Film: Rogue One

Well its been a little while since I’ve done a film review, but I felt motivated enough to do this one.

Telling the story of how the Rebel Alliance got the Death Star plans this is a stand alone film set in the Star wars universe.

I wondered if it’d stand up to the behemoths of the ongoing story (the original trilogy and the start of the new one).

It does so very well.

The style, aesthetics and props all tie (!) in with the main films seamlessly. The plot is a good one and as others have mentioned is more of a war film than a space opera.

I’ve watched it a couple of times now and really enjoy it, in fact its main drawback is that all the main characters die – I’d have loved to see more of them ! Even the supporting characters could have had a longer life IMHO.

Minor quibbles – the opening ten minutes or so has a few too many new locations and jumps around a lot so repeat viewing is a bonus.

There’s a lot of new Imperial Stormtrooper types that aren’t seen in the original trilogy (maybe in the next trilogy ?) so a bit of a discontinuity error. That and the whole “Bothan spies” comment in SW:ANH.

Stand out supporting character was the droid, K-2SO. At first you think he is just a pale imitation of C3PO, but it soon becomes apparent that while he is a pedant, he is also much more cynical and perfectly capable lof a bit of direct violence.

Criticism has been levelled at the CGI of Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing) and Princes Leia (Carrie Fisher). Whilst I have not watched in HD, the former is easily part of the scenes and does not jar. The later is slightly more “plastic” but as it is towards the end and very limited not a major problem for this film.

Go get it, and watch it a couple of times, its a keeper.


Sadly, Bill Paxton has died at the rather young age of 61.

You’d have had to be hiding under a rock to have not seen him in Aliens, Predator 2 and several other films of merit.

And for Wargamers everywhere, when have we not silently thought half way through a game lines along these:-

Private Hudson: [after the drop ship crash] Well, that’s great. That’s just fuckin’ great, man! Now what the fuck are we supposed to do? We’re in some real pretty shit now, man!
Corporal Hicks: [grabs him by the shirt] Are you finished?
Newt: I guess we’re not gonna be leaving now, right?
Ripley: I’m sorry, Newt.
Newt: You don’t have to be sorry. It wasn’t your fault.
Private Hudson: That’s it, man. Game over, man. Game over! What the fuck are we gonna do now? What are we gonna do?
Burke: Maybe we can build a fire, sing a couple of songs, huh? Why don’t we try that?
Newt: We’d better get back ’cause it’ll be dark soon and they mostly come at night. Mostly.

When it usually starts out like this:

[during the drop to LV-426]
Private Hudson: I’m ready, man, check it out. I am the ultimate badass! State of the badass art! You do not wanna fuck with me. Check it out! Hey Ripley, don’t worry. Me and my squad of ultimate badasses will protect you! Check it out! Independently targeting particle beam phalanx. Vwap! Fry half a city with this puppy. We got tactical smart missiles, phased plasma pulse rifles, RPGs, we got sonic electronic ball breakers! We got nukes, we got knives, sharp sticks…

And yes, my second game on Friday did mirror this experience.


Winston the Ogre – Peter Vaughan

Yet another great actor dies – Peter Vaughan.

Whilst best known as Harry “Genial” Grouty in Porridge, he also appeared in a number of great films including Brazil, and The Time Bandits.

A great film and very appropriate for those of us who like Fantasy war games, and I am absolutely sure, his character in no way inspired a certain Citadel Ogre figure…

Winston the Ogre: There used to be a time when you could be sure of catching old boots, cans, hat racks, boxes. Now it’s prawns all the bloody time.

I feel that I must name my next Ogre character/hired hand after him.

[the Ogres have caught the Time Bandits and Kevin in their fishing net]
Mrs. Ogre: Aren’t they lovely? We can have them for breakfast.
Winston the Ogre: You mean eat their boots?

Adios Manuel

Andrew sachs, actor who played Manuel in Farty Towels passed away a couple of weeks ago.

I know what I’ll be watching tonight.


Apparently, Andrew Sachs did actually get burnt filming this.

Film: The Walking Dead Season 6


So as promised a review of the latest season that came out on DVD in the UK a couple of weeks ago. Funnily enough, I had a conversation with my dentist of 29 years who regards my mouth as boring (full head of teeth, no caps, crowns or fillings, nothing for him to do) about this and we both agreed we were geeks who like it. I joked given my full head of teeth, come the zombie apocalypse, people will either have to protect me, or avoid me as if I got turned into a zombie my bite would be ferocious.

Morgan is now back as a regular cast member, Lenny James is a great actor, and I liked his work in Jericho.

Morgan has gone all Kendo Master on us, and wields an awesome stick to kill zombies efficiently and quietly.

Other characters get their back stories filled in, even annoying kids.

A couple of new Alexandrian characters turn up and are even useful.

However, the settlement is threatened when they find a nearby quarry fun of walkers who are slowly breaking out, and this is a massive herd. So via a series of flashbacks, the story is told of how most of the herd are taken off course. In the process, Daryl, Abraham and Sasha have a side adventure, involving RPGs and meet up with members of the Saviours group with varying success.

Yup, Daryl after trying out the 3 questions on some escapees he encounters is double crossed after walking ahead of them (bad move). This however sets up an interesting arc that leads to the man he tries to help hunting for him.

Now aside from recapping all the plots, which are done elsewhere, the key theme of this series if the link to Hilltop, a seeimingly civilised nearby settlement that has problem with the aforementioned Saviours.

Rick and co wade in to the conflict between these groups in order to prop up Alexandria which is running low of food and brains it seems.

Alexandria is falling apart, literally as the zombie herd that broke off and besieges the settlement pushes over the church tower that everyone neglected to remove from high next to the walls, and in the ensuing mayhem, many of the Alexandrians get munched including Deanna and Rick’s putative love interest Jessie, whose son then goes on to shoot Carl in the eye.

Despite all these problems at home, Rick and co variously hare off to take on the Saviours, all without understanding the true scale of the Saviours’ greater numbers and logistics. As a result, they are caught out time and time again and end up on their knees in front of the Savious’ leader, Negan.

And we all know how that scene ends – the big cliffhanger as to who gets splatted.


…Carol in a new relationship can’t cope with everything working out and goes AWOL, on her own, underarmed. DOH !

And we all know what happens in the post apocalypse zombie world, she gets into trouble both with walkers, and one of the Saviours. Luckily Morgan has been tracking her and saves her in the nick of time, when some more strangers turn up and may turn out to be allies.

Well that’s a very potted over view.

Key question : Did I enjoy the series ?

Well yes.

Somewhat qualified.

I watched it the first time round, and found the starting few episodes somewhat patchy and difficult to follow.

The total failure of the Alexandria group to clear the area around their walls was another clear failure (I talked about this on Season 2), allowing people to creep up and infiltrate, break down the walls and so on.

The group entering in to a deal, when clearly unaware of the strength of their enemies.

Various characters haring off on their own vendettas and all distracting others to save them from the inevitable and predictable problems.

That said, on watching the entire season a second time, there is a lot more nuance and background material that can be easily missed on the first viewing and that makes this season a bit of a slow burner that will reward over repeated watches.

I’m looking forward to Season 7.

PS: Carl needs a haircut, badly !

Film: Jurassic World

As well as renovating ruins, I’ve being busy with other media, including Jurassic World.

Now, I’d liked the first couple of films in this franchise, so waited for the DVD to be cheap before buying just in case it was on its last legs.


I was right.

Quite simply this is film making by numbers, suitable for writers, directors and producers age 8-12.

It takes the plot elements of the previous films and mashes them up in the hope that the same stuff will work again. Sorry, NO. Films don’t work like that. Films require originality.

The closest this film gets to originality is to the idea that the public is jaded by the ordinary dinosaurs and need ever greater thrills. Which is ironic, because audiences probably are jaded by ever extravagant CGI effects, but the hybrid dinosaur is simply rubbish.

After claiming it had been bred, and nurtured in isolation, we are expected all of a sudden it can communicate and socialise with its genetic forebears (the velicoraptors). Duh ?

Well if the dinosaurs were souless CGI creations, the human actors are souless ciphers. The two brats, sorry kids, that attempt to mirror the first films endearing points fail utterly. Spoilt, self centred and utterly irrelevant they go off on a wholly unnecessary gyro ball ride that is simply an excuse for more boring CGI.

Their Aunt, and hapless sidekick are also caricatures, and the supposed slow burn romance between said Aunt and dinosaur whisperer whose name went in one ear and out the other, is as predictable as unlikely as could be expected. But lets tick all those plot points for some Hollywood executives.

Basically, this film is like a buzzword bingo game played using a film company’s corporate mission statement.

Next up, The Walking Dead Season 6, which will be a bit more interesting review….

Film: Star Wars – The Force Awakens

Having been to see Star Wars (later A New Hope) as a 7 year old, I was disappointed by the prequels, so was very tentative about the new sequels.

I was both pleased and disappointed when I got the DVD of The Force Awakens.

So, a new desert planet (hmm where have we seen that ?), and a new cute droid BB8.

On the upside, the main character is a woman so we move into the twentieth century at least.

Again on the upside, we have a black actor as a main character. Finn is introduced well and provides some interesting ideas about why Stormtroopers always have their helmets on.

So we have The First Order (son of The Empire), which is only sketchily described which may be partly for dramatic tension, but annoying for those who don’t go looking online as to what is going on. Three main protagonists are introduced – Snoke; Ren; and Hux. They’re fairly well fleshed out for what little time they have.

Their screen time is fairly short as with any new film setting up a franchise deliberately, a new swathe of characters have to get screen time to set up the framework the rest of the sequels will populate and develop. So as part of a franchise series no problem – annoying as a stand alone movie and therefore it compares badly to SW ANH when compared one to one. But given SW ANH was pretty much a shot in the dark and didn’t assume a trilogy was a given, its not a fair comparison. So, characterisation so far not bad, not astounding.

Leia and Solo then turn up to support Rey and Finn all of which mesh well together, along with the return of C3PO and eventually R2D2. Solo’s killing was really good, very unexpected to kill of such a popular character at such short notice in the first of the sequels.

The First order’s “Star Destroyer Base” is fairly lame and results in the overall plot of the film feeling like a re-tread of ANH, which detracts from the many upsides of the film.

So overall I think this is a good romp, much superior to the prequels and approaching the original series in enjoyability, and hopefully setting things up for the XII and XIII episodes.


Captain Phasma.

Well she got ran appearance on the posters, got a name, got a unique outfit, and was obviously set up as a major character and then…


Yes, the gag with Solo allegedly dumping her into a garbage chute was a nice one, but really, she needed much more screen time to establish her character.

A missed opportunity, IMHO.

Looks like she will return, and I hope she gets a better amount of screen time//characterisation in the following sequels.

Overall, a good start to a new series of sequels, as a stand alone film so so.

Film: Walking Dead Season 5

Yes, as mentioned previously, I have been indulging in DVD-box-set indulgence.

As per previous seasons, we start off with the resolution of last season’s cliff hanger, only this time it is straight on in with horrifying terror.

Then protagonists, mostly the men, are lined up ready to be gutted – think Long Pig – a smack round the head with a baseball bat and their throats cut.


Carol is on hand to save the day.
Having dealt with the troublesome kids, Carol and Tyreese not only stumble on one of Terminus’ scouts and deal with him (not as effectively as could be hoped it turns out), Carol procedes to enable the walkers to swarm into Terminus allowing Rick et al to escape and rendevous at “the bag”.

With such a large ensemble cast the series really does well to keep the focus of the plot and characters going. There’s a few times the narrative stumbles, especially I felt in the barn when despite all the characters being present, its really only Rick driving the plot. Michone who I thought would have been set up as Rick’s potential other half goes the other way and consistantly argues with him – great stuff.

I won’t go into lots of detail, but Father Gabriel’s obvious lunacy is there from the start, and Noah is the expendeable character following Beth’s unfortunate demise – the entire Atlanta arc is a bit odd. It’s good but seems almost like a throw away idea probably because it is too close to the The Governor/Woodbury arc.

These two don’t get enough time. Obviously as red head, I am all up for us being appropriately represented in the media, but THAT RED ? 🙂

Of course the arrival in Alexandria was interesting – given their arse about face fencing system, I am surprised they have lived that long in that amount of luxury. Especially given the amateur efforts of their scouting squads.

The final scenes of Rick’s almost paranoia were good however – being that long “on the road” impairs vision and I suppose it was *just* that Michone smacked him down.

Overall – very good.

Oh and it did have some NIN (Somewhat Damaged) as well.

This also displaced my other intended DVD box binge, of which more to come.

Film: Rise & Dawn of the PLanet of the Apes – Part Two

So mostly through the ironing pile, I slapped on the second DVD – Dawn of the PLanet of the Apes.

Set some 10 years after the first film, the Apes are holed up outside San Fransisco, with an allusion to a plague killing most of the humans. This could have been expanded upon.


Then they (the Apes) encounter a human scout group who are out and about trying to get hydro-electric power going again.
After initial distrust is overcome Ceasar allows the humans into his territory to get the power going again. As usual, all power structures are at risk to usurpers.

And so it follows a predictable course…some of the humans distrust and disrespect ther apes. Gosh some apes distrust and disrespect humans…

The apes then go and find out that the humnas have a massive cache of weapons.

Talking of which, the humans are holed up in a fortified settlement, lead by Gary Oldman’s character – another criminally wasted talent. Talking of talent, the guards on the weapons cahce, are criminally lacking in talent. When they spot one of the apes, they are totally suckered by the apes, apish comic routine, with predictable results. Hmmm…end of civilisation…intelligent apes on the loose…oh gosh isn’t that a cute ape routine ? DUH.


The apes then turn up on the doorstep of the humans on their magically acquired and maintained horses. The scene is then set for a set to, and after predictable shennanigans of betrayl, stupidity, and suddenly acquired marksmanship the human enclave is over run. The opposition amongst the apes is also suddenly rounded up and imprisoned, whilst Gary Oldman’s character goes ape (excuse the pun) and decides Armageddon times are here again and tries to blow everything up….Just as the radio operator manages to gain contact with a military unit of humans to the north who can save them all.

The apes have their own leadership contest, with Caesar overcoming his would be assassin. There is a touchningly farewell with Ceasar and the main human charcter recognising both sides have bungled it and they’re headed for war – regretably.

This sounds like a very negative review. Actually this film, is much much better than “Rise of…” with much better plotting and potential for sequels. It is the ‘Hollywood’ plot elements that let it down. Again excellent CGI which is seemless with ‘real’ footage. Overall this film is something I will watch again and is really quite good.

These two films might have been better as a TV style series – BSG comes to mind – so that a lot of the sub plots could recieve a lot more attention and some of my critique could have been explained away.

A lot of good ideas for wargaming also spring to mind out of this – mostly on the survivalist angle.

Film: Rise & Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – Part One

When a Kinglet in Lellow, I watched the original 1968 version of the Planet of the Apes films with Charlton Heston which was ok.

apes 1968

I’ve seen part of the remake by Tim Burton, and then at the weekend, I saw bought the latest remake. As it wasn’t my favourite ever film. So it was a good job it was £5, and was a double pack of both “Rise of the Planet of Apes”, and “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”. Yup, £5 for two DVDs – there is an upside to not spending £150 on a TV licence – you can buy a heck of a lot of DVDs. Especially at rock bottom prices from Tescos and Amazon.

So with low expectations, and a high pile of ironing to do I let rip over the weekend.


So Rise of the…. humans doing some dodgy genetic manipulation of chimps, fine so far… but then their key female chimp goes beserk and trashes the place. Hello ? Have you heard of reinforced mesh glass ? Not impressed. And then to top it all, they find that she’d been protecting her infant to whom she’d given birth whilst in captivity in close observation by so called experts. Who then proceed to smuggle the infant out with little thought of quarantine protocols etc.

That is simply unbelievable.

Moving onwards however, the rest of the film is much more believable (as much as any sci-fi movie is), with us tracking Ceasar (the infant chimp’s) progress, and the mental deterioration of the main researcher’s (name omitted its so memorable) father played by John Lithglow. This is done very well, and Ceasar’s attachment to the father, forms a significant plot role. When the father wanders off due to dementia and is attacked by a neighbour Ceasar goes beserk and ends up being sent to a dodgy Zoo for apes where he’s abused, and then inevitably leads a rebellion. Add in some dodgy plot twists and science where Ceasar manages to steal and use the genetic enhancing drugs, and the ape rebellion starts.

There follows some painful to watch scenes where the apes outwit the witless humans by, err, climbing up things ! Apes climbing things ? Who’d have thunk it.

Lost in the background is the rather more important plot, whereby the manipulated drugs start an illness amongst humans, specificly one of the key researchers, who just happens to go off sick and no one thinks to ask why…

As a scene setter, the overall plot is good, but the individual scenes and smaller plot lines are painfully rubbish.
Still for (effectivey) £2.50 its a nice romp.

CGI is flawless and Andy Serkiss’ perfromance also without question great.