Tuesday 30 June 2015

The Trials of Muhammad Ali

I love a good documentary - what can I say, I like to learn. But when choosing one to watch, ordinarily I’d look right past something like this. Anyone who knows me will tell you I don’t follow any sports, nor do I have any interest in them. But this one grabbed me. Why? Because despite the subject, this is not a sports film. Out now only on DVD, as a single release or in a boxset with I Am Ali and When We Were Kings, comes The Trials of Muhammad Ali.

Directed by Bill Siegel, The Trials of Muhammad Ali is a fascinating documentary covering the greatest fights Ali ever fought – the fight to be accepted as a Muslim (having changed his name from Cassius Clay), and the fight to not take part in the Vietnam War. Ali was a conscientious objector, an "individual who has claimed the right to refuse to perform military service" on the grounds of freedom of thought, conscience, and/or religion. He famously stated ‘I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong’, as they never discriminated against his race or religion or harmed him the same way the majority of the US did. And his religion didn’t allow him to fight. But Ali was subsequently put on trial for this objection, and faced being stripped of his titles and thrown in jail for 5 years. Preposterous, right? Well, that’s the 1960s. The era in which people like Martin Luther King were shot for their beliefs of racial equality, and comedian Lenny Bruce was banned from performing in the UK because he swore on stage. Times have changed a lot since then, and for the better. But things still aren’t ideal, are they? 

As a film, The Trials of Muhammad Ali is a very solid documentary. While it doesn’t tread any new ground or do anything remarkable with the genre, it presents an interesting piece of history in an extremely insightful and compelling way. As many of the people involved are sadly deceased, we don’t see a huge amount of fresh interviews. What we do see is a large array of archive footage and interviews, played out chronologically to tell the story – expect for the beginning of the film. We start off with a powerful juxtaposition – old footage of Ali being publicly slammed as a criminal and a degenerate who belongs in jail back in the 60s, followed by more recent footage of Ali in failing health being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush in 2005. It’s shocking, isn’t it? Someone we now consider a hero was hated ‘belonged in jail’ Sin his prime. Times change and apologies are given – you know, ‘forgive and forget’ and all that. But it’s preposterous that ‘crimes’ punishable by jail time in the 1960s are often acceptable today, or are just a simple choice. Today, it’s a case of ‘would you like to join the army?’. Back then, it was a case of ‘you’re joining the army’.

In conclusion, The Trials of Muhammad Ali is a strong documentary with a powerful message. Racial and religious inequality is still a big problem, and it really shouldn’t be. Colour and beliefs do not define us. It’s who we are that defines us. Ali was, and still is, a champion. But he almost had that stripped from him for what he believed outside of the ring. Now, we’ve come a hell of a long way in this regard, but we’re not where we need to be yet. Will we be there in another 50 years? Time will tell.

The Trials of Muhammad Ali is a knock-out, and earns a solid 5/5.


Sam Love

The Trials of Muhammad Ali at CeX

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Monday 29 June 2015

PayDay 2: Crimewave Edition

PayDay 2 was a game that I didn’t get round to playing when it first came out, so to hear that it was receiving what is now the common “remastered” treatment pleased me. I liked the look of it back in 2013; the concept seemed interesting as its rare in games to be controlling the bad guys. However, after a few hours of playing it, I was already starting to notice a few problems with the game, and it definitely isn’t the best remastered version of a game we’ve seen. 

Developed by Overkill Studios and out now for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One comes PayDay 2: Crimewave Edition, a remastered version of the co-operative first-person shooter where you’ll rob banks and stores, transport drugs, and break out prisoners. Players can control one of the four code-named characters, playing with three AI offline and up to three multiplayer characters in the online mode.

There’s no real story to PayDay 2, other than the fact you work for someone called Bain; your Crime.net handler and contract organiser, who sorts you out with contracts for other gang lords. Although you can level up and earn skill points when playing offline, it simply feels like an advanced training mode to help players get used to the objectives and enemies you’ll be facing – it prepares you for the better missions in the online mode. The AI will only shoot enemies, repair drills (the worst drills in gaming history might I add), and revive players. Other than that, you’re on your own when it comes to completing the objective, and running back into a jewellery store you barely made it out of to collect and deliver 14 bags of loot to a van by yourself is ridiculous.

The online mode is a lot busier, and is filled with other players who are hosting jobs for you to join in, as well as the opportunity for you to start your own contracts. Players must work together in numerous heist styled missions to achieve their objective, whether it’s opening a door to the safe or hacking into computers. It’s easier in a group as they can drop ammo and health to keep everyone going throughout the fight. Everything runs smoother when you work as a team, and even without a microphone other players were still getting the gist of what was expected of them.

We all expect better visuals with remastered games, and although this version still doesn’t look as good as it does on PC, it’s a noticeable difference from last-gen consoles, achieving 1080p and 30fps. The shooting more often than not feels like a spray-and-pray situation, as the bullets lack the impact they should have, and when you start with a low amount of ammo, you’ll be running dry a lot sooner than you initially expected. Bringing in the teamwork aspect, that can be resolved by a teammate deploying an ammo pack, but for my experience I was hurling abuse at the TV aimed at the player who had two ammo bags and refused to deploy one due to not being able to communicate with them.

The remastered edition also comes with 16 months worth of DLC, which provides you with more missions, more masks, more weapons etc. for players to acquire by an RNG styled reward system at the end of missions. There are hundreds of items to obtain, and once you unlock them you also need to pay for them, so you could refer to it as replay value or a grind – whichever takes your fancy. Players have many skill trees to apply their skill points; Mastermind, Enforcer, Technician, Ghost, and Fugitive – all providing players with skills that will make them more useful during a heist, and with 95 skills to unlock, you’ll definitely be playing for a long time.

I have had a few problems with PayDay 2 since playing it, mainly gameplay problems – especially online. For a team of highly specialised robbers, you’d expect them to bring a working drill. Instead, they generally take a few minutes to open a door, and usually conk out every thirty seconds. You’ll honestly spend more time fixing and fitting drills than any other activity in the game, which shouldn’t be the case. The NPC’s are really temperamental too, as there’ll be a section where five or six will all flood in covering each other as they do so, and times where an enemy will pretty much crab walk, sit down, and just stare at you, as well as just walking right by you in many instances. Their awareness levels can really take the tension away at times.

With the online, I was really surprised that a filter that allows players to choose what mission they’re looking for, as well as their preferred difficulty level isn’t present. When you reach the higher levels, you need a lot more xp to level up as you could imagine, but the lower rated, smaller jobs that were put forward to me constantly didn’t offer enough xp to be able to justify doing the mission, and I was forced to back out of the online and re-enter it to refresh the feed numerous times with hopes I could find a mission for me. The host also holds all the power in an online mission, and can kick players, restart the mission whenever they want to (in my experience it’s been when they’ve died around 80% of the time), and if they leave the game, the mission ends for everyone as it won’t pick a new host. It’s a somewhat prehistoric ability to allow the host to do that, and pissed me off way too many times.

Overall, PayDay 2’s return to next-gen consoles is one that can be welcomed by newcomers to the series, but one that won’t offer much to the seasoned criminals out there. The core gameplay and concept of the game is good, and puts players in many challenging situations, but it’s a let down in many aspects, such as poor NPC awareness, mediocre shooting mechanics, and an offline mode which really doesn’t provide a fraction of the intensity the online mode does. I know that its generally gameplay > visuals, but for a remastered version of the game, where we expect better visuals, it doesn’t reach the high standards we’ve seen from previous games and has an effect on the in-game atmosphere.

PayDay 2: Crimewave Edition falls short of my expectations and receives a 3/5.


Sam Terry

PayDay 2: Crimewave Edition at CeX

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Sunday 28 June 2015


I didn’t have any idea what to expect going into Stretch. I didn’t watch any trailers or read the plot synopsis. I didn’t read any reviews. I saw the cover of the Blu-ray and was sold. It looked interesting and a little bizarre – the best kind of film! I bought it, put it in my player and watched it. I’m glad I did. And I’m also very glad that I didn’t know what to expect. 

Out now on Blu-Ray and DVD comes Stretch, a rather unusual film, but a very original and entertaining one. Directed by Joe Carnahan, the man behind Smokin’ Aces, The A-Team reboot and The Grey; Stretch stars one of Hollywood’s many ‘that guy’s, Patrick Wilson, as the eponymous hero Stretch. He’s a limousine driver whose day goes from bad to worse to even worse again. Just think Clockwise, starring John Cleese – a seemingly normal day gets more and more unusual, stressful and chaotic until there’s simply no rectifying the situation easily. We’ve all had days like that, right?

I know, you have no idea what this film is. No surprise there – I didn’t either. It had an extremely small release – in America, it was completely scrapped by Universal before the planned wide release in March 2014 in what was described by The Hollywood Reporter as a ‘completely unprecedented move’. After months of trying to make deals and sell the film, Carnahan eventually released the film exclusively on demand in October! Here in the UK, it went completely under the radar until its straight-to-DVD/Blu-ray release. It’s a shame, as it’s one of the best comedy thrillers in a long time.
I’ll start off by warning you of one thing. The first 20 minutes or so are very weak. The film takes a while finding its mojo – I’ll admit, after the first 15 minutes I was losing interest and regretting starting it. But once the plot properly kicks in, the tone changes and the film comes into its own. And once Stretch grabs you, it doesn’t let go until the end credits. What makes it so good? Stretch is hilariously funny. But it’s not just a comedy, oh no! It’s an action-packed thriller! And arguably, a romance! Carnahan expertly crafts this mish-mash of genres to great effect. Very stylishly done, too. With an electronic score, a neon-soaked LA and some rather 80s lettering on the titles and credits, Stretch feels like a comedy version of Drive. And that is not a bad thing.

Patrick Wilson, channelling a hybrid of Michael Keaton and Chris Pratt, is on very fine form here. After roles in Watchmen, Insidious and The Conjuring; he’s never had a big comedy role. I imagine he’ll be getting a lot more after this, as he seems born for it. The film has a surprisingly great cast around Wilson, too. An uncredited and almost unrecognisable Chris Pine delivers a fantastic performance as the eccentric billionaire criminal Karos. If you’ve seen Horrible Bosses 2, you’ll be getting déjà vu though. He’s equally sociopathic and even begins punching himself in the face in this, too. I’m starting to think Pine enjoys it! Jessica Alba is playing the same character she always does, but who has any complaints about that? And the film has some great cameos from Ray Liotta, David Hasselhoff, Norman Reedus and Shaun White – all briefly playing bizarre versions of themselves! If you’ve ever wanted to hear The Hoff recount an anecdote in which he claims he ‘forcibly sodomized a Vietcong colonel with a stick grenade’, you’re in the right place.

This film deserved a bigger release. With the right marketing, Stretch could’ve been huge. It’s funnier and smarter than most comedies of recent years, it’s more exciting than most thrillers of recent years and it’s just a damn fun ride. There’s no rectifying the small release. But we can build the audience that it deserves. Watch Stretch. Love Stretch. Tell your friends about Stretch. Whether or not the film finds any big success, it’s destined for cult classic status. So, despite a rather underwhelming opening, Stretch quickly finds its feet and takes the viewer on a hell of a fun ride. Buckle up.

Stretch drives away with a thoroughly well-deserved 5/5.


Sam Love

Stretch at CeX

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Saturday 27 June 2015

Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited

After a very lengthy delay, Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited has finally arrived! Being a huge fan girl of the Elder Scrolls series, I couldn’t be happier, and that itch to dive back into Tamriel on my PS4 could now be scratched. Fresh off the bat from playing The Witcher 3 for two weeks straight, jumping back into another RPG has taken over my life again. Unlike The Witcher 3, you need to put many, many hours into Elder Scrolls Online before the best content is accessible. Is it worth it? Absolutely, but there’s still one or two problems with it. 

Developed by ZeniMax Online Studios and out now for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One comes Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), and is set in the continent of Tamriel like the other games in the franchise. The events that happen throughout ESO are set around 800 years before Morrowind and Oblivion, and a millennium before Skyrim. Following the trend of previous Elder Scrolls games, you once again start your journey as a prisoner. The game also has a similar structure to Skyrim, with two conflicts progressing at the same time: one conflict seeing three alliances fighting against each other to sit on the Imperial Throne, and the other leaving the fate of the world in the balance.

Players must create a character before playing the game, and can choose to join one of the three alliances: Daggerfall Covenant (Breton, Redguard, and Orc), Aldmeri Dominion (High Elf, Wood Elf, Khajit), and Ebonheart Pact (Nord, Dark Elf, Argonian). Different races have different perks, accommodating every play style, so it’s best to pick your character on your style of play. Each alliance will offer the player different quests; however if you’re wanting to play with your friends, you must be in the same alliance. Although this could be seen as a problem, it’s all down to the PvP, where members of the three alliances will battle it out in Cyrodil, but we’ll get on to that later.

There’s always something to do in Tamriel, as the world is packed with main and side quests. Although it’s an online game, it offers numerous solo missions for those who prefer to wipe out hordes of enemies alone. On top of that, there are numerous four-player dungeons to search, high-levelled bosses to fight, “Dark Anchors” that spawn numerous enemies in for any number of players to defeat, and Shrines to discover, which allow the player to fast travel. Packed with content and packed with players, it’s sounding like a perfect MMO, right? Unfortunately, the quests for the first 25 levels or so are ridiculously boring.

I’m aware that RPG’s tend to have some “fetch quests” – a quest where a player must travel across the map, pick up an item, then return it, but ESO has way too many right at the start, and at times they drained the life out of me. It’s a shame, because the characters have so much to say, and in some instances what they have to say is actually longer than the quest, which then made it pointless to read all the dialogue because you could gather the premise of the quest just by reading the answers your character could provide. It really took me out of the game – I wasn’t immersed in the task I was doing, and aimlessly running around to pick up ingredients for someone to make juice, or feeding a frog chow so it can win a race was one of the worst grinds I’ve experienced in a game.

It’s not all doom and gloom though, as when you reach around level 30, the main and side quests start to open up. More objectives, more enemies, and more challenging areas is what I needed to drag me back in, and that’s exactly what I got. The dialogue was worth reading, the story was evolving into something worth paying attention to, and the loot was getting better, with added perks to improve your character overall. ZeniMax have truly saved the best till last.

The combat in the game is pretty tactical, as players must manage their stamina and magic energy bars. Jumping into a crowd of enemies may backfire, so combining light and heavy attacks with parries and blocks, as well as crowd control and restoration spells, will provide players with intense fights throughout the story. You’ll unlock more abilities when you level up, and once you have the second ability bar unlocked, you can be prepared for any sort of fight. Whether it’s a horde of enemies for crowd control, or one high-levelled enemy, the game and quest quality starts to improve drastically.

Let’s finally get round to Cyrodil – the PvP area for ESO, and what an experience it is. To summarise, the three alliances battle it out to claim the most territory, ranging from controlling castles to capturing Elder Scrolls. Entering Cyrodil as a nooby level 13, filled with confidence because of the new spells I’d learnt, I felt ready to conquer all the castles in Cyrodil – it didn’t pan out like that. It’s a lot bigger (and punishing) than I expected, as me and three friends ran over a hill chasing one player, to be greeted by a pack of 20+ other online players waiting to obliterate us. We fell for the bait, and although we were completely destroyed, it immediately showed the potential and appeal the PvP has. Since then, I’ve managed to take castles as part of a 24-player group; working together tactically to heal each other and destroy the rest – I haven’t enjoyed an online mode as much as this in a very long time, and it’s a mode I’ll be spending hundreds of hours in over the coming months.

In my reviews, this is usually the part where I talk about the glitches in games, but The Elder Scrolls Online has surpassed my expectations once again. A game this big, with so many people playing it, and the only bugs I’ve experienced is my character riding through the floor opposed to riding their horse, and being stuck in a rock in PvP, which led to my death. The extra year to work on the game has benefited the game without a doubt: It runs smooth, the only lag I’ve experienced is in the starting area (understandable, of course), and bar two occasions where I’ve had to restart my console due to a loading screen, the longest I’ve waited is a minute. Once again, taking into consideration how big the game is, that’s not bad whatsoever.

Overall, Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited is a great MMORPG, and has plenty of content for players to work their way through. Although I’m level 36, I’ve been reminded by many players that there’s “Undaunted Challenges” that unlock at level 45, as well as the Veteran ranks, which unlocks even more content. The visuals are easy on the eye, and it runs incredibly well considering the size and how busy the game is. The PvP is arguably the best thing about the game, as you’ll be involved in huge fights in many different battlefields – it’s intense from start to finish. The one big downfall is that the boring quests arrive in bulks, which really took me out of the experience, but the quests later on restored my faith in the story. It’s a game that’s better played with friends, and be prepared to put hundreds of hours into playing this game.

Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited provides a pleasant return to the continent, and receives a 4/5.

Sam Terry

Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited at CeX

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Friday 26 June 2015

The Gambler

Remakes. Who needs them? Why take a perfectly good film that still holds up today, and make it again? Although I do not agree with it, I can partly understand the advantage of updating films with dated special effects. But a dialogue-driven drama about the timeless subject of gambling addiction? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But that’s exactly what has been done here, with this downright unnecessary remake: The Gambler. In 1974, James Toback wrote the original story, heavily inspired by his own life. It was a personal project. James Caan starred in the lead, and was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance. Caan lists it among his favourite works. So, imagine Toback’s shock when he learned a remake was going ahead – without being told first. Toback publicly labelled the idea of remaking The Gambler to be one of ‘rudeness and disrespect’, considering the personal nature of the story. 

Announced in 2011 as another Scorsese/DiCaprio project, the film lagged in development hell with a frequently changing team involved until Rupert Wyatt (director of Rise of the Planet of the Apes) and ‘Marky Mark’ Wahlberg finally got the film made, and it’s out now on DVD & Blu-ray for your viewing pleasure…maybe. Wahlberg stars as Jim Bennett, titular gambler and literary professor (yes, Wahlberg as a literary professor…you’ve got to laugh) with shit hair. His gambling compulsion causes him to fall into debt and borrow money from the wrong people (and his mum). On top of this, he’s falling for one of his students. All in all, very similar to the original film’s plot. 

The Gambler thinks it is better than it is. It feels rather cocky in its style, but there’s really not much to be cocky about. Sure, there’s some decent supporting turns from Jessica Lange and John Goodman (inexplicably bald, looking like a big angry baby). But none of the characters, even Wahlberg’s Jim, feel like they get enough development or depth. Each character has potential, but no use is made of it! The film is adequately directed, well-paced and stylishly delivered – the cinematography is beautifully sleek and atmospheric, especially in the underground casinos of LA – but there’s only so far that can get you. As they say, you can’t polish a turd. It might look and feel like art, but…you know. The main problem with The Gambler is the same problem that plagues most remakes – the constant comparison with the superior original. It’s like watching a film adaptation of a book you know well. It’s difficult to settle in and enjoy the ride, because you can’t stop thinking “that bit was better in the book” or “how could they change that”.

Don’t get me wrong, some remakes (and book adaptations, for that matter) can be done well. A good remake is very rare, but they do exist. A lot of people forget that classics like The Magnificent Seven, Scarface and The Thing (not the re-remake, but the 1982 John Carpenter effort) are all REMAKES. The difference is that most of these good remakes take the original and make it their own – especially The Magnificent Seven, which turned samurais into cowboys – but The Gambler remake didn’t really do anything to justify its own existence.

In conclusion, The Gambler is a frustratingly unnecessary remake. Yes, it looks nice and feels stylish. But in the end, it’s an empty and pointless film that has made me dislike remakes even more. Being a completely dialogue and plot-driven film, I imagine the only real pull factor to watch this film is the plot. If you’re interested in the story, do yourself a favour and check out the original masterpiece.
As for this remake?

Don’t put any money on The Gambler, 1/5.


Sam Love

The Gambler at CeX

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Thursday 25 June 2015

Farming Simulator 15

The current market for games seems to have settled into a bit a of a pattern. Call of Duty, Bloodborne, The Witcher; all action packed titles, each of them flaunting the top end graphics and vast, expansive and highly detailed worlds, showing off the newest generation of consoles. Enter, then, the newest release from Giants Software and Focus Interactive: Farming Simulator 15. Despite having been out on PC for some time now, Farming Simulator 15 - a glaring oddity amidst the current gaming market- is out now on PS4, PS3, Xbox One and Xbox 360. 

Simulator games have found somewhat of a niche home on the PC, and previous Farming Simulator titles have been held relatively high within those communities as some of the better, more respectable titles. They’ve also ventured on to consoles in versions gone past, but this newest launch represents their boldest venture yet. So, how does it stack up?

Well, it goes without saying, Farming Simulator 15 is not for everyone. To call it a change of pace from other games on the market, would be like suggesting that snails don’t make particularly good knitters. It is, however, somewhat fun, if you let it suck you in. As you might expect, the majority of the gameplay is built around maintaining your farm, though virtually all of these tasks are simply driving varying machinery across a field until its texture changes appropriately.

Harvest, cultivate, seed, fertilise, wait, repeat.

It can, therefore, get monotonous very, very quickly, even with the ability to hire AI workers to do some of the jobs for you (though I question whether they possess any intelligence, artificial or otherwise) Visually, the game won’t be winning any awards. The world’s feel empty, the textures are incredibly rudimentary and the animations, needlessly basic. The model designs are much more impressive, and you can feel that the developers put a lot of love and care into modelling every single tractor and tool individually, right down to every cable and every blade of a cultivator.

The game isn’t entirely unlikeable, though. Perhaps it’s because we all wanted to drive tractors and big machinery when we were little kids, and this game is the closest I’ve come, at least, to getting to do that. It’s endearing, and once you get past the monotony of it, it’s fun and rewarding, and provides a much needed break from the tension and excitement provided by most other games. I do feel, though, it has a long way to go to really be taken seriously, and will remain a niche title until then.

Farming Simulator 15 has potential, but falls short in a number of key areas. 2/5.


Adam Freeman

Farming Simulator 15 at CeX

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Wednesday 24 June 2015


From director Ava DuVernay comes Selma, out now on DVD & Blu-Ray. The film recounts the tumultuous period in 1965 in which Martin Luther King campaigned to secure equal voting rights by way of an epic march in Alabama, changing history forever - we all know the story; it is history, and an important part of it too. And I know what you’re thinking – “oh great, another film about racial inequality”. I know, it’s something of an annual fixture, after films like The Help and 12 Years a Slave. But while racism remains a problem, these films will keep being made. And even if racism ever does become a thing of the past, it will forever be in history and forever be fair game for Hollywood. And again, history is what Selma is. Obviously, it’s not a history lesson. You know what they say; never let the facts get in the way of a good story. But for the most part, Selma is an accurate portrayal of the period.

David Oyelowo is Martin Luther King in Selma. You will forget you’re watching an actor. In Lincoln, although Daniel Day Lewis delivered an exceptional performance - you were very much aware you were watching Daniel Day Lewis. In Selma, you’re not watching someone act. You’re watching someone truly become his character. It’s an absolutely phenomenal performance which was shockingly snubbed in Oscar season – especially when Steve Carell was nominated in the Best Actor category for Foxcatcher, when he was arguably a supporting role. In any case, Oyelowo is bound to go places after this performance. The film is really a vehicle for him, and the film is effectively a character study. As such, the film is all about this performance. 

Good thing too, because narratively the film isn’t perfect. Very few characters in the huge ensemble are given much depth or development, and some areas seem very rushed. That being said, some of the pacing in the first half is rather sluggish at times and I admit, there were times when I looked at my watch. Clocking in at approximately 130 minutes, Selma could’ve lost a few minutes here and there. But the second half was fantastic – especially when the campaign picks up speed and the march begins. I’m not embarrassed to say that I shed tears towards the climax – especially when Fink’s ‘Yesterday Was Hard On All Of Us’ played over archive footage of the actual march. And, I was impressed to see the assassination was not included. This isn’t a complete biopic of King’s life, but rather just 1965. This lends itself to the problem of pacing, though. If Selma was a complete King biopic, the 1965 march would’ve probably taken up 25-30 minutes of screen time. But here, it gets 130.

I don’t want to get too preachy or political, but I feel like I have to say something. In the Oscar-nominated original song ‘Glory’ which plays over the end credits, one line states ‘Selma is now’. While I wouldn’t necessarily go that far – things have improved a lot since then – we still have a way to go. Racism is still a big problem and it’s shocking to consider how many years it’s been around. To quote Rodney King; ‘Can we all get along?’. Maybe someday, people like Martin Luther King’s dreams will come true. It’s unfortunate that it never happens in their lifetimes, but creating complete racial equality is simple - it just requires certain people throwing unnecessary hate aside.

Anyway, Selma is a solid historical drama of a very important period. Whilst perhaps not overly memorable and certainly not perfect, it is a very moving and powerful piece of cinema. David Oyelowo delivers one of the best performances of the year, and again, the film reminds us that even though things still aren’t perfect – we have come a very long way since those dark times.

Selma marches on to a solid 4/5.


Sam Love

Selma at CeX

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Tuesday 23 June 2015

R.E.M. by MTV

Before sitting down with this film, I hadn’t listened to R.E.M. in a long time. I listen to a hell of a lot of music and go to a lot of live shows, but in recent years since the band’s 2011 split I’d almost forgotten about them. Times change and, as we discover new artists we like, we must put old ones to the back of our minds. R.E.M. were one of the first bands I listened to religiously and loved, and will always have a special place in my heart for that. They have influenced endless artists and gave us some fantastic albums over their 30 years together. When I heard about this documentary, I had to see it. For old time’s sake.

Out now on Blu-Ray & DVD comes Alex Young’s phenomenal retrospective documentary: R.E.M. by MTV. The film covers the entire R.E.M. story; from their 1980 formation, through their huge success and fame, to their amicable 2011 split. 

The band’s story is told almost entirely using archive footage, in a very interesting way. All band interviews and live performances are used chronologically, and so we watch as a young, shy group of men become more confident and media savvy, and develop their personas along with their musical style. Peter Buck (lead guitar), Bill Berry (drums) and Mike Mills (bass, backing vocals, pianist, everything else) all change over time, from their initial somewhat nerdy appearance to a slightly more rocky look. But the biggest and most fascinating change, is lead singer Michael Stipe’s metamorphosis from long-haired, introverted and quiet young man to a less introverted and more confident older man with that iconic shaved head. In the early days, R.E.M. did not feel or look like a rock band. They were a slightly awkward group of young outcasts. I don’t think many people expected them to become one of the most successful, influential and highest selling bands of all time.

Like with most biographical music documentaries, R.E.M. by MTV is a love letter to the band and is really made with the fans in mind. That’s not to say non-fans can’t watch it – anyone with an interest in music history or success stories will find a lot to like here. But this is a treat for the fans. Granted, true followers of R.E.M. will have seen some of the footage before and will know most of the anecdotes behind the albums, various problems faced by the band (drummer Bill Berry’s on-stage collapse due to a ruptured brain aneurysm and 1997 departure), but there is still a hell of a lot even the big fans won’t have seen or heard – the film makes use of footage that, in some cases, has apparently never been shown. Some of the interviews are extremely insightful (even if lead singer Michael Stipe was somewhat pretentious in his younger years) and, naturally, the film boasts a fantastic R.E.M.-filled soundtrack.

There isn’t a huge amount one can say about R.E.M. by MTV. The story of R.E.M. is a surprisingly interesting one and is extremely well told here, with confidence and style from first-time director Alex Young. Those familiar with the band’s history will find no twists and turns but the film is crammed with fascinating archive interviews and live performances. Fans of the band will have a great time with R.E.M. by MTV, and anyone else with an interest in music should find something to enjoy in the film too. Despite the fact I haven’t listened to R.E.M. in what feels like a very long time, I was surprised to find myself singing along, word-for-word, with almost every song in the film. I’d put money on a lot of you singing along too.

R.E.M. by MTV is an exceptionally well made rock-doc and earns a solid 5/5.


Sam Love

R.E.M. by MTV at CeX

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Monday 22 June 2015

Square Enix @ E3 2015

So this is it. The final E3 press conference came down to Square Enix, the legendary developer/publisher that has brought us many, many gaming classics over the years. I can't really remember when Square Enix did a live E3 event prior to this, but I was more than happy to check out what they had going this year. Compared to other press conferences, this event was kind of low key, lacked gimmicks or celebrities, and generally came across as interesting, honest and real. I liked it, and here's the best of what was revealed.

Just Cause 3

In 2002 Avalanche Studios created Just Cause. Playing like an over-the-top version of GTA, the game was good but didn't exactly blow me away. That said, its sequel was a far better game, as Just Cause 2 ramped up everything that made the original good, while correcting the mistakes previously made as well. The result was a batshit insane game that still holds up even today, especially when played on the PC. Though Avalanche are also developing the upcoming Mad Max game, they've somehow found the time and resources to make Just Cause 3. Going by the gameplay shown, it looks like Just Cause 2 turned up to 11.

The plot to Just Cause 3 revolves around a slightly aged Rico, the protagonist of the series. After his homeland of Medici is taken over by the fearsome dictator General Di Ravello, Rico returns take to take out the bad guy in typical Rico fashion- with guns and bombs while surfing on a passenger planes wing. Gameplay looks similar as to what we've seen before in the series, but with the grappling hook now able to attach to two objects at once, and the ability to tear objects, cars and buildings apart with it, the possibilities are endless. There's also a snazzy wing-suit to use in Just Cause 3, as though some of the best aspects of Just Cause 2 were had when parachuting, the wing-suit will no doubt amplify those moments ten fold. As long as it retains the insane epicness of this trailer, I'll gladly sink a few hours of my life into it.

New Nier Project

In 2010 developer Cavia released the game Nier for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. Nier is an usual title in many ways, which begins with it actual existence. You see, Nier is a spin-off of the series Drakengard. However, it's a direct sequel to the events that occur in Drakengards 5th ending. Yes, you read that right; Cavia made a sequel to the 5th ending of a game. It's bizarre but it works, and with Nier being a weird mish-mash of various genres, styles and ideas, it was met with a very lukewarm reception critically. For instance, Gamespot gave Nier 5/10. I can't get my head around this, as I genuinely believe that Nier is one of the greatest RPGs ever made, and certainly contains one of the best, most moving videogame stories of all time. Seriously, Gamespot f*cking suck.

But I don't think Nier sold enough to make Square Enix fall over themselves to get a sequel made any time soon. So the big shock from this press conference was the fact that a new Nier title is in the making. This time being developed by Platinum Games but still under the watchful eye of original game director Taro Yoko, the new Nier game doesn't have a full title yet, but it's going to contain three playable characters and also include cameos from characters from the first Nier game. Literally nothing else is known as this point, but alongside the news of Shenmue 3 at the Sony event, also knowing there's a new Nier in the making effectively made my 2015.

Rise of the Tomb Raider

I remember buying a PS1 Magazine years ago because it had a demo for Tomb Raider on the accompanying disc. Like, it's the ONLY reason I bought it. It was a pretty in-depth demo they offered, as from running around, shooting wolves in their wolf faces and solving puzzles, it gave me a good idea of what the real game had. It blew me away, and since buying the original Tomb Raider on the Playstation a mere week after playing that demo, it quickly became a defining game of my childhood. Some of the sequels were shit, but with the 2013 reboot breathing new life into the franchise, I was really looking forward to what came next. The next title in the franchise is called Rise of the Tomb Raider, and I gotta say, the gameplay trailer does nothing for me.

I kind of had this feeling during my play through of 2013's Tomb Raider, but when watching Rise of the Tomb Raider all I could think of was that it looked like an Uncharted rip-off. From linear exploration, QTE segments and scripted action scenes up the arse, it just didn't come across as impressive to say the least. Then again the tail end of the gameplay demo looks promising, as it shows locations that feel a bit more Tomb Raider-like, which hopefully will go hand-in-hand with gameplay that is a bit more free-form too. I know I'm being cynical here, but I can't get excited about what they showed. Sorry.

Kingdom Hearts 3

Kingdom Hearts 3 was confirmed to be in development back in 2013, and considering it has been a decade since Kingdom Hearts 2, this must be the longest wait for an already guaranteed sequel ever. Yeah, there have been loads of prequels and spin-offs released since, but I want Kingdom Hearts 3 dammit! This year at E3 we finally got a pretty decent look at gameplay, as well as a snippet of some cut-scene focusing on what Kingdom Hearts does best- confusing plot and god-awful original  characters!

Beyond the really crappy cut-scene on show, gameplay looked exactly how I wanted it to look. It essentially looks like they took the typical Kingdom Hearts combat system and gave it a new coat of paint. I'm sure the game will have a new game changing mechanic in it like Kingdom Hearts 2 did with allowing Sora to change forms, but what we're seeing here is very much a typical Kingdom Hearts game, and that's fine. I'm just happy to see it finally it in some kind of playable form. Also, I'm loving the sneak peak at Sora fighting the Titan, Lythos, from the film Hercules. As long as they offer a crapload of Disney worlds for us  to explore, let us fight against new and exciting bosses and give us gameplay in-line with the series, I'm happy.


I've been a huge fan of the Hitman series for many years now. I've loved every entry in the series apart from Hitman: Absolution, the most recent game released. Compared to how the series was originally approached, I found Absolution to be incredibly linear, far too easy to run-and-gun through and very limiting in terms of how you could take our your targets. It was a Hitman game for the younger gamers out there I guess, because it just wasn't for me. I thought I left the series behind me by this point, but after Square Enix unveiled their latest Hitman title, I'm cautiously optimistic about how it might turn out.

Simply titled Hitman the game is being hyped as a return to form for the series. Apparently throwing out the bottlenecked level design from Absolution and instead going for something a little more like an open-world game, the developers are keen on once again giving the player an array of choices in terms of how to approach and take out your target. All we have to go by is a CGI trailer though, so while I'll hold off on any proper judgement until I see in-game footage, it'll take a lot for Square Enix to dig the Hitman franchise out of the pit it found itself in after Absolution.

There you have it folks, that's our coverage of E3 complete! If I had to pick the three best press conferences of E3 2015 I'd have to say it would be those of Sony, Square Enix and Ubisoft. Regardless though, this E3 was one of the best I've ever experienced. Personally, the announcements of Shenmue 3 and a sequel to Nier have stirred an excitement in me about gaming I haven't felt in years. How about you? Feel free to pop over to our Facebook to let us know! I hope you enjoyed our coverage of E3, and don't worry, next year I'll be here to give you a rundown of what went down at E3 2016. Granted I only get 3 hours of sleep a night during the week E3 is on, but hey, you're worth it.
Denis Murphy

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Sunday 21 June 2015

Black Sea

The ocean is fascinating. It takes up approximately 70% of the Earth’s surface. Isn’t that amazing? It contains 97% of the world’s water. Wow! The pressure at the deepest point in the ocean is the equivalent of one person trying to support 50 jumbo jets. Holy moly! But hey, enough of the nautical facts. I have a review to write. And I knew those facts off the top of my head, I didn’t get them from ‘Ocean Facts for Kids’…Anyway! 

Out now on DVD & Blu-ray and directed by Kevin MacDonald of The Last King of Scotland fame comes Black Sea. Is it a deep and thrilling piece of sea-nema (cinema, chortle chortle), or does it sink?  “What is Black Sea about”, I hear you cry! Let me tell you. After a longtime salvage operator named Robinson (Jude Law) is let go from his job and falls on hard times, he learns of a very inviting opportunity: the whereabouts of a sunken Nazi submarine rumoured to be carrying millions in gold bars. Financially backed by a mysterious benefactor, Robinson gathers a crew, equally British and Russian, and sets off for the gold in a rusty old submarine. But greed, claustrophobia and disagreements push the crew to breaking point before they can come close to the gold.

Black Sea takes place almost entirely in a dark, tight submarine. As such, the film is a dialogue and performance driven piece and the cast need to carry the film. Do they succeed? Firstly, Jude Law continues to shake his pretty boy persona (after Dom Hemingway) delivering a solid performance as Robinson; the short-tempered and short-haired rough Scottish captain. Law steps slightly out of his comfort zone for this film and rises to the challenge. However, despite the marketing suggesting that this is Law’s film, Black Sea is really an ensemble piece. For me, the film belonged to Ben Mendelsohn who delivers another in a long line of fine performances as the slightly psychopathic arsehole Fraser; seemingly intent on sabotaging the mission through a series of bad decisions. Scoot McNairy, Hollywood’s current ‘that guy’, is doing what he does best here – y’know…being that guy. Michael Smiley (Tyres from Spaced) is great, too. After his performances in this and Ben Wheatley’s A Field in England, he’s one of England’s best character actors. Throw in a handful of Russians and a lad from Liverpool, and you’ve got your cast. A decent cast they are, too. They all have great chemistry with each other and deliver fine performances throughout. Without these fine performances, Black Sea would’ve fallen apart. Why? Because outside of the pretty decent atmospheric lighting and cinematography, there really isn’t much else to praise.

Black Sea is, narratively, a bit of a mess. There’s a hell of a lot of predictability and cliché, characters’ motives seem to be all over the place with little explanation, twists come at you out of nowhere with no build-up and thus have no impact, and the pacing goes from slow and uneventful to ridiculously rushed and irritating. Fletcher from Whiplash would have a meltdown watching this film – is it rushing, or is it dragging?! It’s no spoiler to say they find the gold – it’s on the back of the damn DVD case – and the way this is handled is ridiculous. After subtly building up the treasure as being elusive and difficult to find, they stumble upon it without barely having looked. It basically plays out like this – “This gold will be very hard to find, we’ll probably never find it, it might not even be there, it’s been hidden for so lon-OH, HERE IT IS! FOUND IT! FOUND IT!” It’s rather anti-climactic and happens too early. Then the film gets even more manic with more shifting motives and character roles among the crew – basically, goodies become baddies and vice versa. Several times.

Look, I wanted to like Black Sea. I really did. It looked like it was going to be The Thing underwater. I don’t mean I was expecting a shapeshifting alien creature being a dick in a submarine; but I was expecting a story about the effects of isolation, claustrophobia, trust and (in this case) greed among a small group of men. But I didn’t get that. I got a rather messy, generic, forgettable thriller. Like I said, films like this are performance driven and Black Sea succeeds in this area fantastically well. It’s just unfortunate that it fails everywhere else. 

Black Sea sinks to the depths of an abyss of mediocrity, and earns 2/5.


Sam Love

Black Sea at CeX

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Saturday 20 June 2015

Shaun the Sheep Movie

I’ll be honest, even as a huge Aardman fan from childhood, I was sceptical about Shaun the Sheep Movie. Despite my love of Wallace & Gromit, I never watched the Shaun the Sheep TV series. I didn’t feel like the character could hold his own show. I noticed that each episode only lasts around 6-7 minutes. As I suspected, I thought – the character can’t hold a viewer’s attention for any longer. This won’t last. 130 episodes later, I realise how wrong I was. Then when a feature length film was announced, I felt like it was time to give Shaun a look. Shaun the Sheep Movie, written and directed by Richard Starzak and Mark Burton, is out now on DVD & Blu-Ray. Does it measure up with Aardman’s other phenomenal works, or should Shaun have just stayed in A Close Shave where he belongs?

 Within the first five minutes, my lack of knowledge of the Shaun the Sheep universe was not an issue. Character roles were clearly defined but not shoved down your throat, and I didn’t feel like there was anything at all that I needed to know prior to seeing the film. It’s worth noting from the outset that none of the characters, not even the humans, have speak in a coherent language. The animals are all mute and the humans speak in a garbled gibberish. As such, I consider Shaun the Sheep Movie to effectively be a silent film. The story is told completely visually, and as it’s intended mostly for a younger audience, the narrative is a delight in its simplicity. Shaun and his animal friends decide it’s time for a day off, after a lifetime of being sheared and herded on a regular basis. They lock up the respected farmer in his caravan and put their feet up. But when the farmer’s caravan rolls out of the farm, down the road, into the city and crashes, the animal’s beloved master takes a hit on the head and loses his memory. So begins a delightfully far-fetched rescue mission, as the animals hit the city to save the farmer and restore his memory. Believe me, it works on screen better than it does when I try and explain it! 

Shaun the Sheep Movie is vintage Aardman. The animation took me straight back to my childhood. After the rather abysmal Flushed Away which was completely computer animated with a stop-motion aesthetic, it’s wonderful to see Aardman doing a feature length piece in their unique, unmistakable animation. As always, the attention to detail is stunning and visual gags are littered throughout – with some great nods to Breaking Bad, The Shawshank Redemption, The Silence of the Lambs and Inception, to name but a few! Due to the time and effort it takes to animate, Aardman films are never too long. Shaun the Sheep Movie is no exception with a runtime of approximately an hour and 20 minutes. The pacing is brilliant – you know what they say, time flies when you’re having fun. And there’s a lot of fun to be had here. There are a few quibbles; the plot does get a little too wacky in places, and the villain – A. Trumper, animal containment officer – was a little tedious at times. Much like Paddington, the film could’ve worked with a ‘fish out of water’ approach alone, without throwing in a generic villain. I suppose that’s for the kids. They identify better with goodies and baddies.

In any case, Shaun the Sheep Movie is still a delight throughout. It’s warm, sweet and funny. And who could ask for more than that? There’s something here for all ages and the craft alone is a beautiful thing. The passion that goes into an Aardman project is evident in every frame. I can’t fault this film in any way. Maybe I’ll have a look at the series soon, after all.

Shaun the Sheep Movie is right up there with vintage Wallace & Gromit, and earns a solid 4/5.


Sam Love

Shaun the Sheep Movie at CeX

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Friday 19 June 2015

Nintendo @ E3 2015

After E3 2012 Nintendo stopped doing live press conferences, instead opting for pre-recorded presentations airing on Nintendo Direct. I understand the reason for this as pulling off an E3 press conference is extremely costly, but without a live Nintendo presence there every year, E3 has never quite felt the same. Last years E3 ended on Nintendo's presentation, and with a pre-recorded and cut together video essentially signing off E3 as a whole, it felt a little hollow. With Wii U sales starting to pick up and 3DS sales still dominating the globe, there were high hopes for Nintendo this year, live press conference or not. 

Star Fox Zero

One of Nintendo's most beloved games back on the SNES was Star Fox. Boasting 3D graphics that were incredibly impressive for its time, Star Fox quickly became an iconic title associated with all things Nintendo. Star Fox 2, which by the way was completely finished for the SNES, was cancelled as the Nintendo 64 was quickly approaching release at the time. However after the release of Star Fox 64 the series hasn't really been given the attention it deserves. Sure there have been other entries in the series released, but nothing has gotten back to what made Star Fox and Star Fox 64 so special. Nintendo just announced a new Star Fox game though, are they're clearly hoping that Star Fox Zero brings the series back in style.

Planned to release on the Wii U near the end of this year, Star Fox Zero looks like classic Star Fox. The gameplay shown is quite nice, and played heavily on the capabilities of the additional screen on the Wii U Gamepad. In Star Fox Zero you can look around with the Gamepad and even aim with it. This means that while your controlling your ship on your primary TV screen as per usual, you'll be able to use the Gamepad to aim and shoot at enemies on the fly. This looks pretty fun, and with the added ability for your ship to transform into a land based walking vehicle, it looks like the Star Fox we all know and love but with a twist.

The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes

It wouldn't be E3 without news of a new upcoming The Legend of Zelda, and with the lack of updates regarding the Wii U title The Legend of Zelda (that's the great looking open-world Zelda game!), in its place came a different Zelda title instead. This isn't a game for the Wii U though, as Tri Force Heroes is a game for there far more successful piece of kit.

What was instantly noticeable about Tri Force Heroes was the fact that the game stars three different Links. Though they're wearing different coloured clothes, these three characters are different versions of Link himself. However, the game isn't a single-player experience, but rather is a three-player cooperative game. Sporting visuals akin to A Link Between Worlds, you'll be able to play the game online with two other players. Each Link has their own unique abilities and weapons, and with the fun looking totem game mechanic being a large part of the games design, this is definitely a game to watch out for.

Metroid Prime: Federation Force

Growing up I was never a Metroid fan. But hey, it wasn't because I was a complete tool, no, it was because I never owned a NES or SNES. Sure I could have picked up a Metroid title on my Gameboy, but back then I didn't know what Metroid even was. Playing Metroid Prime on the Gamecube back in 2002 got me into the world of Metroid, and while there hasn't been a Metroid game as good as Metroid Prime since it was released, Nintendo are hoping this new game in the series taps into Metroid Primes magic. There's one catch though; the new game looks shit.

Literally looking like a bargain bin iPhone game, Metroid Prime: Federation Force is not the Metroid game we've been waiting for. Nope. Though Nintendo responded to the criticism in saying that Samus Aran does make an appearance and that it does have a single-player mode, what we were shown here is a dodgy as f*ck co-op shooter. Sporting visuals that look worse than what you'd expect from the PSP era, with an online petition by Nintendo fans asking for its cancellation almost hitting 17,000 signatures, a lot of gamers are upset about this lazy looking Metroid game.

Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer

Though other websites have put more attention on the other Animal Crossing title announced, Amiibo Festival, I think this one looks far more interesting. Unknown to many, the original Animal Crossing game was originally out for the Nintendo 64 in Japan. It was later brought on the Gamecube and released worldwide, and its focus on living within a small quirky town won the hearts of many, including myself. From mailing your friends gifts online that will turn up in their postboxes, to constantly upgrading and adding to your virtual house, the game was bizarre, funny and incredibly imaginative. So while it's not exactly a typical Animal Crossing game, Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer is the next entry in the series.

As the name might suggest, the game places you in the role of a interior designer, and in Happy Home Designer it's your job to design the houses for the many weird inhabitants of your town. However, the various people of the town have certain ideas about what they want, so it's up to you to take on board their ideas and do your best to meet their needs. Though it doesn't exactly look as in-depth as previous Animal Crossing games, I'm pretty exited about Happy Home Designer. I always found the world of Animal Crossing to be a lot of fun to dick around in, and with the promise of another 3DS bound Animal Crossing game, regardless of its gameplay focus, I'm on board already.

Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam

When I played Paper Mario on the Nintendo 64 back in 2001 I loved it. Featuring a really cool visual style that merged 2D sprites with 3D levels, the game was a massively different take on the classic series.  The game spawned three sequels, The Thousand-Year Door, Super Paper Mario and Sticker Star, with each one continuing the pretty unusual visual style set up in the first game. During Nintendo's E3 broadcast they finally announced a new Paper Mario title. Yay!

Titled Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam and inbound for the 3DS, the upcoming game is a crossover of the worlds of Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi. As you can see in the trailer, 3D Bowser picks a fight with classic 2D Bowser, and it essentially sets up some pretty funny interactions between both of these vastly different Mario universes. The gameplay trailer looks bloody fantastic, and as soon as the huge Papercraft Mario turned up, I was basically frothing at the mouth. Nothing is as comfy as a Mario game, let alone a Mario game that's as inventive and a different as this.

Overall Nintendo did an OK job. Without a real presence at E3 everything felt a little soulless. Though Metroid Prime: Federation Force looks like an abomination, everything else Nintendo showcased was pretty good. It was typical E3 showing for Nintendo in terms of titles revealed, and though most titles were for the 3DS, Star Fox Zero just might convince gamers to take the Wii U plunge. If not I don't think we'll be seeing the console at many more E3's.

Denis Murphy

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The Interview

It's hard to review this film. I won't bore you with all the details as I'm sure you've had it up to your eyes with hearing about it, but you remember whole hoopla surrounding The Interview, right? After North Korea allegedly hacked Sony's emails and started posting them online, Sony responded by pulling the film from a worldwide release. The film did ultimately get a very limited release, which led to the film only recouping 11 million of its 44 million budget. Leading up to its release, the leaked emails, Sony's decision to pull the film and its subsequent small release, The Interview has gained an almost forbidden fruit quality to it. However, all that bullshit aside, is it actually, you know, good? Read on.

Directed by Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg and out now on Blu-Ray and DVD comes The Interview, a film that, beyond all the build up, anticipation and declarations of possible nuclear war, is just OK. The Interview stars Seth Rogan and James Franco, a duo I've never really liked that much. Aside from This is the End I've just never found them funny, as between Rogans typical shouty stoned type of character and Franco's funny-guy-who-always-smiles attitude, I just don't really get them. Rogan and Franco star as Aaron Rapoport and Dave Skylark respectively. Skylark hosts Skylark Tonight, a hugely popular celebrity talk show across America. With his over-the-top personality and flamboyant attitude, he's known for getting the goods from celebrities, which happens pretty early on into The Interview when he manages to get Eminem into effectively outing himself as gay on live TV. Rapoport is Skylarks friend/producer, and in the wake of the infamous Eminem interview they, in the hopes of putting together the biggest interview ever, reach out to Kim Jong-un, the supreme leader of North Korea. However, though Kim Jong-un accepts their request (it turns out he's a massive fan of Skylark himself), the CIA comes to Skylark and Rapoport with a proposition; they want the interview with Kim Jong-un to be a smokescreen for his assassination, an assassination that will be carried out by Skylark and Rapoport themselves.

As you all know, North Korea is a hugely secretive country. So by taking on the mission of killing Kim Jong-un, a dude his people genuinely (like, really) believe is a god, it's not the easiest thing in the world. However, though they constantly have guns pointed at them, are herded around like cattle from room to room and are always under the watchful eye of North Korean guards, it seems like the easiest part of the plan is actually getting to know Kim Jong-un himself. Played by Randall Park, the portrayal of Kim Jong-un here is genuinely hilarious, as he's funny, loud, over-the-top and almost huggable in how nice and down-to-earth he is. From chilling with Skylark by the pool, openly talking and crying about his internal conflict with trying to live up to his fathers legacy, to both of them blowing shit up in a tank, on the surface he seems like a pretty great dude. This budding friendship derails the assassination attempt somewhat, and even throws Skylarks and Rapoports relationship into disarray too.

The Interview has its moments of greatness through. Almost everything between Franco and Park is superb, and their friendship is actually kind of nice to see unfold. Of course, I don't think it's a spoiler to say that Kim Jong-un isn't really nice guy here, and once the facade of their friendship falls by the waste-side, the film doesn't have much going for it. Franco and Rogan are just alright as a leading duo, but if you've seen Pineapple Express, This is the End or anything the pair have ever been in, you pretty much know what to expect here- boner jokes, dick jokes, weed jokes, Rogan putting a missile up his ass... you get the idea.

Ultimately The Interview doesn't really deserve all the attention it got in the press. I just went into it looking for a few laughs. I belly laughed a small few times but found myself checking my phone by the films last drawn out act. It's not a terrible comedy by any means, but it's certainly not anything beyond mediocre. Watch it for Randall Park alone, as everything else throughout The Interview just isn't that great.

The Interview wasn't worth near-nuclear war and gets 2/5.


Denis Murphy

The Interview at CeX

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