2019 Gaming: The Calm before the Storm

This past weekend I was thinking about what games I have really enjoyed this year, which games I would put up there as potential Game of the Year contenders and to my surprise I think the only real contender for me is Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. But surely that can’t be the case. 

Discussing it with a friend of mine, they referred to this year as the calm before the storm, and it does make a lot of sense. They also pushed me in the direction of Outer Wilds, a puzzle exploration game which I will be playing this week, and not to be confused with The Outer Worlds. I have tried to jump into The Outer Worlds and it just didn’t grab me, I am thinking about committing a solid chunk of playtime to it and just seeing how it feels after 5 or 6 hours, but after the first few hours of it I was almost bored.

Borderlands 3 was fun, but it added very little to the experience for me, and the boss fights were largely dull after the first half of the game. The final boss is possibly the easiest big boss in the game, and I was hoping for something a little bit different. As for it being Game of the Year, it doesn’t do enough to get into that conversation for me.

The only game that’s given me any wow moments all year has been Fallen Order. It takes elements of all the recent GOTY contenders from previous years and combines them into a solid gameplay experience with an interesting story for Star Wars fans. It doesn’t quite stick the landing story-wise, and even with its spectacular ending the plot could have used a little more to tie it together.

The elephant in the room with all my games this year is Death Stranding, a game I was completely put off by. As soon as I discovered what the gameplay was, I was out, I wanted no part of it. I think during the Christmas break I might pick it up and see how I feel once I am in the world. Even Hideo Kojima’s walking simulator hasn’t hit the games industry quite the same way that 2018 and 2017 did. Horizon Zero Dawn, God of War, Uncharted 4 and Spiderman all came out over those 2 years, and that’s just listing off PS4 Exclusive games.

All the PS4 titles would win game of the year in 2019 comfortably, and that’s made this year feel barren. What that’s meant for my time spent on games this year, is a lot of game services being grinded out. I started the year hammering Destiny 2 and getting up to the level cap, deep in the weekly grind. Then I fell into Apex Legends and all spent a lot of time deep in that game right up until they changed the maps. That felt like a good point for me to jump into something else.

FIFA came along in September and I have barely played any mode except Pro Clubs, which is of course the best mode on the game. Then came my only other contender for Game of the Year so far, except possibly Outer Wilds this week. That game is, surprisingly to me, Call of Duty Modern Warfare.

I have a lot of great memories with the Call of Duty franchise, right up to Call of Duty Black Ops 2, I was a die-hard player. I spent my evenings after school either sitting on Habbo (remember that?) or playing Call of Duty. Modern Warfare 2 was when I was in my prime, and although I am not back to that level right now, I am slowly getting there.

The new Modern Warfare has an excellent single player shooter campaign that I would encourage anyone to play as it’s one of the best and most hard-hitting stories I have seen in any of these types of games. That combined with the edge of your seat twitch shooting multiplayer make it one of the most complete games of the year in terms of giving you a lot of content to play through.

What it boils down to is the end of the console generation being in sight, and this year has suffered because of it. Right now, we have less than a full year of the PS4/Xbox One generation left, and in the time, we have a lot of huge games to drop before the new squad of consoles arrive. Next year will have The Last of Us Part 2, Cyberpunk 2077, Marvels Avengers, Watchdogs Legion and Doom Eternal just to name a few. I am more excited for each of those games than anything released in 2019.

I have checked if I missed anything big this year, and the only game I found was Sekiro, a game I have no interest in. 2019 might be the most disappointing year in gaming we’ve had for a while, but 2020 could potentially be the best we’ve ever had. Fingers crossed Cyberpunk & Co live up to my lofty expectations.

Later this week I think I might do a Star Wars predictions post, which is something extremely nerdy for you to look forward to. Until the next post, thanks for reading!

ChAzJS

 

 

Captain Marvel Review

By now we are used to Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, and this is the 21st movie in the enormous franchise. Captain Marvel is the first MCU movie to be led by a female character, and only the second superhero movie ever after DC’s Wonder Woman. Could Marvel produce something as good as DC’s best? 

First of all, I have to say I think Brie Larson is a phenomenal actress. She’s a top-tier talent and kudos to Marvel for picking such a talent to play the new face of the MCU, and that is certainly what this movie is setting her up to be. She worked hard to do her own fight scenes and does everything she can with what she was given to do. I don’t like to delve into negatives too quickly, but Captain Marvel runs into an issue I was a little concerned by going in.

The issue is one I like to refer to as “The Superman Problem”. This film starts out with Carol Danvers as a powerful and skilled warrior, and ends with her being an even more powerful and skilled warrior. Superman is an indestructible, undeniable solution to almost every problem. In a similar vein, Captain Marvel felt a little too powerful at times in this film, and she is never really threatened by anything she comes up against (spoilers, she doesn’t die in this film).

The problem this movie has is that this new infallible hero isn’t even given a weakness like Superman’s Kryptonite, she is just a force of nature whose solution to all problems is to shoot beams at the problems. There are superb hero moments, but they don’t feel as earned as in some other films we have seen. Think Spiderman Homecoming, when he’s terrified under the crushed building calling for help, in that moment we saw the vulnerability of Spiderman. Captain Marvel has no vulnerability to speak of in this film.

That being said, the beams she is shooting to solve her problems do look cool, and as we have come to expect in an MCU film, all of the action scenes are well done. The stand out for me being ironically one where her beams of light aren’t there as weapons for her, and she has to show her fighting prowess. The other, more spectacularly shot scene is the one we catch a glimpse of in the trailer, with Carol Danvers flying through space blowing up ships.

Good action is expected by now in these movies, what has kept the MCU going for so long is its excellent character development. Nick Fury, played by a de-aged Samuel L Jackson, is brilliant in this film and this showcases everything we love about the character we have seen countless times to date. He has more screen time here than in any other film, and we learn a few things about him that we didn’t know before. Some of this film could spawn some considerable questions about other films in the MCU, and a few of them directly relate to thing Fury has said in movies we have seen.

The 90’s setting that allows for the creation of plot holes in movies we have already seen is an excellent excuse for a lot of references to 90s culture. We see Troll Dolls, hear Nirvana, and get to witness the inside of a Blockbuster for the first time in years. These references are all nice window dressing, but to be honest this could have been set a few days before infinity war and not much would have changed for this actual movie. That being said, they do bring some nostalgia with them, and that plays into some of the funnier moments. 

Aside from Nick Fury, we have Talos played by Ben Mendelsohn and Yonn-Rog played by Jude Law. Both are excellent actors in their own rights, and Law is really solid in his role. Mendelsohn nearly steals the movie for me though, playing an antagonist with a twist, and someone I really hope we see more of in the MCU going forward. I didn’t expect the turns this movie took, and therefore this film provided some of the most interesting world building to date in the MCU. It’s an odd thing but we seem to be reaching a point where Marvel is aware people know the comics, and are going out of their way to do things that will surprise us. I won’t say more for fear of spoilers, but suffice to say I thought there were some really smart storytelling choices made in this film.

What I think is difficult to quantify with these films is why it’s any better than say Dr. Strange, or Black Panther, and honestly I am not sure it is. It’s certainly not down with the likes of Thor: The Dark World, but because of the nature of the MCU it’s almost impossible for this to rank in the top echelons of the MCU given how deep in we are and how many characters we have seen combine. Captain Marvel is a return to a true origin story in the MCU, and one that doesn’t fall into the trappings we have seen in previous first outings. The final fight isn’t against a villain with exactly the same powers (Iron Man, Winter Soldier, Ant Man, Black Panther all spring immediately to mind), and there is no really blatant sequel set up.

This film extends the lore of the MCU in a more natural way then we have witnessed before. It gives us insights into characters we have seen before, but from a time before we knew them, and I am not just talking about Fury. Captain Marvel is yet another good film in the Marvel universe, and it got me even more excited for Avengers Endgame. If that was possible. The first end credits scene made me realise just how desperate I am to see that film. I can’t wait. Only a month and a half away.

Good: Excellent Action, Solid acting all round, MCU continues to expand and some great 90s nostalgia. Goose the Cat is awesome, and the Marvel Logo at the start will make you cry.

Bad: Script felt a little empty in some ways, leading to a mildly underdeveloped hero. Superman Problem needs to be addressed in future movies and I didn’t like how Fury lost his eye (Spoilers I guess…)

7/10 – Carol Danvers joins the MCU, and immediately becomes Thanos’ biggest problem. 

 

My Most Anticipated TV series’ of 2019

I’ve done Games, I’ve done movies, now for the series that will take up hours of my time throughout the year. Last year had some excellent shows, Killing Eve, Bodyguard, and Daredevil sticking out in my head, but 2019 has some real treats in store (hopefully) and these are a few of the ones I am most excited to binge watch. 

Game Of Thrones – April

Where better to start than with arguably the most anticipated TV series in history. I watched every episode of Game of Thrones in August 2017, having never seen a single episode before. I knew about it of course, but I missed the start and felt I was too late to jump in. Once I decided to go from Episode one, it hooked me within the first hour. Sixty-seven episodes later, and I am a massive fan of the show.

With so many memorable characters over the seven seasons to date, and so many of them having met horrific ends, this season has the unenviable task of finishing the story. There are so many fan predictions and videos online about the upcoming season, but honestly I am avoiding all spoilers and going in just hoping that they can stick this landing. This is as ambitious a project as I have ever seen on TV, and if they pull it off and finish this series well, it will almost certainly cement itself at the top of TV shows for me. I loved Breaking Bad so much because of its excellent ending (in my opinion), so I really hope Game of Thrones can get it right.

Netflix’s The Punisher – January 18th

Netflix last year released a lot of series, all 4 of the defenders has a series released and to me the only success was Daredevil season 3. The next, and possibly the last Netflix Marvel series after the cancellation of Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Daredevil, is The Punisher Season 2. The first Punisher series surprised me, because it didn’t go for the over the top action I expected. It told a real story about a flawed character, and is the only series without Daredevil that has worked really well for me in this Netflix Marvel world.

Jon Bernthal returns as the title character, and his portrayal of Frank Castle is probably the best single performance in the Marvel series aside from Vincent D’onofrio’s Wilson Fisk. This season I am hoping for a bit more of the action I expected last time. The villain this time round, Jigsaw, was set up brilliantly in the last episodes we saw, so I am expecting big things from him trying to get revenge on Frank.

Stranger Things – 4th July

Halloween last year didn’t feel right without Stranger Things to binge all weekend, and I for one am glad its back this year. Wait its coming out in July? What the f….

In all seriousness, this show has been excellent for most people who have seen it,  for me its been a good show with some great moments, and I really hope the next season expands the property into new areas. The random episode last season (Season 2, Episode 7) felt very out of place for everyone, but I think this next season will do a lot to make sense of that episode. I expect a bit a change of tone for Stranger things, mainly due to the moved release date. Halloween was perfect for the pervious 2 seasons, so I am hoping for even more of a Goonies vibe this time round.

American Gods – March 10th in US – UK Unconfirmed.

American Gods was one of the weirdest series of tv I have ever watched. To be honest I am not sure whether i liked it or not, such is the level of weirdness. It was certainly interesting, and Ian McShane is absolutely brilliant in his role. The world it’s set in really does intrigue me a lot, combining the mythology of every real world religion is a really cool idea, and i have been tempted to read the book myself.

I am keen to see how the story plays out with the characters I know, and I think this next season could be a real surprise. Hopefully I am right, but honestly this series could be terrible, and at times in the first season it teetered on the edge of being nonsensical madness.

Of course there are several other series I will watch, Brooklyn 99, Lucifer and hopefully Archer all have new seasons coming out, along with Rick and Morty. Thanks for reading this week, and I am going to keep the posts coming this year. Again please share if you think someone else might like to waste 5 minutes reading my ramblings. Til tomorrow.

ChAzJS

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 🙂