Game of Thrones – Season 3

dragon

***WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS***

Well it’s been a couple of weeks now since the third season of Game of Thrones came to its dramatic conclusion, using the word conclusion in the loosest sense possible as I think it ended with more stuff up in the air than it started with. It seems that the show has become perhaps the most talked about programme of the times, with a fan-base that appears to be growing by the minute. After the shocking events of episode nine I’ve never seen Facebook erupt to anything in such a huge way.

I enjoyed the third season, particularly what I enjoyed is that the show has retained its identity despite coming under criticism for certain elements of its choices. We have, in this season, the most drastic difference yet from the shows source material with the continuation of Theon Greyjoy’s story. In the Song of Ice and Fire books Theon is no longer a character after book two but here in season three of the show we learn more of what happens to him. His story is one of the most brutal in the Game of Thrones universe as he’s held captive and tortured horrifically through the whole season. It was a bold move to start adding completely original material but I think it’s one of the strongest plot lines of the latest series and a risk that has paid off. Season three continues in the mould of the first two in that the scale of events is constantly getting bigger. Danaerys Tagaryen, mother of the dragons has become the most insanely powerful individual in the Seven Kingdoms and somehow she just keeps getting fitter as well. Jon Snow’s journey ticks along throughout and one of the shows most emotional moments comes when he is forced to part ways with Ygritte. And my favourite character, Tyrion, is fucked over badly by his ruthless father.

Although I enjoyed the season and I’m liking how the story is turning out I am left wondering how good the show actually is. There’s so many characters it is at times hard to keep track of who’s who, although I think I have a pretty good idea there are still certain characters that I don’t really understand who they are or what the position is in this vast fantasy universe. It’s well made stuff with great acting talent and is very cleverly written but at times I think it perhaps over-complicates itself where it doesn’t need to. What also annoys me is the constant hint of more supernatural characters such as the Wight Walkers, I want to see more of this stuff and it gets frustrating that that kind of stuff only ever briefly pops up. While I still love the show it’s beginning to lose the pull it once had on me, and I’m increasingly starting to think it’s slightly over-rated. There are better shows out there and I find it hard to understand why Game of Thrones is the biggest of them all. It probably sounds like I’m hating on it now, but I’m not, I still think it’s a great show but there’s better stuff out there. Perhaps season four will finally deliver fully on the promise of all-out war and supernatural adventure.

 

…Like Clockwork

queens-of-the-stone-age_like-clockwork-608x6083I have a strange relationship with the Queens of the Stone Age and for the most part I think they’re fairly over-rated. There are tracks of theirs I absolutely love but then their albums tend to be padded out with filler tracks that don’t really do anything other than make for a boring album. I’ll probably be gaining a huge number of enemies by writing this but Songs for the Deaf is one of the most over-rated albums of all time. The thing is though, with QOTSA, is that I really want to like them. I still would love to see them live and I think Josh Homme is one of the best vocalists out there. Although until now Homme’s best work, in my opinion, has been with Them Crooked Vultures. Well, for …Like Clockwork the group brought Dave Grohl back on drums as their drummer left the band during a troubled time for the group. It also ended up that the band would produce the record themselves, having originally planned for Trent Reznor to do the honours. It would have appeared that this album was going to be a bit a mess, thrown together while things going on around the group were falling apart, what QOTSA offer with …Like Clockwork though is their strongest, most consistent record to date.

The sound of the record is most similar to their last studio effort 2007’s Era Vulgaris but that was another album that had it’s stand out tracks, namely ‘Make it Wit Chu’ and ‘3’s and 7’s’, while the rest of the songs failed to deliver. What …Like Clockwork does is take that same kind of country-infused rock and throws in a dash of the Vultures magic. It’s really a document of how much Homme is improving as a songwriter and how much he has learned from being in the supergroup. It’s also just a simple fact that QOTSA have always sounded better with Grohl behind the kit, and this album is further example of that, it’s a shame he can’t be a permanent member of the band really but at least we get to enjoy him again on this recording. Where Clockwork succeeds is in its pacing, the speed is never slowed down it remains at a constant fast pace across a rapid ten tracks, placing the slowest two songs at the very end to round of the record. While it does have its quieter moments it’s always building up to something bigger and more explosive. They really have got the track listing just right here making the record flow and offer the listener a complete package that couldn’t be enjoyed as well when not listened to as a whole. For me, the trakcs build in greatness till the peak at tracks 6-8 with the eighth, ‘Smooth Sailing’ being, quite simply my favourite QOTSA song of all time, and my predestined song of the summer for 2013.

It really was a surprise to me that this record turned out so good. But thankfully the Queens of the Stone Age have moved one step further up the ladder to becoming a band I love rather than one I wish I could love more. Keep it up Homme.

 

Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

4MellonCollieHighResWhere do I begin with Mellon Collie and the Infinite? Also what better way to celebrate Music, Movies, General Life and Such’s first anniversary than with a review than with a review of one of the defining albums of my life? I hope to come to you with the answer to both of these difficult conundrums. In the height of the Smashing Pumpkins glory days, hot off the heels of 1993’s Siamese Dream and the surprise success of the Pisces Iscariot mix-tape, the band dropped a behemoth double-album that amped up the scale of the groups, already huge, output. Mellon Collie, spanning across 28 tracks, was an album that not only set the bands career as one of grunge rocks pioneering sound in stone but also gave the world one of, simply, the greatest albums of all time and one that is still to this day underrated.

The records detractors would have that the Pumpkins were always a band whose ambitions was to be a stadium band and for that reason that this album, and all its predecessors, think they’re greater than they actually are. While it would be impossible to argue there’s a slight arrogance in the whole of the Pumpkins aura and that it shines through especially in Mellon Collie, it’s actually quite unfair to claim that said arrogance is misplaced. While the SP’s remain a band that sit just underneath the radar of the mainstream they cannot be denied as one of the most influential groups of all time. This record is a glowing example of a band at their peak of their, musical, song-writing and performing abilities, a group completely unafraid of just doing what they want. It rises and drops as record, flowing from the heaviest rock of any Pumpkins record to the calmest and most minimalistic music the band has ever recorded. Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness really is one of the most diverse albums out there. And despite the records arrogance what also comes trough is a sensitive honesty on display of a band really wearing their hearts on their sleeves emotionally as well as musically through this collection of songs. For every, ‘I don’t need your love to disco dance’ there is a ‘Forgotten and absorbed into the Earth below’ to counteract it. And its clear to see that, as well as, wanting to show off they were also releasing a part of their lives.

The answer, then, to my first question at the beginning of this review is that it’s near impossible to know where to start when looking at this beast of an album. But the reason for that is that there’s so much great stuff about it while you try to explain you end up getting up in another. Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness could well be, for me, the most perfectly complete album in the world. It remains, and will always remain, a record that I will never stop listening to regularly and will never stop loving.

P.S. In answer to my second question, no.

 

A Scholar, A Peasant and a King, part 4

She woke the next morning having slept through the night fully and felt on top of the world. Her newborn was no longer with her and she assumed that her mother must have put him in his crib. She got up and went to see her little hero. He lay there peacefully with a blanket over him and his back to her. She approached him slowly and lovingly.

But when she reached him and looked down into his eyes she no longer saw her son. Deep within his pupils she saw a glowing red fire and she felt that this fire was going to get her. She examined him further, moving the blanket from his naked body. She was struck by an overwhelming fear as she saw he had no belly button. She immediately knew that this was not her baby, he had been replaced. Ever since Dai had got that job she had felt she had been under a curse and now looking down on this small creature that had replaced her newborn she knew that this is what she’d been anticipating.

As the fear left her so did the remainder of her emotions. Her face appeared blank and lifeless and there was no spirit left inside her. She took the small creature from its crib and left her mother’s home silently, with no supplies. She walked for days and days drinking from sewers and such to keep what little life she had left going. Then she reached the desert. She built a small bonfire with some dry wood she had collected and eventually managed to get it alight. She held her baby creature by its ankle and stuck it out over the bare flames. It didn’t scream. It just accepted its fate and slowly burned away. Once the creature was dealt with Hao herself took one small step and stood motionless amongst the flames.

The king of the dead had finally got his way.

Metro: Last Light

MetroLL_1080p_8.bmpSet in a post-apocalyptic world Metro: Last Light follows up 2010’s Metro 2033. Being a PS3 owner I’ve never played the original as for some reason it was never released for Playstation so I can not compare the two. What I do know though is that Last Light was a bigger budget affair with a completely original story line. You play as Artyom and your mission is to find The Dark One who is believed to be the key to the survival of the human race. To do so you must navigate your way through the metro tunnels and stations, as well as explore the deserted Earth above you. It’s a diverse game pitting you against monsters and enemy humans alternately as you work your way through a gripping story of the supernatural.

I’m not the biggest fan of FPS games, mainly because I’m not the into the whole online stuff, so I more often opt for a third person adventure game as they tend to have a better story line. Last Light however, is an FPS that is only concerned with story, there is no online mode or any other mode than the story for that matter. And you can see why as this is one of the richest campaigns I have ever played. The story keeps you gripped from beginning to end (though I must admit I was slightly lost at first having not played 2033) and makes the game a tense affair as you work your through the levels and the plot unravels.

The graphics are absolutely stunning, some of the best I’ve ever seen on PS3. There’s a permanent darkness over every shot but it still manages to look beautiful even when you’re creeping through some filthy tunnels. The monsters are well crafted if slightly generic beasts and the humans look great too making for a realistic gaming experience. The levels take a while to get into the swing, the first few are too heavily cut up with cut scenes and lessons, you’re told how to play the game for too long basically, but once you get past it you’re greeted with a wide variety of stages with varying levels of difficulty all of which require different techniques to get through. Some missions reminded of the Arkham games as you have to sneak around in the shadows picking off Rangers one by one, if you get caught you’re in trouble. Others are more about survival, particularly in the cave areas where you have to fight packs of beasts who come charging at you and you have to be fast with your guns to keep them from tearing you apart. Then there are the stages that are out in the open where the main challenge is keeping your gas mask filters fresh so as not to inhale the radiation and choke to death.

Overall the game is one of the best FPS’s I’ve ever played finding a great balance between action and horror, and managing to have a great storyline without smothering you with cut-scenes or QTE’s. My only qualm would be that it has no replay value and it would perhaps benefit from having something else perhaps a co-op campaign or a challenge mode like the Arkham games. Despite this in terms of story and gameplay this is definitely one worth playing and let’s hope it’s not the last we see from the Metro series.

 

Fast & Furious 6

Fast-Furious-6-21There are very few franchises that have managed to get anywhere near six movies. Somehow The Fast and The Furious just manages to keep on going and with a decent a fourth instalment and an even better fifth it’s actually managed to keep me interested as well. This time round we have all the big names from Fast Five returning with the reinstating of Michelle Rodriguez as Letty on top making the cast one of the biggest ensembles ever. This time round Dom (Vin Diesel) and his crew of criminal drivers with powers equal to that of Superman end up working alongside Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s cop, Hobbs, in order to get Letty back from an evil gang who have taken advantage of her. The story really is not important as I’m sure you could guess.

Fast Five was by far the best in the series so far with a ridiculous, but fun story that’s pace was enough to make you forget how completely stupid it was. The action was on a bigger scale than any of the movies before it and the relationship shared between Diesel and Johnson was played just at the right level to be 100% comedic. This gave number six every possibility of being even better. Unfortunately it’s not quite there. The action is easily the best the series has had so far and the last twenty minutes to half an hour of the movie are truly fantastic with tanks, planes and Vin Diesel emerging from deadly explosions unscathed. Despite the excellent final act the middle section of the movie is so bad it’s a real chore to get through, clunky dialogue, unfunny jokes and poor acting has always been a trait of the franchise but Fast and Furious 6 is one of the worst and there is little to no relief from this relentless shit for the majority of the film. What five did well was splitting up the boring bits with exciting ones but six fails in doing so. A further annoying point is that all the best bits of the movie are in the trailer bar one or two, meaning you spend the whole film waiting to see something you already have seen hundred times in the countless tv spots and cinema promos.

It’s still a decent amount of fun but at a much lower success rate by it’s far superior predecessor. An excellent third act and teasing post-credits set up for number seven, though, stop Fast and Furious 6 from falling completely flat on it’s face.