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Category Archives: What’s Going On?

STAR WARS BATTLEFRONT II: One With The Force

A while back, I did a follow-up post to my review of Spider-Man on PS4, once I finally earned the Platinum Trophy. On that ‘Being Greater’ post, one of the comments by KissTheMovies stated how ‘more games should have a follow up like this’.

Well, after a lot of toiling away, I’ve managed to get that Platinum Trophy on Star Wars Battlefront II, so I’m going to talk a little bit more about the experience of ‘completing’ the game.

Unlike Spider-Man, getting that Platinum Trophy on Battlefront II was not an easy task. Not because the tasks were especially hard, but just because they were time-consuming.

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Xbox One vs PlayStation 4: A Layman’s Perspective

I’ve never really considered myself a big gamer. When I was younger, I enjoyed playing Pokémon and Super Mario on the various Nintendo handhelds, and for a time I had a PlayStation 1 and 2, but they didn’t get a whole lot of use outside of games like Spider-Man and Star Wars: Battlefront 2, respectively.

During my teenage years, me and my sister had a Wii – a console generally looked down on at the time by those who did in fact consider themselves to be gamers. At university, I started branching out, playing the various Batman: Arkham and Tomb Raider reboot games on my computer, but by the time Arkham Knight rolled around, my system had become too outdated to play the ‘big’ video-games on.

But after a certain Battlefront (2015) trailer revealed that Lando Calrissian was finally coming to the game, I realised that it was probably worth buying one of the next gen consoles, to finally be able to experience Battlefront, finish the Arkham series and play the follow-up Tomb Raider game, amongst others.

I picked up an Xbox One for a decent price (this link isn’t necessarily about the Xbox, so much as a lovely homeless man I met when going to get it), and have enjoyed the console for just under three years. However, with the release of games like God of War and Marvel’s Spider-Man on the PlayStation this year, I realised it might be time to switch console, which is exactly what I did this past weekend.

Having now experienced both consoles, I decided to look at which one I truly prefer, as someone who enjoys video-games, but doesn’t know all the technical mumbo-jumbo or gamerspeak.

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Posted by on September 18, 2018 in Video-Games, What's Going On?

 

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Geek Space

I’ve been writing on this blog, on and off, for about five years now.

Sometimes I’d write about life. Sometimes I’d write about films. Sometimes I’d write about travelling.

But as my life moved in different directions, my usage of this blog changed substantially. During my Masters, in particular, it became less prominent in my life, as I started working on a second blog, New to Comics as part of two of my projects. After I left university, both sites took a bit of a hit. But last year, I’ve made an effort to revive N2C, and now it’s this site’s turn.

Rather than just writing anything and everything, and promptly losing steam, I’m going to curate a collection of reviews and just general thoughts, new and old, based around all the nerdy things I love and have loved.

My geek space, if you will.

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Posted by on August 11, 2018 in What's Going On?

 

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Five Goals for Year Twenty Four

So, I turned twenty four yesterday, and with another year of life under my belt, I decided that I would make some goals to try and better myself before I get to the halfway point to fifty.

I suppose, in a way, you could call these New Years resolutions. But for me, I find that most people (myself included) give up on New Years resolutions pretty promptly. ‘I’m going to get fit’, and then do minimal exercise going forward. ‘I’m going to give up smoking’… but after I have one more roll-up, and then another… and another. ‘I’m going to quit drinking’… ignoring the several drinks I had in the early hours of New Years day.

However, in my mind, by starting on my birthday, it’s actually a new year for me, and the fact it’s already part way into the year means that I have a little more time to consider what it is I want to be and do going forward.

It doesn’t really make a whole load of sense, but that’s just how I think of it.

Plus, these aren’t neccessarily resolutions; I am aware that I may fail at some of them. Instead, they’re goals – ones that I can work on over time and hopefully have achieved by the time I’m twenty five. They’re all things that are within my power to do, but things that I know I won’t just click my fingers and have happen.

So, with that in mind, here are my new years not-resolutions:

1. Swear less (or ideally, not at all)

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Pretty basic one. I want to swear less. I feel people of my generation tend to swear a lot. It’s kind of embedded in our culture. In fact, us youngsters swear so much that the swear words don’t really mean anything. Not anymore.

Fuck. Shit. Crap. We’ve got some real potty mouths that need washing out, because frankly, it’s unnecessary. It’s also lazy, especially for someone who wants to be a writer. There’s a wealth of words out there that don’t have rude connotations that can convey the same point as any swear word. If anything, swear words are kind of like pointless filler or poor attempts at making dialogue more humorous.

(There are exceptions of course, case-in-point:)

(I love this show)

But, if I can cut down, I’ll feel better about myself, better about my vocabulary, and, on the occasions when I do swear, it will actuall stress the severity of the point I’m making. For instance, I previously wrote a review of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and to paraphrase, essentially ended with how the underlying message of the film could be read as ‘Fuck Superman’.

Like, not literally mate with him, but the implication is that the people behind the movie didn’t much care for and were trying to assassinate his character.

But you get that, you’re smart people.

2. Calm the fuck down

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This is, in a way, and extension of ‘Goal #1’, because along with cleaning out my vocabulary, I think my mental state needs a bit of spring-cleaning too.

I’m not saying I’m depressed or anything; just that I feel like I get unnecessarily agitated and rant-y (ask my mum or girlfriend, they will confirm) about certain things, and it’s not necessary.

Because at the end of the day, while there are some things that do rightfully annoy me, most of the stuff that does grind my gears is unimportant in the grand scheme of things, and getting annoyed about it only serves to dampen my spirits when they don’t need to be dampened.

By being calmer, I can make steps to being more positive. Just yesterday I was debating with someone whether we were ‘glass half full’ or ‘glass half empty’ kind of people. I settled on ‘probably glass half empty’, and in a world where everything’s a bit shit rubbish, being more positive, not getting worked up over stupid things and generally being relaxed a bit more should, hopefully, lead to a brighter, ‘glass half full’ life. And if it doesn’t? Well, at least I tried.

3. Save up enough money for the Millennium Falcon

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This one takes a bit more explaining because it’s not exactly what the title point would suggest.

So, when I was younger, I was quite into LEGO. It was my favourite toy, specifically the Star Wars line. Anyway, time went on, I grew up. I still occasionally kept an eye on what LEGO put out, because frankly they’ve made leaps and bounds with their designs and ideas since I was kid, and also, it can help with film news writing because things like Marvel Movies and Star Wars can occasionally have details gleaned off of them from early set leaks.

Then, on my 23rd birthday my gal-pal bought me a new set, Darth Maul’s ship from The Phantom Menace, and my passion for the toy was reignited. I’ve bought a couple of ships since then, one of them being the Millennium Falcon from someone who actually worked on one of the movies. I don’t sit around and play with them, but the building process I find soothing, I admire the ingenious ways in which the sets come together and the process of collecting is something that, as a comic-book fan and general nerd, I am very much into.

And then, in the past year, LEGO unveiled their biggest set to commemorate the anniversary of Star Wars. And it was beautiful (as you can see above); it’s immensly detailed and ridiculously big.

And it costs £649.99.

Which, frankly, is a ludicrous amount to spend on a toy, and something that I’m fairly certain I will never do.

But having just £650 to spare to spend on whatever I wanted? £650 that’s not consigned to bills, rent, food… That would be pretty cool. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not that much. A lot of people have a lot more than that, but considering it’s been well over a year since I was last out of my overdraft, having money that is just mine and not owed to anyone or being saved for any particular thing. That would be cool.

4. Publish 183 articles

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Past considerations for new years resolutions have been things like ‘write every day’, which fail quicker than you can imagine. Sure, it is possible to do some writing every day, but with 365 days in the year, I am 100% sure that, were I to pursue that resolution, I would definitely miss quite a lot of days.

So instead, I’ve found a compromise. I want to have 183 new articles published before I turn twenty-five.

That can be articles on here, or for sites I write for like VultureHound and Cultured Vultures. It could even be other places, if I find other places to write for. But if I get 183 articles published before twenty five, then at least I’m halfway to writing every day, more or less. Because sometimes I may write more than one article a day, but then I won’t feel so bad if I skip the next two. As long as I reach my end goal, I’ll know I will have boosted my portfolio a significant amount and it will have perfectly set me up for my final not-resolution.

Also, yes, this blog post does count as number one.

5. Find some stability in my various projects

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In writing those 183 (or more) articles in the next year, I want to find myself in a more stable writing position. I want to get back into the habit of writing, and share these articles out across a spectrum of outlets.

The first and most obvious, is of course this blog. I have been liable to let the content coming out of it lull in previous years. Quite frequently, in fact. That needs to stop.

The second is my other blog, newtocomics.com. It’s a blog I made for my MA degree, got a distinction with, and then let die. Then it was resuscitated, then it died again. Thing is, though, I own that web address, so it really is a waste to let it die out. So I’ve decided I’m going to give it a third and final try. I’ve planned the topics I’m going to write about for the rest of the year. I’ve started buying some graphic novels on the cheap to write about (so far, I’ve ordered Watchmen, All-Star Superman, Ultimate Spider-Man vol. 1, The Flash: Rebirth and Iron Man: Extremis). So I’ve got no reason not to do it, because otherwise I’m just wasting money (not just on comics, but also the fact I paid for the website).

But those are things that I’m solely responsible for, and to be honest, although increased viewership would be nice, I don’t expect it. For things I’m not writing for myself, so much as for the readers, there’s those sites I mentioned before, VH and CV. I’m just a contributor at CV, but at VH I’ve been one of the subeditors for quite some time (I recently moved section though, so I’m now focused on features rather than interviews), which means people rely on me – so that’s another driving factor in actually writing.

So if I can uphold my commitments to those two sites and keep my two blogs up and running to a degree that I could consider taking on a fifth outlet, well, that would just be swell. Not to necessarily follow through, but to find myself in a position that I’m comfortable enough that I could (although I really should, I need that money).

We’ll see how it all goes.

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2018 in What's Going On?

 

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Can you still make money from film critiquing?

This post was originally published as part of a University project. The pictures and links have been updated to reflect some of my more recent work.

Time was, when people wanted to know if a film was good, they’d look to the experts.

But nowadays, everyone and their aunt can watch a film, type out a review, and lay claim to the title of ‘film critic’. Furthermore, some moviegoers even argue that the word of the professionals means nothing. Using Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice as an example; following a horde of negative reviews, claims came out that the film ‘wasn’t made for the critics’ and that the critics were following ‘an agenda’.

I’ve always been interested in this as a possible career path; but in a world where everyone has the tools at their disposal to write their own reviews and disavow anything career critics say, is that even possible anymore?

So when we started our ‘Research and Development’ module in class, and were told that we had to research a section of the industry, I instantly knew what I’d look into.

At first, I questioned how one would become a major film critic, but it was eventually whittled down to ‘Is film critiquing a viable means of making money?’

After agreeing that that was a feasible topic to research, my lecturer quickly interjected that the answer was ‘no’, unknowingly crushing my future prospects. My hopes and dreams were further beaten to a bloody pulp after a meeting with my supervisor, who told me to stay away from a portfolio of film reviews for my MA project. And a career in it.

I’m sure it’s not just me whose been told all of this. But I was determined to set the record straight. Obviously it must be possible to get paid for reviewing films, otherwise, who would write publications like Empire and Total Film?

The boundaries for our research were clear; the lecturers wanted us to talk to people in the industry and find work experience.

So, I started e-mailing around. If I could think of a blog, publication or prominent YouTubers who may be able to help me out or offer me experience, I messaged them.

Meanwhile, I began scouring indeed to see what sort of jobs were on the market. The first related results I came across were these:

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I applied to VultureHound and No Salt Popcorn, mostly out of curiosity.

I heard nothing from the latter. Likewise, I heard nothing from most of the other people I tried to contact.

But what I did get was a job offer from the former. As you can see from the advert, it was unpaid, but I took it anyway, painfully aware of the fact my lecturer and supervisor were still in the right, and that I was perhaps destined to work at Subway until the end of time.

Fortunately, as anyone who reads my blog on the regular will know, that was not to be the case.

Unfortunately, I still had to get by that whole ‘not getting paid’ thing. I searched on.

Still regarding Empire as the pinnacle of British film publications, I applied for a work experience placement. Empire don’t accept these placements directly, and so I was forced to do it through a company called GoThinkBig.
GoThinkBig were nice enough to let me know just the other day that I didn’t have a place on the program. Y’know, almost two months after I applied and after several of the allotted times for the placements had been and gone. Gee, thanks for that. I obviously wouldn’t have figured that out myself…

That was sarcasm.

I did figure it out by myself.

It was starting to seem like getting to a point where you could be paid to review films was an impossibility for anyone not already inside the review world. In fact, this was compounded by a little anecdote I heard when I attended a guest lecture by Mark Fisher, who revealed that he happened upon his career in journalism while he was renting a room from the former publisher of The List. With his job as a box-office assistant about to come to an end, Mark was offered a a job at that same aforementioned magazine as a production assistant, and soon began taking on editorial work.

He’s now a theatre critic who writes for The Guardian, Scotland on Sunday, The Sunday Times, The Herald and The Scotsman. He also gets the award for ‘fastest reply in regards to this assignment’, after I e-mailed him to confirm the details of that story. Ten minutes. Winner.

So y’know, he’s kind of a big deal.

Fortunately, the rest of the lecture was amusing and informative; perhaps one of the most interesting and enjoyable that I’ve been to in my time here in Falmouth.

Unfortunately (yes, I’m doing the whole ‘fortunately, unfortunately’ thing twice in the space of 300 words. What of it? It’s my blog. I’ll do what I want) it, unintentionally, suggested that if you really want to be paid to write reviews, you had to have connections and a lot’a luck.

Downer.

And that’s when I realised for the first time, despite having been collecting Empire for more than half a year, that they actually have their phone numbers on the intro page. No more faffing about in the hopes that someone would respond.

In other words: stalker time.

So I called the reviews editor at Empire, Nick de Semlyan. Initially, he sounded skeptical hearing an unknown voice on the other end of the phone, but he’s a stand-up guy, so he agreed to help me out.

His words provided some much needed positivity, as he explained how enjoyable it is to be a film critic; to get paid to do something that you love. In regards to becoming a prominent film critic, he stressed that practice was what it took. That one would need to be constantly reading (/watching) and writing to perfect their craft.

True words, and ones that reminded me of a speech we had been given by our lecturers at the start of the course. Words that they gave to all of us, whether we wanted to write novels, non-fiction, copy or script. We needed to keep reading (/watching) and keep writing.

He recounted his own journey; revealing his origins as a writer for Sheffield’s university paper, before eventually moving on to bigger publications like Rolling StoneFHMStuff and Time Out.

So Nick essentially confirmed for me that it was possible to get paid to review films, but
that it took a lot of practice and preparation.

However it was clear Nick was quite like Mark; he was already embedded in the system. But how would one get to their level?

It was following these encounters that I managed to get hold of a freelance critic by the name of Chris Edwards. Being a freelancer, Chris was able to look at this from a different point of view.

Chris explained being a film critic, for him, is fulfilling and claimed that being treated like the rest of the press was an odd privilege. But it wasn’t always that way, as Chris spent three years writing for a blog site for free. He described that part of the process as frustrating, saying he doesn’t think editors should use a writers words purely for exposure, as it’s a skill that deserves payment. He then went on to give the most decisive answer I’ve had. He said that he didn’t think it could be viewed as a viable means of making money. But when he said that, he wasn’t talking about film critics as a whole; so much as people just starting out, a.k.a. me; the guy whose blog you’re reading.

He went on to reveal that he’d built his entire career around Twitter; promoting himself and his work; and from a combination of experience and his social media profile, he was able to get to the stage where job offers come ‘thick and fast’.

So surely that’s the key then? Mark, Nick and Chris stressed how important a wealth of experience and practice is, and how social media is perhaps the most useful tool of a critic in this day and age.

Except, I guess… their words.

But it seems it takes time for those words to make an impact. As I stated at the start of this post, anyone can write a review if they feel like it. And a lot of them don’t ask for pay. I spoke to my own editor at VultureHound, Michael Dickinson, who confirmed that VultureHound doesn’t need to advertise paid positions because they know they can hire writers who are simply looking for exposure; a chance to make a name for themselves and write about things that they love.

Taking the other writers I’ve spoken to’s words into consideration; this is a necessary step. VultureHound itself is still growing; and so perhaps looking for big-time, well-paid writers might be slightly unrealistic. But by allowing people to write for free, as long as they can write to a good standard, it helps elevate VultureHound‘s status and give aspiring writers a much needed platform for their work before they get the chance to seek employment at bigger name publications.

The importance of this was further highlighted when a friend from my previous degree forwarded a job advertisement on Twitter to me the other day. The site, Polygon, asks for writers to submit previous examples of their writing, but highlights these pieces must not be from one’s own personal blog. Hence the need for magazines like VultureHound.

So at the end of the day you, obviously, can get paid to watch and review films. But firstly, it may well take a while. And secondly when you see these jobs advertised, you might notice that they’re not just looking for ‘film critics’, they’re generally looking for ‘film journalists’ or ‘writers’ or ‘article contributors’ as well (/instead).

Still, it’s good to know that I’m on the right track.

Also, I feel like the longer this post gets, the more frequently I say VultureHound.

So, speaking of VultureHound, keep an eye out this Saturday for my next feature and a review of The Tunnel: season two at some point next week [read: whenever I actually write it].

Thanks for reading, and good luck to any prospective film critics out there! We can do this!

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2016 in What's Going On?

 

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Brian the ‘Christmas Hobo’

So an interesting thing happened on my way back from Truro.

I’d quickly hopped on the train to go meet a guy in the Sainsburys car park and do some dodgy dealings for an Xbox One I’d found on eBay.

Got it for £194, rather than the store price of £299. What. a. steal!

Anyway, that’s not important, I just wanted to brag.

En route to the station I walked past two men having a chat. One of whom looked a little worse for wear. I thought nothing on it and went about my journey.

About 45 minutes later, I was back in Penryn, where one of the previous gentlemen said something to the two girls in front of me. They looked prim and proper, clad in fancy coats and quickly hurried away at his gestures and words.

I removed my headphones as he turned to me. All he wanted was a cigarette. Stopping to actually converse with him, it became all-too-obvious that he was homeless. I passed him the cig that I had just rolled, whilst rolling another one for myself.

As I sat down to smoke with him, he began telling me his story.

Some weeks before, his wife had broken up with him, leaving him penniless and out on the streets. He had taken refuge at the station with naught but some sleeping bags and some clothes.

Only to have said sleeping bags removed from his stash and thrown away by the railway workers.

Things weren’t going well for Brian.

But things took a lighter turn when he told me about the days leading up to Christmas. Having sat there, a lone sentinel of the station, Brian had begun chatting to many of the people who passed his makeshift abode, much like he had with me.

Apart from his wife purposefully waking him up at about half six every morning on her way to work, he had been treated well by these other passers-by.

They had bought him flasks of tea, small bits of alcohol, and foodstuffs; when I was sitting next to him he had besides him a plate of macaroni cheese. Not going to lie, kinda jealous, I love mac’n’cheese, but I shouldn’t complain.

His new friendships had grown to such an extent that one kind occupant of the town even had her children wrap him Christmas presents, which they would deliver along with a bottle of whiskey in the days to come (the bottle of whiskey might actually have been from someone else, I have the memory of a sieve). Furthermore, he had been promised four different Christmas dinners! I would call him a lucky bastard, but you know, homeless and all.

But it gets better.

To add to his happiness, an encounter with the police earlier today had informed him that not only were they okay with him staying there, but they were getting close to locating his sister in Scotland, and that he may well be able to travel home tomorrow for Christmas.

In true Scottish style, he was celebrating with a flask of cider.

Unfortunately, all I had on me was the Xbox, so I couldn’t really help in any meaningful way. Until he told me that the reason he had been sitting on those steps for so long was because he was dying for that aforementioned cigarette.

Huzzah! A chance to help. I rolled him as many cigarettes as I had filters on me and gifted him with my lighter, so I could hear more of his story and help in any way I could (which, unfortunately, wasn’t much).

He continued, telling me how he had got his black eye (which was bloody huge, I feel like I wouldn’t be able to handle such pain, but then again, I’m not Scottish), his thoughts on the Xbox and just how much he was actually enjoying the company of the townsfolk.


 

I just thought it was worth mentioning, because I found it rather touching. Christmas miracles and all that. Mostly because I don’t really give two shits about Christmas myself, but I’m glad such a turnaround can happen for someone who was so in need.

If all goes well, he’s due to be heading off tomorrow. I may go check his progress, have another chat.

Until then, good luck Brian. If I was a religious man (Dudeism aside), you’d be in my prayers.

Oh, and FYI, I didn’t just dub him the ‘Christmas hobo’, he calls himself that, with a laugh no less. What a guy.

So Merry Christmas to everyone, I guess? That’s a good note to end on, right?

Good. Have a Happy New Year as well.

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2015 in What's Going On?

 

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