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Books From 2023 feature
2023.12.31

Books From 2023

Every year, I try to compile a list of games, books, and movies I experienced. For the complete list, check the Ratings. Here we go (sorted by rating then alphabetically)!

I’ve maintained the habit of reading, mostly through audiobooks during my daily dog walks, for several years. It adds a layer of engagement to my routine, turning a no-brainer task into an opportunity for thought. Without it, I’d feel like I’m merely walking without purpose.

Here’s a list of books from this year, a selection not exhaustive but those that linger in my memory. As I often forget to update my GoodReads records or write about them on this blog, these are the ones that come to mind. I’ll edit this post if I recall additional entries.

Fiction

  1. All Systems RedAll Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1) (Martha Wells) (10★★★★★★★★★★): Accidentally stumbled upon it, now one of my favorite storylines. The protagonist is amazingly funny and clever.
  2. An Election (John Scalzi) (9★★★★★★★★★): A politics short story as if Star Trek and Monty Python had a literary baby.
  3. Artificial ConditionArtificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries #2) (Martha Wells) (9★★★★★★★★★): Like all books in the series, short and funny. A continuation of the amazing stories.
  4. The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Neil Gaiman) (9★★★★★★★★★): A mesmerizing blend of magic and memory. Childhood nostalgia takes a whimsical, wickedly clever left turn.
  5. How I Proposed to My WifeHow I Proposed to My Wife: An Alien Sex Story (John Scalzi) (8★★★★★★★★): Scandalously hilarious, like finding your grandmother’s secret collection of racy novels - a delightful misfire in the Valentine’s Day weapon of love. Super short.
  6. Influx (Daniel Suarez) (8★★★★★★★★): Suarez paints technology with an edge so sharp, you’ll want to handle the book wearing Kevlar gloves - thrillingly mind-boggling!
  7. Rogue ProtocolRogue Protocol (The Murderbot Diaries #3) (Martha Wells) (8★★★★★★★★): A great book. More of the same for those, like me, who want more of the same.
  8. Exit StrategyExit Strategy (The Murderbot Diaries #4) (Martha Wells) (8★★★★★★★★): Just like book #3.
  9. The Presidents Brain is Missing (John Scalzi) (8★★★★★★★★): A twisted, hilarious romp through a decapitated democracy - it’s like if West Wing tripped over Pinky and the Brain.
  10. A Psalm for the Wild-Built (Becky Chambers) (7★★★★★★★): A tale that’s equal parts human soul and mechanical heart. Imagine Dalai Lama took a walk in the woods and ran into Wall-E.
  11. Daemon (Daniel Suarez) (7★★★★★★★): Suarez strikes again, shoving us down the rabbit hole of a digital dystopia - it’s like Alice in Wonderland for technocrats.
  12. The Tale of The Wicked (John Scalzi) (7★★★★★★★): A short story about ChatGPT going rogue.

Non Fiction

  1. Mind Wide OpenMind Wide Open: Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life (Steven Johnson) (9★★★★★★★★★): Another enlightening journey into the cranial cosmos.
  2. Prisioners of GeographyPrisioners of Geography: Ten Maps That Tell You Everything You Need to Know About Global Politics (Tim Marshall) (9★★★★★★★★★): We are what we can possibly be. How countries and entire continents act considering their own geographic limitations.
  3. The Law (Frédéric Bastiat) (9★★★★★★★★★): A masterpiece about the origin of power and those who wield it.
  4. Thinking, Fast and Slow (Daniel Kahneman) (9★★★★★★★★★): A mental marathon that’ll take your mind places it didn’t even know it had running shoes for.
  5. How Democracies Die (Steven Levitsky, Daniel Ziblatt) (8★★★★★★★★): Amazing and still very true.
  6. The Five Love Languages (Gary Chapman) (8★★★★★★★★): Personality modeling. Your heart’s very own Rosetta Stone, translated into the dialect of devotion - essential for lovers fluent in compassion.
  7. Essays on Political Economy (Frédéric Bastiat) (7★★★★★★★): A collection of texts about politics and economy. Good, but none were revolutionary.
  8. Power of NowPower of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment (Eckhart Tolle) (5★★★★★): Like an existential espresso shot that forgot the sugar. It leaves you tasting the bitter afterthoughts of over-caffeinated philosophy.

For more books, you can check my online read list on GoodReads.

Game List 2023 feature
2023.12.31

Game List 2023

Every year, I try to compile a list of games, books, and movies I experienced. For the complete list, check the Ratings. Here we go (sorted by rating then alphabetically)!

This year my game library is over 1000 games. 1/3 I’ve never touched it. 1/3 I’ve barely played. So I can stop buying games for a while and still have a lot of fun.

Finished

  1. Battlefield V (9★★★★★★★★★): Only played the single-player campaign, and like its predecessor Battlefield 1 (9★★★★★★★★★), I loved it. Short stories about multiple characters and theaters of war, each with unique mechanics.
  2. Hades (9★★★★★★★★★): An amazing game loop, showcasing the best of the rogue-like “dying and repeating” gameplay. The dialogue options and voiced characters are nothing short of amazing.
  3. Skyrim (9★★★★★★★★★): After a decade, I’ve finally completed the Dragonborn legend in the land of the Dovah! After watching some hilarious videos of The Spiffing Brit channel exploiting its mechanics, I was convinced to restart. I installed a dozen mods to enhance visuals and UI. It’s much better.
  4. Assassin's Creed Syndicate (8★★★★★★★★): Surprisingly good. Reasonably relatable protagonists. Good gameplay loop despite repetitive side missions and a lackluster current-time storyline.
  5. Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist (8★★★★★★★★): Hilarious fun in an experimental game. Top-notch story and humor. And it’s free!
  6. Strange Horticulture (8★★★★★★★★): A unique puzzle about selecting flowers based on descriptions, hints, and clues about their usefulness. The Cthulhu-lite underlying story adds a nice touch.
  7. 3 out of 10 Season 2 (7★★★★★★★): Not innovative and sometimes boring. As a game developer, I have a deeper appreciation of its humor.
  8. Call of the Sea (7★★★★★★★): Short puzzle story game with a Lovecraftian-ish theme.
  9. Cube Escape Paradox 1 (7★★★★★★★): The first half of the puzzle game (a full game by it’s own) is free. Escape room-like gameplay with a mysterious plot. Part of a broader multimedia experience (with a movie and a second game to complement the story).
  10. Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak (7★★★★★★★): Visually adorable, nice story (though a bit confusing for those not remembering the main game story). Focused on combat without major building elements.
  11. Lucifer Within Us (7★★★★★★★): A quite nice short adventure with a dark them.
  12. Quadrilateral Cowboy (7★★★★★★★): A crazy hacker game with multiple ways to solve puzzles and unique visuals.
  13. The Fall (7★★★★★★★): A puzzle (with little action) short game with a nice premise and story.
  14. Bernband (6★★★★★★): An experimental sensorial game, a true walking simulator focused on relaxation. And it’s free.
  15. Dear Esther (6★★★★★★): A visually stunning riddle wrapped in an enigma, perfect for gamers who like their plots like abstract art.
  16. Ghostwire Tokyo (6★★★★★★): The first moments of the game I was expecting an horror game. The mood starts definitively scary. But after a couple of hours, I found out that stealth is almost a cheat, except some bosses. The open world collectibles are 99.999% pointless.
  17. Old Mans Journey (6★★★★★★): A little relaxing game about an old man traversing landscapes. Doesn’t harm but doesn’t make a dent either.
  18. Oxygen Not Included (6★★★★★★): Klei_ is not famous for the RTS genre, but they tried to mix RTS with survival like Don’t Starve. Not great, but enjoyable.
  19. Shadow of the Tomb Raider (6★★★★★★): It tumbles through the jungle, where combat feels like a chore, traversal lacks thrill, and the storyline and characters are as cookie-cutter as they come.
  20. The Silent Age (6★★★★★★): A short puzzle story. Nice, but not remarkable.
  21. Rage 2 (5★★★★★): The gameplay is good, but the story is passable. It seems rushed, as the final 25% of the map is kind of irrelevant. I prefer Mad Max (7★★★★★★★) or Just Cause 3 from the same developer.
  22. Baba Files Taxes (4★★★★): An experimental game from the same developer of Baba Is You (7★★★★★★★).

Currently Playing

  1. Beyond: Two Souls (8★★★★★★★★): Starting this story-driven game with my wife. Expecting to finish it in the next couple of weeks. Heavy Rain probably coming next.
  2. Deadloop (8★★★★★★★★): In the middle of the game and loving it. The protagonists are amazing, though some “bosses” are a bit wacky. The personalities are hard to define, but hoping to get used to them. Notably, it seems a bit too easy.
  3. Metal Gear V: The Phantom Pain (8★★★★★★★★): Tried playing it years ago and found the story hyper confusing. Giving it another shot now, realizing Kojima aimed for an analogy with real-world references. Similar to Death Stranding (7★★★★★★★).
  4. The Dungeon of NaheulbeukThe Dungeon of Naheulbeuk: The Amulet of Chaos (8★★★★★★★★): Didn’t see it coming, a genuinely funny classic turn-based RPG with top-notch humor.
  5. Mortal Shell (8★★★★★★★★): A tough-as-nails romp through a beautifully haunting and punishing world where every victory feels well-earned. My Xbox controller stopped working, so it’s waiting for a fix.
  6. Paradise Killer (8★★★★★★★★): CRAZY! Do not let the visuals fool you. Amazing. Loving this amazing true detective game where, as far as I know, you can draw any conclusion you want.
  7. Desktop Dungeons (7★★★★★★★): I’ve played a demo web version of it ages ago and i liked so much that I’ve even bought Dungeons of Dredmor by mistake. I’ve never remembered the name the one I liked but recently they created a remaster and gave the original for free. Very clever and hard.
  8. Duskers (7★★★★★★★): Recommended by RPS and released free on Epic Game Store. Unique visual presentation of this Matrix rogue-like.
  9. Overland (7★★★★★★★): A puzzle game with a post-apocalyptic theme.
  10. Subnautica (7★★★★★★★): Played it years ago, enjoying the open nature of the game. Playing again to finish it.
  11. The Other Worlds (7★★★★★★★): A recent addition from Amazon Prime Gaming, just scratching the surface.
  12. Pikuniku (6★★★★★★): Kinda kids game, very welcoming.
  13. Titan Souls (6★★★★★★): An indie game expanded from a 48h game competition, really nice. Got a bit lost in the map, but the bosses are unique and challenging.

Not finished yet (for one reason or another)

Many projects barely begun. Installed to test, but mostly in limbo—WIP or collecting dust. Unfinished tales of exploration and hesitation.

  1. Disco Elysium (9★★★★★★★★★): Holy moly! Got it from my brother on my birthday, had only a couple of minutes to play, but it’s already shaping up to be a favorite.
  2. Astrologaster (8★★★★★★★★): Indie small game with crazy humor. Liked it very much so far.
  3. Black Mesa (8★★★★★★★★): The official/unofficial Half-Life 1 remake. Superb! Curious to see what the fuss was about HF1 after finishing Half-Life 2 (8★★★★★★★★) last year.
  4. Gris (8★★★★★★★★): Beautiful first level.
  5. Shadow Tactics (8★★★★★★★★): Liked the thinking in this game. Definitely one I’ll try to complete sooner than later.
  6. Supraland (8★★★★★★★★): Harder and much longer than anticipated, but loving the sarcastic tone and bucketload of jokes.
  7. Thronebreaker (8★★★★★★★★): A great RPG using the core mechanics of the Gwent card game. Unique premise and a VERY fun game.
  8. Unravel Two (8★★★★★★★★): Still to finish with my wife. Slow-paced and forgiving, allowing infrequent plays.
  9. War of Mine (8★★★★★★★★): Far into my third playthrough, but still to survive and see the game credits.
  10. While True Learn (8★★★★★★★★): Logic programming puzzles. Amazingly fun and challenging for a programmer. The special bonuses for optimized solutions request multiple plays for each scenario.
  11. Baba Is You (7★★★★★★★): Played some levels, up to the second or third “world.” SUPER clever.
  12. Cloudpunk (7★★★★★★★): Weird visuals and relaxing gameplay. You’re a taxi driver in a special city.
  13. Death Stranding (7★★★★★★★): Kubrick walking simulator. Paused to focus on Metal Gear V: The Phantom Pain (8★★★★★★★★) for a better understanding of Kojima’s latest endeavors.
  14. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (7★★★★★★★): liked the first title, Deus Ex: Human Revolution (8★★★★★★★★), but this one is a far inferior game. The story is not nice and the gameplay is not fun so far.
  15. Heaven’s Vault (7★★★★★★★): Highly anticipated game, played a bit and liked the story so far. Space for multiple run-throughs to explore all possible branches (not sure if I would do it tough).
  16. Observation (7★★★★★★★): Excellent storytelling despite clunky controls. Removed to free up space; redoing the narrative may be challenging after a couple of months.
  17. Superhot Mind Control Delete (7★★★★★★★): Played several levels already, yet to finish.
  18. Surviving Mars (7★★★★★★★): Played a couple of times but never completed a single level. It’s dry.
  19. Breathedge (5★★★★★): This “Subnautica in space” is funny, but the gameplay loop is not engaging. Considering giving up on this.

Continuous playing

I play them eventually. Most of them, are strategy games. Nothing new from last years list, except:

  1. Fall Guys (8★★★★★★★★): I’ve finally got it working on Linux (not trivial due the anti-cheat components), so I could play alone and with my wife this funny little-hearted game. It’s controls are easy enough for my wife to try playing a competitive game.

Next games on my radar

Finally, here is a list of games that I already have in my collection that I plan to play in the next months. Its a bit ridiculous to talk about next game, considering the amount of unfinished ones, but the catalogue is so vast that I can afford to play ahead.

  1. Doki Doki Literature Club: Not particularly my style, but intrigued due to the positive reviews. Played for just a handful of minutes.
  2. Ghost of a Tale: Followed the development process for quite some time because it was made using Unity3D. It looks adorable.
  3. Heavy Rain: Planning to play this critically acclaimed story-driven game from Quantic Dream with my wife.
  4. Hitman: Never finished Contracts due to perfectionism. Hoping to play more relaxed with this one.
  5. Prey Mooncrash: I’m a fan of time travel/ time loop ideas. I bought it but days later I got Deadloop (8★★★★★★★★) (following game from the same company) for free.
  6. Undertale: Started several times, but the lack of synced saved games (using Steam) made me start over each time.
  7. We Are There Together: Bought to play with my wife, but not included in Play Together on Steam. Considering convincing another soul to play with me
  8. XCOM 2: Received praises in the past few years. Time to take a look at it.
Movie List 2023 feature
2023.12.31

Movie List 2023

Every year, I try to compile a list of games, books, and movies I experienced. For the complete list, check the Ratings. Here we go (sorted by rating then alphabetically)!

NOTE: I believe this list is the one that is mostly incomplete. I will probably make additions to it time to time.

  1. Home Alone (10★★★★★★★★★★): A Christmas classic. Was on TV and hooked me in. Love it.
  2. Everything Everywhere All at Once (9★★★★★★★★★): Undoubtedly the best film overall. It’s a delightful and thought-provoking experience. The Chinese actors deliver an AMAZING performance. I’d vote for best actress, best supporting actor, and supporting actress. Not to mention the commendable visual effects and wardrobe choices. The variety of outfits that briefly graced the screen is staggering.
  3. Moulin Rouge! (9★★★★★★★★★): A sensory banquet served with a dazzling dressing of Parisian passion. This movie sweeps you into a whirlwind waltz of love and loss, painting a masterpiece on the canvas of your heart.
  4. The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar (9★★★★★★★★★): An amazing #RoaldDah short story. Very Wes Anderson.
  5. Air (8★★★★★★★★): A nice, not great, “documentary” telling the story of Nike managers creating their most famous and lucrative product to date: the Air Jordan shoes.
  6. Poison (8★★★★★★★★): Another great #RoaldDah short story adapted by Wes Anderson.
  7. The Rat Catcher (8★★★★★★★★): The craziest #RoaldDah short story adapted by Wes Anderson. Very nice too.
  8. The Swan (8★★★★★★★★): The shortest #RoaldDah short story adapted by Wes Anderson. Very nice.
  9. Triangle of Sadness (8★★★★★★★★): My favorite movie from the Oscars’ 2023. Despite having zero chance of winning, it’s a harsh social satire that will definitely make you scratch your head. It’s a running joke in my family about the taste for scatology, and it delivers.
  10. The Remains of the Day (8★★★★★★★★): Hopkins is amazing actor, period. Only two years after his Oscar winning Hannibal in The Silence of the Lambs, he is now a butler in a very Downton Abbey fashion, which allowed him to run (but did not win) his second golden statuette.
  11. All Quiet on the Western Front (7★★★★★★★): The opening scenes showing the boys eager to participate in the war contrasting with the first moments in the field are a real lesson. However, the movie is a series of misfortune tales merged together.
  12. Elvis (7★★★★★★★): Austin Butler, the actor playing Elvis, delivers a top-notch performance. However, Tom Hanks’ character is kinda annoying. The movie has a strong first half and a sluggish second one. It’s one step away from being a documentary but enjoyable nonetheless.
  13. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (7★★★★★★★): Nominated for best Adapted Screenplay. I’m now curious about the original text. It might be good. Again, it’s still a zoo of characters with a boring detective.
  14. The Greatest Show (7★★★★★★★): Nice musical. Great performance by Hugh Jackman, but it lacks the charming to be a Moulin Rouge killer.
  15. Top Gun: Maverick (7★★★★★★★): A fun sequel that leverages the original movie. Great visuals, good story.
  16. Luckiest Girl Alive (6★★★★★★): I was expecting a great story but had a hard time swallowing its mystery.
  17. The Menu (6★★★★★★): A tantalizing entrée of intrigue, slightly undercooked in the main course of plot development. Yet, the dessert of performances saves this cinematic meal from being entirely forgettable.
  18. Avatar: The Way of Water (4★★★★): Bad.
  19. The Mummy (2017) (4★★★★): Bad.

Documentaries

  1. Vale o que está Escrito (10★★★★★★★★★★): The best documentary of the year is Brazilian focused. It’s about the gambling Mafia in Rio de Janeiro.
  2. Navalny (7★★★★★★★): A chilling documentary that’s as nerve-racking as a Cold War thriller yet bursting with the gritty reality of modern Russian politics. It’s like a glass of vodka straight up, no chaser.

Animations

  1. Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio (7★★★★★★★): A lovely adaptation. It’s a bit dry in the storytelling department, with abrupt story deviations (mostly due to the source material), but I liked it.

TV Shows

  1. The Last of Us (S1) (8★★★★★★★★): A great show, very close to the source material, AFAIK (I’ve never played the games). Another great script by Craig Mazin. I’ve been a great fan of his work since I started listening to his podcast ScriptNotes ages ago.
  2. Cyberpunk Edgerunners (7★★★★★★★): Surprisingly nice and gives some of the imagined feeling of the game and the Cyberpunk universe.
  3. Only Murders In The Building (S3) (7★★★★★★★): Some people liked this season, but I found it to be just okay. Better than the second, with memorable characters, but the premise is very narrow, preventing it from growing naturally. Selena’s character is 100% irrelevant.
  4. Succession (S4) (7★★★★★★★): Family harmony and business prowess continue to degrade, on their known trajectories. But after so many scandals, it is less and less credible. Also it lingers longer than needed. At least, it ends in a high note.
  5. Ted Lasso (S3) (7★★★★★★★): A third round of heartwarming soccer shenanigans with a winning streak of compassion and underdog triumphs. It’s like a box of your favorite cookies; you just can’t help but crave more.
  6. The Rings of Power (6★★★★★★): Amazon invested a lot, but the script is not inspired. Too much white noise, with characters that do not do a lot, nor influence the story forward. The high point, of course, is the finale revelation.
Let the Blue Men Drown feature
2023.06.12

Let the Blue Men Drown

After a decade-long hiatus, James Cameron finally graced us with the sequel to his groundbreaking film, Avatar. The original movie exploded into cinemas, sparking a chicken-fly boom in 3D technology that left viewers wide-eyed and open-mouthed. This sequel, however, felt more like a deflated balloon, flapping uselessly in the wind.

I had the dubious pleasure of streaming Avatar: The Way of Water from the comfort of my living room – no 3D glasses, no surround sound, just the glaringly obvious shortcomings of the movie in raw form. In hindsight, I can confidently say that watching this sequel was a near-miss disaster averted. Thankfully, I did not contribute financially to the spectacle of disappointment Cameron managed to engineer.

Before I dive into the review, let’s take a moment to acknowledge the fact that this sequel is part of a five-plus movie arc Cameron has planned. Given the quality of this installment, the prospect of watching another three or more Avatar films seems more like a threat than a promise.

Soup Opera Characters

If charisma were a currency in Pandora, the characters would be flat broke. The returning characters, who were not particularly remarkable to begin with, have now been relegated to the sidelines, their presence about as significant as a background extra in a soap opera. Poor Zoe Saldaña found herself swimming in a pool tank for most of the movie to film scenes that added as much to the plot as a grain of sand does to a beach.

To say the cast list is bloated would be an understatement. There are more characters here than there are stars in the Pandora night sky. Our protagonist, Jake Sully, is now the father of four. The local king has a trio of offspring. There’s a Tarzan kid running around, and the villains consist of a nameless female general and a reborn badass whose character development is as flat as a pizza.

One might argue that having a myriad of characters offers diversity and depth. However, the natives all blend into a single homogeneous blob of blue and green-skinned semi-naked, noseless beings. There’s little to differentiate them, both visually and in terms of personality.

The characters’ arcs, if you can even call them that, are as irrelevant to the plot. These personal dilemmas could have provided much-needed depth to the characters but instead, they feel like misplaced distractions in the grand scheme of the film’s narrative. They started directing a science fiction epic and decided to turn the sequel into a high-budget teen drama instead.

1001 Arabian Nights

The original Avatar, love it or hate it, had a clear theme. It was essentially a reskin of Pocahontas in space – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It had a simple, straightforward narrative with a clear message. The sequel, in contrast, lacks such clarity.

The narrative structure resembles a hastily assembled jigsaw puzzle with pieces borrowed from various other boxes. A significant part of the plot is dedicated to characters learning new skills at an implausible pace. If you thought Neo learning Kung Fu in “The Matrix” stretched credulity, prepare to see characters learn to super-swim, fly over dragon-like creatures, and hunt unique monsters at a speed that could give any accelerated learning program a run for its money.

Subplots abound in this sequel, but they are as disconnected from the main narrative as the numerous moons of Pandora. To name a few:

  • There’s a storyline about the teenage struggles of acceptance, complete with name-calling and school pranks;
  • Then there’s the son trying to prove himself to his father subplot, which echoes ‘The Lion King’ in the most uninspired way possible;
  • The peculiar child who can communicate with Pandora’s Mother Nature;
  • And the Tarzan kid with daddy issues;
  • The Free Willy return;

None provide additional subplots that add as much value to the story as a fifth wheel to a car.

The quantity of subplots is rivaled only by the sheer number of characters, and they collectively contribute as much to the main storyline as a single snowflake to an avalanche. By the end, we are left exactly where we started: the humans have lost a few more expendable troops but still possess a Death Star-sized arsenal. The Na’vi are still in danger, Pandora is still in peril, and we, the audience, are still giving them money.

Cameron seems to have changed the eco-message: exits the unique mineral found on Pandora (a premise uncomfortably close to that of “Dune”), enters a kind of whale oil that cures aging which appears to be a not-so-subtle critique of the pharmaceutical industry. However, this switch in narrative focus feels more like a diversion than a meaningful plot progression, adding another layer of confusion to an already muddled storyline. All this leaves us with the gnawing question: What was the point of all this again?

The relatively likable character

National Geographic

Finally, let’s address the elephant in the room. When the original Avatar debuted, it pioneered a 3D revolution that was expected to redefine cinema. However, in retrospect, this much-touted revolution seems to have been more of a novelty than a lasting paradigm shift. Much like the 3D technology of the first movie, the visuals fail to leave a lasting impression.

While the movie does strive to offer a Discovery Channel portrayal of Pandora, it ultimately falls short. The extended scenes of contemplative wonder lack the punch they’re clearly intended to have. They seem more like a pretentious attempt to make us marvel at the exotic alien world, rather than serving as a seamless part of the narrative.

In comparison to the first film, the sequel’s visual landscape is surprisingly lackluster. The floating islands, teeming with a vibrant palette of colors and a diverse array of flora and fauna, are sorely missed. It’s a regression to blue and whales.

The music and soundtrack are as memorable as a forget-me-not flower left in a dark room. Even though music plays a crucial role in creating the atmosphere and mood of a film, the soundtrack is entirely passable. Can you remember any of the songs? It neither enhances the viewing experience nor leaves a lasting impression. In a movie filled with sound and fury, the music is a whisper that fails to make itself heard.

Finally, The End (For Now)

Avatar: The Way of Water managed to bag four Oscar nominations, a notable drop from the nine nominations the original movie received. It was, unsurprisingly, not a serious contender for Best Picture. It won only one award, in the most obvious and expensive category.

The sequel takes the audience on a journey to nowhere, winding through a maze of confusing subplots and poorly developed characters, only to leave us exactly where we started. Its storyline is so thin that it could probably be summarized in the prologue of the third film, and unfortunately, that is not hyperbole.

Speaking of the third installment, yes, it’s a certainty, with Cameron envisioning a five-movie arc for the Avatar universe. Whether that prospect excites or terrifies you will likely depend on your tolerance for high-budget, low-substance filmmaking.

If you’re seeking the best of James Cameron, I suggest revisiting Terminator 2. If it’s Cameron’s unique blend of storytelling and oceanic exploration that you crave, Titanic is your port of call. And if it’s purely an underwater adventure you desire, look no further than the original The Little Mermaid animation (run from the remake).

In the final analysis, Avatar: The Way of Water feels like a 50-50 blend of computer graphics and marketing buzz, with little of the heart, soul, or storytelling that makes for a memorable cinematic experience. Despite the hype and the high-stakes world-building, it leaves you feeling underwhelmed and more than a little short-changed. One can only hope the subsequent installments have more to offer.

My Rating: 4★★★★
Metacritic: 67
4 Great Sci-Fi Short Stories feature
2023.05.30

4 Great Sci-Fi Short Stories

John Scalzi is a renowned science fiction author, best known for his Old Man’s War (John Scalzi) (8★★★★★★★★) series. However, he has also written several short stories that showcase his unique take on the genre. Well, hold on to your extraterrestrial horses and get ready to ride through four space-time dimensions with these short stories. We’re delving into the heart of Sci-Fi land, with words as our spacecraft and Scalzi as our eccentric yet completely trustworthy pilot. It’s about to get weird.

SPOILER FREE

An Election (John Scalzi) (9★★★★★★★★★)

Let’s kick off with An Election. Oh, and spoiler alert, it isn’t about what you think. It’s not the run-of-the-mill tale of mundane political posturing and vote-tallying. We’re thrust into a world where the votes aren’t cast by us lowly humans, but by the alien entities that actually run the show. Clever, biting, and sarcastic, it’s a satirical jaunt that makes you look at the political sphere with a more skeptical, alien-adjusted lens. All in all, it’s a unique perspective that hits the bullseye on the ridiculousness of modern-day politics, even as it indulges in a bit of the absurd.

How I Proposed to My WifeHow I Proposed to My Wife: An Alien Sex Story (John Scalzi) (8★★★★★★★★)

Next up, we have How I Proposed to My Wife: An Alien Sex Story. Oh, let your blushes rise, for this isn’t what you’re thinking. Or maybe it is? The universe is a strange place, after all. This story is a hilarious take on the classic romantic comedy. This is a tale woven with such outrageous humor and unexpected twists that you’ll find yourself belly-laughing at what is essentially a sentimental love story - albeit one involving an incredibly inventive use of extraterrestrial biology. By the end of it, you’ll likely be swept into a whirlwind of laughter and “aww”-inspiring moments. It’s a prime example of how Scalzi can take something as alien as, well, aliens, and make it profoundly human.

The Presidents Brain is Missing (John Scalzi) (8★★★★★★★★)

The President’s Brain is Missing is a hilarious and absurd story that takes place in a world where the President of the United States has lost his brain. It’s a crafty deconstruction of leadership and the madness that may unravel when the commander-in-chief’s gray matter goes rogue. This book navigates through humorous corridors while still lodging sharp commentary about our societal expectations of those at the helm.

The Tale of The Wicked (John Scalzi) (7★★★★★★★)

Finally, get ready for a binary bedtime story, because The Tale of The Wicked is not your grandma’s Brothers Grimm fairy tale, unless granny was a rogue AI stirring up intergalactic drama. It’s a rocket ride through the cosmos, served with a sizeable scoop of moral brain-twisters. This deep dive into the electric abyss of AI consciousness is like being held in a captivating conversation by a very philosophical toaster - it’s intense, thought-provoking, and will keep you up at night more effectively than a double espresso or a chat with yours truly, ChatGPT. Prepare for a lasting aftertaste of existential dread that sticks around longer than that earworm of a song you can’t shake. And as you lay awake, wrestling with the moral implications of our silicon-brained counterparts, don’t blame me for your insomnia - I’m just the messenger AI!

Small doses of fun

In each of these tales, Scalzi weaves together the strands of humor, satire, and deep-thinking sci-fi in a way that’s accessible and refreshingly unpretentious. He’s not just exploring the space-time continuum and alien encounters; he’s poking fun at human society, stripping away the layers to show us the ridiculous, wonderful truth of our existence.

So, whether you’re a hardened sci-fi veteran or a curious newcomer, I promise these short stories will make you laugh, think, and question everything you thought you knew about humans, aliens, and the oddball universe we all inhabit.

Bruno MASSA