Chuck versus The Mandalorian

Finally, I watched something other than Chuck. I managed to find a way to watch the Mandalorian. However, I just want to watch more Chuck because I am addicted once again. I wonder if anyone else has fallen into this trap before with a never-ending selection of their favourite shows they watch on repeat. 

I think season 3 of Chuck might be my favourite season of any show, and Episodes 9 to 14 are the best the show gets. It’s a wacky and emotional experience to watch Chuck, but the payoff is beyond anything I have ever watched. I know I am biased because the show is pretty much perfect for me due to the main character basically being me if I looked like Zachary Levi and had a moral compass. Oh, and a database worth of classified information in my head.

Anyway, my point is, I have seen it all before, and yet nothing I have watched trailers for or read about or scrolled to on any streaming service has grabbed my attention and forced me to stop watching it. Until last night, when I spent just shy of 40 minutes watching The Mandalorian. It starts slow, and builds to the point when you’re just getting interested in what’s happening and then stops, which whilst leaving me unsatisfied from the first episode, it’s the perfect set up for a series and I will definitely try to find a way to watch the second episode as well.

I won’t go into any spoilers, but I can already see one thing that might prevent this show from reaching the highest it could, and that’s the Mandalorian himself. After one episode we haven’t seen his face, and its hinted that we never will. This is a cool idea in a lot of media, Master Chief and Judge Dredd also never remove their masks. I have also never cared about Master Chief or Judge Dredd because they’re faceless protagonists. There are no emotions being shown. It works for a villain, Darth Vader is scarier because we can’t see any emotions, same with horror icons like Michael Myers.

In a show where we are following this character around, I found myself interested in the events happening, but not really bothered about the Mandalorian himself. It may change and perhaps through his actions they can convey the range I like in characters but after one episode it’s a little bit of a concern for me. Chuck is an example of a show where the performances and acting is 90% of the shows charm. The Mandalorian is already at a disadvantage in that it’s taken the incredibly charismatic Pedro Pascal and stuck him in a helmet. It’s a cool helmet, but still.

What’s not a concern is the look and feel of it, everything in this world looks like it fits into Star Wars. I saw some reactions to the effects not quite being up to scratch, but I am willing to forgive that in a show that’s going to run far longer than any film we have ever seen in the universe, although to be honest I never noticed anything too jarring in the episode. The music is unlike the saga films, as you would expect it to be, but I must admit I do find myself pining for those familiar tunes whenever I am in the Star Wars world. Perhaps the score will grow on me as the show goes on, but I will take some time adjusting to Star Wars without the Star Wars music I know and love.

The Mandalorian has started well, but I can’t escape from the clutches of Chuck or The Office. That new(ish) Paul Rudd led series on Netflix keeps popping up whenever I go for a scroll, but I just can’t bring myself to watch Paul Rudd being sad. That’s not how I like to receive my Paul Rudd. Then there is Jack Ryan, a show which I have wanted to watch for ages, but I am currently three quarters of the way through my 2nd viewing of The Office.

John Krasinski is Jim Halpert, he can’t also be in my life as Jack Ryan. How am I supposed to deal with two loads of Krasinski? I don’t want to start Jack Ryan and hate it because he isn’t looking into the camera and shrugging when someone says something. Beyond a new series, there is an unbelievably long list of films I need to watch, but just can’t bring myself to do. It feels like too much of a time commitment, so instead I watch 3 forty-two-minute-long episodes of Chuck.

This weekend I will finally get to dive into a new singe player Star Wars game, Jedi Fallen Order, which I am very excited for, and will probably preview that tomorrow or Friday morning. Apologies for missing yesterday, I had to get into work early for someone who wasn’t getting there until 9 anyway. So please blame my offices’ new phone system. I am off to said office now to battle through another day and think about how gosh dang perfect Chuck is.

‘Til tomorrow.

ChAzJS

 

 

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The Next Console War

It’s Oscar season which means a load of fantastic movies are out in cinemas…In the US. Even something like The Irishman is so being shown in very few cinemas so I will be waiting for it to hit Netflix. The UK’s lack of film’s I care about, Disney Plus being unavailable, and Death Stranding being boring have all lead to me having very little new in the way of new content to dive into. 

I am into the third season of Chuck, a show I know extremely well and the emotional rollercoaster it puts you on is in full swing. I am also jumping between Modern Warfare and FIFA 20 when I have time for games, as The Outer Worlds just didn’t connect with me. I think I will give it another try when I am in more of an RPG playing mood. My news feed is dominated by football, so much so that I had a dream last night that Brendan Rodgers was the new arsenal manager and was in his first press conference saying Aubameyang was a liability. To be honest I would take that at Arsenal at this point.

There was some news doing the rounds last week about PlayStation executive Shuhei Yoshida being shuffled into a new position, meaning that almost all of the people at Sony that are publicly known as being responsible for the wild success that is the PS4 are now in different roles or different companies all together. Shawn Layden is the biggest name on that list, as he left earlier this year and it all seemed a little odd. There was no big thank you from Sony, despite Layden being there for 30 years and overseeing their biggest successes.

Now, the PS5 is a little bit of an unknown quantity, but when discussing it with friends I get a very PS3-ish feeling. After the dominance of the PS2 back in the early 2000s, Sony was completely overconfident and surrendered a huge advantage to Xbox 360 by launching an expensive PS3, without the online features Xbox was boasting. Their overconfidence at that time led to them having to spend the entire generation clawing back the Xbox 360 in sales numbers, and whilst it did eventually outsell its rival, Xbox won that battle.

This generation, Xbox One suffered a terrible launch, going with a message that gamers simply didn’t care for. It’s still a reasonably successful console, selling millions of units, the estimates would but it between 40 and 50 million units sold. That’s impressive, until you compare it to PlayStation over 100 million units. Such dominance in this generation should be a platform for PlayStation to really blow everyone out of the water next gen, but right now I am a lot more interested in the next Xbox than I am the PS5.

I have never actually been much of a fanboy for either console, well that’s a lie, I am a fanboy for them both. Xbox’s multiplayer is great and revolutionised the industry, but PlayStation Exclusive games are some of the best games in history. I am fortunate enough to own both consoles but next gen I will not be indulging in both again. I will be committing to one because I just don’t have the time for them both, and right now I am not sure if I want to back the more intriguing Xbox or the enticing Sony first party games that I will need a PS5 for.

If I can play my Xbox games on any device like it seems they are going for, I will be very intrigued by it, but I can’t sit here and say I won’t be easily swayed by a God of War 2, or a Horizon Zero Dawn 2, or The Last of Us Part 3, or Uncharted 5, Or Spiderman 2, or Death Stran…. never mind. Xbox’s challenge is to develop titles that can compete with those names I just listed, and that is where the next generation will be decided I feel.

The two consoles will be similar in power and graphical ability, and they will both probably offer streaming anywhere ability. They will both be crossplay I imagine, as that is just the direction things seem to be going. The X factor for both consoles will be the games you can only get in one place. It’s the biggest problem for Google Stadia, who are launching first, with a cool service, but they don’t have anything that I can only play on Stadia.

In the next 9-12 months we will hear a lot of news about the next generation, and I am going to predict now that I will end up buying a PS5. When push comes to shove, I can’t risk missing out on those exclusives, and even if Xbox unveils some new games, I like the look of, I am already invested in the stories of all the games I mentioned above. Except Death Stranding. Because Walking isn’t an interesting gameplay mechanic. Seriously I have watched a few videos and that is all you seem to be doing when you’re playing that game.

I am not sure how I managed to blurt out enough to fill a blog post today, but I will do it all again tomorrow. Until then, Happy Monday.

ChAzJS

 

Disney Plus & I want Cupcakes

I have spent a chunk of this year with November in my calendar as the time when Disney Plus will enter my life and give me a new slew of content to dive into. It’s recently come to pass that it is not launching in the UK the same time as the in the US, and I am not happy about it. The only reasoning, I have seen comes from a Wired article in September stating it’s most likely to do with existing deals with Sky across Europe that their newly acquired 21st Century Fox already had in existence. 

I understand the reasons for that causing an issue with some of the content that’s supposed to be there, but I don’t understand why they cannot launch Disney Plus in other territories and just have the content that is allowed in that region. Netflix does it, Amazon Prime does it, but Disney seem reluctant to spend the time needed to make this a possibility. Whilst I admire the ambition to have everyone everywhere have access to the same collection, this doesn’t make any sense to me. They are launching a brand-new platform that will be wanted around the world, but they are leaving money on the table in regions.

I am not savvy with the technical side of launching a streaming service, in fact I know nothing, but I can’t understand what the issue would be with launching worldwide with region locked content like every other platform. If this isn’t the case, and the platform will be region locked with different content in different places, then the staggered launch makes even less sense unless they’re simply not adequately prepared, which is a failure of planning and implementation.

Am I bitter that other places get to enjoy The Mandalorian before I do? No, because this situation means it’s probably going to end up forcing me into getting a VPN and watching it anyway. When it comes to content on the internet, there is always a way to watch. Most shows and films you think of are on one of the multitudes of streaming services now, and if they’re not, you can rent them via Amazon or even Sky Movies.

Disney Plus staggered launch could also lead to another problem for them, Piracy. When I was younger, I would spend hours downloading a song via the incredible slow and inefficient LimeWire, which was almost certainly illegal. You could even download Movies, although that would take days of your PC being on and constantly plugged into the internet. Yes, that’s right, plugged in. I used to have to run a cable from my living room, up the stairs and into my bedroom to use the internet. Ah what I used to do to get onto Habbo Hotel.

Anyway, my point is, Piracy now is a different game. I am sure there are a host of sites ready and waiting to do that voodoo that they do to get that content available in terrible quality for people. I stay away from it normally, if I am going to watch something, most of the time I watch it on a streaming service I pay for because I want to be able to see what’s happening, and also because I want to support good work. With Disney Plus, I am hoping I can use a VPN to watch it through my own Disney Plus account, I am not sure it’s going to be possible, but I will burn that bridge when I get to it.

Basically, I want to watch Mandalorian, I want to give Disney my money and bow down to the corporation and pledge myself to them, and they don’t want me. It’s like a beautiful girl, the girl of my dreams, that’s sleeping with everyone except for people in my country. Perhaps that’s not the best analogy. It’s like a cake, a delicious one, we are talking a moist Red Velvet cake. Maybe it’s the Red Velvet Oreo’s, which are the best biscuit in the world but are only made for America because I think our laws prevent them being sold for less than like £8 per pack. Honestly, they’re worth it, they’re like eating a cupcake in Oreo form. If you haven’t tried Red Velvet Oreo’s you really need to, they’re the best.

In summary, I want some cupcakes.

‘Til tomorrow!

ChAzJS

 

What is Death Stranding?

Hideo Kojima is mad. It’s not an insult, in fact it’s one of the things I admire about him. His mind can come up with some of the most complicated and unusual worlds ever seen. He created the Metal Gear franchise and somehow made it make sense when everything in it suggests its rubbish. His new studio is about to release Death Stranding, and I have been looking forward to the game since the very first strange trailer a couple of years ago. 

Last Friday, the review embargo passed, and people started to talk about it. I was intrigued and I wanted to know exactly what I would be getting myself into this coming weekend when it hits the shelves. In Death Stranding, you are essentially a delivery man walking around a desolate world, and the world is populated by various obstacles, be that a valley, a river or a base of people who want to hurt you. Oh, and by weird ink monsters that you need to use your connection to your BB to fight somehow. BB stands for Bridge Baby, and that’s why you have a new-born floating in orange jelly strapped to your characters chest the entire time. Because Kojima.

That is essentially the core game play. Walking around, admiring scenery and then figuring out how to get across it to your destination. You’re supposed to be trying to reconnect one side of America to the other, because somethings happened (the death stranding) that has caused it to be disconnected and just generally not a great place. The graphics look great, and the character models look stunning with performances that are reported as being excellent by all reviews I have seen.

The cast is incredible, and if they are all as committed to this and deliver, it will be a great story to see unfold. However, I have a huge issue with my potential play through of this game, it sounds so incredibly boring. The main mechanics of the game revolve around you walking and balancing the cargo you are couriering along to someone else. It sounds like you’re literally walking between cut scenes, to then be given something to take to someone else. It’s an odd game play cycle, but perhaps the multiplayer elements make it more interesting?

Well that’s another worry for me. If the idea is for me to build structures and find ways around to get me from point A to point B and so on, then the multiplayer seems like it might end up eliminating much of the interesting parts of that. The MP in Death Stranding is odd in that you don’t see other players, but you can find the structures they have placed. People can leave signs for other players with instructions, and even leave useful structures to get around issues.

Initially that sounds good, and I understand what the developers are aiming for, creating a game that encourages you to help others is a noble idea. My concern is that due to the success of the game, it will become a game that is full of other people’s structures, making the game a cakewalk and therefore your path will just be strolling between cut scenes as I mentioned, with no player agency or anything pushing your plot forward.

The game pushes you to have to return to a base and have a shower every few hours, or days in game, because you are a messy boy. You also need to sleep and recover and be ready for the next day when you will select what equipment you need and go out again for another walk to another destination. This level of detail is dangerously close to a game I really appreciated but was bored to sleep of after a few hours, Red Dead Redemption 2.

RDR2 was stunning, a technical marvel and a great story in an incredibly well realised world. The problem I had with it, was the gameplay was slow, unsatisfying and at times boring. It took forever to get anywhere in RDR2, and Death Stranding is a game entirely based on it taking a while to get places. This is a game about the journey, which I normally enjoy, see Borderlands 3, a game where the story is meh, but the journey is fantastic, because the game play is exciting and engaging.

What all this has pushed me towards is that right now, having not played myself, I am really wondering whether Death Stranding is going to be a game I can bring myself to play through. It takes between 35 and 45 hours to complete the story if you mainline the game, and that’s a big commitment to a game when I am yet to be intrigued by any game play I have seen. Right now, Death Stranding is close to becoming a game I watch a super edit of the acted scenes and enjoy the story that way, because I don’t really want to spend my weekend walking around with a screaming baby.

Yep the baby screams if its unhappy. You must cradle your controller and rock it to calm the fucker down. I really hope this game shocks me and I love it. Kojima is a genius, anyone who can create Metal Gear has to be, but I am not sure I can stick with him for this one.

‘Til Tomorrow.

ChAzJS

 

Arsenal can not hire Mourinho.

Warning, this is not about films, games, or TV shows. But it’s something I want to write about this morning. I have followed Arsenal loyally for as long as I have been a conscious human being. They were the first game I went to; they were the best team in England, and they played the best football. Dennis Bergkamp, Tony Adams, Lee Dixon, Ian Wright, they were my heroes. The man behind it all was Arsene Wenger. 

He was the genius who instilled the philosophy that became the thing I identified with. Arsenal played beautiful football on the pitch and conducted themselves with class off the pitch. Only the most heated of rivalries ever changed that, and that was Man Utd under Alex Ferguson. There is a Dennis Bergkamp quote that goes “You don’t support a football club for the trophies, or a player, or history, you support it because you found yourself somewhere there, found a place you belong”.

That quote has been in my head a lot this week, it’s a very philosophical quote, but it’s in line with the values that Arsenal are all about, and Bergkamp was probably the most “Arsenal” player ever. He was unbelievably skilful, ruthless, efficient, classy and never backed down. He’s been my favourite player forever, even above the king, Thierry Henry.

Years passed, a new stadium arrived and as the team changed the values stayed the same. Arsene Wenger was committed to playing in the way that he felt was right, and it was what Arsenal became known for. Even when we were winning nothing, the football was always entertaining. Towards the end of his reign at Arsenal, I agreed it was time for him to go. The football was good at times, but it felt like the club hadn’t progressed from where it was in 2006, and it needed a revamp.

Arsenal restructured, giving the responsibilities Wenger had to 4 people rather than just one. Now, we have Raul Sanlehi and ex-arsenal player Edu managing the club with Unai Emery coaching the team. Emery has tried his best I am sure, but it just hasn’t worked. Arsenal set up for each game to try and nullify the opponent, regardless of the level they are at. He has turned a team that can impose its game on the majority of the league into a team that sinks its level to whatever the opponent is. The club I fell in love with would never do that. Can you imagine Arsenal of 2002 going out to play even the 2019 Wolves team at home and playing 3 deep lying midfielders, no wingers, and trying to counterattack?

It is not the Arsenal way, it isn’t the football I and so many others associate with Arsenal, and we have become a directionless, reactionary team. Emery has to go, and that axe is about to swing, but the next manager is a very important choice. The rumour mill is grinding as always, and there have been a lot of stories linking Jose Mourinho to the job. I have never been more worried about football in my life.

Mourinho is a hugely successful manager, I respect everything he’s done and even how he has done it by playing defensive, pragmatic and efficient football. In many ways, he could fix Arsenal’s weaknesses tactically, and perhaps even make us into title challengers in within a few seasons. He’s a proven winner, and if you’re being completely results based then he is a great choice. If it happens though, I will seriously consider whether I will follow football with any passion at all.

Mourinho is a bitter, spiteful man, who could not hide his jealousy of Arsene Wenger. Wenger has the respect of the entire footballing world because of his philosophy and his approach to life, not just football. Wenger cares deeply for his players, treating them with respect and putting their well-being above the teams when required. Wenger, and because of him, Arsenal, believed Football should be fun, it should be entertaining. It should be an artform.

Mourinho is a win at all costs and win for himself. He has never had a legacy at any club, even at Chelsea he has tarnished the memories of him with the controversial way all his roles end. Mourinho’s prickly style and tendency to clash with players who don’t fall in line with his strict tactics is very much not the Arsenal way. His football is the antithesis of how Arsenal have historically played. People will probably call back to the George Graham, 1-0 to the Arsenal days, but that was before my time. That was before Arsene Wenger changed all English football. That’s another thing Mourinho couldn’t do, for all his success, he never had the impact Arsene Wenger did.

When Arsene Wenger left Arsenal, he left the club and its fans with the message to “Take care of the values of the club” and it was a line that really struck me. Appointing Mourinho and signing up to his brand for the 3-year cycle we have seen end in a ball of fire would break a lot of the values that Wenger was talking about.

I have been struggling to enjoy watching football this year, Emery has Arsenal playing terrible stuff, but the club seems like its heading in the right direction and a new, expansive coach who understands the way Arsenal should be doing things is a vital next appointment. Mourinho is not that, and I don’t know if I will be as interesting in following football for a while if he is the man at the helm of the club I love.

Tomorrow will be about the usual stuff, I promise.

‘Til then!

ChAzJS

 

Will Netflix give Witcher fans what they wa…..ok nevermind.

Henry Cavill is one hell of a man. Women want to be with him, Men also want to be with him regardless of their usual sexual preference. The new Netflix show The Witcher dropped its most recent trailer and of course it features a shot of him in a bath which led to the majority of the trailer being rendered obsolete. 

What is perhaps much more important for the Witcher series, is that the rest of the trailer looked like a very good show. The shots of Geralt have completely put to rest my concerns about that first promo shot we had of Cavill in the worst Lucius Malfoy wig in the world. He looks the part, and he’s committing to the borderline unlikable nature of the character I know from the games.

That brings me onto my next point, I find it bizarre that so far, I haven’t seen this series reference the hugely successful video game franchise at any point in its marketing. It is being based on the books, but there is no way the look of the games has not influenced it heavily. The action scenes we get glimpses of could be taken straight out of The Witcher 3 on a high-end PC, the Cavill spinning and swinging his sword just like you can in the game.

It does make me wonder if there is a general feeling that anything you attach to a video game franchise instantly gets the “Nobody can make a good video game adaption” stigma attached to it. I have to say I do kind of agree. If this was marketed more as a video game adaptation than a Book one, I think a lot of the target audience would have written it off already. As it is, they seem to be setting it up to fill the hole that Game of Thrones has left in fans tv schedule. It probably won’t match that shows political intrigue, but it looks like it’s going to knock its action out of the park, something I don’t think Game of Thrones ever did consistently.

I have been waiting for a new series to sink my teeth into and nothing has grabbed me until now, this new Witcher series has really piqued my curiosity. My history with the franchise is about 20 hours of a game that I felt completely overwhelmed by, and then I bailed and never went back. I did love the idea of the Witcher and the lore around that world though. Perhaps this TV show will be the perfect medium for me to enjoy that story.

If it turns out to be a mess story-wise, at least we will have a full season of watching Henry Cavill’s chiselled jawline, washboard abs and mountainous shoulders/arms. I would guess that is almost worth watching on its own for most people. The Witcher releases onto Netflix on 20th December, just a day after Star Wars here in the UK.

Have a great weekend!

ChAzJS

 

Zombieland Double Tap Review

The first Zombieland was great fun and came out of nowhere. I remember seeing it and being completely surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did. It was quirky, funny, and had the 4 main characters had great chemistry. It was also 2009, and by 2014 I had just naturally assumed there wasn’t going to be a sequel. However, 10 years later, we have the next part of the story and once again I am going in with absolutely no idea of what to expect. 

The core cast are all back, with Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin, who has noticeably grown up over the last 10 years while the other 3 look remarkably like how they did in the first one. It’s like they haven’t aged a day, but then Woody Harrelson has looked like he does now for as long as I have known of him, so I guess it makes sense. He’s one of those ageless people like Keanu Reeves.

Anyway, those four returns and seem to have not missed a beat. Their chemistry is once again the engine that keeps this film going. The banter back and forth between them all really does feel like a group that has been together for a long time so I would guess these four are friends outside of the camera as well. The newcomers to the cast add some new dimensions, and top of that list is Zoey Deutch who plays a ditzy, oblivious girl who has somehow survived this long. At first, I thought the character would become annoying very fast, but she does develop a little and is not just the idiot she first seems.

Rosario Dawson is the other newcomer and as always, she is great. She is immediately on the same wavelength as the rest of the group and her chemistry with Woody Harrelson adds a new dynamic to his character. I’ve talked about the cast so much because really, they’re the best thing about Zombieland Double Tap. Beyond them and some funny “Zombie Kill of the Year” bits, there isn’t much else here beyond some zombie killing.

The plot is fine, the action scenes are fine, and the special effects are great. That could kind of sum up this film unfortunately. There is no clever plot here, it’s basic and it serves its purpose of giving the characters a reason to go somewhere. Beyond that there is no intrigue or “what’s going to happen”. There is rarely a moment when you worry about any characters and when you do, it’s never for too long. The new Zombie types are fun, and the cleverly named T-800 (Zombieland’s main box office competition is the new Terminator) is an interesting idea, but they quickly become just another part of the horde.

The action scenes do have some fun moments, but there are only so many times a zombie being shot in the head is that entertaining. The film sets up a more interesting fight at the end, but then the finale happens a bit too quickly and there is no time for any cool action scenes. The last fight is practical, rather than entertaining, and even if there are some fun visuals a couple of times, my highlight of the films action was a cutaway skit to a guy murdering zombie in Italy.

What is odd about Zombieland Double Tap is that it doesn’t bring much new to the table, but still feels fun, fresh and enjoyable. It’s a movie we have had before, but the 10-year gap makes the reunion feel like more fun than if we had a sequel a couple of years later. It’s rare that comedy sequels made 10 years later work (see Zoolander 2) but somehow the formula of the first film still holds up in 2019. As much as I enjoyed watching this film, I can’t say I need another Zombieland anytime soon, so perhaps revisiting in another 10 years wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

It’s one of those films where your expectations need to be in the right place when you go in. Don’t expect a stunning sequel that surpasses the first, it doesn’t even try to be that. It’s an update on what’s happened to the characters you enjoyed first time. Like a postcard from someone you lost contact with, you will probably smile, laugh a little, and then forget about it all over again.

Good: Great chemistry between the cast with some laughs. Some laugh out loud moments that got me good.

Bad: Unambitious, very little original content, and unadventurous action scenes.

7/10 – Zombieland is Fine, and I think that’s what they were aiming for.