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Reviews

Stephen King’s IT – Film review

Being a horror fanatic, you have to work pretty hard to shock me with horror films these days. I have seen it all, and I have a preference towards stories that play with psychological boundaries. I am actively looking for those roller coaster moments where you know that something is going to happen, but you just don’t know when. Anticipation is the key; I don’t want a lot of it, but if you can make me feel it once, then the film maker has achieved something. So how did the 2017 version of Stephen King’s IT turn out?

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Timlah’s Kitacon Quest in Review

Kitacon Quest was a blast; from excellent panels to great friends – and oh so much to drink! But still, as always, we didn’t go there just to have a good time. We wanted to make sure you guys all got to see something great from the event – With the tickets selling out so fast, I thought I’d focus on the things I enjoyed the most out of the event. Brace yourselves, because this is going to be another big post; as well as two videos!

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Film Review: Wonder Woman (2017)

DC went all in with this one, as they spent a long time building up to it. With Batman vs Superman basically being an introduction to this film, Wonder Woman has hit our cinema screens and I finally managed to go check it out. What will the clay-made Amazonian bring to the table in terms of story, style and substance? With previous DC films having been criticised so heavily, it was refreshing to watch something that meant a lot to people. As always, buckle up and read on, because here’s our full review.

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Review – Split

Most of the time when I feel compelled to review a film it’s because it was either brilliant and I feel the need to shout about it, or it was just plain awful, and I feel the need to shout about it. With M. Night Shyamalan’s latest film, a psychological thriller with hints at the supernatural I have to say…

I’m SPLIT!

What a weird combination of good and bad. It’s nice to remember why we liked Unbreakable and the Sixth Sense and that M. Night can be a good director with clever ideas, but what we have on our hands is a film that shines a light on all the problems with those films too. Let’s get into it: (more…)


Review – Spider-Man Homecoming

Cometh the hour, cometh the Spider-Man, right back into the middle of the MCU where he belongs. No backstory, no spider bite – because it has been done – just straight into the life of a teenager irrevocably altered by comicbook logic. Instead we jump in with the Peter Parker straight after the fight in Civil War, hero-worshipping Tony Stark, fully kitted out and ready to get into a fight with someone a little more daunting than the odd bike thief or shoplifter.

After all of the backbiting and corporate petulance between Disney and Sony, it is so good to have Spidey amongst the ranks of the Avengers because without him it all has all seemed a little weird, but here we have a Spider-Man born of the Cinematic Universe, only a child during the New York Incident, and fully immersed in the unique-to-film narratives, lore and history. (more…)


Review – Great Scott

Great Scott is a drafting game of invention from Sinister Fish. While at UKGE this year I had the opportunity to secure a copy of Great Scott. Ostensibly I was there to buy for someone else, but at their recommendation I ended up taking a copy home too. I had never before pondered the need for a Diabolical Donkey Destroying Banana Bender, but I have come to an all new appreciation for the device, and here’s why.

The Game

Each invention is put together with cards, three concepts and two assets laid out in a particular order to create a coherent and descriptive name, effectively boiling down to a simple formula:

Adjective – noun – verb – noun – noun

Each section is it’s own deck, players take two of each, and commence building by drawing  card from a deck, taking one, and passing their hand to the next player. You begin fairly free form, but as the cards are passed around you find yourselves with fewer and fewer gaps to fill, and the pattern you’ve tried to create may suddenly be completed or broken depending on which stack you draw from. Everyone then pitches their idea, describing how it works and what purpose it serves. Everyone picks a favourite and a second favourite, and the next round begins.

Points are accrued from scores on the cards, matching pairs or groups, the commendations of others for a fantastic pitch, and alliteration. So while you may score fewer points by building a Colossal Cactus Burning Bee Booster than an Alarming Albatross Attracting Ape Automaton you may still recover some ground by describing the method by which your huge device might hold back the bee extinction by immolating cacti, compared to the guy who’s mechanical gorilla has led to an albatross infestation.

Mechanics

I love draft games as a format, it’s been a while since I did a Magic: the Gathering draft, but I still love a round or two of 7 Wonders every couple of months. Drafts tend to leave you completely oblivious to begin with, and madly desperate towards the end, so adding the draw step gives Great Scott a little bit more freedom to build an invention you can be proud of, but doesn’t give you sufficient support to make the game too easy.

It’s a sign of a good game that round by round players end up with very similar points, and by the end of Great Scott the point difference between first and last place is quite narrow. There’s a good balance of random and tactical play, and it always leaves you with an invention that is sheer chaos to try and pitch to the crowd. However, it’s this mechanic that does cause a few issues.

For those without a very creative mind, trying to describe their inventions can be difficult, especially for those who perhaps don’t know the less common words like Bitumenising, meaning that points accrued in the commendations phase are often lost. The Aspect cards break down into animal, vegetable, and mineral, and it’s entirely true to say that animals are funnier than most rocks and plants like Diabolite or Elm; there are a few shining examples like arsenic and dynamite, but it’s still a bit of a struggle to derive humour from Bauxite for example.

Really that’s an issue with target market. I still rate the game very highly, it’s good quality daft fun that kills an hour without effort, and even comes with a set of baggies that are slightly too small for any single deck in the box. Ah well, still a nice consideration.


JapanCrate: Tasting Japan In A Box

The internet truly is a wonderous place, where you learn about all sorts of interesting services. You can learn about how to cook delicious foods, or stirring up a wonderful drink. But what’s that ad I see in the corner of my eye? JapanCrate? That sounds pretty delicious!

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Review – Teen Titans: The Judas Contract

Having only reviewed Justice League Dark last week, I’d intended to leave my review for Judas Contract for a little while, and then I watched it. I have mentioned a couple of times how much I enjoy the animated DC films, but one of the more pleasant surprises for me has been the Teen Titans, a super team who might actually be more fun to watch than the Avengers. The Judas Contract is their second outing in the series, following on from the team of teens taking down the Justice League, but that doesn’t make this adventure a down-grade.

The young and the superpowered work together under the tutelage of the alien princess Starfire and the first Robin turned Nightwing, Dick Grayson. Amongst their number you have Raven, a young girl who bears a crystal that imprisons her demonic father; Blue Beetle, a boy whose symbiotic relationship with an ancient egyptian killing machine is still unexplored; current Robin and recovering assassin Damien Wayne; Terra, a girl with personality problems and the power to move mountains, and Beastboy… who will probably be fine.

The Spoiler Free Bit

One thing I must credit the animated films with is not wasting time on origin stories because they know their market. We receive just enough to get us kicked off and from there we’re thrust into narrative. It’s something that Jessica Jones probably did best, leaving the history to unravel a little more organically throughout the narrative through little expositional moments that lend a great deal of texture to each character. For the more knowledgeable fans it gets you straight through all of the boring “we know already” moments and to business, but even as someone whose knowledge is limited there’s a lot gained from this approach, you’re already engaged enough to want to learn more about who you’re watching.

It’s also important not to delude yourself that the Titans are not exactly for kids. Oh sure, they translate easily enough into a kids show style format, Teen Titans Go being the most current incarnation, but do not show the Judas Contract to young ones unless you want to accelerate their education of “the facts of life”. Here’s why:

Our villains are twofold. The grandiose cult leader Brother Blood holds sway over a deeply unpleasant church dedicated entirely to him, a messiah/living god figure who has acquired various forms of longevity and immortality, sustaining himself with blood rituals and draining the vitality of others. After nine centuries of patience he now has access to a machine that will allow him to steal the superpowers of others, along with their lives, but to bring them in he requires help. Enter League of Assassins reject and one of the scariest villains ever to grace the Arrowverse, Deathstroke/Slade Wilson. Hired by blood as a mercenary to keep the Titans at bay until he’s good and ready.

Between Blood literally bathing in the blood of a reporter beneath the freshly drained corpse, the rather “forward” advances of Deathstroke’s young and curvy partner in crime, unapologetic use of bad language and Starfire’s inability to filter comments about her relationship with Dick Grayson, this is not one to sit down to with the kids unless you’re ready to answer some questions. There are a bunch of teens after all, teens dealing with murderers and lunatics but that doesn’t stop puberty happening. This does all mean that the comedy is just perfect, alongside some superb characterisation, perhaps most of all from Beastboy.

Biggest let down is the action, best summarised by a fight against some gun-drones that politely hold their fire while the team dodge and prep their weapons, or demonstrate some classic storm-trooper accuracy. Blue Beetle’s scarab-armour also seems undecided about its own powers, as I feel he should be more than capable of busting loose of his restraints towards the beginning of the final conflict, even if it was debilitated. I also have a monolithic plot hole I’d like to point out, but there’s some spoiler to get through first…

Surprise Reveal!

It’s hard not to guess it before the big plot twist about 30 minutes in, but it turns out the new girl, Terra, is a traitor working for Deathstroke, feeding information for a year back to her boss and lover, hence “Judas Contract”. Honestly if you didn’t guess traitor from that you need to read more, maybe watch more films. You’re almost guaranteed to see the double-cross that comes towards the end when Slade sells Terra to Brother Blood along with the rest of the Titans.

So the plot hole. Following an attempt at grabbing a scientist working on Blood’s life-sucking device, the scientist dies but leaves behind a rather conclusive proof of an insider, detailed profiles of the team and candid photographs, in which only one member of the team is conspicuously absent despite having been a member for a full year. And no one even asked the question? Not even Batman-trained Dick Grayson?

That aside, the whole betrayal narrative gives us some great moments of comic-book self awareness. Banter between Slade and Robin points a huge finger at common villain stupidity, although my personal favourite line comes shortly after Terra glibly discusses how the Titans are all about to die, and Deathstroke says “Urgh, no grey areas with this one!”

Overall

This is really just a good quality super-hero adventure. Sadly I can’t speak to accuracy to the comics, although based on past performances I’d hazard a guess at “close enough” at least for those more casually inclined toward comics. It’s engaging enough that I find I’m almost as keen to see the next instalment as I am to see the next Marvel blockbuster.

It’s also incredibly gratifying to see a company who aren’t afraid to plunge a group of plucky teens into a very grim story, after all these aren’t average happy teenagers. They’re cursed, burdened, shunned and alone, pledged to save lives at all costs, trained daily to combat terrible evils and the worst of humanity. This is why I found myself most enthralled with the character of Beastboy, despite one rather stupid moment where he’s presented with a “DO NOT PUSH” button. He wears his suffering plainly, but at the same time is unapologetic in embracing life, simultaneously filled with joy and sorrow and willing to share them both with anyone who’ll listen.

Suddenly I feel the need to buy comics.


If you’re at UKGE at the Birmingham NEC this weekend let us know. I’ll be there with catharsisjelly, getting our fill of board games and geekery all the way through ’til Sunday.


Anime Review: Overlord

Ever feel like you’re living in a video game? Well Lord Momonga certainly does; a powerful lich who has been trapped in a virtual world, with no-one around except for NPCs who have come to life; He just wants to get to the bottom of why he’s stuck in this world. From level differences and HUD interface features, along with dungeons & dragons dynamics, Overlord is a wonderful telling of the trapped-in video game subgenre of anime. Does this series have a life of its own, or does it fall flat next to more established anime of its kind?

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Film Review: Power Rangers (2017)

Go, go Power Rangers! Mighty Morphin’ Nostalgia Rangers! Oh yes, it’s true, we’ve gone back to the 90s and this is a great time to be alive. From a complete revitalisation of Pokemon, to DragonBall Super and now we’ve got Power Rangers back. I feel like a little kid again, because all of these fantastic films, series and games have been coming out, giving new life to 90s classics. However, if you are looking for a nostalgia trip without getting your old VHS tapes out, it’s time for you to don your bodysuit, put on your rangers helmet and check out the brand new Power Rangers film.

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