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Thursday, September 10, 2020 - 16:41 by Kingy1701

When 2020 began the slate of film releases was looking impressive. As well as the usual franchise entries (Fast and Furious, DC, Marvel), there were also a few returning favourites (Bill and Ted, Halloween) but the one that had me most excited was an original concept by Christopher Nolan. Beyond the title ‘Tenet’, very little was known of the film other then that it might or might not involve time travel. It wasn’t much to go on, but then Nolan has made a career of high concept thrillers and is one of the few directors whose name alone can attract a crowd to the multiplexes.

Of course, the landscape of cinema changed drastically earlier this year and what was once a highly anticipated film amid a crowded schedule would now be leading the charge in relaunching the entire industry. With more and more releases forgoing the big screen in favour of a digital launch, Nolan was adamant that Tenet would buck the trend. As a result, Tenet is one of the first blockbusters in years to have a staggered release, taking its UK bow before a gradual roll out to other territories. The financial ramifications are yet to be seen but it’s a safe bet that the film will not rake in as much money as it would have done pre-COVID. 

Putting aside whether Tenet will re-ignite the cinema industry or even if it will make any money, the big question is of course, is it any good?

In short, the answer is yes.

Nolan has been vocal over the years about his love for the Bond films and indeed elements of them have crept into his earlier work. Between the Q-like Lucius Fox in the Dark Knight Trilogy and the assault on a snowy fortress in Inception, it has sometimes felt like Nolan was auditioning to direct a 007 movie and in Tenet he does just that. For about half the running time at least. John David Washington plays a character known only as ‘The Protagonist’ who starts the film as a CIA agent before being recruited into a far more secret organisation whose goal seems to be to save the whole world. In order to do so he travels to numerous exotic locations and contends with henchmen, heists and deadly secrets. Tenet has been accused of being difficult to follow in its later stages but the truth is, that it is these early parts that require the most mental gymnastics. As with many a Bond film it is sometimes difficult to keep track of who our hero is trying to meet with and how that impacts the larger plot. Thankfully what is clear is what he is trying to do in any given scene, meaning that you can sit back and enjoy the action, which is nothing less than spectacular. Washington is a strong screen presence who has the right mix of coolness and brutality while retaining an everyman quality. The latter really helping as the film moves into more obvious Sci-Fi territory. The Protagonist learning about the rules of the world at the same time as the audience means that we are rarely alienated and can share in his confusion and curiosity. We are introduced early on to the concept that some objects (most frequently bullets) in this world can move backwards through time but it isn’t until the second half of the film that the timey wimey elements take centre stage. To talk about how and why this happens would ruin the fun but suffice to say it leads to action sequences unlike any other you will have seen.

Supporting Washington are Robert Pattinson, whose British character acts as something of a sidekick dropping in and out of the film as the plot requires, and Elizabeth Debicki who provides the Protagonist with a link to the villain of the piece. Debicki does a good job with what she is given providing something of an emotional anchor to the story but sadly doesn’t have an enormous amount to do. Pattinson fares better bringing a youthful charm to a role that takes on greater significance as the film progresses. Taking on the bad guy role is Kenneth Brannagh who seems to be having a whale of a time channelling Bond villains into a sinister Russian Oligarch. He is menacing in an underplayed way, but his intermittent explosive outbursts leave you in no doubt that he is dangerous and a suitable nemesis for the Protagonist.

Despite excellent acting all round, the main stars of the film are the concept and the effects which work hand in hand to create a uniquely Nolan spectacle. There is a surprising amount of practical effects work which adds much needed realism to scenes that might otherwise have seemed cartoonish. A car chase for example, despite the time altering gimmicks is far more realistic than anything seen in the Fast and Furious franchise. It is perhaps a sad indictment of modern cinema that simply seeing real cars on a real road somehow feels fresh again. Likewise, the film’s final set piece is gobsmacking both in terms its scale and its visual realisation. It may be chaotic and at times confusing but, as always Nolan is painting on a broad canvas, even more so if you can catch the film in its native IMAX. Matching the visuals is the sound, which is suitably bombastic. A little too much so at times. While the ever-present ticking added to the tension of Dunkirk, here the intense bass often makes the dialogue hard to hear. This can be a major problem when characters are explaining what is going on. Missing a stray line of dialogue may leave you struggling too keep up for a few minutes. It’s one thing to be lost if you are given all the information, but quite another to be expected to follow the plot when crucial exposition is at times, inaudible. It’s not a deal breaker but does sometimes mean that you might have to concentrate intensely when you’d like to be sitting back and enjoying the action.

Over the last 20 years, Christopher Nolan has assembled a near perfect filmography which creates almost insurmountable expectations for each new movie. Thankfully Tenet, while not his greatest work, is none the less excellent.

 

Rating:
8
Topics:
Guitar
Monday, June 29, 2020 - 02:38 by Spindles

Initial thoughts:

It's a wonderful coda to the original game that expands upon the narrative and gives us a perspective from several characters we know and love, as well as a few fresh ones.

It seems to rely very heavily on the trope that Revenge Is Not Enough....

At several points throughout the game, I felt like I didn't want the character I was playing to succeed.... This includes both Abby and Ellie... It seemed like it was forcing me down a path I didn't want to take, whilst simultaneously telling me that what I was doing was wrong.

I can understand totally where they were coming from with their intentions, but to not give us a choice seems lacking where games like The Walking Dead accept our choices and show us the repercussions.

This felt more like it was trying to make an unnecessary point. I would hope that we all know that revenge is not a satisfying conclusion and it plays this to the very last moment.

I was happy that Ellie was instrumental in rescuing Abby, and felt it overstepped when Ellie couldn't let it go.

Honestly, it felt a bit much that she even left Dina in the first place and went out to find Abby despite having lost out to her twice before.

The ending felt like it showed you how Ellie is now paying for that decision despite it being the entire thrust of the game.

The ancillary characters felt like they were given short shrift as well, not really giving any resolution to the Seraphites, Wolves or Fireflies. It also gives no resolution to Ellie's condition and its impact on the wider world, and I can only imagine this is because they want to do another sequel.... Which, don't get me wrong, I will play the shit out of.

In terms of game mechanics, there are some interesting new additions in the form of squeezing through available gaps and some new weapons. Although it seems like the 'Sniper' training level is superfluous as you can't actually put that into practise later in the game. The sniper rifle ignores that training and instead opts for a standard 'Point and Shoot' mechanic.

I also like that safe combinations are now something you need to enter manually rather than finding a code and automatically unlocking the safe.

Another major plus is that you can approach situations and buildings from multiple angles, be it stealth, total assault, or avoidance....

There is a lot to like about the game and, despite knowing what was going to happen to Joel, it contained several truly shocking moments. The new monsters were also intriguing, although I felt that that big combat moments felt a little disproportionate, especially when the characters were treading the same ground over different chapters.

Also.... The guitar playing mini-game is awesome.... I spent hours playing songs because you can choose the key of the song and then the available chords are there.... So... Baked in musical theory FTW.

In conclusion, I would still heartily recommend playing this... There are so many moments that make the whole thing worthwhile despite the overriding sense that this is the Empire Strikes Back of the franchise.... I guess we'll have to wait and see if I'm correct....

Rating:
9
Topics:
Gaming News
Monday, March 19, 2018 - 23:45 by Spindles

It's been a long time coming. We've been talking about this film for several years now, and the book for even longer. We even went as far as to compile the Ready Player One Film Challenge which we attempted and failed not once, but twice. So, it's fair to say that we've been anticipating this one for quite some time. The book is a love letter to the 1980s and everything about being a nerd. Games, films, books, TV shows. All the things that I, and countless others, have immersed myself in over the last thirtysomething years.

Going into the film, I was nervous. Having seen the trailer and the posters, there were a few things that didn't sit quite right with what I knew of the source material, yet I wanted to remain open minded. 

The opening scenes do a good job of setting up the world as it exists in 2045 and giving us our first glimpses of the OASIS. It's a rich, vibrant virtual world that looks amazing and the initial flyover contains more nods to existing franchises than most movies do in their entire runtimes. The scene is set that, five years previously, the creator of the OASIS, James Halliday, died and left a message that he had hidden an easter egg somewhere within the OASIS. The first person to find three keys and then, the egg itself, wil win sole ownership of the OASIS and millions of dollars. Now, five years later, interest in the egg hunt has waned for all but the most hardened Gunters (Egg Hunters: YAY!!!) and the IOI (Evil MegaCorp: Booo!!!).

What follows is a series of challenges and puzzles that the core group must overcome and solve while, along the way, making friendships and enemies both within the OASIS and the real world of the Stacks. If that sounds a little oversimplified, it's because it really is. The movie jumps from plot point to plot point at breakneck speed, with set pieces that resemble  moments from the novel being re-purposed and used in a slightly different context to push the narrative along. Where I was anticipating the majority of the film to take place in the OASIS, I was surprised that there were a lot more Real World shenanigans happening and, despite all that, I still came away with the feeling that we didn't really get to know half of the characters as well as we could have.

Like the source material, the references, homages and cameos are non-stop and feel, at times, a little overwhelming. The culture shock of seeing avatars of Hello Kitty wandering around in the same shots as Robocop and Marvin The Martian are definitely jarring and contribute to the slightly chaotic feel of the film.

The action does seem to get a little stuck in the middle act and there are far too many moments where the plot suddenly turns on a realisation by one of the characters that comes literally out of thin air. Also, despite the fact that the OASIS covers the entire world, it seems a little too convenient that all the main characters turn out to live within a few miles of each other and can turn up to lend a hand in real life at a moment's notice.

Performance wise, everyone puts on a good show, with notable performances from Ben Mendelsohn as Sorento and T.J. Miller as I-Rok. Tye Sheridan gives an earnest performance as Wade/Parzival and Olivia Cooke is excellent as Art3mis.

The film as a whole looks and sounds great, even if the score is a little too classic for my tastes. I think that is my overall issue with the film though. It feels like a classic Spielberg movie: A group of kids, thrown together, trying to overcome overwhelming odds, facing danger at every turn. But, in a lot of ways, that's not what I wanted to see from this movie. I wanted to see something fresh that had allusions back to the media of the 80's, rather than an 80's style movie with a shiny wrapper and more pop culture nods than you can shake a stick at. I feel like I wanted to see what Edgar Wright would have made of the film, with a soundtrack compiled by Trent Reznor or something along those lines. Plus, I think it strayed away from the idea in the book that the Gunters embedded themselves utterly in the 80's lifestlye and that was what would ultimately lead Parzival and friends towards their goal. Instead the decision was made to opt for quick exposition to further the plot.

If this all sounds a bit too much like the rantings of a butthurt fanboy, I will own that. I am. I think this film barely scratched the surface of what should have been a joyous celebration of pop culture and nerdity and instead delivered a half-decent, shiny adventure flick. I'll just go back to listening to the audiobook for the nth time and let the dulcet tones of Wil Wheaton lull me to sleep before I try the film challenge again. For the rest of you... By all means go and see it, but then take the time to read the book... You won't regret it.

Rating:
5
Topics:
Thursday, November 23, 2017 - 09:21 by BenCTurnbull

Another promising project, another let down. Spoilers to come

Story

We meet out royal family on a technologically-shielded moon city, Attilan, and learn that they have been there for quite some time, after having fled from tensions on earth. The story then quickly proceeds to tear the protagonists apart and leave them scattered on earth to start their individual journeys. Meanwhile, Maximus, the rebel brother of king Black Bolt, is left to manipulate their home into his own.

The following 6 episodes are spent with our family forming bonds and enduring struggles of their own on earth including being lost in the wilderness, arrest, and experimentation. Through interaction with secondary characters, we learn of some of the backstory to the Inhumans and bit-by-bit they reassemble. Through a few obstacles, they return home to overthrow Maximus and take back their people.

The story’s strength lay within its integration into the wider MCU as well as its simplicity. Firstly, the series adapts the ‘Inhumans’ graphic novel in a very obvious but well done way with regards to the MCU canon. Attilan is moved to the moon yet there is still links with the oceans, the Inhuman outbreak in Agents of Shield is acknowledged and explained clearly, and the overall feel fits well. The simplicity of the basic story gives room to focus on characters and truly engaging moments which, sadly, aren’t often capitalised upon.

The weaknesses come with pacing and, specifically, how rushed the storyline is. We move very quickly from learning they exist to tearing them apart which leaves no resounding impact on the viewer. Why should we care if we don’t care about them? There’s also symbolic moments such as the removal of Medusa’s hair which are meaningless to the viewer as its importance is never established. The lack of establishment from the start makes it far less easy to appreciate the strengths that come later and ultimately serve as the story’s demise. Whilst there are great character moments and some revealing story it’s done in much more of a patching up way than setting the scene organically.

Characters

The characters are, surprisingly, pretty good. Black Bolt is done incredibly well considering his inability to speak. The use of signing coupled with physical mannerisms is compelling and testament to the actor. Medusa shows depth and a character arc which works well (once they explain her motives) and she has a lovely interaction with Black Bolt. Karnak, likewise, is complex and is given room and story which make you feel for the character. Ultimately, he’s the unsung hero of the show. I also include Maximus in the list of well-done characters despite being a tad underwhelming. He is essentially a watered-down Ramsey Boulton (Game of Thrones) and that’s clearly the role which got the actor this one. Given that, he is portrayed well and is more than a villain-because-villain that he could easily be. Lastly, Louise, a human scientist who stumbles upon Medusa and becomes her friend in the process. She is the best supporting character and one of the stand outs of the whole show. She progresses from functional through to having her own key moments which is fun and would have been nice to see more of.

Visuals

The show utilises some good but mostly underwhelming visuals. Teleportation via Lockjaw or other means are well done and fit the theme. They are also slightly different from the portals and other means of transport we’ve seen in the rest of the MCU. Also, Karanak’s ability to see weakness in everything was incredibly well done and only added to how well portrayed his character was. Before setting on a plan, he can run through events (similar to that Nicolas Cage movie) and it’s shown like a series of schematics or a crime scene with pins and lines connecting events and locations. It’s difficult to convey in words something well shown visually so you’ll just have to trust me.

Beyond that, the visuals were a steady meh. The sets were fine, sort of what you’d expect, but most of the costumes were lacking. They felt more like they dropped the line towards good cosplay rather than high production media. I’m not sure what I expected but after the stunning costumes of the other tv shows (Daredevil, Agents of Shield) this was just a let down.

Overall, it just felt rushed on every level. The story could have done with being a 13 episode run and used the first 5 to establish our characters before ripping them apart. All of the characters would have got more depth and time then as opposed to 3-4 key ones. Likewise, with the visuals, more time would have allowed them to develop the look of other characters more. It, in all honesty, feels like the whole project was cancelled when the film was but then somebody demanded it return so they cobbled it all together just to tick a box. A sad state of affairs considering just how interesting the inhumans are and their potential role in the MCU. They integrate with what’s happened (Agents of Shield) and the Sokovia Accords (Civil War) as well as what’s coming such as the Kree-Skrull war (Captain Marvel) and the potential for one of theirs to be Thanos’ son Thane (Infinity War). Overall, a massive loss as I doubt this will be continued and the low ratings will probably cause Marvel’s TV arm to drop Inhumans in general.

Rating given because I feel it fell on the bad/meh boarder. It pulled in just slightly lower than Iron Fist because the latter at least told a single, simple story that albeit wasn’t engaging was still set up well. Inhumans, however, had the meh moments but did nothing to set itself up. A sad state of affairs for the Marvel TV universe as they are now only 5 for 10 in terms of strong shows. Perhaps they need to hand the reigns over to Cap Fiege and his film teams.

3.5/10

Rating:
4
Topics:
Marvel, MCU, Netflix
Monday, October 30, 2017 - 12:31 by BenCTurnbull

Building up to the next instalment of the MCU, I couldn’t help but have a few worries. Yes, Marvel make great movies but, also yes, they have a few reoccurring troubles which I wasn’t sure if this film would avoid or not. Rather than posting the concerns, I thought I’d review the film considering them. I’ve linked to the full details of those concerns in an appendix/footnotes style. A few very minor spoilers ahead but let’s get on with it.

Worry 1: the plot with be fragment and/or chaotic (1)

We are introduced to a Ragnarok storyline with a thoroughly well embedded Planet Hulk subplot. The two are weaved together nicely and Hulk’s story does not feel gratuitous in the slightest. The story itself gives us some idea of what Thor and Banner have been up to for 2 years as well as the status quo of Asgard in general. The pacing is fast but this does not put off the viewer at all. Through the introduction of Hela, we are granted an expanded glimpse into the history of the Asgardians and the nine realms. The story takes us between hell dimensions, Asgard, Midgard, and Sakaar and all are with sensible purpose within the immediate and grand story. There are wonderful cameos from Dr Strange, demonstrating swiftly his rise as a sorcerer, as well as surprising cameos from actors across the film (not to mention a rather brilliant Stan Lee one). Overall, most concerns regarding plot were addressed and I am thoroughly happy with what I was presented.

The main weakness of the plot came associated with the villain and the familiar use of 'drones of the bad guy'. Avengers Assemble, Age of Ultron, and The Dark World have all employed this and whilst that isn’t the majority of MCU films it is a little too easy. I just think of personal showdowns including Winter Soldier, Civil War, Homecoming, and the left-field Dr Strange for excellent and memorable fights. It’s not even that it was ill-fitting of the character and it did bring some wonderful action shots, but I would like to have seen something different.

Worry 2: the characters would be flat or repetitive (2)

On almost all accounts we are introduced to well-rounded characters and returners are given some decent development. We meet Thor who is now more self-assured, smarter, and a lot funnier than he was before. He receives quite the character blow via the means of his hammer and spends the film learning how to grow further and develop without his favourite toy. We meet Loki still up to his self-centred games but across the film transitions to allegiance with his people. This was a great development to see as finally we may have some semblance of redemption for the Lord of Mischief. Hulk is superb. Banner has been gone for two years and in that time the big guy has learned control and basic language. We see in the portrayal of his character some of his struggles over the missing time and that’s wonderful. We also get a glimpse at the Banner-Hulk psychological tension and whilst that would have been nice to expand upon this wasn’t a Hulk movie.

Our newest entries Skurge and Valkyrie were also a delight. The former is established very quickly as having been on the scene a while and goes through an arc of henchman status, albeit it with some concern for his decisions. He isn’t given a huge amount of time but there’s still enough to latch onto the character. Valkyrie is very well done, and I hope that she isn’t a one-film wonder. Through her conflicts with Thor we get backstory very organically and it lets you feel sympathy for her through some ill-actions. Hemsworth, Hiddleston, Ruffalo, Urban, and Thompson are all superb in their roles which is a testament to not only them but the writing and direction. There are a few secondary characters I won’t spend much time on (just look out for the Grandmaster and Korg) but my main concerns were alleviated, until…Hela.

Hela wasn’t bad, far from it, and she wasn’t portrayed in a simple plot-driving way like some of Marvel’s weakest villains. She came with backstory and motive and at times you could feel for her. She was also sublimely portrayed I should add by Cate Blanchet. She fell a little short in that she had no part that wasn’t leading to the final show down. It would have been nice to experience other aspects of her character, such as where she’s been and her experiences etc. I assume this came down to with an already complicated film trying to expand on her story more would have established too many narratives.

Worry 3: ceremonial/superficial plot points (3)

It was a massive reveal in the trailer that Mjolnir would be destroyed, and my biggest concern was that they would just rebuild it and thus undo that character shattering moment. Marvel have a few cases of making a high impact decision only to override it later for plot reasons. I am very much hoping that we don’t see the rebuild of the hammer and that Thor learns to be without it. There are also lasting implications of Ragnarok for Asgard but also following on from Thor’s vision of Infinity War. At this point I can’t attest to much as very little direct seeding was done in this regard. We can only look forward to future films to see if they gloss over some of the significant points of this movie to make future ones easier to make. I sincerely hope not as one of the most of amazing things in these films is seeing characters genuinely develop and then when they combine you get clashes of ideologies and the such. To see the impact of Raganrok brushed under the carpet for its key players to just go back to how they were I Infinity War would be an utter shame.

Overall, Ragnarok is an absolute treat and is so utterly hilarious (I was holding my mouth to quieten myself in the cinema!) that it’s basically an action-comedy. It does this, though, with grace enough to not detract from the important plot and character points needed from such a huge storyline. Waititi has brought us a wonderful development of the Thor character and stories in an altogether funnier, slightly camp, and almost self-aware way. The influence of his prior work is clear but not gratuitous. It’s another example of the brilliance which comes when Marvel takes risks (a la James Gunn and Guardians). I’m holding out for the longevity of the film though and hence the rating. 8/10 is a solid “great” and with a more detailed villain with fewer drones I’d have pushed for a 9. Upon second watching, the film may fall flatter if you know the jokes are coming but if that’s not the case then with the villain problems fixed I think we’d have been looking at a near perfect score.

1.      This film is attempting to run storylines of Ragnarok, Planet Hulk, and an Infinity War prelude, all whilst coming in with the shortest run time to date of any MCU film. This strikes hard at the attempts of Ultron and how they fell short of keeping a solid story together. I can’t help but worry that we’ll be left with a film serving to wrap up and seed by means of The Grandmaster and Hela rather than the epic buddy road trip of Asgardian-destruction to conclude Thor’s individual journey that we deserve.

2.      Marvel is notorious for their underdeveloped villains who serve as nothing more than to drive the events of the heroes. Whilst I don’t agree with the full weight of criticism they receive (they have been some absolutely great ones), I do concur that even in Guardians 1 which is arguably the best MCU film to date the villain is nothing more than a story-driver. Hela is the goddess of death, possibly tying-in to Thanos and the infinity stories, has Asgardian backstory, and is serving as the one who overturns Asgard. Thus, she cannot fall short as a villain in this all too important movie. Reducing her to a story-driver would be nothing other than a waste of amazing potential. Thor and Loki are well rounded and utilised characters so far so there’s little worry about them in this coming film. What would be nice is to not see Loki flip-flop so much and have a true redemption arc. I worry that Loki’s role would be used to flip the pace and direction of the film in a way like the use of Magneto in the recent X-Men films. Regarding the Hulk, the fact that he’s been without the other guy for two years gives up some interesting development as it is. I worry that they will gloss over this and just have us at a point of Banner and the Hulk being one with each other. One of the most interesting aspects of this character is the inner turmoil Bruce goes through coming to terms with the Hulk and how eventually embrace both parts of himself grants him control. I think we need to see some of that journey for Bruce as it continues the struggles and guilt he felt through the events of Ultron.

3.      Taking away Mjolnir is one thing but as with superhero deaths they could simply bring it back for plot reasons, right? This is a genuine worry of mine that in this film or the next Thor will magically be back in possession of his favourite toy and this is the last thing they should ever do. The loss of Mjolnir amounts to symbolic castration of the Thor character. Upon becoming worthy, he was granted enhanced power and the strength to wield the hammer (and all the flying and weather powers which come with it). It comes as a power but also a crutch of his as he acts with very little gusto without it. Its offhand destruction is such a demonstration of losing that power and it forces Thor to relearn how to stand without his crutch. Stripped of Mjolnir, he must re-learn how to stand for himself in other ways, be it combat or other weapons. That clip from the trailer not only shows the strength of Hela and that she means business but also signifies a drastic turn in the development of Thor. Returning the hammer to him in this film or Infinity War (the latter of which is plot-positive due to casting) would completely undo any of that impact for both the grand-plot or Thor’s character development. That’s not to say that he should be without weapons, but that there should be a demonstration of him acquiring and mastering another weapon to aid him in the grand fight.

Rating:
8
Topics:
Monday, October 30, 2017 - 09:20 by BenCTurnbull

My second ever con fell on my birthday weekend and as such a group of 6 of us took to Glasgow for some time away to nerd-up and chill-out. This time I decided to give cosplay a go and spent the summer on and off planning and building myself a reasonable Adrian Toombes (“Vulture”; Spiderman: homecoming) costume. It’s not the most amazing but given that it was my first go at this I am quite proud. The con itself was another exciting demonstration of the vast array of nerdery and the cosplay lived up to this. From casual dressers to occupational cosplayers and from niche subcultures through to Marvel and WWE we had it all. Particularly well represented were Deadpools, Spidermans, Harley Quinns, and Ricks. But enough of that, what about the strengths and weaknesses of the con as a whole?

Location/Venue

The location was the SECC which was easy to access by both road and train. There was ample parking available both directly at the venue but also 10mins away at the Glasgow Science Centre. Stewarding was well done as the queues on the first day were managed clearly and the line moved promptly. The SECC itself is a large, open, two-part hall accompanied by a side corridor of shops, eateries, cash points, and stairs to the auditoria. Overall, it served as a perfectly fine venue for the con.

Regarding the layout of the con itself,  it was quite cramped. All stalls and attractions were broadly on a grid system which made obvious isles and tracks to follow. However, for the volume of people attending, the spacing wasn’t ideal as you were often near enough face-to-back with people which made not only navigating but also perusing the stalls difficult. They also put all con-related food into one of the sub-rooms which was nice. The venue itself had a good number of toilets scattered evenly around the rooms.

Lastly, advertisement fell a little short. Both the website and in-con advertisement wasn’t as good as it could be, and some things were simply not at all. Most timetabled events were difficult to know about. Overall, a suitable venue but a little over-stuffed with much needed in terms of direction.

Stalls

There was a good range of stalls, as you would expect from MCM. This included standard commercial merch, with a focus on mystery boxes; seriously: there was not only a mystery box stand but serval of the other sellers also had their own! As well as plenty of independent trader selling homemade trinkets, there was also a good range of stalls including props, original artwork, comic books, and rather a lot of soft toys (particularly Pokemon and rainbow alpacas…). The other noticeable thing was there was a significant proportion of Japanese stalls including food and merchandise. This was quite nice, and it drew away from some of the more American-heavy themes. Overall, stalls were good. There was a decent range of things to look at and buy from the casual nerd through to the lover of niche anime.

Attractions

There was also a decent range of stalls/interactive things. Numerous photo opportunities including an Iron Throne, Minions, and a Delorian. Sadly, albeit not surprisingly, all photos with the guests were charged. Additionally, there was a great stand which took 3D picture for free. It consisted of an open booth with cameras on all walls. They’d then email you the pic and provide a link to have your own little model made! There was also a designated kids zone with play area which was a nice touch. It was also nearer the main food area which I’m sure was good for tired parents! Lastly, they featured both table-top AND video gaming areas which was an excellent addition.

Overall, it was far from a bad con. It was, in fact, very good in some ways. But it lacked in organisation and signposting which made certain aspects difficult. That coupled with the shear density of attendees was the problem. Attendance levels are a difficult one to balance but perhaps in future MCM Glasgow would benefit from moving to 3 days to spread the flow out. 7/10

Rating:
7
Topics:
Sunday, October 29, 2017 - 14:24 by BenCTurnbull

This film caught my eye upon first viewing the trailer. Having enjoyed biopics/semi-biographical films such as Creation (Charles Darwin), Finding Neverland (J M Barrie), and Black Mass (Whitey Bulger), the idea of a human story behind one of the most beloved childhood stories seemed a sure bet. What I experienced did not let down and whilst it was not perfect it was a warming, enjoyable, and emotionally engaging story.

We meet A. A. Milne post-world war one, despondent with the way people are acting as if nothing happened and sure of humanity repeating their mistakes. Through the struggles of family and the world, we experience the journeys of both Milne and his son Christopher which ultimately leads to the creation of the Winnie the Pooh stories. The principle characters are wonderful, engaging, and convincing from the start. From the troubled but good intentioned Alan Milne (Domhnall Gleeson, About Time), through the detestable Daphne de Selincourte (Margot Robbie, Suicide Squad), to the passionate and lost Christopher Robin (Alex Lawther) and his caring nanny Olive (Kelly Macdonald, Trainspotting). Performances from Robbie and Lawther demonstrate good range in comparison to prior roles and impressive abilities considering their age respectively. There is also a good use of music, or the lack thereof, to allow the focus to be placed on the dialog when necessary. Overall, the film does a really good job of making you care for Alan and Christopher in what is essentially a story about maturing through difficulty for them both.

It suffered, however, in one main way: pacing/editing. The story arches across Christopher’s life from before birth to young adulthood and includes some rather abrupt transitions. It was as if good parts were written and stuck together to make a story as quickly as possible. This made it slightly difficult to engage with the final rendition of Christopher as we had not spent time seeing his development nor with the newer, older actor. Additionally, there were times when Olive had significant development with little to no warning.

Overall, it fell somewhere between good and great. Whether you love Winnie the Pooh or simply enjoy human stories you should watch this film for both its performances and story. I won’t be rushing to see it again, but I am more than pleased that I made the effort to watch it at the cinema. 7.5/10

Rating:
8
Topics:
Film Reviews, Biopic
Tuesday, August 22, 2017 - 19:59 by BenCTurnbull

Set in the world of Godzilla (2014) but way earlier during the cold war, an unmapped island is discovered and a team set up to investigate it. Before long, they are accosted by giant gorilla and settle in to discover that the island is full of gigantic versions of animals, a peaceful human tribe, and ruled by Kong himself. Now…I wasn’t excited by this film (nor interested at all) as I’ve never been a fan of monster movies and the first in this universe quite frankly sucked (Broderik’s Godzilla is perhaps the exception). But a raving review from a trusted friend, a reasonable trailer, and a cast consisting of half of the Marvel universe persuaded me to give it a go. I was not only not disappointed but actually impressed with what followed, for reasons I’ll outline below.

Overall, the film was good at balancing the serious storytelling with humour whilst never actually descending into a comedy. It carried tones humans overstepping their boundaries into things which they don’t understand as well as trying to control them; the balance between respect and control. It has some of the feeling of Jurassic Park 3 (a positive, coming from me) and contained obvious but not cartoony CGI.

The plot is rather simple, a survival/rescue mission, whilst focusses surprisingly on characters rather than action which is refreshing. That being said, the action-heavy scenes were also intended to be there to create tension which I feel it didn’t pull off (with one exception). The major losses are of underdeveloped characters which we haven’t connected with which leaves it a little anticlimactic. There are, however, some particularly touching moments too. The show down is more engaging than its cousin in Godzilla since the film establishes involvement and care for at least one of the two involved. Until in Godzilla where it’s essentially a monster fight in our backyard (a la Man of Steel). The characters are humanised with depth and intrigue, at least the primary ones but the human antagonist is more just there to drive the tension (which we’ve already established isn’t pulled off as well as it could have been). A nice positive, though, is that the British one isn’t the bad guy for once!

I enjoyed this far more than I expected and it has rescued my potential interest in the coming monster universe. Here’s hoping Godzilla 2 isn’t a let-down.

Rating:
7
Topics:
King Kong, Movie Reviews, Godzilla
Monday, August 21, 2017 - 15:51 by BenCTurnbull

It’s fair to say that I was excited for The Defenders. The Netflix MCU branch has been strong throughout (bar Iron Fist, comments about which you can see in my review) and the potential in a get-together was high. Much as Avengers Assemble brought together the feed from five films into one of the best superhero movies ever, Defenders was poised to do the same with five shows feeding into a more gritty and aggressive cousin of the film epic. What we were handed did not live up to that hype nor potential. It wasn’t overall bad but just suffered in several ways in which it shouldn’t have. It wasn’t the meh of Iron Fist but it didn’t capture what it was set up to do. But let’s stop being mean, what did the show do well?

Its first strength was not starting us off with an assembled team. The show felt like a natural coming together of four independent stories. We start with our heroes in their respective lives working through events following on from their recent shows. Bit by bit this is weaved to a point where they intersect (for good or bad) until they realise they are working on the same big picture. This made it feel very organic and it was excellent to fill in some of the gaps between shows. Secondly, and relating to the previous, it was engaging from the start. We weren’t treated to a few episodes of dawdle but instead hit the relevance from the opening. Thirdly, and critically, the principle villain was both intriguing and humanised from their opening scene which made you really want to learn of their agenda. They also were presented with important connections to previous events which enabled you to set them in an established scene. Lastly, the interplay between the primary characters, including their individual motives and perspectives, were well played out. Bringing together a bunch of super-people is never going to go smoothly and the show was very good at finding the relevance for the individual to be there. The show also did well including secondary characters from other shows as well as producing some genuine tension, striking a good balance of action styles, and making Danny a bit more likeable. However, I opened this review with some disappointment so let’s now look at the less good parts of the show.

Whilst we had a great opening and closing story, the middle of the show felt like filler. As if the writers came up with a good way to bring them together as well as conclude the story but couldn’t quite find the right link between the two. Even in such a short show, the middle couple of hours were a little wasted and I felt myself getting distracted. Additionally, the concluding event was a tad belittled by the prior announcement of season renewals. A potential solution to the whole problem established by the villains utilised a rather easy (in terms of writing) and predictable solution. Whilst they then did take an interesting left turn with it, it still rested on a rather easy foundation which we’ve seen done far better in one of the MCU films. Likewise, the approach and attitudes of The Hand (serving as the connecting villains across all the shows) mirrored those of Hydra from both the films and tv shows a little too much. Overall, this made it feel as if they were simply finding a 15 rated, tv version of the film world rather than creating something a bit more unique for it to show off. Regarding the villains, the aims of their team were never really put out their beyond some selfish motives and the central McGuffin wasn’t really explained at all. This really paled in comparison to the likes of Fisk (Daredevil), Kilgrave (Jessica Jones), and the two from Luke Cage in terms of motivations and well-roundedness of the villains. Additionally, the climax itself wasn’t built towards nearly as well as in the likes of Daredevil nor Jessica Jones which made it feel like less of a tension reliever and more of a moment of just ending. Lastly, the was some CGI use which was not only cheap but came off cartoony (much more what I would expect from the like of Sharknado).

Overall, The Defenders wasn’t a bad show (hence the rating) but it fell short in a lot of ways which could have been easily improved. They created much more of a fan-pleaser than an epic show of its own and whilst it was fantastic to see these characters together, what we got did not do them justice. It was a fun show with fantastic moments but fell short of the amazing it should have been.

Rating:
7
Topics:
Marvel, Daredevil, Jessica Jones
Saturday, June 3, 2017 - 13:34 by BenCTurnbull

Despite a promising trailer, and the excitement which followed, I still approached Wonder Woman with tepid caution. Following on from the fragmented blandness of Man of Steel, the ‘two films badly cut into one’ of Dawn of Justice, and an altogether fun but with poor plot choice and horrific CGI Suicide Squad, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I half thought that we’d be treated to an awfully Snyderised rendition of Captain America and be left with no hope for DC’s movie universe. I could not have been more wrong in my suspicions for what I experienced was nothing short of one of the best superhero movies in the last few years (and those of you that know me know how much I love Logan and Civil War).

Its plot is absolutely on point. The entire film, though set in the past, is integrated well into the modern running following on from Batman Versus Superman. The story quickly goes through Diana’s upbringing and uses nice tools to tell the audience about who her people are. From then, we are treated to less of an origin story and more of a journey of self-discovery as she stands for her principles against all else, becoming a little less naïve to the world. Whilst it did not attempt the multitude of stories and film seeding of others, it did manage to integrate multiple sub-plots in a coherent and relevant way which was great.

With respect to characters, the leads were all full of depth and intrigue. Each experience a journey and development which is not only enjoyable but also inspires genuine empathy for the characters. Gal Gadot was exceptional in every way from the physicality of the role through her oddness in the modern world all the way to how she deals with the minutia of her personal conflicts and lessons. Additionally, despite my hesitation, Chris Pine is excellent in the role and brings something different to what we’ve seen him do before. The supporting characters could have been more well-rounded, in particular the more villainous ones, but they were appealing nonetheless.

Warner Brothers appear to have reined in Zack Snyder a tad as the effects were largely very well executed (a Snyder-lite approach, I would say). Whilst the film maintains the visually wonderful DC aesthetic which has been established in previous movies, the action scenes are made more intimate with a focus on the fighting choreography itself rather than what you can do with a zooming camera. There were a few bits with poor GCI, such as incredibly obvious green screens, but in general the effects were fantastic, believable, and leagues ahead of those used in the suicide squad finale.

Overall, it was an amazing film which I greatly look forward to re-watching. The Blu-ray is pre-ordered and the funko pop is on its way! Bring on Justice League!

8.5/10

Rating:
9
Topics:
Film Reviews

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