Movies – The Resurrection of Jake The Snake Review

July 5, 2016

I’ve been a wrestling fan since 1991, and it’ll always be the case for me that the best and most recognizable characters were the ones from back in those days.

I remember vividly sitting at home in November of that year and watching the evil Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts tie up ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage in the ring ropes and attack him with a King Cobra. Now bear in mind folks – especially those who are critical of wrestling – that this was real. By that, I mean that although it was part of the storyline and everyone knew it was going to happen, to sell the realism of it, they did actually jakehave a King Cobra sink its teeth into Savage’s arm and stay there. It’s incredible viewing by the today’s standards, where there is no doubt that something like that just wouldn’t happen.

It’s stuff like that that made Jake Roberts my favourite wrestling villain of all time.

And yet by April 1992, he’d left the WWF and by the end of the same year his top-line career was over after a short stay in rival organisation WCW.

In 1996, an older, fatter looking Jake – who looked far worse than his 41 years – reappeared with the gimmick of a man who had overcome his demons with alcohol and drugs. It didn’t last though, and once he made his final appearance in January 1997, he became the cautionary tale of the wrestler who drank and snorted his career away; who never fulfilled his huge potential.

Occasionally you’d hear about his embarrassing drunken mishaps on small independent wrestling events in local high schools and community centres where he’d show up wasted and in no fit state to perform. Perhaps the best example would be on the Heroes of Wrestling event in the late 1990s where he drunkenly pretended to wank off his snake in front of an audience of puzzled children and stunned adults.

Shameful stuff.

He’d talk about getting clean, but it never happened.

Until – that is – he moved in with fellow retired wrestler and Yoga enthusiast, Diamond Dallas Page.

In what sounds like a perfect wrestling plot, DDP took Jake in and got him clean and in shape using the power of his own brand of Yoga and healthy living.

And would you believe it, by 2014 Jake Roberts made it back to the WWE as a reformed man, with a one-off appearance on RAW followed by an induction into their Hall of Fame.

The Resurrection of Jake The Snake tells the story of how this happened.

Starting from the moment DDP first went to Jake’s house and continuing all the way through to his induction into the Hall of Fame, this documents every arduous step in his journey, thanks to a documentary maker who thought it might make for an interesting story.

It certainly does.

This movie gives you an in-depth look into the tormented soul that is Jake, and how his paper-thin skin and doubt in himself made it an almost impossible task to overcome his addictions.

It’s heartfelt and – I hope anyway – honest and is hugely absorbing, especially for a fan of his like me.

I couldn’t tell you for sure whether or not this would appeal to someone who doesn’t know who Jake is, but I honestly think it might.

I’d highly recommend giving it a shot.

The Resurrection of Jake The Snake is available to watch on NetFlix.


Stuart’s Steam Summer Sale Recommendations

July 2, 2016

There’s this belief that people just waste their money in the Steam Summer Sale.

Let’s be honest; that’s probably true. I know that in the past I’ve bought games without much thought because they are going cheap and then have either never played them or played them once and realised they weren’t for me. Certainly for me the Flash Sales resulted in me panic buying.

The good news this year is that everything that’s on sale will stay at their reduced price for the duration of the event, meaning you can take your time deciding what to buy.

And while it might be that you purchase a game for £3 on a whim and don’t like it, who really cares? Think of it like this; a couple of months ago I bought Dirt Rally for the PS4 for £42. I didn’t like it and despite trying a few times to get some utility out of it, I soon threw in the towel and uninstalled it. Earlier this week, I bought 7 games and a DLC pack from Steam for £21. I’ve already played some of these games for longer than Dirt.

So on that note, here are some games that I think are safe bets for anyone who likes gaming.

BIT.TRIP Presents… Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien: £2.19 (80% off)

This is a side scrolling platform style running game where you have to jump, slide and burst through obstacles in time with the rhythm of the game’s sound track.

It looks good, it’s colourful and it’ll take up around 9 hours of your time based on how long it took me to complete. Like everything else on my list, it’s a bargain.

http://store.steampowered.com/app/218060/?snr=1_5_9__205

Civilization V – The Complete Edition – £8.06 (92% off)

Unquestionably the greatest bang for your buck in the Steam sale comes from the complete edition of Civilization 5.civ5

Along with the bare bones game, you get the Brave New World and Gods & Kings expansion packs and all the other scenarios. It turns out to be a saving of almost £90.

I’ve always considered the Civ series as one where I’ll play it non stop for a weekend and then not return to it for about a year, and at that price, it’s definitely worth it.

My only note of caution would be that you need a decent PC to be able to run it. If you don’t have that, why not buy the complete Civ 4 for £3.74?

http://store.steampowered.com/bundle/575/

Cook, Serve, Delicious! – £1.74 (75% off)

You run a restaurant, choose the menu, buy different types of food and then you have to cook and serve it to customers either using your keyboard or with the click of the mouse.

The aim is to turn your restaurant into a 5 star establishment.

It’s addictive and challenging, but good fun.

http://store.steampowered.com/app/247020/

FTL: Faster Than Light – £2.09 (70% off)

You take charge of a spaceship and try to get it as far across the galaxy before it inevitably gets destroyed by asteroids, fires or space pirates.ftl

It’s a ‘roguelike’ game which means you play until you die and then you start again with a new randomly generated map.

Great for a quick game now and again.

http://store.steampowered.com/app/212680/?snr=1_5_9__205

LEGO… (33% – 75% off)

Whether it’s Batman, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, Marvel, Star Wars or The Hobbit, there’s probably a LEGO game out there for you.

And most of them are currently on sale for £3.74.

http://store.steampowered.com/tag/en/LEGO/#p=0&tab=NewReleases

Pac-Man Championship Edition DX+ – £1.99 (75% off)

I’m going to assume you know what Pac-Man is.

This is pretty much the definitive version and it’s available for a mere £1.99 at the moment.

Buy it now, thank me later.

http://store.steampowered.com/app/236450/

Papers, Please – £3.49 (50% off)

You might think that a game where you play as a guard at a Soviet border checkpoint wouldn’t be that much fun, but then you’d be wrong.

Garnering praise from all corners, this is a surprisingly deep, wonderfully written and executed PC gem.

http://store.steampowered.com/app/239030/

Party Hard – £2.59 (75% off)

Most of the games on this list are ones that generally review well, and if I’m honest are games that I’ve bought on the strength of hearing that they are good.partyhard

But I bought Party Hard in spite of mediocre reviews because the premise seemed interesting.

Basically you play as a guy who goes to various parties and must kill everyone there without being caught. You need stealth and patience, and it can be frustrating to have to try 100 times to beat a certain level, but I really enjoyed it.

http://store.steampowered.com/app/356570/

Pinball FX 2

The best pinball game out there, this is all about buying the right table for you. And right now, most tables are available for at least 75% off.

Trying to beat your own score is one thing, but for me the fun in Pinball FX 2 is competing against my friends for the best score.

So whether it’s Family Guy, Star Wars, Marvel or any other themed table you’d be interested in, buy some now convince a friend to as well.

http://store.steampowered.com/app/226980/

Plants vs Zombies GOTY Edition – £1.06 (75% off)

It’s over 7 years old now and the chances are you’ve played it, but just incase you haven’t, this charming Tower Defence strategy game is available for just over a quid.

And you can’t say fairer than that.

http://store.steampowered.com/app/3590/

RISK Factions – £1.99 (75% off)

It’s the classic board game brought to your PC, but with a story mode and bit of a modern spruce up.

You can play through the single player mode on your own if you want and you’ll still get more than your money’s worth, but I reckon playing it with friends either at home or online would be even better.

http://store.steampowered.com/app/47800

SpeedRunners – £2.74 (75% off)speedrunners

I only just bought this game today but I feel strongly enough about it to recommend it to you.

It’s a running racing game where you must overcome obstacles to get far enough ahead of the other players to knock them off the screen; a bit like the old Micro Machines games I suppose.

It’s fast, it’s stylish and it’s fun.

Like most games on the list you can play it on your own or with friends.

http://store.steampowered.com/app/207140/

Worms Reloaded: Game of the Year Edition – £2.84 (85% off)

Leaving probably the best for last, this is the definitive version of the long running Worms Franchise.

It’s six years old now, but every version of the game that has come out since has paled in comparison to this, as Team 17 try to make it more modern or 3D.

Worms doesn’t need that; it needs colourful, cartoonish 2D graphics and simple varied game modes.

That’s what Reloaded gives you.

http://store.steampowered.com/app/22600/

The sum total of these 13 games I’ve recommended comes to £36.26. Dirt Rally on the PS4 costs £38.99.

I know what I’d rather spend my money on…

Have you got any recommendation? Let me know.


Movies – The Secret Life of Pets Review (or ‘A Wannabee Toy Story’)

July 1, 2016

I’ll let you into a little secret about animated movies; most of them have exactly the same plot.

You know the one; the main character somehow gets separated from his home and he or she must make their way back, meeting some goofy sidekick along the way and then overcoming some kind of obstacle/learning some life lesson in the end.

But at least some of them try to approach it from different angles. Take Inside Out for example; it tells that basic plot but is sufficiently different in theme so that you don’t just think you’re watching Toy Story, The petsLion King or Finding Nemo again.

The Secret Life of Pets though doesn’t try; it’s just Toy Story with pets and without charm.

For Woody there’s Max, for Buzz Lightyear there’s Duke and for all the other miscellaneous characters there are other pets. Hell, there’s even a sausage dog.

It’s shameless.

And it’s also stupid. While I’m not trying to suggest that Toy Story is realistic, if you accept that the toys come alive when nobody is looking, the stuff that happens in the trilogy becomes feasible. In The Secret Life of Pets, while it initially works in the same way, by the end of the movie there’s a rabbit driving a bus over the Brooklyn Bridge causing so much destruction it would be considered a terrorist event, and a dog manages to beat up everything from a crocodile to a warthog, all in clear view of the public. Idiotic.

Maybe this is a movie not aimed at me though? Maybe it’s just a kids film rather than one that’s set out to appeal to the whole family like Disney and Pixar’s efforts? But if that was the case, why advertise it before movies aimed at adults?

What I would say is that there are one or two amusing moments near the start of The Secret Life of Pets, but they are in the trailer anyway.

So watch the trailer, have a chuckle and then go home and watch Toy Story; you’ll enjoy that more.

 


The Ken Dodd Happiness Show (or ‘No, Ken Dodd’s Not Dead, And Neither Is His Dad’s Dog’)

June 27, 2016

“I thought he was dead”.

That’s the line most people gave me when they heard I was going along to see a Ken Dodd gig in Dunfermline last night; well that and the disgraceful “I’ve never heard of him” from some younger folks.

No folks, Ken Dodd is not dead; instead at the grand old age of 88 he’s still touring the country every weekend performing his epic gigs that have become the stuff of legend.

I’ve seen my fair share of stand-up shows over the years – including the great Billy Connolly – and they tend to last an hour, maybe two at max, but Dodd is well known for going on long into the night with reviewersken dodd suggesting you take a blanket and some breakfast just in case.

Surely though a show starting at 7pm would be out reasonably early?

Nope.

From the picture on the back of programme of Dodd holding up a clock reading five to midnight to his early jokes about how we’d soon find out what it’s like to be in a hostage situation, and that by time the show ends our loved ones would have reported us all missing, it was clear this might last a while.

Dodd finally wrapped up his show at 23:45, nearly five hours after first walking on the stage.

Of  course, there was an intermission at around 10pm as well as a couple of breaks from the man himself as he gave up the stage for two musical variety acts to go through (thankfully) short sets, but all in all he was front and centre for well over three hours.

Unbelievable.

And what of his act?

Though it dipped a little bit after the intermission as the man from Knotty Ash went on a long, rambling anecdote about a man entering a monastery, it was mostly engaging and laugh-out-loud funny throughout, even though it was sometimes a little bit difficult to hear what he was saying thanks to a combination of old age and a chest infection. The highlight of the night was the last 45 minutes when he brought out his famous Diddy Man, Dicky Mint to a huge ovation before finishing with rousing renditions of two of his most famous songs, Absent Friends and Happiness.

Now you might think that that is just standard Dodd, and if you look up either of his ‘Audience with…’ shows that are available on YouTube you’ll see him perform an almost identical last section of his act, but it doesn’t matter; Dodd’s delivery, enthusiasm and all-round mastery of his craft meant that it was still as brilliant as when you first saw it performed.

It was worth the price of admission, and then some.

For a guy of his age to stand out there and hit us with joke after joke and song after song for as long as he did is nothing short of incredible. Equally incredible was that I could attend anything for nearly five hours and not want to leave.

Ken Dodd is a national treasure – and legend – and while he no doubt has a few years left in him, it wouldn’t be unfair to suggest that he won’t continue to tour for too much longer.

So if you want to see him, do it. Sure, be prepared for a long night, but you won’t regret it.


Movies: Race Review (or ‘Worth Seeing If You Still Can’)

June 10, 2016

Sometimes films don’t get a fair crack of the whip, so to speak.

Take Race – the biopic of 1930s Olympic legend Jesse Owens – for example. At my local cinema it was given very little screen time, with a single 12:15 showing at weekends and an extra one at 18:15 during the week. Now maybe Cineworld did their homework and decided more money could be made showing other films in prime slots, but it meant that anyone who wanted to go had a very limited opportunity.race

And maybe it’s because of that, or perhaps it was because Race just didn’t appeal to the masses, but there were only seven other people in when we went at 18:15 on Tuesday.

That’s a pity because in my opinion, if you didn’t go then you’ve missed out.

Race is an enjoyable movie that – in spite of its lengthy 134 minute running time – never gets dull and certainly kept me entertained all the way through.

I have read that it’s “by-the-numbers”, “middle-of-the-pack” and “fails to fully explore 1930s racial politics” but I’m not so sure any of that matters. It’s a biopic and therefore the story can only be as interesting as the subject matter. Owens story is one that appeals to someone sporty like me and while I couldn’t tell you if it was 100% accurate, that didn’t stop it from being a good watch.

As for the notion that it fails to deal with racial politics fully, I’m personally glad. From what I do know about Jesse Owens, his triumph did nothing to change those politics and so I’d question why that should be the central focus of the film. It certainly touched upon it enough to let us know there were issues, but the focus of the piece was rightly on Owens himself.

Like I say, I enjoyed it and would recommend you go to see it, but at this stage, you’re more likely to have to wait until it’s released on DVD.

Anyway, here are a few other random observations I have about Race…

  • For the second time this year, I’ve gone to a film where Tim McInnerny has been cast as a member of the Olympic committee; the other being Eddie the Eagle. What a weird thing to be typecast as.
  • Speaking of Eddie the Eagle, it made me question the characters in this. Did Owens really have a coach like Larry Snyder or was he made up to suit the narrative. Thankfully he did.
  • Jeremy Irons with an American accent sounds exactly like John Lithgow. It’s weird.
  • To criticise it, I did feel that some parts of Race were brushed over. For example, they built up a rivalry between Owens and another sprinter in the run up to the Olympics and then dropped it before it got interesting.
  • Also, the brief affair he had didn’t do much to advance the plot considering his fiancée immediately forgave him.
  • I like that the focus of the Nazis was on Goebbels rather than Hitler.
  • The direction and the scale of the scenes set in the Olympic Stadium were very good.
  • Every track event Owens took part in in the USA appeared to be filmed in the same venue. I don’t think that was meant to be the case.

 

 


Games – Gone Home Review (or ‘Why You Should Never Buy A Game On Review Scores Alone’)

June 7, 2016

If you’ve read this blog before, you’ll notice I don’t ‘score’ anything I review. The reason for that is because scoring is meaningless and often misleading. It’s the reviewer picking some arbitrary number out of their head from a scale of 1-5, 10 or 100, based on their own personal opinions and skewed to ensure everything either finishes in the top or bottom 25% of that scale.

But as much as scoring is meaningless, it’s also dangerous to you as the reader of the review. Why? Because if you are honest, if there’s a score in a review that’s pretty much the only thing you’re going to read and you’ll base your decision to buy/consume the product based on that.

I bring this up because if you google the ‘acclaimed’ PC and Console game, Gone Home – one of two free games available with your PS Plus subscription this month – then the first thing you’ll notice is that it gets gonehome9.5/10 from the well-respected gaming site IGN.

9.5/10?! “Wow”, you might think ,“that must be a great game; one of the all time classics.”

People will buy that game blindly based upon that score alone. I know I’ve done similar in the past, and even though I got it as part of my subscription to PS Plus today, I’ll also hold my hand up to being interested in playing Gone Home without knowing what it was, because of it.

But then I played it.

And after playing it for half an hour I dug a little bit deeper and actually read the review on IGN and – more tellingly – the comments from the public underneath it.

There were a lot of angry people.

Why?

Because the score doesn’t tell the story of what Gone Home actually is.

What it involves is walking around a house, picking up items, looking at them and putting them down. Occasionally picking one of those items up will trigger some narration from the woman you are controlling as she reminisces about her childhood friend-turned girlfriend.

But that’s all there is to it.

You wander around the house, you pick up every item and once you’ve been into every room – finishing in the attic – it ends. There’s no objectives, no quest, no danger, no actual gaming involved.

Bell to bell, Gone Home lasts for about an hour.

Full price, it costs £14.99.

£14.99 for an hour’s worth of gameplay – such as it was – and no replay value.

And yet it was given a score of 9.5/10 on the same scale that IGN use for reviewing every game in the world.

I genuinely cannot understand it. Even if the guy reviewing it really liked it for what it was and even if it’s the best walking-around-and-picking-things-up simulator there’s ever been, he must also have to accept that the lack of any sort of challenge and the cost of game versus the length of it means that there’s no argument to support that score, arbitrary or otherwise.

But he didn’t and so his 9.5/10 is what Gone Home’s reputation will be enhanced by forever.

And I don’t think that’s right.

I’m just thankful I didn’t pay for it…

 


Movies: Money Monster Review

June 2, 2016

I enjoyed Money Monster.

But then I have a penchant for enjoying movies presented in real-time as I think they are often more dramatic, they move along at a brisk pace and there are very rarely any lulls. Also – and this is often key to COL_BILL_TEMPLATE_21whether I like a film or not – they don’t out-stay their welcome.

Money Monster ticks all these boxes, while also presenting a scenario – the hijacking of a live finance TV show by a guy who lost his savings on stock tip gone bad – that perked my interest.

Now those three paragraphs are enough to justify a recommendation, but there’s a bit more to it than that. What I found most enjoyable about Money Monster was the way it had a streak of dark humour running through it. You wouldn’t think a hijacking could be funny unless it was deliberately played in a stupid way, but this manages it. I think that’s down to the characterisation of George Clooney’s obnoxious TV host character Lee Gates and Clooney’s performance. It was believable, and so was the way the viewing public reacted to the events.

The only thing not so believable was having Gus from Breaking Bad play a good guy; I wasn’t having that for a second.

I’ve read some people suggest Money Monster should be criticised for not doing enough to explain the way the stock market works, but honestly, I don’t care about stuff like that. In the case of Money Monster, I went along to be entertained, not educated.

And I was definitely entertained.


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