Stardew Valley – PC Review

I don’t have that much of a history with farming games. I’ve tried the odd Harvest Moon game over the years and I am a fan of the Animal Crossing series but there’s never really been a farming game that held my interest for very long. Perhaps the living through the dark days of Farmville on Facebook soured me on the whole concept.

 

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But Stardew Valley is nowhere near as insidious as a crappy Zynga Facebook game, it’s actually one of the most pleasant gaming experiences I’ve had in recent memory.

 

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In Stardew Valley your character starts out working a soul crushing office job for the evil Joja Mega Corporation. Just as your character is at their lowest they remember a letter they received from their grandfather informing you that you’ve inherited the family farm in the picturesque town of Stardew Valley. So you quit your office job and move out in the country to start your new life. You arrive late at night and only have time to chat to the mayor before you turn in. Once you wake up on the first day of spring this is where the game really begins.

 

The first thing you’ll notice is that the farm is a little bit of a dump. The ground is covered in rocks, grass, trees and fallen logs and you’ll have to clear a path so you can actually plant anything there. Luckily you start off with a full set of tools you’ll need which was the first pleasant surprise because usually you have to scrounge around for your tools in Animal Crossing and that’s always the most frustrating part. Every time you crack a rock or chop a tree down you also get resources like stone you can use for building, hay you can feed to your animals or tree sap you can craft into fertiliser.

 

This makes even the most mundane tasks fun because there’s an extremely satisfying pop sound every time you pick something up, it just feels so good. Speaking of sound the music in this game is great, every season has a slightly different theme but they’re all relaxing and very easy to get stuck in your head. One of the spring songs is so catchy I miss it when it changes to summer but it just gives me something to look forward to when spring comes back.

 

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Daily Grind

 

Once you get into a bit of routine most of your days will consist of getting up and watering/harvesting your crops then selling them so you can expand your farming operations. There isn’t really a set goal in the game, you’re pretty much free to make money however you want. You get some quests that will slowly introduce you to some of the different mechanics like building a coop for chickens or encouraging you to explore the landscape.

 

One of the things you’ll want to explore is an abandoned mine on the outside of the town. This is where you can get ores which you’ll need to upgrade your tools and to build some of the more complicated farm buildings and machines. You can find precious stones here too that you can donate to the museum for rewards or sell for some extra cash. This is also where the game becomes more of an rpg. There are monsters down there which you’ll need to take out before you can mine in peace and you can also equip your character with armor and better swords to make it easier. The deeper you go down in the mine the better the potential rewards can be so any items that speed up your spelunking adventures really help.

 

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Time Enough at Last

 

Almost every action you take in the game slowly drains your stamina meter, this means you won’t always be able to do everything you need to do in one day. Your character also can’t stay up past 2 am which I found out the hard way while exploring the mine. If you exhaust this meter or stay up too late all that happens is you wake up in the doctor’s office but they do charge you about 500 gold which at the start can be a bit steep.

 

You can easily use half of your energy just watering your plants in the morning so you really have to plan before you head off into the mines. You can take food with you to top yourself up but you don’t want to be eating too many crops either. Sometimes it can be a lot to think about but there aren’t really any strict time limits, you can keep playing forever because the year just loops.

 

One thing you do have to watch out for is the seasons because you’re spring crops will instantly fail if you haven’t harvested them when summer comes along. I got caught out by this on my first summer but it’s the kind of thing you’ll only mess up once. The game has a bit of a harsh learning curve at times, I do think they could have included some more tutorials as there can be a lot of trial and error when you first start out. There have been a few times when I’ve had to consult the Wikia just to figure out the basic game mechanics which I don’t particularly mind but it might put new gamers off.

 

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Rancho Relaxo

 

The main thing that keeps me coming back to Stardew Valley is that it’s one of the most relaxing games I’ve ever played. Granted there can be a sense of urgency when you’re delving deep into the mines and it get’s a bit late but even then there isn’t much of a penalty if you mess anything up. The game lets you do everything on your own time which is great if you haven’t got the chance to play for hours on end. It also borders on addictive at times, I always find myself wanting to just do one more day which can often turn into about 20 more.

 

On it’s surface Stardew Valley seems like a simple game but there’s immense depth to be uncovered if you’re willing. It’s all the more impressive when you learn that this game was all made by 1 person (Developer Eric Barone). I really can’t recommend this game enough, its PC specs are so low almost any PC can run it and at the time of writing it was £10.99 on Steam so it’s definitely value for money.

 

★★★★★

Vacation (2015) Review

In 1983 Clark Griswold took his family on a road trip they would never forget, and they were going to enjoy it. Whether they liked it or not. Clark’s desperation to provide an unforgettable experience for his kid and bring the family together provided many laughs and many sequels.

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Hello Griswolds!

The movie was a bit of a hit and there is a sense of fond memories surrounding it. So naturally it needed to be remade for a whole new generation to enjoy it, because as we all know you need to re-make it or it ceases to exist. Or the makers just wanted to jump on the nostalgia bandwagon and unnecessarily remake something to make a quick buck. Having watched this failed fart of a movie, I  strongly suspect it was the latter.

This time round it is Rusty (Ed Helm) who is the desperate patriarch trying to provide his family with an unforgettable holiday they’ll fondly remember for years to come. For those of you with keen memories you might remember him as the son from the original round of movies, making this more than just a straight remake. It’s sort of a reboot, or sequel of some sorts. I suspect the term ‘updated for modern audiences’ and ‘edgy’ was used in the pitch.

The story kicks of with Rusty flying a plane for an economy airline. A small child excitedly asks if he is a pilot when on the way to the toilet, which results in Rusty accidentally sexually assaulting the child’s mother during some turbulence. This provides the movies first of many ‘Really?!’ moments. Seriously, this is the 21st Century surly we have moved past the ‘accidentally on purpose feeling a woman’s breasts’. It’s a joke that feels like it belongs in a bawdy 1960s hospital, not in a film released in 2015. This scene pretty much sets up the tone for the rest of the movie, and I can promise you it only gets worse from here on in. Better buckle up because the pilot has put on the safety belt sign. 

borhtersAfter his little jaunt Rusty returns home to his wife, Debbie (Christina Applegate) and two kids James, (Skyler Gisondo) and Kevin (Steele Stebbins). We see James, the older child being bullied by his younger brother Kevin. A running joke that doesn’t work. The writers were obviously so pleased at coming up with what they thought was a subversive idea of having the younger brother bullying the older one, that they failed to realise they would need to make the jokes funny. Or give it a decent conclusion where they learn to get along or at least have some sort of mutual respect in the end. Instead throughout we get treated to some very dull swearing and highly unimaginative name calling that relies heavily on sexism. As a result of this pathetic bantering neither of the boys feel like real people. In fact none of them feel like they are real people.

Part of the charm of the original was Clark felt like he could be real. Yes he was a bit over the top and on occasion you wondered how social services had never been called to their house. At the end of the day though he was a Dad who just wanted to spend some time with his kids, and even though they were American they all felt they could be your next door neighbours or your school chums or your work mate. This pile of one dimensional caricatures flailing about in poop and vomit are not people you want anywhere near you.

Once Rusty discovers that his family hates the annual vacation a log log cabin in Cheboygan he decides to surprise them all with a road trip to Wally World! Just like he did with his dad. The next day he comes home with a bizarre looking car, (there is a length and unfunny sequence showing just how bizarre it is)  and with trepidation the rest of the family join Rusty on a trip to Wally World.

The only real sequence Christina Applegate gets to try and stretch her comedic wings is the first stop. At her old sorority house. They are doing the annual chug Run for Asperger’s, (which provides at least two jokes around the mis-pronunciation of Ass Burgers, yes it sinks that low) which involves chugging a pitcher of beer and then attempting a Total Wipeout-esque obstacle course. Debbie gets challenged to do the chug run for the first time in twenty years, when the current sisters discover she is the famous Debby Does Anything. She gets knocked off almost immediately and proceeds to  vomit everywhere. It fell as flat as she did. There is no joke here. It’s just a woman vomiting. 

I’m not averse to gross out humour, I was raised on a diet of Farley Brothers and Adam Sandler comedies. I can handle gross humour, but there needs to be a joke to go with it. This appears to be being gross just for the sake of seeing a woman vomiting.

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Raw Sewage is actually a better, and more accurate title for the movie.

After this there are scenes involving them bathing in raw sewage, Chris Hemsworth’s enormous penis, Rusty bursting through a cow, and some dangerous rapids. Each and every one more horrible than the next making you slink further and further into your seat in the hope that if you reach the ground it will just stop or turn out to be some kind of hideous dream. 

None of it works, none of it is funny. The gross out humour isn’t humour, it’s just gross. The basic plot sort of works, it’s just a series of skits loosely tied together with the vague premise of a road trip. 

_DSC6085.DNGThe one saving grace that provided a couple of laughs was the cameos. Maybe it’s because I have a soft spot for Kaitlin Olson and Charlie Day from their work in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but their separate cameos were some of the very few times I laughed during the 1hr 35min running time. Though when they’re gone you’re left wondering what they were doing in such a garbage heap of a movie. Maybe they lost a bet or owed a favour, or maybe they just needed the money. 

The other great cameo that provided a much needed comic relief in this festering cesspool of unfunny jokes is the man himself, Clark Griswold! That’s right Chevy chase and Beverly D’Angelo make an appearance to reprise their old roles and show these young whippersnappers how it’s done. Clark and Ellen are living conveniently close to Wally World making a perfect pit stop for Rusty and co to drop by before their final destination.

I know Chevy Chase has courted controversy in the past for his behaviour, and he might not be everyone’s favourite comedian of all time ever, but I have a soft spot for him thanks to his appearances in the video for You can Call Me Al (One of my favourite songs) and as Pierce in the sitcom Community. I got more laughs out of the five or ten minutes he was on screen then I did for the rest of the movie combined.

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What you’ll look like five minutes in.

This is a truly terrible movie filled with ill-timed and disgusting jokes that land as well the pilot from Airplane! There is really very little enjoyment here for anyone, there isn’t even an element of ‘so bad it’s good’ to it. Just avoid it at all costs.

☆☆☆☆

 

Absolutely Fabulous Review

Hi sweetie darling sweetie! Grab a bottle of bolly and settle into yourself into your favourite designer arm chair, the most fabulous comedy of the year is here.

I’m going to start this review by saying that I love the Ab Fab TV series, growing up it was one of the few shows my mum and I could agree on. The antics of Eddie, Patsy, Saffy and Gran had us in stitches. I even called my guinea pigs Eddie and Patsy I love it that much.

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Eddie (left) and Patsy (right) Pig

You can bet your bottom dollar that I was there, excitedly lining up to get tickets to see the glitzy spectacular with my mum. We grabbed our cocktails, our bolly and a copious amount of chocolate and settled ourselves in for a glittering spectacle.

So bearing all that in mind, I’m saddened to report I was a little disappointed.

The movie starts off with Eddie learning that Kate Moss is looking for a new PR person, with her career in decline Eddie decides she needs to get Kate on her books to give herself the well needed professional boost. Thankfully Patsy is throwing a big glamorous celebrity party, and you’ll never guess who’s RSVP’d! That’s right, the face of modern modelling herself, Kate Moss.

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So far so good, and the film opens with a great sequence where Eddie and Patsy accidentally end up on a runway as they enter a fashion show a little late and they try and find their seats. These are two inherently funny ladies, who can make you laugh from a single awkward movement or withering look. So it’s sad to see this potential not fully lived up to in other parts of the movie.  

In her haste to beat a rival PR agent for a chance to speak with Kate at the party Eddie knocks Kate from her perch on a wall, throwing her in the Thames.

A shame faced Eddie and Patsy have to go on the run in order to avoid the hounding press, and the murder allegations. So off they fly to the only place they can hide in the comfort and luxury they’ve become accustomed to, the South of France.


edna mole cropThe film is funny, there are plenty of laughs to be had here. However I felt that they just weren’t often or consistent enough for me. It starts of quite strong, and once they hit Cannes in the South of France things start to fall apart a little and become a little too silly in places. Over all, it felt a little like a regular episode stretched into ninety minutes. The side plot involving Patsy sticking on a fake moustache and marrying the richest woman in the world (a little old lady who looks a little like a real life Edna Mole from The Incredibles. I kept expecting her to shout NO CAPES! At any moment) was a little too out there for my tastes, and didn’t really add anything to the plot or the laugh count.  

As I mentioned before Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley are very funny women, it’s in their bones. They have an amazing on screen chemistry fostered by years of working together, and you can tell they were having an absolute blast making the film. Joanna Lumley really shines as Patsy, she really took the opportunity to make the most of being as horrible as possible and is great fun to watch.

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Lots of frowning for Saffy

Almost all of the other characters from the show make an appearance at some point, there’s Saffy (Julia Sawalha) and Gran (June Whitfield), of course. Bubble (Jane Horrocks) pops up with some of her most outlandish outfits yet. I did feel that Saffy (who was always my favourite) got a little sidelined and was left with nothing but shouting insults at Patsy and frowning a lot. Gran is as dotty as ever, though she is good fun.

The slew of celebrity cameos did little for me, they just weren’t funny enough really, and gave the feel that this was a big luvvie love in where all the rich and fabulous all got together to congratulate each other on their own fabulousness. Though I must admit the ones they managed to get were very impressive and it just goes to show how well thought of the show is amongst the celebrity elite.

If you’re a fan of the show you will enjoy it. It is fun watching the characters having a big screen romp, everything is bigger and better and more extravagant than ever.  However, if you’ve never seen or didn’t like the TV show then I think there will be little for you to grasp onto. It does rely on it’s audience already having a knowledge of the characters, their background and relationships with one another. There is a scene where Eddie and Patsy draught in two of their silly friends to swap places with them, though there is no intro for them or any real explanation as to who they are. If I hadn’t seen the show,  I think I would be a little lost.

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If you’re looking for a bit of fun on a Friday night with the girls, then this will be a good bet. It’s silly and fun and is best enjoyed with cocktails. If you’re looking for something as good or insightful as the TV show then I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed, just like I was.

★★★☆☆

The Visit (2015) Review

I love the found footage genre of horror films. In the days where we are constantly filming everything it gives these movies an unsettling and familiar visual style. But when done badly they can be utterly confusing barf fests that just leave people annoyed at the end of it. Luckily star director M. Night Shyamalan and the producers of Paranormal Activity have made something better than your standard Blair Witch knock off.

 

This review will contain some mild spoilers about plot moments

 

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We start the movie being introduced to our main characters, the brother and sister team Becca and Tyler who will be our camera operators for most of the movie. One thing that struck me straight away was that these characters are impossibly quirky for real people. They do have some believable personal moments throughout but a lot of their dialogue just doesn’t seem right for their age. The basic premise is that they are going to stay with their grandparents for a week that they’ve never met before because their mother left home on very bad terms with them.

 

Becca is an aspiring filmmaker and wants to make a documentary so she can finally get the real story on why the family is estranged. She also hopes she can get some closure for her mother and maybe mend some bridges along the way. We get some fun moments during their train journey but we also get the first instance of the movie’s most cringey recurring joke, Tyler’s amateur rapping. I’m all for moments of comedy in horror films, it can provide much needed levity when things get tough to watch but this white kid’s rapping sucks. M. Night clearly thought this was hilarious for some reason because it’s revisited about 4 times.

 

So anyway the kids are greeted at the train station by their grandparents, referred to as Nana and Pop Pop for the rest of the movie. There is a general air of uneasiness at first but the kids put it down to everyone meeting each other for the first time. The kids bake cookies with Nana, get a tour of the house with Pop Pop and eventually settle in for the night. This is when Pop Pop tells the kids the one house rule “Bedtime here is 9:30. It’s probably best if you two shouldn’t come out of your room after that. See you in the morning”.

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What a Horrible Night to Have a Curse

About an hour later Becca decides she can probably sneak down to get some more cookies without disturbing anyone so sets out with her camera. As she starts going downstairs Nana walks into frame and starts projectile vomiting, understandably Becca freaks out and gets the hell out of there. Next morning she speaks to Pop Pop about it who explains is away as a 24 hour stomach bug. This is pretty much the format of the movie, it’s a lot like Paranormal Activity in that way. Each new day there’s a title card so you know how many days the kids have left to endure and most of the scary stuff happens at night. I like this day/night format because I can get all anxious and excited for what crazy stuff is going to happen that night, then you are relieved when you see it’s daytime again.

 

As you can imagine things escalate every night. Nana is extremely creepy, she runs around the house at night naked scratching at the walls and banging doors. I think at first you’re supposed to think she’s possessed but again Pop Pop explains this away as sundowning, which is a form of heightened dementia that sets in once the sun goes down. Deanna Dunagan who plays Nana is really impressive, the way she crawls around and growls with her hair over her face is horrifying and she’s scarily nimble for a 76 year old. It’s the kind of character that you don’t even want to look at but you can’t tear your eyes away because you want to know she’s going to do next.

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What a Twist!

Knowing that this is an M. Night Shyamalan horror movie most people will be on the lookout for a plot twist. Disappointingly I did guess part of the twist while I was watching but it didn’t invalidate the rest of the movie for me, I still wanted to see how it all turned out.

 

This felt like a pretty personal project for M. Night, it has a really small cast of characters and I felt like Becca represented the young filmmaker in him. It also a much smaller movie than he’d been making recently and it has an incredible short cast list. I liked this aspect of it because you got to spend a lot of time with the important people and it gave him more time to linger on interpersonal moments when the movie needed it.

 

This movie really preyed on my fears of old people, it had some genuinely scary and unsettling moments. There were also some fairly disturbing moments involving an adult diaper which I’d like to forget. In contrast to the horror it also had some pretty effective moments of heart and introspection from the kids which work surprisingly well. I liked The Visit way more that I thought I would and while parts of it may have been formulaic I came away satisfied with the ending… until they had Tyler rap again over the credits!

★★★★☆

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Tyler’s Rapping: ☆☆☆☆☆

 

5 Modern Sci-Fi Films You Should Probably Watch

Just do it.

The Machine (2013)

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A prime example of a film with an unoriginal concept (military trying to create super-soldier cyborg types to defeat a pesky Cold War enemy) but with great execution. Like most of the films on this list, the budget for The Machine was low (around the £1million mark) but they still managed to bag a decent cast (Toby Stephens, Denis Lawson, Caity Lotz) and make fantastic use of the low key location. Lotz steals the show, her transformation from enthusiastic young graduate to kick-ass cyborg is sublime, though Stephens puts in a decent performance as the scientist driven to obsession. There are some delightfully well choreographed fight sequences and while it is a little naval gazing and slow in parts, it does pose some interesting questions, and the ending stays with you.

 

The Final Cut (2004)

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Before Black Mirror plunged in there with its weird dystopian visions (that seem to be coming fruition scarily enough), Omar Naim produced this little known nugget of sci-fi weirdness. Released during the period where Robin Williams was throwing out some curveball performances (One Hour Photo, Insomnia), The Final Cut sees him playing it a little more straight and restrained as Alan Hakman, a cutter who is drawn into a dangerous game of intrigue and blackmail. The Final Cut is not going to win, and didn’t win, any Oscars, it’s structure and plot are pretty standard. However, the world building and concepts are where the film really comes into its own, and you sort of wish they had kept the focus on that instead of heading down the action thriller route. Either way, The Final Cut is a strong and interesting entry into Robin Williams’ filmography.

 

Grabbers (2012)

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Lots of jokes about being drunk. Check. An alcoholic lead character. Check. Excessive use of the word ‘feck’. Check. All the hallmarks of a decent Irish film, and Grabbers is no different. It’s a proper no frills, sci-fi/horror/comedy monster film, with some amusingly gory deaths, daft plot twists, and amiable character stereotypes. The monsters are fantastically realized and the one key aspect of their biology leads to residents of the island retreating to pub and getting pissed. Grabbers does nothing new, it owes a lot to Tremors, however the film has such heart and wit, and some gorgeous cinematography, that it is more than enough to make watching this film well worth your time. And have a few drinks while you’re at it.

 

Coherence (2013) 

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Coherence is an absolute mind-fuck (excuse my French). It starts as a seemingly straight forward relationship drama with a lot of smug people sitting round a dinner table, however after an astronomical anomaly passes by, things begin going south. Coherence sets out a truly fascinating ‘what if’ scenario. What if we existed on parallel realities but co-existed on the same plane? What if we saw those ‘other’ versions of ourselves but they weren’t quite ‘us’? What if we interacted with those ‘others’? The major thrill in Coherence is that you don’t know which characters or which ‘others’ you are watching at any one time, you don’t know whose reactions are legitimate. Where you watching the ‘others’ in the first place? Are the ‘others’ just as baffled as confused as the first set of characters we meet or are they already aware of the situation? Coherence is a film that deserves multiple re-watches and almost requires it, and it also deserves a first watch so get going onto Netflix and seek it out.

 

Primer (2004) 

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When I first watched Primer I didn’t quite understand what was happening. When I watched Primer for the second time I still didn’t quite understand what was happening. Primer is an obtuse, borderline impenetrable piece of work, but therein lies its charm. Shane Carruth (director/writer/producer/actor) refuses to dumb down the science or give people massive doses of exposition to help them understand exactly what is going on. The plot of Primer is a simple one to start with; two friends invent a device in a garage which they discover can send objects back in time, however, their relationship begins to fracture as does their grip on what they have created. Primer is a staggering bit of cinema when you consider the size of its budget ($7000), the fact that no one in the film had acted before, and that Carruths had never written or directed before. Like Coherence, Primer is on Netflix and it is worth keeping on your ‘to watch’ list even after you’ve watched it for the third or fourth time.

Independence Day: Resurgence Review

I’m going to confess that I’m not really a fan of the first Independence Day movie. It definitely has it’s moments, I like the suspense they create before the aliens attack but as soon as everything starts blowing up I lose interest. Going into this movie I had really low expectations, I’d been hearing early review buzz and all signs were pointing to this being one of the worst movies of the summer. As it turns out going in with low expectations is probably the best way to experience Independence Day: Resurgence.

 

This review will contain story spoilers.

 

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Welcome to Earth

 

As the film opens we’re treated to a quick fly over of Washington DC so we can see how advanced civilization has came since the first movie. The people of 1996 who defeated the aliens in the last movie took their technology and used it to advance our own even going so far as to copy their landmark destroying weapons. As we pan over all the future things they replay Bill Pullman’s iconic Independence Day speech. We also learn that one of the ships that landed in 1996 has transmitted the recording of Pullman to all their buddies and now they’re really pissed off!

 

We follow a character into the white house with the camera behind him, he stops just outside the oval office to take in a gold framed painting on the wall. A painting of Steven Hiller AKA Will Smith who’s been killed between movies because he wouldn’t reprise his role. I burst out laughing at this because it just looks so goofy. They were clearly thought this would be a cool moment but it looks like a promotional image from the first movie.

 

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Just imagine a big fancy frame around this photo and you’re basically there.

 

It also turns out that this young man we’ve been following is Hiller’s son Dylan, who’s followed in his father’s footsteps and became an ace fighter pilot. They are trying to introduce some new blood into the franchise but the problem is that they don’t get rid of any of the old guys. They bring back pretty much everyone you care about: Ex-President Pullman is back with a beard this time, Jeff Goldblum is probably the closest you get to a main character here, the two weird scientists get to rekindle their relationship and Judd Hirsch even shows up to be a ridiculous cartoon character of a man.

 

Quietly out of the Night

 

This movie goes at breakneck speed throughout. There’s absolutely no suspense when the aliens show up after what feels like 15 mins. They just appear literally out of nowhere in a huge ship and make quick work of Earth’s puny defenses stationed on the moon. They say the ship is about 3000 miles long, so big that it has it’s own gravity. All the aliens need to do is fly over London and within seconds it’s completely destroyed under chunks of our own British hubris *drops monocle*.

 

To be honest though all the destruction and action scenes throughout were a bit lackluster in my opinion. These scenes would have been cool in 1997 but after all the crazy Michael Bay and Zack Snyder madness we’ve had since then you need to do more to impress jaded action movie fans.

 

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Gooey Center

 

So after landing their ship over the entire Northern Atlantic Ocean their uninspired plan is to drill a mile wide hole all the way down to the Earth’s core and extract all of our delicious liquid hot magma. Just like Dr. Evil’s plan in the first Austin Powers movie except our evil aliens aren’t concerned with getting 1 million dollars, just revenge.

 

One thing I was hoping for in this movie was a little bit more of the alien’s backstory but they didn’t deliver. You’ll notice I’m referring to them as the aliens a lot, that’s because they don’t even give us any other name for them. All they tell us is that they steal other planet’s resources to power their ships and that each mother ship has a (stop me if you’ve heard this one before) queen alien that controls all of the drone warriors. I don’t know if it’s just me but I need some back story for my villains so I can get invested in their plan.

 

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The Saga Begins

 

While the aliens are setting up their mining operation the humans uncover a mysterious orb that happens to be part of an advanced civilization that has been battling the jerk aliens for years now. So this is the moment that the franchise hooks really embed themselves. The scientists learn from the orb that there is a galactic refugee planet which is the only place safe from the jerk aliens (see, this is why they need a real name!) and this orb was coming to invite Earth to be a part of it so we could avoid destruction.

 

This was the only part of the movie that really interested me, Humans joining up with a bunch of weird good aliens to fight evil aliens sounds like a much better movie idea. However this revelation did devalue the movie for me because from then on all I could think about how I’d rather be watching the sequel. They out their own movie as simply a stepping stone about an hour before the end. This made the final battle feel really flat because we already knew that this alien queen is only the start of Earth’s battle.

 

So yeah, as you can imagine they blow up the queen seconds before the laser reaches the Earth’s core and the world is saved!…Except there’s now a mile wide hole in the middle of the Northern Atlantic Ocean that goes down most of the way to the core. Now I’m no scientist but I think that would cause a few problems for our little blue planet.

 

Movie: “Screw your pesky science, it’s Independence Day!”

 

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I could only recommend this movie as a rental, there’s just not enough substance here to warrant full ticket price. There is some fun to be had if you turn your brain off and just let the stupid one liners and explosions wash over you but it loses it’s charm if you start to think too deeply about it.

 

★★☆☆☆

 

Why I love Working Girl

Working Girl was a pretty big hit when it was first released, and even garnered itself six Oscar Nominations, including one win for Best Original Song. More recently though it seems to have been forgotten about a little. It rarely turns up in people’s top ten of all time ever favourite movies, and most younger people have never heard of it let alone seen it.

tess beforeWorking Girl is one of my very favourite films. It makes me sad that it seems to get little love these days. Maybe it’s because it’s a little cheesy in parts. Maybe the giant hair is a little too much and the shoulder pads too broad and pointy. Maybe it’s because it can be a little sentimental in places. Or maybe it’s because the title makes it sound like the dodgy bargain bin version of Pretty Woman.

For me these are all positive points, I love the 80sness of it all. I love the hokey ending, and the questionable fashion choices. It has some of the best lessons in feminism and women in the workplace whilst all being wrapped in a candy coated rom-com coating.

The film follows the story of Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith), a go getting 30 year old woman. She worked hard a night school to get her degree, and probably knows more about the markets then the men she works for. She is desperate to make her way in the world of Wall Street, and will take any opportunity given to her, though these are few and far between and often a ‘business meeting’ organised by her boss turns out to be a hook up for his friend. After one such run in with Bob (Kevin Spacey) she humiliates her boss showing them she is not a forced to be reckoned with. She wants to get ahead, but she wants to do it on her own terms, not just because she slept with someone.

tess and kathAfter returning back to the office and humiliating the boss who set her up with Bob she gets re-assigned to work for Katherine Parker, who is delightfully over played by Sigourney Weaver. Weaver is able to play the supportive, yet underhanded boss very well, even if she occasionally veers off into Disney Villain territory.

Katherine appears to be the perfect boss, she listens to Tess and encourages her to come to her with ideas for their clients,with the promise of reward for hard work.

One day Tess comes to Katherine with an idea for a client to buy a radio station. Katherine appears to listen and take and interest. Though just before her departure to Europe on a skiing trip she informs Tess the idea was a no goer. The inevitable happens and Katherine breaks her leg whilst away, leaving Tess to look after her apartment until she can return.

Katherine represents everything Tess wants to be, elegant, poised, sophisticated, and, above all in power. So of course in an attempt to mimic her Tess goes through all of Katherine’s things, including her Dictaphone, which just so happens to contain a memo about Tess’ idea that Katherine has kept for herself.

fancy dress

So it turns out Katherine was a massive lying dirt bag all along. Tess decides not to take this lying down, ‘cause she actually kicks ass. She sets up a meeting with Jack Trainer (the ever sexy Harrison Ford). The night before the big meeting Tess gets dolled up in Katherine’s finest clothes to attend a party where the famous Mr Trainer will also be in attendance.

He espies her across the room and tells her Jack Trainer just left before she got there, but she should totally have a tequila with him to make up for it. She ends up getting hammered, thanks in part to the Valium she had taken earlier to calm her nerves.

 

I love this scene, it’s all about how you can be an empowered woman who can handle business without having to give up your femininity and dress, as Jack Trainer himself puts it ‘ how a woman would think a man would dress if he was a woman’

jack trainer

Together Tess and Jack pull together the deal with the client, and on the big meeting between the client and the radio station they are buying Katherine returns from Europe, and discovered Tess’ double-cross when she finds her diary that was left behind in her haste to leave and get to the meeting.

sigourney weaverKatherine manages to get dressed and down to the office where the negotiations are taking place and burst through the door like the wonderfully campy villain she is and kicks Tess out for lying and stealing her idea, all whilst flailing her crutches about. Though at the final meeting the truth prevails. Katherine gets her comeuppance and Tess gets her reward in a new job in a junior position with a new firm, as well as falling in love with Jack. 

On Tess’ first day in her new job she automatically places her things on the secretary’s desk, only to be told by the woman appearing from the fancy office that she is in fact the secretary and the office now belongs to Tess. As she does her introductions to her new employee she decides not to be like Katherine, and be a better boss and a better support.

alec baldwinThere are so many lessons to be learnt from Working Girl, you don’t need to pretend to be a man in order to fit in in places of business. You don’t need to sleep with someone to get ahead. It’s OK to get rid of unsupportive people in your life (At one point Tess finds her unsupportive boyfriend (Alec Baldwin) in bed with another woman, so she kicks him to the curb). It’s OK to be supportive to your friends with aspirations, Tess’ best friend, Cynthia (Joan Cusack, who also has the best ever New York accent and some of the highest hair I’ve ever seen) is always there for her, no matter what. Even joan cusackwhen she might not agree with Tess’s actions, she supports them and doesn’t judge her for wanting a career over her cheating boyfriend. Above all, it’s about how everyone should come together and supportive of each other in the workplace in order to achieve equality. We are a little closer to this goal nearly thirty years on, but with men still in the vast majority of positions of power we still have a way to go.

Yes, the production values are little dated. Yes, the fashion choices are questionable. Yes, it’s a little fluffy and things happen at the convenience of the plot. But this is a wonderful film, it’s hard not to get swept up with Tess’ ambitions and fight to be taken seriously in a world dominated by men. She refuses to give up her morals for the sake of getting ahead. She is truly a feminist hero and a great inspiration for any young woman wanting to enter big business.

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)

If you grew up or were born in the 80s, that chances are you watched the Teenage Mutant Nina Turtles at some point. Me and my brother, we were huge fans out mum even made a turtle costume for us to play turtles with. Here’s the photo to prove it.  little me

In the UK they were called Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, just incase kids were corrupted by ancient martial arts and nunchucks or something like that. The reasons are a little hazy.

I haven’t seen this since I was a young kid, and I remember it being… Not great, but then what did I know, I thought  . When it was my turn to choose the movie for  my regular bucket o’ chicken night with my friend I had a hankering for some nostalgia, and I wanted to wipe the Michael Bay effort from my mind.

So, the movie starts out with various news outlets reporting about a spate of break ins and gang activity in New York, which has been linked to a Foot Clan, which originated in Japan.

A plucky young reporter by the name of April O’Neil comes under attack in the Subway after some super sleuthing  led her to talk about the Foot Clan on television. After she gets knocked unconscious a mysterious turtle like figure comes to the rescue and takes her back to his sewer.

turtlesHere April meets the rest of the Turtles, Leonardo, Donatello, and Michelangelo (Raphael being the one who rescued her), as well as their master, Splinter.

At this point it’s worth mentioning that the characterisations are spot on. Even through those strange rubber suits, they’re all just as I remember them from the show. Raph is the wise-ass, Mikey’s the party dude, Donatello’s the techy guy and Leonardo is the natural leader of the gang. Even dear old splinter is full of Eastern wisdom and serenity just like the old days. Most important of all, they’re still obsessed with pizza!

april oneillThe best character, though is April. She goes out there and follows her heart even though she could get in trouble or lose her job. The truth is what is important to her. Best of all, she has not been overly sexualised. She’s just a regular woman trying to do her job well. She’s not some glamazon, she’s not doing it for revenge or some convoluted reasons about her dad. She’s trying to be a good reporter who is accountable for her own actions. Though sometimes she’s a little left out of the action sequences she still kicks ass in her own way.  

After the introductions it becomes clear that a Foot Soldier has followed Raph back to the turtle lair, after some (intentionally) comedic fighting they all manage to escape, apart from Splinter who gets kidnapped and taken back to meet the leader of the Foot Clan, the evil Shredder.

shredderShredder doesn’t really have that much to do in the film, apart from skulk about and make threats. He also has a hat that looks like a bicycle helmet with bits stuck on and wears a top that looks like he stole it from Prince’s wardrobe, but he does a good job of skulking about.

The turtles and April team up with Casey Jones and start to prepare to take on the foot clan, and ultimately Shredder to take back the city, and their Master from the evil scourge.

I was really expecting this to be really, really terrible. Like Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter terrible. Actually, it wasn’t nearly half as bad as I remember it.

Yes, it was pretty cheesy, but so was the cartoon. If you just go with it you’ll love it. There’s plenty of bad puns and dad jokes to give you a good groan, with a secret ‘that was pretty funny’ smile. As well as some great slapstick moments.

Speaking of which, the choreography is done pretty well. When you consider they were four guys in rubber turtle suits it’s actually kind of impressive. The fight scenes are al interesting and provide a good mix of cheesy puns and actual fighting, which is never too violent as this is a PG.

splinter gif.gifThe puppetry works well even if they couldn’t quite get the hang of lip synching and Donatello has this weird thing where his lip keeps going up at the end of every sentence. Though it has to be said, the scene with a pre-mutated Splinter practising ninja moves whilst watching his own Master, Yoshi. It truly is something to behold.

 

Something else I really loved about this is that it really encapsulates the feeling of New York in the late 80s/early 90s when the city was still years away from becoming the relatively safe tourist destination it is today. It feels grimy and dirty, even though it has that PG rating it feels like there is danger in the air every time it ventures into the street of New York.

Even though it has been watered down and made acceptable for children it’s also a great showcase for how gangs operate by finding vulnerable people and giving them a place and people to call their own, a substitute family.

turtle wax

Overall this is a bit cheesy, and maybe a bit naff in parts. Sometimes the story becomes a little confused, but you still get the jist of what’s going on. It might not make a greatest ever movie list, but for what it is, it is great. A piece of nostalgia you can let wash over you like snuggling up to a favourite childhood blankie.

 

Gone Home Review – PS4

Do a cursory online search about this game and you’ll probably see a lot of forum threads asking if Gone Home can actually be classed as a video game. The gaming community has dismissively dubbed games of this nature “Walking Simulators” basically meaning it’s a game where you walk around an environment to experience a story. This is a unique type of storytelling that you can only be done in a video game, where the story can be uncovered in different ways depending on how you explore.

This review will contain general spoilers but I’ll try and keep it vague

In Gone Home you take control of Kaitlin Greenbriar as she returns home from a midnight flight in 1995. You arrive to find the house deserted and a mysterious note on the front door from your younger sister asking you not to go looking for answers. So of course my first instinct is to ignore this and start rummaging around for stuff! Along your way you’ll find handwritten notes all over the house which slowly drip feed you parts of the overall story. When you find an important piece of info you’re treated to a voice over from your sister Sam as she seems to have left you a trail of diary entries explaining what’s happened to her. 

Only 90s Kids Will Remember…

This game is awash with 90’s nostalgia, pretty much every object in the house can be picked up and examined. You’ll find cassette tapes, answering machines, old TVs, recordable VHS tapes labelled “X-Files – season 1”, Super Nintendo carts and lot’s of other innocuous household items young people won’t recognise. 

At it’s core Gone Home is a story of two young girls (your sister Sam and Lonnie) bonding over Street Fighter 2 and punk music and eventually falling in love. As you move through the house you find evidence of their cute moments together. You’ll hear about them going to a punk show together then shortly after you can find a tape of the band they were talking about which you can play in the many cassette players dotted around the house. One of my favourite parts was finding evidence of them making their own Riot Grrrl punk fanzine even showing how they glued together the front cover. This hit close to home for me because my parents met at a punk show in the 80s and punk cassette tapes, fanzines and Super Nintendo games were all things that could be found in my house growing up.

Parental Guidance 

On your travels you can also find out about their parents through notes and items. You can discover that your father is a struggling writer by finding letters back and forth with his publisher and later on coming across a depressingly large stack of his unsold books. You also find evidence that your mother has received a big promotion at her forestry job but later on Sam’s diary entries reference how distant she’s become as a result of her increasing workload. You’re not required to find out about the parents to progress the game but it really adds to your understanding of the story if you do seek it out.

It’s amazing how every piece of information you can find is connected. You’ll see something that seems unimportant like there’s a Skull ornament you can see in the foyer right at the start but you don’t find out until much later that this was the first gift Lonnie gave Sam after a trip to Mexico. Technically you could miss some of these connections too, I’m sure there’s a lot I missed on my first play through but that just makes it even more satisfying when you do link something together. 

I don’t really want to say anymore about the game because the story is best experienced for yourself. This is a pretty short game too, a normal playthrough seems to last about 2 hours depending on how thoroughly you search the house. I really enjoyed my playthrough and for me it’s been a game that has became more impressive the more I’ve been thinking about it. At the time of writing the PS4 version of Gone Home is free for PlayStation Plus subscribers till July 5th so if anything I’ve said interests you give it a download.

★★★★☆

Fantastic Four Review

spoiler alert

There are spoilers in here, so proceed with caution if you care about spoilers.

 

The Fantastic Four do not have a great history when it comes to big screen adaptations.

1994
For some reason it didn’t do well

There was the 1994 adaptation that no one really remembers, though I’m not sure how anyone could forget that Thing costume. He looks like one of the Goombas from the Mario Bros movie.

Then Marvel waited eleven years and released a reboot, after all comic book movies were farting out money by this time. It was like they couldn’t fail. Yet the 2005 movie managed to do just that. It left both critics and fans pretty cold, though it must have made some money because Marvel decided a sequel was well worth the effort.

Rise of the silver Surfer was the only Fantastic Four movie I had seen, and it was… Not good to say the least, with an incoherent plot and a lot of questions about the relationships between the characters, it was pretty excruciating to watch.

2015
Look at how dark it is. Must  be really gritty and realistic.

After so many failures I was quite surprised to hear they were doing another reboot. Naturally I approached this new reboot with some trepidation, worried that it’d be full of weird costumes and quips that just aren’t funny. My caution was well deserved.

The films starts with a young Reed Williams (Miles Teller) who gets picked on for inventing a teleport at the age of 12. He recruits the help of one Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) and the become BFFs, awww.

The science teacher declare his science project unscientific (for some reason, I suspect it was supposed to be out of fear) and declares them disqualified from the science fair. Luckily Professor Storm just so happens to be there and recruits Reed to help him and his kids Sue (Kate Mara) and Johnny (Michael. B Jordan) on a project to build a ‘quantum gate’. Which is not so much a gate, but like a pod… Thing.


After them doing some sciencey type stuff Reed, Ben, Johnny and a guy called Victor Von Doom (I bet you can’t guess what happens to that guy) go into the quantum gate on a mission for science, leaving Sue Storm back at the office to look after the computers and stuff.

green planet

Stuff goes wrong on the alternative planet they find themselves on after stabing the ground and angering it. Reed, Johnny and Ben manage to get back to the gate (though not before getting a dose of radiation) and Sue gets electrocuted from her computer or something. It was hard to tell exactly what happened with her.

Unfortunately they couldn’t save Victor Von Doom from, well, his doom and he gets left behind

After spending a few months of being hooked up to various beeping machines Reed escapes and finds his friends have been turned into a talking pile of rubble (The Thing), a fireman (The Human Torch) and an invisible lady (The Invisible Woman). He feels really guilty about this, so he escapes leaving them in the hands of the government for a year.

In the last 20 mins of the film they go back into the quantum gate for some reason and find Victor still alive, though after spending a year on a radioactive planet has left him looking kinda like a big lump of coal. After dragging him back to Earth it turns out he’s a little bitter about the whole being left on a violent glowing, radioactive planet for a year and starts to destroy the world.

doom

And here you will find the best line in the film. They’re trying to reason with Victor only to be told ‘There is no Victor, only Doom’. I can’t figure out with that was an intentional reference to Ghostbusters or if they were all in the writing room feeling very pleased with themselves for coming up with such an awesome line. I like to think it’s the latter. 

Finally the heroes get together to fight the big evil and become the Fantastic Four.

OK, so the main thing that’s wrong with this film is that It takes far, far too long to get to the good stuff, which is super heroes with some awesome powers fighting a bad guy with equally awesome (but evil) powers. This though, gets all bogged down in it’s own history. As if the audience is going to be sitting there not believing what they are seeing because they don’t know every precise detail of why that guy can light himself on fire. He’s a super hero, it’s the sort of shit they do! 

I feel it would have actually worked a lot better if they had just left the origin story thing for now and just let them have an adventure with mild references to their origins. Thus setting it up for another movie and which could concentrate on just one or two of them.

mr fantastic
It’s actual cannibal Miles Teller

Miles Teller always has a bit of a gormless look on his face and somehow manages to come across as an even less charismatic Shia laBeouf, making Mr Fantastic (as he is known once he becomes stretchy) just, meh. He’s there and he’s smart, there is nothing else to say about him. The others were just as bland. Personally I found there to be little chemistry between the main four actors. With the exception of Reed and Ben they just felt like four work colleagues who didn’t really like each other. So it felt a little forced when they come together at the end to fight the sudden appearance of Doom.

The special effects are pretty awesome and they’ve really made the characters look great and realistic once they do get their powers. It just takes so long to get to that point and the characters themselves are so bland that you simply don’t care. It’s like at Christmas when you came downstairs all excited at the presents nestled under the tree with their bright wrapping, inviting wrapping paper. Only when you tear it off it’s a roll of sellotape and a pair of black socks, not even novelty ones.

The story is just all over the place and you just don’t care about anything that happens, there’s no one strong character to route for or care about. They’re all just floundering  about with nothing to do. 

Marvel clearly really love The Fantastic Four. They keep resurrecting them every few years despite it being a major stink bomb each time. Maybe they love them too much and need to take a step back and look at it objectively. Stop dragging these poor guys through the mud, Marvel!

I’ve never read the comics, but they’ve been going for years, surely there’s an interesting story in amongst the hundreds of issues for them to draw on instead of yet another origin story?

joss whedon
He even comes with his own hat

Come on Marvel, just draught in Joss Whedon again and let him have a go next time. It is not good when your movie earns five Golden Raspberries (though Worst Picture was tied with 50 Shades of Grey… Yeah, that’s right, this is 50 Shades bad!).

 

 

If you’re a really big fan of the comics there might be something in here for you to enjoy, though I would recommend giving this a miss.

★★☆☆☆