• Oscar Predictions

    The Oscars are upon us and on Sunday night I will be up all night with friends watching the amazing Neil Patrick Harris present the Oscar Ceremony in between the godawful Sky Movies commentary. But who will win and should they? My predictions are below.

    Best picture
    Prediction: Boyhood
    Should win: Birdman

    Best director
    Prediction: Richard Linklater, Boyhood
    Should win: Richard Linklater, Boyhood

    Best actor
    Prediction: Michael Keaton, Birdman
    Should win: Michael Keaton, Birdman

    Best actress
    Prediction: Julianne Moore, Still Alice
    Should win: Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl – I’ve not seen Still Alice yet as it’s not released in the UK, but of the rest I prefer Rosamund Pike.

    Best supporting actor
    Prediction: JK Simmons, Whiplash
    Should win: JK Simmons, Whiplash

    Best supporting actress
    Prediction: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
    Should win: Emma Stone, Birdman

    Best adapted screenplay
    Prediction: The Theory of Everything
    Should win: None of the entries for this category stood out strongly to me. 

    Best original screenplay
    Prediction: The Grand Budapest Hotel
    Should win: Birdman

    Best animated feature
    Prediction: Big Hero 6
    Should win: The Lego Movie – What do you mean it wasn’t nominated?

    Best animated short
    Prediction: Feast
    Should win: Feast – Well it is Disney and almost made me cry…

    Best cinematography
    Prediction: The Grand Budapest Hotel
    Should win: Birdman

    Best costume design
    Prediction: The Grand Budapest Hotel
    Should win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

    Best documentary feature
    Prediction: CitizenFour
    Should win: Not seen any of these nominations

    Best documentary short
    Prediction: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
    Should win: Not seen any of these nominations

    Best film editing
    Prediction: Boyhood
    Should win: Whiplash

    Best foreign language film
    Prediction: Ida (Poland)
    Should win: Not seen any of these nominations

    Best live action short
    Prediction: The Phone Call
    Should win: Not seen any of these nominations

    Best make-up & hairstyling
    Prediction: The Grand Budapest Hotel
    Should win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

    Best music
    Prediction: Interstellar – Interstellar shouldn’t be anywhere near the Oscars but I wouldn’t be surprised if it does well here.
    Should win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

    Best production design
    Prediction: The Grand Budapest Hotel
    Should win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

    Best song
    Prediction: ‘Everything is Awesome’, The Lego Movie
    Should win: ‘Everything is Awesome’, The Lego Movie

    Best sound editing
    Prediction: American Sniper
    Should win: Another one where nothing stood out to me this year.

    Best sound mixing
    Prediction: Birdman – Interstellar is being heavily tipped, but it is the only film I have ever left actively complaining about the sound mix. How it got nominated I have no idea.
    Should win: Whiplash

    Best visual effects
    Prediction: Guardians of the Galaxy
    Should win: Guardians of the Galaxy – I hope there is some love for GotG as it should have been nommed for Best film.


  • Film Review of 2014 – Sci-Fi

    So now it’s time for part 4 of my Film Review of 2014 – Sci-Fi. As has already been pointed out to me, not all of the films on this list are science fiction. Some are fantasy, or just comic-booky. Some science fiction films of the year aren’t even on this list as they fitted better under other categories. Generally this category grew as more and more comic book movies came out and fantasy wasn’t a dirty word anymore. Generally any film that has a sufficient amount of non-reality, and isn’t just out to scare you, ends up on this list.

    I’ve also discovered that writing a mini-review for each film is not as easy as it looks, especially as the lists get longer. So I’m not going to review every film here just so I can get it posted for the end of the year.

    Guardians of the Galaxy
    And what a start to the list. Marvel extends their winning run and repeats the feat or Iron Man – making a relatively unknown set of characters the most popular of the year. Straight away this film stands out as something a little bit different but it stays true to itself throughout. After four cinematic viewings I can confirm that it stands up well to repeated watching with nary a slow bit to give your bladder a break.

    Godzilla
    A film that demonstrates why the cinema is the best place to watch movies. Seen on a large screen, with a very loud, seat rumbling, sound system films don’t get much bigger. A tale of how insignificant the human race is compared to these giant beasts is teased out until a truly earth shattering finale.

    Captain America: The Winter Soldier
    Marvel’s film of the year until Guardians of the Galaxy was released. A 70’s style spy thriller with a great supporting role for Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, who this film could have equally been named after. Not afraid to shake up everything that had gone before.


    Bums on Seats – 29 March 2014

    Her
    With four great performances, this has been the year of Scarlett Johansson. Even when only called to do vocals, she truly stands out and elevates this film and makes you believe falling in love with an OS is possible. In a year where the relationship between mankind and technology was often examined, Spike Jonez makes this film one you will not forget.

    Edge of Tomorrow
    In a year of smart sci-fi films this action film was a lot smarter than expected. With a time travelling twist effectively making it Groundhog Day vs Starship Troopers. If only they could have marketed it that easily.

    Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    Apes on horseback. Andy Serkis again demonstrates how motion capture performance is as good as “proper” acting.

    Bums on Seats – 19 July 2014/

    Interstellar
    This is a lot higher than it probably deserves. But I did enjoy my first viewing of this companion piece to 2001. I also realise that it is full of holes and will not stand up to any second viewing. Mackenzie Foy is going to be a name you are going to see a lot of.

    Bums on Seats – 8 November 2015

    The Double

    Bums on Seats – 12 April 2014

    The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

    The Boxtrolls
    I’m always reluctant to see Laika films but then really enjoy them. This was no exception.

    How to Train Your Dragon 2

    Bums on Seats – 19 July 2014

    X-Men: Days of Future Past

    Noah
    I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this. Must be down to some of Aronovsky’s amazing visuals and the unexpected introduction of rock monsters.

    The Maze Runner
    One of the better Hunger Games tributes.

    The Penguins of Madagacar

    Divergent

    The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

    Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

    Lucy
    A strange film in that despite it being absolutely awful it was also really enjoyable. 

    Bums on Seats – 13 September 2014

    Transcendence

    Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For

    300: Rise of an Empire

    Hercules

    Pompeii

    Dracula Untold
    When “I stayed awake” was the best thing I could say about this disappointment it’s not a good sign.

    The Congress
    The first third of this film sees an exceptional performance by Robin Wright exploring herself and the role of an actress. Just a shame that the animated cod-philosophy of the last two thirds is so bad and confusing that it drags the whole film down to the red zone.


    Bums on Seats – 16 August 2014

    The Amazing Spider-Man 2
    A film so bad it caused me to have a long rant online.

    I, Frankenstein
    Pretty forgettable, even while watching. The gargoyles looked cool though.


  • Film Review of 2014 – Comedy

    Comedy – The most subjective of genres. Welcome to part 3 of my Film Review of 2014. Lots more films in this section so going to keep reviews brief.

    The Lego Movie
    Everything about it is awesome. When I heard they were making a movie about Lego I thought it was an awful idea. But Lord and Miller managed to create an amazing story about imagination, conformity, doing your own thing, and a really, really catchy song. The best Batman film since Batman Returns.

    Chef
    Jon Favreau’s ode to food. Utterly delightful food porn. Do not watch it on an empty stomach.
    If you do see it on an empty stomach, immediately go to http://www.smokeworks.co.uk/ to remedy it.

    The Grand Budapest Hotel
    Another singular Wes Anderson vision. Outstanding.

    Paddington
    Like The Lego Move another shock that it is so much better than it has any right to be. Charming and funny this somehow manages to update Paddington for a modern audience while keeping everything that is so special from the original.

    22 Jump Street
    Lord and Miller do it again in this funny sequel to 21 Jump Street. Channing Tatum continues to show why he is the bomb.

    What If
    Daniel Radcliffe plays a normal person for a change. Him and Zoe Kazan make a lovely, will-they\won’t-they couple in this modern comedy about relationships.

    Begin Again
    Who knew Keira Knightly could sing? It also has Mark Ruffalo in it as well. They make a lovely non-couple.

    Bums on Seats Podcast – 19 July 2014/

    The Other Woman
    Camreron Diaz still has it as one of the funniest actresses around.

    The Inbetweeners 2
    Not as good as the first.

    A Long Way Down
    Surprisingly touching.

    The Love Punch
    A light Sunday afternoon affair you should take your parents to. Timothy Spall’s second best film of the year. Aaron Paul’s best.

    Anchorman 2
    The first one. Very hit and miss with some very good hits but way too many misses.

    The Rewrite
    Hugh Grant comedy.

    Tinker Bell and the Pirate Fairy
    I went as a bet and it wasn’t that bad. I stayed awake for most of it.

    Last Vegas
    Slow start, good middle, slow end.

    Grudge Match
    Stallone and De Niro not taking themselves too seriously.

    Hector and the Search for Happiness
    Disappointing. I have found these tweets from when I saw it:

    Bad Neighbours
    All the funniest bits are in the trailer.

    A Million Ways to Die in the West
    All the funniest bits are in the.. You get the point. Even the trailer wasn’t that funny.

    Horrible Bosses 2
    A horrible, horrible film. I almost walked out. Christoph Waltz and Kevin Spacey should be ashamed of themselves.

    Cuban Fury
    Such a disappointment. Chris O’Dowd just played mean, and I don’t like mean Chris O’Dowd.

    Muppets Most Wanted
    An abomination. All that goodwill from the first film wasted. Ricky Gervais should not be let near a film camera again. This has been voted my worst film of the year.


    Bums on Seats Podcast – 29 March 2014/

    Next up I take a look at those films that are a little less attached to reality – Sci-Fi and Fantasy.


  • Film Review of 2014 – Action

    So after Horror comes Action. Quite a slim year this year as most action flicks now are the reserve of comic book movies, which comes under Sci-Fi. The pure action flick has almost become part of a niche genre in itself. With the exceptions of The Raid 2 and The Rover most of this year’s crop have just been generic action films with well made action sequences. But sometimes that’s all you want.

    The Raid 2
    This film is the Godfather 2 to The Raid’s Godfather of action flicks. More fighting, more inventive and more intense.

    Twitter Review
    Bums on Seats Podcast – 12 April 2014

    The Rover
    Mad Mike from Neighbours. Guy Pearce is on great form in this near apocalypse Outback thriller assisted by a revelatory Robert Pattinson.

    Bums on Seats Podcast – 16 Aug 2014

    Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
    The first of the “surprisingly competent” group. I wasn’t sure this was needed, but in a year without Bourne or Ethan Hunt, Ryan filled the not-so-super spy gap quite well.

    Bums on Seats Podcast – 1 Feb 2014

    The Equalizer
    Ignore the remake and the title. This is just another in the “Denzel Washington kicking arse” sub-genre and they are always watchable.

    Need For Speed
    Beautiful fast cars. As a fan of the games I thought they nailed it, especially some of the tracks. Let’s face it. No-one watched it for a plot.

    Sabotage
    Arnie’s back. Again. And this time in a role that is appropriate to his age. Fans of SWAT porn will love it.

    Into The Storm
    Tornados without sharks can still be exciting.

    The Expendables 3
    More of the same in what is hopefully the last of the Stallone’s ensemble action flicks. The joke is getting a bit thin now and the fact they have been reduced to PG-13 monstrosities makes them redundant.

    3 Days to Kill
    Luke Besson’s second best film of the year.

    Fury
    Some may be surprised that this is so low down. While there were some nice shots, overall I thought the film was reprehensible due to it’s celebration of the dehumanisation of men as a desired goal.

    Bums on Seats Podcast – 25 Oct 2014

    Lone Survivor
    US Soldiers as Jesus Christ metaphor.

    Bums on Seats Podcast – 1 Feb 2014

    That about sums it up for the Action.

    Next time: Comedy.


  • Film Review of 2014 – Horror

    So it’s getting to the end of the year and the top ten lists are coming out. I’m going to start posting my film review of the year today and will hopefully finish before Christmas.

    As with previous years, I have sorted all the films I have seen this year into 5 categories – Drama, Comedy, Action, Sci-Fi and Horror. This helps to compare like with like and avoids putting films like 22 Jump Street against films like 12 Years A Slave when judging their relative merits. The cream of these lists will then be skimmed off the top to make up my Top Ten of the year. I’ve seen 94 films so far this year and I’m sure that will go up before the end of the year (and these lists will be updated). Re-releases don’t count (So no Ghostbusters or 2001: A Space Odyssey) and all of these films were released in 2014 according to Launching Films so any films released last year but seen this year (American Hustle) also haven’t been counted. All except a handful were seen in the cinema, which is the only place to watch and judge a good film.

    This method can often lead to some unbalances, both with the number of films per category and the strength of all the films on the list. There is no bell curve and this year has been an incredibly strong year for films. So just because a film is near the bottom of the list it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a bad film. I have therefore colour-coded the list with a simple traffic light scheme: Green – Recommended; Yellow – Good; Red – Avoid.

    Writing film reviews isn’t my forte so don’t expect any essays, just a few thoughts on each film. Links to the Bums on Seats podcast will appear at the bottom of each film where I reviewed it on air so you can always check there for further thoughts.

    As with all top ten of the year lists, this list is totally subjective. Films can rank higher just for being totally enjoyable, or lower for being reprehensible despite the technical quality of the film making.

    With that all said it’s time to get to the first, and shortest, list – Horror.

    Only six films made the horror list this year. With no horror strand as part of the Cambridge Film Festival options were limited. But while this category often contains the worst films of the year no such thing this year, with all six being enjoyable, watchable and likely to scare.

    The Guest
    A breakout role for for Dan Stevens, this tight thriller has a knowing glint in its eye and a full on crush for the eighties films of John Carpenter, and even made them a mix tape. Enjoyable enough to see it twice in two days it certainly has the legs for repeated viewings. Remember – he’s just here to help.

    Bums on Seats Podcast – 13 Sept 2014

    Horns
    Adapted from the novel by Joe “Son of Stephen King” Hill, this film hit every right note for me. Full of dark humour, great music and Juno Temple, Alejandra Aja’s direction gives this film a wonderful look. Daniel Radcliffe puts in his second good performance of the year that will finally put Harry Potter to bed.

    Bums on Seats Podcast – 8 Nov 2014

    The Babadook
    A disappointment for me, but only because it was so hyped up. While, unlike some friends, it didn’t give me many sleepless nights after watching it, it is still a very inventive and original horror film.

    Oculus
    To be honest I can’t remember too much about this film, which is rather quite fitting given the subject. My first (but certainly not last) exposure to Karen Gillan, it’s a unique film that manages to twist and manipulate your perceptions while watching. In layman’s term, it’s a bit of a mind-fuck.

    The Purge: Anarchy
    Surprisingly good sequel to a film with a great premise but poor execution. Another throwback to Carpenter, Frank Grillo plays the man with no name with aplomb and rescues a franchise with loads of questions still to ask, if only they could find better answers.

    As Above, So Below
    Tomb Raider meets Blair Witch, this film does not take itself too seriously, which is a good thing. By tackling the ridiculous with a pinch of salt, this film is fun in all the right places, yet is still creepy enough when required. The scariest underground scenes since The Descent.

    So that’s the horror section done with. Three great films and three good films with no stinkers.

    Next up: Action.


  • Grad Pad Games and Heffers Games

    Last Saturday I headed down to the double bill of the Grad Pad Games monthly game day and Heffers fortnightly evening games night. Eleven games played in total, six of them new. Loads of new players as well. He’re a rundown below of the new games I played.

    Abyss
    Quite an interesting game set in an underwater kingdom where you are trying to influence the council to select the new king. You start by collecting cards with low influence which use then spend to get Lord cards that give you both VPs and extra powers. A unique card drawing system means that every card you draw has to be offered to other players in an auction, where they can pay you to take the good cards before you have a chance. Quite tactical towards with several routes to get victory, but I won in the end. 🙂

    Then after lunch I joined another table to play some shorter games.

    Blueprints
    Fun and quick games where you have to secretly build structures out of six dice based on a blueprint card you are given. Your structures are then scored depending on the colour of dice you used and the winners get victory points for the highest scoring building, with extra points awarded for style. Very fun but misleading as you can often do better by doing your own thing rather than sticking to the blueprints. Now that gives me a great idea for a film!

    Love Letter
    I bought this last week and it is my new favourite quick game. I won this one too after coming from 3-0 down to winning 4-3-2-2. I see a new Batman edition is coming out soon!

    Quantum
    A more serious game where your dice represent space ships with different abilities, which need to colonise different planets. I got annoyed with the player next to me as he kept asking questions, despite all the info being clearly listed on the play sheets we were given. Then again he may have been bluffing as he ended up winning as I missed his potential for a win while I was setting up my win the next turn. We played with 4 players which had an interesting mechanic, where two of us leaped into early leads while the other two fought each other until they noticed we were winning and then attacked us. Interested to see how it works with two players but there seemed to be several board variations to keep it interesting.

    Cthulhu Fluxx
    Fluxx – Cthluhu style. Just a quick 2P game with a first time player. Quite short but I managed to pull off a win with an Ungoal and Secret Cultist. 😀

    Camel Up
    Finished the session with a 7 player game of Camel Up. I liked this the first time I played it and bought myself a copy, but when I played it with my friends none of them did, despite it winning the Spiel du Jours! Fortunately I managed to sell my copy for £20 earlier in the day so it wasn’t too bad. Came second this time round.

    At this point it was getting close to six and I had trouble finding other games for a group to play. The group really likes eurogames and when I look around the hall a lot of the games look like maps with lots of coloured blocks on them. While I like the odd eurogame, I do like a lot of flavour in my games too. While I enjoy playing with them, and tried lots of great games, many of them can be quite disparaging about games like Fluxx or Last Night on Earth, which I had taken down hoping to play.

    So I decided to leave early and check out the new games night I had just heard about. This one is a fortnightly Saturday night club ran in the Heffers bookshop after it closes.

    Now this is more my group. Younger (Lots more students – but with enough other older people that I didn’t feel old) and more fun. We could talk about Tabletop and see it as inspiration, rather than something looked down on in a hipster fashion. I could also see lots of copies of games I already owned. People were playing everything from Magic: TG to Axis and Allies. One person even had a bag of all versions of Fluxx. Within minutes of turning up I was with a group of eight to play an introductory game, which worked out well as both a way to get people playing straight away and meeting new people.

    Telestrations
    A cross between pictionary and chinese whispers. We didn’t score but we had fun drawing and guessing and then going over the answers at the end.

    Dixit
    Another TableTop game I hadn’t tried yet. I was worried that I wasn’t creative enough to really get into it – and I was right! I had fun playing it but wasn’t surprised when I had finished last. I’d play it again but I wouldn’t pick it.

    The Resistance: Battlestar Galactica Edition
    I’d been wanting to play this for a while – and the Battlestar Galactica theme fitted quite well, even if it did contain spoilers for those who hadn’t seen the whole series. I ended up being a traiterous cylon, trying to bring down Galactica. I was doing quite well and had them convinced I was a trustworty human, when I made a fatal error because I didn’t know the rules of the game and they weren’t explained properly (There was no official rules). When they tried to explain a special rule I thought they were dicussing strategy – not a rule. So due to my imcompetance we lost. 🙁 Shame as I had set it up for a spectacular Cylon victory.

    Forbidden Island
    We then split into smaller groups while waiting for another game to finish and played Forbidden Island. We were doing well until we noticed I had gotten a rule wrong. The game then got a lot, lot harder. We still scraped a win, but now I understand why I had won so many games in the past.

    Last Night on Earth
    As soon as I turned up and mentioned that I had brought LNOE with me the organiser and her husband said they wanted to play. We soon had a group of six interested once we were all available and despite deciding to swap two players at the last minute for taking too long we then had a fantastic game. Lots of arguing, rules change, roleplaying, and most of all fun, everyone enjoyed playin the Escape in the Truck scenario. I was rolling like Wil Wheaton (My first hero started outside and moved 1 space a turn for 4 turns before being surrounded and killed by zombies). But with two turns left and me on my 4th hero we eventually escaped victorious. Well I say “we” but I mean “they”, as my last hero missed the truck by one space so they left me behind!

    So overall I had a fantastic time at the Heffers event. I’ve already arranged with the organiser to have a Mansions of Madness game at the next session and we have all the players already lined up. Really looking forward to that.


  • The Big Comedown

    So I’m sitting here at CB2Indies and feeling a little bit lost. Now that I finished the game over the weekend I’m not sure what to do next. Work on previous projects? Start something new? Tweak Super Bomber?

    Maybe it’s just too soon. I’m in a mixed head space whether to go back and while I’ve thought of a new game idea, it’s way too complex for the stage I’m at.

    That rush went quick.


  • Game #1 – Super Bomber

    Announcing Game #1 from Darth Lordi Games – Super Bomber!

    http://www.darthlordi.com/games/SuperBomber/SuperBomber.html

    In my first attempt at writing a game in a weekend I took inspiration from an old game that I once typed into my ZX Spectrum when I was a young lad. I remember playing it for many hours and there is something in it’s simplicity that kept me coming back, such as more “modern” games like Flappy Bird.

    I thought the gameplay would be simple enough to replicate in a weekend and the graphics wouldn’t be needed to be top notch as I knew how much fun it was when just using ASCII graphics. The simplicity ended up being part of the problem as once I had the basic gameplay up and running I spend far too long playing rather than polishing. As usual the “last 10% takes 90% of the time” rule came into effect.

    The one thing that concerned me was the theme. Is building a game around bombing a city and tying if you crash into a tower block acceptable in this day and age? I thought about it for a couple of days about whether to change it or not but in the end decided to stick to the nostalgic factor and keep the theme the same.

    There are a few things that are missing that I didn’t get around to doing, but most would have just over complicated things. I would have preferred to finish the animations but that will have to wait until another game (or I try and port it to mobile).

    I started after work on Friday and finished 3am this morning. I did take plenty of breaks for films and socialising and just had enough time to finish. I was going to put some of until today as I had it off work (and in my mind counted as part of the weekend – just a long one) so I’m glad I finished on time.

    So, anyway; I hope you enjoy it as much as I have and please leave some feedback to let me know what you think.


  • When is a bug not a bug?

    When it’s a “feature” in Unity. 🙁

    So I started development on my weekend game last night while watching Inception at a friend’s house. After a great burst of speed at the start I then started running into problems trying to get triggers and collisions to work. I’m making a very simple 2D game so I thought it would be a good time to try out the new 2D features that come with Unity 4.3. Tutorial after tutorial, page after page I keep comparing their code to mine and it wasn’t working.

    Further investigation reveals it’s a known bug or “feature” according to Unity and triggers don’t work the same way as they do in 3D.

    So after many wasted hours last night and this morning I am ready to start another sprint and converting everything back over to 3D. Hopefully I’ll have a lot more done by the time I have to leave for the cinema.