The Babysitter


Viewed – 09 November 2017  Netflix

Netflix have been going from strength to strength of late, what with hit Netflix original programming like Stranger Things and then the occasional Netflix original movies … it seems to be a great time to be a Netflix subscriber.  One such movie that caught my eye was this little tongue-in-cheek horror.  It tells the tale of Cole, a stereotypical nerdy loner kid in suburban American who is bullied at school and a bit of a mommies’ boy.  Thing is too despite not being that young, Cole still has a babysitter – helps then that she’s super-hot.  Step in Margot Robbie look-a-like Bee (Samara Weaving) who is not only the kid’s best friend but also keeps a watchful eye over him and helps fend off bullies.  When the girl across the road however points out she thinks said Bee is probably inviting ‘boys’ around once the kid is tucked off to bed .. the kid decides to find out if it’s true – and is in for the shock of his life.

The-Babysitter

Directed by McG this has the same heightened reality, comic-book feel he brought to the two Charlie’s Angels movies, and there his epileptic style with wacky editing and mad-cap characters suited such a venture.  However here it feels for the most part over the top.  Told primarily through Cole’s eyes it makes sense from a kinds point of view but for what turns into a gory horror comedy, it creates a rather silly vibe that although fun makes it pretty throwaway too.  The characters you see, are not all that engaging and it all gets very predictable.  That being said the gore is at times spit your pop-corn out surprising and inventive, there’s some fun pop-culture references and social media obsession digs, and at least does kind of turn into Home Alone meets Buffy The Vampire Slayer (at least tonally). 

For 90 minutes entertainment, this doesn’t out stay it’s welcome, has some good jokes and plenty of the red stuff, and performances are adequate, and sometimes that’s good enough.  Unlikely to become a genre classic though.

Verdict:  3 /5

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Embarking on an Odyssey


Super Mario Odyssey CappyWell of course I purchased Super Mario Odyssey as a Nintendo Switch owner.  Probably the game I’ve been most hyped about all year.  So what’s it like?  I wouldn’t say I have the vastest experience with Mario games and haven’t owned all of Nintendo’s systems.  However I enjoyed Super Mario Sunshine on the Gamecube and dabbled in Super Mario World from time to time in it’s various incarnations although always found that particular entry overly difficult.  Odyssey however is the first fully free roaming Mario game in a while and on picking up the controller I was pleased at how fluid and natural the controls felt (helped I’m guessing by the game’s 60fps).  Graphically it’s varied, colourful and highly-detailed even if the worlds don’t quite have the wow-factor of Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, that other AAA Nintendo Switch game this will inevitably get compared to, which is unfair as the games couldn’t be more different.  Odyssey’s main plot is simplistic and typical Mario-fair.  Bowser has kidnapped Princess Peach and this time is planning a wedding.  It’s Mario’s job to rescue her and prevent the wedding by chasing Bowser’s flying ship across various kingdoms dotted around the globe.  In each kingdom there are a number of ‘moons’ to find to power your hat-shaped space ship known as the ‘Odyssey’ and this is where the game delivers it’s inspired gimmick. 

Mario Odyssey

A talking hat named ‘Cappy’ befriends Mario after Bowser wrecks it’s home, and chooses to help Mario in his quest because his own sweetheart, a tiara has also been kidnapped.  Cappy can be used during the game in a variety of ways, to either break boxes, platform to higher levels or possess in-game characters to help solve puzzles and further traverse the environments.  It’s a great addition to the Mario-formula and makes for endless gameplay opportunities, but does come at a cost.  You feel slightly over-powered with it and your ability to possess enemies can make the game rather easy, meaning it’s quite possible to breeze through the entire game despite how huge the various kingdoms can be.  Yet that would do the game a disservice as exploration, finding the moons and all the secrets, collecting outfits or souvenirs for your ship is where the meat is and the game greatly rewards players who go off the beaten track and search every nook and cranny.

I’m enjoying my time with Super Mario Odyssey but at this stage, a fair portion into the game I don’t feel it has the depth of Zelda to clock in 100hrs plus, but realise this is a very different but equally polished experience that will keep me coming back for a good while yet.  Does it deserve the wealth of accolades it’s had, the myriad of 10/10s?  Maybe not but it’s still a brilliant game that, if you have a Switch is an essential purchase.

The Thing


Viewed – 24 October 2017  Blu-ray

Growing up I must have seen this movie on TV several times, and always marvelled not only at the atmosphere and setting, but those incredible creature effects by makeup artist Rob Bottin.  Over the years CGI has taken over considerably, the recent ‘prequel’ being a noteworthy example of CGI not able to replace decent practical effects, and so despite this being over thirty years old, how does it hold up compared to today’s offerings?

The Thing-Kurt-Russell

Kurt Russell leads a cast of characters which bare at least thematically a resemblance to the crew of Alien’s Nostromo.  These guys, working at a remote research facility in the Antarctic are not marines, but simple blue-collar workers, not unlike what you’d find of an oil rig … who are about to get an unexpected and unwelcome visitor.  Director John Carpenter took inspiration from 50s b-movie The Thing From Outer Space, but brings his own personality and considerable directing chops to deliver probably one of the stand out horror movies of the 80’s.  Colourful characters bring a realism to the movie that works well and the cast all do a fine job with Russell proving a great lead.  The setting is also claustrophobic and well filmed; combining a mix of traditional cinematography with hand-held camera work.  Once the ‘thing’ starts imitating various characters, tension ramps up and it became pretty disturbing and scary, especially with how the characters convey their paranoia and fear for those they once called friends.  However the star of the show is the creature itself and it’s transformations and gory appearances are stuff of cinematic legend by now – and all these years later still impress.  The scenes with tentacles, spiders legs and all sorts of other things still sent shivers my way.  Yet Carpenter sensibly chose to make this as much a character piece as a creature feature and for that reason it excels.Thing Arrow VideoArrow Video once again deliver a stunning package with the movie’s latest treatment on Blu-ray, improving immeasurably over the previous Universal release which suffered from lip-sync problems.  Here we get a 4K restoration boasting a clean, detailed image free of dust or damage and in fine shape, even if it’s not the most vibrant movie you’ll see.  All those gory details certainly get showcased however.  Add to this a choice of original 2.0 Stereo, 4.1 and also DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio, and along with Ennio Morricone’s ominous score and clear dialogue – this is impressive stuff.  Now as usual Arrow don’t shirk on the special features and here we get two audio commentaries; firstly an archive Kurt Russell & John Carpenter one which feels like two old time buddies watching a movie together, complete with laugh-out-loud reactions to certain scenes.  The other is a commentary by a trio of podcasters that’s well worth a listen for endless titbits and geeky knowledge.  We also get several featurettes, some archive, some new that are well worth dipping into if you’re a fan (and let’s admit it, if you’re reading this you already are).  The Blu-ray limited edition I picked up also comes with a fold out poster, art cards and a detailed booklet as well as fancy slip case packaging.  Which makes this edition essential.

Verdict:

(the movie)  5 /5

(the Blu-ray)  5 /5

Blade Runner 2049


Viewed – 25 Ocotber 2017  Cinema

I went into this fairly hyped.  It’s been well received for such a long awaited sequel that probably nobody was really waiting for, yet I also had slight apprehension due to the fact of not being the biggest fan of the original.  That movie whilst aesthetically impressive (more so for the time) and having some interesting moments and a solid turn from Harrison Ford, was ultimately rather empty and simple, lacking much of the depth or grit I’d been lead to believe.  So how does this sequel hold up?

Blade-Runner-2049

Ryan Gosling plays a Blade Runner who from the off you’re aware is also a replicant (an artificially engineered imitation-human), hunting and putting out of commission rogue replicants who have gone off the radar.  Yet on one such mission he stumbles upon a grave of a female replicant who seems to have died in child birth – something nobody imagined a replicant was even capable of doing; conceiving a child.  So the hunt for the missing child and answers to Golsing’s own past is set in motion.

Like the 1982 Ridley Scott original, this has a foreboding, dystopian future that is partly awe-inspiring and depressing.  It’s a dark, moody vision of Los Angeles full of clouds, smoke, neon billboards and miserable people.  Unlike Scott’s vision however this seems intentionally filmed with no real wow-factor, and with admittedly gargantuan set design and vast cityscapes appearing rather bland looking.  This look is raised up a notch by some iconic looking, sci-fi imagery not out of place on a book cover or in the pages of a graphic novel, even if much of said imagery seems put there for the sake of it.  Gosling is good and his journey of self-discovery is interesting (aided by a hologram girlfriend).  Also where the movie eventually goes is clever, with how it ties into the original really well done.  Add to this a late-to-the-party Harrison Ford pretty much stealing the show in a surprisingly layered performance, and on paper the ingredients are here to make a great movie.  Sad then that the pace is so damn plodding, with almost every scene stretched out for maximum run time with long pauses between portions of dialogue, lingering looks between characters etc.  Keeping myself entertained with this was a massive struggle.  If some scenes had just been tightened up we’d have a 2hr movie rather than one approaching 3hrs, and somewhat underwhelming visuals aside, such a languishing pace is ultimately what lets the movie down.

If you’re a big fan of the original, you may still get something out of this.  However if you want a movie that will keep you gripped throughout, this isn’t for you.

Verdict:  3 /5

Gaming perfection?


Yesterday I finished one of the most talked about and acclaimed videogames of the year… The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.  Not for a long time has a game captivated me as much as this did.  It was a game I could walk away from for a week or two, and then come back and instantly feel appealed and at home in it’s world.  It made simply walking around and exploring as much fun as actually playing the game for it’s story or missions or quests.  It’s also a game I shall still come back to even post-credits, as the world is so huge and full of wonder, I just can’t stop exploring and simply enjoying being part of it all.

Breath-of-the-Wild

It’s filled to over-flowing with fun characters, interesting, awe-inspiring and varied environments and many many fun things to do and see.  The main quest involves eventually restoring peace to the world of Hyrule, by rescuing Princess Zelda from the clutches of the malevolent force ‘Ganon’, who not only has shrouded the magnificent castle Hyrule in an impenetrable force of evil, but also taken over four ‘divine beasts’ who once were guardians of the world but now drench the world in fear and danger.  Once you reclaim said guardians by climbing aboard their bodies and defeating a boss in each, only then can you attempt to defeat Ganon.  It’s a vast under-taking but one I always felt compelled to persevere with despite the wealth of distractions available (the endless amount of ‘shrines’ to discover, the myriad of countless quests given to you by various characters) which is something the likes of Grand Theft Auto doesn’t seem to be as good at – keeping the player focused on the main quest and not just the side stuff.

Add to this a ridiculous attention to detail in every aspect of the game.  The amount to see and do is crazy, the detail in the cartoon world presented is like nothing I’ve ever witnessed before…it has an atmosphere, personality and beauty to it that taking pictures and just standing looking around at stuff, the life, the wild-life and plants, the trees, the realistic weather … is just so fulfilling.  It is definitely what you’d call the complete package, and probably a game that such like we may not see again this generation.

breathofthewildLink

It’s gameplay and difficulty seemed very well implemented, with a gradual learning curve and increase in difficulty that works seamlessly with character progression, discovering new abilities, new armour and skills or weapons, that not once did I feel the game was unfair or that I couldn’t get past something without some perseverance.  That’s not to say it was easy – at times it was very tough, but it was a toughness that I felt my failings were my own fault and not that of the game, and as I learnt and developed my own ability, I’d triumph just when I was meant to and not before.

So I honour this game with my highest recommendation.  If you have a Nintendo Switch or even Wii U … it’s a must play.