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  • mikejmanalo

OXYGEN by horror-filmmaker Alexandre Aja (HIGH TENSION, CRAWL) is a claustrophobic, emotional, twisty experience that owes a lot to the Ryan Reynolds modern classic, BURIED. Starring Mélanie Laurent (INGLORIOUS BASTERDS), this is a bottle-film set in the confines of a cryogenic chamber engages the viewer to piece together the mystery of what's going on in mostly real-time with our protagonist.

I will say one of the twists is pretty predictable, but regardless the movie mostly does a pretty good job twisting and turning and evolving as the story progresses. There is an emotional story at its core as well, which is mediocre, but is necessary for the mystery to play out, so it works, even if I wasn't as invested in that emotion, as much as the hero's current predicament.

Laurent's performance is stellar! She tows the line between hysterical and logical, but does so in a very realistic and relatable way. It's an incredibly tough role, considering she's essentially the only person in the film.. And yet, she carries the whole thing by herself.

That being said, the less you know about this one, the more fun it'll be. So let's keep this spoiler free, and just say, OXYGEN will leave you breathless.

Check it out on Netflix now!

After 18 hours of gameplay, I beat one of the best indie games of 2021, HORACE. It's credited to only 4 people, and they impressively made a candidate for GOY (Game of the Year). HORACE's story has so many truths about love, life, and human nature that even non-gamers should be entertained.

You play as the lovable robot, Horace. You're tasked with cleaning up the world by picking up 1 million pieces of junk before the robot apocalypse. The journey is deep with references to the classic 16bit era and pop culture. On the surface, it's just a hilarious 2D platformer, but upon a deeper look, HORACE is an excellent Metroidvania-inspired experience.

Gamers will be backtracking a lot, but it never feels like a chore. You might be spending too much time playing addicting mini-games trying to earn cash. Or you might end up in the arcade, blowing said cash. Yet both are only additive to the overall superb level design.

Oh, and did I mention the boss battles. ? Holy sh*t they are fun! The difficulty level of the plentiful encounters and extreme platforming will have gamers dying, a lot. I died close to 2,000 times. Yet what separates HORACE from other punishing platformers like CELESTE/SUPER MEAT BOY are the powerups, including an orb that allows players to respawn at frequent checkpoints. The challenge comes from trying to save those much-needed additional hits for the boss battles.

My only complaint with HORACE was the mid-section. Just when the game hits its stride, there's a fetch quest that slows things down to a crawl. If you make it through that part, you'll be over the "moon" for what comes next.

HORACE is available on most gaming platforms and this review is based on the Nintendo Switch version.

  • mikejmanalo

Did watching this make me wish I was dead? Not exactly. It's fine. But it's also not nearly as good as Taylor Sheridan's other works, like SICARIO or HELL OR HIGH WATER.

THOSE WHO WISH ME DEAD feels like a dated throwback movie that would have been a top-seller at the rise of Jolie's career. It's a bit of a slow burn (pun intended), with great performances from Jolie and her excellent 15-year-old co-star Finn Little (in his first major studio film role), as well as co-star Medina Senghore. But it admittedly does feel a bit been-there-done-that for 2021.

That's not to say it's not entertaining. After a pretty dull first act where not a whole lot is established, things start to pick up and get a bit better as the real story and central relationship between Jolie's and Little's characters begins to develop. The chase and action begin to intensify during this time as well, upping the stakes, and keeping you engaged enough. But they also play out quite predictably. And for someone like Sheridan who is usually pretty reliable about reinventing old-fashioned tropes and notions into something epic and new, this ends up feeling a bit too tired and old, and somewhat disappointing; particularly with very stock boring antagonists in Nicholas Hoult and Aiden Gillen.

See it if you're bored and looking for something not very complex. It's entertaining enough. It's just also forgettable enough.

THOSE WHO WISH ME DEAD is now in theaters and on HBO MAX.


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