Nintendo Wii U, 3DS News & Features

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Review: Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth (PlayStation 4)

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Review: Sparkle 2 (Nintendo Switch)

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Review: Syberia (Nintendo Switch)

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DVD Movie Review: The Transfiguration

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The Transfiguration (UK Rating: 15)

To fully appreciate what The Transfiguration does, one must go into it with the right mindset. While the film toys with horror, it is much more accurate to refer to it as a drama. Following vampire obsessed Milo, a young orphan living with his older brother, this film tackles several subjects. Abuse, optimism, gang violence, love, and moving on are all important themes The Transfiguration attempts to address, and for the most part, it does this splendidly. Unfortunately, its shortcomings are too abundant, and too obvious, to simply ignore. After a run in cinemas back in April via Thunderbird Releasing, the movie landed on DVD in August, and Cubed3 checks out whether you should dash out to pick it up.

Milo (Eric Ruffon) is an outcast. The kids at his school chase him and bully him, just as a gang in his neighbourhood does. Milo finds solace in vampires, being an absolute savant when it comes to not only their history in cinema, but also them as creatures. One day, when returning home, he meets Sophie (Chloe Levine), a girl who is just moving into his apartment building. She is, much like Milo, an orphan, moving in with her grandfather, an abusive old man. Their relationship is interesting to follow, as it feels natural.


 
Milo, however, has a secret life that he leads. As the film opens, viewers get to see Milo sucking the blood out of a man's neck in a bathroom stall. He follows patterns as he kills other people, seemingly needing to keep a good schedule to ensure he kills regularly. This storyline comes with some difficult to answer questions that make the film both more powerful and weaker… but more on that in a bit.

This is because the central theme seems to be Milo, a young man, balancing his home life, his love life, and his secret life, over the course of one summer. Milo is clearly a disturbed teenager, having witnessed an unspeakable tragedy. Director Michael O'Shea frames the tragedy well, leaving the audience with fleeting glimpses of what happened, and what seemingly led Milo down the path he is on. This works even better when, a little under halfway through, an event occurs that changes the whole dynamic of the movie.

Really, The Transfiguration gets most of its strength through its ambiguity. For most of the film, you might wonder if Milo is, indeed, a vampire, and that O'Shea is redefining the rules here. Morally, though, Milo does things that are truly bad. There's no doubt about it. However, the film never forces you to decide how to feel about him, as he usually follows up doing something bad by doing something good. However, it isn't just here that the film manages to succeed.

The Transfiguration deals with everything in a very unvarnished way. Things just are. Milo's mental state may be the result of his environment, or the myriad of tragedies he's had to suffer, but it feels like O'Shea either feels unqualified, or that it's not his place to answer. Milo and Sophie being in an interracial relationship is merely coincidence, hardly important enough for anyone in the film to bring it up, beyond mentioning she's a white girl on occasion, and wondering why she lives in the neighbourhood. What's more important is how Milo responds to these things.

Milo couldn't care less that Sophie is white, nor does he seek to blame the world around him for his faults. After witnessing a rather violent act committed by the gang in his neighbourhood, he knows he has to keep quiet, as he can't be perceived as a snitch. Milo feels like a real human being, as do most of the characters. No one feels like a sketch or caricature, instead feeling honest and raw, and the picture is all the better for it.


 
Even the violence is remarkably sparse, used as a reminder that Milo's demons are very real, and very threatening. Again, it isn't made clear whether or not he is a vampire until the very end. Michael O'Shea has crafted a thoughtful film that, instead of making statements, frames one young man's experience, and allows you to come up with those statements on your own. It's fantastic, and so uncommon in film these days, because The Transfiguration never tells you how to feel, it simply sets the facts in front of you, hoping you will come to a conclusion as the events proceed. Thankfully, the performances are fantastic, and the writing is positively outstanding, so this is able to carry that naturalistic vibe safely over the finish line.

Sadly, though, it isn't without its blemishes. There are far too many scenes that come off as useless, mostly with Milo walking aimlessly, or going to the bathroom. Listening to him explain vampire movies can get tiresome, also, as he really focuses on one adjective to describe them most of the time. It almost becomes a catchphrase for the character, and that seems needless in this instance.

Also, the film has a hard time framing the motivations of some of the characters accurately. Milo's older brother, Lewis, comes off as both brash and caring, and it's hard to tell if he's using tough love sometimes, or he's just mean. The leader of the gang is also confusing, seemingly being a genuinely nice guy, while also being ruthless, and even occasionally kind of dumb.

The most annoying part, though, is the shaky cam. While this can make a film feel more raw and lifelike, here it gets distracting and frustrating. Too often, shots hang too long, making this effect all the more irritating than it was previously.

In order for one to truly enjoy The Transfiguration, they must be willing to accept that the movie gives no easy answers. While it can occasionally be too ambiguous, the line it tows is honest and real. It deals with themes like race and class structure by being blunt and it deals with mental illness by making no excuses. If you want an honest opinion on the film, then, you're going to have to watch it for yourself. Why? Well, without witnessing the horror that Milo is privy to, it is difficult to say with any certainty you could come to your own conclusions. Fortunately, the film is all the better for it.

Review: Trulon: The Shadow Engine (PlayStation 4)

CCG meets RPG in this charming mix up title. How well does it play its cards?

DVD Movie Review: XX

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XX (UK Rating: 15)

Horror anthologies may not be the Hollywood blockbuster force many of them deserve, but they are a genre staple. Whether it's Stephen King and George Romero's team up in Creepshow, the all Asian director team behind Three Extremes, or the 26-piece directorial ensemble that is ABCs of Death, those interested in a collection of short, visceral tales of terror have a much bigger pool to select from than they might think. XX is one of the newest ones - released on DVD across the UK back in May via Thunderbird Releasing - with its central hook being that all of the directors are women.

However, like many of its ilk, some sections do a better job than others of roping you in, and XX has some notable downsides - more specifically, the theme of mothers, and their children. Now, this theme works wonderfully, in and of itself. It's also unlikely that it was meant to be a proper theme, but nonetheless, it is a very important factor in most of the stories. When that thematic thread gets dropped, then, it's all the more jarring.

The first piece viewers explore is The Box, directed by Jovanka Vukovich. This is probably the most unsettling of the bunch, and the nerve it hits is universally terrifying. As a woman and her two children travel home on a subway train, her son begins asking the man next to him what he has stored in box on his lap. It's close to Christmas, so the old man explains it's a gift. Despite his mother and his sister insisting he display some manners, he asks the old to see what's in the box. The old man obliges, and the young boy looks shocked. After this, over the course of a week, he refuses to eat, insisting he just isn't hungry. This segment is so beautifully shot, and when the boy's affliction spreads to other family members, this simple premise becomes haunting and disturbing. The only real qualm with it is the mother is often showcased to be somewhat apathetic, which makes her decisions later in the short a bit perplexing. Overall, this is the best of the four shorts, and would make an excellent full length film.

Next up is The Birthday Party, directed by Annie Clark. In this film, it is little Lucy's birthday, and her mother, Mary (played by Melanie Lynskey), is doing everything in her power to ensure everything is great. When she discovers a dead body (not just any, mind you, but it's interesting and worth discovering on your own), she has to quickly find a way to hide the body to ensure it doesn't ruin the day. If that description wasn't obvious enough, this is the funniest of the four pieces. Watching Mary desperately try to find places to hide the corpse is pretty amusing. Her final decision is, however, rather stupid and nonsensical. She spends a lot of the short run time (this is also the shortest of the four) with perfectly logical places to hide the body, so her final call is kind of ridiculous. However, it still manages to be droll, in the darkest way possible.


 
Now, the quality dips considerably as the audience moves into Don't Fall. Directed by Roxanne Benjamin (who also co-wrote The Birthday Party), this follows four young adults stumbling upon, what is briefly hinted as the land of some ancient tribe. When one of them is transformed into a killing machine, the others desperately scramble to escape. Here's the thing: not only does this break what was likely a thematic thread amongst the films, it's also the most traditional story. While that could have worked, it really only manages to be boring, traditional horror; although, to its credit, this is actually the only one of the four films that manages to be scary at any point. The monster make up is fantastic, and the scares (despite a few false jump scares) typically feel tense, although not particularly frightening. You will likely be nervous, but it manages to fade a bit too quickly to make Don't Fall feel anything other than out of place here.

Finally, there is Her Only Living Son, which feels like the most structurally sound. The plot isn't particularly amazing, but if you're looking for good pacing, acting, and writing, it might just marginally beat out The Box. Also, The Box is more ambiguous, meaning it will likely leave more people annoyed.

Her Only Living Son, directed by Karen Kusama (without a doubt the most seasoned director on the roster, with films like Jennifer's Body and The Invitation), tells the story of Cora and her son, Andy. Andy has been getting into a lot of trouble as of late, and even Cora is amazed to see how much of it he's getting away with. As she mentions, they have been running from the boy's father their whole lives, but clearly the town they have settled in is more than aware of who he is. While this plot isn't going to win much in originality, it is beautifully shot, and the pacing is absolutely perfect.

In-between these movies, viewers are treated to a stop motion animation about a walking doll house, which also seems to have strong maternal instincts. These stop motion sections, perhaps besides one with an apple, are fascinating and creepy, in all the best ways. Again, it's hard to be sure that the mother and child bond is as important here as it seems, so really, Don't Fall can't be judged too harshly for it. Unfortunately, it is still the least imaginative and interesting of the lot. Fortunately, the remainder of the anthology is absolutely worth checking out, as they are solid contributions to the genre.

This all-female directorial team for XX brings some truly disturbing stories to the fray. While one lags tremendously, the other three, and the brilliant stop motion segments, more than make up for it. Honestly, of those three, all of them feel like they would make great full length films. This isn't to say that Don't Fall is completely without merit; it is to say that amongst the other portions of the compilation, it just doesn't feel as deep or imaginative.

Review: Call of Duty: WWII (PlayStation 4)

Sledgehammer Games takes it to the trenches and goes full circle back to where it all began with Call of Duty: WWII.

Review: RIVE: Ultimate Edition (Nintendo Switch)

Announced on Wii U way back when and then cancelled, the platform-shmup hybrid from Two Tribes, RIVE, hits Nintendo Switch!

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