The Best of The Best
2019 may have had its up and downs when it came to almost anything in the everyday news, but it was also full of a bunch of great stuff. I wanted to do this post to share some of my favourites from the year with you all to give you a chance to catch up on some awesome TV, movies, music & podcasts you may have missed. So, without further ado...
Favourite movie of the year: Joker
Honourable Mentions: Avengers Endgame, El Camino, The Irishman
2019 has been a pretty solid year for movies, and my absolute favourite has to be Joker. For a movie that I was pretty sceptical about beforehand, it absolutely blew me away. Of course, the performance from Joaquin Phoenix is at the centre of it all - I almost want to call it a career best performance, but the has had so many, it's too hard to choose. The movie itself needs no introduction, and I'm sure almost all of you out there have seen it - if not, be sure to pick up on home release!
Worthy runners up include the incredible Avengers Endgame - just purely for what it managed to achieve in tying up the storylines from 20+ movies over the course of a decade. It is also a visual spectacle, with an awesome performance from RDJ. Two huge Netflix movies; The Irishman and El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, were also two favourites of mine. The Irishman, while admittedly too long, it features amazing performances and it is amazing seeing Joe Pesci back on screen. El Camino, whist maybe not as appreciated as much by everyone, is a worthy follow up to Breaking Bad, and Aaron Paul, is in incredible form as Jesse Pinkman, a role he was born to play. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywaker is also a notice omission, and whilst I absolutely LOVED it, I don't think I've had enough time to process how much just yet.
Favourite TV show of the year: Succession (season 2)
Honourable Mentions: When They See Us, Unbelievable, The Wticher
As far as TV goes, there has only really been one candidate for me, and that is Succession. The moment I watched the first episode (after Kerry, my wife, had watched it), I was hooked, and the first two seasons were binged in no time. For those unaware, Succession is a dark comedy drama, that follows the Roy family (imagine the Murdochs), and their media empire. It has a whole cast of amazing characters - it's a bit like Game of Thrones set in the modern world, but with less violence and more politics. Season two ends on such a massive cliffhanger, and season three is already my most anticipated TV of 2020.
When They See Us & Unbelievable are two amazing true crime dramas both to come to Netflix this year, that both feature an amazing cast, and harrowing stories - that must be seen to be believed. While I haven't finished it at the time of writing, I'm also really enjoying The Witcher on Netflix. It's a bit like Game of Thrones on steroids, featuring a great performance from Henry Cavill. The final season of Game of Thrones is missing from this list, mainly because as much as I enjoyed it - it was just way too rushed for me to be 100% satisfying. I've also seen The Mandalorian - but that isn't released in the UK until next year, but it is INCREDIBLE.
Favourite artist/album of the year: Sam Fender/Hypersonic Missiles
Honorable Mentions: The Menzingers/Hello Exile, Dave Hause/Kick
This was a tough choice, because two of my favourite artists, The Menzingers & Dave Hause, released new records this year. As good as they both were, none of them caught my attention as must as the debut record, Hypersonic Missiles, from Sam Fender did. From the moment I first heard the single, Hypersonic Missiles, I knew that he was good, but it wasn't until he released the track The Borders, that it took it to another level. That is the single best track I've heard from a UK artist in years, and a song hasn't caught my attention so much since I first heard The '59 Sound by The Gaslight Anthem.
Hello Exile by The Menzingers is a worthy follow up to the stellar After The Party, with particular highlights being Anna, and Strain Your Memory. Kick, by Dave Hause is an exceptional record, that showcases his talents, and how much he has grown as an artitst since his brother Tim has came on board.
Favourite podcast of the year: Finding Drago
Honourable Mentions: The Storyteller: Murder Most Foul, Triple Hopped, Bad Batch
Now, I don't even know if this podcast was strictly released in 2019, but I only discovered it this year, and I do know that it is absolutely incredible. Finding Drago is an investigative journalism podcast that starts as one thing, and ends as another. I don't want to say too much about it as to spoil the events, but it starts as a journey to find the author of a Rocky IV sequel novel named Drago: On Mountains We Stand.
As for the runners up, Storyteller: Murder Most Foul is a true crime podcast set here in Aberdeen, telling an absolutely horrible story, yet a story that needed to be told. Triple Hopped is a podcast all about craft beer in which each episodes the host talk about a certain type of beer, or a certain brewery. Bad Batch is the latest podcast to come from the team behind Dirty John & Dr Death, Bad Batch tells the story of a bunch of patients who were offered a miracle cure, yet were all rushed to the hospital in critical condition.
So there you have it, my favourites for the year. I would have liked to have maybe included books and games too, but I don't think I read a single book all year, and I didn't play enough games that blew me away to justify making a list.
What were your favourites? Let me know in the comments below.
Beer & Running...My Two Favourite Things!
If you're a regular reader of this blog, then you will know that the two things I write most about are beer, and running. So when I stumbled across a documentary film on YouTube called Beer Runners, of course I was going to watch it.
Directed by Justin Wirtalla, Beer Runners primarily tells the story of David April, a resident of Fishtown, Philadelphia and his running journey. He takes up running following a personal struggle, and during a run in November 2007, his friend Eric Fiedler told him about a study that was conducted by a Spanish professor which stated that beer is just as effective as water at re-hydrating the body after exercise. Intrigued by this prospect, they decided to stop for a beer after their run, and thus the Fishtown Beer Runners were born.
The concept of The Fishtown Beer Runners is pretty simple; Each week the club would run between 3-5 miles, ending up at a different bar, where they would enjoy a couple of beers and most importantly, toast The Professor.
The Fishtown Beer Runners® combine responsible running and consumption in the interest of science. We gather once a week to run three to five miles, and conclude each run at a pub for a beer or two.
The majority of the movie centres around interviews with David, along with personal testimonials of some of the running club members, all inter-cut between various other important events surrounding the club. Initially starting out with just a few members, it's amazing to watch the club grow, exponentially, as the movie goes on. We meet people, who much like David in the beginning, had never really ran before, but are welcomed into the club with open arms. One of the most amazing stories of the film is that of Johanna Goode, who prior to joining the beer runners, was not a runner. She started off small, and within around six months, she ran her first marathon, and in the 2-3 years that followed had completed around 12 marathons/ultra marathons - truly incredible stuff. There are several other stories like that throughout the movie and it's really hard not to watch with a smile on your face when you hear these.
One of the most important points to stress is that the Fishtown Beer Runners are first and foremost a serious running cub, not a drinking club, This is even more evident as the group grows in size, with even seasoned marathon runners signing up. As membership increases, the club starts to give back to the community by holding events, and helping out with local charities, and helping those with disabilities enjoy running to the fullest.
Another aspect of the club that I found extremely interesting was the toast itself. As I mentioned earlier, at the end of each run, the tradition of The Fishtown Beer Runners is to toast the man who started it all - The Professor. Every week without fail, all the members would raise their glass in the air as David would give his speech, and toast The Professor. It's amazing to watch these people get so worked up and excited, toasting a man that they had never met - but purely due to the fact he'd brought them all together.
In 2011, David was invited to Spain by The Professor, whose real name is Manuel Castillo from the University of Granada, to meet those involved with the study and see where it all took place. We soon realise the full scale of this movement, when in 2013 David and several of the club members make the pilgrimage to Spain for the first ever Beer Runners summit and to meet the man who they have been toasting all these years. They are then joined on the streets of Granada by their Spanish beer running counterparts, and it is a truly amazing sight seeing all these people running through the beautiful streets of Spain in the glorious sunshine - it is such a moving scene.
Beer Runners is available to watch in its entirety, FOR FREE on YouTube. Check out the link below.
I absolutely loved this movie - not just because it combines two of my biggest passions, but because it is such an inspiring and moving story. It is also a concept that I can totally get on board with, and one that I'd love to see take shape over here in some way. Sure, we have similar events such as The BrewDog Run, and Run4It's fantastic Takeover Series, but nothing as social, or as frequent as that of the Fishtown Beer Runners.
I can't recommend Beer Runners enough. If you are a runner and a beer drinker then I guarantee you will love it, and even if you are neither of these things, you will at least find some inspiration from these peoples stories. Plus, it's free to watch on YouTube, so what's stopping you?! It is easily the best running movie that I have seen before, and probably one of my favourite documentaries of recent times. All that's left to say is... To the professor! 🍻
Beer Runners gets 5 out of 5 from me.
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
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
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.
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.
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