2020 – Most Anticipated Films

Happy New Year, Happy New Decade, Happy New 365 days of films, games and television to enjoy. 2019 was the culmination of a decade of geeks ruling pop culture, and 2020 doesn’t look like it’s going to be slowing down. There are superhero films all over the shop, but none of them are intriguing me currently. Here are a few films that I can’t wait to see, and none of them have a superhero in them. Shocking right. 

Tenet – 17th July 2020

I saw a short part of Christopher Nolan’s next film at an IMAX screening a couple of weeks ago, and the entire cinema was on the edge of their seats from start to finish. That was with no context, just a scene that immediately lets you know the feel of this film. There is something odd happening in this film, as we have come to expect from Christopher Nolan, and all I can tell so far is that its time related.

Nolan has become one of those few directors who is bigger than the films he makes. I was signed up for seeing Tenet as soon as Nolan said that’s his next project, and that goes for a lot of people now. He has built up enough goodwill with the audience off the back of Inception, Interstellar, The Dark Knight and so on, that whatever he chooses to do next automatically qualifies as a must-see film.

We have a bit of a wait for Tenet to be ready for cinema’s but with this film maker it’s very likely to be well worth the wait.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife – 10th July 2020

It would appear July is going to be a bit of a stacked month, and to my own surprise one of the films I am most excited for is a Ghostbusters film. I like the original Ghostbusters, I even watched a bit of the cartoon as a child, but I never saw Ghostbusters 2 and I took a hard pass on the rebooted film last year because it just didn’t look like something I would enjoy and nobody I know wanted to see it either.

Enter Ghostbusters: Afterlife, a film I had down as “probably won’t see it” because it’s coming out in a busy period. This is a great example of the power of a fantastic trailer, as now I cannot wait. I have no real attachment to the Ecto-1, but by the time I saw it careening around streets and through fields in that trailer, I was completely sold and hyped to see that car again.

It’s only been one trailer, and they can be misleading, but fingers crossed this one is as good as it looks.

A Quiet Place: Part 2 – 20th March 2020

I watched A Quiet Place indoors with my flat mate, and I remember us both being deadly quiet throughout the entire film. It’s an incredible film and the idea it came from Jim in The Office is mind blowing to me. It seems like the Horror genre is becoming a fertile ground for comedic talent to show a different side to them, with John Krasinski following in the footsteps of Jordan Peele’s Get Out and Us.

I have no idea what to expect in Part 2 of A Quiet Place, but with Emily Blunt in the lead role it’s got a chance of being great, and the premise of this world is so beautifully cinematic I can’t wait to sit in the cinema for this one and witness an entire theatre on the edge of their seat and afraid to make a noise.

West Side Story – 18th December 2020

This one is a bit of a wildcard. I have never seen the original West Side Story, but I have only ever heard good things about it. I have a soft spot for musicals, as confirmed by Lala Land being one of my favourite films in recent years. West Side Story is a classic musical, and it’s being directed by Steven Spielberg which makes this whole project a little bit more intriguing.

I don’t believe he has ever made a Musical before, but he has covered just about every other genre in his career. He has been successful with almost every genre he has attempted, and I am excited to see what he can bring to the Musical genre. I know very little about the story so it’s one of those films I am excited to see the trailer for to judge whether it will be for me.

Top Gun: Maverick – 17th July 2020

If you were outraged by me not having seen West Side Story, the fact I have never seen Top Gun is probably even more of an egregious oversight. I have loved Tom Cruise’s movies over the last few years, and that’s kind of made me excited to see this new Top Gun. I might even go back to watch the original, as all I really know about Top Gun is it’s got Kenny Loggins’ hit Danger Zone in it, which I know because of Archer.

The trailers have been solid, and even though I have no clue what the story is going to be, there is going to be some cool flight scenes which look stunning from the trailers.  Could I end the year a huge top gun fan? I wouldn’t be surprised; Tom Cruise hasn’t really put a foot wrong in the last few years, so I expect Maverick to be more of the same.

There is 5 of the films I am most looking forward to next year, and not a single mention of Black Widow, Birds of Prey, Wonder Woman, or Mulan, which I now realise makes me seem like a sexist. In fact, I just haven’t seen anything from those films yet to really get me more excited for them than the above-mentioned films. Wonder Woman wins 2020’s Poster competition immediately but beyond that there isn’t much that’s got me interested. Birds of Prey looks bizarre, Black Widow looks generic, and James Bond needs to do a lot to get me excited for yet another bond film.

Next year there is no Avengers, there is no Star Wars. The MCU has no Iron Man anymore, Captain America is gone, and with them the two heads of the franchise. Star Wars hit me hard, a franchise I love that much not delivering for me was painful, but I have enjoyed the Mandalorian, and I am excited for everything Disney Plus will bring in March when it finally arrives in the UK. As is always the case for me this far out, I have no idea what the Oscar type movies will be, this time last year I hadn’t even heard of JoJo Rabbit, but now It’s the next film I am going to see, hopefully tomorrow night.

That’ll be the first review of the year, thanks for reading throughout 2019 and Happy 2020!

ChAzJS

 

Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker Review (NON-SPOILER)

“This will begin to make things right”

That was the first line of this new sequel trilogy, and The Force Awakens gave a lot of people a lot of hope for a new trilogy. Following that we had Rogue One, showing that it doesn’t have to be a saga film. Then came The Last Jedi, and Solo, and they both divided and then jaded the fan base respectively. The Rise of Skywalker had a lot on its shoulders, could JJ Abrams possibly land this trilogy and end the entire 9 film saga on a high? 

The Last Jedi, for all its divisiveness, posed several interesting and exciting questions about how the universe of Star Wars would look. As I sat down at midnight, it hit me. This was it, the final Star Wars saga film. The end to a story I have spent most of my life watching repeatedly.

Well TROS immediately hits you with a surprise. Right in the opening crawl, you’re given a lot of information. I expected some of these key points to be shown to me, not written at the start, but as you watch the film you realise there just wasn’t time for that. At least not with everything they decided to do with this film. You’re told exactly what the different groups of people are doing at this time, and the film launches off from there. It’s a fast start, and this is where reviewing this film starts to get difficult without spoilers.

The plot boils down to a series of fetch quests, the ones in video games you do that are fun and exciting because you’re playing the game and enjoying the game play. The plot doesn’t really have room to be much more complex than that, and bar from a robot related speed bump, it largely just propels the characters on both sides towards each other with great speed. The reason it doesn’t have much room to breathe is because The Rise of Skywalker is not a sequel to The Last Jedi, but an apology.

This film does so much to retcon the previous movies events, and it is not subtle about it. Clearly Disney and JJ Abrams did not like the backlash TLJ received, and they set out with this film to right those perceived wrongs. Perceived wrongs that I personally do not think were wrongs, but bold choices and challenges we haven’t seen storytelling wise in these films before. I will go deeper on this next week in a spoiler review after I have seen the film again but suffice to say if you’re a big fan of The Last Jedi then this film might be borderline offensive to you.

Whilst being an apology for TLJ, this film also attempts to cram in a quick version of the Episode 8 JJ would have made if he was in charge, crammed into the opening half hour of the film. So far, that is two challenges for this movie to overcome aside from its own plot. Those two challenges only add to the immense weight on this films shoulders to carry a 9 film, beloved franchise to a satisfying end. TROS certainly does put an end cap on the saga films, and I thought it was quite a satisfying end to the franchise, the problems I have are the issues this film causes the rest of the 8 films to date. Barring the Force Awakens, this film has kind of made 1 through 6 redundant, and it’s cut out 8 entirely. More on that in spoilers next week.

If the Force Awakens leaned on nostalgia to get fans back on board, The Rise of Skywalker takes that nostalgia and beats the ever-loving fuck out of you with it. That sounds like a problem, but honestly, I am all about it. I love this franchise, and so I loved all the references and the winks and nudges, the name drops, the cameos, all of it put a smile on my face as a Star Wars fan. As a film, it comes off cheesy in large parts, but that is undoubtedly the idea. Fan service has a stigma attached to it, but this film simply had to do it. This franchise has so many memorable moments, touching base on a bunch of them is just an easy win that would be stupid for JJ Abrams to miss out on.

In terms of new characters, we get a few that I thought added a lot to the film. A personal favourite being Zori Bliss, a Daft Punk looking woman who has a shady history with Poe. Their chemistry was great on screen, which leads me to Poe himself. I don’t know if any character in history has ever had so much sexual chemistry with everything in a movie before. Oscar Isaac just has this way of making everything he interacts with seem like he might have sex with it. Objects and People alike.

John Boyega continues to be a little bit underused in this film, but what he does have I thought was entertaining. As for Daisy Ridley, this is her best performance so far. She has developed a lot as an actress and it shows here, and she does so opposite the excellent Adam Driver. Their dynamic drives this film, and it’s by far my favourite part of this sequel trilogy.

As with both the previous films, TROS is an excellent executed film from a production standpoint. Everything looks fantastic, the special effects, the set design, it’s all done to the level of polish we have come to expect from these films. It has made The Mandalorian look a little shoddy, but that’s a budget thing and more a problem for the Mandalorian show than this film.

The other huge positive in this film, and arguably the one consistently brilliant thing throughout the entire saga, is the score. John Williams is a huge part of why Star Wars is so special, and this film uses his music brilliantly and the little changes he has made to certain themes all add to the drama and weight of everything happening. He is an unrivalled legend in his field and this film is another example of why.

As you can probably tell, this film has hit a weird place for me. I can tell it’s a well-produced movie, but I cannot shake the feeling that this film, and this entire trilogy, has been badly handled. The lack of a consistent vision and plan for this trilogy has undermined its potential and its special moments.

The Rise of Skywalker will go down as one of the lower ranked Star Wars movies, mostly for spoiler reasons. I will go into more detail next week but for now, I am left underwhelmed by a film that tried to take on an impossible amount.

Good: The duels, the acting, the music, the cinematography.

Bad: The editing, the frantic pace, the messy plot, and the dismantling of what came before.

5/10 – This one hurt.

 

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order – Spoiler Free Review

It’s odd for me to be nervous about a game, but that’s where I was about Fallen Order last week before launch. All the reviews were positive, but they were also comparing it to Dark Souls or Sekiro, games I just don’t enjoy the game play loop of. Dying repeatedly to figure out how to beat an opponent isn’t for me, and it doesn’t fit my idea of what playing as a Jedi should be. 

My first few hours with Fallen Order were intriguing, the world of course hooked me straight away, it’s Star Wars and I eat that up all day, but even the character of Cal was intriguing enough to get me into the story. The opening plays out as one large set piece designed to teach you the basics of movement and traversal. It works, and then it escalates to Uncharted levels of set piece. The camera tricks employed in one train sequence are excellent, and the opening ends with you being introduced to the crew you’re going to spend a lot of time talking to over the next 20-25 hours.

From there you travel to planets you’ll vaguely know (or know quite well depending on your level of fandom) and new planets we haven’t seen before. You learn new abilities, and your lightsaber becomes your pride and joy. It’s an odd thing to experience in the current gaming climate, where choice is everything, that you are given a weapon and that is it. The lightsaber is your weapon, the force abilities you collect as you go compliment it, but most of the plentiful combat is done with the iconic weapon.

That icon status helps a lot towards making it feel special, and the customisation you can apply to it is just nuanced enough to make it feel like it’s your lightsaber, and that nobody else will have quite the same one. It’s your lightsaber, and once you’re used to the combat, it feels brilliant. You can bat back blaster bolts from your standard storm troopers with ease, and then the more difficult ones require a little more thought. Late game, you will have to plan your moves in combat, but when it all comes together it looks and feels fantastic. Force Pull someone close to you and you just end them right there and then with one stab of your weapon, then you can deal with the rest of the enemies advancing on you one by one.

The combat feels well balance at the bottom two difficulties, the baby ass baby mode that I notched it down to for most of the game to get through the story provided just enough challenge to stop it being a cake walk, but lets you feel like a badass. The higher difficulties are where it becomes more like a Dark Souls or Sekiro game, relying on you avoiding being hit and picking your times to strike. The lightsaber forces you to need to get close for your most powerful strikes, but just rushing in is never a good idea.

The AI is mostly good, but there are some minor bugs at times when enemies just stand a stare at you for a bit before they remember they’re trying to end you. These things are a little bit annoying because they break the immersion a little, something that’s little but makes a different when you’re talking about the top tier games of this generation. That should give you an indication of how much I enjoyed this game.

Beyond all the game play, the story is what keeps you driving on through the hordes of enemies. Cal is not the most charismatic protagonist, he doesn’t quite have that Nathan Drake or Kratos personality, but the game play means he feels like your own character in the world, and the supporting cast around him are great. The two ship companions have some good banter between them and Cal, and one of them becomes more and more integral to the main plot as the story goes on.

The villain is an enjoyable one, at first seeming like a throwaway inquisitor, but by the end is a fleshed-out character who I almost cared for in a weird way. One character who is introduced later into the game, I found really intriguing from a Star Wars lore point of view, and it did make me wonder if there could be more stories with some of these characters.

All the game play, characters and story combine well with the stunning set pieces at the beginning and end of the game. Without any spoilers, the ending has some of the best moments in Star Wars and adds to the lore in an interesting way. There is one part of it I found myself going “Wtf I just did all that and this what you do with it” but when I thought about it, it made some sense in context of the story.

I have seen Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order described as a greatest hit of this generation and I understand why. It takes elements from Uncharted, God of War, and Dark Souls and combines them in a cocktail shaker to make this incredibly fun experience that I would encourage all Star Wars fans, and most gamers, to try out.

Everything in that shaker gets a little bit diluted by the other parts though, and therefore it feels like all three of those games without being as good at any of what they do. For example, while the set pieces are spectacular, none reach the heights of the Uncharted series. The game doesn’t quite have the polish and attention to detail that made God of War such an intricate, perfectly crafted gem of a game, and the story doesn’t have quite as much impact. The combat is really good, but it feels like a slightly toned-down version of the Sekiro system.

Fallen Order does so much of this very well, but nothing perfectly. It’s a Jack of all trades, Jedi Master of none. The fact I am even comparing it to these games shows you the level its very close to being, but it’s just a little below that tier, and that might push people that come to it for one of those elements decide to jump to another of those games. If you want stunning set pieces, go play Uncharted, and so on. If you want a game that combines elements of all of it though, then Fallen Order is a great game for you.

In a year where there have been very few games that have wow’d me, this is creeping near the top of my game of the year list. It hasn’t been nominated for the game awards because for some reason anything released after October just gets binned off until next year, which makes Fallen Orders prospects a little more ominous when The Last of Us Part 2 and Cyberpunk 2077 are here.

For me the Star Wars-iness covers over the little niggles that keep it behind the top tier games, and whilst I can’t argue it’s better than any, it’s certainly up there near them. What it certainly is, is the most fun I have had on any video game in 2019, and what more can I really want from a game where I am a Jedi.

9/10 – Respawn proves itself as one of the best developers in the business

ChAzJS

The 2010’s

From 2010 to 2019, geek culture has completely taken over the big blockbuster movie genre. Marvel, Star Wars, DC and even smaller things like Scott Pilgrim are based on comic books. Living through it has been a joy for a nerd like me, but over the weekend I began to wonder if we may look back on this period as a sort of golden age. 

It doesn’t stop at geek culture either, some of my favourite and the best made films of all time have come out, from Lala Land to Birdman to Whiplash to Inception. There has been an incredible range of fantastic movies. Of course, every decade has its great movies. Even if you restrict it to one great director, the 90’s had Pulp Fiction, the 00’s had Kill Bill, and the 10’s had Django Unchained. What separates the last decade is that we had all the great films you’d expect with a massive collection of brilliant geeky movies that brought it to the mainstream and was successful.

Of course Star Wars was a huge success, it was always going to be because cinema goer’s love things they’ve seen before being brought back in a slightly different way, but Star Wars trilogy coming out side by side with the climax of a ten year story arc that Marvel had put together is unprecedented. Just this year alone we have Endgame and The Rise of Skywalker acting as end caps of sort to their respective stories, one spanning 10 years and 20+ films, the other just 9 films but spread over 42 years leading to ridiculous expectations.

The Oscars in the last 10 years have been dominated by the normal type of films, with the odd surprise, but the films that really defined this generation are all geek ones. Even the tragic situation Warner Bros managed to find themselves in with DC is something to remember, and they had their moments with Wonder Woman and Joker.

Even Disney originals and Pixar have made their best work in the last 10 years, Frozen, Moana, The Incredibles 2, Inside Out, Toy Story 3 & 4. The list of films in the last ten years is mind blowing, and I can’t help but think the next few years will feel like a disappointment in a way. I’ve gotten used to Marvels cycle, and although they have loads of films slated, the next one I am excited for is Thor Love and Thunder, and that is it. None of the rest of the slate appeals to me at this point.

Star Wars is essentially on hiatus from films until they figure out what they want to do next, something I would really hope they take their time and get it right. DC are a complete enigma now; will Birds of Prey be fantastic or horrendous? Honestly depending on when you pause the trailer you could think either.

2020 and beyond will have great movies, I am sure of that. To me it feels like the last 10 years have spoiled me, and not having three Marvel films I care about alongside a Star Wars film and a couple of DC movies is going to be odd. I am aware that all of this will probably seem stupid by this time next year, when I am the world’s biggest fan of The Eternals, but that’s just how I am.

Next year will have three marvel films, just I am not anticipating any of them. I have realised in the last few years that a huge part of my enjoyment with these big blockbusters is the anticipation, almost more than the actual film itself. Right now, I have Star Wars I am really looking forward to, and beyond that, there isn’t anything. That’s probably why I feel like it’s the end of a geeky era, when as soon as the first Black Widow trailer drops, I will be back on board the hype train.

What I am trying to say is that I am a huge fan of this stuff, and I don’t want it to end. When you think about it, I really shouldn’t be worried. Avengers Endgame made more money than any film in history, a feat I had accepted would be Avatar’s record forever. They are going to be trying to repeat that.

As for Star Wars, I spent a lot of my spare time this weekend play Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order, and it’s possibly my favourite game of the year. More on that tomorrow.

Until then, Happy Monday.

ChAzJS

 

Nothing But Star Wars

The last trailer for Episode IX is here, the new game’s been previewed by some people, and the first 30 minutes of The Mandalorian have been shown off to some other lucky people. Basically, over the last week Disney has decided to kick the Star Wars marketing machine into overdrive. Between now and December 20th, we will have a new tv show, a new game, and the final movie in the Star Wars Saga. 

First things first though, that trailer. I don’t know if everyone will love it, because it doesn’t fix some people’s problems with The Last Jedi, but I thought the trailer delivered a load of interesting nuggets and some beautiful visuals. Star Wars allows the film makers to put some incredible shots on film, and this trailer is full of them. JJ Abrams has embraced that, and his long-time cinematographer Dan Mindel have really pushed the boat out and gone for some shots to wow you.

The shots can be beautiful without having any substance though, but this trailer, possibly because I am a massive freaking nerd, is full of things I want to know more about. Is that an old-style star destroyer rising out of the sea? Is that Endor at the start? Was that desert Tatooine? Is that throne on the Sith home world Dathomir? Does Kyle hold a Blue lightsaber at one point? Are Mars Delights Ever going to come back?

And of course, is that Big Papa Palpatine chilling on a throne laughing at Rey. Technically, we didn’t see him die. We just saw him thrown down a big old’ hole, and then we saw the Death Star where that hole was exploding into shrapnel.

I am a huge Star Wars fan, and honestly, I love all the movies because they’re Star Wars. Watching it from a critical standpoint is tough because I am so biased, but if I have to say one thing, it’s that this movie seems to have a lot of ground to cover. I do not mind that, because I will see this film at least 3 times before I decide what it all means, but I have a feeling it might be a bit hectic for those uneducated in the Star Wars lore. It’s out on December 20th and I will be buying 2 midnight screening tickets today, so I guess the trailer did its job.

Onto Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, the game being developed by Apex Legends creators Respawn. I was a little worried we was getting a shiny new version of the Force Unleashed games from years ago, but it appears my fears have been extinguished. The game is apparently closer to a Souls style game, with some elements of other games like God of War and Uncharted mixed in there. That is some exquisite company, and if, as I have heard from some previews, it’s taking elements of those games and even if it doesn’t do them all quite as well as them, it does them very well.

It’s slower, more deliberate take on lightsaber combat is intentional, as this is a Jedi character, they’re supposed to be defensive and pick their times to strike intelligently. It may be a little odd for those who want to sprint in with their laser sword and batter everyone in sight, but that tactic won’t work. You need to decide how best to approach each combat situation and that sounds really intriguing to me. I have never been into the Souls style games, but you can wrap Star Wars around just about anything and you’ll have me intrigued.

The game isn’t too far off, and I am going media blackout now as the story does seem like it could be an interesting one. The different planets and the customisation options have me very excited to make this character fit into my own style, and by the end of this I will have him wielding a Red lightsaber if all goes to my plan. *insert Palpatine laugh here*

Finally, The Mandalorian had the first half an hour-ish shown off to a select few, and by all the responses I saw on twitter, its exactly what people wanted. It feels like the Original trilogy, and it has some characters and reveals that will get fans excited. I don’t know what they are, I assume Jabba the Hut will appear as well as favourites like IG-88 who we already know about, but beyond that I have no idea.

All I want personally from the Mandalorian is for it to feel like Star Wars, and to be consistent with the look of the films. The TV show budget would normally be a concern, but as this is going directly to Disney + I have a feeling they will have spared no expense when it comes to the production design of the series. They will know the pressure is on, it always is with a fan base as rabid as the Star Wars one.

All in all, Star Wars fans have a lot to be excited about, and I am looking forward to all this delicious content coming in the final months of this year. We’ve already had Endgame this year, and I can’t help but feel there will be comparisons between the end of that franchise and the end of this one. As much as I love Marvel, and honestly their films are better in general, there is nothing quite like Star Wars.

‘Til Tomorrow!

ChAzJS

 

Why you need to watch more YouTube and does Star Wars still hold up?

I write almost entirely about Video Games and Movies, with the occasional TV show dropped in. It gives me a lot to write about, and I love all three mediums of entertainment equally. There is one thing I have not written about, and it’s the one that motivated me to start a blog, which led to this site, which will lead to whatever the next thing will be for me. That platform is YouTube. 

YouTube is a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Some people use it to discover new music. Others use it to educate themselves using the endless hours of videos on any topic you could wish to learn about. For me, way back in 2013, it was almost entirely for stupid fail compilations and the occasional music video. Then I happened to discover AMC Movie Talk around the time when Man of Steel came out. It was the first time I discovered this area of the internet. This group of people sitting in a studio, discussing the latest movie news and releases in depth, all bringing their own opinions to the table.

Before too long, it had become a part of my every day, listening to the latest news stories and the crew’s views was just a part of my routine. AMC Movie Talk eventually became Collider Movie Talk. New shows were created, offering deeper dives into the news stories into their own areas. Collider Heroes covered all the superhero genre in more detail, Jedi Council took the hype surrounding the new Star Wars films to new heights and I was spending hours of my week listening to these people.

Since then YouTube has become as common as Netflix or Amazon Prime for me. If you still think of YouTube as that place you can go for cat videos, it really is so much more than that now. It’s a platform with more variety than any other and there is something for whatever is taking your fancy. I do not have any terrestrial TV channels set up in my flat, I watch so many pop culture news shows and comedic content on the platform I don’t know when I would ever use the normal channels.

One thing I found on YouTube recently was a comparison of all the changes made to the original Star Wars film. I recently posted about all the Star Wars prequels and have been toying with the idea of going back and watching the original trilogy again. I have been surprised with the worry I feel going into watching these old films. In my head when I think about them, I remember them being near perfect. I have never watched them with a more critical eye, and my worry is they may not hold up as well as they do in my head.

Last night I watched the first 30 minutes of A New Hope and was surprised how well it plays now. There are some odd choices, for instance Luke’s Aunt is dressed like Marie from Everybody Loves Raymond, but the characters and the plot are still there, still strong. I am going to finish it off this weekend and that will be a post next week. I can’t finish it sooner though, as tonight I am off to see Joker.

A lot of the reviews and talk about the film is very intriguing to me. Regardless of its people enjoyed the film, it is sparking so many interesting conversations about what the film means and why certain things happen. To me, that is the sign of a masterpiece, it gets people talking. My expectations are in a weird place, I am not expecting to enjoy watching this. I think it’s going to be an uncomfortable film to watch.

I might post the review tomorrow, I have kept weekends free, but I have a feeling I am going to want to write about this film as soon as I have processed my thoughts on it. I can’t wait.

Have a great weekend.

ChAzJS

 

Alexa is everywhere & Marvel man to make a Star Wars

Amazon held an event in Seattle yesterday to unveil a whole slew of new technology they are bringing out and it seems like the future is all about Alexa. She’s branching out from your Echo and Echo Dot into headphones, a microwave, Glasses and even a Ring. As someone who doesn’t really use any of the virtual assistants, it’s all a little bit odd.

I get the use of it, being able to ask a question about anything to a speaker and hear the correct answer in seconds is cool and feels very sci-fi to me, but even when I had access to it I would always find myself googling the question anyway. Now I know not everyone is as good as googling as others, I have learnt that through my job, but asking out loud gives you an answer once, and then you must ask again for it to be repeated. Googling on your phone just seems so much easier.

All the tech they have shown off is cool, but some of it is just solving problems I don’t think need answers. The smart microwave for example reads the packaging and sets itself up. Meaning you will no longer have to press 3 or 4 buttons to get your food cooked. Was there a big outcry for this? Are people yelling at their microwaves because they have had to press buttons on it?

That and the ring are the only really odd items they are selling, the rest of it I can see a use for. New glasses with Alexa built in seem more useful and bring us one step closer to the heads up display I have always wanted for real life. I can’t wait until I can walk around with a display telling me useful information or mapping out my route for me as I stroll. I don’t think there will quite have this, now it seems like it’s just normal prescription lenses with a directional speaker to answer your questions. If they can get a camera in there to see what I see and display functionality in the lens we will be really in the future.

I did notice that they are introducing some new tech to make the voice of Alexa sound a little more human, and that they are planning to bring out the first celebrity voice, and it’s going to be Samuel L Jackson. I can’t wait to change my mums Alexa voice to him and see the shock on her face when she asks Alexa to play Beautiful South and she gets a “Damn Mother Fucker all you had to do was ask”.

In movie news, yes there is finally some big movie news I care about, Disney have been making some interesting moves. The architect of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and current Head of Marvel Kevin Feige is rumoured to have been given the keys to a Star Wars movie. Feige has found unprecedented success with the MCU and has kind of earned the respect of the world for what he has built. All reports are suggesting he is a huge Star Wars fan and this decision does make sense from a business perspective.

Disney have two of the biggest producers in the business running their two biggest franchises. One of them is a complete success and the other is Star Wars. Regardless of your views on The Last Jedi, it cannot be argued that it united the fan base. Quite the opposite in fact and that seems to have led to a rethink at Disney. Now they have paired Feige with Star Wars lead producer Kathleen Kennedy to try and start the new wave of content in the Star Wars universe.

It’s not all necessarily good news though. Marvel is currently in a state of rebuild, and as I wrote a little while ago Feige’s job now is to try and do it again. Repeat the success he had building Iron Man and Captain America into the faces of a huge connected series of films. They recently had their break up with Sony and lost the next biggest thing in the MCU in Spiderman, and a part of that was attributed to Feige just being too busy to help out on a Sony made movie so they wanted a bigger cut to make it worthwhile for them.

If a part of the reason Feige is too busy is because he is being drafted over to help with Star Wars, it feels like they’re possibly meddling with some dangerous waters. Marvel needs Feige and if he can help with the Spiderman issues, they should let him focus on that. The MCU is a feat of organisation and forward thinking that’s unrivalled in Hollywood. Star Wars is one of the few things that could be a huge distraction to the main man at Marvel and if he takes his eye off the ball at this crucial time for the MCU it could end badly.

Of course, it might all work out, and maybe Kevin Feige is just looking for something a bit different to the Superhero blockbusters he has been helping mass produce over the last 11 years. You could understand if he is a bit fatigued from the same universe of films being all he has been involved with for so long. It looks like Disney are leaning a bit heavier on their golden goose and hoping it can carry on producing the goods even in other franchises.

Knowing my luck this will all be debunked by the time this publishes.

Thanks for reading!

ChAzJS

 

The Autumn Video Game Budget

Borderlands 3 signalled the beginning of the period that hurts all gamers wallets. For some reason this 3-month run up to Christmas is when the decision makers at the big companies decide to release every game that people have been looking forward to. I get it, Christmas is coming, but surely some of them should have brought their releases forward or delayed them into 2020 to avoid the overload. 

Without using google, I can list off PES 2020, Borderlands 2, FIFA 20, Ghost Recon Breakpoint, Destiny 2’s newest expansion Shadowkeep which is like a new game, Call of Duty Modern Warfare, The Outer Worlds, Death Stranding and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. If we optimistically say £50 per game, that’s £450 to keep up with the conversation and that’s assuming I haven’t missed any games.

Okay now I have googled it and I missed the new Pokémon and Doom Eternal. They round it off to a cool £550. So, there is ELEVEN games potentially fighting it out for your Christmas list just of the ones I would have any interest playing. If you want to keep up when you’ll need to have a fair amount of disposable income to do so, and that is without looking at all the types of games I wouldn’t play like 2D platformers and puzzle games.

I understand the need for Sports games to be released at the start of new seasons in their respective sports, so PES and FIFA, NHL and Madden all kind of have their set release windows and that’s just how it has always been. Those games sell millions and always will because they have people invested so deeply in them. Games such as Call of Duty or Ghost Recon though, make less sense to me.

Ghost Recon seems set to be one of the losers in this fight. The last game was a game I thoroughly enjoyed, and I am excited for the next one, but there is so much competition around at the time. For me, it means Destiny 2’s expansion will be put off until the Christmas break and I will probably not go for one or the other between Outer Worlds and Call of Duty. In general, though, Ghost Recon isn’t nearly as popular as a title like Call of Duty or Borderlands and doesn’t have the curiosity around it that a game like The Outer Worlds has going for it.

Surely releasing it back in august, when there was a huge gap for a meaty game like Ghost Recon to fill would have been a better move from a business sense and got more people interested in playing it. As it is the over saturation of the industry in the autumn months will probably mean the game gets cannibalised by its competition.

A similar thing happened a few years ago to a Tomb Raider game, which was a single player story driven action adventure game that released one week after Spiderman on the PS4. The result was that I didn’t pick it up until it was on the game pass on Xbox, meaning they missed out on the money I would have happily paid if they had released at a less busy time.

I know this post won’t change anything, but I would love to see these big games show a bit more common sense and move out of the way of each other rather than fight it out.

It’s a slow news day and last night I just carried on with Borderlands 3. I posted my review yesterday, but I am trying to convince myself to finish the entire game. That’s never a good sign, but I am now at that point where I am having to convince myself to boot it up. It’s not because it’s a bad game, it just hasn’t grabbed my attention the way some games do.

It’s only 10 days now until FIFA 19 releases, and the inevitable time vortex that game is for me will mean a load of FIFA related posts. As it is, I am avoiding that type of football because Arsenal persist with playing out from the back despite it clearly not working, and now I am a full time NFL fan.

So, if anyone ask’s how my team did at the weekend, they won 43-0 against the Miami Dolphins.

ChAzJS

 

Episode III – The Best of the Prequels

I have always held this opinion. The third movie in the Star Wars prequel trilogy, Revenge of the Sith, is a good film. It’s not spectacular and doesn’t get to the dizzy heights of Empire Strikes Back, but it is good. It’s prime Ewan McGregor as Obi Wan and continues from the previous two films in that it has just made me more and more excited for his solo series. 

Episode III opens with a spectacular space battle, one of the best looking we have seen, and introduces the best robot in the universe, General Grievous. The name is just incredibly on the nose, but it works, and his weird fleshy eyes and heart, the smokers cough and the voice all combine to make one of the most unusual villains in the Star Wars world. I normally know a lot about characters in Star Wars, but he is a bit of a blind spot. I don’t know where he comes from, I don’t know how he works, but he uses 4 lightsabers at once in this movie and that’s just Baller as fuck.

Hayden Christensen isn’t the best actor in the world, but he does give it his all in this film. There are only one or two awkwardly written scenes with Padme in this one, although it is still cringe inducing when they are supposed to be cute together. It has a key role in this film, but this romance is probably my biggest problem with the entire prequel trilogy. I don’t necessarily think it’s the actor’s faults, but any chemistry they have is smashed into touch by the dialogue.

It took some big personalities in the original trilogy to take what George Lucas gave them and turn it into the real emotional moments. Han Solo’s “I love you/I know” moment was created by Harrison Ford and Director Irvin Kershner not George Lucas, and moments like that are an example of what is missing from the prequels.

This film does have its own very quotable, and much meme’d line though. I didn’t even think of it as it was about to happen, but when Obi Wan dropped down behind Grievous on Utapau and greets all the droids with “Hello there” I laughed out loud. It is so perfect, so Obi Wan. It’s a dad taking the piss when things are about to get serious and he’s saying it purely to get their attention. If he doesn’t say those words at least once an episode in the new TV show I will have no choice but to brand it a complete and total failure.

We get some more political intrigue with the Emperor finally becoming The Emperor after he turns Anakin, and again Ian McDiarmid is just perfect in this role. I don’t know exactly what capacity he is going to be in The Rise of Skywalker but getting one last serving of McDiarmid is going to be a great treat in December.

When it comes to lightsaber fights, nothing has yet topped the end scene of this film within the entire franchise. Rey and Kylo Ren are great but they aren’t up to the balletic battle at the climax of Revenge of the Sith. Switching between Anakin V Obi Wan and Palpatine V Yoda absolutely blew my 12-year-old mind in 2005. Yoda walking into Palpatine’s office and knocking out the two guards with a nonchalant flick of his wrist tells us that here to fuck around, he is not.

How did I get into the third film before I wrote in Yoda’s voice?

After some force power dick measuring, Palpatine and Yoda literally whip them out, and begin fighting lightsaber to lightsaber. Both becoming well rendered video game characters leaping around. Before they end it with Palpatine launching half of space parliaments furniture at Yoda. It’s quite a poignant scene, as I think someone should go into parliament and launch chairs around in real life. Only do it with all the politicians still in their chairs.

Useless overpaid incompetent twats couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery let alone Brexit. I don’t care which “Side” you’re on, the whole thing needs to be torn up and started again.

Anyway, back on spicy hot drop Mustafar (that’s a Fortnite/Apex reference, I am down with the kids) Anakin has finished slaughtering politicians and is waiting for his wife whom he loves so much. She turns up, unknowingly bringing Obi-Wan with her, and before she can even say “I didn’t know he was there he’s a fucking space wizard” Anakin chokes her out. That’s her dealt with for plot convenience sake. Now we can have Obi Wan and Anakin get their duel on. There is no Force dick measuring here, it’s all about the swordplay.

They battle in rooms, on railings, climbing up huge structures, floating on robots above flowing Lava. It’s a beautifully choreographed scene but one does have to question why they felt the need to move around the planet so much. They could have had the entire fight on the platform where the ship was.

I am glad they didn’t though, as it leads to an interesting moment in the Star Wars franchise. Having duelled with nobody getting a clear advantage, Obi Wan gets the high ground. Anakin leaps to get over him, and Obi Wan fillets him. Both legs and an arm swished off like trimming wings off a chicken. It’s brutal.

I spent a lot of my life thinking this was a stupid end to the fight. Then my flatmate shared a bit of reasoning behind it that since then I have thought about a lot and I kind of wish there had been some way to show this in the film. Considering I watched this film 2 days after watching Episode I, the Darth Maul/Obi Wan fight was fresh in my mind. The jump Anakin tries to perform is the same one Obi Wan did against Darth Maul, only Obi Wan taught Anakin about it, so he is completely ready for it.

Obi Wan even says to Anakin “Don’t Try It”. In my head I like to think they have discussed that fight at length, and Anakin knows it is Obi Wan’s best moment. Being the egomaniac that he is, he wants to prove he can do anything Obi Wan can, so he tries to copy it. Of course, instead of landing behind Obi Wan and chopping him in half, Anakin gets butchered. It adds a bit more to the end to me, and I like to think that’s how it was meant to be.

All in all, the prequels are a brilliant story that isn’t done full justice by the execution of the movies. I can’t help but feel a little like the Sequel trilogy that ends with The Rise of Skywalker is the reverse of that. The new films look brilliant and are acted well. The dialogue is well written, and they’re directed expertly. There actual bigger story doesn’t seem nearly as well thought out or planned as the original or the prequels though. We will have to wait until December to find out.

‘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