Wednesday 21 October 2015

Worst to Best - Back to the Future

Today is a very special day to many. In the second entry to the acclaimed Back to the Future trilogy, one Marty McFly travelled from 1985 to 2015 - specifically, October 21, 2015! Today, of course! We now have to accept that this movie is going to be one set in the past, even in it's futuristic setting, and that it's depiction of a high tech 2015 wasn't exactly as accurate as the end result. But hey, it got some things right.

Enough of that...to celebrate today, I've decided to compile my most predictable and brief Worst to Best list yet!

#3 - Back to the Future Part III (1990)

After the first film sent us back to 1955 and the second all the way forward to 2015, Back to the Future Part III decided to make the title's journey even more problematic by sending Marty McFly back to 1885; that's right, into the old Wild West. There, he of course encounters all number of typical cowboy trademarks, such as gangsters shooting at his feet, manic bar fights, and intense train chase sequences.

Though in spite of it's ambitious nature and admittedly pleasing charm, this third installment of the trilogy is not as engaging as it's predecessors, predominantly because it just feels like we've seen all of this before and that the only new difference is the satire of a famous genre. It has the excitement, and there's still some clever structuring to the narrative, but it's lacking the memorable appeal of those who came before it and it seems like the formula had really dried up by the time this conclusion came around. An enjoyable watch, but nothing more.

#2 - Back to the Future - Part II (1989)

Back to the Future Part II is a little too clever for it's own good - and this results in a plot that's extremely ambitious but also rather convoluted. First, Marty McFly is taken into to today's date to rescue his future son from entering a world of crime, but his actions there lead to disaster when he returns to 1985 and inadvertently (as usual) gives a dangerous...well, sort of weapon to an old foe. The future 2015 is thus skewed into a new corrupt timeline, which must be fixed by going back even further to the past...and, well, I'll seriously be here all day if I have to sum it up to those who for some reason haven't seen it.

Again, when you really get to grips with it, you can see how much thought went into the structure of the script, especially when it coincides with that of the original. The main issue is some gaping albeit unavoidable plot holes, which detract from the solidity and general purpose of the storyline, though it's not something you may notice when just chilling back for a general viewing. It's easy to ignore thanks to a charming cast and pleasing sense of humour, and so in spite of a few issues, I still find this to be a worthy successor to a much loved classic.

#1 - Back to the Future (1985)

Nothing beats the original, that's for sure; Back to the Future is beautifully constructed from start to finish in terms of humour, adventure, and stunning special effects. Michael J. Fox portrays the rebellious Marty McFly when he is zapped back into the past, inadvertently damaging relationships with his younger parents and jeopardizing his future existence. He is joined by a lineup of fine supporting actors, including Christopher Lloyd as the beloved Doc Brown, as well as Crispin Glover, and Lea Thompson.

What makes this film such a breathless experience is the subtle references that link both past and present, as well as the hysterical amount of murphy's law situations that Marty finds himself stranded within. It's a clever story at it's finest, but also one that's simple to follow thanks to a confident and well told approach - as a result, Back to the Future remains one of the industry's most iconic and outstanding summer blockbusters that any respectable film fan must see without question.

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Thursday 15 October 2015

Movie Review - Hotel Transylvania 2

The original Hotel Transylvania was an unremarkable animated effort, offering little appeal for adults who expected more than an onslaught of silly slapstick gags involving random monsters with celebrity voices. But with it's successful box office figures and somehow loyal fanbase, a sequel was never going to be an impossibility, and three years on it's finally here; offering a mixture of surprising and unsurprising results.

The plot features Count Dracula (Adam Sandler) celebrating the marriage of his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) and her other half Johnny (Andy Samberg), and later the birth of their first child Dennis. When Mavis and Johnny go to visit the human world, Dracula and his colleagues are trusted with babysitting little Dennis; and by babysitting, I mean doing everything they can to make sure Dennis knows how to be a monster whilst his protective parents are out of the picture.

The first problem with Hotel Transylvania 2 is it's abrupt start, with several time jumps skipping over crucial story points and making for a rushed and overly brisk pace. Of course this isn't a film that's meant to boast a rich and complex story, but when you race into the specifics without really explaining much of whats going on, it can make watching a simple kiddie flick an irritating experience. Once the meat of the storyline gets going, and once the initial stupidity tones down, this sequel proves to have substantially more highlights than the original, albeit not enough to help it compete with some of the better animated offerings out there.

Product placement and pop culture gags are overdone to the point where they become absolutely unbearable; it's a shame because the film does actually have many moments of witty slapstick and funny albeit silly dialogue. There's also really no substance to the story; it's hollow at it's core, with a lack of focus and a few pointless roles here and there - namely Mel Brooks as Vlad, Dracula's bitter father, who turns up at the last minute for a role that serves no purpose other than to kickstart the climax. But with that in mind, Hotel Transylvania 2 is still a harmless experience that's bound to entertain young children, and even has enough spirit to give some adults a laugh along the way.

Sunday 11 October 2015

Nintendo 64 vs. PlayStation

The Nintendo 64 was Nintendo's third home console, whilst the acclaimed PlayStation, or PSOne, was Sony's first entry into the video game market. Both competed during the sixth generation, alongside the Sega Saturn between 1995 and 2003. The Saturn trailed with 9.5 million units sold and faded away quickly, whilst the Nintendo 64 reached promising heights with global sales of 32.5 million. However, the PlayStation lead the way by far with sales of 102.3 million, making it the fourth highest selling game console only behind the Game Boy, the Nintendo DS, and it's successor, the PlayStation 2.

Both consoles offer similar 3D graphics, finally introducing gamers to a far more complex and open world for gaming. The PlayStation innovated the market in terms of offering larger games on CD's and the inclusion of memory cards, whilst the Nintendo 64 boasted an impressive lineup of first party titles and a total of four controller ports, allowing for larger and more dynamic multiplayer offerings.

The inputs also differ - Nintendo 64 games were playable via cartridges inserted into the top loader, whilst the PlayStation became one of the first systems to utilise discs and external memory cards. Cartridges negated the need for these memory cards and made excessive load times virtually non existent, but had limited storage space compared to it's disc competitor - which could store around 10 times as much data. This meant N64 games featured little to no full motion cutscenes, and large third party games ported from the PS1 would be dramatically downgraded in several areas. In the end, these formats both have their perks and weaknesses, with none really outweighing the other once you sit down and just enjoy the games; and while cartridges have their limitations, they can still take one hell of a beating over the years and work to perfection.

Nintendo's first party offerings made the N64 one of the best console's in history; boasting stellar titles such as Super Mario 64, Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask, Donkey Kong 64, Star Fox 64, and many others, though it was lacking on the third party front. Most notably, however, now Microsoft-owned Rare produced the renowned GoldenEye 007 and Conker's Bad Fur Day exclusively for the N64, which later became two of the most beloved titles on the system, despite the latter being met with poor general sales. One of the core weaknesses, at the end of the day, was a distinct lack of third party support compared to the PS1, which didn't exactly help to market the system to those looking for new offerings outside of Nintendo's current franchises.

The PlayStation had a multitude of first party and third party games, with notable franchises being Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon, which helped to broaden it's appeal. Crash Bandicoot remains one of the best games I've ever played, and Spyro 2 probably ranks as my favourite game on the console itself. However, it sometimes just felt that the primary first party titles of the PlayStation could not compete with Nintendo's own, and made far less of an innovative impact on today's industry. Still, there's no shortage of enjoyment for fans of many genres.

The N64's controller is, for me, one of it's core flaws - whilst it tried to be crafty and allow for flexible gaming, it was rather cumbersome to hold and had a mediocre and relatively uncomfortable analogue stick. It's large size also makes it look ridiculous and unattractive; the PS1's pad, on the other hand, is comfortable, compact, and features two precise and soft analogue sticks; behind the Gamecube controller, the PS1 controller is probably one of the best to date, and it's no wonder Sony have chosen to stick with this design even decades on.

There's no real superior console here as they both have their pros and cons; and each one caters to the fans of the franchises that stem from it. The N64 and PS1 remain massive favourites of mine, and whilst I lean towards the former more so due to it's outstanding first party offerings, it's no doubt that these consoles are a massive highlight in the history of video gaming.

Thanks for reading!