Comedians in armchairs and am I ruining Games for myself?

Comedians are great. They are people who have dedicated themselves to making people laugh. There aren’t many other professions where the key function is to make people feel great. There is also a huge range of comedians from the relatively wholesome Russell Howard to the dark humour of a Jimmy Carr or the one liners of Tim Vine.

Last night I went to a show in Southend performed by Rob Brydon, Lee Mack and David Mitchell. The trio have been taking the piss out of each other for years on Would I Lie to You? and I have watched countless hours of that show so to see them all together was a laugh. The format of the show is unusual, half a quiz with audience interaction, and then bringing the audience in even more in the second half. It’s a couple of hours of laughter and a strange insight into people’s thoughts on Southend in general.

The trio’s chemistry has been built over years on a show and they all bring their own comedic style to the show. Rob Brydon is the “Host” of sorts, and his showmanship suits that perfectly. David Mitchell and Lee Mack are middle class chalk and working-class cheese and they both play into the stereotypes they’re known for from the TV show. Essentially the show is all set up for the three of them to just show off their comedic skills, and it is a great vehicle for them. The speed they come up with jokes is impressive and with the audience I was in, they were not given the best material to work with. Drug Dealers, dating problems, Wedding cake and Dead cats all came up and none of those are particularly funny situations.

It reminded me a lot of several of the podcasts I listen to, like the Kinda Funny Podcast or Collider Live, where the bulk of the show is the interaction between the people on the podcast and the funny stories and conversations that come from that. The live stage show aspect allows Brydon Mack and Mitchell to include the audience a lot more, although email questions are used, and I know a lot of podcasts use that or twitter for audience interaction. I am hoping when I open my podcast app on my way to work soon, I will be able to find the three of them in podcast form as they have the kind of chemistry that serves that medium well.

Sunday Night Comedy aside, I finally picked up Borderlands 3 again yesterday after a weekend of FIFA and a week of not playing Borderlands. The game is in an odd place for me. Whenever I am playing it, I enjoy it a lot. The loot cycle is as satisfying as any I have played and the gun play is superb, but it doesn’t have me clamouring for more. It is suffering from the same problem The Division 2 gave me, and that doesn’t bode well.

The Division 2 is another game I thoroughly enjoy playing. Again, it does everything right when you’re fighting through the streets of Washington DC, and yet I haven’t had any desire to carry on. I played it solidly for a good 2 weeks in between work and other commitments and got quite a way through the main story. With the division, the story is almost unimportant, you’re in DC, here is a load of bad guys, go shoot them. It flirts with trying to present some motivations for the characters but there isn’t a single character I could name from the games world which is a bit of a damnation of the story in the game.

Borderlands 3 has a more interesting story, but for some reason I just don’t have the motivation to carry on. I will play it a little this week after work, and maybe even on Sunday again in a hungover state after the wedding of one of my best friends, but then Ghost Recon will be ready to go, and I can’t see Borderlands outlasting that.

I was so ready to dive into both The Division 2 and Borderlands 3 when they were releasing, that perhaps I over hyped the games without realising. I was convinced I would be all into smash borderlands continuously, and it didn’t happen. I listened to countless Division 2 previews and knew how I wanted to build my character before I even downloaded the game, but I never finished the main story.

Perhaps it is all my own doing, and I am setting the bar too high and the games are falling below it. Ghost Recon Wildlands was a worse game than both the games I have mentioned in this, and I played it to completion and unlocked nearly every gun and attachment in the game. It was a surprise to me though, I went in knowing nothing about the game and I think that added intrigue about what might be around the corner is what kept me coming back.

The hunger I have for information about games, movies, and TV shows has ruined a lot of surprises for me over the years – for example I knew Han Solo was dying in The Force Awakens long before the film’s release – but I can’t help myself. A huge part of the enjoyment of Marvel and Star Wars films for me is the anticipation. The guessing of what might happen. That translates to games in the form of knowing how the gameplay works before I have touched the game. I normally avoid story spoilers but quite frankly most video games have shoddy stories, especially the first-person shooter genre.

Maybe I will avoid all Ghost Recon Breakpoint previews and see if that game can get its hooks into me. It does have John Bernthal, so it’s got that going for it. I want to be able to say I beat the Punisher in a gunfight, so I guess I am already signed up to go all the way through the game.

I will put up my FIFA 20 full review tomorrow, I have played a lot of it and it’s really confusing. Until then, thanks for reading!




What We Do In The Shadows (2014) Review

What We Do In The Shadows is a 2014 mockumentary directed and starring Thor Ragnarok director Taika Waititi.  It was mentioned a lot during the press events for Thor Ragnarok and touted as a big reason he got given the Thor Ragnarok chair. I went back and watched to see if the film holds up. 

Shadows is essentially Taika Waititi’s sense of humour put onto film. The comedic style of Thor Ragnarok is clear to see, with the documentary style serving as a great framing device for the New Zealand native’s excellent writing. Him and co-writer Jemaine Clement also star in the film, and whilst the acting is nothing special, their comedic sense gets them by and their timing is great throughout.

The film is unabashedly weird, and it may be a little too odd for some audience members. The weirdness is contrasted by the realistic lens that Shadows is shot with, the camera work and effects complimenting each other to keep you engaged with the film. Some of the camera work is really clever, and shows how a lack of budget can be worked with to create some really great moments that a larger budget would have solved with throwing money at a special effects team. I like seeing films do this stuff, and really appreciate the ingenuity required to make a low-budget film look this good.

The jokes have a pretty high success rate, although there were a few duds for me. Sometimes the jokes are a little forced, but that’s really in the minority. For the most part I at least smiled to myself and a couple of times I laughed out loud. This is Waititi’s humour at its raw,  unfiltered. Ragnarok showed us his refined, sharpened wit and his writing has only improved over the last few years. What We Do In The Shadows has some really well written jokes and set ups that pay off in entertaining ways, and that ability to find something entertaining in nearly all situations is one of the reasons Marvel went after the filmmaker.

Mock documentary films rarely move the needle for me, as I find it hard to connect with the characters and the jokes sometimes feel a bit forced. However, as I learnt shows like The US Office and Parks and Recreation, when they’re executed well, they’re brilliant. What we do in the shadows is the first film I have watched that really got me invested since the uniquely flavoured Borat in 2006. This film isn’t nearly as politically incorrect (nothing really is compared to Borat) but it does the same job of introducing outlandish characters and putting them in funny situations.

I haven’t watch Sacha Baron Cohen’s Kazakhstani parody for a long time, but I can’t imagine it holds up terribly well today. What We Do In The Shadows does hold up from 5 years ago, and I think it has the right ingredients to stand the test of time. What is certain is that Taika Waititi is on the up, with clear improvements in his directorial skills as well as his writing from this to Thor Ragnarok. All that means I can’t wait to see what comes next from the Kiwi, and I hope he can stay on this trajectory.

Good: Brilliant writing, outlandish and fun characters, Stu is a great guy, and the filmmaking skills used to get the most out of the budget are great.

Bad: The acting isn’t the best, and there are a few flat jokes. May be a bit weird for some audiences.

8/10 – What Will Taika Do Next?

Blockers Review

Blockers is a comedy aimed at both teenagers and their parents, and I am exactly between the two demographics but still thought the trailers were exciting. Being a twist on the American Pie formula, it follows three young girls looking to lose their virginity on prom night and their parents battling to stop that happening.

The three young actresses playing the teenagers are fantastic. The trio of Kathryn Newton, Geraldine Viswanathan and Gideon Adlon have fantastic chemistry is an immediate hook and you buy into the characters being best friends despite all being very different girls. They also share chemistry with each other their respective parents, and this dynamic between the cast does wonders for the film. Their prom dates are also pretty solid, with Miles Robbins as Connor the stand out there.

Leslie Mann is great as the single mum struggling to let go of her coming of age daughter, as the reality of her daughter no longer being there every day sets in. Alongside her also dealing with that struggle is John Cena, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised how well he does in the role. He has some of the funniest moments in the film for me which he sells well, a lot of this coming from his willingness to do anything for the laugh. Ike Barinholtz rounds out the trio, an actor who you’ve seen in several films but never known his name until now. He is great in the film, initially seeming like a one note character but developing a lot through the film and we learn a lot about his journey.

The cast’s chemistry is the driving force behind what makes this film a thoroughly entertaining film to watch. The jokes landed throughout for me and the heartfelt moments scattered into the film are effective because you have bought into these characters by the time those moments arrive. There is a case to say some of the moments aren’t quite as earned as they should have been, but considering the one hour forty-two minute run time I think the film does well to get any emotional pay off in there alongside all the laughs.

The film does clip along at quite a frantic pace, with a bit of a messy first act where the film stutters a little whilst it gets going. There is also a touch of odd editing choices, and one scene in particular where there seems to be something missing to explain how the parents get out of a situation (the naked marco polo scene, if you see the film you will know what I mean).

I honestly have to say Blockers is a surprisingly funny and entertaining film, and one that I would recommend to anyone with a similar sense of humour to me. Once it gets going, the laughs start flowing regularly and I think this comedy will end up as one of the funniest of the year.

Good: The cast’s chemistry alone makes the film entertaining, and the introduction of Butt Chugging to my life is something I will never forget.

Bad: Some questionable editing and a stumbling start the only real issues, some may find the humour to be a little juvenile or crass.

8/10 – Thoroughly entertaining comedy with a WWE star that isn’t Dwayne Johnson.

Game Night Review

Game Night is a comedy starring Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams and tells the story of a couple and their friends who regularly meet up to have a game night. One of these nights takes a sinister twist and the film follows the couples on this impromptu adventure. Given the trailers seemed a little silly to me, I wasn’t expecting big things from this one. 

I have to say I did find myself chuckling quite a few times, one scene in particular really getting me and the rest of the cinema laughing (Bullet removal, that’s all I will say). There is a good mix of slapstick, one liners and set up and pay off jokes throughout that serve to give you consistent bang for your buck in terms of laughs.

Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams are the clear stars, and their chemistry is great together. McAdams in particular has come into her own in recent years with the variety of films she’s done, adding this adult comedy to solid work in Marvel’s Dr.Strange and the hard-hitting drama Spotlight. She’s come a long way since her turn as Regina George in Mean Girls, even if that’s still her most famous character.

The rests of the cast have fleeting moments of hilarity, with subplots between the other couples providing some laughs and all adding a little something to the film. The real stand out for me among the supporting roles is Jesse Plemons as the strange and awkward neighbour. He has a great stare for making you feel uncomfortable and he plays the role perfectly. His versatility is amazing, playing Todd in Breaking Bad, his role in the USS Callister episode of Black Mirror, and now this, all calling on different skill sets. I think he is one to watch in the future if he can land the right roles.

The movie does get a little far-fetched, with some of the plot elements just being a little too convenient and one character being so dumb you struggle to believe they could ever be a real person. These moments do provide some laughs, and that is the aim for a comedy so its hard to hold it against the film too much. It also provides a role for Michael C Hall, which is fun as I was a big fan of his work in Dexter. In this he is a little wasted for me, and i would have liked his character to be a little more realistic and used more in the film.

Ridiculous elements aside, Game Night did exactly what a good comedy should do, and made me laugh consistently throughout. Some great comedic performances help make this one of the better films at the cinema right now. If you are looking for a laugh, Game Night won’t let you down.

Good: McAdams, Bateman and Plemons’ performances along with some really funny scenes that will have you chuckling.

Bad: Some of the more ridiculous elements don’t pay off quite as well and can make the film seem a little silly at times.

7.5/10 – Had a laugh, and got the urge to play a game of scrabble.