Joe Atkinson x Sydney – An honest review

I can’t speak for Europe, or the rest of the world for that matter but growing up in the 80’s and 90’s in the UK, I can tell you that we Brits had a love affair with Australian produced television shows. Kids favourites like Pugwall’s Summer or Round the Twist to daytime favourites such as Neighbours, Home and Away and even Prisoner Cell Block H. One that captured both the hearts and minds of 90’s rollerbladers was coming of age, teen school drama, Heartbreak High, set in Sydney.

Reflecting back on it some 20 years later, I think what really caught our imagination was the amazing weather, the exotic wildlife, the idea of a different way of life, a more laid back lifestyle with long evenings and lots of opportunities to go skating along the beach or on one of Australia’s famous half-pipes. I would watch every week for that chance, that rare chance that some skating would be featured. There were quite a few rollerbladers featured but two main characters in particular really stood out, Bolton and Drazic. Watch the clip below (Dubbed in French) but you will get the idea. Enjoy the high octane race, the wallride, the grind, stairbashing, airs and the vintage Oxygen Argon setup.

How does any of this relate to the Joe Atkinson x Sydney VOD? Well, this new video captures the true spirit of Australia, rollerblading in its many facets and the unstoppable force that is Joe Atkinson. Dom West is one of rollerblading’s finest filmmakers and he really needs no introduction here, especially to those that have seen his older works, both chapters of Vine Street as well as anything else from his back catalogue. Just in case, for those who may not have heard of him and are perhaps new to the scene let me tell you that he is one of the best in the game and all of his videos are waited on with great anticipation and impatience.

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Joe literally flying in the advert for the video – An amazing photo by Adam Kola

Joe Atkinson is a diamond in the rough of rollerblading and there are not many like him in every generation. His personality shines throughout this video, his pure focus and dedication to the tricks are so clear to see but we also see him having fun and celebrating landing the hammers, we feel these moments with him. What we really need to talk about is the level of skating itself. Watching this video you can see every era of rollerblading covered. Joe skates big rails with solid, basic but super stylish tricks, I imagine B Love Hardin or Arlo Eisenberg in the Hoax 2 90’s era but then he also looks at the architecture around him and rolls the way he wants to, so he is undefinable in that sense. You can see the early to mid 2000’s influences, i’m thinking about Oli Short or even Charles Dunkle, ‘anything goes’ type rollerblading, completely care free of what anyone might think of it, pushing and challenging himself. I also see the last few years; I see the innovation of a skater like Dustin Werbeski, the  pure control of Jeff Stockwell and combined with the high flying altitude of Australia’s very own CJ Wellsmore – very good company indeed. That is not including some absolutely monsterous tricks that come straight out of the Mindgame era. This section shows just how well rounded Joe is and if I really wanted to show an outside audience the definition of what blading looks like in the year 2017, this would be my prime example.

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The Daily Atkinson

The video runs to just over 5 minutes, 3 minutes for the main part and then a couple of minutes of outtakes (with some amazing tricks too – that toyale!) and funny stuff that happened during the course of production. Speaking of production, this is one of the finest pieces of blading media I have ever seen. High definition, very sharp with what seems to be a range of cameras and lenses used (I am no expert in this field, but I call it as I see it). Dom captures that feeling of big city life (down under) exquisitely. You will see tall buildings, narrow alleyways, quirky Ozzie characters and even a kangaroo sitting under a washing up line, no questions asked! The tricks themselves are filmed really well, nice framing and a mixture of long shots, close ups and fish eye too, Dom really knows the right angle for a certain trick or spot and combined with Joe’s skating it all comes together really well. What is funny to me is that I really get a sense that Joe is a stranger in the city, there is something different about him, onlookers are watching him closely, befuddled and amused alike. The music perfectly accompanies the skating too, classic, chilled but nicely timed and the lyrics match occasionally with what we see on screen, well played Dom West.

Bonus video – Suited and Booted. By Dom West and featuring  Joe Atkinson.

In summary, Joe Atkinson x Sydney is a must watch video. Superb no nonsense skating combined with one of the true masters of rollerblading film-making. With content like this the future of video on demand is bright. Head over to dom-west.com to buy the full video.

PS. Did anyone else notice the sound in the video? Each of Joe’s landings sounded amazing, the mixture of a good sound capturing microphone, mixed with a solid wheel, frame and skate setup (go #teamsalomon). Also for the blade tech/Salomon fans you get a shot of Joe setting up some blades which was interesting. Also worth noting is that for the most part he seems to use a cut down widebody but just on one skate combined with cream ST9’s, big frames and his 65mm pro wheel. Please feel free to leave any comments on this article and thanks for taking the time to read it. NH.

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F.O.R 4 – An honest review

Future of Rollerblading 4 (F.O.R 4). What could go possibly go wrong in naming your video after one of the greatest video series in the history of rollerblading? Well, quite a lot actually.

A few months back I started seeing adverts on Facebook and Instagram for F.O.R 4. At first I was excited; maybe, just maybe Joe Navran is making a new video. Imagine for a second what that might have looked like… Excitement quickly turned to skepticism when I realised that Erick Rodriguez was helming this project. I wanted to believe it could be a worthy addition to the series, I really did. Over the next few months I enjoyed the promotional material that appeared; lifestyle and location shots overlaid with the names of all of the skaters that would appear in the production. In style it looked like the cover of a Hollywood movie, so far so good.

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I genuinely enjoyed the F.O.R 4 promotional material

The final piece of promotion that I heard before the videos release was a podcast with Mr Rodriguez himself on the TOOEASY Podcast 2. Now one of the most interesting anecdotes that he gave concerned some unseen tapes from the F.O.R 2 days. Apparently as the story goes, Joe Navran had so many tapes that he only used a handful for the original video. Erick went on to explain that the footage was being digitised and could appear edited or otherwise alongside the release of F.O.R 4. I will admit to being more excited about the (future) prospect of seeing these clips than the new film itself. To cut a long story short, this rare footage is not included in the download of F.O.R 4. Too bad. Another thing that was mentioned was the fact that Joe Navran himself was on board with the F.O.R 4 project, this led me to believe he could possibly oversee the project, perhaps test it for quality control. For now I still don’t know in what capacity Joe’s involvement was, perhaps it was just in name alone? (I have asked E-Rod for clarification and will update this review if he gets back to me).

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Dre Powell, still dropping huge tricks after decades on the blades

The video was released to some considerable groans of ‘It costs 20 bucks, man’. Well guess what, that’s how much videos and DVDs used to cost back in the day. ‘Well yeah but at least you got a physical copy, and the videographer needs to cover the costs of the production, packaging and distribution’. This kind of conversation happens all to often and who really cares, Erick Rodriguez charged 20 dollars for the video and that’s what we have to pay to watch it.

I want to start out this review by being completely clear with you. I didn’t finish the video on the first attempt, in fact it’s taken me two sittings to get through the whole thing. Why? Was I interrupted, yes, was I a little bored, yes, did I despise the soundtrack? Yes, could this 30 minute video hold my attention, no. Is it me? Am I the problem? Well just to let you know that I have really enjoyed a lot of recent online video content, including OK.4 and The Chinatown video Paycheck. To add to that, I don’t love or look up to this modern wave of skating in these videos, I actually find it entertaining to see the new and inventive ways people find to skate the streets. I’m more of a Brain Fear Gone guy, I love the stunts, the personalities and the old fashioned swagger of yesteryears heroes, that’s true. So I was possibly hoping for a little of this in F.O.R 4.

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Erick gave various project updates as the video progressed.

What is good in the video? A solid 30 minute duration with a lot of good skating in the video from series OG staples including Dre Powell and Franky Morales. They maintain that heavy hitting swagger and personality with big, standard, solid tricks with the kind of style that only 20 plus years on the blades can define. Then there is amazing skating from Julian Bah, Nick Lomax, Eugen Enin and Victor Arias. They skate fast, technical, do big and small tricks and make everything look really easy. There is a lot to take away from watching these guys. There are no specific profiles like in the last three videos which is a shame as I would have loved to see full parts on the guys named above. The video is rounded out with some solid yet unmemorable skating which leads me onto the bad points.

The trailer was the intro (see below), i’ve never been a fan of that and nothing more to add. No skater names, okay this is a fairly small point but in this day and age it just feels lazy to not include the skater names on each trick. It is possible to work out 90% of the famous bladers but there are a few who I wasn’t sure of and I feel by adding their name Erick could have given credence to the ‘Future’ in the title of F.O.R. The music is simply annoying to me and I think this video would be better viewed on mute and put on your own musical playlist, of course this is personal choice, but if you have seen previous 9TO5DigiMedia productions you will probably already know what i’m talking about.

In terms of production, it has that modern high gloss high definition picture that digital SLR cameras provide, it’s not gritty and it’s certainly not raw. This video suffers from a lack of zoom. I have no problem with HD footage and I love the videos of Adam Johnson, David Sizemore and Ivan Narez for example. There is quite a lot of drone footage, some of it looks nice but I don’t like drone clips where Erick tries to film a trick while flying, it’s just distracting, I find myself wondering how many tries things took rather than the actual trick itself. The editing is fine, but occasionally some shots feel short and abrupt and the sections don’t really blend together that well, again this is really a personal preference. I also felt that the video ended too abruptly. Maybe i’m too old school and expect a certain style of presentation for a skate video. Some of the sections were really short and it felt as though the clips were filmed over a very short space of time.

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New York clip check

All in all I thought the video was okay. I will never watch it all the way through again but that’s modern life for you. However I will still watch F.O.R 2 at least once or twice a year. Some people might think that I am ‘hating on the industry’ but this is my completely honest review. I think we should all stand up for what we enjoy but also voice our opinion on things we think can be improved. It doesn’t feel at all a part of the F.O.R series.

As a final word I can’t help but imagine what a video like F.O.R 2 would have looked like if it had been produced with today’s technology and social media…#FOR2 #partyandbullshit #rachard #deltron #abdiel #fp #theblindstaresofamillionpairsofeyes #dl #petty #feinberg #shima. NH.

Bonus fact: There was some awful name spelling on the Sellfy description (Thanks Jon Lee):

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Chris Framer only had one trick in the video

 

Broforce – micro review

Broforce is a great little game. It is really enjoyable to play through the campaign on your own but it’s even more fun if you team up in the multiplayer mode. Although you can play across a network, I found it more enjoyable to play with 2-3 other real life ‘bros’ for maximum fun!

The graphics have an ‘8 bit’ throwback look to them. The games play style is mashup of Mercs and Prisoner of War.  Each player takes control of a playable character lovingly called a bro. There are lots of unlockable bros that I won’t spoil for you but they include such actions legends as ‘Brobocop’, Rambro and Brominator (My personal favourite being ‘Indiana Brones’).

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Liberation by any means possible is the aim of the game in Broforce

You fly around the world in your chopper and land in on countries that have been taken over and it is your one sole job as a bro to liberate the area by using maximum force and a variety of guns and grenades and knives if you happen to get to close to the enemy. There are usually three stages to each country with a boss battle at the end. Although the levels are fairly linear side scrollers, the landscape is completely destructible which makes for erratic gameplay but also lets you go about completing your goal in any way you see fit.

This game is an absolute blast and does not take itself seriously at all, it is the Expendables of video games. Don’t let that fool you though, if you are tired of long, serious games, (Ahem The Witcher 3) this can be a welcome 10 minute break, or an hour if you are devoted to some serious liberation! There is a lot to enjoy and admire with Broforce and it’s particularly fun unlocking characters and seeing the bosses and the carnage that ensues. Check this one out on digital download if you can afford to do so.

Reviewed on the PS4 – NH.