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Archive for the ‘The Interruptions’ Category

Since the time is nearly upon us, I thought I’d introduce a bit of festivity to Filmsapoi by a) making it snow on the blog – pretty, isn’t it? And b) give you my personal top three Christmas films. Now I should be honest, I’m not really a huge fan of Christmas films as they tend towards the heart-warming, which whilst not a bad thing, tends to come at the expense of actually being a good film. Nonetheless, there are three ‘Christmas’ films that I really like and I’d like to introduce you to them (even though chances are, you’ve all already met).

 

Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker!

I’d actually forgotten that Die Hard was set on Christmas Eve until I watched it on a whim a few days ago. And oh, what a Christmas film it is. Action! Guns! Explosions! A battle of wits between Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman, both of whom play the best roles they’ve ever had. With comedy and a little bit of Christmas heart-warming to boot. It’s certainly nowhere near the typical definition of a Christmas film, but if you’re bored on the big day and the incessant re-runs of old war films aren’t really entertaining you…

 

“Well, you know, I thought it might be something worse.”
“Worse than the total agony of being in love?!”

I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who doesn’t enjoy Love Actually. And yes, I realise the irony in scorning heart-warming Christmas films two paragraphs ago, and then picking probably the worst offender of all for my next film.. but well, I can’t help it. There’s something infinitely endearing about Love Actually – perhaps the veritable plethora of awesome British stars, or Richard Curtis’s fantastic script, perhaps both, perhaps something else entirely. It’s a potted summary of how lovely Christmas can be, a complete one-off.

This year, America tried to copy the formulae in ‘Valentine’s Day’, a similar film about intersecting relationships over the course of a single day, and maybe this is because I watched it 5000 metres above the Bering Sea on a TV as big as my hand with terrible reception, but it wasn’t anywhere near as good. It wasn’t bad, but it doesn’t have Love Actually’s sheer good-natured sense of fun.

 

‘There’s children throwing snowballs, instead of throwing heads. They’re busy building toys, and absolutely no-one’s dead!’

I almost feel bad for including The Nightmare Before Christmas, since it feels too obvious. But hey, hopefully I already sufficiently surprised you all with Die Hard, so you’ll let it go. Anyway, Tim Burton’s beautifully animated story of Pumpkin King Jack Skellington, and his ill-fated attempt to usurp Christmas still rides high in my Christmas list since there is still absolutely nothing comparable to it. It’s got frights and delights, musical numbers, comedy, and it always seems to pop up in cinemas in 3D at this time of year. In fact it was the first film I saw in 3D, before the craze took off in 2009.

 

So there you have it, my top Christmas films. Although nowhere near the quality I regard the above to have, Elf gets an honourable mention, if only because Zooey Deschanel is in it. In fact, yeah, that’s the only reason. ❤

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Funnily enough, at the time of writing this we are only a few days shy of the two year anniversary of my posting ‘part 1’; considering that that piece was a rewrite of a piece I wrote even earlier, I think I’m safe to state that this is possibly the most delayed sequel that I’ve ever been involved with. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing – although over the course of those two years GTA4 hasn’t gone anywhere, it has changed. Two new expansion games refined the experience, when someone finally decided to release them for PS3, at least. (I really wish people would stop doing that; it’s happening all over again as we speak with Fallout: New Vegas. Why should I be eternally punished for not buying an Xbox?!)

Put simply, the game is different and so am I. So let’s see what it has to say for itself now.

Writing the wrongs

I had two major criticisms with GTA4’s base game. First, the character reputation system, which meant simply that you had to keep taking all of your friends out on dates or they’d get angry at you and not sell you guns/bombs/rides in their chopper. To be honest, when you’re mid-rampage, screaming down the supermagic highway with a small army of law enforcement on your tail and only twenty bullets in your machine gun, you really don’t want your cousin calling you up and trying to convince you to go and check out some American titties. Even when you’re not, it’s still annoying. There is a little trick you can pull that allows you to get out of dates without hurting anyone’s feelings; accept when they call, then ring them back and tell them you can’t make it. Having to do this several times a day remains quite jarring, though, and I find it somewhat questionable that the developers left this aspect of the game in as well as a convenient bug that makes it less annoying – that means that they knew it would be annoying!

These problems, I realise now, are not the problems an average gamer would face. For most people, when the phone rings mid-adventure, they’d just ignore it, and not care about losing reputation points, since not everyone has my obsessive-compulsive must-have-every-stat-at-100% nature. And when you’ve fully completed the game, and even killing people starts to get old, going out with your friends is pretty much the only thing left to do.

The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony, the two expansions, fix this primarily by better intertwining the friendship options with the missions of the storyline, and by also making dating fairly optional. In these games, friends help you in missions, and you can build bridges with them that way – I got through The Ballad of Gay Tony without being forced to take my homies out once, since thanks to doing loads of drug wars missions with them, they loved me already. I think that’s pretty well done, especially considering that the characters in these games feel more like real people connected to the protagonists that GTA4’s rogue gallery of blatant stereotypes.

Make it fun

My second major point against GTA4 was that it appeared that, in committing themselves to telling a gritty gangland story in a more realistically-designed city, Rockstar had committed themselves into making a less fun game overall, with less of the awesomely over-the-top set pieces that were once one of Grand Theft Auto’s defining features. Well, it seems someone in the top brass had the same thoughts, because then they released the Ballad of Gay Tony, which, whilst still exposing its central character to the inherent dangers of the laws of physics, makes things a lot more interesting by adding glitz and glamour, lightweight attack helicopters, drug wars, parachutes, hilariously overpowered weapons and awesomely over-the-top set pieces to the GTA4 experience. Basically, it puts back in everything that had to be sacrificed to maintain the integrity of Niko’s story.

GTA4’s last mission was fairly epic; it involved a car chase, a shootout at an abandoned casino, another vehicle chase, and a final shootout on Happiness Island. In comparison, The Ballad of Gay Tony ends with a shootout at an abandoned funfair, a desperate race along the freeway backed up by a gold-plated attack helicopter, boarding a plane that’s in the process of taking off, blowing it up in midair, and parachuting down to safety. Half as realistic, but twice as awesome. You can even do it more than once – in an effort to avoid the ‘now what?’ stagnation that comes when you’ve completed GTA4 to 100%, The Ballad of Gay Tony offers a mission replay system, with challenges to complete. Meaningless challenges, admittedly, but they still add replay value to the game if you’re up for it.

Art direction

This is something I failed to appreciate before; Grand Theft Auto 4 is quite a beautiful game. This isn’t necessarily entirely about the graphics, as they’re starting to look a little faded and dated already. The real achievement of the game is in building a place that looks and feels like a real city, which is something a lot of people said in their initial reviews of the game. I never really felt it until recently, after picking the game up for the first time after a long time away from it, with the vague intention of finding some talking points for this piece.

The first thing I did was the first thing I imagine most people do; have a madcap shootout and escaped from a six star wanted level. It was quite vicarious even by usual standards, so afterwards I decided I’d had enough for one day, got in a taxi to a random location and left the game on in the background whilst I went to do other things. I ended up in Star Junction, or rather Times Square, and observed the passage of an evening, and the intricacies of the artwork as time went on, and realised exactly what it was I’d been missing.

If you’re interested, you can see what I saw here.

The Unwanted Son

You might have noticed, if you know your GTA, that I’ve made few references to the first expansion, The Lost and Damned. The reason for this is that I think it’s bloody rubbish. Whereas The Ballad of Gay Tony totally revamped the game, The Lost and Damned was little more than a minor tweak, and suffers for it. The story is just as bleak and dark as GTA4’s, whilst being shorter and far less interesting; the new weapons that are introduced are for the most part rather feeble in comparison to what the later expansion gives us; the art aesthetic makes everything even grimmer and dirtier than it already was, to such an extent that playing it for too long actually starts to hurt my eyes. Add in the fact that main character Johnny can’t even run properly, never gets a decent safehouse and ends up completely fucked, and you’re not left with a particularly satisfactory gaming experience.

The only thing The Lost and Damned really has going for it are the motorbikes, of which there are loads. The vehicles themselves have been tweaked to be less death-traps than they originally were, making it far easier to enjoy a casual cruise through the city. But the thing about this is that, with sufficient skill and care, it’s entirely possible to do this on the main game. With that in mind, The Lost and Damned is little more than a vehicle pack for motorcycle enthusiasts.. who will still have to jump through hoops to unlock them all.

And in the end..

In part 1, I was (I think) justifiably cynical about Grand Theft Auto 4. It was by no means a bad game, but I at least had some issues with it which made me scorn the perfect scores that all of the gaming publications in the entire fucking world were throwing at it. What it really needed was a patch to surgically re-augment the fun factor of the game… and surprisingly, that’s exactly what we were given. Admittedly they dressed it up as an ‘expansion pack’ and made us pay for it, but hey that’s business.

So, GTA4 is a decent game. The Ballad of Gay Tony is an awesome game. Both will offer you a good time, although GTA4’s is a plot-driven one whereas TBoGT stakes its claim to ‘fun’. Both take place in the same core city that is beautifully designed and realised, so whichever one you pick you don’t miss out. As for The Lost and Damned.. it’s not irredeemable, but for the most part it’s only a microcosm of everything that was wrong with the game in the first place, and even diminishes from the art direction by covering everything in dirt.

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I realise I may be taking my life in my hands here. This show has some quite vehement supporters, and I’m not going to be entirely nice about it.

For those who don’t know; ‘The Inbetweeners’ is an E4-based comedy that has surprisingly turned out to be quite popular. In following the rickety misadventures of four socially inept British Sixth Form students, it is at heart a gross-out comedy about four idiots. And when I say gross-out comedy, I mean it, like seriously. Turned up to 11. The comedy of each episode is derived from just how completely useless the main characters are; the main plot, insofar as a show like this can actually have one, is their natural teenage drive to lose their virginity and generally be less unpopular. Their attempts at doing so invariably either fail utterly, or blow up in their face, to the point where it begins to feel like we’re transcending ineptitude and landing at the pearly gates of retardation. This, in itself, is not particularly funny. There is humour to be derived from approaching these surreal situations in the right manner, I think, but for the most part the scripts of ‘The Inbetweeners’ fluctuate wildly between sharp-witted dialogue and endless jokes about female anatomy. The result is generally hit and miss; for every genuinely humorous moment or page of well-written dialogue, there’s an embarrassing visual gag or a reprise of the ‘lol Neil farted’ running joke.

It’s not a case of not trying hard enough; it’s more about consistency. The show seems to pride itself on creating a continuity, with multiple references to previous episodes, both overtly and subtly (for example, in an episode in the mid-third season, one character gets a crude bumper sticker for his car. In the last episode of the season, it’s still there). But for all it creates the sense that time is passing, with reference to Christmas, exams, the end of one year and the start of another, there is very little sense of coherency. Take the character of Jay, for example: when first introduced he is a loud-mouthed boaster who seems to have been around and done everything. By the end of the first season, it’s reasonably clear that everything he’s ever claimed to have done can be cast into doubt. Then, in the third season, he is caught out in a lie and suddenly, people start to doubt him. Why now? Because it made for a good plot thread to this particular episode? What about the episode two series prior where it was established that you can’t trust a thing he says? There is no logical basis for everyone all of a sudden deciding Jay is full of bullshit. The show might pride itself on its bumper stickers but that’s meaningless; you can’t pick and choose your continuity like that.

By the end of the third series, which seems to be by general consensus the last one, nothing has changed from the beginning. Various elements of continuity have spun in and out of the lives of the characters, but they themselves are almost exactly the same as they were initially. They haven’t learnt, they haven’t changed, and by this point it’s getting pretty tiresome. The character of Simon spends most of the series chasing his childhood sweetheart. In the third series there is a full-on arc about his misadventures with a new girlfriend, but any potential is squandered when the writers churlishly destroy this new relationship for the sake of ..what? Laughs? I wasn’t laughing. But that was when it started to bother me; I decided to wait for the finale before I passed judgement on whether anything had ever really happened, and sadly, I was disappointed. Maybe they’re saving the closure for the forthcoming feature film, but at this point I really doubt it.

Look, it’s not hard. You either have a show lacking in overall continuity with static characters living in a bubble (for example, Black Books), or you have a show with a continuity where the characters grow and change over the course of said continuity (for example, Friends). If you have time passing and people remaining the same, you’ve created a twilight zone. At first, I thought that ‘The Inbetweeners’ understood this; the first series follows a rough arc and even offers a vaguely happy ending. But then the second and third seasons have been a consistent escalation of ridiculousness with no end in sight, just constant, unavoidable tragedy zeroing in on the main characters like flies to a pile of excrement. I can’t feel good about a show that hates its characters and abuses them for laughs. I can’t see any way I can appreciate a nasty post-modern tragi-comedy that squandered its opportunity to be unique, in dealing with an incredibly crude subject matter in a smart way, in favour of cheap jokes about pissing in your sleep because you drank too much orangeade.

So in summary, ‘The Inbetweeners’ is a heartless 21st century re-imagining of ‘American Pie’  for a far more cynical age. It’s not inherently awful; it adheres to the universal standard of ‘alright’. But it is neither ground-breaking nor deserving of a place on a list of top sitcoms; we can do much better than this.

Class of 2010, dismissed.

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I was never a big Batman fan. I’m not really sure why. I thought at first it might have been due to the dark and grim nature of the comic, but it can’t be, because if I could successfully read the Gormenghast books, I can handle Batman easily. Perhaps it was because of my inability  to reconcile the darkness with the idea of a man dressing up like a bat, which is quite a silly notion. Anyway, despite this, I still watched Christopher Nolan’s Batman films (although I did miss both of them in the cinema, having not seen the first one before the second one came out).. and I was able to appreciate them.

Then I read The Killing Joke. Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s reverberation on the origins and motivations of the Joker and his opposition to Batman struck a chord with me, so I decided to go back and watch The Dark Knight again and take a close look at the Heath Ledger’s Joker.. An informed perspective, if you will. Of course, that also meant I had to watch Batman Begins again first – although one of The Dark Knight’s remarkable strengths is that it’s a sequel you don’t need to have seen the first film to understand (this being at least half due to popular knowledge of the Batman character as it is Christopher Nolan’s film-making skill), I felt obliged to experience the whole of the thing. Interested?

There is a certain art to telling an origin story that – well, let’s be straight up about it. If you have to spend half of your film telling the tale of how your protagonist decided to dress up like a flying rat, then you’ve already used up half of your film. And in turn, that means you’ve lost half of the time you could have been developing the film’s major antagonist. A good idea, then, is to combine these two halves of your story, for the sake of continuity. After all, it’s quite jarring to be expected to believe that a superhero and a super villain happen to pop up at the same time, independently. To have the two intertwined, like two different sides of a coin, often makes for a better story and certainly a better final showdown, even if we all know who’s going to win.. Making the antagonist responsible for the events that lead to the creation of the superhero, the same superhero who will in the end bring about their downfall has a certain impressive poignancy, after all. Iron Man did it with Obadiah Stane. Avatar kind of did it with whoever that military guy was, you know, that unstoppable force of nature dude.

Before both of those films, though, Batman Begins did it. Bruce Wayne’s origin story and path to becoming the Batman intertwines with the League of Shadows, some ninja style dudes who in the end turn out to be responsible for the murder of Wayne’s parents; the path that sends him careening down the path to vigilante crimefighter status.. a path which eventually brings him up against the League of Shadows. It’s cute how it all comes together.

What I find more interesting is that Nolan and his team didn’t choose to assign that role to the Joker. He is, after all, Batman’s arch-nemesis: who better to award the ultimate crime to? But I see why they didn’t do it. For a crime such as that, the only repayment is death. In the 1989 Batman, Jack Nicholson’s Joker was assigned the role of parent-killer, and he met his demise at the climax of the film. And that was it. This did present the interesting paradox that Batman and the Joker were both responsible for the creation of each other, but in ending the story with only one of them still alive, the duality is shattered. The entire crux of The Killing Joke is that both of them are the creations of a single ‘bad day’ that changed their entire world, and that only their reactions to that day define who they are: Bruce Wayne took a noble path, and whoever the Joker was before, he went completely nutso.

And that’s why I think The Dark Knight is so fucking good. Heath Ledger’s Joker is presented exactly as he should be; a psychopath bereft of empathy who springs, fully formed, onto the screen, to do battle with Batman. The Joker doesn’t need an origin story, he just needs to be what he is; an unstoppable force of nature. The film instead follow the arc of Harvey Dent, a much more tragic and human story that gives the film some empathy that the stoic, resolute Bruce Wayne can’t offer; Batman Begins was his story. This time around he gives the spotlight to someone else.

Plenty of words have been spilled by critics the world over about Ledger’s penultimate performance, but you know what, I’m going to add a few more to the alphabet soup anyway. To begin, it helps that Ledger is almost completely obscured by the character’s untidily applied make-up – it adds to the anonymity of the character. No name, no face, just a freaky mask and a sweet purple suit. Oh, and an ever-escalating sense of chaos, that’s good too.

At the end of Batman Begins, Batman and Jim Gordon riff for a moment on the theme of escalation, and this turns out to be a major theme of the sequel. The Joker’s actions throughout steadily raise the stakes, until by the end the entire city is running scared from one guy. Whilst it certainly makes for a compelling movie, it also emphasises the contradictions of Ledger’s character. In order for everything to work out has it does, the Joker has to have been meticulously in control of all that occurs; plans spelled out to the letter. But then he argues to Harvey Dent that he doesn’t have a plan at all. How can a mad dog chasing cars manage to pull off everything that he does?

This all culminates in his final showdown with Batman, in which is included one of the greatest cinematic scenes that I’ve ever seen. The Joker is hung upside down, seemingly defeated, but then the camera slowly twists around as he reveals his final toss of the dice, putting him the right way up but with the ethereal strangeness of his still hanging – just the wrong way round. The cinematography throughout the entire film is impressive; particularly the sweeping shots of the Hong Kong skyline during the Batman world tour segment, but this is the money shot, when a win becomes a possible loss and the Joker is left laughing manically to empty air as the Batman flees to attempt to undo his damage.

And that’s it. Not just for the film but forever; with the death of Heath Ledger, there dies his Joker. This is kind of good, because it could be argued that his appearing again would have diminished the impact of The Dark Knight, but then it’s also sad, because we’ll never get to know. Nonetheless, Ledger deserves commendation and the post-humous Academy Award he won for his role, because it takes a determined and focused actor to produce a legitimately terrifying force of nature. The only thing I’ve seen that was comparable was Javier Bardem’s ‘Anton Chigurh’ in No Country For Old Men, but that was a quiet, deadly intensity in comparison to the Joker’s madness. Oh yeah and the guy from Avatar as well, but only because he kept surviving increasingly ridiculous situations and seemed to have an inexhaustible supply of weaponry. Technological advance is not a substitute for skilled delivery, and that’s part of the reason I didn’t quite understand why everyone went quite Joker over Avatar.

“I believe that whatever doesn’t kill you, simply makes you… stranger.”

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Or should that be, Resident Evil, Fiiiiiivvee, as the over-excited start-up screen guy insists on? No matter, he’ll be doing that for all the numbered Resi’s ’till the end of time, best to leave him to it.

re5-title

Right. The evolution of Resident Evil is a topic that gets thrown about a lot on various internet message boards, but we thought we’d approach it from a less retarded perspective. What once started as a creepily atmospheric zombie game has since evolved, or devolved, into an action-shooter game. You can’t deny, if you’ve played them, that the original Resident Evil games were genuinely unnerving. You can consider exactly what it was that made them unnerving, whether it was genuine elements like the monsters, the scarcity of ammo with which to kill them, the often well-groomed soundtrack, or whether it was the enforced measures, the clunkily ridiculous (even by 1999 standards) control scheme, the enforced camera angles, and so on. 

Whatever it was, that was how Resident Evil worked. Over time, however, console gaming evolved into a state wherein it was considered rather crap to not have a intuitive and workable control scheme for every game. It’s somewhat a vogue in the videogame world these days that if a control scheme isn’t perfect, then, well, why the hell not? GTA4, for example, completely re-worked the series’ established control scheme, not for any particular reason, because after extensive time playing on both I’ve decided they’re really not that different in terms of accessibility. If anything the newer scheme is fiddlier, by demoting weapon selection to the d-pad; can anyone ever find their d-pad in the midst of a firefight? I know I can’t.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, you can no longer get away with having crappy controls as an excuse for making a game hard. Well, yes, you can, it works in the same way that films like Hancock and 21 somehow manage to get released, but it bloody shouldn’t. Unfortunately, this put the Resident Evil franchise into a bit of a difficult situation, as it continued to churn out tank-like game controls even as Tommy Vercetti ran past laughing.

The graphics are pretty good too.

Take that, mafia scum. Wait, SMGs don't cause explosions!

So, Capcom made the risky decision to shake up the formulae a bit, and it paid off. They redefined Resident Evil as an epic action game, gave full control over character, camera and aiming, and got rid of the slow lumbering zombies (who are rather unthreatening, really, except in large groups or close quarters, or, gulp, both) with intelligent enemies controlled by a crazy parasite instead of a crazy virus. Resident Evil 4 was released, success was acquired, and it was all gravy.

Which brings us now to Resident Evil 5, Capcom’s latest offering, which in some ways takes the series back to its roots, and in other ways completely severs them. The root-taking is done via the reintroduction of original main character Chris Redfield and his eternal antagonist Albert Wesker, with the promise of finally putting their feud to rest. The root-severing is done by the complete seperation of this game from the survival horror genre. Whereas for all the action-focus Resident Evil 4 gave us, it still paid service to the atmosphere, by plonking the main character into a desolate place, surrounded by enemies, and featuring several pretty tense set-pieces (a battle in the sewers with Salazar’s near-invulnerable right hand springs to mind).

Resident Evil 5, by contrast, lobs you into a bright community, with about 50 million guns behind you as backup. Naturally, most of them get killed as the game goes on, but the initial effect is rather jarring, and one of them stays with you throughout the entire game, effectively killing any sense of claustrophobia. Wtf survival horror? 

The inventory system is another way in which the game attempts to both praise and distance itself from its original premise. The inventory is laid out so that each of your two characters has 9 slots. Guns take up a slot, ammo takes up a slot, herbs take up a slot. This was fine in the earlier games when puzzle solving and item movement was important, but for a game in which killing stuff is key, and therefore ammo is important, this is pretty senseless regulation, and constant micromanagement is not fun (and this is coming from someone who used to constantly tweak their briefcase in Resi 4.. if you know what I mean). 

By contrast, the Resi 4 theme of gun upgrading returns, but now you don’t have to wait for the reassuring blue-light of a merchant up ahead to do it. You can do it pretty much anywhere, from a generic inventory menu which effectively means that the characters pull upgrades out of the sky, unless they’ve fashioned some way to turn gemstones into more powerful bullets, which is highly fucking unlikely.

Come back Luis, all is forgiven..

I represent logic, and therefore am not in this game.

So, in summary, Resident Evil 5 is as far away from Resident Evil as it is possible to get without changing the name of the franchise, and as an action shooter will inevitably draw comparison to better games of the same genre. A certain tank-like aspect of the old games remains present in that you can’t run and shoot, something that draws a lot of criticism from afar, but in playing the game, this doesn’t matter, as it is geared towards such a method of play. So don’t listen to people who complain about that. It is such light touches that makes RE5 its own take on the genre, enough to distance it from competition.

Besides, it’s not all bad. Playing through RE5 is pretty fucking fun, despite the debatable AI of your partner character: post-game, you can unlock a pretty major infinite ammo option, and yet, with it on, she still runs around picking up all the ammo she finds – would it’ve been so hard to put in an infinite-ammo-mode-fix or something? Especially on the hardest modes, that precious inventory space is far better spent on herbs, but NO, I must have more handgun ammo!

I apologise. That was meant to be a lead in to the positive side of the game, but I got sidetracked again. For the most part, your partner’s AI is pretty good. It only starts to fail in the hardest mode, Professional, which I like to refer to as 1-hit-kill mode, since that’s exactly what it is. It plays exactly the same as the second hardest mode, you just die every time a particularly vindicitive gust of wind passes you. For Professional mode, you should get a real-life friend. In fact, get one anyway, because the 2-player co-op is pretty fucking cool.

RE5 also offers a lot of replayability, due to an increased accessibility. Once the game is cleared, you can select any chapter to start from, and carry over your established inventory to it, no matter what the difficulty setting. There are secret emblems to find, special stuff to be unlocked, a fair slice of if not hidden, then cunningly-disguised-against-a-similar-coloured-background content. I even enjoyed unlocking all the trophies, for all that I usually abhorr the ‘achievements’ concept.

So, for all its various faults and complete indifference to its origin, RE5 is actually quite an enjoyable game. Due to its similarity to RE4, though, you might feel a strong sense of deja vu playing it, and if you ask me RE4 is probably better anyway, since it seemed to be rather deliberately humorous in parts, whereas RE5 falls into the trap of trying to take a crazy b-movie plot about zombies seriously. You could feel good about playing RE4, and it was quite an intense experience. RE5 feels rather shallow by comparison, but is nonetheless rather good.

By the way, the racism is all in your head. I’m pretty certain Capcom didn’t deliberately make a game where black people are demonic and get killed by white people. It’s as daft as saying that people play GTA then go out and kill cars. Videogame media furore = worse than a baghead’s chainsaw to the face.

Game over, dude.

Maybe.

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Since the occasion of the British Academy Film Awards is a rather major event in the movie world’s social calender, I had the funny idea of maybe doing a bit of a piece on it, so here it is, for your enjoyment; The 2009 BAFTAs, according to Filmsapoi.

Bafta award

I always have a vague worry when it comes to awards ceremonies that, apart from being potentially completely pointless in the grand scheme of things, unless you’ve got a space on your mantlepiece that needs filling, that sooner or later there will come along a film that will become so massive that it threatens to undermine the nature of the ceremony by just winning everything. I’m not saying such a film would not deserve its awards, just that films that are actually more worthy run the chance of getting overlooked by the hype machine. Not to mention I don’t trust the shadowy panel of people who decide who gets what one iota (although after they voted Mickey from Doctor Who to win the rising star award, I’m not sure I trust the general public either).

This year, two films ran the gauntlet for scooping up every award they could get their hands on. First was Slumdog Millionaire, Danny Boyle’s epic underdog film which is by all accounts very good, although I still haven’t seen it. I bear this film no ill grace and I’ll happily concede that the 7 awards it won were pretty deserved.  Plus, Danny Boyle himself looks too cool to just not win.

 

As life gets longer, awful feels softer

As life gets longer, awful feels softer

So that’s that. The other big film of the moment, interestingly, is The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which if you ask me actually looks rather dull. Again, I haven’t seen it yet, so I can’t judge until I do (on thursday, hopefully), but apart from the fantastic feat of making Brad Pitt look unattractive (hoho – actually, come to think of it he did that pretty well himself with that comedy false moustache.. he just doesn’t get British humour).. the film doesn’t seem that brilliant. 

Another film that seemed to pop up a lot was The Reader, another one I’ve never heard of but which apparently quite, well, big. Every scene that was played at the show seemed to involve the same couple either falling out or having sex, which certainly explain its success since apparently people seem to like that kind of thing – it’s the philosophy British soaps have been drawing on for the last 40 years, anyway, and of course they’re not tired and dull yet. …

heathledgerjoker

Some people call me the space cowboy..

That’s right folks, it’s Joker time. Heath Ledger strolling up to collect his Supporting Actor award for his scintillating performance was quite something to see, wasn’t it? Well in an ideal world it would have been, but instead in his absence we’re left in the wake of controversy about whether his death is elevating him to honours he wasn’t quite at, and what the hell, since when did superhero films start winning awards anyway? 

Personally I’d say Ledger thoroughly deserved the award, because his performance is mesmerising if not comforting, and about the best competition he faced was Robery Downey Jr.  in some crappy Ben Stiller ‘make ’em laugh, make ’em cry’ outing (rather than, say, IRON MAN.. but perhaps that’s a bit too much superhero for the average audience idiot to be comfortable with. Why so serious?).

Philippe Petit

Perhaps we should all try to be a bit more crazy, like this mad frenchman. I confess I was literally cheering when Man on Wire won Best British Film, because it really is that good. Likewise, I was sad when it didn’t win the ‘first film special achievement’ award, and somewhat perplexed, but since I’ve not seen the film that did, Hunger, I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt, especially since Steve Mcqueen (no, not that one (and not the rat either)), the man responsible for it, gave such a swift and neat acceptance speech.

Whilst we’re on the subject, Mickey Rourke’s acceptance speech for his best actor award – wonderful, wasn’t it? Bought a tear to the eye. Good for him getting his career back on track and all, but I think someone should inform him he can stop playing the role of the Wrestler now. Thank you for introducing a bit of profanity to the situation though, since Jonathon Ross is clearly too much of a good boy nowadays. 

He also had a bow tie that changes colour, if you believe my girlfriend.

 

All of your bases are belong to us

All of your bases are belong to us

There were some interesting events surrounding the ‘special achievement’ award at the end of the show. Not least that the montage we were shown repeated itself, without any clear explanation as to why this was so. My possible explanations are a) that it was a clever attempt at surreal Pythonesque humour that was a bit too subtle for me, and b) someone fucked up. The second seems more likely, but then that poses the question, why didn’t anyone comment on it? Or did the people at the show see the right thing first time? If they did, what were they doing for the minute or so whilst we were repeating ourselves? Did I imagine the whole thing? Is this even worth considering?

And then those trigger happy maniacs in the editing department made a very obvious cut when Terry Gilliam was reading his super-long list of people to thank, which ruined the joke. Did he intend to read them all? Did he do it? WAS it a joke? I don’t know. Some people just don’t get comedy (in leiu of the previous paragraph I may be one of them)..

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Waltz with Bashir gets a full-on picture from us to make up for how it got shoehorned into the ‘Best Film not in the English Language’ (because ‘foreign’ is too risque) and so didn’t get a chance to compete for cinematography, adapted screenplay, production design or any of the other things it did really well, all of which just highlights that the awards industry really cares more about itself than it does about the quality of the actual films it presents – rather, how sellable they are. We can champion them for lavishing Slumdog Millionaire but I’d say it was done in a rather patronising manner – my girlfriend, who I was watching the show with, commented on how everyone’s expressions whenever the film won an award were akin to ‘aww, didn’t they do well? Bless..’

So if you’ve read this far, feel free to discount everything I already said, because the truth is these awards don’t matter at all. That being said, we’re still going to cover the Oscars, if only to tell them where they’ve gone wrong.

A few closing thoughts:

  • It was nice to see In Bruges win something – I didn’t really consider it awards-material, thought it might be a bit lightweight, but Best Original Screenplay is a nice catch. Well done to them.
  • The whole ‘honouring the departed’ montage after Heath Ledger’s award win was rather suspiciously timed, almost as if they knew who it was going to..
  • When I saw that Garth Jennings was responsible for Son of Rambow I instantly wanted it to not win, because Jennings is at least partly responsible for the awful, awful film adaption of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. But I’m not bitter (he didn’t win anyway).
  • I have trouble with the concept of a Bafta for sound; sound’s sound, how can it be award winning? (Note I’m talking about SFX alone, not music, as that’s how the awards classified them)
  • Finally.. there were a lot of shots on Danny Boyle during the show. Did he make a film recently?

Should you wish to gorge your eyes on the full list of awards, nominees and winners, go here, and enjoy.

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Although this was mainly a film blog we felt it just to include a TV section, just to help express the ‘minor interruptions’ section of our site. This program is an example of the main reason we were happy to include TV, this being a) I want to express myself and b) that expression is that everybody should watch this program!!

This is a comedy program made and starring Australian comedian Chris Lilley. It was much larger in Australia although has had a BBC three showing over here. The show, based at a school, is classed as a mockumentary, giving it that real life feel, although it quite clearly isn’t. Chris Lilley plays the three, very unique, main characters. These are Mr G, Ja’mie and Jonah. The cameras follow their school lives throughout a term at their school, Summer Height High.

Mr. G is the stereotypical very camp and demanding drama teacher. To give a clear indicator of his personality as soon as he is made temporary ‘head of drama’ he ups his title to ‘head of performing arts’ quickly giving himself more power over other people. His job is to direct the school play. His very strong personality has him going out of the way to get what he wants. He may sound an annoying person but he is still very much loved through out the school. The students generally appear to like him and the staff tolerate him simply because he is a fantastic drama teacher. He fully takes over the play, writes it and promotes it with the tag line “arena spectacular” to be performed in the school gym. His musicals are very much bad and his style is even worse but you can only laugh at his exploits when he is acting like a child in front of the head teacher trying to get everything his own way.

Ja’mie is a Year 11 private school girl who is on an exchange to Summer Heights High to see what public schools are like. She is forever talking down to the rest of the school, considering herself much richer, better and hotter than everybody else. She soon makes friends with the ‘popular crowd’ and after lots of bitching and falling out ends up organising the Year 11 formal. Although she does consider her friends at Summer Heights High as best friends the second she gets back with her public school friends they immediately become scum of the earth. This character is not only hysterical with how she treats everybody else around her but also the sense she has about herself, how amazing she truly believes she is. She is also in many situations I certainly can remember girls getting into at school. Lots of bitching, deciding to hold protests, thinking they have the best ideas that can change the world and nothing can come of it, and Ja’mie is acted by a bloke! brilliant!

Finally we have Jonah. He’s the year 8 arsehole we all used to know, Summer Heights High is another school to try and tame him after the others had all excluded him. He has many attention problems, swears most of the time and just winds people up. He believes education is boring so he entertains himself and, he reckons, others. There are 3 main teachers involved with Jonah. Ms. Wheatley is his English teacher who actual hates him. Jonah really knows how to wind her up and does so, she just ends up completely losing it with him which, quite clearly, does not help the situation at all. Mr Peterson is the school welfare officer who is pretty much responsible for Jonah. He is the only real authority Jonah does respond to, not always positively, but he knows he can’t always just shout back abuse. Finally these is Ms. Palmer, she is his remedial English teacher who helps him with his struggling English in the ‘special building’ called Gumnut Cottage. Ms. Palmer is the only teacher he can really get on with. She understands him and he respects her for that. Aside from his teacher relations he is very big into break dancing, considering himself the best in the school and often gets into fights and problems with other students all revolving around that.

A lot happens in Summer Heights High, following the three characters does make it feel a little choppy. They never interact with each other in any way, you are always following just one at a time, however that is the harshest word I could put towards this fantastic show. Their adventures are hysterical, their language and approach is just unbelievable, everything they do just makes you laugh because it’s so wrong but yet feels so real. I could easily imagine everything that happens in this show to happen in real life yet it feels so crazy! Chris Lilley deserves absolute full credit for this wonderful piece of work, his acting and portrayal is fantastic. Even surrounded by 4 other actual year 11 girls he fits in so well! You forget he isn’t actual a year 8 troubled teen and  really believe he actually could make a fantastic play out of nothing. This guy is genius, this show is just as genius and absolutely hysterical.

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