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





Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar is a string of expanding propositions, which if you’re onboard you’ll be treated to a fascinating film but if you’re not, then oh boy Houston we have a problem. It will more than likely be one of the years more divisive films, given its heavy reliance on scientific theories and bold choices in the storytelling department. I’m well entrenched in Camp Yay! on this one, but in fairness like most of Nolan’s work, the film has its issues. This isn’t your typical blockbuster fare, in fact you’ll have to do a little work while you’re watching it. It’s more like sitting through a lecture from a really cool teacher who’s spruiking that learning can be fun. Pretty sure this'll be near the top of my best films for the year list.

Set in a not-too-distant future the world’s resources are quickly running out. Mankind is forced to explore other galaxies to find planets that may be suitable for colonisation. After receiving a strange message Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) and his daughter Murph (Mackenzie Fox) stumble across a secret project led by Professor Brand (Michael Caine) who is trying to save the world. Cooper a former pilot of some note is selected to lead crew consisting of three scientist on a daring mission, on which the fate of humankind rests.

It’s interesting to think where Christopher Nolan’s career would be if he hadn’t made his Dark Knight trilogy. Up until Batman Begins his films were on a smaller scale and tackling darker content which didn’t suggest box office gold. So despite the scale of the Batman films Nolan was still able to use them tackle socially relevant issues such as corruption, the war on terrorism and disproportionate wealth distribution; at a time when most superhero films were having a hard enough time retelling their own source material. These films led to the mind bendingly cool Inception which convinced its audience to accept a rather peculiar plot device to tell it’s story and yet it was immensely successful. It would appear that all this progression has been leading Nolan to telling his most challenging film to date. Interstellar just as Inception did, spoon feeds its audience as to how all the funky science works before jumping off the deep end, praying people will go with it. Just like Inception, for me, the leap in logic works beautifully. But then I admire ambitious film making that requires a few subsequent viewings in order to work out exactly what is going on.

The film goes to great lengths to explain the scientific foundations on which the story is built, and yes at times it may be a little heavy handed. For instance scientist draw diagrams to explain their theories to one another even though arguably they are explaining the equivalent of science 101 to each other. Of course the diagrams are for us dummies in the audience but if there’s a better way to explain quantum physics i’m all ears. Large portions of scientific exposition is a necessarily evil if the plot is to get to the crazy places that it ends up, which the film handled admirably under the circumstances.

Behind the technically scientific mumbo jumbo lies a story, which simply put, is that age old battle between the heart and the mind and how they both play an intricate part in discovery and survival. We can not rely solely on either analytical mind or passionate heart to make our decisions in life. Nolan highlights this by placing his characters in situations which pitted heart against head to see how they work themselves through them. A real hallmark of his storytelling.

The cast is led by the coolest-of-cats Matthew McConaughey, whose performance is the culmination of the killer run he’s been on and it’s worth adding, if you haven’t seen any of his films for the last few years, do yourself a favour and watch them all. Michael Caine does an extraordinary Michael Caine performance but it feels like a bit of a victory lap for the legend. Anne Hathaway doesn’t quite rekindle her Dark Knight Rises or Les Miserables form but she’s more than capable with the emotional heft she’s burdened with. Jessica Chastain plays the older version of Murph, I wish she had more to do in the film, although I am biased since she’s easily one of my favourite actresses in Hollywood at the moment. Marlon Sanders (Jenkins) and Wes Bentley (Doyle) are great as the other crew members.

I implore you to watch this on the big screen as its the only way to do the cinematography any justice. Films like this demand the biggest screen possible, from the hypnotic shots of the cosmos to the sweeping shots of earth it’s simply stunning to watch. Even better, the visuals are accompanied by a rousing and at times inspiring score by master craftsman Hans Zimmer, who continues to knockout sensational music.

I’m loathe to invoke a masterpiece such as 2001: A Space Odyssey however in time Interstellar could be spoken of in such regard, and in fact feels like a direct descendant of the Kubrick classic. I’m cautious about recommending this film given the demands it puts on its audience to accept the principles behind it; but it’s too damn good to miss seeing it on the big screen.

Interstellar opens in cinemas everywhere this Thursday. If you see the film and agree or think i’m outta this world then feel free to drop a line below or come play over on our Facebook page.

- Stu









I'll be the first to admit I'm a lapsed Doctor Who fan. Although I've watched on and off since Christopher Eccleston stepped into the TARDIS back in 2005, I've never really stuck with the show for more than a season at a time. And at the risk of being torn apart by a pack of rabid Whovians, Steven Moffat's promotion to head writer didn't really help me stick with the show. But before the Who fans lynch me, I can promise you I went into 'Deep Breath', the first episode starring Peter Capaldi in the iconic role, with an open mind, and I quite like what I saw.

'Deep Breath' is an episode that doesn't save its silver bullets. In the opening sequence alone we are treated to a T-rex pacing up and down the River Thames only to spit out the TARDIS a couple of seconds later. What follows is a delightfully bizarre narrative framed as a sort of murder mystery concerning the murder of the aforementioned time-displaced T-rex. In true Doctor Who fashion, the story appears straightforward enough only to throw a curve ball in the form of a creepy half mechanical/half human creature aptly named the half faced man.


What progresses as a promising and off-beat sci-fi narrative soon succumbs to the usual Moffat story problems, namely a plot that doesn't quite add up. Sure all the pieces are 'there' so to speak but between the references to past episodes (namely 'The Girl in the Fireplace') and the Doctor's erratic dialogue, I never really felt like I had the 'Eureka' moment the episode was building to. Call me old fashioned but I don't think you should have to read several pages of wikipedia to understand the plot of what is meant to be a soft reboot.


Intertwined with this sci-fi romp is the better executed, much more interesting character driven story about the changing relationship dynamic between Clara and the Doctor, how both characters cope with his regeneration. This is where Moffat's writing truly shines, and more than makes up for my gripes with the plot. Throughout the episode, pivotal character moments help to establish who (pun intended) this new incarnation of the Doctor is, what his moral limits are, and most importantly what the Doctor was trying to tell himself by picking a more senior visage. It's all wonderfully executed and was more than enough to make me want to continue on with the season.


As for Capaldi's performance you ask? Well although I'm still convinced he was a safe choice for the role, I really can't fault his performance. It channelled the fun and playfulness that was so iconic of Smith and Tennant's runs whilst evoking a sense of the past and something a bit more serious. In short he nails it.


And now to the business end of the review. As I reviewed the episode on DVD it would be careless of me not address the elephant (or should I say T-rex) in the room; and that is the fact that the DVD contains just a single episode, 'Deep Breath'. Although the episode has a longer running time (clocking in at just over an hour) than your average Doctor Who adventure and the DVD does have a couple of extras (namely 'the making of' and the live announcement show that revealed Peter Capaldi as the next Doctor), I just can't in good conscience recommend a DVD featuring only one episode. Sure, if you are a hardcore Who fan then maybe you can justify shelling out the cash. Otherwise my recommendation would be to wait until they release the entire eighth season on DVD.

With that in mind please see the below score as a judgement of the DVD not the episode 'Deep Breath', which for the record gets a strong 8 out of 10 from me. 

- Christof