Saturday, 24 July 2021

Black Widow Review - One more mission for Natasha Romanov.

By Sam Coles: 

Scarlette Johansson has been in many roles over the years since she was a young teenager, but I would argue that she didn’t really explode onto the scene until she played the femme fatale spy and assassin Black Widow in 2010 in Iron Man 2. Fast forward 11 years she is playing her for the last time in the aptly named film Black Widow, where we get some background about her childhood and how she found herself to turn into the hero she became where she was taken in by The Avengers. Is the film any good? Yes, but let’s talk about it in more detail. 

Black Widow takes places directly after the events of Captain America: Civil War, where Natasha Romanov is on the run from the American government because she aided Steve Rogers (Captain America) when he decided to do operations off the grid as well as assaulting the King of Wakanda (Black Panther). So she does what she knows best from her past as a Russian spy, goes into hiding. It’s not long that she finds out the program that she was indoctrinated in The Widow Program is still going, where thousands of orphaned females are being brainwashed to become assassins to stir the political soup across the globe. She goes on a journey to find her family, to help take down The Widow Program.  

Once again Scarlette Johansson is fantastic as the mysterious and ambiguous assassin Black Widow, what I like about her performance is that she doesn’t have to convey her feelings through meaningless exposition. She can shoot a glance and you get a general understanding of how she is feeling and what her motivation is, this can be anger, joy or overwhelming emotions of sadness she does have a decent amount of flexibility as an actress. Some would argue that she is flat or monotone, but that is the entire point of the character of Black Widow as she is not supposed to let emotions get in the way of the job, which makes the times when her emotions do get the better of her more captivating.  

The supporting cast playing Natasha’s family is excellent too, especially David Harbour playing the Red Guardian. Every scene he is on screen is hilarious, it is a classic brutish character where he thinks with violence first then asks questions the next day after. I was grinning ear to ear when he was on screen, which segways onto the humour which was on point and didn’t feel forced. Natasha’s sister constantly ridicules her for a “poser” landing, as she thinks she chooses style over practicality it is perfect sibling rivalry in inappropriate situations. The film knows when to be serious and can get emotional in parts, however as I have discussed it knows when to change out the sad mask with a laughing one to add levity to the film.  

Now onto the reason most watch Marvel films, the action! Is it any good? Yes it is, as they tend to do most of it practically where they can add a sense of believability and brutality to the fights. The car chases are fast, frantic and over the top where it puts some modern Bond films to shame, where you see cars flip through the air and motorcyclists using car bonnets as spring boards. It had me on the edge of my seat the action sequences, as a lot of the fights in this film compared to other Marvel films were really bone crunching in parts, which made question the 12+ age rating.  

Overall, I think Black Widow was a good film, it gave us a more of an insight into Natasha Romanov’s backstory as a child and it is a fine end to Scarlette Johansson’s performance of the character. Not only that it was great to be back in a cinema watching films again, always a plus. A film I recommend you go and see.  

Tuesday, 6 July 2021

Doom Eternal - A ballet of blood and guts!

By Sam Coles: 

I’m back! Sorry for the hiatus from writing about video games, I just needed to step back for a bit to find my passion for games again. I just got burnt out because I was playing games because I had to, not because I wanted to. Anyway, what a great way to comeback by me talking about the gory and over the top gameplay of Doom Eternal! Let’s rip and tear until it is done, thanks for the support!  

If you know me in person or on social media (*cough* Instagram *cough* @bristoliangamer) you would know that I love a good story in video games, however sometimes I just want a thin layer of context to outline my upcoming blood bath and chaos. Now onto the subject Doom Eternal, a recent impulse buy which I picked up for just over £8, anyway I just want to talk about it for a few paragraphs. Just to preface I haven’t finished the game at present, so this will be more of an initial thought instead of a review, let’s get into it!  

Doom Eternal’s story has more story than I expected for a Doom game as it goes into the Doom Slayer’s background more, as it was outlined in the 2016 reboot, he is not really a space marine like he was in the old games but more of an immortal and godlike warrior. Anyway, after the events of the 2016 reboot Hell’s armies have reached Earth, and the Doom Slayer has somehow acquired a super fortress that orbits the Earth. The Doom Slayer gets various distress signals from Earth, where he then grabs his shotgun in anger and prepares to rip and tear. The story of course is not needlessly complex as Doom is an action film in video game form, but as I have said before you do get to witness the Slayer’s background in more depth but it doesn’t get in the way of the carnage.  

Doom Eternal takes the foundation of the 2016 reboot and amplifies it to 11, with its combat and level design with a bigger focus on platforming and advance movement. Let’s start off with the basic arsenal, Doom Eternal ditches the pistol which was about as effective as harsh language and instead starts you off with a pump action shotgun. What I like about this is that it is a useful weapon throughout the game, as it is effective against certain enemies with its two attachments the grenade launcher and rapid-fire mods. Not only that we have the same Doom staples return, such as the Super Shotgun with an awesome grapple hook aptly named the “Meat hook”, the assault rifle, the plasma gun, minigun, rocket launcher and chainsaw. However, there are new toys to play with such as the shoulder mounted flamethrower (I will explain it later), the Doom Sword (yes really) and the Unmaker making its return from Doom 64.  

The variety of weapons is almost overwhelming, but as I said earlier, they all have their uses and don’t get thrown to the side as you progress as they all have secondary fire modes and mods. It has been a while since I have played a shooter, where all the weapons are useful throughout the entirety of a campaign, it just goes to show that id Software are still kings when it comes to first person shooter design.  

Now let’s discuss the current mechanics they expanded as well as new ones they have included, starting with “Glory Kills”. The Glory Kill system was already fast and I thought to myself “They can’t possibly make it faster”, but they did. Glory Kills are extremely quick in Doom Eternal and you can unlock a perk that makes you rip and tear demons in two faster, which is absurd and ludicrous in a good way. You are basically an R rated version of the Flash, where you turn your enemies inside out as you speed past them. The chainsaw also makes a glorious return, where it functions the same as it did in Doom (2016). The chainsaw is how you keep your ammo supply plentiful, but this time you don’t need to collect fuel to kill cannon fodder enemies as it is constantly on a cool down when used. However, you do need fuel to kill bigger and more fearsome enemies if you want to do some meat-based gardening.   

What is new to the table are the shoulder mounted weapons, let’s start off with the flamethrower. This will not only set your enemies ablaze, but it is also a gameplay benefit because once flames make contact with the demons they start to bleed shards of armor. How does this work logically? It doesn’t make any bit of logistical sense, just roll with it as we are killing demons from Hell on the planet Mars so realism is the last thing to think of when it comes to a Doom game. Not only that you have a shoulder mounted grenade launcher, where you can fire different elemental grenades, such ice and incendiary, which is great for stopping certain enemies in their tracks.  

Now onto the more contentious part of Doom Eternal and that is the platforming sections, and what do I think of them? I think they are fine; the controls are so tight and responsive they were a nice reprieve from the combat that can be somewhat relentless at times and it gives you the chance to soak in the dark and oppressive atmosphere. Could one argue there are too many platforming sections? Well yes, but I don’t think they are as atrocious as some on the internet would lead you to believe, it’s not like Half-Life where you basically have no feet and have to interpret the ledge.  

Visually this is a much better looking game compared to Doom (2016), yes, it is more colourful and lacks the dark art style from Doom (2016) but Doom (minus 3) always was had a colourful art style and contrasted well with the brutal violence. Not only that the game runs buttery smooth even on an old school Xbox One, which is rather impressive as the arenas that you fight in are huge with dense enemy counts. The soundtrack once again by Mick Gordon is part of the experience, mixing techno, with heavy metal and of course his heavy metal choir which adds to the violence and chaos.  

Overall Doom Eternal so far is a fun but challenging experience, the game doesn’t hold your hand during combat and kicks you in the gonads if you make a slight mistake. The visuals, gunplay, soundtrack and gory and over the top violence is a fantastic experience for new or old Doom fans.  

Friday, 14 May 2021

Mortal Kombat (2021) Film Review - "Finish Him"!

By Sam Coles: 

Films based on video games tend to go together about as well as me drinking too much the night before where there is no coffee in the morning, it tends to get messy. However, that doesn’t mean there are not any gems, such as the original Resident Evil film, however I think the latest interpretation of the brutal blood sport known as Mortal Kombat is good. It’s not perfect, but it is fun and over the top if you are looking for an energetic action film.  

The film begins in the year 1617 where we see Hanzo Hasashi tending to his family, but when Hanzo is out fetching some water for his garden Bi-Han attacks his clan and family. Devastated by the death of his clan and family, he completely loses it and slaughters every single Lin-Kuei warrior that dared to set foot on his property. He then confronts Bi-Han, but as much as he tries is then killed and sent to the Nether Realm and where he sits in waiting to take his revenge. It’s a good opening for this film, the action is gory and extremely graphic which is what I want in a Mortal Kombat film. Not only that it made sense to start off with the origin of Scorpion and Sub-Zero, as they are two of the most iconic characters in the series.  

The film fast forwards several centuries where we see the central protagonist Cole, who is getting seven shades of blue being kicked out of him. He has a mark on his body which he assumes to be nothing more than a birthmark, but it turns out he is a chosen warrior to participate in Mortal Kombat. Now I know a lot of critics and other movie goers have been rather hard on Cole, I don’t completely hate him. Don’t get me wrong he is about as interesting as a block of tofu, but he serves his purpose in the story and he has some fun lines and scenes.  

My favourite character has to be Kano in this film, Josh Lawson stole the show as Kano and embodied the character. He was very funny and sold the fact he was the scum of the Earth criminal; I am convinced some if not most of his lines were improvised. 

Not only that Sub-Zero and Scorpion are cast perfectly, Sub-Zero is actually quite terrifying and intimidating in this film as he acts more like a serial killer stalking each of his victims. The design of Scorpion is fantastic too, they take inspiration from Mortal Kombat 11 but make him look more of a shogun with his bulky armour 

What is great in this film too are all the references and easter eggs, some are subtly placed in the background and others are uttered by certain characters. It comes across as a bit of a fourth wall break, but to be honest this film is rather tongue in cheek as it is and it works surprisingly well.  

Now onto the meat and potatoes of the film the graphic violence, do they strike gold with this film? Yes, they do characters throughout this film get killed in the most horrendous ways, people get cut in half, their heads explode and blood in general flies everywhere!  This is a good segway into the special effects which are fantastic, the blood effects are visceral as you see chunks fly out of people’s bodies as they are eviscerated. Not only that the effects for Sub-Zero's ice powers are amazing, it looks very convincing and looks as if he is throwing chunks of ice about, it is clear that they put time and effort into the special effects.  

Overall, this latest interpretation of Mortal Kombat is a really fun and entertaining ride, if you are looking for a fun, corny and over top action film with great fights and graphic violence then this film has you covered. I highly recommend it, it is a fun popcorn flick, where you can turn your mind off and just have fun with it.  

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