Monday, June 30, 2014

Movie Review: 22 Jump Street

21 Jump Street was one of those movies that turned out to be a pleasant surprise; a fun, breezy and self-aware buddy comedy that could easily have been terrible, but was largely saved by a neat script and engaging central performances. Like all such films, especially ones that go on to make a pile of cash, a sequel had to be made, bringing with it all the potential problems that come with sequels to comedy movies. For a start, the buddy movie has a pretty set formula that is well tested. It won't surprise you, but it works, and I don't really think anyone has properly nailed the follow on to that yet. Next, there is always an urge to repeat the jokes that worked the first time around, despite the fact that by definition the audience have seen them before. 21 Jump Street wasn't doing anything terribly new, but was doing it well, so turning out for 22 Jump Street seems like a safe bet.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

TV Review: Fargo

We seem to live in a Golden Age of Television, so goes the endless refrain from critics. From the late 90s onwards we've seen a steady stream of excellent TV, especially from the United States, that ooze quality in the acting, direction and writing, so much so that we almost take it for granted now. Whats marked a lot of these shows out - poster children like Breaking Bad, or The Sopranos, or Mad Men, is also its sense of darkness, or corruption and moral peril. Modern TV, especially at the "quality" end, is a series of stories of the deep recesses of the human spirit, where victory is fleeting at best and your chance of the good guys winning are slim because you're even sure who the good guys are. It's a bit like mid-80s Doctor Who, only not utterly shit.

Monday, June 23, 2014

DVD(s) of the Week: Lincoln and Inside Llwelyn Davis

Unusually, this week, we got a double-header in on movie Saturday, something we've not done for a while, as we usually wait for our youngest to head to bed. This week, a combination of the heat and a very energetic party left him spark out early, so we took the opportunity to have a bit of a catch-up. And an odd double-bill it turned out to be - Steven Speilberg's historical drama Lincoln followed by the Coen Brothers tale of the early 1960s folk scene, Inside Llwelyn Davis. I'd love to be able to draw a neat, unexpected parallel between the two films, but really I can't, so regardless, lets just plough on with the reviews.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Games Review (sort of): Warhammer 40,000: 7th Edition

Gosh, it must be "games week" here on the Rambling blog, but its probably a fair enough representation of out time at the moment. But for a games-mad household, Warhammer 40k is a odd bird, a large-scale, long game with a lot of plastic miniatures bought at high prices. But that said, its starting to eat up a fair bit of my free time at the moment, and I even got a chance this weekend to head down to their HQ in Nottingham where you can book out tables to play on. Which was pretty cool. So, what's it all about, and what the attraction?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Games Review: Gloom

I think its fair to say that the Web Series "Tabletop" has cost me a lot of money. Its a pretty fun series hosted by Wil Wheaton (yes, that Wil Wheaton) and three guests, where they play boardgames for your entertainment. It's really slickly put together with cut-outs for rules explanations, and on-screen graphics, and edited to be pacey and funny. It's good stuff, but for a family full of gamers its...expensive. Especially for smaller, shorter, more portable games that look like they'll run well for newbies as well as more veteran gamers. One such game was Gloom, a card game based around making your characters as miserable as possible, and then killing them horribly.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Rambling: Roleplaying in the Digital Age

Image from "Full Metal Panic"
Over the last couple of years I've been playing - on and off - in a couple of different "old school" RPGs ran over the internet, using alternatively Skype or Google Hangouts. And as one wound to a hiatus late last year, I put my hand up to try running one myself, because I like running games, and had a game background from many years back I wanted to go back to and thought would suit. After nearly a year of sessions (fortnightly in theory, less so in practice) I had to pull the plug on this week for a number of reasons, most of which were just running out of time to write the damn thing week-to-week. But it was a very different experience from normal tabletop roleplaying, so I thought it would be worth sharing some thoughts on it.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

DVD(s) of the Week: Catch Up!

We've actually watched a few more movies in the last few weeks than I've had time to write up. Well actually, we've seem more than I think deserve to written up, a short run of movies that fail to either be good or interesting enough to say much about, but aren't bad enough to earn any sort of savaging. They've all "passed", I guess, making a reasonable evenings viewing without too many outbursts of pain or squeeks of delight, and ended with a sense of "yep, that was a film that I watched". I guess there is nothing so hard for a critic to write about than straightforward mediocrity. But, for better or worse, here are some thoughts on the last few weeks of "fine" movies.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

DVD of the Week: American Hustle

There seemed to be a moment, around the turn of the year, when a lot of film reviewers in the "better sort" of news site got really worried that American Hustle would win a lot of Oscars that it didn't deserve. At the time I'd not seen either this film, or any of it's competitors, but what was interesting was not that it suddenly came under fire - something pretty normal in Oscar races - but that the reason it was targetted seemed to be pure snobbery. So not having seen the film I was aware of a lot of opinions that it was shallow, and glitzy, and hollow and frivolous, and "merely" entertaining. Which is an interesting criticism, when you think about it. How dare a film be "merely entertaining"? So obviously, I wanted to see it, and now we have.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Movie Review: Godzilla

Gosh it's been a while since I posted here. Which is mostly due to work, then exams, then holidays, a pretty solid barrage of "real life" intruding on my "geek life". On the plus side, some of this has involved doing things, and seeing things I can then go on to write about, as and when I manage to find the time to do so. And here we are. Part of the joy of being on holiday is cinema trips, and part of the joy of having a son who is now 12 and heading into full-on geekdom himself, is that we get to go see some of the really big, fun movies that dominate the summer. So last week, given a choice between X-Men: Days of Future Past and Godzilla, we went for the latter.