Monthly Archives: June 2015

Jurassic World (2015)


Well, after 10 years in development hell, Jurassic World is finally open to the public; and it’s already breaking records.

The 4th film in the Jurassic Park series, Jurassic World returns to its original beginnings in Costa Rica and the fictional island Isla Nublar. Having not learned from past mistakes, a new park full of cloned dinosaurs (that will certainly remain contained throughout the film) has been opened and is a huge success.

However to ensure public interest remains undiminished, a new ‘attraction’ is being created; a genetically modified dinosaur named Indominus Rex, which has been created using the DNA of a variety of dinosaurs, frogs and fish.

Cue the entrance of two young lads to Jurassic World, played by the less than charismatic Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins. In a shocking turn of events, the Indominus Rex gets out and all hell breaks loose (the health and safety department must be livid).

Though as my review thus far will show, I went in to see the film in a rather sceptical frame of mind. However, I have to say, the first hour or so of the film was extremely enjoyable. Joking aside, the foreshadowing of the Indominus Rex and its inevitable escape was executed brilliantly, whilst the theme park itself was brought to life in vivid detail during the opening scenes. Indeed the sense of magic and wonder inspired by the first film was captured impressively.

And then things got a little silly.

Roughly half-way through, and especially towards the end, the writers decided to give up on maintaining an actual plot, deciding instead to focus on displaying amazing CGI effects; culminating in a ridiculous battle between the Indominus Rex, a T-Rex, and a raptor. It was such a shame after such a strong beginning; the film essentially became a bigger budget Japanese Kaiju film, wherein giant monsters fight each other for no adequately explored reason.

They also decided to give the dinosaurs human characteristics, for example there’s one scene in which there appears to be a show of mutual respect between the T-Rex and the raptor, which really stretched my suspension of disbelief to its limits.

Chris Pratt, as the action hero Owen Grady, was okay but certainly not memorable, to such a degree that, at the end of the film, I had to ask my friend what his character’s name actually was. His chemistry with Bryce Dallas Howard was adequate, but their relationship felt a little flat throughout, seeming more like a concept added to the story by committee, rather than something integral to the story.

The best character, in my opinion, was Jake Johnson as Lowery Cruthers, who provided the comic relief for the film. He was genuinely funny, causing me to bemoan his relative lack of screen time; though being a fan of New Girl may have caused me to view him as Nick Miller.

Jurassic World certainly possessed a lot of energy as well. I found the references to Jurassic Park were more than simply fan service, instead adding to the history and backstory of the narrative. Ultimately, the story kept me interested throughout, despite the scenes and aspects of the movie that stretched my imagination.

They could do with this at Seaworld

They could do with this at Seaworld

In a series of memorable set-pieces, the one from Jurassic World I’ll remember best is the scene during which the Pterosaur’s are let loose. It provides one of the most horrific deaths I have ever seen in any movie, especially as the rating is 12a; I couldn’t quite believe what I was watching! I won’t say what happens; you’ll know when you see it (it still gives me nightmares).

Overall Jurassic World is a fun action flick with a big, big budget helping it to achieve everything it attempted. It’s certainly an enjoyable film to watch, even if it lacks some substance, with the ending really letting it down.

Not as imaginative or memorable as the original, still better than the 2nd and 3rd films of the series, if you like your dinosaurs and you like this series, it is essential viewing.

My Rating: 6/10




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Beauty and the Beast (1991)


Beauty and the Beast – IMDb 248/250

Number 248 in the IMDb top 250, the Disney classic Beauty and the Beast is the first animated film on this list; a film which I somehow never saw as a kid and one that is based on a French fairy tale of the same name.

Part of the Disney renaissance era of the late 80s and 90s, Beauty and the Beast tells the story of Beast, a prince of an incredible castle who is placed under a curse and turned into a hideous creature by an enchantress, for his lack of compassion and love. The titular character needs to find love and be loved back before the last petal on a magical rose falls, or he will forever remain in his beastly form.

Along comes the beautiful and enigmatic Belle who, when her father is captured by the Beast, offers herself in exchange. Shortly afterwards, her influence begins to show Beast how to be kind, gentle, and of course how to love.

Aside from the overtones of bestiality and Stockholm Syndrome, this tale of love between the Beast and Belle is a rather charming tale, composed in typical Disney fashion. Elaborate musical numbers, swift character development and the archetypal nefarious villain (in this case the brutish, arrogant Gaston) who wants to marry Belle himself.

I believe the main issue I had with this film stems from the fact that I didn’t see the film as a child and therefore, have no feelings of nostalgia attached. Films like The Lion King and Aladdin I can now watch as an adult and still feel the same sense of wonder, because I loved them so much as a kid. However when I watched this film, I view it as a cynical adult, annoyed by the formulaic Disney patterns.

I just found myself struggling to invest in the story and failed to be drawn into the magical world as I am by other Disney or modern animated films. Having watched recent animation movies like Shrek, Despicable Me and Wall-E, their brilliant use of comedy and wonder keep adults entertained in a way that classic Disney doesn’t. I felt like Beauty and the Beast only had one target audience; and as a grumpy 22 year old, I wasn’t it.

Though that doesn’t mean there was nothing about the film I couldn’t enjoy or appreciate.

The servants who are turned into various household items because of the curse (this enchantress was a truly horrible person: I mean, why were the servants punished – what did they do!), are the real stars of the show, especially compared to the rather bland Belle and the immediately forgettable villain Gaston, who pales in comparison to the likes of Maleficent, Scar and Jafar.

Lumiere the candlestick, Cogsworth the clock and Mrs. Potts the teapot (she was English, obviously), are fantastic and wonderfully brought to life by the animation team, with the voice talents of Jerry Orbach and Angela Lansbury really standing out.

The real stars of the film

The real stars of the film

The musical numbers are fun and memorable with Be Our Guest a fantastic little song that deserves especial praise; though perhaps this is because of See My Vest from The Simpsons. I also really enjoyed Human Again, which only features on the special edition version, and of course the titular song, all of which are beautifully performed by the entire cast.

Furthermore, the story moves along at a nice pace,, making it the perfect film for children who need to be distracted for an hour and a half.

Overall I can see why the film is culturally significant and, perhaps if I had watched it as a child, I’d have love and a powerful affinity for Beauty and the Beast; but watching it now, I can’t help but see it as a typical Disney film. To be fair this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as like most Disney films, there is something intrinsically enjoyable that even the most stone-hearted adults can enjoy;  in this case French candlesticks and talking teapots!

My Rating: 5/10


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Premier League Predictions 2015/2016 season

Current premier league champions Chelsea

Premier League 2015/2016 Predictions

Like many football fans (the English game that involves kicking the ball, not the American one where you throw it) I enjoy predicting the final league table before the season begins (I’m fully aware that my predictions are extremely early, but I was bored). Most of the time I’m utterly wrong; from which I’ve extrapolated that I have absolutely no insight whatsoever. However as uninformed celebrities like Noel Gallagher are inexplicably asked for their opinion with alarming regularity, I thought I may as well record my predictions on this blog for the 6 people who’ll read it.

Anyway, going through each team in alphabetical order, I’ll explain in 3 or 4 sentences where I think each will finish and why. I’ll also be checking this at the end of the season to see if I am even remotely accurate.

Arsenal: 3rdThough I’m a Spurs fan, I’m fully prepared for yet another season trailing in their wake. Given the individual quality in their squad and the recent signing of Petr Cech (which I believe will lead to more impressive signings) I think they’ll be right up there again this year.

Aston Villa: 13thEven though Tim Sherwood is almost insufferably arrogant, his abilities as a manager are undeniable. If the signing of Micah Richards and the sale of some average fringe players is anything to go by, Villa will have a much stronger squad this year and will subsequently avoid being dragged into another relegation battle.

Bournemouth: 20thI don’t think Bournemouth have much hope of survival, even with Eddie Howe at the helm and 1 or 2 valuable players e.g. Sylvain Distin. They’ll struggle to attract the players they need and, much like Burnley last year, will find it difficult to pick up points consistently with their current squad.

Chelsea: 1stA bit obvious perhaps, but Chelsea’s already impressive team will only get stronger this year; any team that can afford to sell one of the best keepers in the world to one of their biggest rivals, is clearly in a strong position. Playing a brand of football that is dynamic in attack, solid in defence and anything but boring (a baffling accusation) they will be tough to overthrow.

Crystal Palace: 12thAlthough they’ve been a revelation over the past 2 seasons under Tony Pulis and Alan Pardew, I think they’ll hit a wall somewhat this year. Opponents will figure out how to play them more effectively, resulting in 1 or 2 weak links becoming slightly more exposed than before.

Everton: 8thEverton will be far stronger this season with the exceptionally talented Roberto Martinez almost certain to replace some of the older players such as Osman and Distin with players suited to his managerial style. Should they start badly, they must resist the inevitable calls to sack Martinez; after all, who are they expecting?

Leicester: 17thAn amazing end to last season aside, I think they’ll struggle to improve much this year. Nigel Pearson is a good, if somewhat narcissistic manager, who’s helped by the ability of the club to attract star players but, in my opinion, they’ll struggle to win on a consistent basis this term.

Liverpool: 5thIt’s always difficult to predict what Liverpool will do. Brendan Rodgers seems to buy the same type of player each year (small, technical attacking midfield types) instead of addressing the main areas of concern. For example, today they signed Roberto Firmino who may be a useful player in his own right, but adds nothing different to Philippe Coutinho or Raheem Sterling.

Manchester City: 2ndUnless they freshen up their squad with someone like Paul Pogba, another season as runners-up appears likely. I expect Manuel Pellegrini to be gone come December/ January if they’re not on maximum points with a +98,923 goal difference, and wouldn’t be surprised if they slipped to 3rd or even 4th thereafter.

Manchester United: 4th1 or 2 big signings will arrive at Old Trafford this summer, which will help add depth to and rejuvenate the squad. Louis van Gaal’s men will secure 4th position without much of a challenge from the teams immediately below them; though I think the top 4 itself will be full of intrigue this season.

Phil Jones can’t wait for the new season

Newcastle United: 14thI think 14th is about right for Newcastle, as I doubt they’ll have such a poor season with Steve McClaren in charge. A number of fringe players are likely to leave, replaced by a smaller number of talented players who’ll add greater rigidity and depth to the squad. The main question on everyone’s lips however is: will McLaren speak in a Geordie accent during his early press conferences?

Norwich: 16thUnlike the other 2 promoted teams, I think the size of the club will make Norwich much more able to attract high-quality players. Moreover they have a solid group of players on which to build along with electrifying prospects such as Nathan Redmond. I fully expect them to finish highest of the 3 promoted teams, though not much higher than 16th come the final day.

Southampton: 7thAnother decent season is in the offing for the Saints, yet one in which they fail to compete with the bigger teams to the same degree as last season. They have a good squad as things stand but this could be seriously damaged if a couple of their better players leave for higher profile clubs.

Stoke: 9thMuch like Southampton, Stokes season will be analogous with their previous campaigns. They’ll undoubtedly make some astute purchases and get rid of the surplus players, but due to the strength of Southampton, Everton and Spurs, 9th should be their primary target.

Sunderland: 18thEven though Dick Advocaat has agreed to remain as manager, at least for the foreseeable future, I fear they’ll go the same way as Hull last term. It’s unlikely any top players will join due to the number of players and managers who have come and gone in the last 3 seasons or so. If they are slow out of the blocks, Advocaat may decide the job isn’t worth the hassle and leave.

Swansea: 10thImpressive football that will be popular among pundits and people who like football to be played ‘in the right way’ is almost guaranteed once again, however I don’t anticipate this leading to a higher placed finish. Few players will join or leave the club, as the Swans correctly focus on stability, consistency and a shrewd transfer policy.

Spurs: 6thThough I am Spurs fan, I’m also a pessimist; therefore a 6th place finish is, I think, the best they can expect. Mauricio Pochettino will definitely improve the squad, selling some of the (many) average players collected since the sale of Bale, however it will take time to assemble a squad that can legitimately challenge for a champions league spot.

Watford: 19thA club that has struggled to maintain a premier league place in previous years, Watford will struggle again this season. Their squad doesn’t contain many players with premier league experience, which may result in attractive football, but the kind Blackpool played in their inaugural season. Meanwhile, Troy Deeney will be interesting to watch and could provide the goals they’ll need.

West Brom: 15thDespite the steadying influence of Tony Pulis and a decent Squad, the competitive nature of the premier league combined with a lack of creativity, will hamper the progress of the Baggies. I don’t imagine Saido Berahino will leave as he appears rather sensible, but if he does, they could really struggle to score the goals required for a mid-table finish.

West Ham: 11thI’m expecting a much more consistent season from the Hammers this year;  not threatening to break into Europe but likewise never needing to worry about relegation. New manager Slaven Bilic will attract decent players, due to his managerial style and the imminent move to the Olympic stadium, but the consistency of Enner Valencia and Diafra Sakho will be pivotal. By the way, Paul is a West ham fan (despite being the antithesis of the archetypal supporter) so I do have somewhat of a soft spot for them.

Hope you enjoyed my ramblings!


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The Graduate (1967)

the-graduate 1967

The Graduate – IMDb 249/250

“Mrs Robinson you’re trying to seduce me.” This classic, often misquoted line from the 1967 film The Graduate is just one of many iconic moments that take place in this coming of age drama about 20 year old Benjamin Braddock, a recent graduate who begins an affair with the wife of his father’s business partner, the aforementioned Mrs Robinson.

I first watched this film last year and found it thoroughly enjoyable, having felt a certain familiarity with the film having watched parodies of so many scenes on shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy. Ahead of my second viewing, I was interested to see how I would find it, as re-watching a film can provide a true indication of a films quality and longevity. I can safely say, on second viewing, The Graduate is a timeless classic; I loved watching it again even more so than the first time, for so many reasons.

Firstly the performance of Dustin Hoffman as Benjamin is, simply put, one of my favourite acting displays of all time. From his mannerisms to the way he holds himself; it’s just a perfect piece of casting (although interestingly, they originally had someone tall and blonde in mind).

His nervousness around Mrs Robinson, the way he conveys a complete lack of direction after graduating, his fear of the future, (something I can relate to myself – less so the affair with an older woman), is just perfectly encapsulated by Hoffman. I can only imagine Rob Steiger, who beat Hoffman for the best actor award at the 1967 Oscars, produced a tour de force of acting for In the Heat of the Night.

The video below is a brief extract from my favourite scene in the movie (the hotel scene where his affair with Mrs Robinson begins) as it’s a perfect example of the wonderful performance Hoffman gives, with subtle nuances such as yawning as he goes up to his room, or his inability to catch the waiters eye to order a drink, really resonating with me.

The supporting cast are excellent as well, with Anne Bancroft superb as the enigmatic Mrs Robinson, (she was actually only 35 at the time, just 6 years older than Hoffman). Meanwhile the beautiful Katherine Ross, playing Mrs Robinson’s daughter Elaine who Benjamin eventually falls in love with, also gives a stunning performance; both were deservedly nominated for Oscars, along with Hoffman.

The incredible soundtrack by Simon and Garfunkel perfectly complements the film and is easily one of my all time favourite soundtracks of any film, as it just sits so nicely with the films’ themes and motivations; though I have heard it said that many people get a little tired of hearing Sounds of Silence, though I could never tire of such a wonderful song.

The primary reason I love The Graduate so much however, is because it’s so ahead of its time, perfectly summed up by this description which claims the film ‘Encapsulates an era on the brink of change’. This sense of truly not knowing what to do with your life is as relevant today as it was back in the 1960s and furthermore, as a coming of age comedy-drama, it portrays this feeling in a way that many modern films have tried, and failed, to do.

It’s also very un-Hollywood, in-so-far as it doesn’t end happily as in so many pictures; in fact the final scene on the bus is one of the most moving and thought provoking moments in cinema, conveyed not through speech but simple facial expressions, with the ambiguity over whether Benjamin has truly found happiness or simply another distraction so he doesn’t have to face his future.

A happy ending?

A happy ending?

Some may find the film quite slow, the soundtrack a little repetitive; I’ve even heard some people accuse Benjamin Braddock of being an unlikeable lead character, but for me this film is something I can relate to. When I’d finished watching it, like all great films, it stayed with me; I had to do the obligatory Wikipedia check to find everything I possibly could about this film.

I would put The Graduate in my top 10 favourite films of all time and for anyone that has graduated from University; I would say it is essential viewing.

My Rating: 10/10


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Final Fantasy VII – PlayStation (1997)


Final Fantasy VII

For my first review, I’ve chosen my absolute favourite video game; Square Enix’s Final Fantasy VII. With the confirmation of a PS4 remake in the near future, along with the fact that I’ve just finished playing it again (my playthrough count has now reached double figures), I thought it an appropriate choice. I won’t restrain my summary within a typical 1-10 rating, however, as no praise would seem suitable and any criticism I venture to suggest would cause me substantial emotional distress.

Anyway, down to business. The game centres around former SOLDIER Cloud Strife and his band of miss-matched companions which includes a stuffed animal named Cait Sith, chain-smoking, abrasive astronaut Cid Highwind and Barrett Wallace, a man with a gun for an arm (travelling via plane is undoubtedly a nightmare) as they attempt to save the planet from the insidious Shinra Inc. energy company and the genocidal, legendary warrior Sephiroth.

After the initial two or three hours of play contained solely within the city of Midgar and the Shinra Inc. headquarters, you discover that Sephiroth is the main threat to their world, due to his seemingly limitless power (well over 9000) combined with an obsessive determination to achieve his goal. From here, the plot and characters develop at a nice, even pace, which picks up momentum as you venture out into the wider world. You discover Cloud’s memories of his past (including his relationship with Sephiroth) are unaccountably vague and confused, foreshadowing later events. The rest of the story is a wonderful, deep narrative that won’t be revealed here but, even accounting for my bias, some of the greatest moments in video game history take place during this spectacular tale.

The gameplay meanwhile is Final Fantasy VII at its best, showcasing the most enjoyable turn-based combat system imaginable, one which stands comparison with the very best JRPG’s ever created. Indeed, the ‘active’ option will cause AI opponents to act during your turn, which makes for faster-paced action than the series is often credited with. Nonetheless many are sure to find this style far less exciting than hack-and-slash games or modern first-person shooters such as Call of Duty. Equally, modern gamers playing for the first time may be frustrated by the comparatively limited scope for exploration, at least when compared to recent RPG’s, such as Bethesdas Skyrim or Fallout titles. I appreciate this point of view, however, I recently heard the argument stating the problem with turn-based combat is that “they’re just too unrealistic”. I understand the point, but if realism is an issue, it may be difficult to find many games that are could be considered playable. After all, is hiding behind a wall for 30 seconds to allow your bullet wounds to heal any more faithful to reality?

Graphically, many people will be familiar with the criticism levelled at Final Fantasy VII and its blocky character designs and, occasionally, indistinct surrounds; something that was noticeable even by PS1 standards. Though I agree to a certain extent, I would argue that the background artwork and colour scheme, in general, is wonderfully evocative and vivid, particularly evident in areas such as Cosmo Canyon where ochre and orange hues are used to create a gorgeous desert tribal idyll, or Midgar’s dystopian themes, encapsulated by the use of a bleak, dark pallet.

Moonrise over Cosmo Canyon

Moonrise over Cosmo Canyon

The soundtrack meanwhile is an absolute joy. A vast array of instrumental and classical masterpieces that evoke sadness, optimism, foreboding and a panoply of other emotions at different stages of the story. Indeed, Nobuo Uematsu’s score is so popular that some of the compositions have made and still make the Classic FM hall of fame (in the top 10 no less).

All things considered both new and veteran players will enjoy everything the game has to offer. The characters are excellent if somewhat odd, the graphics are questionable but charming and the gameplay is deeper and more intuitive than many people care to admit. Therefore, if you enjoy an immersive narrative set in an exceptionally realised world full of extraordinary and distinct lore, buy Final Fantasy VII; after all, it’s only £7 on the PS3 store and only a few quid more on PS4 – which is cheaper than a box of condoms and arguably, more fun.


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Laura (1944)

Laura – IMDb 250/250









Beginning my reviews of the IMDb top 250 was the classic, American film noir Laura from 1944. A mystery crime-drama, Laura deals with the complexities of love and obsession within the setting of a classic whodunit mystery, with the death of a titular character taking place before the story unfolds.

Firstly it has to be pointed out that my experience watching films released before 1960 is very limited; so limited in fact that before watching this film I think the count was at a colossal 0. I’ve always been put off by older, black and white films. Based on the excerpts I’ve seen, the acting regularly seems to be over the top and rather wooden (why is it when the man and women kiss, the man inevitably grabs the lucky lady’s arms and pulls her in?) the plot tends to be a little boring, and in all honesty a bit of a chore to sit through.

So when I saw Laura was first on my list, I must admit I expected it was going to be waste of £5; I was very much mistaken.

For me the film did what a good mystery drama needs to do; create suspense, build intrigue, and (obviously) an air of mystery. I wanted to know who committed the murder of Laura and why? Throughout the film this intrigue never dwindles.

Some of the dialogue in the film was fantastic, particularly from Clifton Webb playing the eccentric newspaper columnist Waldo Lydecker, whilst horror legend Vincent Price as Shelby Carpenter was equally impressive. Lines like “I can afford a blemish on my character, not on my clothes”, stuck with me, and made me wish I could apply the same kind of wit to my own writing. (Still trying evidently)

Webb and Price were the real stars of the film, with Webb unsurprisingly receiving an Oscar nomination for his role. Waldo Lydecker is pompous, selfish and arrogant, but also an incredibly interesting individual; something Webb perfectly captures, dominating and controlling any scene he’s in, like Waldo himself wishes to do with the people around him.

I'm not kind, I'm vicious. It's the secret of my charm

I’m not kind, I’m vicious. It’s the secret of my charm – Waldo Lydecker summing himself up perfectly

The real shame is that Laura herself was supposed to be enchanting, enigmatic; possessing a charisma that could make men fall in love with her in an instant. Detective Mark McPherson who is investigating the murder of Laura, becomes obsessed with her from seeing only her portrait and reading her diary, whilst Waldo himself is completely enamoured with her.

But when we finally do meet Laura Hunt, Gene Tierney just does not provide this kind of intrigue, which makes the obsessive aura that she supposedly radiates fall rather flat. Seeing as this is the overarching theme of the film, it does rather disappoint. Instead Waldo is the character I tended to be more intrigued by.

Meanwhile Dana Andrews’ performance as the detective gets progressively worse as the film develops. Initially he appears as a maverick, cool-as-a-cucumber detective (and we all know how cool cucumber’s tend to be) but it’s not long before he devolves into a stereotype of his earlier self. His character fails to grow, except for a rather puzzling obsession with Laura, which is never adequately explored as we are never privy to her diary.

I also found the film rather slow paced, exacerbated by the slightly odd score, the sole purpose of which seems to be to provide incongruous moments of anti-climactic tension. Though in the interest of fairness, these views are likely formed due to watching so many modern films, which are often big budget, have epic soundtracks and visceral action sequences.

Overall though, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Laura and feel my current (and essentially unjustifiable) aversion to all black and white films has now been dissipated by this highly enjoyable film – I would certainly say it has stood the test of the time. For anyone like me who actively avoids older films, I’d recommend Laura as your first foray into the world of classic cinema.

My Rating: 6/10



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The IMDb Top 250

For your reference and my own, you can view the IMDb 250 I will be using for my reviews by clicking the link below. I took a snapshot of the 250 on the 9th June 2015, so if any new films make their way onto the list after that date I am afraid I won’t be reviewing them…. yet.

Keep an eye out for my first review, the 250th best film according to IMDb, Laura (1944).

IMDb Logo

IMDB TOP 250 09 06 2015


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A journey of a thousand miles begins with but a single post

Got the first two rather weak puns out of the way; now for the first post.

My brother (John) and me (Paul) have decided to put our constant moaning, complaining and miscellaneous reviewing onto the internet for all the world to see; because our opinions are so very accurate, well argued and valuable.

In this blog we will be reviewing anything we can be bothered to review, including films, television, books, sports and video games; basically the distractions and hobbies we occupy our time with, to avoid leaving the house. Why are we doing this you may ask? Why not, would be our answer. If Joey Essex is paid to give an opinion on things he knows nothing about (and I think we can safely say there’s no subject known to humankind on which he’s able to provide any useful insights) then I think we can write a blog offering our opinions, without too much hesitation.

I (Paul – the more talented one) will be starting by watching and reviewing the top 250 films on IMDb as of 9/06/2015, to get a real idea of just what all the buzz is about. John will begin by reviewing a random assortment of PS3 games with no overarching theme, until such times as he buys a PS4 and can start waffling on about more recent titles.

So, for you film buffs and game nerds out there on the net, please read and comment with your own opinions.

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