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!

ChAzJS

 

 

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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.

Marvel’s Punisher – Netflix Review

Frank Castle / The Punisher was introduced to our screens in season 2 of Netflix’s Daredevil. Such was the popularity of the character that he was given his own series which came out a few weeks ago. Led by the perfectly cast Jon Bernthal, I was excited to see an action packed series that focused on Marvel’s most brutal character. 

What we actually got wasn’t the over the top action series we may have expected or even hoped for. Instead this series, based on an insane comic book character with a big white skull on his chest, gives us one of the most realistic accounts of just what military veterans go through when returning from war and how Post Traumatic Stress Disorder really affects people’s lives. 

I didn’t expect that, and at first it threw me off. I went in expecting a basic plot, around some kind of drug ring that Frank had to take down with a hail of bullets, but this isn’t that simple. The decision to delve into this sensitive area and pull no punches about how tough it can be was a very brave call, and one that I think has paid off massively. The Punisher is one of the best dramatic TV shows I’ve watched in recent years, and it’s broken up by the visceral violence that you would expect in a Punisher series. 

Of course the main characters story is front and centre, featuring regular flashbacks to his families murder and his time in Afghanistan. This all gives so much for Jon Bernthal to work with and he grabs it with both hands. He is so good as this character, from the grunts and growls in combat scenes to the quiet looks and the rage bubbling away beneath his eyes. He is immense and carries the series on his shoulders. 
Backing him up is Amber Rose Revah as Homeland Security Agent Dinah Madani, Ben Barnes as Franks ex military friend Billy Russo (if you know comics that name might mean something), and Ebon Moss-Bachrach as David Leiberman / Micro. All 3 are really excellent, with each character fleshed out over the series and all go through an arc of some kind. Frank Castle is the main character, but these three all are key parts of what makes The Punisher a great series. 

The rest of the cast are good, even the child actors weren’t distracting and Marvels Netflix shows continue to cast good, talented actors in all the roles they have, the only misstep perhaps being Iron Fist. 

This is a Punisher series, so despite all the dramatic tension and excellent character building, we do need to see some action. I can imagine some people feeling frustrated by the lack of a minigun welding Punisher that nerds like me would love to see, as there are a few episodes where there’s not much action. However the action that is spread throughout the series is very hard hitting, even if the Punisher himself seems to soak up bullets like a sponge in water and not think much of it. 

There is a couple of scenes in the final episodes of the series that are really not for the queezy among you, but overall I think the action was well done. It lacks anything as memorable as the Daredevil hallway scene fights, and many of the firefights blend into one another in my memory, but they’re still entertaining enough to watch. 

I found the Punisher to be a much more thought provoking and harrowing series than I expected it to be. The quality of the performances and the way it paints a picture of what war vets go through is 100% worth watching. It might not be the Punisher series you expected, but it’s one that you’ll be glad you watched.

Good For: Shows PTSD in a very real, moving way. Great performances and doesn’t drag like most 13 episode marvel series have for me.

Bad for: if you are hoping for non stop action, this isn’t for you. Also Bernthals permanent batman impression from the Nolan trilogy might grate on you. 

9/10 – Great, clever series that surprised me!