The Mitchells Vs The Machines


Viewed – 15 May 2021 Netflix

A girl who dreams of making it in the film making industry, one day gets her wish when she is accepted to film school. However on the same day as she leaves to begin her new life, a megalomaniacal A.I. called ‘Pal’ decides to start a robot invasion after her creator chooses to discard her for a more advanced version. Think of it as if Apple’s Siri turned evil and suddenly wanted to rid the earth of mankind. Gulp.

“Mom, Dad … we’re mankind’s only hope!”

From the creative geniuses that brought us the acclaimed Spider-Man Into The Spider-Verse, this is an energetic and highly entertaining experience, that blends family drama with a robot apocalypse action movie. Katie, our lead is a plucky, technology-obsessed, typical modern teenager and is reflective of the world we find ourselves in, where anyone with a bit of imagination can create movies and animation, on their phones or laptops. The animation style, like Spider-Man is sort of 2D art brought to life in 3D, is jam packed with ideas and detail and looks gorgeous. Occasionally I think it gets a bit over the top, with things popping up on screen to emphasis and over-emphasis moments … but mostly it works.

Although these kind of movies are not meant to be realistic, sometimes the action gets so crazy any hint of plausibility is thrown out of the window. Thankfully, a genuinely touching father and daughter sub-plot gives this its emotional crutch to rest all of the chaos upon. I get a feeling, being delivered as a Netflix original this could be over-looked, which is a shame because this has plenty of great moments, looks stunning, has real meaning and above all else is a ton of fun. Check it out.

Verdict: Recommended

Memories of Murder


Viewed – 13 May 2021 Blu-ray

I had wanted to see Bong Joon-ho’s 2003 serial killer drama for a while but it had been hard to find on Blu-Ray. However with the recent release of a box set of the director’s movies, I finally got my wish. Based on true events and set in 1986, this follows a group of detectives as they investigate a series of murdered women.

The Police heading the case however seem particularly inept, their methods questionable to say the least; including torturing suspects to get confessions or planting evidence just to close the case. Yet when a more experienced detective from out of town joins the investigation, they begin to follow previously ignored leads. Korean cinema regular Kang Ho-Song is again decent and delivers a convincing portrayal of an arrogant detective clearly overwhelmed by the situation. However for me Kim Sang-kyung as the out of town detective stole the show in a more layered role, especially with how events change him.

Parasite Director Joon-ho delivers a solid drama. It’s not as stylish as he’s known for and more a character piece than anything all that grisly, I watched this twice and certainly got more out of it the second time around. Yet it’s focus on detectives being rather unprofessional and especially how they treat one suspect who has a learning disability seemed to bog down the narrative. So not a must see, but still another decent example of Korean cinema.

Unfortunately the Blu-ray from Curzon Artificial Eye is bare bones. The image quality is only serviceable, looking a bit soft generally and lacking fine detail. Sound fairs better with a punchy DTS 5.1 soundtrack that has clear dialogue and the moments when music kicks in are impactful. There’s only the original Korean language available and no English dub. Extras are non-existent but for a trailer. Disappointing treatment for an intriguing, if light-weight serial killer movie.

Verdict:

(the movie) Good

(the Blu-ray) Poor

Nomadland


Viewed – 04 May 2021 Disney+

The movie that has had the most praise at this year’s Oscars, nabbing best picture, best director and best actress for Frances McDormand. This drama based on a book follows the character of Fern (McDormand) who after the closure of a mining pit and the downfall of the town where she lived, chooses to journey into the American wilderness and become a nomad. She meets with like-minded people and becomes part of a community of travellers, whilst staying as far away from society as she can.

life on the road…

Shot in a very fly-on-the-wall, semi-documentary style this is a fascinating snapshot of a lifestyle I’d imagine many don’t know about. I certainly felt swept up in the idea of getting away from it all, and with how crazy the world can get it certainly has an appeal. Director Chloe Zhao has delivered a highly authentic movie, filled with real-life nomads that added a lot of realism, and celebrates the wonder of the American landscape beautifully with some eye-catching cinematography. McDormand is great and you do get a strong sense of a woman who has given up on society and is trying to find her place in everything. I was only disappointed that her character doesn’t exactly grow or have much of an ark, seeming to end the movie just the same as she began.

That’s kind of what let’s this down. It’s very much just ‘is’ and lacks drama or anything that enables the story to develop. As an insight into a lifestyle and of the human experience, it’s effective but as anything else it ultimately falls flat.

Verdict: Good

PlayStation 5 – six months in


Well, its been a while since I posted about this machines and my experiences with it. Of course I’ve discovered much more since first buying the console and have much to report back on. Below I’ve separated my thoughts into a few sections for a deeper overall opinion. In short I’m loving the console.

The hardware

It has had its quirks. Generally I’ve not had many, but have experienced some issues. Firstly using external storage, such as my Barracuda Fast SSD, had one issue that crashed the system all together during an update. I was playing Spider-Man Miles Morales and the console decided to update Ghost of Tsushima on the external SSD, and suddenly I got a black screen and an unresponsive console. Turns out holding down the power button put the console into standby shut it down and it eventually restarted. Thankfully the condole came back on and I haven’t had that happen since. A bit of online research resulted in me discovering this was a known issue, and after numerous updates, this seems to have been fixed, as have many of the other known issues that have been reported. Currently the machine feels rather robust and less glitchy than it first appeared which is great for late adopters. Overall I’ve not had many problems that have ruined my fun.

The controller, the dual-sense is one of the major next-gen things about the PS5. It feels great to use, much more so than previous PlayStation controllers and is closer to the Xbox controller in weight and feel. However its biggest selling points are the haptic feedback and adaptive triggers. Although not used in all games and like the touchpad on the PS4 controller, will mostly get used in exclusive titles. In the free bundled game, Astro’s Playroom it gets a real workout, with the player able to feel (and hear) raindrops falling. In addition the way the triggers work, providing resistance based on whatever you are doing or using in-game works great when it’s used. In recent shooter Returnal the guns feel incredible with the adaptive triggers and haptic feedback giving each gun real punch.

The console’s built-in SSD is also next-gen stuff, with games often loading super-fast. Going from the titles screen in Spider-Man Miles Morales to gameplay is about 3-4 seconds which… just never happened before, and fast travel in big open world games, is finally that – fast. It varies from game to game, and PS4 games only slightly benefit from it, but actual PS5 games it’s very noticeable. It makes simply switching on the console for a quick gaming session, far more appealing.

The games

I’ve played a number of games on my PS5 and feel I have a good overall opinion on what the machine is capable of, even if we have still not had games that really push the machine’s capabilities (although anyone who has watched the recent Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart state of play, will have a good idea what can be achieved). I have played Watchdogs: Legion which has a massive recreation of London and showcases the machine’s ‘Ray Tracing’ capabilities to demonstrate some gorgeous reflections. This can also be seen in Spider-Man. It makes games look particularly impressive.

It has also been fun revisiting some PS4 games I either didn’t play or never fully got into, like Horizon Zero Dawn. As technically a PS4 game, I’ve also played a lot of Cyberpunk 2077, which I know has had its problems but I have still had a good time with it. In addition to the games mentioned I’ve also played the Demons Souls remake, which whilst technically impressive, its challenging gameplay, whilst rewarding and well worth it, can be an acquired taste (file Returnal under a similar category too).

A big selling point of many games on the PS5 is 60 frames-per-second, something that is even more appealing than say, 4K resolution. It’s not in all games, but is offered up in most, usually in a ‘performance mode’ such as with games like Immortals: Fenyx Rising (pictured above) and gives a much more fluid, sharp and life-like experience. I’m really sold on it. The more games that come out, and the better developers get used to the console, the more this will become the new ‘normal’ in games. Thats such a great thing.

I should also mention 3D audio. I recently picked up the official Pulse 3D headset and my experience thus far has been very positive. I’m a bit on the fence of the benefits of 3D audio, whether it sounds that much better than regular audio, but it depends on the games. Yet the headset sounds very good regardless delivering plenty of detail and atmosphere when playing.

Final thoughts

I’m not too happy about the price hike on certain games (mostly exclusives) to £70 which is just too high. Suppose Sony being the market leader can do what they want as long as the audience is there. However in comparison to Xbox’s Gamepass it does seem a bit of a rip off. Yet it’s hard to argue with the quality of Sony’s games. The technology built into the PS5 is really great too and that just makes for an exciting gaming future. Overall, I have very few gripes and otherwise highly recommend getting this machine if you can find one.

Even newer Garbage


Last night during a live YouTube chat with the band and viewers, Garbage’s title track from forthcoming album No Gods No Masters was revealed, in a cool, neon-fused promo video. This electro-pop, kind-of eighties sounding jam was much more my taste than the previous, highly political ‘The Men Who Rule The World’ and I can see it becoming a favourite amongst the many other stellar songs the band have produced over the years. Anyone unfamiliar with Garbage, I highly recommend checking them out, especially if you enjoy alternative pop/rock with strong vibes of Blondie, No Doubt etc. Watch the video below…

Garbage’s 7th studio album is released on June 11. They have plans to tour with Alanis Morissette in America later this year, followed by a tour in the U.K. with Blondie.