the fact that Risk, while still great,m has problems. As such, it has just barely missed the cut for this list.

Risk Legacy however, this is one I can gladly throw on the list and make myself feel good that Risk was included in some way, shape and form. I wasn’t sure what I would think of Legacy when I was first invited to play, but I fell in love with it. The idea is so cool; the map changes from game to game, accomplishing goals allows you to open new packages and new rules. Such a great concept which led so some outstanding gaming experiences. One in particular was when the last large package was opened…. but I wont spoil what was in it.

41. Pit

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It may be over 100 years old, but its still a blast. And if you play without the bell, you’re doing it wrong. This is probably the loudest game in my collection, with people screaming numbers all over the place, frantically trading cards and pulling their hair out when they dont get what they want. This is what a good time party gaming looks like.

 

Jul
03

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Dominion’s final big box expansion was Dark Ages in late 2012. When it was released it was met with some criticism in the board game community as being too convoluted and landing outside the realm of regular Dominion. But personally, I find Dark Ages to be one of the most interesting sets in Dominion’s library.
Dark Ages is sort of the opposite of Prosperity; where the latter focused on expensive cards and lots of money, Dark Ages focuses on cheap cards and the prospect of being poor. And I think it hits this theme very well. Let’s see why.

Additions

There are a lot of new and interesting cards in the Dark Ages set. The first of which are the shelters. These are basically next-to-useless properties which every players starts with in place of Estates. I think that they are neat, in that you still want to get rid of them eventually, but in the meantime at least they do something for you. And the pink banner is pretty cool.
Another neat addition are Ruins, which are like lesser curses. They are more interesting curses, since they actually do things for you. Weak things mind your, like an Abandoned Mine which is only +1 coin. On the flip side, there are spoils, which are one-shot gold cards which you can gain for doing other things throughout the game.
Another nifty idea are the Knight cards. They are a basic set of ten cards, like all other action cards, but each one of these specific ten is a different knight which has their own action on top of the basic knight action. Awesome little twist there.
And there are all kinds of great cards on top of these, including Rats, which start out good for you but will multiply in your deck, Hermits which can be upgraded to Madmen when you discard it, and a few cards which actually allow you to take cards from the trash.

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Critique

As you can see, there are all sorts of new ideas present in Dark Ages, all of which work together well. The ruins provide a different experience than curses and a lot of the cards involve trashing in a number of interesting ways.
One reason I really like this expansion is that it slows the game of Dominion down quite a bit. With less money going around, the race to victory point cards doesn’t go so fast. I really appreciate this, as I feel like I can sink my teeth into the game a little more. Sometimes with regular Dominion, it can go to fast and you don’t really have a good opportunity to try all your options and see what your deck can do. Dark Ages will add on that extra ten or fifteen minutes to really make you feel like you’ve played the game well.
Don’t listen to the naysayers. Dark Ages is a great expansion and well worthy of the Dominion line.

Expansion –
Base Game –
Base Game & Expansion –

My Expansion Ratings
-- The expansion improves upon the original base game.
-- The expansion provides a differing experience than the base game but neither improves or detracts from the base game.
-- The expansion is effective and provides an interesting new aspect, but the base game is still preferred.
-- The expansion detracts from the base game.

Jun
28

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There are a group of films out there which I like to call “enjoyable mediocrity”.  They usually come and go on the theaters with not a lot of fanfare.  They don’t try to elevate their respective genres (usually action or detective thrillers) or do anything really unique.  These are the movies that are rented by your  parents on a comfortable Friday evening.  Jack Ryan is one of those movies.

And there is nothing wrong with this.  Movies don’t always need to challenge us.  There is a wide swath of the market for movies just like this, movies with are easily palatable with a straight-forward plot, likable characters, and a few action scenes thrown in now and again.  In fact, I would say that these movies have some level of necessity.  It keeps the general public’s interest in movies and it maintains that comfort level  of being able to pop in a movie with a bowl of popcorn on the couch and simply enjoy.  These sort of spy thrillers like Jack Ryan are really good for that.

As long as its competently made and doesn’t unsuccessfully try to over reach its station, I have nothing against these movies.  And I have no problem sitting down and having fun with them myself.  And Shadow Recruit works on those level, even with some car chases (I really hate car chases…). This is a pretty fun film with a point A to point B story of trying to stop a Russian terrorist plot.  Chris Pine is a good leading man and Keira Knightly was good as well, though I have to admit that her American accent kept throwing me off. Mind you, she was acting along side Kevin Costner, the king of off accents…

I guess its probably fair to say that all of the Jack Ryan films exist in this niche of “comfy movie night” films.  Many people will say that Hunt for Red October goes beyond this, and perhaps they’re right.  Personally, I feel like Patriot games has more to offer and would probably be one of the higher echelon films within this niche.  But Shadow Recruit joins good company and maintains enough strength to keep up with them.

Jack Ryan is a good rental.  Don’t forget the popcorn.

7/10

May
25

X-Men_Days_of_Future_Past1

This explosion of superhero movies over the last decade and a half has been an interesting trend, to say the least. Its resulted in the creation of entire franchise universes, the most prominent of which is the Avengers-verse, but The X-men are right up their as well. Sure they’ve always stuck to a main thoroughfare of films, but the separate wolverine movies and the first class prequels have made this franchise seem very branched and far reaching.

And now with Days of Future Past we get to see what the culmination of such a franchise can be, and as it turns out its just as special as a movie fan could hope for. The filmmakers really capitalize on all of the films and characters that came before and use all of the knowledge and emotions that come with them to their full potential. This movie’s success is entirely dependent upon everything that came before it, and I mean that in a good way. This is the true culmination of what a superhero franchise can do.

The storyline is one in which characters from both eras can be included, in which Wolverine must stop an assassination by Mystique which would otherwise lead to the mutant’s downfall. Its a great premise and one which works well because we already know these characters so well. In First Class James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender stole the show with their performances. Here we get more of their interplay, but the stakes are simply higher. We also get to see what happens to Mystique and how much Wolverine has changed throughout these films.

Days of Future Past really takes advantage of all the little tidbits and cameos that are available to them because they have such a wide base of fan knowledge to work with. They now how to give us winks of certain characters we know and also use well little glimpses into mutants we haven’t seen yet (including a great but part by a certain grey haired jogger). We also have the benefit of all the backstories to add to our connection to these characters, especially Xavier. This is really his film, and Macovy truly takes that to heart.

And of course, as a superhero spectacle its simply awesome. The fights with the future sentinels are frantic, but they truly feel like what a fight involving veteran super-powered mutants would look like. There’s also some neat stuff with Magneto near the end as well as a cool prison break scene.

This movie is not without its pratfalls however. There is one scene of exposition which really stands out at the beginning. normally exposition doesn’t bother me much, but its really overdone in that scene, though it does set up the plot nicely enough. There’s also some clunky writing here and there, but your love of the characters usually carries you past that. And then there’s Nixon… These are minor quibbles which I cared less about when the movie was over and I was feeling awesome.

*SPOILERS   I am also rather unsure about the ending.  I don’t know how I feel about resetting the whole franchise as though none of it ever happened. I suppose there’s the argument that it still exists in Wolverine’s memory, but… I don’t know. I know Star Trek did this as well, but it feels different here for some reason. Oh well, it is what it is. *SPOILER END

Days of Future Past couldn’t be as successful without the franchise behind it, but this is a positive thing. The cast and crew set out to make a film which purposely sat upon the shoulder’s of its own history and used it to their full advantage. And I’ll even go so far as to say they they have managed to make the best X-Men film to date.
9/10

May
24

Godzilla-Pacific

Let’s talk marketing for a second, shall we? Normally, the marketing of a movie really shouldn’t bear on your actual impression of the film itself. The promotion is a separate entity from the actual body of work. But that being said, sometimes its hard to separate the two, like in the case of 2014′s Godzilla. The marketing for this movie did an excellent job of separating itself form the 1998 Emmerich atrocity and made audiences believe that this was going to be a smart, well-crafted, top-notch thriller.

In reality however, this Godzilla really just wears that marketing-induced impression like a cloak, but underneath is just naked cliched fare, not much better than 98. The problem here is that the story of the human characters surrounding the actual concept of giant monsters attacking cities is not remotely interesting. Not only that but because the director wants to put on that air of a well-crafted, slow-burn thriller, the human aspect takes up a massive majority of the movie.  Whats worse is that we are even teased with one scene, which involes a train bridge in a forest, which gives a hint of potential of being the movie it originally looked like this would be, but never capitalizes.

We start with Brian Cranston’s character and his son (I really dont remember their names. Oh wait, the son’s was Ford. I remember cause its a stupid name). Its pretty basic fare where one is the only person who suspects somethings going on, the other is reluctantly trying to deal with him.

It doesn’t help that the main character (the son) is basically a doorknob. He has no charisma whatsoever. And once things finally start moving, they keep finding ludicrous plot contrivances to keep him in the action. They even give him a ridiculous scene in a subway where he is just randomly given a Japanese boy to take care of just so that we can think he’s heroic. Its a joke.

This movies only redeeming factor is Godzilla himself. I absolutely love the way he looks; both the design and the actual CG animation are top notch work. He truly looks like a modern version of the classic creature. He actually looks like Godzilla. And sounds like him. And acts like him. The two mothra monsters weren’t as good of a design. They seemed pretty derivative of Cloverfield, Pacific Rim and other movie monsters. But the big man, every time he was on screen I was excited. Its just too bad that those moments of excitement were few and far between.

This isn’t the movie we were promised. It was a disguised version of a formulaic summer blockbuster whose roots go back to Independence Day, et al. Godzilla was awesome, and that last fight scene was pretty sweet, were it not for the boring lead doing whatever it was he was doing. I give it marks for the design and use of Mr. Zillla, but otherwise I can’t say I liked it much.
6/10

May
18

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This movie has no relevance to modern day life. Its the story of a man who falls in love with his computer program, but its really about how are society is becoming more withdrawn into the virtual world we have created and how we are choosing artificial relationships over true human interaction. Nope, no relevance at all.

Relax, I’m kidding. Her is in fact a very poignant film which looks at a not-so-distant future where AI operating systems are becoming the norm. What makes this future so haunting and effective is that it resembles our own present very closely. Only yhe main concept and some minor details tell us that we are in the future.

We follow Theodore Twobly (a name which certainly matches his appearance) as he falls in love with his AI Samantha. Why this movie works so well is because no details about how this relationship is built and how it works is passed over. How it comes to be feels natural, and the nagging questions we have about how it works, especially the sexual aspects, are addressed. And as the relationship advances and Samantha’s intelligence grows, no punches are pulled in the very troubling consequences which occur.

A uge victory which Spike Jonze and company achieve is to strike exactly the right balance with Samantha. It would be very tempting to try to make her seem completely human, so that she is 100% personified by the audience (like WallE for example). But this would be a mistake, since in order for us to feel the underlying unease of this relationship we have to at some level always remember that she is a computer program. But she also can’t be too robotic, or it doesn’t work either since we wont buy the relationship initially. Yet thanks to the script, Scarlett Johansen’s performance, and Joquain Phoenix’s reactions, the character of Samantha is exactly what she needs to be.

Her presents a lot of ethical and philosophical questions about the nature of technology in our lives and on the nature of modern relationships, without directly addressing them but rather letting us think about them tangentially. It has a certain indie style which may not be for everyone, and some pretentious music choices, but it is a very well-made sci-fi thinker.
8/10