30 October 2015

Five film recommendations for a great Halloween

The situation: It’s the night before Halloween and you have a group of friends heading over for some scary, spooky times. The problem, you have a considerable lack of scary spooky films, you and your friends have already seen all the classics and you don’t really feel like spending too much on the latest films. Well, maybe I can help you out there. All of these films can be found at HMV on offer for 2 for £10 or cheaper at any second-hand store. This is a list of spooky scares done cheap.

Option One - Rec

We’ll start with a pretty well known horror film. Rec is a Spanish found footage movie made before the found footage ‘shaky cam’ style of movie was done to death. Personally, I think this is one of the best examples of this style of film-making alongside Chronicle and Troll Hunter. It follows the story of a TV crew trapped in an apartment building locked down due a virus being found in the area. The film crew work their way up the building showing the effects of the virus on the people living in the building and end up having to survive any way possible. It’s very well paced, building tension throughout the film with a good few jump scares thrown in for good measure. It uses the location, lighting and the filming style to create a tense atmosphere with characters who aren't the most dislikable people on the planet and react like actual people in these situations, which is annoyingly rare for a horror film. Avoid the disappointing American remake and stick with the original. While the ending isn't fantastic, the ride towards it can be genuinely creepy and well worth a watch. 

25 October 2015

Doctor Who S9E6 "The Woman Who Lived" review

Damn it. I thought we'd seen the last of those Sonic Sunglasses.

Picking up from the semi-cliffhanger ending of last weeks "The Girl Who Died", "The Woman Who Lived" has The Doctor (noticeably Clara-less) running into Ashildr (now going by the name of Me) around 800 years after he last saw her in 17th Century England. Both she and The Doctor are looking for the same item - her believing it to be a valuable gem (having taken up robbing people in the last 800 years or so in order to stave off boredom), and him on the hunt for alien artefacts on Earth.

22 October 2015

Crimson Peak review

Part Gothic romance, part supernatural horror and part Downton Abbey-esque period drama, Crimson Peak isn't an easy film to classify beyond "it's a Guillermo Del Toro film". Set around the turn of the 20th century, we follow Edith Cushing, aspiring writer and daughter of a wealthy American businessman as she is introduced to and falls in love with Sir Thomas Sharpe, an English Baronet who is desperately in need of funding to better extract the valuable red clay that resides under his family home, the dilapidated Allerdale Hall. The two of them are soon married, and Edith accompanies her husband back to England with his sister, Lucille Sharpe, to live in Allerdale Hall.

20 October 2015

Beasts of No Nation review

Set during a civil war, Beasts of No Nation follows Agu, an ordinary young boy, as he tries to survive after being forced to flee from his village. Found and trained by a rebel militia called the NFD, Agu begins working as a child soldier under the control of the Commandant, who soon takes Agu under his wing.

Beasts of No Nation is not a pleasant film to watch. It's uncompromising, brutal, frequently disturbing, and all too real in its portrayal of war and the war crimes that are committed by soldiers on both sides of a conflict like this, each believing that they are justified in the horrors they commit thanks to the 'worthiness' of their cause. But it also does a fantastic job of making sure that you understand that Agu, our main character throughout Beasts of No Nation, is just a kid, as are the many child soldiers that still exist in the world today.

18 October 2015

Doctor Who S9E5 "The Girl Who Died" review

Set in a small Viking village which has lost all of its warriors, "The Girl Who Died" sees The Doctor and Clara having to come up with a plan to help the villages remaining inhabitants fight off an invasion by the Mire, a species that Doctor refers to as the greatest warriors of all time. Amongst the people of this village is a young girl named Ashildr, who blames herself for anything that goes wrong in the village thanks to her belief in prophecies and the supernatural.

15 October 2015

Sicario review

No more than about half an hour or so into Sicario we find our main characters on a mission to retrieve someone from a Mexican prison and transport them back to America. Everything has gone smoothly picking him up, but on the way back to the border they notice someone following the convoy in order to report on their movements, and not long after they find out that the border crossing is backed up with traffic. Sitting in the traffic jam, they slowly notice cartel members in other cars, but the voice in their ears tell them that they can't engage until they are engaged - so they sit in their cars, waiting for the cartel to make the first move before an intense burst of gunfire and violence over a matter of seconds concludes the confrontation. It's the kind of scene that leaves you breathless, a master class in building tension that makes you think "Wow. Nothing this film can do from now on can top that".

Unfortunately, Sicario actually doesn't manage to top that.

Sicario follows FBI agent Kate Macer as she joins a team of Delta Force operators who are attempting to hunt down the people in charge of a Mexican drug cartels.
Led by an adviser for the Department of Justice, Matt Graver, they begin operations in Mexico in order to draw the leader of the cartel back into Mexico.

14 October 2015

Hands on with Guitar Hero Live and Rockband 4

Go back a few years and the problem of having yet another plastic instrument taking up space in your house seemed like it would never happen again, but apparently both Activision and Harmonix think that enough time has passed for people to spend more money and find the floor space for a new one. Personally, I love rhythm games and I’ve put more than too many hours into both the Guitar Hero and the Rockband franchises, so I'm totally up for some new entries. However, whether the general audience is on board for more remains to be seen.

At the Eurogamer Expo this month both Rockband 4 and Guitar Hero Live were on display, and both were high on my list of games I wanted to try out. Since the over saturation of the market, only games such as Rocksmith have tried to fill the guitar playing void left by these franchises. This is now their chance to win back their previous audience as well as trying to gain some new fans at the same time.

12 October 2015

Doctor Who S9E4 "Before the Flood" review

In my review of last weeks episode of Doctor Who I mentioned how much I was looking forward to seeing how "Before the Flood" would conclude what I believed had the potential to be one of the best stories the show had produced since Stephen Moffat took over as show runner. Well it turns out that my optimism wasn't misplaced - after seeing "Before the Flood" I can confirm that the "Under the Lake" and "Before the Flood" double bill is indeed one of the best stories of Doctor Who since David Tennant left the show. Maybe I'm psychic (paper).

After a brief monologue from The Doctor explaining the concept of the bootstrap paradox before the opening credits roll (reminiscent of last seasons "Listen") we are sent straight back into the action, picking up right from where we left off at the end of "Under the Lake". "Before the Flood" is fairly neatly separated into two parts, one half following The Doctor and a couple of the bases crew members in the past as he investigates the spaceship they found, and the other following Clara as she and the crew members that stayed on the base wait for The Doctor to return.

9 October 2015

Hands on with Assassin's Creed Syndicate

I'm not really big on Assassin's Creed. I haven't played an Assassin's Creed game since Assassin's Creed 2 (despite owning most of them on Steam) and I've never been overly impressed with them anyway - fun free running mechanic and historical settings aside, I've never really found anything about them to be particularly enjoyable, from the repetitive combat to the dull present day parts of the story that focus on Desmond.

Maybe I'm not the best person to be doing this.

Regardless, I had the opportunity to play Assassin's Creed Syndicate on PS4 at the
2015 Eurogamer Expo (more commonly known as EGX), spending about 15 minutes on an assassination mission that gave me a couple of different ways of approaching my target. Naturally, I tried to do it sneaky - under the guise of having been caught by a guard (who was secretly on my side) I started to work my way through the building, avoiding getting too close to enemies who would be able to tell I wasn't really a prisoner, focusing on remaining undetected and slowly but surely making progress towards my target before finally pouncing on her. That failed and I died though, so I ended up punching my way through with ease.

Hands on with Just Cause 3

If I'm being perfectly honest, Just Cause 3 is the reason I decided to attend the 2015 Eurogamer Expo (more commonly known as EGX). I'm a big fan of Just Cause 2 (which must be one of my most played Xbox 360 games) and I've been looking forward to a sequel for some time now, an anticipation that has only been heightened by the game play footage and trailers released recently.

I spent 20 minutes with Just Cause 3 in total, which was running on PC and played using an Xbox One controller. The demo opens with Rico leaning against a fancy looking sports car, looking calm, collected and inherently cool as he smokes a cigarette. After a second or so, he flicks it away from him, stands up and... that's the end of the only scripting or forced direction that the demo of Just Cause 3 contained. From then on I was given complete freedom of choice of what to do, the only limit being the amount of time I had to play with.

4 October 2015

Doctor Who S9E3 "Under the Lake" review

It seems like it's been a long time since we had a 'base under siege' episode, which is a shame - as far as Doctor Who episodes go they are often amongst the best (such as The Waters of Mars or Midnight) thanks to the way they confine The Doctor to one space and make him use his own intellect in order to solve the problem at hand. Not only that, but the focus on the monster of the episode often makes them more... well, not scary exactly, but at least more tense that the average episode of Doctor Who.

"Under the Lake" sees The Doctor and Clara stumble upon an underwater mining station that, as we learn from the episodes pre-opening credits scene, is apparently being haunted by what appear to be ghosts after the crew of the mining station found a spaceship. After accidentally making the ghosts target them, The Doctor and Clara join up with the remaining crew members in order to try and figure out what is going on.

2 October 2015

The Martian review

I have very mixed feelings about Ridley Scott. Despite directing one of the best science fiction films of all time and one of the best horror films of all time (Alien on both counts) I'd find it hard to disagree with anyone claiming that Ridley Scott's filmography is something of a mixed bag, especially as of late. His last five films have all seen a somewhat muted reaction from critics and audiences alike, and his inability to leave his older films alone (does anyone actually want a sequel to Blade Runner or another prequel to Alien?) has seen some people question whether or not he still 'has it'. It's not an unfair question really - his ratio of good to bad films has been slowly getting worse for nearly a decade.

After seeing The Martian, I can confirm that Ridley Scott still 'has it'.

The Martian follows botanist/astronaut Mark Watney as he attempts to survive being stranded on Mars after a sudden storm separates him from his crew, who are forced to abandon their mission and return to Earth. Presumed dead by both NASA and the crew of the Hermes, Mark must figure out a way to produce food and water on the inhospitable red planet while also attempting to work out a way to make contact with NASA without any of the equipment he needs to do so.