Friday, 30 January 2009

No Heroics

What's this?
A British sitcom that has been airing since 2008, originally on ITV2, but now also on ITV1. Follows a bunch of superheroes operating in the UK.

And these probably aren't superheroes that you'd want to be rescued by either.

How have I been finding it?

I've been watching it for a couple of weeks now and there's a great deal of adult humour in the show, but they handle it quite well. I'm a bit of a fan of comic books and stuff with superheroes in general, and it's nice to be watching something that deals with the area in such a tongue-in-cheek manner.

The dysfunctional heroes and villains are hilarious, and the interpretation of how a public would respond to having such people around is extremely comic.

Should we watch it?
Well, the show is made by Tiger Aspect, who bought the world such things as Teachers and Badly Dubbed Porn. There is comedy in their blood.

Related links
Official No Heroics page on ITV's website
Tiger Aspect Productions

Freelance illustrator who designed the above poster

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Taking my time with Episode 2

What, eh?
Yes, taking my time. I'm getting there, but I desperately want a rocket launcher that I've found in a near unreachable place, and I can't bring myself to look at a gamefaq.


For the uninitiated these are online guides/walkthroughs that explain how to complete an entire game, from maps, to items, to how to work out puzzles, to tactics for defeating bosses and normal enemies. FAQ stands for: frequently asked questions.

What you'll find is there are user wiki (as in Wikipedia style) pages on games generated by fans, or walkthrough entries on GameFAQs. If I can't find a decent guide on GameFAQs, I'll resort to looking for wikis via a search engine, and after that... well... the web in general.

Will I preservere?
I'm going to complete this game, but I know from the past two games in Half-Life 2 that I need that rocket launcher. The puzzle will not stump me forever.

Related links
Half-Life 2: Episode 2 official page
GameFAQs website

Monday, 26 January 2009

Being Human on BBC3

Going beyond the pilot
So after a slight change of cast from the pilot that was screened in February last year, a full six part series was commissioned by the BBC. Tonight the first episode was aired.

What an interesting group: a vampire, a werewolf, and a ghost, all living together. Oh, and the vampire can handle daylight. All three trying not to be a stereotype.

Unlike so many British shows these days, the acting on this was of a really nice quality. Things don't feel forced and false such as on another BBC show, in the same vein, Torchwood. It's not completely there, but it's an improvement.

It has the slight impending apocalypse theme that a lot of shows with supernatural based storylines tend to go for. I'll forgive them for this staple.

How many episodes to this season?

Am I going to continue watching it?
Yeah. Reminds me of another good supernatural series that the BBC once had (Strange). So far Being Human has an almost equal level of creepiness that this previous show had, a creepiness factor that I like.

There's also some nice metaphors and allegories running about the place too.

Check it out on iPlayer, if you've missed the first episode.

Related links
Being Human portal on BBC website
Strange pages on BBC website

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Skins, series 3, episode 1

SKINS, is back
So, I've just finished watching the first episode, repeated on E4. I'm still waiting for more of what we saw in the last two series.

How was it?
There was a farcical nature to this first episode. Yes it did make for some pretty comedic moments, but I kind of hope each episode is not like it. The characters are just about believable, from the main group of teenagers, through to the adults and teachers.

What do you think is going to happen to them?
In this first episode most of the teens were pretty confident about themselves, about what they wanted and how to go about getting it. I think we're going to see some big falls for the characters, else there will be no drama, no conflict, and most importedly: no growing up (character development).

Fave character so far?
Freddie, he's an accomplished skateboarder. His opening scene must have been one of the most difficult to film.

Should we watch it?
People who haven't seen the past two series, don't necessarily need to have seen them to watch the new one. If you haven't seen them, you'll just miss out on recognising previously established characters, but that doesn't seem to be a huge issue so far. If you like watching teenagers get up to all sorts of shenanigans, and being reminded of what sixth-form/further education was like, then you'll probably enjoy this.

Why do I watch SKINS?
'Cause it reminds me of the further education college I went to: friends, drugs, sex, drink and death.

Related links
Official E4 site
IMDB entry on Skins

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

The Orange Box pt. 2: Half-Life 2: Episode 1

Just a short moment of your time
Somehow, I helped Freeman and Alyx get out of City 17 alive.

This sequel picks up from where Half-Life 2 ended, with the Citadel in meltdown and soon to become one huge crater. After an intriguing beginning, Alyx and Freeman realise just how much work they have to do.

Unlike the previous game, this one does not have as many puzzles or weapons. It was nice to play, just to see where the main characters ended up, but this game is shorter and leaves you on a cliffhanger.

All I'll say for now is that I had fun playing it, and that I really need to play Episode 2.

Related link
Episode 1

Monday, 19 January 2009

Game Walls (rant warning)

I've been playing games for a while
I've been playing computer games on a regular basis for quite a while now. Well, since the age of 13; I am aware that most kids these days have been playing them before they could speak, but basically my parents did not want me going near them until my mental abilities had developed a fair bit first.

What is a game wall?
Anyway. One thing that has irked me about
computer games, especially ones developed in the West, is that they have game walls. Now you may be unfamiliar with this term (perhaps unfamiliar with computer games, but I can do nothing about that), but put simply a game wall is an invisible wall that a player may come across whilst playing a computer game, and it cannot be transcended, traversed etc... You're avatar may be happily walking around in a game environment, the next moment it can no longer progress forwards, and if you're lucky there's a message somewhere on the screen saying that you are unable to go that way and must turn round.

Now when you're playing a game such as Bethesda's Oblivion this is annoying. Sure the map on the map screen may have boundaries, but the map is not constantly showing. So if your avatar/character is happily walking along collecting alchemy ingredients and then you find you can go no further it jolts you out of the game. That is a pain, but what is more annoying is seeing perfectly fine, easily traversed landscape continuing in the direction you're not allowed to proceed in.

Oblivion is not all that bad
To an extent Oblivion had a just about an acceptable piece of logic within the game: the boundaries were where different countries met. So it's not the worst offender. I just don't like being reminded I'm playing a game as I wonder about a non-existent world with my non-existent level 26 sorcerer collecting non-existent flower parts for potions.

Fallout 3 is the same
The same has happened with Fallout 3, another of Bethesda's games. Now, I'm not trying to call out Bethesda on this, but they're the only two examples I can remember at the moment, and it is these two games that I've been playing regularly for the last few months.

Seriously, game walls are annoying
I just don't like these invisible walls. Now if it was an obstacle I had no hope of getting around, under or over, then fine. This is often not the case. Invisible walls just seem lazy.

I dislike game walls, because they take me out of the fantasy that I'm taking part in when I play a free roaming computer game. I understand that they're necessary, but that doesn't mean I have to like them.

Related links
Bethesda's official blog
Bethesda's main website

Friday, 16 January 2009


Second season
When the second season started airing on ITV1 this month, oh how I was thankful. I don't tend to watch series that revolve around investigators of crime, or the psychopaths and sociopaths that commit them, but this show is the exception.

How'd I get into it?
Perhaps my main reason for getting into it was due to being a bit of a fan of Michael C. Hall. Despite being under the age of 18 when it originally aired in the UK on Channel 4, I was (and still am) a big fan of Six Feet Under. So when I found out that he was in a new show, well I felt compelled to at least try and watch it. Also I had enjoyed Julie Benz's performances in Taken, and Buffy and Angel.

What is it then?
The series is based on the novels Darkly Dreaming Dexter, Dearly Devoted Dexter and Dexter in the Dark by Jeff Lindsay. I have to say that I am slightly tempted to read them.

Why do I like the show?
Maybe it's the suspense, or the characterisation, or just how subversive the character of Dexter is, but I really like this show. Admittedly, it did take me a while in the first season to get into it and start enjoying the whole thing, but I stuck with it and now I find it pretty enjoyable to watch.

It's all about Dexter
The character of Dexter Morgan is deeply disturbed, and if the image above is not enough of a hint, well, he's also bit of a sociopath too. He also just happens to work for his local P.D., (where his adoptive sister works), attached to their forensics department. His situation, and after work hours activities are certainly intriguing. Dexter lives by a code that was created for him by his adoptive father, a police officer, when it was realised by his father that he had sociopathic tendencies. The code is along the lines of: only kill those who kill. So Dexter is a sort of dark avenger, killing off the serial killers living around Miami.

One reason to watch ITV1 and ITV4
Dexter is the only thing I'm currently watching on an ITV channel on a regular basis. Mind you, just because it was shown in the UK on FX first does not mean that I am unable to wait long enough for a series to be shown on a free channel or to arrive on DVD. I will wait, and happily go slowly mad in the process too.

Try to watch the first series, if you haven't yet
The first season is currently available on DVD. I advise at least renting it.

Related link
Showtime's official website for Dexter

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

When word got out (to me)
When I first learnt that Dev Patel was starring in it, just five minutes before the BBFC certification came on the screen at the cinema, I had to stop myself from thinking of all the embarrassing moments the character he played in
Skins had had. I had a similar problem with Hugo Weaving and Lord of the Rings, due to first seeing him in The Matrix; Agent Smith was not going to appear in the middle of Rivendale.

On with the film
But yes, Slumdog Millionaire. It's an adaptation of a novel written by Vikas Swarup called Q and A. The structure of the film revolves around Jamal (Dev Patel) reviewing how he answered questions on the Indian version of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?, whilst he is interrogated in a police station in Mumbai, due to being accused of cheating, but it's the day before the final part of the show is filmed.

Jamal and Salim = deprived
There's the issue that Jamal is a 'slumdog', like his brother Salim, someone born in the slums, and who according to most should not amount to anything, and not know very much about the wider world he lives in. He's also a Muslim, so supposedly he shouldn't know anything about Hinduism either. However, due to a series of unfortunate events that stem from his childhood to his present situation, he knows in an almost fated way what all the correct answers on the show are when he manages to appear on it.

There's also a sub-plot of an enduring love he has for a girl from his childhood, and how he continues to find and pursue her, even though obstacles are always in his way. His love for Latika only grows as he ages.

During the film, I had to stop myself form thinking about City of God. Mostly because the crime element in Slumdog is there, but not at the same level of importance in the Brazillian film.

Did I enjoy it?
I want to say that I really enjoyed the film, but the ending felt out of place with me. I understand how people like a nice bit of catharsis, but to me it seemed that the story could have ended very differently. It's certainly worth watching, and it's a good reminder of the crap filled lives so many millions in India still have to put up with everyday. It has some stunning cinematography and shoot locations too.

Does it deserve the hype?
Just not to sure if it deserved its four Golden Globes for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Original Score. Well, perhaps for Best Original Score, but then it probably only got that because it would have sounded exotic compared to the other nominations.

Related link
Official UK site for Slumdog Millionaire

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

I have a confession to make...

OK I could put this on (actually I can't because the site is defunct... don't go there at the moment, especially if you don't want bad things to happen to your computer), but then I'd rather put it here.

You see, I have a confession to make about some of my viewing habits.

I am really fond of action movies in general, but in particular I am a big fan of movies starring one actor. He's a dynamo at martial arts, speaks fluent Japanese, and he also plays the blu

His name is Steven Seagal.

Now I did not realise that I was a fan until earlier last year. I'd been catching bits and pieces of his films strewn across Five, Five US and Virgin 1. Always, I had flipped over to the channel too late to watch the whole film, but after finding that I liked what I did see, I decided to search the Rad
io Times every week until I found one of his films airing and then made a point to watch it.

I watched Under Siege. It was awesome.

I can't say that I find Seagal attractive, the guy is older than my Father, so that's not why I love to watch his films. What I love about his films is that you know that when someone breaks the law in front of him, or acts like an asshole around him, that they are going to have their ass kicked quite promptly, and thoroughly. In some cases this results in the death of antagonists, but Seagal's characters only ever seem to kill people who have already killed people.

The same could be said of the likes of Chuck Norris, however, I have issues with Norris's personal beliefs. Some may also say that Seagal is a bad actor, and that he always plays the same roles. Thing is, Seagal was trained in martial arts way before he ever began to act, and he appears to relish playing the roles that he puts himself into.

So there's my confession. I am a fan of Steven Seagal. Before Christmas last year I purchased a boxset of his films, and I'm currently working my way through watching them. Hurrah for action films.

Related link
Segal's official site

Monday, 12 January 2009

The Orange Box (pt. 1): Half-Life 2

"At first I was afraid, I was petrified..."
When I was 15 I tried playing a demo for a game that had already been out for several years. I'd installed the demo on my Father's dodgy Advent Win '98 desktop, the one with an Athlon processor from when they were of dubious design, and the hard drive that had died three times, DVD-RW drive once, and the graphics card once.

The game didn't kill the PC, but it scared me so much that I never did end up playing the full version. The crab-like aliens that wanted to mate with the protagonist's face did nothing good for my nerves, and oh how I felt that a wrench was far too inferior a weapon for dealing with the fiends that surrounded me.

I had no idea what the protagonist looked like, but from the appearance of my surroundings (a military-esque laboratory installation, with new residents, and blood splatters), I knew that we were in trouble.

In the present day
Seven years later and I've played through that game's sequel, I'm not as scared of the aliens now and what they do to hosts. I have enough gaming experience to figure out how to get through the puzzles presented to me, and shoot things in the right place.

It's orange and a box
What am I talking about though? Just what is this 'Orange Box?'

A couple of years ago Valve, who brought the world Half-Life, unleashed Half-Life 2 (again, it had been out in 2005), some more sequels (well direct follow-ons from the second game, but not huge games), an online team game, and a 'puzzle' game. They bundled all this loveliness into The Orange Box, which was available for PC, PS3, and XBox 360.

So inside the box you get: Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2: Episode One, Half-Life 2: Episode 2, Portal and Team Fortress 2.

After playing through Half-Life 2, I can't help but feel satisfied with a visually stunning game, a great storyline and fantastic game play. Oh, and I played it on the 360.

You play as theoretical physicist Gordon Freeman, who mysteriously ends-up in City 17, in the middle of an Earth being 'raped' by alien forces. From what I can tell, things didn't end fantastically in the first game, and Freeman was presumed lost. Yet once in City 17, you help Freeman to find some familiar faces, and then fate sets about turning Freeman into the guy who is going to save everyone.

FPS and puzzles
There is a huge first person shooter element to this game, but unlike a lot of recent and old FPS games there is quite a puzzle element as well. However, you will find in this game that when you're fighting an enemy that seems pretty much unstoppable, you do need the 'big guns' and puzzles are not involved, only the question of where's the next ammo cache.

Save often
I really appreciated how the game autosaves at appropriate moments, but also it allows you the option to save the game whenever you want as well. I recommend saving often.

The coolest 'weapon' in this game is the Gravity Gun. The things you can get up to with it are amazing. Throwing furniture around never seemed so fun. My other favourite tool is the 'bug bomb' you get near the end of the Sandtraps chapter, after all, who wouldn't want to be in control of legions of dismembering-happy giant bugs?

Essential gaming purchase
As far as essential gaming purchases go, The Orange Box for PC and XBox 360 is a must have.

Not scared now
So, I'm no longer scared of face hugging aliens, and I like bug bombs (you will too), and gravity guns.

Check back at a later date to find out how I fared with the other beauties in the box.

Related links
Official Orange Box website
Valve's official website