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.

★★★☆☆

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.

All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr (Book Review)

All the Light We Cannot See was recommended to me by a friend, now said friend has always given me great book recommendations and up until this book, the books he’s told me to read have been 5/5 stars. This was the first book that didn’t follow that trend.download (3)

When I was told about All the Light We Cannot See, I was told it’s set during WWII and follows a blind girl who lives in Paris and whose father works at the Museum of Natural History. So fat it had all the makings of my perfect book so I checked out Goodreads. On there I found constant five star reviews, in fact I struggled to find anything less so I downloaded it to my Kindle and started to read.

Now I’ll say that I didn’t hate the book, in fact it was enjoyable but I just didn’t love it. The story follows two main characters, Marie-Laure, a blind girl who is brought up in Paris by her father. She spends most of her days curled up behind his desk, in the Museum of Natural History, reading a book or asking questions about the displays. Our second protagonist is Werner, a blonde haired, blue eyed orphan brought up in a mining town in Germany. When the war starts both Marie-Laure and Werner’s lives change forever.

The story itself was clever, I loved the fact that small things in the beginning of the book became big connections by the end and I loved how everything intertwined. My main issue is that I sometimes found it boring. The story focused on our two main protagonists and with that we found out a lot about their childhoods and how what they loved developed who they became. I liked this in theory but in practise I found the constant references to radios and snails, a little boring.

I did love some of the characters; in the beginning I loved Marie-Laure. Losing her sight didn’t make her wallow; instead it made her determined and strong. I loved her when she was a child and how she learned to live with her loss of sight and remain happy. As the book progressed I learned that Werner was my favourite. I was amazed by how he grew as a character and slowly learned how to become a better person.

The supporting characters were also well written, Marie-Laure’s uncle Etienne was by far my favourite, his fear to leave the house since the war and his love for Marie-Laure was heart-warming to me. On top of this, Von Rumple was a great villain while Frau Elena and Jutta gave the book a realistic a homely feel.

This all sounds great, right? So why didn’t I love it? Well in the end I didn’t care about any of the characters outcomes except for perhaps Etienne. While reading I loved each character and wanted the best for them but by the end I felt like I’d learned all there was to learn and if everyone had of died, I don’t think I would have cared.

I also found the writing style hard to follow at times, I had previously read A Court of Mist and Fury with a really easy to follow writing style then I went on to this. I found the style pretentious at times and for the first ten chapters I hated the book. In the beginning I felt like the book was written for the sole purpose of winning an award (which it did – the Pulitzer Prize) without any thought towards having an enjoyable story. As I continued this feeling did subside and I realised the story was well written and was enjoyable but I never quite got over the pretentious style of writing.

For anyone thinking of reading this, I would certainly say to go ahead and try it. After all as I said, I didn’t hate the book, I simply found it hard at times and thought it nothing more than an OK book but the end but I do know a number of people who have rated it five stars and loved every second of reading. So definitely try it – you never know, you may end up loving it way more than I did.

⭐️⭐️⭐️

Review: X-Men: Apocalypse

Rating 12A, 144 minutes

X-Men: Apocalypse is like one of those birds within a bird within a bird that you can get reasonably cheap from Iceland (and most other decent supermarkets of your choice). It’s overstuffed to the hilt, crammed together with little regard for form or presentation that it is hard really get a grip on all the new stuff while simultaneously trying to enjoy the old stuff. Bryan Singer has a habit of throwing everything, including the kitchen sink, into his films and Apocalypse is no different.

We open with some Mummy-esque Egyptian tomfoolery as poor old Oscar Isaac is plucked from the masses to be the new vessel for the ‘world’s first mutant’ Apocalypse. For reasons I will not spoil because it is actually a pretty nifty opening sequence, he ends up buried for a 1000 years or so under a heap of rubble deep beneath the city of Cairo. Cut to 1983 and the X-Men aren’t really the X-Men. Charles and Hank are still helping the weird and wonderful mutant children of the world in that ridiculous house, Mystique is hopping around Europe helping random mutants where she sees them (and we get a nice sequence in East Berlin where we are introduced to Nightcrawler (whom i love) and Angel (whom i can live without)), and Magneto is living incognito in Poland with a family. We also get a decent introduction to dear old Scott Summers who, thank god, is infinitely less annoying than his previous guise (sorry James Marsden), and Jean Grey is re-introduced as a sassy loner who the rest of the school is mildly terrified of.

In Cairo, some nosy CIA agent (hi Moira!) lets the old immortal cat out of the bag and our dear Oscar emerges from his cocoon looking like a cross between Ivan Ooze and Imhotep, and he is not a happy bunny. He spouts some hokum about false gods, the world needing to be cleansed, systems needing to be torn down and all that usual megalomaniacal stuff after putting his hand on a television. He then starts in earnest to locate his four horsemen (Storm, Angel, Psylocke, and Magneto), with each getting their own scene of transformation and change. Magneto’s thread in particular has decent emotional heft which is also aided by the fact Fassbender is an absolutely cracking actor, but some of that heft is dulled by a strangely bizarre scene in a certain famous concentration camp that left me feeling more uncomfortable than anything.

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From here X-Men: Apocalypse heads down that now familiar superhero film route of wanton destruction, bloodless deaths of millions and oodles and oodles of CGI. The whole charm of the first two X-Men films and, to an extent, First Class was the sparing use of full bloodied action sequences. They were there but they weren’t bombastic honking blares of noises and things loudly crumbling and disintegrating. They were neatly positioned and neatly executed, but in the post-Avengers/Marvel throng, it now seems that every superhero film must have these increasingly lengthy and pointless blitzes and the more I see them, the more wistful I become for the good old days.

Apocalypse himself suffers from having a very vague and underdeveloped motivation for wanting to cleanse the world. He’s basically just a power hungry, greedy bastard clown man. Isaac does well with what he gets, some of his lines are undoubtedly cheesy but he delivers them with enough gravitas to get away with it. Fassbender is the stand out of the rest of the cast, though it does help that Magneto has the most emotionally intense character arc of the lot. He and McAvoy, as always, bounce off each other with great aplomb, although there is only so many times in so many different locations i can watch Charles tell Erik that there is good in him. McAvoy himself doesn’t get that much to work with on the whole, but he delivers some nice comic touches in his scenes with Hank and Moira which makes a nice change from the intense Charles that we are so used to seeing. Jennifer Lawrence is a little bit flat here, and there is a distinct whiff of ‘contractual obligation’ in her delivery. Evan Peters as Quicksilver steals every scene he is in. His holler of ‘WE DON’T KNOW BRO!’ got one of the biggest laughs in the screening. The newbies, on the whole, hold their own. Kodi Smit-Mcphee (whose name annoys me for no discernable reason) adds a wonderful amount of levity to proceedings as Nightcrawler. As mentioned before, Cyclops is far less slappable and credit must go to Tye Sheridan for that, and Sophie Turner is pretty decent as Jean Grey even if she does spend a lot of her time gawping (judging by the ending of the film and what the producers/writers/directors have said in various interviews she is going by playing a far bigger part in the future).

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In the grand scheme of things, X-Men Apocalypse is not a bad film but it’s certainly not a great one. Tonally, it’s a mess. Pacing wise it works. Through its reasonably lengthy 144 minute run-time i never found myself bored or disinterested, and in this day and age that’s quite an achievement. The CGI is rather cartoonish when placed in comparison to Marvel’s output, however, even if it wasn’t a deliberate move by Singer et al, I found some of it rather charming. To see a superhero film actually embrace the non-realism instead of going all Nolan and gritty (hello BvS) was a refreshing change.

There is a little too much scraping over old ground in terms of character exchanges (Charles and Erik in particular have the same argument that they had in First Class and Days of Future Past – they should just get married and have it over with) and some dialogue is eye-roll inducing but on the whole Apocalypse is a pretty solid, entertaining entry into X-Men film history if a little devoid of originality.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

A Court of Mist and Fury – Sarah J. Maas (Book Review)

This contains spoilers for both A Court of Thorns and Roses and A Court of Mist And Fury.

A Court of Thorns and Roses was forgettable for me.download (2)

Going into A Court of Mist and Fury was hard, I honestly couldn’t remember a lot of what happened in the previous book and struggled to get into the new novel. As I started reading, small things came back to me… Feyre killed what she thought was a wolf but what turned out to be a faerie, so is taken captive to the other side of the wall where faeries live and humans don’t. This is where my mind became very blurry; I remembered her slowly falling in love with Tamlin and something to do with a curse that only she could break…  I remembered that A Court of Thorns and Roses was a loose retelling of Beauty and The Beast and I remember the plot to Beauty and The Beast so I figured reading A Court of Mist and Fury would be like following on from my favourite Disney film.

I do not remember Feyre dying… No do I remember much about any of the trials she went through Under the Mountain.

This was a slight problem at the beginning of A Court of Mist and Fury but I soon realised that this book was so much better than the first. If you struggled with A Court of Thorns and Roses and are unsure about continuing onto the next book?  Honestly, you will not regret continuing.

Where do I even start with this book? The story was great, I found that it was really easy to follow and unlike a lot of 500+ page books, I never once wondered where it was going with the plot or when it would end. I often read big books and after 100 pages, I feel like everything has already happened and the rest of the book is just filling pages. This was different, after 100 pages I was hooked.

In this follow up novel we see Feyre unhappy and struggling to find peace with previous events which happened Under the Mountain. (I still can’t really remember those events.) Feyre is living with Tamlin who is trying hard to protect her so won’t let her leave the house or grounds fesring for her safety, much to Feyre’s annoyance. After making a bargain with the enemy Rhysand, she is swept off to his court (Night Court) for one week a month. This soon becomes a blessing as she feels trapped at home feels more like a prison since she can’t leave. After a day when Tamlin leaves Feyre locked in the house she is saved by Rhysand and goes to live with him in Night Court deciding that Spring Court (Tamlin’s home) is no longer her home.  Once in Night Court she realises Rhysand isn’t all that bad and she soon begins to find herself with him and his close friends.

Now let’s talk about Rhysand, or Rhys for short… I’ve always classed Luke Brandon, from the Shopaholic series, as my ideal book boyfriend but since reading this book that has all changed. Rhys is perfect. He’s your typical bad boy who everyone hates but when you get to know him you realise he isn’t all that bad and in fact he’s actually a really nice guy. I fell in love with Rhys so bad, throughout the whole thing I was just waiting for Feyre to realise that he is perfect and he’s everything she wants in a man and when it eventually happened (and things got VERY explicit) I was overjoyed.

As I mention, the book is very explicit, especially considering it’s written for a young adult audience but Sarah J. Maas writes it just so perfectly. The sex scenes never once made me laugh or cringe and I felt it was written in a good way for young adults who are perhaps reading about sex for the first time. It didn’t say that you have to be married before you have sex but it did bring out the message that sex is better with someone that you care about and love. Considering the age of the target audience, I found this aspect very important.

The characters were all so well written throughout the entire book. I loved Mor and found Amren sassy and strong. Cassian and Azriel were very macho but they cared about their friends more than anything else and I found myself wanting to be part of their friend group and I wanted to live in Velaris with them all.

Throughout A Court of Mist and Fury we find out that when Feyre was brought back from the dead by the leaders of each court, she was given power from each of them and I loved finding out what Feyre was able to do. Her struggle with understanding her power and the slow realisation that she was actually able to master them was brilliant. I specifically loved the wolves that she made out of water and the way she was able to control them.

The ending got a little bit muddled for me. This was the only thing I wasn’t 100% with in the book. After spending most of her time writing about Feyre and Rhysand’s relationship, the end felt somewhat rushed. Feyre had successfully collected both parts of a book which they needed to use in order to destroy The Cauldron (which was going to be used as a key feature to the oncoming war where mortals would all die or become slaves to faerie) and  so they went to do so however Feyre gets distracted and fails in her goal before Tamlin and Lucien (Tamlin’s right hand man) turn up and explain that they had agreed with the king that if he brought Feyre to Tamlin, Tamlin would allow faerie to pass through his court and enter the mortal realms thus starting the war. This bit all happened within a couple of chapters and I honestly felt like too much was happening all at once. The book was already 600+ pages so why not add 100 more to tell the story properly?

All told, the book was amazing; it had everything I look for in a good novel. It has great romance and a great friendship groups.  I loved the plot and I even loved the rushed plot twist. My only issue is that I have to wait for the next book to be released and I don’t think I’ll find something that I loved this much before the next book in the series.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

Board Game: Scoville

Ages 13+ 2-6 Players 60-90 mins.

I have lost days to farming games. I love building my little town and growing my crops. It makes me feel at one with my pastoral upbringing without having to actually get muddy or smell the general aura of animal muck that comes with the country.

When I heard about Scoville I clapped my little hands with glee and did a little on the spot dance. Farming AND a board game. It was looking like my life was going to get that bit hotter.

So I toddled down to my local board game shop paid my money, bought bandages for my singed fingers from handling the hottest game in town and took it home to drink in all the beautiful elements and wonderful rules.

It even has a little back story. The residents of a small town loved Wilbur Scoville (who invented the Scoville scale, the hotness scale for peppers) they named their town after him and have an annual pepper festival where the hottest peppers are the most prized possessions.

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So many pretty components

What you get in the box

  • 1 Game Board
  • 65 Auction Cards
  • 48 Market cards
  • 12 Award Cards
  • A load of coins
  • 18 Bonus Action Tiles
  • 4 Breeding Charts
  • 6 Player Screens
  • 6 Farmers/Player Discs
  • Many, Many, Many Peppers

 

I just want to take this moment to talk about the pieces you get. They are so well made. From the little coins (which are super tiny) to the board, which is super clear and has an area for all the cards you’ll be using. You even get little pepper meeples. Pepereeples! You don’t feel like the manufacturers skimped on anything during production.

farmer meepleIn fact, this was a kickstarter originally and some of the stretch goals were to upgrade from coloured cubes to actual peppers, and to have the hottest of the hot peppers become plastic see through sparkly phantom peppers. They also upgraded the farmer tokens to little farmer meeples for the harvesting phase.

 

It’s so bright and colourful you’ll feel like John Travolta in Pulp Fiction opening the briefcase of fun. Only this time you’ll get to see the hot stuff inside. 

How to play

scoville set up

Each player chooses their colour, and gets a player board for hiding your hoard of peppers and points cards. You also get a counter for the turn order track and a farmer meeple for harvesting the crops.

The aim of the game is to get the most points, points are represented by a number within a flame and can be found on some of the market cards, the recipe cards and your bonus action tiles.

Scoville is played in rounds, and there are three phases to each round.

The round starts with a silent auction, you place how many coins you want to bid, you all reveal at the same time, whoever bids the highest gets to choose where they go in the turn order, the second highest goes next and so on.

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Turn order track

It is here that we come to one of the first great things about Scoville. You see, in this game choosing your turn order can be very difficult. In the second phase (planting) whoever is in the number one slot goes first, two goes second etc. In the second phase (harvesting) whoever was last during planting goes first to harvest. Then for the third phase, (fulfilment) back to number one going first. It’s the hardest decision you have to make sometimes for reasons that will become clear.

Once the turn order has been established it’s onto the first phase of the round. Planting. Ooooo, I hear you collectively say.

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Peppers in the field

The player going first chooses which pepper they would like from the auction areas of the board and puts it in their inventory. They then choose any pepper from their inventory to place onto the board. You can place it wherever you like so long as it’s horizontally or vertically adjacent to a pepper already in the field.

After the last person has planted it’s time to harvest your glorious produce. This is the really juicy part of the game for me. It’s where all your plans from the first phase come to fruition, and can be worth going last to plant to go first to harvest.

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Breeding chart

You grab the farmer meeple of the appropriate colour and start off in the little star in the middle. you get to move up to three steps, always going forwards. Every time you land between two peppers, you consult your breeding chart, see what colour they make and you get that colour pepper in your inventory. So for example if you land between a purple and a green, it would make a white that you get to place in your inventory. Wherever you land on your last step you stay until the next harvesting phase.

Once you have quite a few peppers on the board you can really start to plan out your route, and you plan what peppers you want to plant to get the combo you want for the colour you need. The other really great thing about this is the player interaction. This mechanic allows you to block your opponents from getting to certain peppers, you can’t go through another player’s farmer and you cannot occupy the same space, so if you choose to land between two colours that make a hot, hot, hot pepper, nobody else will be able to swoop in and take it. Likewise it means that you can spend a few turns building up a great route full of brilliant combos to get the peppers you want, can be usurped by another player, if you’re not first to harvest that is.

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Some of the recipe cards you’ll be vying for

When we’re all grinning with glee or frowning in frustration at not getting the peppers we wanted we can move onto the fulfilment phase. This is when you can exchange your peppers for chili recipe cards, market cards, or you can just sell up to five peppers for coins. Remember, the turn order goes back to number one going first, so someone else might be able to get in before you and swipe that recipe card worth 24 points from under your nose. 

See why it’s so hard choose your turn order? You need to go first to make sure you get that red hot recipe card, but at the same time, if you go last you’re more likely to get the peppers needed to get the card.

 

I love this game. I’ve played it many times since I bought it last year, and it has been a big hit with everyone I’ve played with.

The theme is just… Lovely, it makes you smile with it’s colours and the farming aspect. Everything looks and feels like a lot of love went into it. It feels like a local village fete. All it’s missing is a WI tea and jam tent.

The game play is simple, yet complex enough to create a beautiful puzzle for you to solve. This ticks a lot of my boxes for the game play. There’s not much, but just enough player interaction, you can plan out your moves way in advance, but can still have it all scuppered by another player’s plans so you have to re-calibrate.

bonus action tilles

The bonus action tiles can be really useful for planning a massive pepper harvest, they get you the ability to go back on yourself once, move one extra step or to plant one extra pepper. You can use more than one during a turn so you can really have a pepper blast! If you decide not to use the tiles, they are worth 4 points each at the end of the game.

You have to make simple, but tough decisions.

The little player screen makes for an exciting finish. The main aim of the screens is to keep the winner a secret until the end. You keep all your pepper stock and any cards you pick up along the way behind there and then tote up the scores at the end. Which is great because you realise you’ve been doing better than you thought. Someone who you thought was definitely going to win might have been bluffing and will come last. It’s the games last hurrah.

A great advantage of Scoville is that it plays up to 6, a lot of other games of a similar calibre tend to be 4 or 5. So the extra player space can be pretty neat if there are a lot of you.

My main criticism for Scoville would be that once you find a strategy you tend to stick with it, there’s not too much scope for trying out new techniques. Which can limit the re-playability a little. The recipe cards start to get a little dull after a while and you start to learn which ones are the best and what is needed to obtain them.

scoville labsThankfully, an expansion has just been kick-started, called Scoville Labs. I received mine a couple of weeks ago. The expansion doesn’t change the main rules, but it does bring up the heat a little more. As it allows you to plant a pepper (after planting on the main board) in your very own little lab. You reap the benefits of any combos made immediately, but after that they just take up more space in your lab. This helps to combat some of those ‘he stole my planned pepper route’ situations and allows you to be a little more selfish with the pepper hoarding. Included are also more recipe cards and market cards that also helps to refresh the game a little.

I liked Scoville labs, I think I’ll need to play it a few more times to really get the scope for what it can do, but it does work well, and I really liked being able to quickly get some of the peppers that I needed without worrying that one of my fellow farmers was going to steal my prize.

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I wholeheartedly recommend this game. As part of the Scoville Labs Kickstarter you could get the base game too as one of the rewards. This was to measure the amount of interest in it for a new print run. So, it might be hard to get at the moment, but hopefully it will be winging it’s way to your local board game shop soon!

 

All you need yo do now is ask yourself. Are you ready to feel the burn?

 

Book review – The Lunar Chronicles (Marissa Meyer)

This review contains spoilers. You have been warned.

I’ve been avoiding doing this review for a while because the series became so big and so popular that I worried if I reviewed it then I wouldn’t do it justice. Today I’m slightly hungover and I already feel like crap so if everyone hates this then it’ll just add to my sad hungover day but people MIGHT like it and if so it could make my day so much better.Cinder_book_cover

I should start off by saying that this is about the four main books; Cinder, Scarlet, Cress and Winter. I own Fairest and Stars Above but I haven’t yet got round to actually reading them.

The books kick off with Cinder, a cyborg girl who lives with her step mother and two sisters. Sound familiar? Well it should do, each book is a retelling of a classic fairy tale. Cinder is a retelling of Cinderella, Scarlet retells Little Red Riding Hood, Cress is about Rapunzel and Winter is based on Snow White and to be honest this as the reason I even picked up the books in the first place.

Cinder is loathes by her step mother and one of her sisters but unlike the classic story, she actually has a great relationship with her sister Peony. After her father’s death and loss of fortune, it falls on Cinder to make money for the family by becoming a mechanic in the market place. As there is a plague killing half the country, working in the market place isn’t the safest place to work. Luckily one day Prince Kai walks into Cinder’s workshop needing his android fixed and he takes a shine to Cinder instantly. As Cinder is a cyborg she is generally thought of as a lower class and Kai doesn’t realise Cinder is a cyborg so she has to hide her metal arm and leg from him, only falling and revealing her true self in front of him and the queen of Luna at the royal ball at the end of the book.download (1)

In the second book we meet Scarlet, a feisty redhead who lives and works on a farm with her grandmother. On the same day that Scarlet meets a sexy stranger, she gets home only to realise her grandmother is missing and Scarlet just knows that her grandmother didn’t leave at free will. With the help of the stranger from earlier, Wolf, Scarlet sets out to find her grandmother and save her.

Next we meet Cress. Cress has spent her entire life locked up in a satellite working as a top hacker work for the evil queen of Luna. By this book the queen is trying to find Cinder and wants her dead so knowing that Cress is the best hacker, she sets her the challenge of finding Cinder who is now on the run. Luckily Cress isn’t evil like the queen and she decides to become a double agent, making out that she is helping the queen but in reality she is helping hide Cinder and it helps that Cinder has teamed up with Captain Thorne who Cress is madly in love with.

After a rescue mission which finds Cress and Thorne together on earth, we meet Winter, our final hero. Winter is the step daughter to Levana, the evil queen, and Winter has slowly been going crazy because she refuses to use her magic gift in order to make life easier and look more beautiful. Winter is known to be beautiful but she’s also a beautiful person inside but feels alone on Luna, her only real friends are her guard and childhood friend, Jacin, and the animals in her menagerie. Winter hears of Cinder’s rebellion and her plan to take Levana’s throne and decides to team up with the group now made up of Cinder, Prince Kai, Scarlet, Wolf, Cress, Thorne and Cinder’s faithful android Iko.13206828

I love this book series for a number of different reasons but primarily for the kick ass women portrayed in them. Yes there is romance throughout each book and quite quickly it’s established that the protagonist of each book will fall in love but romance isn’t the main feature of the books. The girls are all portrayed as strong minded women who stand up for themselves and the love interests simply help them along the way and help them become better versions of themselves. I loved this idea because I read so many young adult books that portray unrealistic relationship goals and the idea that you can find a man who will help you with your goals and love you for who you are is the message I felt was portrayed in the Luna Chronicles and that to me is a realistic goal and one that people should be aiming towards.

My favourite character changes constantly but at the minute I think Scarlett is my favourite. I love that she remains strong and her relationship with Wolf is only strengthened by the fact that she is strong minded and independent. Scarlet is the only 100% human character out of the lead female characters and can therefore be controlled by people from Luna, due to this she is put through a lot and she comes out at the end stronger than ever because of it.

Queen Levana was an interesting character for me because ii felt she was more than your typical evil queen. I felt that by the end of the books I felt for her and was upset in the end because it became clear why she ended up as bitter and horrible as she did. I felt by the end that she wasn’t just annoyed that she wasn’t the most beautiful person in the end, I felt more that she was simply someone with real issues who let those issues get the better of her and with this she became much more real to me.41SSIYbE2LL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

The guys in the book are amazing. They’re not my favourite love interests that I’ve ever read but they’re written so well. I genuinely found myself really concerned that something was going to happen to one of them but they were such perfect fits for their female counterpart that I couldn’t even imagine one being without the other. When the main guys and women made it through the end I was overjoyed and cried a little bit because I loved Wolf so much.

I can’t recommend the Luna Chronicles enough. They’re exactly my cup of tea, fairy tale retellings with really cool women who fight for the throne and don’t ever give up no matter what is thrown at them? Yes please.

The Naff Nic Season: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2011)

(95 Minutes, Rating 12A)

 

I remember a time when I had hope in my life. A time where I would feel the sun beating down on my face, a cool breeze rustle through the trees, delicately brushing against my skin, and I would feel joy and elation at a bright new day. But after wading my way through the dank swamp of Nicolas Cage’s worst films, I now feel devoid of a soul, which is now something i have in common with Johnny Blaze, the protagonist (and a bit of a wanker to be honest) of our final film in the Naff Nic Season, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.

 

Ghost Rider is not something I really had an opinion about when the first film was released back in 2007. The comics were something that had passed me by like light mist in the distance as I was too busy trawling through the various Punisher volumes and anything Ed Brubaker or Garth Ennis pumped out. The film adaptation of Ghost Rider was derided by the fans of the comics on release and mauled by critics. I, on the other hand, found it a mildly diverting couple of hours in between handfuls of cold chicken nuggets.and reheated chips. It wasn’t the best film I had ever seen nor was it certainly the worst (hello Beaches), so when I was tasked with watching the sequel for this particular challenge I was neither fearful nor elated.

 

In hindsight, I probably should have been a bit more apprehensive as thus far most of the films I have seen for this challenge can easily have dual use as items of torture or to incite riots (put Deadfall on constant loop in Durham prison and i can guarantee it will cause some ructions). But I trundled on in, like a blind man stumbling into a cheese shop, feeling for a strong cheddar only to find a rotten, leaking camembert.

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Cage returns as Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider, the stupid idiot who made a deal with a demon and ended up with a flaming skull of a head as some sort of benefit, but this time we find him in hiding as his Ghost Rider persona has become increasingly difficult to control. He’s offered a possible way out of his problem by some foisty monk called Moreau (Idris Elba), who promises him freedom if he is able to save a young boy called Danny from the hands of Mephistopheles, who we saw in the first film as Peter Fonda but is now inexplicably played by Ciaran Hinds even though Fonda was interested in reprising his role. As you can see the plot is so thin it borders on anorexic, rehashing the old ‘save the boy, save yourself’ trope from countless other heroic Hollywood films.

 

It’s no surprise to see that one of the writers involved in Spirit of Vengeance is David S. Goyer who, when on form can crack out a decent screenplay i.e. Dark City, The Dark Knight Rises, but somehow manages to puncture these moments of greatness with great big pins of solid shit i.e. Zig Zag, The Unborn. Spirit of Vengeance is one of his glorious fecal points. The script is weaker than my gran’s knees, messy to point of incoherence, which is easy to understand when you discover there are three (three!) screenwriters who had their paws on this screenplay, and there are some truly weak attempts at Schwarzenegger-esque humour smattered around the action sequences, that may have worked if Ahhhnold had been involved but instead are just embarrassing and at odds with the darker nature of the plot.

 

Cage’s performance is on the milder side of crazy. Not as googly as Vampire’s Kiss, not as dead behind the eyes as Left Behind, however, it feels oddly predictable. As we watch him scene to scene, you can almost see where he is going and what he is trying to do before he has even done it which is a massive shame as a big draw of watching a Cage is his sheer unpredictability. His fervent declaration post-Spirit of Vengeance that he wasn’t interested in doing any more Ghost Rider films may hint that he wasn’t having all that much fun filming the sequel. The rest of the cast are perfunctory, though it was nice to see Christopher Lambert pop up for a few minutes with a bald head and a sword (anyone involved in the first Highlander film are tops in my opinion and deserve endless cameos in all films), and Ciaran Hinds makes a fair fist of replacing Fonda, giving Mephistopheles/Roarke a more booming presence. For some reason, Idris Elba agreed to be in this, maybe to facilitate the purchase of a new Lexus or maybe to make a film that pushes The Reaping close to being the worst thing on his reasonably varied c.v, either way he does his bit, running about in a robe looking attractive.

 

For a film with a budget hovering around the 60 million dollar mark, the special effects and CGI in this film are laughable. The rendering of Ghost Rider’s skull is like something from a Playstation 2 game, and the achingly sad scenes of CGI usage in the stunts is enraging. I hope the special effects creators and technicians got a box of chocolates with ‘You tried’ written on the underside.

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I genuinely don’t think Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance seeks to be a good film in the true sense of the word. For me, it seems to aim to fill that ‘entertaining trash’ tick box but unfortunately it only succeeds in being shockingly shite (in the true sense of the word). If you thought the first Ghost Rider was an affront to the comics then you really should not see the second one. While the first film had its moments with some nice spiky exchanges, especially between Cage and Eva Mendes’ characters, and some decent action set pieces, the sequel is hollow, devoid of fun and bogged down by its hackneyed attempts at exposition. Nobody is having fun here, the audience included.

 

IMDB Rating: 4.3

My Rating ★✩✩✩✩

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.

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.

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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)