Monday, 30 September 2013

Breaking Bad: The Final Episode - Up Now on Netflix UK

It all ends here.
Felina, the series finale, is available for your watching pleasure.

New to Netflix UK - 30/09/13

Only one real stand-out this week, a series all the way from New Zealand, otherwise it's a pretty mediocre list.

Great Expectations - A man, who was the recipient of a large sum of money as a young boy, finds himself righting the wrongs of his past when the benefactor makes himself known. A passable, albeit unnecessary, adaptation of the Dickens' classic.

Hounds (TV) - A lawyer finds his life heading in a different direction after his father dies and makes him the guardian of his half-sister, as well as co-owner of their racing greyhound. I can't give enough praise to this exceptionally (if unconventionally) funny series that brims with sharp writing and doesn't shy from presenting you with laugh-out-loud awkward situations.

Won't Back Down - Two mothers take to politics to save their children's failing school while the bureaucracy surrounding them tries to take them down. It's well acted and has a lot to say but the message is so heavy handed that it would be less noticeable if it were hitting you with a bat.

Love Crime - An exec toys with her new assistant, even stealing her ideas, but she underestimates how far her assistant is willing to fight back. Decent, though predictable, psychological thriller that benefits from some well placed twists and good acting.

Texas Chainsaw - Another remake, because why not. This is the 2013 version that was made in 3D. It's still not that good.

16 Acres - Documentary looking at the vast conflicts of interest over building rights to ground zero. It's not going to rock your world and doesn't stand out to people with little interest in the matter but it's a well made doc that shows how absurd the whole situation is, especially given how the site marks one of the greatest trageties in American history.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters - Having survived their ordeal as children, Hansel and Gretel are all grown up and offer their services as supernatural mercenaries. It's mostly fun, though incredibly silly, and does feel a little too similar to 'The Brothers Grimm'.

Faster - A bank robber just out of prison hits the road to exact revenge on the men who put him there, hotly pursued by a cop out to get him and a hitman out to kill him. The perfect example of the throwaway movie, The Rock makes the revenge flick worth watching and the action keeps you interested but in the end you've seen it all before.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Check It Out: Hounds

Just added to Netflix UK is the New Zealand critical sensation 'Hounds', which follows a lawyer who's just been made guardian to his half-sister and owns half of his fathers racing greyhound. But be warned, this is no warm and fluffy family comedy. Hounds bulges with dark humour that will make you think twice while you laugh. Seriously, you will never hate yourself more than the time you laughed when a dog gets put down.
(To give you a better taste of the humour, the dog is called Lundydixonwatson which is the names of three notorious New Zealand murderers. Why? Because why not.)

What really makes this show unmissable is the wide range of characters who, no matter how important they are to the story, feel like they have such full personalities and feel like they could carry their own series if they had too.

At the time of writing, 230 people had averaged the show out at 3 stars but in my opinion this show deserves a lot better. Fans of the Aussie 'Wilfred' should definitely invest their time as the style of humour is practically the same.

Check it out. It's not often you get a chance to watch shows that are this smart or funny.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Valve Presents 'SteamOS', Next-Gen Consoles Die a Little

The gaming company Valve are one of the hottest properties on the market right now. They have a slew of amazing games to their roster (Half Life, Team Fortress, Portal) and have won over gamers by their encouragement to mod the games to the communities heart's content. They also have a good monopoly on the digital distribution market via the Steam platform, which lets you buy and download games and access them on any PC with your account. With cheap daily deals, disc-free gaming, cloud-based saving and a budding online community, this is the future of gaming.

But Valve have been secretly hinting at a new development first believed to be a Steam Box that would sit under your TV and allow you to play games streamed from your PC. As it turns out, the reality is even more futuristic by doing away with the box and having Steam run off of a Linux-based Operating System on apparently "any living room machine".

This means you will be able to stream your games to the TV with almost no hassle whatsoever.

What to expect:
-The system will be 100% free (not the games however) making it easy for manufacturers to license
-Modders will be able to connect with their fan-base to receive tips and suggestions
-All the current features of Steam remain, but with added parental controls and family sharing
-Increased performance from graphics processors and better audio output

It probably won't affect the sales of Xbox One's and PS4's, given that you still have to use what crappy PC setup you currently have, but it's a sure sign that PC Gaming is just as strong as ever and it is early days meaning we could be in for a PC gaming revolution.

There is no physical date for the OS system yet, with Steam promising 'soon'. Given their reputation with this word, it could mean next month or by the end of 2019.

The Butcher List

Rather than list/review every movie soon to disappear from the Netflix catalogue, I've decided to create a static page that will show all the titles I've come across that will soon be unavailable to watch.

It probably won't be complete but I'll do my best to ensure it's as accurate as I can make it.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

The Butcher List - "Fire in the Sky"

Netflix is great. It has a vast collection of movies available for a low monthly subscription. Unfortunately, every good thing must end and that includes the licenses on some movies. 'The Butcher List' honours those great movies that will soon disappear from the roster, and we can only hope they will grace the catalogue in the near future.

Alien abductions have been done so many times, with most of them taking their cues from the epic that is Close Encounters, and yet it's a shame that everyone tends to forget about the 'based on real events' movie Fire in the Sky. Not only is it a good example on how to do an alien encounter story, it's a pretty chilling thriller in it's own right, especially if you choose to accept that the story is true.

Based on Travis Walton's 'The Walton Experience', the film follows a group of lumberjacks who, on their way home, suddenly lose a member of the group (Travis) to strange lights. Obviously no one believes their alien story and they become the subjects of a gruelling homicide case as the police and townspeople try to find the missing man's body. It's only when he surfaces 5 days later that events prove more complicated than they seemed.

Robert Patrick turns in a great performance as Travis' best friend while DB Sweeney does a great job as Travis himself, helping to sell the traumatic experience he went through; and traumatic it is as the abduction sequence still proves to be as effective now as it was back in '93, with the scene still disturbing to watch. The only downside is the ending feels a tad anti-climatic but it fits with the whole 'real life' story and doesn't tarnish what is a damn near-perfect sci-fi thriller.

'Fire in the Sky' is available until October 1st and well worth the watch if you have any love for things science fictional.

Monday, 23 September 2013

New to Netflix UK - 23/09/13

Not much in the way of interesting uploads this week.

Real Steel - A boxing promoter for robot boxers uses an obsolete model to helm his comeback while struggling to cope with the duties of being a father. It should have been a very silly movie but it actually amounts for a clich├ęd but humane family drama that just happens to have robots beating the hell out of one another in the background.

The Bay - A reporter tries to get to the bottom of a series of infections following an ecological disaster in a seaside town, infections that are causing the public to behave strangely. One of the better found-footage horrors in a long while, The Bay benefits from a decent plot and genuine chills and also marks the fact it is one of Barry Levinson's better films in a very long time.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Godus - First Impressions

Peter Molyneux has a reputation that means you either love him, hate him or hate to love him. He's been responsible for some of the finest games around, particularly through Lionhead Studios, and did a good job as creative director of Microsoft Games Studios. Unfortunately however he often ends up promising on more than he can deliver. Having grand ambitions for your game isn't necessarily a bad thing, after all who are we to thwart an artists visions of what they want to make, but when we buy a product on said ambitions and find missing stuff it can be disappointing and somewhat infuriating.

Then Molyneux quit his job as head of Lionhead Studios and Microsoft Games and founded a completely new company, 22 Cans, and spiked mystery and intrigue through their mobile-based "game" Curiousity, which involved tapping on layers of a cube to reveal the mystery inside. The gimmick was that everyone was competing with each other and that only one person would gain acess to the contents (which turned out to be not that special) but it revealed that Molyneux would be returning to the genre he invented, the God Game.

It should be said that I never played Populous however I spent hundreds of hours on both Black & White games but the idea that a supposedly fresh take on the genre was around the corner spiked my interest. Having missed out on the Kickstarter, I bought Godus via Steam Early Access for £15 (the most I've ever paid for a game through the client) which I saw as both a way of thanking Molyneux for his part in some of the best games I've played as well as to have a full copy of this 'game-changer' when it's released.

So what is it?

You play a God (duh) who has to see the evolution of a tribe of primitives into (one imagines) a thriving advanced race of intellectuals. You do this by expanding your population and discovering cards (either through the single/multiplayer modes or discovery) which allows you to 'level-up' your civilisation through around 15 different eras. Housing plots are automatically generated on empty land and you then click on full houses (houses with a flag) to send out a civilian to build the new house. You have to be careful however as they will only travel a certain distance to build and once out of a house they won't go back in, meaning they will wander the map until they die (it happens, a lot).

There is no resource gathering per se, however most of the actions require 'Belief' to function. Belief is generated automatically through houses, which generate pink bubbles above them, and you click on them to collect it. The more advanced your houses, the more belief you get. It should be noted that until you unlock the Settlement card, you are required to click on houses a lot to get enough belief to do your thing while the Settlement pools together all the belief in one convenient location.

One of the big selling points of the game is the ability to freely sculpt the land to your desire, which you have to do a lot of to ensure there are enough empty plots for your population to grow. This has been a big issue for many people as it results in having to do a lot of clicking to remove vast stretches of land. You can shift the land either by dragging, which can sometimes destroy buildings accidentally, or by double clicking, which smartly forms the land around a certain area. Obviously double-clicking  times a minute just to make a passage through a mountain is enough to make anyone annoyed however I've found that it can be just as easy (if not easier) to drag the land as, once you have unlocked the ability, you can clear multiple levels at the same time.

Sculpting land is also necessary to uncover certain shrines and hidden chests. Shrines offer special abilities, such as increasing the land available or offering up God Powers, while the chests contain cards needed to help your civilisation progress. The God Powers themselves are pretty effective. I've only used the Meteor Strike so far but I can safely say it does exactly what you would expect it to do (I accidentally released it over a crowded area which resulted in a drop of my population by around 400). Other God Powers are either still locked or not really useful.

The design of the game is odd to say the least. On the one hand the art-style is very basic but it works for this sort of game and it's incredibly colourful that you can't help but forgive it's not photorealistic. This is a game that's about the mechanics of gameplay rather than putting together a fancy presentation for the gamer and hoping they ignore the fact it's pretty bland on the inside.

So what do I think?

It's obviously got a long way to go but I'm really impressed with what I've seen so far. I've currently reached the limit as to how far I can progress but I've apparently clocked in over 50 hours doing that, more than I've spent on most triple-A titles.

The whole clicking debacle is an issue but the system they have is just so intuitive I can't really see how else to go about it. At the end of the day, if clicking a lot annoys you then you should look elsewhere.

Should you go about and buy into the Beta?

If you have a craving for a new God game then yes. This game has a lot of potential and we keep getting promised so many big ideas that even if they only deliver half of them, it will still end up being a remarkable achievement. It also means that you only pay £15 now rather than (probably) more on release.

On the other hand, the game is still not halfway finished so there's no rush to jump in now. The best thing to do is watch those cursed "Let's Play" videos and see if you could lose yourself in the game.

Monday, 16 September 2013

New to Netflix UK - 16/09/13

There's some powerful dramas available this week as well as the addition of one of the greatest sci-fi shows ever made.

Star Trek: The Next Generation (TV) - The crew of the Star Trek Enterprise scour the universe for new life, experiencing intrigue and adventure whether they go. The much debated battle on which version is the best (this one!) can begin now that the first four seasons of the acclaimed sci-fi series is available, featuring great characters and excellent stories this is one of the best series of any kind to grace the small screen.

The Hunt - A teacher trying to rebuild his life after a divorce finds his efforts put to the test when he is accused of being a paedophile. Incredibly well written/acted/realised drama that keeps you glued to the screen even though it's harrowing to watch.

Mars Needs Moms - A young boy is tasked with rescuing his mother after she is abducted by aliens. It's not the greatest movie in the world but the actual animation itself is stunningly realised and it can be fun if you let it.

Spiral (TV) - A new season has been added of this gritty French drama surrounding the Parisian legal system.

What Richard Did - In a single act, a Dublin teenager creates chaos in the lives of the people around him, but he has to come to terms with his actions as it will defy who he will become. Incredibly well acted slow-burn drama that's powerful to watch and leaves a lasting impression imprinted in your subconscious.

Monday, 9 September 2013

New to Netfliix UK - 09/09/13

Only found two movies this week, popular ones but not exactly decent ones.

Alice in Wonderland (2010) - A slight reimagining of the Lewis Carroll classic which sees Alice return to Wonderland to do battle with the Red Queen. Tim Burton is at his weakest when catering to a younger audience (excluding his stop-mo films) and while the film is suitably weird, it's just not up to par compared to his previous movies.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice - A college student becomes apprentice to a master wizard and joins the fight to save the world from an evil wizard. It's completely ridiculous but it's also ridiculously fun, just don't expect a cohesive plot or fleshed out characters.

Monday, 2 September 2013

New to Netflix UK - 02/09/13

Just Go With It - A man pretends he is getting divorced to win over a much younger girl, hiring his assistant to play the role of the wife. It's an Adam Sandler movie, what else is there to say.

Rushmore - A highly gifted but academically lacking student tries to woo the heart of a school teacher while competing against the local industrial tycoon. Wes Anderson's name may not be attached to many movies yet but is still one of his best movies to date and established him as the go-to guy for quirky indie cinema.

The Replacement Killers - A retired hitman tries to make his way home but his former employer has other plans and sends some assassins to kill and replace him. An amicable attempt by Hollywood to emulate the John Woo movement of Chinese cinema, which mostly works when the movie isn't dragged down by the thin plot.

Castle (TV) - A crime writer acts as a consultant for the NYPD, using the detective in charge as inspiration for his new character, against her wishes. It's hardly cutting edge drama but the characters are incredibly well played, especially Fillion as Castle, and each episode solicits enough laughs to make this one of the better Police/Consultant team up shows. (First two seasons)

The Colour of Money - An ageing hustler takes a young upstart under his care, but his tendency to play fast and loose leads to complications between the two men. Interesting sequel to The Hustler that ditches the cool tense drama for something faster, but it's well acted and actually does a good job of standing up to the original.

What About Bob? - While on vacation, a psychiatrist finds himself going crazy when one of his less-stable patients unexpectedly turns up. Amusing comedy, thanks to an always excellent Murray, but a lot of the jokes are predictable and it doesn't quite live up to expectations.

El Mariachi - A guitar player is mistaken for a hitman who carries his guns in a guitar case and becomes the target of the local drug cartel, forcing him to adopt the persona of the man he is mistaken for. Fun uber-low-budget action film from Robert Rodriguez that's just as entertaining as his more modern stuff.

The Count of Monte Cristo (2002) - Based on the Dumas novel following a man wrongfully imprisoned who manages to escape jail, find riches on a desert island and reinvent himself as a mysterious lord to take down the men who imprisoned him. Enjoyable swashbuckler which, despite the short running time, manages to keep the more important points from the book, even if they are presented in a more Hollywood fashion.

Bruce Almighty - A man, after an argument with God, inherits his diving powers but finds the job much more than he can handle. A decent Carrey vehicle that does exactly what it sets out to do.

Father of the Bride - A young girl tries to impress a male suitor by pretending her father is her elder boyfriend. Odd comedy that's more heartfelt than you would give it credit for but ultimately doesn't quite live up to expectations.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Star Drunk - A Short Movie About a Drunk Space Crew, Made By Drunk People

There's no denying that alcohol can immensely improve upon a movie watching experience (hell, some movies require alcohol to be watched in the first place). Then there comes a time when you're sitting with friends, you've had a few (or lot) and you start talking about how you'd improve the movie. This is normally where the devotion stops. Some people may go further and try to rewrite the film, only to realise in the morning how terrible their version was. What rarely happens is people sit down to write a movie with the intention of writing it drunk, and that's what has happened with Star Drunk.

To make things better, the entire film was acted by drunk actors. And the results are pretty hilarious (as well as pretty successful, all things considering).

One only has to look back at the golden years of Hollywood to remember that every actor would often loose themselves in an alcoholic mist; icons such as Richard Burton, Oliver Reed, Peter O'Toole would normally prove hard to work with such was their devotion to the drink.

If only film-makers back then had just decided to shoot the whole movie with their actors inebriated. Cleopatra would have been a much more impressive spectacle.