Marriage Story Review

At last I have completed the list of the Best Picture nominees with the one I could have watched ages ago on Netflix. Fresh from watching Parasite, I got comfortable on the couch and watched Marriage Story. The movie stars Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver as a couple going through a divorce whilst trying to make sure their son is happy. 

There is only one place to start when talking about this film, and it’s with the previously mentioned performers. Scarlett Johansson was in the most commercially successful movie of all-time last year, and yet this is the role she should be remembered for. This is her best work, and she fully deserves the nomination she has received for it with the range of emotions she portrays in this film. She plays Nicole in such a real, believable way that you don’t see the actress and you’re invested in her and when she’s on screen you just want things to work out for her.

As for her co-star Adam Driver, it took me a few minutes to get over the Kylo Ren factor. Having only previously seen him as the Star Wars character, him popping up and immediately talking about what he loves about Nicole is jarring. At first it felt like an SNL sketch, and I was waiting for the “Gotcha” moment. It never comes. What happens is just like ScarJo as Nicole, Adam Driver disappears, and you just see his character Charlie (Great name).

If there is one scene this year that deserves an award for the sheer incredible acting and performances of those involved, it is in this movie. The argument that the two engage in is terrifyingly real. I’ve never been divorced, or married for that fact, but I have had arguments with people I love, and it’s one of the most difficult feelings we ever process. Things are said that you don’t mean because in that moment, just for a split second, you just want to hurt the other person. Somehow these actors manage to capture that sickening feeling and translate it into something on screen that you can feel happening. Writer Director Noah Baumbach wrote and directs a solid film, but their performances elevate it to the top tier.

Laura Dern in her role as ScarJo’s divorce attorney is as sharp as a pocketknife and is magnetic when she’s on screen, although it didn’t quite match the tone of the film all the time. One of the other lawyers in the film is played by Ray Liotta, and I found he stuck out like a sore thumb. He was just a bit too over the top and felt like a caricature of what his character was supposed to be.

In the courtroom scenes you a different side of divorce, where the lawyers are using every little piece of information they have to try and turn the case in their client’s favour. What I don’t recall seeing in most courtroom scenes is the pain on the faces of the people involved, and that is clear to see here.

What it made me feel, and think about, is that feeling of loving someone but knowing it isn’t meant to be. It’s a personal thing that may hit you differently depending on where you are in your life, but for me it came at an oddly profound time. It also made me think about my own parents’ divorce, and how I have never even given it a second thought. Then I think to the odd moments I remember of them interacting and how weirdly nice it was to see them get on, and that feeling is something Marriage Story managed to evoke in me in its final act.

Marriage Story is an engrossing film, and one that crosses a few different boundaries. It’s funny, its heart-breaking, it’s the reveal that Adam Driver can sing pretty well, and that alone should be enough to make you want to watch it. It’s on Netflix, so nobody has any excuse for this one, it should be on everyone’s lists.

Good: This might actually be two real people who happen to look like Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver, their performances are just that good.

Bad: The Lawyers were a little too evil and conniving to believable in such a grounded story.

9/10 – Statue Worthy Film. 

 

Sony is making something called a “PlayStation 5”

In news that has stunned and surprised absolutely nobody Sony have unveiled the official name and release window for the next game console they will be releasing. PlayStation 5 is scheduled to release “Holiday 2020” which is almost exactly when everyone expected it. I personally feel ready for a new console, but the real questions are does PlayStation 5 have enough to convince me that a stay at home console is worth my investment in a world where game streaming services seem to be right around the corner. 

There is a slew of technical information out about the Sony’s new flagship console. An article on over on Wired goes into detail on the Ray Tracing hardware that has been confirmed and an explanation of why the SSD hard drive is so superior to the current hard drives in games consoles. Less space is needed, and it can be accessed faster, so it’s all good news. To be honest, the power of games consoles is becoming less and less relevant, and the real selling point for any new console will be what it brings that I haven’t seen before or didn’t expect.

Each new generation is more powerful than the last and allows for games to be played at higher resolution and gives developers the horsepower needed to produce games with the size and scope of a Red Dead Redemption 2. What I need to get me excited is something new, something I didn’t see coming. Sony have realised this too it seems, and the most interesting innovations are not coming from what’s in the box under your TV, but from what’s in your hands.

The new controller, which is not officially called the DualShock 5, but we all expect it to be, features a couple of new features that genuinely sound like they will enhance the immersion for a wide variety of games. The new feedback that can be programmed into the triggers and analogue sticks is something completely new for consoles.

First, the triggers. The new controller will allow the developers to adjust how much resistance is felt when the player pulls on the trigger buttons. This seems like a novel idea but imagine how different it’s going to feel when you fire a sniper and the trigger resists a little before clicking as you shoot, and then it flings back into position. Or when you’re playing a driving game, and the break trigger will be harder to push the harder you break just like the real thing. This little kind of innovation has a lot of potential to make games feel a lot more intuitive and immersive which is where the next generation of consoles must start heading. With VR slowly becoming a bigger component, these types of physical feedback controllers will allow for entirely new ways to play games.

With the analogue sticks, it is even harder to visualise how these are going to work. Basically, it seems like they are going to feel different depending on the surface your character is walking through. So, for instance on Assassins Creed Odyssey, running through grass will feel different to sand, with the sand feeling a bit slower and feeling more resistant, and then on ice it will loosen up and slip about with ease. It sounds novel, but I am not sure how it will work.

Of course, I am not sure exactly how both these systems will combine until I have the controller in my hands but that is miles off. For now, I am just very excited that these kinds of innovations are where Sony is focusing their attention for the next generation. Their biggest problem, as I hinted in the intro, is that I am not convinced I will want to have a box under my TV.

Stadia and Xbox both are looking like they will be offering a streaming option for playing games, and for me that works better than any console. The one barrier to entry with all these streaming services is the quality of the internet and how good of a connection you need to be able to play latency free, HD to 4K games on them. If my internet at home is good enough to play games at that level, I am not so sure I will need a dedicated home console.

The ace up Sony’s sleeve of course is their range of first party exclusive titles. If it means missing out on TLOU3, Sequels to Horizon Zero Dawn and God of War, and other possible exclusives like Infamous or Spiderman, than I will not be sticking with just a streaming option.

Regardless of whatever software and hardware combination the next generation of gaming platforms arrive in, it’s the games that are available on them that will define them.

‘Til tomorrow.

ChAzJS

 

Chuck is on Amazon Prime!

Once again, my early night was ruined by finding a series online, I just know I am going to love. How do I know? Because it’s Chuck, and it’s very possibly my favourite ever TV show. I would never argue it is the best TV series, but it’s comfortably the one I have enjoyed the most. So today I am going to explain why I love it. 

I got just twenty-six minutes into the first episode of season one when I remember why I love the series. Its main premise is that a man-child gets government secrets implanted in his brain and the CIA and other government agencies want to use his brain. That’s the plot device that drives the five seasons and brings with it the twists and turns from an action/spy thriller point of view. They are not the reason I love the series so much though.

Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, and Rick and Morty all have some amazing romantic story lines. Alright no they don’t but I couldn’t think of any other TV shows. Anyway, the point is Chuck’s real secret weapon is its complex characters and their chemistry. Shazam star Zachary Levi wasn’t always quite so huge as he is in the DC film, but this is the show that he made his name in. In the titular role he brings so much boyish charm and plays a character with such a good heart and he has an incredible amount of character development over the course of the show. You really do get to know him and the supporting cast and very quickly the show becomes less about the espionage and more about the relationships.

That is what is makes any of the shows I mentioned special. Game of Thrones was so successful because we were so invested in Tyrion, Jamie, Dany, Jon, and so on. The reason the final season fell short for me is because all the character development and their interactions were rushed through to get to the key battle scenes in the show. If we had been given more of the characters, we knew interacting so well I think the entire season would have gone down better, although perhaps the lack of time put that out of the question.

Chuck takes the main characters at the start and puts them through so much emotional turmoil that by the end their bond is so strong you are so invested in what happens that the twists and turns at the end of the seasons leaves you torn apart. Chuck is special in that it’s a light-hearted, fun show that ends up packing an emotional punch.

Breaking Bad is what I would rate as the best show I have ever watched, but Chuck is my favourite. The reason it beats out Walter White is because of how relatable I find the characters in Chuck. I can empathise with Walter White and I understand the process he goes through, but to be honest my life has been lacking in teachers turned meth chef’s, although there is a couple, I wonder about…

The main character of Chuck is a lot like me if I had a PG filter on me and that might be why I love it so much, because I am awesome. I am joking, it’s because seeing yourself in a character is a brilliant way to feel invested in a show. That is perhaps what elevate Chuck above the comedy sitcoms like Friends or HIMYM, or even serious drama’s like Breaking Bad or Archer.

Stupidity aside, relatable characters in films and TV shows makes them so much more compelling. Even taking something like Joker, what makes that film so divisive and terrifying, is that there are elements of the character of Arthur Fleck that people can see themselves even if it’s just in the slightest way. I am not sure everyone is the same as me and perhaps how much we can relate to characters is as important for everyone else.

I was planning to write about A New Hope, but Chuck has taken over. Between this and my latest run through The Office mean all my content watching time has been filled up for the foreseeable future. I am going to have to pull myself away from those two shows to get something other than those two shows to write about. Tomorrow’s post will probably be all about the PS5 news, another topic I was going to write about today until Chuck appeared.

Hopefully tomorrow will be a more informative post.

‘Til then.

ChAzJS

 

Borderlands 3 Spoiler review

Finally, I have finished Borderlands 3. By finished, I mean completed all the main story missions and rolled credits. It honestly felt like a weight off my shoulders, right before the release of Ghost Recon. Now that it’s out of the way I can just focus on being incredibly excited to see Joker this weekend. I am going to go into the spoiler for the end of the game now so if you’ve not got there yet, don’t read on unless you don’t care for spoilers. To be honest, there isn’t much worth spoiling. 

Borderlands 3 ends how it starts, with loads of shooting.  The final battles and final levels are all just jump and shoot bullet sponge bosses, which is ordinarily fine, but being outshone by other bosses earlier in the game isn’t a great look for Tyreen and Troy Calypso. The twins who have been one step ahead of you and the Crimson Raiders all game finally confront you, but don’t use any of the powers we have seen them display through the games story cut scenes up to this point, its flabbergasting.

Finally found a reason to use the word flabbergasting.

Troy Calypso has become a powerful Siren in his own right and has been using an ability called “Phaselock” on an entire Moon to pull it towards a planet. Does he use this Phase lock on you, the one who has wiped out thousands of his minions and is now clearly the only obstacle in his way? of course not. It’s not even acknowledged as something he could do in the final battle with him.

Tyreen spends the game leeching peoples life away with ease, even stripping Crimson Raiders leader Lilith of her powers. You fight her and she has essentially become a god we are told. Well tell that to my machine gun. She is the final fight in the story mode, and it’s one of the easiest fights in the game, perhaps surpassed only by Troy. I didn’t come close to dying in either fight and all they involved was jumping over some sweeping attacks and running in circles and shooting them.

Perhaps I had overpowered weapons and a higher-level character? Well according to the game I was levels below both Troy and Tyreen, and my guns even lower than that. The guns are the only reason it was slightly enjoyable to play through, as I was continuously throwing my Tediore submachine guns around, so I had a mini army of turrets. The range of guns really is this game saving grace.

I must point out that I didn’t want to be pummelled Dark souls’ style in Borderlands 3, I just wanted to see something a bit different for the final few fights. There is a Vault monster earlier in the game where the attacks it has are wildly varied, and then it affects the actual battle area you are fighting in and you have to think about what you are doing and where you are positioned, as well as pumping him full of bullets, and fighting off minions. It’s a challengingly fun boss fight, and me and a mate played it and really enjoyed it. That high bar is never touched again, and it is a more intimidating presence than the “Destroyer” that is spoken about and then revealed at the end.

Mechanics aside, the story is quite good, and I found it entertaining and its attempts at an emotional twist at the end are well done. I am not entirely sure what or how Lilith does what she does, but it certainly looks cool. Borderlands has set up Siren’s to be this bad ass thing, but I have no idea what their powers are supposed to be. They all seem to be capable of whatever the story requires of them. The main issue I have with the story in Borderlands 3 is that the character you play as, the one doing all the work, is completely unimportant to the story. You’re referred to as Vault Hunter all game, not by the name of the character you chose, and you’re not in any of the cut scenes.

It’s so odd, you spend 20 minutes fighting a boss battle, only for your guy to be completely ignored in the scenes. Quite what the point in all the customisation was is beyond me, as you only ever see your character when you perform an Emote or get into a vehicle. I played as Zane, and early game I felt like there was a connection brewing between Zane and Ava, a parent daughter type thing, and perhaps that was intended. The final missions she comes along and maybe that was supposed to pay off there, but due to Zane being missing from every cut scene. I felt sort of detached from the main story. Sure, Tyreen and Troy did some awful stuff, but no character has ever shared a scene with my green haired bad ass, so why do I care. It feels like I was playing as a mercenary whose job was to do the shooting for Lilith.

I feel like I am being harsh on a game I did enjoy playing, but it’s because the potential for this game is sky high. Better writing more intelligently set up boss fights with some challenging mechanics in there and including your character in the story would have made this a 10/10 game of the year contender. As it is, it’s a solid game, and a good return to a really fun universe. I hope the next borderlands game takes what 3 has achieved and really builds on it. Perhaps giving us the chance to make a completely new character and make them have whatever abilities we choose. It would be something new, and the range of characters we already have is certainly one I want to see more of.

That’s it for Borderlands 3 for me, and therefore this will probably be the last post about the game for a while. Hope you’ve enjoyed reading it!

‘Til tomorrow.

ChAzJS

 

Episode II: Not all bad.

As hinted at yesterday, today’s post is about Star Wars Episode II. When I was 9 years old this was everything to me. It has lots of fight scenes, insect people, lightsaber’s coming out of all its orifices and Yoda flipping about like a bouncy ball launched into a cupboard. How does 26-year-old me feel about it? 

Well as it happens, I didn’t think it was too bad. The film starts with an attempt on Padme’s life, and the trauma she goes through leads her to mistakenly marry an immature child she met 10 years previously and has had no contact within the intervening years. At least that is what I must tell myself to buy into any of the romance between her and Anakin in this film. There are poorly written lines in most films, but somehow George Lucas saved all his worst lines for use exclusively in scenes between Anakin and Padme, when they’re supposed to be falling in love.

That criticism extends to the next film in the franchise but more on that another time. As for this film, that whole story line with them falling for each other is what punches this film down to a 5 or 6 out of 10. The rest of the film is a fun time with some heavy plot convenience, but I found most of it to be forgivable.

Attack of the Clones introduces us to the prime Ewan McGregor Obi Wan we all remember, with that beard and that hair and that voice. He reaches his peak in Revenge of the Sith, but his step fatherly relationship to Anakin is where the film gets a relationship right for me. You feel he cares for his protege deeply and is struggling to be the teacher he wants to be at times, with his pupil showing some signs of teenage rebellion. This film makes me very excited to see the Obi Wan series coming out on Disney Plus in the next few years, as you just want to spend more time following McGregor around on his adventures.

The entire section of the film with him hunting down Jango Fett (#TheBetterFett) I found entertaining, and if that’s a hint at the kind of things we could get from an Obi Wan Series I am all in. Also, the sound design of those bombs (seismic charges I believe to the nerds out there) that are deployed in the asteroid field is just something else. What a boom.

Hayden Christensen plays Anakin with a lot of commitment but I think the direction he is given is just all over the place. I think what we were supposed to see is a character who is being torn between the various desires he has and knows what’s right but also can’t ignore his feelings like he should be able according to the Jedi. It’s a role that requires an actor to be able to indulge themselves and really develop it from within themselves. I think director and creator George Lucas, for all his creative genius, may have struggled to get the best performance out of Christensen here. It feels like he was told to stick to the script word for word and to say it exactly how Lucas wanted it to sound, rather than giving him the script and letting him understand the character.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it feels wooden and jarring. It goes back to my comments yesterday about Jar Jar Binks (Who does appear briefly in this film in an unoffensive way). It takes a strong personality to stand up to a director and say, “no I think it should be done this way”, especially when that director is George Lucas who created this entire franchise that may make or break your career. This is all just my read on it though, and maybe this is just the best Hayden Christensen could do.

Wooden Anakin aside, the film develops some of the characters we met in previous films quite a bit, with Mace Windu and Yoda the clear leaders of the Jedi. What I have been enjoying most about the prequels though is Palpatine. Perhaps as a child I just didn’t notice it, but this entire trilogy isn’t the story of Anakin turning into Darth Vader as it seems. It’s the story of how a senator called Palpatine manipulated and rose to power and building the foundation of the Empire that we saw in the original Star Wars in 1977.

Ian McDiarmid in the role of Palpatine is really something. When you realise, he is consistently playing everyone in the room it feels like a different thing all together. I would love to have seen these films focus more on him, give him a little more to do and let us see him planning it out behind the scenes. As it is these films almost try to surprise you that he is the emperor when it seems obvious to me. I am a huge Star Wars nerd of course, so perhaps I am not the one they are trying to get one over on.

The last half of this film, when Christopher Lee is introduced as the Classy Count Dooku, is just one continuous ramp up of the action. From Anakin and Padme fighting their way through a droid building factory, to the climactic battle, there is not a lot of time for us to slow down. and process what’s happening. It’s an action-packed finale and for the most part it works. There’s a lot of digitally created fights, with flocks of droids doing battle with battalions of clones, but it all adds to the sense of scale and if you can look past the dated special effects it’s a decent effort.

There are a lot of cool moments and situations, the monsters fighting Obi Wan, Padme and Anakin lead right into that moment. The point at which 9-year-old me lost their shit. When I see 100s of lightsabers ignite around the arena and think “Oh damn it’s on now!”.

After that, we get a curved lightsaber handle, that seems to add little to the weapon at all, wielded by Count Dooku as he frankly batters Obi Wan and Anakin. Anakin wielding a blue and green lightsaber at the same time is cool, but again he is just being played with by the bad guy. Here we get a situation where he could have easily murdered them both and been on with his business. Instead he toys with them long enough for a little green dude turns up and shows off his power.

The best moment of the film for me is when Yoda opens his coat to reveal his kid sized lightsaber, and then it whips through the air into his hand. He then proceeds to bounce around and the fight is rather hard to follow, but it does feature some excellent faces from Christopher Lee. The film kind of ends on a stutter, with a few things hurried through, including Anakin marrying Padme right at the death of the film.

All in all, I think my appreciation for the prequels is increasing, but I can still recognise that these films are just not that great. The world they’re set in, the characters and the story are all quite good, I just think this film has been executed poorly. The two best films in the franchise were written by Lucas and directed by other people. Perhaps that is the formula that should have been used for the prequels as I just think someone who’s skills were more attuned for Directing rather than creating like Lucas’ skillset is might have taken these films to another level.

Anyway, that’s enough about Episode II, I have Episode 3 in my head now and I will talk about that on Friday. I will give it a break from the Star Wars talk tomorrow!

‘Til then!

ChAzJS

 

De Good, De Bad, and De Niro

How on earth Arsenal didn’t win the North London Derby is beyond me. We dominated spurs (although you wouldn’t think so from the Match of the Day highlights) but a mixture or Hugo Lloris heroics and poor decisions in the final third ruined my plans to enter the office this morning wearing Arsenal’s beautiful bruised banana kit. 

In order to get over this frustration, I decided to settle down and watch Taxi Driver. A film about a man slowly going insane, which is a rather perfect reflection of what being a football fan is like.  The film itself is one of many classic films that I haven’t watched previously, so I was also just excited to watch what is considered by many to be a very good film.

I have to say it’s one of the first movies from the 70’s that I have been able to sit through without being put off by the visuals. Movies from that time are obviously not quite the same as the 4k beautiful shots we are used to now, and for some reason that just feels a little off to me if the film doesn’t grab me. Once Taxi Driver gets going though, I understood why this film is so revered. The performance of Robert De Niro is incredible, and he becomes the character of Travis Bickle. Nowadays, De Niro is a hugely respected actor whose most well-known roll is the dad in the Meet the Parents films, so it was awesome to watch the film where he earned all that respect.

I know he is also in The Godfather Part II, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch that since I watched the original Godfather film. That first film contains so many amazing elements, but I think the style of film making at the time and the way the industry has evolved make it a very tough film to get through. It’s just two minutes shy of three hours long, but when you’re used to the speed of today’s films, it feels so slow.

The film lingers on a shot for 10-15 seconds, to immerse you in the scene, which is an understandable tact to take, but to me it just feels like the editing is poor. This is not true of course; at the time this is how films were made. When you’re used to the quite cuts and fast progression between scenes we have now, The Godfather feels like a slow trudge through the story which could be shortened but maybe 40 minutes by a skilled modern editor without losing too much. Maybe this is blasphemous to some movie aficionados out there, but I would watch a modern edit of the Godfather in a heartbeat over the original, if it contained the same story and showcased the performance of Marlon Brando.

Given my discomfort watching older films, you may wonder what drove me to watch Taxi Driver last night. Well perhaps predictably it was the Joker. The first reviews for the new Joaquin Phoenix led film dropped to my, and a lot of other peoples, surprise over the weekend. For context, this film is still, even today, a full month away from release. Letting people put up their reviews this early is a show of brazen confidence very rarely seen in the movie industry and suggests Warner Bros know exactly what they have with this movie.

By all accounts, what they have is an absolute masterpiece. Reviews from the people I follow have been praising this film’s style and story, but all the main comments are about how brilliant Joaquin Phoenix is in the role of the Joker. I mentioned last week how excited I was to see this flick, but now I want to go into a coma and wake up on release date as there is just nothing else, I would rather do with my time then see this film.

Phoenix is one of the most talented actors around, so I knew there was a chance of something special when you have someone that talented commit to this character. The film is apparently 99% Joaquin Phoenix, as in he is in every shot. That is exactly what you want from a movie about a character so complex. Watching Taxi Driver last night, I started to understand why this type of film was an inspiration. It’s focused completely on De Niro’s Travis Bickle, just as Joker is front and centre of his film. The way it follows his decent into insanity is expertly done in Taxi Driver, so to know this kind of attention to detail is there in the Joker film really puts this top of my most anticipated list.

Another reason for Joker now topping my anticipated list, even over The Rise of Skywalker, is the comparison’s it’s getting to my favourite movie of all time, The Dark Knight. Any Joker performance from now until the end of time will be compared to Heath Ledger’s amazing work in The Dark Knight, so this one is no different. Where this might differ from the rest of Joker actors though, is that Phoenix is being touted as delivering an even better performance.

Time will tell if I agree with that assessment, but I do need to spend the next month trying to forget about the film. I want to go in with no heavy expectations on the film so I can enjoy it as much as possible.

If Arsenal would have lost yesterday, I think I may well have begun my own Travis Bickle like descent into madness. Mkhitaryan needs to get to fuck. Comes on and runs around like a headless chicken with the touch of Romelu Lukaku. Not to mention Superman lookalike Granit-for-brains Xhaka. Spent 90 minutes on the pitch, launching himself at the Spurs players arse first and then acting surprised it didn’t work. Thank fuck for Aubameyang, Lacazette and Guendouzi.

I promise I will have cooled off on the Arsenal stuff by tomorrow.

‘Til Then!

ChAzJS

 

This week in Gaming – 15.02.2019

I love video games, and I love the industry news and events that come up, so I am going to post a round-up of stories that mattered to me in the last week in the gaming world. This week Activision Blizzard piss off the entire industry, Respawn take on Fortnite, and Nintendo announce new(ish) Zelda and Mario games. 

This week has been a tumultuous one for the industry, with Activision Blizzard’s earnings call with investors causing controversy. The short summary of the story is that Activision have had a record year, with huge profits, and their reaction to this news is to fire roughly 800 members of their staff. On the face of it, it’s an extremely unethical and irresponsible move from the people in charge at Activision Blizzard.

The business side of things, it seems like their reasoning is relatively sound. They are planning to cut down costs whilst producing more games, which is an understandably attractive proposition for any business. The worry here is that you cannot increase production, cut costs, and still maintain the quality of games that we, video game players, demand.

To play devils advocate, they have just lost Bungie, and the Destiny franchise has gone with the developer. It wouldn’t surprise me if some of the layoffs are related to the marketing side of Activision that were focused on the Destiny games. However, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick inferred that despite “recording record results” they still fell below the expectations for 2018, leading to revised, lower expectations in 2019 and this is why they are “restructuring”. Kotick avoids the words layoff and firing very purposely, spinning everything to a positive for the investors he was speaking to.

The people being laid off are all talents, and I am sure will find roles elsewhere, but its a measure of the unrealistic expectations the big video game companies have. They are not content with making a lot of money, they need to make all of the money. Every year has to be bigger, exponential growth is the target, and that is not an attainable one. Their “ambition” is much more suited to the word “Greed”.

Apex Legends FTW

In much more positive news, Respawn (creators of the underappreciated Titanfall franchise) dropped their take on the Battle Royale craze that has a hold of the gaming world lately with Apex Legends. They are not the first to jump onto the wagon of course, even Fortnite was after PUBG, which itself was a mod for another game before that.

Apex Legends takes the basics of the game, i.e. drop in a large map, scramble and scavenge for weapons, ammo, and armor, then fight it out/hide in a small room until you’re the last one left standing. Apex’s unique selling point, and the ace up its sleeve for me, is the hero shooter mechanics they introduce. Blizzard’s Overwatch game is the best example of a Hero Shooter, and what Respawn have done is take the best elements of that genre, and smash them together with the Battle Royale genre, and make it work perfectly.

I have played a fair bit of Fortnite, a little of PUBG, and a lot of Overwatch back in the day. Apex Legends is as accessible as Fortnite, as fun as Overwatch, and as intense as PUBG. I haven’t enjoyed playing any of the other games on my own very much, but Apex makes playing with randoms in your trio incredibly easy, all without having to use your mic. The RB/R1 button is used brilliantly to communicate with your teammates in a way that is actually effective.

The shooting mechanics are solid, better than Fortnite and PUBG, although perhaps a little behind Call of Duty Blackout. There is no building to master here, the main barrier to entry in Fortnite, and the class abilities are useful without ever feeling overpowered. It’s a very solid game, a great foundation for Respawn to build on and create a rival for Fortnite’s Battle Royale crown. At the moment there is only one game mode, but I expect to see a lot of support for Apex, just like Epic offered with Fortnite.

Nintendo New Game News

I recently sold my Nintendo Switch, as it had been sitting gathering dust for the last 6 months after I had finished with Overcooked. Smash Ultimate is fun, but i have a friend who owns it, and playing alone did not appeal to me at all. So after this weeks Nintendo Direct announcements, I have to say I am… happy I made that decision.

Fire Emblem has never been a franchise I know or care much about and it’s never appealed to me, but there is a lot of news for that out there if that’s your kind of game. There are 2 games I was intrigued by in the direct, Super Mario Maker 2 and Tetris 99.

Mario Maker seems like a great idea, allowing the huge community to create their own Mario levels will lead to some brilliant and creative experience’s. The Little Big Planet franchise had its hooks in me for a hot minute back in the PS3 days, playing other people’s creations was really entertaining. I was never a creator myself, but it was a really cool idea. Mario Maker aims to capture that promise, and deliver it with the polish we expect from the Mario franchise.

Tetris 99 I don’t fully understand, but it sounds fascinating. Essentially its Tetris Battle Royale. 99 players all play at the same time, the winner being the last one out I assume, or perhaps there is a timer and it’s whoever has the highest score in that time. Its a clever way to make tetris competitive, and it’s the only reason I miss owning a switch right now.

The other announcement people might really care about is the remake/remaster of Links Awakening. I never played it, I have never really enjoyed a Zelda game and the art styled doesn’t appeal to me, but I know I am very much in the minority on this one. For those of you that want to relive the 1993 Game Boy classic can do so later this year.

That’s it for this week in gaming, thanks for reading!

Credit to Kinda Funny Games Daily, Kotaku, and The Verge for some of the information above. 

 

 

Netflix’s The Punisher Season 2 Review

Netflix have recently announced the cancellation of a number of their Marvel show’s, with Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Daredevil all being scrapped by the property. There is no word yet, but I am pretty sure all of these series are done for. That being said, The Punisher was one of the best series out of them all, with only Daredevil beating it for me, and one of those Daredevil seasons featured Frank Castle heavily. 

After the first season surprised me with the story driven deep dive into Frank Castle’s mind, I was open to whatever story the show runners decided on. From the start of Season 2, I found myself really intrigued by the story. With Frank seemingly close to getting away from his bullet-filled past, the opening episode is quite different, but I thought it was a great way to show that Frank could have a different life, but he is constantly drawn to violent situations.

Jon Bernthal is once again superb as Frank Castle, he has completely owned this role and made the character infinitely more interesting to me. Before this version of The Punisher was brought into the world, he was always a character I felt was extremely thin with not much to explore beyond the rain of gunfire he brings with him. Bernthal plays a man haunted by his past, desperate to get away, but almost subconsciously drawn towards a world he thrives in.

Frank ends up looking after a young girl, around the same age his daughter would have been, who is played excellently by Giorgia Whigham. She’s a street smart kid, and doesn’t initially trust Frank, and why would you, he kills anyone he gets into a fight with. The dynamic between them is the driving force behind the entire season for me. There are elements of Joel and Ellie from The Last Of Us, and I really enjoyed that element of the show. She is there to remind Frank to stay on the right side of a line. He does kill, but he kills when he has to, not just because he can, leading to some of the best moments in the season.

Micro from Season one is nowhere to be seen, or been mentioned but returning from are Dinah Madani (Amber Rose Revah) and Curtis (Jason R Moore) who are both there to help Frank despite his grumbling. Curtis has a much bigger role this season than he did last, and I liked the way he interacted with Frank and the arc his character goes on is genuinely interesting. Madani however, I found a little odd. There isn’t much for the character to do, she is essentially the worst Homeland Security Agent in history, who is always a step or three behind the protagonists and antagonists in the story.

Speaking of Antagonists, Ben Barnes returns as scarred ex-best-friend of Frank, Billy Russo. I really liked the actors performance, but I did find the story with him and his psychiatrist to be a little repetitive. At the 5th or 6th time we see them discuss the past, the bit begun to wear a little thin and I would have rather dedicated more time with him and Frank perhaps having more interaction. In addition to him, we have Josh Stewart playing a devotee of the Church, whose motivations are initially unclear. I won’t say too much for fear of spoilers, but I found his characters arc grew into the season. His  ominous presence begins as a distraction and uninteresting, but by the end I was keen to learn more about the character.

Being a Netflix Punisher season, the action is something to behold. Every gunfight, hand to hand brawl and car chase is shot and edited masterfully. I loved all of the action, and could have gone for a bit more although that’s not to say the show lacks it in any way. In a similar vein to the entirety of the Punisher show, it never quite reaches the heights of Daredevil’s one shot masterpieces. The brutal action of the punisher is still very entertaining, although be warned, this is maybe the bloodiest of the seasons Netflix has produced.

All in all, I had a great time watching this season. The melancholy feeling knowing this may be the last season we get from this is hard to avoid, but even though a season 3 is easy to get to from where our characters are left, I am happy with the finale of the show. Perhaps the biggest indication of how much I enjoyed it, is that I finished the entire 13-episode run by 3pm on saturday, just 31 hours after the show dropped on Netflix in the UK.

Good: Jon Bernthal is fantastic, along with a number of the rest of the cast, and the story with him and Giorgia Whigham is great. Action scenes are brutally brilliant.

Bad: Madani a wasted character for me, and even though I was hooked throughout, there is probably 2 episodes worth of time we could have saved with some editing and not beating us over the head with the Jigsaw character’s memory loss.

9/10 – Great series and I hope we get more, but if not The Punisher ends on a high.

My Most Anticipated Movies 2019

I don’t know if everyone feels this, but one of the things I love the most about movies is the anticipation. Wondering about what surprises might happen, which characters I’m going to love or hate, and just whether or not any movie is going to be good or bad for me. Of course I am excited for the likes of Avengers Endgame and Star Wars Episode IX, but so is everyone else. With that in mind, here are a few of the films I am most excited to see in 2019 that aren’t huge blockbusters. 

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – 9th August (UK)

Boasting arguably the most talented cast in history with Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt Margot Robbie, Al Pacino and Kurt Russell, it is none of those names that really make me want to see this film. The name that does that, is Quentin Tarantino. I love every movie that I have seen of his (there are a few I haven’t watched) and a late 60s hollywood setting matched with all of Tarantino’s style and sensibilities sounds like a match made in heaven.

His particular brand of dialogue and the creative characters he puts into his films in the hands of such an incredibly talented cast just add to the anticipation for me. I know barely anything about this film beyond what I have put in this post and it is still easily one of my most anticipated films of the year. Releasing at the height of the blockbuster season, I really hope this gem isn’t buried by the superhero films out around then.

Joker – 4th October (US, UK Unconfirmed)

If you know me well, you will already know why this film is so high on my list. The Joker is my favourite fictional character across all mediums, so a movie based on him with a talent like Joaquin Phoenix in the role is tantalising. Early set photos show Phoenix looking suitably creepy as the maniacal villain, looking like a mix of the classic Caesar Romero look blended with Heath Ledger’s iconic turn in the role.

The Hangover director Todd Phillips is in charge of things, and that is my main concern with the film. None of his films really wow me, but none of them are terrible, he’s a very middle of the road director for a project i really want to see succeed. If he can take a few pointers from Martin Scorsese, who is on as a Producer for this film, i really think this could be something special.

The Lion King – 19th July (UK) 

Now this is a very interesting film to me. The animated classic from the 90s is my favourite Disney film, I watched it 100s of times as a kid, and it was a film I hoped would not be made before I saw the Jungle Book remake. However, in a post Jungle Book world, and with the astounding cast of voices on board under the same director (Jon Favreau), I am now all in to see this film. The special effects are brilliant, that goes without saying, but what will make or break The Lion King for me is the characters being as lovable and memorable as they was in 1994.

I never had this attachment to the Jungle Book, so this is new ground for me. I am going into a film hoping it is exactly the same as one I have seen before, but with a new lick of paint and some shiny new accessories. Whatever the end product is like, I am sure me and my generation will be pushing small kids out the way on opening day to sing along to Hakuna Matata in a theatre together come July. If it’s a success, we will be back in for the next showing.

Rocketman – 21 June (UK) 

In 2018, Bohemian Rhapsody gave Queen fans (i.e. Everyone) a chance to relive the past with Freddie Mercury leading Queen through their songs, whilst giving a glimpse behind the curtain at the life the legendary frontman led. In 2019, Rocketman aims to deliver the same experience, but with Elton John. His career spans several decades and his music traverses multiple Genres just like Queen, and he too has a story not everyone knows about. I am in that section of people, so I’m fascinated to learn about the man behind the music.

Dexter Fletcher is directing, whose work I have never seen, but I heard good things about Eddie the Eagle, hopefully this gives him the step up he needs to reach the next level as a director. Kingsman lead man Taron Egerton takes on the role of Elton John, and I really hope he nails this and maybe even generates himself some award buzz.

There are lots more of course, with Disney alone boasting Toy Story 4, Dumbo, Aladdin, Captain Marvel, Spiderman Far from Home and Frozen 2 on top of Star Wars and Avengers, it promises to be a huge year in cinema. Google 2019 films to see a lot of the films coming our way in the next 12 months, and there are certainly some we haven’t even heard of yet. The blog will be more active than ever this year so thank you for reading and please share if you think anyone you know will want to waste their time reading this! Til next time 🙂

 

 

Star Wars The Last Jedi – What’s Next? 

Coming out of the Last Jedi I had a lot of questions. Mainly, where does the franchise go next for Episode 9 in a few years. If you haven’t seen Star Wars – The Last Jedi yet I suggest you click away now and come back when you have, as I will not hold back on spoilers in this post so beware!! 

Here we go, final warning to click away. Don’t ruin this for yourself!  

Still here? 

This sentence is here to take up some room on the page so the people who want to click away don’t catch the spoiler at the start of the next part.

Where does the franchise go now Luke Skywalker and the franchise’s new big bad guy Snoke have both bitten the dust. Of course one more peacefully than the other, with Luke disappearing into the force a la Obi Wan and Yoda, and Snoke being butchered to pieces by a lightsaber. In the moment, watching the throne room scene with Rey and Kylo, back to back fighting off Snokes bodyguards, my mind was racing, confused as to what this team up of Light and Dark meant for the franchise. Was the Grey Jedi rumors true? 

Of course we was given the answer moments later with Kylo going full Darth Vader and asking Rey to join her and rule the galaxy together, and let the past die, Last Order, Rebels and all. Kylo once again showing his approach to all this is “Make it up as I go”. Of course we don’t see them team up, instead they both force fight over Luke’s old Lightsaber and end up ripping the thing in half. 

Now that ripped in half lightsaber is a key clue to the following scene by the way. Luke appears on Crait, ready to help the Resistance fight off the last order having had a shave and dyed his beard and hair. He then walked out and leaves no footprints on the easily markable surface of the planet, igniting the lightsaber we just saw break in half, and then proceeds to fight Kylo Ren without ever touching lightsabers. 

All those clues and more are there, no effort is made to hide them. The trick is pulled off entirely by the fans desires to see Luke Skywalker in action one more time. Of course in the end we see Luke is actually pulling off a feat no other Jedi could do without dying immediately, and project himself across the galaxy to not just one person, but everyone on the planet. 

After buying the resistance time to escape  and inspiring  them to fight, I watched my childhood hero pass away. The poetry of this moment is so poignant to someone whose steeped in this world any slightly more emotional person would cry. Weirdly this moment isn’t sad, it’s peaceful.  Luke has had one final chance to save a lot of people and spark a brand new rebellion. 

Sounds a lot like the end of a trilogy doesn’t it. Well the fact is we still have Episode 9 to come, so what is left to do? At the end we saw the kid from the space horse racing place use the force to grab his broom and pose with it like a lightsaber for us, with his rebellion ring on. Could he feature in the next film? I doubt that. Possibly in the future he will play a role, but I can’t see it being episode 9. 

What is left is Kylo Ren and Rey, enemies with a connection similar to Vader and Luke, except instead of being relatives they appear to actually care for each other. Kylo Rens comments about Rey parents being nobody are disappointing to me, and I hope he was wrong just because I really want her to be a Kenobi. 

Now, my prediction for the next one is for it to be years later, and a new kind of threat has arrived, hopefully not a Death star but something that poe has to “Jump on an X-wing and blow up”. This is where Poe and Finn will finally have a mission together as their chemistry is an underused part so far in this new trilogy. Meanwhile Rey may be training the boy from the casino or someone else, as she is now responsible for continuing the Jedi, and still having her Force Skype calls with Kylo regularly. They will fight and Kylo will turn back to the light and destroy the Last Order, possibly sacrificing himself. 

Also Phasma went out like a punk and I’m not sure how I feel about this trend of cool looking Star Wars Characters going out like twats. Yes I’m looking at you Boba Fett, and you Kit Fitso, and you Greedo. Nerd points for you if you know who Kit Fitso is. 

That’s all for now, I could talk about Star Wars forever and there is so much more I could ramble on about but I don’t want to let you all know how incredibly geeky I am deep down inside. Thanks for reading this year and happy holidays if I don’t post before then!! 

ChAzJS