Our Zoo: Episode 4 – And Our Next Item is…

With Episode 4 having come and gone, I can firmly say that this has been the series high point thus far. From eccentrics to class humour to downright dastardly actions, this episode has by far satisfied in all departments.

After the cliff-hanger of the last episode, where one of the bears escapes from its pen, George and Billy go out to find him and, if necessary, shoot him should he get close to Upton. Although the bear is recaptured unscathed, George is not so lucky, getting a slight clawing from the bear when both Billy and George startle the bear.

While the bear returns to captivity, the effects are felt throughout the Mottershead clan. The realisation that they need to finish soon is brought to the forefront, and they need money to finish it all off. £300 worth and the bank are not exactly ready to hand out another large loan.

p025jzjrHowever helps come in the form of the slightly eccentric Lady Daphne Goodwin (Celia Imrie) who takes a shine to squirrel monkey Mortimer (whom she refers to as Percy). George, through Lizzie’s unwitting advice, realises the potential of charity, asking for donations from the local gentry in order to get the zoo up and running. So, with the mildly tentative assistance of Lady Katherine Longmore, the Mottershead begin to set up a benefit for all the local toffs to sponsor their animals.

Yet all is not well as, not only has June become fearful of animals after seeing George’s injury, but the village under Reverend Aaron Webb and Camilla Radler are beginning to form a petition to quash any chance of the zoo achieving planning permission.

Billy and Frankie

Billy and Frankie having a bit of a chinwag

There is a fair bit going on in this episode and most, if not all characters are given the best portioned out screen time of any episode so far. Even minor characters are beginning to get their own subplots and little romances, with Billy Atkinson (Ralf Little) and Agnes “Frankie” Franklin (Faye Brookes) making scintillating conversation, involving small lies and grand phrases coming mainly from the well-versed hucksterism of Billy, but was still quite amusing to watch as it made their budding relationship seemed all the more real for it.

But romance of the episode goes to Mew and Archie. Archie, as played by Tom Hardman, has been the perfect foil to Amelia Clarkson’s Mew, humanising her character as well as giving them a storyline of at least some interest.

Challenge No 2

Challenge No. 2… not as scary as feeding bears

Archie appears to be at the beck and call of Mew, submitting to challenges that Mew suggests and, while not all are pleasant, Mew’s smile upon Archie’s completion of the not always pleasant task shows that she really cares about him. While one challenge in particular seems to be harsher than the others, their relationship seems to be moving in a way that allows you to forgive her way of proving love.

Lady Katherine Longmore (Sophia Myles) also makes a much more important appearance, lending Selbourne Hall for the Mottershead’s benefit. But not only that, with all the upper classes descending upon the hall, we see how Lady Katherine is something of an outcast within their circles. She becomes more of an interest rather than just a motivation for George to plough on with his zoo.

Also on the upper class of the episode, Celia Imrie plays a wonderful eccentric. Being all the things a widowed women can be as long as they have a stonking pile of cash, like trying to buy a squirrel monkey, running a luxurious car and dressing in finery which the cuttings would probably be worth more than George’s suit. Yet she’s so damn likable in her eccentric yet philanthropic manner that one hopes to see more of her in the future.

This episode is also a huge draw for the villains of this piece with Stephen Campbell Moore and Hayley Carmichael doing magnificent turns as the Reverend Aaron Webb and Camilla Radler respectively. While I feel Webb will get a not unfair amount vitriol directed to him, it is the vicious little pit-bull that is Camilla Radler that gets my dose of utter loathing pointed squarely against her.

Conniving Camilla

Conniving Camilla

While Campbell Moore acting has remained good in all respects, Carmichael’s brand of loathsome subversive antagonism makes you want to jump in the TV via a portal you’ve created with your own mind and throw her out of Upton for her slimy blackmailing tactics. And to inspire such seething anger, Carmichael shows her great acting abilities. And besides, in that almost clichéd phrase, everyone loves to hate a villain.

But from hate to fear, I remembered what pangs of human emotion were like as June, the life of the zoo, became fearful of animals. Honor Kneafsey’s performance is probably one of her better ones as she is not merely the happy child living in a zoological paradise, but a girl troubled by the goings on around her, by both man and beast. While her storyline is resolved a little too quickly and with too little fuss made, Kneafsey still does enough to make her performance quite noteworthy.

Your average County House affair.

Your average County House affair.

But it is not just about the young cast members, but also the more mature, to phrase it finely. Anne Reid and Peter Wight’s performances complement each other so well, with Albert being the proud exhibitor of the many animals while Lucy attempts to charm and awe the Chester set with her culinary prowess, with varying degrees of success and lashing of class consciousness and class humour coming into the mix. They have become such a charming pair to an extent that you cannot believe that they are not paired up in real life. Every scene that they are in is one that has no blemishes in.

But last, and by no means least, comes Lizzie and George Mottershead. While Lee Ingleby’s performance of George is as delightful as ever, Liz White as Lizzie has come to an even greater prominence. While still naïve on the doings of the “good Reverend”, is still a force to be reckoned with, especially with George’s equally naïve use of Lady Katherine’s generosity and how it could be perceived. Yet her strength in standing by her friends, with one scene in particular coming to mind, against those who believe they are superior by birth made the” inner socialist”, if that’s the right phrase, in me jump for joy.

This episode has everything you want from the series and more: dramatic twists, humour, relatable characters and more. The only drawback I can see is that the next episode may not be able to live up to this, yet from the “Next Time” snippets, I have confidence that it can.

Thanks for reading! If you liked what you read then please follow me here on WordPress or even on Facebook and Twitter as well. Also, if you fancy writing for The Chronic Chronicler, then send me an email at chronicchronicler1@gmail.com. Anything within reason is acceptable! Thanks again for reading!

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Our Zoo: Episode 3 – Speeches, Lessons and a March

So we have reached the half-way point of the series and things, I must say, have been getting better for the series. Tensions are rising in the village, more work is being done to the zoo, more animals are arriving and the Amelia Clarkson finally has something to do aside from moping around on screen and getting drunk.

What I must say for this series is that it does really well in giving the limelight to several characters at the same time as, while some series are made on the basis of having a leading person and those who are subordinate to he/she, this series somehow skirts away from that, at least in the main.

Ingleby's Job in This Episode

Pretty much what George does for most the episode

While George is getting the bear enclosure ready, June at her grandmother’s instigation is sent off to school and, in her absence, means Mew is left in charge of feeding the animals, a task she clearly does not look forward to while June faces the realities of how the Upton’s children see her and treat her.

While this is going on, the people of Upton are rising up against the zoo, fearing wild animals roaming free and all their diseases that they will bring. All the doom and gloom aspects basically, paying no heed to George’s forward thinking ideas.

All the while the Reverend Webb while outwardly saying he’s impartial (although in the same way Hitler was impartial on the Sudetenland), is doing his utmost behind the scenes to see that Oakfield, a house that could have been his, be turn into a zoological garden.

To get off the mark, I must say it is finally gratifying to see some ability emanating from Clarkson’s position. Before she had been a third wheel that needed to be carted off so that the rest of the cast could get on with their jobs, but now that she started to become a necessary cog in the zoo’s creation, she has finally found some function in her being there.

You get a sense of some humanity beneath the once glum exterior. She reacts as we would all react to having a squirrel monkey named Mortimer pee on you, but still gets on with the job in hand like feeding the birds, tortoise, bears, etc. You know the usual things.

But it is the dual aspect of the growing relationship between herself and the son of chief zoo antagonist Camilla Radler (Hayley Carmichael) Archie Radler (Thomas Hardman) and her father that have helped her become a more rounded character.

Muriel and Archie Feeding Bears

To be honest, I’d be scared as well being asked to feed an Asian Black Bear

Archie’s interest in Mew, as well as the zoo, has had a humanising effect on Mew, getting her to embrace the zoo’s animals a bit more as well as grow up personally. Yet this is compounded by her realisation of her father’s dedication to the zoo, as he helps her to feed the bears and she turns the van’s headlights on after she notices him still digging the trench for the bear enclosure well into the night. These things have really helped and, while it may just be a blip, I do hope Clarkson’s acting and character continue to improve.

June finally also gets a storyline which is not solely centred on caring for the animals, and that is the wild and dangerous life of the playground. June is ill adapted for school life, especially as the children’s view of her had been corrupted by the parents’ view of the Mottershead’s plan to build a zoo. I felt most sorry for June, with the children calling her feral and a gypsy, as well as not understanding her love of animals, no matter what they are.

A Bullied JuneJune coming home sullen and refusing to tell her grandmother of the bullying is personally reminiscent and, because of it, strikes me as good acting on Honor’s part, especially how she acts out on one occasion in response to the constant bullying.

Congrats must be given to Hugh Skinner as Dr Barnaby Ford as, while his parts are small, they generally bring much light-hearted amusement, as they did when he examined a bear with much glee. His role in this episode was also brief, but provided much satisfaction ending with a touch of humour that just tops it off nicely.

ukt-our-zoo-s01-e01Final kudos must also be given to Stephen Campbell Moore as the mischievous Reverend Webb in trying to get the zoo closed before opening as, although preaching impartiality, he must certainly be making some prayers to see George’s enterprise fail. His character is so subtly slimy that you can see the effect he has on George with him thinking that most people are “against us” in his venture.

This episode ends in a bittersweet fashion with the pattering of tiny feet and the clomping of large paws. I’ll try not to say too much for fear of taking away your enjoyment, but the two scenes are slammed straight beside one another to allow for maximum joy and then apprehension. I hope Episode 4 builds on this because it’s going in the right direction in all departments at last.

Thanks for reading! If you liked what you read then please follow me here on WordPress or even on Facebook and Twitter as well. Also, if you fancy writing for The Chronic Chronicler, then send me an email at chronicchronicler1@gmail.com. Anything within reason is acceptable! Thanks again for reading!

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A Most Wanted Man – A Most Methodical Espionage

A-Most-Wanted-Man-1So going into this film, I had not yet realised that this would be the last film I would see Philip Seymour Hoffman in outside of the last two Hunger Games films. It is strange to think that, despite his death early in the year, his works will continue to come out until 2015.

Despite this being a film which, until the passage of time will mean people will either forget or merely not mention it, Hoffman’s death will be closely associated with how it is viewed, I shall attempt to put further undue kind words aide and review this film as it were any other. Death does not make a great film, great people do.

A Most Wanted Man is based upon the novel of the same name by John le Carré which is set in Hamburg which, after the 9/11 attacks which were planned in Hamburg, security has been considerably increased. Into this new and wary world steps the illegal immigrant Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin), a Russian-Chechen Muslim seeking help which he receives from immigration lawyer Annabel Richter (Rachel McAdams). Günther Bachmann (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his team, who are set up to monitor local Muslim activities, find through Russian intelligence that he is considered to be a terrorist.

A Most Wanted Man

Keeping the Americans at bay to get the job done. But coffee first.

However Bachmann sees Karpov not as an opportunity for an immediate takedown, but as a means of getting to the source of terrorist activities. Bachmann hopes that by using Karpov, he can get onto a chain of much larger threats, starting with the outwardly charitable Dr. Faisal Abdullah (Homayoun Ershadi), whom he suspects of trafficking charity money for terrorist activities. However, with German security official Dieter Mohr (Rainer Bock) and American diplomatic attaché Martha Sullivan (Robin Wright) taking interest in Bachmann’s case, Bachmann must keep them at arm’s length in order to catch a much bigger fish.

Credit must be given to Jina Jay for her role in casting A Most Wanted Man as, in the most part, the actors are of the same nation which their characters are from (e.g.: Germany, Iran, Russia). Yet, while the choice of two prolific actors in the form of Hoffman and McAdams may add a power to the film, it does seem to run contrary to the films ethos of having like play like.

However, at least in regard to Hoffman, the breaking of this ethos seems to have paid due dividends. Although I have not read the original novel, and thus cannot say how Hoffman’s portrayal would have transitioned well for audience members see a different character in their head to what’s on the screen, I shall say that, in spite this ignorance, I am willing to venture that Hoffman did the part justice.

While spy-thriller films bring to mind sequences of James Bond or Jason Bourne slyly getting information before shooting everything in sight and breaking limbs of those who do not get shot, Hoffman gives Bachmann a realism that is so little seen nowadays with films making spies almost like supernatural powers.

A-Most-Wanted-Man-movieHoffman, despite his lumbering frame and mild black coffee addiction, makes Bachmann feels like a genuine spy, even down to the well done German accent. Hoffman allows us to see through Bachmann’s eyes on the world after 9/11 and how security has changed in consequence to it. Yet, despite this age of fear and kneejerk reactions; Bachmann is more focused on the bigger picture rather than what is in his immediate sight, which gives Bachmann a sense of sanity in this slowly actions first world. It’s a great change compared to the usual spy films that are out there to have one that feels grounded in reality rather than hare-brained schemes by madmen to take over the world.

Hoffman’s talent in making Bachmann seem calm and collected in using a suspected terrorist in order to get someone higher on the food chain may not have been handled as well in other hands, thus highlighting talent that need not be greatly highlighted. Yet, while I would not say this is Hoffman’s defining role in any sense, I would say it is a great case study of his talents.

Yet this is where the great talent seemingly ends. While it is a joy to see McAdams out of rom-com roles, like About Time, The Notebook, The Time Traveler’s Wife etcetera, etcetera, you get the feeling that this role could have been filled by (insert pretty young actress here) in the same way Natalie Portman could have been replaced in V for Vendetta.

There was no strong presence about her character and, while she played the role well and made no mistakes, it did not feel like she made the role her own like Hoffman did. Yet I hope this does not stop her from doing these roles as, although I highly suspect she will read this review, she does have talent as yet unmined in these different films roles which given time should reap some reward.

a-most-wanted-man-2014-movie-wallpaper

Sorry Daniel Brühl and Nina Hoss, but Hoffman is the main man.

Even the supporting cast did not have great amounts of time to establish their characters in a two hour movie. At times, scenes with Hoffman and Wright felt almost shoehorned in to help the plot move along and to give Wright’s character the needed screen time. Hoffman’s team felt they were just there to add other humans for Hoffman to bounce off of and, while this is not necessarily a bad thing, it sometimes does have that feel of relegating talented actors for two stars.

However to make this point to harshly I feel misses the point of the film as, while it is about a team effort to get a trapped lured for suspected terrorists, it is a vehicle for Hoffman to allow the audiences to see how he differs so much from security forces of the day. It is a critique, much like the book, on how small goals can never yield big results something which Hoffmann portrays brilliantly.

The films tone is also one of great suspense. While having never seen a film of Anton Corbijn, I must give credit to the director for knowing how to keep an audience’s attention. Corbijn allows the films to build slowly, following the case step by step which keeps you wondering what will happen next. Will the terrorists attack? Will the German or American security forces pull the plug on Bachmann’s operation? Is Bachmann on a wild goose chase? All these questions are whizzing around your mind, absorbing you further into the investigation and the cajoling and coercing that goes along with it.

However it must be admitted that, while the film can keep an audience captivated, it would be foolish to say it would keep everyone in such a state of tension. The slower pace, while making you more invested in the step by step feel of the film, may not be enough for every audience member.

They may be expecting some brawl or gunfight or some form of violence to act as a breather from the intrigue. Aside from one chase scene, A Most Wanted Man does not really have this. This is not really a criticism of the film itself as, what it does it does well, it is just an acknowledgement that for it may not be a universally liked film because of the way it is done.

But in the end, while I would not suggest you all to flood the high-street or Amazon to Wanted-man-2014buy it on release, I would most certainly advise you to go to the cinema and watch it. Its slow atmospheric pace, alongside a strangely captivating use of methodical espionage and Hoffman’s performance makes for a delightfully, yet subtlety, tense experience that would most merit a second viewing.

Thanks for reading! If you liked what you read then please follow me here on WordPress or even on Facebook and Twitter as well. Also, if you fancy writing for The Chronic Chronicler, then send me an email at chronicchronicler1@gmail.com. Anything within reason is acceptable! Thanks again for reading!

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Our Zoo: Episode 2 – Bearing Up Well

So I have realised two things with this post. Firstly, this is the first time since October that I have posted anything one day after another post. But secondly, and more importantly, this post makes me more productive in two weeks than I was for the entirety of August. With that bit of sobering comments on my work productivity done, let’s move on to the review of Our Zoo Episode 2.

If you saw episode one you’ll know from there “Next Time” bit that this episode’s plot revolves around George Mottershead and Billy Atkinson (Ralf Little) in their attempts to lure two black bears out of a cave so they can use them in their zoo.

However there are also several smaller plotlines that fit into the final story, first of which is Lizzie coming to prominence by managing the household and getting to grips with George’s zoo plans and getting permission for its construction. Second is George’s mother Lucy finding that she is no longer the matriarch of the family and coming to terms with her different role in the family. The last of which is Muriel’s (or Mew as she is nicknamed) storyline in which she tries to get to know/stalking their gentry neighbour Lady Katherine Longmore.

I must admit that Lee Ingleby does an impressive turn in this episode, giving George more of the vitality that was present at the end of the first episode, being buoyed up by the optimism of opening a zoo. His fervour is displayed in showing the family how intends to run the zoo and, along with June’s ever present bubbly self, makes for pleasant viewing.

Saving the FoxOne of the episodes highlights was, when trimming some bushes in order to get away from some hospital equipment he discovers in a room left over from the First World War, George overhears the a bugle sounding the fox hunts approach. By chance, George encounters the fox and hides in in a stable, spreading water to mask the fox’s scent. To see how George will lovingly take in wild animals to save them from societal barbarism was brilliantly done, highlighting the sports savagery by showing the clearly knackered fox and silently approving of the UK’s ban of fox hunting in 2004.

However, despite the fact that Ingleby got to act alongside bears, his greatest scenes seemed to be when he was with his onscreen wife Lizzie. Their chemistry in bang on the money, acting like a married couple both in the happy moments when showing off the zoo plans; the angrier moments when tensions rise over whether to have bears, and vying for power over the development of the zoo.

Lizzie (Liz White) however, must take due credit as her role is expanded upon from merely the naysayer. Lizzie becomes a stronger character as for the first time she has her own household, not that of George’s mother and she is not about to let that position be lost, even taking on George’s mother to preserve it.

Liz White

Lizzie taking up the role of martiarch

There’s even a hint of feminism coming through her character, as she bemoans the fact that she needs to fill in form to get Oakfield transferred from domestic to business, needs to be done by George and not herself, saying “God forbid a woman could fill in a form!”. This keenly, whilst taking away from the overall message of the series, of the changes still needed in equality for women, despite the fact that women by 1928 could now vote at 21, the same age as men for the first time in British history.

Yet Lizzie’s focus in mainly upon her aptitude to managing a home and her intellect in changing and improving George’s plans for the zoo and for the Liz White creates a character that is strong character in her own right, not merely following George’s vision for fear of treading on his shadow.

5732724Once again Anne Reid turns out a fantastic performance as Lucy Mottershead, with her character still being denial about her position as matriarch and the respect she commanded as a shop owner being wiped away in an instant in order to go on what many may call a mad adventure. Lucy sort of symbolises the displacement the older generation feels to the newer forward thinking generation and Lucy is struggling to preserve her place of dominance which is fading fast, if not faded already, something which her husband has realised and taken in his stride.

With the husband being mentioned, I must give some credit to the smaller characters in this series. Ralf Little as the wheeling and dealing Billy Atkinson gives someone for George to bounce off of, creating scenes that are at times both touching and quite humorous, even when you are surrounded by Asian black bears. Even now I find myself smirking at him singing “Me and My Shadow” to a bear so that it will remain asleep.

Wight and Kneafsey

Oh yes, and Albert and June feed a pelican. Another nice light touch.

Peter Wight as Albert Mottershead and Honor Kneafsey as his granddaughter June, though they do not have any particularly large scenes, bring a certain sweetness to the series, as most exemplified when trying to milk a goat and, when Mew offers June to do the milking instead, June eagerly accepts only for Albert to gently push Mew to do some work.  It’s a pleasure to see them on screen and I hope they attain larger amounts of screen time as the series progresses.

Yet, and unfortunately, that cannot be said for Mew, as portrayed by Amelia Clarkson. I may be wrong, maybe she has hidden talents as yet undiscerned by me, but all I can see is a wheel that needs to be gotten rid of. Aside from the goat milking scene, she once again has very little to show in acting versatility. Mew only acts as a foil to other characters, making them more interesting and rounded characters while she herself remains a blank canvas that no-one really wants to paint on.

6834537-low_res-Apart from a pretty face, and hair reminiscent to YouTuber Carrie Hope Fletcher, there seems to be little reason for her to be there. Indeed, Clarkson acts as a mopey teenager desiring more which isn’t exactly pushing the boat out. Similar could be said for Kneafsey portraying a happy child, but her screen time is meaningful and her acting at least developing, whereas Clarkson does not have that blessing.

Perhaps it is not her fault and is directed in a faulty fashion, but considering the other characters good, if not excellent performances, I feel Mew should be either given greater importance to show her as of yet hidden acting talents or directions to the stage door.

While the series has not even reached the halfway point, and much is still to occur, the series is filled with promise and things seemed to be developing nicely, same of which I have left out purposefully to avoid spoilers. I hope this series builds up on its first few episodes for anything less than what they have delivered would be a disappointment, unless it were a good performance from Clarkson.

Thanks again for reading! If you liked this review please follow me on WordPress, Facebook and Twitter to keep updated on my reviews. Also, if you want to write and article for The Chronic Chronicler, my email is chronicchronicler1@gmail.com. It would be brilliant to see what people send me!

P.S.: I apologise about the incorrect emails given in two of my previous articles. They have been changed and I hope if anyone sent any articles to the incorrect email addresses will send them to this correct one. Again, thanks for reading.

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Child of Light – Pleasant or Repellent?

2624132-2766761797-ChildSo on May 5th I was browsing my WordPress feed when I stumbled upon something familiar. It was review by Pixel Vallee on the game Child of Light. It was weird seeing the name again, having to ponder where I had heard it from for a while before realisation hit me a ton of bricks with a further ton of bricks hitting mere seconds after the first load made connection with my skull.

I had mentioned it myself in my Far Cry 3 review, giving it much praise in comparison for my rather lukewarm, at best, reception of the highly rated run around shooting everything in sight like crazy game.

Now, with my complete and utter ignorance of its release being corrected I swiftly bought it on Steam and have now finally completed it. Is it that long of a game? No. Twelve hours tops. Why has it taken me so long? One word: Exams. You probably know how I felt now at that time since I said that most painful of words.

Child of Light has pretty much sat in my Steam library sullen for being bought then, after a quick play, left until I had more time for a deeper play through. Well Child of Light, you need fear no more for the play through came and let me tell you… it had its ups and downs. OK, before we get into this let’s quickly got through the obligatory overview.

You play as the Aurora, a daughter of a Duke in Austria in 1895 (although then it would have been known as the Austro-Hungarian Empire), who falls to sleep due to some non-defined illness. Aurora then awake to the mythical land of Lemuria which has had the sun, moon and stars stolen by the Dark Queen Umbra.

Eager to return to her dying father, Aurora, along with a motley crew the many different peoples of Lemuria, travels across Lemuria to retrieve the sun, moon and stars. They must fight many and varied foes in order to restore Lemuria to its former glory while also readying themselves for the inevitable battle between darkness and light.

Now I know I wrote in utter awe of the game a year ago, but having played it there are a few things that make the game feel less whimsical and more repetitive and frustrating, first of which is the insistence on poetry.

auroraNow I loved the poetry as I’m a person who still unashamedly likes to read poetry (and is reading some of Seamus Heaney’s collected poems at the time of writing). However I know that a lot of people find poetry to be an archaic form of writing which only serves as part of monotonous English lessons and, upon the end of school, is forgotten as quickly as Tamagotchi’s. So I can fully understand why the poetry may make people take an axe to their computers in complete annoyance.

Also the combat, while standard for an RPG, is a bit repetitive. The problem is that you can avoid battles if you want to, but you need to level up sufficiently in order to fight the bosses, which entails going around finding enemies so that you can level up. This, to put it bluntly, can be quite boring after a while.

There is also a problem with healing, but not in the way you are probably thinking. Alongside Aurora you also play as Igniculus, a firefly that helps Aurora by unlocking certain areas and also healing you in battle. While this is helpful in the long run, it does feel like there is no challenge with regular opponents as any damage you receive can easily be countermanded by Igniculus’ constant healing.

This also makes the wide array of healing potions redundant as they only really come into play when Igniculus’ healing ability is depleted and there is no way of replenishing it for a short period of time, which usually occurs in boss fights. Moreover, Igniculus’ healing light can also be used to slow enemies down if you hover over them, giving you more time to attack which, again, makes fights sometimes unnecessarily easy and more of a chore.

Screenshot_Skills

Just a tad too many upgrades

Furthermore, something which annoyed me with Far Cry 3 that remained in Child of Light is the upgrades tree. While upgrades are normal in games now, I do feel that Child of Light went a bit overboard with the amount of upgrades needed. Every time your character levels up, they get a skill point which can be spent on upgrades. However the upgrades only cost one, or much later on, two points so you feel like you are constantly upgrading your character.

Child of Light really could have benefitted in doling out upgrades every few levels with greater reward rather than giving them out in micro-packages every time you levelled up. By leaving upgrades to be given after a certain level, or even after certain boss fights, it would have mode them more meaningful, rather than something that appeared to have come up with the rations.

In addition, the game feels cut short. Without spoiling, the game goes from something that has the feel of a long coming-of-age tale to being swiftly dealt with in two boss battles that are almost one after the other. Rather than trying to let the game drift on in its more fairy-tale style in order to give some more profound lessons at a leisurely though more intense way near the end of the game Ubisoft seemed happy to cram the ending into half an hour of gameplay that leaves a sense of dull dissatisfaction.

Yet, despite these complaints, It may surprise you to learn that there are good, if not indeed, brilliant aspects about this game. Let’s get the obvious out of the way though: this game is gorgeously designed.

image_child_of_light-24150-2822_0009

Absolutely Beautiful

Upon turning the game on and landing in Lemuria, I just stared at the picturesque water-coloured game for about five minutes before engaging in any sort of gameplay. As a game I have never seen one so delightful to look at. For all the modern CGI effects in triple A games and the realism they try to confer, Child of Light with its simplistic, yet unique style, cannot help but to grab your attention fully.

Another brilliant aspect of the game is its side scrolling nature as, like Deadlight, it allows you to look at the brilliant artwork beyond your immediate surroundings. The fantastic artwork, as I have said before, is a wonder to behold but the side-scrolling mechanic harks back to the days of uncomplicated gameplay and yet unrestricted feel.

What also helps this is the exquisite soundtrack. the classical music, with the piano leading the melody onwards, gives the game the sense of otherworldly-ness which fits in beautifully. Rather than wax lyrical about how good the music is, I’ll just leave you with a sample and let you be the judge on how great the music is.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=93h-8MKG48s

Furthermore the whole coming-of-age motif this game is centred around is handled with aplomb. The development of Aurora from scared and slightly bratty child to a caring and almost worldly protagonist is on which you feel more and more invested in as the game goes along.

While Aurora may have remained a gimmicky character whose development is next to none, Ubisoft have gone down a more satisfactory route by letting the character develop as the game progresses, making her grow up in consequence to the growing realism of the plight Lemuria, and her father, faces which makes the game all the more interesting.

What I also must give points on is the storyline itself as, while it is in essence a bit basic at best, it doesn’t try to over-complicate things by becoming all existential about itself. Child of Light takes the more basic, and more enjoyable route of Person A must defeat Person B with help from Peoples C through G. Sure it has a few side quests that you can do, which give your side characters time to be fleshed out, but they don’t obscure your main mission with it only being at the end that you notice that, if you missed them, it effects a scene ever so slightly.

childoflight1Now we turn to the combat and, while Igniculus’ makes battles too easy at times, at its core it is quite fun to play, especially against bosses. The turn based combat, while not to everyone’s taste, does make sense in this RPG and since Child of Light throws a veritable plethora of enemies against you. Getting up to three enemies at a time which come in different shapes and sizes, as well as different strengths and weaknesses, Child of Light really gives you a different battle experience every time..

But that’s not only with enemies as the combination of characters you are given are magnificently varied to allow players to have a different style of play. With heavy hitting characters, magic characters, characters that hinder your opponents, characters that give you buffs and healing, there is such a wide variety of styles and tactics that you can employ that many people may have a different gaming experience because of it.

Child-of-Light-2So Child of Light, while not everything I wanted it to be, is not a bad game by far, indeed it excels. The story is captivating, as well as the artwork, bringing you along a journey that is bittersweet yet leaves you with a feeling of sweet satisfaction, although there is that yearning for something more. But, in fairness, the fairy-tale aspect of the whole game will leave you with a sense of charm and delight that obscure the faults not in darkness, but with blinding light.

Thanks for reading! Please be sure to follow me here on WordPress, as well as Facebook and Twitter, if you liked this review and wish to see more. Also if you want to write an article for The Chronic Chronicler, then please sen me an email to chronicchronicler1@gmail.com. Thanks again for reading.

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Our Zoo: Episode 1 – Forget Cats and Dogs, This Family Has a Camel!

So looking back over my sites hits, which I do a worryingly amount of, I was looking over my top most read articles. Omitting the Home Page, which has way too many hits compared to my actual articles, three of my top five most read articles are my reviews for the TV series The Crimson Field.

Now I’m not exactly looking for a load more hits, though that would be nice. I wasn’t even looking for articles I had written that paled in comparison to the much more well-received articles I’ve written (I’m looking at you Monsters University and Fez). No I was just thinking, I haven’t seen a TV series I wanted to review for a while.

Well that’s really a half truth. I wanted to review In the Flesh that aired on BBC Three. The first series and when the second series began airing, reviews of the episodes almost seemed inevitable. However by the time it came out, the first review of The Crimson Field had been released and, since exams were cropping up, In the Flesh was sorrowfully left by the wayside, although not seeing it would have been a crime in itself.

Then the second series of The Village came. If you have not seen it, go out and watch it now. It’s like Downton Abbey, but for the working classes. The series is completely enthralling, with such acting talents like John Simm and Maxine Peake in the cast, it captures your imagination so perfectly.

So why, you may be asking yourself, hasn’t it been reviewed on The Chronic Chronicler? Simply put: I missed the first two episodes and did not want to do three reviews in quick succession so I could be up to date with the series.

p025hkq3But fear not for, as that old maxim goes, third time’s the charm and for me it most certainly has been. So, for the second time a TV series review begins an introduction comprised of mainly waffle, here is the review of the new BBC drama Our Zoo.

It is 1930 and Lee Ingleby (yes that guy from Episode 4 of The Crimson Field) stars as George Mottershead, the younger son of Albert and Lucy Mottershead (Peter Wight and Anne Reid) who run a respected grocers shop which he is set to take over from his parents. George outwardly seems to have a good life, with his wife Lizzie (Liz White – see Life on Mars (another series with Lee Ingleby) and From There to Here) as well as his two children Muriel (Amelia Clarkson) and June (Honor Kneafsey), but there lies an inner darkness to him.

George, who fought in the First World War, suffers psychologically from the memories of the Front and the fact that his elder brother died does not help, especially due to the fact his mother clearly preferred him over George and finds his apparent weakness in recovering from the war an embarrassment.

The thing that keeps him most calm is animals and, after going to the docks to collect stock for the shop, he encounters animals that had not been collected which are about to be put down. In a fit of compassion, he saves a squirrel monkey and an Australian parrot.

624Almost understandably his family, with the exception of June, think that he has finally gone a bit mad, especially when instead of selling the monkey and the parrot to the circus, he comes back with a camel to add to his menagerie.

But fate seems to smile upon George who, after a chance meeting with the Lady Katherine Longmore (Sophia Myles) at a WWI veteran’s reunion and the discovery of the rundown manor Oakfield, the idea takes form in George’s head, a zoo where there are no cages.

To say that I have pretty much spelled out the basic plot of the first episode is pretty accurate, yet I hope I’ve kept enough from you to keep you interested. One thing that should peak your interest is the well-chosen and experienced cast.

Lee Ingleby gives a strong performance in the lead role, exemplifying the psychological traumas war can do whilst retaining certain strength of character which makes him endearing. A particular scene between himself and the Reverend Aaron Webb (Stephen Campbell Moore) shows him to be a man of determination and grit. To show that his psychological trauma does not make up his character entirely, rather it has both weakened him and steeled him in the face of adversity.

The other noteworthy performances were that of Anne Reid as George’s complicated mother. Reid gives a brilliant performance as a mother who has clearly lost her “favourite” son as, when a letter arrives from George and Stan’s old regiment, she refers to it to June as “your Uncle Stan’s old regiment”, completely disregarding George’s involvement.

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Pretty much the only picture I could find of Anne Reid in Our Zoo

Her disapproval of her surviving son is only seen more vividly in Reid’s performance by her outward disgust at George’s animals, seeing them as causing their downfall in respectable society. Reid gives Lucy Mottershead something that is difficult to do on screen, providing a character that you firmly disagree with yet completely understand her viewpoint as to why she is committing these actions. For Reid to put that all across in a single hour episode is a great achievement.

While there were other great acting talents in the episode, like Ralf Little (The Royle Family and Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps) and the previously mentioned Liz White, they had little time to truly flex their acting muscles and, while neither gave bad performances in any regard, their screen time felt a bit lacking at times (though that can be said more of Little than White).

While this may be perceived a s a criticism, I do hope to see more fleshing out of these characters in future episodes as from what little time they had on screen, they captured enough of the audience’s attention for the, to become likeable.

One subplot which did nothing for the overall story, aside from leading to some clearly fabricated drama at the episode’s close was Muriel’s storyline. Muriel, who is in love with a young lad called Christopher (Parry Glasspool), wants to elope to New York with him, despite the fact she’s fifteen and he’s clearly only interested in her for one thing.

Inevitably things go wrong and the storyline only feeds into affirming George’s main overarching story. But it is told so banally, and acted by Clarkson with what I hope is only a small showing of her emotional range as otherwise it would be perceived as limited acting. She fits the bill of “pretty young girl”, but that’s it. Without being fleshed out, she will just be that character written for accuracies’ sake.

Just look at that monkey!

Just look at that monkey! I defy you to tell me it’s not awesome!

I do hope this series gets more viewers’ next episode as, while it is not a completely radical overhaul in terms of drama, it is simply great television. The concept keeps you interested, despite knowing the outcome, the acting (for the most part) is well done and the personal stories for each character (again for the most part) are so intriguing that it keeps you invested. Even if that’s not enough, the animals are enough to keep you watching, as well as the fact you see George and June on separate occasions walking around with a squirrel monkey on their shoulders. How much more do I need to convince you? In any case, I hope this series keeps the momentum going and builds upon it as an interesting series like this does not deserve to fritter away.

Thank you for reading and I hope you like the first installment of the six-part reviews of the BBC series Our Zoo, probably coming out Thursday or Friday. If you want you can still see it on BBC iPlayer and, if you can see it on TV, it comes out on Wednesday at 9:00 on BBC One. Also, if you aren’t already, don’t forget to follow me on WordPress, like my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter if you are the blogger stalkers I know most of you are. Also, if you want to write for this blog (film, books, TV, poetry, etc, etc.), please send me an email to chronicchronicler1@gmail.com and I’ll have a look. Thanks again for reading!

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Up in the Air – Surprisingly Grounded

Up_in_the_Air-147711825-largeWhen Up in the Air was announced to be coming to theatres near you in 2009 I looked at the poster and thought “Well that looks boring” and decided to watch Up instead, a film with three less words in the title but packing a huge emotional wallop that we have all come to experience from that film.

However, with the magic of BBC iPlayer, I saw that it was on and decided to give the film a chance. After all, it was by the guy who made Thank You for Smoking and Juno and between 2009 and 2014 I’d watched and loved both those films so I might as well give this one a chance.

Up in the Air centres around Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) who works for the almost harmlessly named Careers Transitions Corporation (CTC) which means he travels the United States firing people for bosses who are “pussies who don’t have the balls to sack their employees”. He loves his life in the skies, feeling at home in the airport and the skies rather than his tiny and sparsely filled apartment.

However Bingham is called in by his boss Craig Gregory (Jason Bateman) to the CTC’s offices in Omaha, Nebraska to announce that he has hired some new blood, in the form of recently graduated Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick), with new ideas. Instead of flying people across the country to fire people, she proposes to fire people via videoconference, thus saving a fortune for the company. This, to say the least, disgusts Bingham.

After a confrontation between Bingham and Keener, with Bingham asserting that Keener has no idea how to fire someone in real life, Gregory decides to send Keener with Bingham on the road to show her how firing is done. And thus the tale begins, between modern efficiency and the personal touch as well as a flowering relationship between Bingham and another travelling businesswoman Alexandra ‘Alex’ Gordon (Vera Famiga).

I must say that that, despite constantly confusing Up in the Air for George Orwell’s novel Coming Up for Air, this film really grows on you as the film progresses. George Clooney, for all his suave persona, has never really been an actor that I find necessary to watch, let alone seek out purposefully. However with Clooney in the role of Bingham, he makes someone who may have been seen as cold and un-relatable as charming and almost endearing.

Bingham’s life of self-imposed ostracism is surmised brilliantly in his motivational speeches called “What’s in my Bag?” using his suitcase as a metaphor to justify his unattached existence by feeling that a life with relationships will only weigh you down. Yet this defiance of cultural norms would be nothing without challenge to obscure his view of the world, which is where Keener and Alex come in.

Admittedly I had never heard of Anna Kendrick or Vera Famiga prior to seeing this film, despite seeing Famiga in Source Code and Kendrick in Scott Pilgrim vs The World and ParaNorman however it is their performances that truly ground the film (pardon the pun).

up-in-the-air-004Kendirck as the inexperienced, yet ambitious graduate gives the film a viewing point for Bingham’s actions. Though at times she becomes slightly irritating due to her complete ineptitude at firing people, it is only briefly done to highlight how she is trying to best the veteran Bingham.

Aside from this, Keener actually serves as quite a standard character, trying to get Bingham to see the value of societal norms and that relationships and family are not necessarily things that tie you down and, while on her own she is not successful, it does provide good opportunity for Bingham and Keener to become fuller characters which on their own they may not have achieved.

Yet, while Keener is a good character and partially integral to the overall storyline, there are occasions that leave you feeling that they should focus more on Bingham’s relationship with Alex and of that of his estranged family. And on that note, let’s have a look at Alex.

up-in-the-air-1024This is where the film thrives in my book as, while Bingham and Keener’s relationship gives Bingham verbal acknowledgement of the need for relationships with other people, Alex is the subtle version, although it is blatantly obvious to the audience. To see their relationship progress is one that actually pulls on the heartstrings, with them checking their flight plans so that they can hook up again with what turns from casual sex into a more meaningful relationship.

Famiga plays the role beautifully and, while her role is sometimes a bit obvious, as well as the eventual outcome of her and Bingham’s relationship, she creates a more human side to both seemingly unfeeling people, even giving a rather good speech on how the young always go for perfection in relationship when those who are older, and more experienced, realise that a compromise is always necessary.

However what most caught me off-guard about this film was one of its smaller, yet overarching storylines, being that of Bingham’s younger sister’s wedding. Throughout the film Bingham is getting Keener to take pictures of a cardboard cut-out of his sister, Julie (Melanie Lynskey), and her fiancé Jim (Danny McBride) in various places since they cannot afford a honeymoon trip.

Up in the Air http://teaser-trailer.comYet on the day of the wedding, which Bingham turns up to despite being characteristically cold about it for most of the film, the fiancé has cold feet and Bingham is called upon by Kara (Amy Morton), Bingham’s older sister, to use his motivational skills to get Julie’s fiancé to commit, something which seems counterintuitive to Bingham’s philosophy.

Not to give what was said in the scene away, though some of it was in the trailer, the scene is actually rather touching in a refreshingly honest sought of way, with human connections being seen to be part and partial of a fuller life, whatever form they may be.

Jason Bateman also deserves a quick bit of praise as, despite his messy CV, with films like Horrible Bosses (and presumably Horrible Bosses 2), Identity Thief and The Switch to name a few distorting his acting capabilities, reuniting with director Jason Reitman must be something good for him as, although in a smaller role than in the indie success Juno was, Bateman as Bingham’s boss gives the film drive.

Bateman acts as the driving force for the film and, although his screen time is short, he uses it effectively giving the plot that extra push it needs to keep the audience invested.  Kudos Bateman, please do more like this.

One thing that really should have been mentioned by now is the actually firing Bingham and Keener do and that it provides a lot of comedy and drama to the film as a whole. Zach Galifianakis acts as Steve, an employee fired by Bingham and, although only on screen for minutes, his renditions of “How an Employee can react to Being Fired” are quite amusing. Tamala Jones also shows this in a blunter, colder fashion, showing audiences how some people really act to unemployment in a decidedly uncomfortable manner.

009UIA_J_K__Simmons_001Yet it is acting veteran J.K. Simmons (Spider-Man trilogy, Juno, and Portal 2) gives the film more time with firing employees than any other. Keener realises the reality which Bingham faces on a daily basis and the whole host of issues arising from it, as well as her lack of real world experience when her academic mind is swiftly denounced by Simmons’ visibly distraught character. Simmons gives the recently unemployed a voice in how unemployment will affect them in real terms.

In the end though, this film does push the “Live Life with Those you Care About” message pretty hard, it feels as if it flows naturally, rather than getting preachy about the subject. It allows Bingham to be his ostracised self while moving the plot along while slowly questioning Bingham’s lifestyle rather than bringing abrupt changes every fifteen minutes.

I must say that, while this film did not capture my attention at the time, I’m glad BBC iPlayer reminded me of it as it was most certainly worth the time to watch it. It’s witty, charming and keeps you invested in the characters without making them to feel like caricatures.

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed this review. If you like please follow me, as well as liking my Facebook and following me on Twitter to keep updated on more reviews and other articles I’ll be doing. Also, if you want to write as a guest blogger please leave email chronicchronicler1@gmail.com. Thanks again for reading!

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