Movies: X-Men Apocalypse Review (or ‘How Professor X Lost His Hair’)

May 31, 2016

If I’ve learned one thing from watching X-Men Apocalypse, it’s that you shouldn’t bother reading reviews. (What a great line to start a review with).

I tend not to do that before going to see a movie anyway, but I couldn’t help but notice that the latest instalment in the Marvel franchise had been getting some pretty low scores, with only 47% and 52% on Rottenxmen Tomatoes and Metacritic respectively.

That didn’t bode well, especially when percentages on superhero movies tend to skew higher anyway because of the fanboy vote, but I’ve enjoyed every other X-Men movie so I wasn’t to be swayed.

And I’m glad I wasn’t, because despite the negativity surrounding it, X-Men Apocalypse is comfortably the best superhero movie I’ve seen for a while.

The reason for that was because it didn’t try to be anything other than what it is; a movie about superheroes.

And there are lots of superheroes (and villains) in this, all working together with their interesting, differing abilities and wacky costumes to allow for some mindless escapism.

It doesn’t try to be deep like Civil War or too snarky like Deadpool and yet at the same time it has enough story to justify its length – which is a big thing considering it lasts 144 mins – and doesn’t revert to a final hour dedicated entirely to an enormous CGI fight scene.

I liked that a lot.

In fact, I struggle to understand any dislike for it.

So give it a chance.


Games: Kopanito All-Stars Soccer (or ‘Surprisingly Challenging Pick Up & Play Fun’)

May 28, 2016

I don’t often feel compelled to write game reviews, which you’ve probably noticed seeing as I’ve not done one all year.

But when I do it’s because a game is either very special or isn’t well known and deserves some credit.

In recent weeks I’ve bought and played some big name games which have reviewed very well, such as the recently released Overwatch (which I think is decent but not deserving of the level of praise it’s been getting), Dirt Rally (which is a bit too repetitive and ‘realistic’ to offer the pick-up-and-play fun I wanted) and Far Cry Primal (which I sunk around 20 hours into but was lacking in comparison to its predecessors),

Its Guatemala vs Venezuela. Yay.

Its Guatemala vs Venezuela. Yay.

but none of them have stood out.

Instead it’s a game that cost me a mere £2 on steam that I want to write about…

A game called Kopanito All-Stars Soccer.

Now I’m a big football fan as you probably know if you pay attention to this blog or follow me on twitter (@sgmilne) and as a gamer that means I dedicate a lot of time to both FIFA and Football Manager. But I accept that my enjoyment of these games comes from knowing a lot about the sport. If I didn’t like football then FM would just be a load of words and numbers, while FIFA would probably end up being too complex to grasp. I feel like that about games such as EA’s Madden, NBA and NHL efforts.

For me, the best sports video games are often the simple, arcadey ones. The likes of Mario Tennis, Golf, Baseball or Strikers, or the NFL Blitz series.

And this is where Kopanito All-Stars Soccer is great.

It’s cartoonish graphical style and simple 2 button approach to the sport makes for a quick pick up and play experience for the PC. And unlike the more serious sports games, there are also power ups such as missile shot and magnet ball that add that extra sense of barmy fun.

But it’s also surprisingly difficult, and I mean that in a good way.

Once I’d won a tournament on beginner mode I tried the next level up and I kept getting pumped. So I adjusted my style of play to stop chasing the opponent every time it had the ball and ended up getting some success. And do you know what? It felt very rewarding.

The strength in Kopatino is that you don’t really need to appreciate football to appreciate or understand the game, while at the same time, it’s challenging enough to make you want to play it over and over again.

Steam says I’ve played it now for over four hours since I first had a shot yesterday, and that’s far more enduring than my desire to go back to Overwatch or Dirt.

And the beauty of it is that it cost me far less money.

I’d urge you to give it a try yourself; it’s great.


Movies: Our Kind of Traitor Review (or ‘Maybe It’s Based On A Book That’s Not Very Good’)

May 20, 2016

After the recent success of The Night Manager on BBC1, John le Carré’s work is currently in vogue.

And now another one of his books – Our Kind of Traitor – has made its way to the big screen.

Movies – Our Kind of Traitor Review: What’s It About?

While on holiday in Morocco, a British University lecturer is befriended by a high level Russian mafia type who wants to give up some mob secrets in exchange for asylum for him and his family. But will the British kindoftraitorSecret service take them seriously?

Movies – Our Kind of Traitor Review: Who’s In It?

The movie stars good actors like Ewan McGregor, Stellan Skarsgård, Damian Lewis and Naomie Harris. It also has Mark Gatiss in it. (Burn).

Movies – Our Kind of Traitor Review: How Highly Is It Rated?

It’s been getting mixed reviews. While imdb only gives it 6.4/10 from a mere 550 votes (which tells its own story) and Empire magazine describe it as ‘bland’, Rotten Tomatoes awards it an approval rating of 82%.

But what did I think?

Movies – Our Kind of Traitor Review: Thoughts

The start of Our Kind of Traitor evoked memories of one of my absolute all-time favourite movies, The Man Who Knew Too Much. Indeed, it would not surprise me if that is where le Carré got his inspiration from.

But while the Hitchcock classic built up and up to a dramatic and exciting conclusion, Our Kind of Traitor fizzled out.

The problem was that beyond the initial hook – that an innocent bystander gets caught up in the murky world of international espionage – McGregor’s character was incidental to the plot, while the process of bringing Skarsgård and his family to the UK wasn’t exactly full of drama.

And maybe it’s because it’s difficult to truncate one of le Carré’s books into a two-hour movie – after all, The Night Manager took up six hours of screen time – but certain elements of the plot such as the stuff with Skarsgård’s daughter, and the bit that happened at the end (no spoilers) were not explained in great enough detail.

Or it could just be that this is a movie based on a book that isn’t very good.

Overall, I’d be more inclined to side with Empire; this was quite bland. It was decent enough, but considering some of le Carré’s other works, I did expect better.


Football Manager 2017: Scottish Research Team Vacancies

May 14, 2016

 

FMScotland

 

It’s that time of year when I recruit Assistant Researchers for the new edition of Football Manager.

Here’s a quick summary of what’s needed/expected from you and what’s involved in the process.

What’s Needed In An Assistant Researcher?

To be part of the Scottish Research team, you should fit the following criteria…

1. Regularly Watch The Club You’re Researching

Being a fan of the club you’re researching is the number one priority and it’s essential. There really is no point in emailing me to say “I’m a fan of Club X, but if that’s not available, I could always research Club Y or Club Z as I’ve seen them play once or twice”.

We need fans who have seen these players play week in and week out over the course of the 2015/16 season and have an in-depth knowledge of those players’ strengths and weaknesses. Moreover, we need information that goes beyond the first team. Who’s in the development side? What positions do they play? Which players are highly rated and have the potential to go far?

Ultimately if all you can provide is the basics based on checking out football websites, that’s something we can do ourselves.

2. Basic Knowledge of IT

As a researcher, you have to be able to download Zip or RAR files from an FTP site or Dropbox Link, unpack them into their own folders on your hard drive, open a file using a data editor, edit it using the editor and then email me the file back.

Now it’s May 2016 and you’re probably reading this thinking “Well that’s pretty basic, isn’t it?” but you’d be surprised.

So please, if you really don’t know your arse from your elbow when it comes to using Microsoft Windows on even a basic level, don’t bother applying.

3. A Mature and Objective Outlook To Your Own Team

You’ll be rating the players at your club in direct relation to all the other players/teams in the Scottish league, so there has to be an acceptance – especially in the lower leagues – that your team aren’t Barcelona and your star striker doesn’t have stats comparable to Lionel Messi.

4. A Knowledge of Football Manager

You should be comfortable with Football Manager and how the data is presented in the game.

5. Communication and Deadline Keeping Skills

Though the work we’re asking you to do doesn’t take up much time at all – a few hours here and there from now until September – it’s still important. So you need to be able to reply to emails and – crucially – meet the deadlines that are set.

Every year I’ll get one or two (or ten) researchers applying for research positions who just decide “Sod this, I can’t be bothered to hand in a file” without telling me, leaving us in the lurch at deadline time.

Like I say, it doesn’t take up much of your time at all, but you are taking on the responsibility of ensuring that your team is accurately rated in FM17.

6. The Ability To Use Microsoft Windows

The editors we use only work on Microsoft Windows, so if you have an Apple device, you’ll have to get some form of mirroring software like Boot Camp to allow you to run Windows on it.

What’s Involved In The Process?

If that doesn’t scare you off, here’s what’s actually involved in the process.

1. Rating Players

As you’re familiar with the game, you’ll notice that when you open up a player’s profile there’s loads of information there, from player attributes like how good a tackler he is and how much pace he has, all the way through to contract details and how tall he is.

That’s your job. We need your help getting this information into the game.

2. Providing Club Information

Similarly, you’re responsible for making sure your club has the right kits, up to date and accurate stadium information, a reasonable estimate on financial info like sponsorship income and debt, and accurate information on club records like All Time Top Scorer and highest received transfer fee.

3. Keep Me Up To Date With Player and Staff Transfers

Between now and the release of Football Manager 2017, there will be a load of transfer activity at your club, whether it’s players coming in or moving on, staff changes, or a member of staff moving jobs internally. Again, this is information you need to provide us.

What Do You Get?

All Assistant Researchers get their name in the credits and a free copy of Football Manager 2017 as thanks for taking part.

That is unless you provide really crap info…

But that’s only ever happened once or twice.

What Research Positions Are Currently Vacant?

Right now, we’re looking for researchers for the following clubs…

Albion Rovers
Alloa Athletic
Arbroath
Brechin City
Edinburgh City
Hibernian
Inverness Caledonian Thistle
Kilmarnock
Livingston
Peterhead
Queen of the South
Queen’s Park
Ross County
Stirling Albion

How Do You Apply?

If you’re interested, email me at officialfmscotland@gmail.com and let me know what club you’re interested in researching.

If the club you want to research isn’t listed there, it means that club currently has a researcher, so please don’t email me asking if it’s available. If any other research positions for Scotland become available, I’ll advertise them on twitter @sgmilne

Also, I have nothing to do with the research positions at other countries, so please don’t email me to let me know you’d love to do some research for clubs in Burundi or Swaziland.

Oh and one more thing…While I do appreciate that those of you who run teams in local amateur leagues would love to see your team in the game, we really only need information for the SPFL and to a lesser extent, basic stuff for the Highland and Lowland League.


Movies – The Jungle Book Review (or ‘A Very Po-Faced Review Of A Disney Classic’)

May 14, 2016

To write a review of The Jungle Book seems pretty pointless; let’s be honest, you all know the 1967 version and will have long since made up your mind whether you like it or not.the_jungle_book_poster_key_art

So I won’t waste much time here; this is purely for posterity and for my own record keeping.

I like it, it looks great, the CGI is as advanced as you’d expect and the plot is actually a little bit deeper than the animation.

My only issue with it is a very po-faced one.

I find it hard to take a movie where animals talk seriously.

An animation is fine, but a live action movie with a ‘real’ lion talking with the voice of Idris Elba? It’s daft.

Also slightly daft was the way it almost entirely avoided music until the scene with King Louie where he bursts into song. It’s like they couldn’t find any other way to let that part of the movie pan out.

Ach well.

 


Movies – Captain America: Civil War Review

May 6, 2016

To quote a football manager looking to excuse a defeat on a Saturday afternoon, the difference between success and failure can come down to fine margins.

Those fine margins are crucial when determining whether Captain America: Civil War is a good movie or not.civil war

As a story it’s pretty average, it seems to rely upon fight scene after fight scene with no real consequences (no Superheroes were harmed in the making of this movie) and there’s no major enemy or threat to speak of.

But the inclusion of Spider-Man and Ant-Man make the difference.

The scenes with them add good humour and dynamism and make you feel as though they’ve finally got Spider-Man spot on.

You might think that’s a very small thing to make a difference, but like I say, it’s all down to those fine margins.

When they appeared it was great.

Without them – and especially in the 15 minutes before they appeared – I was almost falling asleep.

On balance then, I would say that it’s just good enough to recommend.

But only just.

And let’s have no more Iron Man or Captain America centric stuff please.

 

 


TV – Line of Duty Review (or ‘The Best TV Show You’ve Never Seen’)

April 29, 2016

For the last few weeks, I’ve been bugging anyone who’ll listen at work with one simple question…

“Do you watch Line of Duty?”

Tucked away on BBC2 on a Thursday night, I’d never heard of this drama about corruption in the police force until I began to notice sites like Digital Spy proclaim it the best thing currently on TV.Line-of-Duty

With the first two seasons on NetFlix and the current one just finished last night, I decided to give it a go.

It was a great decision, because Line of Duty is the best thing currently on TV.

It’s gritty, dramatic, shocking and utterly engrossing. What’s more, it’s both written and acted tremendously.

Though each season focuses on one specific corrupt member of the force – played by well-known British actors in the same way as Columbo would cast US Stars to play the bad guys – there’s a linking theme that carries on throughout all three seasons and will no doubt continue into the ones that will follow. And what a theme it is. I won’t spoil it for you, but needless to say, by the time last night’s finale aired emotions were running high and I was genuinely nervous/excited to see how things would pan out.

That’s how good Line of Duty is.

Like I say above, the acting in this is tremendous, and in particular I love the scenes where the bad guys are brought in for questioning by our heroes at AC-12 played by Adrian Dunbar, Martin Compston and Vicky McClure. In no way light, these are intense scenes that sometimes run up to almost 25 minutes long and must be difficult to act, both in terms of remembering lines and maintaining the right emotional notes. But everyone involved manage it with aplomb. In particular, I think Dunbar’s character – Superintendent Ted Hastings – with his Northern Irish accent and fire and brimstone mentality is just fantastic here. He’s like the moral guardian we all wish was running the police force in reality.

The one thing I don’t want to do in this review is to give away any spoilers whatsoever – to do so would be a disservice to what is one of the finest examples of drama I think I’ve ever seen – so I’ll simply finish this review by saying that if you’ve heard people at your work raving about this show, there’s a good reason for it. It is as good as they are making out and you will love it.

So close down this page, go onto NetFlix now and start watching.

You won’t regret it.

 


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