Paddington Review: Soft, Cuddly, and Short


Paddington is the latest computer generated (CG) family movie from the producer who brought you Harry Potter and is all about warm and fuzzy feelings that the whole family can enjoy. The movie has the perfect elements of comedy, success, and personification all wrapped up in a cuddly package of a Bear named Paddington.

Paddington starts off with an old time movie from the Geographers Guild by geographer Montgomery Clyde (Tim Downie) who meets some very odd bears and ends up giving them his hat and teaching them the proper way to speak English with English customs to boot. The culturalization carries through to Paddington (Michael Brown), a small but loveable bear who finds himself at Paddington Station where he is taken in by the Brown Family. The dynamic between Paddington and the Brown family creates a bulk of the movie in a search for an identity and a place to call home, while the symbolism with the blossoming pink flower tree as the Brown family wallpaper was beautiful when it properly reflected the moods on screen. The main antagonist Millicent (Nicole Kidman) is a taxidermist who wants to add Paddington to her extensive collection of stuffed and rare exotic animals, and Nicole Kidman acted this scene out with a great level of believability and insanity, though we did wish it was slightly more comedic and PG friendly.

The cinematography of Paddington is memorable, while the storyline pacing was clever and always entertaining with each scene. Every scene has a resemblance to Harry Potter’s cinematography in terms of the brightness of the colors and set-direction with the way the actors are portrayed against the backdrop elements. Hilarity ensues in quite possibly one of the most original movies to come out in 2015 so far in terms of family fare. The only downside to Paddington that we found was that it was irrevocably short, and even after the credits were rolling we were left wanting more and generally not satisfied enough.

Paddington is cleverly written, brilliantly acted, and stunningly portrayed with every minute on screen and is quite possibly a must see for people who love a good family movie, even if it is probably shorter than it should be.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Posted By: Usman Ihtsham
ON Monday, January 26th, 2015
6:50 PM

American Sniper Review: The Lethal Marksman


Clint Eastwood returns to directing another big-screen film since 2012’s Trouble with the Curve with the introduction of the biopic American Sniper. There is tense wartime action mixed with citizenship drama that amalgamates into the core of the story written by Jason Hall and based on the book by Chris Kyle – the original American Sniper who the film is based on.

As he grows up, Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) learns about the difference in defending people and being a bully/wolf from his father and their early hunting trips. The real-life sniper enlisted to protect people from terrorists and ended up being the most feared marksman in history – being referred to as “Legend” with his wartime buddies. While American Sniper has a lot of tense moments from early on in the movie, it follows a string of cuts in the sequences within chronological order after every tour. This storyline construction is rather abrupt and feels a bit disconcerting to the viewer’s sense of immersion in the storyline, which is something we are surprised that both the director and writer did not consider. What has been mistaken for a tool of more suspense only serves to make the audience disconnected from the experience – which is a shame. When the tense scenes (of which there are 2 notable ones highlighted in the trailers) continue, the struggle of Kyle coming back from war is apparent but nothing entirely individualistic or memorable. Bradley Cooper’s performance is incredible and the direction by Clint Eastwood seems to be decent enough.

American Sniper reveals a struggle between impending fatherhood with a lovely wife (Sienna Miller), the need to protect people from harm, and the tumultuous difficulty in maintaining a balance with family. As a result, American Sniper seems to juggle a lot of things without fully branching out into the storyline of every motif it tries to touch upon – leaving a lot more to be desired in the characterization of wartime struggle and the never-ending internal battle of returning from war for good.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Posted By: Usman Ihtsham
ON Friday, January 16th, 2015
7:47 PM

Big Eyes Review: The Story Is In The Eyes


Tim Burton’s Big Eyes is an interesting departure of the director’s famed portfolio from the gloomy scenery animated type stylization films of his past. The story of Big Eyes is engaging to another level for Tim Burton as it is based on a true story, and though that does not always make a film great, it works to make Big Eyes relatively enjoyable as well in a different sense.

Big Eyes underscores the true story of Walter Keane (Chrisopher Waltz) who was an artist that received national acclaim for his art that centers on children with ‘big eyes’ in a sort of morbid portrayal of the world in which the eyes tell a thousand stories. Eventually, everyone finds out that Keane is not the charming salesman with a talent in painting that he tried to represent himself as, but one of the most popular plagiarists of his time considering his wife Margaret (Amy Adams) had been drawing the iconic style of paintings all along. Big Eyes not only works to provide a look into the social stratum of the 1950s and 1960s, but also serves as a biopic into Peggy Hawkins aka Margaret Keane’s life and struggle. Big Eyes veers towards the awakening of an artist, along with giving a general glimpse of her tough and difficult situation with her husband trying to take credit for her drawings and putting her down due to the gender politics of the time. It was a “man’s world” and Margaret Keane’s ethical stance grew stronger the more fame accumulated.

Suddenly, Margaret was the one seeing Big Eyes everywhere in the world as her life and struggles became chaotic in her pursuit to be recognized for her talents along with being truthful to her daughter as a modern day feminist example of never letting society define who you are. As predictable as the stoyline was, Big Eyes is all about telling a story which happened in the real world even if it is not entirely engaging and feels shortchanged from the years of struggle of the primary protagonist of Margaret. Big Eyes carries an intense legal and real-world plot prose with terrific acting by the cast and a storyline that may deviate from complete details, but is nevertheless a decent enjoyable narrative.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Posted By: Usman Ihtsham
ON Saturday, January 3rd, 2015
8:25 AM

WhatIfGaming Game Of The Year 2014

Hello fellow readers!

WhatIfGaming 2012 Game Of The Year Awards

While in the past we have used to announce our winner, we want to aim for more simplicity this year and skip right to the winner of our awards panel’s decision. Every year passes by along with the new releases of that year, but few titles remain an exception and stay in our hearts forever. The WhatIfGaming 2014 Game of the Year title is the best in what it does and should be played at least once by anyone that seeks the best. The WhatIfGaming Game of the Year Award has descended from the sky once again to graciously token its honor to only the most worthy video game titles, and creators. Part of the “WhatIfGaming Prizes,” considered the Nobel prizes of gaming, the WhatIfGaming Game Of The Year Award is a prize emblem trophy chosen with extreme care and precision by notable industry developers and lastly finalized by the WhatIfGaming Team personally. 2014 is over, as sad as it is to say. It is time to look ahead but still look back time to time and remember 2014.


Posted By: Usman Ihtsham
ON Wednesday, December 31st, 2014
11:23 PM

The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies Review – The Return Of The Mediocre King


Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies has arrived and with it comes the finale to the longest running franchise this side of planet earth. Middle-earth is still the ever-expanding fantasy land of mountains, lush greenery, and tons of factions each with their own agenda. The action is all here in the final chapter of Jackson’s prequel trilogy, and though it does exactly what it says in the title – it sadly falls short of its own ambition.

The mood that Peter Jackson embeds within the start of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is one of sullen shock at the impending doom of Lake-town by Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch), completely upset at being made an object of revenge for the Dwarfs ever since he took the Mountain. He sets off and sets Lake-town ablaze, for an opening of quite catastrophic proportions. The set pieces of the opening were rather small, but at the Mountain there was no set piece bigger than the acting performance by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) in a delirious state of having finally acclimated to the impending kingdom that lays before him.  Bilbo Baggins argues that they have ruined Lake-town, and the scene is cut short with its harsh discordant cut to Lake-town burning, thereby adding more tension and prose to the opening.

After Smaug is dealt with (we won’t spoil how here), Jackson shows a Middle-Earth clearly divided amongst the line of broken promises, and the salvation of people in a role-reversal as the refugees come pouring in from the now ravaged Lake-Town to an embittered and delusionally greedy Thorin who “would rather have war.” Luckily for all involved, Sauron’s army of orcs descend upon everyone for control of the mountain, which is said to be strategic point. The storyline pacing remains rather simple in its plot focus towards the beginning which is appreciated, but just seems to lose all sight of character development that was the grace of the original Lord of The Rings Trilogy as the Battle of the Five Armies begins. As a result, the majority of the film was an uninteresting war with a predictable storyline of redemption as a leader all while falling by the wayside of a lesser scope to the original trilogy in terms of the Battle of Helm’s Deep. After the huge war is over, we cannot help but feel the central concept of this finale to the The Hobbit trilogy as completely underwhelming to the audience and something that leaves nothing but more to be desired for all the wrong reasons.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Posted By: Usman Ihtsham
ON Sunday, December 28th, 2014
6:57 PM

Rome’s Catacombs – The Journey of A Lifetime


Rome is a mystery on its own. But the greatest mystery of them all is the one under the vast Roman Colosseum, where there’s an ancient civilization buried deep.  It’s time we here take you beneath Rome’s underground and into the heart of a once very living civilization.

Starting from the 10th century B.C., Rome kept on multiplying in size until well into the 5th century. A historian by the name of Vegetius wrote on the military decline at this time, and Rome wanted to show its vast power to its people still in the form of sites such as Circus Maximus, the Baths of Caracalla and even the Mouth of the Truth. The original street level was still preserved from the buried and flooded ancient civilizations, and nowadays you can find shops sprawling the upper city amongst Rome’s seven wonders.

The catacombs are the underground cemeteries where Christians would bury their passed on loved ones, especially considering the religion itself was not tolerated at that time due to the idolism that early adopters of Rome’s cultures supported. Currently, Rome has many catacombs similar to those in France, with seven being available for the public’s eye. A nearly 65-foot advertised graveyard and a 12 mile walk over 37 acres is what you will find here according to the guide book. There are popes, clerics, and many unnamed people’s graves and the feeling is almost downright spooky as you traverse cautiously and wearily through the terrain. Quite possibly the best thing people will find in the tombs are the Crypt of the Popes, where 3rd century pontiffs are laid to rest – something encapsulating and a bit saddening at the same time. Nowhere in Rome do you truly see the archaic history than you do in the catacombs.

One can also explore the Catacomb of Priscilla, based on the noblewoman who donated her land for the cemetery for reasons unknown. This site has morbid frescoes that are still in-tact, and has the first image of the Virgin Mary (or what is considered to be the first). The Office of Tourism – Rome provided us a guided tour for the catacombs called the Walks of Italy’s Crypts – which allowed us not only early access to the tombs, but to bypass a good amount of the security checkpoint line. A guided tour also allows native English speakers to truly understand what they are seeing and is a benefit to all.

So, what are you waiting for? It is time to see the early Greek-Roman world and explore the underground catacombs of the beautiful city of Rome for a different and slightly darker look into history. Get the incredibly guided tour by Walks of Italy Tour Company, explore the Crypt of the Popes or Mithraea even. The catacombs and their daunting presence await your glancing eyes.

This article has been published courtesy of The Office of Tourism – Rome

Posted By: Usman Ihtsham
ON Sunday, December 28th, 2014
9:41 AM