Before you say it, yes, I'm aware Puella Magi Madoka Magica (or PMMM for short, which sounds like a noise of satisfaction you'd make with a pinched nose) - the deconstruction of the Magical Girl anime genre that would spawn classics like Sailor Moon - started life as a 12-episode anime series followed by a successful series of manga adaptations. I'm also aware that the two discs that form this compilation movie are basically a retread of the series with some of the fatty bits trimmed off, much like what Evangelion did with Death and Rebirth back in the day.  I am therefore aware that praises and criticisms I might level come with an asterisk floating beside them, as this is essentially like saying something about a trailer that judges the entire finished product (topical!).

But I'm also firmly of the opinion that a movie - that is, a cinematic experience of visuals and sound intended to convey a story - needs to stand as its own thing, whether it's a recap, sequel, prequel or fly-on-the-wall documentary about some guy who paints fences. So I came into the PMMM movie with that mindset, intent on judging it on its own merits no matter how great the longer anime might or might not be.

Rest assured, then, that not only do the two PMMM movies stand on their own as films, they blew my mind like that one time I stood too close to a jet turbine. It's so good I'm considering taking out a
loan on my kidney to pay to purchase the Blu-ray of the series. Hell, it's so good I now have the boxset - featuring a whole bunch of badass young ladies wearing technicolour battle armour - taking pride of place on my shelf beside Cowboy Bebop and my Attack on Titan collections. Hyperbole? Perhaps. But I'm not exaggerating when I say the Puella Magi Madoka Magica movie is damn, damn good.

The premise starts with sweet, unassuming and pink-haired middle school student Madoka Kaname finding an injured magical white weasel/ferret hybrid called Kyubei. After saving him from death, Kyubei offers Madoka the chance to become a Magical Girl, giving her a Sailor Moon-esque set of transformative powers to fight witches in exchange for any one wish she can make. While she contemplates this decision, Madoka meets other Magical Girls - including the confident, impossibly-coiffed Mami and the quiet but deadly Homura - and discovers that getting these powers might lead to something much darker than that which she is tasked to fight.

I don't want to say much more than that, despite the fact this recap movie comes three years after the anime proper, but rest assured that the twists are awesome. There were at least three big moments I gasped, leapt forward in my seat and yelled at the TV, words to the effect of "No way that just happened!" with more colourful vernacular attached. It's the kind of narrative where not knowing "It was his sled" is a benefit, so if you're able to snag this Blu-ray without visiting TvTropes or Wikipedia on the way, so much the better.

It's actually difficult to articulate entirely what makes the PMMM movies work like gangbusters. I'd
say it's a distinct marriage of bright visuals, eclectic art style (especially with the witches), compelling story and a really strong English dub crew. At first it seems like we're in for a long, cutesy Sailor Moon clone - the opening credits alone are sweet enough to induce diabetes - and then about half an hour in things start happening that dispel the cute and fluffy facade. Trust me, it is worth slogging through the pink and pretty first half hour to get to the narrative gold afterwards.

As great as I find the PMMM movies, there are a few drawbacks. Whether it's the English dub specifically or the story in general some dialogue parts can get overly bogged down in exposition, which does throw me out of the story a little during moments that are clearly meant to land with impact that would benefit from brevitous storytelling. I also reckon - again, acknowledging this as a recap film of a pre-existing anime - that the opening takes its time a bit too much getting to the main thrust of the plot. Character and world-building is all well and good, but most of what passes for that in the first half hour is mostly Madoka making little anime girl squeaks.

Those are minor drawbacks, though, and the positives are to the negatives what a beer stein is to a teacup. There's enough grand, operatic narrative peppered with introspective character moments and a really nice dark, gut-punchy undertone that the two Puella Magi Madoka Magica movies combined manage to stand tall as a fantastic anime film that eschews a lot of the auteur problems such deconstructive tales are usually plagued with. Most might probably tell you to watch the series itself before checking out the films (for I understand there's a third movie that acts as a sequel to the whole thing), but I'd go out on a limb and presume some of the narrative fat of the anime might've been trimmed with good reason for the movie. Of course, I'm gonna have to watch now to find out, so there goes another six hours of my weekend.

Ignore the cutesy cover of the Blu-Ray, avoid the spoilers and just engage. Puella Magi Madoka Magica is awesome. Plain and simple.

- Chris

In the interest of full disclosure, I should advise that I haven’t completed Dragon Age Inquisition. This isn’t because I’m not interested or not thoroughly invested in the game, quite the opposite. It’s because this game is MASSIVE. I’ve sunk just over 40 hours into the game since release and still feel as though I’ve only begun to scratch the surface. So as not to leave you waiting until 2015 for my full review, I’ve put this review together based upon my feelings and experiences thus far.

As I said, this game is massive. Not just in terms of map size, but also visual scale and possibility. There is just so much to do and all the time in the world to do it, which you’ll need. In their press kit, EA advised that you should set aside between 50-65 hours for a play though of the main game but I call BS. There is no way that you could possibly jump into this game without finding yourself distracted, running off to bash up a few apostates or close a handful of rifts.

Not only is it difficult not to get side tracked, it’s also a hell of a lot of fun. By seeking out many of these side quests you are forced to explore more and more of the gigantic maps of Ferelden and Orlais. Each of these separate ‘world maps’ are then broken down into smaller location maps such as the semi-tutorial area of The Hinterlands. Here you’ll cut your teeth as a burgeoning Inquisitor by amassing supporters to the Inquisition and various other engagements of derring-do. That said, skip the damn Druffalo mission. It’s really not worth the XP. Here’s a hot tip for new players, don’t hang around in the Hinterlands for too long. There’s a massive world out there just waiting for you to explore. Plus, you can always come back later.

The combat system has seen a bit of a makeover since DA2 with the ability to fight on the fly in real time or switch to a top down view wherein you can plan the movements of each player and stop or advance time at your will. The latter of which is particularly handy when you find yourself overwhelmed by enemies and allows you to survey the battlefield for an advantage such as a high point for a bow-wielding rogue. Many of your battles will be fun, but not too difficult while others will seriously push your limits. Encounter a dragon early on in the game, say, the Ferelden Frostback, and you’ll promptly have you arse handed to you. As you progress in the game, however, these battles become more doable while still providing a challenge.

The story, as it should be, is the best part of the game and instantly transports players back to the world of Templars, Apostates, Blood Mages and, of course, dragons. This game builds upon what has come before it, keeps much of the established look and feel, but still brings something new to the table which, in this case, is scale. Almost as if they took a note from the book of Skyrim, Dragon Age Inquisition is big. multi-level castles, great expansive maps and a multitude of customisation options give so much motivation to play, all the while compounded by a tonne of my favourite fantasy element: LORE!

Fans of the DA franchise will find joy in many of the cameo appearances and pieces of dialogue that refer to incidents past. Speaking of dialogue, Bioware have done it again and provided a stunning array of dialogue based story decisions with an incredibly varied palette of voice actors. Considering just how many lines of dialogue there are in this game, it’s incredible that the lip syncing is as great as it is. In fact, the animation and graphics in general are superb, showcasing the power of the Frostbite engine. At times I found myself standing in the rain on a storm battered coast or basking in the serenity of a lush green pasture just watching the long grass undulate and the trees sway. This is Dragon Age Inquisition’s real strength, its ability to transport you to somewhere fantastic. As a kid, growing up on 200 acres in northern NSW, I would run around the bush with a bath towel for a cape, broomstick as a magic staff, or a plastic sword, or toy bow and arrow, slaying imaginary orcs and goblins. I still have such fond memories of those days and DAI drew out those feelings that I had almost forgotten.

I’m somewhat thankful that I haven’t rushed through this game because even though I’ve already spent a considerable amount of time questing and looting, I know that the adventure has only just begun.

- Ryan

Jonathan Hickman has carved quite the name for himself in the world of comica. Where Grant Morrison is associated with psychedelic trips, Mark Millar with high-octane ultra-violence, and Brian Michael Benids with superhero soap operas, Hickman has his reputation firmly planted in his love of high concept science fiction and intricate plots. Seriously, no one does sci-fi quite like Hickman, and the first time I read one his books, the first volume of The Manhattan Projects, it took me a solid week to process what I had just read.

He's a skilled writer with a unique voice to say the least, but there is one slight problem, his schtick is starting to wear thin on me. Hickman has such a clear and definitive writing style that often his characters become overpowered by it, reduced to cogs in the overarching plot machine. Don't get me wrong, I love what the man does, but I would just like to see him change it up a little and tell more character driven stories in his creator owned work. This is where East of West comes in, his creator owned series from Image with artist Nick Dragotta.

What struck me about the first volume of East of West was how different it was for Hickman. Sure you had all the usual Hickman trappings like a bizarre alternate future complete with enough dirty politics to make Game of Thrones seem civil, but you also had very personal struggles at the centre of it all. I would almost go so far to say it was a love story. Almost.

Two volumes later and a hell of a lot has changed. For starters, and much to my disappointment,
Hickman has widened the narrative camera to make it less about Death and his angry (ex?) wife Xiaolin, and more about their overall role in preventing the fulfillment of the Message. Sure, they get plenty of page time and Xialoin is as badass as ever, she is after all the woman who conquered Death, but it's obvious that the focus of East of West has has shifted

The main part of this shift comes in the introduction of the Endless Nation; technologically superior Native Americans who dress like rejected members of Daft Punk. Things begin to heat up when The Endless Nation declares war on the rest of the dystopian and divided America, plunging the continet into war. And just like that it seems the world is one step closer to the apocalypse. It's a unique and strangely fragile setting, a tribute to Hickman's world building chops. Indeed this complex setting easily overshadows any of my gripes with his at times average characterizations.

Where Hickman's work ends, Nick Dragotta's begins. Somehow he makes bringing Hickman's impossible vision to life look easy. Splash pages of enormous cube like space ships barely suspended in atmosphere, towering ivory spires, and the subtlest of facial twitches all grace the page effortlessly. Make no mistake, Dragotta is at the top of his game, keeping even the longest 'talking-head' style conversations visually interesting.

At this point it would be a crime not to mention the impressive colour work of Frank Martin. His pallete constantly changes to evoke the emotions of a particular scene whilst still maintaining a visual cohesion amongst the issues. A surprising amount of storytelling takes place through Martin's colour choices, and like Hickman's previous creator owned work, The Manhattan Projects, East of West relies to some extent on a certain level of colour coding, with Death and his two companions (the closest thing to 'heroes' this series has to offer) decked out in various combinations of black and white. It makes for a stark contrast between Death and his posse, and the richly coloured backgrounds.


Overall I like East of West. I'll even go as far to say I like it a lot. Even through I would love to see Hickman push himself and deliver a more character based story there are plenty of character driven moments to punctuate all the political scheming and drama. If you haven't read Hickman before then East of West is a great place to start, although I would recommend you start at volume one given the complexity of the story.

- Christof 


Following two exhilarating instalments, The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 1 serves more as a point of reflection for the franchise, allowing its characters to recover both emotionally and physically, before building to what promises to be an enthralling climax. I can’t say I had as much fun with this film as I did with the preceding ones, but in fairness The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 1 has to be viewed in the context of the entire story. If this were a ten-part television series then this film would be equivalent to episodes 6, 7 and 8, so one must appreciate the role it has to play in setting up the finale.

After all she’s endured, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is suffering from PTSD - understandable given what she’s experienced up to this point. Struggling through nightmares and panic attacks, she is being hoisted up as the symbol for the rebellion against the Capitol, a burden which rest uneasily on her shoulders. The rebellion is being led by District 13 which is governed by the stoic President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) and chief advisor Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman). As Katniss is being groomed as a poster girl for the rebels, the ruthless President Snow (Donald Sutherland) is using Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) as his pawn in his own game of propaganda. Just as Katniss and her crew had to adapt to the Hunger Games, this new conflict will throw them closer to danger than they’ve ever been, as the Districts of Panem are exposed to the horrors of war.

Jennifer Lawrence’s performance beautifully captures the plethora of emotions that Katniss is experiencing, from manic fear to courage-under-fire, even to goofiness. Despite her first few scenes being a little underwhelming, the addition of Julianne Moore to the cast proved quite fruitful, given the dramatic oomph she injected. The other cast members all basically pick up where they left off from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and don’t miss a beat; it’s a fine ensemble who seem to prosper from the time they’ve obviously spent together creating this world.

This franchise is taking the Twilight/Harry Potter approach of splitting the last book into two film adaptations, and I’m still not convinced that it’s warranted. It wasn’t as if this film covered so much story that it was clear they needed the extra time and, in fact, there was plenty of fat which could have been trimmed. The first two films cracked along at a decent pace which assisted the shortcomings in the narrative. I understand the commercial impetus for making two films where there could be one, but it’s a risky endeavour when the quality of the storytelling is potentially jeopardized.

Just as the other films have ended on cliff-hangers, The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 1 will leave you bemoaning the fact it’ll be another long year before this all gets wrapped up, but something tells me it’ll be worth the wait. The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 1 very much feels like we’re taking a deep breath before plunging into a satisfying climax in Part 2, and I’m definitely hanging around to see what it has in store for us.

The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 1 is open in cinemas everywhere from today. If you see the film and agree or disagree with my thoughts feel free to drop a line below or come over and join in the caged death match which is our Facebook page.

- Stu





Let’s a get ready to RUUMMBLLEEEE!!!

In those immortal words of Muhammad Ali “We gonna get it on, cos we don't get along!”.

This Saturday PRESS PLAY is hosting a Super SMASH Bros 64 tournament consisting of 16 teams of 4. The night will also feature music from a selection of popular DJ’s and live art from Heidi Abraham, as well as prizes for best dressed (Cosplay/Retro themed). There will also be gaming consoles for casual gamers to partake in

The night will be sponsored by Red Bull, Kwencher Beer, and The Gamesmen, which means that there will be FREE beverages for punters.

PRESS PLAY is a retro themed night that combines various forms of live entertainment: Gaming, music, art and fashion into one jam packed night of excitement

PRESS PLAY @ SPECTRUM

34 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst, 2010, NSW
Date: 22nd November 2014
Ticket Price: General Admission: $10.00 (GST inc) - Presale & OTD tickets available
Times: 7:30 PM – 1:00 AM

To order your tickets please visit: http://bit.ly/shabbaevents

- Stu





Worst. Barber. Ever
Assassin's Creed is back and this time it's bringing its A-game exclusively to next/current gen consoles in the form of Assassin's Creed Unity, set during the French Revolution of the late 1700's, you are Arno a young man who overcomes personal adversity only to find himself recruited into a shadowy league of assassin's in their fight to... well... fight. They fight against authority, Templars and various other ragamuffins. The game unfurls and reveals a pseudo-science fiction undercurrent in which a dodgy tech company is doing dodgy things. Sound familiar? Well, it's very much a rehash of what has come previously in the franchise with little offered in terms of gameplay innovation but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Bad things are yet to come. 

"Last one there's a rotten croissant!"
So as to expedite the review process, perhaps an airing of negatives should be done before progressing any further. This game is buggy as all get out. For such a highly anticipated title, which was already delayed no less, there are some serious issues which affect the overall gaming experience. While Ubisoft have already released patches in an attempt to counter the problems, they still persist to an extent that you'll frequently find yourself removed from the immersion of Paris and find yourself grumbling on the couch with controller in hand. First of all, the load times are extensive. On many an occasion I found myself choosing to run across town instead of using 'fast travel' purely because the 'fast' portion of the description is a misnomer. Even when starting up the game you could be advised to click past the main menu before making yourself a cup of tea. Trust me, you won't miss a thing. 

"What? Do I have something in my teeth?
Gorgeously rendered buildings and thousands of random NPCs may seem like an evolutionary step in gaming, but random drops in frame rate make the game look like a giant, HD rendered GIF with character skins sporadically changing, flesh seemingly torn from the faces of characters and characters popping into existence right before your eyes. It's like I'm in the Matrix. On top of this is the frequent frustration of falling through the floor when jumping from roofs. One second you're tracking a murderous murdery murderer and the next you're falling into an infinite maw of teal. Within my first 2 hours of playing this occurred 4 times, all in the middle of a mission. Sure, once every 30 minutes doesn't seem so bad but it takes you out of the moment and leaves you cursing what should be a highly polished AAA game. That being said, I have faith that Ubisoft staff will iron out these issues in due course.

Claude's favourite, choc covered liquorice!
Thankfully, the game is otherwise a delight to play. My disappointment with frame rate drops aside, the attention to detail and sheer size of the game map is impressive. While Black Flag may appear to have a bigger map when taking into account sea faring missions, Unity has expansive open areas, luscious interiors and towering... er... towers. Running through the grimy streets of gay Paree before hurtling through a window, upstairs and out through the drawing room gives the game a true sense of organic fluidity. 

"Welcome to The Voice: Bastille"
Thankfully the Abstergo portion of the game is limited predominantly to some speedy cut scenes. I've always found the whole underlying sci-fi story to be completely unnecessary so its omission doesn't nothing but add to the experience for me. The setting of the game isn't necessarily forced down the throat of players with the locale and general aesthetic enough to make it known that these are tumultuous times for madames and monsieurs. Want to know more about the French Revolution? Go ask Google. However, it is a consant frustration when character voices only ever come in varying degrees of regional English accents purely due to the time period instead of location. Need a French beggar from Cour de Miracles? Here's a Cornish accent. A servant? Take some Yorkshire. And of course anyone of importance gets the generic voice of English aristocracy. That said, we're not here to listen to scousers in a bordello, we're here to run and jump and stab and shoot. In that respect, Assassin's Creed is a success. 

More swag than Kanye
Co-op missions, when not being plagued by connection issues, are great fun and are a great way to see different variations in costume, equipment and play style when comparing to your own. Joining or creating your own team and unlocking social clubs exponentially adds to the playability of this game. There are a multitude of different ways in which to customise your assassin by choosing from various hoods, coats, pants, belts, boots and gloves as well as weapons. All of these customisations not only increase your abilities but they also make you look like a dapper bad arse. More opportunities for unlocking gear can be found in the iPhone and Android companion app which allows you to complete mini-games which in turn unlock chests within the game proper. While I personally enjoy being able to play the game when not playing the game, it may prove to be frustrating that not all elements of the console game are available unless you also play on a mobile device.

Assassin's Creed Unity may be more of the same but god damn is it a formula worth preserving. While technically the most ambitious game in the franchise to date, it's impossible to gloss over what are considerable issues with bugs and glitches, all of which detract from a lofty potential for immersion. You can't help but feel as though the 1 year product cycle got the better of the developers in this instance. For all of its faults, Assassin's Creed Unity is ultimately an incredibly fun, richly painted tapestry but one which is riddled with (fixable) holes.

- Ryan

I recently watched Napoleon Dynamite for the first time, and was worried that it wasn’t going to live up to the hype. It’s one of those films that whenever I mentioned I hadn't seen it, a chorus would sing out declaring it one of the greats. So it was with great trepidation that I decided to put its reputation to the test … and it was glorious! A delicious blend of quirky characters, exquisitely-timed comedy and tonnes of heart, which is everything I want in a film like this.

I’m not surprised that Napoleon Dynamite is held in such high regard since, at its core, it’s a tale about finding your special place in the world where you’re free to just be you. It’s so damn relatable because, in this increasingly social-media-fuelled world, it feels as though those spaces are becoming harder to find.

I particularly love how Director Jared Hess (Nacho Libre) took a nondescript location and populated it with such fascinatingly peculiar inhabitants. In a way it reminded me of Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom or Wes Anderson’s Rushmore. No matter how bizarre the characters were, I found myself being drawn into their trials and tribulations, which is definitely something I wasn’t expecting from this: heaps of humanity.

Forgive me whilst I squeeze onto the Napoleon Dynamite bandwagon, but I truly hope this film continues to find new fans who will relish its special brand of awkwardness. I know I’ll definitely be returning to it on a regular basis.

There’s no better time to either watch or rewatch the film, as this year it celebrates its 10th anniversary. Napoleon Dynamite is available to buy or rent on iTunes.

Please feel free to share your favourite moments from the film in the comments below or come over and play with us at our Facebook page.

Check out Napoleon Dynamite in the iTunes store here

- Stu