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.

PLAY

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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.

READ

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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.

LISTEN

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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.

FIN


 

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.

 

Serial

So, Serial Season Two is complete, and in my opinion this season has helped firmly cement the show’s status as the premier podcast available on the internet. The two seasons are entirely individual and separate both thematically and conceptually, but are intrinsically linked by the way in which they enthral and enrapture listeners week by week. Where season one was about the fallibility of the human memory and the piecing together of evidence to form a timeline, this season is essentially a denigration of war and all the baggage it brings along with it. When the synopsis of season two was announced, that it was to follow the story of a solider who walked off his base in Afghanistan and was captured and held hostage for five years by the Taliban, I initially had some trepidations that this story wouldn’t be as tight, affecting and personal a story as the one which I loved so much in season one. My fears were swiftly cast aside however, because although this story is much broader in scope and focuses largely on a war – the influence of which was felt around the globe – the crux of the issue rests upon the mental state of a man who was under severe stress and made a bad decision. Sarah Koenig and her team manage to bring this story down to a human level, despite how deep the fundamental issues of this story go, and that showcases what a talented production team Serial has. If someone had somehow never heard about podcasts before and was looking for a recommendation of where to begin, I would look no further than Serial, the perfect example of what this medium is capable of.

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.