FIFA 14 demo – my initial thoughts

Buy FIFA 14 now

Buy FIFA 14 now – click the picture

Every year, when I start to see the adverts, I’ll sneer at the prospect of EA cashing in on a new FIFA game with minimal changes to the last year’s edition. If FIFA 14 was FIFA 13 with the team line ups updated I’d probably not even notice.

But in spite of my cynicism every year, like one of Pavlov’s dogs, I’ll still get excited at the prospect of the new game coming out. So like an obedient drone, I rushed to my PS3 at the news of the demo for this years game coming out. Here’s my thoughts. Continue reading

Star Trek Into Darkness – Film review

Star Trek Into Darkness film review

Star Trek Into Darkness film review

Star Trek Into Darkness is a film that will keep your eyes busy for every minute of the two hours it runs for but I walked out of the cinema wishing there was a little bit more meat on the bones of the film. It’s a spectacular piece of film making, the view is stunning and there are some great performances but I’d have liked something that hung together a bit better.

I’m probably being a bit too negative about the film, it was good I perhaps had unrealistic expectations of it. If you accept it for what it is then it’s a great example of a relentlessly paced action film. If you want a more Star Trekky kind of experience then you’d be better watching repeats of the old series. Continue reading

Sightseers (Ben Wheatley) – Film review

Sightseerers film review

Sightseerers film review

Sightseers is weird but good weird. It’s the story of a couple who go on a caravan holiday around beauty spots in the north of England and carry out a string of murders along to way. It’s a bit like one of those low budget Brit films where everyone sits about and has awkward social interactions, only with violent murders scattered throughout the film. It’s a strange mix but I have to say it works pretty well.

It was made with a low budget but if anything the limitations this brings have made the film better. As it seems that you can do anything with CGI these days, it’s nice to see old fashioned special effects and slightly more home spun techniques.

The acting is good and the story progresses with a good pace, with some sort of horrific (and usually blackly funny) event never too far around the corner.

Strange balance

The film has this odd balance between low-fi melodrama and slasher horror which is unusual to see but at the same time doesn’t feel completely wrong. If I was going to compare it to something it would be a slapstick Shane Meadows film. I say this because the average Shane Meadows film also balances realism with terrible violence but doesn’t have the same knowing humour to it.

Central performances

The story works because of the two main characters and the chemistry they create when they’re on screen together. It’s never really explored but it’s suggested that couple have fairly recently got involved in a relationship and they describe their trip as a “sex odyssey”. I wouldn’t get too excited though, while there are plenty of sex scenes, there’s nothing very sexy about them.

The film gets skirts towards becoming completely ridiculous at times but manages to avoid descending into complete farce and I think this is mainly due to the complete conviction by the actors. Because they play it completely straight it helps to maintain the surreal edge without being completely silly.

Perfectly timed

The film comes in at just under an hour and a half which is just the right length for this sort of film. The DVD comes with plenty of deleted scenes, so it could have been longer, but I’m pleased that the editing was ruthless as it made it an enjoyable fast moving story. I enjoyed the film but there wasn’t enough in the story to justify any longer.

Twist ending

I’ve tried to avoid spoilers so far and think I’ve just about managed it (the murders are foreshadowed in all the promotional stuff about the film, so I’m safe to talk about them). It’s impossible to describe the final moments of the film without giving away the twist but I’ll only say that I found it a satisfying and unexpected way to close the film.

Rating – 4 stars

There’s not a massive amount of substance to this film, it’s not going to change your life but it will keep you fully engaged for 90 minutes and it’s a good fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously. If Alan Bennett wrote films about serial killers then it would look something like this.

You can get Sightseerers from Amazon.co.uk

Untouchable – Film review

Untouchable DVD review

Untouchable DVD review

This is a French film about a wealthy disabled man and the relationship he builds with a rough and ready carer. Not the Sean Connery fronted action romp (which was a remake of an earlier film by the same name). Don’t let that put you off though. It’s really good.

I didn’t really know what to expect when this film arrived. I don’t really know why it was I’d put it on my rental list and was none the wiser when I put the disk into my player. As you can see, the cover is a picture of a man being pushed in a wheelchair, flanked by lots of gushing praise.

I didn’t even know that the film is in French with English subtitles. Not something that particularly bothers me. In fact I’m finding that I prefer foreign stuff these days as it forces me to properly pay attention to the screen, rather than getting distracted my mobile or some other sort of gadgetry. Continue reading

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach – Book review

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

Chad Harbach received a $650,000 advance for The Art of Fielding. An almost unheard of amount of money for a debut novel, which also meant it received a flurry of free publicity in literary circles before it came out. These high expectations perhaps would make it easy to dismiss the book as overrated trash but it’s actually very good. It’s a compelling story with richly drawn characters that are all muddling through their believably messed up lives.

The story focuses on the life of a baseball playing college student who is on the cusp of greatness but is risking throwing everything away just as he’s about to get everything he ever wanted. Continue reading

Book Giveaway – Get A Free Paperback

I am running a competition to give a free copy of my book, Someone Else’s Dream. It is open to anyone, wherever you are in the world and all you need is a Goodreads account to enter (which is free). Good luck!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Someone Else's Dream by James R. Winterbottom

Someone Else’s Dream

by James R. Winterbottom

Giveaway ends October 17, 2012.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Book Review – I Am Secret Footballer by Anonymous

I Am the Secret Footballer is a book based on the columns printed in the sports section of the Guardian most Saturdays. The chapters are divided up along themes, such as money, agents, bad behaviour, etc. They are written from the perspective of an anonymous premier league footballer and are refreshingly honest in their assessment of modern football.

The identity of the secret footballer is unknown, but there is a blog devoted to trying to find this out. There is enough information about the career of the secret footballer to narrow it down to a fairly small pool of players but nothing has ever been publically confirmed. I have have heard a rumour somewhere that the secrect footballer might actually be a few different players who reveal their secrets to a journalist at the Guardian who shapes the stories into one narrative.

The book is made up mainly of the newspaper columns, with some additional material added in around the already published bits. Organising everything around themes works pretty well through most of the books but there are a few sections where the linking between one column and another is a little bit clumsy and makes you realise that you are reading something that was not originally meant to be in book form. This doesn’t really spoil the enjoyment of the book too much, but means the book leaps from one topic to another in places.

Premier League footballers are subject to an awful lot of scrutiny from the press but it is rare to hear them speak honestly about their jobs and the lifestyle that comes with it. I really enjoyed the behind the scenes stories that rarely make it into the press. While the secret footballer often argues that footballers are cast in a bad light, he also reveals some pretty appalling behaviour that he has witness or been involved in. While I would not have liked to have been involved in some of the debauchery described, there are some very interesting stories in here which lead to the occasional snort of laughter.

There is a serious side to this book too. The author admits to currently taking medication for depression and describes how the pressure of professional sports can lead to, or at least trigger off, mental health issues. The description of these issues was honest and made me feel genuinely sorry for him. What’s the point of earning tens of thousand pounds a week if you feel so bad you can’t enjoy it?

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the lives of professional sportmen. Some might find it hard to have sympathy for these overpaid millionaires but they will at least enjoy being able to peek into a world that is closed off to the majority of us.

4 stars

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