Movies: The Avengers: Age of Ultron Review (or ‘Exactly What You’ve Come To Expect’) Spoiler Free

April 23, 2015

I was interested to look back on my review of Marvel’s Avengers Assemble and see that I gave it a glowing review.

Clearly time has not been kind on my memory of it, as my lasting impression seemed to be that it turned into one long CGI Destruction Porn sequence, just like pretty much every Superhero movie has become.

But hey, it’s the initial impression that’s probably the most clear, and it’s for that sort of scenario that this blog was started in the first place.

Anyway, I was a little apprehensive going to see The Avengers: Age of Ultron today, as I thought that what I remembered the first movie being would be repeated again here.

So was I right?

The Avengers: Age of Ultron Spoiler Free Review – What’s It About?

Tony Stark’s idea to launch a new artificial intelligence – Ultron – to work towards world peace backfires when it reasons that peace can only be achieved if humanity is wiped out.avenge

The Avengers: Age of Ultron Review – Who’s In It?

Pretty much every protagonist from the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the exception of Pepper Potts and Thor’s girlfriend (I forget her name). Both are name checked and given ropey excuses for not being there.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron Review – How Highly Is It Rated?

Generally speaking it gets 4 stars from the critics, and high scores from the legions of fanboys.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron Review – Analysis

There are two ways of looking at this I suppose.

On the one hand, if you’ve never seen any of the MCU movies before, you’d end up feeling a little bit lost in terms of characterisation. In The Age of Ultron, the only characters to get even the slightest bit of development and are anything more than puddle deep are Ultron, Hawkeye and Black Widow. Beyond them there’s just this assumption that you know enough about the likes of Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, SHIELD and The Incredible Hulk to be able to fill in the blanks for how and why they act the way they do.

Also, you could watch it and think that there’s only enough plot to fill half of the 142 minute running time, with the other half devoted to the aforementioned Destruction Porn of seeing another couple of cities being destroyed during over-long fight scenes.

But I’m not daft. This is a sequel, so knowledge of the subject matter is presumed and therefore those complaints are invalidated to an extent.

Having seen all the movies leading up to this, I knew enough about the main players to have a proper handle on their characters, and similarly, I also knew what to expect in terms of the plot to action sequence ratio.

It is what it is, and knowing that, I was mainly pleased with how this movie turned out.

I liked the extra attention given to Hawkeye and Black Widow, and I thought Ultron – though not exactly unique – was an enjoyable enough villain.

It was also good that the plot wasn’t as predictable as you might expect, with one character’s heavily foreshadowed death turning out to be a red herring.

And what surprised me most was that it was well paced, with the action spread throughout rather than it just being all storyline in the first half and all action in the second. This meant that despite running for 142 minutes, it didn’t drag.

The only real criticism I would have is that a lot of the humour misfired. It just wasn’t as funny as the people who wrote it probably thought it was.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron Review – Final Thoughts

The Avengers: Age of Ultron delivers what it promises, and you can’t ask for much more than that.

Therefore, if you enjoy movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, then you’ll enjoy this and should give it a go.

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10 Wrestling Storylines That Would Make Football More Interesting

April 18, 2015

One thing you’ll read people say when their team is going through a bad patch and they are in the huff is that football is fixed.

Now you could argue that the importance of finance means that the sport is no longer anything even closely resembling an even playing field, but at the same time it’s not actually pre-determined. The authorities aren’t corrupt and the referees don’t really cheat.

But imagine a situation where they were? Imagine if football was a pre-determined, scripted form of sports entertainment like wrestling is? Would that be more fun if we didn’t actually know it was faked? Maybe it would be.

At the very least, it could arguably be more fun.

Here are ten examples of wrestling storylines that could work if football was scripted.

Disclaimer: These are all fictional scenarios based upon wrestling storylines and any resemblance to anything that may or may not have happened in reality is purely coincidence.

1. The 90th Minute Heel Turn

Picture the scene; two teams are battling hard to get the winning goal in a match at the end of the season. It’s 0-0 with one minute left. The home team’s most popular player has the ball at his feet and is pushing all his teammates forward. Then suddenly he turns around and kicks the ball into his own net. And then, to make matters worse, he takes off his shirt to reveal he’s wearing the away team’s top underneath and has

In this battle royal, The Big Show removed his red Raw T-Shirt to reveal he was wearing an ECW one. He then defected to the Extreme Brand.

In this battle royal, The Big Show removed his red Raw T-Shirt to reveal he was wearing an ECW one. He then defected to the Extreme Brand.

actually signed a pre-contract agreement with them.

Can you imagine how angry fans would get? A license to print money for the rematch next season.

2. Twin Magic

The premise is simple. A team has two identical twins playing for them who keep swapping on and off the pitch behind the ref’s back. Pure panto. Pure entertainment.

3. The Heel Ref

Just imagine a referee who deliberately cheats players out of free kicks and penalties, sends players off for nothing, ignores perfectly good goals, openly favours one team over another and blindly ignores the fouls committed by certain players.

That’s something that’s never happened before. Ever.

4.  The Invasion Storyline

So two sets of players are in the tunnel waiting to go out onto the pitch and then suddenly a team from a different league/country jump them all from behind and make their way onto the pitch instead, declaring that they have crossed the divide to take over the league.

That team then routinely does run-ins during other league matches, vandalises team buses and changing rooms and even take prize youth prospects hostage.

In the end, one team from the league stands up to them and defeats them in a Loser Leaves The League match.

5. The No Disqualification Match

There’s a deep-rooted rivalry between two teams. Matches in the past have resulted in a lot of yellow and red cards and the referees are struggling to control the players.

Ah the corrupt referee. If there was one of these in a scripted football world, it would be great, as long as he got his comeuppance.

Ah the corrupt referee. If there was one of these in a scripted football world, it would be great, as long as he got his comeuppance.

So to settle it once and for all, the teams agree to a No Disqualification match where fouls and offsides don’t count.

Mayhem ensues.

6. The Manager Changes Dugouts At Half Time

Remember when Mr Fuji turned on Demolition and went with the Powers of Pain at the 1988 Survivor Series? That could happen in a scripted football world.

Just before half time, a manager might inexplicably sub off their two best outfield players and the goalkeeper, replacing them with rubbish kids who don’t even play in those positions (and I bet nobody has EVER tried that in Football Manager…)

After those players rough the manager up a little, he ends up sitting in the away team’s dugout for the second half and plots his team’s downfall from there.

7. The Young Apprentice Storyline

At the beginning of the season, a team’s most experienced pro introduces a young starlet from the youth team into the starting lineup as his protegé. As the season develops, they form a great bond but around January they start to have a few arguments on the pitch. They patch things up each time though and shake hands, much to the crowd’s delight.

Then, at the end of season Player of the Year Awards, when the experienced pro goes up to collect his award, the youngster attacks him from behind with a chair.

The storyline is resolved in a crossbar challenge contest where the loser’s contract is torn up.

8.  The Authority Angle

Imagine the governing body of a nation’s football association is run by an unpopular, clueless tyrant who seems to have no interest in giving fans what they want, makes incredible decisions under the excuse of doing what’s “Best For Business”, kowtows to the TV stations who show their product and openly favours the biggest team in the league who are seen to be protected against all sanity because they are “The Face of the Company”.

Remember when Mr Fuji turned on Demolition and teamed up with the Powers of Pain DURING a match? That'd be fun in football.

Remember when Mr Fuji turned on Demolition and teamed up with the Powers of Pain DURING a match? That’d be fun in football.

Imagine…

9. The Returning Legends

More Rocky than wrestling, what if a club brought a team of legends out of retirement for one last run at the Championship/Cup.

In a scripted world, they would end up getting to the final, only to lose to an up and coming team, thus passing the torch.

They would then go off into the sunset.

10. The Referees Go On Strike

Wait…that did happen!!

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TV: Daredevil Review (‘A Slow Burning Triumph’) – Spoiler Free

April 16, 2015

I tend to start my reviews of Superhero movies with “I like Superhero movies”, but in spite of that, I’ve never been especially fond of Superhero TV shows.

The likes of Arrow, The Flash and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. left me so underwhelmed that I never bothered to watch anything more than one or two episodes. They seem dodgily acted, not especially well written and often weighed down by existing lore that we should apparently know but might be unaware of.

So there was always a risk that Daredevil might not grab me, especially considering the bad reputation the movie had.

Thankfully that didn’t turn out to be the case

Daredevil Review – Spoiler Free Thoughts

As it turns out, I really enjoyed Daredevil.

The problems I outline above don’t apply to it much at all.

Yes, it helps to know that in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, New York was badly damaged by the events of the first Avengers movie, and that the nature of the rebuilding works and organised crime in Hell’s Daredevil-Netflix-LogoKitchen are spawned from that, but that’s all.

Even if you hadn’t seen that film, it spells it out for you anyway.

Beyond that, Daredevil exists in its own world, and it rooted in a more realistic setting than some of Marvel’s other offerings. None of the characters possess cosmic powers or are mutations. Daredevil is just a blind guy who has built his other senses up to make his lack of sight a non-issue. Meanwhile, the Kingpin is just a powerful underworld crime figure who isn’t intent on destroying the universe and doesn’t wear any daft costumes.

So that’s all great.

Moreover, because it’s written like that, then the entire nature of the show becomes more adult than you usually get from Marvel.

As part of that, the fight scenes come across as grittier and more realistic. Instead of the explosive, cartoon-like ‘violence’ of the movies, the director seems to have made a conscious choice to approach Daredevil more like The Raid. For those who like that sort of thing, the fight scenes and the action sequences in general are well produced and meticulously executed.

But for me, the more – indeed the most – enjoyable aspect of Daredevil is the characterisation.

You come to expect drama like this to have characters with very clearly defined positions. One is all good, the other is deep-rooted in evil. Look at the Captain America movies as an example of what I mean. He is the good old All-American boy fighting off against the evil German with the red skull for a head. You know who is right and who is wrong.

Daredevil is different. The team behind it have made a conscious decision to make the character of Wilson Fisk – The Kingpin – someone who you could have sympathy for. His means might be questionable, but his motives appear to have some good in them, and his background is one you might feel empathy towards. On the other hand, the part Daredevil plays in proceedings is often questioned, not only by his friends but by the man himself.

By setting the story up to be less black & white than the norm, it made it a lot more interesting for me.

And I should also note that part of the credit for that must also go to the actors involved, and especially Vincent D’Onofrio as Fisk. He makes every scene he’s in a delight.

Finally, I would say that by releasing all episodes on NetFlix in one go helps the viewer enjoy the show more. Or at least it helped me.

Without question, Daredevil is a slow burner which builds a story over almost 13 hours of television. But that allows it to come to a satisfying and enjoyable conclusion. If it was on for only one episode per week, you might think it moved too slowly, with some episodes not advancing the overall story-arc much, but by having episodes available in bulk, you can watch it over the course of a week and get a greater appreciation for what each one is trying to achieve.

I wouldn’t suggest trying to watch it all in one day, but I absolutely would suggest watching it.

Because it’s well worth your time.

It’s a slow burning triumph.

 

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Games – Dragon Age: Inquisition Review (or “Tenure Over Challenge”)

April 12, 2015

Before I finally bought Dragon Age: Inquisition for the PS4 I spent weeks checking all the usual sites in the hope of a price reduction. To me, I thought it was important to wait until it went down in cost before I stumped up my cash for it.

I wanted value for money, even though I was depriving myself of a game I wanted for a long time just to save myself about £4.

That seems a bit daft, doesn’t it? But we’re conditioned to expect that the RRP of almost anything will reduce in the near future, so it’s something that we do.

Anyway, after waiting that long, I’ve finally ‘finished’ it today and my overall play time amounted to 68 hours (though you could probably reduce that by 5-to-7 hours for times when I’ve left the game on and gone dragonageaway for a bit).

Obviously then you’ll be reading this and thinking that a) I must have enjoyed it and b) I certainly got my money’s worth.

And I suppose that’s true, but even after all that, I’ve come away from it with a sense of mild dissatisfaction. I’ve devoted all that time to playing a game and don’t really feel like I’ve achieved anything.

A game like Dragon Age: Inquisition isn’t much of a challenge, or at least not in the way you want from a video game. Yes, the early parts are insufferably tough because you don’t know what you’re doing (it took me about 10 hours to understand the point of the War Room) and you don’t have a character powerful enough to defeat any enemies, but that doesn’t mean the game itself is challenging. To ‘finish’ it (and I say ‘finish’ because there’s probably still 20-30 hours of mundane side quests where my character collects stuff that I could complete if I wanted to) you just have to spend enough time playing it.

This isn’t like an old-school game where you would have to show skill and dexterity to complete one level before moving to the next. Instead, it’s just a game where everyone will win if they play for long enough. To that end, it’s a bit like the way school children these days are taught that winning doesn’t actually matter; everyone gets a medal for taking part.

And is that rewarding? Is that a good use of my time? Maybe it isn’t? Maybe I didn’t get utility from it after all? Ultimately, all I did was walk around, holding down the R2 button every time I came across an enemy and engaged in dialogue with other characters.

To some, that latter point might be the game’s big selling point. There does appear to be a rich narrative and deeply considered world in this game that you could invest in if you want, but really, I’ve got no interest in that sort of thing. I hate cutscenes with a passion, because they are never any good. It’s ropey voice acting and a script from the pen of someone who probably isn’t good enough to write for TV or Hollywood. Big whoop. Hold me back.

In fact, I paid so little attention to the story that by the time I got to the end and faced the final boss, I didn’t actually know who he was or why I was fighting him. That can’t be good can it? Based on how long I played it, that’s like watching four full length 24 episode seasons of a TV show and not knowing who the characters are by the end of it.

But by the very fact that I did play it for that long, I must have enjoyed it, right?

I think I did, but when putting my thoughts down on here it doesn’t seem like it.

Perhaps it’s just that I got to a point where I’d had enough of playing it? Perhaps the diminishing marginal returns of enjoyment I got from it sharply declined to zero at around the 65 hour mark when I decided that enough was enough and I had to play the final quest of the main story mode?

Either way, at this stage it feels like it’s been an ultimately confusing experience.

I think I’ll go back to playing FIFA, Call of Duty, Mercenary Kings or Super Mega Baseball for the next wee while.

My gaming pallet needs cleansed.