Things That Annoy Me Generally – The Stuart Reviews Stuff Room 101 (Part 1)

November 30, 2012

Your digital footprint is an interesting thing.

I know some people who’ve had the same email address for near-on 20 years and never delete a single message. It must be interesting to look back on the sort of correspondences you’ve had over such a long period of time.

Well I’m going to do something similar on this blog.

I’ve posted for a good few years on a Scottish Football message-board, that has its own Room 101 sub-forum.

You know Room 1o1 right? The place where you put all the things that really annoy you?

Well, regular readers of this blog will know that plenty of things really annoy me, so over the next few articles, I’ll give a run-down of the things that have pissed me off enough to post about them over the years.

Whether you agree or disagree with them is up to you. Let me know what you think.

Children At Football Matches and Their Ignorant Parents

Yes, I know that children are our future and football needs a continuous stream of new fans, but it doesn’t stop them being annoying.

Let me preface this by saying I’m not talking about the kids who go to the football to sit and watch the game with interest; I’m talking about the ones who don’t care about the game at all.

The ones who kick the back of your chair, who need to go to the toilet every five minutes because they are bored or the ones who have such little understanding of the rules that they think a throw-in is a goal.

Maybe the kids aren’t the ones to blame; maybe it’s their ignorant parents.

I’ve seen a bloke – who clearly had his children with him for an away match under duress – sit his young children (one of whom was actually special needs) down in a ‘quiet’ area, before going off to sit with his drunken mates at the other end of the stand, leaving them unattended for the full match.

Ridiculous.

The worst of the lot is when you go to a Reserve match. These games tend to be free, so while I’m trying to do a bit of research work for my job, I have to contend with parents taking a bunch of kids out to ‘shut them up for the evening’ and let them run amok while the idle sod just sits there reading a magazine.

Aargh.

Cinema Food

Ah Cinema food; the greatest ripoff known to man.

Cinema Nachos: They Manage to Be Even Less Satisfying Than They Look

Cinema Nachos: They Manage to Be Even Less Satisfying Than They Look

It costs upwards of four times the RRP, it’s usually bad for you and it’s of a very low quality.

Classic example is the Cineworld nachos. These nachos are probably of the worst quality I’ve tasted, and they are served with a warm yellow ‘cheese’ sauce that has no taste and is potentially radioactive.

Why can’t cinemas invest in proper catering?

Misuse of word ‘Circa’

Ok, this is quite specific, but it’s one of these things you’ll come across often on football message-boards.

‘Circa’ is a word to be used in relation to time. So, the Roman Empire ended ‘Circa’ 400-470AD (that might not be wholly accurate, but it’s the correct use of the word)

It’s not appropriate to say a club has sold ‘circa 3000 tickets’.

Stop trying to use fancy words you don’t understand you fools.

“I Could Care Less”

On the same subject, why is it Americans say ‘I Could Care Less’? Hmm?

By definition that means there are many things that you could indeed care less about, which is the exact opposite of what you are trying to say.

It’s “I Couldn’t Care Less”. Get it right.

Incidentally, I know that David Mitchell had a massive rant about this on his Soapbox Vlog, but I posted this at least 2 years earlier.

So there.

People Who Call the City of Dundee ‘Dunders’

The only people who would think of calling Dundee ‘Dunders’ are Doritos Gang Arseholes who need to have their tongues removed as punishment.

Honest to God…

Coming Up:

More language related issues, some celebrities, yet more football stuff and boy racers


Even More Things That Annoy Me In TV & Film (Part 5)

November 29, 2012

That Zombie article has got me back in the mood to continue my trawl through aspects of Television and Film that annoy me.

So far there are four parts to this article, which you can read from the following links…

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four

Five parts in and you might think that my issues are making me seem autistic, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take.

See if you agree with me with these next five issues.

Look!!! Something’s About To Happen!!!

Doctor Who is dreadful for this.

Someone shouts “Doctor…look!!!” and then after they’ve said it, something happens, whether it be a building blowing up, an alien revealing itself or something materializing out of thin air.

Yes, it’s an unfortunate directorial problem that TV makers have to deal with, but surely it’d be a better idea to have the thing happen and then have the person say ‘Look’ rather than making out they have some form of second sight?

“Look!!!!”, the man played by Don Brennan off Corrie declares…

I’m Moving 5 Miles Away. You’ll Never See Me Again

It’s a common problem in soap operas more than anything else, but the idea that long-standing friendships can be destroyed forever by someone moving to across town or to a nearby village is preposterous.

I don’t watch Coronation Street, but I vaguely recall the character of Martin Platt moving from Manchester to Liverpool, and he’s never been seen since, despite having friendships that were bonded over many years. Oh, and he has two children as well.

But no, he’s in Liverpool now; to suggest that he comes back to see his family is just ridiculous.

And the same goes for weddings and funerals. Yes, we get that a character has left the show, but why not simply not mention them rather than coming up with some crappy excuse like “Jim-Bob sends his regrets. He can’t come to his own son’s funeral because he’s got a shift at work he can’t get out of”.

At least when Jim Robinson died in Neighbours they just had his funeral take place off screen, rather than come up with convoluted excuses for why none of his sons, daughters or friends could make it.

Evil Foreigners Who Drift In And Out of English

Whether it’s Homeland, 24 or any other post 9/11 drama about terrorism, it always annoys me to see characters speaking half a conversation in one language and the other half in English.

What’s the point? To show us that these nasty people don’t speak ‘our language’ and are therefore the enemy?

With incidents like this, my attitude is shit or get off the pot. Either they speak a different language all the time to each other, or never.

Oh, and as a sub-point to this, how come all ‘evil middle eastern terrorists’ have posh English accents? Must they all have gone to Oxford because that’s where Bin Laden went for a bit?

…and then the camera pans to an empty hallway where nothing has actually happened yet

The Way People Name Each Other

I recently addressed this in my review of the Doctor Who story, The Sunmakers.

A sign of bad writing is when someone uses someone’s name unnaturally.

By that I mean they use someone’s name in a line of conversation when you just wouldn’t in normal conversation. The reason it’s done is to clumsily establish that character’s name so the viewer knows who the person is, but it’s as subtle as a sledgehammer to the testicles.

How would you ‘naturally’ use someone’s name, I hear you ask?

Well for me, I’ll generally only use someone’s name when getting their attention or referencing them.

But if I was in a room with only one other person, I wouldn’t need to name them because I already have their attention.

And so a line like “Tell me Bisham, how do they spread the PCM through the atmosphere”  where the character’s name is used in the same way as a comma is lazy writing in the same vein as the infamous exposition line “Happy Wedding Day, Sis”

After all, would it not be simpler to take five seconds for the character to introduce him or herself?

“Oh and Stuart…thanks”

On the subject of things people just wouldn’t say, what about this line used over the years in so many TV shows and films.

When have you ever had someone get your attention and say “Oh and ____….thanks”?

It doesn’t happen.

Writers…stop using that in your crappy scripts.


Things That Don’t Make Sense To Me About Zombie Apocalypses

November 29, 2012

I’ve started watching the critically acclaimed AMC series, The Walking Dead. As it stands I’m a little bit into Season 2, so some of the things I’ll be discussing here may have been addressed in the show already.

It is a great show though; I’m really enjoying it, just as I have done many other Zombie related media since Dawn & Shaun of the Dead seemingly sparked a revival in the genre back in 2004.

But my issue with stuff like this, whether it’s the aforementioned films, TV series or even games like Dead Rising is that they don’t make a lot of sense.

By that, I don’t mean that the dead coming back to life makes no sense, because to criticise them for that would be churlish.

Similarly, I think we have to assume that within the worlds that these Zombie Apocalypses take place in, they haven’t actually heard of zombies. It’s the same principle as Eastenders not being on TV on BBC1 within the world of Albert Square.

Here’s a classic image of someone being eaten by a Zombie. But if that’s what Zombies do to people, how are there so many of them?

But if we allow for that, there are still things I have to question…

How Did It Get So Bad?

One of the things that annoys me about this sort of thing, as well as any other apocalyptic event like the killer flu in Survivors or the Electricity going off in Revolution (a show which incidentally I gave up on after one episode, so it may have actually been dealt with) is that the cause of these disasters is never explained.

The story always picks up after it’s happened, rather than dealing with what caused it, as well as the initial outbreak.

That’s a personal thing for me, but I’d like to see how they explain how the situations like we see in The Walking Dead come to be, rather than simply starting the show three-quarters of the way into the overall turn of events.

Specific to Zombie fiction though, how did the world fall apart so quickly and so easily?

Surely once they realise that the dead are coming back to life and if they scratch you you’ll become one of them, and furthermore if you shoot them in the head they’ll die, then it’s fairly easy to contain?

How can this situation become a global catastrophe?

It must have started with one single person becoming a zombie and it spreads from there, so it can’t have gotten out of control that quickly?

But that leads me to my next point…

How Are There So Many Of Them?

It seems to me that in Zombie fiction, the Zombies want to kill and eat people.

Sure, we see people who have been bitten, after the fact. But when you have a small bunch of people looking to survive in the zombie world, it seems that they tend not to be scratched and are instead ripped apart and eaten alive on the spot.

So how come there are so many Zombies going about? Surely the majority of the people who have been attacked by Zombies have actually been eaten completely, rather than getting a scratch, running off to become a Zombie and then joining up with the masses as they stand about like youths on street corners?

How Does It Become Global?

Who exactly lets people who have been bitten by Zombies through customs and onto a plane to go to another country?

Why Are The Military So Useless, But Small Bands of Normal People Can Cope So Well?

It’s always the case isn’t it? The military have been wiped out by the ever-increasing numbers of the walking dead, but untrained groups of civilians with a handful of ineffectual weapons can carry on indefinitely. Doesn’t make sense.

Surely Zombies Have Finite Life-Spans?

In shows like this, why do people not make their way to islands that have no zombies on them and then just wait it out?

Yes, the Zombies are already dead, but there must be some finite waiting time before they will decay to the point where they are no longer a threat to anyone?

Anyone Got The Answers?

Am I being too pernickity, or are these pertinent questions?

Let me know what you think


Doctor Who – Underworld Review (or ‘The Televisual Equivalent of Gastric Flu’)

November 24, 2012

When I decided to start reviewing Doctor Who from the start, one nasty thing occurred to me.

I’d have to watch and review Underworld.

To watch Underworld is to step into the shoes of someone with dementia. I’ve seen it four, maybe five times all the way through and I have absolutely no recollection of what it’s about. Imagine if you could watch your favourite TV show again and again as if it were the first time. Sadly, that’s not possible, but it is with this atrocity.

My Doctor Who viewing habits are that I’ll watch an episode or two each night before I go to sleep, but keen observers of this blog will know that I only reviewed The Sunmakers yesterday, and therefore I’ve got through this in very short order. And that’s not because it was so engrossing that I stayed awake into the wee small hours, but rather because I watched it this morning in a bid to get a handle on the plot. Otherwise, it’d take me about 3 weeks to watch it as I doubt I’d get through more than 5 minutes a night without dropping off.

Doctor Who – Underworld Review: So What Is It About Then?

I’m still not entirely sure. Well that’s not strictly true. Loosely based on the tale of Jason & The Argonauts, it’s about the Minyans’ quest to try to recover the race banks from a ship they’ve been pursuing for 100,000 years.

But what actually happens between episodes 2-4 remains a blur.

Thoughts – An Abject Failure on All Counts

To be absolutely fair to Underworld, Episode 1 is alright. Well, it’s average, but average seems like perfection compared to the remainder of the story.

It sets the scene so that we at least know what the Minyans are up to and could potentially have been a solid beginning to what was to come.

But sadly that wasn’t to be, because what was to come in the remaining three parts was an abject failure on all counts.

The CSO

Usually when I do these reviews, I start with an analysis of the plot, but I don’t think you can start to criticise Underworld without talking about the use of Colour Separation Overlay.

An Example of the Amazing Special Effects

I believe the situation is that they used all their production budget on the admittedly excellent set of the Minyan space ship. It looks great, and considering I’ve hammered two of the stories in these season for having rubbish sets, that deserves credit.

But to compensate for the fact that they’ve used up all their budget on that set, the production team make the conscious decision to set most of the rest of the story over CSO (Green Screen) backgrounds. And that leads to perhaps one of the most heart stoppingly embarrassing scenes in any TV show ever.

The sight of a bunch of extras running around an empty studio in front of the most unconvincing – and squint – cave backdrop is just unbelievable. I won’t provide a screenshot because it makes it look better than it is.

And that sets a precedent for most of the rest of the story. The effects are so bad, so cheap, that it looks worse than a 12 year old’s D graded Media Studies project.

Whether it’s the Doctor and his gang ‘floating’ or the ‘effect’ of gas filling up half the screen, it’s just excruciating, and I think even if this was the best plot in Doctor Who history, it would still be ruined by that.

The Plot

Sadly, it’s not the best plot in Doctor Who history, but rather it’s a serious contender for the worst.

Off the top of my head, the only stories in the same ballpark for being shit are Time & The Rani, The Twin Dilemma and Terminus. The former two get a slight bonus for at least having the minor novelty of introducing a new Doctor (even if both do a terrible job in their first attempts) and the latter might just be slightly more interesting.

But really, this is just shit.

As far as I can tell, Episodes 2-4 covers this amount of plot…

  • The Minyan Ship lands inside a soft planet.
  • Everyone walks around for a bit
  • They save some bloke’s Dad
  • They walk around some more
  • The Doctor gets the two golden race memory sticks
  • They leave

That’s it.

I’m not even sure who or what the villain is. There are some blokes in hoods in a control room and then at one point a golden light shines on a wall to the beat of some woman’s voice, but I just don’t know what that has to do with anything.

Sadly, they aren’t away to play Dance Dance Revolution. That would have made it far more interesting

Indeed, in the absence of any menace or villain you have to wonder what this is doing as a Doctor Who story.

The Worst Direction I’ve Ever Seen In Anything. Ever. And I Mean That.

What makes it even worse, if that were even possible, is that Underworld suffers from having the worst direction I’ve ever seen in anything, ever. And that includes TV, Film, School Plays, Youtube Videos and anything else you could think of.

It is excruciating.

Sure, we can blame Baker & Martin for coming up with yet another dud, but the director, Norman Stewart – in what appears to be his first ever directing job according to imdb – just takes one stinking, steaming giant shit all over this.

Can we blame him for the CSO? Yes, but I’m sure blame can be shared with the rest of the production team. Can we blame him for the god-awful acting (which I’ll get to)? Yes again because he’ll have had a hand in casting them, but it’s a shared blame.

But where he is solely to blame is for the pacing and the shots.

Watching this all in one go I actually began to feel tense. As the story draaaaaaaagged on, the scenes just got slower and more cumbersome.

The actors worked with little urgency, so when they are supposed to be fleeing and escaping from whatever it is they were escaping from, they didn’t run; they walked with the sort of ‘brisk’ pace you use when crossing a road.

Every scene seemed to linger. People would stop talking and then the camera would hold on them for as much as 10 seconds before moving on to the next bit.

There would be scenes where nothing would happen; indeed, there’s a scene in Episode 4 where the camera shows the Doctor, Leela and the young bloke (I’m not even going to pretend I remember his name) simply standing still in a room doing nothing, and

then it cuts away to something else.

That spotlight appears to be the villain

The scene that I assume is supposed to be climactic where the yellow light on the wall gets its comeuppance after it realises it has the fission bombs instead of the race memory banks is ruined by the long lingering pauses and the lack of urgency. Compare it to the speed and urgency of the scene where the Cybermen get blown up in Revenge of the Cybermen. Night and day.

He also manages to get the scenes in the wrong order.

The cliffhanger at the end of Episode 3 is pathetic. Yep, that’s the right word to use; pathetic. It’s felt like hours since we saw the Doctor planning to get into wherever he needed to get to (again, I’m just not sure) through the mine, but suddenly we just see a scene where someone trips and the Doctor & Leela might end up being crushed. There’s no suspense, no drama, no nothing leading up to it. It’s slightly better in the reprisal at the start of Episode 4 because he cuts out a few scenes so that there’s a link between why the Doctor and Leela are where they are and why they are in trouble.

Like I say, pathetic.

The Acting

No, not even the acting in this one gets a pass mark.

None of the guest cast are anything other than hammy at best.

It’s not even that they are spectacularly bad; they are just dreary. They amble through the four episodes without even the slightest glimmer of talent.

It’s not helped by the fact most of the characters wear hoods over their faces which also manages to make them even less fearsome and emotive than they could have been.

The two noteworthy performances come from the guy who plays the father of the guy who the Doctor hangs around with (I didn’t catch his name, and the character names mean nothing so I don’t know who he is) who simply can’t act, and also from Richard Shaw.

Who’s Richard Shaw?

It’s our old pal Lobos from the Space Museum, who is described by IMDB as a ‘General Purpose British Actor’ despite having what sounds like an Australian accent.

The Fantastically Emotive Computer sums up Underworld

In Underworld he plays a bloke in a hood who turns out to be a robot or something. Essentially it’s a voice acting gig, but one where he’s spectacularly mis-cast.

Can you imagine a robot being played with the same voice and lazy delivery of the great Lobos? Well imagine no more, because it’s in Underworld.

I suppose it could be argued that playing a robot like a bored Australian with a headache is a brave departure from the norm, but I’m inclined to take the view that it’s more likely that he just couldn’t give a toss.

But who’s to blame? Him for phoning it in (perhaps literally), the writers for giving him bad lines or the director for allowing his performance to stand?

It’s all three, and that’s the problem with Underworld.

Random Observations

  • The idea of the pacifier is good, but it was ultimately pointless as it didn’t make the slightest bit of difference to the plot.
  • Same goes for the backstory of the Minyans and their ability to regenerate. What did that have to do with anything?
  • There is one single solitary line that is good in Underworld. The exchange where the Minyans Commander asks the Doctor if he’s a Doctor of Crystalocybernetics nd the Doctor replies “My dear chap, what’s the problem?”
  • That that line stands out is a testament to how awful this is.
  • As far as I’m concerned, Big Finish – with their 17,000 Dalek stories and audio dramas about Captain Gilmore from Remembrance of the Daleks – are guilty of flogging the Dr Who horse long beyond the point of death, but even I was surprised that they bothered to make an audio drama based on the background to this story. That really is taking the biscuit, but anyone stupid enough to part with their money for that deserves to be taken for a ride.
  • DWM Mighty 200 rating: #197. All I’ll say about that is that the voters were being very unfair about Timelash at #199

Doctor Who – Underworld Review: Final Thoughts

Terrible writing, awful acting, horrendous effects and the worst Directorial performance in the history of entertainment, Underworld is the televisual equivalent of gastric flu.

That Episode 1 is alright only emphasises how bad the rest is.

It’s just dreadful.

Possibly, or even probably the worst Doctor Who story I’ve ever seen or will hopefully ever see.

Avoid.

Remember to buy my books, focusing on my reviews of Doctor Who from the 1960s through to present day. You can read more about them here

Also, on a completely different note, if you’ve got any friends who post the crappest Facebook status updates in the world every day, you might get a kick out of my piss-take Facebook blog, ‘Stuart’s Exciting Anecdote of the Day’ 


Stuart’s Week In Entertainment November 21 (inc. The Mumbling Girl Off Homeland, The Jobbosaurus and The Idiocy of the British Public)

November 21, 2012

I can’t believe how far behind I am on ‘Week In Entertainment’, so once again for those who likes to read this part of my blog, I apologise and I’ll play catchup…

Television

Amazing to think about how much TV people – or I – get through in a month. There’s been plenty, so let’s get into it…

Modern Family:

Around the time of my last Week in Entertainment I was very critical of Modern Family. It had been on a very poor run of form extending back into the third season earlier in the year, but I’m pleased to report that it’s back on track with three genuinely funny episodes in a row.

The worst two characters remain the sinister looking Phil and his annoying son Luke. If only they could kill them off, the show would be far better. Sadly I don’t think the death of two characters would fit in with it’s ethos.

Pity..

How I Met Your Mother

This is the other show I slated last time around and things haven’t improved. Indeed, so annoyed was I by the last few episodes I was moved to write a scathing article on the subject which you can read here

Needless to say, things haven’t improved since I wrote that, and since the last episode I saw, there’s been another one that someone online described as The Worst Episode They’ve Ever Done.

*shudder*

The Big Bang Theory

People criticise this show more than most, but…well…sod them. Without question this remains the funniest comedy on TV every week. The cast is spot on (the irritating Stuart hasn’t been seen since my last article), there’s suitable character development and its genuinely funny.

What I was surprised and pleased to see was that the most recent episode was actually the most viewed episode in the show’s history, and that has to be pretty rare for a comedy. For the show to pick up more viewers than ever six seasons in is a testament to its quality.

If you haven’t given BBT a chance, I urge you to do so at your earliest convenience.

Happy Endings

This returning comedy flies under the radar a bit. I don’t really know anyone else who watches it and I don’t hear anyone praising it, but it’s good.

Oh what crazy hijinks are the Happy Endings Gang up to this week? Seriously though, it’s a pleasant show. Not hilarious but enjoyable.

I can’t really put my finger on why though because it’s not ‘Laugh Out Loud’ funny.

Then again, neither was Scrubs and most of us liked that show, or at least we did until we took a moment to think about how the main character was actually a complete prick.

I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here

I know, I know…I’m A Celebrity is ‘TV for idiots who have nothing worth living for’ etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

That sort of thinking always bugs me. In my opinion it’s people who are lacking in themselves who feel the need to criticise others for what they watch. TV is TV. Whether it’s ‘High Brow’ like Andrew Marr’s History of the World or low-brow like Big Brother, my attitude is that if you like it, watch it, and if you don’t like it, live and fucking well let live.

Well anyway, I’ve never watched an episode of the show until this year, but gave it a go as I – for my sins – wanted to see how Colin Baker performed.

And I must admit I find it perfectly acceptable entertainment.

Whether people want to admit it or not – and for whatever reason some people won’t want to – Ant & Dec are very good hosts of shows like this, and beyond that there are plenty of likeable characters in the jungle as well.

Obviously there’s Colin Baker, but other than him I’m liking Eric Bristow, Ashley Roberts and Rosemary Shrager. The likes of Charlie Brooks and Linda Robson may as well not be there, while the arrogant and insecure David Haye and the vacuous Helen Flannigan can piss off as far as I’m concerned.

The most disappointing aspect of the show though is how stupid the sort of person who phones in to vote is. Surely part of what makes this show entertaining is watching the celebrities tackle the bush tucker trials. Well wouldn’t it be good to actually see someone attempt it? I know that Helen eventually did give it a go, but for goodness sake, around a week of the show was ruined because of the phone vote.

My prediction to win? Bristow.

Grey’s Anatomy

Nine seasons in and I’m beginning to get a bit worried that Grey’s Anatomy has lost it a bit. It’s still good, but maybe not quite as good as it once was.

The problem is that they’ve killed off two likeable characters, they’ve not really replaced them and the storylines seem to be all about the aftermath of the plane crash, and I’m not too keen on that.

Having said that, one thing they did well was the plot with Christina working in Minnesota. Quite a shocking and poignant conclusion to that one.

Credit also has to be given to the CGI guys who have done a terrific job of realising Arizona’s false leg. Very convincing.

Hopefully the writers can improve upon what we’ve seen so far though, because right now this isn’t the show it once was.

Dexter

Dexter on the other hand has rebounded from a couple of off-form seasons to hit it out of the park this year.

On the whole it’s been excellent with four different storylines working alongside each other, and as each week passes they begin to show signs of converging.

Focusing on this week’s episode in particular, the scenes with Deb’s breakdown in front of Dexter and especially the one in the bar between Dexter and Isaak were terrific.

I’m maintaining my prediction that La Guerta isn’t making it beyond the end of the season though, and I’m still pegging Deb as the one to bump her off.

Homeland

I really like Homeland as a show, but there are a few things about it that annoy me.

First of all, Claire Danes has an unsettling face. If you wonder where she went for about 10 years, I think the answer could be that nobody wanted to hire her to play characters that weren’t rather severe.

For Christ Sake girl, stop mumbling!!!

She’s good in it, although I am getting a little bit tired of her relationship with Brody.

And speaking of Brody, or more particularly about his name, why is it that his wife calls him Brody? Surely she’d call him by his first name? I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone call their partner or spouse by their surname. Is it common in America? Or is it just poor writing? The latter would be surprising but it seems the most likely explanation.

The other thing that annoys me is his daughter. Why? Well there’s a few reasons. First of all I hate teenagers generally. I can’t stand the way they are all so broody and consider their lives to be so massively important. She’s definitely the worst type of example of the brooding teenager on any show I’m currently watching.

Then there’s how badly cast she is. Ethnicity wise, why would a woman with black hair (who is really from Brazil) and a man with ginger hair (who is really from England) have a child that looks absolutely nothing like either of them and has sort of brownish hair? Terrible.

And there’s also the fact she can’t fucking act. For christ sake love, open your mouth when you speak! Every line is an incoherent mumble.

Oh, and trim your eye brows.

Other than all of that though, I think the show is great.

WWE

Titus O’Neil – commentator extraordinaire.

Brodus Clay – Jobbosauras.

That’s about all I have to say on that.

Gaming

Moving on from TV and into gaming, it’s got to that time of year when game developers start to actually release new games again in the run-up to Christmas.

I’ve played a few like the new Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, FIFA 13, Football Manager 2013 and Sonic & All Stars Racing: Transformed, but I want to focus on…

New Little King’s Story

Long time readers of the blog know that the original Little King’s Story for the Wii is one of my all time favourite games, so I was looking forward to the new VITA version of the game when it came out a couple of months ago.

All Hail The Jobbosaurus; the recipient of the ultimate Fall From Grace

I enjoyed it, but I have to admit I was more than a little disappointed to find out that it was exactly the same game but for a few minor changes (including worsening the soundtrack)

Why call a game ‘New Little King’s Story’ when it isn’t new?

It also finishes with one of those really annoying aspects of gaming; the Final Boss Slog. I appreciate that the Final Boss is meant to be hard, and that’s fine, but what tends to be the case these days is that Final Bosses aren’t so much hard but ridiculously time-consuming.

I took about 15 minutes defeating the boss only to find that I had to beat him all over again. When I lost, I then had to go all the way back to the start and watch through cut scenes that I’d already seen but couldn’t skip. A brief check online to see how many times I’d have to defeat the Final Boss revealed I’d have to beat him seven times.

Why!!

What’s the point!!

So I just didn’t bother. I claimed it as a personal victory and simply haven’t gone back to the game.

Disappointing.

 


Films: Argo Review (or ‘An Authentic and Well Written Movie. Easily My Film of the Year’)

November 14, 2012

Why do cinemas lie about the start times of films?

I went along to see Argo today (two films in under a week…I might actually get value for money off my Unlimited Card at this rate) and it was advertised as starting at 3pm.

Now fair enough, we all know that films never start when they say they will, but it used to be that there were maybe five or ten minutes of adverts & trailers (or as we call it in our social circle “The Crap”) and then it would start, and that was fine.

But now it’s getting worse. Learning my lesson from last week – where I was 20 minutes late and the 15 minutes of trailers hadn’t even started yet – I decided to leave my house at 3:15, getting there at 3:30 and by that point the film still hadn’t started.

It really is taking the piss.

But anyway, back to the matter at hand; Argo.

What’s It About?

Based on the true story of the C.I.A’s operation to rescue six US diplomats hiding out in the Canadian Ambassador’s during the Iranian Hostage Crisis of 1979-81. Ben Affleck’s character Tony Mendez enters Iran under the pretence of being a Canadian film maker scouting for locations to film a science fiction film called Argo.

The plan is that once he’s in he can get the diplomats out of Iran by giving them false identities as members of the film crew, but to authenticate the whole operation, they have to convince Hollywood that the film is real.

Thoughts – The Importance of Authenticity

If you read my Doctor Who reviews, you’ll notice that one thing I highlight regularly is the importance of authenticity.

I think that if you can believe in what you’re seeing on-screen, then you can enjoy it more, and that can come in many ways. Within the context of Dr Who, authenticity can’t come from the plots when there are aliens involved, but it can come from how it looks. A story like Talons of Weng Chiang looked great in that it was set in the Victorian Era and the BBC had all the right costumes and settings to do it right.

Another way of being authentic is if you’re watching something that is based upon a true story. If you know it actually happened then you can believe in it more.

And where Argo works so well is that it combined both.

What happens in the film – creative allowances aside – happened in reality, and moreover, it looks great. Everything about it looks like it is from the 1980s, from the costumes and hairdos through to the location filming and use of genuine news footage from the era.

Even the little things are done well. From the moment the film begins it starts with the Warner Brothers logo of the 1970s, and the credits use the dated font style you were used to seeing in films from that era. It’s authentic and therefore you can invest in it more; or at least I can.

If I was going to nit-pick, I would say that the one thing they get wrong is the condition of the Hollywood logo. In the film, the big sign in the hills is shown as falling apart and in great need of repair. It interested me as I didn’t know it had deteriorated so badly, so I looked it up, and it turns out it was refurbished in 1978. A small blot on the copy-book there then.

Casting

For a fan of US Television drama, the casting of Argo is a treat.

It reads like a whose who of recognisable TV actors over the last few years. There’s Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Victor Garber (Alias), John Goodman (West Wing, Community), Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights), Tate Donovan (The O.C.), Chris Messina (The Newsroom) and Bob Gunton (24) to name but a few, and they are joined by lead actor Ben Affleck and the always good Alan Arkin.

So really, this would struggle not to be at least good based on the people involved.

Tension

Authenticity and casting can only go so far. If the script was rubbish or it went on too long the overall standard would suffer.

But I’m happy to report the film flowed well and it easily passed by ‘Clock Check’ (if I find myself routinely looking at my watch during a film I know it’s a struggle).

It also did something amazing…

Even though this is based on a true story where the ending is known, and even though the film was clearly coming to its conclusion, Argo managed to toy with my emotions. The last 30 minutes were an incredibly tense watch. I mean, I doubt I’m massively spoiling it to say that the diplomats managed to escape -they wouldn’t have made a film if the Iranians had won in the end – and yet, against my better judgement, I was sitting there thinking ‘Christ, will they manage to get out?’.

To me, that’s a triumph of writing, acting and direction and is a true example of cinema at it’s finest.

Final Thoughts

So this is a film that is well written and performed, looks great, feels real and still manages to toy with your emotions. You can’t say better than that!

I really enjoyed Argo, and reading back through the films I’ve seen at the cinema throughout 2012, I would say it is well worthy of being deemed the best I’ve seen this year.

Highly recommended.


Gaming: Quarrel Review (or ‘Great Game; Shame About The Lack of Multiplayer on iOS’)

November 13, 2012

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older or maybe it’s just that I find myself with less time or patience to devote to them, but I find I’m playing less ‘Campaign’ games than I used to.

A quick browse of my gaming history on the Xbox 360 this year (cos God knows I don’t use my PS3 anymore) shows that throughout 2012, the only two single player campaign games I’ve played through to the end have been Saints Row 3 – which was excellent – and Modern Warfare 3.

My gaming habits seem to have moved more towards pick-up-and-play games. Online shooters, sports games, puzzle games or ones like Pinball FX, Geometry Wars and Worms that you can have a quick go on without feeling like you have to ‘get into it’.

I also find I like games that exercise my mind; stuff like Sudoku or Words With Friends.

And one of my favourite games from that genre is Quarrel, a game I just found out today is made a mere matter of miles from my house.

What Is It?

Think Scrabble Meets Risk.

You must try to take control of a map like in Risk, but rather than rolling dice, you have to come up with a higher scoring word than your opponent from the letters given to you. The idea is that if you have 4 men in your territory and you attack an opponent with

For anyone wondering, the anagram here is Souffles

5 in his territory, you must come up with a higher scoring word with one less letter; 4 instead of 5.

The maximum size of word is 8 letters, and the 8 word tiles will always make an anagram.

In each turn there is a time-limit and you are given three chances to get a correct word. In the event of a tied score, the fastest answerer wins.

Thoughts

It’s a clever concept and it works well.

As you play through the game – which has a few different modes that are a variation on the same basic theme detailed above – you come up against opponents of increasing difficulty, so even the most talented word-smiths will be given a challenge.

The game is presented well in bright, colourful cartoon settings and its very quick to learn.

The beauty of Quarrel is that it’s available on both iOS and Xbox Live platforms too, which means you can play it at home on your big screen or on the move on your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch.

It’s priced very competitively, costing only a couple of pounds for whatever platform you want to play it on, and for a game as engaging and fun as this, that’s a bargain and a half.

But there is a problem with it unfortunately.

You’ll know from my last review – the great Hidden in Plain Sight – that I’m a big fan of multiplayer gaming. I like to be able to play games against my friends.

And you’d think that a game based on a premise like this would have that, but sadly it doesn’t. At least it doesn’t on the iOS platform.

So if I want to play a game against a stranger on Xbox Live, I can, but if I want to play a game against someone in the same house as me, it’s just not possible.

Now obviously, local multiplayer wouldn’t be possible on the Xbox version because you’d see each other’s words, but the potential fun of playing against your friends on iOS is massive, and sadly unavailable. I’d love to play against my brother, but I just can’t.

And I know; I understand the costs involved in making a game like this playable online, and I know that for a small publishing house in Dundee it might not be viable, but it’s still disappointing and ultimately means this game is simply not as good as it could be.

The other issue – small as it is – is that after a while, watching the introductions to new games and being unable to skip them can be a little bit frustrating.

But those are forgivable considering the utility I’ve got from this game in comparison to how much it cost.

Final Thoughts

It’s a great game that exercises your mind and looks very eye-catching.

The lack of online multiplayer over iOS is an issue that I’m sure many people would love to be resolved, but that notwithstanding, Quarrel is a excellent value for money, and worth picking up if you have any of the platforms it’s available for.


How I Met Your Mother: A Once Great Show That Is Now a Load of Absolute Codswallop.

November 11, 2012

Someone once told me that if something annoyed you, you should write it down. You know what they say; it get off your chest.

So I’ve decided to do that regarding the US sitcom, How I Met Your Mother.

I only started to watch the show last year on the recommendation of my friend who’d recently discovered it himself.

When I mentioned to others that I’d got into it and was really enjoying it, the overwhelming response was ‘It used to be funny but is pretty tired and old now’. I didn’t see that because in relatively short order I’d watched six whole seasons of the show, amounting to 112 episodes, and to me it was still fresh, interesting and most important of all, funny.

But during the seventh season, things started to slow down. It began to go down the unfortunate road that so many other long running comedy series like the Simpsons, Dads Army, Family Guy or The Office have travelled down in the past; it ran out of good ideas.

The same writers who had done well in the past began to run out of creative juices, the characters repeated their actions so often that they became caricatures, and in a bid to explore new ground they introduced more serious storylines like the death of Marshall’s

Ahahahahaha!!!!!!!!1111 Barney’s new wingman is a dog. And it has a suit. HILARIOUS

father, Barney’s broken heart at the hands of Robin and Robin’s depression at being unable to have kids.

And that was ok, but not great. Season 7 struggled but still had its moments.

Unfortunately, we’re five episodes into Season 8 and things have become critical. I just don’t enjoy watching it anymore, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to stop now.

A bit like Lost, I feel like I’ve invested so much time into it that I now feel like there has to be a payoff.

So what are the problems?

Marking Time

The first is that the show has backed itself into a corner. Ever since the beginning of the ‘Some ways down the road’ wedding, which was first brought up at the beginning of Season 6, they’ve been marking time until the show finally ends. That is likely going to be the final destination, and making it spread out over something like 70 more episodes has been tough.

But since the end of Season 7, things have gotten even worse. We now know that Robin is getting married to Barney and that Ted meets his wife there, so where is the drama in these characters having relationships with other people?

Similarly, where is the drama in Ted proposing to a woman that we know he isn’t going to marry, and her turning him down because she thinks he’s in love with Robin, and she hopes that one day they will be together? That won’t happen; we know it won’t happen, and therefore there’s nothing for us as viewers to invest in.

And the show seems to know that that’s the case, because it keeps hinting at finally wrapping the saga up, but then dashes our hopes with lines like “But we’ll get to that later. Instead kids, let’s talk about the time Barney was served a glass of Pepsi instead of Coke”.

If this show was an elastic band, then it would be as close as possible to snapping.

That might be ok if the scripts were still funny. If the hypothetical plot I outline above still had plenty of funny situations and dialogue then that would be fine.

It’s Just Not Funny Anymore

But sadly the show just isn’t funny anymore. Indeed, I haven’t laughed even once during this season, and because of that, the ridiculous canned laughter has made the lack of humour even more noticeable.

The writers have long since run out of ideas to make the characters funny. As I said above, those character – once fresh and interesting – are now caricatures.

Barney – who was given decent character development at one point to stop his ‘Man on the Pull’ routine from coming completely stale – has regressed once again to being as shallow as a puddle. We’ve seen it all before; we’ve seen him rebound from being in a relationship that he enjoyed being in, it’s been done. It doesn’t need done again, and yet it is, and it’s simply not amusing any longer.

The latest episode was about him finding a stray dog and turning it into his ‘Wingman’, complete with him talking to the dog and the dog woofing back with subtitles. Jesus…

Meanwhile Lily and Marshall have been turned into one of those horrible couples that everyone hates. You know the sort; two people who have become a singular gestalt entity without individual hobbies or interests. The sort who consider themselves as being a superior form of life because they think that being in a couple is the only way to be happy, and the sort who act like they are the first two human beings in history to have a baby? Nobody likes couples like that….nobody. If you are one of those couples, I’ve got news for you…even your closest friends now think you are pricks.

But what’s sadder is that all three of the actors who play those characters have noticeably stopped putting in the effort. They don’t look interested anymore, and I understand Neil Patrick Harris, Jason Segal and Allyson Hannigan are all keen to move on, so that probably explains it.

And the writers have given more and more time to the horrific Chris Elliot, a cunt so terrible he couldn’t get a laugh in a cupboard with a canister of nitrous oxide.

So There You Have It…

So there you have it.

They’ve run out of plot, they’ve run out of laughs, they’ve turned three very well written & acted characters into caricatures – and bad ones at that – and they’ve hired one of the worst comedy actors I’ve ever had the misfortune of seeing.

How I Met Your Mother is marking time to fulfil a required amount of episodes, but no longer has the energy or legs to get there without its audience going off it.

Let’s hope the writers rediscover some kind of spark and find a way to make the remaining episodes interesting and funny.

I wouldn’t hold my breath though.


Television Theme Tunes: A Lost Art (My Top 20 TV Themes)

November 9, 2012

Television theme music seems to be becoming a thing of the past, which is a shame.

Many shows – like Breaking Bad, Grey’s Anatomy and Castle to name but three – are skipping the traditional TV themes altogether now, with a mere 2 or 3 second jingle 10 minutes into the show to signify the ‘Opening Credits’.

There are loads of other shows that still use a ‘theme’ but just borrow a section of an independently released song from a mainstream band and call it their own.

Of course, there are exceptions to that, but on the whole, it would seem the more recognisable theme tunes – the ones you wouldn’t mind adding to your MP3 playlist – are from a by-gone age.

Excluding shows with good themes that have borrowed songs from elsewhere – shows like One Tree Hill, Community or How I Met Your Mother to name but three – here are 20 of my favourite TV themes. It was going to be 10 but I couldn’t whittle it down, so decided to round up instead.

Dr Who

The only question you might ask here is ‘Which Dr Who theme’, but for me, there can be only one. The one most commonly associated with the 5th Doctor is the best version by a mile, and should still be the theme to this day.

He Man & The Masters of the Universe

I love the He-Man theme, but the theme itself is a lot better than the opening credits, which spend a bit too much time telling the story.

Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads

I actually bought the DVD of Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads on the strength of loving the song. Lucky it turned out to be an astute buy.

Dexter

The only theme from a show that is on TV today, I wind up my brother by making him sit through the entire opening credits whenever we watch a new episode.

Going For Gold

Would you believe this was written by acclaimed composer Hans Zimmer? Of course you would, because it’s fantastic. I’d love a CD quality version of this theme if anyone could tell me where to get it. I know it exists because it was played in a pub one night, and it has been one of life’s ‘side-quests’ for me to find it ever since.

Miss Marple

I’ve never seen Miss Marple, but there are two different themes from two different eras; both the polar opposite of each other and both brilliant.

The West Wing

It suits the show brilliantly and most episodes had a fantastic build up to the intro.

Sportscene (1985)

Have you heard what rubbish they play as the theme to Sportscene on BBC these days? THIS is a proper football theme.

The Family Ness (opening and closing themes)

I’d like to think someone will be skimming through this article and suddenly think ‘Shit…there’s full single versions of the opening and closing credits to Family Ness?!’. You’d have to be Scottish and roughly 30 years old to appreciate it I think.

Howard’s Way

I’ve always liked this theme, even though it came from one of the most boring shows ever made.

Knightmare

Who doesn’t love the Knightmare theme?

Bertha

Just like the Family Ness theme, I was amazed to find the BBC actually released this as a single in the 80s.

Henry’s Cat

It’s not an amazing song but it’ll give you a chuckle.

But who was Henry?

Alvin & The Chipmunks

Anyone from my year at school reading this will get a laugh from it. They know why…

Around The World With Willy Fogg 

On Youtube, you only seem to get adverts on videos that get viewed a lot. The Willy Fogg theme is the only one I’ve come across that gets that many views. But I’m sure if you grew up in the 80s you’ll know it and love it.

UK Rampage

When I said that TV shows these days have a tendency to use already available songs as their theme tunes, WWE is a classic example. Back in the day, their TV shows and individual wrestler’s themes were so so much better and had more character because they were suited to the person or occasion.

I don’t know why such a basic tune is so catchy to me; it just is.

New Girl

It’s nice to see, despite TV Theme tunes being a lost art, that a show can still come along with one that I want to listen to.

And it’s specifically made for the show too!

Happy Days

Another US theme. Happy Days is another show I wouldn’t watch now if you paid me, but nobody can argue it’s a catchy tune.

Muppet Babies

One thing about this tune. The lyric is supposed to be “I like adventure, I like romance, I love great jokes, Animal Dance” but that is not what is said. Listen to it; it sounds more like “And I’m on fire” rather than “Animal Dance”

Supergran

I couldn’t find a youtube video of the CD quality version of this song, but let me tell you this. If you are driving a bunch of people home from a meal where the beer and wine has been flowing and this song comes onto the stereo, they’ll sing it. And they’ll sing it loud. And demand the windows go down so passers-by can hear them.

Class.

Worst TV Theme?

All of themes above are great for their own reasons, but what’s the worst?

Well there are so many, but in terms of it being something I just can’t watch or listen to because it’s so offensive to my senses – even if it works within the context of the show – I’ll have to say Homeland.

Why no video? Well nobody likes it enough to upload it onto Youtube.

And that says a lot if you ask me…

Additional….

Of course, TV themes are important because they set the tone for what you’re about to watch. Here’s a classic example of that from the opening credits of Diffrent Strokes

Here’s the original version

As you can see it’s a happy looking show about a bloke who has adopted two kids.

Now watch this…

…and shudder as you watch the intro to a TV show about child abduction and possible murder.

Agree or Disagree?

So those are my favourites, but what are yours if they aren’t on this list? Let me know, either my leaving a comment or tweeting me @SGMilne


Film Review: Skyfall (or ‘James Bond Isn’t A Time Lord, But He Can’t Be A Rodney Bewes-like Immortal Either’)

November 9, 2012

I can’t say I’m a James Bond fan.

Of the 22 Bond films that have come before the latest one – Skyfall – I think I may have seen 21 of them (I didn’t bother with Quantum of Solace) and yet I could only tell you the plots of Goldeneye, Goldfinger and The Man With the Golden Gun (hey…there’s a pattern emerging).

Ultimately, most of them aren’t particularly good films. It’s just that the character of James Bond is iconic and is synonymous with the whole British Secret Service/Espionage type film.

But I had heard that this one was good, and it certainly gets the highest rating of any Bond so far on IMDB, so I decided to go, in spite of my best mate thinking it was a let down.

So, was it any good?

Thoughts

Well yes, it was.

Although the opening scene was more like one of the fights between Peter and the Giant Chicken in Family Guy, the film settled down into an enjoyable 150 minutes of storytelling, action scenes and blockbuster special effects.

I can’t say the story was particularly original – that of the former spy who was abandoned and has become resentful of his former employers – because it’s been done so many times before in a variety of different shows; it’s even been done in Bond before. But enjoyable it still was.

It was a little bit slow to begin with, but when the action moved from ‘Mystery Oriental Island’ and back to the London it began to heat up nicely, building to an explosive finish up in the remote Highlands of Scotland.

As an aside though, I wasn’t too keen on how this film showed a certain level of ‘Britishness’ that doesn’t really exist. It’s just what Americans think the UK is like.

Suspension of Disbelief

Of course, to enjoy a film like this, there has to be a certain suspension of disbelief, and that’s fine. The beginning bit is ridiculous as I’ve already mentioned, just like the notion of a secret agent managing to evacuate an entire population and take over an whole island in 2012, but I must admit I did struggle a little bit with the chase between Bond and Mr Silva through the Underground.

Why? Well, I can accept the idea that Silva deliberately got caught so he could activate his plans, but for him to time it so well and know exactly where he’d be at each point of his chase with Bond to do walk-by-drops with his cronies and then blow up that tunnel at the exact moment a tube train was going by was just silly. He wasn’t the one in control of when his plans would roll out either, which makes it even sillier.

And for someone who plans things with such precision, the way Silva just assumed Bond was dead when he fell into the lake was the sort of lazy writing that gets put in place simply to move a film to its conclusion.

What Is The Timeline of the Bond Universe?

One thing I did like about this film was the sub-plot about how the likes of Bond are a dying breed, and the role of an organisation like MI6 might not be quite as significant in the modern world of cyber-terrorism and technological advancement.

The notion that all Bond needed from Q was a gun and a radio was probably more realistic than anything that has ever been in a 007 film before.

And then there was idea that Bond himself is getting older and maybe struggling to keep the pace with the changing world. That’s great, but it must begin to draw a conclusion to Bond films because it’s the first time as far as I can remember that his age has come into it.

Similarly, M is obviously meant to be the same woman that we’ve seen since Goldeneye and she’s aged too.

So what is the story with Bond? The fact that he’s ageing means that he’s not immortal, like – say – Rodney Bewes is known to be, but he can’t be a Time Lord either, because if he was then he’d have regenerated at the end of the opening scene when he was shot. How good would that have been?

But within the confines of the Bond Universe we’re obviously meant to believe he’s the same guy who was on the go in the 60s because he brings out the Aston Martin DB5 in a huge knowing wink to the audience. And that doesn’t make any sense.

Maybe the truth is that Bond lives in a sort of purgatory world like in Life on Mars. Certainly the scene where he ‘meets’ Moneypenny for the first time would lend credence to that. Maybe Bond himself is just a place-holding identity for dead secret service agents struggling to move into the afterlife?

Or maybe I’m just trying to make sense of something that unashamedly doesn’t even try to, and they’ll just ignore the plot of Skyfall and recast him as a younger man soon enough.

Cast

As to the cast, I thought they were all pretty good. I wouldn’t exactly say Daniel Craig is a great actor, and I don’t think he has the same level of charisma or credibility in the role of the ‘License to Kill Ladies Man’ that someone like Sean Connery had, but he was good enough.

Javier Bardern was good as Silva and it goes without saying that Judi Bloody Dench was marvellous, darling, but I thought the best cameo went to Albert Finney as Kincade.

My only disappointment in the casting was that I misread ‘Rory Kinnear’ as ‘Roy Kinnear’. Then I remembered Roy Kinnear was long since dead. But he’d have been great in it.

Should You Go and See Skyfall?

Well, for a James Bond film, I thought it was very good. For films in general, I thought it was more that satisfactory.

Basically, if you like Bond films, I think you’ll like this. My friend didn’t though, and I’m really not sure why.