Sun, Sweat & Hills
Following my successful completion of the epic 21 mile run from, BrewDog to BrewDog, I want to start using this blog to start sharing more of my running stories - especially since I'm now hopefully on track to running a full marathon.
For my next run, I was going to attempt the Stonehaven Half Marathon. Everything that I'd read, and heard about Stonehaven Half Marathon had me slightly worried about it; "it's hills for the entire first half"..."up for 8, down for 5"..."one of the hardest half marathons in the UK"...This caused me to slightly delay my entry until I was entirely sure I could handle it. This turned out to be 4 days before the actual run. However, I was feeling good about myself, and feeling good about my running - so pending a total blazing heatwave on the day, I was sure I could get through it.
Race day arrived and by the time I got out my bed around 7.30am, it was already feeling worryingly warm. I made the decision then that I was going to carry water with me in my Camelbak to combat the sun.
I started the day with my usual race morning breakfast of porridge with blueberries and honey with coffee as well as starting to load up on water. The race started at 10.00am, so by the time I was finished breakfast and got all my kit sorted - it was soon time to leave.
We arrived in Stonehaven with roughly 30 mins until race time, which just left me with enough time to cover myself in sun cream, get down to the registration tent to collect my number, get suitably watered and a quick trip to the toilet. Before I knew it, I was queued up at the start line with the other runners listening to the pre-race briefing - and then we were off!
When I was told that this run was hilly...it was no lie, less than a mile into the run and we were already climbing! This continued gradually as we made our way through Stonehaven for the first couple of miles, and by the time we were completely out of the town, the climbing became constant - yikes! Before we'd even got to the 4-mile marker, I felt myself starting to struggle. The heat was certainly playing a huge part in this but my legs were already beginning to feel quite heavy on the hills. It was also starting to get blisteringly hot with temperatures of around 21ºC and little to no clouds in the sky.
I grit my teeth and pushed through it and before I knew it, I heard the faint sound of bagpipes through my headphones. Bingo. I knew from previous reading, that this signalled the end of the constant climbing - at least for now. So when I saw the piper in all his glory at the 4-mile marker, this was a welcome relief. There was a water stop shortly after this point also, so this gave me the chance to significantly cool myself down by emptying cups of water over my head and down my back.
Miles 5 to 7 were slightly less challenging than the previous, with much fewer hills to conquer and I was able to start to regain my pace. There was a shared water stop between miles 5.5/6.5 as we did a nice flat loop and I was briefly joined by a friendly face, which offered me some much-needed encouragement. I took advantage of this stop by having a drink and again soaking myself on both passes. Little did I know, that this water stop was a prelude to the dreaded mile 8...
"His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy, there's vomit on his sweater already, mom's spaghetti..."
Mile 8, or as I quickly renamed it in my head - the mile from hell. Now, I don't know for sure if this hill was as particularly challenging as I found it to be, or if it was just such a shock to my legs after enjoying a good spell of reasonably flat running. But whatever the reason, I really struggled with it. I struggled so much, that I probably walked the majority of this mile. But, I just got on with it and plodded away until I finally I was back on flat ground.
From here - it became a completely different race. Miles 9, 10 & 11 resulted in my best running of the day to the point where I was running sub 8-minute miles (7:32 at one point!). Obviously running downhill played a huge part in this, but it felt like such a relief to be no longer struggling uphill and I was really able to kick it up a gear and started to massively enjoy it. I was also finally able to appreciate the awesome scenery we were running in, as I was able to concentrate on something other than making it to the top of the next hill.
Before I knew it we were back in the town, however, by the time I reached the mile 11 marker I had hit a wall - I was really starting to struggle again. Although we were basically running on flat/downhill for the final couple of miles through Stonehaven, I was struggling to find the energy to get me through the final miles. Following a couple of pauses, lots of encouragement and high fives from the crowds, I was able to pull myself together and power through it! I was totally gutted by this though, as I had just come off the back of some great running and this had more than likely just added 3/4 minutes on to my finishing time.
Finally, I found myself making my way down the Slug Road, past Mackie Academy towards Minerallwell Park. Thankfully, as I came down and out through the trees my supporters were there waiting for me to cheer me on, and this gave me the much-needed boost to kick on for the final few hundred meters and cross the finish line.
It's safe to say that it was a bit of a mixture of emotions when I finally crossed the finish line; relief that I no longer had to run anymore and the sheer joy and elation of knowing that I'd made it to the end. People often ask me why I enjoy running, and I quite often find it hard to come up with an adequate response, but I think this run has finally made it a bit easier to answer. No matter how much I struggle and how heavy and hurting my legs are, that is completely outweighed by the elation of crossing the finishing line with your supporters cheering you on - and finally, getting that medal around your neck. It really makes it all worth it.
Overall, I'm fairly satisfied with my finishing time considering the conditions - I'm just kicking myself that I couldn't keep up the pace for the final 2 miles as it would have made a huge difference to my time. I guess in hindsight I should have maybe done a little extra homework on the route, and crammed in some extra hill training in preparation. But I'm glad I did it because if I want to keep challenging and pushing myself more with my running, then this is the type of races I need to do.
A huge thank you to my supporters for coming out and enduring the sun to cheer me on, it really made a huge difference. A massive thank you also to the organisers for putting on such a great event and of course, thank you to all the volunteers on the day - events like this wouldn't be possible without these people (the food at the end was a particularly welcome surprise).
It's time for a well earned few days rest from running (I'm not quite at the level where I can just get up and go the next day yet) while I plan my next run. I'm not signed up for anything else yet, but considering the Metro Dyce half marathon in August and the Crathes half marathon in September. Any suggestions?
Beer & Running - What's Not to Like?
As much as I love beer, I also love running. So when the chance arose to combine the two into one event - the BrewDog Summer Run 2018, it was one I couldn't pass up.
For those who are unaware of it, the BrewDog Run has been a yearly event since December 2015 and is now in it's sixth occurrence. Organised by Aberdeen running group The Fit Like Joggers, the BrewDog Run is a 21 mile run that begins at BrewDog Castlegate and ends at DogTap in Ellon.
Those of you who know me will know that I'm a keen runner, and have now completed a few half marathons and one 15 mile run earlier this year. But a 21 mile run seemed like quite a daunting task, especially in the height of summer. Thankfully though, this isn't classed as a "race", and more of a social fun run. Participants run in groups, at a slower pace where conversation is encouraged with an estimated finishing time of 3-1/2 - 4 hours.
We had to meet at BrewDog Castlegate at 10.00am on Saturday (09/06/18) to drop off any bags, get watered and for our pre-run briefing - I was slightly astonished at this point to see the number of people with pints in their hands before the run! Not feeling that brave, I decided to stick to water at this point. Thankfully the running Gods were kind enough to bless us with clouds! Whilst it was still quite warm, there was no sign of the sun in the sky - which was a welcome sight.
After a pre-run team photo, we set off through town, making our way past Mounthooly roundabout, along Great Northern Road, Auchmill Road in the direction of Dyce. This initial leg of the run slightly eased any pre-run worries I was having; we were taking it at a nice slow pace due to running through town, and I also quickly got talking to a couple of other runners who were very friendly and certainly made it more enjoyable.
After 6.3 miles, we arrived at the Spider's Web in Dyce. This gave us a chance to regroup and grab a quick refreshment. Again - I was shocked to see people indulging in more beer at this point! I always knew there was a beer stop at 10 miles - which I was even sceptical about to begin with, but after seeing all these seasoned runners enjoying a beer (or two) by this point...I would definitely be indulging at the beer stop.
After another group photo, and some light heckling and jeers from a group of football fans, we then made our way down towards the station and out on to the old railway line on the next leg of our run.
This was my first time out running on the old railway line, and what a difference it was to running through the city. It was a relief to no longer be dodging pedestrians, lampposts and stopping at traffic lights. This, in turn, allowed us to pick up the pace slightly and press on towards the beer stop. David (Scott, one of the main organisers of the event) was really helpful throughout the run - often slowing his pace down to check on other runners, taking the time to run alongside them for a bit, and even offering out his drinks.
At around the 10 mile mark, just outside Newmachar, the "refreshment" point was a welcome sight. Stocked with Elvis Juice, Punk IPA, water, chocolate & Haribo - not to forget the music, this was exactly what we needed at this point in the run! The beer went down a treat, the music made for a great atmosphere and gave everyone the chance to catch up and take a well-earned rest.
After we were all suitably refreshed, we set off on the final leg of the run - only 11 miles to go! We continued along the old railway line at a decent pace, and after a few miles I'd dropped off slightly from my original running partners - but thankfully I found others who were just as friendly to run with for a few more miles.
Unfortunately for me, my feet had other ideas and they started to really hurt at around the 16 mile mark. This caused me to slow down significantly, to the point of having to alternate between running and walking for a while. This also, unfortunately, left me running on my own; somewhere between the groups at the front, and the groups further behind - this turned out to be quite mentally draining, as well as physically.
Despite the setbacks, I managed to pull myself through it, and after a brief diversion (I got lost...Google Maps to the rescue!) in Ellon, I made it to DogTap. Seeing the brewery in the distance as I made my way along the final stretch was a glorious sight! Greeted with congratulations and smiles, I was handed my medal & goody bag, which contained a rather awesome finishers t-shirt - I headed inside to enjoy some of the macaroni that was provided by DogTap, and then freshen myself up. We were then ready to enjoy some much-needed beer(s) in the sun - which had thankfully decided to appear at just the right time! After a few beers and some chatting, a few of us made our way to the park & ride and got on the bus back to Aberdeen...
As a personal highlight for me, not only was it an extremely enjoyable run overall, but it was also the furthest distance I've ever run - so I did feel a great sense of achievement when I reached the end. It's great to keep pushing myself to go further, and maybe soon I'll tackle the last five miles and get a marathon under my belt...
I'd like to end by saying thanks to David Scott and everyone behind the scenes involved in organising the event and helping out on the day. I had a great day, met some friendly people, and as challenging as I found the final few miles - I think it is definitely my most enjoyable run to date. Also, a massive well done to those of you who went out running the next day - especially those mad enough to run a marathon, it is inspiring to see!
Hopefully this event continues to grow, and it's safe to say I'm looking forward to the next one already.
I've Got A Good Feeling About This
"You've never heard of the Millennium Falcon? It's the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs"
It's crazy to think we have a new Star Wars movie to enjoy when The Last Jedi was only just released in December but here we are with Solo: A Star Wars Story. The second anthology movie outwith the main saga following 2016's Rogue One, Solo is set prior to the events of A New Hope, and explores the early adventures of Han Solo and Chewbacca.
Directed by Ron Howard, who took over from Phil Lord and Christopher Miller who were reportedly fired due to "creative differences", Solo stars Alden Ehrenreich in the title role, alongside Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Joonas Suotamo, and Paul Bettany.
As always, I've tried to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible, but if you don't want to know anything, then stop reading now and come back once you've seen the movie. Check out the trailer below:
We are quickly introduced to a young, street wise Han and his lover Qi'ra (Clarke) in the midst of a hussle on the shipbuilding world of Corellia. Whilst trying to escape Corellia to begin a new life together, Qi'ra is apprehended and Han vows to return for her one day. He escapes the planet by enlisting as a flight cadet in the Imperial Navy. Fast forward three years and Han is introduced to a group of bandits led by Beckett (Harrelson).
This sets Han on a path that sees him first encounter his long term allies Chewbacca & Lando Calrissian, set foot on the Millennium Falcon for the first time and we see the origins of the infamous "Kessel Run", first mentioned in A New Hope. Our group of misfit heroes come together to appease the ruthless crime lord Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany) who has a longstanding history with Beckett.
The new cast for the most part, all take to their roles brilliantly - Alden Ehrenreich is perfect in the role of Han, and is entirely believable as a younger version of the character that Harrison Ford first brought to life; he has the look, the charm and the most importantly, the cocky arrogance. Emilia Clarke is perfectly fine as Qi'ra, I think she is at her best in the films final act - but I think there is something quite wooden about her performance for the most part. Woody Harrelson does his best Woody Harrelson as Beckett and is great in the role but for me the standout performances were Donald Glover as Lando, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge as his robot first mate L3-37. I think everyone knew before seeing the film that Glover would knock it out the park as Lando, and he does - much like Ehrenreich does as Han, Glover has all the characteristics to play Lando just as Billy Dee Williams did. There's talk of potentially seeing more of Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian, and I really hope we get to. Just as with K-2SO in Rogue One, there is a scene stealing droid that gets the majority of the movies laughs. L3-37 is Lando's first mate, and co-pilot of the falcon. Voiced by English actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge, L3-37 is at the centre of many of the films laugh out loud moments and proves yet again, that the droids are the heart of Star Wars movies.
Paul Bettany does an excellent job as the movies villain Dryden Vos. If you are going to cast an English actor to play a villain, then you cast Paul Bettany. He does such a good job of being both extremely charming, yet extremely terrifying at the same time. My only gripe is that he's such a massive, menacing screen presence but yet he doesn't get an awful lot of screen time.
As always with Star Wars movies, the score plays almost as big a part as any character and that is no exception here. John Powell is on hand here as the movies main composer, with long term Star Wars composer John Williams composing Han Solo's theme, (known as The Adventures of Han). There are call backs to older movies with versions of The Star Wars Main Theme and the Imperial March getting their chance to shine during some of the movies most thrilling moments. I'll forever marvel at the sight of the Falcon flying through space as the Star Wars fanfare plays.
The movies set piece moments all land as intended for me, and play out spectacularly on screen. The central heist of the movie, referred to as The Kessel Run works as both a standalone part of this movie, and also as a neat callback to A New Hope. Seeing the Falcon in it's original condition is also pretty cool. It is essentially a brand new ship in this movie, and looks rather different to how we're used to. However it is the train heist from earlier on in the movie (as referenced to in the trailer) that is the most impressive action sequence for me. It is an awesome sequence of events that looks awesome in the snowy setting. Han & Chewie's first meeting is also a fun little scene, although I was able to predict it happening before it actually played out on screen.
As with Rogue One, there isn't really too much moments of jeopardy in the movie, because we kind of already knew the outcome. We knew that Han, Chewie & Lando would all survive, we knew that Han would get his golden dice back from Qi'ra and we knew that the Falcon wouldn't get destroyed.
Overall, I really enjoyed Solo - it is fun filled ride of a movie, and whilst it may not be 100% necessary in the grand scheme of things, it serves as great introduction to Han Solo's backstory. Seeing some iconic moments play out on screen, left me with a major grin and I will never not get chills when I hear the Star Wars theme blasting out over the speakers. Finally, Solo is worth the admission fee for the cameo at the end alone - it will blow your mind, trust me.
Solo: A Star Wars Story gets 4 out of 5 from me
Deadpool 2: Dead Harder
The Merc With The Mouth is back. Following the rip roaring success of his first outing in 2016 a sequel was very quickly announced & a release date set. The post credit scene in Deadpool also told us that the sequel would feature Cable - the time travelling cybernetic soldier from the comic books. I absolutely loved the first movie and was extremely excited for the sequel. Following a hilarious marketing campaign, Deadpool 2 was released on 16 May, 2018.
Directing duties this time round go to David Leitch (John Wick, Atomic Blonde) from a script by the returning Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick who are joined by Ryan Reynolds. The movie stars Reynolds in the title role alongside Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, Julian Dennison, Zazie Beetz, T.J. Miller, Brianna Hildebrand, and Jack Kesy.
I've tried to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible, but if you don't want to know anything, then stop reading now. Check out the trailer below:
Deadpool 2 picks up a couple of years on following the events of Deadpool where Wade Wilson has been successfully working as Deadpool the mercenary to great effect. Then, a failed assassination attempt results in a tragedy for Wade that sets off a chain of events that see's Deapool become an X-Men trainee under the guidance of the returning Colossus. This leads him to an encounter with the troubled teen Russell (Julian Dennison) & subsequently Cable, the time travelling cybernetic soldier played by Josh Brolin. This in turn sets up various large scale action set pieces that lead towards a final show down, including one very impressive sequence in a high security prison. We also see the beginning of the X-Force team in this movie, which leads to one of the most unapologetic, hilarious montages I have seen play out on screen recently!
Ryan Reynolds is just as fantastic as this movie as he was in the first. He was born to play this character. The wit, the humour, the jokes & the constant fourth wall breaks never seem out of place at all and Reynolds is there at the centre of it all holding it together. Alongside him, the new cast; Zazie Beetz (Atlanta) as Domino, Josh Brolin (Avengers: Infinity War) as Cable and the hilarious Julian Dennison (Hunt For The Wilderpeople) as Russell all make a fantastic addition to the supporting cast and for me Domino & Russell really steal the show alongside Reynolds. If you have watched any of Atlanta on FX you would know that Zazie Beetz would just nail the role of Domino, and she does with aplomb. Julian Dennison brings his trademark New Zealand sense of humour that shot him to stardom in Hunt For The Wilderpeople - please watch that film, you wont regret it!
If I had to pick some flaws in it, they would only be minor. Location wise - it felt pretty similar to the first movie; action scenes taking place on a motorway and similar looking big grey open spaces. Also, there were one or two jokes that didn't quite land for me, including one involving dubstep that I thought felt quite dated - and this was used twice during the movie!
There is a hilarious sequence of post credit scenes that come shortly after the beginning of the credits, and they are absolutely worth staying around for. I won't spoil them for you, but Ryan Reynolds sure knows how to poke fun at himself!
Overall, I thought Deadpool 2 was great and everything you could have wanted from the sequel; bigger, badder, cruder, more violent & introducing new, interesting characters. However I did feel that it lacked the initial shock factor from the first movie, as you kind of knew what was coming & it didn't quite catch me off guard as it did in the first movie. That said, it's still a hell of a ride, and one I definitely recommend that you check out.
Deadpool 2 gets 4 out of 5 from me
My Tips For A Few Days In The City
We recently took a trip to Paris as part of my wife Kerry's 30th birthday celebrations. I'd never been there before and Kerry had only been to Disneyland and having visited other large cities like New York & Barcelona last year, it was something we were really looking forward to. In this post, I'm going to share some of the things we got up to, and my tips to make the most of a few days in the French capital.
Walk, Walk, Walk
Paris is a large & sprawling beautiful city, and much like New York it is entirely walk-able. Sure, it may take a couple of hours to get from one end to the other, but the architecture, the quirky neighbourhoods & the unique bars and coffee shops you will find along the way make it completely worth it. So if you have the time, I would suggest walking pretty much everywhere you can.
Obviously this is all weather dependent & the first couple of days, we found ourselves getting an Uber pretty much everywhere. While Uber is an extremely convenient way of getting around, the traffic in Paris can be such a nightmare, a 2-3km journey can take up to half an hour! If you are wanting to get somewhere quick, then the metro is the way to go. There are stops everywhere, and it is just as straight forward as it is in London & New York.
Head Up The Eiffel Tower (On A Sunny Day)
You don't need me to tell you that if you are visiting Paris for the first time that you need to go up the Eiffel tower. It is iconic and something I would definitely recommend. The architecture and level craftsmanship is absolutely stunning, and unlike anything I have ever seen in person.
My number one tip for going up the Eiffel Tower would be...try and make sure you go up on a sunny day! I had arranged tickets for a tour beforehand that gave us priority entry to the second floor as part of a group. Unfortunately on the day of our tour, which also happened to be Kerry's birthday, was absolutely miserable; freezing cold, pouring rain and rather windy. Since the tickets were already bought and the tour was booked we didn't really have a choice but to go along. Also, if you've booked a tour - make sure you are not late! I ended up misjudging the traffic which caused us to miss the start of our tour and in turn we ended up in a Spanish language group - not ideal, but at least we still got to skip the queues. It was all quite hilarious as the tour guide didn't realise that we couldn't understand him, and we just happily nodded along with the odd "Si".
If you decide to go up the tower, make sure you make your way to the very top. It makes for some spectacular views of the city - even on a rainy day!
Go On A Dinner Cruise
Get Up Early To Explore
Trying to get good photos of some of the more popular landmarks in Paris can be an absolute nightmare, especially with the amount of other tourists around.
On our final day in Paris, I decided to get up early (7am) and head out for a run. It was a great run through the city, along the bank of the Seine, through the Jardin des Tuileries and finally past the Louvre. Whilst the streets were packed with runners along the river, when I broke off through the tourist spots, I found that there was hardly anyone around. This was a great opportunity to take a quick break & snap a few photos and I was able to capture some stunning, unobstructed shots of the ferris wheel & the Louvre pyramid.
So my advice would be - if you really want that perfect shot, get up early and go and get it
Hunt Around For The Coolest Bars
There are loads of places to have a drink in Paris. However, a lot of them are quite generic looking restaurants/bars on street corners with similar looking menus. My main piece of advice for this is to do a bit of research beforehand and you can find all the coolest spots to visit.
Right next door to our hotel was a cocktail bar called Bisou which had no menu, and only made drinks based on what you like. So for example - you could tell the bartender that you liked bourbon, something sweet & smokey and then he would go off and make your drink. He would then let you try it, and then come back and explain what it was and how he came up with the idea - it was a really could place and I would definitely recommend checking it out of you are ever in Paris
There are places like that to be found everywhere. A five minute walk from our hotel took us to a bar called Wynwood that was a funky little spot. Serving up cocktails, craft beer and tacos. There were cool neon lighting, awesome artwork on the walls and even a Nintendo tucked away in the corner running Mario Kart! It was a shame that this place wasn't very busy whilst we were there as it was such a cool spot, one that I wish we'd discovered earlier in the holiday as I would have definitely paid it another visit.
You Don't Need To Eat Out All the Time
Have A Picnic In Champ De Mars
There are some beautiful parks all over Paris. One of these parks, Champ De Mars is the perfect place to have a relaxing picnic on a sunny day, underneath the stunning backdrop of the Eiffel Tower. Get along to a supermarket or a bakery, pick up some bread, meat, some beers or wine and spend a few hours chilling in the sun. That's what we did and it was the ideal way to wind down on our final day in the city.
So there you have it. My tips for getting the most out of Paris. Obviously there was so much more we could have taken in whilst we there; we didn't visit any museums, we didn't visit all the major tourist attractions, we didn't take in a show and we didn't eat out every night. But the reality is - Paris is a really expensive place, and coupled with the time factor, we couldn't realistically do everything. However, we did what we wanted to do, and I think that we had a great time.
Have you been to Paris? What did you get up to? Is there anything you would have done differently? Let me know in the comments below.
If like me, you've been sitting in the movie theatre until the credits finish rolling for the last 10 years, then the chances are you'll be excited for this movie.
Directed by the Russo Brothers, Joe & Anthony (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War), Avengers: Infinity War is the 19th entry Into the MCU and the third Avengers movie. Starring pretty much everyone who featured in the MCU so far including Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Don Cheadle, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Josh Brolin, and Chris Pratt, Infinity War sees The Avengers join forces with The Guardians of The Galaxy to face their biggest threat yet - Thanos, the mad titan.
I've tried to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible, but if you don't want to know anything, then stop reading now. Check out the trailer below:
The movie picks up almost immediately following the ending of Thor: Ragnarok with a shocking opening sequence that sets the stakes for the rest of the movie within the first ten minutes. We are given a brutal re-introduction to Thanos & meet his henchmen, known as the Children of Thanos for the first time. They are dispatched to Earth in search of more infinity stones as the movie shifts gear & begins to catch up with the rest of our heroes.
It is extremely fast paced as the movie jumps back and forth, caching up with different groups of heroes as they prepare for the arrival of Thanos. There are some fantastic scenes here, including some hilarious comic relief with Dr Strange, Tony Stark & Bruce Banner. There is even a sequence set in Edinburgh that features one of the best shots in the entire movie where a certain hero re-emerges from the shadows in the train station.
As teased in the trailer, Thor's introduction to The Guardians is as hilarious as you would expect & he is quickly dispatched on a side mission with Rocket & teenage Groot, while the rest of The Guardians set off in search of Thanos. As the movie progresses, the groups are slowly brought together across space & the stunning Wakanda. The home of T'Challa is just as stunning as it was when we were introduced to it in this year's Black Panther movie, and it serves as a hub for The Avengers as they prepare for the arrival of Thanos himself. As seen in the trailer there is a massive battle sequence set here that is an incredible spectacle and without one of the most spectacular sequences in the MCU to date. Many of the supporting cast from this years smash movie make an appearance here and standout Shuri gives even Bruce Banner & Tony Stark a run for their money in the brains department.
I went though just about every emotion imaginable watching this movie; I laughed, I gasped, I was shocked, I was excited & I felt sadness several times - there is one moment in particular between Tony Stark & Spider-Man that is bound to set off some tears.
The score plays an absolutely fantastic part in the overall movie too - I still get chills every time I hear the Avengers theme, I think it is starting to become just as iconic as Star Wars or Jurassic Park for me. There is even a slowed down, piano key version of it that plays over a devestating scene later in the movie.
As always, there is a post credit sequence, so be sure to stay until the very end to catch it. I did think it was a little disappointing, however we do see a couple of characters we haven't seen for a while now.
I loved Avengers: Infinity War. It was everything I was expecting & more. Sure it ends with a massive cliffhanger, but it makes the wait for the untitled Avengers 4 next year even more exciting. I think that it takes it's place at the top of my MCU rankings now and I cannot wait to watch it again.
Avengers: Infinity War gets 5 out of 5 from me
Step Into the OASIS
Every now and then, a book will come along that is just crying out to be turned into a movie. For me that book was Ready Player One, the science fiction novel by Ernest Cline which was released in 2011. The book quickly became a global success, made its way onto New York Times Bestseller list & rightly cemented Ernest Cline as king of the geeks. Whilst researching for this review I discovered that in December 2017 Ernest Cline confirmed that he was writing a sequel.
The novel itself is a treasure trove of 80's & 90's pop culture references & when it came to turning this book in to a movie, there was only really one man for the job. In March 2015, Steven Spielberg signed on to direct & a release date of March 29, 2018 was set.
My excitement for this movie couldn't have been higher; maybe only an Avengers or Star Wars movie could have topped it, and as a self proclaimed geek myself I made sure I got along to see it as soon as I could. Check out the trailer below:
**Warning...before you go any further, this review will contain MINOR spoilers - so if you want to go in to this movie without knowing anything, then stop reading now and come back after you've seen it **
Set In the year 2045, the world has been gripped by an energy crisis from the depletion of fossil fuels and the consequences of global warming, and overpopulation, causing widespread social problems and economic stagnation. To escape the decline their world is facing, people turn to the OASIS, a virtual reality simulator accessible by players using visors and haptic technology such as gloves. It functions both as an MMORPG and as a virtual society, with its currency being the most stable in the real world. It was created by James Halliday (Mark Rylance) who, when he died, had announced in his will to the public that he had left an Easter egg inside OASIS, and the first person to find it would inherit his entire fortune and the corporation. The story follows the adventures of Wade Watts/Parzival (Tye Sheridan) and several of his allies who try to complete the game before indentured players working for a large corporation, run by Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), can do so. The movie also stars Olivia Cooke, Lena Waithe, TJ Miller & Simon Pegg.
The visuals in this movie are absolutely stunning. Spielberg has done a fantastic job of re-creating the OASIS in all its glory. I think it's pretty much exactly as I would have imagined it whilst reading the book. The movie spends much of it's time in the OASIS - probably around 75% of the movie, so it was crucial that the aesthetic of the OASIS was captured perfectly. The real world setting is also visually striking in the time we spend there, Wade's home "The Stacks" is an intimidating slum like city made up of trailer park homes that have been stacked on top of eachother like sky scrapers. It is literally exactly how I imagined it off the page, right down to his abandoned van hideout.
As for how the movie works as a whole - I thought that it worked fantastically. We are quickly brought up to speed regarding the OASIS and the events regarding the contest itself, how grim Wade's real world ls & exactly how much winning this contest means to him. His relationships with the other characters such as Aech and Art3mis seem entirely believable and engaging. He very quickly builds a bond with Art3mis and the two actors have great on screen chemistry. The initial setting of the OASIS itself did take a little getting used to for me, but after around twenty minutes I was totally engaged and couldn't take my eyes off the action.
Sure there are some changes from the book, I won't go into them in detail, but it was always going to be a hard ask to translate this book to screen. The changes that were made, in my opinion help the plot flow and also give today's generation of geeks something to geek out about with easter eggs.
The cast put in some fantastic performances all round - Sheridan & Cooke bring Parzival & Art3mis to life exactly how I imagined from the book, Ben Mendelsohn puts in a typical Mendelsohn scheming villain performance & Mark Rylance does a wonderful job in his portrayal of the eccentric genius James Halliday.
As for the references themselves - I won't spoil them all for you, but there's just about everything you can imagine; Batman, Back to the Future, Duke Nukem, GoldenEye, Akira, Godzilla & THE FREAKING T-REX FROM JURASSIC PARK! There's also a sequence that takes place in a re-creation of The Shining by Stephen King which is phenomenal & one of the most memorable scenes in the movie. It's definitely gonna take multiple viewings to catch all the references and I for one can't wait to go back and see what I can find.
For me, this movie can proudly take its place alongside the great movies of Spielberg's career; Jaws, Raiders of The Lost Ark, Saving Private Ryan & of course, Jurassic Park.
Ready Player One gets 4.5 out of 5 stars from me
the Best of The Box
I love me some good TV. We are always on the hunt for a new box set in our household. Over the last few weeks I have been watching some great TV; some absolutely mind-blowing TV, some new & some returning favourites.
Wild Wild Country - Netflix
I'm going to start off with the show that has blown my mind the most recently. That show is Wild Wild Country, a Netflix docuseries based on the controversial Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh & the rise of his Rajneesh movement across the globe - primarily how it affected the small town of Antelope, Oregon, USA.
I'm reluctant to say too much about this show, because I think it would be best to let it unravel before you eyes - and I really don't want to spoilt it for you. Although I've linked the trailer below, I'd suggest going into it without watching the trailer, as it gives a bit much away for me. Just watch this show, and prepare for your jaw to drop in disbelief.
The Assassination of Gianni Versace - BBC
Next we have The Assassination of Gianni Versace - the second season of the American Crime Story anthology series, the first season being The People v. O. J. Simpson. Created by Ryan Murphy, the man behind the extremely popular American Horror Story, American Crime Story will re-create a huge American scandal each season.
As stated by the title, this season follows the assassination of fashion guru Gianni Versace in 1997. Now this is a story I had absolutely no prior knowledge of, so I have been absolutely gripped by it from the off. The cast features Édgar Ramírez as Gianni Versace, Penélope Cruz as his sister Donatella, Ricky Martin as Gianni's lover & Darren Criss as Andrew Cunanan (the man behind the assassination). Check out the trailer below.
Marvel's Jessica Jones (S2) - Netflix
Following up from the slight disappointing "The Defenders", Netflix are continuing their Marvel run with Jessica Jones back for season 2. For those unaware Jessica Jones follows Krysten Ritter as the titular super powered private detective as she takes on new cases whilst trying to solve the mystery of her past.
Season 1 was without doubt one of the high points of Netflix's run with the Marvel characters. Whilst only around 6 episodes in, I'm still trying to figure out how this season will go. Ritter puts in another captivating performance as Jessica Jones & does plenty to hold your attention. The Netflix shows seem to have suffered from a dip in quality as they have went on with the exception being the recent "The Punisher", so I can only hope that Jessica Jones doesn't suffer from this as the season progresses. Check out the trailer below.
Love (S3) - Netflix
Love, the Judd Apatow produced romantic comedy series is back for its third and final season on Netflix. If you haven't already seen it, Love follows Gus (Paul Rust) & Mickey (Gillian Jacobs) over the course of the turbulent relationship that features many ups and downs throughout. There is also a great supporting cast full of hilarious characters to back up the strong leads.
For me, the third season has so far been every bit as good as the previous too. When it first came along, Love was a show that completely took me buy surprise & quickly got me hooked. It is such a refreshing take on the genre & a show that I think deserves your attention. Check out the trailer below.
One final thing. A glaring omission from this list is The Walking Dead. The Walking Dead is a show I have been watching for 8 seasons now, and it is a show that I have seriously lost interest in - but can't stop watching. However, I think i'm going to save my full thoughts on that for another blog. There's a lot to cover there.
I hope you find something from this list to get stuck into. Also, let me know if you have any recent recommendations.
Happy watching 📺
If you are roughly the same age as me & played video games, then the chances are you will have owned a PS2. If you did, then you may or may not have played the Team ICO classic Shadow of The Colossus. I came across the game quite late in the PS2's life-cycle, I think I picked it up maybe a couple of weeks before I upgraded to a PS3 on launch day - hence I never got round to finishing it. I felt really bad about not finishing the game because it was such a celebrated title, and what I did play of it was fantastic.
Luckily though, Bluepoint Games have fully remastered this classic for PS4 in glorious HD & following the overwhelmingly positive reviews, I decided to pick this up & finally play through it in full. Check out the launch trailer below:
Shadow of The Colossus tells the story of a character called Wander who enters a forbidden land in search of a cure to bring his girlfriend, Mono, back to life. In order to restore her life, he makes a deal to defeat 16 beings known as Colossi that are spread throughout the land. And with that, you are set on your way - with nothing but your horse (Agro), a sword (which acts are your compass) & a bow.
The gameplay starts from a central point - the temple where you begin your quest, and from here you must make your way across the sprawling, barren, but beautiful landscape in search of the Colossi. This is where the game really differs from other titles; there is no levels, towns or dungeon that you need to explore & there is no enemies other than the Colossi. Using your sword to guide the way (you hold it in the air and it shines a light in the direction of the Colossi), you make your way across the landscape, often traversing bridges & obstacles that will lead to a remote location where you discover the giant Colossi.
The Colossi battles each serve as a cross between a traditional boss battle & a puzzle, usually requiring the player to figure out the giants weak-spots, and how to get to them. This would typically involve finding a way to scale the beast to reach these glowing weak spots & whilst they start relatively simple, as the game progresses they do become quite challenging! The battles are incredible, and offer some of the most rewarding moments I've ever experienced in gaming & the soundtrack that kicks in when you finally get on a Colossi is such a memorable track.
With being a re-master there is a few drawbacks; the controls can be slightly shonky (although not as bad as the original) and they do take some getting used to - the amount of times I forgot to hold R2 whilst climbing & fell to my death was unbelievable. The camera can be a nightmare at times, but it's something that you just get used to eventually.
Visually, the game is spectacular & offers some absolutely breathtaking scenery. Whilst not as vast & certainly not as populated, it reminded me somewhat of last years Game of The Year - The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild. It offers for some fantastic moments to use the in game photo mode - a feature that now seems to be standard for most Sony 1st party releases. Check out some of my screenshots below:
Overall, I'm delighted that I decided to finally play through this game. It is a true classic, and one that I feel all gamers owe it to themselves to play. It was such a thrilling experience from start to finish - and such a nostalgia rush to when I first played it back in 2006. I wonder if similar will be done to Team ICO's first outing, ICO as I never played that game at all & also it has given me appetite to play their game that spent years in development hell - The Last Guardian. You can pick this game up for less than £20 now & for the satisfaction I took from it, I certainly feel it is money well spent.
You won't play many games like Shadow of The Colossus & it gets 4.5 out of 5 from me.
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.