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Yakuza 6 (2016 Video Game)
I'm very biased but, I was shouting at the screen in Japanese
22 October 2019
It's because having spent most of my life either living in Japan or connected with Japan through work, that I may get a lot more out of the game because, I think, speak, and know what's very familiar and satisfying about Japanese gokudo stories told well. I didn't expect this in a PS4 game, until a close family member recommended I play. It took me 6 days over two weeks and got caught up in Kiryu Kasuma's world.

There are several references to, and that draw directly from real events, although the names are changed to masked direct association. I was quite moved at times especially at the finale scenes and post credits prologue. I was surprised at how much I became very attached to the main characters. And I welcomed the faces and voice overs from well known actors like Kitano Takeshi to name just one. All this may also may have influenced why I enjoyed the story and the game play as well. Perhaps the avid gamer will find some weakness in the game play and mini-games. I remember playing many of the 80s mini-games from when I was a University undergrad in Nagoya, Japan.

I highly recommend the game if you have had similar life experiences to my self, and are bilingual like my family is, but there's plenty to enjoy for those who know little about Japan as well. The games 18+ rating is justified. My (grown) kids who could hear me shouting at the screen in Japanese, knew what I was saying which was awkward the following day sometimes, no matter what a ride it was !
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Peaky Blinders: The Noose (2017)
Season 4, Episode 1
Brilliant! Netflix app left me shortchanged. previous title:" But the voice-over...please stop"
22 March 2019
**Update-Sorry to readers of my reviews**

This is an update on my review. For some reason the Netflix iOS app had narrative voice over settings in place, which contributed to my frustration. So please read my review with this in mind. I work in the industry and at first I accepted what was presented to me, but within 5 mins of posting my review below, I thought this just can't be right. And in fact after tracking down the app settings for the visually impaired being in place, I turned them off. Low and behold my beloved Peaky Blinders returned! So apologies to the small following who read my reviews, and to the cast and crew. My mistake...mmm or Netflix.

***orginal review below***

I'm a die hard fan of this production and enthusiastically embrace some of the truly innovative approaches to storytelling. Most of them work, not as a novel approach to storytelling, but because they endure throughout the production to become the style and feel that supports the main narrative.

But I'm truly struggling with this voice-over narration that starts as a recap for the audience to recall after the hiatus. But it's the voice-over is of the entire script excluding the character dialogue. I'm half way through this (S4E1) episode, and after the almost constant voice-over explanation of the character's actions, it has become excruciatingly redundant. It's annoying, unnecessary, frustrating, and clouds the storytelling of what is a brilliant script...

Don't get me wrong, this is quality television, and compelling viewing, but at 30 mins in (yep I lasted that long)...I wish I didn't have to shout at the screen, "Please stop!", "For goodness sakes, I can see what's going on!"
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What!? Wait...Hold on...
29 October 2018
Have you ever fallen asleep on the couch exhausted from a days work, only to be uncomfortably woken at 2am to that annoying infomercial? What's memorable about infomercials is that typical voiceover and the repetitiveness, and that's what I thought episode 1 of Hollywood Weapons was...

The subject matter (at least in the first episode) is in the interests of anyone excited by guns, bombs, or automobiles, but it wears way too thin way too quickly. There's so much repetition the program needs a couple of commercials...

Due to the Clockwork Orange like behavioral constraints that would be necessary for me to stick it out to the end, (I was already too turned off to make to the end of the 1st episode), that I couldn't even find the love to google for an answer...maybe I was confused and somehow thought I had to sail some number to order my steak knives that can cut through an aluminum can.

The 1st episode might have been a pilot, so my advice is to try watching from episode 3 or 4. I'm guessing here so no promises, but surely subsequent episodes can't be as bad as the 1st. Right now I'd rather jab myself in the eye with a pen than find out. Perhaps younger audiences won't be as critical as I have been, but I am paying for this stuff...
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El Chapo: Episode #3.13 (2018)
Season 3, Episode 13
Repetition, shocking editing, etc
1 August 2018
This poorly developed and executed scripted left me feeling pretty ripped off. The repetition and editing and the fictional characters in the story took up way too much screen time leaving the real life events way in the distance. Despite this the acting is impeccable but I feel sorry for the entire cast. It was hard but I stuck it out until the end...
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Sneaky Pete (2015–2019)
Has to be clever, that's how it works.
29 January 2018
It took me a couple of episodes before I would invest in this story. But it's worth sticking it out. The performances are excellent, but for me it took a little while to care about the characters. Even at episode 10, I'm not sure how much yet. I think it's because the story needs your full attention, or the subtle movement of the sub-plots will pass you by, and it becomes boring. So I had to back up my viewing on a couple of the earlier episodes.

After this it was worthwhile viewing, very carefully written, the storyline is slick like a successful con should be. There's a couple of tip-of-the-hat references to traditional cons portrayed in film, and this is satisfying if you're old enough to have seen them before. Some of it's predictable but I don't think you can get away from that, with a story like this. I suspect with Bryan Cranston involved, you don't get to invest yourself in the characters too quickly, or see them change too much, which allows for more repeat series. If series 2 can hold it's own, then the show is only as interesting as the characters can get as they change...but so far good television? Good, but not brilliant yet.
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4 Blocks (2017– )
Masterfully written, breathtaking and very real
27 January 2018
It's not often you come across TV as good as this. I found I lost myself in every character throughout every episode and for me that's usually enough to make great drama for me. All the performances are impeccable. The story line was also a surprise because what I anticipated, was not important because there's no way to predict how any of this will pan out for anyone involved in this story. There's a good cross-section of sub-plots that works well and the Direction and editing makes this a very slick production indeed. There is nothing left to question at the end and I suppose all this together makes it feel very real and at times very heart breaking. While not all will rate the series as highly as myself, I think there will be very few who are not satisfied story and production. I note there's a second series in planning, but it will take some doing to better what has come before.
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Wormwood (2017)
Started well, and maybe I'm not patient enough but...
31 December 2017
What a great introduction to what I thought would be an enthralling story. But after 3 episodes, I'm not quite sure there's much of a story to tell. And so I guess this was the reason behind the focus on every word and detail. This is then dragged out with long pauses and newsclipping mash-ups. It's a bit of a drag, but I think anyone interested in conspiracy theory stuff will love this, because a lot is left up to your imagination.
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Dark Net (2016– )
Meh after 3 episodes it had lost any hope of having impact
14 November 2017
On first look the series stood out as something new, and I thought it was going to shed some light on the real Dark Net. But ho-hum this a bunch of fringe stories we have already heard of before, and there is little attention given to the subject that the series draws it's tille from.

There is no real in-depth documentary making here. Each episode is in case study format, but being constrained to 30mins there is no room to explore those burning questions. I couldn't help but feel short changed and uninterested.

Documentaries work best when they answer the So-what? question, but when you end up thinking Who cares? then probably no one else cares either...
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Stranger Things (2016– )
Oh to be young again and again.
28 October 2017
But that's only one reason why I think this storytelling has worked. The cultural mash up gives something for parents to reminisce. But you also get to see your children gasp and grip in suspense, for the second time, in the very plot points and twists that you had enjoyed back then. The storytelling is done so masterfully that there's no sense of it all being a rip-off.

It's intense viewing at times, and I found myself chuckle at myself about all that. There's some emotional stuff too for old romantics like me. We we're young once. You're allowed to be drawn in and invested in every relationship. You get to care about them, and there's nothing that leaves you wondering about what should or shouldn't have happened. That's satisfying viewing.

The actors shine again in Season 2 and that's the polish on this production.

Somehow I think the creators have managed to leave a cultural legacy for Gen X parents, so I tip my hat to them for that. My 13 and 12 year old we're not disappointed, and that counts for a lot of legacy if you think about it. Well done indeed.
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Suburra: Blood on Rome (2017–2019)
Subtitles need attention
11 October 2017
This is a post production issue, but the subtitles are are more than once either, too long, not displayed long enough, or are white text on a light background. I had to rewind and pause several times. Once or twice is tolerable, but after that it becomes frustrating and interrupts the audience attention to follow the flow of the story. This is poor post- production.
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An incredibly moving story seen through the eyes of a child
21 September 2017
A movie based on Long Ung's autobiography about her childhood memories as a child soldier during the Khmer Rouge regime. First they Killed my Father is an incredibly moving story. The camera angles are set low and at times the story seems slow, and throughout has little dialogue, but in the end this works well in telling this story from a child's perspective.

I did not expect that I would have been so emotional after watching this movie. And several times, I found myself revisiting both the troubling and precious moments portrayed in the film. Perhaps it's because my earliest memories of television are news film of war in Indochina, and the opening scenes briefly show Long Ung standing beside a black and white television, with similar vision playing while the Khmer Rouge are marching down the streets outside. I found myself trying to compare my childhood to hers. For me this alone is powerful. Don't expect any big history questions to be answered or seek to ask who's responsible, this isn't needed to see this story as it would have been seen through the eyes of a child.
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Get Krack!n (2017–2019)
Cringeworthy rubbish.
20 September 2017
I've only seen the parts of the first two episodes and about all I could bare, 15 minutes of the 4th episode. There are parts of the script that seem to be better written, but there are skits that are just poorly planned, overdone, and terribly executed. Everyone involved except the special guests, just try too hard, everything is very forced. I get the premise and I dislike morning TV but if I had to choose, I'd pick morning TV over this rubbish.
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Taboo (2017– )
It's OK, but this is not Peaky Blinders
14 September 2017
The look and feel of this dark period series about a troubled man, who returns from the far corners of the British Empire, and set against the rise of the East India Company, it's relationship with the British Monarchy, with something about US history, slavery, and some black magic or lunacy thrown in, or both,and on and on, I s OK viewing.

But if you're confused by my synopsis above, it's because the plot is vague and despite superb performances, the characters are crowded out by too many dissonant plot lines and underdevelopment back stories. Looking back the first few episodes seem like they belong more to some other story. However it still manages to keep you engaged because you expect this will sort itself out.

Unfortunately, Taboo just doesn't come together in the end. Taboo is good enough to entice you to buy into the dreamy supernatural overtones that haunt a disturbed anti-hero as the central character, but you never get to feel anything for other characters because the main characters never connects to his humanity until it's way too late in the story. At least I think that's what is missing.

Underdeveloped characters can be substituted with something to shock the audience, but unfortunately all the efforts to push the moral boundaries to this effect, have no impotence. Maybe these things were taboo in back in the day the series is set, but this stuff has been done way too much, too many times now. You will know what I mean when you watch Taboo.

Taboo promised much and delivered a lot of style, but had too much going on, and seemed like it lacked a clear plot like Peaky Blinders, which is by comparison the better production.
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Unwanted Guest (2016 TV Movie)
So many pieces in so many places.
5 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
TV movies aimed for the midday viewer don't have to be masterpieces but they don't have to be unwanted guests when the script writing is so poor. The performances are acceptable with some exceptional scenes from the main cast. There are no plot surprises and the ending is predictable and that's OK. Unfortunately it's hard not to feel a little robbed when one characters asks in closing, what was this all about? And then we're told, "So many pieces in so many places"'s so corny it's memorable.
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Tokyo Trial (2016)
Worthwhile seeing for what it is.
3 August 2017
This miniseries starts off a little clunky, but any faults of the first episode, are forgotten by the end of the second episode. If it wasn't for one of the other reviewers who abandoned the series after watching just one episode, I would not have made this remark.

The series attempts to present the personalities and professional conduct of each Justice appointed to conduct the trails. It is not revisionist as some of the other reviewers have stated. We have had decades of documentaries about Japan's involvement in WW2, but none have attempted to cover the due judicial process to the extent of Tokyo Trial. And I think I would not have enjoyed the series if it was not dramatised, as I would have turned off to another narrated documentary.

For performances of the actors, the editing, and production are all good, especially from the end of the second episode. There is a lot to take in, I found myself enthralled by the story, and unexpectedly quite emotional at the end. I have worked on translation projects for academic material, related to this subject, but Tokyo Trial has a richer more human story to tell.
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80s style documentary with even more outdated material
16 April 2017
Don't be fooled by the title. There's no light shed on what might play out between a rising China and US military conflict. This is a walk down memory lane with material from the post war US nuclear testing in the Pacific followed by some current affairs about the South China Sea Chinese installations. There wasn't enough content left so a major portion of the program focused on the objections of some local Okinawan groups concerning US airbases on the island. Most of the material worthy of any merit is from incidents in the early 60s. We get to hear about Pine Gap in Australia which was note worthy in the 80s. Overall the documentary seeks to portray the USA in as negative a light as possible. While this may have worked in the 80s this style detracts from the credibility of the film. Unfortunately no mention is made of North Korea which is the elephant in the room given the current state of affairs which would have made for good television...but alas I can't see the producers heading there to get a scoop on the facts.
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The OA (2016–2019)
Dreary so dreary
15 February 2017
I like the way they've created the first episode, which introduces the characters, and acts as a prologue to the opening credits which come at the end of this episode. A melancholy tone is pitched, the characters are known, and the mysteries circumstances surrounding the reappearance of a once missing person are set....but never gain momentum, and the most important character remains 2 dimensional in a typical North American New Age spiritual universe.

The performances are often wooden, and the plot lacks arousal leading to a dreary progression through the story line. The plot mechanisms become comical at times and then you just end up not caring about the characters or how things turn out....if you have absolutely nothing else to watch, then by all means this is better than nothing. But be prepared for a lack lustre dreary journey to a who-cares boring ending...
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The Crown (2016– )
Visually brilliant, precise, and wonderfully delivered
10 January 2017
There is not much to fault in this production about the lives of the Royal family and world of they live in.

Nothing is left out of place in delivering the story even if there has been some artistic liberties, it really does not matter. You are never left scurrying to Wikipedia to find more about these people, or to check historical facts. It's good enough as it is.

Impeccable performances make the players feels very real from the start, in cinema that is visually brilliant. I've not been disappointed with this first season and eager for the next.

The Crown is just one of those rare masterpieces of television.
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High Crimes (2002)
When does it end
16 October 2016
I started writing this review at the 3 anticlimax but there were...I can't remember how many more. But what will be remembered is the repetitious melodrama and close ups of Freeman swilling booze, and Jude's tears. As always, even when the story line has almost fainted with exhaustion, Freeman's performance manages to carry you to the end of the movie...there was probably other fair performances, but they are lost among the dull wooden recitals of the others.

You really need to have absolutely nothing else to do, like me with a broken leg, to watch this dribble...or perhaps to drink as much booze as Freeman does to make sitting through this movie a little more bearable.
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