Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Secret of Mana Let's Play Part 001

This is my first let's play video of Secret of Mana on the SNES original game and hardware, let me know what you think, thanks James

Thursday, 23 November 2017

New Fist of Fury (1976) Review, Jackie Chan 01

A sequel of sorts to the 1972 Bruce Lee film Fist Of Fury. Famous for been Jackie Chan's first starring role.

When Bruce Lee died in 1973, there was a huge search for Kung Fu actors to replace the void left by him. There were many films made trying to replicate Bruce Lee and many films even made with look a likes too! Most of these are terrible by today's standards and probably were on release too. The fact of the matter is you just cannot replace Bruce Lee. Bruce Lee was and still is a one of a kind guy. One person most of all trying to recapture that spirit was director Lo Wei, whom directed Bruce Lee's first two films, The Big Boss and Fist Of Fury respectively.

Now we come to a new up coming Kung Fu actor who has had many small roles in films. This actor even appears in some Bruce Lee films as a stuntman. That actor was Jackie Chan. Jackie Chan plays a down on his luck thief and bumpkin who steals off other people for his own gain. He cannot fight for toffee and it shows in the early fight scenes he has. While all this is happening with Jackie the Japanese are trying to control all the Kung Fu schools and basically it's part of them trying to control China and it's people, so why not start at the biggest part of their culture the Kung Fu schools. Nora Miao the actress who starred in all of Bruce Lee's Hong Kong films reprises her role from the original Fist Of Fury and even has Bruce Lee's nunchuks on her person from the first film which Jackie's character ends up stealing but cannot use (even hitting himself in the face with them!). This character played by Ms Miao decides to train Jackie in the art of Kung Fu.

At this point the film starts paying homage/milking on Bruce Lee's name and movies by having Chan become like Lee's character in Fist Of Fury, the one man army who wants to stop the Japanese and get revenge on them for his people. Now at this point I'm sorry to say Jackie Chan is no Bruce Lee just like all the imitations at the time they could not replace Lee. The fight scenes in this film show that it was Lee who made his films what they were, not the director Lo Wei, as he wanted everyone one to believe!. There is rumours that Lo Wei was holding back Jackie on these early films judging by Jackie Chan's later films in the 70s that could well be true. This film is obviously just another attempt for Lo Wei to get back what he had with Lee. Only good thing to say about this film is it started Jackie Chan on the path to success, that been the success he would later have.

The fight scenes are poor and all over the shop, unlike later Chan films, but this been the start of his career and not having input that makes sense. Also the fact that historically this is just a cash in on Lee's name by Lo Wei. There is one scene that is so far fetched you just have to laugh even though it's the emotional anchor that Nora Miao and Jackie use to make sense of their revenge and stopping the Japanese, okay here goes.. Nora Miao's grandfather has a heart attack and dies.. but just stands there after!. Now I'm no expert but when you have a heart attack you are not just going to be stood there on the spot after, you would be on the floor dead not stood there!!.

This film is good to watch for one reason only, seeing Jackie get his start, without it we wouldn't of got the Jackie we got in the end.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Assassin's Creed Origins Video Game Review (2017)

So here it is my first video game review. Run around Ancient Egypt and take a walk through History with this beautiful game.The whole thing of "are video games art" gets chucked about a lot, but some times its easy to see why it is said a lot. Games like Okami, with its unique art style still get talked about and games like Minecraft allow people to create their own art, so to speak in the form of creating what ever you can think of and what ever you like. But what about games like Assassin's Creed Origins. 

Assassin's Creed Origins, takes us to Ancient Egypt, during an era of turmoil with leaders fighting for the throne of Egypt in about 48 BC. The player in this game plays as a Medjay named Bayek and his wife Aya. Medjay were sort of like the sheriff of the time in Ancient Egypt, they could investigate and help people etc. The story of the game is thus, the Ptolemy XIII has the Egyptian throne, and rules all over Egypt (High Egypt and Low Egypt). He dreams of expanding his empire and stopping his sister, Cleopatra (yes that Cleopatra), from taking back the throne for herself. So begins the "sort of fact" story of Cleopatra getting outside help to get her throne back, by that I mean even getting Julius Caesar. She enlists the help of Bayek and Aya and through them, plans to take back her throne and country. Anyhow all this leads to the Origins as we shall call it, as it says in the title (big give away), of the brotherhood of Assassin's.

This journey we follow Bayek on takes us all over Egypt, in a huge game world, which is littered with side quests and individual stories and hours and hours of things to see and do. The map is the biggest seen in any Assassin's Creed games since their Inception. This is where the new game play style is noticed, because this is not your usual run of the mill Assassin's Creed game, no sir this is now a open world RPG of sorts. You can pretty much do what you want in this massive world, granted their is the story line to follow, but if you want to kill some Hippos or take part in Gladiator fights (once the arena is unlocked), or even chariot race like some kind of video game Ben-Hur, you can do that. It is probably a good idea too, to do side quests and so on because everything has a level, and wandering to far or doing a quest your not ready for, will kill you, yes its not worth it. Zooming out on the map you will see that each part has a suggested level for that area it is sound advice to follow this. 

The design of the quests and the open world has a whole, makes you realize that Ubisoft taking this two year gap to release this game has got the benefit of them, shall we say studying the competition. They have clearly played the Witcher 3, Zelda BOTW and Horizon Zero Dawn to name a few. This is not a bad thing because it  gives the game what it needed a god shot in the arm rather than a permanent, Assassination (see what I did there!). It was bold and risky but all so worth it, it needed this and it shows with the extra care and attention Ubisoft put into this game. You also get Loot to aid Bayek, which you can pick up from fallen enemies or find in places, or even as rewards on daily quests etc. This loot can be anything from bows to swords and shields, they have three different varieties ranging from Blue through Purple to Gold. The Gold tier is Legendary stuff and I will be honest I was quite surprised that  I manged to find quite a bit of Gold and Purple loot when I was playing because I was expecting just Blue because yes this game has Micro-transactions... the bane of my gaming life!. But I will give Ubisoft a bit of leeway here because the game is playable without buying anything and can be completed without buying anything (Hi Warner Brothers and EA!!) and is not forced on you, its brought up on screen once and that is it. There is a little press this button to see the store in the menu but its not huge and intrusive (HI again Warner Brothers!!). 

What impressed me most about this game is the scope and variety in this huge game. You can find yourself in Alexandria climbing up the famous lighthouse and library (both were amazing feats in the Ancient World), or climbing up the Sphinx and Great Pyramids of Giza. As a History fanatic and student it was great to see and do all this, experience what the world of Ancient Egypt was like. This goes back to my intro, video games as art, okay there is not a distinctive look or style in this game but the world crafted is breathtaking. Take a boat down the Nile and see what this game looks like, granted I played on PC with a i7 4790K and GTX 1080 so I have it on Ultra settings, but im sure it will still look amazing on medium and consoles too. There is a few moments where as a History fan and student I found myself excited about who you meet in this game, from Cleopatra to Julius Caesar you meet all sorts of famous figures and aid them, one in particular who you meet for a second and later in the end game, got me excited, lets say if you know History and Shakespeare you will know this person straight away!. 

The story in this game is engaging, I was hooked all the way through. The side quests have interesting stories too and you meet some excellent characters and friends, the hours just fly by, because its easy to lose oneself in this game. The world design and various cities and locals are a sight to behold, been able to see and run around this Ancient world was great, all the Egyptian and Greek ruins were amazing to behold. The spit and polish this game has been given and the extra work really shows, well done Ubisoft.

I would give this game a 9 vault boy thumbs up out of 10!. They needed to go back to the drawing board and it was worth it, a joy from start to finish a memorable game.    

Now this is my first game review so any criticism will be welcome, usually I just talk about films so this is something new I have been wanting to do for a while, so let me know what you think.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

David Bowie 1947-2016 Thank You Starman

Its easy to jump on the bandwagon when a celebrity dies, by that I mean there seems to be a huge thing these days with social media, where everyone seems to comment on so and so this and so and so that and they probably never met them or knew them. This is no problem at all in this but there is some people out there whom don't understand that sometimes a celebrity can have an effect on someones life without anybody knowing with their power of their medium, like for instance Da Vinci still makes peoples heads turn with his paintings and they are from over 500 years ago and they still excite people and make people think, maybe its because I am a historian and I look at things like this. Now look at David Bowie, fashion icon, alien, rock star, singer, songwriter and film star, these are a few labels easily applied to Mr Bowie whom had his feet in many mediums and probably shaped many peoples lives with his music, films and fashion sense.

Many people would say I am too young to appreciate Bowie when he was at his best, I am 30, but here is how I discovered his music. I bought Queen greatest hits II on CD when I was about 14 or 15, everybody knew Bohemian Rhapsody and Radio Ga Ga no matter their age them videos were shown still in the 90s on TV and the songs still played on the radio. There was this one song I didn't really know it was called “Under Pressure” and it was Queen with David Bowie, now I knew who Bowie was from the film Labyrinth. The first time I heard this song I was hooked! The way Mercury and Bowie sang together was amazing. This instantly made me want to know Bowie more but been that age you didn't have ready income, I mean that queen CD was bought with birthday money. But unfortunately it went a few years because I forgot all about buying Cd's because I was hooked on video games and spent what money I got on them and just stayed at home playing them!!. At about 17/18 I was having the usual teenage troubles with myself, I was not the popular guy, girls wouldn't give me a chance etc, also I was going through the teenage years with out a male role model to look up to, I was brought up by just my mother, whom did an amazing job by the way!. So I was a very confused and bewildered teenager who just needed something to connect too and just spent all my time playing video games. I decided to listen to Cd's again and read more books too to find a real escape away from video games. I rediscovered my Queen greatest hits II and thanks to Under Pressure I went and bought my first Bowie CD, “The Greatest hits 1969-74”. The songs just opened my mind, the way Bowie wrote and sang his songs just got to me, songs like, Changes, All the Young Dudes, Space Oddity and Life on Mars just summed up my life perfectly. I could not believe I had missed out on all this great music!. My mum even bought me the Best of Bowie on DVD for Christmas in 2003 I think it was.

Bowie's music just made me feel better about myself, It changed me, the lyrics to Changes became some sort of personal anthem to myself, because I interpreted it as time is passing and it will change things and change you but don't let it take control and just be yourself!. So yes when Bowie died I did indeed jump on the bandwagon and yes I may of shed a tear or maybe a few more, because David Bowie's music helped me through some hard times and if it wasn't for his music keeping my head on and keeping me positive who knows what would of happened!. I didn't know Bowie but he was a big part of my life and when I heard he died from texts off my sister and girlfriend it was like a void had appeared inside of me, I had to put the News on just to see for myself and there it was my hero had indeed died. So I say this thank you David Bowie your music helped me and made me who I am today, I may not of known you personally but I knew your music and I feel a loss knowing the world is going on without you. Now you are that Starman waiting in the sky. Thank You!!!

Monday, 4 January 2016

Marvelous Marilyn: Some Like it Hot (1959)

The film is set in 1929 in prohibition Chicago. The opening scene helps put this point across with smugglers escaping the police. The plot of the film is thus, down on their luck musicians Tony Curtis and Jack Lemon are at their wits end with what to do about making money. The two of them have borrowed money from every person they know they owe rent and have a way of wasting their money on the dogs!. They have even worse luck when one night on their way to a musician job they witness a mob assassination which is not good news for them because they get seen by the gangster whom does the killing so they both have to go on the run for their lives because they saw the whole thing and the mob boss wants them both dead.

The two decide to go on the run from Chicago and the chance comes up for them both to take a job on the other side of America which is perfect for them to get out of the city and far away as possible from the mob, but...... there is one slight catch... they have to pretend to be women so they can take the job. Now we enter one of the greatest comedy movies of all time, the scene of Jack and Tony walking down the train platform in tights and high heals all dressed up like women is pure gold. Been men these guys happen to glance a woman on her way to join the group with them she walks like “jello on springs” whom is this?, why none other than the blonde bombshell herself Marilyn Monroe.

Been a comedy about two men hiding from the mob dressed as women you know they are going to start feeling attracted to the beautiful women around them, as you would expect, they start feeling attracted to Marilyn Monroe (as we all would!). They have to keep telling them selves they are girls just so they dont fall for the other girls feminine wilds, but you cant stop nature. So how do you try and flirt with a beautiful woman when you are supposed to be a woman yourself?. Joe (Tony Curtis) comes up with this idea of pretending he is a English sea captain (he does his best Carry Grant impression). As you can imagine hilarity ensures with Joe not knowing what to wear and having to change back and forth between his two disguises, jumping into the bath while in one costume to hide the fact he is pretending to be to people, its the original Mrs Doubtfire!!.

Jack Lemon's character seems to enjoy been a woman a bit too much and even gets excited when a man falls for him it is absolutely hilarious to watch. Marilyn Monroe as Candy Cane does what Marilyn does best singing and dancing swinging her curves around and generally playing that character she is so good at, the beautiful and sort of simple soft spoken girl. Will the guys manage to keep up their apperence of been women while they also try to find love, while also trying to run from the mob?. I cannot spoil it for you but it is well worth a watch even today this film is held in high regard and is often named as one of the greatest comedy movies which I agree.

The film is directed by Billy Wilder whom was one of the best directors in the 40s/50s. Billy Wilder worked with Marilyn before this fim on The Seven Year Itch (1955). That film has Marilyn's most famous scene the air vent in the walkway up her skirt, need I say more. Their is only about 2 songs in this film because its not a musical just a comedy. Marilyn does sing one of her most famous songs in this film “I want to be loved by you”, she looks amazing when she sings it and does not leave much to the imagination in that dress!!. The costume design and set design is spot on totally showing the art deco era of the 1920s Jazz Age, probably because it was not that far away from the 20s in the 50s compared to now I can imagine it was easy to get hold of vintage cars etc.

The one thing that steals this film for me tho is Jack Lemon, you get the feeling the guy had a right blast filming this film. Jack Lemon's character like mentioned before seems to get into his female “role” a bit too well, he is just so funny to watch when he comes into the room when he is in “love and engaged” dancing with a pair of maracas, it is just genius, he even steals the end of the film with one of the funniest and possibly greatest movie endings around!. Another golden scene is Jack Lemon on his date dancing the tango and so on, it just has me in stitches. The film has aged well and I still enjoy it every time I watch it, but i can understand if its not to everyone's taste with it been an older film, but all 3 leads do so well especially Jack Lemon for me, if you want to start watching Marilyn Monroe films this is the one to start with I would say.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Top 5 Jackie Chan Films (Hong Kong/China)

This list was quite the headache, because I am a huge Jackie Chan fan especially of his original Asian films. So I thought after my long, long, long hiatus I would come back with this. Enjoy and I appreciate comments and feedback.

5, New Police Story (2004) 

So the first pick on the list is this 2004 film. After a few years of doing mainly Hollywood films and not really enjoying making them, Jackie went back to Hong Kong to make this film which was a modern day retelling of his most famous film series "Police Story". The simple summary is thus, Chan's hard cop team, are all killed off in a mission to bring down some terrorists at the start and he then sets out on a revenge conquest with aide of a new partner played by Nic Tse. The film uses plenty of special effects and has plenty of action and fight scenes but the stunts which are great of courser, now rely on wire work which with Chan been 50 making this film you can forgive. One stand out scene is Chan catching a bus in a unusual way which we might discuss later is a staple of Police Story.

4, Drunken Master (1978) 
The plot of this film follows a young Jackie Chan playing Wong Fei-Hung. Wong is a bit of a jack the lad sort, he gets people into trouble, chats women up and so on. His father discovers this and decides to punish Wong for his menacing ways by making him train harder in martial arts. Jackie is trained by an old beggar whom happens to be a great martial arts master, but with a difference. This martial arts master is a master in the art of Drunken Kung Fu!! yep that is correct drunken kung fu!. 
What we get is the usual old school kung fu movie but with what must be Jackie Chan's first comedy kung fu film (well this and its brother film Snake in the Eagles shadow). The fighting in this film is just hilarious to watch seeing Jackie turn to drink to become a drunken fighter and with hilarious consequences!.

3, Miracles (1989)
This film is never really talked about in Jackie Chan film circles and I am not sure why. It happens to be one of Jackie Chan's personal favorites. Chan stars as a country bumpkin whom with his lack of city knowledge is cheated out of all his money when he sets foot in Hong Kong. Depressed and down his luck, he meets a poor woman selling flowers on the street. This flower seller urges Chan to buy a red rose, saying it will bring him luck. Chan buys the rose and soon after his luck totally changes. He becomes a mob leader but sets out to chnage the way the mob work and what they do and even tries to help a certain flower seller with her life.
With its 1920's setting and tale of morale and honesty this film is one of the best Chan films for me. The speeches he makes in this film to change the mob are great to watch and you feel like Chan is talking to the real Triad gangs out there in Hong Kong. The fight scenes are second to none also with Chan using all sorts of things at his disposal as ever.

2, Project A (1983)
Pirates rule the seas around Hong Kong in the late 19th century and its up to a coast guard police man played by Jackie Chan to stop them. Jackie Chan is not along in this film no sir he has the help of his two real life "Brothers" Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao in the mix too. This is easily my favorite film starring all 3 of the Dragon Brothers. The film has some of Jackie's most famous stunts like a bike chase through the streets of Hong Kong that was even copied in some way by Steven Spielberg in The Last Crusade's motor bike chase. 
But my favorite Jackie stunt happens to be in this film also which is the stunt drop off a clock tower, where Jackie lets go of a clock face to fall through two awnings to land slap bang on the floor. The first take has him land on his neck!!. He did this stunt as a nod to the great Harrold Lyold and his clock tower famous movie scene.

Okay we are here at the last hurdle, my pick of number one Jackie Chan film. It was hard picking films from such a huge career so I will give  honorable mentions to, Armour of God, Wheels on Meals, My Lucky Stars, Who Am I?, Snake in the Eagles Shadows and Drunken Master 2. But there can only be one pick for me....

1, Police Story (1985)
Oh yes, if you could only watch one Hong Kong movie of his I totally recommend this beauty. It has it all, the slapstick humor, the stunts, the action and the story to go with it.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Movie Review: The Jazz Singer (1927)

Let me take you back to 1927. Cinema has taken off like nobody could imagine. The roaring 20's was in full flow, it was as F.Scott Fitzgerald called the Jazz age, and Cinema goers were treated to such fine films, like the comedies of Chaplin and Keaton, the action films of Fairbanks, European suspense cinema from such legends as Fritz Lang in Germany and a certain Alfred Hitchcock in Great Britain. Now all these films blew audiences away, they thought this was it the bees knees so to speak.

Enter Warner Brothers who wanted to do something a bit different. They wanted to release a film with Al Jolson in the lead. One thing tho Al Jolson was a singer..... cinema was silent.... but not for long the biggest and most important change to Cinema was about to begin the age of the.... 'Talkie'. WB had created a system called vitaphone. Vitaphone record the sound onto a disk (not yet on the film itself!). This disc was played along with the film in perfect unison instead of a pianist. This believe I or not was quite revolutionary, nobody had thought of this before, and it worked going on to be used for over 1,000 movies!.

Often hailed as the the first ever 'Talkie', and talked about in so many documentaries and books on movies and movie history. I was a bit shocked to find that its actually half silent and half talkie. But looking at it in context it was quite the achievement. The story revolves around a man who ran away from home as a boy, because he did not want to sing the religious songs his father wanted him to sing, his calling is 'Jazz'.

This happens to be Al Jolson of course. Now the story is told in the usual silent movie way scenes interspersed with cards of what the characters are saying and doing etc. But this was the shocker to come.... when Al gets on stage he talks and sings, not just that we can hear him!!. Now just imagine sat in a cinema in 1927, you only hear the sound of the piano been played by someone next to the screen, the movies are silent... but you have just witnessed history and in the words of Al ''You ain't heard nothing yet!''. I have posted a video from YouTube copyright of Warner Brothers at the bottom of this review of this classic moment.

The story is quite emotional... for the time, like I have mentioned the boy runs from home because his father is a Jewish cantor, whom does not approve of Jazz at all. The boy even leaves his mum behind (whom happens to believe in him), but we see him become The Jazz Singer, but he has to make some tough choices on the way.

Its the typical rebellion, chasing dreams against a fathers wishes, but a typical feel good movie. It is fairly average even for the time I think, but viewed as a piece of movie history, it is of great importance and worth a watch for Thayer alone. Al Jolson is pretty good in the movie too singing 'mammy' with his whole heart for his Mother who stood by him, he was certainly star and is cemented in movie history with this film. Cinema would never be the same again.