Tag Archives: The Watch List

The Watch List: Sense8

By Sara Da Silva


Warning: Beware of spoilers.

As all my television shows come to an end, I find myself in need of new shows to binge watch. My latest target: Sense8. This Netflix original tells the story of eight strangers who find themselves to be mentally and emotionally linked.

Each “Sensate” has their individual story, however, these stories are ingeniously interlinked. Will Gorski is a Chicago police officer who is haunted by flashbacks of an unsolved murder from his childhood. Riley Blue, who becomes Will’s immediate love interest, is an Icelandic DJ living in London with a troubled past and a complicated drug-filled present.  Wolfgang Bogdanow is a Berlin locksmith/safe-cracker of Russian decent who is involved in organized crime with his partner-in-said-crime Felix Bernner.

Next on the list is Capheus, a Matatu van driver from Nairobi, who has a deep love for everything Jean-Claude Van Damme, and who is desperately trying to raise enough money to buy medicine for his mother who is dying of AIDS. Sun Bak, one of the show’s most badass characters, is the daughter of a powerful businessman in Seoul, has a master’s degree in economics and has a hidden passion for kickboxing. Nomi Marks is a transgender hacktivist living in San Fransisco with her girlfriend Amanita. Kala Dandekar is a Hindu pharmacist who is engaged to a man that she does not love. And last, but certainly not least, Lito Rodriguez, a closeted film actor who gets into some trouble with his boyfriend, their live-in “beard” and the man who believes that she belongs to him. These characters are so completely different from each other so there is never an opportunity to be bored.

The show successfully incorporates all story lines together by introducing two characters: Jonas Maliki, a fellow Sensate from a different cluster of eight who wants to help the new cluster, and Whispers, a Sensate determined to neutralize newly broken out Sensates.

Due to the connection between the Sensates they are able to communicate, utilise each other’s knowledge and skills, and feel each other’s emotions, which makes for some very interesting scenes. I never thought seen a man experience the pain of a female’s menstrual cycle could be that satisfying. By the end of the season they are all using each other’s skills to escape some pretty sticky situations, for example, Capheus uses Sun’s kickboxing ability and Will’s police skills to defeat some local gang members.

Not only is Sense8 a science-fiction drama, but it also focuses on issues that aren’t usually involved in such shows: gender, sexuality, race and religion. One of my personal favourite things about the show was that it was filmed in 9 different locations: London, Berlin, Chicago, San Francisco, Seoul, Reykjavík, Mexico City, Mumbai and Nairobi. Now that’s dedication. This is definitely a show that is binge-worthy if you have a couple days spare.

I have the utmost faith in Netflix originals and you should too.

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The Watch List: Batman: Gotham Knight

By Joe Strange


Batman is by and large the most popular DC superhero; he’s not overpowered and ridiculous like Superman and many of the other cosmic scale DC heroes, and while he, like Green Arrow, is based somewhat off of a famous figure (Sherlock Holmes, the world’s greatest detective) he doesn’t patrol his city in a deer stalking and pipe.

I know, Green Arrow doesn’t wear that silly green hat so much any more, still wears a hood though. and he’s one bad wash away from being little pink riding hood.

Batman is human. Sure, he’s a billionaire, close combat master and a tactical genius, but he’s still human. He’s also a complete badass and the goddamn Batman. He also has some of the most iconic villains in comics, which makes his conflicts even better.

Anyway, it’s because of the Bat’s popularity that this week’s Watch List is the 2008 animated anthology Batman: Gotham Knight.

Sitting pretty at an hour and a quarter, it’s a really short collection of stories about Batman, and the myth and legend surrounding him, as well as some more insight into the character of Bruce Wayne.

The collection was originally meant to be set between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, and though it’s not canon, the atmosphere of the stories is very inkeeping with that of the Nolanverse, even if some stories do approach some of the less realistic villains like Killer Croc, (Side Note: how cool would it have been to see Nolan’s take on Croc?)

Each of the six stories is done in a different art style, those who have seen the Animatrix will know what to expect on that front, but there is some consistency, the voice of Batman is constant throughout, Kevin Conroy does an excellent job as both Mr Wayne and Batman, and each tackles a different side of the Batman.

The first, Have I got a Story for you? is possibly my favourite, it follows four kids, three of which all had a separate encounter with Batman that day, the twist is that they each see him differently, one as a shadow creature, able to disappear at will, one as a combat robot and one as a hideous Man-bat. This one really focuses on the mystery surrounding Batman, and helps to give a more civilian interpretation of the vigilante, as well as having fun with kids’ habit of over exaggerating for effect.

Crossfire is next, this one is told from the point of view of two of Gotham City’s finest. We’ve no reason to believe that these two cops are crooked, and they’ve been picked by Gordon to be in the MCU (Major Crimes Unity, not Marvel Cinematic Universe). The two officers have differing views on the Batman, one sees him as a force for good, while the other only sees him as a vigilante, who should be helping in more orthadox ways. When the two cops get caught in a gang war, and are saved by the Batman, the latter sees him as a hero, and Batman is comforted, saying that he can see why Gordon picked them to be close to him.

Next up is Field Test, this is the first one that deals with Batman personally; after a brainwave Lucius Fox gives Bruce a strong electromagnet, capable of repelling bullets to an extent. After an incident with a bystander, Bruce announces that he’s willing to put his life on the line, but only his, and hands the device back. It shows off how seriously Bats takes his mission, especially his no kill rule, at a huge risk to himself.

In Darkness Dwells is a familiar-ish story that focusses on fear toxin and the like, a Cardinal is abducted from church Batman pursues the kidnapper into the sewers where he happens across Killer Croc who’s been afflicted by Scarecrow’s fear toxin. Batman defeats him but is affected by the toxin himself, we then see him struggling against that to complete his mission. It’s a more straight forward story, and in my opinion, not one of the best in the collection.

Working Through Pain is particularly good one for those who are fans of Batman’s humanity. Following on from In Darkness Dwells, Batman has a run in with a crazed gunman in the sewers, who shoots Batman out of terror. The subsequent story reflects on Batman’s training to understand and control pain, while he travelled the world. It’s a great look at how Batman became the controlled master of will he is in the present.

The final story is Deadshot, and is, unsurprisingly about the appearance of the infamous assassin. This one, as well as being a great action piece, questions the reasons why Bruce is the Batman, and what his purpose truly is.

The best thing about Gotham Knight is the brevity, each story is 10-15 minutes each, so if you don’t get on with one, it’s not much of a loss. The short stories are very similar to single issue comics, and make for great, broken up viewing, I myself watched the film in four different sittings.

Basically, if you like Batman, and would like to experience more of the Dark Knight, as well as seeing some really cool and interesting art styles and some great stories, it’s definitely worth a watch.

The Watch List: Christmas Grab Bag

By Sara Da Silva


 

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and you know what that means: Christmas movies. Over the years we have seen some incredible Christmas inspired films. So, I have taken it upon myself you give you a little list of some of my personal favourite Christmas movies.

1. Home Alone: If you haven’t watched this film then my question to you is: have you been living under a rock? After being accidentally left at home whilst his family fly to France for Christmas, Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) has to defend his home against a couple of idiotic burglars. Home Alone is too good not to watch every year.

2. It’s a Wonderful Life: Talk about a Christmas classic. It’s a Wonderful Life tells the story of George Bailey, a man on the verge of committing suicide on Christmas Eve, who is visited by his guardian angel and shown all the lives he has touched and how their lives would be different if he had never been born. Perhaps one of the most critically acclaimed films of all time, this film is definitely something you should indulge in this festive season.

3. Love Actually: This beautifully told film follows the lives of eight different, but slightly interlinked, couples during the Christmas period. This unbelievably talented cast makes this film what it is. From Bill Nighy and Colin Firth, to Liam Neeson and Emma Thompson. My fangirl heart just can’t take it.

4. Elf: Buddy the Elf travels to New York in search of his true identity in this wonderfully hilarious movie. If you’ve seen Step Brothers then you know how funny Will Ferrell can be, so go watch Elf immediately if you haven’t yet. It won’t disappoint.

5. The Santa Clause: It’s quite possible that everyone has seen this film at least once in their lifetime. But even so, it’s something that you can watch every Christmas season. When Scott Calvin (played by Tim Allen) accidentally kills Santa on Christmas Eve, he is magically transformed into his replacement. It’s definitely a family favourite in my house.

6. Joyeux Noel: Based on the true story of the Christmas truce of the First World War, this movie is the perfect for the holiday season and for any history buff. This film was rightly nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 78th Academy Awards. So, if critics think it’s good enough then maybe you should give it a watch. Trust me.

7. How the Grinch Stole Christmas: Everyone knows the story of the Grinch and it’s likely that you have seen the movie before, but why not watch it again? Then again? And again? Personally, I think it never gets old.

8. The Nightmare Before Christmas: Jack Skellington, the life and soul of Halloweenland, finds himself lost and without meaning. After stumbling upon Christmastown he decides to bring Christmas home. But, the question still stands: is this Tim Burton movie for halloween or Christmas? Why can’t it be both?

Those are a few of my favourite Christmas films, let us know what yours are!
Happy holidays everyone. See you in the New Year!

The Play List: Bastion

By Joe Strange


We were bombarded with news this weekend from the 2014 Playstation Experience, and none of that news made me as psyched as the announcement that Supergiant’s isometric action/RPG game, Bastion, will be getting a PS4/Vita port.

Originally released on the Xbox Live Arcade in July of 2012 (followed by a Steam release the next month) Bastion tells the story of a great calamity, a silent character known as ‘The Kid’ and his quest to restore the titular Bastion and scrape back civilisation the best he can, and I played the crap out of it.

I realise the story isn’t the most revolutionary of tales but, like all the best stories, the magic is in the telling and Bastion gets that spot on with the smoothest, coolest, sexiest voice in videogames in the form of the Narrator. The Narrator, voiced by Logan Cunningham, regales the audience with the events on screen, using this to build the world and give you background on the enemies, on the lore and on the Kid’s actions.

This commentary peaks as he pats the Kid (and the player) on the back for the way he deals with enemies and the troubles he faces. The narrator also acts as a tutorial, once you pick up the bow he states ‘the Kid knows to wait until he’s pulled it all the way before he fires’, what happens when you do this? Well you get a power shot of course. The entire set up gives Bastion a very fairy tale feel, like this is a story passed down through the years, but it still maintains the immediacy of a tense story, and can be very touching in places.

The combat seems shallow at first; two weapon slots, a shield and a special attack aren’t the most exciting of set ups, but once you begin unlocking new weapons for your arsenal and finding upgrade materials the combat makes for some really fun game play. I completely admit to getting attached to my six shooter and not wanting to let go of it at all. Because even the weapons you pick up have personality, you begin to craft a character in the Kid through the weapons you use, and even when the game is over and the Bastion’s fate is decided you can go into one of the arenas and try out new loadouts and tinker to your heart’s content.

There are also idol you can find and activate that can make enemies tougher, or your experience a little more challenging, in a similar way to Halo’s skulls, which adds even more depth to a system that initially seems a bit meh.

Along with the narration, Bastion’s musical score is impeccable. The styles vary through the story and are shaped by the level setting, but there’s an overall feel that’s very reminiscent of westerns, but with a definite twist. It’s engaging and atmospheric and adds even more to the feel that a travelling band of storytellers could be entertaining a village with the Kid’s adventure.

Bastion is an example of how games give storytellers new ways to engage audiences, through its clever narration, noteworthy art style and incredible world building Bastion is a delight for gamers and storytellers alike.

Bastion is currently available on the Xbox 360 Marketplace, Steam, the Chrome Webstore and will be released next year on PS4 and Vita.

The Watch List: Thanksgiving Grab Bag

By Sara Da Silva


It appears that Thanksgiving is fast approaching and the holiday season is upon us. Even though I don’t celebrate the holiday, after all I am British, it doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy the holiday themed TV episodes. Holiday episodes can be fairly tricky, but, when done well they can be some of the best episodes of the season. So, with that in mind, here is a brief list of my personal favourite Thanksgiving episodes.

5. Scrubs | “My Day Off” (Season 1, Episode 9)

I have yet to meet a single person who does not enjoy the occasional episode of Scrubs. Having recently re-watched all 9 seasons, the Thanksgiving episode definitely stands out. In the episode, J.D. gets diagnosed with appendicitis, and Elliot tries to be “warmer” towards her patients. Whilst it doesn’t sound like much, with its combination of perfectly timed jokes and heartfelt moments, this show is perfect for the holiday season.

4. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air | “Talking Turkey” (Season 1, Episode 12)

With Will’s mum coming to stay with the Banks’ for Thanksgiving, the kids of the house are made to cook Thanksgiving dinner. What could possibly go wrong? The answer is a lot. I don’t think I need to explain why this episode made it on to the list, because The Fresh Prince is always on my list.

3. Brooklyn Nine-Nine | “Thanksgiving” (Season 1, Episode 10)

Brooklyn Nine-Nine is quickly becoming one of my favourite television shows, and their Thanksgiving episode certainly did not disappoint. In the episode, entitled “Thanksgiving” (the writers must have thought long and hard for that spark of genius), the squad spends Thanksgiving Day playing Boyle Bingo and attending a Thanksgiving dinner at Amy’s house, which, of course, doesn’t turn out as expected.  Joe Lo Truglio, who plays the beloved Boyle, truly does shine in this episode as his one-liners are particularly hilarious.

2. 2 Broke Girls | “And the Very Christmas Thanksgiving” (Season 1, Episode 10)

It’s Caroline’s first holiday being broke, so, in order to make some extra holiday cash, Max and Caroline work as elves in a department store’s Santa Land. This show has it all: witty one-liners, an ensemble of terrific actors, and light hearted laughs. This episode also happens to be the perfect combination of Thanksgiving and Christmas to get you in the holiday mood.

1. Friends | “The One with All the Thanksgivings” (Season 5, Episode 8)

Friends had been running from 1994 to 2004, so of course there are plenty of Thanksgiving inspired episodes to choose from. My personal favourite is “The One with All the Thanksgivings”, because how much more festive could it get? The gang spend Thanksgiving day at Monica’s apartment discussing their worst Thanksgivings. Without giving too much away, the episode involves heads getting stuck in turkeys, a missing toe and losing an arm in a past life. Odds are that you’ve probably seen this episode because it’s truly a classic. But, if you haven’t then I definitely urge you to.

I’m thankful for these Thanksgiving episodes, what are you thankful for?

The Watch List: The Walking Dead

By Sara Da Silva


For some strange reason I have yet to write an article proclaiming my love for The Walking Dead, but that is all about to change.

In just a few minutes I shall attempt to outline all the reasons as to why The Walking Dead is one of my favourite shows, whilst simultaneously trying to convince you to watch it. If you already watch the show then good on you. If you don’t, then prepare yourself; you’re in for a bumpy ride.

Quick bit of background before I begin. The Walking Dead is a post-apocalyptic zombie horror series based on the comic by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard. It premiered on AMC in 2010 and has been getting great reviews ever since; for good reason.

I shan’t give any major spoilers away because I know how some of you are. But of course, be warned, I can’t discuss The Walking Dead without outlining the plot.

In the first season we are introduced to Rick Grimes, a sheriff’s deputy, who awakens from a coma to find that the world has become overridden with flesh-eating zombies. The first season follows Rick on his journey to find his family. But along the way he encounters many other survivors; some who become main characters throughout the seasons. Season 2 is set on a farm, and whilst this living situation was only brief in the comics, the writers decided to stretch it out for an entire season. Perhaps not the smartest of moves, but I digress. In season 3 the group have moved on to a prison, which is definitely quite the upgrade. It is in this season that we’re introduced to The Governor who is the leader of the town of Woodbury, a fortified haven. But, as always, nothing is as good as it appears. Season 4, apart from the first, is potentially one of my favourite seasons. Let’s just say, without giving too much away, that shit really goes down in this season. Season 5 started a few weeks ago and it has yet to disappoint. With the increase in budget due to its rising success, the creators of the show have really been able to push the boat out with what’s possible. Bravo.

Might I also add my many thanks to the casting team as they sure have done a terrific job. Whilst I might not always like Rick’s character, I do appreciate the incredible acting of Andrew Lincoln (who you might have seen in Love Actually). But of course the talent does not end there. The casting list could have me rambling on for days so I’ll highlight some of the best: Norman Reedus (Daryl Dixon), Steven Yeun (Glenn Rhee), Lauren Cohan (Maggie Greene), Danai Gurira (Michonne) and Chandler Riggs, who plays Carl Grimes, AKA the character that everyone loves to hate. Most of us have a love hate relationship with a lot of these characters but I find it very difficult to fault any of the acting. Even the babies who plays Judith (season 4 spoiler alert) appears to have mastered the art of acting on camera.

In addition to the great casting, the special effects and make up used in the show really takes it to a whole new level. If you like gory then definitely tune in.

Don’t even get me started on the rest of the franchise because I could be here for hours. I’ll just say that if you like the show then you’ll definitely like the comic and the video game. You’ll be in for a right treat.

The Walking Dead is definitely one of the greatest shows currently on television so I urge you to go watch. Trust me, it’ll be worth it.

The Play List: Condemned: Criminal Origins

Halloween is almost upon us, but to be honest I’m mostly indifferent to the whole event. However I will admit to being a fan of its influence on TV as Joe’s list yesterday demonstrated. But what about videogames? Extra Credits posted an excellent video looking into how horror is used in videogames, and whilst I am no connoisseur of horror games, I do play them every now and then.

Most recently was P.T., the first game in years that made me audibly scream out loud. This wasn’t helped by the fact that I made the unwise (or brilliant) decision to play it using headphones. The notorious moment where Lisa gets up all in your face was truly terrifying; this was no mere jump scare. Afterwards I immediately said “nope” and threw my headphones off and let the controller rumble across the sofa.

I did continue playing, except this time with headphone off, and the lights turned up (yes I’m a wuss). Although I didn’t get to the end, which is something I need to fix, it was an experience that is staying with me and I perfectly understand why so many people are talking about it. If you haven’t played it, but have a PS4 give it a go, you won’t regret it (well your heart might).

Despite the strength of P.T. as the best recent example of horror in a videogame, the first game to properly scare me and continued to unsettle me during my playthrough of it was Condemned: Criminal Origins, a launch title for the 360. Whilst I didn’t get it until a few months after the launch, it stood out among the small collection of games I had amassed so far for the console. However the game is rated 18, and for good reason, yet I had only just turned 15 which might add to the scare factor of the game.

Regardless, the horror games that I have played since (with the exception of P.T.) have all failed to create the same unnerving atmosphere. That is not to say that such games do not exist, as at present the indie scene is doing a good job in providing this, but the AAA scene seems confused as to how to balance horror with action.

This is where Condemned shines, as despite the constant uncertainty and threat you feel throughout, it is very much an action game. Enemies are taken down via brutal blows to the head, either by a rusty pipe, a wooden 2×4 or if you’re lucky an axe. Oh yeah, this game is played in first person, making the action that much more personal. Like most first person games, guns are present, but this is game that takes ammo scarcity to a whole new level. If you Think ammo is rare in Resident Evil, this would make you cry. Then again, shooting your way through enemies is not the way to go. In fact it is possible to go through the whole game without firing a single bullet (there’s even an achievement for it).

With guns largely removed nearly every encounter is a close one and this often means that you have to chase down the enemies who largely consist of drugged up homeless people, despite this they present a decent fight. Yet they are only there to get in your way. As your true enemy is the serial killer that you (Agent Ethan Thomas) are trying to chase down.

The beating of homeless people is broken up by the closest thing to interesting crime scene investigation in a videogame (although L.A. Noire provides a solid effort), as you are able to use an array of forensic tools to examine the crime scenes which provides further clues about the killer. This helps bring you into the reality of the game, that you are a core part of the investigation.

Even though the locations are almost exclusively in run down parts of the city, there is an interesting diversity, and doesn’t suffer from relying on stereotypes. There is something unsettling about an abandoned school, and Condemned exploits that to full effect. Let’s just say I went a while where opening a locker was not an easy experience.

However the most terrifying experience in the game, one that I have not shaken off, is the department store level. Now to me this is not a common area for a horror game, not sure why, as they contain one of the creepiest enemies of all time. I’m talking about mannequins. Yes they are unsettling, which I think most people will agree with. But in Condemned it exploits that and plays with it. For a while when you start out in the store there are only the standard enemies to worry about, yet you notice something in the corner of your eye moving. But when you look into it, nothing is moving. Then it happens again, but right in front of you. You start to question your own sanity, did that mannequin really move?

Then all of a sudden the mannequin that is right next to you starts attacking you. But only that one. Yet as you run through the rest of the store other mannequins join in. It is truly terrifying as you have no idea where the next attack is going to come from. The game toys with this concept in later levels by just placing the odd mannequin, just to remind you that they could attack again. Needless to say I couldn’t go anywhere near a mannequin in real life for some time. Furthermore their presence in any other game fills me with dread. Something Spec Ops: The Line excellently executed, further reinforcing the fact that Walker is losing his grip on reality.

Towards the end Condemned starts to get properly weird with the source of the killer’s motives becoming harder to understand, even the very nature of Ethan Thomas comes under question. The ending leads to further confusion, but in a way that was appropriate. Whilst many were hoping for a sequel, it was a shame that it failed to live up to expectations. It took the revelation of the ending and went full force with it, ultimately giving Ethan weird demonic super shouting powers (yes it is as stupid as it sounds). Whilst it starts off well enough, by the second half of the game it just runs out of steam.

Nonetheless, if you want a truly unnerving game to play this Halloween I fully recommend Condemned. Try and get a copy for the 360 or download it on Steam.