Binge-Flix: Big Mouth, Jack Whitehall Travels and Toast of London

Quality television. It entices us, it confuses us, it unites us and it divides us. Despite this, there’s no denying that everyone is obsessed with it. Be it us little folk with our little opinions on Reddit, or the multitude of streaming services, such as Netflix and Now TV. The former block-buster service strives to achieve “quality television” status with many of its Netflix Originals shows. Shows in which I seek to test their Quality mettle with rigour and ruthlessness. And maybe some humour. You decide…

In Binge-Flix I will force myself to watch at least ONE Netflix Original show. Be it the next reality-bending series of Stranger Things, or a vomit-churning kid’s cartoon reboot, I will sit down and watch it.

Accompanying whatever exciting (or dreadful) programme the people at Netflix have pumped onto their service will be a selection of shows that have caught my eye. Happy reading!


October 12th, 2017

This week is jam-packed with awkward humour, goofy humour and just plain rude humour. All of which can be found in some shape or form in Netflix Original no-way-is-this-for-kids show Big Mouth, another Original, Jack Whitehall: Travels With My Father or rough gem Toast of London. This is humour week. Enjoy…

Big Mouth (Netflix Original)

Big Mouth

Oh boy. Where do I even start? If someone asked me to describe Big Mouth I’d tell them to imagine sex education lessons in school – now make it a cartoon with hormone-raging kids. Oh, don’t forget the surprisingly explicit nudity, crude language, awkward boners and of course, the Puberty Fairy. Wait, I mean Hormone Monster…

This show has NSFW written all over it. And it’s actually pretty good. That’s coming from someone who doesn’t really take to South Park‘s particular flavour of jokes. I say that, because after watching the trailer for Big Mouth that’s likely to be the show you think of. I can confidently say that Big Mouth is very much it’s own.

From the get-go you’ll be thrown into extremely awkward coming-of-age situations and relatively explicit visuals, when all is considered. It’s simply bizarre seeing any ounce of nudity when watching a cartoon, but then again, The Simpsons Movie did it. Not that it makes any less weird. It’s a meandering journey of highs and lows, obsession and forgiveness, and don’t forget the dreaded Pornscape.

Moving on from the fact that I can’t remember the characters names (probably just me), I did find myself grow close to each of the teenagers. As they survive through their rather fruitful happenings, you can’t help but feel sorry for them all and with that you kinda begin to relate. Teenager angst and frustration is the worst, after all.

The Good: Without being of utterly bade taste, Big Mouth did a fine job of pushing boundaries in a cartoon. More please, Netflix.

The Bad: Some more ‘filler’ episodes took a lot of time to repeat points made in previous episodes. These lead to some scenarios where I felt I could leave the show to play in the background while I did something else.

The Ugly: The art style is not my favourite. Some of those faces are too strange for my liking…

Jack Whitehall: Travels With My Father (Netflix Original)

Jack Whitehall travels

Jack Whitehall is venturing off on a special two-week “gap yah” with his dad in this blend of comedy, travel and family feuds. There’s stunning visual work with panning shots of Taiwan’s vibrant markets, Hanoi’s beautiful rivers and Cambodia’s enticing, erm, minefields… Of course, there’s some funny bits, too.

It’s just how you’d imagine it with your own father; you’re young, you know the latest crazes and you understand that people don’t need to be talked to in an inappropriate “We. Are. From. England. What. Is. Your. Name?” voice. The dad on the other hand, well, he does just about the opposite. Jack Whitehall: Travels With My Father is 3 hours of this hilariously awkward sitcom of  father and son misunderstandings with the stunning backdrop of Asia.

With six 30 min episodes binge-watching through this series is relatively easy. It helps that they re-locate almost every episode to keep it fresh, and the activities, although feel slightly slotted in, show off some really interesting cultural differences between East and West. Of course, when Jack’s dad Michael orders Welsh lamb from one of the fancier hotels it really juxtaposes the whole “experience”. But that’s the joke, and it is funny.

I’m looking forward to where they go next, assuming there’s a series 2 and Michael Whitehall isn’t put off by the whole thing. I guess we’ll see.

The Good: I just can’t get enough of those gorgeous camera shots. Seriously, they are Planet Earth kinda good.

The Bad: Not enough. 6 episodes? I don’t want to stretch poor Michael too far, but come on, they are short and juicy and I want to binge more.

The Ugly: The activities, as well as some of the awkward moments, felt pretty darn staged. It’s a real shame that they couldn’t have blended better with the rest of it, because there are some genuinely funny truffles in here!

Toast of London

Toast-of-London

Bloody Ray Purchase. Bloody Clem Fandango. Why is that so fun to say? Putting on Matt Berry’s character’s voice for Toast and saying just about anything is great. Go on, try it now. Don’t know how? Watch this complete gem of a show and you won’t be able to stop.

I stumbled upon Toast of London while digging into the dark crevices of Netflix’s long list of shows, and I’m so glad that I did. Fans of The IT Crowd will feel at home with this extremely goofy and outrageous comedy. Matt Berry does a brilliant job of maintaining his IT Crowd blunt and silly humour in Toast of London, yet, he’s not the only one. Everyone in this show is crazy. Most of them are more crazy than he is. Funnier still, Toast often seems like the most sane person in the programme.

This show should definitely be on your watch list. Out of the three programmes I watched, Toast of London was the one I had myself laughing out loud, constantly. At the time, I was sharing a hostel room with two other people, who I had to apologise to for laughing so much. Then again on the train home I did the same thing. Couldn’t help but giggle like a little girl at some the really goofy situations. I just love it.

The Good: Probably everything. Yes, that’s right, everything.

The Bad: Probably nothing. Yes, that’s right, nothing.

The Ugly: Oh wait, there was one thing: CLEM ‘BLOODY’ FANDANGO!

Alexander Jones

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Will the new Tomb Raider film suck?

Alicia Vikander stars as the new Lara Croft

Alicia Vikander might consider Angelina Jolie the true Lara Croft, but with 20% on Rotten Tomatoes, I think she’s got a better chance at becoming the crypt ravager fans deserve.

There’s a hot-off-the-press official poster for the 2018 instalment circulating the web, pictured below, that has sprung a fairly divided discourse among fans of the series.

TRposter
Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft

It turns out, if you share something you’ve probably poured your heart and soul into for the last couple of years on the internet, someone’s going to mock it. You’d think people would be desensitised to it by now, but on and on the wheel spins…

Anyway, ignore that detour, people have been seriously vocal about the upcoming Tomb Raider film, based on the video game. WAIT, this film isn’t just based on the titillating game series, it’s actually following the story-arc of the 2013 reboot. Arguably, a much more respectful embodiment of the character, and by that I mean less sexualised and OTT body proportions. But, Tomb Raider, undoubtedly, has been under-siege ever since it was announced.

You can’t always blame people for being concerned; films based on video games are notoriously awful – I recently watched the Assassin’s Creed adaptation, and my god, I couldn’t help but laugh. AND I’M A FAN OF THE SERIES. I really thought we’d have gotten a decent video-game-film by now, but alas, we continue to wait.

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Well that escalated…

But THIS is it. Well, it could be it. Come on, it has to be?

I do believe that Tomb Raider 2018 could be it. No, seriously, this could be it. Why would it go wrong? Alicia Vikander is a beautifully talented (and beautiful) actress who’s proven to be the one to watch in the future – just give Ex Machina (Mak-in-ah) a watch and you’ll see for yourself this lady’s talent. The photos leaked from the set also give the impression that costume design and locations are on-point for this film, so I’m fully optimistic about it all.

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see, but I’m going to say it now: Tomb Raider 2018 will be good.

Alexander Jones

 

Lens flares are the WORST

Can you see what’s going on? Because I can’t…

Some things really grind my gears.

People who talk with their mouth full of food, plug sockets left on without anything plugged in and people “borrowing” my stuff without my permission. Grr. But, nothing quite annoys me like lens flare. It’s the bane of TV and film. No, it’s not arty to obscure what’s happening on-screen with blinding light, it’s stupid.

What brought this ridiculous technique back into the limelight for me was BBC’s new Trust Me drama series, starring the newly announced 13th Doctor, Jodie Whittaker. I sat down with my parents out of interest to watch Jodie play a ‘doctor’, before becoming THE Doctor, and it all seemed tame and enjoyable, until we moved to the operation theatre. Oh my god, my eyes. My poor, relaxed eyes. Lens flare, lens flare and lens flare. Every light becomes a blinding beacon of burning rays directly penetrating your eye sockets and resulting in a migraine. I wish they warned me to wear my sunglasses before sitting down to a relaxing drama programme, jeez.

It’s not just BBC’s Trust Me series that is guilty of trying to permanently damage the audience’s eyes, either. Nope, the most well-known perpetrator is the new series of Star Trek films. Jesus, Abrams, what were you thinking? I’m still uncertain as to what 80% of the first film entailed because I couldn’t see who was talking and what was going on. Does anyone even know what the inside of the Enterprise even looks like? Is it just walls of light? How aren’t the crew burning up? These are the crucial questions on my mind.

This amazing video on YouTube really justifies my gripe with lens flare. It’s not a “small” thing that I can ignore or just move on from, it’s so fundamental to the film that all three Star Trek films feature the style. J.J. Abrams has attempted to explain his excessive use of lens flare in his films, saying that “I love the idea that the future that they were in was so bright that it couldn’t be contained and it just sort of broke through…”. I can kind of see where he’s coming from? Nah, not really, he’s crazy. No matter what you say J.J., lens flare will never prevail!

I would love to discuss with you the fine details of using lens flare in film, but the thought of doing so makes me angry. So, instead I’m going sit in a dark room, close my eyes, and wait until the next episode of Game of Thrones comes on.

 

Alexander Jones

 

 

I was wrong about Star Wars Battlefront II

The reason is better than you think…

So, here’s a quick fact for you: I’ve played EA’s Star Wars Battlefront (2015) for over 280 hours. 280 HOURS. Nope, I can’t believe that either, and I refuse to let it cloud my judgement with whether the game was actually any good or not. It wasn’t. But, I did love it.

I’m allowed to say that because now that I’ve checked my Xbox profile and statistics, I have evidence. After my lifetime spent playing the bare-bones, lack-luster, but stunning-looking Star Wars Battlefront I can admit that it wasn’t a fine moment in gaming history. Quite the opposite. In fact, it goes to show how heartless a game can really be. As I write this, I have the haunting sounds of bad Han Solo and Luke Skywalker impressions circling my thoughts. Ugh.

star-wars-battlefront-2-classes-hero
Classes make a well-received return

No, it definitely wasn’t the action-packed callback to the original we had all been hoping for, but here we are in the summer of 17, already hyped up for the sequel. It looks good though, right? It’s not just me? All eras, space combat, Darth Maul, Rey, Classes, customisation, Darth Maul, point system, Rey, land vehicles for both armies, Darth Maul, Rey, REY. You can’t say that criticism has been received and not acted on.

This is the game the fans (that includes me!) had been dreaming of from the first teaser in 2013. I was wrong about the sequel in my last post because I didn’t think they’d include the latest era, or the original trilogy, actually. The announcements at E3 blew me away, and I just cannot wait any longer to play as Rey, Kylo Ren, Maul, Jango and Grievous (they better bloody be in it…). No excuses now EA, you’ve opened the Star Wars floodgates onto Battlefront, so now it’s time to deliver.

Abandoning the season pass has already tipped the public in favour of the sequel, and it’s a nice gesture. It feels like an apology for the first one’s embarrassment, and so it should be, but don’t let that distract you from what EA plans on doing next to make an extra buck off loyal Star Wars fans… loot crates. Dum, dum, dum.

star-wars-battlefront-loot-crates.jpg.optimal
Uh-oh

So far, in a galaxy far, far away, Battlefront II’s promotional material has been emphasising (like a sore thumb) the significance of Star Cards, cringe. I’d have to place a bet on EA going all-in on this money-making-model which has worked so well in previous games (Overwatch, Call of Duty, Battlefield, Injustice).

It’s not great, but I’m honestly ok with it. They’ve already said that the crates can be earned through in-game progress too, including the more advanced tiers of loot crates. Looks like I’ll be battling it out again for another couple hundred hours for those special legendary powers (yay).

Ignore what people have been saying about Battlefront II going pay-to-win, such as TotalBiscuit (I still respect the guy), because it’s nothing new. Battlefront and Battlefield already have pay-to-win packs, but I’d definitely agree that it’s not a great culture for games.

StarWarsBattlefrontII-3-2
We’re getting a single-player campaign! The force is strong with this one

It’s like cinemas. You buy a ticket to watch a film, the cinema has paid the rights to show that film, so now the two cancel each other out. In order to make a profit, the cinema sells you expensive extras, such as popcorn, slushies and exceptionally fair-priced pick-and-mix sweets. Now that all future downloadable content packs for Battlefront II are free, EA have to sell extras (loot crates) to fill the gap.

Ok, I’m not very good at analogies, but I tried to explain it. I worked in a cinema, alright…

I guess we’ll see when Star Wars Battlefront II releases on 17 November if it makes up for the hole in our hearts, and the 40GB of disappointment on my Xbox One.

 

Alexander Jones

P.S. I have recently written a piece about DLC and season pass culture, packed with sources and case studies, that I’m hoping to share with you real soon!

Game Hype: Star Wars Battlefront 2

Like it or not, Star Wars Battlefront 2 is coming.

On April 15th, at the Star Wars Celebration, we will get our first look.

Plenty of gamers shared disgruntled moans and cries of disbelief when they discovered how bare EA’s reboot was when it originally released in 2015. Being the wild card that I am I will openly admit that I thoroughly enjoyed the game. Dedicating over 100 hours of gameplay time and £40 for a season pass, I found myself hooked. But, even in my position as a blind sheep I can still see the countless flaws of EA’s Battlefront.

So, rather than asking the question of how Battlefront 2 can improve, I ask WILL it improve?

Have the big, bad cyborg bosses, sitting in their sky-high towers absorbing power from the sun and money from other blind sheep, allowed developers to implement their original creative ideas? The first thing that springs to mind for any Star Wars Battlefront hopeful is ‘SINGLE-PLAYER CAMPAIGN’, or ‘SPACE BATTLES’. Neither of which were present in the 2015 game. No wonder fans were upset, these were massive gameplay elements of the first games.

I addressed these issues in a blog post ages ago, and I still stand by my point; that this is EA’s Battlefront. This is NOT a sequel. This series doesn’t want to remaster an already popular game, but reimagine it, using the original material as a base to build from. So we have large-scale battles, beautiful and large maps, intense firefights. We are missing huge characteristics of the first series; such as classes, single-player and competitive online game modes like Galactic Conquest, space battles, different eras, etc. but doesn’t this emphasise the point? We will all relish the memories of our first Battlefront victory, but time’s changed, let’s enjoy what we have (a gorgeous looking Star Wars game) and hope that classic features make a return in Battlefront 2.

Yes, Battlefront 2. What can we expect to see, come April 15th? Well, I have a few ideas that I anticipate and really want to see make it into the sequel. 

Firstly, I don’t think that we’ll see Kylo Ren or Rey having a clash. Episode 8 will be coming out around the same time as Battlefront 2, before the holidays, and I can’t see how a Battlefront could work on two films without the final chapter. Arguably, they could add Episode 9 as DLC, but it would have to release two years after the game’s release. It just wouldn’t make sense. Also, there’s the issue of how much content would they be able to use from Episode 8 to avoid spoiling the film? The new era of Star Wars is just too complicated to touch at the moment.

Which is why I think the Clone Wars is perfect for the sequel. The lore is there, the films are done, ignore the questionable scripts and focus on those battles. It’s going to happen at some point, and I think that time is now. Imagine the battle of Genosis recreated in DICE’s stunning Frostbite engine. Even in the case of the battle of Naboo and the unbearable Gungans – it’ll look amazing. Battlefront 2015 played it safe. They went with the original trilogy and pulled on people’s heartstrings with lifelike images of Hoth and Endor. Battlefront 2 opens up more risk and creative freedom. They know what the fans want, and they have the resources to pull it off.

A single-player campaign has been confirmed by sources across the web, but space battles are still in question. I assume that EA have heard the complaints even if they weren’t listening for it. So, I expect to see these painfully regurgitated outcries sought to. It would be fairly dumb not to, wouldn’t you think?

Again, I expect another £40 on top of the £40 cost of the base game for the season pass, it’s just EA’s way. Battlefield 1 had the same model, and it’s sad to see it become commonplace, especially at such a high price. Compared to other season passes that retail at £20 (Witcher 3 for example), it’s not difficult to question its actual worth. Unfortunately for me this is a Star Wars game, and I’m more than likely to spend the £40 for a handful of extra hero characters (Jango and Grievous better not be DLC!).

Let’s see the Battlefront we deserve on the 15th. For goodness sake, give the people space battles!*

Alexander Jones

*Disclaimer: I don’t care much for the space battles, I’d rather be on the ground. But, hey-ho, FOR THE PEOPLE!