Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Custom Hand-Drawn Stormtrooper Raffy Kidrobot

It was my 30th (sigh) birthday last week and I got some lovely presents from my lovely wife, including a Kidrobot Raffy. It was a customise and paint it yourself vinyl toy from the Munky World range.

So here's what I did;

Being a massive Star Wars geek I decided to go for an iconic Stormtrooper look, plus it meant I could keep it quite simple and would only need a sharpie for the job!

I commend people that do complex designs, cos these things aren't easy to draw/paint on, one slip of the hand...

I love him anyway, and he's sitting proudly on my shelf.

Monday, 7 November 2011

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

Back at primary school, you'd hear this question all the time. Then the usual answers from kids; Firemen (Fire Fighter now, in our politically correct world), Doctors and Nurses, Vets...I'd just sit there daydreaming, thinking to myself, I want to be...

5. A Cyborg

Yeah, so as a kid two of my favourite films were Terminator and Robocop (they still are), they were inappropriate films for my age, but I'd watched them and the idea of being made into a cyborg was cool. Obviously now I can see the implications...pretty sure Robocop didn't get to keep his todger, that wouldn't be fun (poor guy)! And airports would be a nightmare! But, as a kid I would pretend to walk like a robot and talk in a monotone voice, yeah I was awesome.

Alternatively: I also wanted to be 'wolverine', cos he was kinda like a cyborg, but also kinda like a ninja, and also one of the X-Men!

4. A Thundercat

When I was a kid I owned about 3 different Liono's, because my next door neighbour at the time had a bad habit of throwing my toys out of his bedroom window...I'm really not sure why I was friends with that boy. One of them was missing an arm and the other had no legs! So, I had 2 stunt-double Liono's for my full-working Liono. I was a dedicated fan.

Alternatively: I also wanted to be in the 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles'

3. A Tyrannosaurus Rex

Right, ok these are getting ridiculous. But, when I saw Jurassic Park at the cinemas it blew my tiny little mind! I think it was the summer holidays before going to high school, before innocence was lost forever...I still sometimes walk around the house like a T-Rex, cos I've got a two year old daughter, yeah, that's why.

Alternatively: I also wanted to be Godzilla!

2. A Ghostbuster

What kid didn't pretend to be a Ghostbuster in the 80's-90's!? Wearing their backpack with a water pistol attached. Actually, thinking about it, I kinda remember owning an actual Ghostbusters plasma Gun.

Alternatively: I also wanted to be in the A-Team

1. A Jedi

As a kid there was nothing cooler to me than a Jedi! I'm finding it hard to think of something cooler even now! Anything can be a lightsaber with a little imagination.

We've all been there;

In reality my real dream (one that was slightly more achievable anyway) was to be a comic book artist or cartoonist. When you was a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? Leave a comment to let me know. Fantasy or Reality!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Kids in 80's Films...

In the 80's kids could do anything, but the films still had heart!

Scenario #1. So, you've moved to a new place with your mum again, started a new school and you're getting bullied by a gang of Karate experts? Oh man!

80's FILM: That's cool Daniel Larusso! No sweat. Your elderly Japanese neighbour will kick all their asses! And teach you the ancient and deadly art of Karate, just by getting you to clean his house and cars and other crap! You'll get the girl and win a national tournament (after minimal formal training!). Yay!

If the Film Was Made Today: The kids a male model, he's got a six pack and good hair. Girls today couldn't give a flying monkey shit if the lead guys the underdog or whatever. This kid gets intensive training with a MMA champion and works the hell out (he doesn't do karate, but no one will notice or care). He's already buff and tough, but he works out even more cos the other guy is a bit harder and said something nasty about his mum. Music by Black Eyed Peas.

Reality: Kid gets knacked up (beaten). They move again.

Scenario #2 You're in the school basketball team and you suck! But, don't worry you're actually a Werewolf! F'yeah!

80's Film:
Keep it a secret right? No way Scott Howard! Just transform during the game and kick the other teams ass! No one will question a werewolf playing basketball. Despite looking like a mini wookie you will get all the girls, get your own tshirts, buy kegs of beer and surf on cars! You're totally rad!

If The Film Was Made Today: You're a little bit awkward and you're a loner, but in a way that's still sexy to the teen girls watching. And you're 'mysterious'. You look like a male model, with a six pack and good hair, even when you transform into a Wolfman! You're a sexy wolf, your eyes go a different colour and you get a bit disheveled. You might get sideburns and some designer stubble, but that's it. You suddenly have confidence, you beat up the jocks and get the girl. You never use your wolfman powers to win at basketball though! Your eternal curse is a secret that no one can ever know...Music by generic emo band.

Reality: You get bricks thrown at your face and people call you a freak!

Scenario #3: You and your misfit gang of friends find a treasure map in the attic!

80's Movie:
Adventure time! You all get on your BMXs and go after that treasure, you end up in an 'Indiana Jones' type situation, trying to avoid booby traps with criminals on your tail. A deformed, friendly giant that the fat kid befriended saves the day! Hurray!


...okay, all the kids are male models with six packs and good hair. Even the fat one. They're also MMA fighters. Or some such shit...

Kids sack it off and watch TV.

I <3 80's!

Friday, 28 October 2011

Being a Geek (Is There Life After 30?)

I turn 30 in a few weeks, I'm married and I have a little girl. And it got me thinking about how much of a kid I am in some ways.

I have a massive collection of Toys (most of them are still in the packages, I don't play with them! I'm not a total freak), comics and videogames. Most of my tshirts have superheroes or cult films on them, and I hold my jeans up with a belt adorned by a Super Mario World 'Mushroom'. I don't have much in the way of 'grown-up' clothing. And I can not physically walk passed a comic/toy shop without getting excited and going in, and most visits end with me leaving with something new.

Growing up

It might have been my up-bringing that made me into a bit of a man-child, looking back I don't think it was the most stable. In a way, maybe I went into my own world populated by the Thundercats and the X-Men to escape. That might be thinking too deeply and I was probably just a little nerd, but the thing that made that little nerd stick around was definitely the following...

My mum and dad split up when I was a kid (I'm not gonna get all emo in your face, don't worry), and I lost all of my childhood possessions. I was getting to an age where I told myself they didn't matter anymore, I was in the top year of primary school, with my teens just around the corner, so they didn't matter (they did). And be honest, you might have all those childhood things in a box up in the attic, but you've still got them. And when you have a look through them you get a warm feeling, right? Anyway, I thought I was too old for toys and games and I moved on, I thought being 'grown-up' meant; I didn't play with toys anymore, I started shaving, and I wore cheap deodorant. Later (late teens) I became nostalgic about my childhood, and all the things that I'd lost from that time. So, I started 'collecting' stuff, then ebay came into my life and nostalgia was in full-force, I could actually buy back my childhood!

Now my missus and partner in crime is also a bit of a nerd, most women would have probably made me get rid of such childish ways (and failed), but she kinda embraced the geek, she buys things for the nerd dungeon, our geek-central (bedroom). And we had Mr and Mrs Pacman on our wedding cake, which she made! We also smashed the Locust Horde together (three times)! Videogame fans will understand. And despite all this, turning 30 somehow feels it's embarrassing to be 30 and do these things! Should I sell all my toys and pretend to be a mature adult?

I can't help being excited about the next Mass Effect game, or Batman movie! That will never change, but should I start dressing like a 'grown-up'? How much longer can I rock the Star Wars tees and Mario belt? I guess things like this cross the minds of everyone turning 30; "Am I too old to continue this band that's not going anywhere?", "Am I too old to eat Coco pops?", "Should I really care if the new Avengers film is good or not?" or "Am I too old to pretend to be a Tyrannosaurus Rex?" (never!). I guess I'm just gonna have to grow old disgracefully and get mocked by all of you 'grown-ups'...

Hey you, out there! Yeah you! You are never too old to pretend to be a Tyrannosaurus Rex! Live the dream.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Best Games of 2011 (90% LOADED)

I'm writing this very early on, in terms of the 'gaming year' there's still; Assassin's Creed Revelations, Skyrim, and the latest offerings from Call of Duty and Battlefield to come. 4 of the biggest games of the year no less.

But, I will review my choices at the end of the year. Call of Duty and Assassin's Creed are both gonna have to do something pretty spectacular and new this time to make my top 5 games, another re-hash wont cut it. I only bought the last COD because of the inclusion of Nazi Zombies, unless it's got a co-op campaign I can take it or leave it. And I never got into Oblivion, infact the choppy frame-rate pissed me off and I got bored of it, I liked Fallout though. I still need to play 'Dark Souls' and 'Rage', I'm hearing great things about both of them and they could also make the final list.

Anyway, my list so far looks like this;

5. Bulletstorm

It's obviously by the makers of Gears, and it's a brave attempt at doing an original FPS. The only thing that let it down was the ridiculously short campaign, but the gameplay is unique and innovative enough to make my list. The leash is a cool addition and the points system and destructive environments make it a fun ride!

4. Deus Ex

When it was being raved about as Mass Effect meets Metal Gear Solid meets Half-Life and then I saw the trailer, drawing comparisons to Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell, the sci-fi nerd in me was a bit excited! It's not quite up there with Mass Effect 2 (my game of the year for last year) and Metal Gear Solid 4 (my game of the year in 2008). I found the controls and movement a little awkward at first, but as I progressed and started to get confident with them and started upgrading my character it won me over.

3. Gears of War 3

It starts slowly, but just gets better and better. More of the same with a few added additions. It's all about the co-op and 'Horde' with Gears, a great finale to the story arc.

2. Portal 2

The most innovative co-op experience I've ever played, and for that alone it almost got my game of the year! The 'tests' are extremely clever in Portal and the added addition of co-op play really takes it to another level. Brilliant and infuriating in equal measures.

1. Batman: Arkham City

Read review in previous post.

Previous years;

1. Mass Effect
2. Vanquish
3. Fable 2
4.Army of Two: 40th Day
5. Halo Reach

1. Batman: Arkham Asylum
2. Resident Evil 5
3. Left 4 Dead 2

1.Metal Gear Solid 4
2.Left 4 Dead
3.Gears of War 2

Batman: Arkham City Review

HOLY BAT SHIT!!! I can not rave about this game enough, all my doubts about it not being able to live up to the pretty much perfect 'Arkham Asylum' have been vanquished by the best game I've played all year!

Ok, yeah, it's pretty obvious I like it. Here's why...

First Impressions

It captures the atmosphere of the original perfectly and picks up pretty much where it left off. It pulls you in at the beginning in a similar way, it's got the same vibe, I felt like I'd never stopped playing it.

One of my worries about the game was the bigger scale, I was worried it would fall into the same open-world territory as games like GTA and become repetitive quickly, losing it's cinematic and driven story. Not to worry though, you can get about the city really well, gliding and grappling from rooftops. Travelling around is smooth sailing, it's actually fun and doesn't become a ball ache like some games of this type!

The presentation is slick and it's got easy to pick-up-and-play gaming mechanics.



It plays exactly like Arkham Asylum, but it's bigger (which is a good thing)! They've added some new gadgets and fighting moves to your arsenal to freshen things up, but the original was perfect anyway. It feels pretty damn ninja throwing smoke pellets and grappling away too! It's got the right balance of stealth, exploration, puzzle solving and hand to hand combat.


Graphics and Sound

The graphics in the first game really stood out for me at the time, and they're still impressive, the murky streets of Arkham really come to life and the character models and animation are as solid as always.

9/10 (for graphics)

Now, the sound design is pretty special! The music and sound effects add a brilliant cinematic feel and atmosphere, the sound is possibly the best I've heard this year. The voice acting is good, a little cheesy in places, but that is to be expected with something like this.

10/10 (for sound)


I actually went back to Arkham Asylum before playing this game and enjoyed it as much a second time around! I think given a year or two, this is deffo a game I would want to re-play again. Then you've also got the challenges, which were an awesome feature on the first game. Fighting a room of goons and going for high-scores is quite addictive, and the scores are online too!

There's a lot of little side missions to do and the Riddler's 'Riddles' are back again, and this time they're a bit trickier. You've also got the ability to play as Catwoman (with the code). And most importantly, for this kind of game it is actually quite big (much longer than the original, which was relatively short).



Rocksteady have built upon what is already (in my opinion) as close to prefect as a game could get. It's as good as a sequel could be really! And they've improved many aspects of the game. A must play! It's very rare that I think a game is worth the full £40 purchase, but this is one of them!


Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Best Films of 2011

Nearing the end of the year, I thought I'd list my top films. There's still a few I need to see, but I think this list is quite solid.


In reverse order:

15. X-Men: First Class

What do you do when you've run a blockbuster franchise into the ground? Start again...this is a stylish reinvention of our fave mutants and the best of the years Marvel and DC movies.

14. Everything Must Go

Will Ferrel's shown he's a great drama actor before (Stranger Than Fiction), I loved him in this quirky indie film.

13. Rare Exports

A very different 'horror' take on the Santa mythology. I thought this started to get really good just as it ended, still good enough to make my list.

12. Hanna

This was a big surprise for me, it's quite weird and cerebral with moments of quiet drama, it's not your usual action film. There's plot holes in there, but one of the most enjoyable action films of the year.

11. Source Code

An intelligent blockbuster action sci-fi from Duncan Jones (director of the brilliant debut feature 'Moon')

10. Arrietty

Ghibli does it again! Charming animation, with scenes of cinematic brilliance that are simply breathtaking.

9. Warrior

What's that? A powerful drama that's about MMA? YEAH! A little cliched in places, but brilliant acting from the main cast and some exhilerating action make for a great movie!

8. Super

It's much more than just a Kick-Ass clone, it's not really that much like it, in tone anyway. A very weird, dark and quirky alternative.

7. Hesher

An absolutely original, cool, emotional, funny and brilliant little gem! And a Superb cast!

6. Planet of the Apes

This surprised and impressed me, they actually pulled off a great prequel!

5. 13 Assassins

Takashi Miike's samurai film is truly awesome, the 45 minute action finale is stunning!

4. Super 8

Good old fashioned Summer popcorn flick!

3. Submarine

Great debut! A quirky British coming of age film, very funny.

2. Drive

Coolest film of the year, stylish, visceral and a cool soundtrack. I think this will become a timeless classic!

1. I Saw The Devil

A massively original and inventive thriller. This is destined to be (badly) re-made by Hollywood.

So, I Finally Watched Avatar...

Yeah, I took the plunge. It's only been 2 years! I avoided it on the initial release for a few reasons, mainly all the hype. Hype often puts me off a film, that combined with the fact Cameron's last film was the bloated and equally 'hyped' Titanic didn't put it to the top of my must see pile.

Now I've seen it, has it changed my mind?

Despite all the hype I had considerably low expectations for this film, and it pains me to say this, but I found myself enjoying it! Mainly because of all the eye candy, I watched it on bluray and the film is quite incredible visually. Scene after scene impressed and wowed me, on an aesthetic level anyway, and this was before I'd even been taken away to the forests of 'Pandora'.

One of the other things that put me off it originally was the art design of the 'Na'vi', I thought they looked cheesy, and all the spiritual, connected to nature shit that comes with them is a bit cringe worthy. But, somehow the film immersed me in its world, and it got me caring about them. I also found the lead female character Neytiri (played brilliantly by Zoe Saldana) strangely attractive!

I'm not the biggest fan of Cameron, I prefer Ridley Scott's Alien over Cameron's Aliens and I still think his best work is the original Terminator. And I absolutely hate Titanic! I have to give him credit for one thing though, he can direct action with the very best, Avatar is more like a thrill ride than a film.

Now, the story isn't exactly original, it begs, borrows, steals and blatantly rips off a lot of other ideas! But a very famous person once said; 'good artists borrow, great artists steal', I wouldn't call this a work of art, but it is damn impressive visually. Flaws and fluffy plot aside, this is a technical achievement, in the forests of Pandora I was completely spirited away.

There was a ton of films that I thought were better than Avatar in 2009 (Moon, District 9, Watchmen, Zombieland and Inglorious Basterds to name a few). Not quite as good as the hype, but I did enjoy it all the same.


Friday, 7 October 2011

Top 10 Badass Videogame Characters

Kick-Ass videogames need characters who can, urm, well, kick-ass!

Obviously this is my own personal list, not everyone's favourite bad-ass will make the cut! Leave a comment with who you'd have. I've tried to avoid characters that are more known for their comics or films (i.e Batman).

In reverse order;

10. Dante - Devil May Cry

He's part Devil and slays Demonic beasties for a living! And he somehow makes that gothic-red leather shit look cool.

9. Jack - Mass Effect 2

I could have gone for Commander Shepard, that would have been the obvious choice. But, Jack just OOZES bad-ass! A dangerous criminal locked away in a space prison, with her shaved head and tattoos, not to mention her powerful biotic powers! She would have brutal animal sex with you! And then probably eat you afterwards.

8. Kazuya Mishima - Tekken series

Kazuya is pretty bad-ass; he's survived being dropped from a mountain! And was once thrown into a volcano! WTF!? He's beaten on his old man and even his own son! And he's got the 'devil gene'...

7. Sam Gideon - Vanquish

From massively underrated shooter Vanquish, Sam slides across the screen at break-neck speeds wearing a super cool mech suit. He drop-kicks robots in the face!

6. E. Honda - Street Fighter series

Ryu may be the face of classic beat em' up 'Street Fighter', but a 300 pound Sumo wrestler bitch-slapping his enemies one hundred times a second is way more bad-ass!

5. Starkiller - Star Wars The Force Unleashed

Darth Vader's secret apprentice and hunter of the remaining few Jedi after order 66. Starkiller's skills with the force and a lightsabre make even the best of Jedi look like Jar Jar Stinks.

4. Marcus Fenix - Gears of War

Cole Train's got more beef, but Fenix is way more bad-ass. Stomping on the Locust Horde is like playing a round of golf for this dude.

3. Sephiroth - Final Fantasy 7

He looks like a Goth girl, but he would still cut you in half and then set you on fire. The quintessential RPG baddie!

2. Master Chief - Halo

The Halo fanboy in me couldn't leave the big chief out of this list. It's MASTER CHIEF! He's a 7 foot tall one man army. He teabags his enemies too, smooth.

1. Solid Snake - Metal Gear Solid

Solid Snake. Nuff said!

...ok then, he single-handedly took on a tank and won! He's knacked up a vampire, a cyborg ninja, various mechs, and even his Dad! He's the epitome of bad-ass! And in MGS4 he's got a moustashe! Win


Saturday, 1 October 2011

Knightcon Movie Exhibition at Xscape.

Knightcon was a free event at Xscape in Castleford, it just happened to be on one of the hottest days of the year, a phantom late summer in October! This made for one exceptionally good and geeky day!

I went along with the Family Wall; my wife, little girl Lydia, and brother James, we were also accompanied by our good friend David.

Ecto-1 from Ghostbusters!

It being free and a nice day, the place was ram-packed! I was in full geek-uniform, Stormtrooper playing Space Vaders arcade Tee and Ghostbusters belt (2 different people asked me where I got it from ha)!

David and R2D2!

I almost cried when I saw 2 fully functional R2D2s (wasn't expecting to see them)! I came over all nostalgic and wanted to run home and watch the Star Wars films on bluray all over again.

"Where we're going we don't need roads!"

There was loads of fan-made cars outside the exhibition and then inside Xscape there was the real McCoy, behind security ropes. Loads of other geeky delights awaited inside (Darth Vader, Stormtroopers, Daleks, R2D2...)

Best. Day. Ever!


Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Gears 3 (The End of an Era)

The last game in the current story arc, possibly even the last Gears of War (I doubt it though)! Being a big fan of the series I'm excited and sad all at the same time, it's great to be playing as Marcus and co again, yet it's possibly the last one...

So, I've been playing through the campaign (my job allows me to play games early :P), and I have to say it's pretty slow to start. It doesn't go off with a bang like previous games; there's a lot of story build-up, flashbacks, wondering around and not actually getting to smash the Locust hordes (what Gears does best).

But wait! I play co-op, my partner in crime is the missus. And to its merit the game gets better and better as you progress, on previous games the wifey has grown a little bored (she prefers Army of Two!), but this times she's asking to play it longer!

The game mechanics are more of the same (if it's not broke, why fix it?) altough they've added plenty of new things to make it a worth while purchase. And I love the addition of mechs in the game! Except for the slow start the only other grumble I have so far is an underwater level that felt a little like filler to me and wasn't much fun to play. They've improved online play massively and Horde was one of the best online experiences anyway! Gears 3 will certainly be most fun played online.

Also, I don't want to spoil anything for anyone, but there's some gargantuan shocks in store plot wise this time around!

One final note,

"Cole Train Eats Whole Grain Baby!

Monday, 12 September 2011

Star Wars on bluray

A Long Time Ago In A Galaxy Far, Far Away...

ahem, Star Wars is one of my biggest passions, so the thought of seeing my childhood memories in HD was a little exciting! I bought the original boxset on blu, didn't bother with the full set, I'm not as keen on the prequels (owning them on DVD is enough!). That said, I did actually like 'Revenge of the Sith' quite a lot.

Anyway, with the original set you just get the films, a bit stingy really. I almost took it back to exchange for the full-set with the shoddy prequels, just for the bonus supplements and a nice box. But, I just couldn't really justify the price difference. A shame I traded in my DVD boxset (along with the bonus features! ARRGH!). Ah well, after a mammoth movie marathon, here are my thoughts...

Star Wars

Well, the picture quality almost made me cry (in a good way), it's amazing to see 'A New Hope' looking so crisp and shiny! Over the years the classic has started to look a tad stale, even with the remastered version. And the transfer doesn't lose any of the charm, it's still got the same tone as before, but now it's in HD! And the sound design! WOW! Some scenes do look better than others, the first film has some saturation issues in the desert scenes, but nothing major. In dark scenes the film excels, it looks very slick indeed. The sheen of the droids, the inky blacks, and all the tiny details on actors faces can be seen.

The added CG Jabba doesn't look as bad, don't get me wrong, you can't polish a turd and it's still ugly as hell! The film would be better without this scene and a lot of the other added stuff too! The minor CG guff didn't spoil my enjoyment and scene after scene wowed me. Nostalgia was in full throttle! I have to say some of the model work on the ships and the battle sequences look truly stunning seen for the first time in high-definition!

Empire Strikes Back

Empire is one of my all time favourite films, and is my fave in the series. Being a dark film it really benefits from the HD upgrade. Empire seems to be the least effected by tacky CG too. Which is a good!

Empire is consistent and looks great, as films go it's pretty much perfect!

Now for the one that people are talking about...

Return of the Jedi

There's a lot of online nerd rage going on about the added sound tweaks on this one. But, I will get back to that later. The thing that pisses me off the most about Jedi is that scene that was added on the DVD release near the start. You know the one! During the attempts at rescuing Han Solo from Jabba there is a scene in his lair with a really irritating singing CG alien. It's truly awful! The worst thing to happen to Star Wars, even worse than Jar Jar!

'Return of the Jedi' was fine before this monstrosity was added, and the original scene is way better! The musics better, the puppets are better than the crude CG, and it just doesn't go with the tone of the film at all! WHY? WHY LUCAS? WHY!! Except for THAT scene I really like Jedi, it's a good fun action flick, I even like the Ewoks! Getting back to the Bluray review, the forest scenes in particular look really nice!

The added sounds I talked about earlier didn't bother me that much to be honest, the purist in me wanted it to be exactly how it used to be though. Was it better when Darth stood silently watching the Emperor attack Luke, contemplating his actions? I don't think you need to watch each version and properly analyse them to work that one out, fuck yeah it was better before! It's way more chilling and atmospheric that way. But, the added sound isn't as bad as the 'NOOOOO!' at the end of 'Revenge of the Sith', like all the rage seems to suggest! So, swings and roundabouts.

I would say the bluray upgrade is definitely worth a purchase, the difference in picture quality is something to marvel at, and the sound is cinematic perfection!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Star Wars + Xbox 360 = AWESOME!

This is possibly the coolest thing I've ever seen in my entire life;

The R2D2 console makes beeps and sounds when you open the disc tray and power it up too! It even comes with a C3P0 controller!! DO. WANT. NOW! Does anyone want to buy my legs?

The only thing cooler than this is this;

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Super 8

The trailer for this impressed me so much straight away I thought this was going to be my film of the year without even seeing it! I know you can't judge a film by its trailer, but it had that old 80's Spielberg magic and I got carried away with nostalgia.

So, now I've actually seen it do I still think the same?

JJ Abrams has captured that old movie magic perfectly, it's like watching a Spielberg film when he still made films with heart and soul. Yet somehow it's completely fresh and new. It's a good balance of old movie charm and modern film making.

It's 'E.T', 'The Goonies' and 'Stand By Me' all rolled into one with a hint of Cloverfield for good measure! And it all works wonderfully. For me, one of the highlights was the rapport the kids have, and their acting! It's rare enough to find one good performance from a child in a film, but here there's several! A whole gang of them! My only minor critique is that it seems to build and build to the grand finale, and then sorta fizzles out a bit at the end...

BUT, it's definitely a cinema experience, any film geek of the late 70's - 80's will come over all warm and nostalgic viewing this on the big screen. It's all about the films integrity. This is REAL movie making! ...'They don't make them like they used to!' ERR, YEAH, actually they do!


Sunday, 15 May 2011

13 Assassins

I don't go to the cinema very often these days (in my job I get to see films for free on release), but with some films I can't miss out on the opportunity of seeing them on the big screen!

I'm a big fan of Asian epics, martial arts and samurai films are one of my biggest passions! And I love shock director Takashi Miike, although with all the critical acclaim and buzz around '13 Assassins' it was hard to believe it was the controversial director at the helm. It seemed a bit too 'classy' for Miike, with no disrespect meant by that, I think he's proud of the 'trash-cinema' he's been behind over the years and I would be too...

I had to see it at the cinema, it wasn't every day you got to see a Japanese Samurai movie on the big screen in the UK! I went to see it with the missus during the first week and sadly it was almost empty, a bonus really, because we got the big screen all to ourselves!

It's a slow burner; after a harrowing and brutal intro, reminding you it was in fact a full-blown Miike film, the first half of shapes the story and characters and builds the tension. Despite following several characters, I felt something for all of the main cast and it does a good job fleshing everything out. I did find it dragged a little at times, although that could have been because I wasn't in the comfort of my own home. BUT, the pay-off is exceptional! The last half of the film is one big battle royale to the death!

The 45 minute battle sequence is one of the most spectacularly amazing pieces of cinema I have ever seen. The choreography spellbinds you with its brutality and rawness! Jaw-dropping stuff! And the cinematography deserves special mention. There's some truly masterful camera work at play here, Miike has several moments of pure genius!

I would have preferred a few more scuffles in the first half, but the last half of the film more than makes up for that!


Monday, 10 January 2011

Best Video Game of 2010

I haven't updated my blog as much as I'd have liked to recently, hopefully 2011 will get me blogging a bit more regularly. One of the reasons was due to time spent playing videogames. So, here's my favourite game of 2010 and the runners up (instead of the usual top 10).

Mass Effect 2

I think I enjoyed Mass Effect 2 more because I played the first game just before, for some reason I didn't check out ME earlier, even though bioware’s other RPG space-opera ‘Star Wars: Knights of the Republic’ is one of my all time favourite games. What struck me first with the original game was the synthesized electronic score, it reminded me of classic sci-fi films like ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘The Thing’, two films that just happen to be on my all time top 10 list. The music combined with an expansive universe and story that rivalled George Lucas’s ‘Galaxy far, far away’, made for an addictive ride this geek was happy to hop on.

Mass Effect 2 is everything a fan of the original game could have asked for; firstly you can continue your saved game from ME, and the choices you made in the first game help shape the story in ME2 and your relationship with key characters. Everything that made ME good the first time round is back, but with a nice new sheen. I literally loaded up ME2 straight after completing the first game, so the first thing that stood out was the graphical overhaul. 3 years had started to show on the original games visuals, not to mention all the glitches, ‘Mass Effect’ despite its brilliance has some major flaws.

The follow-up is a far more polished product, the animation is sharper and more detailed, everything has a shiny new coat. Gone are the big, widespread empty levels, to be replaced by more detailed and compact level designs. This isn’t to say the game is smaller, it has a less is more effect and on the whole exploration is more concise and more enjoyable. The biggest improvement is in the battle system, the gameplay is a lot tighter and the AI is smarter; far less fights are ruined by your team mates getting in the way, or not getting into cover when necessary. Ducking behind cover and blasting away enemies is as enjoyable as it is in the best cover-based shooters (like ‘Gears of War’). And this time the RPG elements feel smoother and more integrated into the overall experience. Switching weapons, shooting down an enemy and using all the characters tech/biotic powers works seamlessly. As a shooter the game excels and it overshadows its predecessor significantly.

There’s still a few little glitches in the works, I found myself stuck to the scenery maybe a couple of times during the entire game. For such a big and beautiful game these are minor blemishes in comparison to ME or something similar in scope like Fallout 3.

The game is an audio powerhouse, it’s got one of the most impressive sound designs I’ve heard. Once again the music is great and compliments the mood perfectly, the voice acting is of the highest standard, possibly even the best of any videogame I’ve played. And the diverse sound effects all make for an immersive aural experience, get the surround sound on and fully submerge yourself in the ME2 world.

It’s a cinematic piece of work that combines great storytelling, exceptional art design, solid graphics, stunning audio, a varied cast of characters and most importantly outstanding gameplay. And that’s why it’s my game of the year! Mass Effect 2 will be talked about in years from now for being one of the all time classic videogames. Roll on ME3 this year!

The Runners up;


Who would have thought Sega had this little gem in the bag? But Vanquish went under the radar, badly marketed, no online play or multiplayer options and for the few who did play it, not that many of them ‘got it’. Vanquish is a massively underrated game.

Vanquish is a third person shooter, the protagonist wears a mech-suit which he can utilise to boost around the stages at great speed. This skill can be used to the players advantage in many ways; finding new cover, flanking enemies, dodging an enemy attack, or to pull off a cheeky drop-kick manoeuvre. You can use cover to slow down the pace and hold your ground, in a similar way to ‘Gears Of War’, but you’re never safe in one place when playing Vanquish and this is when boosting from cover to cover becomes vital to your survival. Speedy gameplay is what Vanquish does best.

This is clearly a Japanese game designed to take on the Western market, it’s got influences pulled from Gears of War and Halo, but with a zany Japanese madness that makes it standout as one of the most original and fresh games in many a year. Being Japanese made it benefits from slick, solid graphics, with hardly any slowdown when it’s going full speed, or breakdown in animation, or graphical pop-ups common in Western games. There’s also a strong Japanese quirkiness in there. Epic boss fights and truly exhilarating action.

It’s a short lived, single player only affair, but brilliant all the same and so close to being my game of the year. I can not rave about this game enough.

Fable 3

I was disappointed with Fable 2, this looks pretty similar, yet it also feels like they’ve improved it so much. The nice graphics are slightly spoilt by some glitches and pop-up, but the game world is so detailed and immersive you wont mind too much.

Great voice acting, a story that pulls you in, atmospheric and magical music, genuinely funny dialogue and co-op gameplay that works. The only thing that let it down was a pretty short campaign.

Army of Two 40th Day

I don't think the reviews on this game were that favourable, but I loved it! It was made for one purpose; deliver a great co-op campaign experience offline and online, something that is lacking in a lot of games these days.

It’s a no-brainer-shoot em’ up-actionfest, add co-operative play and you’ve got a Gears of War clone that doesn't take itself too seriously. The weapon customisation is pretty cool too. I can't wait for a third installment.

Halo Reach

What more can be said about the Halo series? The games haven't evolved much from the original, but when the gameplay mechanics are this solid they don’t really need to. The controls are polished to perfection, brilliant multi-player and co-op modes and it excels online. They have added some excellent new pick-ups though; rocketpacks, holograms, drop-shields etc.
It’s HALO! Nuff said.

I still need to play;

Red Dead Redemption

This is getting most gamers and critics 'game of the year' accolade for 2010, I've had a quick go on the 'Undead' add-on and thought it was good. I'm pretty sure it would have made the runners up list.

Mario Galaxy 2

I love Mario, I don't know why I haven't played this.