Tuesday, 11 September 2012

I Finally get to review Sleeping Dogs!

Ah Sleeping Dogs. To say I have been waiting a while for this game is an understatement.

Announced by Activision as early as 2009 in the form of True Crime: Hong Kong, the game was cancelled in February 2011 along with its planned release of a new Guitar Hero.  Despite promising looking demos and showing an almost complete product, the publisher still let it go down the drain. The company's reasons were that the game was not of sufficient quality to compete in the open world genre, and as a result would not turn around as much of a profit as its other IP's, namely the obvious Call of Duty moneymaker and its own expectations for the game.

You crushed my soul Activision

The reasoning behind this still baffles me to this day; Why not just release a game thats 99% complete anyway, just to get SOME money out of it instead of letting those years of development go to waste with nothing to show for it?

Thankfully, Square Enix saw that the game was well worth bringing out, and after picking up the publishing rights,  released an announcement trailer in February this year, that really brought its presence in with a bang. Afterwards, its been a long enough wait, but finally last week I got my copy, and played everything it has to offer.

Was it worth the wait?

in short, yes.

From playing it through to the end, I can say that the best things about the game are that it takes familiar mechanics, blends them all together very smoothly, and tops it off with a solid story in a setting that has not been done to death in the sandbox genre.

You play as officer Wei Chen, a member of the San Francisco Police Department that is returning to his native homeland of Hong Kong, tasked with an undercover operation. He must infiltrate a branch of the Triad criminal organisation, under the Sun on Yee branch, and break it down from within. Throughout his story, you encounter a variety of characters from both sides of the law, including his Superintendant Thomas Pendrew
, old friend and member of the triads Jackie Ma, the leader of the water street gang Winston Chu, and even the Sun on Yee Dragon Head, Uncle Po.
All of these characters give Wei tasks that further progress the story and his standing in the gang, in a similar vein to the Grand theft Auto series. The story ultimately is a rather solid, if predictable undercover cop drama, that also pays homage to the martial arts genre. It fits well between the seriousness of the GTA4 tale, and the goofiness of a Saints Row 'story'. My biggest gripe is a lack of consistency with the timeframe of it all. I felt with the story than it could have been set over a few weeks, though it should feel like its over many months, just to make sense of the time infiltrating the gang. A slightly smaller gripe is the relatively short time it takes to complete the game. Whereas GTA4 would take an achievement of beating it in under 30 hours, Sleeping Dogs would clock in at roughly half that before the side missions.

Where do your loyalties lie?

The missions themselves run the usual of games in the genre, ranging from street fights to shootouts to infiltration and loaded with minigames, all with a lot of driving. The distinction Sleeping Dogs gives though, is a specialised melee system, upgrades and a solid arcade racer.

The melee combat takes up a large part of the action. The mechanics are similar to the recent batman games, but incorporate a lot of environmental attacks, and a lot of gory possibilities that come with it. Hand to hand is inspired by martial arts, and additional abilities can be gained by finding collectibles, such as health shrines for extra hitpoints, or statues for additional button combos.

When firearms become introduced, they change the dynamic of play by putting in a cover system, as well as bullet time effects when vaulting obstacles. While they are rather decisive when its a gang of gunmen against you, you can still put up a fair fight against a few enemies with martial arts, with disarming abilities, and the environment is still yours to use...

the baddies should have never placed hooks and swordfish there really

Running through the games missions and quests is an upgrade system, where you gain abilities from Police, Triad and public face experience. Points are gained from the police Exp by not killing civilians or damaging public property, Triad Exp is earned from impressive combat techniques, and face Exp is earned from helping citizens around Hong Kong and being considered a popular figure. These all add to bonses, such as price discounts, melee abilities or extra bullet time. It fits well into the split loyalties theme.

Getting around Hong Kong is a breeze rather than a chore. You can travel on foot, utilizing a parkour movement, or get in the plentiful vehicles around the city. While the climbing is more contextual, and admittedly fun, it is disappointing that you cannot simply jump freely rather than wait for the indicator. On the other hand, driving is one arcade style blast of fun. Blending a mix of Burnout Revenge and Need for Speed Underground, the driving is fast and not in the slightest concerned with realism. This works to the games advantage, as open world games usually have dead boring street race events. Here, they are short and sweet, and you have a variety of vehicles, from the speedy motorcycles to a chicken van. Along with driving you can ride shotgun in vehicle shootouts, or stuff baddies in the trunk. And if you really feel adventurous, why not jump out of your car to hijack one beside you?

No sandbox game is without sidequests and minigames, and Sleeping Dogs is no exception. There are the usual "beat up this guy cos he said my hat looked gay" or the theft of vehicles, but the more unique ones involve Wei's undercover job. Hacking cameras, triangulating signals, planting bugs and cracking safes are part of the job. If Wei is a bit more on the Triads side, he can indulge in some cock fighting or  gambling in the dens off the island. Karaoke should really be avoided though...

When it comes to looks the city is the star of the show. While it isnt a real representation of Hong Kong, it captures a lot of the essence, with vibrant streets, vendors waiting to sell you pork buns and counterfeit clothes, and the neon signs dominating the streets. 

Close up however, the characters don't have the same level of detail as a Rockstar blockbuster, but do give a strong taste of the east with the voice talent. Mrs Chu speaks entirely in Cantonese, and a lot of the early dialogue has the same language, but its obvious that it turns into broken english in accented chinese. Still, its a different sound, especially with the oriental themed score.

I stand by that this game was worth the wait. While it does not surpass its obvious roots with contemporaries, it does the mechanics very well, particularly driving and fighting. The choice to visit Hong Kong was a big reason I waited for this title, and its as refreshing as I thought. Its rare to find a game that caters so much to my tastes, but when it shows the love of the Asian culture, has Need for speed driving, Streets of rage meets Arkham asylum fighting, and a story that can be taken as a great alternative to GTA4, with all the minigames added in, I cant help but like the game. Its overkill that they knew I would like a Pat Benatar classic in the karaoke, but steady on its still not a save for the karaoke.

I strongly recommend you give this game a look, if not for a buy then rent for a good week. It will please those who like the Asian action films of late, and those who want a solid sandbox adventure to play during this admittedly long gaming drought. Even if you just want a game thats fun, this could satisfy your needs, so try it out.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

You dont hate people until...

As the saying goes (at least according to facebook), you do not hate people until you have worked in retail. And as it happens, I have been in that area of work for a few months now, and it really has hit the ultimate standoff between optimism and pessimism during this 'bank holiday'.

I had been blissfully unaware of humanity's annoyances until this month, as previously I was the ice cube in the store freezers with little interaction aside from co-workers, but alas it has all changed now, and my eternal optimism has to face wave after wave of angry looking women who would challenge angry birds for the namesake.


Here are a few particular quotes I get day in day out from the downtrodden and depressed, and some reasoning as to why I hate them, and why I prefer to use the self service checkouts when in the reverse role of customer.

"Are you open?"

My own doodle, shop is censored so everyone is happy

So I suppose this is meant to be taken as a polite gesture from a customer who wants to get their shopping done as fast as possible, but do the bright lights of till 15, moving conveyor belt, open swing-door and ANOTHER CUSTOMER STILL BEING SERVED give them any hint? NO!

It does concern me that they ask when I am in the middle of a transaction with someone else, as if the entire store is going to shut down before they put their items on the belt. I also try to put myself in their shoes and wonder why ask that question in the first place, when someone is at a till they are there to scan stuff, so why not just put the stuff there and get it done?

"You looked bored/tired/lonely so I thought Id give you something to do"

A real way to piss me off. Granted, the life of a till monkey isnt a social one unless you happen to get the express checkouts with a few people to chat to, but do I look that way for fun?

I am wrecked because I am after serving a seemingly endless line of tampons and quorn sausages, and when I finally get a breather you show up ready to make me do it all again.

Its not really the initial saying that is bad though, more that it has an accompanying natural law whereby once you scan this dear customer's items, a wild trolley will appear behind them, stuffed to the brim.


Can I have a euro for the trolley?

And thirdly, for now is when they ask for a euro for a trolley. This request isnt a stupid one by any means, but more what the customer does to make sure he/she gets one...

Firstly (while I am serving someone else) they will enter from the front doors, and make a robotic walk towards you, making sure they are noticed by you from as many yards away as possible.

still while serving someone else, they will ask for a euro, despite there being a machine by the door! Whats wrong with it, will it try to attack you if you use it?

and of course, I cant open the till until my transaction with the other customer is complete, but the minute it opens, they rush in with their change, their hands about to grab the euro from within
and just walk off like that, completely ignoring the customer who is still awaiting change too you know?

this is a similar scenario...minus the gun...and hooded hoodlums
So thats only a glimpse as to my daily annoyances, yet I still carry through, brighter than ever, because hey, someone has to oppose the pessimistic aul ones, and who is better at that?

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Time Management: Act III

The world is very much different from the one I had been in at the time of first typing this blog, and more so from the last post.

So maybe not THIS different

For one, I finally have the job I have been craving all year to keep my mind busy. Its a basic job at the low end of things, but its a job, something that many in this emerald isle would crave. Perhaps the  4 year long 'recession' has stagnated to nothingness?

Or maybe the tiger is still missing?

Either way I am a worker, and its given me more money than I can spend, and I appreciate every free day I get. There has been times where I did, for example, 10 days straight, and its great, but I long for the days where I would climb killiney hill and dream of great things. A bit of a paradox considering I was dying for a job. Suppose its rare to find money and free time in the same space.

If it were not for employment I would not be typing on this new laptop I have, wearing this new sophisticated outfit, or planning a trip to see my brother stateside and getting all t3h W1mm1nzz!

I cant help but feel like Nico on this one...

And to top it all, I did get my degree after a year in purgatory, so it was not a waste of time. I have even applied for a prototype year to see if I can improve my status in the world!

But time management has not gone without a cost. Everything in the previous world has been burned to the ground, from memories I cannot relive again, good and bad, to other jobs and people, and it has not been without casualties. You could argue that I have lost everything and won everything at the same time. Its a change of worlds from the happily free, but poor man to the rich but busy man indeed.

Heres to making moneys at least!

Sunday, 11 March 2012

The Final Destination review

I am not a big fan of pure horror films or 'gore porn' films such as the Saw films,Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the Ring, Friday the 13th, and the Excorcist among others.
Usually I prefer the tangents off of the genre. There is the Zombie horror, which is the best kind to transfer to a games man like myself, full of human social commentary with the usual action.

I Still think this is the best of its kind

There is the Science Fiction/Horror's like the Alien and Terminator series, blending action with bloody gore and some suspense

I even thought this was alright as a premise...

And then there is the comic horror where the films poke fun at horror conventions to a varying degree. Scary Movie goes all out for fun while the Final Destination Series has had a somewhat darker, though obvious humour in its films.

Not this obvious though

I have been a fan of the Final Destination movies since the younger side of my teens. They are never going to be critical masterpieces in the same way that Let the Right one in has been, and I know what to expect from the films;The lead character has a premonition in which a sizeable group are killed in an accident, saves themselves and a few others from the accident, accident happens, then one by one the few survivors are killed off in mouse trap type accidents. Aside from the exception of Ali Larter's character in Final Destination 2, no one makes it to the end of the film. Its more obvious to expect than what happens when a man sees a beautiful woman naked on his bed.

Despite my fun with the series, I have yet to see them on the big screen, which is a mighty shame with The Final Destination's case. At the time of its release, its big draw was that it was in 3D, and from the outset, not tacked on for that extra buck. It sadly shows when I finally saw it on the TV for the first time. Objects that fly out hit the walls of the TV screen and not right in my face, and as the film progresses it gets more and more noticeable with explosions, water and nails all flying out and about. Heck, there was even a sex scene, imagine the doorty fap in 3D!

They saw the 3D bewbz

So without the effect, the film feels very flat to watch, and CG effects are much more noticeable, even more so than the third. Still, it can't be all bad to watch, isnt the main draw overall about the death scenes?

Well, it sorta falls flat on that too...

The feeling of losing control, a theme in the third Final Destination in particular, is lost in the opening scene. the chances of escaping the Speedway crash feel somewhat greater to live than  its predecessors (fancy your chances surviving a Plane explosion or Roller Coaster ride?) The larger accidents near the climax also make death into some force akin to a Soldier with a chaingun with unlimited ammunition and grenades, killing ALL CIVILIANS just to get the survivors. Isn't 'death' a rather selective force in the series, why the deaths of the characters are more scary than if killed with many more alongside them?

its geting tired of singling out
Much of the previous instalments already got the cream of horrendous death sequences, such as the surprise bus accident, the tanning beds, the flying barbed wire, falling ladder, bathtub strangulation and so on. This film has a lot of retreads, with possibly the most scary being the swimming pool accident. Not by the act itself, but because it is based on an actual event.
The car wash sequence, while new, felt strangely non lethal. The suspension of disbelief is required I know, but I have seen Jonathan Goodwin tied down to a car in a washer in nothing but boxers.

Channel 4 in the noughties

Still, the Security guard is a pleasant change of the 'Evil black man that dies first' stereotype in horror (funnily, it is the racist redneck who gets it first while attacking a coloured man). The rest of the cast reek of bad character development. The romance between the lead and his girlfriend is worthy of attention, but IMO it would have been better had he done something that would save her but at the cost of his life (mushy but ah well).

My main problem, aside from the 3D failings when flat, is that it does not do anything over the top-fresh for the series. The fans watch the films for ingeniously gory scenes, and at the same time a twist in how the 'death' system works. The twist only really gains urgency near the end, and while I enjoyed these climactic events, the rest of the film plays by numbers and going rather refined over revolutionary. Its campy, overly reliant on the 3D gimmick and unoriginal.

So while I rank this as the lowest of all the Final Destinations, there is but one film in the series I have yet to see, and one which disproved the point of the title 'The Final Destination'. Will it be any good? I hope to see it soon!

Directed by a James Cameron Protegé (o.O)

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

I Love Halo/Halo 4 first look excitement

I am mad about one game series, and one game series in particular. That series is Halo. If I wanted one tattoo in my life, it would be this one...

Its the game series I would play forever in heaven, and forever participate in the ongoing conflict in Valhalla over capturing flags.

My desktop wallpaper c.2007

Its more than just a series of games. Its a culture, built around a space opera epic that can legitimately be compared to the hype and scale of Star Wars, a multiplayer experience that saved a games console, and a following known as the halo nation that are friendly, competitive, and ever questioning about the knowledge of the Halo universe.
No 2 Halo fans are the same. Some enjoy reading the novels about the more humane aspects of being a supersoldier. Others love the story of six lowly soldiers fighting the covenant army under cover of darkness in a city the size of New York. Some like myself, enjoy the feeling of delivering the business end of my battle rifle to another players head, and going on to win a match.

less than three

It is also a franchise that does not forget its roots, and at the same time it makes advances to keep up with the times. Two series of late have hit me as being examples in how not to do this. Assassin's Creed's original premise was simply that of a man hopping on the rooftops to stealthily strike a specific target, yet the latest look at the series has full scale battles of the american revolution, and more that of a mercenary than of a silent assassin. They made needed adjustments, which I like, but lost the way of the assassin, and looks like they have gone into full battle mode

On the other extreme, you have the Call of Duty franchise, which is at the moment king of the games industry. It has kept faithful to the CoD4 formula, but to a fault. No major changes have been made since 2007, and it shows with its latest entry, Modern Warfare 3. It is a stale experience that I thoroughly disliked for being akin to a DLC product slapped with a €50 price.

A campaign shorter than Terminator:Salvation says it all

Bungie came out with a quality product with many changes as their last hurrah to the series in 2010, Reach. While some players disliked things like armour abilities, reticle bloom and overuse of forge world maps, there is no denying that it was a success. It had all the elements of a halo game, and delivered something fresh at the same time. It had a great story, along with addictive multiplayer and stuffed with more content than some games have on two disks! Most importantly, like all halo games, it felt like the studio had put a great deal of effort beyond the ordinary to create such a game. Every last bit of love shone through in the details, like the references to prior Halo games like the night time sniping mission, or the grandiose set pieces such as the evacuation of a city before being burned to dust.

Remember Reach. Forget CoD

And the future looks brighter than ever, with 343 industries taking the helm, a dedicated team that are as big a fan of the series as the community, they could well make something special with Halo 4. the recent first look has had me more hyped than I expected, truly the Multiplayer looks like the child of a loving Halo 3 and Reach couple, and the campaign looks to bring a new take on the story of the galaxy's biggest badass.

Wake me when you need me

It is such a pleasure to see this vidoc showcasing little tibits, and at the same time keep pretty much the whole story, as well as more multiplayer details hidden. The hype is driving me mad! I hope that the series will rightly reclaim the throne of FPS king once the Call of Duty ship sinks from milking.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

World Wide Web War 1: ACTA

So its near the end of Q1 of 2012, and I am getting bloody annoyed at the whole ACTA craze that seems to be sweeping across the continent like a plague...

I am not good at describing ACTA, so this is a rather user friendly summary of it

SOPA may have been averted from the world, at least for the meantime, but ACTA seems to have got by fairly easily, notice a lack of sites going dark over this one?

Back when SOPA was still somewhat in the news, I was looking for something related to ACTA, and all I found on the Irish news media sites was the headline "Hackers attack Polish government websites"


What struck me at the time was that this was the only mention of ACTA at the time, despite all the widespread online protesting, it accounted for no media attention. A government website had to go down to get a news article less than 2 minutes long to hit the Irish public. Doing dangerous activities is the only way to get RTÉ's attention, and then you get labelled a cyberterrorist instead of a protester that needs to get the world to talk about ACTA.

Unfortunately, ACTA has seen less backlash over its persistence and, for me, the Irish view of acceptance. We protest for a day and then give up after a while. We are such wimps of a population in this country, getting bossed around, and yet we still take it every friggin day and do NOTHING to change it. We live our lives just getting little things being changed. For example, we lost indoor smoking and late bars, and despite the protests we just let it happen!

Thankfully, Bulgarians are not like us, they do something about the ACTA laws


Sign the petition against ACTA, they need 200'000 signs and are halfway there as I type. Heres hoping...


Monday, 20 February 2012

The Rotten Republic

While I may have come across as a bit mean on my Tallafornia review, it is a show still worthy of my attention. It is a show that knows what it sets out to do; Shame the Irish with a corny Jersey Shore knockoff, to the point of self parody. More importantly, it works on that level, and does not strive to be anything more than that (at least for now).

the Stir is still getting stirred

A rather different show, on RTÉ is the Republic of Telly. It is the national stations best shot at studio comedy, and aims to be the #1 show from Irish territory aimed at the young Adults of the country.
For those not in the know, the Republic of Telly is a blend of comic sketches and mocking other shows, usually that of rivals TV3, but not afraid to take the mick out of its own programmes too. It has Dermot Whelan as host, with Bernard O Shea and Jennifer Maguire as support.

While the show has always made a smile come across my face now and then, it rarely has had me in stitches since its beginnings in 2009.

time to dig for the laughs?

I do enjoy a few things about it, notably its three main comedians and the idea that independant shorts get aired. Dermot does a better job than Neil Delamere did while host, making it much livelier and just clicking with the show overall, and the supporting cast can deliver on most fronts.
The supported content is a plus too, with the Rubber Bandits, Handy Sandie, Damo & Ivor and Damo Clarke to name a few contribute to the shows time on air, mostly through posted sketches. Here is a personal favourite of mine about the joys of hangovers.

But ultimately, it fails to deliver many laughs outside of these segments. Slag Tallafornia all you want this series, but it does not hold a candle to epicnewsdaily's Swipes, even when you have a song based on how crap it is.

Clear Winners

Also of note is the many swipes at shows that are not really the best to slag in the first place. We already know about kids beauty pageants and gypsy weddings but getting some laughs out of it somehow feels like getting blood from a stone at times. Maybe the audience already got the pokes at the differing lifestyles and it just didn't need explaining? The cookery shows are often desperate searches for some form of innuendo's, a lot of the daytime show is also a search for an elusive dirty word.

Other skits just aren't funny full stop. Jennifer getting pissed off at people? I got it the first time, but she does it at everyone, all the time, Y U no change?

I find comedy to be similar to an oscilloscope, a nice wave is made with highs and lows. If the bar is set to 11 all the time, as in Jennifer's, you cannot appreciate it if there isn't a skit of a calmed down and chilled character. With Bernard, its too low, with high points when he gets into a stand up routine over being a creepy stalker, but he needs more stand up and less faffing about.

It feels that the writing is holding the trio back more than anything else. There are lines that make the show feel like it is trying so hard to pull off jokes, and it feels very unnatural a lot of the time.  They do so well at what they do, but only as good as the lines they are given. GET BETTER WRITING IN!
Another excuse to use this fun pic

This is meant to be Ireland's best in Comic sketches, but it fails to beat the likes of Harry Hill's TV burp with its writing, nor its earlier incarnation, Colin Murphy's Blizzard of odd, in terms of programmes to swipe.

Am I the only one that remembered this?

At a production level, it beats a lot of what the land has to offer, yet it feels like its fallen short, and its ambition to be the top dog isn't working. Its amusing, but not hilarious. Im watching the next few episodes with a happy face, but I long to see things getting better, or else it'll lose my attention.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Tallafornia: Making the rest of us feel better

As said before in my Haywire review, I dislike overseas (notably american) portrayals of the Irish. On a somewhat related note, I hate the americanisation of Irish culture. Its why Santa gets milk and cookies instead of bottles of beer every Christmas, and why the D4 invasion has been unstoppable. 
OK, so maybe it isn't SO bad

But we don't quite get what works from American TV just yet. We as a country tend to do alright with what works in Britain because of the relative similarities in culture and obvious influences. We have similar shows, stations that transmit the same mush (TV3 and ITV is the best example) and British television also seems more 'grounded' than the smash hits that make American TV so great. Take me out, Master chef, and Come dine with me, are all shows of recent times that have been well made from a British base to work in Ireland.

American reinterpretations though have been quite mixed. We have taken influences from 'the Hills' and ended up with 'Fade Street', a dire take on improvised dialogue and basic acting skills. However, The Apprentice is definitely a hit, working with a very Irish Bossman in Bill Cullen  to work with a modern Ireland.
But we now have taken things down to a very low level with 'Tallafornia'.

The format is based on 'Jersey Shore', where a bunch of muscly men and skanky women share a house and then go clubbing and shagging every time they have the chance.

Theoretically the format does not make sense to work within a country like Ireland. Geordie Shore is on in the U.K so why not leave it at that, because a lot of the Irish MTV viewers see it anyway. Dublin is not the place to find these type of people either. the Name Tallafornia implies people from Tallaght, so anyone outside the place probably thought of these sort of characters...

But instead we have a different set of much better looking people, who just happen to live in the place.
With the house itself, it is about right for the location, a semi-detached gaff with the usual rooms (and a cheesy 'score room') save for the one fact that there is a hot tub in the back garden. Unless you are high up and rich, I don't think anywhere in Tallaght has a hot tub.
Finally, it seems a bit hard to find things to do in Tallaght aside from clubbing and shopping, what can the creators do about it?

But, to be honest, I had some strange feelings about the show once it got put in practice. It reeks of an amateur work mixed with professionalism. The main cast may not feel like true 'Tallafornians', but they do a lot of what many others in Dublin do. Trips to Tesco, The Wright Venue, play the Wii, head to a 21st in a clubhouse, all feel very grounded. At the same time, they do what very few of us would, such as absail in Killiney, bring women to the hot tub, or spend a couple hundred quid on condoms, lube, eggs and tuna.

Maybe the producers had this plan all along, to have it feel deliberately corny and be a satire of the American and British counterparts, and in that case it worked a charm. Its entertaining in the right mindset, and the cast of characters, while single dimensional, are growers. Some make for hilarious TV, such as Cormac, the most muscly of the men, but also awkward as f**k, adding to finished punchlines, walking like the terminator and just having a 'forever alone' stance in many situations.

"The Stir has been Stirred"

Theres other characters, such as Nikita, who judging by the show wants sex, no matter who or what it is. There's Jay , who acts grounded until his clothes come off, Natalie, who is into fashion and the vajazzle, Kelly who must have done modelling before this because she is in lingerie a lot of the time, Phil who acts as a typical man-whore, and Dave, who is getting with Kelly every other time I watch the show.

For all its efforts, it works on an unintentional hilarity, but to take it in 'highbrow' seriousness its a failure in most ways to any other televised show. Perhaps more practical if they based it off the D4 stereotype, but If you cannot bring yourself to watch this type of show, consider watching epicnewsdaily's version, which provides a running commentary on the show's highlights. Its among the funniest commentaries of anything out there, and what myself as a viewer seems to think at the right moments.

Give it a watch, for better or worse, you are enlightened by a show like this

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Time Management: Act II (featuring Bebo!)

So another cold winter night descends, while the sun flees behind the Dublin mountains, ready to strike at dawn.
Except its not winter, its officially Spring.

Times have changed quite a bit from where I struggled to get up before midday, for lack of activities to do, or just that there was no real motive to get up earlier than that time. Its got to the point that Thursdays and Friday's are the main days to have chance of a lazy day in. and while I still would give my girlfriend all of the spare time, it seems far less than the amount she would have got from the last time management post.

This week has been the usual 2 hours of college work, but add on a photoshop side course, extra freerunning, money jobs and seemingly more activities being made, it all adds up to a week with a busier schedule in every way. Also in the mix is my venture into eBay, where every sale counts and getting your products sent off ASAP is what gets street cred. Heck, I somehow missed any info about the supposed death of Bebo, once Ireland's most visited website!


It turned out to be a technical glitch, but one must wonder who is actually using it these days, when facebook has it beaten in most categories. nothing is really keeping the Irish from moving from facebook to bebo, unless there are nostalgic photos to look at, or facebook runs itself into the ground with unnecessary updates and layout changes. Maybe then there will be a return to using the luv, or the colourful wallpapers, or.......xxxxXXt3h B3b0 sTuNnAs!!!XXxxxx

Or maybe its easier for Hell to freeze over

One must think of the Idiots at AOL, buying it at its very peak for 850 million dollars, and selling it for under $10 million. It netted Michael Birch $595 million profit, resulting in (I can only guess) a big boat, a tropical island, tonnes of cars, and a very happy wife

he would have aced Deal or no Deal

Back to the time management, and I still cant plan my escape from a plastic bag, but at least I have enough going on to make sense as to what to do and what not to do. Anything I could potentially plan would fit in a day that does not have anything going on (durr) but Friday and Saturday are the only ones to make plans for, and then anyone else would beat me to the post with something better than a cinema trip. Perhaps drunken bowling or a crazy golf game is the way forward to a night out organised by moi.

Monday, 30 January 2012

On a rocky road to Wrestlemania: The Royal Rumble review

Wrestling; its a guilty pleasure of mine. There are few things that made for memorable TV in my eyes than what the WWF/WWE had to offer in its prime. A death defying leap from Shane McMahon off the titantron at the Backlash Pay-per-view for instance.

Or how about the tag team matches between the Dudleyz, the Hardy Boyz, and Edge & Christian? 

And while I, like every sane kid at the time, learned the inevitable truth that its all an act, there still is something to be said about these unique performers, that regularly put themselves at risk from a thousand injuries if even the smallest part of the match goes wrong.

Its entertainment at the end of the day, and I was lucky to have had the defining Attitude era childhood, an era that I doubt will happen again in the WWE for quite some time. Stories were risqué and not orientated strictly for children, matches were more intense, and any Pay Per View was a guarantee of satisfaction, no matter the price on Sky.

Which brings me to see what went wrong at this years Royal Rumble Pay Per View; it had a poor representation of the "feuds" that were going on, none of the matches had a 'WOW' factor, and, for these recessionary times, the price to pay was simply not worth it.

(for those that do not follow wrestling at all, you may get lost from here on in, but even a vague bit of WWE/F knowledge from the past will help)

Lets start with the reason I watched it to begin with; the Royal Rumble match. The idea of a big bunch of lads (and a lady this year) baiting the crap out of each other until one is left standing is great, but this years match lacked a lot of quality superstars duking it out. 

As to be expected there were participants for comic effect, such as the god awful Michael Cole trying to act tough, and Ricardo Rodriguez, who wasn't too bad pulling off a bizarre part in the match. Also to be expected was the inclusion of characters from older times, such as Mick Foley, Road Dogg and Jim Duggan, the original Royal Rumble winner. But there was a distinct lack of big draw wrestlers. Obviously the likes of Steve Austin or the Rock were not going into the ring, but there was opportunity for Kane to re-enter after his earlier match, to tie or beat Shawn Michaels record of most wrestlers eliminated in the royal rumble match, but nope didn't happen.

And this somewhat brings me to something which really displeased me about the match. When wrestler #30 appears, the last entrant,  you expect to see someone with the ability to destroy, surprise or bring the crowd to its feet with amazement. The rumours were swirling from the likes of Christian, The Undertaker's return, or perhaps even Brock Lesnar to stir things up.

The superstar I expected to see.....

This all went out the window when the Big Show entered, and proceeded to take out the Miz,Jack Swagger, Cody Rhodes and Dolph Ziggler.

He just destroyed the future WWE talent in 60 seconds
This just did not work, for a variety of reasons. You would expect at a PPV as big as the royal rumble that the creative team would have the sense to put someone like Lesnar or the Undertaker in at 30; the former as a cameo entry at the very least, that still brings great spectacle when he enters the ring. The latter to start his momentum to Wrestlemania, where hopefully he will have a 20-0 win record afterwards. The Big Show, on the other hand, lacks both wrestlers drawing power, and much motive to be a championship contender, as he had already been in a heavyweight match that night, so appearing again was overstaying his welcome. Add in that he took out the younger, promising talented stars in around a minute, and it added to an unpleasant time to watch him in the ring.

The win for Sheamus, Ill admit isn't a bad thing, nothing wrong with a great Irish fighter to compete at the biggest stage of them all. What IS wrong is how he won it. Back to the Big Show and his pointless entry, had Sheamus knocked out the younger guns one by one, and with great moves, it would have been more deserved than simply seeing them fly out of the ring. We know Sheamus is capable of doing so, so why did the creative team do THIS???
The Blurst of Times

Chris Jericho's return was not what it was cracked up to be either. Despite a solid end to the rumble match, the afterthoughts are more on why Jericho lost as opposed to why Sheamus won. He was a favourite along with Randy Orton in the end, and after all this hype he put up of the end of the world, its odd that the WWE would simply do a U turn to go for Sheamus at Wrestlemania.

The unlikely contender

as for the rest of the Pay Per View, it did nothing in developing John Cena's 'rise above hate' turn, making him neither a superior face, nor a growing heel. This was a perfect opportunity to have Kane beat him fair and square, and make him 'embrace the hate' afterwards, setting the stage for a brilliant showdown with the Rock at Wrestlemania, a classic good v bad affair. What we have instead is the obvious good in the Rock, against a John Cena that is still making his mind up on whether to stay in a stale face or be liked for once as a bad guy, and it appears the boat has sailed.

The squash match between Brodus Clay and Drew McIntyre felt unnecessary, and both could have been put to better use, such as making contenders for the main match, utter filler.

Models, not wrestlers

The usual Diva match, I am not a fan at all of these. Models cant wrestle, unless your ring name was Lita. Its a sexist remark, but I want more women like Chyna or Trish Stratus kicking ass, and not these attractive women trying to act at...well, ultimately acting.Kharma seems like the best of the bunch, and you wouldn't want her in your bed at the end of the night *shudders*, more actual wrestling than normal but still just to please the randy lads.

To be fair, both championship matches were impressive, particularly the CM Punk/Dolph Ziggler matchup. The Triple threat cage match felt like a one on one between Daniel Bryan and the Big Show though, Mark Henry was out with that injury for a fair while. I am enjoying the prospect that maybe Bryan will go against Sheamus at Wrestlemania, a good matchup.

So obviously, if you have managed to read through this, you will know that in my opinion the event just was not worth the 20 euro price tag. While it was entertaining in parts, it just didnt feel like a true Royal Rumble, a supposed explosion of awesomeness and entertainment. I know I focused on the main match, but thats the main reason to watch in the first place. No wrestler is really at fault though, they all played their roles and did so very well. the problem is with the creative team that needs to wake up and make their minds up on storylines, what to do with the outcomes, and make Wrestlemania worth watching with a solid buildup. It felt like an extended version of RAW or Smackdown rather than something to pay, and that for me is a disappointment.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

A Haywire Movie Review

Two things on my somewhat large list of things I hate in cinema are the overseas depiction of the Irish, and sports entertainment endorsed films. The former can best be summed up by the god awful Leap Year, which had  stuff harking back to the D'arby O Gill days, and a trailer which depicted Cardiff as within driving distance to Dublin (no joke, look at the link!). It also depicted women as if they were from the older times too, since when was it a law for women to only be allowed propose on the 29th Feb?

Also you have to be married to go to a B & B, god help they may have sex outside marriage! the times we live in...

The entertainment sports is the other sore spot, most transitions are just horrible, particularly basketball stars like Shaq and Michael Jordan, they just cannot pull off good leads for their life. the WWE has a hit and miss record, hitting where Dwayne Johnson stars, and missing with pretty much every other superstar of the last decade, Steve Austin perhaps an exception in the Expendables, but its been a bad line up. Take Hulk Hogan's performance in Suburban Commando.

Which brings us to Haywire, Steven Soderbergh's latest action film with a large portion set in Dublin, and starring MMA star Gina Carano. this has the recipe for disaster out the gates for the afformentioned reasons, but here's something I didn't think I would say once the credits rolled...

Its not that bad.

It has an effective score throughout, makes the most of the Heroines abilities in the ring, and is the first overseas film in quite some time to not depict the Irish as leprechauns. While the star studded cast do help as side characters, it focuses on Carano, and ONLY Carano. Its a bit of a fault not to develop the baddies a bit more, even when you have the likes of Ewan McGregor, Antonio Banderas and Channing Tatum taking the roles in varying shades of evil. But keeping on the protagonist is not a bad thing when she kicks ass and then runs along the rooftops like Ezio Auditore every time she has to. She is not a bad lead in the slightest, only talking when needed, and letting the moves do the talking, a great performance.

Carano is a part of a PMC of sorts that solves some terrorist problems around the world behind the scenes. She starts off in Barcelona, then sticks around in Dublin before going to various parts of North America, be it the snowy borders or Mexican beaches. Tatum helps out in Barcelona, and Michael Fassbender helps out in Dublin, acting like a mix of his secret agent in Inglorious Basterds, and the man who swims to New York to say sorry in the Guinness ad. shortly after her oirish adventure she finds herself on the run and must clear her name and kill all the baddies for some reason that is too clever for its own good, it had me muddled.

If there is a major criticism to be had at the film, its a lack of consistent pacing or build up. The first half is flashbacks and the second is followed by the american trips, but it keeps going back and forward, so its hard to focus on the grand scheme of things. Also there is no real final ending or build up, it just drags over the guts of 20 minutes rather than go out with a bang. Its like a horrible kind of tantric sex, only to realise you have to wait ages for the actual thing, and by then all feeling is gone, so what was the point in building up to a 'final ' scenario if the the real one was 20 minutes down the road?

It tries to surprise, with the first scene showing the viewer whats to come, but luckily the director realised that this is a straight up action film, not a thriller, and keeps shocking moments away afterwards. He sticks with a lot of beat em' upping, and some strange sense of cool throughout, though this may have to do with the excellent score by David Holmes.

The end result; it tries a bit too hard to be clever, but if you want to just see some asskicking from a woman to loads of action stars in a non-Leprechaun Dublin, then this is the film for you. Give it a pass if you want to see some smarter film at work

+Great lead performance
+Authentic settings

+Strange sense of cool from the score
+Fassbenders abs (im not gay!)

-Convoluted plot

-Side characters underdeveloped
-No grand finale