Saturday, 31 August 2013

TV Review: Doctor Who 7.09 - Hide

A number of months ago when I reviewed Neil Cross' début Doctor Who story, I pondered whether I would be able to write one-word reviews and still receive the same amount of wonderful satisfaction and feedback upon publishing them. Of course, this was a ridiculous idea to ponder over, but if I were to extend the thought to single sentence reviews, would that suffice? In the case of Hide, Neil Cross' second script of the series, my shortened review would go something along the lines of this hefty statement: Hide is, without a doubt in my mind, the best episode of Doctor Who's seventh revived series thus far. This is one of those rare scripts from a guest writer that manages to reach the heights of more prominent, plot heavy showrunner-penned stories without actually contributing much to the over-arcing plot at all. For similar outings in Moffat's run, see series 5 instalment Vincent and the Doctor, series 6's weep-inducing The Girl Who Waited and... well, not a whole lot else. This episode is magnificent, albeit subtly so. It's not difficult to imagine how fulfilling it is to praise what could've been something of a flop, especially after two weeks prior of dire offerings, one of which was also penned by Cross.

The Rings of Akhaten was a decent enough episode, but what it basked in with the colourful production and set design wasn't balanced out with an equally spectacular and intricate script. It packed some good ideas and memorable moments, for sure, but none of them came close to realising their full potential, instead being stretched out or overblown to barely fill the 45 minutes. Neil Cross' Doctor Who broadcast début was an unbalanced one, then - So what makes his second chance absolutely worthy of its place in the spotlight? It's quite simple, really: this is a much more developed and fleshed-out script than a fair few of its predecessors, and it succeeds in a great number of aesthetic aspects. In honesty, aside from a few jumpy moments and odd dialogue exchanges in the first act of the story, Hide rarely does anything but succeed.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Wind Waker HD's New Art-Style: Is it Really Such a Big Deal?

You can check out an enhanced version of this article in the upcoming fourth issue of Stream, the free web-mag edited by yours truly. The version you'll read below is the same in terms of the main bulk of the article, but the Stream version comes complete with comparison screenshots and the like. It'll be released very soon. Check out previous issues right here!

Ever wanted to know what my first truly magical Nintendo experience was? Set your DMC DeLorean to 2008 and crash through time into my abode (albeit not directly, because that could potentially rupture the space-time continuum and create a time paradox in which images of my body slowly disappear from any images that contain it, leading to an epic escapade in which you, my dear reader, attempt to undo your actions in order to resurrect me... wait, where was I going with this, again?) and you might just spot a GameCube and a copy of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker along with it. That, my friend, was my first experience with Nintendo. Well, excluding early sessions with the Parachute Game & Watch - but let me tell you something: that 3-frame LCD game ain't no Wind Waker, son.

Despite being a GameCube release, the third main polygonal Zelda game still stands tall as one of the most beautiful games ever made if you're looking at it visually. It can successfully topple many current generation titles when it comes to just how brilliantly crafted the game is artistically, and that's when we're not even bringing the gameplay, soundtrack, story, or any other aesthetics into the equation. If Ocarina had this magic spark in terms of how it was structured, then Majora's Mask certainly had it nailed down thematically even if the graphics were no different from its predecessor, in many cases quite literally. With Wind Waker, in my opinion, Nintendo pioneered in these aspects. Thematically it was no Majora, but in terms of gameplay and visual direction it trumps its predecessors, no questions asked, and all it has to offer is presented primarily through some truly wonderful art design. Oh, and did I mention the soundtrack? A large chunk of Koji Kondo's compositions for this game are among the best in the entire Zelda franchise. It really is a mesmerising experience from every angle, with very few hiccups along the way.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Back Again? [Update: 01/08/13]

A cold wind has blown over Noodle's Blog for a number of months, now. On the last day of January earlier this year, I promised I'd be rebooting the stream of reviews, features and what have you following another unannounced, lengthy hiatus over the Christmas period. Let's not beat around the bush, here... this didn't really happen. Sure, I got a bunch of Doctor Who reviews in several months later, and was on a roll mid-way through the latest series of the show, but due to a loss of time, interest, and most of all the individual episodes of impending doom that were my GCSE exams, I worked on but couldn't quite keep up with the schedule I originally planned. Despite two drafts of Doctor Who reviews already prepared for touch-ups and publication, GCSE revision took overall prominence and I decided to focus solely on what was undoubtedly the most important thing at the time.

So, I worked my butt off and tried my hardest in the exams. Some went surprisingly well, others didn't. But you don't really need to hear about that sort of stuff. What you may be wondering is what exactly this post is about. If you've been following my blog for a while - if so, thank you, and I appreciate you taking the time to read this here right now because it is sort of important - you may have noticed a trend when it comes to updates with the intention of getting back on track with my personal writing. The trend goes something like this: I post an update detailing a number of articles I plan on publishing sometime in the near future, nothing happens for weeks and eventually said articles are either unfinished or non-existent in my metaphorical pile of virtual sheets of paper. So yeah, I've not exactly been that reliable lately when it comes to writing. Thank goodness I don't have any real deadlines, because I'd be fired by now if I did.

Instead of repeating the same frustrating process detailed in the previous paragraph, I've decided to inform whoever is reading this of where exactly my head is at when it comes to writing at this moment in time. In one word, it's jumbled. In two, it's really jumbled. I want to keep writing, I know I'm capable of doing it - especially now there aren't any GCSE-related scrapes on the horizon, or hopefully ever for that matter - but since I finally finished my secondary education I've been suffering from something of a creative mental block; more commonly referred to as writer's block. This may seem like a cheap excuse for not writing, but until now I've barely been able to conceive a simple update such as the one you're reading right now. I wanted to write this friggin' thing a month ago when my free time officially started.

This doesn't mean I'm stopping altogether, mind. Far from it, in fact. I'll just be changing a few things. First off, the Doctor Who reviews, aside from that of the truly fantastic 'Hide' (which I'm working on to pleasing success at the moment, and should be published before the end of the month) may be postponed for a little while so I can work on other projects to give my blog a little something called variety. I enjoy writing Doctor Who reviews but I feel I'll be able to churn out other stuff faster seeing as I'd have to re-watch and re-adjust to the most recent series in order to finish of my synopses of its episodes. That said, they are broadcasting repeats of series 7 on BBC Three starting today, so in a few months we'll have reached the point where I'm at with the reviews, so many I'll resume writing the rest around that time.

Until then, what else is coming? Some kind of countdown feature, I should think, as I haven't worked on anything like that for quite a while now. I'm thinking something Breaking Bad related. I've not written any posts on Breaking Bad and I really feel that I should do so. Some one-off TV reviews have entered the realms of my consideration, too. A few Sherlock classics, or maybe even some Breaking Bad because, as noted above, I feel it appropriate for me to write about the TV show I enjoy the most (don't expect me to review an entire series, mind!). Something that is definitely likely to pop up soon enough is a review of Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg's fantastic The World's End, a film so good I saw it at the cinema twice and wouldn't mind going to see again.

Something that most definitely won't be happening any time soon but has been on my mind a fair bit lately is moving the blog to an actual web domain. I currently own a web space under my name and haven't really done anything with it since I received it as a Christmas present last year, but I do want to do something with it at some point and I'm not crossing off 'move blog to its own domain' off my metaphorical list of options just yet. On a very similar note, I've been trying to come up with a new name for the blog as 'Noodle's Blog' hasn't really felt relevant to me for quite a while now (I haven't used the alias of 'Noodle' for about a year). Any ideas on your behalf are more than welcome.

In short: new posts will be up soon, after my review of Hide has been published I won't be working on Doctor Who reviews for a little while and I'm looking for a new name for the blog, so if you have any suggestions drop them in the comments box below. Here's hoping I can get the blog back on track, and I mean that this time. Until next time, have a pleasant day!

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Album Review: Blur - 13

Before you dig into this article, a few things are worth mentioning. First off, this is the first thing I started writing last year (2012). I intended for it to be published here on the blog but it took up way too much of my time and despite this I wasn't at all happy with the finished piece. A few months later, the ONM forum based web-mag Stream was launched, and I decided to refine this article and publish it in the second issue of Stream as my first music review. All in all, after going over it, I still felt that the review could've been a little shorter, but I figured, after about a year in the drafts section of my Blogger dashboard, now would be as good a time as any to publish it on here. Enjoy my review of 13 by Blur.

13, first released in 1995, was recorded during a number of tensions surrounding one of Britain's most famed bands. Singer Damon Albarn had recently split up with the love of his life, Graham Coxon suffered from emotional stress and heavy drinking problems, and tensions between these two frontmen clashed due to personal differences, a struggle that still stands nowadays. Albarn had also moved in with artist Jamie Hewlett at the time, an act that would later spawn Gorillaz, a project that undeniably proved to be much more successful than Coxon's solo works. In basic terms, a number of emotional frictions were in effect before and during the production of what at the time was looking to be the band's final work.

If the album I'm reviewing today proves anything, it's that pouring negative emotions into song writing often makes for a particularly successful recipe. The outcome of the band's struggles at the time was this release, quite possibly their most sophisticated yet at the time, and certainly my personal favourite to this date. There's a heavy avant-rock theme going on in this loosely-conceptualised set of 13 songs that makes Damon and the crew appear to have constructed a slightly Radiohead-esque album, not to say that they ripped that band off in any way. It's much more than a pebble's throw away from the likes of Leisure, Parklife and The Great Escape, however, cementing itself as the odd one out in Blur's discography; the black sheep; the not-so ugly duckling. And yes, 13 makes even Think Tank appear no less tame than Blur's britpop beginnings. Now there's a feat. Despite this, 13 is actually exactly what one would expect from a band called Blur: A perfectly fazed, spaced-out smudge of an album, an effect mainly down to some truly excellent production by William Orbit.

But just how good is this release - One formed from heartbreak, raging emotions and the numerical transformation of the first letter of the band's name? Did it turn out far too out-there to be considered of a high quality, or is it Blur's finest hour? Continue on and find out, dear reader, as we explore the ravenous, twisted, spacey wall of sound presented by 13...

Monday, 13 May 2013

TV Review: Doctor Who 7.08 - Cold War

Is the return of the Ice Warriors sssssuperb, ssssshoddy or sssssomething in-between?

When it comes to Doctor Who writers, Mark Gatiss is a rather strange case. He's hailed as a true fan of the show, and has penned plenty of adventures for The Doctor and his companions ever since the third instalment of the revived series way back in 2005, which was not only a hit but also the very first historical episode of the 21st century. Not only this, but he was also the first guest writer to work on Doctor Who's revived series. It's funny, because since then practically all of Gatiss' episodes have turned out to be either wholly divisive outings or complete flops, more-so the former. However, things were certainly looking up for Mark's latest script. It promised the exciting resurrection of a forgotten foe that hadn't been featured in the show for over thirty years. It promised a thrillingly claustrophobic base-under-siege adventure for The Doctor, Clara and a heap of Russians onboard a submarine in the heat of the cold war. And perhaps most importantly, it showed promise on the run-up to its initial broadcast.

The question is, did Cold War, the return of the long-forgotten Ice Warriors, deliver in its promise? If you've got a spare few minutes, I advise you read the rest of this review. If not, I can answer that question right now without a sliver of doubt in my mind: No. In fact, showing promise is all the episode ever seems to succeed in...

Saturday, 20 April 2013

TV Review: Doctor Who 7.07 - The Rings of Akhaten

Say hello to the most divisive episode of series 7 yet.

Bombast. If I could write all of these reviews in single-word and still receive the same amount of accomplishment and lovely reception afterwards, that would be the word I would use to describe the second episodic instalment in series 7's concluding eight, a Neil Cross penned 42 minutes titled The Rings of Akhaten. Why bombast? Aliens, and lots of 'em; but surprisingly more prominently, epic dramatic monologues are quite the stand-out in this episode, taking place towards the end of a script struggling to carry the weight of such heavy heaps of dialogue. The Rings of Akhaten, admittedly, is a flawed episode. There's not a whole lot wrong with it, but Cross' debut tale is somewhat thin when it comes to plot, and if anything was proven by my review of last year's A Town called Mercy, it's that an episode lacking in a quality plot can't quite be saved by fantastic production values, superb direction and inspiring acting. Funnily enough, Akhaten packs all three of these, it just doesn't have a solid, complex enough tale to back-up the inclusion of such heady assets.

Comparisons to A Town called Mercy most definitely won't inspire confidence in this episode, but fear not; Akhaten happens to be of a fairly superior quality to that particular flop, at least in most of the aspects that Mercy dropped the ball. Now, Akhaten doesn't necessarily drop the ball, but it incautiously clings onto a ball so abnormally thin that, no matter how much it offers the viewer in the form of high-quality production, writing and set design amongst other things, it leaves a lot to be desired by the time those ending credits roll, at least in terms of story.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

TV Review: Doctor Who 7.06 - The Bells of Saint John

I hope you're using a safe wireless connection to read this, otherwise you're in deep- ┓┏ 凵 =╱⊿┌┬┐

After yet another relatively lengthy hiatus, Britain's most beloved sci-fi drama is back on the box and along with it so ends my prolonged absence from the publishing of any actual articles here on the blog. From now onwards, you can expect reviews of new Doctor Who episodes published a fortnight after their original airing date at the very latest. All I can say is what a story to start with; Steven Moffat's modern-day London-based 'proper' introduction to the enigmatic Clara Oswald, titled The Bells of Saint John, is a thoroughly enjoyable, thrilling tale of mysterious goings-on in the commonplace near-necessity that we call Wi-Fi, complete with action-packed set-pieces, a solid cast of characters old and new and most importantly, a near-flawless script. That last asset is something that bodes well for Steven Moffat, who's been receiving a fair bit of stick for some of his recent mishaps. I've always considered the Moff to be a much better writer when he's penning stories that fit under the horror genre, so to give you an idea of The Bells of Saint John's greatness, this is easily one of his best non-horror scripts to date.

A good way to sum up the plot of Bells would be 'Doctor Who does Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror, spliced with a modern Bond or Bourne flick in London'. Steven Moffat and indeed the show as a whole have done the 'take an everyday object or image and make it scary' concept many a time before with statues, gas masks, plungers and the like, but it's never been applied to something we take for granted to such an extent that it (probably) almost comes second to oxygen and water. In the 21st century, Wi-Fi is everywhere and so is the temptation to join an unknown, open network. We've all tried it, and even though it almost never works, we continue to do so in hope that it will. It's because of this crazy temptation that Bells absolutely nails the tried and tested Doctor Who trope of taking something so commonplace and making it deadly, something that the previous episode, Christmas fiasco The Snowmen, failed to succeed in, creepy Richard D. James-ish grins plastered on Snowmen or no.

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Update 31/01/13 - The Return / Finishing Touches / Stream 3

Welcome one and all. If you're the sort of superior human being who checks out this blog on a regular basis (and I know some of you are out there, spambots or no) you may have noticed that not a single bit of coding, let alone writing has been altered since the near-climax of the (questionably) great year that was 2012. Check your calendars, phones or what have you and you may also notice that the date is now somewhere in 2013, unless of course you're reading this in the very distant future. A happy new year is probably in order, but I've got more important matters to discuss in this short update than simple good tidings for what should be another (questionably) stellar twelve months. Regardless, you have my piqued wishes for the 2013, dear reader, just because you mean that much to me.

Now for what you really want to be reading: Information on what's next for Noodle's Blog. Well, it goes without saying that other, more important commitments (GCSEs, homework, personal statements and all that lovely stuff) have got in the way of any personal writing projects, hence the lack of any kind of update this past month, but a number of pieces are currently in progress. I can't promise anything other than this update until February, but when that particular month begins a number of posts are sure to start submerging from their draft stages into full-on publishing (I try my best to make these things sound interesting). Without further ado, allow me to name the articles I currently have in the works, starting with the most obvious and most likely first to be published following this post: My review of last year's Doctor Who Christmas special, The Snowmen. An analytical review of The Doctor's latest escapade has already been mapped out, or drafted, by yours truly. In other words, you can expect it to be published very soon.

Straying away from upcoming posts for a moment, it's worth noting that the gradual redesign will no longer be 'almost finished' very soon. The pages under the header will contain content and include graphics, and finishing touches will be made to tweak the site to the best possible standard. Because let's be honest, the side-bar is a bit of a mess at the moment. In other news, ONM forum-based web-magazine Stream saw its third issue launch earlier this month. It includes a beautiful spread of my first two Doctor Who reviews (Asylum of the Daleks and Dinosaurs on a Spaceship) crafted by TJ HipHop and a (rather dated) interview in which I am verbally probed by fellow ONM member and good buddy Conorr. I don't plan on posting that interview on here so if you want to check it out, alongside a whole heap of other free journalism in a wonderfully crafted virtual magazine shell, have a read of Stream issue 3 right here. If you're interested in contributing to the magazine in any way, sign up to the ONM forums and check out this thread. Act fast and you'll be able to bring Issue 4 even closer...

Back to upcoming posts, we're finally re-exploring the world of gaming with my next game review. The title in question that I'll be writing about is the latest escapade of Level-5's gentlemanly top-hatted Professor. I can't be referring to anything other than Professor Layton and the Mask of Miracle on 3DS, which I finally beat to a great amount of satisfaction the other day. Staying on the topic of gaming, I'm currently progressing through Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker on my friend's PSP. So yeah, that'll be my first review of a non-Nintendo game. Exciting, no? Anyway, we now traverse once again outside of the realms of gaming, and into TV and music. As a part of my contributions to Issue 4 of Stream, I'll be taking on Radiohead's The King of Limbs. It'll be exclusive to the magazine for an amount of time before I eventually publish it on here. Something less exciting you'll be seeing on the blog soon is my review of 13 by Blur, which I wrote early last year to little success. It was something of a rush-job as I was pushing back a deadline due to certain circumstances, but that's all in the past now. Things are a lot more flexible now so it's safe to say my next album review shall be of a greater quality.

Closing off this update with TV-related articles, I'm currently approximately halfway through an article on why Breaking Bad is one of the best things - if not the best thing - on the box. It'll be published very soon, hopefully this month. Now, unless I've forgotten anything, I'll end this update on a high: I may have been inactive when it comes to writing these past few months, but things are finally back on track. Be sure to look forward to my review of The Snowmen, set to be published in the next week or so, as well as everything else beyond that. Thanks for reading!