The rise and fall of the spider superhero

It took just over a month, but we finished Spider-Man on the PS4 and what an adventure it was. Those early days were brilliant, working our way through the main mission, the side challenges and generally just swinging through the city. The game got gradually harder, as you might expect, but it was also more rewarding.

There were three things, however, that really dipped our love of the game and now I can’t decide whether I overall really liked it or not. (Spoilers from here on in.) Firstly, we took a two week break from playing which was partly to do with being ill but also quite a lot to do with knowing that the next bit we had to do was play as MJ. Those scenes playing as Miles or MJ were so frustrating. Slow and sneaky was the aim and constantly being spotted and captured and starting over again, it wasn’t fun.

Secondly, the city gradually descended into chaos as the bad guys infiltrated, and at first that was quite interesting to watch – seeing the slow creep of crime and the increasing presence of the Sable stormtroopers, it was cleverly done. But then after the big break out from the prison, you couldn’t swing for more than a second without being a target and the city was no longer any fun. Smoke everywhere, and you were being shot at all the time so you couldn’t go chasing for pigeons or do any of the side missions without risking your life. Those were the best bits, for me, and broke up the main story nicely, but without the safety of the city, we had to just hurry on and get to the finale.

Eventually we arrived at the end game. The big boss. Oof, seriously, that was the epitome of not fun. I’d gotten quite good at the fight scenes but this felt like an endless battle. I get that part of the challenge of fighting the bosses is figuring out the pattern of what you have to do to defeat them. I don’t really enjoy that, I’d rather just get on with it, but at least I expect that. In this case, though, because there’s no indication of how well you’re doing, you have no idea if you’re doing the right thing or just wasting your time. And the big bad took so long to be defeated, it really felt like a good ten or fifteen minutes just doing the same thing over and over and hoping you were actually achieving something. I just don’t have the patience for that.

The only good news is that having finally beaten the boss, the city is back to normal and we can go on chasing pigeons again. The story wrapped up nicely and I have to say it was a really good narrative. I was completely invested in Peter and his relationships, I was curious what would happen with Miles, and I was absolutely gutted when Aunt May… well, if you’ve played it, you know.

I have mixed feelings about the whole adventure but we’ve still got a few city missions to complete and some DLC to investigate, so the journey isn’t quite over. There is, probably, one thing that definitely made it all worthwhile and that was the J Jonah Jameson podcast. This guy was by turns completely right, totally ridiculous or hilariously hysterical. I mean, the last thing we heard him say was that he wanted to train up Police Rhinos. For reals. That’s his actual plan. Brilliant.

It’s the little details like that which made the game for me, and I’m just disappointed it couldn’t all live up to the high expectations we set after the first half. If nothing else, though, having played the excellent Shadow of the Tomb Raider followed by the fabulous Spider-Man, my interest in PS4 gaming has been reignited and I’m already wondering what I’ll be investing my time in next.

Something up their sleeve

Weezer surprised everyone last week by releasing a covers album stacked full of proper tunes. I had a listen through and it’s good, although I’ll be honest, I’m not a big fan of covers for the sake of it. Many of their versions sound just like the originals, so then you’re left wondering exactly what the point of it is. Having said that, their version of No Scrubs is fabulous, a stand out song.

Anyway, this isn’t meant to be a review of the album. The interesting thing that came with this unexpected release was that, in Apple Music anyway, the album also came with extended notes. The band gave their thoughts on each song, track by track, running through the full album.

Mr C has long been calling for the return of so-called sleeve notes, arguing that the additional information gives you a greater connection to the album you’re listening to. I was dubious at first, because I grew up with CDs where the little booklets you got were mostly filled with lyrics, glossy photos, and thank-you-god speeches.

But properly done sleeve notes give you greater access to the thoughts and meanings behind songs, and that’s something I can always do with. Alright, in Weezer’s case, it’s mostly just why a song was chosen because the band themselves didn’t actually write it, but even that gives you more insight into what they were thinking and makes me feel more forgiving towards them for the slightly less interesting covers.

I know that when I watch a documentary on a band, or catch one of the Apple Music exclusive short films where an artist discusses their upcoming album, then I do feel more of an attachment, more of an understanding about where they’re coming from. And that can only be a good thing.

These extended notes feature above the album tracks in Apple Music. It’s not the ideal place to read such things, and it looks like there’s only space for text without huge amounts of formatting. But it’s a good start. All additional information we get helps – how else would I have known to go back and listen to how he does actually pronounce ‘this’?

On shuffle

Catching up with a recent Graham Norton Show episode, The 1975 were on to promote their latest album and tour and whatnot, and I believe they might have told the greatest story that’s been on that show. Matty Healy, talking on behalf of his bandmate, described to Saoirse Ronan and assembled guests a situation regarding one of her movies.

Adam came into rehearsal ages ago, once, and he said to me, he was like: “Have you seen that Lovely Bones film?” And I was like “Yeah.” And he was like, “It’s mad, isn’t it?” I was like: “It’s great, it’s good.”

He was like: “No, it’s like… it’s like mad. It’s like she’s dead, and then she’s alive and then there’s the credits and then there’s some other people. I watched the whole thing, it was completely mad.”

And I was quite confused, because I’d seen it, I just thought it was really good.

And he came in the next day, and he was like: “Oh… my DVD player’s on shuffle.”

This is crazy funny. He must have been SO confused. Why would a DVD player even have a shuffle option? It makes no sense! And Adam admitted he’s not seen the film in the proper order since, so he must still wonder what it was all about.

Credit where it’s due

An interesting piece about film credits aired on Marketplace last week, discussing why the in- and out- credits on films have gotten so much longer than previously. It explained why this has occurred and started with a look at the closing scroll on Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

The credits last a whopping nine minutes and thirty seconds, that’s an addition of more than three minutes over the original 1993 Jurassic Park…

“There’s no question that there are more company credits and more individual credits on movies these days.” Tom Noonan is a producer and lecturer at UCLA’s film school. He says it’s always been common to see a lot of companies attached to independent films because indie filmmakers typically cobble together funding from a number of sources but that’s increasingly how major movie studios get made too.

“The risk of movies has never been higher, so studios, production companies, distribution companies, are sharing risk in ways that they never agreed to before.”

These days it’s visual effects making those extra-long credits so long. Not just for giant dinosaurs but even tiny details like water droplets or realistic fur, may be highly specialised work that’s compensated with both money and a screen credit.

“People have gotten addicted to doing whatever they want to do storytelling-wise,” Mark Maccora is a visual effects producer for movies like Twilight and Night of Cups. He says with the increasing number and complexity of visual effects in many films, it’s not uncommon for ten or more visual effect companies to work on a project. That last Jurassic World lists fifteen, and the latest Star Wars, more than twenty.

“You’ll have a specialist company that’s doing just a couple of the elements for certain shots.”

That adds up to more than a thousand individual effects credits on many blockbusters.

The piece is mostly explanatory but does seem to fall on the side that isn’t a fan of the change towards longer credits. I’m not sure I agree, I may be in a minority but I really quite enjoy them. The idents at the beginning of a piece always give just a hint of what you might be in for (lots of idents indicates more independent films, Chinese idents suggest where some of the money has come from, etc). Also, the rolling credits at the end of a movie are a fascinating insight into what went down.

Of course, there’s the list of actors, but go beyond that and there’s all sorts of fun. It entertains me greatly looking at some of the odder job titles (that dinosaur supervisor meme springs to mind), the filming locations are always interesting, and the list of additional thanks can offer up some great surprises. It’s testament to how much I love the credits is that perhaps the only thing I dislike about the Netflix user experience is how they disappear off into a small corner whilst the service tries to sell you on the next stream.

Also, you need nice long credits to reward those Marvel die-hards for getting to the extra tantalising scenes. Maybe they do go on a long time but as the business of film making starts to employ more and more people, everyone deserves a thanks for the joy we get from watching.

Back on the courts for 2019

One of the things that brightens an otherwise dull January is the return of tennis. Things in tennis-land go quiet in December, once the finals are all complete and players are taking a well-deserved rest. But the WTA swings back into action in January, and we are already saturated with coverage. Brisbane, Auckland, Shenzhen and some bonus Hopman Cup were all available on our screens this past week.

With a year of the ups and downs of the tennis rollercoaster ahead, here are five things I’m looking forward to:

  • Seeing how Halep fares without coach Darren Cahill. I always worry that too much is made of the coach/player relationship – the player has to be superbly talented to get to the top regardless of who is talking them through it. In Halep’s case, though, it’s clear that Darren’s no-nonsense attitude worked to great effect and helped her battle through whatever nerves or negative thinking was holding her back. Last year, she retained her World Number 1 spot, and took home her first Grand Slam winner’s trophy. Not bad going. Like many, I was gutted to see that the dream team would be parting ways, but on the other hand it does give us a chance to see if Halep can retain what she’s learned as she continues this journey.
  • The comebacks. Murray continues to be a warrior and fights to play. He’s said many times that he’s not sure how much longer his playing career will go on for so every day is a bonus. It’ll be interesting to see if he can get any more decent success, he’s certainly worked for it. The same goes for Serena Williams, who already bounced back into the game in incredible style, but has just that little way to go to get back to her dominant self. Watch this space.
  • The chasers. Those who are just starting to show what they’re made of – Svitolina, Ostapenko, Kvitova, we can even put Kerber in that bracket after her drop in performance following previous dominance. Halep needs to watch her back because there are so many talented players just waiting for a chance at the top spot.
  • The rule changes – of all the tweaks this year, final set tie breaks is the one I’m most interested in. I know some people enjoy the Wimbledon matches that go on for 5+ hours, but I’m fascinated to see the furious tension in those final tie breaks, as opposed to the exhaustion of two players slugging it out to the dying moments.
  • The unknowns. What is, of course, one of the highlights of any tennis year is getting to the end of it and realising the player that is now a household name was nowhere at the start. Like Naomi Osaka’s rise to glory last year, it’s always fab to see the youngsters breaking through and fighting with the established names. Who will it be in 2019?

Even though tennis is on almost all the year round, and the rolling nature of the points system means it is never really done, January does feel like a fresh start of a new season. Four fresh Grand Slams await, with hundreds of fabulous tournaments in between, let’s get this thing going!

Films to look forward to in 2019

There are lots of articles written at this time of year looking back on the months gone and looking forward to the next twelve, and I’ve been intrigued by the variety of “best upcoming films” that have been touted. How many of them am I looking forward to? I had a browse through a few articles (Wired and The Guardian, in particular) and picked out the films that stood out to me.

Captain Marvel – It looks good, more female superhero-ness is great, and I am desperate to see Agent Coulson back on the big screen again. But Marvel, oh Marvel, our relationship is complicated and only getting more so.

Destroyer – Yes, if only to wonder the entire time through: “Are you sure that’s Nicole Kidman?”

Dumbo – Nope, I couldn’t even make it through the trailer. The CG is a bit weird and my heart breaks for that little elephant, I don’t need it to look more real.

The Favourite – Definitely on the list. Three top actresses in some kind of complex royal love triangle? I’m in.

Fighting With My Family – I don’t really care for wrestling, but it’s directed by Stephen Merchant who we have established I love and The Rock has been tweeting endlessly about it too, so, on balance, I’m in.

The Goldfinch – I didn’t know they were making a film of this and am very intrigued. I remember quite enjoying the book although it ramped up to some action that didn’t quite fit with the rest of the story to me, curious if the film does the same or can smooth over the tonal changes.

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part – if the trailer is anything to go by, this will be more meta goodness wrapped up in a fast-paced Lego adventure. The problem I have with this is that the spin-off Batman film was so good, I don’t know if I still care about Emmett and his friends.

Pokemon: Detective Pikachu – I am more than clueless about the world of Pokemon but is it just me or is this the weirdest trailer ever? I’m also not sure I can take seriously anything voiced by Ryan Reynolds now. That ship has well and truly sailed and it was called Deadpool.

Stan & Ollie – This looks great. I don’t know enough about the pair, unfortunately, but the trailer looks very interesting.

Star Wars – Episode IX – Obviously, although we won’t get to see this until 2020.

Toy Story 4 – Hmm, I don’t know. Toy Story 3 did a real number on me, those toys in that furnace. I don’t know if I can cope. I suspect it’s definitely on our list though, and that’s all they need from me.

X-Men: Dark Phoenix – I mean, yes? Maybe? Where even are we in the X-world these days?

There are a lot of films I’ve missed, naturally, and hopefully there will be plenty of excellent surprises throughout the year as well – stay tuned to Film Watch to see which ones make the cut!