Month: March 2014

“Wolf Creek 2” film review

I certainly wouldn’t call the original Wolf Creek a fun popcorn horror movie. I haven’t seen it in years, but I knew that watching it again to “warm up” for the sequel wasn’t necessary. Who could forget the infamous “head on a stick”, the sniper, the references to Crocodile Dundee, the depressing title cards at the end, and the chilling ending with Mick Taylor.

To fans, Mick Taylor IS Wolf Creek. Everyone makes jokes about how everything in Australia’s trying to kill you, but Mick Taylor is no joke. This Australian sociopath is possibly the most memorable horror character of the 2000s alongside Jigsaw. Mick is so evil, yet also freakishly true to life when you read about the true life murders that this character and film draws inspiration from, mainly Bradley James Murdoch and Ivan Milat. Even now the news is rife about a killer in Queensland quite similar to Mick Taylor, dubbed Australia’s ‘Hannibal Lector’ and the ‘Wolf Creek’ killer.

You may have noticed the MA15+ rating rather than the R18+ of the original (the R in the poster above didn’t stick). This can be attributed to A) graphic violence has just became more acceptable to society since Saw and CSI, and B) Wolf Creek 2 is more of an action thriller rather than the borderline torture porn of the first.

In saying that, Wolf Creek 2 is still very depraved, in some ways even more than the first.

The first movie was about three backpackers being terrorised by Mick Taylor, while this one is about Mick’s world being disturbed and he doesn’t like it.

Wolf Creek 1 was so effective because it didn’t reduce itself to horror movie clichés. The ‘final girl’ trope was thrown out the window. It was shocking. It was one of those awful things that disgust you yet you can’t look away. It was art you despised not because it was a poorly made film, but because the screenplay made you feel uncomfortable. The fact that we know Mick Taylor loses the shock value as well as the element of surprise. However, the good thing is we get to see him in action right away, rather than the slow burn of the first.

There’s an entertaining, yet also brutal scene later on which I’ll refer to as the “Australian pop quiz” scene. It gave us the chance to get to know our old mate Mick a bit better, as well as the main protagonist of the film. Without it, this movie would have been a disappointment.

There are some aspects of comedy in this sequel, although I don’t know what to call that “flying kangaroo” sequence. I did enjoy the other Aussie bits in the movie, although the ending let me down. It didn’t seem honest, and almost any other creative decision imaginable would have been better.

Spoilers in the next paragraph.

So Mick’s victim Paul doesn’t escape or die, but instead he lets him go after knocking him unconscious…after Paul hit him in the hammer and spent the majority of the movie being chased by him. He should’ve been killed or escaped. The ending we were shown was the not very satisfying middle ground.

Spoilers end here.

If you liked the first movie, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this one, especially if you loved Mick Taylor, but if you didn’t like it, I doubt this will be an experience to die for. While there’s aspects I didn’t like, Wolf Creek 2 is still a morbidly entertaining ride.

Rating: 3.5/5

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“The Last Of Us: Left Behind” video game review

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Left Behind is a side story to last year’s astonishing The Last Of Us in the form of DLC. While the original game was primarily Joel’s story, LB puts the focus on Ellie. You can read my review of The Last of Us here, where much of the gameplay and story (just a little) will be discussed.

The game takes place from two different settings within the original game’s universe and regularly switches between them. One half of the game is an “interquel”, meaning it takes place during a period within the original that wasn’t touched upon. It’s filling in a blank. The other half is a prequel, focusing on Ellie’s relationship with her friend Riley, and it’s the star of the show.

It’s interesting that it’s the star because this part of the game does not have any combat whatsoever. Ellie and Riley wonder through a shopping centre that’s obviously abandoned (due to that post apocalypse thingy that occurred) and just do what two young teenage girls do: fun stuff.

I can’t really relate to what being a teenage girl was like…let alone what growing up in a post apocalyptic world is like, but I was on board to experience something different from the perspective of these two normal girls in a non-normal world. A minor gameplay addition was making choices related to dialogue. It’s seems superficial when you think about it, but it’s surprising how much it added to the experience. I also enjoyed playing games in the arcade and the water gun fight with Riley. Does that also sound superficial? Yes, but believe me I won’t forget it, plus some of the other surprises I’ll leave you to discover.

The other half of the game is combat and exploration driven, quite similar to the original. I won’t discuss the story premise as that will spoil the main game. Ellie isn’t as well equipped as Joel, so this makes combat slightly harder, yet also more satisfying when enemies are cleared. One advantage Ellie does have is a proper knife that doesn’t break after use, unlike Joel’s small supply of shivs. A new feature in this part is that it’s possible to pit the hunters against the infected, creating another survival tactic.

I wasn’t sure if Left Behind was going to be as remarkable as the original or just a cashed out DLC typical of the entire AAA game industry. I was going to take a point off because the DLC seems a bit expensive and can be completed in fewer than two or three hours but…I’m not going to. It’s a case of quality over quantity and you can play it over and over.

You’ll want to play it over and over, because even though players who have beaten the original game will already know the ending to Ellie and Riley’s saga, everything that leads up to that point feels so poignant and tragic. There’s even a message at the end that gave me a new perspective on the ending of the main game.

If you’re one of those people who value games based on who many hours you’ll get out of them, then maybe wait for a sale or discount on this DLC, but for the rest of TLOU players, I truly believe that Left Behind is worth every dollar because I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I finished it.

Rating: 4.5/5 

“The Last Of Us” video game review

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PlayStation 3 exclusive The Last Of Us has been cleaning up the majority of the 2013 Game of the Year awards, and for good reason. While I would pick Tomb Raider as my favourite game of last year, I would definitely say that TLOU was the best title released last year and deserved every single one of those awards.

The Last Of Us takes place in a post-apocalyptic United States, where much of the world’s human population has been wiped out by the Cordyceps fungus which gives humans zombie-like characteristics. As supplies dwindle, many of the humans in the world are desperately trying to survive and will not hesitate to kill to save themselves. TLOU presents this brutal world with such realism and strong characterisation it’s amazing.

Main character Joel gets involved in a smuggling deal where he must escort Ellie to a group known as the Fireflies, who believe that she may be able to help cure the infection. I don’t view Joel and Ellie as heroes or as entirely sympathetic characters. They are just survivors, and sometimes act very selfishly. That’s pretty much all I want to discuss about the story, because it’s such a strong part of the game I think players should read as little about it as possible. I will say that the game does a fantastic job of making you care about these virtual characters, so when tragedy strikes…oh the feels.

The gameplay? It has some flaws here and there, such where you spend too much time killing enemies, but I love how it incorporates survival-horror elements. Ammo and supplies are quite sparse, meaning that not only do you try to make every hit count, but you have to resort to using every weapon at your disposal. Sometimes the best thing to do is run, or sneak past. The puzzles and objectives in the game are usually very simplistic, such as grabbing a plank to get across a gap or turning on a generator to power a gate. That fits with the tone and theme of the game, which is essentially about escorting Ellie from one area to the next. The game controls feel very fluid once you become accustomed to them, as does the crafting system. You feel more powerful as you find more weapons and take the opportunity to upgrade them. You are rewarded for exploring the area with crucial supplies scattered throughout.

You’ll want to explore because the beautiful graphics bring the game’s setting to life. I’ve been to the United States recently and TLOU makes this setting feel so believable. When you enter a building in the game you can discover the story behind it, by observing the destruction, the graffiti, the household items (such as toys and photos) and documents that you can read.

I should mention the score, because like a film, at times you won’t notice it there but it is making an impact on the experience. Whether it’s adding tension to the combat, hitting those emotions in the cut scenes or making the vast and beautiful game world feel that much more vast and beautiful, the score is a player in TLOU.

The game length felt perfect, and once it was finished I was astonished with the journey the game had sent me through. The pacing was amazing and TLOU overall had not overstayed its welcome one bit. The ending was bold, and while some may have issues with it, I was completely satisfied with it.

This game has an online multiplayer mode called Factions, which probably won’t be the reason most people buy the game but whatever. It was fun though. Players pick from either the Fireflies or Hunter factions and keep their faction alive by scavenging during matches. Actually the scavenging part is basically doing well (killing opponents, reviving team mates, crafting items) which is converted to supplies post match. I can’t really be bothered with online games, but I can see someone investing great amounts of time and enjoyment into it.

The real focus of TLOU experience is the main single player campaign, and I’m giving my time with that experience a perfect score of 5/5.

Just play the game already, before you accidently see spoilers on the internet.

 

And you can read my review of the DLC side story Left Behind right here!

Richie Sambora live in Melbourne 2014 concert review

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When Richie Sambora announced a last minute charity gig at the Espy I was so excited because a mere forty minutes of him at Soundwave wouldn’t be enough.

The set consisted mostly of Bon Jovi songs and tracks off his latest album Aftermath of the Lowdown. Thankfully his new record is pretty damn good. He also played the title track of his first solo record, Stranger in this Town, and a handful of covers, one of which being the INXS classic ‘Don’t Change’. Playing with Sambora was Orianthi, and she sang lead on a couple of songs, including one of her own.

Opening with the raw and nasty ‘Burn That Candle Down’ almost brought the house down with its earth shattering opening chords and we got some guitar shredding and solos. It was so great. Next was the single from Aftermath, ‘Every Road Leads Home to You’. His vocal delivery was powerful and the song benefited from the small enclosed space of the Espy. One of my favourite moments was the performance of new song ‘Seven Years Gone’, which is my favourite song of 2012. It was very emotional yet had a rock edge that’s missing from latter day Bon Jovi stuff.

Richie singing ‘I’ll Be There For You’ at Bon Jovi shows may actually be the highlight, and I think that holds true here too. Richie fans didn’t forget where he came from, singing almost every word.

After the almost punk rock ‘Nowadays’, it was Orianthi’s time to shine with ‘You Don’t Wanna Know’ from her latest album Heaven in this Hell. Her voice is amazing, just like her guitar playing. She also took lead vocals on the Jimi Hendrix classic ‘Voodoo Child’. The first verse of ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’ was sung by her whilst Richie was playing on the talkbox. ‘Lay Your Hands On Me’ and ‘These Days’ were also crowd favourites. It turns out Richie performed a second encore and I didn’t even know about it! He performed ‘Purple Rain’ by Prince. Darn, I bet that would have been amazing.

All the Bon Jovi songs sung by Richie sounded amazing. Jon Bon Jovi takes up so much of the spotlight, but Mr Bluesman’s got a great voice too. However, he was doing a bit of a Vince Neil occasionally when he would skip words. Maybe it’s an aging thing? It’s certainly noticeable, and I wasn’t just talking about when he was focusing so much on his guitar. Of course, guitar is what he does and there were plenty of jams for the guitar lovers out there.

If you are truly a Bon Jovi fan you should be a Richie fan too, and he delivered! I give his show 4/5!

I saw Richie’s set at Soundwave too, and I actually enjoyed it more because the sound was better and I was much closer to the stage. Nothing new in the setlist, but I’m glad I saw him again!

ESPY SET – FAVOURITE PARTS IN BOLD

BURN THAT CANDLE DOWN
EVERY ROAD LEADS HOME TO YOU
TAKING A CHANCE ON THE WIND
I’LL BE THERE FOR YOU
NOWADAYS
YOU DON’T WANNA KNOW (from @Orianthi’s album “Heaven In This Hell)
WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE
VOODOO CHILD
STRANGER IN THIS TOWN
SUGAR DADDY
LAY YOUR HANDS ON ME
SEVEN YEARS GONE
LIVIN’ ON A PRAYER

Encore:
DON’T CHANGE
IT’S MY LIFE
THESE DAYS

Encore 2:
PURPLE RAIN

Soundwave Festival 2014 in Melbourne review

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No-one expected this year’s Soundwave to surpass 2013’s monstrous line-up. There was something for almost any rock fan on that bill. This year’s was still pretty good, with great bands big and small.

You might have read about it, if last year’s festival was the Year of the Drummer Bail-Outs then 2014 was the Year of the Band Bail-Outs. Stone Temple Pilots, Megadeth, Whitechapel, Sevendust, Newsted, Desaparecidos, Volbeat and Hardcore Superstar are the eight other bands to cancel on the tour. Yikes.

First band I saw was Alter Bridge. I saw them at the 2012 Soundwave and to be honest they lost me then. I thought they were boring live. However, I guess two years is a long time and they performed much better this time, or perhaps last time they were just having a bad day. Either way, they won me back.

Next was Richie Sambora, who I had seen the day prior at the Espy, so you can read this post about both that show and the Soundwave performance here.

Now, The Living End…wow. They are The Living Legends. Seriously. Their one-hour set was the most powerful and concise of all the bands I saw. No messing around, just short and sweet rock anthems. ‘Prisoner of Society’ had the crowd shake the ground with the jumping. Obviously the crowd loved them, and with the band being from Melbourne, they loved us too. I certainly love the band much more after this.

After The Living End wrapped up I ran over to Stage 6 where Deez Nuts were finishing up with ‘Band of Brothers’, a single off their latest album. I wish I got to see the whole set because I saw the mosh go absolutely nuts (no pun intended).

At this point there was no band I was interested in until 5, but since my friends were watching Panic at the Disco and the food was nearby I casually watched them while eating a freaking $10.90 burger. Even though I didn’t really dig them they put on a good show.

While waiting for Alice in Chains to start I entered A Day to Remember’s crowd. Before I walked in, vocalist Jeremy McKinnon was singing inside a large clear ball that was being thrown through the crowd. Whoa, I’ve never seen anything like it. I didn’t know any Day to Remember songs, but McKinnon repeatedly thanked those who gave them a chance.

I was probably one of the few not watching Alice in Chains for ‘90s nostalgia. I knew a couple of their old songs, but I had come to see tunes performed from their excellent new album, such as the sludge metal ‘Hollow’, one of my favourite performances of the day.

I took another break after they concluded and then got to Stage 1 early to get a good spot for Green Day. For nearly three hours Green Day performed clearly at the top of their game. Billie Armstrong is an incredible frontman who knows how to entertain the masses. He was in fine form too, singing every word, except for when he wanted the crowd to sing. They love to get the fans on stage too, they got one dude singing and a girl to play a guitar part on stage (and she got to keep the guitar!).

Between anthems and sing alongs we had cover medleys and various shenanigans. I don’t even know what was going on when the drummer dressed like a granny and Billie dedicated love songs to a bunny costume but it amusing nonetheless!

While there were a handful of songs I didn’t know, I still had a great time. Only flaw was an anti-climatic ending with ‘Good Riddance (Time of your Life)’. Don’t get me wrong, a fantastic song and perhaps a perfect ending, but doesn’t feel right when it’s just Billie alone without the rest of the band.

Green Day deserves every last inch of their fame and it’s clear that they don’t take their fans for granted as the show delivered. I give the band’s set 4.5/5.

Fingers crossed that Disturbed headline Soundwave next year!