Saturday, 28 May 2016

Guyver: Dark Hero

Guyver: Dark Hero, or The Guyver 2 depending on which part of our fair world you hail from is, in many ways, a bad film. The acting, even from my beloved David Hayter, is pretty sub-par and the script isn't exactly Oscar material. Yet, even putting my childhood nostalgia aside, the film is incredibly entertaining.

It's a western friendly take on a famous Japanese Manga and mixes an excellent soundtrack, great costume design, a healthy dose of blood and violence and genuinely thrilling action scenes to create a film that, despite it's flaws, stands the test of time as an action film/superhero movie and leaves a burning desire for a third instalment.

The film details Sean Barker's struggles with having been chosen by the Guyver unit and chronicles his attempts at unravelling the Guyver mystery whilst also combating the evil Cronos Corporation and the Zoanoids. The troubled anti hero versus the monsterous freaks.

One thing that helps the film is it's costumes, the Zoanoids aren't done with CGI - which would look outdated now - so they look pretty acceptable even by modern standards and because most of the fights are hand to hand there are no naff looking explosions or cheap firefights. The design of the Guyver armour itself is ludicrously badass, even down to the sounds it makes and watching it in action is a real treat, the fights are choreographed and shot with infinitely more skill and far less 'campiness' than those of the first movie.

That armour though.
Also Les Claypool's soundtrack is stellar, it's catchy and heroic at all the right moments and is the sort of thing you might have in your head your whole life. It doesn't consist of much but it works perfectly and is used at all the right moments to create tension and/or a sense of heroism.

The highlight of the movie for me though is undoubtedly the showdown between Sean and Crane, who uses a defective Guyver unit found in their caves to create the first ever Guyver Zoanoid.

Sure the acting is hideous, some of the faces David Hayter makes are endlessly amusing but the film has enough merits to be forgiven. Its unashamedly low budget but director Steve Wang and his team make excellent use of that budget to create a solid action film with a compelling story, cool characters and great fights.

With reference to my aforementioned childhood nostalgia I once designed and made a helmet and elbow pads, complete with blades, out of toilet rolls and cardboard so I could be the Guyver. I was an awesome six year old.

And now please, if you'll be so kind as to indulge me, observe the below showdown between Barker and Crane. Bask in its glory.

Friday, 27 May 2016

Total War? More Like Totally Awesome!

When I was about 10 years old my Dad had a Sony Vaio laptop and someone, no idea who, got me Rome: Total War to play on it. It began a love affair that has lasted over a decade. I played that game solidly for about two years, conquering and reconquering the world countless times.

Then I saw that there was such a thing as Medieval 2: Total War and, as a Christmas present, my granddad bought me it. I played it on and off quite regularly until I was about twenty. On one campaign I went into about 3000 AD, I was the Scots and controlled Britain, the Aztecs had America and the Timurids had control of the rest of the world, what followed was a centuries long war of attrition. 

Since then I got into Empire, got fed up with the use of guns and moved on to Shogun 2. Whilst I've enjoyed the game there have been times where it's frustrated me, where perhaps the campaign map has been too overcomplicated. Also I seem incapable of having a successful campaign, my clan almost always falls into a riddled mess of rebellion, poverty and famine. With all the frustration it's caused me I've given Empire a go again, this time playing as the Russians and I am loving it. For me it's the perfect balance between the relative simplicity of Rome: Total War and Medieval 2 and the complexity of Shogun 2 and, I assume (haven't played it yet) Rome 2. 

Watching row after row of Russian musketeers fire volleys into the ranks of the Swiss and Georgian forces currently raiding my land is incredible and the ability to create trenches and set up barricades to stop cavalry adds some nice tactical options to the deployment phase. Watching cannon crews load and fire artillery, occupying town buildings to use as defensive points - there is a level of depth to this game that is truly amazing. Also it's use of guns and naval battles makes it largely unique in the series. I know Shogun 2 maintained these elements but they were not centre stage in the way they are in Empire. 

These games just keep me endlessly entertained and I wish I had a PC to run Total War: Warhammer.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Robocop 2 is a Great Film

Generally, Robocop is considered to be a great film whilst Robocop 2 is written off as a dumb, popcorn blockbuster sequel. It is criticised for losing the human element of Murphy that the first film worked so hard to develop and for being over the top, big and dumb.
I would ask you to reconsider. Within the opening scenes you see Robocop express tenderness towards a baby and, upon being shot in the face by Hob, draw comparisons between this boy and his own son. You then see him struggling with the fact that his wife is still out there. Clearly the human aspect of Murphy is not being neglected and is a key focus. You then see this crushed by OCP as Murphy is forced to say he is a machine and to deny, to his wife’s face, that he is her husband. You can see and hear the utter distress and defeat. He spent the first film releasing and embracing the human within him only to have it crushed.

The plot then progresses with Murphy going about his job and not focusing on his humanity. That is until he is torn apart by Cain and the notion of him suffering is explored. OCP then reprogramme him, treating him like a machine set to follow commands. You can see him slowly being driven to insanity as his mind fights against the machine and, as soon as he learns how to free himself of his directives, of his inhumanity, he does it.
The police, with Robocop, then take on Cain and the movie focuses on action, with Cain becoming Robocop 2 and Murphy taking him out. When Lewis expresses disappointment at the fact OCP will get away with everything Murphy states ‘We’re only human’. Bringing the film to a close by Murphy disregarding OCP and fully embracing his own humanity and his sense of self.
So that's the humanity criticism dealt with now it's time for the ‘big, dumb sequel criticism’.

OCP experiment, creating a couple of new Robocops only for them to end in disaster (read: death). They then explain the uniqueness of the Murphy case, the fact the he possessed deeper qualities that their candidates did not, that he was essentially unique and special. He was more than just a cop. Likewise the first Robocop movie was more than just a Sci-Fi movie, it was elevated to greatness by its hidden qualities, it's critique of American capitalism, the exploration of the concept of the American Jesus and the relationship between the organic and the synthetic elements of life. It was special and cannot be recreated.
So OCP cheat, they get a big dumb robot and slap an evil but addicted mind into it in the hopes they can recreate and potentially surpass their original work. Much like the way Hollywood insists on countless sequels and remakes, often bringing in old ideas but with new teams and methods in the hopes of recreating something special. See? Take the movie as a metaphor for itself, a sequel, then all of a sudden it's not so dumb.
And this big, dumb sequel of theirs? Well the original tears it's brain out. Literally.
The simple fact is if you are prepared to look at the original Robocop movie in a deep sense then you have to apply this thought to its sequel. What you're left with is a film that pales in comparison to the original but that explores that very inevitability. They are both great films it's just that the first one was special in a way no sequel could ever be.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Gary Yourofsky

Since posting this video it has been brought to my attention that there are a number of people who disregard Gary Yourofsky's great work due to a number of his more extreme opinions.

This is a real shame.

Gary Yourofsky does has some opinions that I strongly disagree with. If you oppose his arguments after he has presented his evidence, or if you oppose veganism in general then he gets angry and he has been known to say that people who inflict rape and murder on animals, be it directly or indirectly, should suffer the same fate. He also feels that B12 should largely be ignored as we have some naturally. Both of these views are obviously wrong and both should be criticised.

This doesn't mean his amazing and insightful videos, fantastic essays and the great work he has published on YouTube and on should be attacked or disregarded. His work on veganism is a great resource. He is articulate, passionate and, often, unassailable. As a resource he is invaluable and, along with other vegans and vegan works, has had a profound and positive impact on my life and on the lives of thousands of others.

Gary Yourofsky is a great man but he is also a flawed one. Promote his great work and views and his positivity and criticise his flawed views and negativity. No man is perfect and to disregard great, valuable and helpful work because of the creator's flaws is a great tragedy. Promote and benefit from good things and criticise and stop negative things. It's that simple.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Dark Souls 3 Review

Though on the surface Dark Souls 3 may look like a dull retread of old ideas it is actually the strongest entry in the Souls series so far (including Bloodborne). The combat mechanics, online play, summoning system and graphics have all been tweaked to perfection, with elements being lifted and developed upon from all of the previous Souls games and the world of Lothric is by far the most cohesive From Software have ever created. After the misstep that was Dark Souls 2 it’s great to the series regain its footing. That’s not to say things are perfect, some of the boss fights are far too easy and are just a let-down and the Souls formula feels pretty tired by the end of the game.
You awaken as an Ashen One, an undead whose job is to hunt down The Lords of Cinder, defeat them and return them to their thrones so they may keep the flame kindled and prevent the world from plunging into an all-consuming apocalypse. The story is classic Dark Souls, bare boned and cryptic, leaving the player to explore the world and piece things together if they wish to discover the full extent of the story. There are many characters, both friend and foe, with interesting stories and all are portrayed with the Souls series’ uniquely offsetting vocal style. It is possible to recruit some of these characters to aid your journey, offering items, services and tidbits of advice and story.

The core hack and slash gameplay returns but with a few twists. The most prominent one is the increased sense of speed, no doubt inspired by Bloodborne. Fear not, the game still feels like Dark Souls but there is a larger emphasis on speed with a greater reliance on dodging with back stepping and rolling. It takes a little while to get used to but once you’ve adjusted you’re left with a wealth of defensive options and, if mastered, the new style can be used to dance around your foes. It’s From Software’s own twisted ballet.
There is also a strong emphasis on dual wielding which goes hand in hand with the increased speed of the game. I tend to play Souls games as a heavily armoured knight, parrying attacks and soaking up damage like a sponge before using the largest weapon I can find to carve or bludgeon my enemy. Now I’m more inclined to experiment with lighter armour and different weapon sets. With the addition of Estus flasks for your magic bar and a renewed focus on magic I may even be tempted to create a magic wielding character for a future play through. There are also Weapon Arts, which grant special attacks and abilities at the cost of your magic – these are great fun to experiment with and further deepen Dark Souls’ already rich combat system.
The best thing about this game is its world. Lothric is vast and varied but feels cohesive, like a world, living but on the brink of annihilation. From Catacombs, to castles, to swamps and snow bound towns. You’ll experience a lot of different environments but not in the jarring, separate world feeling style of Dark Souls 2, this is very much a return to the world building of the first Dark Souls and that’s a very good thing. This is then built on with stunning art direction, astounding graphics and an epic soundtrack.

The thing is, there are at least four bosses, each of which is mandatory, that are simply terrible. Sadly one of these four is the final boss. When you go into a Dark Souls game you expect the bosses to be both challenging and inventive. Unfortunately these four bosses are totally bland and I beat them all on my first attempt. I’d like to point out at this point that I have never beaten a Souls game prior to this one, largely because I am not good enough. It’s not just disappointing in terms of what I expect from a Souls game it also disturbs the flow of the gameplay. I find myself being unstoppable against a boss but struggling against simple foes. Also it makes for a wholly unsatisfying ending. It doesn't feel like you've finished a great journey or overcome some great hardship. It just sort of ends with you stood, sword in hand, wondering ‘was that the final boss?’

At the end of the day this is the best Souls game. Demon’s Souls was too unrefined, Dark Souls was too challenging, Dark Souls 2 had terrible world design and Bloodborne felt too familiar despite its speed. This game side steps all of those issues but creates its own. It also shows how tired the formula is becoming. There were too many moments when I felt a sense of deja vu. The Souls series was refreshingly different but now it is dangerously close to self parody. If you like the Souls games or want to experience them for the first time then I would highly recommend this but, without a serious revamping of the formula, I would not be interested in further Souls games. This is the flawed high point of a flawed but great series and is as fitting an end as we are likely to get. Pray From Software agree.

Friday, 13 May 2016

B12 Deficiency is not a Vegan Problem

One of the things animal consumers cling onto when you tell them you are vegan and they attack you for it is vitamin B12. They would have you believe that B12 deficiency is a huge vegan issue, virtually unavoidable. B12 deficiency can cause depression, irritability, tongue inflammation and heart issues, among other things. Suffice it to say it’s generally unpleasant.
And according to vegan detractors you will suffer from it if you are a vegan. It is a vegan problem.
Thing is, it isn’t a vegan problem. Case in point: the United States of America.
40% of Americans have a B12 deficiency. 1% of Americans are vegan. Either vegan detractors are pretty bad at maths or they are making ill-informed arguments. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m fairly bad at maths too – numbers can be confusing – but I know that 1% of Americans (vegans) aren’t 39% of Americans. Ergo B12 deficiency is not a vegan problem, it is a human one.
So what can vegans do to replenish their B12 levels? Well if you’re particularly worried about it, or too lazy to eat/just don’t like to eat the foods that are fortified with B12 then go ahead and take a supplement. If you’re having difficulty absorbing B12 then get a shot. Me? I eat cereals, drink rice milk, eat marmite, nutritional yeast etc. Plenty of vegan foods are fortified with B12 so there is no reason to miss out on your recommend 2.4 micrograms per day.
Vegan detractors may like to say that animals products are necessary but this is simply false. The above foods and supplements can give you what you need, without animals even being thought about, let alone killed and eaten. B12 comes from bacteria, so animals have it naturally from getting bacteria from the ground, you know, dirt and stuff. B12 doesn’t naturally occur in them beyond their natural stock (just like we have a natural stock) so they get it from other sources, just like we can, should and must.

Sorry guys the B12 argument just won’t stick

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Trivium - Down From The Sky (Cover)

This is from about five years ago, it's me playing along to Down From The Sky from Trivium's excellent album: Shogun.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

A Seven Year Old Guitar Solo

Hi all, sorry I've been a bit quiet this week, normal service shall now resume.

Pretty soon I'll be back on YouTube and instead of starting a new channel I've converted my old one so I can share some of my old music and, in this case, a guitar solo, from when I was about 16.  

Look how young I am!

Monday, 9 May 2016

The Evolution of a Nickname

I don’t know about you but when I give someone a nickname I properly dedicate myself to it. A nickname should be an evolving thing, a constant and relentless quest for perfection. As man evolved so to must their nicknames. Below are a few examples of nicknames I have for people I know, whether they know they have these names or not is irrelevant.

Original (Pet) Name: Babe
Nickname Evolution: Babs – Babsington – Lady McBabsington – Lord Babsington – Lord Nigel Henry Babsington III

Original Name: Vanessa
Nickname Evolution: Ness – Loch Ness – Loch – Lock and Key – Pad Lock – Pad – Paddy McGuiness

Original Name: Fran
Nickname Evolution: Frangelina – Frangelina Jolie – Frantom of the Opera

Original Name: Alan
Nickname Evolution: Al – Alley Walley – Alanis – Alanis Morissette

Do any of you have any nicknames you are particularly proud of?

Friday, 6 May 2016

Stop Killing Characters You Can't Afford to Leave Dead

This post contains spoilers for Batman Vs. Superman and Game of Thrones.
Kit Harrington is arguably the most recognisable star in Game of Thrones, think of the show and you think of Jon Snow.
Superman is one of the most iconic superheroes in comic book history and has only just appeared in his second film for the DC Cinematic Universe.
What do Jon Snow and Superman have in common I hear you ask?
Well they were both killed off in their respective franchises and because of how integral they are to the appeal of those franchises they will obviously not be dead (Jon Snow in fact isn’t). This means their deaths lacked any form of impact, emotional or otherwise, and were simply time fillers. They may as well have had a black screen with no sound instead of the scenes involving their deaths.
What is the point? The companies lack the balls to actually kill them and do something surprising so why bother? Kill them or don’t kill them, just don’t waste my time with this nonsense.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Is Batman Vs. Superman Better Than a Slap in the Face?

Batman Vs Superman takes two and half hours to introduce a new Batman and Alfred, set up Wonder Woman, introduce the wider superhero world via The Flash, Cyborg and Aquaman, introduce Lex Luthor and deal with the fallout of Man of Steel. It fails on all counts.

Superman touches the Batboob.
With a grand total of six superheroes the movie gives no development to any one of them. The cameos are fun for a comic book fan but if, like many of the people watching this film, you don't read comics then they are, at best, meaningless and, at worst, confusing.
Superman’s character arc from Man of Steel is abandoned, he is essentially a cardboard cut-out. Batman's origins are needlessly reiterated and no character development is given to him or Alfred. Alfred in fact exists solely as the movies’ comic relief. Lex Luthor has one throwaway line dedicated to trying to explain his motives but he really isn't explored as a character and so seems strange and a little bit stupid. And the fallout from Man of Steel? It’s one guy and some graffiti, a burning effigy and one news channel. That's about it.
Oh and Batman kills but only selectively. If you are a meaningless grunt he'll kill you without hesitation but if you're a legitimate threat to him and others he will take a huge gamble instead of killing you simply. He is not Batman.
Instead of using the two and half hours to develop characters and explain the cameos the movie is chock full of gratuitous dream sequences and unnecessary slow mo. There are visual references to famous comics like The Dark Knight Returns but these are never explored and all in all it feels like they did these visual things because they didn’t have enough plot.
And what a shocking plot it is! Poor (read: non-existent) character development aside the plot is needlessly convoluted for what is essentially a handful of fight scenes. There is a script filled with poor one liners and dizzying melodrama and this is thrown haphazardly into a blend of weird imagery and slow motion – Snyder’s usual visual flare seems to have been left at home and what we’re left with is a dull looking movie with a plot that is headache inducing.
Why is Wonder Woman so powerful? She far outmatches Superman and seems capable of dealing with Doomsday herself. And well done guys, you wasted one of Superman’s best villains in this mind numbing bog.
I wouldn't be happy either if I was involved in this mess.
Lots of people have said that despite its flaws Ben Affleck is great, the best Batman some have said. I’m not sure what movie they watched but thanks to the poor script, poor pacing, poor visuals and lack of character development Affleck seems bored. In fact I think that’s the worst thing about this film, it's full of talented people, actors, director, writer, composer etc. (Hans Zimmer is criminally wasted here) but it wastes all of them. Why anyone wanted to remain involved in this mess is beyond me!
This is a big misstep for DC and Warner Bros. Their flagship characters first outing together is a mess and I seriously doubt I’ll chance going to the cinema for the next few DC films, I’ll save my money and rent them thanks.

Do not be excited for this film. 
This is a sorry joke of a movie.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Captain America: Civil War Impressions

First things first, going into this film I was deeply concerned it would seem like an Avengers movie rather than a Captain America movie, this worry was dispelled pretty swiftly. Yes, there are plenty of Avengers in the film and yes, the Civil War aspect involves them heavily but the core of the story, and of the Civil War itself, is the relationship between Captain America and Bucky.
I was also concerned about how they would actually set up and depict the civil war given the vast differences between the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Marvel Universe established within the comics. Fortunately this is also handled extremely well with clear motivations set up for all parties that bear in mind the characters and the events of the MCU so far. It makes for interesting moments of ideological drama which are appreciated as they break up the often relentless action.
That’s one of the things about this film, where Captain America 2 was more of a spy type thriller this is more of an action film, with epic car chases, great close quarters fights and massive citywide fights between heroes and villains alike. These scenes are well choreographed and many of them manage to capitalise on the MCU’s famous humour. That’s not to say the film doesn’t get dark, in fact this is the darkest film in the Marvel series so far but it doesn’t get too bogged down by this fact, it keeps its fun, it just knows when to rein it in.
Another great thing are the cameos, Tom Holland’s Spiderman is absolutely superb and I can’t wait until his solo movie. Paul Rudd returns as Ant Man for some great fight scenes and along with Spiderman helps to inject humour into the otherwise angst ridden scenes involving the warring heroes. They aren’t brief throw away cameos either, both characters appear numerous times and really help contribute to the film.
All things told I thoroughly enjoyed the film and look forward to it coming out on DVD/Blu Ray so I can see how it holds up.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Goodbye Old Friend

I got into video games when I was five years old, the same year I moved down to the south coast. Since that year I've been a regular customer at a local shop called Total Entertainment. It specialises in selling games, retro and modern, and movies.
I remember buying Apocalypse, Command & Conquer and Rainbow Six for the PS1 there. I remember one day, after dragging me around PC World to look at boring office things, my Dad took me there to treat me to a game, I wanted Time Splitters 3 but the owner urged me to buy 2, which was cheaper, saying it was the best in the series. He was right.
When I was building my retro game collection I went in there every week to see what new N64 or SNES goodies he had and he never disappointed and we’d spend ages talking about our favourite systems and games. One day he even had a bag of Mega Drive games, he wouldn’t let me look inside but said they were mine for £15. When I got them home and opened the bag it was a who’s who of Mega Drive games where one game alone was worth £15.
Currently he is in the midst of a massive sale trying to get rid of as much stock as possible and make what money he can. He said most weeks they barely turn a profit and just can’t compete with online sellers and car boot sales.
It’s a real shame, I have a lot of fond memories with video games and I got of them from that shop.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Blade is Awesome...and Kind of Vegan?

Recently I watched Blade, Blade 2 and Blade Trinity for the eighteen thousand four hundred and fifty sixth time.* I absolutely adore Wesley Snipes – I was indoctrinated into the cult of Snipes at an early age thanks to Demolition Man (Phoooeeenniixxxxxxx!) – and love action movies that don’t take themselves too seriously. Of course the hero should worry about whether or not he has sunglasses on, of course he should spend ludicrous amounts of time posing and looking flashy instead of just killing the bad guys and of course he should take a moment to crack a witty, or not so witty, one liner.
Stephen Dorff as Deacon Frost and the whole setup of Blade being birthed by a mother bitten by a vampire in the first Blade film is awesome. Dorff delivers a great performance as the cocky Frost and Blade’s origin story is badass! Also he is kind of a vegan (maybe?) as he feeds using a serum rather off of people. What a positive role model.
Then there’s Blade 2, with the gob smackingly brilliant Ron Perlman, (Can you blush?) and a truly amazing fight sequence that sees Blade rising from a pool of blood, taking out about two dozen armed guards and slicing Perlman in half like he was a bell pepper.
Well smack my gob and call me Santa, its Ron Perlman!
And then Blade Trinity. Without doubt the worst film of the three but also unjustly hated. It’s a good film I think with great action, cool one liners, the trademark Blade sense of humour and basically everything you could want in a Blade movie. I know it has critics but lighten up guys! It’s a fun movie. You get to see Dracula go into a vampire merchandise shop and see Count Chocula cereal! Cinematic GENIUS.
Point is, the Blade films don’t take themselves too seriously and, largely because of that, they still hold up today. Please, God, have Marvel get Snipes back and make some more Blade films!
*Figure not guaranteed to be accurate.