Archive for February, 2018

Board games are quickly becoming the new videogames, that were once the new Board Games? Does that work? I think it does. Either way, with the popularity of board games on the rise again, it’s common for gaggles of people to congregate together again, in a small room / medium sized room, around a table and play some good old fashioned board based activities. Many find an escape playing these kinds of games. How do you wreck this escape?

1989’s Jason Donovan: Straight From The Heart board game. That’s how.

A game for 2-6 players. Straight From The Heart tasks you with working your way round a board answering questions about Jason Donovan, while collecting jigsaw pieces of his face. The aim is to complete one of the heart shaped puzzle and claim victory over everyone else.

That’s easy I hear you say. Not so, says I.

Each time someone correctly answers a question about Mr Donovan they have a choice to steal pieces from another player. That s right. You can screw over other players big time. It also doesn’t help that when you aquire pieces from the box you do so at random. This means you could technically be working in all the pictures. The group I played with preferred the stealing off another player method because it’s more annoying.

Each section on the board has a ifferent type of question but I can quite happily say that any answer that requires a song title will either be ‘ten good reasons’ or ‘too many broken hearts’. They were Jason’s biggest hits when the game came out so it stands to reason they would be the answers.

Each time we’ve played the game its been with 4 adult males, who I believe, are not the target audience. I say this because many of the questions regard the other players boyfriends. If you are playing with a group of males you may need to skip a couple of questions.

The other popular question choices involve Jason himself, his likes, dislikes and loves. Trivia such as ‘What’s Jason’s favourite food?’ And ‘what’s Jason’s favourite kind of food?’ The answer to the latter doesn’t 100% match that of the former but that’s ok. All this trivia will stay with you like a happy dream/scary nightmare. At least I can now say I know his favourite food. Although I imagine it may have changed in almost 30 years. It would be useful to find out.

A personal favourite question is ‘does Jason believe in nuclear disarmament?’ The answer is a non surprising yes but it’s the randomness of the question that is pure brilliance.

It just kind of springs from nowhere, considering the lightish tone of other questions. It’s a good thing to know I guess but it really isn’t the bit of trivia I would have read up on before playing.

The playtime is a little on the longer side considering one time we played it took around 2.5 hours to eget to completion. Another time it took around 5 hours. 5 hours is a lot of Jason and a lot of time answering very similar questions. As you can see from the picture below, enjoyment was being had by all.

With more diversity in the questions and a more complex winning strategy it could be a classic game. (Well maybe not). It was quite enjoyable in a tongue in cheek way. I’ll also say that I somehow own 2 copies of the game making we could technically play a 12 player game. But alas finding 11 other people to play is not easy. I also imagine it may increase the playtime by quite some length.

Now would be the perfect time for a sequel covering the years between 1989 and 2018. I think someone needs to tell Jason there is a market for more board games about his life. It could even cover questions like ‘which character did Jason play in Jeff Wayne’s new war of the world’s?’ Or ‘what are Jason’s views on the current political climate?’

I have to say that in my group, that the game is a running joke. I had lots of fun plating it, but some if not all of it was from the sheer hilarity of playing it with adult males.

Until I can convince more people to play I guess it’s going to sit gathering dust.

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Written by James Gunn (director of Guardians of the Galaxy 1& 2 and writer of films such as Tromeo and Juliet) Belko Experiment feels like a refreshing hark back to something like Lord of the flies.

A group of employees are locked in a building and are told to kill each if he, otherwise a bomb charge in the back of their skull with detonate. It’s a very simple pemise and one similar to any number of films such as Battle Royale or even Hunger Games. But the office environment gives it a new spin.

At the start no one wants to kill but as the film progresses we all know some are going to change their minds. Gunn gets creative in his writing and keeps throwing in new rules to keep the film fresh and entertaining. Everything leads to a truly great ending which keeps he momentum going until the very last image.

I loved how the film didn’t wait around. There’s always something new happening as we jump between the small groups of people. It would have been easy for the film to get boring and repetitive but it never does.

The cast are great and really work well together. It’s amazing how many pretty big names there are in the film, even if some feel like small cameos for James Gunn (Michael Rooker for example is in almost all of Gunn’s films). Many of these actors play roles very different from their usual styles.

Although directed by Greg McLean it really does feel like and early James Gunn film. It’s fast, witty and violent, all things that Gunn does really well. It’s a breath of of tense almost horror. It’s well worth checking out.

Romantic comedies are everywhere these days and many aren’t worth the time of day. Mike and Dave intrigued me by the cast and the fact I sometimes enjoy films like this.

Let’s get the obvious out the way. The film isn’t going to win any awards. It’s not particularly Original, the jokes have been done thousands of times before and the script is both obvious and by the numbers. All of this though is not a reason to rule the film out.

The titular characters are party goers and cause mayhem wherever they go. Their family has all but ruled them out. They are due to attend their sister’s wedding in Hawaii and they are told they need to bring ‘classy’ dates with them. One thing leads to another and they end up getting 2 girls to come with them (unsuspecting that the girls are just as chaotic as them). Of course this all leads to mayhem and silliness.

Zac Efron and Adam Devine are fantastic and play off each other incredibly well. They are likeable and fun to watch. Without them i dont think the film would’ve worked as well. Aubrey Plaza and Anna Kendrick are equally as good as their dates. They too feel like they’ve been friends for a long time and bounce off each other like skittles off a chalk board.

The jokes are sometimes/often crude but it’s that kind of film and it’s what I was expecting. They don’t always hit the high notes, but more hit then miss. Part of this is down to how well they are delivered by the cast. The supporting cast are strong but never overshadow the main group of 4.

Direction-wise it works. The pacing is great and the film flows at a good rate. It never outstays it’s welcome and just when a joke might begin to become stale we move on.

Sure it’s obvious and has been done in a similar way before, but you know What? I had a really fun time with the film. There really isn’t much more to say as it’s one of those films where you get what you expect. It’s worth checking out.

Nowadays horror films seem to be the gateway into film making. I’m guessing it’s because it can be a cheaper genre to make a film within, as playing on a person’s fears often doesn’t need that much help.

Lights Out, based on the directors earlier film short is a perfect example of how clever use of atmosphere, a clever script and some good acting can for a smallish budget, create a film that stands out amongst the overcrowded genre.

The basic premise is a family are being ‘haunted’ by a malevolent force and the only way to stay safe is to stay in the light. There’s much more to the story though and watching it unfold is another one of the films strong points.

Unlike many horror films, Lights Out shows you the ‘monster’ very early on and also introduces the main plot device of ‘stay in the light’ at the same time. By doing so it gives the film much more time to focus on the characters and the ‘why’. It’s a clever use of pacing and one that really pays off. It’s not the first film to use light as a safety measure, but it is one of the best.

At times I was very much reminded of the 2003 film Darkness Falls (previously reviewed) as that has a very similar idea of ‘stay in the light and your safe’. The big difference here is that Lights Out is a good film. Whereas that film relied on jump scares, this film builds a great atmosphere in which you never feel safe. Every shadow, every bit of shade becomes a danger.

There are some very clever moments that play on preconceptions. This is especially true of some of the characters as they all feel like natural people and not the over the top caricatures we often see in films like this. The film also heads in some interesting directions which I didn’t expect which I was really happy with.

It’s rare for a film to work on pretty much all levels but Lights Out achieves it. I’m not sure if it’s because I went in with no expectations or not (although I don’t think it is) but this may be one of the most enjoyable and good horror films in recent years.

Highly recommended

There’s really no way of truly capturing what Valhalla Rising is in words as it’s something in itself. It feels unlike anything else, yet still feels slightly familiar.

The story concerns the journey of One Eye a mute prisoner held captive by a Norse chieftain who uses him as a fighter. All we know about One Eye is that he is a brutal killer who brings fear to those who have heard about him. At one point when we meet some crusaders one mentions that One Eye was born of hell and would take all those around him back there.

The story is split into acts like a play with each having their own feel and their own theme. They all slowly build to a brilliantly beautiful finale. The film never rushes itself and unfurled expertly. It’s reminiscent of foreign sci fi film Stalker in the way the world plays as much of a role as the characters.

We begin with some brutal fight sequences which are juxtaposed with slow scenic shots ofthe harsh mountains. It works perfectly and really sets tge tone. There is a segment around the halfway Mark that does drag a little but other then that the pacing is pretty much spot on. We see a nie evolution of One Eyes character as his journey progresses, yet we find out little about him.

The acting is phenomenal with Mads Mikkelson giving a ferocious and powerful performance that is so deep even though he doesn’t say a word. The supporting cast hold their own as well, with Maarten Stevenson giving a great performance as the young boy who travels with One Eye.

I will admit it took me a few viewings before I truly appreciated the complexity of one eye’s journey across the world but when I sat down and watched it with a fresh mind I was blown away. Those expecting a Norse action film as quite a lot if the promotional material gave the impression of will be sorely disappointed. If you want a movie that holds your hand and gives you all the answers, again tho film isn’t for you.

If however you want a film that takes you on a journey through darkness and light I’d highly recommend giving the film a go. It won’t be for everyone but I do believe it’s a film that needs to be experienced.

12 years went by since The Ring 2 and some studio exec decided what we need is another film in the series. Did we really need another film? The original Ringu series did have 3 films (4 if you include the original 2nd film that was renamed Spiral) and a couple of spin offs but all of those kind of worked and built on the haunted videotape mythos. This film both attempts to continue the story of the American series while also giving a reboot feeling.

If the opening of a film is meant to grab the viewers attention and semi dictate the quality you are to expect, Rings fails laughably. We have what can only be described as a terrible combination of final destination and a horror spoof. It’s actually an interesting idea setting the beginning on a plane, it’s just that it’s so badly handled it’s silly.

On the plus with such a terrible opening it can only get better, which it does do but not by much. We have a series of dull moments meant to shock but most fall flat. There are some interesting ideas going on but they don’t quite work. The ending was actually pretty good though. It’s pretty stupid but it’s done interestingly and I guess sets up another film if they decided to do one.

They do change a fair chunk of the ring myths and introduce new things such as another video. It all feels unnecessary, but I guess they had to try something new. Even the old video seems different from the one in the other films. This helps gives the feeling that this film is a reboot, yet it still expects you to know some of the backstory.

One of the things that raises the quality of the film is the inclusion of actor Johnny Galecki who many would know from Big Bang Theory. It’s nice seeing him in something completely different, as the last horror film I remember seeing him in was I Know What You Did Last Summer. He’s great in the film and makes it watchable, it’s just a shame he doesn’t have a better script to work from.

The special effects are passable with even the classic image of Samara climbing out of a television coming across as cheap. The scares are near non existent and there is very little tension and atmosphere. I think the only teen moment I remember is towards the start where Johnny Galecki is sitting in his apartment, illuminated by sree lights as it pours down with rain outside. A pivotal scene later on that is meant to be full of tense drama just feels very meh.

For a sequel that never needed making, I applaud them for trying to introduce some interesting new ideas. It’s just a shame that most fall flat. I wouldn’t call it a terrible film, it’s just not very good. You’re better off sticking with the original Ringu series or just pretending like this one never happened.

Blind army veteran VS 3 burglars = one hell of a tense film.

The home invasion film has been done to death over the years, from kids films like Home Alone, to more adult films like Strangers and Panic Room. It’s a genre which for the most part works due to the semi relateability of the fear of intruders in your home. The problem is there is only so many times you can see the same thing happen time and time again with just a new family to differentiate the films. 2011’s film You’re Next tried to turn things around with its fun twists and clever pacing and for the most part worked.

2016’s Don’t Breathe aims to get again create something fresh in a seemingly stale genre and it’s nice to say it really works.

The basic premise is 3 burglars break into a house of a blind military veteran but are quickly outwitted when he wakes up and isn’t happy having intruders.

The film is tense from the outset and only magnify as it progresses. Stephen Lang gives a phenomenally creepy performance as the blind man (who seemingly has no name). His whole house becomes an extension of him. Every creaking floorboard, every little noise it’s all part of him and it allows I’m to ignore his blindness and know exactly where the burglars are.

It’s interesting to look at the blind man as he is neither villian or hero. Ultimately his house has been broken into and he is depending himself, but as an audience we are pushed towards rooting for Rocky the sole female of the trio of burglars. For me I was rooting entirely for he blind man and saw him as the anti hero of the piece. It of course unfurls that the blind man might not be as nice and clean as he seems, but that didn’t stop me avidly watching to see if he could kill the three burglars.

I’m not sure if it was intended this way or if it just happens that Lang gives a stronger and more powerful performance then the others but I found it worked. If it wasn’t meant to be this way round then the film kind of fails as the burglars as all unlikable thrives who deserve everything they get.

The direction is great and the law if the film flows beautifully as it builds to the final confrontation (which is both turns good and bad) the film doesn’t freely on jump scares as it prefers to use a slow build up of tension. It’s a remarkably well crafted horror thriller.

If I have any negatives to say about the film they would have to be surrounding the unlikable burglars who I just want to die and the lackluster ending. They aren’t deal breakers as the rest of the film is so strong, but they do detract a little from the film as a whole.

I really enjoyed the film and feel it is a refreshing breath of fresh air in the horror genre. I give it a strong reccomendation.

What happens when you mix the director of ‘Clueless’ with 2 of the stars of ‘American Pie’? The answer is a film that is not quite as good as either but is far better then a lot of the teen rom-coms that were released around the late 90’s / early 00’s.

It all revolves around Paul (played by Jason Biggs) and Dora (played by Mena Suvari). Paul has just moved to college and is the odd one out. He’s shy and awkward. Dora is more outgoing but is struggling financially, so is doing everything she has to to keep going. Their paths meet when Paul sits next to Dora in a lecture. She is the first person who is nice to him since moving o college. This moment sets off a series of events which ultimately lead to the usual deatination.

Although formulaic, the film does enough to make itself stand out. The acting on the whole is great even if Biggs is playing a similar character to his one in American Pie. Mena Suvari is on top form in a role that is surprisingly multilayered. The onscreen chemistry between the 2 leads is fantastic with some truly heart-tugging moments. It s hard not to feel that both were hired on the back of American Pie, but that doesnt detract from their performances here. The only characters whom I really didn’t get on with were the 3 roommates. They both felt unnecessary and 2d.

It’s a shame that the film has slipped into the jumble of similar films as it is one of the best. Most may only know about the film through the ideoto the Weezer song ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ which features footage from the film and I believe was written for the film. When it came out th film was pretty big and was well received but I’m guessing the fact it had no sequels meant it just vanished.

I really like this film and have since it was released. It stands in the upper tier of teen rom-coms only falling narrowly behind the very best of the pack. I urge anyone who likes this sort or film to check it out.

I had no preconceptions about this film as I had never heard of it before seeing the cover. From the cover it looked like a drama/comedy focusing on war reporters. What it actually was, I’m not really sure.

The first hour plays out as a very average by the numbers vague comedy following a reporter as she is thrown into reporting the war in Afghanistan. Its neither good nor bad. The humour doesnt really work and it kind of offsets the bits of drama that have been put in. It just doesn’t gel. There’s the tiny bit of romance seemingly put in for the sake of covering more genres, which only helps muddle the film more.

The final 30 minutes were the only time where the film clicked and even then it never evoked any reaction other then the feeling of mediocrity. During the final half hour the film does try to hit on some interesting points about war and journalism, but these are lost through some bad writing and unfocused direction.

The acting on the whole was pretty good with Martin Freeman stealing every scene he was in. The big problem is the overall feel of adequacy that eminates from the entire production. It almost feels like they were happy to make something merely passible to get it released.

Visually the film is ok. It handles the small combat scenes well and provides a nice contrast between city and desert. The same can be said for the audio, it’s serviceable. Nothing more, nothing less.

It’s kind of sad as the elements for a good film are here but are never combined in such a way as to create a fully realised product. I’m sure a lot of work went into the production but the sheer mediocrity of proceedings means I can’t and won’t recommend the film. It’s neither good nor bad, it’s merely meh.

With so many horror films being pumped out in recent years, it’s easy to see the genre as stale and unoriginal, but in amongst all of the remakes, sequels and zombie films there are some truly great gems. Get Out is one of them.

Going into the film I had no expectations and knew nothing about it apart from what the poster showed me (A screaming man in a chair), which really wasn’t much. What I Got was an intense horror thriller that constantly kept me on the edge of my seat.

Actor Daniel Kaluuya plays Chris, a young African-American who visits his white girlfriend’s parents on a secluded estate in the middle of the woods. What starts as a happy romantic trip quickly spirals into something much different.

In a way the film is reminiscent of the original Wicker-man film in the whole ‘outsider trying to figure out what’s happening’ sense. And it works. Throughout the film there is always something that feels ‘off’ with everyone, something not quite right. This feeling builds at a nice rate as the story evolves and begins explaing itself. Some moments are quute predictable when you see the ditection the film is heading but that doesnt detract from the quality. The acting is great from everyone and every character plays their part in the story. The writing really does help fully flesh out each character and make them feel unique.

Direction and writing are great with both allowing the film to flow at a brisk pace and taking the viewer through a refreshingly fresh tale. It’s rare that a film works from opening image through to credits but this film does and the ending is perfect.

It’s hard to not instantly see the messages about racism both in an historical sense, but also in the now. The film makes some powerful points which many could learn from as racism, as we all know is something that is always around no matter how much people pretend it isn’t. Right at the start of the film Chris asks his girlfriend ‘do your parents know I’m black?’ Her response is to shrug it off like it doesn’t matter. It’s scary that we live in a world where even today the colour of one’s skin effects how people treat you. Even scarier is that the people in charge of some of the most powerful countries in the world allow this and sometimes openly encourage it.

These messages run rife through the film and help give a good base to everyone’s mindsets. What is good is that this provides a level of gritty realism to proceedings. The horror is never forced and never relies on silly jump scares. It’s all about creating tension and intensity through the characters and the script.

I recommend this film whole-heartedly and feel it is one of those horror films that will stay long after it has finished.