Turbo Kid

You could be forgiven for not having heard of Turbo Kid. It premièred at the Sundance Film Festival last year, and received a modest release later on in August.

I must admit that I had never heard of Turbo Kid before stumbling across it whilst browsing Netflix for something to watch with a bucket o’ popcorn and a cuddle with the guinea pigs on the sofa.

Although I like to know what I’m getting in for most of the time, occasionally I love just watching something and knowing nothing about what I’m getting myself into. It’s a gamble, you may well end up seeing your new favourite film, or something that will change your outlook on life. Or it can make you rue the day you ever saw the words nine and months. 

Turbo Kid, I am pleased to announce was a very pleasant success.

Set in an alternative, post apocalyptic 1997. The story revolves around one teenager and his bike (he’s only ever referred to as The Kid) trying to salvage as much scrap from The Wasteland that his now his home as possible so he can make the trip to the town and trade it all for a bottle of (very murky) water.

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When taking a moment out of his subsistence to revel in being a kid by sitting on a swing and reading a comic he encounters a young lady called Apple, a slightly simple, well meaning and kinda sweet girl, who befriends The Kid immediately. Despite his initial resistance to company, her persistence brings about a companionship between the two .

Together they end up embroiled in a plot by the evil Zeus, the one eyed owner and leader of the town, as well as the aforementioned water) to get water from new sources, adventure ensues.

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I loved this film, from the beginning it has an amazing sense of nostalgia. From what I’ve learnt of the internet this is something called New Retro. A brand new genre which is innovative and new, but at the same time referencing (predominantly) the 80s and 90s. I think this image pretty much sums things up

Remember all those great kids adventure films from the 80s? Labyrinth, The Goonies, Flight of the Navigator, Never Ending Story. All of those were great and you can see their influence in Turbo Kid. You can also tell that other post apocalyptic films like Mad Max have been a massive influence on the design with some of the costumes looking like they stepped straight from Mel Gibson’s side.

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As part of the new wave of new retro movies, there is a great sense of nostalgia for the 80s and 90s, yet it manages to be fresh and new enough to not just feel like a pastiche or a satire. At times it feels like it’s walking a tightrope between loving homage to the action and adventure movies of old and a satire (a la Kung Fury). For me, it was this tightrope that really drew me into the film. Sometimes it felt like it was swerving towards parody and other times you could feel the love for those old movies shining through as the directors  re-create their own story in that style. Sometimes it almost feels like three kids (There are three directors; François Simard, Anouk Whissell, and Yoann-Karl Whissell) using a dad’s camcorder in the backyard playing at being film maker makers, though  very good ones with a much bigger budget.

The violence gives it an 18 certificate, and this is well deserved. The violence is bloody, gory and quite graphic at times. There’s blood spurting everywhere, guts get pulled out, limbs get chopped off, and there’s even a guy with a circular saw for a hand.

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With all this violence and gore being thrown about with gay abandon it never goes too far with it. They always manage to stop just short of you getting bored of it.

On a side note, I must applaud the directors for going down the route of physical effects rather than CGI, not only does it look great, but it all adds to the nostalgic feeling that really makes this film great. I love real life effects, they make it feel tangible and much more scrungy than if it was CGI.

By the end of the film’s conclusion I found that I had a love for the characters. This was a slow builder with the relationship between the two protagonists building up over the course of the movie, and by the end you just love them.

The last thing I’m going to mention is the soundtrack. Jean-Philippe Bernier and Jean-Nicolas Leupi were in charge of this, and I have to say they did an amazing job. Like the rest of the film It harks back to a simpler times when synthesizers were just a keyboard a few fancy buttons. Yet they also manage to keep it modern and fresh. I’ll be honest here and say that I would listen to the score on my iPod on the way to work.

I would wholeheartedly recommend this movie. If you love violence, if you love nostalgia, if you love synthy music, if you love a good love story, or just like a good post apocalyptic romp with daft costumes and gore you’ll love this. Go see it on Netflix before it gets taken off. Go. Now!

★★★★★

 

PlayStation NEO and the Future of our Consoles

As you may have heard, GiantBomb.com broke a story last week about Sony getting ready to annouce a new model of the PS4 which could be out as early as this holiday season.

Codenamed NEO it would essentially be an upgraded version of the PS4 we have in stores now. We can expect it to load games faster, be able to display slightly better graphics and hopefully have games run a little smoother. However in the leaked documents Sony states that the NEO is not intended to outright replace the PS4. 

Starting in October all new games will be required to have a “NEO Mode” and a “Base Mode”. NEO Mode games will be allowed to have improved visuals and performance but are not allowed to have additional gameplay features. So they couldn’t do something like exclusively offer 2 player co-op play only to NEO owners. It’s good to see that Sony are taking steps to stop the base PS4 becoming obsolete as soon as the NEO hits but it’s still a bit worrying.

This is the first time one of the big companies in video games has proposed anything like this. Sure there have been console redesigns to make them smaller and have bigger hard drives. but we’ve never had an update that would change the way games are developed for the system. The only example that’s close to this is the New Nintendo 3DS which released last year but unfortunately there have been some problems with games not running as well on the older hardware version. As I mentioned above Sony seems to be setting guidelines to specifically avoid this problem but it’s still something to think about.

Also yet to be announced is whether the NEO will help improve Sony’s Virtual Reality headset when that launches later in the year too. The PS4 is a lot less powerful than the minimum spec PCs needed for the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive VR headsets. Performance is very important for VR games, any stuttering or drop in the frame rate for visuals can be the difference between motion sickness and a truly immersive experience. Depending on how this is handled PlayStation VR might only be worth having if you can run the games in NEO mode. 

Microsoft have also expressed some interest in upgradable hardware but they seem to be going down a more PC-like upgrade structure. Where you would have options to purchase separate pieces of hardware much like PC owners do now. Microsoft have been going big on Windows 10 as a gaming platform so they probably want to have a unified experience on the Xbox and PC. Whether or not Sony’s plans spur them into action on this earlier than planned remains to be seen.

Nintendo are more than likely going to be announcing their next console in June at E3. All we’ve heard so far is that it is codenamed The NX and may be some kind of handheld/console hybrid. Where you would be able to take your games with you and play them on the go then continue on your TV when you get home. Nintendo haven’t been the leader in graphics and hardware since the Super Nintendo days so it will be interesting to see if they try and match the PS4 and Xbox One in terms of power. And if that was Nintendo’s plan then has the PS NEO thrown a spanner in their works in terms of bragging rights?

It looks like we might be shelling out cash on some new consoles earlier than we all thought. Like every year, all we can do is wait for E3 which is June 14-16. Typically this is the place all the big companies unveil their new toys so we’ll know for sure then.

The Costner Change Around

Because I don’t have that much going on with my life, I have recently discovered, much to my confusion, that I quite like most of Kevin Costner’s films. This would not have been a cool thing to admit 10 or so years ago where he was mainly a mocked man; that bloke that everyone pointed at and mumbled ‘he did Waterworld ya know.’ Most of the talk around Costner was about his various flops (The Postman, 3000 Miles To Graceland, Dragonfly) and his main claim to fame in the UK was playing Robin Hood with a pretty naff accent. He became a byword for mawkish sentimentality and box office losses even though this is the same man whose c.v. included The Untouchables and JFK.

 

In the past few years, Costner seems to have had a small resurgence, whether it be by taking small but effective roles (Man of Steel) or slipping in television and being ridiculously good (Hatfield & McCoys). Either way, it’s a good thing to see, even if he is still puncturing his good work with dirge on occasion (3 Days To Kill was an abomination). I could sit here and tell you all to go and watch JFK or Bull Durham to remind yourself or to understand that Costner is actually a fucking good actor, but I wouldn’t insult your intelligence as such because you should have watched those already (you really should). Instead, I give you a handful of lesser known cuts from Costner’s c.v. that deserve to be seen more.

 

  1. Thirteen Days

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Okay, okay, okay…. This films takes a hell of a lot of dramatic license with many things, in particular the size of the role that Costner’s character, Kenneth O’Donnell, had within the whole Cuban Missile Crisis itself, however Thirteen Days is a really solid political drama. Bruce Greenwood (who really should be President now he has played two US Presidents in his varied film career – which is more practice than most nominees get) is JFK who, after seeing surveillance showing the Soviets placing nuclear weapons in Cuba has to make a plan of action that won’t end in an all out nuclear war. It’s a film with very few action sequences (Pearl Harbour this is not and thank bugger it isn’t) and a whole lot of scenes of men talking with furrowed brows in various nicely furnished rooms. But this low key approach is extremely effective. Costner, however much a lie the size of his character’s role in the crisis was, imbues O’Donnell with a sense of control, the calm in the eye of the storm, and becomes the relatable locus for us gather around.

 

  1. The Company Men

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Before The Big Short blustered its way into cinemas, The Company Men, along with Margin Call, was probably the best film out there tackling the thorny issue of the 2008 financial crisis. While Margin Call took the more technical, real time approach, The Company Men took a more human route, focussing on the life altering effects of the collapsing institutions and downsizing. Costner plays the blue-collar, straight talking drywaller who takes his brother-in-law (Ben Affleck) in for work after Affleck’s white collar, corporate stooge is let go from his job. Five years ago, the combination of Affleck and Costner would have made me sellotape my eyes closed and place a bin on my head but alas time has passed and tastes have changed. Costner is wonderful in The Company Men, anchoring his and Affleck’s portion of the story with his typical understated gravitas. His role isn’t a big one, most of the heavy hitting is done by Tommy Lee Jones and Chris Cooper, but The Company Men was one of the more intriguing stepping stones in Costner’s journey in leaving his insipid late 90s film career behind.

 

  1. No Way Out

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No Way Out is a proper taut and tense homage to those twisty political thrillers of the 40s and 50s. It’s far more well regarded in the USA than it is here in the UK and gave Costner his big Hollywood break a few years after The Big Chill was meant to do the same before his scenes were left on the cutting room floor. Costner plays a naive Navy Intelligence officer brought into help the delightfully bolshy and desperate Gene Hackman to cover up a murder of a young woman that both of them happened to be sleeping with. It’s easy to see why this broke Costner into the big time, he pretty much carries this film on his shoulders with consummate ease, that youthful faced freshness of his comes good making you see how truly out of depth his character is. As the manipulations and plot turns pile up, No Way Out turns into a guessing game of who is playing who and then the twist at the end turns absolutely everything on its head. It’s refreshing to find a thriller that is over 25 years old and that still makes you go ‘oh shit’ at the end. See. It.

 

  1. A Perfect World

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A convict with a heart story… yaaay. But before you snort derisively and pooh pooh with vigour, I’m going to put it out there that this is one of my favourite Clint Eastwood films along with Unforgiven and Absolute Power. The story is a deceptively simple one. Costner plays an escaped convict Butch who takes a young boy as a hostage as he tries to flee the state. Eastwood is the Texas Ranger who has a past with Butch and, after learning of his escape, is determined to set things right. When I write this plot down it sounds absolutely ridiculous and mawkish to the hilt but Eastwood (who also directs) handles the material with such respect and care it’s so bloody difficult to not get drawn in and i’m not afraid to admit that I nearly cried at the conclusion. This is also one of Costner’s best performances in my very humble opinion, his Butch is a subtle and nuanced piece of acting, there is no massive grandstanding or lengthy monologuing; there is just great scene after great scene.

 

  1. Mr Brooks

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When you read the synopsis of this film and see that Costner is playing a serial killer you immediately think that you have another The Postman-esque flop on your hands. Costner is too All-American, blonde hair and twinkly blue eyed to pull off such a grotesque human being. However, the reasons as to why it shouldn’t work are the exacts reasons why it does. Costner subverts our expectations of him as an actor, and the type of character we usually see him portraying. We expect him to be a hard-working Joe with a nice family and a nice white picket fence around his house, and technically speaking that is what we get but with a seriously big difference. Costner is Earl Brooks, a massively successful, well liked businessman who has a secret life as the ‘Thumbprint Killer’. For the past two years, he has managed to keep his murderous urges at bay by attending twelve step addiction meetings under the guise of being a substance abuser, but his urges are becoming more intense as his id (played with relish by William Hurt) becomes more and more insistent that they take a victim. I can’t emphasis enough how much of a grim delight it is to see Costner take a massive step away from his comfort zone and play a frighteningly homicidal yet seemingly normal man. Yes, Hurt does have the more intensely manic role as the id, but Costner is the one doing the killing and you can see how much Earl enjoys it no matter how hard he has been trying to quell his urges. There are some silly little plot turns which threaten to veer Mr Brooks off in hokey territory, however, the presence that Costner and Hurt bring to the proceedings keeps the film on an even footing. Rumours of a sequel were floating around a few years back but have seemed to have fizzled into nothing, which is a massive shame as Brooks is a character i would have happily watched more of. So make the most of this one, and if you haven’t already seen it then get your life sorted out.

Dark Places – Gillian Flynn (Book Review)

I can honestly say that I’m slightly worried about Gillian Flynn.

After being totally overwhelmed by Gone Girl, I was desperate to read another of Flynn’s books to find out if they were just as twisted and just as hard to put down. I certainly found that with Dark Places.

Dark Places follows Libby Day who, at seven years old, witnessed her brother murder her mother and two sisters. Libby testifies against her brother Ben and spends the rest of her life trying to forget that morning. Twenty five years later Libby is running out of money and agrees to attend the ‘Kill Club’ – a group run by people who are interested in murderers and who want to find out more about them.  After her first meeting, everything she has been trying to hide from is brought back up and she starts to doubt if her brother actually did commit the crime, aftdownload (6)er all she never actually saw him do it, she was hiding from it the whole time.

I would say that I loved this book but I just don’t know how I actually feel about it. I couldn’t stop reading and strived to find out the truth in the same way that Libby did but in all honesty, at times, I found the book really hard to read.

The Day family are not wealthy, before the murders they lived on a rundown farm and were constantly in fear of the place being repossessed. Because of his families poverty, Ben feels hard done to and acts out against his family making him the perfect fit for the murderer as he is always angry at his family and lifestyle and he gets in with the wrong crowd.

For me, Ben’s chapters were the hardest to read. There were some subjects that were completely new to me in terms of reading. The book graphically describes killing animals and sexual feelings that are more than a little inappropriate. While I appreciate that the author was willing to go there and write about something that a lot of authors would be scared to touch (don’t quote me on this, I really haven’t read that many thriller/horror novels to know)I just didn’t enjoy reading it.

Although there are a few chapters that aren’t easy to get through, it does give you a good idea of what life was like for the Day family. Ben is constantly pressured into doing things he doesn’t want to and reading his reactions to these situations could at times be eye opening realising just how these things happen.

One issue that I did have with the book was that I found there are no likable characters. Although I sympathised with Libby and what she went through, I didn’t like her as an adult. As an adult she was living off the death of her family, hoping that sympathetic strangers would donate money in order to help her build a future. I never quite got over the fact that Libby was so lazy and refused to ever get a job and stick to it. Other than Libby I just didn’t care about the characters, by the end I quite honestly couldn’t have cared less if Ben got out of jail or not because I simply didn’t like him and although the rest of the family were dead, I was never particularly sad about it. I found the book more about finding the truth rather than actually building any likable characters.

The only person that I would say I liked was Lyle, the guy who first takes Libby to the Kill Club, I found it rather sweet that he was trying to help Libby out but even still, at the back of my head I kept remembering that he only ever connected with Libby because he was obsessed with her families murders.

Overall the book wasn’t half full of suspense as Gone Girl but it was still a page turner and I would certainly recommend reading it if you like the ‘who done it’ type of read. The ending was clever and each chapter leading up to the ending was crucial to the story and how it all wrapped up. Just be warned that if you do pick up Dark Places you may be slightly grossed out and it may make you ask the question of how twisted Gillian Flynn’s brain is to come up with these ideas.

3.5/5 stars.

Is Better Call Saul Better Than Breaking Bad?

Breaking Bad was one of the greatest and most popular TV series of the 21st century According to this study people lie about seeing cause they’re so fed up of being told to do so.

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When it’s season finale aired in 2013 there was a void in many people’s lives. So, there was a collective cheer of excitement when it was announced there would be a spin off.

Instead of it being a sequel, like Frasier or Joey it was going to be a prequel, following the lawyer of questionable morals Saul Goodman.

I must admit whilst I did love Saul in the show, I was really dubious as to whether he would be strong enough to give an origin story to. Imagining a ‘case of the week’ type plot with a bit of overarching story thrown in. Somewhat similar to Buffy and co.

Boy was I wrong.

BCS has proven itself to be an amazing show worthy of accolades in it’s own right. Like Frasier before it BCS will be remembered on it’s own terms and not just as ‘that spin off from that other show’. The characters and riveting plot have made it a must see

On to the main question. Has it surpassed it’s predecessor?

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Characters

Breaking Bad was highly praised at the time for it’s characters, especially the main character, Walter White. Over the course of the series’ five seasons we see Walter turn from mild mannered school chemistry teacher to ultimate drug lord.  

It was seen as revolutionary for showing the evolution of a character into someone unrecognisable from the first episode.

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However, I often felt that some of the secondary characters were kind of forgotten about, the female characters, Skylar and Marie in particular felt a little underdeveloped. Even Walter’s right hand man Jesse could feel like he was flip flopping over what was happening to him at times.

Being a prequel for one of the smaller characters Better Call Saul had a lot of scope for creating all new characters, which it does with aplomb. We see Saul start out life as plain ol’ Jimmy McGill. A struggling lawyer practising out the back office of a beauty salon and taking care of his ill brother, Chuck.

BCS is much more character based rather than Breaking Bad. The venture with Netflix has given Vince Gilligan (both the series’ creator) more time to breath and to fully explore the characters without the network television constraints of ratings chasing.

Saul’s best friend (and lover), Kim is also a vast improvement on some of the female characters featured in Breaking Bad. Whilst sometimes it felt a little like the writers didn’t really know what to do with Skylar in Breaking Bad, Kim is as complex as they come, she can be unsure of her decisions, at the same time as being kind of a badass and sticking up for what she feels is right.

Furthermore, in Breaking Bad most of the characters are terrible people.  This can make for some entertaining viewing you never truly love Walter, or Jesse, or even Saul at this point. BCS though makes you fall in love with Jimmy, he might be up to some dodgy dealings, but he has a heart of gold deep down and you’re with him every step of the way, cheering him on.

jimmy and kim

Breaking Bad was full of twists and turns. It kept us all on the edge of our seats for five whole seasons. It was gripping from start to finish. It was great at cliff hangers and always left you wanting more. You needed to know what happened.

Breaking Bad was one of the first series’ to make it big on Netflix, and was the king of ‘just one more episode before bed’ because you just couldn’t leave it not knowing how this week’s caper resolved itself.

BCS, whilst in keeping with a feel for it’s parent series is a very different kettle of fish in this regard. As I stated before this is a joint venture between AMC and Netflix, and I think it’s this partnership with Netflix that has really  helped to make BCS what it is. As Netflix is a streaming service it doesn’t need to worry about ratings. This means that there are no mid-season opinion polls on what audiences want to see more of, no pressure from the Network to stick in as many short term hooks as possible. This has allowed to show to plant many more long term hooks that keep you coming back for more.

This means that BCS is a lot more slow paced, it really takes it’s time to reveal back-story and plot points, even the twists the plot takes can take a whole episode to reveal itself. It opens up so many questions and really takes it’s time to resolve them. It drip feeds you the information slowly, over the course of several episodes  Allowing those characters to build up slowly, allowing the questions from episode one to linger on. At the start of each season there has been a black and white scene from clearly set post Breaking Bad, so from the go you’re invested in Jimmy.

jimmy black and white

I loved Breaking Bad, I was a little late to the game, only starting to watch just before the last series. Luckily this meant that I could binge watch it all and only had to endure the agony of waiting for the next week and the next fix of meth induced television.

BCS I have watched since the beginning, and despite the Netflix production it has only been put up one episode a week due to the collaboration with AMC, and the sweet agony of waiting for the next instalment has been there all along. For a generation that’s gotten used to just consuming entire seasons within a couple of days this takes some patience to get used to. It is, however worth every second of waiting to follow the adventures of Jimmy McGill.

Street Fighter V Review – PS4

  
  
In February I wrote about how I thought Street Fighter V was not worth buying at it’s time of release. Since then they have made some of the promised upgrades so when I saw the game had been discounted to just under £30 I decided it was time to check it out. 

SFV is the newest numbered entry in one of the longest running fighting game franchises ever. The first entry in the series was originally exclusive to arcades in 1987, there may only be 5 numbered entries but Street Fighter is famous for re-releasing games with new additions to prolong their lifespan. The first ever Street Fighter game I played was Super Street Fighter II Turbo which is actually the 3rd revision of that specific game, Phew! So this actually makes SFV round about the 19th unique release! Everyone still following along at home? 

It’s totally understandable that fans were disappointed that SFV launched with such a barebones list of features considering this isn’t Capcom’s first rodeo.

Missing Pieces

  

  

Street Fighter V shares a lot of similarities with many other fighting games on the market today. A regular match is best to 3 rounds with the first player to reduce the other’s health bar to zero winning. Each character has their own set of unique normal and special fighting moves they can use to do damage and trick your opponent into letting down their guard. Street Fighter is often likend to the video game equivalent of chess because it pits two people against each other in a pure test of skill. 

Unfortunately this isn’t very good for new players who can be completely outclassed if you venture online without training enough. This was the first thing that disappointed me about SFV, they still haven’t figured out a good way to teach new players how the game is played. You’re thrown into a pretty basic tutorial up front that shows you what buttons to press to do some moves but it doesn’t tell you why you should use certain moves in certain situations. Sure you could go online a find some of this out yourself but you shouldn’t have to do that. 

If you dig a little deeper into the options they have added character specific tutorials that go into more detail about the tools each character has but this is simply a video clip and a text box overlay. It doesn’t show you and then let you try it out for yourself. You’re just supposed to watch it then commit it to memory. Some of this was fine for my needs because I’ve played most of the games in the series but I couldn’t help but put myself in the shoes of a novice player. If you’re approaching this game with no prior knowledge I really think you’d have a pretty frustrating time at first, until you read some online guides or watched some YouTube videos. I just can’t help but think there’s a step they’re missing in there. Capcom should find a way to help new players make that transition from noob to pro without having to seek help outside of the game.

As I mentioned previously, Capcom did make good on their promise to update the game in March to add some new features and a new character. Frustratingly Capcom was keeping quiet and the update didn’t show up until March 30th which sent forums and subreddits into a rage but they’ll always be able to say that they technically hit their March deadline I guess. 

These features were the aforementioned character specific tutorial videos, up to 8 player online lobbies, the online shop (where you can purchase additional content) and 10 challenges to complete for each character which sees you performing progressively harder move combos. These are all things that definitely should have been in the game from the beginning but at least we didn’t have to purchase them separately so that’s something.
  

My Fight Money!

  

 

The online store at the time of writing is a complete mess. It seems as though they made it as convoluted as they possible. First of all there are 2 types of currency, Fight Money is what you earn from in-game actions such as winning matches and generally just playing the game. Then they have Zenny which is a premium currency you can buy with real money but as of right now this hasn’t even been added into the game yet! I’m just not a fan of this dual currency system, it comes from free to play mobile games and I don’t think it has a place in a full priced retail game. 

There are items in the store that probably should just be included as unlockables in the main game. Each character has the default costume and classically in Street Fighter you can select color variation on this outfit so for example Ryu can have his classic white outfit and red bandana or you could change it up with a blue outfit and yellow bandana. In SFV you only start out with 2 colours for each character and 8 more can be unlocked by beating the game’s survival mode on various difficulties. The remaining colours 11-15 have to purchased from the store on a per character basis. I don’t think you should have to spend your currency just to unlock what is essentially a colour swap of content that is already on the disc and when they add the option to be spending real money on this it’s just going to get messier.
  

Choose Your Character

  

One thing that’s always a constant in the Street Fighter series is a cast of interesting characters to choose from, let’s do a character rundown:

Ryu: Our wandering hero who is looking for the answers that lie in the heart of battle. Ryu is the classic beginner’s character that has been in every main SF game. He still does all the things you know and love. He throws fireballs, has his Shoryken flying uppercut and the spinning hurricane kick.

Ken: Ryu’s old sparring partner Ken also makes an appearance. He’s a lot like Ryu having the same basic special moves but he’s a bit quicker and has some more complicated combos to learn. He also has a better Shoryken than Ryu which travels further and sets the opponent on fire!

Chun Li: Another returning veteran. Chun Li is probably the fastest character in the game. Be ready to defend against a relentless barrage of kicks from all angles if your opponent picks her. 

Nash: As of right now considered to be the best character in the game we have Nash. Killed by the big bad M.Bison earlier in the timeline he’s now back as a reanimated corpse out for revenge! Nash has his own fireball variant the sonic boom and he can also teleport behind your opponent making it harder for them to defend.

Dhalsim: The stretchy, fire breathing yoga master is back. In past games Dhalsim has been a bit of a slower character but in SFV thanks to his teleport and air attacks it’s surprising how quick and aggressive he can be played in the right hands.

Cammy: The deadly british secret agent who’s bent on taking down Bison and his crew. Cammy is another speedy character who can rocket across the stage with her spiral arrow corkscrew kick which if timed right can also slip under your opponent’s projectiles.

Alex: Is the first of 3 wrestlers we have in SFV and he’s also the first downloadable character added post launch. Alex is a powerhouse, he hits really hard but is a little slow. If you get close to him you’re probably going to get powerbombed but he can also leap across the stage to grab you if you try to back off.

Laura: A Brazilian jiu jitsu fighter who somehow can electrify her opponents with judo hip throws. Laura’s a character who can have trouble if you keep her away with projectiles but once she gets in she’s in her element.

Necalli: Some kind of ancient soul devouring demon man with sick dread locks. Necalli is one of the new characters and he’s pretty fun to use. He charges around the stage clawing at his opponents and he can also stomp and pound on the ground to create blasts under his opponents.

Vega: The prettiest matador/cage fighter in the land is back. Vega is as imposing and tricky as ever in this game. He still has his trademark claw weapon which gives him good attack range and he still jumps off the walls to surprise people with german suplexes and strikes from above.

F.A.N.G: One of the new bad guys under Bison. This guy is pretty interesting, most of his special moves have a poison effect that will slowly drain the opponent’s health until they can land a hit on you. He’s also pretty goofy looking so it can be hard to tell where his attacks are coming from.

Zangief: Another veteran of the series the Russian wrestling champion of muscle power is back! He plays pretty much the same as he always did, your strategy should be to get close enough to put your opponent in his patented spinning piledriver. It can be risky against more projectile heavy characters but the reward is great.

Rashid: This guy is a new character who has the ability to shoot mini hurricanes across the stage with his super fast kicks. They can be hard to avoid as they go diagonally from the bottom to the top of the screen and while dodging this Rashid can still be attacking you.

R. Mika: A female wrestler from Japan who can rush at you with all manner of strikes to put you off guard. Unique to her is that she can call in her tag team partner to hit you from any side so you’ve got to keep an eye out for that during the fight too.

Karen: Is a highly skilled aristocrat with a disdain for those she deems lower class. Not the most exciting character to watch as most of her special moves are variations on kicks and punches but in the right hands she can be totally overwhelming.

Birdie: A huge chubby punk guy from London who uses his mohawk like a rhino horn to charge his opponents. He’s one of the slower guys but he can use bike chains to grab you from across the stage so he doesn’t always need to get close to hurt you. 

M. Bison: The evil dictator himself is also back to terrorise the world. Bison hasn’t changed much from the previous games. He still has his head stomp and his flipping knee attack but now he can also grab your projectiles out of the air and fire them back!

6 Buttons and a Joystick 

One thing I can’t fault in this game is the fighting. Actually playing the game feels great which is technically the most important thing in a fighting game but it’s a shame the whole package couldn’t have been held up to this standard.

You can really feel the impact of some of the hits, the fighters also do quite a lot of damage compared to Street Fighter IV so the matches have a quicker pace and are more tense when you get down to that last bit of health. They’ve also changed the way defending works in this game. In past Street Fighter games any special move that hit you when blocking would slowly chip away at your health. So if you had a pixel of health left your opponent could just mash out specials until one hit you but in SFV a move will only K.O. you if don’t block it. I think this makes it more exciting as you have to outsmart your opponent if they’re hanging on with the tiniest amount of health and blocking all of your fireballs.

Also new to this game is the V-system. Each character has a unique V-Skill activated by hitting the medium punch and kick buttons together. For example Ryu’s is a parry that can negate an attack giving you a chance for a quicker follow up or Dhalsim’s is to float in the air when you jump to avoid projectiles or mess up your opponent’s timing. They also have a unique V-Trigger activated by pressing the hard punch and kick buttons which is more of a long lasting effect but can only be used once a round typically. For V-Trigger Ryu gets increased special move damage and Dhalsim creates a carpet of flame that drains your opponent’s health if they stand on it.

In addition to this each character has a special meter which when full lets you unleash a Critical Art. Which is basically a big special attack that does a big chunk of damage if you hit but will probably leave you vulnerable if they block it. These character specific super moves are really visually impressive and are always crowd pleasers for anyone watching.

  

  

There are a lot of options during a match which is good but I often found myself forgetting to use a lot of this stuff in the heat of battle.

Another problem I found with the controls is they don’t map to a PS4 controller very naturally. You have to use the shoulder buttons for some of the attack buttons as you ideally want to use all 6 of them. Luckily I have an arcade stick controller so this wasn’t a problem for me but it’s something to consider if you only have the Dual Shock 4. 

I can’t really recommend SFV to a beginner who hasn’t really played a fighter before. I don’t think they would have a good time with it. I’m not sure if the problem of introducing new people to the genre has been solved yet but SFV didn’t do anything to help that cause. Capcom very clearly catered to the hardcore fighting game community which will probably hurt the overall sales but the diehard fans will be too busy playing it to care.

★★★☆☆

The Naff Nic Season: Deadfall (1993)

Rating 18, 98 Minutes

 

You look at the cast list (Nicolas Cage, James Coburn, Peter Fonda, Michael Biehn), you look at the director (Christopher Coppola, nephew of Francis Ford Coppola) and you think that maybe this film will make a reasonably strong attempt at being more than decent. But no, Deadfall manages to be an atrocious mess of a film on every single conceivable level.

 

Joe (Biehn) is part of a family of con artists and after a sting gone wrong in which he kills his own father (Coburn), he vows to carry out his dad’s dying wish; to steal back some valuables from his uncle Lou (also played by Coburn for god’s sake). Lou turns out to be a trickster himself and Joe finds himself drawn into his uncle’s schemes before becoming completely out of his depth.

 

So far, so meh.

 

I’m going to be bold here and say Francis Ford Coppola’s ability to write a cracking screenplay didn’t quite flow down the family tree to his nephew Christopher. Francis has seemingly hoarded that particular genetic disposition for himself and his own branch. Deadfall’s internal logic is horribly flawed. For a film about a bunch of con artists everyone is absolutely dense as concrete, Joe in particular seems to be utterly oblivious to the fact that he might be getting played by his dodgy old uncle. Although he is sidetracked in rather spectacular fashion by Cage’s Eddie, a bizarrely tanned, moustached coke fiend with an accent so bizarre it sounds like Cage is practicing LOUD Spanish while gargling mouthwash.

deadfall-cage-2

Cage steals this film. Of that there is no doubt. His performance in this film is pure Cage madness. There is top notch yelling of complete nonsense, ‘WELL, VIVE LA FUCKING FRANCE, MAN! ‘ some hardcore cocaine sniffing, an appalling wig which apparently Cage picked out himself, a very Ronseal-esque skin tone which only highlights the shoddy nature of his hairpiece, and some strange line delivery. I’m not quite sure what exactly Cage was going for here. Sometimes OTT works, see Pacino in Scarface for example, but Cage’s histrionics are so out of place in Deadfall it knocks the film on its head, almost drowning the film in a pool of Cage based insanity, although this probably would have been the preferable outcome instead of the hackneyed lump of dump we were left with.

 

Coburn runs him as close as is humanly possible, showing up towards the end as dastardly uncle Lou, with a shocking dye job that is enough to make you despair that such a quality actor has been reduced to camping around in this cesspit. Poor old Michael Biehn is rendered a mere spectator. He tries his best to keep things grounded and a bit more gritty than the parading peacocks of Cage and Coburn, but is completely overshadowed by the scenery-chewing villains. The audience’s heads are turned away from Joe’s plot and journey, and left with a bad case of whiplash as Cage steams into the film, roaring away about 15/20 minutes in. You end up not giving a royal shite about Joe, you just want to spend the next 40 minutes or so trying to work out what the hell Cage is saying. And then when he’s gone the film slides in stale, cliche ridden banality.

 

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Deadfall does not reach the depressing depths of badness like Left Behind did. At least in here we find Cage invigorated and energised, instead of seemingly resigned to his fate of shit films and death like he was in Left Behind. For that reason, it rates higher in my estimation by the width of a pubic hair. But Deadfall is NOT a good film. The Cage-less scenes are intensely boring, the director’s attempts at creating intense scenes through dark lighting and use of shadows just make you squint and wonder why everything is brown (probably because shit is brown which this film is (maybe that’s the deeper meaning we’ve all been looking for)), the counter intuitive actions of its protagonist are just embarrassing and the final showdown couldn’t have been more of a damp squib if you had drowned it in a bath.

 

Thanks to this godforsaken website and my own raging stupidity, I have seen this film twice now. Two times too many if you ask me. I thought maybe second viewing would have allowed to see things to this film that I hadn’t seen the first time round, maybe some shafts of light showing through this blackened turd of a film. Alas not.

 

Deadfall is a true exercise in Hollywood nepotism. Christopher Coppola’s family connections is probably the only reason he was given the money and time to make this utter parcel of shite. Unsurprisingly, it flopped at the box office, bringing in a paltry $18,000 compared to its budget of $10million. According to my research for this Naff Nic Challenge, it is rated higher than The Wicker Man which is the biggest lie since halitosis. At least in The Wicker Man, Cage’s weirdness meshed in with the general angle of the film and provided some comedy gold for years to come (those memes don’t just make themselves). Deadfall is cinematic ebola. Avoid at all costs.

 

IMDB Rating: 3.7

My Rating: ★☆☆☆☆ ( i wish there was a poo symbol)

Totally Should’ve Book Tag

  1. Totally should’ve gotten a sequel

Pride and Prejudice, it’s my favourite book and the reason I have unobtainable relationship goals but I there’s one thing wrong with it, it’s that I just don’t know enough about Elizabeth and Darcy’s relationship. I would love nothing more than a sequel about their marriage and lives after Pride and Prejudice.

  1. Totally Should’ve had a spin off series

Harry Potter. I mean let’s be honest, it’ll more than likely happen eventually and J.K. Rowling has already written The Cursed Child but so far that’s not a series. I would love a series based on James and Lily’s time at Hogwarts but mostly because I need Snape back in my life.

  1. An author who totally should write more books

Nathan Filer. If there’s ever a book that broke my heart, it’s The Shock of The Fall. I loved this book from start to finish and I cried more than I’ve ever cried over a book. Nathan Filer is an amazing author and I honestly can’t understand why he hasn’t written anything more.

  1. A character who totally should’ve ended up with someone else

Peeta Mellark. I just feel he deserves someone who loves him more than Katniss does. It’s not that I really care who Katniss ends with because she had plenty of options but Peeta was one of the nicest characters I’ve ever read and I feel like he ends up with a girl who just settles with him because the guy she really loves potentially killed her sister.

  1. Totally should’ve ended differently

I didn’t like the end of Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children and I felt no inclination to read the second book in the series as I found the first one a little muddled. I have real issues with the act that no one cares that a child has gone missing and the fact that Jacob doesn’t seem to give a second thought to the fact that he’s leaving his family behind for a group of people he hardly knows.

  1. Totally should’ve had a movie franchise

There’s always a chance it will be turned into a film because this is still a pretty new book but I’d really love to see To All The Boys I Loved Before turned into a movie. It has a typical YA plot but it has some really strong characters and I think it would make a great film… Let’s be honest, we all want Kitty to be real.

  1. Totally should’ve had a TV show

I feel there’s a strong chance that The Lunar Chronicles will be made into films but personally I would love for the book series to be made into a TV show. By making them a TV show it means that they can dedicate a lot more time to actually getting to know the characters and we can have a bit  of back story. I would quite happily watch a full series per book and there’s potential to also include Fairest and Stars Above into it.

  1. Totally should’ve only had one point of view

I honestly can’t tell you a book where I think different points of view don’t work. I love knowing more about the characters and having more than one narrative is the perfect way to do this. If I’ve ever had a problem with a book, it’s because of the plot or writing style not the different views.

  1. Totally should’ve a cover change

I really hate the covers for The Summer I Turned Pretty. As a general rule, I hate covers with real people on, from time to time it works but as a general rule people should not be used for covers.

  1. Totally should’ve kept the original covers

The Gone series by Michael Grant. I’ll be honest when I tell you that I judge books by covers and Gone instantly grabbed my attention with it’s mostly black cover and coloured pages but after reading Gone and Hunger, I went to buy Lies and could only find the new cover with people on it.

  1. Totally should’ve stopped at book one

The Maze Runner. I’m really sorry to all of you guys who loved this series but I thought the books just got worse and worse as they progressed. I would have been happier if The Maze Runner had of been an extra two hundred pages, they could then skip The Scorch Trials and sum up The Death Cure in the last couple hundred pages. The Kill Order was completely unneeded.

 

My Top 5 Stop Motion Animation Films

I love animation. I love that it can take you to worlds and places you could only ever see in your dreams. It’s not constrained by real life and as such can create places that can be as normal or surreal as you like.

It can take you to an island where it rains food, you can go on a trip in a yellow submarine, you can dance with beasts and go on a magic carpet ride. You can even go down a magical rabbit hole into Wonderland. The only limit is your imagination (and artistic skills).

Animated films and TV shows have brought delight and wonder to children and adults everywhere and in this list I am choosing just 5 of my favourite movies animated using stop motion techniques.

Stop motion has a special quality to it, because it’s filmed using real puppets that are painstakingly moved centimetre by centimetre with a picture taken after every move you can feel the love and dedication that is poured into producing them. It also makes it more tangable than other forms of animation. There ar fantastical images happening on the screen, and yet, it all feels real. Perhaps because at some point, somewhere it was real. Even if it is a little on the small side. This is why stop motion is my favourite animation method.

So, without further ado here’s number 5!

5) Alice (1988, PG, 86mins Dir. Jan Svankmajer)

alice mad hatter

This film on our list is also the only one to incorporate live action into the animation.

An adaptation of Alice in wonderland, Alice was brought to life by czechoslovakian animator Jan Svankmajer. It brings forth a much more dark and disturbing version of alice white rabbitWonderland than previous adaptations had portrayed. It follows a live action Alice in her adventures down the rabbit hole. Gone away are the bright coloured and friendly characters. In their place we get characters that seem dangerous and confusing. The puppets are often found objects re-purposed for the film. Even using a real stuffed rabbit for The White Rabbit. Wonderland itself looks like an old house where any child could wander and find any manner of strange things.

All this give Alice a unique feel and mood, and is often cited as one of the great films about childhood, discovery and the loss of innocence though I’m not sure I would let a child watch this. Even with the PG certificate I feel that it would be a little too disturbing for young children.

4) Mary and Max (2009, 12, 92mins Dir. Adam Elliot)

mary and max

An amazing film about a friendship between a man with Autism in New York and his pen pal. A lonely little girl in Australia.

Mary and Max is one of the most beautiful and emotional films you will ever watch. While the colour palette has been deliberately kept to browns and greys to reflect the lives of the two protagonists, this film is anything but.

You’ll laugh out loud at some of the childish musings of Mary (Toni Collette) and you will cry at the tragedy of Max’s (Philip Seymour Hoffman) life.

mary and max meetIf there was ever a film that could be described as a roller coaster of emotion, this is truly it. It’s about finding a partner in loneliness and making your way in a world that perhaps doesn’t accept who you are. 

The design and animation is beautiful, and the soundtrack will have you humming The Penguin Cafe Orchestra for weeks. One word of caution, this is rated 12, and like Alice, it is not really intended for children.

 

3) Chicken Run (2000, U, 81mins Dir. Peter Lord & Nick Park)

chicken run poster

No list about stop motion is complete without at least one Aardman entry. I decided to go with Chicken Run, because it was the first feature film they produced. I remember going to the cinema to see it with my family, and everyone enjoyed it. Even when watching it back now it really stands the test of time.

chickensThe story is essentially The Great Escape, but with chickens. It sounds absurd when said out loud, and it’s this slightly eccentric absurdity that makes this work so well. The humour is daft British through and through and the voice performances from the cast are great and really help to make the chickens characters that you feel for and are with every step of the way.

You can tell that this is an Aardman production, the chickens have the iconic Aardman mouth made famous from Wallace And Gromit, and the humour is so British there may as well be a bowler hat floating at the top of the screen the whole time.

Gather the family round one Saturday night with some popcorn and you are all guaranteed a good time.

2) Coraline (2009, PG, 101mins Dir. Henry Selick)

coralie top

Based on a novella by Neil Gaiman this animation was brought to life by the animator Henry Selick, who also brought us such delights as James and the Giant Peach and Monkeybone.

This is one of several films released in the last few years that really hits the sweet spot in being great for kids and adults alike.

coraline other motherIt is full of magic and wonder at the start when Coraline explores the alternate world she finds in a small door in the living room. However the film takes a much darker turn when Coraline’s wishes for a more attentive family come with a caveat she’s not so happy with. Her ‘Other Mother’ who has constructed this alternative world of amazing feats and characters, wants to sew buttons in her eyes. Coraline revolts and has to fight for her life against the ‘Other Mother’.

This manages to balance the magic and the darkness perfectly, and whilst this might be a little too scary for younger kids this will give slightly older children (and adults) a great thrill when the dreams start to crumble and Coraline isnt so sure what to believe anymore.

I’m fairly certain this has had a helping hand from our friend CGI to create some of the special effects, but you will be honestly amazed at some of the shots and the scenes that the animators were able to create with puppets and cameras. It is truly breathtaking.

1) The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993, PG, 73mins, Dir. Henry Selick)

 

nbc

This is the first stop motion film I remember truly falling in love with and helped to inspire my love of all things stop motion.

Everything is great about this film. The characters, despite being mostlly monsters from Hallowe’en Town are all relatable. We’ve all felt like Jack, no longer content with what surrounds us, and in need of something new to explore. Sally, also desperate to escape and help Jack all she can.

salyThe songs are just wonderful, all of which were written by Danny Elfman, there’s an array of different musical styles and are all sing along-able. From Jack’s Lament on the curly hill to Ooogie Boogie’s song in his lair of dirty tricks.

Then there’s the  design. I first saw this when I was 6 years old. I am now 28 and even now I can watch it and still spot something new. There’s so much detail put into it, you can see every line in the field with the curly hill, you can see all the small, insignificant details and the minor background characters given the same attention as the stars.

The animation itself may seem a little clunky and not as swish as some of the more modern stop motion films, but for it’s time it was very pioneering. It was the first film to use a metal ‘skeleton’ in the puppets to keep them in place.

This_Is_Halloween

Even the story and the tone was quite brave at the time, though Disney are now quite proud of NBC and include it in their merchandise in their stores at the time they tried to distance themselves from it by releasing it under the Touchstone label they created for more ‘adult’ content. Now it is considered a classic of children’s movies and animated movies.

 

Jake’s Top 5 Podcasts

I’ve loved podcasts since I started discovering video game sites on the internet in the mid 2000’s. They’ve been a constant presence in my life and have got me through many boring commutes to college, uni and now work. I’ve learned some amazing things about life, video games and a multitude of other subjects. After listening to some of these guys for years now I feel like I know them personally, the way they have let thousands of fans be a part of their lives is amazing.

 

Thankfully these days it’s easier than ever to get a hold of podcasts, most phones come with pre-installed software to download them and I’ve also included links to the podcasts in the headers:

 

5.How To Be a Person

how to be a person

Regular Hosts: Mike Drucker, Jess Dweck

 

This podcast follows the socially awkward team of Mike and Jess as they receive life lessons from their comedy pals. Each episode starts off with a full background of the current guest and ends with the topic that they have brought to teach the hosts.

 

This is a consistently great podcast, most of the guests have some comedy background so you’re always going to get some hilarious anecdotes. The part that is so endearing to me is the way the hosts and guests talk so candidly about their lives not matter how embarrassing the situation was. Topics they’ve covered so far include how to draw, make friends, be a parent, stop smoking, write a movie, survive heartbreak and be a scientist. Whether you’re interested in the subject or not you’ll always learn something useful or funny.

 

4.How2Wrestling

 

how2wrestling

 

Regular Hosts: Jo Graham, Kefin Mahon

 

A show designed to teach the uninitiated how to watch, understand and maybe even enjoy the ‘sport’ of professional wrestling. If you’re curious about wrestling but have no idea where to start, this is the place. Kefin is the resident wrestling expert while Jo is a new fan who’s ready to learn all about headlocks, sleeper holds and heel turns.

 

That’s not to say that there’s nothing to enjoy if you’re already into wrestling, most episodes function as a history of a specific wrestler so there are always some fun/weird/scary facts to learn about people like Hulk Hogan, John Cena and Stone Cold Steve Austin. They have also done some more general episodes that deal with things like wrestling slang/terminology or the reason WWE has so many different shows on every week. They also cover wrestlers new and old so you can start to build a wide knowledge base of wrestling legends and current up-and-comers.

 

This is also one of the few British podcasts I listen to, it’s fun to hear about all this wrestling madness from a perspective that’s closer to home. The hosts Jo and Kefin are absolutely charming together and they’re really good about featuring user comments on the show, I got one of my tweets read on ep 5 How2Shield which was awesome to hear.

 

3.Talking Simpsons

 

talking simpsons

 

Regular Hosts: Bob Mackey, Chris Antista, Henry Gilbert

 

There’s a special thing that happens when you get a bunch of Simpsons fans in the same room together, we can communicate purely in Simpsons quotes. When the Laser Time podcast guys realised they couldn’t stop doing this on their other podcasts they decided to make a separate show to get it out of their system and so Talking Simpsons was born.

 

This is the first podcast from the Laser Time Network on my list, I’ve been following these guys since they all used to write for the website GamesRadar around 2008. So when they all eventually left I gladly followed them to their own independent site where they have started a multitude of podcasts under the Laser Time banner.

 

Talking Simpsons is a chronological exploration of The Simpsons starting from episode 1, it gives an overview of the episode plot line complete with sound clips of the best parts. They also have a lot of behind the scenes info about the making of the show and explain some of the more obscure jokes. One of my favourite parts is hearing the host’s personal experiences watching these episodes as kids and there is lots of 90s talk to hit all those nostalgia buttons.

 

At the time of writing the first season of Talking Simpsons is only available to contributors to the Laser Time Patreon but since they’ve started the season 2 the new episodes are free for everyone.

 

2.The Giant Bombcast

 

giant bombcast

 

Regular Hosts: Brad Shoemaker, Jeff Gerstmann, Drew Scanlon, Dan Ryckert

 

Giant Bomb is my all time favourite website and as long as they keep doing what they’re doing it always will be. The Giant Bombcast is one of the longest running weekly podcasts ever, the episodes usually run around 2-3 hours long and at the time of writing there have been about 932 episodes. That alone doesn’t make it great though. The Bombcast has been one of the great constants in my podcast life and they’ve been consistently funny for over 8 years now.

 

At it’s core the show is simply a weekly round up of all things in video games but it’s the personalities that will keep you coming back. All the hosts have amazing chemistry together, members have come and gone as people have joined and left the site but Jeff, Brad and Drew have always kept the show running smoothly. They are all really passionate about video games but aren’t afraid to admit how dumb they can be sometimes.

 

This isn’t just a show for video game fans though. The first segment of the show is usually just the hosts talking about what they got up to at the weekend. They also take listener emails at the end of the show which can hit upon any topic imaginable. You can get an email about pooping habits followed by one about the mysteries of space! Whatever the question/topic the Bombcast crew is more than happy to oblige.

 

1.Thirty Twenty Ten

 

302010

 

Regular Hosts: Brett Elston, Diana Goodman, Chris Antista, Henry Gilbert

 

This is one of the most unique podcasts I’ve ever heard. Thirty Twenty Ten is an exploration of what was happening in pop culture this week 30 years ago, 20 years ago and 10 years ago. So currently they’re taking a look at 1986, 1996 and 2006. They cover any important things they can find for that week like movies, music, TV shows, video games, comics and world events. What other podcast can you hear discussions about the Challenger explosion, the release of Underworld: Evolution and the developers of Grand Theft Auto being taken to court for an unused sex minigame all in one episode?

 

All the hosts have their own area of expertise but also offer their own personal anecdotes about what they were doing in the various time periods. This is probably the easiest podcast to recommend out of my list because it literally has something for everyone. It’s also pretty new having only started this year so there are only 14 episodes to catch up on at the time of writing and I’ve got to mention that it has an amazing theme tune done by Dotflist. It’s not too late to climb aboard the pop culture time machine!