Restore Review #1

(Hello there, gang. So I’ve decided to start a weekly series of posts outlining the things I’ve been watching, playing, listening to or reading in the past week. This allows for a broader range of things to discuss and if I feel that I need to say more on a game, movie or TV show then a separate post will follow. I’ve been wholeheartedly slacking with this thing recently so this is an attempt to actually get some words up on this here site. Without further ado, let the inaugural Restore Review commence.) 

 


 

Week commencing 8th August 2016.

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The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt DLC – Blood & Wine (PS4)

So this has been occupying the majority of my time for the last week or so, having recently seen and heard a lot of buzz for this latest expansion pack. After a period away from the game, it took a little while to re-acclimatise to the controls, systems and menus, but once that was under control, it didn’t take long to get sucked back into the world of The Witcher once more. The new DLC adds another extraordinary layer to what is already a stunning game. The whimsical nature of The Witcher comes to the fore and feels right at home in the new environment of Touisannt – a luscious region filled with vineyards, glowing sunshine and idyllic rolling hills. It’s as if Geralt has ventured to Tuscany on a wine-tasting retreat. I haven’t had the chance to get too deep into the main quest yet, but the side quests I have played have been funny, focused and extensive – one involving the retrieval of a statues stolen genitals a highlight. More content for what I consider the game of the current generation can only be a good thing and I’m excited to play more.

Tricky Towers (PS4)

One of this month’s free PlayStation Plus offerings, Tricky Towers gives us a unique spin on Tetris. You utilise the now famous tetriminos to build towers and complete a number of different challenges. It’s fun, but a little lightweight. A good time killer.

Overcooked (Xbox One)

So, Overcooked is a couch co-op cooking game and genuinely some of the most fun I’ve had playing a local co-op game for years. My friends and I were yelling instructions and barking orders at each other with more vigour than if we were playing a hardcore, tactical first person shooter. I never thought I’d be yelling ‘Where are the potatoes?! Chop me some fucking potatoes!’ with wholehearted sincerity whilst playing a video game, but any game that gives me that opportunity is a good one in my books. 10/10 for allowing me to channel my inner Gordon Ramsay.

WATCH

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The Invitation (Netflix)

So this movie came to my attention via a tweet emploring folk to watch The Invitation, and watch it whilst knowing as little at all about it as possible. So sticking to that mindset , I’m not going to delve into why this film is so enjoyable, I’m just going to tell you to take a couple of hours, turn your phone off and enjoy it.

Stranger Things (Netflix)

So by now you’ve probably already heard all you need to know about Netflix’s latest original offering Stranger Things, but I’ve recently finished the show and feel the need to concur with the buzz which is currently surrounding it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a show combine so many of the influences which it proudly wears upon its sleeve, yet feel so utterly fresh and new. Vintage Spielberg is the most obvious touchstone, yet there are notable traces of Stephen King, John Carpenter, Clive Barker and more than a shade of this years underrated Midnight Special. The performances are terrific, from the child actors to the manic despair of grieving mother Winona Ryder. If you’re looking for a new show to get stuck into, then look no further than Stranger Things, because it really is worthy of all the hype.

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Saga (Image Comics)

I finally caught up on the last couple of trade issues of Saga and I’m happy to report it’s still the best thing in the world. The wait between issues is slowly killing me, as the action and the situations that the characters have found themselves in is as fraught and dangerous as it has ever been. I don’t keep up with comics as much as I would like to, and most certainly should, but a new issue of Saga is of huge import, and the latest couple have not disappointed.

A Little Life by Hanya Yanigihara (Doubleday)

I’m halfway through this extraordinarily dense yet intrinsically focused and in my opinion fundamentally important novel by Hanya Yanigihara. Her ability to capture the search for a true, adult identity in a post-collegiate world is incredibly poignant and resonates so much which me that it makes the initially ludicrous length all the more apt. Her treatment and handling of sensitive, often tumultuous topics are dealt with an adept touch. This novel is challenging, enlightening and wholeheartedly touching.

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Joyce Manor – ‘Fake I.D’ (Epitaph Records)

So I’ve been waiting for new output from one of my favourite bands, Joyce Manor, for some time now and here it is, in the form of the lead track ‘Fake I.D’ from their fourth album Cody, out in October on Epitaph. Carrying on and expanding on what they brought to the table with 2014’s Never Hungover Again, ‘Fake I.D’ is Joyce Manor at their catchy best, with inimitable hooks and a Kanye West reference for good reference. I can’t wait for Cody, October can’t come soon enough.

Camp Cope – Self Titled (Poison City Records)

So this debut record from Australian band Camp Cope has been on constant rotation on my phone and in my car for weeks, if not months now. The record is full to the brim with hooks and jams perfect for the summer time, but the lyrical content is proving the most interesting to me. Tackling issues such as the mundanity of work life, the balance between being secure and being creatively fulfilled and most notably, in ‘Jet Fuel Can’t Melt Steel Beams’, the problems that come from being a young woman living in a society that is unbelievably still riddled with sexism. It’s a fantastic record and easily my record of the year so far.

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So there we have it. That was pretty damn fun to write. I hope you have a swell time if you do manage to check out any of these recommendations and be sure to leave a comment below and let me know what you thought. Like I said, I’m going to try to do one of these once a week so be sure to check back soon.

 

Daredevil: Season 2 Thoughts

I’m halfway through the sophomore season of Daredevil and I don’t know what to make of it. I love several things about it. Jon Bernthal was born to play The Punisher – his sheer physical presence, his look and his tantalisingly gruff voice all help create the most memorable character on this show to date. The action scenes are tremendous, an impeccably lit and choreographed one-shot fight scene in a grimy corridor and stairwell make for one of the most impressive pieces of action I’ve seen on a TV show. Despite this, there’s just something about this season that makes Daredevil a less appealing show than it was in its first season run, and I can’t quite put my finger on it. Maybe it’s the lack of focal, singular villain, akin to what Daredevil’s first season had in Wilson Fisk and Marvel’s other Netflix show Jessica Jones had in the delightfully disturbing Kilgrave. Here there are antagonists, but no central big baddy behind which we can really love to hate or revel in each and every despicable act that they commit. Maybe it’s just the direction they’re taking this story arch; it all seems very tried and tested when placed against something like Jessica Jones, the narrative of which felt fresh and different, and simply didn’t allow for any breaks in the plot. Or maybe it’s just that I have reached my Foggy Nelson endurance threshold, for I have come to realise that he has possibly gained himself a place upon my illustrious Worst Characters In Television list. I groan every time he makes an appearance on screen, and it is increasingly clear that Matt and Karen have a much better time when he’s not third-wheeling all of their hangouts. Okay, this is probably more of a personal point of criticism so I don’t think I can hold it to the show, but I just thought I’d say it anyway. All in all, I’m going to finish this season, but the first half hasn’t enthralled me as much as the first season did, for whatever reason. Elodie Yung’s Elektra has just been introduced, so I’ll see how they weave her character into the seasons overall arch as these next half-dozen episodes play out.

Mr. Robot

I felt compelled to pause Mr. Robot in order to tell you about Mr. Robot and specifically Rami Malek, the star of the much aforementioned Mr. Robot. The show itself is fantastic; an intelligent, stylish and gripping story in addition to stellar performances and a sublime synth soundtrack is a recipe which, so far, is living up to all the hype which has preceded my viewing. Tying it all together, however, is the standout performance given by Rami Malek in a difficult, complex and hefty central role. Elliot Alderson is a inimitably intelligent guy plagued by social anxiety, insomnia and a deep rooted depression with which he helps satiate with a healthy appetite for morphine. He also self-evaluates himself as some sort of vigilante, viewing his actions as for the best no matter how many people he and his actions hurt along the way. He is a cauldron filled with intense, interconnected mental illnesses and addictions in various forms. So, all in all, this character has a lot of rungs to its ladder, and Malek’s portrayal conquers each rung with confidence and authority. Each facet of his performance is impressive. The vacant stare as he is trying to construct the reasoning behind a stunning revelation recently revealed to him – the cogs whirling behind the eyes are visible for all to see as you attempt to construct an explanation along with him. The aching, shaking sweats of a period of cold-turkey are visceral and numbing to observe, the lucid fever dreams of guns and crack dens only seek to amplify the feeling. These instances are mainly the physical aspects of a performance, of which he nails, but it’s in the dialogue and the interaction between characters where Malek really excels. The nervous, snappy replies to ignorant questions voiced by someone Elliot knows he’s smarter than – the self-confident, almost gleeful responses to questions voiced by someone Elliot has hacked and knows everything about. I haven’t been so captivated by a performance given by an actor in a TV show for such a long time, and Malek continues to impress in everything he appears in. Watch Mr. Robot.

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.

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.

True Detective: Initial Season 2 Thoughts

The second season of the much lauded HBO show True Detective has begun and this time around we have a whole new cast of characters and a brand new setting to sink our teeth into. Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson are out, Vince Vaughn, Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams and Taylor Kitsch are in. This in itself is the first major distinction between the two seasons – the amount of main players in the story has doubled. How will that affect the storytelling and the character development and relationships throughout the season? Part of what made the first season so terrific was the fraught, tension filled relationship between Rust and Marty, so let’s hope that some of these character moments can still exist in this sophomore season despite the slightly more crowded story.

The next issue I have with this second season so far is the setting. The first stood out from the crowd due to it’s unique setting; the dense marshland, the dusty storefronts and roadside bars of southern Louisiana form to create an uncanny sense of isolation. It is a setting that is taylor made for a story focused on the occult and one which deals with the rejection of the Catholicism that is abundant in this part of the country. Season 2 however, is not so unique. It is set in L.A., a location which isn’t exactly lacking for procedural police dramas. However, if the writers can tap into the same sort of uncanny, occult peculiarities which were rife in the first season and transfer that to the L.A. setting, perhaps that will shine a new light on the city, revealing a seedy underbelly which isn’t as often portrayed on TV.

These are simply my initial impressions after just the first episode of the season, so they’re pretty premature and are liable to change. There’s only so much you can take from the opening episode of a show so I have my fingers firmly crossed that Nic Pizzolatto and the creative team behind the show can deliver upon and continue the success of the first season – because when it is on its A-game, there’s pretty much nothing like it on TV.