Wednesday, 5 September 2012

NEWS: Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes & New Film

Metal Gear Solid is back with a new game for next-gen consoles - and no it's not actually MGS5!

For those who don't already know, I am a HUGE Metal Gear fan. I have actually just recently completed all the Metal Gear Solids from 1 to 4 all over again back to back and absolutely loved it. In fact, I actually enjoyed MGS2 this time round!

The main reason why I did this was to prepare for Metal Gear Rising and in my own way to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Metal Gear. Never did I think an actual new game would be presented.

Of course, it shows off the new Fox engine that Kojima has been banging on about for a while and has to run on a high spec PC as current-gen titles can't take it.

It looks, to say the least, incredible, and takes place after MGS3 as you play Big Boss (the original Snake). You are now in a more sandbox environment and is not as linear as previous games. You can even call in a helicopter to help you out.

Hideo has suggested this isn't MGS5 but more of a prologue to it. Who knows what that will be like then!

They've also piped up that Columbia pictures, along with producer Avi Arad from Amazing Spiderman etc. will be on board. Which means it will probably get a decent budget. Personally, I'd love to see Metal Gear Solid 1 in a film as it's completely self contained and with less of a crazy story. Hopefully they will lose Big Boss, as it does sound like it's from a computer game. Why not get Kurt Russell in on it? After all Snake is pretty much based on Snake Pliskin (and even refers to it in MGS2).

It's great news and I'm glad to see Metal Gear is once again leading the way in not only gaming but all tactical espionage action (why did they ever keep that subline?). Anyway here's the gameplay in action:

REVIEW: Sleeping Dogs

When people say it's Grand Theft Auto in Hong Kong, they're right. It is.

Sleeping Dogs is a sandbox game that puts you in the shoes of Wei, an undercover cop who has come back to his home town to delve into the criminal world of Hong Kong. Like GTA, you can walk around, hit and kill people, steal cars and the like. However, as you are now a cop you can also do right by people.

Let's start with the story. The undercover cop thing might have been done before in movies, but it's a surprise no-one (including Rockstar) has really cottoned onto this. It works extremely well. The main reason being is that you get so deep into the criminal underworld, and invest so much of yourself in it, you really do start to forget that you're actually a cop. Also the police are nothing but a hindrance as you progress and helping them is often the last thing on your mind. This plays nicely into the actual story where you are being pulled from both directions and soon you are more concerned with the criminal friends you spend most of your time with, than trying to do what's right.  For instance, you will probably begin the game trying to make sure you don't crash into anything, hit any pedestrians and so on, but I guarantee by the end that will go right out the window.

The plot takes many twists and turns as the gangs start turning on each other and the voice acting really brings you in. I was very impressed by how involved I got in the storyline and was aching to move on to the next chapter, often not bothering with any side quests just to continue the plot. Something I don't normally do (I like to pad out my games with a few side quests inbetween) and by the end you really do become quite a monster.

The side quests consist of doing favours to get Face points, buying and selling cars, street races, gambling and all sorts to keep you entertained. It is very varied and lots of fun and is enough to keep you interested for ages. Face points unlock new abilities, as does Cop and Triad points depending on how your morals take shape, and also unlock a variety of abilities. It doesn't swing from one to the other, so you can unlock all abilities by the end of the game without worrying too much about having to continuously be 'good'.

The gameplay is very smooth and fighting is much like Arkham Asylum etc. with counter attacks and a slight bit of technical button mashing for good measure, the moves are also amazing. The driving is great and the controls work extremely well. Not much to fault on this front.

The world is also amazing, conversations taking place outside your flat are often continued as you progress through the game, everything feels like a living breathing city and you can pick up food and items like power ups, as well as buy different clothes and all the typical sandbox stuff. It perhaps doesn't quite have the depth of something like GTA, but it comes close.

My main plight is that it doesn't quite feel as advanced as GTA 4 which is a long time ago now remember and the graphics, though very cool and Hong Kong looks great, still feels too shiny and not textured well enough. It also has very brief gun battles and often I find myself without a gun or knowing where to get one. So what if I'm one of those people that every now and then like to go on a killing spree mowing down hundreds of innocent bystanders? That's what we've all been doing for years, don't you agree? But the overall feeling of having to do good does ride through the game, I mean you're a cop after all.

Overall, this is a very solid game and something I would enjoy going back to in terms of completing all side quests etc. as it's got that pick up and play value and is engrossing to say the least. I highly recommend the game and would say it's a great little stop-gap before the huge titles come under way in the next couple of months.

Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

REVIEW: Compliance

A true story about how we are taught to respect authority and how far that can go ...

It's just a normal day at a US burger joint, then the phone goes and it's the police saying that one of their workers has stolen money from a customer. There's no officers available to come down and he asks the manager to search the girl ...

So begins a day that turns into a horrific sequence of events. The whole time I was watching it, I was thinking 'This is stupid, how can any of this be real? No-one would be that stupid' but lo and behold, if you look online you will see that every single thing that happens in the film, happened in real life. ABC even did a documentary on it and you can watch it all on security camera footage if you really wanted proof.

The film is superbly acted with a great cast. It's claustrophobic environment, and the tightness of the shots to heighten the emotional impact, combined with the brilliant pace of the dialogue makes for a horribly awkward, intense and disgusting experience that will stay with you for days. It's simplicity is it's greatest achievement and the juxtaposition of the people eating in the restaurant only a few mere metres away is always reminding you that this isn't a weird dream, it isn't some horrid Hostel like prison but that it occurred as 'real-life' was still taking place, normal families were just outside not knowing what was happening at the back.

The shots of the food slowly getting more disgusting as the events do, start to take on a different meaning. You might never be able to look at a straw in a cup the same way again for instance. The one long take from the police department for instance is a very clever, subtle way to let you into some story information without shoving it in your face. The subtle power plays that the caller manages to do, the way he enforces his authority every so often and the fact that this isn't even just for some sexual kick but perhaps for sick amusement, is a very smart way of bringing you into the action as well. It allows you to understand the situation more and perhaps see how this all was allowed to happen.

The characters also feel believable in an unbelievable situation. Ann Dowd is incredible as the middle aged female manager who hasn't really got much of a life, still feels awkward being around younger people and yet doesn't want to feel like an old dear. She clearly hasn't got a backbone and her conviction as she talks to her staff is lacking at best. They clearly have no respect for her and neither do the general public it seems. She's a wet busybody who thinks she's more important than she actually is. She's also incredibly stupid and naive which doesn't help her case. A telling scene is at the end when she is retelling the story, and the interviewer proves her wrong by showing her evidence, but she can't think of an answer. You can see the stupidity and sheer obnoxiousness of the woman shine through as she doesn't want to believe she's done something bad so instead she talks about New Orleans and the weather there, clearly not understanding about certain recent events there and portrays perfectly the small-minded rural America blinkered view of the world. Uneducated and a blind follower of any authority figure.

The film is extremely cleverly shot and scripted and put together very delicately. It could so easily look like a cheap uninspired piece, but instead it is a gripping piece of work that has worked its way up to one of my top films this year. I guarantee you will enjoy it and if you dig around further about what actually happened, I think you'll be even more shocked.

Rating: 9/10

Monday, 6 August 2012


Seth MacFarlane's directorial debut is about a teddy bear that comes alive to keep Wahlberg company. But is this just a piece of fluff? Or is it stuffed full of jokes?

Well, as much as I'd like to say this is an adult version of Pinnochio, Ted is actually so primitive in it's storytelling that it would be a disservice to say so. If you don't know what it's about then a brief summary is that Wahlberg wished upon a star that his bear would come alive, which it does. Instead of being a cute toy forever, he grows up with Wahlberg and they become friends for life, both as crude as the other. Mila Kunis does her bit as Mark's girlfriend and is very patient until she has enough and tells Mark he needs to get his act together.

That's about it. Can you predict what's going to happen? Yes. The B-Plot (if you can call it that) with some obsessive fans is shoved into the story to add some tension in what is ultimately a running gag piece about a dirty talking cuddly bear.

So is it funny? Meh. In some places, I proper cracked up - that was probably about 6 times in the whole (looooooong) film. The Flash Gordon stuff was quite funny, but again it keeps going and going and ultimately, Ted and Mark (or whoever his name is) are both complete selfish wankers. I know the whole point is that he has to grow up but I start to wonder at points if Wahlberg is actually supposed to be slightly retarded? Or have Asperger's or something? (I'm not connecting the two conditions).

Ted is a cross between Brian and Peter Griffin. In that he is exactly like Brian, but sounds like Peter Griffin (it's even referenced at one point) which makes you feel like you've kinda seen this all before one way or another. I'm so sick of Seth MacFarlane and I generally think he's a one trick pony that luckily has some great writers behind them that actually do the really funny stuff. Also, the bear drinks, smokes, has sex etc but - how is he actually doing this? I know I'm not supposed to take it seriously but when he's having sex, I don't really know what is supposed to be happening? Is he just you know .... scissoring?

Also I hate Mark Wahlberg and don't think he's that funny, or a good actor. I thought he was SHIT in The Departed and people who like him in that think that scowling and shouting makes you a macho man should watch a few Westerns. He was good in Boogie Nights and anything where he plays an idiot. Also remember he was a racist thug, who beat up an old Vietnamese man with a stick and blinded him, just for being from Vietnam, this might have happened when he was 16, but I say it's no excuse. Also, he did keep doing these things until past 21 and so I can't really say the guy deserves anything. He's bland, boring and not funny unless he's trying to be 'the nice guy' with some 'aww shucks' moments that you know are nothing like him.

The film is very long, with a few jokes taken away from it, but to be honest I'd rather have watched a few episodes of Family Guy.One scene including Norah Jones for example could have been cut completely and wasn't at all funny. It's definitely harmless fun that I know people will be joking about for time to come, and if you love MacFarlane than you will probably love this, but it's just one idea (and an idea that's already been done) - there's only so many jokes about swearing, dicks and sex you can listen to before thinking 'are these even jokes anymore?'. Definitely for teenage males.

Rating: 5/10

Friday, 3 August 2012

NEWS: Batman Prequel Will Have New Writer

Not that Batman ... The computer one

So the other cool Batman given to us by Rocksteady will be back in a prequel to both Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. It will apparently take place in the 'Silver Age' where he was kicking it with Superman and the Justice League of America (a shit Avengers). Apparently it's going to be the beginnings of how he meets Joker.

All sounds a bit ... dangerous. Will it still be dark? Find that balance between the cartoony comic world and the grittiness that people love about the Batman movies? Tough to say. What doesn't help is that Paul Dini, the writer from the first two games and also the much celebrated Animated Series will no longer be writing for the next game, it seems like he's been taken off. Is a shame, but something fresh isn't always necessarily a bad thing. What do you think?

Thursday, 2 August 2012

REVIEW: The Debt

Just got round to watching this as it's on LoveFilm, it's a spy film from John Madden (whom I don't really rate) and a pretty average-at-best one at that.

So Helen Mirren plays a retired spy who is famous for having killed a Nazi death camp doctor who was on the run. Through a series of flashbacks we see what happened between her and the other two men in the group.

So far, so good. However, the spy stuff is quite lame and, not very good. Also the way they apprehend the doctor seems a bit weird and unnecessary. Surely there was an easier way?

Also, they don't look like they are from Israel either. Worthington is completely dire and you wonder how his character is supposed to turn into Ciaran Hinds, whom has the depth of the ocean compared to the paddling pool of Worthington. Chastain can just about hold together what is essentially a cardboard cut out. The whole script revolves around these little 'surprises' that aren't really a surprise.

Mirren looks tired, bored and even in any action sequences rather inept at being a spy. She's the main focus but I can't help but get annoyed that this was flogged as a spy action film when in fact it's a rather tedious character study of three boring characters.The only other person I enjoyed was Marton Csokas who I always feel deserves to be in more roles.

Overall, this Matthew Vaughan / Jane Goldman (Mrs. Jonathan Ross) script is exactly the kind of thing I hate and I completely don't rate them as scriptwriters or storytellers. It's like giving two teenagers a pen and paper and a guide on how to write scripts.

Yes that includes KickAss - which was okay.

If there's nothing on then why not? But don't go out of your way to see it. At all.

Rating: 6/10

TRAILER: Paranormal Activity 4

Please ... stop making them....

I liked the first one, hated the second, could deal with the third but this looks the most awful of them all. Using webcams and stuff, it's about the neighbours of the family at Paranormal Activity 2. Something to do with a kid. Who knows? In any case it will be shockingly bad, I can feel it, like a bad presence.

In my pants.

It's the same directors as number 3 (who also did Catfish) so you never know, they might do something with it.

But anyway, here's the trailer if you don't believe me: