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Every Marvel Cinematic Universe Movie Ranked From Worst To Best (May 2019 Edition)

It's been two years since Avengers 2.5, aka Captain America: Civil War and the third Avengers film, Infinity War is here. As we bask in the joy that is Thanos actually doing something more than just sitting in a chair for six years, surely everyone has thought of watching all 19 Marvel cinematic universe films again and ranking them from worst to best? No? Well one (awesome) saddo

Pet Sematary is Far from Purrfect (2019 Movie Review)

Stephen King's works have been a part of our world for 45 years. His iconic novels and the cinematic adaptations that followed helped pave the way for the horror genre we love today. But what happens when one of his book-to-film works gets released to a saturated modern day horror market? Following 2017's IT being a critical and financial juggernaut, Pet Sematary falters to live up to the high expectations set for an adaptation of a work by such a highly respected author.

Dr Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) and his family move into their new suburban home in the small, (definitely not) creepy town of Ludlow, Maine. Things seem normal for around five seconds before the family spot a group of children donning nightmare-fuel animal masks, as they wheel a deceased dog into the forest behind the Creed's new home.
Their walking exposition device of a neighbour, Jud Crandall (John Lithgow), explains that what they've just witnessed is part of a town tradition: kids bury their dead critters in the irritatingly misspelled Pet Sematary. Soon after, Jud befriends the Creed daughter, Ellie, feeling great pity for her following the death of the family's beloved cat. Jud tells Louis of a burial ground beyond the regular Pet Sematary. A burial ground that brings back those that are buried in it.

If you're the type who watches horror films constantly wondering when the next scary thing is going to jump out at you, all whilst wondering where the plot is headed, you're going to be entertained. The story is disturbing all of the way through - not like the recent horrors you've seen in the last few years that incorporate elements of comedy into their scripts - the writing and tone is built on the same blocks of despair and misery that you grew up associating the genre with. The film's presentation matches well with this: being dipped in a delightful mixture of menacing, dirty, horror aesthetic.
Following Church the cat's resurrection, a creepy story that leads to an eerie climax follows. This is where Pet Sematary's biggest flaw comes to light: the majority of this creepy story is basically just build-up. The main plot is brought forward by a series of jump scares, including a few startling claw scratches from a permanently angry and wet looking cat. For the film's second act, the only element keeping you engaged is easily predicting when the next one is going to hit you, making for a lessened impact if you decide to watch it again.
Rachel, the Creed mother, has her own explored little backstory which may as well just be a horror film in itself. A series of childhood flashbacks take you to her childhood where her sister suffered with spinal meningitis, treating you to a small segments of beautifully terrifying gore, making it a shame when you realise it isn't even the main plot.

Despite being merely the obligatory old man in a horror, John Lithgow as Jud is without a doubt the best part of the film. He brings forward the same menacing charisma that made him give great performances as Churchill in The Crown and the best villain in Dexter. It's a shame looking at the lead, Jason Clarke, by comparison. He's a solid B- for every role he does, being a bit of an every-man without anything interesting going for him. Clarke does step up in moments where the emotional intensity really does reach boiling point, but it feels clear that many other actors could've pulled off a better job.

Pet Sematary is the standard horror film package you'll look for when you're in the mood for the eerie and scary, but not if you're looking for a grade-A selection. As you wonder what jump scare shenanigans the zombie cat is going to get up to next, Pet Sematary's already fired its only shot, that is if you haven't already got the big twist spoilt by the trailer. If you ever give it another go when it inevitably gets added to Netflix within the next year, it most likely will be something to keep you going in the background whilst you're scrolling for memes. 


Alt:Mag's Guide to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (2019 Edition)

On November 18th 2018, beloved comic book writer Stan Lee lost his fight with pneumonia. He was the figurehead of Marvel Comics and created many of today’s most famous superheroes including Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and the Incredible Hulk. In the light of his death – and the upcoming release of the film Avengers: Endgame – I decided to revisit a feature I first wrote for Alt:Mag when Infinity War was released. This is a primer for newcomers to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the bestselling film franchise based on Lee’s creations. If you read last year’s feature, feel free to skip to the end for a revised viewing order including all the films in Phase 3. If you haven’t, then read on. It’s time to suit up.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (or MCU for short) is the most successful superhero film franchise of all time. It was started by Marvel itself, who formed their own studio to produce films that not only did their characters justice but brought them all together in a shared universe. As a result, each superhero’s stories aren’t self-contained. Like seasons in a TV series, the MCU’s films are split into groups called “phases”. Each phase follows a storyline that develops over the course of several films, moving from one hero to the next until they come together for a climax. Because of this, you can’t treat a single hero’s films as a separate series – for example, you can’t watch all of Iron Man’s films then move on to Captain America’s. In most cases, it’s best to watch the films in the order they were released. There are exceptions, though, which I’ll talk about later. All the films include additional scenes during the credits, which set up future storylines and hint at the film(s) you should see next. Some don’t come until after the credits, but they’re a trademark of the MCU – and always worth the wait. Of course, you can always fast-forward to them at home if you’re strapped for time.

When Marvel released its first MCU films (2008’s Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk), I was a na├»ve secondary school student who only cared for two of its heroes: Spider-Man and the Hulk. I didn’t take my first real look at the franchise until six years later, when I saw Thor and Avengers Assemble at university. That was when I became aware of the films’ success – and their two main strengths. For ten years the MCU has taken audiences around the world and beyond to many weird and wonderful places, from the mythical realm of Asgard to the farthest reaches of the universe. Their sheer variety, and the way these settings are brought together, have earned worldwide acclaim. However, they wouldn’t be half as amazing without their inhabitants. Unlike the recent DC films, the MCU introduces its heroes one film at a time, allowing you to get to know them in more detail. You’ll learn about their lives, their relationships, and the personal struggles they each face when they’re not out saving the world. If you take away their suits and superpowers, they aren’t that different from you or I. Every one of them has something you can relate to: Tony Stark/Iron Man wants to feel secure in life; Thor, the Norse God of Thunder, wants to do right by his family; Bruce Banner/Hulk must learn to live with a life-changing condition; and Peter Parker/Spidey wants to prove himself to the big guy. Each hero has their own needs and desires and, as it is with real people, they change over time. Their enemies are given the same treatment as well. You might see something of yourself in Loki, Thor’s adoptive brother. You may connect with Adrian Toomes, the Vulture, who does whatever it takes to support his family. You might even relate to Thanos, the so-called “Mad Titan”, who endures incredible loss in pursuit of his life goals. Not all the villains are so well-developed, but whatever your background, you’re bound to find someone to relate to whether they’re good or evil. And they’re played by an all-star cast including Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, and Samuel L. Jackson. Oh, and keep your eyes peeled for Stan the Man – he appears in every film and even filmed a cameo for Avengers: Endgame before he died!

With Endgame's release, there are now a staggering twenty-two films in the MCU. Endgame will be the last film in phase three and the finale of all the films before it – now known collectively as the Infinity Saga. The first two phases follow a clear order, but the films in phase three are less linear, allowing viewers to find an order to watch them in that best suits them. Here’s a list of them all in the order I’d recommend to newcomers.

Phase One

1. Iron Man (2008)
2. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
3. Iron Man 2 (2010)
4. Thor (2011)
5. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
6. Avengers Assemble (2012)

Phase Two

1. Iron Man 3 (2013)
2. Thor: The Dark World (2013)
3. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
5. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
6. Ant-Man (2015)

Phase Three

1. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
2. Black Panther (2018)
3. Spider-man: Homecoming (2017)
4. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (2017)
5. Doctor Strange (2016)
6. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
7. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
8. Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018)
9. Captain Marvel (2019)
10. Avengers: Endgame (2019)

If you’d like to know what happens between the films, there are comics, short films, and TV series that fill in the gaps – but you don’t need to check them out to enjoy the films. Some of you might want to stop at Endgame due to the sheer number of films we have now – myself included – but if you’re still hungry for more after Thanos’ swan song, you’re in luck. Marvel are planning more films for the future including Spider-Man: Far from Home and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Whether they’ll follow the phase structure made famous by past films remains to be seen, but one thing’s for sure: Marvel Studios aren’t going to stop anytime soon!

Avengers: Endgame will open in UK cinemas April 25th. Are you going to see it? Thinking of playing catch-up before you do? Leave a comment below and sound off on Facebook and Twitter, and tell us where you are in the MCU now!

Fighting With My Family: a Worthy Tribute to Paige? (Movie Review)

If you’re a fan of the WWE, it’s highly likely you would have heard of Paige. Following her success in NXT, Paige became the youngest ever Divas Champion at the age of 21. She then helped shape the women’s revolution, which changed the way the female division is viewed. In quite a short period of time, Paige’s successes are quite remarkable. Fighting with My Family is a brand new biopic based on Paige’s journey to the WWE, featuring a true story consisting of dreams, family feuds, and a splash of comedy.

Paige (real name Saraya-Jade Bevis) gets her first in-ring experience at age 13, being thrown into a wrestling match at the family-run business WAW (World Association of Wrestling). Despite not being interested in competing, she quickly learns to love the thrill of wrestling, and it is obvious that a lot of talent lies within. Fast forward to age 18, and along with brother Zak (Jack Lowden) and her parents, Paige helps to train people in the local area in wrestling, as well as putting on shows for WAW. It’s here that the opportunity of a lifetime arrives: a shot at the WWE. When only Paige is selected to go to NXT, a destroyed Zak turns his back on his sister, leaving her lonely and isolated whilst training in Florida. Struggling to fit in, we witness Paige go through some tough mental and physical battles, and a lot of self-doubt. “Be the best you” says The Rock, when Paige and brother Zak ask for advice on how to steal the show, and this is a theme which carries throughout the film. When Paige takes this in full stride, we get to enjoy some inspiring, uplifting moments, all the way up to her debut on Monday Night Raw in April 2014.

Lowden and Pugh as brother-sister duo Zak and Paige

Florence Pugh is incredible as Paige, blending into the role perfectly, with even the iconic scream sounding like the real deal. As part of her journey to the WWE, Paige battles loneliness and struggles to fit in, scenes which Pugh portrays brilliantly. This is a brutal world where a dream can be killed in an instant, with every move under intense scrutiny. Paige is an incredibly likeable character and watching her become more and more isolated and depressed is heart-breaking and tough to watch. Pugh’s ability to master both intense and comedic scenes should not be understated, as we see in some of the more uplifting scenes. Paige’s relationship with Vince Vaughn’s WWE trainer Hutch Morgan is a particular highlight, featuring both highs and lows. Quick-witted jabs between the two score a laugh from the audience, whilst some of the more tender moments allow Paige to open up to the human side of Hutch.

Pugh fits the role of Paige perfectly.

A mixture of young talent and some familiar faces complete the rest of the cast, with big names including Nick Frost, Lena Headey and Vince Vaughn featuring. Producer Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson also has a couple of scenes in the film, due to his involvement in Paige’s WWE journey. The Rock broke the news to the real Paige that she would be making her WWE debut in 2014 on the following nights Monday Night RAW, and had been aware of the Bevis family since seeing a documentary focused on them in 2012. The debut would fall the night after WrestleMania, WWE’s biggest annual event, and Paige would win her first title there. It’s brilliant to see a scene of such importance re-enacted in the film, featuring the man who delivered the news himself. There are even a couple of WWE cameos in the film, such as Sheamus and the Big Show backstage, all of which help add to the authentic feel of the movie and are real fan-pleasing moments.

Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson has an important part in Paige's story

Writer and director Stephen Merchant deserves a lot of credit for the way he showcases the gruelling pain that people involved in wrestling must endure. Wrestlers are shown being thrown around, taking a bowling ball in the groin, and even being thrown onto a canvas covered in pins. Yes, this gets a few gasps in the cinema, but this is exactly what wrestlers must put their body through many times a week, all in the name of entertainment. Similar to a stage play, each person must hit every move perfectly, engage with the crowd, and always be on top form. The pain is all real, and Merchant must be commended for getting this across to cinema viewers. “It’s all fake isn’t it” is a line muttered near the start of the movie. Not at all.

But alongside this, Merchant has added a coat of comedy to the movie, one which helps make the film feel very light-hearted and a joy to watch. Whilst never overshadowing the important emotional scenes, the comedy adds to the story and is genuinely funny. The dynamic amongst the Bevis family is hilarious, with a family meal featuring Zak’s girlfriends’ parents a highlight. When dad Ricky is ordered to put a shirt on for the meal, he suitably wears a Norwich City football shirt. One of the locals Paige is training on how to perform headlocks is ordered to do push-ups for “having a stiffy”. And the Rock dropping in an insult about Vin Diesel is just perfect, all of which makes Fighting with My Family a really fun ride.

Lena Headey and Nick Frost are hilarious as parents Julia and Ricky

Having an interest in WWE prior to watching Fighting with My Family, I found myself engrossed and wanting more. The movie ends following Paige’s WWE RAW debut, where she claimed the Divas Championship. Whilst the credits reference Paige’s achievements following this night, an epilogue featuring Pugh re-enacting the events in the following years would have been great to see. Clips alongside the credits of the real Paige are a nice touch in place of this, however. There are also some minor deviations as to how Paige won the title in real life, although I feel that these actually benefit the movie by adding to the suspense.

Paige in 2014 (top) and Florence Pugh as Paige in Fighting with My Family

Fighting with My Family is one of the most enjoyable films of the year so far, and one which I cannot wait to experience again. Merchant has successfully crafted an accessible film, one which is uplifting and at times very relatable. Sure, fans of the WWE and Paige will likely take away more from the film. The moments will have a greater meaning, knowing the success Paige had in helping progress the WWE forward. But like Rocky, this is an underdog story, full of inspirational moments, featuring an important message of being yourself. With all the positive changes going on in the WWE at this moment as a result of Paige’s involvement in the women’s revolution, there is no better time to experience her story.

Overall Score: 9/10

Alita: Battle Angel is Not Very Good

With a $200 million budget, it seems like Alita: Battle Angel had a lot spent in the marketing department. Its first trailer was released in December 2017, with plenty of additional advertisements and featurettes stuffed down our throats since. During the last six months especially, James Cameron has been popping up using his producer credit to repeatedly ask us to spend money on the film. But Alita is just another decent story that has been ruined in an attempt to craft the next big generic Young Adult franchise. All logic has been thrown out of the window for something more in the vein of Twilight, Divergent or The Hunger Games.

The year is 2563 and everything is terrible. Iron City, the film's setting, is an almost lawless society of partly robotic working class peasants whilst the wealthy upper class, in the sky city of Zalem, look down on those beneath them in disregard. Just like in real life.
Doctor Dyson Ido, a cyber surgeon played by Christoph Waltz, wanders through a junkyard and discovers a mostly destroyed cyborg containing a living human brain. Dyson sucks up the opportunity, taking the cyborg home and cleaning her up. He adds some robotic limbs and gives her the name "Alita", realising she doesn't remember anything about herself or her past life. Followed by a quick tour around Iron City with endless exposition, Alita conveys an eccentric yet independent innocence, making you start to become enamoured with the character. That is until she falls in love with literally the first boy she comes into contact with. Where does the story go from here? What is the main goal driving the plot forward? Honestly, I'm still not entirely sure. In efforts to condense and merge parts of the beloved source material that is the 1990 manga, it speeds through everything in order to cram in as much as possible, while still leaving Alita battle-ready for the shamelessly implicit sequel. The result of this? The story is a mess. I couldn't even tell you where the film split between its first, second and third acts. Scenes are riddled with constant exposition and events are connected in a rushed, nonsensical manner. Even the film's big-bad cyborg that Alita has to fight is nothing more than an irritatingly dull thug who quickly overstays his welcome. Then you've got Mahershala Ali, one of the best actors working today, playing who is supposed to be the main villain but is instead sidelined to appearing in scenes of generic, cryptic Bond villain dialogue for the majority of the runtime. Then there's an even bigger villain teased for the whole film but is of course left out because these guys will need you to spend your money on Alita 2 in a few years.

It's not the fact that it's ALL bad. The world of Iron City is incredibly well made in tribute to its source material. There are shots that are literally taken from the panels of the manga, capturing that rustic 90's aesthetic that comics of that decade had of the distant future, almost matched by the great CGI of the cyborgs living in it. Christoph Waltz is the best part of Alita: Battle Angel, being the perfect casting of the kind, warm-hearted genius that his manga counterpart was. Nevertheless, it's not the world or its flashy effects that are the problem. It's the story that takes place in it. The beginning of Alita's story in the manga has her father-daughter relationship with Doctor Ido at the centre, emotionally and mentally developing the personality of a mature badass. She makes mistakes but she learns from them, developing the confidence of a capable protagonist young readers could look up to. This film, on the other hand, pushes the Doctor and Alita's development to the sidelines for the sake of unwanted love interest, Hugo. Bloody Hugo.
Originally being introduced much later in the manga, Hugo is pushed forward to steal the spotlight from Doctor Ido, banishing Christoph Waltz to the sidelines to walk Alita through the repetitive oral essays of exposition in what feels like almost all of Hugo's scenes. As mentioned previously, despite coming so close to caring for Alita as a character, that admiration begins to slow the second she starts to fall for the cute boy she doesn't know as soon as her eyes are laid on him. It progresses into a forced, cringey love story that makes Katniss and Peeta from the last two Hunger Games films actually look like a decent couple. Love's unwelcome element cements itself as the focus of the story hereon, being the backdrop to events that would be much more exciting without Hugo's involvement. No matter how much my hopes were briefly raised by a half decent action sequence, they would quickly drop with the inevitable return of the love story that nobody cares about, awful dialogue and the characterisation of Alita herself.

A combination of an uneven performance by Rosa Salazar and poor writing made me go from loving Alita as a character to hating her at a record speed. In scenes where she's supposed to be the hero, she comes off more as a reckless brat, with enough over-the-top angry facial expressions mid-shout to make you want to pause it for a minute, just for the sake of getting a good laugh out. That brings me to the full extent of how bad this writing is: me and my friends who I saw this in the cinema with, we couldn't stop laughing. In moments where Alita is giving some form of half-arsed speech, jumping on a table Spider-Man style for the sake of emphasis, or offering to sell her literal heart for a hot guy she met two days ago, it feels like a middle finger to every great female protagonist. The only form of development on Alita's part is based entirely around this one attractive male love interest. I mean why worry about anything else, or even her relationship with her compassionate father figure who gave her a new life, when you can just lazily shift focus onto the hot guy who'll provide the obligatory shirtless shot for the sake of wooing the 14 year-old girls in the audience?

When you stub your toe for the 12th time in two hours

A quick bonus mention of a moment where Alita: Battle Angel takes itself far too seriously too, so slight spoilers here: in a way of trying to create a different-from-the-manga emotional attachment to Doctor Ido's backstory, we get a flashback sequence about his daughter, who Alita was named after. A junkie patient of the doctor's raids his clinic in the middle of the night. Dyson confronts him, with his wheelchair-bound daughter rolling behind him. Despite having no plot-feasible reason to, and with the path towards the door being wide open, the junkie casually decides to walk over to the daughter and punch her in the face, unexpectedly killing her. Other films or series that have executed this type of death-of-a-loved-one backstory much better make this sort of tragedy sensical and natural to the flow of the story being told. This version, on the other hand, is so ridiculously written and poorly acted, you're only left wondering why it was put there in the first place. It's so random and unnecessary, and unintentionally the funniest part of the film. It almost feels like it was something taken from the blooper reel by mistake. They really wanted to hammer home that we should care about these characters more, to the point where they didn't stop to think whether scenes like this were necessary. This was meant to be the film's saddest moment, and I couldn't take it seriously at all due to how horrifically it was acted. Nevertheless, it made for some great laughs.

Final Thoughts

Alita: Battle Angel was in production hell since 2003 and this becomes glaringly obviously when you start to pick up on the kind of typical tropes that you got tired of years ago. Taking what was originally a fully action packed, thrilling and even occasionally funny story full of genuine heart, Alita has been twisted into a comically bad love story with decent effects.
It's not the fact that the movie diverges so much from the manga source material, but that it's simply a poorly written trainwreck in it's own right. The source material merely shows how much better it could have been! It was like James Cameron and director Robert Rodriquez went into adapting Alita with completely narrow and outdated mindsets. It's like they thought an epic story about a headstrong heroine cyborg beating technologically enhanced villains to death, whilst developing a beautifully fleshed out parent-child relationship with her creator, was too "boring", and just decided to dismantle it so it would be more digestible for young adult audiences. But if the whole "Alita falls for a hot dude she has just met" character arc is the best way to go instead of that original epic tale, then there's just no hope for the world anymore.
In the way that The Room is the best bad film ever made, with the writing and acting being so awful that it's hilarious, Alita: Battle Angel is the 2019 equivalent only with a much bigger budget. 

Rating: 3/10

Is PS4 Spider-Man the greatest superhero game ever?

Superhero films are inescapable at the moment. The box office is dominated by them. Merchandise and advertisements are everywhere. You almost certainly won’t see an ‘Anticipated Movies of 2019’ list without seeing Avengers: Endgame on it. We are in what can only be described as ‘the golden age’ of comic book films. 2018 saw at least eight cinematic films, with 2019 showing no signs of slowing down. Marvel saw a box office return of nearly $3.4 billion dollars from Infinity War and Black Panther alone. But with the quality and variety on offer, is anyone complaining? Well, while we have been gifted with a lot of great super hero cinema, where are all the great video games? Understandably, getting the correct formula for super-success is a challenging one, with one of the main issues being around getting the ‘feel’ right. Why do you think we have never seen a good Superman game? On top of this, how far can a studio strafe from the rules of the character's lore, whilst using their own imagination to create an enthralling story?

After seeing the Bat-Signal clearly in the sky, Rocksteady came out of nowhere and surprised the world. Arkham Asylum was an incredible experience and cemented in the ground the blueprint for making a great superhero game. With a detailed world, tons of easter eggs, and an incredible story filled with characters spanning the comic's history, fans could not get enough. But most importantly, Rocksteady did the thing many other developers had failed to do: they made you feel like you were Batman. Whether it’s KO’ing enemies with a satisfying BANG; lurking in the shadows waiting for the perfect striking opportunity, or using your detective skills to solve puzzles, it was clear that the talented developers understood the character. In my view, they had created the best superhero game to date.

The Arkham games proved to the world that good superhero games are possible.

With Spider-Man being arguably Marvel’s most popular character, it was understandable that they would be desperate for a hit game of their own. Not since Treyarch's Spider-Man 2 from 2004 have fans got the game they deserved. Beenox and Activision's final attempt with The Amazing Spider-Man 2’s film tie in was weak, and so Insomniac were handed the reigns. At E3 2016, their game was finally unveiled, and with that expectations shot through the roof. Insomniac games are an incredibly talented developer. Boasting a portfolio featuring (but not limited to) the original Spyro the Dragon Trilogy; Ratchet and Clank; Resistance; and the criminally underplayed Sunset Overdrive, it’s clear that this is a very talented studio. With colourful level design, mind-boggling gadgets and weapons, and lovable characters, Insomniac have created a world of experiences throughout many years of our lives. So could they live up to the hype, and create the ‘Arkham of Spider-Man games’, and even top it?

Releasing in September 2018 and receiving strong critical praise, it was clear they have done just that and more. Opening with a battle against the enormous Kingpin, you are quickly taught the basics of the game, and it’s from here the fun truly begins. Insomniac have nailed the feel of being Spider-Man. Combat, like in the Arkham games, is incredibly satisfying, with lots of variety in the gameplay. Whether faced with a hoard of enemies, taking the stealth approach, or sitting back and letting your gadgets do the work, there are multiple ways to take on most situations. And it's with the gadgets that Insomniac's imagination is let loose.

Web swinging through New York is incredibly fun.

Featuring a choice of 8 different weapons in your arsenal, the choice is all yours on how you inflict pain on the thugs ahead. From Spider-Drones to electrified web, there is plenty on offer here. The suits also have their own abilities, spanning from increased damage to the more adventurous holo-decoys or Spider-Bro’s. The selection and ability to truly enjoy yourself sets the tone for Spider-Man. Peter Parker is a character who loves what he does: getting the player to feel this too is vital to the game being a success.

Controlling Spider-Man is pure perfection. When web-swinging through the city, it’s easy to lose track of time, whether you’re stopping crimes, enjoying the odd high-five with the citizens below, or simply taking in the views of the beautifully crafted New York. The soundtrack is exceptional and really adds to the feel of being Peter Parker. A very Marvel Cinematic theme follows you as you glide through the skies, creating an immense feeling of power and enjoyment. If you ever wanted to unleash your inner child and feel like a superhero, then this is the game for you.

Insomniac really nail the 'feel' of Spider-Man.

Insomniac were given control to create their own world and narrative, and you soon learn that this is not the same story you’ve seen countless times before. Thankfully skipping the origin story we’ve seen so many times before, we find a 23-year-old Peter Parker, balancing life as Spider-Man, working a job and trying to balance a social life. I was hooked: clearly a lot has happened in the years Peter has been Spider-Man, and I wanted to know more.

On top of this, there are hordes of villains hell-bent on bringing New York to its knees, who create mystery and add intensity to the story. Despite taking on the Kingpin and Mr Negative, it’s clear something much more sinister is afoot. With shocks, horrors, and many twists and turns, this is one of the best Spidey stories we’ve seen outside of the comics in years, second only to the brilliant Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. If that wasn’t enough, this game also contains one of the greatest video game cameos of all time.

Aside from the main story, Spider-Man is bursting with things to do, with no shortage of fan service and Easter eggs on offer. Whether it’s the story expanding collectable backpacks, iconic Marvel landscapes for you to snap, or characters such as Black Cat teasing you to find them, you will never find yourself out of things to do. To top off your hard work in completing the collectables and side missions, you are rewarded with some incredible suits, referencing the past movies and comics. It’s worth roaming the skies just to hear J. Jonah Jameson's hilarious podcast rants, about how Spider-Man is the cause of all of life’s problems.

There is a whole range of fan service on offer here.

The game appears to have reignited the completionist in people, with nearly 10% of players having obtained the platinum trophy at the time of writing (myself included). Trying to obtain a platinum trophy can sometimes be tedious, and post-game there is a lot of cleaning up to be done. However, I never found myself bored, and on hitting the 100% completion mark, I couldn’t help but want more.

Sure, Spider-Man suffers ever so slightly will a lull in pace, namely the Mary Jane sections, or the Peter Parker laboratory tasks. But I see these as an opportunity to learn more about the world and characters. Mary-Jane, for example, is no longer reliant on Spider-Man, determined to take matters into her own hands and expose the truth, no matter the cost. The brilliant Laura Bailey brings personality to the character, portraying my favourite iteration of Mary-Jane Watson so far. Experiencing events from another point of view certainly adds to the story.

Yuri Lowenthal and Laura Bailey are fantastic as Peter and MJ.

Spider-Man truly is an incredible game and in my view one of the best on PS4. With sales topping 9 million already (a huge feat for an exclusive game), and sitting on an 87 score on Metacritic, it’s clear that many are loving Insomniac's creation. But is it the greatest superhero game to date? While the Batman: Arkham Trilogy is undeniably brilliant, and a series I look forward to revisiting in the future, Spider-Man for me takes home the crown. While both games feature brilliant stories and really nail the feel of being each character, Spider-Man is a more overall enjoyable experience. I don’t think I’ve had as much fun with a video game in years. Swinging around the beautifully detailed New York is an absolute joy, the intense story keeps you hooked, and the collectables feel incredibly rewarding. Topped off with a brilliant cast of characters, this is a world you won’t want to leave. I can’t wait to see where Insomniac takes the story next.

A Beginner's Guide to Dragon Ball Super: Broly

Dragon Ball Super: Broly not only looks to be an incredible anime film with its fluid animation and action, but it also looks to draw on the best parts of its lore: the backstory and powers of the Saiyans, which is why it's been getting some great reviews by fans and critics.
However, for anyone who's never seen Dragon Ball or hasn't tuned in since the Toonami runs when they were ten, it'll be hard to

Blue Reflection: An RPG Riddled With Lost Potential

It's always hard when you see footage for an amazing game that is already released in Japan and know that it isn't going to receive an English translation for months and months. The wait for Persona 5 was painful, and we've only just received Dragon Quest XI in the West after more than a year of waiting. I was really looking forward to Blue Reflection, a new IP from Gust, the developers of the Atelier series, that was released in the land of the rising sun back in March 2017. It was eventually brought over to us in the West by the end of September of the same year. Really not that much of a wait, but it still felt like a long one, especially for myself after seeing what this game had to offer. However when I finally received it in the post, I was greeted by a game that could not only have benefited from a longer localisation process, but a longer development too.

Blue Reflection has so much going for it on initial glance. It's a high school based RPG featuring magical girl heroines in the same vein as Sailor Moon or Cardcaptor Sakura, with cute hero transformations and over-the-top choreographed attack moves in battle. Players take on the role of Hinako Shirai, a new student at Hoshinomiya Girls High School. Hinako used to be a very good ballet dancer until she injured her knee, making her unable to dance. After meeting with two mysterious sisters Yuzuki and Lime Shijou, she is given the power to fight as a magical girl, or a "Reflector", as the game calls it, which grants her the ability to move freely despite her injury. 
An interesting concept, and one that is presented excellently. Blue Reflection has absolutely gorgeous visuals featuring airy, muted colours contrasted with striking accents of pink and blue and anime-style character models that would make anyone wonder if Hoshinomiya Girls High School was actually a school for pristine, porcelain dolls. And then there's the music. Damn, that music. Composed by Hayato Asano, Blue Reflection's soundtrack is all about atmosphere. For exploration, the music consists of dreamy melancholy melodies with stripped-back instrumentation that serve to perfectly capture the emotions and insecurities that Hinako and her classmates have to face on a daily basis, while the turn-based battles feature face melting, epic as hell electronica; a sonic metaphor for the free-moving badass Hinako becomes when she transforms into a reflector. Honestly, the boss battle themes in Blue Reflection have to be some of the best I've ever heard in a video game. Here, tell me that the song below doesn't make you want to charge head first into battle and kick the living shit out of some monsters:

Unfortunately that's where the good stuff ends for Blue Reflection, because its best qualities only run skin deep. While the visuals and the music are nothing short of jaw dropping, everything else is left feeling incredibly middle of the road. Blue Reflection brings forward a lot of great ideas but never fully commits to them, resulting in extremely shallow gameplay.
Something that attracted my attention from the offset was Blue Reflection's inclusion of social and time management simulation mechanics. E
ach day of Blue Reflection is segmented into sections, morning, after class, evening, etc., with various activities available depending on what time it is. Main story events will occur during the day, with various side missions and friendship events available after class. Main story events usually revolve around Hinako meeting a classmate for the first time, followed by something dramatic happening to them, with the results of the drama being the classmate letting their insecurities take over and Hinako having to travel to the "common" where they must seek out the classmate's emotion fragment that is causing their defect in the real world. Many side quests are more simplified versions of this, with the player having to defeat a certain amount of a certain type of monster, or finding a certain amount of smaller fragments. This, sadly, is as deep as Blue Reflection's main quest gameplay goes: very simple fetch quests. Also, the common is made up of three tiny two part areas, each representing a different type of emotion. These confined areas become repetitive fast, especially with little to no variation in the quests.

You fight monsters using the game's turn-based combat system. The combat is energetic and on the surface seems pretty decent, with an intuitive "knockback" system, which involves your party and the enemy monsters taking their turns in a numbered order. Using specific attacks that feature different levels of knockback can delay an opponent's turn, gaining you an advantage. However, aside from this clever battle mechanic, battles often just feel like a spamfest. Even though enemies are weak to different types of moves, just mindlessly spamming any type of move will eventually defeat the enemy and bring the battle to an end anyway. There is no consequence to this lack of strategy, as HP and MP is restored at the end of battle. HP and MP is basically pointless in Blue Reflection, aside from during the game's boss battles, where these "pure breed" enemies (as the game calls them) have large health pools and strong attacks, requiring you to actually strategise and heal your team regularly. For this reason, boss battles are one of the few moments where the battles of Blue Reflection actually feel genuinely exciting. In boss battles you are able to request help from friends you've met along the way, who can heal or inflict extra damage on the enemy. This mechanic is something I wish was available in regular combat too, due to its charm, as well as the fact that it actually shows some kind of meaningful development to Hinako's relationships. Also it's pretty funny seeing one of your classmates damage a skyscraper-sized boss with a tennis serve.

Blue Reflection wants to make you feel like Hinako's relationships can be explored further outside of the main story, but interactions between Hinako and her classmates are incredibly limited and completely lacking in any genuine personality. You can talk to friends and occasionally answer questions they ask. You can also spend time with them, which involves going to what feels like one of three different places and watching a cutscene of Hinako and her classmate having a pretty dull conversation about pretty pointless stuff. This increases the relationship stat with the respective character, and that's as deep as the relationship system goes. It's somewhat similar to the the social link system Persona offers but absolutely stripped bare. The only reason you'll ever need to bother with it is to earn enough points to advance the story, but that shouldn't be the only reason for investing time into these characters.

Then there's evening events. Hinako returns home and has the option to do one of a few things that rarely vary. Do stretches, get in the bath (basically just an opportunity for the developers to show Hinako in her bare necessities) or prepare for the next day. These actions quickly turn out to be nothing more than superficial time-wasting filler, and have little to no impact on anything in the game, yet every evening, you've got to select something to do. One of the actions will lead to a cutscene at lunchtime where one of Hinako's classmates gets interviewed over the school tannoy, but upon introducing the character being interviewed, the scene skips to the end of the interview, resulting in the inclusion of this scene being completely and utterly pointless. This is just an example of many occasions where it seems like the developers of Blue Reflected wanted to implement some kind of mechanic with actual depth, but had to cut it short due to time constraints (or were just too lazy to see it through).

The worst example of this is a particular mini game featured in FreeSpace, the OS that Hinako's mobile phone runs on. FreeSpace is actually really cool. It allows Hinako to message her friends (while fun to read, the messages scroll way too fast), change music (a welcomed feature), read journals, and even take care of what is effectively a Tamagotchi-style pet (this is actually pretty cool). However a few chapters in, you are introduced to an area of FreeSpace where one of the characters gives you a hint on where she has left a bear that she has made. Upon finding the bear, you can't click on it, and you don't receive an award for finding it. I had to Google it to confirm, but yes, that's the extent of the mini game. You just locate the bear and look at it. That's it. While I initially tried to see past Blue Reflection's flaws because of its stunning presentation, its good story and its rather decent concepts (at least in theory), this mini game absolutely astounded me. To me it was probably the most blatant example of how shallow Blue Reflection really is. No element of its gameplay is ever seen to fruition, resulting in much of it feeling incredibly half-arsed. If the game had spent a longer time in development, Blue Reflection could've been something so much better. Sure it looks nice, really nice in fact, but even the game's strongest attribute - its presentation - takes a hit due to a rushed development. Cutscenes skip frames of animation and reuse character animations constantly, resulting in characters moving and popping out of nowhere in a somewhat jarring manner. Sometimes in battles the frame rate takes a hit too. Even the localisation seems rushed, with dialogue being occasionally riddled with spelling errors, which, at least for me, is incredibly immersion breaking. Was there no one in the localisation team who thought it might be a good idea to double check it before release? It's not just simple grammar errors, but full on spelling mistakes at times - some of which are in the menus!

Blue Reflection could've been so much more, and because I bought it day one, I've constantly felt an obligation to see past its pitfalls. I want to complete it because I would like to see the story (which is decent) through to the end, but I'm not sure I want to waste my time with it. The issues caused by Blue Reflection's rushed development and localisation are too blatant to ignore. It's such a shame because the few strong moments that Blue Reflection does have are a testament to its lost potential. Perhaps maybe one day Gust will revisit this franchise and give it a little more care and attention, but until then, Blue Reflection will just be mediocre at best. 

Top 5 Movies of 2018

2018's been one of those years for film that's been all over the place. Whilst there have been some horrendous disappointments (mostly Venom), there have also been some absolute gems, including some that were definitely unexpected. Here's my top five films of 2018. 
As is the case for any standard list of the best things, this is all just one man's opinion (even though it's obviously the right

Laid-Back Camp is the Perfect Winter Anime

I'm always looking for a profound viewing experience - something cerebral. The kind of things others might view as too heavy or pretentious. But sometimes I just want to chill and enjoy something laid back. Laid-Back Camp (or Yuru Camp, as it's known in Japan) is exactly that. I mean, it's there in the name. And no, it's not an Animal Crossing spin-off. It's an anime that aired from early January

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