You’re The Worst

After recently blazing through the entirety of the first season of FX’s You’re The Worst, there were a couple of things that initially stood out to me as incredibly interesting, especially in the genre and medium that You’re The Worst fits into. The show is great, with sharp dialogue and great performances given by the leading characters (I think I’d watch Kether Donohue in anything and everything she does), but the real surprise comes from the way in which the writers treat difficult subjects and characters.

Desmin Borges’ Edgar Quintero is a war-veteran who is suffering from PTSD having just returned from Iraq. In a flashback episode, before Edgar becomes Jimmy’s house-mate/maid/chef, we see him struggling on the streets of L.A., left abandoned by the government who were supposed to support him and ease his process back into society. His situation is made light of as is to be expected in a comedy such as this, but Edgar himself isn’t condemned and poked fun at. In the show we also see Edgar struggling to get medicine to help tackle his PTSD, having to deal with spiteful bureaucracy from the worker there. The scene is funny, but also acts as a scathing condemnation of the American government’s failure to support returning troops. Edgar’s issues are taken completely seriously even though they are in and amongst the outlandish antics which litter the rest of the show. His condition is one which truly effects him and the show doesn’t shy away from this. I came to You’re The Worst expecting a run of the mill, (500) Days Of Summer clone prime for easy viewing, and whilst that comparison isn’t far off, the way in which the show infuses tragedy and comedy is really well done.

Ant-Man: Super On A Smaller Scale

Amidst all the chaos of its production, Marvel’s Ant-Man has finally hit our screens. The movie had the darkest of aspersions cast upon it after the man put in charge of the project Edgar Wright left his post and the position was vacant for a lengthy spell of time. Peyton Reed would eventually take the reigns, but would his vision for the minuscule hero live up to the inimitable style of Wright?

The answer is yes, and in spades. Ant-Man is a joyous romp in the typical Marvel fashion, but boiled down to a smaller scale tale which feels more close and considered than some of the other, more bombastic Marvel Cinematic Universe entries of recent times. It’s a story primarily about family, the trials that come with fatherhood and the longing to get back onto a good path in your life. The stakes are still large; the threat posed by the main villain is potentially disastrous on an international level, but as a viewer I found myself focusing on the stakes at a smaller, personal level. 

The comedic character moments are plentiful – with Michael Peña giving a stand out performance, stealing every scene he’s in – and the action sequences are joyfully kinetic and inventive. But the real take-away from Ant-Man is how refreshing it is to see a blockbuster like this approach things with such a interpersonal, familial manner. Ant-Man stands out from the crowd, a tale concerned more with relationships than falling buildings, and I was thoroughly surprised at how much I enjoyed my time with it. 

True Detective Season 2: Mid Season Thoughts 

After the chaos of the final scene of the last episode, episode 5 of True Detective Season 2 picks up where the carnage left off and acts as a kind of reboot, a reinJection of intent and energy, for the characters and the story. But despite this rejuvenation, I think it’s quite clear that if you haven’t been enjoying this season so far or the characters haven’t quite clicked yet then there are no indications that the show will perform a u-turn and change your mind. These are the cast of characters we have, this is the type of story we have and we better get used to it.

This episode helped tie up a few loose ends in the storyline and also helped cement plot threads which have been threatening to unravel for a while. The diamonds, the parties, the missing girl from the first episode – things are starting to come together. The only real question marks come in the form of the bird-mask man and the hard-drive full of nasty blackmail shenanigans, but I will be surprised if they don’t resolve themselves in a fairly routine manner. So far it seems that everything that comes on screen is there for a reason, no superfluous objects or story threads that litter the lens. It seems as though there will be very few red herrings involved in this show, just a cacophony of Chekhov’s Gun’s just waiting to be fired at the opportune moment. Such as the revelation that Ray killed the wrong man in an attempt to get revenge for his wife’s murder, a story beat which culminated in the episodes best scene in an exchange between Ray and his ex-wife. Whether or not Ray will act upon his newly found anger towards Frank remains to be seen.

I’ll probably check back in after the season finale and post my thoughts of the season as a whole, but so far this season is going about as well as a sophomore season to a critically acclaimed show can be. I’m hoping for more of the occult underpinnings that propped up the first season but I think these hopes will prove to be unfounded.

Batman: Arkham Knight Final Thoughts

I finished the main story of Arkham Knight yesterday and had a few thoughts I wanted to get down onto digital paper, if you will. If I were to rank the Arkham games, I think I’d put Arkham Knight in second place, just behind Arkham Asylum. The story is fantastic in the most part; the idea that the villains are trying to attack Batman’s moral philosophy by trying to make him kill is a good one, and this coupled with a Batman tormented by a mental manifestation of The Joker makes for all the ingredients of a strong Batman arc. But upon the end of the story, I came away with one prevailing though – I really hope Rocksteady does something else after this.

Yes, this is the best that the Batman franchise has ever been. The moment to moment gameplay looks and feels amazing, but there are instances within the game that make me stop and realise that perhaps the studios talents aren’t being utilised the way they should be. Throughout the game they utilise a mechanism that I’ve rarely seen used in other games before. In some scenes – especially those involving The Joker – the player will be looking at something and if they rotate their camera away before bringing it back, the thing will disappear horror movie style. It works the other way round too, to great effect. A seemingly innocuous and mundane scene can be turned frightening by the simple act of turning the camera and seeing someone up close in your face. This mechanic is utilised to the full in the final act of the story, where the perspective switches to first person and these tricks and illusions are all the more meaningful and powerful. It just made me think of how cool it would be if Rocksteady took this mechanic and the experience they have from working on the Arkham games and created something entirely new, perhaps a first-person exploration game à la Gone Home or Firewatch. They are great at environmental storytelling and it would be interesting to see what they do with a property that isn’t already established and in a completely new genre.

I’ve loved the Arkham games, but Arkham Knight felt like the perfect conclusion to Rocksteady’s trilogy, and I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t be slightly disappointed if there was another Batman game from them. But hey, whatever happens, whatever they decide to do next, I’ll play the hell out of it.

Podcasts

Podcasts have fast turned into my go-to medium of choice when needing aural accompaniment whilst travelling, so here’s a list of some of my favourite podcasts I’m subscribed to. (After a mere ten posts, this is the blogs first listicle. Sad, I know, but it was going to happen sooner rather than later.)

Video Games:

IGN Podcasts – IGN have a great offering of gaming podcasts which are a mainstay of my Podcasts app homepage. Shows such as Podcast Beyond, Podcast Unlocked and Game Scoop! combine extensive video-game knowledge and humour which is a winning recipe. Episodes are released throughout the week.

Giant Bombast – Should need no introduction. Probably the podcast I look forward to most each week, the Giant Bombcast is >3 hours of video game discussion interspersed with wildly off-topic discussions, and it’s these off-piste meanders which podcast so successful and unique. New episodes every Tuesday.

Honourable Mentions – Rebel FM, The Geekbox, Match 3, Quality Control, The Indoor Kids.

Sports:

The Football Ramble – An independent football podcast which instead of focusing principally on analysis and statistics prefers to look at the game from a more entertaining and unique viewpoint. The four hosts each bring an individual personality to the affair and the chemistry that have helps makes The Football Ramble the best football podcast available. New episodes weekly.

Arsecast Extra – For any Arsenal fan, this is a must. Hosted by Andrew Mangan of Arseblog fame, the podcast discusses Arsenal news, analyses matches and often goes wildly off-topic to great effect. Episodes every Monday and Friday.

Honourable Mentions – The Tuesday Club, Football Weekly, Arse2Mouse Podcasts.

Film: 

Kermode & Mayo’s Film Review – The BBC’s flagship film show, Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode bring lengthy and insightful discussion of the latest releases. Kermode’s criticism is sound, and the podcast is worth subscribing to just to hear his scathing attacks on appalling films (see his Sex And The City 2 review). Episodes release every Friday.

Empire Podcast – Similar in format to the BBC show, this podcast from the folks at Empire magazine discuss the films released that week and interview a whole host of a-listers as they go. Differing to the BBC show, the Empire Podcast features a broader range of voices and opinions, offering differing, which adds to the discussion and provides another level of interest and debate when it comes to some of the bigger pop culture releases.

Honourable Mentions – Keepin’ it Reel!, The Geekbox.

Entertainment: 

Lore – Hosted by Aaron Mahnke, Lore is a show which revolves around real life horror stories, and unpacks the truth within them. The production design is immaculate, and some of the episodes are truly terrifying. As the shows tagline reads, sometimes the truth is more frightening than fiction.

The Comedy Button – A weekly show hosted by various members of the video-game industry, The Comedy Button is an hour of silly nonsense which has come to be one of the funniest podcasts I subscribe to.

The Last Podcast On The Left – This podcast dives into gritty and gross tales about serial killers, mass murderers and the most notably instances of inhumanity in history, all the while deconstructing each story with an inimitable style of humour.

Honourable Mentions – We Have Concerns, 99% Invisible, Criminal, Mystery Show, This American Life, Off The Record.

So there we have it, a whistle stop tour of podcasts which you should almost certainly be checking out. There are some truly unique voices to be heard in the medium of podcasts and with each passing year it seems like the quality of shows is just going up and up. Let’s hope this trend continues.

Rocket League: The Beautiful Game (With Cars) 

It’s a new month, and a new batch of Playstation Plus games have invaded the Playstation Store. Amongst them is Rocket League. Once PSN had ironed out its usual kinks and come back online, I decided to give it a go. Boy, am I glad I did.

If you had put Rocket League infront of the 12 year old me, he would have fainted. Football and cars! Cars and football! What else could anyone need out of a game? Happily, not much has really changed in ten years and this premise still gets me as excited now as it would have back then. Also happily, the game isn’t just a good premise, it also follows through on that premise and is some of the most fun I’ve had with a multiplayer game for some time. That is, when the servers are running smoothly and you aren’t waiting 25 minutes to join a match.

The game is simple: two teams, two goals, one ball, cars. Use said cars to knock said ball into said goal. The game is heavily based around timing, using your cars rocket propulsions to meet the ball on the bounce and creating that perfect contact is a hugely satisfying feeling – even more so when the ball flies in the top corner. It plays at a relentless pace too; boosting around the arena chasing after the ball is exhilarating, boosting to clear the ball off of your goal-line and save your team is even more so. The cars are incredibly nimble, with players able to boost in the air after the ball in search of that sweet volley or even wall ride around the entire arena like some kind of colourful wall of death at a fairground. It all equates to pure and simple fun, and the moment to moment gameplay is ideal for those times when you just want to kick back, forget about the mundanities of life, and just score some cool goals with your super cool car.

It’s a testament to Playstation that every month PS+ gets updated, the selection of free games to choose from remains exceptional. Rocket League continues this trend, with PS+ providing the solid platform a small game like this needs to be successful. Unfortunately with the increased exposure from being on the service comes the increased traffic, which can prove fatal for a small company with limited server capacity. Let’s hope these technical kinks can be ironed out soon, because when you can actually find a match, Rocket League is superb fun. 

The Witcher 3: Size Issues

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a phenomenal game. It’s a sprawling open-world RPG set in one of the most vivid, interesting and dense game worlds I’ve ever seen. The writing is also impeccable; not only is it just the main quest line which is tightly woven, each and every side quest you come across is not only interesting but is a story in itself – even the most mundane fetch quests can become lengthy, engaging quest lines. But for me, a question remains – is there too much?

The game is huge. Not just the map size, but the sheer amount of content available to you. It’s entirely feasible to suggest that someone could have played 200+ hours of The Witcher 3 without having seen the end credits. It’s a remarkable testament to CD Projekt Red for creating a game so richly packed with content – and good content, at that. But the size of the game is somewhat daunting. Throughout my playthrough I’ve thought to myself a number of times – “I’m never going to finish this game, no matter how much I love it”. I just don’t have 300+ hours to spend in a game, however much I wish I could. Maybe I’m just not cut out for long-form RPGs like this. Maybe I’m not hardcore enough. But there’s one thing I do know for sure – CD Projekt Red have created one of the best games of the past few years, the best game of this young, fledgling console generation so far. I’m just sad I’m probably never going to see it all.