Hey, Lord Of The Flame, Your Tail’s On Fire – Ice Age

31 08 2016

Ice Age (Blue Sky Studios - 2002)

By the early 2000’s, one form of format/genre was beginning to dominate the movie scene more than most. It had reared it’s head in 1995 with the release of Toy Story, and by 2002 several of the most talked about films of the time were in the same format. I am of course talking about CGI animated movies and in less than a decade; there were already several well-known and near iconic films released with such titles as Toy Story, Toy Story 2, A Bug’s Life, Shrek and Monsters Inc. Most of the films produced in this format were done by two main studios: Pixar and DreamWorks Animation, with both of them together holding a near monopoly on CGI Animated Cinema. Then another studio came along; a studio who had been in existence nearly as long as Pixar, but who were only just about to release their first big screen film; little did anyone know that such a film would become such a hit.

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Released in 2002 by Blue Sky Studios and directed by Chris Wedge, Ice Age is an animated comedy film about a group of animals going on a journey during the Ice Age. This film would be the first instalment in the commercially successful Ice Age film series and would be followed by 4 sequels making it the first animated film series to have 5 entries. While the subsequent films have sort of begun to lose their charm, the first film in the series remains to be one of the best animated films of its kind, and is a personal favourite of mine.

Scrat (Chris Wedge), a squirrel with some really pointy teeth tries hard to find a place to store his acorn, ultimately and constantly however his success is limited and goes on to cause more problems than solutions. Eventually he gets stomped on by a large migrating herd of prehistoric animals going south to avoid the oncoming Ice Age. A Ground Sloth knows as Sid (John Leguizamo) is left behind by his family, and while trying to regroup with them he angers Carl (Cedric the Entertainer) and Frank (Stephen Root); a couple of Brontops/Megacerops (Rhino). Sid is rescued by grumpy Mammoth Manfred/’Manny’ (Ray Romano), and not wanting to be pummelled by Carl, Frank, or more likely both; Sid joins Manny, which Manny finds really irritating as he prefers to be alone. Meanwhile a group of Smilodon, lead by Soto (Groan Visnjic) are planning revenge on a group of humans by eating the chief’s baby son alive. During the attack, the baby’s mother rescues the boy, and jumps down a waterfall. Soto sends his lieutenant Diego (Denis Leary) to get the baby back. Having survived the plunge, Manny and Sid discover the mother, who passes the baby up to them before disappearing. While Manny does not want to help, he agrees to as he hopes Sid will leave him alone after that. When trying to return the baby to the camp, the two run into Diego, who is desperately trying to convince them he is good. Upon reaching the human camp; they discover the humans had left, and Diego says he can help the two reach the Humans in time before they are gone for good.

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The group leave for the humans, and on the way run into several hurdles in looking after a baby including feeding it and changing it, running into a pack of melon obsessed Dodo’s. Diego runs into members of his pack, and tells them that he will be bringing a Mammoth along with the baby to their lair. As the adventure continues Scrat is still looking for a place to hide his acorn, while the trio discover all sides to the Ice Age world, with Sid playing tricks on Manny, Diego still trying to get the baby and Manny trying to be a responsible guardian to the baby. Eventually the group run into a cave with human paintings inside, which tell of the frightful story of what happened to Manny that made him such a loner.

Within sight of their destination, the group walk over a patch of lava, with Manny saving Diego’s life. With Diego filled with gratitude and seeing Manny for who he really is, he informs them of his original plan to have the group eaten by the pack. With Diego’s help, the group are able to defeat the pack, but with Diego severely injured. Manny and Sid continue on to the Glacier Pass, and just manage to catch up with the boy’s father. Manny gives the boy back to his dad in a tear felt moment for all. Manny and Sid watch as the humans leave, with Manny having received a gift of compassion from the boy’s father. The two then turn around to see Diego injured but alive. They then leave to find a warmer climate. Thousands of years later, Scrat; frozen in an ice-cube washes ashore but is helpless as his Acorn is washed away. He does however find a Coconut to eat which brings him joy, until he accidently causes a Volcanic Eruption with it.

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Ice Age is actually a very surprising deep film I find. It’s amazing I think how a film like this can still bring a tear to my eye, even more so now than when I first saw it. There are things I am even beginning to discover more now than I did when I first saw it at about the age of 12. It’s a film with a lot of comedic moments; moments which carry references to what we might consider to be a normal modern life and the things carved into it, plus a lot of mentions to popular culture. These moments of comedy I find to be pretty simple, but in that there is an instant laugh. There is no need for thinking or jokes to get, because it’s all visual and even at times there may be something that children may not get, but ones that adults will making this film’s comedy one all the family can enjoy. Add to this some more clever puns and ideas in relation to such ideas like Extinction and Evolution provided by the film’s strong menagerie of prehistoric animals and it’s a real laugh a minute film. But it’s not just a comedy film, more in fact I find that it’s a film with a lot of heart and a bucket full of emotion.

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The film shows it’s comedy through its situations, but it tells it’s stories through its characters, and here we do have an odd bunch that has both comedy, but also peril. The film’s minor cast in part comes in several characters like Soto’s pack of misfits with characters like the near rabid Zeke (Jack Black), to the other two henchmen. Then this leads us on to characters like Carl and Frank who provide a way of Sid and Manny coming together, but in turn creates two semi-minor antagonists which are just so funny to watch and hear talk, especially with the spoken lines of “Carl?” and “Easy Frank”. This of course leads us on nicely to the film’s semi narrator but also comic relief Scrat the Squirrell. Scat’s scenes are indeed meant to be funny, and shows him really struggle to keep but also look after his acorn which he fails at a constant rate, and though while occasionally will meet some success and even a sense of reprieve this does lead him to more trouble. Though in the end he is not necessarily an entirely comical character, but also a representation of animals struggling to survive in a dying climate and how far they will go for what is theirs and things they need, and will persist to achieve them, even if they result in failure.

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The film portrays something of an interesting form of spoken juxtaposition as though while this film involves the animals talking in a clear understandable language, the humans are only heard making un-understandale noises. It’s like saying that the humans are just animals to the animals, and that animals are just animals to humans. It provides something of a counter point and helps to change the perspective for the audience to see their part in the film and whom they should be looking out for. Into this we get the baby; now while it’s name may not really be known possibly, that is far from the point as to where he belongs in this film. To begin with of course he is just an objective, a goal, something for the trio to do and to achieve on their journey and in order for them to go on a journey in the first place; but then as the film progresses, and the theme of friendship and family takes hold, the baby becomes something of a way of connecting the group. Initially they have their own ways of how they see the child, but then it helps bring them together, and helps face and provide them with comfort and reasoning in their past life to a more positive future. And so when finally it’s time for them to split, it is a real heart-felt moment as the group comes to acknowledge what such a benefit he was to them, and in some way, they don’t want him to go, in belief that maybe they will split when he is gone.

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The group’s trio of talent is an interesting but also very potent mix of characters made up of what is basically an odd bunched group. Sid for instance is of course a clown, a complete idiot who is the provider of constant laughs. He has a genuine attitude of trying and wanting to do the right thing, but is definitely not cut out to do, well anything. He is a complete misfit who is even abandoned by those who know him, and just happens to run into Manny as a sort of bodyguard. He will try his hardest of course, but comes across as a complete failure. However, as a baby sitter he turns out to be completely indispensable, especially as he is the only one of the group with hands, fingers and opposable thumbs; making him ideal for the purposes of looking after a baby, especially in cleaning up after it. By the end he proves himself to actually be generally useful and someone who is rather caring, if not the best father figure. Meanwhile Diego comes across initially of course as a villain, because well, you would think so wouldn’t you, I mean he is a Sabre Toothed Cat after all and has shown to be in league with another group of Cats who want to eat the Baby. So from here on in he is someone to be watched and looked out for and spends a lot of time trying to get the baby plus set up Manny. Then however he has a complete change of heart, as he realises who Manny is and how special the baby is, especially after Manny saves his life. From here on he tries to fix things, and while nearly loses his life shows with all his strength that he is a changed man (of sorts) and that what he really desires is a life with these guys, and not the life he once lead.

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Manny though is the one with the greatest story. Out of the main group he is the one who you see first and shows quite categorically that he would be rather left alone. He spends a lot of the first act trying to be left alone, then get rid of Sid and everyone he keeps running into, even when he is charged with helping the baby return home it’s just so he can return to his private lonely life. Of course, much like the others, he begins to change, but is still unsure of where this new life is leading, until the moment you discover why he is the way he is. Something that could be considered a mere coincidence, leads to a paralysing memory, as a simple cave painting tells his exact story, a story of how he once had a family, but then by the hand of humanity it was all taken away from him, and has since gone on to lead a cynical lonely life, but through the relationship with the baby, an infant to the species that brought his world to an end; he is able to relive that life once more, and know once again what it’s like to have a family, and have hope for his own future, and by the end of their journey; even with the loss of his and possibly the groups shining light, he knows he doesn’t want to part ways with the others, because he is part of not a group of friends, but part of a family once more.

OKAY, yes this film is a CGI Driven form of animation so I suppose I should take a quick moment to talk about it. As a form of animation the digital effects provided take on two forms. One the design of the landscape is rather blocky to keep in context with the ideas of Ice and an Ice Age, while of course the animals use more rounded shapes. The design of the animals in question is rather neat but carries a lot of character and does not bog itself down with attempts to look realistic, instead working to make the goofy looking shapes and designs of an extinct age work as part of their own design mythos and in turn make them look both rather cute while also maintaining a daft and silly look too. One thing though that has come about I discovered is that I feel that the shading effects, all while be it still very do seem to have aged a bit and don’t look as crisp, but as the film gets going, these effects completely disappear to your eyes looking on something else.

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One thing your mind won’t want to be distracted from is the quality of the film’s soundtrack composed by David Newman. The film does do that thing of creating one piece of music and then sort of editing it around for it to be used in a variety of circumstances but is still the same piece of music. Thankfully it does not do this all the time. The film’s main theme tune is actually rather pleasant and increasingly enjoyable. The film though goes on to create more sounds that become just as a part as the main theme if not more a part from there on. Some of these pieces range from the comical and fast, to the slow and sombre, such scenes of note including the sliding around in the cave, Diego’s near end, Giving the baby back and Manny’s memories in the cave.

One theme though stands out the most and becomes the films semi-main theme if not it’s main: that being Send Me On My Way by Rusted Root. It gets featured as the main travel song for the film’s main journey moments across the ice, as the trio discover the life and environment of the ice age as time goes by on their adventure. Seemingly though, it’s a song with a passionate theme and lyrics that in turn show that while it’s more of a road travel song, it is also talking about the themes and ideas that go into going on a journey; but not by yourself…..but with others.

Ice Age is a really fun film altogether. It has its comedy and laugh out loud moments while also going on to present the look as well as the ideas and troubles faced by animals living during the Ice Age, even going to cover a semi-dark toned route as to cover the deaths that some go to, even if it’s not entirely shown. Ice Age is an adventure with friends; it’s about going on a journey, with a goal to accomplish that in turn bridges the gaps between species and each other. There are times though that this little kiddy animated movie, thing is just going to pull at your heart’s strings and provide moments that will make you laugh, but also feel and even cry; and in that comes a film that is not really a comedy, nor is it a film about a journey, but is a film about family, and the joys of family in a difficult world, and what it’s like to have it, lose it, then find it again, even in the most weird of ways.

GENEPOOL (Whoo, Yeah! Who’s up for round two?).





The Strain (Should Be) Back (Soon)

24 08 2016

The Strain

Over the last few months, I have steadily begun to grow weary of nearly everything on TV. Since about April for me it’s sort of been about recording and re-recording shows on Playback, of which many shows that I do indeed like, but have grown a little weary of as I watch them while doing stuff on the laptop and have only been able to truly appreciate them when I have a Nano-second to sit down and watch them on TV while doing nothing else. I have been trying to get back into other shows on my own like Arrow, while also watching the last episodes of Castle, re-watching old episodes of Rizzoli & Isles, trying to get more involved with the good but rather cheesy Quantico, The sometimes hard to find funny when doing something else Bob’s Burgers; the enduring but still relatively light Deadliest Catch, The odd repeat of The Bill, the yet to be watched Containment, and the thankful repeats of Rookie Blue. I have watched maybe 20 minutes’ worth of the new Top Gear, but that was 20 minutes too long in my opinion, while really enjoying the new Robot Wars which continues to deliver (at time of writing). There are some shows that gather my interest such as The Closer and Major Crimes which my Mam has been recording, but altogether, the current state of TV for me is pretty bleak and near boring. All I can really hold onto is that soon or later The Strain will be back.

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For those not in the know, The Strain is a TV Series based on the book trilogy of which the first book is named written by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan. The series (Produced by Carlton Cuse) is about a virus: a Vampire Virus. It brings vampires back to their roots as scary villains and not love icons. Basically, an ancient entity known as The Master (Robin Atkin Downes), has brought a curse upon the city of New York as he has willingly caused Vampires to return. Very quickly many people in New York have begun to turn into what are known as The Strigoi. Being vampires they can only come out at night, however, the Master has a group of major servants in the form of Eichhorst (Richard Sammel) and Eldritch Palmer (Jonathan Hyde) who work for him during the day to help push and instigate his plan, that being of eventual domination. In his way however are a group of vampire hunters led by Holocaust Survivor Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley), Scientists Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll) and Nora Martinez (Mia Maestro), rat exterminator Fet (Kevin Durand) and computer hacker Dutch Velders (Ruta Gedmintas). That’s not all standing in The Master’s way however as he also has to contend with another batch of Hunters in the form of former convict Gus (Miguel Gomez), and his estranged half-vampire supposed son Mr. Quinlan (Rupert Penry-Jones). It is a losing battle however as more Strigoi are being turned and New York begins to fall further into darkness, aided further by Kelly Goodweather (Natalie Brown), Eph’s former wife, who has since been turned into a vampire herself and is busy stalking Eph and their son Zach (Max Charles).

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Now I wasn’t so sure about this program when I first heard about it (much like Blade: The Series), but I thought I would give it a go, I watched the Pilot and not only found it very riveting, but also rather terrifying and chilling. The first season pretty much just revolved around the initial spread of the Vampire Plague and the gathering of some heroes, while the second season went more into the public perspective as the plague gained more ground and became majorly noticeable, while the Master starts conceiving new ways to keep things going, whilst other characters begin to question their lives and place within this new world, and as such history and backgrounds of the events and characters begin to get more explored. Since then more characters have become more defined and brand new characters have been introduced. My favourite from pretty much the outset has been Dutch Velders, the group’s complete outsider, and whose character I have come to love and enjoy well.

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Another character that has also begun to get traction is that of The Born. Better known as Mr. Quinlan, he is the missing link of the series as he is half vampire and possibly the son of the Master, and is out to kill him. His scenes so far have turned out to be rather fruitful and really enjoyable, and as given his position as become to stand out as something of the shows version of Blade, the hunter who is of himself of the species he is hunting, he also has a rather impressive voice.

I have no idea where the show is going to head next, but Series 3 is now on the horizon, having nearly waited a whole year with the Season 2 DVD yet to come out. I know this because I have been following the show’s progress, mostly from the accounts (on Twitter and Instagram) of Ruta Gedmintas. No idea what the show is going to involve other than the episode count going down from 13 to 10 annoyingly. Having not read the books, only reading a brief synopsis I can see some direction of its path, but as of yet, still no clue. Sorry to be so anti-climactic, but it’s true; however I am certain that it should be worth the wait, the show has done this to me once previously but has done more than just deliver, and so I am hopeful it will do so again. I am hopeful it will return within the next couple of months, and will in turn make TV exciting for me, at least for a little while and maybe a bit beyond that.

GENEPOOL (I am assuming and Hoping that it’s still going to be on Watch, even though it has since changed its name to W).





My First Prison

17 08 2016

Handcuffs

Let me just start off by letting you know that I have never actually been to Prison. I have had a few tours around Lancaster Castle and once designed a prison map in Unreal Tournament 2004, but no, I have never actually been locked up in some prison somewhere. What the above title is actually phrasing is this:

Prison Architect

Since about September 2014, one game on Steam I have always found myself returning to play one way or another is Prison Architect; a game where you; the player receives the opportunity to build and run your own prison. Why you would actually want to is really up to you to decipher, but as a game goes, this actually rather fun and one I have played on and off for 200+ hours now; it’s the one game I have spent more time playing than anything else in my Steam Library. Anyway, to cut a long story short, about this time last year I began (voluntarily) writing for a Video Games website, and though was rather fun and really enjoyable; my time there on the whole was actually quite short, and one thing I really wanted to write for the website was a guide from an experienced player on how to build, or at least start your first prison in Prison Architect. So, a few weeks ago I re-installed Prison Architect (again), and set to work capturing some images, and coming up with a plan as how best to explain/demonstrate how to go about getting your foot on the ladder in the prison construction world (I should just note that while the game does have some scenarios to help you get started, most the in-game scenarios are only rather for learning about specific situations).

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When you launch a brand new prison, you will discover that all there is, is a large plot of land dominated mostly by trees. As the game begins a couple of lorry’s will come down the nearby road ferrying workmen and materials free of charge to go into building your new prison from scratch. To begin with you have a few free things but not much, and in total have no more than $30,035, a strange amount yes, but that’s what you have to work with. My first tip is to pause the game speed, as you will need some time to think about how you want to approach the construction. You may also want to turn your prisoner intake to closed (click on the box below the clock and a menu will open with several options including Staff, Grants, Prisoners and Intake to name but a few you can click on, choose intake and set to closed), just so you don’t receive any convicts out of the blue when your prison is not ready yet. Now, to business:

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The first thing I want you to consider is that the game title says Prison Architect, obviously. While the game may be about construction and then later administration of a Prison, to begin with I would only take notice of the word Architect. Before any building’s construction is started, an Architect has to plan out the building. Probably the game’s most useful tool is the Planning tool on the lower toolbar. This button will give you access to some drawing tools, use these to design your prison. Using the drawing/planning tool is a great way to start off any prison. Use this tool to decide where the walls are going to be, where the walls to your rooms are going to be, how it’s all going to fit together. You can decide to design your entire Prison right here right now if you want to, but right now let’s focus on the basics.

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Like any great plan, there needs to be direction and an outcome. With an empty plot of land, you can pretty much do anything you want; but to get your prison going, you are going to need some basics and a checklist. In your first few games, the one thing that is more your friend than anything else, is the Grants page, on here there is a list of objectives which provide and reward you with money for starting and completing them. In this instance, what you want is the option to build a basic detention centre. So firstly open the page (click on the money sign at the top of the page for quick opening) and choose that grant, to which you will be awarded some more money. Now that you have a little bit more cash and a plan, it’s now time to draw then build your prison.

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What I would start with more than anything else is to draw a square around the perimeter of your land so that you can at least have a scope of where the outer perimeter wall is to be. Now for some reason, the game won’t allow you to build a wall on the very outer edge of the current plot of land, so if you design it to be one square in, around, you shouldn’t have too much of a problem. As with most of the games planning and construction tools, choose a location to where to start from, then quite simply click, hold and drag out as far as you want, then let go. Then, if you go to the top of the map next to the road, and on the left hand side of the map, attached to the wall, plan out where you are going to build your storage room and power plants. Now as ever with this tutorial, you can build where ever you want to, it’s just that from my experience, if you allow your prisoners to be delivered on the very edge of the map, they have more chance to escape once delivered. The more middle the delivery point is, the more you may be able to prevent escapes. When designing the store-room, a good thin-ish rectangle I find is a good way to do it, and then next to that, build a similar sized, but not as long rectangle to be the power room. The storage room as suggested is where you store your materials, and the power room is where power for the prison, (plus water too if you do it like me) is supplied from.

PA13Once you have planned those out, it may be a good idea, to build a new delivery spot next to the road, but outside the storage room just for easy delivery and storage. Just like any building designation in the game, all you do is click and hold on a part of land or a building where you want it to be then dragging it to its optimum size and space. From that point forward, that area is designated a delivery zone, and will remain so unless changed. Any other delivery areas should wisely be removed by the same process but right clicking and holding instead of left clicking and holding. On this map, I have also done the same for Garbage and Exports at the bottom of the map, this is just so Garbage and Exports can be dealt with and removed quicker. Once you have those designs in place, you can then get your workers to earn their pay checks, by choosing the Foundations icon, then selecting the brick wall option, then holding and dragging over the spaces you have designed, then letting go when it has reached its optimum space. Then (remembering to un-pause the game to allow it of course) all you do is let your workers get to work building that section of your Prison.

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While that is happening, it may be time to let you know how to put Objects in your Prison. On the lower toolbar, there is an objects button, opening this will allow you to see the range of objects you can put in your prison. To do this, all you do is select the one you want, and click on wherever you want it installed to install it. I say this now, as while your rooms get built, you will need to put some doors in to allow construction to be completed; so as your workmen get to work, choose some doors to put in, for this I would suggest using Staff Doors, then rotate them using the ‘R key’ if you need to, then place them directly over a wall, and click them into position. It’s the same with all objects, (although, only doors need to be placed on walls), and, once those buildings are completed, you will need to fill in any gaps where walls should be; and then using your new object adding skills, install your power generator, some capacitors directly next to the generator, and nearby a water pumping machine, plus some cables to power the room lights, and the pumping machine.

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Now that you have the basics, things get a bit quicker from here (he says confidently). Nearby to your new delivery site, start planning where your inmates will be living, eating, exercising and showering when the first batch turn up. For this you will need to plan and build where you are going to build your Holding Cell, Shower, Yard, Canteen and Kitchen.

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My advice would be, to build the holding cell practically right next to your delivery spot, as this way prisoners can be admitted quickly into your prison system without too much of a hitch. The Holding Cell needs to be pretty big as it needs to accommodate plenty of prisoners at least just until some proper cells are ready for them. Next to that, or at least nearby, build a small shower block, and a small canteen. Remember the Yard needs to be outdoors, but also still needs to be entirely surrounded to prevent escapes. Some things these new rooms and yard will require include Benches, Tables, Serving Tables, Shower Heads and of course Toilets. Installing all of these objects is the same as before, but for a toilet to work it needs Water. To do this you will need to connect pipes from the Pumping Station to your Toilets. It works the same way as laying electrical cables and most objects though, so it’s pretty easy. Then just as before, let the builders do their job and designate room space just as before.

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Doing a kitchen is pretty similar; however, I would locate it near the storage room, one for Staff safety, and two, for ease of cooking. From here on, building rooms and installing objects gets pretty samey really. Just build it and plug them all in. From there, all you need to do is hire some guards to handle with the cons, and some cooks to handle the food. To do this, choose the staff tool on the tool page, pick the required person, and then click them into life. Once you have met all the requirements of the grant, you will receive some more cash plus have all the basics to start your prison and receive prisoners, so, set your prison to the required level of prisoner intake and then get ready to punish some cons.

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From here on it pretty much comes down to whatever you want to do with your prison. If you run short on cash or need some direction, pick a grant and get to work. If you want you can personalise your prison with some floor materials or add some fun things for both staff and prisoners, but from here, it’s all really up to you. So, I hope this was both understandable and helpful, as you go out into the big wide world of Prison Construction, Management and Architecture.

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GENEPOOL





Top 5 Books I Read In 2015

10 08 2016

The Ask And The Answer (Patrick Ness - 2009)

2014 was a good year for reading, at least for me, and in total I read 25 books. In 2015 I did not read as many, but it was not a bad year for reading neither. Yes there were some books that I read and just did not get, while many others I consider amongst some of the best books I have read in my reading life. I know it’s a bit late in the year to be doing Top 5 of the previous year posts, but I really have been meaning to get round to this one. Yes, much like I did last year, this is the time for the books I read last year to shine. I did read quite a few books as it happened, but quite a few I thought were not so good and really did put a downer on my reading time, the one standing out more than most being The Young Elites by Marie Lu. It was a good idea and a really well devised, interesting and enjoyable setting, but for the most part I simply did not understand it all that well, nor enjoy it all that much.

The Young Elites (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers - 2014)

Unlike last year, this year’s selection of books are not entirely dominated by two people called Michael, although one of them does return to this year’s list (see number 4). This year however one author dominates with two entries: as for a good period of time last year I read 4 Patrick Ness novels of which my favourite 2 are in this list. The main part of that reading was in the form of his Chaos Walking Trilogy. While I did enjoy all the books in that series, only one gets a part here, this is because I felt that I had read a few things better than The Ask and the Answer, and that while I really did enjoy The Knife of Never Letting Go, as I had read a good part of the beginning in late 2014, I thought I would allow another book the place of Number 5 in this list. All things considered though, I had a really good reading year last year, and am enjoying another fun-filled one this year having already read some other books which right now I am certain will get featured in next year’s list too, hopefully though that one won’t be so late in the year. Anyway, hope you enjoy this retrospective look at the Top 5 Books I read in 2015.

Darkmouth (Harper Collins - 2015)

5. Darkmouth by Shane Hegarty – This one I just found staring at me in 2 branches of Waterstones. In the end I did buy it along with The Enemy (see number 3). Funny thing is, is that apparently when my Dad was in town that same day; he almost bought a copy of it too. Darkmouth as a book is quite an interesting idea, as it revolves around a town called Darkmouth, where every now and then a portal opens up releasing a legendary creature into the town to cause havoc. Keeping these ‘Legends’ in check is a young boy in training to become a legend hunter from his dad who is something of a legendary legend hunter. In the meantime the boy has got other worries; he actually wants to be a vet not a Legend Hunter, he still has homework to do, and there is this mysterious new girl in town that is strangely attracted to him. It’s a very nice well thought out book that is also very lengthy, but also very easy. It does not keep you held down with difficult mumbo-jumbo nor does it bore you with the details, there is actually something always happening from one chapter to the next and it does well to keep you involved. It’s also very fun and has its own style of humour which goes from laugh out loud moments to a quirky giggle; fun from start to finish, but also very tense at times.

Eve & Adam (Egmont - 2012)

4. Eve & Adam by Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate – Yes, Michael Grant is back, however I can’t help but feel that this book is more Applegate than Grant. A young girl has got herself into a real horrid accident, and is taken to the private hospital run by her multi-millionaire Mum, who runs a giant corporation in the same building. While she is recuperating, the girl tries out a brand new piece of software, one that will allow her to create her ultimate boyfriend, but it’s all just a game…right? Eve and Adam is a nice punchy but easy read that is also laced with ideas including romance, love to the misuse of genetics and creation. Each chapter centres around a certain character, of which there are mainly two, but every now and then another is introduced. It has a strange pace as it goes from an accident, to recovery, to the software, to an ex-boyfriend, to a new being, to a giant conspiracy to the big finale. It’s relatively a simpler read in comparison to the Gone books and is a nice thing to read when you have a spare minute; for instance I read it after getting my new bed. I really enjoyed it, it was just really interesting and was less about action, more an intelligent read to get you thinking and really see where things can lead, especially when several spanners are thrown into the mix, I also thought it was very similar in ideas to Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton.

The Enemy (Penguin - 2009)

3. The Enemy by Charlie Higson – Since reading the Gone books; I have found it progressively difficult to find a book that just grabbed me from the first page and one that I did not want to stop reading. Then I read The Enemy, and I was hooked from start to finish. Set in London, a group of kids survive on the edge inside a branch of Waitrose, while the world’s adults have all turned into Zombies. It’s a very simple premise, but the level of detail is excellent, because as soon as it begins, kids start dying, and they don’t stop. The level of violence is unprecedented, and the rivalry between the kid gangs of London and those whose stories are also explored tell a tale of a once great city crumbling in on itself, as Kids have to grow up, while the grownups go one a killing spree in their search for food. It’s very well detailed and goes into locations all over the Capital, but most of all, it tells a genuinely realistic story of the fight for survival, and how resourceful kids can be when given the chance to prove it, but also show what lengths they will have to go to in order to survive, even if it means killing those that they once loved.

Monsters Of Men (Patrick Ness - 2010)

2. Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness – The Chaos Walking trilogy began with a young boy living in a world where everyone could hear each other’s thoughts, who then stumbles upon a spot where he can’t hear anything. As the first two books developed, they told the story of a world that lied to the boy, and who has to conform to a new world order in order to survive. As Monsters of Men starts though, the young boy named Todd is standing in the middle of a town on the brink of war from not one but 3 sides, as an old native species to the planet has returned from extinction. Monsters of Men is a power house of a read, it goes into great lengths the horrors of war, what people will do to achieve victory and the importance of attaining Peace sooner rather than later. It is a pretty big book, but in comparison to the previous two instalments (which were both un-put-down-able), this one is one you just can’t stop reading, other than to do the things you need to do to stay alive so you can finish it. It comes with twists and turns and a whole load of action, while also following on from lessons learned, and from the point of views from not one but 3 people inside the conflict. There are also a lot of surprises and returns, ones that will grip you and began from the first book. Overall though the book goes into a real truth: a great horror not just set in a fictional world, but one existent in ours; and this is just a taster of that.

A Monster Calls (Patrick Ness and Siobhan Dowd - 2011)

1. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, Jim Kay and Siobhan Dowd – I spotted this one in Waterstones when reading Chaos Walking but did not take much notice; until I realised that a film (due for release in October) was being made of it, so I gave it another look, and asked for the book for Christmas. I read it quite quickly, because for one it was quite a short read, and two, because I couldn’t get enough of it. From day one, I read a few chapters but then needed to go to bed, the same for day 2, and day 3 when I finished it, after which I had a good long and emotional cry. The story revolves around young boy Connor whose Mum gets Cancer. At school, Connor is treated as like he was invisible, because everybody knows and does not understand, but he is made the target of a group of bullies. While all this is going on however, Connor is visited by a tree monster who tells him stories, and in return, the Monster wants The Truth. It is a very chilling book with lots of fiendishly chilling artwork on every page; however the books key characteristic is how real it is: Connor not having much of a father because he left and the grandma who does not get on well with him. But the real battlefield is the playground, as day-to-day it’s a matter of walking through school invisible to everyone, keeping secretive from supposed friends and having to keep his head low from the bullies. In the meantime, The Monster tells some really chilling stories which in turn bring out the worst in Connor, who himself is holding in a dark secret, one that he fears more than anything else. The book is also very emotional and really strikes a chord with your emotional strings, one that is so powerful, that from simply reading this book I felt like I was there, and was experiencing the emotional turmoil that Connor goes through, especially the anger at old friends and the emotion of the key plot line. In turn this book had another effect on me, as this was the first time a book has ever made me physically cry, to which I did nearly before the book ended, to at least half an hour afterwards. It’s not just a brilliant read, but also a very powerful book, one whose experience will remain with you forever.

GENEPOOL





The Lost Reviews – Turmoil

3 08 2016

Turmoil (Gamious - 2016)

What is one way to get an insight into other forms of work while also enriching your television viewing experience? Why none other than the Discovery Channel. For many years now the channel has been a showcase for many varieties of TV shows which depict ordinary people exploring other avenues of work that you or I probably would not consider, other than possibly to get rich and famous as quickly as possible. Shows in this line include of course Deadliest Catch, to more recent programming like Gold Rush and Gold Divers. Now while it may not be the case that you or I would consider going down these routes of work, I have recently been playing a game on Steam that I find is very similar. There is no war, no guns, no racing; just lots and lots of Oil.

Turmoil 3

Turmoil (by Gamious) is a cross between a tycoon simulator and a puzzle game, where you play one of four characters who are trying to get rich quickly in the Wild West by drilling for oil. To begin with, you are given some cash and a free plot of land to drill for oil. Initially you can only work for a few months before the level ends. As time goes past however you may work many more months in the game to a whole year. As the game progresses further you will experience different areas of land such as snow and desert, and realise that there are other resources than simply oil to dig for.

Turmoil 5

The game is relatively simple to play; it uses a nice combination of mouse and hotkeys (if you prefer) for controls, while each level is a flat, 2D image of a plot of land. To begin with you only have a few resources, and have to rely on Dowsers to find Oil, when they have found a spot, they jump for joy and tell you where you can roughly find the spot. From here it is up to you. Initially you will need at least one horse-drawn Wagon of which to transport your oil to prospective purchasers, and will also need to construct a Rig to get the oil out of the ground (one or two Silos probably wouldn’t go amiss either). From there it is up to the machines to pump it out, and the wagons to collect the oil. On each side of the map there is a factory, to whom you can sell your oil too. But be careful, for if you send the oil to them when the price is low, you are not going to get much for it. As the level progresses, prices go up and down, more oil can be revealed, and more money can be made, but once the level is up, that’s it! Any remaining patches, or oil you did not sell is just wasted, and fines can be charged if you spill any. Once a level is up, you are provided a summary of how much money you made, to which you can use in the local town to bid for more land, buy improvements, bribe local dignitaries, and much later on, buy out some of the town.

Turmoil 4

Turmoil is a nice simple little game to play and is nicely presented in an aesthetically pleasing, yet simple 2D interface. It takes away the need for a full 3D game where you will exhaust hand power having to move around some mining camp. Instead, it’s just a simple case of point and click and manipulate what you want to achieve as thus. The real joy to this game is that at heart, it is a game about drilling for oil and making as much money as possible. You don’t need to worry about building anything else other than the resources needed to pump and store oil. The upgrades you can purchase are easy to implement once purchased, and come in real handy really quickly. The levels themselves are rather interesting to look at, particularly the depiction of the pockets of oil, and it can be fun to see oil be pumped out of the ground. The reality of the game gets no finer than the experience of sheer joy when you find a large pocket of oil, one you believe in whole honestly that, that is where your fortune lies. It’s a shame then that the game does have some short comings.

Turmoil 6

At heart, Turmoil is a game about drilling for oil and making money. If it was just left to that it would be a nice little game with plenty of energy to keep it going. Halfway through however, the game introduces a second dynamic, which then just takes over, and becomes entirely about taking over the whole town by purchasing stocks/shares. It just gets irritating, that while you plan out what upgrades you want, and what area of land you are going to purchase next; that before you can get to drilling, you need to take part in a stock auction you don’t really care about. That is until you discover that is how you win the game at all. By that time it’s too late, and then you need to take an interest the next time you play in order to win. It’s just annoying, as I would rather have the game be about something else, and only include that in some form of multiplayer, which the neither has nor needs, as it’s perfectly pleasurable by itself.

Turmoil 2

Any other issues I have with the game come down to minor bugs that more come down to PC performance issues and miss clicking. Most of these though come down to human error as the game finds ways to trick and deceive you into a false sense of positivity, making you think that you are making money, where as you could be making more if you kept a more careful gaze. Quite a lot of the time you will find yourself clicking on the speed up button, but as a level starts, this is only natural as you want money fast to get more later.

Turmoil 7

Altogether, Turmoil is a nice fun little game that can be either played briefly or for longer periods. It boasts a pleasant graphical view while also providing you with simple yet easy to use controls that can be used in more than one way. More than that though, it provides an enjoyable insight into a resource rags to riches tale that’s really immersive and makes you feel like you are there, and enjoy your success while also regretting your failures. It’s just a little 2D game, but it has a lot of Heart.

Turmoil 8

GENEPOOL








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