Thursday, 20 September 2012


March 2011. That’s the last time I watched a film at the cinema. It was not even a night out. It was the local midday ‘baby’ cinema viewing of Hop. No balls to the wall action or inappropriate f-ing and blinding; just James Marsden fucking around as the Easter bunny whilst Russell Brand did voices! Apart from the ever delightful Penny from Big Bang Theory appearing as Marsden’s sister, I don’t actually recall much about it, which is a sure fire signal for defining mediocrity. So, the last time I properly went to the cinema was sometime in 2010, which was so long ago now I can’t even recall what it was I watched…

Kaley Cuoco - yum!

This wouldn’t have happened in 1999 when in the space of two weeks I saw things you wouldn’t have believed; the second coming being rightly trashed by the greatest sleeper hit ever is kind of what I imagine c-beams glittering on the shoulder of Orion and attack ships on fire by the Tanhauser Gate probably looks like. So where has it all gone wrong? Some delicate introspection is required to ascertain whether I have become a grumpy and reclusive cinemaphobe.

Taking a shit in George Lucas' cereal since 1999.
There is some tangible context to apply before coming to any pre-determined judgements. Clowny Jnr was born in January 2011; a point in time when I was immediately beset upon by hitherto unknown responsibility. Decision-making now followed a defined order – the boy before my own selfish wants and needs. Nappies and shit are flipping expensive, as is a night out at the cinema. Two tickets, popcorn, a possible meal beforehand and beers after to discuss the hidden depths of the latest Adam Sandler flick and you’ve pretty much spent the best part of £40 to sit though tedious wank like The Expendables (sadly, not every movie is Scott Pilgrim vs The World). That’s like 250 nappies. With such reasoning you can begin to see why cinema-going has fallen off the radar.

In addition, I’ve kind of moved out of my comfort zone. Essex to Surrey to be precise! Back in the homeland there is an entourage of like-minded individuals whom travel regularly to Festival Park in Bas Vegas to watch the latest cinema releases. And by latest I mean just that. There really must have been nothing else on the weekend Mission to Mars was released (I still haven’t forgiven you for that Wenty). Yet it did also provide the opportunity to sit through little known gems like Ravenous, The Limey and Syrianna as well. But I seem to be at a loss without having good company at the cinema. Frequenting the cinema on my own just seems weird, especially the mingling with poshos from Surrey. I never thought I’d ever have the need to say this, but it’s just not Basildon (shit, now you’re all going to think I yearn for The Sugar Hut) and, therefore, a little disorientating.

Just one of the very many good reasons to seek out The Limey.

Finally, it’s very rare an Amelie comes along (the middle ground between District 9 and Jane Eyre) to allow for the better half and I to agree on a cinema date together. She won’t come along simply to hold my hand and make it look like I’m not some weird and creepy thirtysomething who goes to the cinema on his own if she has to sit through Tucker and Dale vs Evil. Which I don’t even understand; Tucker and Dale vs Evil is freaking awesome!

So, I’m kind of at a loss as to what to do other than bide my time and wait for the DVD release. Just like I’m doing now for The Raid, The Pirates! in an Adventure with Scientists, Prometheus, The Dark Knight Rises and Judge Dredd. If there is one thing I’ve learnt as a father its patience and these relatively non-essential things can wait. But that doesn’t make it an easy thing to see through; especially watching others discuss movies whilst you’re on the outside looking in with no frame of reference, carefully navigating a route through potential spoilers to DVDville. It’s a bollock-aching agony. Particular when you recognise Scott Pilgrim is an arsehole, rather than a hipster, only to find a million monkeys have already noticed this beforehand and propagated the Internet to bursting point with such obvious insight, stealing my thunder.


Just like Willam in Mallrats, I can no longer see the sailboat. 

What the fuck is wrong with me?

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Return of the Freeman

So, whilst we’re all still twiddling our thumbs and scratching our arses waiting for Valve to pull out their finger and deliver unto us the next instalment of the further adventures of Dr Gordon Freeman, it was announced earlier this week that Black Mesa would finally be released on 14 September. Well part of it anyway. It’s been eight years in the making and it’s still not actually finished. Even loyal followers of Valve seem unable to absolve themselves totally from the quantum peculiarity of Valve time (which the original resonance cascade may or may not be directly responsible for).

One day dammit, one day. 

Essentially a remake of Half-Life developed by around 40 modders using Valve’s Source engine, Black Mesa is the Half-Life community’s response to the barely noticeable and somewhat disappointing graphical changes to the original game when it was made available on Steam in 2004. But this is not just further graphical tweaks; Black Mesa is a fully realised remake. Supposedly it will divert little, if at all, from the main storyboard, but the more tedious parts of the original game have been streamlined and level maps increased in size to accommodate greater challenge. It has even been suggested that Valve’s marvellous AI routines have been tweaked and improved upon. If so, wowsers! As a bonus, Black Mesa makes Half-Life look just as crisp as Half-Life 2, if not better:

So, Black Mesa has the potential to be most excellent; although re-working a masterpiece means there is added pressure to deliver. Look at the remakes of most movie masterpieces, such as Psycho or the recent The Thing travesty. Oh dear. Then there’s the eight year wait which touches more upon Daikatana time, let alone Valve time. Let’s hope it’s just a perfection thing, rather than a ‘we’ve kind of ballsed it up’ thing. More worryingly, from the video sequence above, there seems to be a lot of swooping camera views. That means cut-scenes. One of the key reasons as to why Half-Life worked so well was that everything in game was witnessed from Gordon’s eye-view, absolving the need for an out of body experience and making the game more interactive as a result. Please, don’t let it be bloody cut-scenes.

'No to cut scenes'. Gordon Freeman, yesterday.

Anyway, enough of the pessimism! I’m sure it will all work out great in the end. Although Valve are not involved, there is enough Valve in the starting point for Black Mesa to rise above many a modern FPS. Despite only half a game (it ends in the Lambda complex around the point Gordon dimension jumps to the alien world Xen) there’s expected to be around 10 hours of gaming available, which means plenty of alien-arse kicking with the now iconic crow-bar. But the really awesome news is Black Mesa is being offered as a free download from the mod team’s main site. Bless them and their Tim Berners-Lee approach to sticking two fingers up at capitalism. Excited? I’ve just let out a little bit of wee…