Friday, 8 February 2013

Where is the quality British drama?


It seems that the last few years there has been a certain upheaval in quality in TV programs, particularly coming from the US. Shows like Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones and House of Cards just ooze quality, quality that feels like it blurs the line between TV show and movie, especially when movie star talent like Kevin Spacey (house of cards) are taking roles in shows of these calibre. So I ask myself sometimes, why isn't British TV like this? Where is our breaking bad? why are we still making dribble like blandings?

I think the answer to this question is, as much as we as Brits love to play the superior to our American friends, our TV companies don't want to push the envelope or they still think our dramas are better than the Americans, which if you compare what is considered "bums on seats" viewing the British shows just don't compare. The big shows on in the UK at the moment are Call The Midwife, Ripper Street, Dancing on The Edge, and even though the season has just finished I think Downton Abbey is worth a mention.

While Brit shows get talented actors they seem to lack that hook
I recently sat down and watched the first episode of Dancing on The Edge which while the production values are certainly there and the talent is certainly there it was stiff and at times it was quite awkward to watch, and it was boring. Which is something I imagine TV show makers don't want the audience thinking. It also didn't go anywhere, it is about the band and their rise to stardom but the rise to stardom -which we know is going to happen thanks to the adverts showing them performing in glitzy hotels - was so slow and dragged on for a lifetime. Also worth a note I felt an actor of John Goodman's calibre in a show like this was wasted, they made him stand around and "look weird" because that's what his character does. Why is a program like this seen as top quality British TV? It wasn't written that well, the characters were crappy and the big knife to the shows heart is that it was boring. The lead in at the beginning of the episode designed to get you interested was so poorly pulled off and felt so out of place and disjointed that the only feeling it conjures up is confusion, not intrigue. Compare this to the opening of the latest series of breaking bad, which I won't spoil for the slow pokes out there, which, while it was out of place, it felt expertly put together and conjures up a feeling of intrigue that I find myself questioning on a daily basis.

I guess what I am trying to say here is, where is the quality British drama? Something of the same calibre as Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad? We definitely have the actors of a high enough calibre to act in these sort of programs because they're all in American dramas these days. Sure, our dramas are playing catch up but they seem to lack that certain something that makes the American ones truly special.

Monday, 28 January 2013

A review: DmC: Devil May Cry


I love Devil May Cry, I'm not going to hide it. The Devil May Cry series is one of my favourites and has been one of my favourites since I first played the demo that came bundled with Code Veronica way back when. The games had marvellous combat, a great style and a strangely likeable character. DMC 2 was a bit of a misstep for the series but DMC 3 + 4 were great comebacks to what made the series great, and now here we are with DmC: Devil May Cry. A reboot of said franchise, developed by Ninja Theory. Which I was suprised at to be honest as Team Ninja's most notable effort was Heavenly Sword and that was a great film to watch but a very mediocre game to play, felt more like feminist god of war but without the fun.

Time to get the elephant in the room out of the way first because this comes up every time DmC is mentioned and I'm not going to avoid it. They've changed Dante. He's younger, a self destructive kind and generally an asshole. I get the feeling this is Team Ninja's attempt to appeal to the goth/emo subculture and it would have been a roaring success say 3-4 years ago when that was mega popular. I don't mind the new Dante truth be told, he's a bit of a douche and he is written very poorly but it's a game, and a game shouldn't be judged on it's storyline especially not a Devil May Cry game where the focus has always been on the crazy gameplay first, story second.

The gameplay of DmC is great, it's very dumbed down from before as gone is the ability the jump cancel and also gone seems the crazy gameplay of before. The new system is simplified, you have your set combos and you can mix it up with juggles or just stay on the ground. The game changer here, which while not as drastic as team ninja may have suggested is the devil and angel arms, these are two weapons that you acquire early on in the game that give you the ability to pull an enemy toward you or pull yourself toward an enemy. It's a great ability and is great for keeping those long air combos going, also they give you a very quick scythe and a really slow, but powerful axe. You can switch between these weapons at any time by pressing a trigger button and it's really sweet to mix up these combos with the normal combos. You also get the guns too but they're not really a major part of dmc apart from keeping juggles going.

I thought the gameplay was very enjoyable and it's nice that it's simplified a little so you can perform some really crazy actions with ease, it's rewarding as a player that this doesn't require some controller magic, however the downfall is, as it's easier to perform these amazing feats of dexterity it lessens the reward payoff.

Graphically this game is nice to look at, Team Ninja have done a lot with the libo city landscape and it's very cool when the city attacks you. The game has some rough spots where it doesn't look great or there are odd instances of clipping, for example dantes sword clips through his jacket quite a lot but to get hung up on issues like that is stupid.

I didn't pay enough attention to the story to tell you about that.

Overall: The game is fun, and at the end of the day that's what you want the game to be. Forget about the whole nonsense that they changed the character, this game while shy of being deserving of the Devil May Cry name is a great action game and worth the price of admission.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Job hunting



Since dropping out of university I was presented with a choice; do nothing or look for a job, and while I was unable to undertake this task straight away due to an illness that came on very suddenly and knocked me on my arse for the good part of a month, I was always worried about job hunting, essentially staring into rejection and the possibility that no-one will want to hire me ever. So this year, 2013, I decided to say screw the rejection, I'll take it, because like Batman, someone will need me at some point and I'm sure it'll help build character. I am normally not a motivated person, I would put that down to just looking at things the wrong way(i.e glass half empty as opposed to half full) but it seems job hunting has lit a certain fire under me and I find myself motivated to the point that I just desperately want a job, so much so that I am applying to everything my skills will allow me to do. I will say this about job hunting, it's like hitting your head against a brick wall. You often get rejected for small reasons or you don't hear of anything at all from some employers, or you get to the interview stage, feel you've interviewed great only to be turned down, but hit that brick wall enough and it will crack eventually and that's what I plan on doing. 

In Aberystwyth, the brick wall is harder because the town is so small and quite full of skilled individuals who come and go year in and year out, but nonetheless I'm still hammering away. It is also very early days in my career of hunting for a career so I shouldn't look at it in a negative light, it's been a good ride so far and I have been interviewed once and while it was a scary experience it has taught me what to expect for future interviews and has also taught me I should try and calm my nerves a bit more before an interview. It's hard, but the pay off will be worth it.

I don't want to be on benefits forever, some people fashion a lifestyle out of benefits I don't believe that's me. Previously I have sat back and done nothing but 2013 is a new year and I wouldn't go as far to say it's a new me but I'm having a different outlook on things. I want to earn, I want to feel the feeling of earning, self satisfaction and I believe it would help develop me as a person, I've never worked, I won't hide that, bar the odd bit of work experience so the prospect of work is all new to me and because it's uncharted territory in my 21 years of living it makes it all the more exciting. 


Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Happiness

Happiness is a strange thing, in that everyone expects you to be happy and it is often very difficult to admit that you are depressed or unhappy with life. It is especially difficult if you have what most would consider 'everything' (i.e a lovely girlfriend, enough money, independence etc). But alas here I am, saying to the world that I am depressed, or rather coming to terms with this. 

See, in September I went to the doctors and mentioned my moods have been strange, feeling a bit more down than usual you know what I had, at that time, considered the usual, the doctor screened me for depression and there I am, getting told I'm depressed and being prescribed anti depressants which was, to me, the weirdest thing ever at the time. Okay, I had my fallings, I'd just dropped out of university essentially branding myself a failure in the eyes of everyone else, just moved out of a hostile living environment but I just thought, no I can't be, there's too much good in my life right now, however, I am now aware that this can happen to people. 

I never considered myself depressed, I still avoid associating myself with it a bit but I feel like I'm getting closer to accepting that this is what I am right now in my life and hopefully with the help of counseling and the support from some wonderful friends and of course my family I'm hoping to beat it and somehow return to happiness again. I guess, what I'm trying to say with this blog post is I am starting to feel acceptance with my condition and with that acceptance I hope for recovery and once again happiness. Also, this is also to keep the few that read this up to date with whats going on in my life, yay!

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Twin Peaks: Why it succeeds at keeping you hooked even when it's all over


A few months ago while subscribed to Netflix I noticed that they had both seasons of Twin Peaks available to watch, Twin Peaks is a show I've heard a lot about and I had always wanted to watch it so it being available on Netflix had me overjoyed. As I was only around a good internet connection for a brief period of time I mad it through the first season and enjoyed it so much that I had to get the second season.

Flash forward a few weeks ago, I have finished watching Twin Peaks, I watched the film the other day which was a great experience solely for the fact it was more Twin Peaks. So what makes Twin Peaks so special, so intoxicating that it has stuck with me long after I have finished watching it? Is it the great characters? The seedy underbelly of an otherwise peaceful, rural town? Or is it the way the web of intrigue surrounding Laura Palmers murder gets more convoluted and somehow delivers an overly satisfying conclusion? The answer is all of these yet it is also none of these. The thing about Twin Peaks is hard to pin point, it is very much a love it or hate it TV program and some people will be turned away by the many characters eccentricities while many will be drawn into it based solely on these.

Twin Peaks starts with the murder of Laura Palmer which continues to get investigated over the course of Season 1 and halfway through Season 2, however, it is clear from the pacing of the show that this is not all the show is about. It is about building up a believable yet implausible web of intrigue based solely on the inhabitants of the town, and the way the show goes about presenting this is very clever, there are straight cut characters you are introduced to in episodes only to find out, maybe tons of episodes later that they have a hidden agenda of their own or are plotting against another character. The only character who is really exempt from this is Agent Cooper who has his own demons which he confronts in season 2. 

There are many side stories which branch off from the murder of Laura Palmer, Leland Palmers story is an interesting one as is Ben Hornes however I won't go into spoilers. So how does a show about one murder which if it were any other show for the ADHD addled would solve in an hour hang on? It hangs on because you never know what it is going to throw at you next. There are so many red herrings presented in the series and so many otherwise throwaway scenes that are very important to the conclusion, an example of this is the red room scene in episode 3, from that scene you should be able to work out who killed Laura Palmer. However, it is not known how until the very end. 

David Lynch is clearly a very clever man and his cleverness is evident over the course of the series, so much can happen in one episode however you will not realise what has happened until a later episode explains it, like I said the show throws so much at you that it can be difficult to take in some of it's more surreal moments. 

Overall, I just wanted to gush over Twin Peaks in general and this is exactly what I am doing. Twin Peaks is a fantastic show when it picks up it's pace, it gives you mystery, intrigue and some supernatural elements. The blend of this shouldn't work but it pulls it off while still feeling grounded in the reality that the series has created for itself. Twin Peaks is a show everyone should watch and if you get hooked you will be thinking of it long after it's over as there are so many visual cues and little nods Lynch has thrown in to keep you guessing. What really happened to Cooper we will never know but it is always fun to theorise over it.



Saturday, 18 August 2012

Going up

Hey it's been a while (once again) since I blogged so I thought I would blog once more and tell you, darling patrons of the internet, about what's going on in my life. Where to begin is where I begin to struggle, much like writing an essay or getting things done starting it, is always the hardest part but I suppose you could say I have achieved my start by explaining that I find it hard to start things, right? Anyhow it's been a while since I actually spoke about myself on here, I believe the last time was in February at some point and that was me just venting some negativity because it needed to be done. Special thanks to the Anonymous poster who's critique will be taken on board while I write this, I promise not to be contradictory this time, honest.

Anywho, my life in the past few months, well I guess I should begin on a high note, in March I got engaged to my wonderful (now) fiance and we couldn't be happier together, even the rough times feel great in the presence of someone you love. We've moved into our own place together too which is liberating and also gives us a taste of what life would be like just us, now I know we lived together in the past but that was constricted to one room or otherwise in a hostile environment so it feels good to be able to spread our wings and grow together in our own place. Our place is also very nice, like, you can tell it's not just for students as it really feels like effort has gone into the upkeep of the place.

I have now become a Mac user too which is something I have wanted to do for a very long time but never been able to afford it, it feels great. I don't think I would ever go back to a Windows system as a mac feels more user friendly and AWESOME. Thank you based jobs.

I am also happy to say as well that this summer has allowed me to close the door on a troublesome part of my life and hopefully, now, without the event hanging over me I can hopefully open new doors in my future and not have to worry so much about it. Speaking of future, I am at a crossroads in terms of academic life and life in general, unsure of which route to seek but hopefully with some guidance which I will seek in the future I can get back on track and hopefully figure out what it is I want to do in my future.

That's it for me really, I hope that this isn't contradictory and what not and it is a bit of a rambling but hey, this blog is called "ramblings" I believe it would be selling it short if I didn't ramble. Expect more in the future when I have more interesting things to say!

Monday, 2 July 2012

The genius of Minecraft


Minecraft is a simple concept really, take a a lego style approach of building and a mining approach to resource gathering and you have Minecraft. What you do in Minecraft is gather resources and build structures/houses - I favour building houses. To gather resources you can dig up the ground to gather dirt, punch trees to gather wood and etc. You can also craft these resources into weapons and tools like swords and pick axes which make gathering resources or killing enemies easier. 

So what's so great about it? It sounds really boring, graphically it is a bit of an eyesore and well the music isn't very good either, but the ease of being able to build an impressive looking house and the addictive nature of the resource gathering really makes it a winning package. I often find myself playing it for hours on end just digging for a certain resource and then being overjoyed when I come across it, this is the sort of joy that you seldom find in video games these days. Also, the monster encounters can be really tense, especially if you are not equipped to deal with the situation, monster battles don't amount to much, mostly just hit it until it dies but the feeling that you could die and lose all your stuff at any moment gets your heart racing and it just adds another layer to the immersion.


Nice house *boom*


Then there are creepers, creepers are a horrible looking green monster that roam the lands of minecraft with a mission statement, and that mission statement is ruin your day. If they see you they come after you and if they get near you they emit this horrible hissing sound and then proceed to blow up. Which is perfectly okay if you've got a lot of health and are in a open area but when they ruin the house you've spent hours working on is when shit's on like donkey kong.

The crafting system tends to be great and adds more depth to the game, you can make so much stuff and the items you create can be used for decorative reasons or for other reasons like the game has pistons and I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THEY DO but I can't wait to find out what they do! Also, my friend Joel who is big into minecraft has a house where he has THINGS THAT SHOOTS MONSTERS AND STOPS THEM FROM BREAKING DOWN HIS HOUSE, my mind was blown when I realised how complicated that must have been. 

This is a game that isn't without problems, sometimes the game runs like ass even though it looks like a super nintendo could play it. And SOMETIMES I get gangraped by creepers but that's mostly because I suck at the game when it comes to fighting things, I just like building houses. Anyway the point of this blog is to say I like Minecraft, this is my opinion, it is my opinion that you dear reader should buy Minecraft and give Jeb some money to go on vacation.