Friday, 18 April 2014

Black Sails Review

Black Sails is a Pirates of the Caribbean style romp following the adventures, or rather misadventure of Captain Flint and his crew as they hunt for the motherload of all Spanish gold cargoes. 

The series opens with a high-seas battle, where a crew is picked off one-by-one by an enemy they cannot see. However, once that is done with and we are introduced properly to the attacking crew - led by Captain Flint - the sailors turn out to be quite a boring bunch. 

Visually Black Sails is beautiful, with great sets and good camera work but the story gets bogged down very quickly with constant double-crossing between the characters. In the first episode this is quite confusing as you are introduced to a lot of characters. Then it just keeps going for the rest of the series. 

It also takes six episodes before Captain Flint sets sail in search of the ship carrying the Spanish gold haul - despite talking about it for so long. Once at sea though, the pace does pick up and there is a lot of action but I don’t understand why it took six episodes to get to that. 

Bland characters and constant faffing aside though, Black Sails does have some interesting side plots and funny moments. It also cuts quite close to the knuckle at times and can be quite grisly but these moments are few and far between like the action. It’s still a decent series though and I would recommend a watch if you have Amazon Prime. 

It gets 6/10. 

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Film Review: Need for Speed

If you aren’t looking forward to seeing Fast and the Furious 7 starring Paul Walker’s ghost, then Need for Speed might be a suitable alternative if you are a woman and don’t like drooling over dead men. Adrenaline junkies and the male demographic probably will not care which of the two movies they see.

My expectations for Need for Speed were pretty low. For those who do not play video games, you will probably not be aware of the curse that haunts games which are given a movie adaptation. Basically the formula is this: Hit game series = shit movie. As thus it has been for years. But I was shocked by Need for Speed, (the movie that is) it was actually quite good.

Despite the first twenty minutes being slow (no pun intended) the film had a strong storyline. Yes, it had dumb moments and more plot holes than a sieve but I was willing to forgive all that because it was hugely entertaining and for 132 minutes made me feel half a kid again just wanting to race around in fast cars. 
Also Aaron Paul (AKA Jesse Pinkman from Breaking Bad) makes an excellent piece of eye candy. And for the guys there is Imogen Poots to gawk at. 

When it comes down to it, Need for Speed is basically a revenge film - with cars. It’s a formula that’s been done may times before but this movie’s take on the concept is very fresh. There are a lot of jokes, a lot of action and a lot of heart as well. There is also a Mustang, race tracks, flying cars, super cars, an office worker stripping off for no apparent reason, explosions, random cement mixers in the middle of the desert and an apache helicopter. The only thing this film didn’t have was a giraffe. 

Need for Speed gets 7/10.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Ebook Review: Sebastian By Christoph Fischer

Sebastian is the story of a 16-year-old man coming to terms with losing part of his leg, the consequences it has on his life thereafter and the affect it has on his family and friends in Vienna.

When I first started reading this book I thought it would gravitate solely around Sebastian, the protagonist. That is not the case at all. While he remains firmly at the heart of the story, the tale shoots off in multiple directions exploring the impact the amputee’s life has on his family, especially his mother Vera. 

The story moves through pre-war Vienna, the city at the height of the First World War and life afterwards. While the story touches upon historical events, it does not become bogged down, opting to focus more on the consequences it has on the day-to-day lives of the characters. In plot and characters the story was very rich.

I would have liked to have seen the settings described in a little more detail, however. The First World War carved a Europe of stark contrasts in terms of environments. While some places were left virtually untouched by war, others were obliterated. I felt the story was crying out for more description of these places to allow the reader to become more absorbed in them.

Other than that, Sebastian was a very enjoyable story with believable characters, who I could easily believe existed at that time. 

It gets 7/10.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Game Review: Titanfall

As I’ve finally managed to scrape enough pennies together through hard graft and selling one of my kidneys to buy an Xbox One, this week I am reviewing new release: Titanfall. 

This game is a first person multi-player shooter which follows the story of two opposing factions set on far flung worlds and colonies. Actually, saying Titanfall has a story might be being generous. The campaign mode does kind of have one but there is very little to it besides some throw away dialogue before every stage. 

The campaign mode pits two teams against each other in different terrains and different missions. Sometimes your team wins by reaching the most kills target first and other times you have to hold certain areas for the longest to win. Unlike traditional campaign modes which are usually single player, Titanfall’s one is multiplayer so you will need an internet connection. Once you complete the campaign mode as one of the forces - either the IMC or Militia - you can then replay it from the opposing side. 

The developers clearly bypassed story to focus on game play in Titanfall and it has paid off. The controls are very easy to pick up but it takes practice to learn how to best approach every fight. There are a lot of places to hide, a lot of stealth and also giant robots. Yes - you get your own giant robot to run around in. However, these are not always available and are not invincible, so again, it takes practice to learn when best to go on the offensive and when to retreat. 

My only gripe with the campaign mode is that it does not matter whether your team wins a stage or not. You still progress to the next map regardless of the previous match’s outcome, which kind of makes campaign seem a bit pointless. That said it is still immensely fun. 

Titanfall also has a classic mode - which is a strange word to use considering this is the first in the series. But regardless, there are several different types of matches you can play here. Unlike campaign mode you can choose whatever game type you like. My favourite is Last Titan Standing. The graphics are also crisp and smooth, making the game a great visual piece of eye candy.

Titanfall gets 7/10

Friday, 7 March 2014

Movie Review: Robocop 2014

The original Robocop movie was ahead of its time when it was first released in 1989. Although some of the effects look a little ropey by today’s standards, Robocop himself still looks pretty good. Unlike other robot movies of the era, he did not look like he was made of polystyrene. That combined with the odd combination of humour and violence strangely seemed to work. 

It was therefore natural that at some point post 2005, in the era we are now in where everything is being remade that Robocop too would get an upgrade. That brings us to the 2014 version.
I’ll admit that I did not have high expectations for the remake but it actually turned out to be a decent film. 

The special effects are good and Robocop himself looks pretty bad ass. But that’s about where the praise ends. The original was about a gunned down police officer - Murphy - starting the film as a blank slate after he has been turned into Robocop, gradually rediscovering his humanity. In the new version it is the opposite way round. Murphy wakes up as Robocop, panics and spends a long time being rehabilitated. Following a seizure, his doctors drug him up and that is when he becomes like a robot (don’t worry, his memory returns in the end). 

Murphy’s rehabilitation is interesting to watch and at times, moving. Unfortunately, though, this lasts for an hour - detracting from the main storyline. The main villain appears in the first ten minutes of the film and doesn’t return until sixty minutes later - only to be killed off within the new two. There is no build up and no development of this villain, or any of the others as a matter of fact. 

Also while sleek, the rest of the cast is pretty tame. The infamous head of Omnicorp - which built Robocop - was an absolute ar**hole in the original. This was established from the outset and you felt a sense of justice when he met his end. In the remake, the guy’s a pushover. The violence and comedy that made the first one great is also very subdued. In fact, there’s hardly any action at all. 

Oh and as an afterthought, Lois is also in the remake…as a man. I have no idea why. It adds nothing to the story whatsoever so why they changed her gender is beyond me. Come to think about it, why was Lois even in this film? He was in it for five minutes at the start - gets shot. He appears ten minutes from the end to help Robocop - to only get shot again. The character is about as pointless as the remake. 

It gets 5/10.