I’ve been rather stressed this month as I’ve desperately tried to get on top of everything before I start my new job on Wednesday. It’s not quite entirely happened. I’ve still got 5 chapters left of my book to write, it’s going to be a few weeks yet before I can get in my bedroom and my HDMI splitter is playing up so I’ve been struggling to record footage effectively. Also, due to being that little bit too stressed I’ve had a rough time keeping up with the blog. With all that said (and I did an entire blog post on it last week), I suspect that I’ll relax once I’ve settled into the new job so that’ll be nice. In the meantime, I’ve managed to do a blog post on whether or not to swear in my novel and a review for Suicide Squad if either of those catch your fancy. And now it’s time for another batch of mini reviews for the things I’ve experienced this month! Here are my Monthly Mini Reviews for August!
Star Trek Beyond (Justin Lin, 2016)
I didn’t exactly have high hopes for Star Trek Beyond. I rather enjoyed the initial Star Trek reboot but then I didn’t have much desire to watch Star Trek: Into Darkness, so Beyond wasn’t the most exciting prospect. But I went because my dad wanted to and I am very glad I did because Star Trek Beyond is actually thoroughly enjoyable. After three years exploring the universe on the USS Enterprise, Captain Kirk and the crew are dispatched on a rescue mission to a nearby uncharted nebula. The mission soon turns south as the Enterprise is ambushed and the crew winds up stranded on a strange planet. It’s a case of can they escape, and can they stop the evil plot that’s about to be set in motion. It’s not exactly anything new, and in fact everything about the film is typically Star Trek. The film is in essence a feature length episode of Star Trek, with moments of introspection, moments of science mumbo-jumbo, spaceships, and action sequences. Simon Pegg and Doug Jung’s script is fun, sharp, and even emotional; and Justin Lin’s direction means everything lands perfectly. The acting is all top notch, the visuals suitably spectacular, and it ultimately sits in that category of thoroughly decent and enjoyable popcorn flick with a bit of depth just under the surface. There are also some wonderful tributes to the late Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin, something that feels very fitting in a series so focused on how much of a family the crew of the Enterprise is and as such the film ends on a really touching note.
Rating: 8/10 – Great
Critical: 4/5 Personal: 4/5
Kirby: Planet Robobot (HAL Laboratory/Nintendo, 3DS, 2016)
Kirby’s been on a roll as of late. Every main game since Kirby’s Epic Yarn has hit it out of the pack with regards to great level design, visuals, and gameplay. After Kirby’s Return To Dreamland/Kirby’s Adventure Wii set the new standard for Kirby games, Kirby: Triple Deluxe came along for the 3DS and was superb. This year, Kirby came to the 3DS once more with Kirby: Planet Robobot and it certainly does not disappoint. Once again, the visuals are exciting and gorgeous to look at (and the mechanical aesthetic throughout is a welcome twist on the normal visual design), the soundtrack is exemplary, the gaming is as tight as ever with some ingenious 3D-based puzzles and the introduction of the Robobot mech is one of the most satisfying gimmicks ever introduced in the franchise. The plot is pretty standard fare, with an evil corporation trying to take over Planet Popstar and so Kirby sets off to save the day; but it does its job just as well as any Kirby game can. It could certainly be said that Planet Robobot is just going through the motions, and in many instances it is easy to see that Kirby hasn’t evolved much since 2011’s Return To Dreamland/Adventure Wii. That isn’t always a bad thing as Planet Robobot is still really fun and has a lot of extra content to play around with (some old some new) once you’ve beaten the game; but there are moments when the game can feel a little stagnant. The game’s also not particularly hard, but that’s Kirby for you. It provides just the right amount of challenge to push your skills ever so slightly if you want to get all of the collectibles, but the general experience is quite relaxing and that’s exactly what you want from Kirby. Planet Robobot is a fun, chill ride that comes highly recommended and rightly so.
Rating: 9/10 – Awesome
Critical: 4/5 Personal: 5/5
Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1934)
One of the covers for Tender is the Night. (Source)
Ever since I read The Great Gatsby for my A-Levels, I have been a fan of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s work. Since then I’ve slowly been working my way through the rest of his major novels, This Side of Paradise, The Beautiful and Damned, Tender is the Night, and The Last Tycoon along with a few other bits and pieces. This month I finally managed to make my way through Tender is the Night and while it isn’t quite so perfect as The Great Gatsby, it is endlessly fascinating. It tells the story of Dick and Nicole Diver and their complicated relationship, with the added complication of the beautiful young actress, Rosemary Hoyt, and covers the span of a few years. From the beginning, the novel feels very much like Fitzgerald’s others; a collection of rich Americans engaging in meaningless and vapid social activities as well as falling into majorly dysfunctional relationships. But Tender is the Night is noticeably different in a few ways. In the edition I have at least, the narrative is told out of chronological order with an extended flashback forming the majority of the second book. Next is Dick Diver’s profession as a doctor and psychoanalyst which makes him a particularly fascinating character though he ultimately falls into the same pitfalls as some of Fitzgerald’s earlier protagonists. Then you have Nicole Diver and her mental illness which, though it continues the trend of Fitzgerald drawing on his own life and relationship with his wife Zelda, leads to one of Fitzgerald’s most complicated heroines. It all leads to a novel that is endlessly fascinating but which is ultimately a little overly long and at times dull. While enjoyable, the novel just isn’t as tightly constructed as The Great Gatsby and none of its characters feel quite so well formed outside of Dick, Nicole, and Rosemary. It’s a shame because there is an excellent novel here; there were just a few too many moments where it seemed to lack focus.
Rating: 7/10 – Good
Critical: 4/5 Personal: 3/5
Songs from Final Fantasy XV by Florence + The Machine (2016)
I don’t normally do music reviews as I’m not really any sort of expert in music other than knowing what I like and what I don’t. That said, this is no regular mini-album. These three songs from Florence + The Machine are part of their collaboration with Square Enix for Final Fantasy XV and they are absolutely stunning. What’s amazing is that there isn’t one clear highlight as each song has its own bit of magic. Too Much Is Never Enough is the most lyrically intensive, dealing with the burden of the crown, the passage of time, life and death, and more. When it reaches the bridge before the final chorus, it’s enough to give you goosebumps from how powerful it feels. Only time will tell where this song plays during Final Fantasy XV but it is certainly bound to have a massive impact when it does. Stand By Me is easily one of the best covers I have ever heard. It takes the original Ben E. King song and transforms it into something that is simply magical. It is at once 100% Florence, 100% the original song, and 100% in keeping with the tone of the game it is being used in. The harp melody at the beginning is a wonderful reference to Final Fantasy’s classic Prelude tune and it blends seamlessly into the rest of the song. There may be an unexplainable element as to why I am so in love with this rendition of the song, but it is now truly my favourite version of Stand By Me. The final song is called I Will Be and it’s an odd mostly instrumental piece, but it has the same magic pulsing through it. It’s ethereal and otherworldly and despite saying very little, it’s an emotional melancholy song that rises from quiet sadness to an all-encompassing joy. Few words are capable of describing this song; it’s just beautiful and utterly captivating. As a collection, the songs form a work of art. The orchestra are spectacular, Florence’s vocals of heavenly, and everything is just emotional and perfect. All three have made me aware of just how good Florence + The Machine actually are. They are truly phenomenal.
Rating: 10/10 – Outstanding
Critical: 5/5 Personal: 5/5