Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Sunshine Blogger Award Q&A

Thanks to Ethan at Embarr Films for the nomination!

The Sunshine Blogger Award is a chain-letter project to celebrate and recognise the work of bloggers that you follow and appreciate.

As part of this ceremony, I've been posed 11 questions to answer.

1.What is your favourite childhood film and why?
The Jungle Book I reckon. It’s the one I remember watching the most anyway. Pretty much every Disney movie to be honest. Every child sees most of the classics before they 5, don’t they? My parents tell a story of us all going to see The Aristocats and me laughing so much at the backfiring car your fella drives in it that we had to leave. I remember watching Song of the South a lot too on VHS. That’s a film which is a little, shall we say, problematic, thinking about it now. I think Disney discontinued it. 

2. What is your favourite film of the year so far and why?
Unfortunately I’ve not seen that many this year, probably only just edged into the double figures to be honest, and most - if not all - of them have been the big blockbuster tentpole pictures. So I’m going to be incredibly boring and say Civil War; just as a culmination of everything thus far in those movies it’s incredibly satisfying. And it has Giant-Man in it.  For a more film critic-y position though it has to be 10 Cloverfield Lane, drenched in tension with two incredible performances. Came out of nowhere and knocked my socks off. 

3. Which is your social media of choice – Facebook or Twitter? And why?
No love for Google+? Ha. No, it’s Twitter without a doubt. Facebook is fine and all but I rarely if ever get into discussions about…anything with people there. On Twitter, it’s all I do. Well, that and make fun of Donald Trump and try to make a joke that goes viral. To date, I have not succeeded. What’s the line, Facebook is filled with people you know and never talk to, while Twitter is full of strangers you can’t stop talking to?

4. What is your favourite season and why?
Summer. Cause it’s warm, duh! Also, no schoolkids on the train. Yes, I am a grumpy old man. Winter’s good too, because you get to come home from work, put the heating on, lock the doors and hibernate. Yes, I am a grumpy old man. 

5. What is your favourite television series and why?
Either Buffy or Battlestar Galactica. Buffy was a show that really spoke to me as a teen, the whole high school is hell thing. Even though school for me wasn’t too bad, as somewhat of an outsider in the school social scene Buffy always resonated. Also cool fights. BSG just hit me at the right time, those first two and a half seasons are glorious propulsive daring television, the kind of which I don’t think we’ve seen since. Both shows went off the boil in the later seasons but what show doesn’t. Lost, too, is another one that I fell in love with hard. Oh, and obviously The Simpsons. 

6. Which would you prefer and why- dream job set for life or travel the world (two years max)?
Dream job, man. Unless this is one of those deals where choosing one precludes me from doing the other. But even then having a job that you love, considering you have to do it every day, over two years max travelling the world? Easy. 

7. You have the chance to interview five people from any aspect of films and film-making, dead or alive, who would you pick?
Anne Hathaway, because she seems like fun (also gorgeous). Edgar Wright, to pick his brain and then feel inadequate (also gorgeous). Bruce Willis, to ask him at what point did he stop caring and maybe some questions about Die Hard. Stan Winston, to ask him just how he comes up with some of the stuff he has. And James Cameron, to ask him what his secret is. Although I would be a terrible interviewer and just end up babbling. 

8. What is your favourite film genre?
Prrrrrrobably science fiction because you can tell any kind of story with it. Allegories and metaphors for the human condition, but with like robots and aliens and junk. What’s not to love? 

9. What is your least favourite film genre?
I’m not overly fond of Westerns. I don’t dislike them but given a choice I will not pick a Western. 

10. What 2016 film release are you looking forward to the most before the year ends?
Rogue One. Star Wars but not. It’s an incredibly exciting prospect and one I hope succeeds wonderfully. There’s no chance it’ll fail commercially but seeing something different but still set in the Star Wars universe is something I’ve wanted to see on screen for ages, but didn’t know I wanted to see. I cannot wait. 

11. Which character is your favourite, Han Solo or Indiana Jones?
Well, they’re the same character, aren’t they? If I had to choose, surprisingly, I think I’d go for Indy. He’s got that dirty, grimy sexy thing going on. Han’s a scoundrel but Indy’s a man, y’know. Yes, I would 100% bang 1980’s Harrison Ford, alright!

You would too. Don't lie.

That was fun. I’ll get to nominating.

Monday, 22 August 2016

I Done A Podcast

Have a listen if you like. All about retail with my chum Adam Fox.

Love ya.


Saturday, 21 May 2016

Film Flip Flopping

I recently saw X-Men Apocalypse. I wasn’t too enamoured with it. Now I’m saying that as a pretty big fan of/apologist for the X-Men film franchise so all the signs were pointing to the fact that I should have at least liked it. But I didn’t. It’s leaden, by the numbers and worst of all boring. Isn’t it? 

Because I’ve started to doubt myself a little. A changing opinion on a film isn’t a bad thing of course, but after reading reviews that have been more positive than I was I’m starting to think maybe I was too harsh on it. So it got me thinking, does the environment in which we see films and the people we see them with contribute to our overall opinion?

It seems the answer, after consulting some of my delightful cine-literate friends*, is…maybe. It depends.


I saw Apocalypse at a press screening as the +1 of fellow amateur reviewer so immediately I have my film reviewer head on, which is similar to my regular head but slightly more critical. I was also in the company of people whose writing I admire and whose film opinions I greatly respect - though don’t necessarily always agree with - and when I’m with like minded reviewer types I feel I judge a film more harshly than it might deserve. Maybe, subconsciously or no, I’m trying to present a more highbrow version of myself than the one that actually exists while in the company of my peers. I’d like to think not, as I’ll watch a Paul Thomas Anderson film as readily as I will a Paul WS Anderson one (Death Race rules!) but brains are weird.

We all have that friend who’s a film snob (and if you don’t…well, this is awkward) and often my enthusiasm for a film wanes when the lights go up and I see them make an exasperated face. Immediately I think ‘Oh, maybe I didn’t like it that much.’ I’m guilty of it myself. In fact the second we exited X-Men I did exactly that, puffed out my cheeks, made a face and probably dampened any enthusiasm that my friend might have otherwise had. And I felt bad. That post cinema high is an easy balloon to puncture. “Well, I enjoyed that.” “Really?” Oh no, I’m someone’s film snob.

Then I thought would I have had the same reaction to the film had I solely been going for enjoyment? On a date night with my wife when I don’t have to review it, at least officially, and can just sit back and let it wash over me? I think it’s fair to say I might (might!) have enjoyed it a touch more on a Saturday night with punters as opposed to a Monday night with critics. I respect my wife’s opinion as much as anyone’s but on a date night we’re both less demanding in our standards (add your own joke here); I mean, we’ll not say a terrible film** is good, but an average film is a perfectly adequate 3-starrer date movie when it might be a 2 star critical review.

Think of comedies. They’re almost always better watching them in a packed cinema with everyone enjoying the fun than with only half a dozen people chuckling, or at home on your sofa. That’s one area I feel where you cannot argue that the company you’re in doesn’t affect your viewing experience. The Simpsons Movie was one of my favourite movie going experiences and it’s not a great movie, but the atmosphere was. An average 3 star comedy could easily tip over into 4 because of the surroundings you see it in. A great film will of course always be a great film, but everything adds to the experience whether it’s on screen or in a packed theatre.

Is that bad though? Some people I spoke to on Twitter before writing this have stated categorically that the company they attend the cinema with in no way affects their opinion.

I’m not for a second suggesting they’re lying but more often than not you get out of a film what you bring into it. I realise there’s no way to quantify this; you aren’t able to tell if a different arena would have altered your opinion but if your mood, personal circumstances and even the views you hold can affect your experience surely it isn’t unreasonable to suggest the tone of the room/viewing companions can too?

I don’t think I’ve ever had a complete about face and been convinced that I don’t/do like a film I’ve previously loved/hated because of a friend’s opinion of it. I’d like to think I have more willpower than that. In fact, I know I have. I’m still steadfast in the opinion that my friends who hate Serenity are wrong, because of course they are. That’s just a fact. Overall it’s a good thing though, the world would be boring (although perhaps more peaceful) if we all agreed about everything, especially the important things like whether an X-Men movie is good or not.

So I guess my point is…well, I don’t know what my point is. I just wanted to write some words but after much deliberation and questioning it seems the consensus is…maybe. It depends.


*Thanks to all who answered my question earlier. You’re all champs.
**My wife picked Date Movie for a date movie one night (though admittedly more to do with a lack of options). It’s still one of the worst cinema experiences of my adult life. I’ll never let her live it down.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Moral Complexity in Modern Gaming

I recently finished Firewatch (short review: it’s great) and it got me thinking: when did games become so introspective and judgemental?

Let me explain.

Lately, as I’ve talked about before, my gaming choices have become more about experiencing well told stories and investing in characters rather than gunning down faceless foes in the online arena. It’s a type of game I find myself wanting to play more of now, where there’s little in the way of action but lots of interaction. I posited before that maybe it was an age thing, and I’m more certain than I ever was before that this is the case.

I’m a married man and a father, and am 100% in love with these types of games now. Where my own personal life experience informs my choices and drives the narrative forward. When I was playing Halo or Call of Duty into the wee small hours I was living at home, responsibility free and the biggest concern I had in life was…I can’t even think of what my biggest concern would have been, so worry free was my existence. Now? I have so much more to draw on. I don’t mean I’m now just a human meatsuit filled with neuroses and worries but I have real life experience. To coin the favourite phrase an old wanker of a manager I once had I’ve been to the ‘university of life.’ Although he said that mostly because he hadn’t been to an actual university.


I’ve been through enough in my short life so far that a decision that would have once been simple(r) to make because of my lack of experience suddenly becomes that much harder. To bring it back to Firewatch, early on in the game Henry, the player character, has to choose between several options on how best to deal with an ailing spouse who is suffering from Alzheimer’s. It’s heartbreaking. In most cases there isn’t a good choice and a bad choice, just varying degrees of awful. Just like real life. I made my choice, one that I was ‘happy’ with in the moment and what felt like the decision I would make were I ever in that situation. My wife, sat beside me on the sofa, looked away when I was making the choice. She said she ‘didn’t want to know’ my decision. This never happened playing Sonic the Hedgehog.

Aw, jeez. 

Then, near the end when I was talking to Delilah, my companion throughout the game who you’ve become friendly with and possibly developed amorous feelings towards albeit on over walkie talkie, about the future, everything in my usual gaming brain - and the 'get the girl' mentality I've been instilled with from most media - made me want to run away with her but I couldn't make that choice. It didn’t feel right. It wouldn’t have been what I would do, and therefore I wouldn’t have made Henry do it. Technically I (Henry) was still married, even if his wife was thousands of miles away and wouldn't remember him. Earlier in the game Henry had, off screen, removed his wedding ring when his relationship with Delilah was blossoming. When the choice came later in the game to put it back on, I did. My own situation and experiences informed my choice so much so that I denied Henry a potential shot at happiness, going against everything my brain wanted for him in the moment. The caveat here is, as with most of these choice based games, the outcome is possibly inevitable and whatever was going to happen happens (I’ve only played through it once so can’t say for sure) but the great thing about these games is that they really hit you where you live. Your choices may not affect the ending, but you better believe they’ll affect your soul.

Which brings me to The Walking Dead.

Season two piled on the pressure, putting players in the shoes of Clementine, your charge in season 1, and forcing you to make life or death decisions in the face of hordes of undead. But those aren’t the ones I remember. They’re not the ones that almost a year later I still feel bad about. Legitimate pangs of guilt and regret. A major plot point in the finale concerns a new born baby. A year ago my son was around 6 months. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you this affected the decisions I made in the game greatly.

Through a sequence of events I’ll not go into in too much detail, Clementine has been more or less convinced that one of the remaining members of her group (Jane) has killed the baby because it will make traversing the zombie apocalypse that much harder, with all the crying and shouting that babies are wont to do. Kenny (a fellow survivor of season 1, whose life has really gone to shit over the two seasons) is outraged and lashes out at Jane for her actions and tries to kill her. Clementine can either do nothing or kill Kenny. I chose to do nothing and let Kenny kill her. That’s not what I feel bad about. Soon after, you discover the baby is not dead and you have to take care of him. Kenny and Clementine then come across a safe haven at which you could either remain outside in the wilderness with Kenny and the baby when they refuse to let all three of you in, or go into the compound but without Kenny. I chose the latter. I’M SO SORRY, KENNY!

Telltale Games excel at this type of complexity, as evidenced by their successes in whichever franchise they pick up and adapt (Game of Thrones, Tales of the Borderlands, The Wolf Among Us) all of which deal in the murkier areas of the human psyche. But where games were - and still are, in most cases - normally a bit of an escape from ourselves where we could live out fantasies of actions untethered to the mundanity of reality, these games dive head first into our brains and force us to ask questions of ourselves and whether or not we’re good people, be it as a forest ranger or surviving a zombie apocalypse.

Even a game as trashy as Until Dawn deals in similar themes. In it you’re practically encouraged to kill certain characters at certain moments but I found that I couldn’t bring myself to kill (or let die) the most hateful character, Emily. And she’s a straight up bitch.


Am I putting too much thought into this? Maybe it’s just me but I know when I’m thrust into a game where I have to make decisions constantly I always try to make the decision that in real life I feel like I would make, not the decision that’s best for the characters in the game.

Anyone else?

Monday, 16 November 2015

Parenting, And The Butterfly Effect. Or How I Learned to Start Worrying and Stop Watching Time Travel Movies

Or, to put it another way, I wish, I wish, I didn’t kill that fish.

My wife and I had a conversation a few weeks ago about, of all things, the apocalypse. We deal with cheery topics of discussion in our house. I think we were watching Children of Men.

And my wife told me that since becoming a parent she doesn’t think she can watch movies that deal with it anymore.

I sort of laughed it off a bit, but as she went into detail I came around to her way of thinking. We - used to - watch and - also, used to - enjoy The Walking Dead (show me someone that doesn’t love a zombie apocalypse and I will show you a liar) and its depiction of the misery upon misery upon misery of survival in a post collapse world.

She told me she had a dream that such a thing had actually happened and that we, as a family, were trying to survive in that world, and that it scared the bejesus out of her, so much so that she doesn’t really want to continue watching it for fear of adding yet more nightmare fuel to the fire.* Fair enough. It is a fairly terrifying notion but in my head I thought that it was only a dream and that nothing like that would ever happen. *crosses fingers, touches wood* I think myself pretty good at suspending my disbelief and disassociating real life with the movies and TV shows I watch.**

Or so I thought.

You see, I recently watched the Back to the Future trilogy, and while it’s still the only perfect trilogy out there (not my opinion, just a stone cold FACT) unspoiled by fourquels or worse, prequels, something in it struck a chord with me that had never been struck before.

When Marty goes back to 1955 and accidentally torpedoes his own parents meet-cute, he sets in motion a chain of events that, as his family photograph attests, will cause him to simply disappear unless he fixes things. He will be “erased…from existence.” In the movie, its fun and played for laughs, the threat never entirely serious in this sort of knockabout time travel romp, but the notion of it chilled my bones.

I’ve always thought that time travel would be great fun (show me someone that doesn’t love at least one time travel movie and I will show you a liar) but now, since becoming a dad, I’m not so sure. Ignoring all sorts of paradoxes that real world scientists have hypothesised and dealing strictly in movie science, there are a myriad of ways I could monumentally alter the course of not just my life, but the lives of those I love, by doing only the tiniest thing in the past. Given that this is the basis for the film The Butterfly Effect, I know have two reasons for never watching it ever again. Mostly because it’s terrible though.

I’ve not even seen About Time, and I’m not likely to now, but I’ve heard that a small decision Domnhall Glesson makes in the past changes his son into a daughter upon his return, and only he (and Bill Nighy, because Bill Nighy knows all) knows that anything is different. That truly terrifies me. My son is a year and a half. If such a thing happened to me now, I would be distraught. Even the thought of it gives me a knot in my gut. Not to take things in too maudlin a direction and I hope this doesn’t come off as flippant, but as I was explaining this (admittedly dumb) fear to my wife she brought up as a comparison her/our miscarriage. Had things gone differently, we would have had a baby a few months before we did, and while that would have been brilliant and we would have been thrilled, my son would never have existed. If for whatever reason I could travel back in time and “fix” what happened, a wish that at the time no doubt passed through my mind, it would lead to my son never being born. And while the pain of that experience still exists I wouldn’t change it for the world because I have my baby boy.

Which is why time travel movies and the usual problems that befall the protagonist, not just losing those they love but them never having existed, give me the heebie-jeebies more now that I’m a father.
Like, imagine I wanted to travel back in time to before I had a child, before I was married even, to have one night of responsibility free fun times (or two nights. Or a fortnight.). Assume that we aren’t dealing with a causal loop here and that anything I do in the past affects the future. What if something I do directly affects me meeting my wife, or conceiving my son? That is the stuff of nightmares for me, all because I wanted a few days of no responsibil…oh, God. This is the plot to Shrek 4! My wife is now some warrior woman and I’m stuck with a donkey.

Even in the playful, nearly consequence free version of time travel Back to the Future showcases, Marty returns to 1985 with a home life vastly different to the one he left pre his 1955 diversion, a published author father, a loving mother, successful siblings and, somehow, a brand new 4x4. He doesn’t know these people, his entire life has been rewritten, Marty’s lucky he even exists in this timeline and that his ‘new’ parents decided to have kids (oddly, exactly the same kids) in the first place. Imagine if Marty returned to 1985, climbed into his parent’s house and they didn’t know who he was and ran him out of the house. Marty is now without a home, without a family. That, to me, is scarier than the Biff Tannen ruled alternate 1985. That we never see anything post trilogy is probably for the best as Marty gets committed for constantly reminiscing about things that never happened in this new timeline.

So, yeah, time travel movies have taken on a whole new aspect in my head lately. Now if you’ll excuse me I’ll be holed up in a bunker avoiding becoming my own grandfather, killing Hitler and waiting for the Morlocks to come.

Your friend in time.
Jonathan Cardwell

* She continues to watch countless shows about serial killers and terrorists though, but nope, zombie apocalypses are the real threat.
**Although she did also mention Contagion, a movie whose apocalypse is so bowel looseningly plausible I just ignored that she’d even brought in up, lest I curl up into the foetal position with a gas mask and some disinfectant spray.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Defending D'Movie

The negativity that Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie is getting annoys me. Not because I have any great affection towards the film (just typing D'Movie just about took all my inner strength) or the television series it stems from. I've never watched it and have no desire to do so. I've absolutely nothing against it; it just doesn't seem like my cup of cross dressing tea. But the way it's been received, critically as well as amongst my friends, both online and in real life, would lead you to believe that it’s a blight on all humankind. It's really not. At worst, it's an unfunny - in your opinion - comedy you’ll never watch yet whose existence baffles you. I don't see why it should though. You may hate it, although I'd wager most that do seem to hate it have never watched it and yet deem themselves to be somehow 'above it,' but there are people that do watch it, and find it hilarious. More power to them.

A cross dresser, yesterday.

It just strikes me as odd that people, like myself, who in the past (and sometimes still today) have been castigated for liking something that's not the popular thing to like, to look down our noses at something someone else might enjoy. Mrs Brown's Boys just seems to be the whipping boy du jour, as for example Doctor Who was in the past. Or as in some quarters, gaming and comic book reading still is. You can't expect people to treat your likes as a legitimate source of entertainment if you're unwilling to accept that others get enjoyment from things you, personally, do not like. I've written about these sorts of things before, and although I'll admit I sound like a broken record, I like sticking up for the underdog. Again, by all accounts, Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie isn’t very good, especially if the trailer is anything to go by, but if others get enjoyment from it, who am I, who are we, to deny them that? Or question their (in this case) sense of humour if what they find funny isn’t to my tastes?

Countless times, I've defended things I read or watch from those who dismiss them outright because of REASONS. I'll accept the fact that they dislike it if they've watched/read it but not before. I likely won’t ever see it so I can’t - won’t - offer an opinion on the movie, sorry, D’Movie, even if all signs point to a cinematic misfire, although I will admit that one joke in the trailer made me laugh. As an example, I feel I can offer an opinion on the films of the ‘_____ Movie’ genre (Scary Movie, Date Movie, Disaster Movie) directed by cinematic serial killers Freidberg and Seltzer, because I have actually, sadly, seen a few of them. Date Movie is probably the most awful thing I’ve seen in my entire life. But those films – somehow - earn money, terrible as they are. If it puts bums on seats in cinemas and the people that the movie was made for, those that watch the TV series, enjoy it and make it a success then Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie is laughing all the way to D’Bank.

If we look at the top twenty highest grossing movies of all time, which by using maths one can assume the vast majority of Planet Earth has seen, it shows that there is an in built audience for almost anything, because critically most of these films aren’t what anyone would consider classics. I mean, Alice In Wonderland is 16th? Fucksake. But then again, maybe some people do. That’s what’s makes the world simultaneously wonderful and infuriating. I could argue til I’m blue in the face about why Alice in Wonderland is cinematic dreck, yet there’s probably some (poor deluded) soul who’ll argue right back that it’s a masterpiece. I mean, they’re wrong, but that’s by the by. 

Alice's acid flashback.

I’m not saying I’ve never dismissed a film I’ve not seen. Who knows, Scary Movie 6 might be a revelation in comedy that breathes new life into the parody genre. The previous five films would indicate not though. But whatever happened to being optimistic that movies might be good no matter what? In the age of the internet, things are either totally amazing or total shit. As another example, I had never watched a Fast and Furious movie after the first one because I assumed they were all the same and therefore rubbish. Then my missus dragged me along to the cinema to see Fast Five. Which as it turns out was fucking awesome. I was first in line for number 6 which was also fucking awesome, and am now filled with optimism for any future installments. [Although I was dead right about all the others but that sort of disproves my point.]

I can’t pretend to be above a film that isn’t made with me in mind when I’ve shelled out hard earned pounds for things that in my own head even I know are awful. So, fans of Mrs Brown’s Boys, go see your movie. Don’t let any opinionated arseholes dissuade you from seeing it.

If you like it, be proud in that fact.

It’s tailor made for you.

Enjoy it.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

MOVIE REVIEW: The Internship

This extended advertisement for Google hopes to have the same kind of success as stars Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn’s previous collaboration, Wedding Crashers, did.

It won’t. 

Laid off from their job as face-to-face salesmen, Billy (Vaughn) and Nick (Wilson), down on their luck and desperate for a job, apply for an internship at Google’s San Francisco HQ, despite knowing nothing about computers. Once there, they are put into groups and made to complete various Google specific tasks in the hope of being offered a permanent post. If you’ve read that paragraph you’ll know exactly how the movie will play out; and it doesn’t deviate from the template too much.

Our protagonists are teamed up with a walking bunch of clichés; the sarcastic cool kid, the uptight Asian kid, the token girl and the socially awkward nerd. Together after a rocky start they must learn to work as a team if they’re to stand a chance of winning the job of their dreams. The nerds Nick and Billy are teamed up with will learn life lessons and discover there’s more to life than sitting in front of a computer screen, while the nerds will try to bring Billy and Nick into the modern world. It wouldn’t really be a spoiler to tell you the ending of the film. I won’t, but you can take a wild stab.

The two leads are basically playing exactly the same characters they’ve played before, with Vaughn doing his confident motormouth schtick (becoming ever more tiresome) and Wilson the relaxed surfer dude thing (likeable, but boring). Each of the kids, despite having predictable and archetypal roles to play, are endearing rather than annoying even if the Asian kid cutting loose cliché is present and correct here. Rose Byrne barely registers as a Google employee and love interest for Nick. 

Hilarious, said no-one.

It’s as predictable as they come, and sadly there aren’t many laughs to elevate proceedings during the first half of the film; all the jokes are fish-out-of-water gags, like having Billy not knowing how to work a webcam (which might have been funnier ten years ago) or constantly saying ‘on-the-line’ instead of ‘online’ in a joke that goes on far longer than it should. Thankfully, the second half of the film picks up, starting with a Quidditch game of all things, and there are a few decent laugh out loud moments once the film gets it’s set up out of the way.

However, outside of those few big laughs the film is only chucklesome for the most part when you want to be full on belly laughing. The cynical use of Google doesn’t help matters either, being constantly reminded that it’s an ‘amazing place to work’ and continually seeing Google products and Google apps and services everywhere and Google this and Google that makes it feels less of a film and more of a brainwashing exercise first and a comedy second.

A diverting enough 90 minutes, but it won’t live long in the memory.

2 stars