Jim Sterling’s latest comic creation, the Duke Amiel du Harcore, currently presents a weekly video in which he narrates comments written by self-professed “hardcore gamers”. These monologues ironically highlight the pomposity and lack of self-awareness that is so common to individuals possessing such a mindset. Sterling delivers them with his usual theatrical flair, ensuring that source material is presented literally, complete with all their punctuation and spelling mistakes. “Commentocracy” may not be big or particularly clever but it makes its satirical point and is an amusing diversion, providing a welcome break from the po-faced, default stance of the gaming community these days. It also seems to be hitting home and ruffling a few feathers because there has already been some push back from those Sterling seeks to mock.Read More
Timothy Dalton is possibly the most technically accomplished and prestigious actor to have played the iconic MI5 agent, James Bond. He was in fact asked by Cubby Broccoli to play the role back in 1969 shortly after Connery's departure from the franchise. Broccoli had been impressed by Dalton’s performance in The Lion in Winter. However, Dalton himself felt he was too young for the job at the time. After Roger Moore retired from the role in 1985 it looked like Pierce Brosnan would certainly to get the part. However, due to contractual reasons and prior commitments, he was not unable to fulfil the proposed shooting schedule. So, Dalton landed what was at the time, the most prestigious action role in film making, by default.Read More
Hitman apparently had a troubled production and it took several years for Eidos and IO Interactive to find studios that were prepared to finance and distribute the project. It was originally intended as a vehicle for Vin Diesel and he is still credited as an executive producer on the film. Various directors were associated with the project until Xavier Gens finally took the role. Gens was riding high at the time in France due to the critical success of his previous movie Frontier. However, stepping into mainstream corporate film making was a baptism of fire. The movie was subject to numerous re-writes and a lot of his material was reshot at the studios request. Locations were changed and plot devices were altered resulting in a very chaotic production. However, considering all these problems, the theatrical release of Hitman was not the disaster that some expected or claimed it to be. It’s actually a well-paced action film with good set pieces, a competent cast and an unusual setting. Is it high art? No. Is it satisfactory entertainment? Yes. However, I speak as someone who has no major attachment to the video game franchise that inspired it. Fans may differ.Read More
Having recently sat through Orcs! I decided to take a further chance and watch Orc Wars. It too is a very low budget film, although this time the finances were raised through crowdfunding. Sadly, it is not the fun, tongue in cheek, independent adventure movie the trailer and associated marketing implies. There is very little merit in this production. It's cheap, cheerful and although harmless, it clearly demonstrates that not all fan funded projects are good cinema. Some are just indulgences. The problem is in the title itself, which tries to sell an idea that the movie production is incapable of delivering. Instead of the spectacle of an army of a thousand Orcs pitted against the technological might of the US war machine, we get a few extras in ill-fitting costumes, running skirmishes against no-name actors on quad bikes and a few old Army Surplus vehicles. It's all rather lacklustre and underwhelming.Read More
As a fan of the horror genre I’ve sat through numerous low budget films in my time. This has usually been at festivals or conventions. Sometimes watching something as part of a group, with likeminded individuals, makes a difference. You find yourself groaning in unison and the shared experience helps compensate for potential deficiencies. Watching questionable material in the comfort of your own home, purely on your own can be a lot tougher. However, due to my abiding love of the genre, I am prepared to cut a lot of cheap ass indie flicks considerably more slack than I would others. So, I'll endeavour to review Orcs! with as much impartiality as possible. Oh, and before we start, let us clarify the term Orcs. Although Middle-earth is not referenced in any way, this film is definitely about Tolkien's creations. Or at least their depiction in another well-known series of films.Read More
I’m not currently playing LOTRO but it hasn’t escaped my notice that there’s been a “wee stooshie” this week regarding Standing Stone Games handling of the “Incomparable Gear” debacle. To summarise, the cost of some specific high-end gear was set too low (about 75% cheaper than it should have been). Naturally, players bought these items from the barter vendor in good faith. Once the error was discovered, SSG’s initial solution was to patch the game and remove the item(s) from those who currently had it, without adequatecompensation. Naturally this was not well received by those affected by the issue, many of whom had bought the new items, then broken down and asset stripped the gear it was replacing. Drama, rancour and poor public relations ensued, further damaging community relations between SSG and the LOTRO player base. It should be noted that SSG is still trying to recover from the last marketing blunder they made back in July when they announced the profligate pricing range of the Mordor expansion.Read More
If you wish to enjoy the benefits of living in a “civilised” and democratic society, then there are certain “obligations” that the state calls upon its citizens to fulfil. Taxation is one. It’s is not especially popular but most rational people understand that the machinery of government and the provision of public services needs financing. Another example of a “civic duty” is jury service. All UK citizens have a right to trial by jury of my peers, should the need require. Naturally, these juries have to be filled with people, so you may well be invited to serve if you meet the following criteria.
- Between the ages of 18 and 70 years old.
- Registered to vote in parliamentary or local government elections.
- A registered citizen in the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man for at least five years since their 13th birthday.
I have enjoyed Neil Marshall's body of work since his debut film Dog Soldiers back in 1999. Both it and his follow up movie The Descent were exceptional genre pieces. Doomsday was more of an indulgence, being a homage to similar such movies from the eighties. However, as I’m from the same generation as the director, I forgave this. Marshall is one of the few British film makers whose work maintains an inherent English perspective. Centurion continues to reflect this, tackling the enduring mystery of the demise of the Ninth Legion and offering an inventive explanation. Making good use of forest locations both in Surrey and Scotland, the film is a violent survivalist tale, with a few twists along the way.Read More
Stephen King’s body of work has proven to be an invaluable source of material for film and television over the last forty years. The results have often been as varied as the books themselves. Because of the inherent differences between the respective mediums, sometimes the complexity and sheer scope of King’s work can be lost in translation from one to the other. It’s happened before with several high-profile adaptations and it will no doubt happen again. The Dark Tower is a classic example failing to capture the essence of King’s work. Trying to distil and convey a mythos that is spread over eight volumes, into a single movie is a tall order for any director and screen writer. It can be cogently argued that material of this sort is better suited to television where lengthy, complex story arcs can be indulged and characters can be explored at leisure. In fact, during it’s time in development hell, The Dark Tower was at one point destined to be adapted for the small screen. However, the desire to create a lucrative film franchise ultimately prevailed.Read More
Conspiracy theories and found footage movies. Two genres with infinite scope to be tedious and uninspired on a low budget. Yet writer and director Matt Johnson manages to do something quite clever with both cinematic styles in his recent movie Operation Avalanche. He takes the basic conceit of the two formats and uses them to tell a tale based upon one of the most iconic moments of twentieth century history. Namely the moon landing of 1969. The results are surprising, intelligent and thought provoking, although a little uneven. Furthermore, I discovered this enjoyable curiosity via the GoodBadFlicks on You Tube. If you are interested in obscure and niche market genre creations then do check out this channel. It is informative, well presented and entertaining.Read More
Yes, we’re three weeks into this year’s season of the BBC’s flagship entertainment show, Strictly Come Dancing (that’s the UK version of Dancing with the Stars for the benefit of US readers). The tabloid press has already started obsessing, dissecting and outright lying about the antics of a handful of minor celebrities as they struggle with the rigours of learning to dance. From now until Christmas, prime time Saturday night viewing on the Beeb will be suffused with the superficial glamour of showbiz, a barrage of camp innuendo and a mixture of well-honed muscles and wayward flesh as well as far too much make-up. You also get to choose whether to laugh along with heavily scripted and contrived comments from the professional judges. If we’re particularly fortunate we may even be blessed with a professional dancer meltdown as they balk at a “ill deserved” poor score (yes, we’re looking at you Brendan Cole).Read More
It’s been a while since I’ve had a rant, frothed at the mouth and vigorously shaken my clenched fist at clouds. If you do this too often when running a blog you can paint yourself into a corner. Ranting then becomes the defining aspect of how your writing is perceived. Another reason why I don’t want to write an endless succession of irate screeds about the failings of the gaming industry and its associated player communities, is because as I get older, I simply do not care as much about these things. The recent debacle about microtransactions in Middle-earth: Shadow of War, garnered nothing more than a raised eyebrow from me. A decade ago I would’ve been marshalling a restless lynch mob, armed with hoes, rakes and flaming torches. Time and old age have a habit of cooling one’s ardour. However, letting off steam can be very cathartic, so I’ve decided to inaugurate this infrequent column in which I shall vent my spleen about the things that displease me and express views that may well fly in the face of the prevailing consensus.Read More
The Purge: Anarchy is an example of the curious and rare cinematic beast, a sequel that is superior to its predecessor. This time round the movie makes a greater effort to explore the themes associated around its premise and takes to the streets to show the impact of the purge upon the working class. It’s a far more political movie and all the better for it. You can’t have a story about a national event designed to implement social engineering in the most visceral of manners and try and keep it free from social commentary. Furthermore, The Purge: Anarchy features a far more agreeable and accessible group of protagonists this time round, creating a far more plausible sense of trepidation for audiences. The film is also more violent than the first instalment given the scope of its narrative.Read More
The "cartoon versus realistic graphics" debate is a perennial one and regularly appears on gaming websites, often on slow news days. A variation of this question appeared on Massively Overpowered yesterday and reminded me once again that a games aesthetic is a really important selling point and that players tastes are far from universal. There’s a lot of buzz at present associated with the indie run and gun platform game, Cuphead. The game has a striking visual design inspired by the work of Polish-American animator Max Fleischer. Think Betty Boop, Popeye and Color Classics (which were a direct rival of Walt Disney's Silly Symphonies). It certainly gives the game a charismatic look and feel, making it stand out from the crowd. However, choosing such a radical style can also have a very polarising effect. Where some may find a quaint charm in the graphic design, others may abhor it.Read More
To fill the gap in my current gaming activities, I decided to try one of the various titles that I have stockpiled. Often these have been bought on a whim but there’s always something of interest to try and explore. So, having recently enjoyed the open world of Mafia 3, I decided to return to GTA V. I’ve owned this title since December 2015 but have never seriously played through in story mode. Last time I dabbled with it was when I bought it and I just fooled around with the various cheat codes that are available and spent a few hours causing mayhem. This time round I’ve decided to apply myself to all facets of the game. However, I ran into one issue with GTA V that I can usually ignore with other titles. Namely, the control set up. I’ve previously played many games that have been developed for multiple platforms or have been direct console conversions. Although such games are intended to be played with traditional games controllers, I have happily managed to play them using a keyboard and mouse. Sometimes I’ve had to spend a lot of time re-mapping keys but I've always got by.Read More
It boggles my mind that the American multinational toy and board game company Hasbro, currently holds the copyright and patent to a device that is essentially designed to communicate with the dead. How a tool of spiritualism became a commercial toy that was then marketed to a strongly Christian nation is a blog post in itself. However, this post is about the 2014 horror feature film based upon the Hasbro game. Hasbro like many leisure companies, has in recent years looked at ways to expand its business portfolio. Subsequently, in 2009 it set up a film division and licensed TV shows and movies based upon its toy and game back catalogue. Like their traditional products, these forays into film and television have proven lucrative. If you haven’t noticed, we’re already up to our fifth Transformers movie, with several more in pre-production.Read More
After watching several hours of the documentary, The Vietnam War, one has to wonder at the utter inability of the US government of the time, to think outside the box during the period of that conflict. Seldom does a military, political, and social analysis of an historical event go this deep. During its eighteen hour running time directors Ken Burns and Lynn Novick cover a wealth of issues associated with this conflict, exploring it from multiple perspectives. Not only do they shine a light upon the hubris and folly of both respective governments, they manage to keep a very intimate and human perspective. Personal stories from both sides are told and if there is a common theme, it is sadly one of tragedy and regret.Read More
James Wan is a clever film maker who knows and fully understands the mechanics of his trade. Perhaps a little too well, because therein lies the problem with Insidious: Chapter 2. It is a succession of well-crafted set pieces that seamlessly follows on from the previous movie. Yet it is a little too enamoured with its own cleverness. I found myself frequently praising the director after a well-constructed shock, instead of revelling in the unease a horror movie is supposed to create. A great deal of scares and jumps are due to the clever sound design, superb editing and the creepy score by by Joseph Bishara, who previously collaborated with director James Wan on the first movie as well as The Conjuring. Fortunately, the film still provides viewers with a family that are likeable and an ensemble cast that help lift the story beyond its somewhat formulaic limitations. As I've mentioned before, Wan has an eye for depicting families.Read More
Shortly after moving to a new house, parents Josh (Patrick Wilson) and Renée Lambert (Rose Byrne) life is shattered when their eldest son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) slips into a coma. Doctors are unable to explain their son’s medical condition and the family subsequently assailed by a series of supernatural happenings. Eventually, Josh’s Mother Lorraine (Barbara Hershey) invites paranormal investigator, Elise Rainer (Lin Shaye) and her team, to help the family. Her investigations soon determine that Dalton has the gift astral projection and has become trapped in “the further” by a demonic force. Lorraine reveals that Josh had a similar when he was a young, that he has subsequently forgotten about because it endangered his life. Can he revive his gift, enter "the further" and rescue Dalton before he his lost forever?Read More
Finally, it’s arrived. The first new Star Trek TV show for twelve years. Star Trek: Discovery became available for Netflix UK customers to watch at 8:00 AM this morning. Needless to say, I cleared my schedule in advance so I could sit down and watch this much-anticipated show. Furthermore, I made it my business to avoid Twitter and the internet until I had finished viewing the first two episodes because I knew in advance that Star Trek: Discovery was going to be controversial and divide fans. Having now seen The Vulcan Hello and Battle at the Binary Stars and taken time to reflect upon both episodes, I have reached the following conclusion. From what we’ve seen so far, the spirit and emotional heart of Star Trek, is reflected in the new show. I found the characters to be interesting and well defined. Lead performances by Michelle Yeoh, Sonequa Martin-Green and Doug Jones were good and there’s an intriguing crew dynamic. The story has already touched upon numerous canonical themes and I am eager to learn more about the main characters and the universe they inhabit. I therefore shall continue to watch Star Trek: Discovery. However, not everyone feels the same, as my subsequent forays online have shown. Much has changed in this new iteration of Star Trek and as we know, some fans do not like change in any way, shape, or form.Read More