Author: Steven Riley

My name is Steven Riley (it says that above so you’ve probably guessed as much). At the time of writing, I’m 24-years-young and live in London, having done a degree in English Language and Journalism at De Montfort University in my home city of Leicester. After university I worked for a few years at a local school. While I enjoyed my time there though, I found less and less time to write and decided to pursue new horizons, like a really cheesy film. I tried to think of a witty name for the blog but nothing came to mind (probably not a great sign). I was going to go with just ‘Working Title’ but this seemed more apt somehow. So that’s what this is; a work barely in progress. I can’t (and certainly won’t) promise it’ll be hard-hitting, or funny or even remotely interesting, but I can promise there will be words. And some of them might even be in the right order. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/barelyworkingtitle/ Twitter: @SpeltWithAV
Game of Thrones S7E3 Recap: The Queen’s Justice

Game of Thrones S7E3 Recap: The Queen’s Justice

This synopsis contains spoilers for Game of Thrones season 7, episode 3: The Queen’s Justice. If you haven’t seen it (and don’t want important plot points butchering like Theon Greyjoy), watch it before reading this recap!

Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 3: The Queen’s Justice Recap

The start of episode three, The Queen’s Justice, offered Game of Thrones fans something they’d been waiting to see since the early days of the show – ice and fire being brought together.

If fans were hoping the two would become friends overnight (or more if you consider Jon’s possible heritage and what you hear about Targaryen dating circles) you were to be disappointed however as relations between the North and Dragonstone got off to a spiky start.

It looked as if Jon would be in for a warm reception as hand of the king, Tyrion, greeted him and began to lead him towards the keep. We soon saw the former-Lord Commander was in for a tough time however as he and his crew were relieved of their weapons, saw their transport taken away and Jon was subjected to Tyrion’s awkward revelation that he had never consummated his marriage to Sansa (didn’t cross my mind until you told me, Tyrion, but thanks for the image).

After Missandei reeled the long list of Daenerys’ titles and Davos responded by introducing Jon like a university coursemate, the pair got to discussing a potential alliance. Unfortunately, the queen’s demand that Jon bend the knee and the King in the North’s stubbornness in talking only about the White Walkers meant talks were less than constructive. They were also brief, as Varys delivered the news on the Ironborn’s terrible loss at sea.

As Theon washed up on a ship of fellow Ironborn, we saw his sister being paraded through Kings Landing as a traitor by Euron Greyjoy. A worse Uncle than one who steals the last green Quality Street at Christmas (you know who you are), the Crow’s Eye revelled in the adulation of the cheering capital crowd as he pulled poor Yara along by a chain along with the Sand Snakes. He was duly rewarded for his victory at sea by being named commander of the Crown’s navy, as well as being given free reign of where his finger goes once the war is won (as long as it’s not near the Quality Street).

Cersei strikes major victory in the Game of Thrones

We were then left to see how Cersei enjoys her “gifts”; the captive Ellaria and Obara Sand. While at first it seemed like the real punishment was having to witness an alarming shade of lipstick, we soon saw it was part of the Queen’s vicious plan to poison Obara with a kiss and force the chained Ellaria to watch as her daughter died in agony before rotting away before her very eyes. It was a emotional scene, particularly thanks to Indira Varma’s powerful turn as the devastated mother, and the fact that such feeling came from what is most likely one of the final Sand Snake scenes shows how much potential was missed in that story arc.

Cersei is soon back in her love den with Jaime – a little too quickly after wearing that lipstick for our liking (we don’t need another Theon) – and seems to have no longer have any qualms flaunting her incest before a meeting with the Iron Bank. Speaking of true love, Sam’s squeamish procedure on Jorah seems to have done the trick as the Archmaester pronounces him cured, and the grizzled Set Friendzoned immediately heads back to his Queen.

Returning to Dragonstone as well, we finally see the beginnings of a relationship between Jon and Dany. After Tyrion practically plays Hangman with Jon about what he should ask for (“DR_G_NGL_SS” – ask for a bloody vowel, Jon!) the Queen of Dragons allows him to mine the island for the weapons as Sam had told him and help turn the tide in the war against the dead.

Sansa, meanwhile, is looking very at home leading Winterfell as she organises provisions and armour for her people before she is distracted by the return of her brother, Bran. No doubt haunted by his journey and his task as the Three-Eyed Raven, Bran appears a bit detached from the situation, going as far as reciting Sansa’s horrific wedding night with Ramsey by telling her how pretty she looked. As his creeped-out sister retreated, Bran said he’ll stay a while – as if he has a choice in the matter.

The attack on Casterly Rock

As we enter the final act, Tyrion reveals his master plan to take Casterly Rock by revealing what can only be described as a ‘love sewer’ for Grey Worm and a splinter team to sneak up on the Lannister army and open the front gate. It’s an interesting five-minute scene with the most action in the episode, but we can’t help but wish the taking of such an iconic area had been given more screen time despite the budgetary and time constraints. Grey Worm is successful but realises it is a trap as he finds less resistance as expected while Euron and his ships close in from the outside.

That’s because Jaime has taken his troops to take Highgarden, winning a large reserve of gold and capturing one of this lovers’ enemies, Olenna Tyrell, in one fell swoop.

Olenna Tyrell has the last word

Even as the defeated Olenna drinks the poison Jaime gives her to spare a painful death, the Queen of Thrones gets one last burn in and tells him she killed his son. It’s another heartbreak for Jaime, who seems to be doomed to be hit with tragedy rarely through no wrongdoing of his own throughout the series.

It’s an interesting scene not only for the death of a major player in the Game of Thrones, but as it shows a potential arc on another character who’s development has stalled over the last couple of seasons. Not only did he show humility by learning from his defeat to Robb Stark at the Whispering Wood to prove himself a capable commander, but it may also be the first signs of disillusionment in his toxic relationship to Cersei after years of pining after her like a lost, one-handed puppy.

With all the victories and crush enemies Cersei is savouring at the moment, she may want to keep her eye a little closer to home should she want to stay on the Iron Throne.

Arcade Fire @ Malahide Castle, Dublin: Gig Review

Arcade Fire @ Malahide Castle, Dublin: Gig Review

Arcade Fire Gig Review – Malahide Castle, Dublin

Arcade Fire seem determined to pull out all the stops to make their ‘Everything Now’ tour one to remember.

Rather than the usual offerings of multiple nights in London before a sprinkling of dates around the UK, the Canadian outfit have instead broken the template treated those fans slightly further out to their latest offering first.

From the Bath Halls of Scunthorpe to a park in Belfast, there’s been something a little different about each of the indie-pop’s gigs over the last couple of weeks. The cloudy, atmospheric field amongst the backdrop of the picturesque Malahide Castle in Dublin was no different.

Photos courtesy of Helen Windle.

Despite many undergoing the trek to the castle from Dublin city centre (and possibly further afield), the crowd of tens of thousands were in good spirits on the walk down, with the electric rhythms of the Colombian band Bomba Estéreo keeping the feet moving even as the sun began to set ahead of the main act.

When Arcade Fire came out to a slowed down version of ‘Everything Now’, they received a rapturous applause before settling straight into the title track of their new album.

Initially the crowd was slightly static but they soon got into the groove of the Abba-like tune. The real treats were set to come however as Win Butler and the rest of the talented band launched into the extensive back catalogue of hits.

Fan-favourite ‘Rebellion (Lies)’ gained an electric reception as tens of thousands shouted the “Lies!” reply back during the chorus. It was so catchy and infectious that the singing along didn’t stop as the versatile band members changed instruments; a theme throughout the night that meant there was rarely a lull even with the necessary stoppages.

Any fears of the band over-indulging on unknown new material were unfounded as Régine Chassagne led the rendition of ‘Haiti’ (always a heartfelt moment as a song about her beloved homeland, and one not-too-long-ago struck by tragedy) before launching into an almost greatest hits compilation including ‘No Cars Go’, ‘Neon Bible’, ‘The Suburbs’ and ‘Ready To Start’.

Photos courtesy of Helen Windle.

The peak came in the middle, with old favourite ‘Tunnels’ whetting the appetite for ‘Afterlife’ and ‘Reflektor’ – undoubtedly the two highlights from their last album – with the crowd still swaying as they entered the end of the set.

‘Signs of Life’ from the new album followed and unfortunately didn’t seem to strike the same chord. Perhaps because previously the fans had been able to listen to new songs for a month or two before they came out live (like with Reflektor before the Canadian band headlined Glastonbury in 2014), the crowd seemed more intent to listen to the new material than dance. Latest single ‘Creature Comforts’ was slightly better-received however as the show hit its final stride.

Any concerns this slight dip in excitement would curtail a great set were cast away as the band finished with a crashing rendition of the classic ‘Power Cut’ and the catchy sing-along ‘Sprawl II’, before finishing with their best-known track ‘Wake Up’ for an encore – interestingly only the second time this has ended a gig in this tour.

All in all, it was another strong showing from one of the best live bands on the planet, although one which perhaps would have been improved had the new songs in the middle been a little better-known by the eager crowd.

For further information about Arcade Fire and future events, visit here.

Watch the video for ‘Everything Now’ here:

Attack of the coffee cups – Steve barely plays: Prey

Attack of the coffee cups – Steve barely plays: Prey

Prey Gameplay

Having already had a productive Saturday morning, I decided to kick back and have an hour on my Playstation, which has sadly been neglected over the last month or so.

Upon booting it up, I was immediately greeted with a chime telling me that the Prey demo had finished downloading. Having only played a bit of the original back in 2006, I wasn’t really sure what to expect as I started a new game.

If you were to have told me an hour before that one of the greatest enemies in the game was a coffee cup, I might not have believed you. As it turns out, making you distrust ceramics isn’t the only trick Prey has up its sleeve…

A Prey of Sunshine

The beginning of Prey starts out like a normal day, although a slightly futuristic version. The curtains open to allow rays of sunshine to flood our sleek apartment and we wake up and immediately grab your ringing phone. Our brother, Alex – who also appears to be your boss – tells us to get our uniform on and head to the roof so we can begin your new job.

This being a video game of course, there is no chance of that happening. Instead I poked around every corner of my bedroom, sifting through emails, picking up bits of metal tubing and banana peel (if there’s one thing games like Fallout and Skyrim have taught me, it’s to pick everything up) and drinking the bottle of wine that had been left on the side. What else am I supposed to do at 9am?

After testing out the physics engine by flinging all the objects I could around the apartment and trying to block my sink with towels, I headed to the roof where a chopper was waiting for me.

Preytime is over…

After a scenic helicopter ride, it’s time to get to work. Alex – who seems to have been at the pies – gestures us towards a testing room where you are given a series of simple tasks to get us used to the control scheme. There’s even a questionnaire, which appears to be geared around finding out if we’d push a fat man in front of a train to save a group of people. Nice try, bro.

Alex did not appear to have kept to his New Years’ Resolution.

Unfortunately, the test is interrupted as an strange creature seemingly made form black fluid masquerading as a coffee cup, leaps onto the head scientist and appears to literally suck his brains out. We then see someone with a shotgun take out the assistant before the test chamber is flooded with nerve gas. What a first day!

Groundhog Prey

The next day, we wake up in our apartment with everything appearing the same as the previous morning – except some things appear to be amiss. The date is still March 15th, 2032, the emails all read “DANGER. LEAVE NOW” and someone appears to have moved the wine. Suspicious.

Nonetheless, I down the bottle.

I’m glad I did when we open the door – right outside the apartment, the friendly caretaker lady has had the same brain-sucking treatment as Mr Scientist man. To pay our respects, we do what any friend would do and steal her wrench for alien-bashing purposes – it’s what she would have wanted. Probably.

A voice comes on my phone – somebody called ‘January.’ Having never met someone called January, I immediately reach to key in ‘New phone, who dis?’ before she tells us we need to get out the apartment. Instinctively, I smash through the window with my trusty wrench and am amazed at what I see…

There goes the deposit…

It’s all a simulation. The apartment, lifts; even the helicopter ride. I find a console which has been simulated the sound of pigeons outside and realise I’ve been living a lie.

Things soon go from bad to worse. As I enter the same test area, I see the monster who killed Mr Scientist man is still at large. January tells us this species is called Typhon cacoplasmus, AKA a ‘mimic’. New species or not, I hit it with my wrench until it’s Typhon splatmus and move on, now feeling very weary of my surroundings…

Don’t trust the coffee cups in Prey

The mimic’s main ability, we soon find, is to well…mimic any miscellaneous object in the game. Stationery, bins, lampshades; they can be nearly anything. It keeps us on our toes, trying to stay vigilant for anything out of place.

Having seen what rogue coffee cups can do, I hit every single one I came across, and couple of times this revealed enemies hiding and gave me bonus sneak damage. As an unfortunate side-effect, I now have an innate fear as mistrust of coffee cups. I’m also no longer allowed within 50 yards of a Costa coffee shop.

As we move through the world, it is soon revealed that things are even more different to how I’d imagined. The next area of the game shows you are in fact in space, while there are more dangerous enemies lurking about. Even more intriguing, there are clues littered around the game’s terminal that your brother may be responsible, leaving me desperate to piece things together and advance the story.

Another great thing about Prey is the variety in ways you can approach it. Rather than being limited just to guns, you have a Gloo Cannon to freeze mimics, a stun gun and many more weapons to defeat your enemies, as well as a host of powers from neuromods. It not only allows you to customise a character to fit your play style but also lends multiple ways to approach levels. Can’t find a keycard? Just make a glue bridge and climb onto a pipe and let yourself in. Or hack a computer. It felt a lot like Dishonored or Deus Ex and left me wondering how many areas I might have missed on my first playthrough.

The only criticisms I have are that the combat can sometimes feel a little clumsy – especially when cycling through weapons – and after a while tying to sneak up on mimics felt a lot less rewarding. Once you start facing multiple enemies, all hopes of rooting out those pretending to be furniture go out the window and it soon seems more efficient to run around the room so they reveal themselves rather than unmasking them. Perhaps this is something that changes at higher difficulties, but it soon began to take the fun out of a more subtle approach.

Nevertheless, I was really absorbed in the futuristic, simulated space world before the game prompted me to tell me the demo was finished. It ends on a bit of a cliffhanger with regards to the story, and I’m curious to explore some more and find out what the hell is going on.

Just don’t trust the coffee cups.

Rick and Morty: Season 3, Episode 1 review!

Rick and Morty: Season 3, Episode 1 review!

April Fool’s day is normally a time for trying to get one over on the general public or cruelly tricking your friends and family before mocking the shell of a person cowering before you.

So imagine the world’s shock (and scepticism) when Adult Swim dropped the first episode of the long-awaited of Rick and Morty season three without any prior announcement.

The 22-minute episode, titled ‘The Richshank Redemption,’ had a lot to live up to after the season two cliffhanger – and it did not disappoint.

Header image created by Joe Bramley. See more awesome designs at @BoredOnPShop!

***

This review contains SPOILERS for Rick and Morty season three, episode one. So if you haven’t watched it go and do so. GO NOW.

Rick and Morty: Season 3, Episode 1 Review

Rick and Morty season three is one of the eagerly awaited shows of 2017 after the ending of season two left things a bit up in the air. For those who missed ‘The Wedding Squanchers’ (which aired nearly 18 months ago!) Rick, Morty and the rest of the family narrowly escape a massacre at Bird Person’s wedding as it is revealed that is fiancée, Tammy – actually an agent of the Galactic Federation posing as a high-school senior – is on the hunt for Rick and his accomplices for crimes of galactic terrorism.

Rick, Morty, Summer, Gerry and Beth end up as fugitives from the government but are struggling to adapt to life on the run; especially when their choices of new home planets are only a few hundred square metres in size, feature a screaming sun for the 42-hour days or have the interesting caveat of everything resembling a corn-on-the-cob.

After overhearing the family arguing over what to do with Rick, the hyper-intelligent scientist decides to turn himself in to allow his family safe passage back to Earth, which is now being treated as a tourist destination for the galaxy’s aliens to ogle at their leisure.

How does Rick and Morty season three kick off?

We start off the episode with Rick and the family sitting in a Shoney’s diner, with Rick boasting about how he skilfully disposed of jail guards and escaped from his galactic prison. This is soon to be revealed to be a trick, as the galactic government are now desperate to gain intelligence from Rick by tricking him into think he is speaking to his family via a simulation as in the ‘M. Night Shaym-Aliens’ episode in season two.

Rick recognises this ploy but agrees to give over the information, and we are treated to what we believe to be an origin story (featuring Beth and Beth’s mother). We soon find out however that Rick has fabricated the story in order to upload a virus and aid his escape. It’s both touching and amusing at the same time and also allows the writer’s to create a tragic back story while subtly mocking the idea, allowing them to have their cake and eat it (most likely topped with the McDonald’s Mulan Szechuan dipping sauce Rick now seems obsessed with).

The show is now about more than just Rick and Morty

Back on Earth, we get to see how the Smith’s are faring under the galactic government. They all seem jaded (apart from Gerry who, in a typically ‘Gerry’ way, is loving his new employment while remaining oblivious to what is happening around him). Beth is understandably heartbroken after being left by her father once more and with Morty seemingly fed up of being caught in the middle of his simultaneous worship and distrust of his grandfather, it is left to Summer to champion his cause.

It is in fact Morty’s older sister – a character who continues to grow from strength-to-strength after being fairly one-dimensional in season one – who hatches a plan to rescue Rick by digging up the corpse from an early episode in a clever (if very dark) callback. Using Rick’s portal gun, both Summer and Morty travel through dimensions to rescue their grandfather and set the real events for season three in motion.

While Rick’s crazy adventures and questionable motives will probably be the centrepiece of the new season, it appears as if characters like Summer and Beth will be taking a greater role in upcoming episodes. Based on this offering, that can only be a good thing.

So how is Rick and Morty season three shaping up?

On the evidence of this episode – very well.

There were questions on how Rick and Morty season three would deal with the cliffhanger ending and kick the series on, with more than a few worries that this is what was causing delays in its production.

Thankfully show creator Dan Harmon and the writers haven’t gone for the easy cop-out and played the ‘it was an alternate dimension’ card as other shows may have done, and have instead provided the best season premiere of the show to date.

Episode one has everything you need from classic Rick and Morty – Rick’s brutal one-liners, clever sci-fi ideas and even a superbly animated cosmic space battle (which could have taken a year to put together alone) – while addressing the season two ending and almost putting things back into place for season three without feeling forced.

There were a few more clever call backs to previous episodes (the last scene before the credits echoes season one but with a darker twist) and has the show feeling familiar while at the same time throwing a major curve ball which is sure to affect each character’s story arc and keep the show feeling fresh.

There aren’t many shows that are able to reset the pieces at the end of each episode and still manage to give their characters depth and development on an almost episode-by-episode basis, yet Rick and Morty seemed to have nailed it.

The only downside is we’ve now had the taste of season three we were waiting for but have to wait until the summer to see what happens. Someone should be thrown into galactic prison for that!

***

If you enjoyed this and don’t want to wait until the summer for more, click here for more recaps, blogs and other silly things, follow Barely Working Title on Facebook and my humble self on Twitter for updates (and because I need followers for my self-esteem).

Draft Punks – Why Draft FPL Is The Best FPL

Draft Punks – Why Draft FPL Is The Best FPL

Have you hit a rut with Fantasy Premier League? Already tired of your average performance while your mate has tripled captained a Harry Kane hat-trick? You ain’t seen nothing yet – welcome to your new hell…

Why You NEED to play Draft Fantasy Premier League

As we finish Gameweek 28 and head into the final ten games of the season, most Fantasy Premier League players are in similar boats. The mini-league has gone to Johnny ‘I don’t even watch football’ from work, you’ve used your wildcard and almost everyone is sporting a template team with Chelsea’s defence and Alexis Sanchez or Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

A number of Fantasy Premier League players (known as ‘casuals’ among the die-hard community who inexplicably know that Tom Carroll is worth £4.3m or that John Stones is somehow owned by 16% of players) have usually given up by now after forgetting to set their lineup or drunkenly transferring in Nathan Redmond thinking he was going to be anything other than a useless turd who will only score during the gameweek you benched him.

What you need is something that will keep you invested for the whole year and have fun with your mates on the way, while also making their life a misery. Welcome to draft Fantasy Premier League – your new hell…

How draft Fantasy Premier League works

Nearly four years ago to the day, my friend and I had an epiphany. We were tired of playing Fantasy Premier League against old friends from college who didn’t have any interest in football – or the random acquaintance we didn’t even know who had joined our league and turned out to be the FPL equivalent of Rain Man – and seeing the same old teams with Gareth Bale, Robin Van Persie and Clint Dempsey (Clint Dempsey once scored 200 points in a season! I shit you not).

After binge-watching The League while we should have been finishing our university work and looking for jobs like functioning members of society, we decided we needed to shake up Fantasy Premier League and get our mates in on the act.

For those who have never seen The League and are wondering just what the hell I’m talking about, draft FPL is simple – instead of being able to select any player like in the normal Fantasy Premier League game, only one person is allowed to own each player. You can then choose whether to play for total points or have a head-to-head league.

But how do you decide who gets which players and ensure everybody doesn’t jump for Alexis Sanchez or Sergio Aguero I hear you ask? Well, read on…

Draft day

The simplest and fairest way to do this is to have a draft day. As anybody who has ever seen NFL probably knows, this is when each person picks, in order, a player for their team from the Fantasy Premier League roster.

Deciding the order can be done in a number of ways: picked out of a hat, through who finishes where in an intellectual or physical challenge or chosen at random by the surly Wetherspoon’s waitress wondering why you’ve torn up a beer mat and scrawled your names on it. This year we did by writing the numbers on the bottom of cups in beer pong. It took bloody ages.

Draft day itself is one of the highlights of the draft Fantasy Premier League year, and the summer if you’re as sad as I am. We’ve done it prior to a barbecue, at friends’ birthdays and once at a house party while a group of girls were waiting to go to a club. League priorities meant they were sent on their way while we decided which West Bromwich Albion to choose.

Every decision counts in draft FPL

Unlike in Fantasy Premier League where you can pick anyone, you have a finite number of options in draft FPL. Players get snapped up in the thick and fast and before you know it, you’ll be scraping around the promoted sides looking for any striker who might play 60 minutes or a defender who once scored five goals in the Belgian league.

Often the bold are rewarded – when a bandwagon player starts to hit form like Riyad Mahrez and Dele Alli did last season, you have to act fast to snap them up before someone else does. Wait until the deadline and you risk someone else grabbing a player about to hit form.

Similarly a new dimension is added when it comes to hanging onto players. Is your star player out of form or injured? Let them go and they may well bag all the points for someone else, or worse, come back to bite you…

Trading players

Another thing you’ll experience with draft Fantasy Premier League that you wouldn’t see otherwise is the option to trade players. There’s nothing better than getting one over on your mate as that player who had hit a purple patch for you suddenly gets dropped, and nothing worse than letting a player go who goes on to hit double-figures against you a few weeks later.

One of my crowning glories in draft FPL is when I convinced a friend to take Enner Valencia for Harry Kane when he had just broken into the Spurs side. Kane went on to bag 21 goals that season, while the Ecuadorian got injured after losing a battle with a tea cup.

You’ll become a Fantasy Premier League expert

 

With less choice you’ll be forced to get creative with your picks. Finding that next player who will unexpectedly hit it big becomes all the more important and can potentially win you a gameweek on its own.

A by-product of this is that you will start to do your own research. A lot of it. I’ve spent more than one evening scouring the weekend fixtures and finding out who’s had the most shots in the box when looking for a new midfielder and which defence is looking shaky when choosing a captain.

As a result, you’ll become a much better Fantasy League player – the season after I started playing, my other team made for fun finished 13,000th after finishing outside the top 250k the season before, while one of our group was once in the top 1k for half a season.

It’s a great way to get into Fantasy Premier League

For those who don’t follow football religiously, getting into Fantasy Premier League can be a bit daunting. Most would only go as far as joining a work league, playing for two weeks before forgetting to set their lineup and giving up for the season.

In our current ten-man league, we have at least four members who didn’t take a blind bit of interest in football or Fantasy Premier League and thought Per Mertesacker was a name for waxing your testicles. The saps.

Now they are fully-fledged FPL gurus who could give you Bournemouth’s starting lineup from the weekend without breaking a sweat. In draft Fantasy Premier League, everyone generally starts on a level-playing field. Even if they don’t finish on one…

Make forfeits for your draft Fantasy Premier League loser

As anybody who has seen The League knows, the person who finishes last suffers the indignity of being labelled the ‘Sacko’ and given a series of degrading forfeits over the season.

Being the creative, punny and witty human beings we are, my group decided to dub the bottom player in our league, the ‘Sakho’ after Liverpool defender Mamadou Sakho (currently at Crystal Palace).

Currently we’ve been rather lenient with our punishments, although we never did see the reaction of the last Sakho’s new wife when we left a message at their wedding…

You’ll never look at Fantasy Premier League the same way

Each member of our group agrees that changing to a draft Fantasy Premier League format has been one of the best – and most stressful – decisions we ever made. There are highs, there are lows, there are disgustingly crude photoshopped pictures of other participants in crude sexual positions. There are even times when Jonathan Walters will only play 58 minutes meaning you lose your place in the final after a 63-63 draw (I will never forgive you Mark Hughes).

And you’ll love every minute of it.

*

If you enjoyed this and want to see more, click here for more silly blogs, like my Facebook page and follow @FPLSteve for more FPL content and @SpeltWithAV for generally weirder content.

Through the Glory Hole – My Spareroom Adventures in London

Through the Glory Hole – My Spareroom Adventures in London

“The landlord likes to put some pretty quirky rules in the agreement. One of them is ‘No immoral use of the internet.'”

“That means no porn.”

My Spareroom Adventures in London

As anybody who has moved to London knows, finding a place to live can be a difficult task.

I experienced this for myself, having recently taken the plunge and moved to the capital for a new job. I was more fortunate than most London newbies as I already knew some very kind people (with even kinder sofas), but knew I would eventually have to undertake the unenviable task of finding my own place.

From the off, I decided I wanted to move into a shared house – partly because I didn’t fancy auctioning off my kidneys outside the tube to pay the bills, but also because hangovers are much more bearable with company rather than repeats of First Dates and a tube of Pringles.

For that reason I decided to check out Spareroom, having been given generally good reviews from those who have used it and deciding there was only a small chance of moving in with a neo-Nazi.

Spareroom #1 – No porn allowed

One of my first viewings will no doubt live long in the memory. Initially the signs were good – friendly housemates (a guy and two girls), running water and a room that I was able to fit in without having to learn to be a contortionist – and it seemed like I was passing the interview process of being an acceptable housemate (FYI: Just say you watch The Walking Dead and lie about making them tea).

It was at this point they sat me down and told me that the landlord has some pretty strict guidelines he likes them to adhere to…

“The landlord likes to put some pretty quirky rules into the agreement,” the guy told me, barely concealing a smirk that made me wonder if there was going to be a forced hazing ritual before putting pen to paper. “One of them is ‘No immoral use of the internet.'”

“That means no porn.” One of the girls piped up, staring so intently at me I felt like I had my Google history tattooed on my eyeballs.

It’s pretty difficult to work out what to do in that situation; if I acted indignant I’d look like a furious porn-addict, whereas if I went along with it I risked getting evicted when the child-lock picked up any episode of Game of Thrones.

“We have found ways around it though.” The final housemate tried to reassure me in the least reassuring way possible. Petrified I had gone from Through the Keyhole to Through the Gloryhole, I told them I’d be in touch and bolted it.

Spareroom #2 – Six-legged roommates

The next day I met the landlord of another house. This one was even nicer than the first and again seemed to have some cool housemates with similar interests. One of them was making pizza. It was the dream.

Once the landlord had given me the tour, he decided to leave us alone so we could have a chat and they could vet me properly. Again, warning signs began to emerge as one of the housemates darted to the door to check he had actually gone.

“Has he told you about the bedbugs?” she asked intently.

“Bedbugs? No…” I replied, wondering which weird fetish was going to make it into this tenancy agreement this time.

“Eugh, he never tells anybody about the bedbugs,” the other one housemate growled. “Well, don’t move in here unless you fancy waking up with insect bites every morning. We’ve had them for about three months and he won’t call an exterminator. Also he takes rent in cash.”

I downed my tea, thanked them for their time, went home and burned my clothes.

Spareroom: The best of the rest

The next fortnight or so was an interesting mixed bag of viewings around London. I got to do a nice bit of travelling having viewed houses in Hackney, Walthamstow and Oval and lived off enough meal deals to last a lifetime (I’m sure my stomach is still lined with Tesco’s southern-fried chicken and chipotle sandwiches).

Along the way I had a few more interesting run-ins – the police bust next door to the open-house (“Oh, you must be looking for 28! This is 28A. Now move along.”) and the illegal sublet where I’d be sharing the basement room with the washing machine stick out. I began to wonder if my friends actually lived in London or were just lying and commuting from Bedford or Luton.

Thankfully there was light at the end of the tunnel as I managed to find a place in Brixton where the housemates don’t seem like complete nut-jobs, the bed was insect-free and I didn’t have to sleep next to something that dined on liquitabs.

I’m just waiting for the no-porn rule.

 

 

 

Planet Earth 2: Episode 6 ‘Cities’ Review – Catfished

Planet Earth 2: Episode 6 ‘Cities’ Review – Catfished

Planet Earth 2: Episode Six recap

The final episode of Planet Earth 2, ‘Cities’, featured incredible starling displays, a bird who didn’t know what he was letting himself in for and kleptomaniac monkeys.

As we zoomed out from the huge globe before the screen was emblazoned by the familiar opening credits for the final time, I felt a pang of sadness.

Not just because it meant I’d likely be stuck recapping something like the Mrs Brown’s Boys Christmas special, but also because it signalled the end of one of the best series on television this year.

We have already been treated to the sublime (iguana chases and eagle flights) to the hilarious (dancing bears and flying lizards), but the last episode had a few more tricks up its sleeve.

The visual highlight is undoubtedly the dazzling formations of the starling birds, which gracefully moved across the sky like an aerial lava lamp. The spectacle was breathtaking as millions of flying creatures cascaded around each other over Rome in a sight that must rival the Northern Lights in person.

Screen Shot 2016-12-12 at 12.09.40.png
Image taken from http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0861m8b/planet-earth-ii-6-cities

The crew’s determination to get the best shots continued with a night-time scene of a leopard hunting pigs. The audience was treated to a night-vision view as the big cat stalked the porky families and made off with their babies in a scene sure to emotionally scar some viewers.

There was even a little excitement as the pigs incredibly gave chase – if a leopard came at me late at night you can be sure I’d flee the scene and use loved ones nearby as a human shield to aid my escape.

As mentioned above, no episode of this series would be complete without a little comic relief, and we certainly got that with the bowerbird. Animals attracting mates has been a staple of the series so far, and it looked as though Jack Bower had finally cracked it as he decorated his ‘lad-pad’ with shiny objects and attracted what he thought was a mate – until he realised it was another chap who hadn’t yet developed his plumage. Catfished.

We move from figurative to literal catfish as we saw pigeons being dragged under by the water-dwelling beasts (any of those around the Midlands and our ‘chicken’ places may go out go business). There was plenty more entertainment on show, from a raccoon playing crystal maze to get some dinner to crafty Rhesus Macaque monkeys terrorising a local market.

There was another tense struggle of baby animals facing a deadly world for the first time. I watched from between my hands as a turtle hatchling navigated a horror-journey into a city after mistaking the lights for the city. It tugged the heartstrings to see it travel to what it thought was the sea, and the show came full-circle as we saw crabs – the creatures I felt most sorry for in episode one – ruthlessly hunt the baby turtles before they had even arrived at a road full of deadly obstacles.

screen-shot-2016-12-12-at-11-54-25

The final word from David Attenborough himself was sobering. We’d seen incredible clips of animals and humans living side-by-side, with the latter even feeding monkeys and coyotes in scenes that would seem alien in a number of UK cities. We were shown the way forward in cooperating with out furry, winged or insect friends in some natural-urban cities in Singapore. His message was clear – we need to follow suit and furnish our planet carefully so as not to destroy their homes so we can continue to live together.

It was a sombre but important message to end a superb series on for which the crew deserve full credit. If things carry on as they are however, we will end up losing the stars of the show who have really made Planet Earth 2 so great – the animals themselves.

Feature image taken from Planet Earth II –  Cities available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0861m8b/planet-earth-ii-6-cities.

***

If you enjoyed this, you can find all my Planet Earth recaps and more here. Like the Facebook page and follow me on Twitter for more in the future!

 

Ticket For One – Is going to the cinema alone still a taboo?

Ticket For One – Is going to the cinema alone still a taboo?

Is Going to the Cinema Alone Weird?

Is going to the cinema alone weird, or an accepted hobby in 2016?

Before I even start, allow me to offer a piece of advice. If you’re going to the cinema alone, do not sit in the middle.

I made that mistake about a week ago. I had a relatively free day and decided I wanted to watch Arrival (which I also reviewed here; thanks for asking!), but it was the afternoon and all of my friends were at work. I’d been in this situation before; you wait for an evening you and your friends are free and, before you know it, the film is out of the cinema and you refuse to buy the DVD full price – it’d be Mad Max all over again.

Not being someone to download films (just to clarify incase Theresa May is reading) and also being a fan of the cinema experience, I decided to go into town to watch it – forgetting that it’s ridiculously expensive since I lost student privileges and Orange Wednesdays bit the dust years ago.

Before doing so I did text a couple of friends to ask – is going to the cinema alone still considered weird? Are you seen as a big screen enthusiast, or held with the same contempt as someone who dines alone in restaurants on Valentines Day, passing themselves presents and taking selfies with their steak.

The general consensus was that nobody knew. One friend called it “bold” another said it “might look a bit sad.” Neither, however, had ever done it – it was unchartered territory.

screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-14-18-20
Even the aliens in Arrival didn’t come alone – Image taken from ‘Arrival Trailer (2016) – Paramount Pictures’ available at www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFM03UJ4B4g

Weirdly when I got to the desk, I had a little trepidation about asking for the dreaded ‘Ticket for One’. Would the receptionist look at me with pity? Disgust? Admiration? Would she call for security in her earpiece and put me in a padded room with the bloke who came to see Paul Blart: Mall Cop on his lonesome years ago?

Of course, none of that happened. She printed my ticket and told me which screen it was with the indifference of someone who didn’t care for my internal plight. Perhaps going to the cinema alone was less of a big deal than I thought?

Once I’d entered the theatre I was in dreamland. The screen was completely free; no smooching couples or rabbles of kids throwing popcorn (it was daytime so you’d hope not). I decided to sit in the middle and dump my jacket like I owned the place. It looked as though I was having my own private viewing – like a billionaire or anybody that watched the new Ghostbusters.

At least it did to start with.

Screen Shot 2016-12-08 at 16.26.55.png
Who you gonna call? Literally anyone else. Image taken from ‘GHOSTBUSTERS – OFFICIAL TRAILER (HD) available at www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3ugHP-yZXw

After the trailers started they started coming in. First a happy couple who, like me, clearly thought it was going to be empty and stopped in their tracks when they saw my lone figure. Sat in the middle. Looking back at them. They kept their heads down at moved to the end, not daring to make eye contact.

Then two mates with way too much food to eat between them. Then another couple. Then a group of three students. And I was on my own, proudly in the centre. I was the weirdo.

By the time the trailers were finishing there was around a dozen people and I was wondering what they must think of me sat on my own. My jacket was on the seat next to me – perhaps they thought it was for a friend? They would eventually find out that was not the case.

I wasn’t sure what to do, and I’d be lying if I said leaving didn’t cross my mind. People would think I needed a different screen or had the wrong time. Not being able to read single digit numbers would be less embarrassing than this.

Once the trailers finished, however, I eased up and within 20 minutes of the film starting I’d forgotten all my worries. There were no sniggers and nobody was texting or tweeting about ‘the sad loner’ in the cinema. If truth be told, nobody seemed to care as much as me.  Perhaps if I was laughing alone to a comedy I’d look strange, but in a film where everyone was focused on the screen and not talking I didn’t feel out of place at all.

So is going to the pictures alone still a taboo? Possibly not. If you say you’re going, will people frown at you like you’ve told them you like toe nail clippings on top of your porridge? Possibly. Did I write this so if anyone I asked I could justify my solo cinema trip as a social experiment? Absolutely.

But if you’re someone who loves the movies and there’s a film you really want to see, you’ll barely notice once the curtains open.

Just don’t sit in the middle.

Movie Review: Arrival

Movie Review: Arrival

Arrival: Movie Review

With a title like Arrival and a trailer full of interior spaceship views, men in camoflauge and unusual floating objects, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was going to be another alien invasion film.

Even the opening sets it up that way as linguistic professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is tasked to work alongside theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) to work out what the aliens want and if Earth is in danger.

As the film unfolds however, you realise this is anything but your standard alien sci-fi flick. For the most part of the 116 minute run-time, you are focused on Banks’ efforts to find out the alien motivation within their spacecraft or the political struggles behind the scenes rather than seeing how the planet is affected – indeed, a couple of phone calls and news reports are all you see from the outside world.

screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-14-18-20
Image taken from ‘Arrival Trailer (2016) – Paramount Picture’ available at www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFM03UJ4B4g

On paper this sounds like something which could turn people off, but you need not fear. Watching Banks wrestle sleep deprivation, visions of her daughter and pressure from the likeable but stern Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) and the slimy Agent Halpern (Michael Stuhlbarg) keeps you invested in her character, while the mystery of why the seemingly placid “heptapods” have visited are planet keep you hooked until the film’s mind-blowing finish.

Indeed the strength of the film is that in a number of ways it feels so grounded. Adams’ performance is entirely relatable – ranging from understated at times when the main character is unfamiliar with her surroundings to forceful and strong as events transpire. Her plausible reactions to the strange things happening around her and frustrating bureaucracy often hooks the audience in more than the special effects or set-pieces – like the look of wonderment when she first sees the aliens.

The bickering between nations on how to deal with a potential threat also means tensions are always simmering below the surface rather than thrust in our face, meaning that we are constantly in-tune with the pressure Banks and Donnelly are under rather than it feeling forced. Again, the differing approaches and mentalities of the nations involved feel like they could happen in real life, and leave you wondering whether it is how a scenario like this would unfold were it to happen today.

Screen Shot 2016-12-08 at 14.19.16.png
Image taken from  ‘Arrival Trailer (2016) – Paramount Pictures’ available at www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFM03UJ4B4g

The film, which is based on Ted Chiang’s short Story of Your Life, is well-paced and manages to tie the themes of Bank’s troubles, political conflict and the aliens’ aims together in a superb final act that lives up to a slow (although never plodding) burn in the opening hour or so.

In summary, Arrival can almost be seen not only as the alien story for a modern age, but an interesting commentary on how the modern age would deal with an alien story, and it delivers on both scores brilliantly.

Heading image taken from ‘Arrival Trailer (2016) – Paramount Pictures’ available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFMo3UJ4B4g
Planet Earth 2: Episode 5 Review – Grassed Up

Planet Earth 2: Episode 5 Review – Grassed Up

Planet Earth 2: Episode Five recap

This week’s Planet Earth 2 review focuses on the habitats as much as the animals and features an incredible ‘Making of’ section.

Like episode three’s Jungles a couple of weeks ago, the penultimate segment of Planet Earth 2 strays away from focusing on one or two animals battling it out.

Instead it seems more interested in the varied grassland areas found in the far reaches of our planet. From the off we are introduced to animals navigating what appears at first to be almost a giant maze of grass in Northern India with an incredibly varied cast of animals from elephants to tigers.

It is soon clear that this isn’t the case all year round as we are treated to an incredible time lapse showing a storm flooding thousands of miles of grassland in the Okavango Delta in Botswana.

In mere seconds of screen time the once jovial and bright vista is transformed into a soggy swampland, where animals plod through in scenes that reminded me of Glastonbury fields. If you listen faintly you can even hear what sounds like Coldplay – no wonder they all looked miserable.

Screen Shot 2016-12-06 at 19.09.23.png
Image taken from http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b084xk6m/planet-earth-ii-5-grasslands

Throughout the show we are moved around the world – from Brazil to a frozen landscape in North America – we even make a stop in the UK at one point. It really highlights the time and effort that must go into producing the show, but more on that later.

For those more concerned with the critters themselves there is still a lot to enjoy – whether it is a day in the life of a hurrying harvest mouse hopping around Norfolk and evading a barn owl in a manner befitting You’ve Been Framed, or a caribou only weeks old being chased by an arctic wolf, there are plenty of tense moments on show.

The highlight of the animals may just be a ten-tonne buffalo fearlessly facing off against five hungry lionesses in an incredible scene that resembled a rodeo, although a fox diving headfirst into snow half a dozen times will probably amuse people the most.

Screen Shot 2016-12-06 at 19.23.16.png
Image taken from http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b084xk6m/planet-earth-ii-5-grasslands

Arguably the best is saved for last however. In an ending featurette that may even top the incredible wind-suit flight of the first episode we see the lengths the film crew will go to for the perfect shot – and the lengths the animals will go to keep them out.

One of the photographers, Sandesh Kadur (I really hope I got that right) might just be one of the bravest men I have seen on a nature documentary as he waits days in tiger territory protected by about three vines and a dozen leaves for only a few seconds of footage. He might just be my star of the show and he didn’t even need to face-plant the snow (not on camera at least).

In summary, another success where the execution was, incredibly, even more impressive than the cast of animals that have made the series memorable so far.

All images taken from BBC iPlayer – Planer Earth II – 5. Grasslands available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b084xk6m/planet-earth-ii-5-grasslands