Sunday, 27 January 2013

My Show, Harry's Show, The Miserables.

This is my Show, Harry's Show, The Miserables... It really was nice of Universal Pictures to front the cold hard cash required to put on a film about my good friend Harry, a musical masterpiece marveling his musings on the big screen for all to see. It truly is a dream come true to see his life being put on for millions of people to s... oh, right yes, inside jokes and all that.

If you've been comatose for the last 25 years or indeed militantly against musical theater, it is probably not wrong to assume you've heard of Les Misérables or to those in the know, Les Mis... The book by Victor Hugo , the musical that has ran on Broadway for 25 years and now the film, is about a French convict come good Samaritan (Jean Valjean) who breaks parole and is forever escaping the capture of a Policeman (Javert). All this is set against the backdrop of the French Revolution, exciting times. There's a daughter involved and various family/love interests that either help or hinder the hero's cause in some way.

The film took a while to get going in my opinion. It was only really when our timeline of events entered Paris (where both Javert and Valjean are in the autumn years and the daughter Cosette is all grown up) when the cinema sat up out of their chairs: a combination of edge of their seat engagement in the film and also a reflection of the viewers desire to get out their seats and get involved, to join the revolution as it were. From then on it's a mixed bag of camaraderie, honour and heroism which one can't help but be drawn into: either the viewer is rooting for Valjean's cause (an awful injustice on his part) or the viewer is rooting for the young revolutionaries dogged fight against the ruling classes. 
All set during the French Revolution

 It is a musical, and you cannot really avoid that if you're not especially keen on this kind of thing. But honestly this is one of the most thoroughly well put together musicals i have ever seen. Hugh Jackman does perfectly well, as indeed do all  the cast. Russell Crowe has been criticised, but i believe he played the role perfectly, his gruff tone only added to the atmosphere when he and Valjean confront each other. 

I would recommend the film to most, although if you ardently dislike musicals i would avoid this number, near enough every line is sung. 

I can understand if you're not convinced, "It's a musical, it's all singing and dancing, not that keen on said actor" etc etc may well crop up as prejudices about the film, but consider the following: during the film, something incredible happened. People clapped at the end, this isnt something i enjoy, i always feel it a bit awkward but consider this; people clapped during the film as well. In addition, in a big cinema such was the one i was in, a quick glance around and everyone was either mouths open, or had tears running down their faces. Such universal, cinema wide engagement in the film has to count for something, and i can confirm i was caught up in it just as the family were when i went to watch it. Head over to the local movie theater and see if you get caught up in it all as i was. Manly tears were definitely shed.

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Thursday, 24 January 2013

Hitman: Absolution

A look back at the games i've played in 2012 (and a little spill over into 2013 in this case!) Hitman: Absolution is probably the best game i have played all year.

Okay, the line-up of games isn't too impressive, nothing worthy enough to make my claim of best game of 2012 at all legitimate, but i've played in 2012: FIFA 2013, Madden 2013, Rugby Challenge, F1 Race Stars, Max Payne 3, Assasin's Creed Revelations (yes, its not the latest in the series but i played it for long enough in 2012 to warrant it a 2012 game!), London 2012 (Olympics), Call of Duty MW3, Sleeping Dogs and finally Hitman.
Agent 47

Yes, it's mostly been sports games, but compared with the "non-sports" games Hitman is the standout.

 The thing about Hitman is something that has been missing from so many games lately: a varied and open ended game which gives the player the choice to make his own choices about how he wants to complete the game. The market is perilously overloaded at the moment with games that signpost the trail for you that it's like you're riding on that Ghost Ride at Alton Towers: You sit in your wagon, you can kill as many or as little as you like but in the end you'll follow the pre-determined track to a pre-determined destination.

Agent 47 dressed to Kill (literal) in a sewer workers uniform
Hitman throws that right out the window. As the title suggests, the bulk of the game is spent killing targets. That's about all you're given in terms of objectives, it's then up to you how you do it. The choices are as good as endless. You can choose to use one of (usually three although up to i'm told ten)  signature kills (which are spectacular) which involve for example, stealing a particular disguise, using it to access a particular room in which there is a particular button and pushing said button can kill the target as the button releases the load suspended on a crane onto the target. This of course has to be done stealthy for it to work, doing so will earn you bonuses.

Alternatively, you can go your own way, use your own weapons, objects or scenery to kill the target.

Hitman performing a signature kill:
poisoning the targets lunch of Sushi
The game is heavily based around stealth, although you can shoot your way through missions, you wont be rewarded as heavily at the end of the mission. The game is best played patiently, using your time to scope out targets, evaluate the setting before infiltrating and executing the mission. If you consider each mission like a mini-movie, you can begin to appreciate the games best parts. Of course in a movie, you need to set the scene (which in this case would be familiarizing yourself with the setting) before identifying characters and identifying a plan of action. This is done either through intuition, or in most cases listening in on other characters (baddies) in the game - "hey, can you believe the load on that crane is suspended like that, that could kill someone" - at which point you need to figure out how to use said scenery to kill the target (making it all look like an accident). Then, you must escape the area unseen. Having gone through all this, each mission is indeed like a little movie, which for me made the game more enjoyable.

The paitence aspect builds atmosphere and suspense. If you're spotted and guards get suspicious you must then wait around in a nearby store cupboard and wait for them to pass, or you wait for your target to get into position. All this steady build up results in unsurprisingly, a game with a long shelf life. With many games featuring the wham bam thank you ma'am approach, this is a welcome change.

I saw the game recently on Amazon for less that £20, which while a couple of months out of date, is an absolute steal. There are a number of other mini and online games after you complete the story to enjoy. Buy this game, and by all means thank me when you've completed it.