Marvel Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. Review

It’s a big week for Marvel and its cinematic universe. A second ‘Captain Marvel’ trailer has been released to much hype, with the first trailer for ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ and the much sought after Avengers 4 trailer (and potential title reveal) finally being unveiled in the coming days. The Marvel Cinematic Universe where we stand in 2018 is an entertainment juggernaut, with millions of people embracing and holding close the characters and storylines involved. As one such person who loves this franchise, upon seeing the immersive experience ‘Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N’ was opening its doors at London’s ExCel centre, I jumped at the chance to book tickets, and went along with a quiet excitement at what might be contained within. But is this something worth attending, or just something made to capitalise on fandom? I went along to find out…

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Neale Upton's Introduction: Ghost in the Shell

Hi readers, my name is Neale and I’m new to the Upside Down Shark team. I studied film at university, with Craig, focusing heavily on animation and animation production, so I thought for my first little article I’d write about a movie that had a big impact on me years ago when I first saw it, and how it changed the landscape for animated movies and science fiction.

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Matt Dobbie's Introductory Article: Part 2

In part 1 of my introductory pair of articles, I covered my 5 favourite albums and TV shows. Here in part 2, I’m going to be covering some of my favourite video games and movies, but this time it’ll be a little bit different. Instead of writing up my ‘Top 5s’ as it were, I’ll instead be focusing on 5 video games and movies that have had the most impact on me. Sure, you’ll still be getting to know my favourites from both categories, but this time ranking isn’t going to factor in, because honestly my feelings are a lot less definitive in these areas. With that out of the way, we’ll begin with 5 of my favourite video games.

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Matt Dobbie's Introductory Article: Part 1

Hi there. My name is Matt. Most people call me Dobbie. Either is fine, combine them both and you have my name anyway. Welcome, dear reader, to my first article for Upside Down Shark. I thought I’d take this opportunity to give everyone an idea of who I am and the sorts of things I’ll be writing about for UDS in the weeks, months and potential years ahead. Seeing as Pop Culture is the name of the game here, I feel the best way to show who I am is to give you a collection of my favourite albums, video games, TV shows and movies. I won’t go into too much detail here as we’ve got years ahead for proper dissection. In Part 1, we’ll cover my favourite albums and my favourite TV shows. So, let’s just jump into it, shall we?

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The Incredibles 2 Review

Pixar films are like children to me. It’s always hard for me to pick my favourite one (except for the Cars trilogy). Wall-E, Up, Ratatouille and Toy Story 3 are high up there but being somewhat of a superhero nerd I always find myself being drawn to The Incredibles. I have always found it to be the perfect Fantastic Four that was never made. Fourteen years (and another truly awful Fantastic Four film) since it was released we find ourselves with another Pixar made superhero film and I couldn’t be any happy.

The film takes place exactly where the first one finished. The Incredible family are outside a sports stadium watching the rise of the Underminer, then without missing a beat spring into action. The opening scene reminds you that the family are a well oiled machine when working together and whilst they may not have the outcome you expect from the first encounter it is very well done to set up the rest of the film.

Supers and their place in world has not changed since the first film, Supers are still outlawed but now the government has shut down the relocation programme as well, which find our heroes staying in a motel, eating takeout and wondering what to do next. Mr. Incredible & Elastigirl are offered the chance to change the perceptions of Supers and hopefully change the law so it is no longer illegal for them to be out in public.

Mr. Incredible is at home taking care of the kids whilst Elastigirl is out fighting crime. It is here where there is an entertaining balance of the film takes place, every time the main plot thickens with Elastigirl we go back to Mr. Incredible hilariously fumbling his way through parenthood mostly with Jack Jack.

In terms of new characters the Supers are hit and miss. Voyd is someone who can create portals to teleport any sort of matter through and is a strong stand out, whilst Brick is a strongman and Krushhauer can erm crush? The “weaker” Supers appear to be incredibly (no pun intended) B tier and are treated with as much screen time as necessarily to further the story but I doubt we will see the a spin-off movie starring Reflux anytime soon. Do not fear Edna and Frozone make strong appearances in the film too.

The overarching villain Screenslaver seems a bit predictable at first and may even seem a bit easy to write “Hey, we all look at screens too much” but looking deeper it also a commentary on the state of superhero films and how we are all looking for people to sweep in and save the day in reality that we comfort in films perhaps a bit too much. Whilst some of this may go over some people heads, it is important to remember that this is a superhero hero film and a kids film so try not to be too surprised when there is a happy ending.

The Incredibles 2 does more of what you love with The Incredibles and does it really well. Whilst some sequels seem half baked or a quick cash grab, time has helped the thoughts of the original Incredibles set and help mature the creation of this film that other superheroes will probably never get.

Rolo Tomassi at The Garage, London Review

This was one of the best gigs I have been to in a long while. I would recommend anyone reading this should listen to Cryptodira, Palm Reader and Rolo Tomassi.

The sold out Garage venue in Highbury London felt like electricity was flowing through it from the moments the door opened. I had never heard of the support acts to the nights show, but boy was I impressed by both performances before Rolo Tomassi finished off the nights showing.

Cryptodira took to the stage first a four piece all the way from Long Island, New York. They were different sort of “Metal” band then what I am usually accustomed too. At certain points it sounded like the most soothing elevator music you’ve ever heard, not in a bad way, if you closed your eyes you could be mistaken in believing you have received some sort of euphoric epiphany. The euphory ended and then the metal kicked in, sometimes the metal was a bit short when compared to the calming build up, but when it was in full force it was something to behold. Cryptodira is one of New York’s best metal exports and if you want something different from your metal bands, definitely give them a listen.

Palm Reader were second and upped the loudness factor. Their mission statement is “We play loud. We play heavy. We play hard. We play fast.” and that they did. Raw and brutal in its most basic form, they went from 0 to 10 in such a short time and had no let up throughout the whole performance. Playing songs off of their recently released album “Braille” but also diving head first into their back catalog Palm Reader showed on this that they were built for the stage just based upon the strength of the songs that they created. Simply put if Cryptodira was a band that had a calm before the storm, Palm Reader were all storm with the loudest thunder with no calm at any point.

Cryptodira, Palm Reader & Rolo Tomassi (Source: Palm Reader Instagram https://goo.gl/j7hNYL)

Rolo Tomassi was the headline act of the evening and were on top form. Opening up with “Towards Dawn” going into arguably their friendliest song (and my personal favourite) “Aftermath”, from then on the set contained songs primarily from the most recent album “Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It” with the occasional barn burner like “Ex Luna Scientia” thrown in for good measure.

I may be biased as Rolo Tomassi are one of my favourite bands but this was truly a definitive performance by them. Everyone in the sold out venue were feeding off of the bands energy and vice versa. The ebbs and flows of this Rolo Tomassi performance is like the perfect dinner, expertly crafted and each course perfectly complimenting the last. You’re not just gonna run off after eating, you’re gonna leave a big tip and be excited to come back again next time. Well perhaps my eating analogy isn’t the greatest but one thing is for sure, next time Rolo Tomassi are playing, go see them for something completely unique and treat yourself to a good meal afterwards too.

Mega Ran at The Surya Centre, London Review

I had seen Mega Ran two years ago at the same venue. At the time I had just been introduced to his music and whilst I knew people used “video game tunes” in their music I must admit I thought it was a fad, like pogs or fidget cubes. That’s not a diss because I enjoyed pogs (at the time they were big) and video game soundtracks make up a good pile of my MP3 collection.

I can safely say Mega Ran however is not a fad. Over the last few years, Mega Ran has shown that hard work and passion can shine through in any profession if you have enough determination. How else would a man that once worked at Toys R Us, now be able to join The WWE Tag Team The New Day in the middle of a wrestling ring?

The support act of this cold London night was SΔMMUS (Sammus in plain old English characters). An unassuming softly spoken woman took to the stage in this darkened basement venue, but soon as she got on the mic she let her songs do the talking for her. I cannot stress how impressive Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo (her birth name) was on the night, with a voice similar to that of Nicki Minaj but with subject matter that has a better appeal (think less songs about big booties/being with boys and more about lounging around the house playing video games). Her specialist subject was rhyming about Mario & Metroid but has a PhD to prove she really is as nerdy as her songs suggest if going around the stage with an arm cannon was not enough proof. Sammus was a spectacle and every song performed gave off a big presence on stage. Listen to her EP The Infusion about life or M’other Brain for a more game based musical adventure.

Sammus & Mega Ran

Mega Ran got onto the stage with Ric Flair’s music playing in the background with an almost deafening applause for such a tiny venue. Performing songs from a variety of places, whether his numerous solo albums or his seemingly 100+ collaborative projects he has created in the past. Of course being the professional and creative type he is, that was not enough. He did his patented audience freestyle in which he creates a completely new song based on items that the audience members give to him. Simply describing it is an injustice, when you are there experiencing the freestyle in person it is a pure delight to witness.

In my previous review for Mega Ran I stated “Never before have I been to a gig where the person on stage wants to share the spotlight with everyone”. Two years on this is still the case, bringing Sammus on stage to sing a song together and bringing the crowd on stage at the end to dance to Sugarhill Gang’s Apache, it truly is for his entertainment as much as it is the audiences. You can see that Mega Ran is a performer that loves audience interaction, he feeds off of the energy. The crazy you are the crazier his set will be.

Over the years his rapping style has gotten tighter, his routine is more polished but not a lot has changed at a Mega Ran performance, which is not a bad thing seeing as it was of such high calibre in the first place. If there is ever a festival or gig with Mega Ran on the bill do yourself a favour and go and see him, you will not regret it.

Bowling For Soup at Brixton Academy Review

“Since Bruce Springsteen, Madonna. Way before Nirvana. There was U2 and Blondie”. Bowling For Soup of course ended with their biggest hit (a cover of SR-71) to a raucous crowd which were lapping up all the shenanigans which had happened before hand. What shenanigans you ask?

The evening started with Army of Freshman. I was not in attendance for them but from what I heard through muffled doors and walls they were definitely a rock band. The Aquabats! took to the stage after and what I can only describe as one of the most unique and confusing musical performances I have been too.

The Aquabats! had many key moments to their bizarreness, for instance the song “The Shark Fighter!” saw two people dressed as sharks take to the stage and run around whilst throwing inflatable sharks, the song “Pizza Day” saw inflatable pizza thrown into the crowd and then “Super Rad!” saw seemingly every inflatable object they could find and throw it into the crowd. At one point a slightly overweight super villain in a Freddie Mercury costume called “Breaddy Mercury” came onto the stage to throw bread into the crowd and try to injure the people who were “Gluten Intolerant”.

For a Ska band who have a kids television show I was not expecting a lot but The Aquabats! were able to put on a performance which was similar to that of a Pixar film, sure the target audience may be kids but it is of such high quality people of any age can enjoy it as long as you are up for having fun and not taking yourself seriously.

A somewhat blurry photo of Bowling for Soup & The Aquabats!

Bowling for Soup were last on the bill at Brixton and played the Drunk Enough to Dance album in full. Which ultimately meant you could learn all the songs to sing along too if you were so inclined. If you have ever been to a Bowling for Soup show you know the rundownof what is going to happen, mostly songs and jokes. The band have had years to hone their improv skills and it came through on that night, to the point they played three songs in a row without talking to the crowd and jokingly stated “we are now exhausted”. They played D.E.T.D in order from front to back so a song like “Girl All The Bad Guys Want” ended up being third in the setlist. After finishing the album play through they made sure to sprinkle a few other crowd favourites like “The Bitch Song” to make sure that people who were not the hardcore had things to keep them occupied.

The encore consisted of “Ohio (Come Back to Texas)” with Army of Freshman playing the third verse so BFS could see what it’s like to see a band play that song, “Star Song” and the previously mentioned “1985”. For the final song they brought on a Polish fan from the crowd to play guitar because he held up a sign saying he wanted to play the song. It was pretty mental. He did a good job keeping up with the rest of the band whilst Jaret was able to have a rare moment off guitar and peruse the stage.

Overall I would recommend The Aquabats! or Bowling For Soup as a go to gig for any fans of rock or anyone who would just like a good time. Sure it’s never going to be something like a Beethoven piece but it’s there for you to have a good time and party and that’s exactly what “The Get Happy Tour” set out to do.

The Best Games of 2017

BOTW

By Tom Baker

So the dust has settled on another year of video games and the Games Awards has crowned The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild as 2017’s game of the year. Now in this writer’s humble opinion, there could be no other winner; the sheer scale, variety and resplendent beauty of the game makes it one of the all time greats, and one that should be held in the same regard as Super Mario Bros., Grand Theft Auto 3 and The Sims as a game that redefined what the medium is capable of.

However, that isn’t to say Link and co. didn’t have some stiff competition; 2017 saw a stellar line up of video game releases to help us escape from our increasingly depressing journey to post-mortal oblivion. With that being said, here’s Upside Down Shark’s best video games of 2017.

Mario Odyssey

Mario

One of the later launch titles for the Nintendo Switch, Mario Odyssey is a belter, I tell you what! Just like in the world of cinema, for far too long it felt like Nintendo and other major studios were rehashing their existing franchises in a lazy attempt to make a cash cow – Mario Odyssey bucks this trend and then some. Rather, it takes the mustachioed mascot and thrusts him in a fresh, original direction; new worlds, new mechanics and new challenges make playing it an absolute delight and a testament to Nintendo’s expertise in game design.

If you have a Switch, it’s an absolute must buy.

That’s an order.

Sonic Mania

Sonic

Sonic the Hedgehog has been dragged through the mud for the better part of a decade, with titles ranging from mediocre to traumatically awful (we’re looking at you, Sonic Unleashed), so you’d be forgiven for acknowledging a new game featuring the titular blue Erinaceidae (look at us, using the big words) with little more than a tut and derisive shake of the head.

Sonic Mania proved us all wrong.

Designed by freelance SEGA superfan Christian Whitehead, Sonic Mania is the quintessential labour of love. Repurposing the visual assets from the first generations of the series, it strips away the awful gimmicks to give us something that not only evokes the warmth of nostalgia, but does so with a polished, almost modern presentation. In an era where pop-culture seems to be obsessed with reliving the ‘good ol’ days’, it’s refreshing to see something that manages to balance celebrating the past while also looking to the future.

Playing while eating a chili dog isn’t mandatory but is strongly encouraged.

South Park: The Fractured But Whole

South Park

South Park: The Fractured But Whole is good, m’kay.

The sequel to 2014’s The Stick of Truth, The Fractured But Whole manages to capture the puerile, offensive yet oddly charming humour of the TV show and incorporate it into some pretty solid game mechanics. Classic turn-based RPG battles are tense and challenging, the character progression system is satisfying and just like its predecessor, the art direction makes it feel like you’re playing through a genuine episode of South Park.

I won’t spoil any of the gags or plot here but needless to say, if you’re a fan of the show and enjoy a healthy dose of cringe, The Fractured But Whole is definitely not to be missed.

Horizon Zero Dawn

Origins

Shifting swiftly from the groin-grabbingly funny to a harrowing portrayal of the future, next up on our list of the best games of 2017 we have Horizon Zero Dawn.

Set in a primitive post-apocalyptic society infested with deadly robots (most of which look like something that could be cooked up by Boston Dynamics), you play as Aloy, an outcast hunter gatherer on a quest to make sense of the world around her. And exploring this world is a rip-roaring good time; a combination of addictive RPG elements, a compelling story and a vibrant map make this a title that could easily become a multi-game franchise.

What’s more, the inclusion of a strong female protagonist should not go unnoticed nor uncelebrated. During a time in which the established (and quite frankly ridiculous) gender roles within society are being challenged more so than ever, it’s important for the next generation to have a variety of different role models to look up to, regardless of gender, orientation or race. If Horizon Zero Dawn helps to achieve this in some small way, then it must be considered an important piece of cultural art.

Assassin’s Creed Origins

Horizon

It’s an amazing how much good a year off can do.

With several less than stellar titles being released in recent years (not to mention an even less than stellar film adaptation), it’s fair to say that Assassin’s Creed was going through the doldrums. Skip forward to October 2017 and Assassin’s Creed Origins has flip reversed that trend in the best possible way.

As the name implies, the game is set during the beginnings of the centuries old conflict between the Assassins and what would become the Templar Order at the height of Ancient Egyptian culture. The idea of Origins being a new start isn’t limited to the narrative of the game, as the mechanics, graphics and gameplay all feel revitalised and fresh for the first time since Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag.

A special mention must also be made about the nigh on ludicrous size of the game. When Upside Down Shark started playing, it took a solid 4-5 hours of wandering and general pottering about before we even got to the title screen – in that time you could complete The Order: 1886 four times and walk up the shop to trade it in! At the time of writing we still haven’t completed the game, so if you’re looking for maximum bang for your buck when considering your next gaming purchase, look no further.

And that’s a wrap on the best video games of 2017. Here’s hoping 2018 see’s even more excuses for me to shirk all real world responsibilities and run away to the realm of pixels and polygons.

What were your favourite games of the year?

Let us know in the comments below and don’t forget to like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter & Instagram and subscribe to our Youtube channel. While you’re at it, listen to Upside Down Shark Radio on iTunes, Stitcher and anywhere that all fine podcasts are found for more pop-culture chat, music, memes and tomfoolery.

Emoji Movie Review

It is with humble honour and the greatest humility that I give you my review of inarguably the best movie of the year.

For better or for worse, you can’t escape The Emoji Movie in 2017. Never has a children’s film thrown up so much controversy and conjured such ire from critics. However, being the ethical journalist that I am, I ignored all this negativity and went in with cautious optimism and an open mind.

And I can confirm that every one of those expert critics, reviewers and writers couldn’t have been more wrong - this is the Citizen Kane of the modern era. Don’t believe me? Read on to find out all the completely un-sarcastic reasons why The Emoji Movie is my pick to clean up the Oscars this year.

The Good

The biggest (of the many) strengths of The Emoji Movie is its relatable protagonist, a ‘meh’ emoji known as Gene. Now, all Gene wants to do is find his place in the world of Textopolis (the city that apparently exists behind every phone screen), and we follow his trials and tribulations as he meets a whole host of zany characters and discovers not only the secrets of the digital landscape but perhaps most importantly, himself.

What’s more, the sheer excellence of The Emoji Movie isn’t limited to the story, as the animation style manages to be equally brilliant. It truly is remarkable what computer generated graphics can be achieved nowadays, allowing an audience to become easily immersed and empathise with what are essentially pixels and polygons. The Emoji Movie is no exception to this trend, and definitely doesn’t look like as dated as an early 2000s Dreamworks film. Trust me…

If stellar storytelling and presentation weren’t enough to impress even the most stoic critic, we’re also treated to a musical number for the ages. Witnessing the ‘Emoji Bop’ was a transcendent experience; I felt compelled to throw roses at the screen as I fought back the tears. As previously mentioned, The Emoji Movie is sure to clear out the Oscars, however if it doesn’t also have a strong showing at the Grammys, it’ll be a crime against music.

Finally, as life-affirmingly entertaining as The Emoji Movie was, it serves a much more serious purpose that it would be remisced of me not to mention. Through selfless product placement, it reminds us and the next generation of the online services we should be using like Spotify and Dropbox. I baulk at the notion that this is a flagrant attempt to advertise to children, such cynicism should be derided. This is nothing short of a public service by the creators of The Emoji Movie.

The Bad

I feel that I’m doing the film a disservice by even including this section. My only grievance is with the unfair backlash to this underrated, misunderstood masterpiece.

The Verdict

Don’t listen to the critics.

The Emoji Movie is a gift, a piece of art without flaw and something that I hope will be on the national school syllabus soon. Film of the year is an understatement, even film of the decade sells it short, for truly there is no parable. Thank you The Emoji Movie, thank you.

I’d also just like to reiterate that this review is definitely not sarcastic. Promise.

★★★★★★

By Tom

Review: Gorillaz at The O2 Arena, London

Now I admit it. I am a massive Gorillaz fan. I have previously written about the animated band with some reverence from seeing them live and you could probably guess this time will be no different. The Gorillaz have always been there with new music throughout the different eras of my life, as they have evolved so have I personally and because of this they are always a band I feel drawn too. (pun not intended)

The most recent album Humanz has seen a more urban dance theme than previous music released by them (for people that have not heard it think “DARE” but a more darker bassier vibe) and seem like they have been created specifically with live performances in mind, with this being the Humanz Tour I was indeed an eager beaver to see/hear how the new songs stacked up.

The support act saw Little Simz take to the stage (earlier than stated). Having heard her in passing a few times I did not know what to expect, I was blown away. Everything went black, then nothing but an anime style video played for a minute or two followed by the DJ telling everyone to get up. Little Simz took to the stage like a duck taking to water, the 23 year old black London rapper made sure every word she rapped about hit hard. Comparable to the emotional impact of the more meaningful Eminem songs, she made sure the topics that were mentioned in her songs were heard by everyone in attendance. Finishing with the song “Dead Body” she may not have made a fan out of everyone in attendance but definitely turned a few heads.

Gorillaz had a time slot of 1 hour 45 minutes. They smashed this by coming out early and finishing late, whatever you think about the music the value for money is nothing to turn your nose up at. In that time they played a whopping 30 songs spanning all main albums (except The Fall) and even though they did not play the song “Momentz” from their new album there was still a lot of stand out moments to be had in the show. After all most of the fun of a Gorillaz show is to see who will show up and boy did they have some people show up.

Opening up with a heavy guitar riff and going into “M1A1” from the first album the energy was set at a high from the offset urging people to get out of their seats, have fun and move around (unless you were the grumpy guys behind me telling everyone to sit down for a good half an hour).

Highlights included Pauline Black singing an alternative version of “Charger”, I only imagined this song as a heavier mosh song but with her vocals on top it added something completely un-expected and original. “Superfast Jellyfish” had Gruff Rhys & De La Soul on stage and as far as I can tell this was the first time Gruff Rhys had performed it live, “Andromeda” had a special extended outro by D.R.A.M., Mos Def came out with the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble for “Sweepstakes” for the first time in 7 years, Shaun Ryder & Roses Gabor came out for “DARE” and finally Noel Gallagher was on stage to sing “We Got The Power” with Jehnny Beth. Phew! That Damon Albarn does know some people it is safe to say.

“Clint Eastwood” was played in its purest form with Del from tape so people could sing along before closing on a nice calm note with “Don’t Get Lost in Heaven/Demon Days” which is always a site to behold from a production and musical standpoint.

If anyone has not been to a Gorillaz gig yet I would highly recommend it, with them breaking the boundaries of musical genres with every album there is always something for someone to enjoy whether they enjoy rock, rap, dance or pop. It’s not just the auditory senses being pleasured but also the visual senses too with video packages and artwork in the background of every song. Gorillaz does cover it all and after this performance I can not wait to see what they do next.