Welcome back Pinhead!


scarlet-gospels

Yesterday after much anticipation, I finally got my hands on the latest novel from acclaimed horror / fantasy writer Clive Barker.  Now those not in the know, this writer was responsible for the ‘Hellraiser’ movies (especially as he wrote and directed the first instalment waaay back in 1987) and quickly garnered a big cult following with numerous novels and short stories to his name.  I first discovered this man through his ‘Books Of Blood’ anthologies and although I haven’t read some of his more epic tomes such as Abarat and Weave World, I have admired his imagination and prose for many years.  So this return to the horror genre and one of his most famous characters, the hell priest Pinhead was an exciting prospect.

I don’t read all that much, but make an exception for ‘Barker, who for me is far more interesting than his immediate rival Stephen King.  I’m therefore looking forward to really getting absorbed by this latest masterpiece.

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British born writer, artist and film maker Clive Barker.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt impressions


Geralt W3

Probably the most anticipated game of the year.  CD Project Red’s long awaited follow up to the award winning Witcher 2: Assassin Of Kings takes the series full open world RPG and is the most ambitious project the acclaimed studio have ever under took.

But the important thing here, beyond the hype is for a fairly take them or leave them fan of RPGs, how does it play?  I chose to pick up (or more specifically download) the Xbox One version, and after about seven hours with it, I can confidently say … this game has me hooked.  Think a cross between Red Dead Redemption, The Elder Scrolls series and to some extent Assassin’s Creed and you sort of get the idea.  You play as Geralt, a bad-ass monster hunter or Witcher; feared, respected and reviled in equal measure.  The quest kicks off with you in search of the sorceress Yennifer; a former lover of Geralt’s who he’s been tracking for years and is close to catching up with her.  Also you are on the look out for your prodigy Witcher / sorcerer Ciri, who we meet in the flashback prologue where you train her as a child.  The story holds many twists and turns however, places to visit monsters to hunt and kill for bounty, and a massive, highly detailed world to explore and get lost in.

Launch trailer

This kind of game for me can be a little daunting and I’ll admit it took a while to really get into.  The fighting controls are a little unwieldy at first until you get your head around them and learn to throw in magic and protection spells with your swordplay.  Yet with plenty of character customization, potions to brew and abilities to unlock … this becomes a very deep and engrossing experience that I’ve really only touched the surface of.

On the Xbox One it looks fantastic.  One of the most impressive aspects is the weather and the lighting, how trees blow in the wind, rain fall, mist rolls across the land and moonlight bleeds in through the trees (or eye-burning sunlight).  Also add the sheer detail to houses, villages, grass, very realistic water and the wealth of creatures and monsters … and a myriad of interesting folk and characters.  This is a joy to behold.  There are a few (minor) fluctuations in frame rate and occasional pop-in or glitches, and the game did freeze on me once after dying.  So it’s not perfect, but for the scale and number of things going on it’s still an impressive technical achievement that will only get smoother and more polished with future patches.

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Screenshot captured directly from my Xbox One

Anyone after a long, rewarding and deep game to really get involved in, then you can’t go wrong with this epic RPG.  It has it all and I’m sure will throw up many surprises and memorable situations as I progress.  It’s out now for PC, PS4 and XB1.  So what you waiting for?  Time to kick some monster ass and break some hearts.

The Theory Of Everything


Viewed – 16 May 2015  Pay-per-view

I don’t think there are many people in the world who haven’t heard of acclaimed Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking.  The Cambridge University graduate turned Professor has gained numerous awards through a lengthy career specializing in the theory of time and the universe and how it all began etc., whilst at the same time battling the muscle wasting neurological disorder motor neuron disease or Lou Gehrig’s disease.  He has certainly become a huge inspiration to many, finding fame and achieving many things whilst battling the impossible.

the theory of everything

So a movie of his life has been long overdue and with an Oscar nod for Eddie Redmayne for his portrayal, going into this my expectations were high.  The story focuses on his latter years at Cambridge University and around the time he first began to experience the symptoms of the disease whilst also meeting and falling in love with his first wife Jane (Felicity Jones).  I was surprised how quickly the movie portrays the disease. It goes from a hand not working, to falling down to being on sticks to being in a wheelchair incredibly fast, and it has to be said my emotional investment took a hit as a result.  I’d expected more of a gradual deterioration which I’m sure would have been the case.  Add to this a slightly unflattering turn from Felicity Jones causing Jane occasionally to seem cold and put-out rather than the loving, yet struggling spouse I’d imagine she was.  Her friendship / affection for an organist at her church however does at least add some depth.  So we come to Redmayne, who is nothing short of superb; his deeply affecting performance right on the nail, to the point of being uncanny, capturing much of the real man’s quirks and charm as well as his agony.  It reminded me of Daniel Day Lewis in My Left Foot.

Shortcomings aside, director James Marsh has made a very elegant and quite beautiful movie out of a difficult subject.  Although glossing over much of the darker times, he delivers a gentle, yet no less moving and engrossing story that does the famed Professor a real honour.

Verdict:  4 /5

An update and stuff


So what have I been up to lately?  Well I managed to complete Assassin’s Creed Unity on the PS4, the first AC game I have ever kept interested in until the end.  Why?  I think setting was key.  Of the previous games in the series I have played, most have been set either in medieval (AC 1 & 2) or around the time of the crusades (AC 3) and well, the pirating of AC4 never appealed so I didn’t play that one.  However this one was set in Paris, during the revolution, the time of Napoleon etc. and it was a brilliantly atmospheric setting I personally have plenty of interest in. 

Secondly I have been playing Grand Theft Auto V.  Now eagle-eyed readers of this blog may recall me posting about it a while back when I got it on the Xbox 360.  Well, for one reason or another I didn’t play it all that much of it, and since jumping to the next-generation with the PS4 and Xbox One, I thought it was high time I took a second look following it’s revamped re-release on these consoles.  I picked it up on PS4, and must say for what is technically a last-gen title, the detail (with improved textures, lighting, effects as well as an enhanced array of music on the various radio stations) it’s one of the best looking games I have played to date.  GTA V is a fantastic game following the exploits of three characters; Michael the former gangster now in witness protection, Franklin the stereotypical gang-banger hoodlum and Trevor the meth-dealing lunatic.  The missions are cinematic and the world is alive and complex and massive.  There are a ton of things to see and do and it never feels boring.  I’m loving it.  Check out a few screenshots I took with the PS4 to show off how damn gorgeous this next-gen version looks in the flesh:

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On the gaming horizon (next Tuesday to be specific) is The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt.  A heavily hyped and very well reviewed game that I have pre-ordered for my Xbox One.  From everything I have read and seen, it’s sounding like it will be a mammoth RPG adventure to rival the likes of The Elder Scrolls and Final Fantasy, with you as a bad-ass monster hunter known as Garalt, who inhabits a huge world that is one of the biggest apparently ever made and full of detail, missions, characters and true next-gen visuals.  I have watched some gameplay and read several reviews, and suffice to say I am VERY excited.  Roll on May 19th … I’ll do an early impressions some time in the week.

geralt

In other news, I’ve sadly not managed to secure a trip to the cinema to see The Avengers: Age Of Ultron yet and can see it being a Blu-ray review later in the year.  The same might go for Mad Max Fury Road, but I’m still optimistic about getting to see that one, so watch this space (and no, going by myself doesn’t appeal all that much).  I have a few movies on the agenda however, the names of which I’ll keep to myself for now and let you be surprised when I post the reviews.  Yeah, I’m all about the tease.

On the TV watching front I have been pretty addicted to Better Call Saul, that breaking Bad spin-off starring everyone’s favourite crooked attorney Saul Goodman (or Jimmy Magill as he’s currently known).  It seems to have all the polish and great writing of Breaking Bad (well, it is by Vince Gilligan after all) and just keeps getting better and better.  I’m also watching The Following season 3 (yeah, yeah I know…we’re not getting a season 4…boo hiss) which has again been brilliant this year.  Clearly there is no accounting for taste, so another show hits the skids.  Talking of TV, I’m also looking forward to season 3 of Orange Is The New Black, a show at first I wasn’t entirely sure was me … the first series was good but a little lightweight, but with an excellent and gripping season 2, I am now officially a fan.  Damn Netflix just keeps on giving, doesn’t it?  I am also watching Brit drama Luther on it at the moment which stars popular actor Idris Elba as a tough Police detective who specialises in catching serial killers – right up my alley.

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So other than the above, and getting over some man-flu and a tickly cough that just won’t quit … it’s been all about work, which is going very well.  I am learning some new stuff to do more with secretarial tasks and finding it challenging and educational.  Love it when my job gives me those opportunities to learn new skills and I think it helps build a real profile and shape me for the future.  I’m also of course still looking forward to finally seeing my favourite band Garbage in November when they appear at Brixton Academy in London.  It’s going to be such a once in a life time experience for me, someone who doesn’t really get such opportunities.  I have my big brother to thank for making this happen and with my 40th birthday very much right after, November is looking to be a real belter.

Well, enough from me for now.  Hope you’re all having fun in whatever you’re all up to and continue to check in on me and this blog regularly for more updates, reviews and gaming impressions.

Craig.

Casino


Viewed – 08 May 2015  Blu-ray

20th Anniversary Special Edition

I first saw this acclaimed mob drama a number of year’s ago, and even though I knew it was based on a true story, only recently have I learned about the real-life events the story follows.  Robert DeNiro plays professional gambler Sam ‘Ace’ Rothstein who gets the opportunity to run the Tangier’s Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas in the late seventies.  He makes a big pil o’ cash for the mob ‘back home’ and attracts former childhood friend Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci) who also has ideas of making a killing on the strip…literally and figuratively.  Meanwhile Ace falls for glamorous hustler Ginger (Sharon Stone) who soon complicates everyone’s lives.

casino

A spiritual successor to director Martin Scorsese’s other famed mob classic Goodfellas, reuniting DeNiro with Pesci … who pretty much plays the same type of unhinged psycho that nabbed him an Oscar in ‘Fellas.    DeNiro however, despite his character’s connections to the mob, is more the straight guy trying to avoid any sort of ‘heat’ – and his presence here commands the movie from beginning to end.  Stone is a welcome inclusion to the Scorsese mob-movie fold and adds her usual sexy sass and grit in a role that pretty much enables this movie to have it’s own voice.  At a butt-numbing three hours it can sometimes drag, yet the situations, strong performances and the whole glitz of the setting (not to mention a stellar soundtrack) make for great entertainment.  It’s incredibly violent at times, to the point of being gratuitous (especially towards the end) and the story isn’t as engrossing as it thinks it is.  Also some of the ‘artistic licence’ with the facts remain puzzling (Tangiers is fictional, based on the famed Stardust hotel) and DeNiro and Pesci’s character names are made up, but based on Frank Rosenthal and Anthony Spilotro respectively.  Yet to quibble at this is to do the movie a disservice, as it remains another decent, if familiar mob drama from the true master of the subject.

The Blu-ray, re-issued for the movie’s 20th anniversary has a very nice image quality, retaining grain and detail even if some shots (especially in door and night time scenes) get a little fuzzy.  The sound in DTS HD Master Audio, which is very dialogue-driven is mostly excellent and the fantastic soundtrack really brings this one to life.  Vegas looks incredible also.  The extras consist of a ‘moments with the cast & crew’ option which has pop up interviews as the movie plays.  We also get a couple of detailed documentaries, as well as a few deleted scenes.  However, there doesn’t seem anything here that wasn’t on previous releases … making for a bit of a cash-in.

Verdict:

(the movie)  3.5 /5

(the Blu-ray)  4 /5