The Lost Reviews – Governor of Poker 2

18 10 2016

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If you like board and card games as much as me, you may have a huge stack of games. Lots of games you enjoy, some probably more than others, and maybe some you have yet to play, but the one thing that is probably more true than most is that, you probably don’t get to play many of them all that often. There maybe a few for instance that you have not played in a while. This is definitely true of me; some of the time I play more of than others, while games like Munchkin for example I don’t get to play as often as I would prefer, because sometimes they are hard to bring to the table. Some of the time when you play games, it’s best to play ones other people have experience of just so everyone can have a good time, and don’t need to learn a lot of new details. This can be true of other games too, and in my experience I can go long periods of time not playing a basic card game like Poker.

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I was introduced to Poker over a decade ago, but it can be hard to get a game of it in. I can watch it on TV, like I used to during the good old days of the William Hill Poker Grand Prix, but there is nothing like actually playing it, which is why it’s a good thing that there are many video games out there that allow me the opportunity to play a game of poker in the meantime, whenever I want to, and in my experience, there is none finer than Governor of Poker.

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I originally used to play this games predecessor on Kongregate, but then it was more of a demo, never got to play the original in its full form, however when I noticed this sequel on Steam; I near leapt at the opportunity. In Governor of Poker 2 (by Youda Games), much like the original, you are a wannabe poker champion living in Texas, and you spend your days go from town to town, competing in games, acquiring enough to take over the entire town, before moving onto the next. Purchasing buildings provides you with an income, while competing in tournaments and cash games provides you with an opportunity to acquire more money much more quickly while also building up your reputation. As you progress, you will encounter star NPC players, taking them on in the hope of becoming the number one poker man in the whole of Texas.

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The games main piece though comes to its Poker games, which thanks to the Wild West theme, mean that you and everyone else are represented at the table via hats and hands. This part of the game really does come down to the core gameplay of most Poker games, and there can be tells, there can be bluffing, while all the time still creating tension and panic as you watch the chips build up, change colour or reduce in quick fashion. From there on it comes down to how good of a poker player you are, and how far you are willing to go to get the table win.

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The game is nicely designed, even if the designs themselves have not changed much since its predecessor. The animation is nicely implemented, from walking, to cut scenes, to even the flicking of chips at the poker table. The only issue I really have with the design side is that the maps are rather static. The only person moving around is you, while everyone else stands mega still not moving before or after you enter a saloon; it does not carry much in the way of life. The game’s soundtrack is nicely designed as it comes more down to a couple of pieces of music, but leaves everything else to the stiffening sound a bliss of silence, with a little bit of noise coming from other characters and of course the dealer. While the original definitely still carries the best theme tune, the game’s soundtrack is at it’s best when there is virtually no sound at all. The gameplay is nicely mixed up, and the differences between games, hats, and even the allowance to buy houses and make an income is rather good, I just don’t think there is really any need for a story in this game, it does not adapt or change over time, it just sort of pops up when you reach a goal, even if reaching that goal requires you to play for several hours before you reach the next one. The only thing you really feel, is the disappointment and crunch as you begin to lose money and property, and wonder how you are going to get back onto your feet. There is a lot to like, and a lot to enjoy, but there is a lot of crowding and a lot of wasted bonuses which just don’t work or appeal, it brings a down note to what is actually a pretty competent and thoroughly enjoyable game.

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Don’t get me wrong, I really do like this game; I just think it provides you with things you don’t need or even want. At heart, its basic charm is how this game succeeds, it’s not because you want to free poker from the corrupt hands of those who would rather not play it, but because you want an environment that allows you to play Poker, as close to real as possible. At the tables, you get a real sense of dread, passion and emotion as you win or lose, and as you strive to believe that you can win, and know when it’s time to push or pull back. Everything is there, the poker side works, and the other gameplay pieces included continue to enhance your experience. That’s all this game in the end needs to provide, it does not need a story, just a sense that you are awesome at poker……….at least when you are.

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GENEPOOL

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The Lost Reviews – Timberman

17 05 2016

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A wise man once said “I’m a lumberjack, and I’m okay.” Well after playing this game I can say that I am a lumberjack, but after playing on Multiplayer mode, I don’t know if I’ll be able to say I am okay. Timberman (Digital Melody - 2015)

Timberman is an arcade style, casual flash game for the PC where you play the role of a Lumberjack chopping down trees as quickly as possible without dying. The game has a simple interface and control scheme. You are represented by a lumberjack avatar, and you have an axe. When the game starts, all you need to do is click away furiously to chop down as much tree as possible. You will need to alter which side of the tree you chop down to avoid the large number of killer branches. As the tree falls with each click, branches come down with it, and if a branch falls on you, you die. Controlling which side you chop on is very easy, all you do is change which mouse clicker you are clicking with. You will also need to be aware of a timer above your head counting down the amount of time you have left until your imminent death.

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Personally I prefer to avoid games that are made specifically to look like pixellated arcade games from the pre mid 1980’s; Timberman’s graphics however are aesthetically pleasing to the eye. They are not blurry nor cause any worry for potential photosensitive seizures. They are in fact very nice to look at, plus it makes the game easier to run, which is especially useful on computers not designed for playing heavy games, and easy access multiplayer battles. A neat little feature the game is that when one game is finished, and you decide to play another, the time of day changes. So from a nice autumn day, to a dark night, to a nice summer’s day. Timberman also comes packed with dozens of Timberman characters too. Some of these are beneficial to unlocking others, which is very useful if you are not the most hardcore of lumberjacks. These can range from simple characters like the basic Timberman with a different coloured shirt, to ridiculous characters like Father Christmas, a Bear, a Snowman, Jason Voorhees and Barack Obama.

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At best; single player mode is just a way to hone your tree cutting skills and unlock new characters. It’s Multiplayer mode where this game really comes out to shine. Now if you’re anything like me and play mostly on your laptop, it can be hard to play multiplayer games especially those of big graphically powered games. The number of times I have decided to play Left 4 Dead on Multiplayer, and found my computer and connection so slow that I have had to reposition myself in the hope of getting a stronger signal. Due to Timberman’s increased accessibility though it is so easy to connect and play without any interruptions. Multiplayer takes the form of a battle/race to chop down as much tree as possible without dying. It follows the same gameplay methods as single player, but this time you find yourself lined up with up to 3 other lumberjacks. These battles play over several rounds with scores being taken from each round. Whoever has the highest score after 5 rounds, wins. With winning such battles comes the opportunity to have your skill level and rank increased, so you can show off to the entire world (or at least those who play this game) how good you are at chopping down trees.

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Despite some of its good points however, the game does have a few shortcomings. Single player does not have much longevity to it other than to unlock new skins. This though is relatively minor to a bigger gripe I have. Timberman does not have a Tutorial mode; neither shows any information on how you play it. The first time you play you are at a complete loss to understand how on earth you are supposed to play it. It sort of expects you to know, thinking that the relative simple understanding will be enough. It reminds me of the seaside side-show game Whack-a-Mole. All you get is a mallet and have to hit moles with it. Timberman as a concept runs along similar lines to this, however as you are not actually holding the axe in your real hands, there is no way of knowing how you actually swing it. Then the issue of dying from branches comes up where you learn that the hard way after several games of not looking, thinking you just keep on clicking. The Red bar above your head is self-explanatory, but in your first game you could very easily die without knowing how you do anything. The Soundtrack is pretty cool. It has an early arcade game sound to it which when mixed with the pixellated graphics is a nice added touch. But it’s just endless and can get pretty boring after a while. It’s just a shame there is not any variety in the music compared to the changing of the time of day.

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Timber man is a rather fun game. It’s a nice cool, fun concept. It is an easy game to play (once you know how), the graphics are rather neat and the inclusion of customizable lumberjacks and the ever-changing day and season calendar is a nice little add-on. While it does include some issues such as the repetitive music, lack of a more diverse single player mode and the irritating non-existence of a tutorial mode; Timberman is worth going through some of these issues just to play in multiplayer clashes.

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GENEPOOL (another thing that is missing is the quaint stroll through the wood like there was in Rashomon).





Here Comes Santa Claus, Here Comes…..Wait; No, It’s Not Him – Krampus

6 01 2016

Krampus (Legendary Pictures - 2015)

“I know that it’s January!” Anyway; I am not all that big a fan of horror films. I like the ideas of horror films, plus have the real understanding of how a horror film should work. It’s not about blood and guts, it’s about being scared, receiving a frightful shock that makes you jump out of your chair, or not able to go to bed that night. The only Horror films I have seen so far are films like Battle Royale, The Purge, Aliens, bits of Predator and AVP. But the idea of taking such a happy time as Christmas and then subjecting the setting to an awful situation that leads to kidnap and possibly death is an interesting idea, plus also why I wanted out to point out that I know its January but am reviewing a film that is set during Christmas.

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Released in 2015 by Legendary Pictures and Universal, and Directed by Michael Dougherty; Krampus is a Christmas themed horror film based on the folklore legend of Krampus. Personally I never heard of the character of Krampus until this film came out. According to Wikipedia:

“In Austro-Bavarian Alpine folklore, Krampus is a horned, anthropomorphic figure who, during the Christmas season, punishes children who have misbehaved, in contrast with Saint Nicholas, who rewards the well-behaved with gifts. Regions in Austria feature similar figures and, more widely, Krampus is one of a number of Companions of Saint Nicholas in regions of Europe. The origin of the figure is unclear; some folklorists and anthropologists have postulated a pre-Christian origin for the figure (see Germanic paganism).”

Anyway, that’s what/who Krampus is according to folklore; I just thought I better mention some form of knowledge before I start.

The film begins with a scene of people shopping for Christmas Presents, in a similar hysteria and mad panic that people get involved in during Black Friday. After getting into a fight in the store, young boy Max (Emjay Anthony) along with his sister Beth (Stefania LaVie Owen) and their parents Tom (Adam Scott) and Sarah (Toni Collette) return home where Tom’s mother known as Omi (Krista Stadler) is busy making Christmas cookies. Max still believes in Christmas traditions and hopes for Christmas to be as close as that could possibly be, but the house is in chaos, and gets worse with the arrival of Sarah’s sister Linda (Allison Tolman), her husband Howard (David Koechner), their children Stevie (Lolo Owen), Jordan (Queenie Samuel), Howie Jr. (Maverick Flack), their baby daughter, and Linda and Sarah’s Aunt Dorothy (Conchata Ferrell)…oh, and their dog too. The chaos at home rises as the two family’s thoughts and beliefs begin to clash, and end with Stevie and Jordan taking Max’s letter to Santa Claus and reading it out loud during dinner, resulting in a fight. Tom tries to comfort his son, but Max decides to rip up his letter to Santa and throw it to the winds. At that moment a snow storm arrives and causes a power outage throughout the whole area. The following morning, the family struggle with the loss of heat and power, while Max is wondering about a snowman that has appeared in the front garden. A delivery man arrives with presents for the family, as well as a sack which is just left by the door. Beth decides to visit her boyfriend’s house to see if he has power; on the way though she spots a tall horned entity standing on a house rooftop. She runs away but is pursued by the strange being. She hides underneath a van, and watches as a creature with hooves walks around her. It soon leaves, but Beth is then attacked by something inside a Jack in a Box.

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The family grows worried for Beth, so Tom and Howard go outside looking for her. They find it strange that there are no other people in the area, no cars, nothing, other than for a snow plow. Back at the house, everyone else hears strange noises coming from the roof. Upon reaching Beth’s boyfriend’s house, Howard and Tom notice how much devastation around them there is, with the chimney split, and hoof prints on the floor. Upon leaving Howard is attacked by a snow monster. Tom saves him and drags him back home, telling the family to board themselves up inside. Omi, who has begun to act really strange, tells Tom to keep the fire burning. During Howard’s watch however, he falls asleep and the fire dies. While everyone else sleeps, a hook with a Gingerbread Man attached comes down the chimney. Howie Jr reaches for it and takes a bite, only for the Gingerbread man to suddenly come to life, wrap him in chain and drag him up the chimney. The family tries to save him, but is unable to do so. Omi then tells the family what is going on, and that they are being attacked by Krampus (Luke Hawker and Gideon Emery). When she was young, Omi lost her faith and hope in Christmas due to her poverty-stricken life in the village where she lived. As a result the ‘Shadow of Saint Nicholas’; Krampus came to town and took the whole town with him to the underworld, leaving Omi behind, with a Krampus Bauble to remind her of what happens when one loses their love of Christmas. Howard refuses to believe her, and goes outside where the whole garden is full of Snowmen and maliciously laughing creatures. He goes back inside. Tom forms a plan for them to try and run for the Snow Plow and find help. Meanwhile the sack of presents upstairs begins to rattle and shake. Stevie and Jordan hear Beth’s voice in the attic and go looking for her. Upon hearing the two girls scream, Tom, Sarah and Linda go into the attic and find a giant Jack in the Box creature swallowing Jordan whole. They are then attacked by the Jack in the Box and some other Christmas toys, while Howard is attacked by a trio of Gingerbread Men in the Kitchen. They are just able to fight off the creatures, but back downstairs a horde of Dark Elves burst into the front room and take the Giant Jack in the Box, Howard, Dorothy and the Baby with them. Krampus is then heard landing on the roof and descends down the chimney. Omi stays back at the house to give the retreating family some time to escape. Krampus seemingly recognizing her unleashes his monstrous, demonic toys on her.

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The rest of the family reach the snow plow, but then Tom, Linda and Sarah are all sucked into the snow by the Snow Monster from earlier. Max with Stevie in tow tries to start the plow, but it doesn’t work, and Dark Elves arrive and carry off with Stevie. Krampus then lands in front of Max, and gives him a bauble, wrapped in his ripped up letter to Santa, revealing that it was Max who caused all this to happen. Back at the House, Krampus, his minions and a chained up Stevie prepare to leave back to the Underworld, when Max shows up, throwing his bauble at Krampus and demanding he fixes everything. A pit of Lava opens up, and Max tearfully pleads for Krampus to return his family, and take him instead. In a silent moment Krampus sees Max Tears, but then begins laughing. Stevie is thrown into the pit, and Krampus drops Max in too. The following morning, Max wakes up in bed. Thinking it was all a dream, he sees the neighbourhood as it should be, heading downstairs to see his family is alright. They begin to enjoy their Christmas, when Max opens a Present with a Krampus Bauble inside, to which the whole family falls quiet. The camera then pans out to reveal the house is inside a snow globe, along with many others inside Krampus’s Workshop.

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Terrifying and Enchanting, that’s the best way to describe Krampus. It’s a term I have used since about 5 minutes after leaving the cinema (I didn’t walk out if that’s what you’re thinking). Krampus is a very clever film and one that sticks to both the modern Christmas life and the folklore legend that inspires it. It tells a story, but also teaches one; plus values. It opens up with scenes resembling the over commercialized Christmas holiday scene, with people rushing into a shop, tripping over and fighting one another in the hope of getting a present, then goes into the troubled Christmas family life with tensions between family members plus the arrival of the inappropriate and offensive in-laws. It makes the start of an over-promising Christmas family comedy film (which given by this evidence doesn’t usually work out). But then things begin to take an ugly turn, as the horrid in-laws begin to upset the family more, which instigates an unbelievable situation, which leads to horrible consequences, with each family member one by one getting picked off and killed by a supernatural entity and his minions. It begins with the over commercialized view of Christmas, but develops into teaching the true values of Christmas. It tells the story of a boy wanting the best for his family, but once is made fun of by his horrible cousins, loses his spirit for the holidays. This then leads to their terrible situation and shows that while there is heat between family members, there is still love, and once said members are lost, they are missed. So while the family life may not be paradise, there is still more value in it than any gift wrapped up in paper. The telling of this story then is much like how most good films work, it revolves around change, change from where you started from, and learning to bring about something much stronger. Even if it takes such a horrid situation to make people realize this. But then Krampus does something very clever. It does revert the narrative back to a normal life and make the idea that it was all just a dream and that everything is fine. But to prevent them returning to their old, miserable, horrid habits; they are presented with a reminder. A reminder that is true to everyone, not just one person, that what happened, was real, and that it can be done all over again just as easily. This makes both the family and audience think, and remember to take Christmas and the beliefs surrounding it more seriously in the future, because just like the film, it can all be taken away so quickly…even at this time of year.

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Krampus sticks very closely to its Christmas traditions and to its folklore legend. I mean that though into how Krampus as an entity works. Krampus is a horror film, and a very scary one at that, but the use of Christmas iconography to deliver these frights is very well done. For many who see this film, Krampus will remain a very mysterious figure that will require some access too to fully understand who he is and what he means. Krampus as a creature is more a man with creature like attachments, possibly more like a faun, but his great bulk and size, plus his two horns continue to present a monstrosity, than anything else for most of this film. For the meantime, it’s through the aforementioned use of iconography well known at Christmas time to deliver the first few frights. Things like Gingerbread Men coming to life (a scene which reminded me of the living cake scene in the Young Sherlock Holmes), traditional Christmas toys attacking the family residents, snowmen in the garden. Ok, I don’t know where Dark Elves come from, but for the most part, it comes down to Christmas traditions. Other things too like Krampus coming down the chimney (“sound familiar?”), snow globes, a giant jack in the box, a teddy bear, an angel, and even a robot, all these things work together to take the happy, joyous setting of Christmas and turn it around to create nothing but pure frights. This continues throughout most of the second act, but then come the third; it’s pretty much all reserved for the film’s titular character.

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As for the film’s cast, it is sort of filled with hits and misses. They all have their own major perks, but some are better presented than others. You do of course have the Tom and Sarah as the strong willed parents having to take care of the family. While there is a minor level of tension between them, the situation does bring them closer together. For the most part they are really strong and favorable characters who get sucked into a horrible situation, but are still level headed enough to keep their heads above the snow…as it were. While she may only appear very briefly, Beth is a pretty cool character. Playing the average teen at Christmas, more concentrated on her boyfriend than her own family, but is strong and caring enough for those around her. She is the first one at this event to see Krampus, and possibly the first victim too, but her death is a strong death and is just a taster for the misery to come. Then you get the in-laws, a miserable bunch of inappropriate. Linda is ok, but I don’t feel like she comes out all that strongly enough except for when her children are in Danger closer to the third act. Howie Jr. plays the role of a fat little kid who can’t stop eating, very much so representing the idea of gluttony during the Christmas period. He is quiet all the way through, and it is through his gluttony that he gets caught by Krampus. He is the first of a few comedy characters for this film. Jordan I feel doesn’t have much of a presence in this film to talk much about, other than being one of Howard’s very masculine like daughters. As for the comedians, this comes in the form of Howard and Dorothy. Howard is like the stereotypical, hard as nails Texan with a shotgun. His first answer is always his gun and is far more inappropriate than appropriate. A man who obviously wanted boys over girls, and enforces masculine like tendencies on his two elder daughters. He however has a redeeming quality in that he becomes a hard fighter during the fight against the monstrosities, and a worthy ally in such a situation, sort of making up for his attitudes in the films earlier scenes. Aunt Dorothy meanwhile is full on comedy, a character who just doesn’t really change. She is the negative aunt, the character who only really cares for herself in any situation, and pretty much ends hat way, but like everyone else falls silent during the end. Her role though in this is mostly just for laughs.

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Omi I find quite an interesting character as her place in the film is almost like a connotation or tribute to old American Monster Movies. Omi is someone who has experienced the wrath of Krampus before and instantly knows what’s happening and is consistently trying to prevent what is going on while everyone remains oblivious to this. She knew how it happened last time and knows what to do from that experience this time. Then she explains that its Krampus that is causing all this to happen. My mind keeps jumping to old American monster movies with her role, because she is a lot like the expert, or the scientist; the character who walks in half way through and explains the origins of the monster attacking the city, just to cover the science background and explain in detail what is really happening. I therefore feel like that towards Omi as she does just that but in a different role and context. I don’t have any problems with it, I actually quite like that and think it’s rather clever, it covers all basis and fills the audience in more with the details of the ancient legend. Then there is Max, the one who, while not the lead exactly, is the one the legend has come for. He starts off the film with belief and desire to continue the traditions of the Christmas and family, but things take an ugly turn when this is used against him by Stevie and Jordan, who use this as a ploy to have some fun. From that moment Max loses his belief in the Christmas spirit, and therefore Krampus comes calling. Throughout the film, Max plays a very strong and caring role, looking out for and trying to protect his family, even those he doesn’t like, as best as he can, but is of course the main target for Krampus, and so has to watch helplessly as his family is taken away from him. But then, as he is about to be left alone by Krampus, Max comes back, to try and get his family back, even so far as going to try and save Stevie, the instigator. While this in the end doesn’t really work out well for him, this courage and strength make him not just some weak crying kid, but a nice change with a strong one instead; and in some way is the film’s narrator too. Stevie meanwhile I find as something of a breakout role. While she does start off as this horrid instigator (and personally I think the real reason for why this is happening), I am sort of drawn towards her as a character. She remains tough most of the way through and changes herself much like everyone else, and in somewhat ironic way is the last one to be taken, despite it really being all her fault. However, despite all that bad stuff, Stevie is a really great character and I think Lolo Owen who plays her does it really well. I can see (but also hope) that Lolo Owen gets more roles in the future from her performance in this, because I think she really deserves it.

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The lead role though is of course the big guy – No, not Godzilla – Krampus. Just one quick thing firstly. I love the Dark Elves in this film. I didn’t know how they were going to be done when I first read about them, but the use of costumes and wonderful masks really do make them a fun, yet still terrifying, inclusion in this film. Anyway back to Krampus. The film is of course all about the titular character, the film title suggests so, and the shadowy figure in the film’s poster makes it so. For most of the early parts of this film, Krampus is merely just a suggestion, his figure is seen, but doesn’t really act. However I think this is Krampus at his best, because his legend is merely a shadow of Saint Nicholas, and so his presence is mostly just that, and I really like it. You see this monster, bigger than a man with some of the most magnificent horns (oh, and don’t forget the hooves) you have ever seen. He is like an army general leading his men from the sidelines, but then enough is enough, and here comes Krampus. His minions running to one side, following orders, and enjoying the prospect of watching their great leader getting his hands dirty. This shadowy like approach to Krampus is really rather fun and builds up magnificently to the point of where you finally see what he looks like. His character then comes out, followed by a malicious laugh later on. It’s really creepy and the buildup is so enjoyable. Despite all this though however; there is some disappointment.

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Krampus bolsters some terrific special effects for a film that was made on a relatively small budget. This lack of budget however did not seem to turn the filmmakers away. Most of the film’s special effects come in the form of costumes and puppets. The toys in the attic, the dark elves and even Krampus himself are all more like costumes and suits than CGI, and this is how most of the film’s special effects are done, however on 2 occasions at least there is also some brilliant CGI work too. The earliest of these is from Beth getting chased by Krampus, which is rather quick, but then comes the Gingerbread Men. Bringing these dastardly creatures to life is done really well, and really freaks you out when they come to life and then start attacking everyone. It’s a haunting sight, and one that will make you think twice before eating one ever again (and don’t forget their devious laugh too). There is one disappointment though I feel, and it’s the same one as mentioned at the end of the last paragraph. You see, despite all the great effects, done any way possible: either be the CGI gingerbread men, or the Dark Elves costumes, I feel like it’s a real shame that the face of Krampus is so lifeless. The film has been building up to this point for a long time, just seeing this great shadow like figure in the area, and now he finally shows us his face, and it’s a bit disappointing. The face of Krampus looks like a big mannequin face, wide mouth, but is just so dead. No movement, no life. The only thing seen moving really is the eyes, close up. Where is this great monster we have been looking forward to? Sure, he may be more human than monstrosity, but even Father Christmas has facial movement. It just feels like a wasted moment and can bring down with ease, what we have been waiting for. It sort of puts a real sour note to both this film, and this character.

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As for a soundtrack (composed by Douglas Pipes) to this film, it’s hard to really think about it, as for the most part I don’t remember hearing much in original music made specifically for a film sense. That doesn’t necessarily mean though, that there is a lack of music. The film instead makes great and ironic use of traditional songs and pieces that have become so well-known during Christmas. They’re used in some of the most ironically funny ways, such as the theme “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” which is used to depict the mass crowds running into the shopping Centre, and chaos enveloping in the last Christmas shop rush. There are a lot of instances like this taking place all over the film. The most powerful piece though I think is used during the end credits. Now for years I recognized the piece (Carol of the Bells) as a song used in Family Guy when Peter works in Burger King; but through the end credits, it was used to talk about the legend of Krampus. Now if that is what it was originally made out to be for, then it’s great to finally hear it as such, and since then leading up to Christmas, I couldn’t stop singing a sort of version of that with Krampus in the lines. It is a really nice thing to wrap the film up with, but still present a level of haunting and non-existent peace in the film’s final credits.

Terrifying and Enchanting, I used that term earlier and have since to describe Krampus the film, and I still hold to it. What I have stumbled upon here is a true Christmas cinema gem. There are many Christmas films out there, and every year like clockwork another one is released, but it’s fair to say that producing a Christmas based film is rough, because there are so many bad ones out there. What do you do for a Christmas film while still maintaining the theme of Christmas all the way through? It’s a hard thing to do because that’s what you’re setting out to do. Through the cracks of the good and the bad, every blue moon, one comes out that just shakes up the scene and becomes a legend within cinema goers during that time of year, and Krampus is one of them. It’s a film packed with laughs, frights and shocks. It’s set in a very believable setting and begins with very believable situations before developing into something else, something magnificently terrifying. It’s got a story, characters and monsters. It’s there for those who at Christmas want to see something else and while it may not be the greatest or even the scariest horror film out there, it’s definitely one of the best Christmas films. “You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I’m telling you why; KRAMPUS IS COMING TO TOWN!”

GENEPOOL (I’m surprised Lordi wasn’t asked in helping out with the soundtrack).





Soundtrack Of My Graduation

30 09 2015

Preston Guild Hall Graduation Hat Throwing

Just over a couple of months ago, I graduated from the University of Central Lancashire with a 2:1 in Combined Studies (creative Writing and Screenwriting). Now while it was a big moment, graduating from University; the weeks prior and even the day before I was in no way looking forward to it. I was excited to see my friends from my course again, but I wasn’t looking forward to it for several reasons, one of the main ones being I don’t like getting ‘dressed up’. As the day went on though I actually enjoyed the whole thing and felt rather bad for not looking forward to it. Throughout the whole day though, I had a constant soundtrack going through my head. So I thought I would do a post about the soundtrack, why I thought of certain pieces of music and so on. Think of it as sort of one of those Father’s Day CD’s that gets released just before, well…..father’s day.

Preston Guild Hall

1. General Grievous theme – For most of the morning I didn’t have any soundtrack at all. When I got to Preston I had nothing much going through my mind, it wasn’t until I had signed in that I began to get nervous and shake. A little bit later I got my gown, and then tried to get a photo, but time was running out so I just went straight into the Guild Hall. It was at this moment that the feel of what was quite a heavy gown began to grip me. The grand thing of it all, and the theme for General Grievous came through my head. The grand music he has, and the fact he walks like he has a cape and walking stick. It made me feel like that and the music really helped to calm my nerves too.

2. “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff theme – As I sat down and began to wonder what was coming and going to happen. A new piece of music came to my head. As I saw the stage I would walk onto, I visioned the grand theme of professional wrestler Paul Orndorff, particularly his theme from the WWE Hall of Fame Ceremony in 2005. It was just like Grievous, but I felt the combination of the gown and that music really worked together, but it was more just looking at the steps and stage that I just imagined some kind of music to play when I took to the stage.

3. Monty Python’s Flying Circus theme – As the ceremony ever more neared to starting, an Organ began playing in the background. Most of the music I did not know, but then it started playing the theme music to Monty Python’s Flying Circus. It was a pretty good piece too.

4. King Kong 1976 Arena Entrance – The organ playing also made me think of something else too. In the 1976 remake of King Kong, when Kong is put on display and enters the arena, this really low, deep, organ piece is played. Its spine tingling, dark and spooky. And just for a laugh I thought it would be a cool piece to play for when the Chancellor came into the hall.

5. Sting In The Tail – It wasn’t really the song that I was thinking of. I think it was when I was sitting down, but my time was coming. And I just kept imagining hearing the announcement of my name and thought of the introduction to The Scorpions at their Get Your Sting & Blackout performance in 2011. I could just hear it in my head the announcement followed by the opening riff to Sting in the Tail being played as I walked on stage. Sadly that didn’t happen. Strangely enough though, at no point during the day did I think of Rock You like a Hurricane or Wind of Change.

6. Happy by Pharrell Williams – Naturally I wouldn’t have thought of this song at any time unless it came up some other way. Basically, as the ceremony began to wrap up, the UCLan Chamber Choir; who have won several awards and appeared on TV, came up on stage and sang a pretty good version of this song. The only time I would probably say I liked the song, because I don’t really.

7. Star Wars Ceremony theme – Let’s get the next 2 over and done with as quickly as possible. As the ceremony began to wrap up, the organist decided to play the end ceremony theme played at the end of Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope. I was instantly able to pick up on it. I thought it was a rather embarrassing piece to use.

8. Indiana Jones theme – This was then immediately followed by the theme from the Indiana Jones films. Why couldn’t they have used Jaws or Jurassic Park?

9. Killzone 2 opening – As the day began to wrap up, after the meal at the University, I began to like the feel of the gown. It began to make me think like I was some Grand Emperor or Villain. Sort of like Emperor Palpatine. But a much stronger image came out, that in the form of Scolar Visari from the Killzone games. At the beginning of the first 3, Visari; who is the game’s primary antagonist makes great speeches to the people of planet Helghan. His speech from Killzone 2 most of all began to resonate out of my head as I began to feel the gown more, like I could make those speeches. At the end of it all though I was pleased to get it off as it was rather heavy.

10. The Hunger Games ending – As the Graduation Ceremony passed, and as me and my parents got back home, I began to feel rather emotional. I didn’t want University to end. I had been going there for 4 years, and I liked it there. I was happy. But it had to come to an end. The ending theme for the Hunger Games appropriately came on. The one where Katniss and Peeta nearly eat the nightlock berries and their time on the train afterwards. That music just kept going through my head, and for most of that afternoon, I failed trying not to cry.

11. This is our God, The Servant King – I began to get out of the emotional afternoon by playing Rollercoaster Tycoon on my PC. When texting a friend though about what I felt, she suggested doing something that took your mind off things, and even suggested some hymns. The one that came to my head was the chorus for the Graham Kendrick hymn: “From Heaven You Came Helpless Babe.” Why just the chorus? Because I couldn’t remember the verses, plus the organ like feel in the chorus came to my head thanks to the amount of Organ playing I had heard earlier in the day. But altogether it worked; it helped me get out of the emotions I felt all afternoon (it was only very recently that I found out what the hymn was really called).

12. Mike Awesome theme – This one is in here only because I listened to it on my Mam’s kindle in the afternoon. It doesn’t really have much other significance during the day than that, but I thought I would cover all pieces of music.

13. Bobby “The Brain” Heenan theme – As the evening began to draw in, the original plan was for me and my family to go out for a meal to celebrate. While we originally planned on going to a Mexican restaurant in Preston, because I felt it was too soon to go back to Preston due to still feeling rather emotional, I asked if we could just grab a Go Burrito, a burrito place in Lancaster) and eat at home with some nice ice cream to follow. Well, as the evening out with my Mam to pick up the Burrito’s and buy some ice cream panned out; I began to feel like I could have milked receiving my Diploma a little bit more. This is mostly due to seeing a couple of people who did just that. One who took a selfie half way through, and another near the end raising a fist in triumph. Well, that’s where this theme came in (another hall of fame piece). I just imagined walking on stage again, playing this theme, waving a hand, (maybe kissing the air to the audience), but sadly I didn’t think about that earlier. Well, that’s where this theme came in, and I pretty much ended the day on that one.

14. The Raid: Razor’s Out – The thing is, after all that I felt like the list of pieces of music I had compiled didn’t really have a sense of closure to it all. It was left on this uncertain note. I felt like for this list to mean anything it needed that closure. I then remembered something. Earlier this year, for a period of 2, 3 months, I could only think about The Raid. After watching it again and writing one of the best reviews I feel I have written this year, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. In May, as my last Academic week with Uni approached, I decided to make the song Razor’s Out by Mike Shinoda and Chino Moreno, played at the end of the film to be my ‘end of University song’. Well, it made sense to use it for this list. It does give closure to the whole day. It’s still an uncertain future, but puts a positive-ish piece, spin on the whole thing. It’s like it’s not ending on a positive, ‘everything is ok note’, but is still saying the future is uncertain, but I am glad of what I have done for the last 4 years and feel like I am ready to move on to the next adventure.

GENEPOOL (Also during the day my brother showed this rather funny Mitchell and Webb Sketch, couldn’t stop laughing afterwards).





Welcome To The Human Race – Escape From L.A.

2 10 2013

Escape From L.A. (Paramount Pictures - 1996)

How long can you leave it until it is too long to produce a sequel? 10 Years is a bit too long in my opinion in the case that you are trying to make another film in the hope of continuing a series. Maybe the best thing to do would be to leave it and either do something else or make a reboot. In 1976 when the Fantastic King Kong remake was released, a sequel began development, but it was not released until 1986 and turned out to be a disaster (0% on Rotten Tomatoes). While the time relation may not affect a film’s performance, apart from having to remind the audience what was released 10 years previously, but it means that the film can suffer from consistent development issues. Another good example of this is the once long-awaited sequel to John Carpenter’s Classic Film; Escape from New York, Escape from L.A. which was released 15 years after New York.

Escape from New York (AVCO Embassy Pictures - 1981)

I first saw Escape from New York in the early 2000’s, and fell in love with it. I loved the dystopian setting of New York as a Giant Prison. The look of it all was amazing and believable, the soundtrack was beautifully crafted and the cast was fantastic. When I was watching it for the first time I was first told of a sequel film called Escape from L.A. but I did not know much about it at the time and it was not until about 2007/2008 that I first saw it. My first impressions of it were good, I liked it, but since then my feelings of the film have been “oh dear” and have constantly decreased every time I’ve seen it since.

LA1

The film begins much in the same way as New York, a little brief introduction of what has happened in the world. The Crime rate in the USA goes up dramatically and Los Angeles island sufferers its worst Earthquake to date, with waterways flooding the area and L.A. becomes an island. A presidential candidate (Cliff Robertson) who seemingly predicts this is made President for Life and brings in new Moral Laws stating that anyone who does not abide with them will be sent to Los Angeles island which has now been surrounded by a containment wall (except for the Pacific side of it bizarrely). In 2013 a Peruvian revolutionary called Cuervo Jones (Georges Corraface) seduces the president’s daughter Utopia (A. J. Langer) and gets her to steal a super weapon. She escapes to L.A. to give it to Jones. Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) is captured once again for a series of crimes and is to be deported to L.A. While there he meets the President, Prison Commander Malloy (Stacy Keach) and his assistant Brazen (Michelle Forbes) who offer him a deal. He unwillingly takes it thanks to a disease planted inside him and he travels by Sub to Los Angeles Island.

LA2

Upon arrival he sees what has happened to L.A. and interacts with some of its residents including a man named Pipeline (Peter Fonda). He spots a parade with Cuervo and tries to get him, but fails. He meets Map to the Stars Eddie (Steve Buscemi) who volunteers to show Snake around. Snake does not take up his offer and goes into Beverley Hills. There he finds a twisted area and hides in the bushes with a girl named Taslima (Valeria Golino), they are then both captured and find themselves in a room full of ugly people. It turns out that the people require constant body transplants to survive and the surgeon general (Bruce Campbell) plans to use Snake and Taslima next. Snake manages to escape and frees Taslima who takes Snake through the underground sewers near to Cuervo’s base. Taslima decides to go with snake only to be killed minutes later. Snake is captured by Eddie who takes him to Cuervo who sends a tape to the president showing him the device. Cuervo then hosts an event at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum where he makes Snake play Basketball. Annoyingly Snake succeeds and escapes, meeting, and then surfing with Pipeline. Snake then meets up with gang leader and old friend Carjack Malone (Pam Grier) who helps him to attack Cuervo who has taken up residence at Disneyland. Snake successfully retrieves the device but on the way back to the mainland with Utopia his helicopter is hit and he crashes.

LA4

Snake walks out of the crash only to be surrounded by guards. Utopia is captured with the device and is sent to the electric chair. The virus turns out to be nothing more than the flu and Snake is shot. However he seemingly survives when it turns out that he is using a Hologram device given to him earlier. He shows that he has the real device, and types in the world code shutting down all electrical systems on the planet. He then finds a packet of cigarettes, has one before turning to the camera and saying “Welcome to the human race”.

The film, while being a sequel to one of my top favourite films and has some nice moments in it, it is generally, cheesy, corny……….bad. The film suffers from the CGI revolution of the period with it mostly appearing to be in front of early blue screen effects. When New York was done before, these kind of effects weren’t regularly available and so was shot on location, however; New York as a result looked better than L.A. For pretty much the entire film, the effects are some of the worst generated images to date and while they are acceptable compared to most films, it looks like the film was made on the cheap despite its budget of 25 Million Dollars.

The film does have some redeeming qualities, the soundtrack while using an updated version of the original theme, has some nice pieces with spy style pieces and some with sounds almost in a rock sense to old western themes, particularly Snake’s theme. The film also has bits that New York did not do such as a thriving outlaw culture in the cities remains and it is nice to see that.

Kurt Russell is amazing as Snake Plissken; I love the character so much. He is the ultimate ant-hero as he really only cares for himself. He is a well-trained mercenary soldier as shown by the awards he has been given. But for the most part he appears to have a cold exterior. There is somewhat of a caring side to him though as there is the odd occasion where he feels for someone, in this case, only very briefly though, Taslima.

Snake Plissken

But for all the good things there are a lot of bad ones including the idea that Plissken is some kind of ultimate hero with him having skills that appear to be superhuman with talents including amazing basketball skills, speed and Surfing. While I still love the character I do feel that this film does not really help in any beneficial way to his character at all and we should only remember him for New York only and in no way L.A.

LA3

While pretty much the rest of cast are just unnoticeable for the most part, there are a few exceptions. Brazen and Malloy have a nice presence about them which is neither cold nor warm and offer an anchor to the film. This is pretty much the same for Pipeline too if for only very briefly.

Malloy, Pipeline and Brazen

But for me, I really like the character of Taslima. She had this nice presence about her. She had a nice look with a bizarre haircut, she had this calming; possibly reassuring voice and she wore this great Leather Jacket. For all the possible persona of being tough, she has a redeeming caring quality about her, you care about her a lot. When she begins to have feelings for Snake, in many a sense you want her to say in the film or (for several reasons) change angle and follow her. When Snake and Taslima split, you wish they don’t but then she follows him before briefly getting shot. That annoys me, greatly annoys me. Out of the top three best things about this film, her appearance is one of them. You feel sad for her death, but annoyed too as you like this character and she gets killed off. Whose Idea was it for one of the best things about the film to get shot? Why? Why kill off this brilliant character. Seriously, Why? I can keep going like this for a while now, I am mad while writing this.

Taslima

Escape from L.A. does have some good points about it. It has Snake Plissken and very briefly Taslima. It has things New York did not do and some enjoyable moments while also having a great last line. But it is mostly bad, I can’t stress that enough. Not just for the death of Taslima, but other points too. There are only a few points about this film I would recommend. While the beginning, ending and Taslima parts of the film are great, for the most part I would tell you to Fast Forward. In short, Escape from L.A. is…………………………………………..you know what, I have had enough of this film, forget it. Let’s just hope that the planned remake of Escape from New York is better than this.

GENEPOOL








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