Dancing on f**king ice
Who knew the world of female figure skating could be so...well...batshit crazy?!
Directed by Craig Gillespie, I, Tonya charts Tonya Harding's life, right through her troubled childhood when she firsts starts skating, through to adulthood when she was on the cusp of becoming one of the greatest figure skaters in the world. Staring Margot Robbie in the title role, the movie also stars Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney & Bobby Cannavale. I have to admit that prior to this movie, I knew absolutely nothing about Tonya Harding, I didn't even know who she was. However other reviews that I had read had peaked my interest - all of these had mentioned "the event" that results in her downfall. This along intrigued me enough to check the movie out.
Check out the trailer below.
I, Tonya is proof that you don't need to have any interest in the subject matter to enjoy a movie on the subject. The last thing I'd want to do on a Saturday night is stay in and watch Dancing on Ice, however, I, Tonya had me invested from start to finish. It is a fantastic movie - Robbie's performance in particular is a joy to behold. This could very well be her career defining role so far; everything about the performance was believable - and whilst she performs some of the skating, she does a great job of making you believe it actually is her out there jumping & spinning on the ice! The performances don't just stop there either - Allison Janney puts in an awards worthy performance as Tonya's abusive mother & Sebastian Stan (aka The Winter Soldier) does a great job Tonya's husband. As for the skating scenes themselves - they are electric! The combination of the insane choreography & the soundtrack keep you absolutely fixated on the screen for the duration.
Where the movie really came to life for me though was "the event". Now unless you know the story of Tonya Harding - then prepare to be shocked. It was mental. I don't want to say too much in order not to spoil it but it has everything from the FBI to a bodyguard who claimed to be a secret agent...
Overall, I thought I, Tonya was great. The combination of the unknown storyline, Margot Robbie's performance & the excellent cinematography had me hooked from the beginning & I won't be surprised to see this movie or its stars pick up an Academy Award or two...I, Tonya gets 4 out of 5 stars from me.
You can catch I, Tonya in cinemas now.
Hail the King
Every so often a genre movie will come along that gets everyone talking. Last year it was Get Out, the incredible horror mystery from Jordan Peele. This year is Marvel Studios latest blockbuster - Black Panther that seems to have all the buzz.
Directed by Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed), Black Panther is the 18th movie entry into the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) & stars Chadwick Boseman in the title role, alongside Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, and Andy Serkis.
After an impressive debut in 2016's Captain America: Civil War, could Black Panther hold his own in a standalone movie? Check out the trailer below.
Following the death of his father during the events of Captain America: Civil War, T'Challa (Boseman) takes his place as king of the fictional African nation of Wakanda. The title of king of Wakanda also comes with the mantle of the superpowered Black Panther - who is the protector of the nation. Due to a meteorite collision centuries ago & the subsequent discovery of the near indestructible element vibranium, Wakanda has managed to become technologically superior to every other nation on earth - whilst continually maintaining the illusion that they are a poor farming nation. T'Challa's position is challenged by an outsider; Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) who looks to take the throne for himself & share Wakanda's secret with the world.
First up, Wakanda looks incredible - the design team have done an fantastic job in bringing it to life. It looks so otherworldly; the futuristic neon skyscrapers & high-speed trains amongst the lush African greenery - think Blade Runner meets The Lion King! The costume & set design also play a huge part in this; traditional African dress is often offset against high tech interiors with the odd traditional decoration in the background. The soundtrack is also a spectacle - Ludwig Göransson has done a wonderful job with the score & the accompanying OST by Kendrick Lamar makes for excellent listening.
Chadwick Boseman plays T'Challa/Black Panther perfectly. He brings all the gravitas & presence required for playing a character of royalty whilst maintaining a sombre gentleness needed of a role that requires him to mourn his father's death whilst being the protector of a nation. Marvel Studios rarely get the casting of their superheroes wrong & they have nailed it again here with Boseman - it's hard to imagine anyone else donning the Black Panther suit (except maybe Shuri?).
One of the biggest complaints about Marvel movies is that they tend to feature largely forgettable villains. How many really stick in your mind out with Loki, Ultron & The Winter Soldier? Thankfully, for Black Panther though, Killmonger is a rather memorable villain who is played brilliantly by the fantastic Michael B. Jordan. Erik "Killmonger" Stevens seems to start the movie as an accomplice to one of Black Panther's longtime foes; Ulysses Klaue Andy Serkis), however, as the movie progresses & through a combination of grief, anguish & rage, we get to fully understand his actions and the motive behind them. Far too often, Marvel villains are just a monster who wants to destroy the world, however, with Killmonger his motives are more contained & Jordan adds a real level of humanity to the character that is usually often missing.
As impressive as Boseman & Jordan are, for me Letitia Wright's (Black Mirror's Black Museum) Shuri steals the show. Shuri, T'Challa's younger sister also plays the role of James Bond's Q; head of Wakanda's technology department, alongside developing Black Panther's suit & weapons - a role that gives Tony Stark a run for his money. Shuri, whilst obviously a scientific genius, finds plenty of time for being sarcastic & a prankster - however, she is not afraid to fight when it comes down to it. It is a role that is played perfectly by Wright, and if you are yet to see the aforementioned episode of Black Mirror - then I urge you to do so.
Black Panther is an excellent addition to the MCU & one that quite rightly has critics & fans buzzing with delight. It looks stunning, it sounds stunning, it is filled with fantastic performances, but most of all; it is bold, unafraid to take risks & makes a cultural statement. For a movie that is director Coogler's THIRD directorial outing, Black Panther is a must-see for movie fans - whether you are invested in the MCU or not.
Overall Black Panther gets 4.5 out of 5 stars from me. Wakanda Forever.
Netflix Drops A Monster Sized Bomb
Remember Cloverfield; the interesting found footage monster movie from ten years ago, and its rather excellent psychological horror sequel 10 Cloverfield Lane from 2016? Well, during the Superbowl Netflix debuted the first trailer for The Cloverfield Paradox - the third movie in the franchise, and a movie that from the trailer, promised to tell us where the monster from the original movie came from. Though, it wasn't until at the very end of the trailer where Netflix really dropped a bomb - it was available to watch immediately after the game; worldwide & only 3 hours after the first trailer had been released.
The Cloverfield Paradox is directed by Julius Onah & produced by J.J. Abrams. It stars Daniel Brühl, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Chris O'Dowd, David Oyelowo & Elizabeth Debicki to name a few. Check out the trailer below.
The way in which The Cloverfield Paradox was released was unheard of in the movie industry, and something that I guess only really Netflix could pull off. But was it a masterstroke or a a load of wasted potential? Well the answer is a bit of both really.
The Cloverfield Paradox focuses on a group of astronauts/scientists who are working on a space station above Earth. Their goal is to solve Earth's energy crisis by starting a on board particle accelerator that will create a source of infinite energy for Earth to harvest. Critics & sceptics of the technology fear that it will create an opening to an alternate universe will unleash all sorts of horrors on Earth. While I wont delve into too much detail in order not to spoil the movie; things don't quite go as planned & quickly spiral out of control.
It's an interesting premise for a Sci-Fi movie - however one not too dissimilar from last year's Life, and it's certainly hard to ignore the comparisons. For a movie that is set in an such enclosed space for its majority, with a large cast of characters; it spends so much time with long rambling speeches about parallel universes & alternate dimensions that it spends very little time actually developing these characters. The movie is filled with character stereotypes; an efficient German engineer (Brühl), the wisecracking Irishman (O'Dowd) & an uptight Russian, with an over fondness for guns (Aksel Hennie) - the only character that I ever really cared for was Hamilton (played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw). Her character is the only one who is really given some background & due to a horrifying past incident involving her children, she has a clear drive throughout the movie & her performance at least invokes some emotion.
One big positive of the movie is the visuals - it is certainly a delight for the eyes & it is easy to tell that it has been filmed incredibly well. There are several spectacular set pieces throughout; disappearing planets, huge space explosions & a particularly strange one involving a severed arm. These visuals for the most part, were enough to keep me engaged.
As a whole, the movie just doesn't quite work - that's not to say that I didn't like it, because there were parts of it that I enjoyed; thehighly impressive visuals & Gugu Mbatha-Raw's character in particular. Also, I am a bit of a movie nerd & because this is "part" of a franchise that I was already invested in - I just had to watch it. However, for a movie that promised to provide some answers to questions posed by a franchise that kicked off almost a decade ago; we are frustratingly left with more questions than answers. With a fourth movie (currently titled Overlord)in the franchise planned for later this year, we may see some light shed on these mysteries, however with J.J. at the helm that these are sadly answers that we might never get.
Overall, The Cloverfield Paradox gets 2.5 out of 5 stars from me.
You stream The Cloverfield Paradox right now on Netflix.
Goin' Down To South PArk
One day over the Christmas break when I found myself with some time to kill, I booted up my PS4, went on to the PlayStation Store & had a browse. I ended up downloading the 1 hour free trial of South Park: The Fractured but Whole. Fast forward a couple of hours later & I had just bought a second hand copy on eBay. It impressed me that much.
The Fractured but Whole is the squeal to 2014's critically acclaimed South Park: The Stick of Truth. Check out the trailer below:
The Fractured but Whole is an RPG that riffs off the superhero themed episodes of the TV show such as The Coon, Mysterion Rises & Professor Chaos. It sees you take control of "The New Kid" (who you create) & quickly find yourself a member of "Coon & Friends" one of the games two superhero factions, the other being "Freedom Pals". It's a wacky take on the whole "Marvel vs DC" fanboy culture that takes over social media so much these days.
The plot sees Cartman (aka The Coon) task his team of superheros to find a missing cat in order to claim a $100 reward that he will use to create his own version of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe), that includes movies with multiple sequels & Netflix shows - it's utterly bonkers!
The game is broken up into chapters that are separated by you re-living your origin story where you acquire new superhero powers each time. Within each of these chapters you will split your time between side quests & main missions. The main missions will usually end in a "dungeon" like area; a strip club, Italian restaurant, police station & a genetics lab to name a few. These areas usually require you to gain a new special ability that will help you progress through towards the boss fight at the end of each area. The side quests are usually trivial fetch & retrieve quests for the colourful characters of South Park but there are a few that will grant you rewards that will make your game-play experience easier. The RPG mechanics them self are simply; turn based combat that is set on a grid system, usually involving you and 3 other members of your team. There is also a basic crafting system where you can craft new costumes, consumables & upgrade items.
The town of South Park itself has been painstakingly re-created to the point it feels like you're watching a 15 hour long episode of the show. Navigating the town itself, along with the fantastic voice work - it is such an authentic re-creation that you often forget your playing a game. It is populated with so many of the shows familiar faces & even though I haven't really watched South Park in a while, there was still so many references that I was able to relate to. Word of warning...do not play this game if you are easily offended!
South Park: The Fractured but Whole was a pure joy to play from start to finish & packed with non-stop laughs. I don't tend to play many RPGs's but the simplistic game play made it extremely refreshing & accessible. I sank 15+ hours into my play-through and not once did it feel like it was dragging.
South Park: The Fractured but Whole gets 4.5 out of 5 from me. Now, it's time to go back & check out The Stick of Truth.
Podcasts are great. Whether it's at work, in the car or doing something around the house, I will quite often be listening to a podcast. Most podcasts I listen to are pop culture related; movies, TV shows & video games etc. but I am also a huge fan of true crime podcasts - they are so addictive! In this blog post I am going to run through some of my favourite podcasts, starting with the pop culture ones before going through some of my true crime picks.
IGN UK Podcast
The IGN UK Podcast is a long running weekly podcast (418 episodes & counting) from the IGN UK team that I haven been listening to for years now. For those of you that are not familiar with it; IGN (uk.ign.com/) is one of the biggest entertainment websites in the world which covers games, movies, TV shows, comics & much more.
The podcast itself is usually hosted by 3 different members of the team each week - which is a good format because it keeps things fresh in my opinion. Usually released every Friday the podcast normally follows a loose running order - the team will run through some of the big news stories in the last week, anything they've been playing/watching, listener feedback & depending on the host, an awesome game called Keyword Countdown.
The IGN UK Podcast is probably my favourite weekly podcast as it gives me a mix of topics that I'm interested (including beer), the hosts are hilarious & very informed on the subject matter & it has a BANGING theme tune.
You can find the IGN UK Podcast on iTunes or your dedicated podcast app. Also, you can find the team on Twitter.
Kermode & Mayo's Film Review
Kermode & Mayo's Film Review (also known as Wittertainment) is a weekly film review show that is broadcast on BBC 5 Live then released in podcast form shortly after. Wittertainment is yet another long running show (the podcast has been going since 2005!) that I have again been listening to for years now.
Hosted by Simon Mayo - a long serving BBC radio DJ & Mark Kermode - one of the most respected movie critics in the UK, Wittertainment gives a run down of the box office top 10, weekly reviews of all the latest movie releases as well as interviews with guests & general (often hilarious) nattering. Each week, they always pick a movie of the week (cinema release), TV movie of the week & DVD release of the week.
This podcast great & it's always an entertaining listen. I usually end up spreading it out over a couple of days because they normally come in around 1.5-2 hours in length. Mark Kermode's reviews are thorough, very informative & usually extremely useful when deciding whether to spend your money on cinema tickets or not.
You can find Wittertainment on iTunes, your dedicated podcast app or on the BBC website. Also, you can follow the show on Twitter.
The Cundy & Nathan Shown
The Cundy & Nathan Show is one of my absolute favourite podcasts; it was actually almost cancelled over the Xmas break (due to Dubai Skype laws), but thankfully they found a way round it! The podcast itself focuses primarily on video games along with some well...interesting contemporary references & genuine laugh out loud moments.
I have followed the hosts Matt Cundy & Nathan Irvine since I discovered the TalkRadar UK Podcast back in 2010 and have listened to everything they have done ever since. These guys are not just absolutely hilarious but they offer fantastic insight into the world of video games & their latest podcast is a must listen for me every week. The podcast itself is (usually) released each Friday & the do a good job of reaching out to the listeners for questions etc. on Twitter before they record.
I having a feeling this podcast may be lost on you unless you have followed Cundy & Nathan for a while...but if you like video games & you like to laugh, then you should give these guys a go.
You can find The Cundy & Nathan Show on iTunes, your dedicated podcast app or on their Podbean site. Also, you can follow the show on Twitter. If you are atall interested - you can also find old episodes of the TalkRadar UK Podcast here.
Next up is Final Games; a podcast about the games that inspired us.
Hosted by Liam Edwards, final games is a podcast similar to the format of the BBC Radio 4 show Desert Island Discs. The premise is that each week a guest will "cast away" to a video game related deserted place of their choosing & they must pick the 8 video games they would want to have with them.
The podcast themselves often come in at least 2 hours in length, with the latest episode around 3 hours long! The conversations are extremely in depth & very interesting. Before the weekly guest talks abut each game on their list a segment of music from the game in question is played & quite often this can be a massive nostalgia trip.
The schedule itself can be a bit indifferent, but the host has promised to try and have a bit more of a fixed schedule going forward this year.
You can again find Final Games on iTunes, or on your dedicated podcast app. Also, you can follow the show on Twitter.
Now, on to the true crime podcasts. I'm not going to say too much about these, because I don't want to spoil any of the mystery.
First up is S-Town, an investigative journalism podcast by the creators of Serial & This American Life. Hosted by Brian Reed, S-Town starts off by setting up an intriguing murder mystery to hook you in before unravelling into a bizarre treasure hunt.
Set in Woodsock, Alabama in the American deep south, S-Town is full of colourful characters, massive twists & is guaranteed to keep you listening. All 7 episodes are available to download in full, so it is perfect for binging - I did it over 2 days at work.
You can find S-Town on iTunes, or on your dedicated podcast app of choice. You can also find out more about S-Town on the shows website.
Next up is Crimetown from Gimlet Media. Hosted by Mark Smerling & Zac Stuart-Pontier; Crimetown is a serial documentary podcast that will focus on how organised crime has shaped a particular American city each season.
Season 1 focuses on the city of Providence, Rhode Island & particularly the rise & fall of it's former mayor; Buddy Cianci. In a story that spans decades, Crimetown has a huge cast of interesting characters all coming together in a political scandal that wouldn't look out of place in a Hollywood movie.
The hosts first worked together on the Catfish movie before moving on to jaw dropping HBO documentary The Jinx. For me, just knowing these two collaborated on The Jinx was enough to get me listening & I was not disappointed. Crimetown is a fascinating story & I can't wait for season 2. Again all episodes (18 of them) are available to download, making it binge perfect.
You can find Crimetown on iTunes or on your dedicated podcast app. Also, you can follow the show on Twitter to keep up to date with any updates on season 2.
Up And Vanished
This podcast blew my mind. I only wish I had been listening to it live to experience it in real time.
Up and Vanished is a podcast about the 2005 disappearance of high school teacher & beauty queen Tara Grinstead in Ocilla, Georgia. Hosted by Payne Lindsey, Up and Vanished started as a planned 6 episode experiment into the world of podcasting but quickly turned into something much bigger; ending up as a 24 episode full blown missing persons investigation.
I can't recommend Up and Vanished enough. There is a twist roughly 3/4 of the way through of jaw dropping proportions. The host himself is extremely thorough & interesting & there is huge array of colourful characters that he interviews along the way. Up and Vanished is available to listen to in full.
You can find Up and Vanished on iTunes or on your dedicated podcast app. You can also follow the show on Twitter, or check out the website.
Last but not least is the podcast that I am currently listening to; Atlanta Monster. I don't have too much to say about this podcast because there has only been 3 episodes released so far.
Atlanta Monster is the new podcast from Up and Vanished host Payne Lindsey & focuses on the horrific Atlanta Child Murders which resulted in the disappearance & murder of 25 African American children & young adults nearly 40 years ago.
This seems like it's going to be another massive success for Payne Lindsey & another gripping tale - something happens at the end of the second episode that had me saying WOW.
Atlanta Monster is released weekly every Friday. You can find the show on iTunes, or on your dedicated podcast app. You can also follow events on Twitter, or on the shows website.